CC's only recently become more acquainted with Bergman's movies. After muscling through Persona while working on our undergrad film studies minor, we always thought his work would be too "art cinema" for our taste. But in fact, his movies are often quite funny, sweet and bracingly humane. Only a few months ago, we rented the miniseries version of Scenes from a Marriage and even recommended it to our mainstream-minded mother as a Must See. Bergman filmed some shockingly honest interchanges between characters. You can hardly believe anyone could admit such naked and brutal things to another person, let alone film them. As we learned from the docu Bergman's Island, Ingmar had a pretty tumultuous personal life, but what a film artist. Very sad news indeed.
Cinecultist finally got around to watching our DVR'ed episode of last week's new AMC series Mad Men and boy are we glad we did. This show gives us hope that we will get through the doldrums of the summer television season with our faith in the boob tube intact. Sexy, stylish and oh, did we mention sexy, CC heartily agrees with Nancy Franklin's brief assessment in this week's New Yorker that if "any states [have] legalized marriage between human beings and TV shows...I’m going to throw a few things in a bag and run off with Mad Men." They've only just aired the premiere episode but we're already totally rooting for Peggy (Elisabeth Moss) the not-so-innocent new secretary in the high power advertising firm who's been tossed into the snake pit and have gone gaga for Don Draper (Jon Hamm), her complex creative director boss. CC wasn't familiar with either actor before this show but we predict big, big things for both of them.
If you're not already sold on the gorgeous mid-century production design and the commentary on the burgeoning media complex, let Cinecultist point out again that this is a sexy, sexy show. Maybe it's the nipped in waists and the slicked back hair, or it could be all the talk about sex but CC likey. We can now officially give up pretending to like the stupid Flight of the Conchords even though it's set in our hood and is about our indie peeps. Forget the modern L.E.S., '50s Manhattan nostalgia and Mad Men is the new hotness. Check out a free "Making of Mad Men" special on iTunes and there's video clips on the official site. CC (and our newly minted crush on Jon Hamm) promise you won't be sorry.
A shot of the crowd at Potter Place outside the Scholastic Store in Soho on Friday afternoon.
It seemed as though hundreds of thousands of people in New York last night were struck down with Pottermania. Cinecultist had it bad too. At around 6 pm, we went down to Soho to check out the scene outside the Scholastic store. It was Pottermonium. Kids and adults in Hogwarts costume, face painting, decorations and a buzz of energy as everyone counted down the hours to the release of the final book, Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows. Cinecultist and our friends intended to spend the midnight hour at the giant Union Square Barnes and Noble party, so we swung by to pick up orange wristbands, for those who hadn't prepaid but intended to purchase the book after 12:01 am.
Unfortunately when CC returned at around 10 pm after a bite to eat, we discovered a mad scene outside the 17th street entrance. Only those with yellow prepaid wristbands seemed to be getting into the already packed bookstore. CC and Lisa headed instead over to the smaller independent children's bookstore Books of Wonder on 18th Street between 5th and 6th Avenue. Also a rockin' Potter party, at least Books of Wonder had a shorter line to pay and was giving out gratis cupcakes in their adorable Cupcake Cafe. CC and Lisa rested with some caffeine laden drinks and took in the crowd, a nice mix of kids and adults, all palpably excited about the approaching midnight hour. Books of Wonder also had a cast of college-aged students dressed as the main characters from the books. The very blond boy dressed as Draco gave us quite the once over and then declared us "Muggles" in a very contemptuous tone as he passed by. The verisimilitude was adorable.
At 10 seconds to midnight, the crowd began counting down and as the clock struck the hour everyone cheered. Quickly the Potter actors climbed on furniture and began announcing (with bad English accents still intact) the numbers by Hogwarts House who could move to the back of the store for their books. CC was placed in the Ravenclaw house and at number 88, our turn came up quite quickly. Granted, we paid the ridiculous $34.99 plus tax full price for this 759 page sucker but as we walked past the still massive and unmoving line outside B&N on the way home at 12:30 pm, CC wasn't sorry. We were still able to get an hour of reading in last night and as of now are well-past the halfway mark in the book.
No spoilers we promise, just that Cinecultist is enjoying J.K. Rowling's final foray into the tale of the Boy Who Lived. Hopefully we'll recover from this contagious case of the Deathly Hallows sometime tomorrow afternoon. CC's always been a fast reader.
This morning while getting ready for work, Cinecultist watched the announcement of the nominations for Primetime Emmys on NBC. While we heartily congratulate Kyra Sedgwick (outstanding lead actress in a drama nom from The Closer), Neil Patrick Harris (outstanding supporting actor in a comedy nom from HIMYM) and Longford for its outstanding made for television movie nomination, we had one question. Is Two and a Half Men actually good? Charlie Sheen and Jon "He'll Always Be Duckie" Cryer both got nominations as well as a best comedy nomination for the show.
Who watches this thing? Seriously, we're dying for some Alessandra Stanley or Nancy Franklin commentary on its great social and artistic merits. Get on that ladies. CC may even have to watch a few clips on the internet just to satisfy our burning curiosity. Promise to report back with any pertinent findings.
Cinecultist sometimes has a terrible memory. We know that we read The Jane Austen Bookclub a few years ago because it's sitting right there on the bookshelf and vaguely we recall enjoying it. But plot, characters and themes are all a bit fuzzy. There's a book club? They read Jane Austen's six books together? Romance, intrigue or something or other? Watching a trailer for the movie version which comes out on Sept. 21 rang a few distant bells. Oh well, with a cast this good (Maria Bello, Emily Blunt, Hugh Dancy, Amy Brenneman, Kathy Baker, Jimmy Smits and Maggie Grace) we'll probably be seeing it regardless of if we can remember the finer points of the story.
Another Jane Austen reworking on the movie horizon is Anne Hathaway's Becoming Jane, a fictionalized biopic which imagines that Jane's spinsterhood sprung from a disappointed great love. It is out Aug. 3. While CC always finds Hathaway charming and thought this was also a good role for the on-the-cusp-of-stardom James McAvoy, it plays a little too fast and loose with what we understand as Jane's life story. To suppose that one of the greatest romantic comedy wits ever had some sweeping movie-style affair in her life is just a little too Hollywood convenient.
In case you couldn't tell, Cinecultist is very protective of Madam Austen. We don't want to see her too tinkered with, just to tap into a continuing trend from the '90s. We take appropriations of her work and her person oddly personally. If you're going to riff on her, ye puny novelists and filmmakers, we demand you be smart about it. To get into what Jane Austen's writing means to CC would probably take more than just one blog post but suffice it to say, she's the patron saint of all smart girls and we've read all her books (even the childhood ephemera) more than once. Going into a mild-mannered Hollywood movie with that much baggage and pre-conceived notions is never going to turn out well. Or could it? Will our decade plus obsession make Cinecultist the perfect critical audience these two movies, one highly tuned into the potential pitfalls and pleasures of the subject matter?
This post isn't movie related but rather concerns another Cinecultist obsession: good coffee, or more specifically good coffee in Seattle. A photo we had posted on Flickr from a trip to Seattle a few years ago has been licensed by a new cool travel website called Schmap. On the entry for one of our favorite places on Capitol Hill, Bauhaus, you can see the image above that CC took from inside. It's part of a customizable map of a destination, complete with nodes indicating restaurants, boutiques, and other points of interest for residents as well as visitors. Considering Cinecultist thinks of ourselves as a kind of walking schmap (go on, quiz us! we can't be stumped!), we're tickled to be a small part of this project. Check out the site and let us know what you think. There's a New York version too that we'll be having fun poking around.
Oooo, exciting Dylan buzz: a clip from the new Todd Haynes movie, I'm Not There. Have you looked at the cast list for this thing? It's a cinephile's damp dream. In the aforementioned clip we get to see a bit with Cate Blanchett and David Cross as Allen Ginsburg. Our downtown compatriot looks good; CC hardly recognized him in that Howl-ish beard. Sept. 21 (now known as "BD Day" on our calendar) can't come soon enough. [Via]
Happy Birthday (yesterday) Ingmar! Looking good for 89, baby.
Sienna Miller says the darndest things to reporters like NY mag's Logan Hill.
"I’m not too skinny—definitely not at the moment." AND "I have told the paparazzi to fuck off—that sounds like something I’d do."
"Car Talk, a popular car advice talk radio program hosted by mechanics Click and Clack, is being made into an animated television show, the Public Broadcasting Service said on Wednesday. The show will launch with ten, 30-minute prime-time episodes in summer 2008 and will be named with the help of fans." [via Reuters]
Although to be honest, news and jokes about cars are slightly less funny when you live in New York City and primarily ride the subway or the bus or walk. However Cinecultist used to love listening to Tom and Ray Magliozzi (aka Click & Clack) laugh at their lame puns. They think their shtick is heee-larious and thus, it is.
Cinecultist is not sure when a review of a movie a week or two before its release became such a big "get" but apparently in the rarefied world inhabited by arts editors of New York tabloids it is.
Via the New York Times (with a distinct tone of *snicker* in their reportage):
"The two New York tabloids and their movie critics...have been duking it out all summer to be first to publish their reviews of major Hollywood releases. Both reviewed Sicko, Michael Moore’s documentary, exactly 10 days before its scheduled release. (The Post panned it; The News raved.) Both reviewed Live Free or Die Hard the Sunday before its official opening on June 27.
The Post even flew its critic Lou Lumenick to London to attend the British premiere of Spider-Man 3 so that he could publish his review on April 24 — a week and a half before it opened in Manhattan.
A touch ridiculous, right?
Frankly, Cinecultist is a little "meh" about it. We own most of the series on DVD, got HBO when we moved to New York in order to watch it, and even paid good money to go on the SATC tour while in graduate school. (CC wrote a cultural studies paper about the show and its branding of the New York City experience, so shut up about it.) In other words, we should be able to muster more excitement about the news.
Maybe it's because we can't imagine any sort of interesting plot line for the "girls" to explore. The series finale really wrapped it up pretty tidily. Besides, as everyone keeps pointing out with a tinge of evil gloat, the actresses are all getting up there in years. SATC was a product of its moment—financially solvent, sexually expressive 30-somethings living in New York during the booming '90s. But now those chicks have moved on, bought the co-op in Park Slope and retired the Blahniks. What's interesting or sexy about that? Frankly, the whole retread, been-there-seen-it-done-it-bought-the-tshirt aspect is depressing.
Cinecultist hearts Haruki Murakami, and we recently finished reading his new novel After Dark about the subterranean world of late night Tokyo. Interestingly, Murakami has two characters reference in conversation two wonderful movies, Alphaville and Love Story. Even more interesting our heroine, Mari, a college student with a mysterious sleeping sister, knows a little something about Godard, while Takahashi, a law student/musician who befriends Mari, has a terrible memory for plot. How could you forget the end of Love Story? "Love means never having to say you're sorry," and other such platitudes. Duh, it's practically movie gospel. The moral of the story then is: watch lots of movies and later, understand subtext in gorgeous, brilliant modern literature. We always knew this cinema studies stuff would come in handy for something.
"Mari says, "You know, I've been wanting to ask you. Why do you call your hotel Alphaville?"
"Hmm, I wonder. The boss probably named it. All love hos have these crazy names. I mean, they're just for men and women to come and do their stuff. all you need is a bed and a bathtub. Nobody gives a damn about the name as long as it sounds like a love ho. Why do you ask?
"Alphaville is the title of one of my favorite movies. Jean-Luc Godard."
"Never heard of it."
"Yeah, it's really old. From the sixties."
"That's maybe where they got it. I'll ask the boss next time I see him. What does it mean, though—"Alphaville"?
"It's the name of an imaginary city of the near future," Mari says. "Somewhere in the Milky Way."
"Oh, science fiction. Like Star Wars?"
"No, it's not all like Star Wars. No special effects, no action. It's more conceptual. Black-and-white, lots of dialogue, they show it in art theaters..."
"Whaddya mean, 'conceptual'?"
"Well, for example, if you cry in Alphaville, they arrest you and execute you in public."
"'Cause in Alphaville, you're not allowed to have deep feelings. So there's nothing like love. No contradictions, on irony. They do everything according to numerical formulas."
Kaoru wrinkles her brow. "'Irony'?"
"Irony means taking an objective or inverted view of oneself or of someone belonging to oneself and discovering oddness in that."
Kaoru thinks for a moment about Mari's explanation. "I don't really get it," she says. "But tell me: is there sex in this Alphaville place?"
"Yes, there is sex in Alphaville."
"Sex that doesn't need love or irony."
Kaoru gives a hearty laugh. "So, come to think of it, Alphaville may be the perfect name for a love ho."
Takahashi asks her, "Have you ever seen Love Story? it's an old movie."
Mari shakes her head.
"They had it on TV the other day. It's pretty good. Ryan O'Neal is the only son of an old-money family, but in college he marries a girl from a poor Italian family and gets disowned. They even stop paying his tuition. The two manage to scrape by and keep up their studies until he graduates from Harvard Law School with honors and joins a big law firm."
Takahaski pauses to take a breath. Then he goes on:
"The way Ryan O'Neal does it, living in poverty can be kind of elegant—wearing a thick white sweater, throwing snowballs with Ali MacGraw, Francis Lai's sentimental music playing in the background. But something tells me I wouldn't fit the part. For me, poverty would be just plain poverty. I probably couldn't even get the snow to pile up for me like that."
Mari is still thinking about something.
Takahaski continues: "So after Ryan O'Neal has slaved away to become a lawyer, they never give the audience any idea what kind of work he does. All we know is he joins this top law firm and pulls in a salary that would make anybody envious. He lives in a fancy Manhattan high-rise with a doorman out front, join a WASP sports club, and plays squash with his yuppie friends. That's all we know."
Takahaski drinks his water.
"So what happens after that?" Mari asks.
Takahashi looks upward, recalling the plot. "Happy ending. The two live happily ever after. Love conquers all. It's like: we used to be miserable, but now everything's great. They drive a shiny new Jaguar, he plays squash, and sometimes in winter they throw snowballs. Meanwhile, the father who disowned Ryan O'Neal comes down with diabetes, cirrhosis of the liver, and Ménière's disease and dies a lonely, miserable death."
"I don't get it. What's so good about a story like that?"
Takahashi cocks his head. "Hmm, what did I like about it? I can't remember. I had stuff to do, so I didn't watch the last part very closely..."