• Shooting Down Pictures hates on San Francisco Chronicle critic Mick LaSalle for boldly admitting he hasn't seen some canonical cinema classics and then tossing off cursory reviews of them. Cinecultist used to read LaSalle religiously when we lived in the Bay Area too, and he even emailed to wish CC a happy 22nd birthday following a column in our college newspaper. But dude, LaSalle, you hadn't seen 2001 or Blade Runner? Jeez.
• Amy Monaghan on Radar lists some of the most misogynistic movies of the '00s. We say "right on, sister!" for calling out Superbad and My Super Ex-Girlfriend. These are not pro-lady movies.
• In our Movie Binge review of Garfield 2: A Tail of Two Kitties, Cinecultist contemplated the oddity of Garfield's premise, ie. that Jon Arbuckle is basically talking to himself when he chats with his fat tabby cat. In this inspired tumblr blog, the author has literally erased that lasagna eating cat and produced a hilarious, yet almost unsettling nihilistic strip. Is it wrong to laugh at a character who seems so close to the edge of sanity?
Now this is an advertising tie-in campaign Cinecultist's grandmother could get behind. We can just picture the boardroom meeting..."That John Adams was a great role model. You know why? Because he used STAMPS and sent LETTERS through the MAIL when founding our nation. It's hot stuff. And you know what's even better? Movie star Paul Giamatti will be portraying him on HBO.* They can show anything on cable! It'll make stamps sexy again!"
*Actually, CC is really looking forward to this seven part mini-series starting on Mar. 16. The previews we've seen so far look really good. We just didn't expect to see an ad for it when trying to figure out how late the post office was open tonight.
Innovative Swedish director Lukas Moodysson continues to challenge the devotion of your Cinecultist. Last night, we went to see his most recent work Container at Lincoln Center, where it was playing as a part of the annual Film Comment Selects series and we walked out of the hushed theater perplexed. On the way home, we even contemplated accosting Film Comment's pithy editor Gavin Smith on the platform of the downtown 1 train for some further explanation, but then thought better of it. Sometimes it's better to struggle with the thoughts evoked by a Moodysson movie alone.
Moodysson has said cryptically that Container is his silent film with sound, which makes sense in a way because the diegetic characters, a cross-dressing fat man and his tiny female Asian alter-ego, don't speak. Instead we hear a continuous train-of-thought voice over from American actress Jena Malone who narrates what seems to be the man's twisted and self-hating inner life. Obsessed with religious iconography, celebrity culture, consumer detritus and cross-dressing, the voice-over is both fascinating and maddening. It leap frogs from topic to topic, musing over Paris Hilton's ubiquitous fame one minute, then gender confusion and the desire to lick everything the next. The droning buzz of Malone's whispers even began to make Cinecultist feel a little ill, which isn't surprising after sitting through the graphic surgery footage in Moodysson's last movie A Hole In My Heart.
Surely anyone paying for a ticket to see this film at this series would expect a challenging movie, but apparently a bunch of the audience members weren't digging Moodysson's avant-garde experimentation because at the 20 minute mark about 15 or so people boldly got up and exited the theater. Cinecultist though wasn't tempted to flee, we still wanted to see where Container was going. As the final pixelated gray image cut to black, we didn't have a concrete conclusion on Moodysson's purpose, though it seems clear that the movie is interested in false exteriors masking true interiors. We're all containers for something, etc. Interestingly, of all the oddities that flashed past in the 72 minutes, that shot of the beige cooked ravioli swirling around the bathtub was perhaps one of the most oddly unsettling images from the whole proceeding. Don't ask us why. It was just too weird for words.
Thank goodness, Cinecultist found out that our man Lukas doesn't intend to stay on this provocative avant-garde track for ever. As he says in a Channel 4 article on Moodysson and an exhibit of his work at London's Institute of Contemporary Art:
"I'm thinking of going back to making a film that's not about broken or ruined things but whole things," he says surveying the jumbled chaos of his installation. "I had all these things in the room where I write. But when I started working on the exhibition I had to clear everything out. My room is empty and clean and that's inspiring me. My next film is mainstream and totally linear. I need to tell simple stories again."
For the first time in a couple of years, the Cinecultist did not spend the Oscars at home, by ourselves, live blogging. This plan had its pros and cons. Attending an Oscar party means extra tasty treats for the commercial breaks and more people to potentially throw out witty quips about the celebrities' fashion choices but also more distracting chit chat over good acceptance speeches. CC is embarrassed to admit, we even shushed one of our friends—not a proud moment. All in all it was a fun night and we're certainly glad the writer's strike was resolved in enough time to have a pretty normal telecast. Although, jeez, did there need to be that many montages? It was montagalicious up in there. We almost expected to see a montage of the montages over the final credits, it was so self-congratulatory.
Favorite moments from the three plus hour show for Cinecultist included Tilda Swinton's crack about George Clooney wearing the nippled bat suit on the set of Michael Clayton, Jon Stewart's reintroduction of Marketa Irglova so she could give her acceptance speech for best song, and James McAvoy subtle flirting with Josh Brolin during one of the scripted introductions. We saw that look between them! A new bro-mance is born!
As for the official Cinecultist Oscar Pool, our winner is Martin X, who got 15 our of the 24 categories correct. Well done, Martin! Please email CC your info and whether you'd like a drink or some random DVDs from the Cinecultist vault as your prize. Thanks to everyone who entered, we all got a few at least. More than half of us predicted best picture, and there were lots of accurate best actor, best director(s) and best supporting actor votes. Yet only two people thought Marion Cotillard would take home best actress and one lone voice was rooting for Tilda. Also no one accurately chose the Best Documentary Feature, Taxi to the Dark Side. It's currently in theaters now, so as penance we should all go see it. The best foreign language winner The Counterfeiters is also playing now in New York and Los Angeles. It looks intriguing, as does that entry from Kazakhstan Mongol. Cinecultist totally didn't know Kazakhstan had a national cinema, that's awesome. Mongol comes out in June and stars the wonderful Japanese actor Tadanobu Asano as Genghis, so it's definitely on our To See list.
"Our competition is not so much other television shows as it is Guitar Hero."—Classic Lorne Michael's quote in a NYT article today regarding Saturday Night Live's return to the airwaves this weekend after the writer's strike perhaps killed the season's momentum. Cinecultist will definitely be tuning in because the lovely Tina Fey will host and Carrie Underwood is the musical guest.
Man, we miss working with this guy. He puts the fun back into movie fanaticism.
Cinecultist feels a little remiss in not blogging about this before but PBS's stalwart Masterpiece Theater has been trying to revive their following with an intensive series of Jane Austen movies. Everybody in TV Land loves a good Jane story, right? Over the last two months, they've been showing new versions of the novels and some of the old favorites, as well as a biopic on Jane and her infamous spinsterhood called Miss Austen Regrets. Though we often enjoy Olivia Williams (she's great in Rushmore), this depiction by her of a flighty and flirty, yet bleakly single 40-year-old Jane bummed CC out. PBS would do better to just stick with enacting the stories she wrote, rather than entertaining idle speculation on her actual life, in our opinion.
Luckily this week's MT installment was part 2 of the totally classic Pride and Prejudice from '96 with Jennifer Ehle and featured that wonderful moment where Colin Firth leaps into the lake partly clothed (see the YouTube below for a refresher. Or for some funny examples of the world-wide obsession over this performance, some of YouTube's passionate clip files devoted to CF. They made us feel a little dirty.)
This series is still some darn good fun, despite the number of times Cinecultist has watched it over the years. All of the actor's performances really revel in the satire's ridiculousness, from the hyperbolic vocal inflections of Mrs. Bennet to the twitchy sidelong glances between the sets of lovers. Particularly in the scene after the lake jump, where Lizzie happens upon a damp Darcy striding up the grass, and they have that wonderfully awkward exchange. She's just been thinking about how great his house is and he's just been thinking about how he really has to get over her and it's clear as day on both of the actor's faces. The tension is deliciously palpable. Ehle and Firth really earn their paychecks with that conversation.
While it's great to revisit these old miniseries friends, Cinecultist has had mixed reactions to some of the other new adaptations. We liked the Persuasion because they made Captain Wentworth (Rupert Penry-Jones), the aging bachelor who has come back for worthy Anne Elliot, quite virile and attractive. But Northanger Abbey was just so-so, too much riffing on the Gothic novels and Henry Tillney should've been mousier while the vivacious blond Fanny in this Mansfield Park wasn't mousy enough. However we're still watching particularly since the new Sense and Sensibility airing on March 30 and April 6 was directed by Andrew Davies, who did that P&P. We're holding out hope for his interpretation being particularly innovative.
Cinecultist quit the Eee Vee for the long weekend to see the sights in Boston. It was a mighty good time. Historic Irish pubs, tasty burgers, gamboling seals, navigating the T, and schooling Harvard Square geeks in trivia were all involved. Here is one of our favorite views from the trip, of the river from a top the Prudential building in their lovely lounge. They know how to have a civilized cocktail in Bean Town.
Screw the much anticipated Indiana Jones trailer—Cinecultist is super duper psyched to get a taste of Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants 2! No official site yet but it's supposed to hit theaters on August 8. Yay.
Speaking of sappy chick movies you think you will be embarrassed to buy a ticket for, Cinecultist heartily agrees with A.O. Scott's assessment that in the sea of horrendous dreck passing for romance in Hollywood Definitely, Maybe is one of the most interesting romantic comedies we've seen in a long time. Page Lindsay: it actually has smart, interesting, culturally literate women characters! Isla Fisher's character April is introduced in a The Smiths t-shirt, travels the world on a lark and can express an opinion, while Rachel Weisz's character Summer unapologetically sleeps with her brilliant advisor, has a kid on her own but also knows the lyrics to a standard like Gershwin's "I've Got a Crush On You." The general adorableness of Ryan Reynolds plays a worthy foil to these rockin' chicks. Plus, the movie includes some choice New York locations like Cafe Gitane in Nolita and Odeon in Tribeca. The premise may be cribbing HIMYM (btwm new episodes Mar. 17), but all in all a cute little movie that's worth seeing over the long holiday weekend.
Amy Ryan, flanked by John Ashton and Ed Harris, as Helene in Gone Baby Gone.
On Friday night the New York Times magazine hosted a conversation between editor Lynn Hirschberg and two of their featured subjects (and Oscar nominees) in this week's story on Breaking Through actresses Ellen Page and Amy Ryan, as well as Juno director Jason Reitman. After the fascinating hour and a half conversation, which featured discussions of their work in Juno and Gone Baby Gone as well as a cameo from portfolio photographer Ryan McGinley, Cinecultist had the opportunity to speak one on one with Amy in the green room. The critically lauded (she was nominated for two Tonys and now the best supporting Oscar nod) down-to-earth stage and screen actor couldn't have been nicer—she even complimented CC on our favorite earrings.
It’s so great to meet you because I’ve been talking about your performance ever since I saw it.
Oh, gosh. Thank you.
Something I thought that was interesting that you brought up in the talk tonight was that in your theater career, and then again in your movie career, you’ve had these breakthroughs and I wondered if there was anything that you thought was similar about these two moments?
It is similar to what Ellen was saying about when you read a script and it’s somewhat inexplicable, but your body is just propelling you forward [to do the project]. I think the common thread is that when I first read Uncle Vanya and actually Streetcar, these two plays, I thought 'I have to play these parts.' And when I read Capote, I knew this was a role I had to play, Marie Dewey. I just had to. It was the complexity of her being star struck in tandem with her neighbors just being murdered. What does that feel like, to be this person? I wanted to figure that out. And then with Helene [in Gone Baby Gone], how do you play a drug addict who is considering the fame and also wondering if her daughter is alive or dead, just trying to survive?
So it’s more about the chance to play a certain role rather than, 'Now the world will know me and I’ll have a chance to be famous?'
No, never had that. I remember when I was a kid seeing a play with a famous actress in it and I remember saying to my mom, ‘I hope I’m good before I’m famous.’ Because when you’re famous people will tell you you’re good.
I’m glad this has happened later in my life because I know I’m good at some things, but there’s going to be a lot of things that I know I’m shitty at. At least I know what I know now. Because I wasn’t as smart as Ellen, I keep having to remind myself of her age! She’s a phenomenal, grounded, intelligent person. Man, this girl is impressive. [Ed note. Up close Ellen Page is also very, very tiny. So much sardonic for such a little package.]
Because I didn’t have that, so I’m glad that it happened later in life.
And do you think being a New York actress, and being based here, is about that too?
For me it is. First of all there’s nothing like coming back home to New York where any other block you walk down, someone’s story is bigger than your own. You’re not the star. You’re not the center of attention. Everyone has a drama on each new block. Also after drama school I didn’t go back into training, I just started training by watching behavior in the streets and the subways. In that sense I need New York, I need that. I think it’s the balance of life.
Do you have a favorite place to watch movies in New York?
I watch movies on my wall now in my house, because I have a projector. But to go to the movies, nothing beats the Zeigfeld. You feel like you’ve stepped back in time. You feel like you have to get dressed up to go to the movies there. I also really appreciate—even though I do think the screens are too small—but I love a rainy day with no plans and you walk by the Angelika. They always have something interesting and worth seeing. I do wish their screens were a little bigger but that’s New York real estate.
If you're looking to break into the film criticism racket, the second annual Moving Image Institute in Film Criticism and Feature Writing is now calling for entries to their five day program in April. "With sessions at the Museum and at production facilities and offices in Manhattan, members of the Institute will learn about the art and business of film from leading directors, editors, composers, screenwriters, publicists, and executives. Fellows will also have the opportunity to attend a weekly meeting between editors and writers of The New York Times." Sounds like geeky good fun, right? Cinecultist knows someone who attended last year and gave the program high marks.
They're looking for budding Pauline Kael's who've had at least one year of profession journalism experience. Send your home address and email; your employer’s name, address, and email; 350 words describing your experience as it relates to film criticism and/or arts writing; 350 words describing a likely/hoped for outcome of your participation in this institute; two published writing samples (These pieces need not be about film) and two professional references (including name, title, address, email, and telephone) to Film Institute, Museum of the Moving Image, 35 Avenue at 36 Street, Astoria, NY 11106. Email to: email@example.com. They'll pick 12 participants, so good luck!
In other professional development/mentoring news, Cinecultist volunteered to be a part of the "take a student to lunch" program at our alma mater, UC Davis. Two eager young Aggies should be contacting CC in the next few weeks for a chat, which should be interesting. (Though we'll be surprised if we can do the actual "lunch" part since the students will be living in California and we're in New York, but that didn't seem to stop UCD from putting our name in the pool.) We felt utterly clueless and lost when we graduated from college, so Cinecultist will be happy to pass along any words of encouragement and advice from the past 9 years that we can.