Today the Cinecultist has a lovely comp day from El Day Job to make up for last week's super long hours and what are we doing with our time off? Not outside enjoying the gorgeous spring weather (not yet, anyway), we're watching Flashdance on HBO. Dear god, we'd forgotten what a Hollywood formulaic pleasure this picture is. You can time the plot to a stop watch, thanks to Joe Eszterhas's script and really who can't appreciate Jennifer Beal's toned ass and director Adrian Lyne's '80s visual modernism? It's really quite a combo.
In the first fifteen minutes alone we learn the following key plot points: Our hero Alex is a welder, which is a man's world (hence the football betting dialogue between the boss and his friend). She's got a hot body and fits into the slightly sketchy dancing at a bar scene. We see the infamous pound of water dropping onto her from the ceiling. The boss man gives her the flirty flirt but she's aloof 'cause she's a good girl. Then, we learn she's actually a serious dancer (she tapes her feet, she sweats) as she works out in her apartment to the "Maniac" song. All that packed into 15 minutes -- brilliant, right?
Oh wait, it's now minute 25 and there's a work out montage where they're wearing headbands and Jane Fonda leotards. We gotta go. Enjoy the Friday, CC certainly is.
Matthew Barney's newest film/art piece Drawing Restraint 9, a collaboration with his lady Bj÷rk, comes out this weekend and Cinecultist is pretty excited. We first saw Barney's work when we went to Germany, in an exhibition about gender difference. It was a still from Cremaster 3 (his last series which culminated in an amazing show at the Guggenheim that we went to twice) and we were hooked on his bizarre mise en scÚne and allusions to cultural memory.
This time around Barney's major influence is traditional Japan and once again, Vaseline plays a huge part in the "plot" as he pours a huge slab of it on a sailing ship. Bj÷rk appears along with Barney as one of "the Guests" on the boat and she also composed the music, using particularly an old Japanese instrument called the sho. It should be totally beautiful and completely perplexing, if the stills below are any evidence. For those in NYC, it's playing at the IFC Center in the West Village.
Lately, Cinecultist feels like we're all about the genre picture. Formulaic Hollywood plots done right with good acting, strong but not flashy camera work, and solid but not cheesy plot sign posts. All roads that away lead to good entertainment, says CC.
Hence our happiness with Inside Man, a "Spike Lee joint" that Lee directed as a director for hire, aka not a script he developed himself. This is auteur studies at it's most basic, because in these instances a cinephile can sit down with the final product knowing the filmmakers didn't begin with their preoccupations inherent to the project, and thus any trademark flourishes are by products of the director's distinct style. Themes common to Lee's work -- New Yorkers, race, class, 9/11 -- all come into relief here. Plus, we get a few trademark Lee visual touches like a seemingly stationary person propelled forward through space and direct address to the camera.
Cinema studies aside, Inside Man is also a super entertaining little picture with great performances and a fun, twisty plot. It should go without saying that seeing Denzel Washington, Clive Owen and Jodie Foster on screen separately, let alone acting together, can be a joy. Each of these performers burrow into their roles and give what could be simple parts impressive depth. Also, the chemistry between Washington (who plays the investigating detective) and his partner, Chiwetel Ejiofer, an English actor less familiar to US audiences, is really solid. And we also need to give props to the costume designer (Imdb tells us it's Donna Berwick) for putting Foster into those fierce suits and heels. Girl looks h-o-t-t. CC can completely understand how her corporate fixer character can bend the will of powerful men when she's dressed like that. Yowza.
In last week's New Yorker, Nick Paumgarten reported on a political fundraising event for senatorial candidate Sheldon Whitehouse held in director Martin Scorsese's home. The part Cinecultist loved of course, was the list of movie memorabilia in Marty and his wife Helen's house.
"...Five different posters for the Renoir film La Grande Illusion, a sixteenth-century crucifix, the Stratocaster played by Robbie Robertson in The Last Waltz, a display of Japanese dolls (a gift from Akira Kurosawa), and, in a bell jar, the pair of red ballet slippers worn by Moira Shearer in The Red Shoes, which Scorsese bought at auction in London six years ago."
CC has a few things in common with Marty in terms of our apartment's movie theme decor, though of course not nearly as freakin' cool as the actual red shoes. They are:
- A poster for The Apartment from the Museum of Moving Image in Queens
- A poster for Roman Holiday purchased in Rome
- A graphic print depicting a scene from Nobody Knows by Stela im Huttberg
- A Mifune action figure (ours aren't from Kurosawa himself, unfortunately)
- Postcards from How To Draw A Bunny, Morvern Callar, When Brendan Met Trudy, Umbrellas of Cherbourg, Studio Ghibli in Japan, Born Into Brothels, retrospectives of Wong Kar Wai and Park Chan-Wook from BAM
That's kind of a lot of movie stuff in a small Eee Vee apartment especially if you take into account also all the movie books, vhs tapes and dvds. Of course, and we're sure Marty would agree, there's only one thing to do -- find a bigger apartment.
Randy Quaid wants to see some of those Brokeback dollars, according to an article in Variety today. "Randy Quaid has filed a lawsuit against Focus Features alleging that Universal's specialty arm duped him into deferring normal pay for his role in "Brokeback Mountain" by falsely representing the project as a low-budget indie pic with no prospect of making money." Apparently, when Quaid was in salary talks with sweet little Taiwainese director Ang Lee, Lee characterized the film's monetary prospects in much more modest terms than what the Oscar-winning film ended up doing at the box office.
The best part of this article is two fold: That "defendants were engaging in a 'movie laundering' scheme designed to obtain the services of talent such as Randy Quaid on economically unfavorable art film terms" and that "Randy Quaid is an instantly recognizable household name and much-admired actor on the world's stage with a worldwide box office total of nearly $2 billion. His likeness, talent and name are worth millions of dollars and are solely his property." Hehe, lawsuit speak is the best ever.
Quaid wants Universal Pictures, the owners of Focus Features, to show him the money to the tune of $10 million. Stay tuned to see if the star of such pictures as The Paper, Caddyshack II and The Adventures of Pluto Nash is vindicated.
There's a Chinese restaurant in our neighborhood called the Bamboo House and it's the cheesiest looking place ever, with dank looking interiors and sad, faded pictures of greasy looking dishes you could order posted in the windows. Cinecultist has lived in our apartment for nearly three years and we've never once thought about eating there. But apparently the cheesiness works to its advantage as the TV show Rescue Me shot there last night -- bad decor equals great television ambience.
CC kind of loves it when TV or movies shoot in the nabe, there's something so festive about a giant cherry picker parked on the street with orange cones blocking off the surrounding parking spaces. Also, one of these days we're totally going to help ourselves to some of that Kraft service they leave lying around. A box of fancy cereal or a pre-wrapped biscotti in the pocket would hardly be noticed, right?
The other aspect of walking past streets sets is the covert neck strain trying to see if you recognize anyone in the cast. Though this is made significantly easier if the cast is broadcasting their filmography to passersby. "Did you see Crash? I'm in Crash. Yeah, Crash." This guy yelled loudly as we passed on the way home last night. Dude, hate to break it to you but the cast for Crash is huge! Everyone and their mama is in Crash. Hell, even CC could say we're in Crash and some people would be none the wiser. However still chuckling about this overheard exchange, this morning we looked him up on trusty Imdb and it was trusty character actor Jack McGee, of course. Looks like he's been in nearly every procedural show possible on television plus some other random stuff like Basic Instinct, Scrooged and Showgirls. Ah, working actors -- god love 'em.
Ever since Cinecultist saw toked up Dave Chappelle inside the craziest taxi cab ever in 200 Cigarettes, we've been a fan. But our bemusement has turned into full on crush with the release of his concert documentary, Dave Chappelle's Block Party directed by the brilliant Michel Gondry (Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind). Filmed in 2004 at an outdoor concert Chappelle planned in Bed-Stuy part of Brooklyn, the film intercuts between the show which featured the reunited Fugees, Erykah Badu, Jill Scott, Mos Def, Common and others with shtick of Chappelle prepping and inviting folks to the secret show.
Cinecultist actually heard about the concert before it happened and tried to get tickets but with no luck. We had to sign up on a website and sorta hoped that our last name which doesn't automatically indicate that we're a square Jewish white girl from the Eee Vee would help our chances. It didn't. However, what Gondry's captured here is more than just the show itself. It's Chappelle's asides, how he interacts with his fans and the amazing characters he invites along for the ride that make this an utterly charming movie.
Some stand out bits: Chappelle and Mos Def's straight man/funny man Vegas lounge act banter complete with Mos on the high hat and snare. Erykah Badu pulling off her Afro wig mid-set and then crowd surfing her way off stage. The crazy hippie couple who live in the Brooklyn Angel building that becomes the backdrop for Chappelle's stage who invited Dave to come up and "rest his loins." The uber fussy band director from Ohio whose band travels all the way from the heartland to play Kanye West's hit "Jesus Walks" at the start of the concert. Cody ChesnuTT acoustic send out at the end of the film -- that guy really knows how to rock.
But of course, the real star of the show is Chappelle himself. This guy may think he has no talent and talked his way into a fortune but this movie, and his equally brilliant though short lived TV show, proves differently. Chappelle's brilliance lies in organizing brilliant people around him and then letting the magic happen
Cinecultist has an award ceremony hang over this morning. Probably not as bad as the cast of Crash mind you, but we did sit on the couch for five hours last night watching the pre-show coverage and then the telecast itself, so we're tired today. Though at least we didn't have to go on the Jimmy Kimmel show afterwards and try to be witty like poor host Jon Stewart did.
CC live blogged the whole sordid affair with Jen Chung on Gothamist which was a lot of fun. Jen is a serious fanatic about film and you know CC respects that kind of fandom. So far there are 118 comments on the post, zowie.
In terms of our predictions for the Oscars, we admit we're no Dave Karger in terms of accuracy. We got almost 2/3 right with the wins for Crash as best picture, Rachel Weisz for best supporting actress, Brokeback Mountain for adapted screenplay and Phillip Seymour Hoffman as best actor all coming as surprises. Frankly, this is why we never enter Oscar pools. For the full list of winners with their fellow nominees via Oscar.com.
And now, let the "Oscar hates gay cowboys" backlash begin!