Some articles that have been rattling around in the Cinecultist's noggin lately.
• J. Hoberman's review of the new Andy Warhol Screen Tests book in the London Review of Books. J. Ho says, "Given the quality of the writing, the beauty of the reproductions, and—crucially—the difficulty of putting Warhol's enterprise between pages, Andy Warhol's Screen Tests is not simply a catalogue raisonné, it's a work of art."
• Tom Hanks, a Hollywood A-Lister for more than just his ability to play the mentally incompetent on screen, according to this article in the New York Times yesterday about his production company, Playtone. Reporter Lorne Manly writes, "Over the last several years they have gotten a great deal done, quietly turning Playtone into one of Hollywood’s most prolific filmmaking entities. Mr. Hanks is characteristically self-deprecating about its growth. “It just happens. It’s not like I sat down and had a meeting on the Death Star with my crack advisers,” he said with a laugh, then lowered his voice into movie-villain mode: “Now, we make our move.'"
• Motherfucking snakes on the motherfucking plane, Jeff Jensen in Entertainment Weekly this week reports on the full scoop, blogger influence and all. Jensen writes, ""[Director David] Ellis takes creative responsibility for these additions...but [producer Craig] Berenson credits the changes to the lobbying of an active, vocal fan base. And [screenwriter John] Heffernan goes so far as to call the fans "co-creators" of the film."
If you haven't been spending every Sunday night at 10 p.m. with the four lads from Entourage, you've seriously been missing out. Cinecultist is officially obsessed. It's so many things at once—a great ensemble cast, a hilarious dude commentary, and an insightful look at the movie biz. This show is about four guys living the charmed life of Hollywood celebrity but the entire season has been all about one wrench after another being thrown into the works. Whether it's Vince's artistic idealism, Eric's sensitivity, Johnny Drama's temper or Ari Gold's ambition, all of these characters have flaws which hold them back from true success. Though of course, it's these very foibles which make for such compelling television. That and the cars. Jeez, they drive a whole fleet of fancy ass cars.
This Friday at 8 p.m., you can catch up with the last four episodes, so tune that DVR to HBO, s'il vous plait. Also, Cinecultist is putting season two of the DVDs in our Netflix queue, just so we can sustain the joy after this season finishes up. We'll also be rooting for the show come Aug. 27th at the Emmys. They've been nominated for five awards, including best supporting actor in a comedy for Jeremy Piven.
Production stills of Entourage, featuring (from left) Adrian Grenier and Kevin Connolly; Rex Lee and Jeremy Piven.
One after another trailer this morning at the movies had Cinecultist practically hopping up and down in our seats. How hot do these movies look? Red hot.
! Borat (Nov. 3). Sacha, we heart you so damn much. Egad, CC's psyched!
! Children of Men (Sept. 29). In the future, no one can have any children. Looks creepy and exciting.
! Babel (Oct. 27). Brad Pitt and Cate Blanchett and some international incidents.
Also, potentially intriguing.
~ The Last Kiss (Sept. 15). Zach Braff in the American remake of the huge Italian blockbuster about late 20 somethings with commitment issues.
~ The Fountain (Oct. 13). Hugh Jackman and Rachel Weisz love across time in this sci-fi/fantasy/cancer story by Darren Aronofsky.
Walking into the Union Square theater this morning at 9:58 am, Cinecultist wondered for a moment about who the hell goes to see Miami Vice on the Friday morning it comes out? Besides our summer Friday selves and our business school student friend Ilana, of course. Quite a few people actually, not a packed house but a very generous smattering, mostly dudes. Fortunately, Michael Mann's hyperbolic art house action spectacle merited hauling our butt out of bed and into the humidity this early in the morning. There were a few snicker-worthy moments, but all in all we can highly recommend spending the over two hours communing with Sonny Crockett and Rico Tubbs as they take to the big screen.
Two big problems in our mind with most cop movies are the need for baroquely elaborate plots and realistic lingo banter. This kind of convoluted filmmaking can be difficult to follow and Mann lavishes attention on both elements to the point of distraction. Cinecultist realized after the movie was over, that we almost had to block out the plot and the dialogue to make sense of this movie, because to understand the whole two Miami vice cops undercover in the drug trafficking arena story is tough. Something about Aryan brothers, the Columbians, transport, fast boats and double crossing was all we could gather.
Colin Farrell and Jamie Foxx play the titular cops with deep cover and a deep friendship. Both performances had their charms, between Foxx's understated confidence and Farrell's uber-manly swaggering handlebar mustache. Like many buddy movies, the best relationship on screen is between the two men, though the sizzle between Farrell and Gong Li as the underworld businesswoman Isabelle was pretty amazing as well. Watching these two writhe around on the floor of a SUV or slither on the dance floor of a kingpin's salsa club, it's hard to imagine two sexier people on screen. Though again, it's best to just look at these two rather than listen to them, as Farrell's Irish by way of San Antonio accent and Gong's stilted English makes them tough to decipher.
This movie also converted Cinecultist to the beauties of shooting on HD video. In one of Mann's previous films shot on this stock, Collateral, we felt the blown out color and nausea-inducing not-so-steadycam made the movie look amateurish. But here, Mann super saturates the image, bringing the focus in tight during most shots and taking advantage of HD's ability to capture the contrast of night and twinkle lit backgrounds. The sleekness of the camera work perfectly compliments the shininess of the actors' good looks, making for an appealing visual product. Movies this pretty do really seem worth the $11 admission.
If despite our frantic urgings on Gothamist you still haven't made definite, written in the calendar with ink plans to see 13 Tzameti at Film Forum which starts today, consider this your next dose of incentive. The director, Gela Babluani will be doing Q&As following the 6:30 pm screenings tonight and Saturday. Cinecultist met him and found him delightful, so you have no excuses.
Last night Matty had plans to see Clerks II for his review on the Movie Binge and because Cinecultist is a bit of a masochist and a Kevin Smith nerd, we joined him. See, our feelings on KS are intensely conflicted as only a true movie obsessive could be. We were defeatist from the start. All night, having dinner first with TMB's Bronto Burger and then at a friend's eating ice cream, we kept announcing "Matty and I are going to see Clerks II later. It's gonna suck." But on the opposite token, we insisted to Matty that we go see the movie at the Anjelika because on the Clerks 10th Anniversary DVD, which we own, KS talks about how the Anjelika is where he first screened the film in a small festival. That kind of movie tourism only comes from a weirdly deep love.
But after sitting though that travesty of a sequel, Cinecultist thinks it might be time to break up with KS. Sever all ties. Loose his phone number and forget we were ever in love.
Walking out of the theater completely dejected, CC realized KS doesn't really understand why the first Clerks works, because the sequel does wrong everything that the original got right. Clerks takes a tiny premise (a day in the life of two dudes in going nowhere jobs) but adds complex, real characters with heart and culturally resonant banter. The camera work is static but like a play on screen, the important thing is the dialogue getting to ramble on with impunity. There the film can show its point of view and it's a delight. However, II seems to think that the point of the film should be the plot plotting along, hot girls to ogle and bewilderingly bad camera movement. For god's sake there's an unnecessary dance sequence! With nuns and other sundry Jerseyites! And it pulls back into a gratuitous crane shot!
What's the point of revisiting these characters if there's not enough of Dante and Randall just chatting and getting exasperated by each other? The only bright spots in the proceedings are the extended comments about Lord of the Rings Vs. Star Wars and Randall posting inflammatory comments on blogs which seems an obvious progression of his character. Also, the new character Elias, a super nerdy 19-year-old Christian virgin coworker, was quite amusing. Trevor Fehrman, the young actor who makes Elias both sweet and a total freak show, should get some great comedy roles from this performance. He really nails it.
In the climactic scene where Dante, Randall, Jay and Silent Bob are all supposed to reveal their true feelings through dude-like arguing and Silent Bob's voice of the sphinx pronouncements of truth, KS as Bob says something very telling. After a few false starts, he explains, "I've got nothing."
Sigh. *Sniff*. Exactly.
Ever since we heard that John Cameron Mitchell, the man who made musicals about German transsexuals hip again, was doing a movie with real sex, we've been intrigued. His new movie, which screened at Cannes this year, is called Shortbus and it follows a small group of New Yorkers through their various conquests and breakdowns.
Cinecultist actually already caught an advance screening of this flick and while we don't want to post too much yet about it, we will tell you we liked it quite a lot. Two of the best things in the movie are the soundtrack and this amazing detailed model of Manhattan which the camera swoops around on—both of which are featured in the teaser trailer above. It's clear from the film that JCM hearts NYC (in addition to graphic coupling on screen) and for that, Cinecultist can't help but love him back.
Watching Vincent Chase get handed a $1 million check on Entourage a few weeks ago, it's easy to assume that this is the beautiful way Hollywood works when producers have a box office and critical hit on their hands. Not so, says today's New York Times article about the slow pay off dribble for folks associated with last year's Oscar-winning film, Crash. Writer/director Paul Haggis plus eight of the principal actors have yet to see much in the way of compensation and it seems like from the article that a lot of this has to do with business practice by producer Bob Yari.
"In Hollywood it is not unusual for squabbles to erupt over dividing the spoils when a small film becomes a very big hit. But part of what is creating bruised feelings with “Crash” is the sense among the starring cast members that their initial sacrifice has not been acknowledged with a gesture, whatever the precise state of collection accounts.
“You’d think that for a movie that won best picture, what you would do is write the actors a check against their profits, or you give them a car, or something,” said a representative for one of the leading actors, who spoke on condition of anonymity because his client had barred him from speaking on the record. “That would be the classy thing to do.” He added: “The money is dribbling in. It’s almost offensive how little money it is.'"
This is sad news for anyone who likes to root for little movies that could but who also have to pay the mortage.
In this week's New York magazine, Logan Hill profiles the hilarious Steve Carell and his much deserved popular sucess. Apparently though, they're still letting people into movie Q&As who are both well-meaning and too stupid to live.
"During a talk-back [at Sundance], one woman said she was so moved that she wished she could just give him a big hug. So Carell opened his arms, and she ran into them. Another, a therapist, said she'd worked with suicidal patients and had never seen such a true-to-life performance. Had he, by any chance, spent some time in a mental ward? 'No, I didn't,' he said. 'I guess it's just...that I am an extraordinary actor.'"
Carell's movie, Little Miss Sunshine with Toni Collette, Greg Kinnear, Paul Dano, Abigail Breslin and Alan Arkin opens this Wednesday.
Dear Regal Union Square Movie Theater,
As you may be aware, we go to a lot of movies and even more so now that it's summer and grossly humid most days. Living in the East Village of Manhattan, when we want to see a big blockbuster in the deep freeze A/C we often visit your cineplex. In fact, we were there on Friday to see Monster House in 3 D (thanks for the glasses!) and then My Super Ex-Girlfriend on Sunday afternoon. However there's something we've noticed in the last few weeks of hot weather that we wanted to mention, delicately of course.
Your ground floor lobby stinks.
Seriously, what is up? Right around where the elevators meet the electronic ticket kiosk since June or so, it has smelled like feet. Horrible, vinegar, no air-circulating to cool them feet. We know Mayor Mike wants people to use less energy, but doesn't the increase in ticket prices ($11 now as of Sunday!) merit some A/C circulation down there? Or a fan at least? Maybe some of those green tree dashboard thingies? Something. The rest of the building is fine, and all the screening rooms are properly cooled but that one pocket when you enter and exit is enough to put us seriously off the popcorn.
It is foul.
Thanks so much for your kind attention.
One of the most interesting things to come out of the hype and hoopla around Bryan Singer's Superman Returns this summer is the film and its director's admiration of Richard Donner. Donner directed the 1978 Superman movie with Christopher Reeves and began work on a sequel when he was given the boot in favor of Richard Lester. However, Singer has said in numerous interviews how influenced he was by Donner's movie and now that unseen Donner Superman II will get the DVD treatment from Warner Bros. at the end of November, according to E! Online. Apparently there's a bunch of great Marlon Brando as Superman's father and also a totally different opening and ending, as well as less jokiness from Gene Hackman as Lex Luther.
It always tickles the Cinecultist when questions of taste change. What was so very bad in '78, is now worth saving according to superfans like Singer. Another point on the blackboard for movie obsessives.
Between the summer deluges and the skin drenching humidity today, it's not be a pretty picture in Manhattan. But not to worry, Cinecultist spent much of the afternoon indoors at a screening of the new kiddie animation film, Monster House. Lured to Union Square by Josh, we had no idea that we were actually signing up to see Monster House in...wait for it...3-D! That's right, the tickets were even more pricey than usually ($12 sodding 50) but we did get the cool commemorative glasses pictured below.
They're made by this company called Real D, and they remind users on the packaging that while they may look like sunglasses made popular circa Back to the Future, said glasses will not protect the eyes from the sun. Here's a picture of Josh modeling them. Snazzy, right? Note that they fit adults and can be worn over your own glasses, which is a bonus for ocularly challenged parents.
The movie itself was actually pretty cute, about three pre-teens who suspect that the house across the street might have a life of its own. Particularly Maggie Gyllenhaal, as the voice of the babysitter and Steve Buscemi, who voiced the cranky old man who lives in the scary house, were quite good. Also, the children characters, D.J., Chowder and Jenny were funny without being annoyingly precious. But of course, the real test of a good kids movie is an audience filled with kids but who keep quiet because they're into the flick. The filmmakers of Monster House should be happy to know there was nary a peep during our screening.
Also, according to the trailers which were also in three dimensions, they're planning to rerelease Tim Burton's The Nightmare Before Christmas in this format in October. That could make for a pretty fun Halloween viewing experience of a total animation classic.
Sometimes the Cinecultist gets really, really obsessive about a new movie and we've gone completely gaga for 13 Tzameti a new French film which will be starting a run at the Film Forum next weekend. We've arranged via Gothamist with Palm Pictures, the distributors of the film, to do an advance screening next Tuesday night which should be really fun. While it's usually joking when we call something a "taut psychological thriller" in this case, we're completely serious. This movie about a immigrant roofer in France who gets embroiled in an underworld roulette game had us on the edge of our seat, covering our eyes and then gasping audibly at the end. Plus, it's gorgeous to look at, shot in black and white and on 70 mm with Cinemascope, like an old film but made utterly modern.
We hate to tell you more about the plot because it would ruin the fun of the movie's clever story, so just email into Gothamist [gothamist contest at gmail dot com] for a free ticket or promise us you'll go next week to Film Forum. Promise? Okay, good.
Reading the profile of director and producer Lee Daniels in the New York Times by Lola Ogunnaike today, Cinecultist had our mouth open in disbelief. We watched a screener of his directorial debut, Shadowboxer, a few months ago and it ranks up there as one of the most painful movie watching experiences. After producing Monster's Ball (Halle Berry sleeps with her husband's executioner) and The Woodsman (Kevin Bacon plays a pedophile), Daniels is known as an "edgy" filmmaker to say the least, but Shadowboxer completely ignores the edge going instead for abominably poor taste and wash your eyes out with soap shock.
The sad thing is the movie has actors in it who've done brilliant, actually edgy past work (Helen Mirren, Joseph Gordon-Levitt) and could do intriguing work in the future (Mo'Nique, Macy Gray) if given the right project. But what Daniels has done here is a muddled hodge podge of assassins, gangsters, crack addicts, cancer patients, and step-parent/child incest. In the first 10 minutes of the movie, gangster badass Stephen Dorff sodomizes an enemy with a pool queue. In the first 10 minutes! Please, please, please don't go see this movie. We beg of you.
But, you should quietly chuckle at this bizarro quote from Daniels in the Times profile regarding the casting of Mo'Nique as a crack addicted doctor's assistant and lover to JGL:
“My sister was an obese crack addict,” he said. “She had a chicken wing in one hand and crack pipe in the other, and she had the finest white men lined up waiting for her. This is a real person to me.”
Actually, maybe that quote isn't so much funny as soul-suckingly sad. Excuse us while we go cry our eyes out.
In the continuing quest to provide purchasable content for all of those download-happy web monkeys, Variety reported late yesterday on CinemaNow testing technology to burn downloadable movies onto DVD. There's been a little of the usual heel dragging by content creators but surprisingly there's actually been a lot of enthusiasm for this tech from studios.
"Studios are eager to enable burnable downloads not just to boost online movie stores but also to enable more sales at physical retailers. Stores like Best Buy and Wal-Mart are expected to launch kiosks allowing shoppers to download and burn a DVD that isn't in stock. Up to now, Internet downloads have included a film with no extra content. But for movies that consumers can burn, CinemaNow will offer the exact same content as on the retail DVD, including menus and bonus features. Buyers can even download and print a cover to insert in a jewel case."
Cinecultist doesn't claim to completely understand that lovely, mysterious figure that is "the boy," but we'd guess it's probably common sense not to call them "drama queens" especially when they are being shelled by rocket fire from Lebanon. Actors Macaulay Culkin and Mila Kunis were on vaca in the beachy part of Northern Israel until the recent heightened unrest in the region.
"The couple were enjoying a relaxing holiday when rocket fire hit the Israeli town of Haifa, where the couple was staying. Culkin insisted the pair immediately leave the country, but Kunis was reluctant to end her holiday early, telling the Jerusalem Post, 'He's a drama queen.'"
We're spreading a little more of the Cinecultist pop culture love around the interweb, as we've begun posting on Jane magazine's snappy web presence. Look out for us in the Celebrities and Music section, where today we reported on Jessica Biel's newest philanthropic venture and drop a comment or two to say hi.
After yet another marathon session parked on the couch analyzing the intricacies of Meredith's on again/off again with Dr. McDreamy or that season 2 Project Runway recap, you figured you could surely come up with better. Here's your chance to put your money (and video camera) where you mouth is. The New York Televison Festival, MSN and IFC/Rainbow are hosting a contest to win a chance to pitch your idea to a panel of TV execs and get a $8,000 development deal from IFC and Rainbow Media.
All you need, besides that brilliant idea you dreamed up over happy hour drinks last week with the girls, is a one minute video submitted online before August 4. Then the best 50 will be chosen by the New York Television Fest to have their entries posted on MSN where the masses will vote American Idol-style. The top 10 from that contest will pitch live during the fest in Manhattan between September 12 through 17.
Ah, the things Cinecultist will submit ourselves to for the sake of actor crushes. Ever since Paul Rudd tenderly kissed Alicia Silverstone at the top of her mansion's staircase in Clueless, we've been crunching for the Rudd pretty bad. In more recent years he's eschewed his potential as a rom com leading man for quirkier, darker roles and that only makes us love him more. That's why small indie's like The Oh In Ohio, which we watched for the Movie Binge over the weekend, make us so depressed.
See, it's like this. There are movies that are good and there are movies that aren't good. And Oh is one of the later. Not that there aren't a few moments that vaguely amuse but generally, it was lame. Lame. And no amount of gazing at Rudd's crinkling eyes or contemplating how they could find a Volvo as monumentally rusted as the one Rudd's character drives could counter act the lamiosity. CC doesn't want to go to the movies just to oggle, we want stories that resonate and jokes that tickle because they're real. This wasn't one of those opportunities.
Two interviews Cinecultist read today and enjoyed:
• Actress, designer, mom and yoga studio founder Karen Allen was in town a few weeks ago for a Q&A post-Raiders of the Lost Ark screening at the Paris Theater. Tess Dawn Chan chatted with her for Papermag.com. Choice quotation -- TDC: So why do you think everyone has such a soft spot for Marion Ravenwood?
She's just a fantastic character. When I read the scenes they gave me to audition with and I saw they were introducing this girl who was living alone in a tavern in Nepal, making extra money by drinking off a table, I thought, wow. I mean, that's one of the all-time great introductions to a character. A lot of women have come up to me over the years and say, "I'd like to be just like her."
• indieWire's Eugene Hernandez interviewed brothers and filmmakers, Jay Duplass and Mark Duplass today regarding their forthcoming indie, The Puffy Chair. Sounds like just the sort of tiny, creatively invigorating movie the Cinecultist loves. Choice quotation -- Did you go to film school? Or how did you learn about filmmaking? And any other insights you think might be interesting...
Jay Duplass: I went to film school at UT Austin. I learned a lot and that school's good for puking up all your bad movies early and quick. But ultimately, no one can teach you to be an artist. And it's rare that film school teachers are themselves successful filmmakers. Only way to do it is to afford yourself the opportunity to make movies, f'em up and then make more cuz art requires a lot of f'ing up.
With the eminent release of M. Night Shyamalan's Lady In The Water this Friday, the Night Hype machine has roared to life. We read last week the excerpt from Michael Bamberger's book in Entertainment Weekly about the fraught making of this new film (Disney doesn't understand the genius of Night! Bad Disney, bad!) and more details about the super-secretive process ze auteur insists upon. Then today we caught Night's interview on the Today show and read the Caryn James piece in the New York Times. Over saturation alert!
There's just something icky about a still relatively young, working director so easily comparing his up coming fantasy tale to E.T.. Let others proclaim your genius after you've built up a considerable body of work. Toil quietly, make good movies, tell stories that matter to you--that seems to be the best path towards lasting cinematic importance. Cinecultist enjoyed The Sixth Sense because there was some buzz around this creative storytelling and suspense but there wasn't this overblown cult of personality around the director. Besides, no film critic is going to like seeing themselves depicted by a cranky-pants Bob Balaban, who plays a film critic character in Lady. You "kid because you love" Night, as you said on TV this morning? After that passive aggressive dig, critical consensus may really be showing Night who's the big bad wolf.
Cinecultist knows we should probably be anticipating some overblown summer buddy comedy like You, Me and Dupree but between Manolha Dargis's review in the New York Times today and Reverse Shot's on Monday via indieWire has us all a-twitter for Gabrielle which is out this weekend. It stars Isabelle Huppert (one of our pantheon actresses, thusly distinguished because we could watch them read the phonebook on screen) and was directed by Patrice Chéreau, who made one of our other obsessions, Queen Margot.
"As Mr. Chéreau fluidly moves back and forth in time, using different color schemes and editing rhythms to express what the characters themselves cannot always say, he forces air into a story that in the writing and the subject can feel moribund on the page....Both actors keep you riveted, even when Mr. Chéreau blows up passages from Conrad’s text, cutting away entirely from the performers (making you all the more anxious for their return) or obscuring their images with a well-chosen word ("Stay!"). Together with his extraordinary performers, Mr. Chéreau breathes life into characters who long ago set a course for death."
P.S. Happy Bastille Day, our fellow Francophiles. Viva la cinema français!
Two little indies that premiered at this year's Tribeca Film Festival are getting wider theatrical release this weekend, The Groomsmen directed by Ed Burns and Mini's First Time. Cinecultist interviewed the director of the later, Nick Guthe, a Brooklyn native for Gothamist this week. During our conversation when Nick mentioned he knew Noah Baumbach when they were kids in Brooklyn, CC had to hold ourselves back from exclaiming, "oh we've been in his apartment." It was for the Day Job and we were happy to note that Baumbach and wife Jennifer Jason Leigh who we also met, drinks coffee from a French press. However, despite the innocence of this connection, we thought it sounded a bit stalker-ish in our head and thus refrained. Though of course, we can share you guys.
Anyhow, despite wanting to support the indie directors and always enjoying chatting about their process and our mutual love of New York movie going, there is a reason why certain movies are going to stay little movies with minimal exposure and distribution. Mini's First Time, while having the distinction of being the least annoying of Nikki Reed's performances we've been forced to sit through, isn't a great film. It's perfectly passable and if you're into seeing sexually adventurous high school girls trying to be sophisticates (which granted, there are a lot of people who do) then you may really enjoy this movie. However, there seems to be something creepy and retrograde about it being the center piece of yet another indie flick.
Zee premise: Mini (played by Reed) is our narrator, telling through flashback the story of her last year in high school and how she learned so much through her various firsts. Her mother, Diane (Carrie-Anne Moss) had her while she was a struggling actress to milk child support out of a big name producer but according to Mini, the sex-pot shopaholic never really wanted her around unless Mini was mixing her strong, blended drinks. Mini gets along tolerably well with her stepfather, Martin (Alec Baldwin), a PR exec though their relationship changes considerably when Mini who's gone the Belle du Jour route seduces him as a high price escort. After Martin falls for Mini, the two begin to conspire to drive Diane crazy and get her committed.
Moss and Baldwin are always good actors and they hold their own here. However, the little feminist voice in our head kept raising it's hand to ask, Don't movies like this really do a disservice to the young starlets they are applauding? Mini's in charge, she's the smartest one in the room and the voice of the narrator who forces us to identify with her. But despite this celebration of young womanhood, we're all essentially leering at her because her sexuality is so on display. Isn't it sort of sad that this is how we want to be entertained and this is how girls become stars? Cinecultist isn't some prudish purist, titillation and defying taboos are all good in their own way. But shouldn't we question these constructs anyway?
While compiling our weekly posting for Gothamist today about this week's new releases, Cinecultist realized there's a bunch of director Q&As and movie happenings in the city this weekend. We thought we'd make a hand dandy listing for you NYC metro readers to guide a little of your viewing/director-stalking.
• Rooftop films - Messenger by Dan Leeb - 8:30 pm, live music by Key; 9:00 pm screening on the roof of Automotive High School
Also, FYI on two future events that you may want to purchase tickets for now:
• Young Friends of Film at Lincoln Center will be screening Factotum with a Matt Dillon Q&A on August 4 at 7:30 pm. $60 Film Society member and general public/$50 for YFF member tickets, which includes a cocktail party after the film.
• BAM Cinematek presents a preview screening of Half Nelson with a Q&A with the filmmakers, Ryan Nelson and Anna Boden moderated by Stu VanAirsdale of The Reeler.com on August 9 at 7:00 pm. Tickets are $10/$7 for students under 25.
Go commune with movie geeks! It'll be fun. Cinecultist will be there, won't you?
In this month's Film Comment, the cover story interview with director Richard Linklater continues into an online part 2. Sweet. Cinecultist really applauds this growing trend by entertainment publications to make more content available on the web and it does seems fitting with Linklater's DIY roots. Blogging, free online articles, filming someone carrying around a vial with Madonna's pap smear in it—it all goes hand in hand, right?
Here's just one choice bit from Linklater's conversation with Gavin Smith:
"When I did Waking Life, I was like, “Yeah, this is the same guy who did Slacker.” It’s the way my brain works, I guess. This is how I feel about the world. I’m looking for a new way to tell a story, I’m looking for a way to cram in a bunch of ideas that don’t necessarily fit into a movie—without even being that conscious of it back then. The more movies you make, the less pressure there is on any one film. The trouble when you only have a few films is those films define you completely....So for me it’s about just carving off little pieces of myself here and there."[via GreenCine Daily]
With a Sunday iced latte and toasty panini from Tarallucci e Vino on 18th Street in hand, Cinecultist finally got around to attending a screening of Superman Returns at Union Square and we're happy to report the movie was nearly as tasty as our sandwich. This was a surprise to be honest, because we'd almost gotten completely overloaded on all of the coverage, coverage, coverage of this movie. If we had to read yet another Brandon Routh is the Next Big Thing article, we were going to crawl under the duvet and never come out.
However! We're ready to say proudly, that Routh is a tasty little morsel of steel. Even Kate Bosworth, who with Orlando Bloom makes for one of the blandest hot couples ever, didn't entirely bug. The chemistry between these two, particularly in the sequence where Superman takes her from a toe to toe flight around Metropolis, made our blockbuster-lovin' heart soar. How could we ever have doubted that our boy Bryan Singer would bring subtle humor, big heart, complex metaphors and stunning set pieces to this iconic, familiar comic book tale?
Between reading Jonathan Lethem's Fortress of Solitude and hanging out with that strange creature known as the "New York Late 20-something Man Child," we felt like we sort of understood the Superman persona. But this movie casts a whole new light on this archetype and gave us new insights into why his character would hold such a sway over the boys who revere him. See, Superman by token of his god-like powers is set apart from human beings, he's grown up with them and loves them but isn't like them. He feels an intense sense of empathy, as evidenced by the scene where he flies above earth all deified listening to their prayers/complaints with his super hearing. Yet he isn't human, so his pain at the separateness is mitigated.
Also, the love between Superman and Lois Lane is the ultimate geek boy fantasy. She reveres him, yet she can't understand why he's so damn aloof. She's engaged to another man but she'll always pine for Superman and as for Clark Kent, she doesn't really know he's alive. That way Superman can be both the one with the crush and the crush object all without the muss or fuss of a real relationship. As for Superman's feelings, he obviously feels deeply for Lois and (spoiler alert) his kid, but his concerns as Superman keep him from ever having to do more than look longingly at her and chastises her for smoking. He's sensitive and the ultimate good, yet never has to take out the garbage or go to couple's counseling. Lucky dude. He can repel both bullets and adult relationships.
Finally on a different tangent, a word about the baddies in this movie. Usually Kevin Spacey crawls under our skin he's so irritating but here, his scenery-chewing abilities were used to their fullest. Our love for Parker Posey also continues unabated, especially with those frizzy hair-dos and her fascination with that evil little fluffball dog. Those dogs are seriously menacing and hilarious. However a note to the movie's editors, what the heck happened to Kal Penn's dialogue? His character is apparently mute because he's in all of these key scenes yet doesn't speak a word. It's a bit creepy to be honest and quite perplexing. It's not like he's so scary looking, why cast him if he never gets to utter any lines? There's got to be some serious Penn banter on the cutting room floor and maybe we'll be lucky enough to see it on the DVD extras.
Other than that, ranks as one of our favorite movies of the summer so far and even (*gasp) worthy of it's 2 hours and 34 minutes (a.k.a. too freakin' long) running time.
This post is all about the intersection of a few ideas floating around in the Cinecultist's humidity-addled noggin. Restaurants, cute chefs, lobsters with guns who speak Spanish. Try to follow us if you can:
- In today's slightly unconventional New York Times restaurant review, Frank and Pete—two writers who we read religiously so we feel we're on first name basis—teamed up to talk about a bunch of places where you can sample great chefs by doing some graze/tapas eating in the lounge. This is one of our favorite ways to eat during the summer, so light and booze-fueled.
- We also think chef Jean-George is sorta crush-worthy so this quote from the review about his appearances at Nougatine got us thinking about other cute chefs. "It is home to the restaurant’s open kitchen and, more frequently than at any other of his outposts, Mr. Vongerichten himself, who often wanders among the tables as he does in the formal dining room just a few feet away."
- Which THEN led to searching on YouTube for some cute chef footage to post and the discovery of the above Swedish Chef clip with the Mexican lobsters. Our 10-year-old brother Mark is totally into the Chef and since it was his birthday last week, this made us think of him. He'd completely crack up at the bandito lobsters saving their brother in the pot and thus feel it's worthy of this convoluted post.
Ever since her role as the under-appreciated Muriel, Cinecultist has had a bit of a "gutsy actress" crush on Toni Collette. She has two interesting roles coming up this summer, as the wacky Mom in Little Miss Sunshine (July 26) with Steve Carrell and the creepy adoptive Mom in The Night Listener (August 4) opposite Robin Williams.
In today's Time Out New York Hot Seat, Collette answers Stephen Garrett's queries and gets into all those times she's shaved her head. Yes, plural. Our favorite quote (and mental note reminder to bring a safety razor if we ever get to meet her):
TONY: You've even shaved your head for 8 1/2 Women.
TC: I've done it five times, actually. That was the only one for a film—the others were just a lark.
TONY: A lark?!?
TC: It feels great! It's totally low maintenance. The first time, I was drunk on tequila in Mexico. The second time was for a friend of mine who was having a fashion show in London and asked me to do it. I also shaved my head a few days after meeting my husband—I think that was just to test the relationship. ...I have a great shaped head.
Takeshi Kitano's collection of stories, Boy will get an English language release by Vertical, Inc. The translation will be done by Alfred Birnbaum who worked on a number of Haruki Murakami's early works. Think the pages will turn in hyperstylized slow motion with fountains of blood spurting out? Because that'd be kinda sweet. [via GalleyCat]
Cinecultist had a few thoughts about last weekend's boffo blockbuster Pirates of the Caribbean, Dead Man's Chest which we posted over on the Movie Binge today. Basically, we feel like it epitomizes the definition of "bombast" and we mean that in the best way possible. For moviegoers like CC who love the spectacle of summer movies, the more overblown the better.
Though we will say our enthusiasm for the movie is slightly clouded by our expectations for it. The first Pirates movie was in our top ten of 2003, so it's hard not to have high hopes for a sequel. It probably would be more enjoyable if it weren't such an obvious serial, marking time between part one and part three. Our theory is that usually in trilogies, part two is the best (see Godfather II, Empire Strikes Back, etc.). It's often when the filmmaking team hits their stride in terms of overall clarity of vision. The brilliant premise was there in the first installment but the second one is where they can really expand on it. Unfortunately, we didn't get that sense in Verbinski's follow-up. Sure, there's lots to like. Practically each sequence is chock-a-block with stuff. But that makes the quality of it a touch suspect.
But heck, a little guarded enthusiasm from Cinecultist isn't going to stop the Hollywood machine from churning out a huge hit from this movie. So go, if you haven't already, with our blessings. We all need a little cinematic padding during these hottest of months.
Actress June Allyson passed away at 88 on Saturday. She was born in the Bronx, she taught herself to dance after being crushed by a tree branch, and she appeared in 25 MGM films over 11 years, many of them musicals. She also fell for married fellow actor Dick Powell who left his family for her, a little shocking biographical detail from a primarily second tier studio actress known for playing the nice girlfriend or nice wife.
“Women identify with me,” she said in a 1986 intervew, “and while men desire Cyd Charisse, they’d take me home to meet Mom.”
The New York International Latino Film Festival doesn't start for a few weeks yet, but Cinecultist has been checking out the line-up on their site. We're particularly curious to see their closing night film, Quinceañera, a movie centered around the coming of age ceremony for 15-year-old Magdalena (Emily Rios) who lives in Los Angeles. It won the Grand Jury Prize Dramatic and the Audience Award American Dramatic this past year at the Sundance film festival plus we've heard great things about newcomer Rios's performance. Roger Ebert seeing it at Sundance reported, "There is rich human comedy here, and sadness, and a portrait so textured that we get very involved."
The festival screening is on Saturday, July 29 and Quinceañera will get a theatrical release on August 4. Official trailer via Apple.
Cinecultist isn't afraid to admit that Kyra Sedgwick's adorable, curly-headed environmentalist in Singles was a small, supporting factor in our move to Seattle at age 22. Lately, we've been getting into (aka "obsessed with") her performance on the TNT TV program, The Closer. Apparently, so are the Emmy nominators and Virginia Heffernan for the New York Times.
Image via Portroids, a site devoted to collecting famous people poloroids.
Ever since our year spent studying abroad in England, Cinecultist has been a sucker for their accents, their Lion Bars and their television programming. Fortunately for us, we have BBC America to scratch our itch which we use to get a dose of costume drama miniseries, DIY house repair, style makeovers and our most recent favorite, Gordon Ramsay's no nonsense restaurant advice on Ramsay's Kitchen Nightmares.
Celebrity chef seem to be the new rock-gods or the new movie stars. At first we weren't sold on Ramsay from his reality show program, Hell's Kitchen, where he whittles down a team of wannabe chef with his demands for faster kitchen prep and verbal berating. Like a lot of "voting off the island" reality programs, the contestants they get are complete incompetent idiots who are hardly worth the tutelage of the celeb. CC understood that part of Ramsay's supposed appeal in this venue was his ability to creatively cut the contestants down to size but it seemed unnecessarily cruel and unproductive.
However, his persona on Kitchen Nightmares is completely different. He's still a bit of a hard-ass but generally Ramsay seems to actually care about the businesses that he's coming in to revitalize in the week's time. Generally it seems the people involved in the businesses have sunk their lifesaving, hearts and souls into their endeavors but can't seem to figure out why it's hemorrhaging cash. That's where Ramsay comes in. He gets down to brass tacks, teaches them a few simple lessons about utilizing your assets and keeping the food manageable for the restauranteur's skill set. This kind of instructional TV is the best thing to come out of the reality TV craze. Like fellow how to programs What Not to Wear and Supernanny, they show that clothes, child-rearing or business management aren't rocket science but about well-placed, slightly more clever than the next guy sense.
It'd be fun for Cinecultist to see a show like that for the entertainment biz. IFC or Sundance could host it and it would feature a no-nonsense producer or agent giving advice to an indie movie project or a wannabe starlet. There's so many hopeful young folks sinking their savings into that shoestring DV short flick but have no clue how to get it off the ground. Wouldn't it be fun to see Spike Jonze say schooling them in how to achieve notoriety and artistic expression? Get in the trenches and help people realize their movie dreams, that's good television as far as we're concerned.
There's not a whole lot that Cinecultist loves more than a smart samurai movie. A flick which is aware of its genre's legacy and yet willing to riff on the tropes to make it modern. We'd been meaning to catch Takeshi Kitano's* remake of the classic Japanese samurai character, Zatoichi, the blind swordsman, for ages and finally got around to it this past weekend.
Kitano wrote the screenplay, directed and stars in the film about a wandering ronin who poses as a blind masseur but ends up saving a village from some warring gangsters. With its quirky villagers, detached but kind hero and flashback structure to fill in character motivation, Kitano's filmmaking is obviously indebted to both Kurosawa's morally fuzzy freelance samurai and international art house directors' whimsy like Jean-Pierre Jeunet.
There's also another stylistic cross-pollination going on which a friend pointed out to us as we were extolling the virtues of this fun film--our over-rated nemesis, Quentin Tarantino. In all of the sword work, the opponent is quickly dispatched with a well-placed flick of the sharpest blade ever (it cuts through a stone lantern at one point!). According to commentary on the making of docu on the disc, Kitano thinks this is more realistic. What's not so much grounded in realism is the geysers of blood shooting out of each of the adversaries. A hand is loped off and then the fountain starts with the blood digitally set in stark relief to the background. So very Tarantino, and damnit kinda cool. Though we guess it probably wasn't such a good idea to be eating lunch in front of the TV while this movie was playing.
Despite a bunch of icky moments, the film has such a delightful sense of fun about it. More movies should seem this joyful. Also, they should have Tadanobu Asano in the cast and end with a tap dancing musical finale. That would be our recipe for more successful moviemaking.
* Everyone knows that Takeshi's nickname is "Beat" but we feel sort of dopey typing it in between his first and last name. Seems there's something lost in the translation with that moniker. So just imagine that we've acknowledged it, yet also are treating him like an ar-teest deserving of full name only respect.
One of the most surprising discoveries from the Cinecultist's participation in the Movie Binge project has been finding out that we share our pretty low-brow taste for typically what is called "chick flicks" with fellow contributor, Matthew "Fluxblog" Fluxington. A few times now, movies that most of our friends would call "Karen movies" with a tone of affection and dismay, have been flicks Matthew wants to cover too. Who knew a music dude like Matthew would know such much about our genre of choice?
While CC was still working on our opinion of The Devil Wears Prada movie for our Movie Binge review, we had the following interesting IM exchange with Matthew.
Matthew: I thought it was fun enough, but it had no idea what it wanted to say and the resolution is idealistically incoherent.
CC: Yeah, I think the filmmaker's fear of how Anna Wintour would feel being portrayed as she is in the book changed the characters a lot.
Matthew: Yeah it's funny how Meryl is the most sympathetic character by the end.
CC: I know.
Matthew: But the thing I don't get is the whole "being ambitious and hard working is great and will get you far, but if your shlubby underachieving friends are alienated by you, well then you MUST be a fraud."
CC: Yeah, that was pretty muddled.
Matthew: I think there's probably a much better movie in a sympathetic person trying to deal with how their ambitions have led them into a lifestyle at odds with their old circle of friends, and trying to have both at the same time. But the movie never gave us much reason to reject the fashion people, and so it's jarring when it asks you to do so. So this movie is about how most people like to admire ambitious people, but cannot relate to them.
Most of our thoughts up until then had been on the plane of "Meryl continues to rock our world," "Anne looks lovely with smooth hair" and "Simon Baker's face has something funny about it that we can't quite put our finger on." But as Matthew rightly points out, the movies which seem the most throw away often actually say best what is happening in our culture at that moment in time.
What's more of the zeitgeist according to Prada? Turning bitching about your subservient work environment into dubious fame and a multiple book deal? Or the subtle power that the demanding boss ultimately wields in modifying the resulting movie to make her look sympathetic and be played by Meryl Streep? Or is it about how ambition looks better on a woman when she's a size 4 and totting the most current handbag? The jury's still out on all of the above as far as we're concerned.
Cinecultist is in a total cheese coma. No, we haven't rewatched some Molly Ringwald/John Hughes movie but trying to recover from dinner at Freeman's with our friends Kristi and Ilana where we consumed Freeman's infamous mac & cheese, the sublime artichoke dip AND a plate of camembert with apricots and honey. Plus there was wine, of course. Ugh, our happy stomach is completely overwhelmed.
To keep from having dreams where we're attacked by a giant plate of artichoke dip, we thought we'd tell you about the movie we three caught at Film Forum before our cheese-tastic meal. The rep house is running a great series of Billy Wilder movies this month in honor of his centennial and today we watched A Foreign Affair with Jean Arthur and Marlene Dietrich. Arthur plays an uptight congresswoman post-World War II who visits Berlin with her congressional committee to check up on the reconstruction troops' moral. She begins investigating a former Nazi lounge singer (Dietrich) who seems to be getting special treatment from the army. John Lund as Dietrich's officer boyfriend wants to throw Arthur off the scent and starts wooing Arthur with great comedic effect. There's one spectacular scene where he's going in for the kiss and she keeps opening file cabinets and reciting the poem Paul Revere's Ride to distract him. The rest of the film is full of great Wilder sexual puns and Dietrich sex-pot musical numbers. It's not to the level of Wilder sublimity as The Apartment or Sunset Boulevard but it was certainly diverting and at time intriguing with the corrupt post-war Germany setting.
At dinner afterwards during our wine-fueled discussion of the movie, CC offered to go to our trusty Conversations with Wilder by Cameron Crowe book when we got home to see what pithy comments the writer/director had about his movie. CC argued that Dietrich, though this performance doesn't compare to Blue Angel or Morocco, is still h-o-t. Wilder the pragmatic dirty old man agrees, to a point.
Cameron: "...Comparing the close-ups in the film, you did seem to put special care into Dietrich's close shots. Maybe that was her knowledge of the lighting and the camera, but it seems that it would be hard in a way not to fall in love with Dietrich, looking through the lens?
Billy: I was not. I do not fuck a star. That's a primary rule of mine. Because I was so busy with the picture. Because I'm so worried about the picture. If I did have real yen for that thing...then I fuck the stand-in. I go to the Valley where the stand-in lives."