Bearing in mind that Cinecultist will never be offered a job by Patrick McMullan because we are the worst digital photographer ever, a few images from last night's activities wherein we fulfilled one of our long held Eee Vee fantasies -- going to the top of the Red Square Building on Houston.
Left: The "clock" with a well-placed shadow. Right: The Lenin from the back. Below: Nice view even with all of that digital blur, no?
Psst. Speaking of, this is another party CC attended last week where we can now say that we've been offered a plate of cheese hors d'oeurves by Bill Murray. Good times.
There's something about the autobiographical impulse that is so darn appealing. Not for the audience always, but surely for the artist. Because really, is there anything more fascinating than ourselves and our neurosis? Certainly not says the essayist, memoirist, blogger and autobiographical documentarian.
Cinecultist watched tonight Sherman's March by Ross McElwee, a movie from 1986 about McElwee's travels through his native South following the route of Sherman's March to the Sea and about McElwee's search for a wife. The film won best documentary at the Sundance Film Festival that year and it's not hard to see why, as it's an incredibly compelling navel gazing that runs over 2 and half hours long.
It sort of feels like a Nick Hornby book on screen with less pop culture references and is much better than like minded ilk such as that dreadful 50 First Dates* or My Date With Drew (which CC hasn't seen yet but just looks sucky). There's a fine line between self-absorbed and universal in it's miniscule examinings. Fortunately this movie stays on the good side of the law.
We particularly loved the looks everyone's sporting without any self-consciousness. 1986 was a fashion minefield, people -- if you don't recall. High waisted jeans, huge sunglasses, feathered hair and roller skates as the height of sporty chic. Ye-ouch. Also, McElwee is a bit obsessed with Burt Reynolds in the movie, after one of the girls he's dating who's an actress thinks meeting Reynolds would help her floundering career. CC kept picturing the old guy in promo pictures for Dukes of Hazzard wearing Tom Wolfe's white suits but in '86, Reynolds was hot stuff especially to Southern women. He's like their Brad Pitt, but with a mustache.
Despite the dating of the material with these silly references, Sherman's March is wonderfully human and engaging. Trying to find lasting love, and hopefully yourself in the process, is a subject that doesn't get old even if the hairstyles and celluloid hunks do.
* We're thinking not of the Sandler/Barrymore rom com but that documentary from 8 or 9 years ago where the guy filmed all of his first dates and then met a nice girl and settled down? Is this ringing a bell with anyone? Please email if so. Update: readers Kristi and Josh clued us in that we mean 20 Dates (1998). Thanks guys!
You're a short filmmaker and you always thought it would be cool to see your movies screened on board airplanes...
Greetings from Asiana International Short Film Festival in Seoul, Korea. We are pleased to announce our third aviation, and we cordially invite worldwide short filmmakers to participate in AISFF 2005.
Asiana International Short Film Festival2005 (AISFF2005) will be held in the central part of Seoul, the capital of Korea. Organized by Aiana Airlines, one of major airline companies in Korea and supported by Korea Ministry of Culture and Tourism and Korean Film Commision, Asiana International Short Film Festival has been the first international short film festival in Korea and the first In-Flight film festival ever all around the world by presenting ‘in-flight’ as a new territory for short films. As the ground and sky short film festival, it allows the audience to encounter global short films in transformation.
With AISFF, award films will be screening to around 3 million passengers at the in-flight of the international flights of the international flights of Asina Airlines. AISFF will provide a great opportunity to short filmmakers as an alternative arena going beyond their local and national boundaries, for greater international audience awareness.
Entry Deadline : Aug. 26, 2004
- Festival Date : Nov. 02 ~ 07, 2005, Seoul, Korea
- Application Fee : None
Visit our website for further information. http://www.aisff.org
The entry form is available to download from our website.
So apparently all of the Cinecultist's loyal readers (we know there are a few of you out there, we do check the stats and all those hit can't all be our Dad) did not think we actually had Last Days shwag to give away. Hence, only a few responses. Sad face.
However! What our readers lack in feedback, they make up in creativity. Voila:
From reader, Michael
Michael Pitt needs a bath, I mean he wears that same shirt and pajamas for god knows how many days? and he has stains on it from mac and cheese and cocoa rice crispies :)
He would be a right stinky bastard, but I still would kiss him :)
Michael D. Fellows
And from reader, Bruce
Michael Pitt wasn't only the dirtiest person in Last Days, but is in the running for dirtiest person of all time and I'll be damned if that isn't what people love about him. The dreamiest anti-DiCaprio since...well, DiCaprio, but before the boat and the heart throb status and all that. How serious is Michael Pitt about being dirty? He showed up greasy and dressed in rags to the film's premiere. The rest of the cast, not usually known for their tidiness (I'm looking at you, Asia!) even showered for the event. Maybe I'm over doing it, maybe it was the antiseptic quality of The Island that caused me to see Pitt as a real-life version of Pigpen but I doubt it, because he even made the dirty rebellious youths of The Edukators look like they just came off a makeover show. I guess when all is said and done, Michael Pitt is just dirty...but it seems to work for him.
Below, we will leave the comments open wherein you can weigh in on the cleanliness of the various Last Days cast members. Personally CC would've voted for Asia Argento. We hardly recognized her until we saw her bare ass peeking out from under that ratty thermal. True story.
Cinecultist realized today that we never got around to blogging about Wedding Crashers, a movie we saw over a week ago and which those fickle box office goddesses seemed to favor much more than Mikey Bay's product this weekend. We enjoyed WC well enough, though our enthusiasm for it pales in comparison to various "guy guys" with whom we've discussed it. "Hilarious." "Instant classic." "Vince Vaughn's best role since Swingers." -- all examples of the wild, guffawing, smirking* praise we've heard.
VV and our boy Owen Wilson certainly do have a lot of on-screen comedic chemistry. They seem to be having a blast, as does their uncredited guru whose riffs on pick-ups in mourning really puts the "fun" back into funeral. However, we're not so sure about the status of movie classic. Better than a sharp stick in the eye? Certainly. More enjoyable than feeling your skin bead up with dirty, humid city gunk outside of a fiercely a/c environment? Bien sur. So by all means, if it's a decision between melting into your flip flops or attending WC at the cinematheque, you know what our advice would be.
However, two movies on television tonight reminded us what we think a classic movie really looks like.
1) Empire Records (1995). Gin Blossoms. Better Than Ezra. Toad the Wet FREAKIN' Sprocket, people. Can't you feel the mid-90s love? These kids have so much energy. They're so silly in their problems of commerce and social standing. They wear brief clothing (hello, young Renee Zellweger!). The reveal their souls. They love with the intensity wrought with the fire of a thousand suns, or at least with the cheese at Liv Tyler's disposal while boogying in front of a neon sign. Ultimate moment? When the band Gwar talks back to the stoner kid high on pot brownies and then eats him.
2) Dangerous Liaisons (1988). This movie doesn't have an alterna soundtrack, but it does have corset. Gawd, corsets are so hot. As are the sparring wits of John Malkovich and Glenn Close. This movie also has brief clothing (hello, young Uma Thurman!), soul revealing, too intense love and more good stuff like sword fights in the snow. It does not have Gwar in it but it does have leeches and blood letting. Ewww. Ultimate moment? Seeing Malkovich and Close dressed separately by their army of attendants as they prepare for their drawing room wars.
Awesome and awesome!
* Perhaps the smirking is a result of the gratuitous bare breast montage in the first fifteen minutes? Just a shot in the dark.
Curious to hear some more Michael Pitt music, Cinecultist poked around the web until we found the following track from Last Days sung by Mr. Pitt. Nirvana-y, no?
The Modern Age's review of Pagoda's performance in New York at Piano's back in June.
Btw, we have some Last Days swag to give away, t-shirt, poster and oddly enough, two guitar picks.
E-mail us at karen[at]cinecultist[dot]com who you think looks the most in need of a bath in L.D. and why -- Michael, Asia Argento, Lukas Haas or Scott Green -- and some weird free stuff could be yours!
Hey. How's it going? Happy summer to you. Cinecultist knows you must love the summer months because it really is the season best suited to your brand of high concept, low intelligence quotient filmmaking. In fact, we're writing because we spent our half day Friday afternoon yesterday at the cinema watching your newest, The Island.
You sure do like to make things explode and god love ya for it. When it's hot outside there's something very satisfying about watching pure mayhem, and you really know how to stage that stuff. However, a little constructive criticism from a reluctant but still admiring fan:
1) Anything over the two hour mark is much too long for a summer movie. You sir, are no David Lean. It's just not necessary to have your movies go on that long. Bad Boys II? 147 minutes. Armaggedon is 150 minutes, which is just plain excessive if you ask us. Even that extra 7 minutes on the Island, accounting also for extensive trailers and commercials before the movie begins feels like an extra thirty and just makes our ass tired.
2) We liked the little meta moments (Scarlett Johansson watches herself in that Calvin Klein ad, Ewan McGregor talks to his rogue-ish alter ego who likes fast cars, has a Scottish accent and a raging STD from all of his philandering) but felt you could've sustained them further. Such a simplistic ending in a movie about cloning (cloning bad! bad cloning doctor Sean Bean!) seems like a cop out even for you.
3) That much senseless urban mayhem, particularly in the light of recent London terrorist attacks which of course you couldn't have anticipated but is on tour mind nonetheless, seems unnecessarily callous. Particularly that car chase scene with the flying metal and flipping cars was quite brutal, though the hover bike through the office building and the office workers flying each which way was also rough. If you're going to make junk blow up and cars flip end to end one after another, let's not see the horrified look of the passengers just before it happens, 'kay? And then have no follow up afterwards? Not cool. Imagined gore with no consequences, when your plot is about demanding consequences for inhumane organ harvesting from clones, is just too hypocritical.
Granted, we may be reading too much into this sci-fi flight o' fancy of yours but you do have two Criterion discs out. If you ask people to call you an action auteur, you should expect this kind of mail.
Anyhow, thanks for making our ear drums ring yet again. And for the scene where Scarlett tells Ewan to use more tongue when kissing her. Good one. Maybe we didn't need to be able to hear those finer registers anyway. See you next summer!
Readers of this space know that the Cinecultist feels strongly about the young actor Michael Pitt (having eaten chicken in the same room with him) and so it was with pleasure that we attended an advance screening of the movie Last Days a few weeks ago.
After the film, we ran into our friend Andrew (aka the Filmbrain) exiting the screening room who wanted to know what CC thought. "I think I liked it," was our confused response. However, the more time we've spent letting the movie percolate, the more we've enjoyed it. It seems strange to think that a move going experience could be felt most outside of the theater, but that's been our reaction to Last Days.
In fact, we'd argue that Gus van Sant imbeds this reaction into this and his previous two films, Gerry and Elephant. Like much of van Sant's work, these three films are about ostensibly "real" moments made fiction. But particularly in these most recent pictures, the ending of the stories (ie. death) is already known by the audience before the film even begins. Going into Last Days, the two things you probably already know is 1) it's sort of about, though not exactly about, Kurt Cobain and that 2) Kurt Cobain killed himself. With death eminent for the characters we're being introduced to, there's a feeling of anxiety for the audience that is strong despite being entirely extra-textual. Unlike a horror film or a weepy drama, no music or lighting or obvious plot points hint at the death to come but still it's very much a part of the viewing experience.
It seems then, that van Sant in his movies is interested in exploring those banal moments prior to death. Not a whole lot "happens" in Last Days, which may contribute to our feeling that the movie is much more enjoyable when we're not actually watching it. Much of the movie is taken up with the camera contemplating Michael Pitt's character, Blake, a musician living in a rambling estate in the Pacific Northwest. The estate rambles and so does Blake, and meanwhile there's a bunch of grungy hangers on in the house who all seem to be looking for Blake but can't really find him. The timeline weaves in and out of this day leading up to Blake's death, sometimes showing us the same scene more than once but from a different angle.
Like in Elephant, the camera is one of the most interesting character's in the film, seeming to stand in for some omniscient, unnamed narrator. The camera always knows where Blake is, even if the grunge kids don't, though at times it'd rather observe Blake from a less advantageous point of view, like outside through a bay window. Harris Savides is van Sant's cinematographer on this project as well as Elephant and Gerry plus he also worked on Birth and Se7en, so his camera work is quite distinctive.
Another pleasure of the movie, though some might call it a distraction, is how much van Sant makes Pitt look like Cobain. He dresses him up in his signature clothes, gives him the greasy locks and has him mumble a lot so we don't hear too much of his voice, and it's an uncanny effect. Plus, Pitt's a pretty good musician surprisingly and his performances have a power that's unexpected. Certainly, it's hard to forget that we've seen so very much of Pitt in the Dreamers but he's an arresting performer with with charisma to spare.
Like the most powerful artists, van Sant is able to show us beauty and grace where we never expected to find it. The death of Kurt Cobain always seemed to us before like a moment to contemplate with sadness, nostalgia and a longing for what could have been. For van Sant it's something else as well, and his ability to propose this interpretation of a watershed cultural moment is something very powerful indeed.
Cinecultist finished the Harry Potter. We are devasted. We're going to bed now, and we may not be able to get out from under the covers in the morning.
The best part about Charlie and the Chocolate Factory in the last few days has been talking to other people who've also seen it. It's totally a "favorite lines" movie, where there's nearly as much enjoyment to be had in rehashing the best bits as there was watching it the first time. You're like fellow members of a not-so-secret club where the password is "I like grapes!" or mentioning the doll and puppet burn ward.
Director Tim Burton and his marketing team have been very pointed in insisting that Charlie and the Chocolate Factory is not a remake of the 1971 musical Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory but rather a new adaptation of the book. But if he had not been able to conjure up his own weird world in classic Burton fashion, it all would've been movie marketing hot air.
Johnny Depp's performance alone is worth the price of admission. His facial expressions are priceless. They almost could be the work of a silent film actor, they communicate so much. If only we could make a flip-book of some of his reactions.
We want to watch this movie about fifteen more times and take people to it who haven't seen it yet, so we can nudge them and whisper, "get ready, this is the best part" throughout. Which is probably really annoying, but CC wouldn't be able to contain ourselves. Charlie is a movie overflowing with goodness that fills us with good will for the whole endeavor of moviemaking.
On a Monday morning in mid-July, there's a few things that fall under that squeaky, shrieky headline for the Cinecultist.
1) We're happy to report we're up to page 422 in the new Harry Potter and though it might be tempting to take a sicky, CC's acting like an adult by going into work today. As per usual, it takes good ol' J.K. about 200 pages to get the story cooking with gas but once she does, she doesn't disapoint. We had a blast hanging out with all the other Potter crazies at the Union Square Barnes and Noble on Friday night. We got an optic light pen (patent pending), some H.P. stickers, AND a lightening bolt temporary tattoo. Big shout out to the older gentleman in the Dumbledore costume and on the Segway -- we think you were dressed up for yourself and for that we say, "Dude, you rule!"
2) Johnny Depp in Charlie and the Chocolate Factory. A fuller review to come but so far we've been raving the most about the inspired Johnny Depp. One of his most brilliant characterizations ever. Can anyone else do it like him? No, they just can't and they don't even try. He's amazing in this with his grey-tinged skin, perfect teeth, nervous giggle and border-line anti-social behavior. Ahh, love it.
3) Sufjan Stevens. Okay, so this one's not even movie adjascent, but still this guy is so freakin' brill we can't keep it in. Love him, love him so much. So feelin' the Illonoise. So psyched for his show at the Bowery next month. Speaking of the indie rock, good times out at Coney Island on Saturday for the Siren Festival this year. We weren't totally obsessing about one of the bands in the line-up particularly though we did enjoy being there, sweating our ass off and soaking up the atmosphere. The Brooklyn Vegan (who we interupted mid-picture of some freaky girl's outfit, haha ambience) has some lovely pictures.
4) Reports from various sources regarding Maggie Cheung events. Our one friend talked to her briefly in the Walter Reade bathroom (awesome!) and the other one loved Clean despite her extreme hatred of all things Assayas after being subjected to demonlover. Apparently, she's even graceful during dumbass Q&A. Now that's a movie star for you. Woot for the Asian American International Film Festival for bringing her to town and selling out their opening night event in like nearly 2 seconds flat.
It feels good to feel this enthused.
Crap loads o' crap is coming out in theaters in another week which is really a good thing because as you may have noticed Cinecultist has been in the movies doldrums lately. For now, the haul is smaller. More like a trickle actually which is just fine. This coming weekend we have Johnny Depp's twisted impression of Michael Jackson as a candy entrepeneur (that's our guess anyway, based on clips and our understanding of how Depp's method works) in Charlie and the Chocolate Factory plus the Vaugh/Wilson goofballs in Wedding Crashers but other than that, it's pretty bare. Happy Endings, despite having our Jesse "Sexy When Brushing His Teeth" Bradford in it, looks like mediocre junk. And The Warrior is totally Miramax cast offs, like that last piece of pastry that just looks sad sitting in the box all by itself.
New York weather update: It feels like we had to swim home. Also, as we neared our place a bug the size of a small dog scurried past. And you know when we say "bug," we mean "cockroach" right? Yeah. File it under: ewwwww.
Probably just rhetorical questions but: What's wrong with the DVDs we have now exactly? Isn't the DVD market totally booming in relation to the theatrical box office? Get ready for the campaign to make you think you need a whole new set of DVDs either in HD or Blu-ray, depending on which technology becomes the big new thing.
We just wanted to prepare you now, because if you're anything like the gadget-lusting Cinecultist (we have a sickness, it's true) you will be sucked in by their cheap, cheap ploys. Damn them, they're so crafty.
Another brick in the wall of the Cinecultist's childhood fascination with New York life: the two Muppet characters named after Manhattan hotels, Waldorf and Statler. They're so delightfully crumudgeon-y despite all of their time with a pack of misfits and weirdos like the Muppets. This is, of course, the thought one has when one is laboring under the assumption that the Muppets are, you know, real people. Anyhoo. Movies.com has launched a weekly series of movie review skits featuring the balcony peanut gallery and this week's features a few yucks at the expense of Charlie and the Chocolate Factory. File it under Silly Time Waster.
Cinecultist is melting. July in Manhattan ain't pretty folks and neither is our frizzed out Jew-fro. For some reason this level of humidity has kept CC from the movie theaters in favor of drinking too many vodka tonics at East Houston happy hours, drinking iced coffees in Williamsburg coffeehouse back gardens and drinking margaritas on the rocks in Cuban gardens in Brooklyn.
On Saturday night, we consumed even more liquids in celebration of the dual Reverse Shot birthdays -- Michael and Jeff. Michael's actual birthday is tomorrow, and we can't say enough nicey nice things about our co-worker and one of the critical voices from RS and the RS blog. Someday we think it'd be fun to have a Siskel and Ebert style movie review show with Michael wherein we bicker about movies and then he does one of his truly excellent actor impressions which disolves CC into giggles.
As you can probably imagine, we heartily enjoyed the super geeked out movie conversation you'd expect to hear at an RS summer cookout. Apparently, Todd Solondz was none to pleased with writer Nick Pinkerton's review of his latest and singled him to his distributors. Snicker. We also found ourselves emeshed in a Bergman love-fest which also mentioned JLG and their mutual use of DV (Jean-Luc Godard and digital video respectively, not to be confused with JGL and DvF, ie. Joseph Gordon-Levitt and Diane von Fürstenberg).
But don't worry, dear ones. Cinecultist promises to rouse ourselves from our movie slump very soon, just like the rest of the American public. Sure, it's tempting to just sit at home watching episode after episode of Felicity: Season Senior Year on DVD but we know it's our patriotic duty to drag our butts into those plush rocking chair seats with over-priced popcorn in hand. God bless us, everyone!
Cinecultist really is a Northern California girl. Summer days that are overcast and require a light weight jacket seems like the best idea ever after struggling through our New York humid city the last month or so. Our vaca has been lovely but it's winding down now and as of tomorrow we'll be back in the gotham of our heart, ready to pound the downtown pavement, shoving innocent bystanders out of our way.
One of the things we did with our vacation was to finally watch Jean-Jacques Annaud's The Bear which we'd rented from Netflix about a month ago and put off because did we really want to watch a "nature" movie? Turns out we did. Beautiful photography and really excellent acting performances from those bears (god, that was a fun sentence to write). The movie does a wonderful job of making the orphaned cub and his buddy, the giant bachelor Kodiak bear both adorable and yet still very much "wild animals." Not suitable for turning into collectable teddy bears. Especially with the crazy bears out on the town sequences, amusing to see a little bear-one-night-stand action and then bear-experiments-with-psychotropic-drug action. Blissed out bears, good stuff.
Thanks by the way to our lovely Nor Cal friends (Cara & Alex, Greg, Shalini, Aliya & Andy) who traveled into the city to see us while we were in town and who tells us they're devoted remote readers. Lovely to see you all, let's do it again very soon.
And in conclusion, if you can swing a spa day at the Fairmont Sonoma Mission Inn like we did on the holiday Monday we highly recommend it. Sitting around in robes by the pool and then having various scented oils rubbed into our face, it is "so choice" as Ferris Bueller would say. Can't you just feel the much needed relaxation oozing from this blog?
The Cinecultist was supposed to be on a 12:50 pm flight from Newark airport to San Francisco for some vacation time in Nor Cal. However, little did we know that the trusty New Jersey transit only runs once an hour past the airport station. Breathless and annoyed we arrived at the terminal just as our flight was leaving. So now we wait, and try not to beat ourselves up too much for not getting our butt in gear faster this morning.
However, it is possible to purchase 24 hours worth of internet usage for less than $10 and we do have all of last week's New Yorker plus our birthday gift of the Granta new writing journal which features Atom Egoyan and Akira Kurosawa, so we should stay relatively entertained. When circumstance forces one to reconsider "the plan" it helps to contemplate the little things that you can enjoy.
Like great movies from last year that are now looping through HBO. Earlier this weekend we caught both Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind and Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban, and where reminded how simply enjoyable both of these movies are. Vivid characters, a strong visual style and intense, believable emotions make it easy to get caught up in their very different stories, carried along to their satisfying conclusions. The great thing too about re-watching movies on television is that even if you do remember essentially what happens, it's been long enough that you're not anticipating every word or gesture. Plus, now there's time to notice new details (like the Clementine and Joel potato heads in his apartment) or further savor bits you liked the first time (the brilliant Alan Rickman/David Thewlis/Garry Oldman showdown in the Shrieking Shack).
Speaking of the obsession de Harry P.: 12 days until the new book comes out and CC's starting to get pretty darn excited. Our office is just up the street from the Scholastic store and they have a huge window display with a countdown clock and Harry Potter music piped into the street to titilate the SoHo mobs. We know it sounds supremely dorky but it makes us a little tingly everytime we pass it enroute to our lunchtime deli salad. Do you think it will seem to suspicious if we call in "sick" on the 15th to stay home to read all day? Our ideal plan would include a late night viewing of Charlie and the Chocolate Factory and a stop at the Barnes for the tome.
All righty then, CC's out to go find an outlet in the terminal to rejuice the laptop for at least one DVD on the flight itself. Good thing we had the fore sight to rent Palm Beach Story from Netflix. We need some Preston Sturges to turn around our still vaguely frustrated mood. Have a happy Fourth dear cinecultists and we'll try to find some time to report from humidity free San Francisco.