Summer means no good TV so Cinecultist has been dipping into our DVD collection for entertainment. Last weekend we swooned over Paul Bettany and his champion tennis playing again in Wimbledon and tonight we fall all over again for Lilo and Stitch. This adorable animated feature from 2002 about a little orphan Hawaiian girl and her weird pet is such a classic. We remember seeing it in our local theater the summer we lived out in Brooklyn and it put such a grin on our face.
A horrible destructive alien experiment, #626 escapes from the Intergalactic Federation's troops and makes off (in the red cruiser, no less) for Earth, set on a rampage of some cities. However, he lands in Hawaii, is mistaken for a dog, is adopted by Lilo and her older sister Nani, becomes familiar with the works of Elvis Presley and must learn the importance of family before his alien captors catch up with him.
Maybe one of the reasons why CC loves this movie so much -- besides the inherent cuteness of a mean, blue, koala-looking thing like Stitch -- is how much it's indebted to post-modern reference. With allusions to Japanese cinema, particularly anime, disaster flicks, Roswell and Elvis's surf movies swirling about, it's a cornucopia of pop culture trivia. But all of this winking to a segment of the audience that may be aware of the cultural context does not take precedence over the kid's movie unfolding on screen. It's a wise animated movie that can tread that knowing yet wide-eyed, heartfelt line. The Incredibles and Iron Giant are two others that succeed in this arena as well and we're waiting with curious anticipation for Pixar's Cars out later this summer.
Last week, Cinecultist and co-workers were having a bit of a trailer deluge in our down time and we surprisingly found the Devil Wears Prada preview quite amusing. This book was utterly dreadful -- one of those things that actually seems to make you dumber putting it into your brain -- but as the premise for a fluffy summer comedy, it looks kind of winning. The trailer seems to give you the best of the first 15 minutes of the film as an entré into the flick's fish out of water versus evil boss premise. Though of course our interest in this movie may just be our serious Meryl Streep-aphilia talking. Dear god, we do worship that woman. She's beyond brilliant. While we don't expect this to be another The French Lieutenant's Woman (if you've never seen that Streep-Jeremy Irons picture, rent it right now. Seriously.), Streep as the Devil in Prada should be diverting enough and she looks quite pretty in this production still we found. Consider us there on the opening weekend at the end of June.
Tonight, Cinecultist plans to indulge our fan boy tendencies with a 8:45 pm screening of X-Men: The Last Stand with the Movie Binge boys. Most of the crew are meeting up for a group outing to kick off our summer of crazy movie viewing. Please head over to that space as the summer continues to keep track of our progress and leave some snarky comments. CC and TMB hearts snark.
Amongst the six of us there's been some joking about mutant powers which got CC thinking about what we'd like our power to be if we were a mutant super hero. As a kid, we read this book The Girl with the Silver Eyes about a girl with the power to move things with her mind. After reading it, we'd sometimes stare long and hard at some object trying to will it to budge, even just a touch. Thinking about it now, we don't know why that one supernatural ability so struck our fancy but the idea of using your powerful intellect for superhuman tasks of strength does sound good to this self-professed smartie pants. So our vote is either for that or getting to switch bodies with Famke Janssen (see above with Hugh Jackman who plays Wolverine). She's total hotness as Jean Gray in the first two films, we're psyched to see her transformation to evil in this installment.
The weather is getting balmy in Manhattan (or muggy, if you're feeling glass half empty), there's a long weekend on tap and CC is ready to watch some stuff explode on the big screen. Let's bring on that blockbuster season, we're ready.
Today Cinecultist was scanning through our Junk Mail folder to make sure nothing that was actual mail had gotten caught in there when we saw an email from Jessica Alba. Usually Jessica writes to us at our Gmail account -- ha ha j/k, as the kids say these days in the IMs -- so we checked it out. Turns out Teen People and the MTV movie awards are sponsoring a competition to pick a fan to interview celebs on the red carpet of the award ceremony. The winner of an essay contest about why you'd be perfect on the red carpet in 100 words or less gets to go to L.A., gets to stay two nights in a "cool hotel," and attend the show on June 8. Neato keen, right?
Unfortunately, Cinecultist thinks our essay about how unfazed we can be in the face of celebs (last weekend CC rode in the elevator with Katie Couric at Barney's and didn't even blink) and the fact that we can string together a sentence on the spot better than most E! correspondents wouldn't get us the gig. Maybe if we punctuate every sentence with an exclamation point and use teenage phrases like "awesome" and "totes" every other word? We have to get into that mindset of WWRSD (aka What Would Ryan Seacrest Do?) to really get into the red carpet correspondent zone. Except CC can't really hobble our intellect like that, it's just not possible.
At the Cannes Film Festival press screening for Marie Antoinette, Variety reports today that members of the French press booed Sofia Coppola's new film. Apparently, some of them were cranky about the way their former queen was portrayed on screen.
What is this about exactly? Were they afraid that this new movie will make being an indulged, teenage dictator look too glamorous? Is the French Revolution really in danger of being spun by Hollywood to make the peasants look bad in comparison? This seems completely bizarre to us.
Still, despite this cultural-disconnect weirdness Cinecultist's fascination with this movie and our intense devotion to Sofia (she's muse to Marc Jacobs, come on!) continues unabated. Now we want to find a copy of Antonia Fraser's biography which Sofia's script is based on. She made such interesting adaptation choices with The Virgin Suicides. Sorry kids, you will probably have to continue reading about this level of obsessing between now and October, when the film comes out. Brace yourselves.
Here's a couple of items rattling around in the ol' Cinecultist noggin today:
- On the WTF? front: Wong Kar Wai is planning to do an English language feature. And it'll be a romantic comedy. And it'll starring the Grammy-winning singer, Norah Jones. And it'll be called My Blueberry Nights. Wha? WKW, what are you thinking? In what universe of possibility would this be a good idea? [via Variety]
- Sofia Coppola's new movie, Marie Antoinette screens at Cannes tomorrow and folks are on pins and needles to see the Kristen Dunst flick. While US audiences will have to wait until the fall to see it, it'll open to wide French release this week from Pathe as well as the festival screening. The editor of Cahiers du Cinema, Michael Frodon said: "It's very elegantly and generously directed and it has an energy that goes beyond the obstacles that hinder and slow down most historical films." Could this news instigate a weekend jaunt to Paris for the Cinecultist? [also via Variety]
- Manohla Dargis is such a darn good writer. That was our thought while reading her Cannes dispatch today. Regarding Oliver Stone's new 9/11 film which was excerpted at the festival, she writes:
He noted that the special effects looked like something out of a Japanese science fiction film (they didn't) and that "the truth must exist in some way to confront power and extremism." These words were followed by 20 unnerving minutes in which we follow a Port Authority officer, played by Nicolas Cage, from his predawn rise to when the second tower collapses on him. It would be both impossible and unfair to say more, other than that the footage looked good and was very upsetting to watch, primarily because it includes images of the actual burning towers. (That said, Mr. Cage's mustache does elicit concern since bad hair sometimes portends a bad film; witness Mr. Stone's "Alexander.") Like "United 93," this clip made me wonder why Hollywood seems so eager to turn this raw national wound into entertainment.
Eeep, Nic Cage with working class facial hair? That does sound freaky. [via the NY Times]
- The Subway Cinema festival is coming up really soon (June 16 - July 1) and we're psyched, especially as the fest organizers keep sending CC press releases with hilarious descriptions of their films. Will there be anything as good in the line-up as last year's fest winner, The Taste of Tea? Dear lord, we hope so.
Cinecultist merrily contributed this weekend to the $77 million figure for domestic box office receipts for The Da Vinci Code. Even though the official summer movie season doesn't start until after the long weekend next weekend*, CC felt like we were chipping in our $10 at BAM's theater to the big kick off. However, instead of being swept away by the spectacle and the intrigue and the big name stars, we found ourselves fidgety, bored and snickering a little at the pomposity of it all. If only Ron Howard had spent less time figuring out how to make Ian McKellen's fancy PowerPoint display for Da Vinci art history and more time making this movie fun.
Speaking of Ian McKellen and his crippled, crotchety Professor Teabing character, as other critics have said, he's the best part of the proceedings. Hobbling around on his dueling crutches, challenging Hanks's character to a tea trivia fest (milk or lemon? depends on the tea, of course) and making things tough for his man servant, McKellen can't help but evoke all of his other wizened old men characters. It's like Gandalf and Magneto weren't as benign as we always thought they were. Yet, they're all now more infinitely intriguing.
Except for this brief bright spot, the rest of Da Vinci is da dreadful. Howard's visualization is for the lowest common denominator, his moviemaking can't possibly fathom that the audience could understand as simple a conceit as "bullet in door groove jams the door" and so must spell it out in the most obvious shot-reverse shot structure. Hanks knows how to do "affable" but is completely at a loss on "aloof" and "overly intellectual." Plus there aren't really any satisfying twists to the plot, most of the huge revelations are easily spotted miles away. Then, after these hushed tones and dramatic airs, Howard will switch tacks and plop in an innocuous chat in the courtyard scene. There was audible snickering around us in the theater at that point.
For a film from a book that has such a huge international fan base, CC sort of assumed that at least the story was entertaining if not the most original or plausible. But Howard and screenwriter Akiva Goldsman have made an utterly unfun film. Now it'll just be interesting to see if that general critical opinion translates into lower box office receipts or if Code continues to convert the masses.
*Psst. Get ready for The Movie Binge. 85 movies between Memorial Day and Labor Day. It's gonna be brutal and hilarious.
The birthday festivities are done and thanks to all who wished CC a happy happy. Especially those who helped us greet the dawn over a game of caps. We're a little bit hung over today, but we'll recover soon. Pictured above is our birthday cupcake (flavor: lemon) from Sugar Sweet Sunshine, official dessert provider for this year's celebrations, taken with our new toy, the Treo 650 on Tuesday. Yay for new toys, cupcakes and great friends!
P.S. CC's Dad pointed out to us a really, really, really depressing birthday movie: Pelle - The Conqueror (1987). Max Von Sydow (Lasse) and Pelle Hvenegaard (Pelle) "'The end of the 19th century. A boat filled with Swedish emigrants comes to the Danish island of Bornholm. Among them are Lasse and his son Pelle who move to Denmark to find work. They find employment at a large farm, but are treated as the lowest form of life. Pelle starts to speak Danish but is still harassed as a foreigner. But none of them wants to give up their dream of finding a better life than the life they left in Sweden.' This is an unrelentingly depressing film. At one point Lasse and his son are toiling away in the bitter cold in the fields and Pelle says to his father, today is my birthday. Lasse, who is a very loving father, though he looks to be the grandfather, says 'Well congratulations to you, this is your day.'"
Leave it to Scandinavian cinema to put it all in perspective. Thanks Dad!
For entry level administrative and errand running work, that is. This is someone's dream job, somewhere, right? And we're not just talking about Angelina fans. Somebody must still secretly worship Jon Voight, no? Even though he's nearly 70 and starred in Anaconda. [via Gawker]
Every year on May 16th, Cinecultist wakes up thinking about that scene from 16 Candles where Anthony Michael Hall serenades a mortified Molly Ringwald. "You say it's your birthday, it's my birthday too!" But while that scene's goofy, silly and obviously memorable, it's not really a happy birthday story. Though now that we think about it, are there really any honestly heart-warming movie moments about birthdays? In Winnie the Pooh, Eeyore ends up just pleased he's received a part of a broken balloon he can put inside an empty honey pot. That's not so happy happy either, mostly just sweetly melancholy.
No matter. Cinecultist is determined to be chipper and up beat all day today despite rain, day job annoyances and general Tuesday-ness. And tonight, we're going to celebrate with the birthday food of champions: some wine and cupcakes from Sugar Sweet Sunshine on Rivington St. Please leave us birthday comments below, especially if you can think of some real happy birthday movie moments.
We wanted to like Art School Confidential, the new Dan Clowes/Terry Zwigoff movie, more than we did. After all, the supporting cast (Anjelica Huston, Jim Broadbent, Steve Buscemi and John Malkovich) could certainly live up to Clowes' usual kooky cast of characters, lead Max Minghella is easy on the eyes and Cinecultist loves pretentious art school students as much as the next urban dwelling bohemian. However, this movie didn't have the spark that it needed to come together as a compelling film. Instead it was just a hodge podge of good intentions and half-baked jokes.
Maybe the problem was the Rilke-esque plot structure. Young poets or artists trying to make it big are sweet but essentially annoying, whining, self-indulgent characters. We want them to be able to rise above their own naive ineptitude but that process can be painful nonetheless. Minghella's character Jerome longs to be both a great artist and have a beautiful girlfriend but the way he goes about it with the nervousness and the cool guy yet not posturing is painful to watch. Maybe the Cinecultist doesn't really "get" what it's like to pine for a girl who likes the dumbest guy in school but this hardly seems like the high drama Art School Confidential makes it out to be.
All of that would faux pathos be palatable if only the jokes were funnier. The crass film student gets his funding from his grandfather, who wants to see a horror film about a strangler with shooting in it. A cute art school girl alternates between sobbing and laughing hysterically as Jerome tries to make a move. A pretentious art prof makes paintings with only triangles in them but says it took him years to learn to paint like that. Ha. But not so genuinely funny or real.
Still Sophia Myles, as the dream girl Audrey, is lovely and Max has some intriguing eyebrows. Next time will be better for our friends Clowes and Zwigoff, surely.
The controversy and general mouth-frothing begins to heat up as we near the May 19 release date for The Da Vinci Code, the movie version of Dan Brown's behemoth of a best seller. In the NY Times today, they discuss all of the evangelical Christian's potential strategies against the film. They are three-fold:
1) See it, but "teach" others that the plot details about Jesus being married to Mary Magdalene are wrong. Maybe try to see it with a non-believer.
2) Don't go see it. "I don't have to see 'The Devil in Miss Jones' to know it's pornography, and I don't have to see 'The Da Vinci Code' to know that it's blasphemous," said [Robert H.] Knight, [director of the Culture and Family Institute, an affiliate of Concerned Women for America, a conservative Christian group based in Washington].
3) Go see something else instead, aka an Othercott. "The idea was dreamed up by Barbara Nicolosi, a former nun who now directs Act One, a program in Los Angeles that coaches Christian screenwriters."
But could all of this brouhaha really be an evil ploy by Sony Pictures publicity to make us talk about the film further? A conspiracy, even? "Talk of 'the movie being an opportunity for evangelism is a line completely concocted by the Sony Pictures marketing machine,' said Ms. Nicolosi. 'All they care about is getting the box office, and if they don't get the red states to turn out, the movie tanks.'"
This mystery sounds like a job for a dour Tom Hanks in need of a haircut and his trusty sidekick Audrey Tautou. To the Hollywood mobile, Amélie!