One of the first real conversations Cinecultist had with our now former co-worker Josh Horowitz -- author, blogger and subject of today's Gothamist interview by Aaron and Lily -- it was regarding what kind of person he was. He'd just been hired to fill an editorial spot previously occupied by a music person, so we thought maybe that was his thing. Oh no, he told us, I'm a movie person. Me too! we said. So I've heard.
And thus a totally geeked out friendship was born. His new book, The Mind of the Modern Moviemaker: Twenty Conversations with the New Generation of Filmmakers looks like a fun read from when we flipped through it at the office, so be sure to check it out at your nearby book purveyor. Also, Josh's blog, Betterthanfudge.com is getting to be one of our must-reads if only because we no longer get a daily dose of his patent-pending movie wit at work. Sad face for CC but happy face for everyone else now getting to know Josh's work.
As per usual, the announcements this morning of the 78th annual Academy Award nominations were primarily what was to be expected. It is Hollywood after all, not avant garde performance poetry. However there were a couple of moments during Mira Sorvino and Academy president Sid reading of the list that had Cinecultist gasping aloud either in excitement or puzzlement.
And they are (envelope please):
- Amy Adams' nod for supporting actress in Junebug = wahoo!
- Terrence Howard for best actor in Hustle and Flow = wtf?
- Nominations for Phillip Seymour Hoffman as best actor, Catherine Keener as best supporting, Dan Futterman's script, Bennett Miller's direction and best picture for Capote = wahoo, wahoo!
- Crash as best picture = wtf?
- Howl's Moving Castle's nom for best animated feature = wahoo!
- Only best actor and best actress noms for Joaquin Phoenix and Reese Witherspoon in Walk the Line = wtf?
Cinecultist has been battling with this terrible cough for the last week and honestly, it's wearing us out. We've been exhausted lately and over the weekend actually spent over 12 hours in bed one night. Fortunately for our debilitated state our favorite movie from junior high school was on AMC on Sunday morning, Say Anything. Surely you know how wonderful this flick is, but we'll just elaborate a little. (Also, to give this posting its proper Live Journal pre-teen feel we'll tell you that we've been blasting Morrissey, Depeche Mode and the Cure while writing this. Everyday is like Sunday! The Moz is so totally right.)
Say Anything is a movie CC saw in the theaters and countless times since, so almost every part of this movie is like an old friend. We were literally walking around our apartment, tidying a bit and doing the dishes while it was running yet still able to recite almost every line about 2 seconds before it was said on screen. It's a comfort blanket of a film.
Although oddly as we get older, CC is beginning to realize how very young and innocent Diane Court and Lloyd Dobler really are. When we were 12 of course, they seemed so mature and star-crossed in their love affair. We saw no sense of irony in the final moments of the film as they sit on the airplane to England, flying away to their future yet terrified of the prospect. Lloyd tells her that as long as they make it to the bing of the seat belt fastening sign turning off they will know the flight will be fine. Director Cameron Crowe lingers on their faces, pursed in anxiety for a moment too long as a commentary on youthful idealism. It's affective stuff despite being a little ham-fisted in its sweetness.
Also, we noticed much more recently how completely over the top and hilarious Lili Taylor's performance as Corey is. At the big party, she's not going to talk to Joe (Loren Dean), the dopey cute boy who broke her heart and caused her to write 65 sad songs for him. Yet, as soon as he corners her by the beer refrigerator (how much do you love the light bathed on those two young actors?) she declares "you invade my soul." Your usual high school banter, right? Then, after Lloyd and Diane's big first time she has such earnest council for Lloyd. Someday, many years from now Lloyd may see Diane on the street, they'll talk, or whatever but what he'll be thinking is "we had sex," she declares. Isn't it grand when life seems so sweeping? When to tell your best friend, "don't be a guy, the world is filled with guys -- be a man," is the deepest thing ever?
Lots of people of my generation rhapsodize about the boombox over the head moment in this film as the penultimate in romantic gestures. But here's another thing we've discovered as we grow older than the characters in our favorite movies from childhood: romance doesn't really come in sweeping, grand gestures. It's trickles out in little glances and moments. It builds like a stalactite until it's hang smack dab in the middle of your living room.
Still the best exchange ever: "Give me my Firebird keys! You must chill! You must chill. I have hidden your keys. Chill. I love you man. All right. I love you too, go to sleep. Before I budge. All right." [sound of drunk Jeremy Piven smacking into the ground.]
A few months ago in the process of doing some research about Shirley MacLaine for le Day Job, Cinecultist discovered that she and Jack Lemmon and director Billy Wilder had teamed up again three years after the making of the Apartment to do the madcap comedy, Irma La Douce. The Apartment is one of Cinecultist's all time super in love favorite movies, so we promptly put Irma in the Netflix queue and finally watched it this weekend. While it's no where near the masterwork that the Apartment is, Irma's still a lot of silly fun and worth a rental for the serious Wilder fan.
Based on a popular musical play, Irma is the story of a French streetwalker who falls for an honest cop who loves her so much he concocts an elaborate plan to keep her from sleeping with any man but him. Lemmon and MacLaine's delightful chemistry keeps this ridiculous plot afloat as his sweetness is perfectly matched by her sexy honesty. MacLaine also makes her character's green accented wardrobe look completely fetching. CC may need to find ourselves some bright green stockings just so we can emulate her style. There's also some very charming physical comedy in the picture, particularly a great fight scene in the local bistro which involves a pool ball in the mouth, a lamp to the head repeatedly and then the destroying of a pinball machine.
According to our Conversations with Wilder by Cameron Crowe book, Wilder never thought this movie worked despite its Oscar win (for best score and a nom for MacLaine) and its hit status at the box office. Wilder told Crowe he didn't think actors should ever "play foreigners in a foreign country with an American accent." Coming from the man who co-wrote Ninotchka, a foreign characters comedy that really zings, we'll believe him. Though really in CC's opinion, you shouldn't let Wilder's artistic bias against one of his lesser films keep you from enjoying the nubile Shirley in those snazzy green tights.
Cinecultist has returned to contributing to Gothamist's Arts + Events coverage this week. We'll be previewing the week's newest releases on Thursdays and then sundry other posts about New York movie news. Please check out our sure to be obnoxious yet lovable opinions over there as well as here (obvs). If you have press releases and suggestions for coverage or interviews of a movie nature feel free to forward them to us via the usual channels. Don't send us emails correcting our grammar. We hate that.
CC can't tell you how happy we are to be back in the sweaty embrace of our old friends Gothamist.
P.S. Now would be a good time to plug Movable Hype 6.0 in two weeks. It's gonna rock! Be there, you squares.
On Saturday afternoon, Cinecultist decided to eshew our previous vow to see if aqua-eyed Kate Bekinsale could make us love again in favor of Terrence Malick's The New World. However, this is not really a post about the movie, that's tk as we say in the mags business. No, this is about CC's spotting of New York actor Justin Theroux first in the lobby of the Union Square theater and then two seats down from us in the theater. This is the second time we've noticed a movie person in our screening (the first being director/actor Mike White at a West Ville screening of Merci Pour Le Chocolat) and honestly, it's kinda thrilling. As Us Weekly says, celebrities are people too and apparently they also like to get their Malick on some Saturday afternoon.
All through the film (which totally blew us away incidentally) we tried not to be too distracted by our row mate. Ordinarily CC follows strictly the New Yorker's code of no eye contact and leave them be leaves of three but we'd actually spoken with Mr. Theroux previously for the Day Job and thus convinced ourselves it'd be cool to say hi after the movie. Justin couldn't have been nicer and seemed to remember us, or is really good at pretending like he remembered. We chatted about how he's a "total Malickhead" and how great Q'orianka is in the picture and what Colin had said about her to Justin. Lovely.
Although, now that we think about it if Justin is the kinda person who Googles himself we hope blogging about this meeting and how cool he was won't completely ruin Cinecultist's chances to make Justin Theroux our friend. We totally promise not to name drop him or give out his phone number to those who only prize him for his abs*. We could catch a flick at Film Forum or something, chat about this and that. It'd be great. Honest.
Okay, we'll stop now before we skeeve out ourselves even with our silliness.
*The abs you could grate cheese on, according to one of them.
When tragedy and disaster happens either of the "your office burns down over the weekend" variety or the "your husband and the father of your 3 month old son is hit by a train" ilk...actually, it's entirely unfair to compare the Cinecultist's feeling this weekend discovering that our Day Job office building has sustained a major fire and the experience of Yumiko in Hirokazu Kore-eda's Maborosi. That experience took her years to bounce back and really CC and our fellow staff members are mostly fine but for the annoyance of working off-site for a few days. There's really no equivalent.
More so even than his lovely and affecting later features After Life and Nobody Knows, Marorosi is like a painting on screen. Meditative shots of city walk ways, seascapes, children running through green-lit tunnels and a father with kids and a dog playing on the beach become an interplay between space and form. Like a Japanese wood cut painting of a mountainside and one tree, Kore-eda's obsession with symmetry is hypnotic as the figures more from one part of the screen to the next. What may seem slow or ponderous at first glance about the not much of anything plot (woman widowed, woman remarries) leaves more than enough room for the cinematography to shine.
Towards the end of the film the depressed Yumiko tells her new husband she can't get over the idea that her suicidal husband looked into the abyss and gave in, even with herself and their young child as a teether to this world. In response, he tells her a story from his fisherman father of seeing lights on the sea's horizon which calls to you. There is a moment then, when all of us can choose whether to acquiesce or not. There's something excessively sad about that thought and yet it seems to cheer Yumiko. She's heard the maborosi calling but she does not heed them. The possibilities of life are too strong. We can rebuild again.
Caché [The Hidden], Michael Haneke's newest film about bourgeois French guilt starring Daniel Auteuil and Juliette Binoche is a fascinating treatise about the powers and limitations of the camera. A story of a middle aged Parisian couple who begin receiving unsettling surveillance videotapes, it's one of the most anxiety inducing films Cinecultist has seen since A History of Violence last fall. It's the kind of movie whose tone makes you long to get up from your seat from the suspense and yet you won't want to miss a frame.
Right from the beginning, Haneke plays with our assumptions that what's on screen is what there is to see. The opening shot, an exterior of a middle class Paris house in medium distance with the credits playing over it, is revealed to be the first of the mysterious tapes delivered anonymously. However later in the movie when the camera moves around to reveal other angles of their street, you realize how impossible it is that a camera could be position in that spot unnoticed. It's much to high, well above the cars parked there, and almost in the middle of the street. It's as though it had to have been on a tripod or cherry picker or something. In this moment and many others, Haneke wants us to distrust and question what we see in the frame.
This visual theme is expertly carried over into the story as guilt and secrets come bubbling to the surface in this complacent family. A harsh indictment of the French intellectual and their country's relationship to the Algerians, the movies is probably pretty prescient about the future of America's own connection to the Arabs within its borders. We hate to say more elusive things but really this movie's resonance lies in knowing not too much as the film starts. So just go see it and be wowed.
A linky link from our artsy co-worker Justin to a website project by artist and director Mary Jordan about the work of underground filmmaker Jack Smith. Includes clips from his films like Flaming Creatures, interviews with fellow artists, filmmakers and even figures from the films, audio clips from Smith and cool artsy type stuff like associative words flying through black space. If you're at all into the downtown cinema scene like the Cinecultist is, you should spend some time poking around this fascinating project. Hey, if you're in a Jack Smith-ish mood, pick yourself up a copy of J. Hoberman's gorgeous book about the production of Flaming Creatures. Stunning darlings. Stunning.
The Subway Cinema newletter today hilariously pointed us to a run of Zinda at the ImaginAsian theater. "What is ZINDA? It is the Bollywood remake of the savage Korean revenge shocker from last year, OLDBOY. Yes - the Bollywood kings have knocked-off Cannes Award-Winner OLDBOY and given it musical numbers (I hope they've given it musical numbers. I, for one, want to hear the octopus solo "The Octopus' Lament") It should be a sight for sore eyes." Doesn't that sound totally weird and thus, completely awesome? We may have to check it out.
We really don't need to tell you that Cinecultist was eagerly anticipating Tristan and Isolde right? It has all the elements we're a total sucker for: historical setting, epic romance, pretty costumes, sword fights, castles. More castles the better, we say. But, throw in some James Franco goodness and CC was so totally there last Saturday for an afternoon screening.
However, even with our deep love for this kinda crap, we do acknowledge its usual crappiness (see Kingdom of Heaven) and seldom transcendency (see Queen Margot). On the continuum of "C" to "T", Tristan and Isolde is happily above mediocre and almost close to not half bad. Some elements which help: plentiful shots of shirtless James Franco. Rufus Sewell doing his patent-pending flawed bad dude routine. Sophia Myles and her lush blonde locks. The plot clips along and the dialogue while earnest is not ham-fisted.
Apparently, Tristan and Isolde was a book, in addition to being a legend and a Wagner opera, and it's so good that Jen, who usually bills herself as mostly a music person, can quote from it. Sadly though, the usually literary-minded CC has to leave such geeked out posting to her and dwell instead on the hotness of James Franco a bit more. Dear lord, he's pensive and lovely. So much so that we might even be excited now to see Justin Lin's Annapolis. And that's a guy movie about military culture! Shocking.
On Saturday night on the way home from a dinner party in Brooklyn (thanks again Matty and Jori, mucho tasty salmon!), Cinecultist stopped in to Kim's Video on St. Marks. We'd got it into our head to watch again one of our favorite movies from last year, The 40 Year Old Virgin and so wanted to pick up a DVD copy. Kim's is usually movie fanboy central much to our glee, but on a Saturday night at 11 am, it's particularly so.
However, Cinecultist didn't have much of a chance to oggle any fanboys in one of their natural habitats because we were too distracted by the fact that Kim's has changed their DVD categorizing since the last time we'd browsing. Those Kim's employees are so clever, for instance they put Francis Ford's film's all together but the movies by his progeny, CQ, The Virgin Suicides and Lost in Translation by Roman and Sofia respectively are grouped just under "Coppola Children". Heehee.
Though the more we thought about it as we wandered, we couldn't remember the last time we'd gone a browsing and buying at Kim's. In graduate school, any spare bit of money not devoted to food, rent or drink was earmarked for film screenings, DVDs or movie books. "Research," you understand. And Kim's was our local pusher of choice. We knew it was bad for us to go there, but we reasoned we only needed one more hit to tide us over. In fact, now that we think about it, our entire DVD collection (all 100 plus beautiful discs) was acquired since we've moved to NYC four and a half years ago. We only got a disc player when we moved here, so all of these DVDs cluttering our tiny apartment came from an obsessive need to possess certain films. We loved them, so they had to be ours.
Yet, as we wandered the aisles, lingering longingly in the Japan and Korea sections, we realized that impulse seems to have (mostly) faded. Funny, where did that obsession go? Sure, we still heart the movies with a love that grows more and more each day, but we don't feel the need to have them all at our fingertips. The fact of the matter is we have DVDs in our collection that we've not even watched yet, let alone more than once which was our old litmus for plunking down the credit card. Also, it seems that the spare cash we do have lately goes towards different kinds of luxuries like taxi cabs, dropping off the laundry rather than doing it ourselves, pedicures during the summer and more dinners out with friends. Guess that's what they call cha-cha-changes.
And by the by, 40 Year Old? Not quite as funny as when we saw it in the theater but still pretty darn good. Though the chest waxing scene does get more hilarious with time. Good luck at the Golden Globes tonight, Steve Carrell and all our other favorites!
Cinecultist has a problem -- we know when we look at the commercials for the vampire/werewolf actioner Underworld: Evolution that it's going to be bad. However the same geek tendency which made CC attend all the Matrix installments, the Star Wars prequels and not-so-secretly love David Lynch's Dune, is compelling us into the theater on Jan. 20th. To make matters worse, we saw the first Underworld and know how dreadful it was. Battles with bullets of silver and sunlight, goth looks like a bad Nine Inch Nails fan club meeting and Scott Speedman trying to emote* -- it wasn't a pretty scene folks. But there's something evil and compelling about Kate Beckinsale's blue blue eyes staring out at us from that poster, luring us into the cineplex.
Do you think there's a 12 step program for people addicted to bad sci-fi action flicks? Hi, we're Cinecultist and we like to watch geek boy movies with chicks battling demons in leather bustiers on Saturday afternoons.
*Side note: Is there a better over actor these days than Bill Nighy? Dude is beginning to rival some of the best over actors we have (William Shatner, Jeremy Irons) with his crypt keeper crustiness and fondness for gnawing the scenery in amulets.
Photo by Jeff
We interupt this regularly scheduled movie blog to bring you a little obsessing of the indie rock variety a la our evening Tuesday with our beloved indie rock husband, Benjamin Gibbard of Death Cab for Cutie and the Postal Service at the Bowery Ballroom. Bearing in mind that Ben's emo ways do weird things to our sentimentality valve, ie turning it to full on, we have tagged this entry "soundtracks" because we realized during the show that his music is the soundtrack to our heart. Le sigh. So very good.
The Bowery show was a casual affair thrown together quickly because Gibbard is in town to play Saturday Night Live this week and wanted to play accoustic with his buddies Andrew Kenny and Matt from Nada Surf. Mostly it was a chill, highly enjoyable show filled with a set list of favorites and covers, though as Jeff pointed out the hecklers did bug. Sometimes people don't know when to shut the hell up. But other than these slight flies in the ointment, it was the kind of musical evening that fills up our romantic soul. Like a Meg Ryan movie on steroids, Ben makes us want to leave our cynical lives on dirty Delancey as our hearts sour above in some cardigan-infested, black rimmed glasses heaven. We know people who mock us and our love for this unabashed hope as represented by Ben's music but to them, we say (for now anyhow): pbbbttt!
As Ben sings in the Death Cab track "Crooked Teeth":
I'm a war, of head versus heart, /And it's always this way. /My head is weak, /my heart always speaks, /Before I know what it will say.
Related: CC points out to Jen how much Google knows of her similarly obsessive love for Ben.
Slightly less related: On the way to the show, Janelle and CC were trying to out super fan each other and we began discussing All-Time Quarterback, a lesser known Ben side project. So to Janelle, relistening to the record tonight we remembered our favorite track is the Magnetic Fields cover "Why I Cry" because of the toy piano on it. The man both looks and sounds like Schroeder from the Peanuts. What's not to love there?
While Cinecultist was at home in the Nor Cal enjoying some rainy weather and quality time with the fam, we stumbled upon an unlikely obsession. Our parents, particularly our wonderful stepmom Debbie, is a House fanatic. One morning while eating breakfast CC sat at the table rapt as she and our Dad had an elaborate discussion of the characters on this show. We couldn't quite follow but we think it had something to do with the relationship between Hugh Laurie, who plays the cranky but brilliant doctor and Sela Ward. Anyhow, we're used to these heated and esoteric conversations at the Day Job or even over dinner with our friends but not while eating toast in Portolla Valley.
Back home in the Eee Vee and home one night this week, we caught two episodes back to back and now get the hype. Hugh Laurie is completely charming and his show is like Law and Order meets Grey's Anatomy though without Lenny Briscoe or interns hooking up in the hospital. Doing a little Googling on Mr. Laurie, who's up for a Golden Globe this coming weekend, we found out he's school chums with Emma Thompson and Stephen Frye from Oxford. Before he was pigeon-holed in American films into the fussy English dad roles, he did witty comedy like Blackadder. This made CC want to go back to re-rent Peter's Friends, a movie Thompson made with Kenneth Brannaugh that Laurie's also in, back when they were our Bragalina golden couple. It's like The Big Chill only with tea and Britishness.
Anyhow, we think we might be hooked now on Laurie's scruffy good looks and flouting of social niceties. Great. Just what we need, yet another unlikely pin-up in our pantheon of h-o-t-t hot actors.
Last week Cinecultist received in the mail at work a copy of Annie Proulx's Brokeback Mountain in a stand alone short story version. This was a nice surprise because we've always enjoyed Proulx's writing but hadn't read the story before we saw Ang Lee's film version a few weeks and we've been hearing from various friends that it's a wonderful story.
It's a quick read, so CC gobbled it up like some small, tasty snack on Sunday evening. Like when we used to read novelizations of films (i.e. books written after the movie as a tie-in product) in junior high school, Proulx's story was very faithfully adapted by Lee and so there's the pleasure in the reading seeing the movie spool out in your mind's eye. The story, like the film, spans many years of this relationship between Ennis (played by Heath Ledger) and Jack (Jake Gyllenhaal) and so the style of writing skips through time lightly, only touching down to sketch in a brief dialogue or incident. Sometimes when you read the source material for a film, it can be easy to lapse into the assumption that the text is always the richer or more complex version than the film. However in this case, it seems that Lee's movie actually has the time to elaborate on scenes or characters only eluded to in Proulx's text, creating a deeper understanding of these two characters.
Which is not to say that Proulx doesn't hit it out of the park in certain turns of phrase, such as this passage below where Ennis visit's Jack's childhood home after Jack's death and discovers a momento of their time on Brokeback together.
The shirt seemed heavy until he saw there was another shirt inside it, the sleeves carefully worked down inside Jack's sleeves. It was his own plaid shirt, lost, he thought, long ago in some damn laundry, his dirty shirt, the pocket ripped, buttons missing, stolen by Jack and hidden here inside Jack's own shirt, the pair like two skins, one inside the other, two in one. He pressed his face into the fabric and breathed in slowly through his mouth and nose, hoping for the faintest smoke and mountain sage and salty sweet stink of Jack but there was no real scent, only the memory of it, the imagined power of Brokeback Mountain of which nothing was left but what he held in his hands.
If you're one of those straight dudes or somebody else not easily prone to spending $10 bucks to see two sheepherders fall in love and thus haven't seen Brokeback Mountain yet or read Proulx's story, CC urges you to fix this soon. Both instances are storytelling at their finest.
capn': i finally posted my top 10.
elysecritic: ah hah. i will go see...
elysecritic: i thought for some reason you liked Shark Boy.
capn': uh, no. it was god awful.
elysecritic: i don't know where that came from then.
capn': hmm, not sure.
elysecritic: if there was a ultimate death match between your worst (sharkboy) and my worst (diary of a mad black woman) who do you think would emerge victorious?
capn': oh man, probably the mad black women.
elysecritic: yeah. i think tyler perry might sit on the sharkboy. however, he would be in 3-D, so he'd have that going for him.
capn': good point.
capn': well, and i wonder if i'd like my movie more if I was a child
capn': who was slightly off
capn': and had a couple learning disabilities
elysecritic: and maybe i would've liked black woman if uh...i didn't understand how plot and character development and narrative are supposed to work.
elysecritic: woulda, coulda, shoulda
Wednesday night after work, Cinecultist walked uptown with our co-worker Josh and discussed CC's plan of taking in something craptacular cinema to unwind from a long day. After parting at St. Mark's, Cinecultist grabbed a tasty steak burrito from the closest Chipotle and headed over to the Village East to a 8 pm screening of Casanova. A cheap dinner and a movie date with ourselves, if you will.
However, despite the pleasing spicy kick in our burrito there was not such a pleasant mess emanating from the screen. Not bad per se, just well, uh, bland. Homogenized. We couldn't quite put our finger on what was so beginning of January release* worthy about Casanova, what with it's decent cast, costumed comedy-ness, until Josh asked for a recap today. Then it came to us. Epiphany. Here it is:
The movie is set in Venice, Italy during the 18th century but everything is so darn tootin' clean. We're not talking just about the people or the houses -- the canal is a crystal clear green. The Venice canal! In one scene, they throw Heath Ledger's Giacomo Casanova in prison and even the prison is spotless. The walls are so pristine, you could lick them. Don't know why you'd be licking a prison wall, but still. Nary a touch of mold or dank or anything interesting in the whole place, or the movie for that matter.
Casanova has no dank. That's our problem with it. In a nutshell of course.
*You realize that if this pic, and pretty much everything in the theaters during January and February, was any good at all it would've come out before the Oscar eligibility cut-off on December 31, right? Okay. Good, we're all on the same page.
At El Day Job-o, Cinecultist and our co-workers are a buzz about two topics: 1) who we think will win Golden Globes and/or be nominated for Academy Awards and 2) what's screening at Sundance. See, in the weirdo crystal ball world of long-lead magazines both are prognosticators of what everyone else will be buzzing about come spring and the rest of this year.
CC still hasn't come down on all of our awards season predictions (though we're still feelin' good about our number one draft pick, Philip Seymour Hoffman and Capote, especially after the announcement today of the Writers and Producers Guilds nominations), we are happy the brilliant folks at GreenCine Daily pointed us to Cyndi Greening's site. As Cyndi writes, "Tracking Sundance films ensure that you'll be aware of much of the independent product for the upcoming year." So true. Thus, she's raking over the Sundance schedule with a fine tooth comb and if her previews are any indication, her coverage during the actual fest in two weeks should be quite the compendium. Sweet-ah!
Ah the Internets, making movie obsessing and thus our rent-paying job easier one click at a time.
Though we didn't include it in our top ten from last year, Cinecultist did appreciate Steven Spielberg's newest release, Munich, more than the general consensus (ie. the very unscientific polling of a few movie-ish friends). It's overly long like many of the movies in the theaters right now but the cast is great and its topical commentary makes an interesting bookend to another story about the Middle East, Syriana.
Of course, Munich is also a companion piece to Spielberg's other personal story about Jewish identity, Schindler's List. When that movie came out CC was deeply affected by it, going to see it twice in the theaters and bawling like a baby both times. If Schindler's was, in a round about way, about "why a Jewish state", then Munich is contemplating "Jewish state, 25 or so years later." In 1972, 11 Israeli athletes were held hostage and then killed by Palestinian terrorists at the Munich Olympics. Spielberg's film follows the aftermath of this attack as the former Mossad member, Avram (Eric Bana) and his crack team track down and assasinate a list of PLO operatives in Europe.
The film has a vignette structure as the group discovers the location of each name on their list and then plots how to do them in. However, unlike most caper or thriller movies we seen lately, Avram et al are a bit inept. They're not experts in the art of killing. There's not really the usual voyeuristic pleasure to be derived from watching them execute a precision attack with finesse. Instead, at every turn, we feel their anxiety, guilt and second guessing of their pursuit. Are these really the guys they're looking for? Were they really involved in the Munich attack? And is their extermination really worth the horrible retribution being heaped on the Israelis in response?
Spielberg doesn't shy away from this questioning though his movie remains fiercely loyal to the Israeli cause. Perhaps what we liked best from the movie (beside of course the pleasure of seeing Prime Minister Golda Meir depicted on screen -- you go, Golda!), is how much it insists that there is no easy answer to terrorism. If you strike back against violence and madness, do you get a real result? Doesn't seem that way from the hollow eyes of Eric Bana's character by the end of this picture. Though maybe this complexity and anti-Pollyanna-ness that we're unused to seeing in Spielberg should be attributed to screenwriter, Tony Kushner, a playwrite (Angels in America) familiar with tackling questions without easy answers.
However, we should note that despite the interesting questions raised within this movie, Cinecultist still felt it necessary for our sanity and well being to go right across the street to Urban Outfitters after the movie to try on some frivolous tank tops. Oy. It's hard to be a questioning Jew, isn't it Steven?
The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy, Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants, The Dying Gaul, Pride & Prejuide, North Country, Syriana, Batman Begins, Lords of Dogtown
After the jump, a list of all the theatrically released movies Cinecultist saw this year. At over 70, that's more than one a week on average. Good work for the past 365, but we think perhaps we have room to improve. In the comments, feel free to leave your top picks for the year...
In Good Company
The Wedding Date
Bride and Prejudice
Diary of a Mad Black Woman
The Upside of Anger
Melinda and Melinda
Look At Me
A Lot Like Love
The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy
Kicking and Screaming
Star Wars III
Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants
Lords of Dogtown
Mr. & Mrs. Smith
Me and You and Everyone We Know
Charlie and the Chocolate Factory
Must Love Dogs
The Dukes of Hazzard
The 40 Year Old Virgin
Sympathy for Mr. Vengeance
The Constant Gardner
Lord of War
Everything Is Illuminated
A History of Violence
In Her Shoes
Good Night, and Good Luck
The Dying Gaul
Pride and Prejudice
Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire
Walk the Line
The Chronicles of Narnia
Memoirs of a Geisha