June 29, 2005

Humbled By Their Artistic Acuity

On Sunday, in the ridiculous humidity, Cinecultist headed out to Billyburg for the Renegade Crafts Fair at McCarren Park with Janelle. Even though we felt like we were melting into our flip flops, it wasn't hard to appreciate the talent of all of the artists involved. CC has been known to be crafty in our day (we took sewing lessons and had both decoupage and beading periods) but this was some serious stuff on display.

One of our favorite tables held work by Stella Im Hultberg, where we purchased the print below called "Nobody Knows."


At the time we were struck by the use of coloring and the irreverant touch of the plant saying something in Japanese, but only when we got home did we realize it was actually an image from the film by Hirokazu Kore-eda which we saw earlier this year about the children abandoned in suburban Tokyo. Funny isn't it that just when we think we're just purchasing art for it's own sake, it's really all about our movie love instead. We're very happy to add it to our growing collection of movie posters including a Roman Holiday print from Rome and a poster from The Apartment from the Museum of the Moving Image. Thanks Stella!

Speaking of awesome artist types who we admire, our friend Hisham Bharoocha is the subject of the quarterly magazine Me this issue. He paints, he sings, he drums and plays the guitar, he interviews people for hip art magazines and poses for snapshots with celebs. A-mazing. The issue is on sale on line and at various too cool for school retail establishments like Other Music and St. Mark's Books so be sure to check it out.

Posted by karen at 9:13 AM |

Run! It's Aliens! And TomKat!

Though it's important to take anything said by A.O. Scott with a grain of salt, we found this sentence from the end of his War of the Worlds review intriguing:

"All of which serves as a reminder - perhaps superfluous - that this is only a movie, and a lesser Spielberg movie at that. But "War of the Worlds" also succeeds in reminding us that while Mr. Spielberg doesn't always make great movies, he seems almost constitutionally incapable of bad moviemaking."

More of the primarily positive critic's round up via Rotten Tomatoes. Perhaps you recall that Reverse Shot did a Spielberg symposium, which you might want to refamiliarize yourself with pre-WotW viewing. Also completely adorable and hilarious, Trent of Pink Is The New Blog attended the LA premiere and snapped some papparazzi style pictures.

Will all of this buzz propel Cinecultist into the theater this weekend? We're on the fence about it, to be honest. Dakota Fanning's little screams and Tom's weirdness seems to be overwhelming our usual curiousity. Stay tuned for further details.

Posted by karen at 9:02 AM |

June 28, 2005



If you've already seen Miranda July's movie, Me and You and Everyone We Know the above headline is the most obvious thing in the world. If you haven't, we'll leave you to puzzle what this online anagram could possibly signify with the hopes that the mystery urges you into the theater all the quicker.

Cinecultist visited the new IFC Center last Wednesday after work (the first Wednesday of it's existence, as programmer John Vanco enthused) with Janelle to take in the flick. We're happy to report that it's all very indie rock, and all in all we like the space though we do have a few minor complaints. As a persnickity New York movie goer, it's essential that we have a few complaints, otherwise one has to give back the membership card.

First though, the film. Miranda July is a performance artists and this is her first feature film but it's clear from the very first sequence that she has a strong vision for her work. The way that she views the world is very singular and yet the insistence on real world details gives the proceedings a humanity that feels genuine. The story is ostensibly about a young woman (played by July) who is a struggling performance artist and who falls for a recently divorced shoe salesman. But each of the individual characters made up of "people in their neighborhood" in a way, seem to be extensions of July's distinctive voice, despite their varying ages, occupations, genders, etc. The other arresting thing about the film is how each character's most private inner life seems to be constantly on the surface of their interactions. On one hand, it's such a relief to know that our psyches aren't so terribly tender as July depicts but at the same time it's seems sort of sad that we can't all experience life with such fresh eyes. It's an unique movie and you really should try to see it if you can.

As for the IFC, CC loves old theaters like the Waverly and we love when they get revived. Also, the scope of their programming intentions (midnight movies, talks from distinguished guests, docus, short films, revivals) is pretty darn exciting. The design-y-ness inside is a little off putting (why semi-transparent windows into the bathroom? why chartreuse lighting?) and despite the usher's reminder that we mind the single stair in the theater's aisle, CC totally tripped on it and stubbed our big toe pretty bad. (Comment from Janelle the Architect: "There's a reason why building code specifies two stairs.") Also, the concept that visitors to the oddly dark inside and a bit pricey bar/restaurant next door will get priority seating during screenings? We'll believe it when we see it.

However, these gripes add up to minor infractions in the face of our general excitement about the space. Yay for more indie movies, right? And with an advisory board like this: Noah Cowan, Alfonso Cuaron, Rick Linklater, Rebecca Miller, Errol Morris, John Sayles, Kevin Smith, Steven Soderbergh, Cynthia Swartz, Dan Talbot and Gary Winick we'll definitely wait for the kinks to be shook out.

Be sure to read Aaron and Lily's extensive interview with Vanco on Gothamist.

Posted by karen at 11:12 PM |

June 27, 2005

Can We Steep Tadanobu Asano In A Cup of Hot Water and Call It Tea?

taste of tea will blow a hole in your mind

In Katsuhito Ishii's world, when your crush leaves on the tram it's as though her train has ridden a whole through your head. Still from Taste of Tea (2004).

OMG, cinecultists. Too much to do, especially at that work place. As you may or may not have noticed, once every three weeks CC disappears for about a week. That's because all our brain can possibly deal with during that period is working, eating and sleeping -- sadly in that order. We should probably post some "don't worry, we're not dead" posts during that time, but even that would take more energy than we've got when the magazine is closing. It's crazy. Maybe next month, we'll look into employing a guest blogger for a few days. If you have any interest in that (self-congratulations and movie rambling), drop us a line.

Anyhow. Excuses, excuses. We have some catching up to do. Where has the Cinecultist been and what have we been watching in the last week or so? Some good things and some crap things, bunnies. Firstly, one of the good things: Katsuhito Ishii's Taste of Tea at Subway Cinema. Wow. Phenomenal. One of the best movies we've watched this year, though of course it's a 2004 film made in Japan which hasn't seen a wide American theatrical release. Hopefully an indie distributor will see fit to rectify this because this is really a movie you should see.

Unlike many of the Japanese flicks getting press these days for their popcorn-eschewing, extreme-sadism-is-fun gross-out factor Taste of Tea's sweet, bizarre sensibility reminded us more of Amelie than anything else. A little magical realism, a few unforgettable eccentrics, and then ordinary people just looking out at their world in unusual ways. One of this film's real gems is Tatsuya Gashuin who plays the weirdo Grandfather in this lovely little suburban family (hypnotist Dad, animator Mom, romantic/nerd Son, pensive Daughter, quiet Uncle). An Ishii regular (in all three of his movies), Gashuin does a musical number, complete with electric keyboard and Mr. Roboto dance moves, in an ode to the mountain which had us hysterical. We haven't laughed like that at the movies since the garden gnome sent postcards from Moscow to Amelie's papa.

Too much plot-ness happens to each of the characters to get into a more detailed sketch of the proceedings here but still the movie also makes time to lapse into contemplative visual moments like the falling cherry or the full moon. There's joke telling but also some sentimentality. Asano is great in this as the Uncle, as we predicted, but our deep love for this movie isn't only about our Asano fandom. It's about this amazing world created in this movie that when the credits rolled after nearly 2 and a half hours we still didn't want to leave.

Our only complaint? No A/C in Anthology Film Archives on Sunday night made for a very sticky Cinecultist. There were Japanese shrimp chips to be had at the concession stand but with no central air, authentic snacks and goofy pre-movie give aways seem like small potatoes in terms of effort for audience comfort.

Posted by karen at 10:23 PM |

June 26, 2005

A Pulitzer, A TV Show and Now This?

Last week, Cinecultist was feeling a tad low and jealous to read that film critic Roger Ebert received a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame. Sure, we haven't coined a movie rating system that's permeated the culture (yet) but heck, where's our love? That was until our boss pointed out that Ebert had to pay for his own darn star. Yes, that is correct. Upon nomination and an accompanying letter from one's representation, a star made of terrazzo and brass will only cost the celeb $15,000 out of their own pocket (click on the FAQ and scroll for more info). Sure, you have to beat out the other 200 plus applicants in one of five categories in June during the voting process and then write the fat check but then immortality is yours, just like the Rog!

Now, if only we can figure out how he rigged that Pulitzer...

[BTW, do you think Tom Wolfe knows Ebert stole his suit for the ceremony, as seen in the wire image?]

Posted by karen at 9:18 AM |

June 15, 2005

See, He's a Bat AND a Man

christian_bale18.jpgToday, Cinecultist and the Capn' began discussing the plan of attack for our Saturday, aka Movie Binge II: AMC's Revenge. You may have read about our exploits previously on Gothamist, but we're shooting for seven flicks in a row this time, people. Frankly we didn't want to mention it to Matty -- as he's already a little testy that we've seen more than one of the flicks being offered, thus cutting down our scheduling options -- but our ass hurts just thinking about spending 14 hours in the Times Square theater. But, we shall soldier on.

Bad news though. Batman Begins, a movie CC might like to see as we do try to catch the comic book adaptations, is not playing there. So that means we could be spending 16 hours plus of our weekend at the cinema. Even to us this sounds a tab obsessive. Maybe we should take in some guest reports on Batman Begins viewing experiences, if only to keep from becoming too mole-like from the lack o' sun? So all Cinecultist readers (aka our family and a few loyal friends) please e-mail your impressions of the flick and its various TomKat related hype by Sunday night and we will share the rewards next week. Think of it as guest blogging, sorta. Hope to hear from you!

Posted by karen at 11:43 PM |

June 14, 2005

A Few Things Of Note

The IFC Center at the old Waverly theater in the West Vil opens on Friday with the New York run of Me and You and Everyone We Know. There's going to be a restaurant with fancy pub food in it too! And a back garden! Excitement! [full report via Curbed].

Caryn James on that fickle mistress that is movie celebrity in today's New York Times. [thanks Ilana!]

Essential reading (from a few days ago, sorry we just noticed this piece): Manohla Dargis on Jonas Mekas.

T-minus three days to Subway Cinema. OMG. So psyched.

To do very soon: Find your summer outdoor movie sheet. That's because Monday kicks off the Bryant Park Summer Film Festival. "Memories, like the corners of my mind..." "Your girl is lovely, Hubble." [Note to Jori: See you there Barbra fan! Save us a spot.] Here's a little track for zee personal soundtrack to get you in the mood:

The Way We Were - Barbra Streisand

Posted by karen at 11:20 PM |

June 13, 2005

Ease On Down, Ease On Down The Road


The Scarecrow returns to his home with the chimps and "the Jesus Juice" on Neverland Ranch. "He's the Wiz and he lives in Oz."

"Jackson Not Guilty: Jurors acquit pop star of all molestation charges"

Posted by karen at 9:20 PM |

Monday Morning Discussion: Is Internet Downloading The Big Bad?

Is the Cinecultist so out of it that we don't download television or movie programs to our computer? The New York Times reports today calling it, "Hollywood's Boogeyman" and says as a trend it's only growing. Until just recently, a few too many mp3s and our little laptop "Hildy" ran like molasses. But now that we have our G4 "Sully" that zips along we could potentially incorporate this technology into our viewing practices.

Do you download? What and when? Leave it in the comments. (Extra credit if you can identify the film(s) which inspired our computer names.)

Posted by karen at 9:13 AM |

A Marriage Made In Hollywood Heaven

It really is getting ridiculous how influential these pre-release celebrity stunts are on weekend box office. "Are They/Aren't They A Couple" really whomped the ass of "No Anger Managment" in terms of receipts. Before you know it, the star's romantic and personal lives will become a regular part of the marketing discussion. Or maybe we're just being naive to think that it's not already.

adam_brody14.jpgCC did take in the boffo b.o. on Saturday afternoon at our local theater and quite enjoyed it, if you'd like to know. There's a reason why Angelina and Brad are such highly paid and in such high demand as stars, their presence on screen is really quite arresting. It's easy to accept them as images of the ultimate bourgeois fantasy. Their clothes, their flooring, their perfect perfect meals on that long dinner table. It's almost enough to make a boho, Eee Vee livin' Cinecultist ready to give up the illegal sublet for the 'burbs.

Doug Liman is having a barrel of fun squewering his stars and their lovely image. Chase scene in a mini-van -- cute concept. Granted, we couldn't quite catch all of the dialogue during this sequence but that could've been from the speakers in our theater or the print, not necessarily the film itself. We also chuckled mightly at Adam Brody in the Fight Club t-shirt (slightly visible in the picture above). If anything, Mr. & Mrs. Smith is the kind of movie that benefits from more po-mo reference, rather than less. It's not a masterwork by any means, but as silly, exploding summer fun, it's not bad.

In a slightly music related note: CC wants to thank the Shout Out Louds for putting on such an amazing show with the Dears on Saturday at Bowery. Everytime we've been talking about it in the last few days, we've been gushing like some kind of music blogger. It's intense. But really, go out and buy the record if for no other reason than when CC was chatting with their keyboardist Bebban after the show, she referenced Barry Lyndon. They play happy-go-lucky pop and they know Stanley Kubrick's 3 hour 18th century period film? Wow.

Posted by karen at 9:06 AM |

June 10, 2005

They Are Pants And They Travel

those sisters of the pantsLast week on Thursday, Cinecultist and her friend, who also happens to be a children's book writer, Lisa went to see The Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants. We expected... not much. But as the credits rolled, CC sheepishly wiped away our tears and looked over at Lis. She was also totally bawling. Following, we explain why we're such ninnies for the Pants.

Cinecultist: so, The Sisterhood of The Traveling Pants -- best movie of 2005?

Lisa: hmm. Lemme think ...nothing better comes to mind, actually.

CC: Were you surprised at how much you liked it? I know I was. I expected to be mocking it much more than I have been.

L: Yeah, I really was surprised. I expected it to be a much more teen-angsty kind of movie. With cheesy slapstick falls every five minutes. But it really wasn't like that.

CC: I think I expected it be more of a reprise of Now and Then, that horrible movie with the kid versions of Rosie O’Donnell, Demi Moore, etc. There's something about that shot in the gazebo that's in the preview that makes this movie look so incredibly trite. I know that's a lot of burden to put on one shot but when you're scrutinizing the previews, this is the kind of thing one tends to go on.

L: Sadly I never got to see Now and Then. I think I tried to several times, but my VCR was allergic to the video I rented. Now I thank that VCR. But I think I know what you're saying. But I think what was really remarkable about this film was that it didn't just cater to what teens will pay to see, it also tried to accurately depict their world (as much as one can, in a teen movie, I mean). Maybe I’m giving the pants too much credit, but honestly I think it's the most *realistic* teen movie I’ve seen in a long time. In terms of emotions and relationships, I mean, not the part with the magical pants.

CC: Yes, magical pants are totally far fetched. But I guess I like the way that the movie is inherently about teenage body issues without completely hitting you over the head (be happy with your body as it is, dammit!), but also really about the struggles of young girls coming of age. Friendship, divorced parents, family commitments, the difficulties of becoming a sexual being, etc. The book also has this interesting plot element where each of the girls falls into a funk of sorts, a spell of depression which while not completely debilitating (except maybe border-line in Bridget's case) is very real. You don't often see that depicted in movies -- that teen girls can be moody. I remember thinking when I was 13 that the best movie dialogue was from Heathers: "if you were happy all the time, you'd be a game show hostess." I found that idea so hilarious and empowering.

L: Interesting what you're saying about body issues. I didn't see that so much as a theme while I was watching the movie, because I don't think it plays so much throughout -- but I definitely like that idea. After I saw the movie, I was trying to think about what, exactly, the Pants' "powers" were supposed to be. It seemed not entirely consistent through each storyline. I’m not sure it needs to be, but I was just thinking ... so (Dr. Lisa asks), what do the Pants mean to you?? And yes, I definitely agree about showing girls being unhappy but not suicidal or drugged up. Just having teen girl problems. Sometimes it sucks being a teen girl, but most of us get over it okay. I thought this movie showed that well.

CC: I suppose in terms of the Powers of the Pants that they can make you more than you think you can be alone. They're the support of girl friendships; to make you more powerful, braver, more sure of yourself than you could be on your own.

L: I like that. Yes. I saw them as kind of a kick in the butt, if you will -- showing each girl what she needed to do, even when she really didn't want to go that route. I think that fits in with your idea, too, in a way, that friends can be your support in making those difficult decisions. (Now I’m getting a little cheesy, though...)

CC: I know. This movie inspires you to be so darn earnest. It’s scary.

L: Okay, a question: Do you think the movie (or the book, for that matter) could have worked without the magical element? Would it have been as good if they took the pants out of the pants movie?

CC: I think it's the vaguely cheesy catalyst for the plot. It seems to be essential to me.

L: Yeah, I think somehow the Pants really need to be there, even though I can't quite put my finger on why. It’s odd that it's the one magical element of the whole story, though, isn't it? I mean, it didn't bother me while I was watching at all, but afterwards it did start to bug me that everything else is based in reality when that's so off-the-wall fantastical.

CC: Well, that's the children's book writer in you. Either it all has to make no sense or complete sense. As though you were workshopping it or something.

L: I know. That’s annoying, huh? Okay, I’ll stop doing that...

CC: No, it's interesting. I’m just saying I accepted it easier than you did, because my brain isn't tuned into that element.

L: How do you think the Pants compare to other kiddy lit books of that genre? The first series that comes to mind is Babysitter's Club. A little bit younger target audience, but it still has the whole "four very different girls as friends" aspect. How would you compare this to BSC?

CC: I loved BSC when I was a kid, but I wouldn't say that it made me cry. Though I will say after spending all Friday night reading the book (like a big fat loser with no friends!) it wasn't as moving and emotionally affecting as the movie. I really think those four actors really brought something special to the proceedings.

L: Yes, I’ll agree with that. The blond girl? What’s her name? I loved her. I felt for her.

CC: Blake Lively. From an acting family apparently, but I read that this is her first film role. She knocked it out of the park.

L: (Although, I personally DID get choked up reading a BSC book once. Claudia And The Sad Goodbye. Man! Mimi was the best!)

CC: But I really liked all the girls: Amber Tamblyn, America Ferrer and Alexis Bledel. I predict big things for all of them.

L: Yes, she really was amazing. And when America Ferrera tells off West Wing dad? Wow, that got to me. I started to wonder at that point if I deep-seeded father-daughter issues. I have to say, of all four stories, I wasn't as into the Amber Tamblyn one. But we already discussed that the little blond girl bothered me. Maybe that's the thing -- I identified with the other three stories very strongly, but had trouble latching onto the one about the little cancer girl.

CC: I suppose if you had to point to a slightly less interesting story it would be hers. Though kids dying of cancer are always a gut-wrencher for me. I didn't identify so much as found it affecting.

L: Ooh, I’m just realizing ... death, love, sex, and family. Four story lines, four gigantical issues of growing up. This Ann Brashares woman is a genius! I can't believe it took me so long. And I call myself a writer.

CC: I don't know if I’d say she's an expert prose stylist but she does know structure.

L: Do you think it worked as an adaptation? You said you liked the movie better, right?

CC: Yes, I did like the movie better. The book isn't bad. As I mentioned to you, they changed some major in elements in the Lena story (Alexis Bledel in Greece) but I think that was for the sake of shooting all of those great Roman Holiday on Santorini sequences. It is my humble opinion that all movies benefit from cute boys riding around on Vespas.

L: Totally!

CC: I guess even though I spent all of that time reading the book, I’m thinking less about it being an adaptation than a movie based on a book. I can see how in Lemony Snicket you became obsessed with how the book was portrayed on screen but I didn't find the characters in the book got so under my skin that I was that protective of them.

L: By the way, I just IMDB'ed Blake Lively and it turns out she's been lying to us all. The Pants was not her first movie -- in 1998 she played Trixie/ Tooth Fairy in Sandman, which sounds like the best movie EVER. The plot summary ends with this line: “In the end, both Knapp and the children learn valuable lessons about doing the right thing and the necessity for kids to go to sleep.” And there's a character named "Marigold Pixietwiddle."

CC: Sweet! I know what we're renting next weekend! Any final thoughts on the Pants?

L: I guess I’d just say it was a very surprising look at teenage girl-ism, and it manages to be emotional without being TOO super cheesy. In conclusion, Lisa hearts The Pants.

CC: Cinecultist does too. It’s our official first favorite guilty pleasure for the summer. We’re hoping Mr. and Mrs. Smith and $2 Brooklyn Lagers at the Havana Outpost round out the rest of the list.

L: Thanks for a most thought-provoking discussion on The Pants! (Go pants go!)

Posted by karen at 8:50 AM |

June 9, 2005

Breaking News From The Eee Vee

From Cinecultist's source on the mean streets of the Eee Vee (ie. whose job does not require him to be in an A/C'ed cube all day) --



I was in Kim's on St. Mark's this afternoon looking for the new Casino dvd. The place was buzzing. It seems that yesterday at around 1pm, the cops showed up, kicked all the customers out, and arrested the cine-geeks behind the counter. Something about trafficking in bootleg dvds and cd. The raid was conducted by the NYPD -- with logistical support from some suits in the employ of the copyright gestapo. A hip village chick showed up to visit her Kim's employee boyfriend only to be told the he'd been busted yesterday, spent the night on ice, and was still at Guantanamo Soho waiting for a judge to spring him.

Well, Casino wasn't on the shelf yet (but The First Amendment Project was*).

*This is NOT a shameless plug by our tipster. No way, no how. Photo courtesy of him, as well.

Posted by karen at 6:40 PM |

Better SIFF Than Never: A Snooze, Murky Truths, & Hilarity Ensues

charminggirl2.jpg Well, we apologize – Seattle Maggie totally dropped the ball last week on our SIFF coverage. It could be that between the demands of The Man and our jealous Mistress Theatre, we had nary a moment to spare. Or, more likely, it could be that two Sundays ago we were stumped into confused silence by This Charming Girl, a movie in which nothing happens. It was considered one of the top Korean films from last year, which was probably why we had to wade through a packed house at the Harvard Exit. There was a feeling of excited expectancy that comes with such a crowd, which only served to baffle us further when we settled down to 99 minutes of nothing much in particular.

Jeong-hae, a quiet young postal worker, suffers from insomnia and sleepwalks through her monotonous days. She adopts a pet kitten…and then she doesn’t. She gets married…and then she doesn’t. She invites a cute writer on a date…that doesn’t happen. She finally confronts her uncle, who brutally raped her as a child, thus causing her current state of suspended animation. They sit together on a bench in silence for many long moments, and then (Warning: Spoiler!)...nothing happens. Yes, we realize that we are glossing over all of the emotional subtleties of the film; as a matter of fact, we did find it interesting in a dry, abstract sort of way, but it did nothing to engage us personally in the story. While the tedious extended shots of people staring off inscrutably at nothing intoned “deep and meaningful” at us, all we really wanted was for something, anything, to happen. Afterwards, we met up with Boyfriend Todd at the charmingly twee Joe Bar and found that our perch on the dollhouse balcony above the cash register made for excellent eavesdropping on our fellow SIFF patrons. “Well, I fell asleep,” one lady said to her companion. “Then I woke up, but it looked the same. So I fell asleep again.”
“Me too!” her companion said, making us think that maybe we should just pat ourselves on the back for making it through without losing consciousness, and be done with it.

long twilight.jpg Luckily, staying awake was not a problem last Saturday afternoon during Long Twilight, a Hungarian take on the Shirley Jackson story “The Bus”. Even Boyfriend Todd, who we dragged along with us, seemed remarkably alert and lucid. An elderly lady archaeologist boards a strange bus in the countryside of her youth and has a series of increasingly odd and familiar dreams. Her childhood home appears on the side of the road as a seedy hotel, the same bizarre duo of truckers keep driving by, and a mysterious locket hides an unseen secret. Director Attila Janisch, looking somewhat hunky in a George-of-the-Jungle-turned-Gap-model kind of way, gamely fielded questions after the film. Among other things, he admitted to reading Jackson’s story in his youth and throwing the book against a wall in frustration before learning to embrace the vague mystery for what it was, rather than looking for a specific, concrete answer. Which, coincidentally, describes the best way to approach this enjoyably eerie film.

circus.jpg On Sunday evening, we wrapped up the weekend with The Circus, with our friends Alysha and the Unflappable Mr. Barnes. As we stood in line in the alley behind the Neptune, we realized that we had somehow never seen a Charlie Chaplin picture. Sure, we learned our ABCs with Maria doing her passable Little Tramp impression on Sesame Street and grew up to swoon over Johnny Depp's droll take on the Gold Rush's rolls-on-forks dance in Benny & Joon. We even sat through Robert Downey Jr.’s sadly misunderstood version in Chaplin and Eddie Izzard’s vaguely creepy version in The Cat’s Meow. But Seattle Maggie will tell you now, with authority – we didn’t know what we were missing with the real deal. The very picture of doleful gravity, Chaplin’s Tramp literally stumbles upon a job at a failing circus with hilarious results. As the Tramp woos a sad-eyed ballerina horse rider, he falls into one comical situation after another, including a chase through a funhouse mirror maze, a sleepy lion, a botched clown audition, and a magician’s hat gone disastrously awry. We know we aren’t the first to say it and we won’t be the last, but Chaplin’s prowess at physical comedy is simply incredible. With only the polite cock of his battered hat and the dignified angle of his rickety cane, Chaplin inspires the kind of helpless belly-laughs that most people never indulge in public. And as the Tramp ended up on the high wire act, covered with monkeys and his pants puddled around his ankles, the theater resounded with a cacophony of snorts, cackles, and howls of laughter; we were tickled to find that some of it was coming out of us.

Well, all good things must come to an end - SIFF is wrapping up this weekend. Tune in next week for our final report!

Posted by seattle maggie at 4:41 AM |

June 8, 2005

Tom Cruise: Celebrity As Performance Art?

Essential reading -- Ken Tucker on Tom Cruise in this week's New York magazine:

How edifying to see a superstar saying things the way he wants to say them, unmediated. Even if some of those things are offensive, or dogmatic, or just plain incomprehensible. Why would he say them if they weren’t what he actually felt? He’s not winning anyone over with his charm offensive, and that fact only makes his words seem more, not less, candid.
Posted by karen at 8:51 AM |

June 7, 2005

Many Happy Returns To The Seattle Maggie!

seattle maggie is our prater girlToday is Seattle Maggie's birthday, and someone pointed out to Cinecultist that it might be nice to wish her happy happy on this here internet. So.

Happy B-Day Prater Girl!

However, it seems that our Left Coast correspondent is also having some turning-28-related-angst, so please leave some love for her in the comments reminding her that a) 28 is not mid-life unless she plans on only being 56, in which case our scheme to take over the senior center movie night is shot and b) she can still totally write that novel of hers. She's still full of the piss and vinegar, despite no longer being newly post-grad.

Come on'. Leave her some good wishes below, we already know you love her more than the CC.

Posted by karen at 11:37 PM | | Comments (1)

The Sign Says, "Locals Only"

victor_rasuk9.jpeWatching movies about "real life," whether they are documentaries or fiction films based on real people, usually makes film viewers wonder where does the story end and the "realness" begin? But actually, what CC always thinks when watching docus is, "how did they think to put the camera there?" This question is particularly pressing in the two "dogtown" movies, Lords of Dogtown (the fiction film out in theaters last weekend) and Dogtown and Z-Boys (the docu from 2001). With skateboard wheel p.o.v.s, mid-air freeze frames from above swimming pools and archival footage from blacktop playgrounds, it's amazing where Stacy Peralta, Catherine Hardwicke and co though to put their cameras. Almost as amazing as the boarding itself.

Cinecultist watched these two movies in a slightly surprising order -- we saw the fiction film on Saturday afternoon and then with our interest piqued, forced our friend Ilana to go to two West Village video stores on Sunday night after dinner to find a copy of the documentary. With the fiction film fresh in our mind, it was fascinating to see how Peralta (the director of the documentary and the fiction film's screenwriter and a subject in both films) extrapolated moments or phrases into full-blown scenes realized by the actors. Apparently, the goofy character played by Heath Ledger, Skip, the Zephyr surfboard shop impresario was an amalgamation of two figures from the docu, Skip Engblom and Jeff Ho. Neither of them had teeth in the docu footage of the caliber Ledger sports, but their smaller personalities added up into his over the top performance. This is just one example of a detail from the documentary extrapolated from the source but not really distorting the original's intention.

In addition to Ledger and his awesome, ill-fitting chompers, we enjoyed the performances of nearly everyone in the fiction film except save Nikki Reed. Memo to Miss Hardwicke: Nikki can not act. Don't subject us to her again. Thank you for your kind attention. But otherwise, this is a cast comprised of all of the best of the bright young things. These are the kids that you expect to see really make something of their careers. Our new favorite has to be Michael Angarano, who you may recall as the younger version of Patrick Fugit in Almost Famous and as Jack's son on Will and Grace. Here he plays a rich kid who's a skateboard enthusiast and whose backyard becomes the site of the infamous Dogbowl Sessions. Where the other boys hit the growling notes, the tongue stuck out at authority moments and the burgeoning sex object appeals, Angarano brings a tenderness to the mix that mellows the rest of the cast.

In a way, despite the obvious stylistic imprint by Hardwicke, the real author of both films would have to be Peralta. Though neither film sets out to make this explicit, it was his forethought to make more of this thing that he loved as a kid until it became his career, which set the whole deal in motion. There's something a touch narcissistic about perpetuating your own legend as an instigator of cultural change, except that the number of people in the documentary who agree that he's the Man is so overwhelming. While CC would certainly not call ourselves a sports movie aficionado and the thought of watching a bunch of endless footage of the sweetest grind ever leaves us a little dry, there's an exhilaration evident from both of these movies that's palpable. It reminded us that when we were in elementary school, we could ride our bicycle home from school the entire way with no hands. That youthful impulse to drive your body beyond what you think it should do just because you can is why the Z-Boys birthed the X-Games. If you don't understand that impulse, then you don't get what it means to be young.

Pictured via Yahoo! Movies: On the left is skater Tony Alva, on the right is actor Viktor Rasuk, who plays him in Lords of Dogtown.

Posted by karen at 8:30 AM |

June 6, 2005

CC Knows Someone In The NYT

BREAKING NEWS: Our buddy Fiona is so totally famous and in the New York Times today. Sure today, she's famous for being a weenie handler at the BookExpo America, but tomorrow, who knows? Lizzie Grubman or someone famous for being a book publicist better watch out, Fiona Lee is in town! Here's a picture of Fi with the giant weenie.

Posted by karen at 10:59 AM |

Russell Crowe: Don't Call Us, We'll Call You

phone.jpgJust when you were thinking to yourself, "Hey, we were all wrong about Oscar-winning actor Russell Crowe. He's not some crazed, over-grown hoodlum with anger management issues -- he's a family man, who owns a sheep farm, sings in a rock band and is dedicated to the craft of acting." He goes and gets arrested for throwing a telephone at a Mercer Hotel employee. Seriously, are they handing out crazy pills at the airport these days to those exiting from First Class? "Welcome to the Big Apple various celebs, feel free to assault our citizens." Don't the bold face names know they can't get away with that behavior here? Don't they know we New Yorkers have Page Six on the speed dial?

Pictured above is not a facsimile of the actual phone thrown by Crowe. The Mercer is much too hip to have such old school technology for their posh guests. Crowe is in town promoting his boxing movie, Cinderella Man. No joke necessary.

Posted by karen at 8:57 AM |

June 2, 2005

Always Been Fond Of Shoes The Color Red


On Saturday, while surfing the internet for upcoming film events to update in our left sidebar, Cinecultist realized that this was one of our last chances to watch one of the Michael Powell movies at the Film Society. The Red Shoes was playing at 2 pm. It was 1:10 pm and we were still in our pajamas with dirty hair. Could we make it? Flying from shower, to fresh clothes, to the street and then the subway, we were a movie-goer with a mission.

Fortunately, the MTA gods approved of our plan and ferried us to the Upper West with five minutes to spare. Whew. Then our luck continued as we ran into fellow film blogger Aaron Out of Focus. Despite internet rumors to the contrary, he lives! And leaves his apartment! Occasionally! We jest, obvs, but impromptu movie partners are the best, don't you agree?

Apparently, the print we were watching wasn't as good as the one used for the transfer by Criterion on their DVD, but as this was CC's first viewing we were mostly caught up in the story and the dancing. Both are very dramatic and strong, full of sincere intensity one doesn't see to much at the movies these days. Everything has to be glib and winky and po-mo, which don't get us wrong, we love but in Powell and Pressburger's universe, it's all about the highs and the lows. Everthing is capitalized. Dreams. Romance. Beauty. Tragedy. Good stuff for sure. Our favorite dancing movie is still An American In Paris because we're loyal to the Gene Kelly to the end, but surely The Red Shoes will be added to the personal cannon. That's the list of movies that when someone we know mentions they haven't ever seen it, we exclaim in mock horror, "You've never seen [insert film title]? You have to! It's essential viewing! Do you want to stop by the video store right now? 'Cause we totally could."

Update on our search for a screening of Cafe Lumiere, the Ozu tribute by Hou Hsiao Hsien which stars Tadanobu Asano: we forgot that it's playing at BAM this weekend as a part of their Village Voice: Best of 20004 series this month. Saturday, June 4 at 6:50 pm and 9:15 pm. Be there or be sorry.

Posted by karen at 11:07 PM |

June 1, 2005

I'm Fine Thanks, Don't Mention It

alphaville.jpgSilly Godard. Silly, lovely Jean-Luc. You're so brilliant and such a prankster. But really what more can Cinecultist possibly add to the general cannon surrounding this bastion of the New Wave? All we can report is that on Tuesday night, we saw Alphaville at Anthology Film Archives.

So. Anna Karina looked amazing in her short coat trimmed in fur. The soundtrack of noir-ish themes was jarring and delightful. Anthology's theater seats are still nearly as uncomfortable as the classrooms in NYU's Cinema Studies department (they don't have those lame folding desks attached, so they at least have that going for them). We went to the film with our friend Adriane and many, many Eee Vee hipster types. Adriane made us sit near the front, as she's wont to do. That's about all, folks.

However, we will point out that the evening was sponsored by Storefront Films, a non-profit film series put on by Storefront Art and Architecture. This movie was a suggested donation of $5 but the odd conversation with the girl checking names at the door on their RSVP list threw the Cinecultist and we didn't give them any money at all. (Adriane's not there yet. Is CC going up to save a seat or wait in the lobby, because it's first come, first serve? Well, actually we're going to use the restroom first if you must know, Odd Girl, but then we'll go up to save the seats.) Anyhoo, bad CC; support the arts, stupid! So we offer this link sheepishly and in lieu. Check out their film next month on Tuesday, June 28 as it'll be Werner Herzog's Lessons of Darkness.

Posted by karen at 9:00 AM |