April 20, 2008

Cross-Eyed Diane Keaton

Spending my Sunday evening getting caught up on freelance work and watching Reds on HBO On Demand. It's a wonderful, complicated movie about the Socialist movement in the United States with great performances by Diane Keaton, Warren Beatty and Jack Nicholson, in a dynamite bottle brush mustache. However, whenever Diane stares intently at Warren or Jack, trying to explain her deep feelings, she gets sort of cross-eyed. Actually, really cross-eyed. It's both unattractive and distracting. Did no one see this in the dailies?

Posted by karen at 11:22 PM | Diane Keaton, Reds, Warren Beatty

February 27, 2008

Paul Giamatti Promotes the Post Office

Post Office website
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.

February 21, 2008

Things Are Looking Up For Ol' Liz Lemon

"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.

February 19, 2008

Fitzwilliam Darcy + Elizabeth Bennett= <3

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.

January 7, 2008

New Television Programming, Hallelujiah!

Cinecultist with an empty DVR and only reruns on primetime is a sad Cinecultist. On Sunday we even found ourselves back at the Union Square Virgin Megastore this afternoon trolling the $10 sale bins, after already dropping quite a tidy sum there just before the holidays. Fortunately, there was a little new programming on the boob tube that night to distract—the season premieres of The Wire on HBO and a series preview of Cashmere Mafia on ABC. It was a mixed bag, but it at least it was something. Damn you media conglomerates, sit down and hammer out a deal with the writers union already!

thewireep38_01.jpgThe good news first: we think we could fall for The Wire. Despite the fact that the critical consensus for a while now has been that this show is one of the best on television (some even say, best show ever) Cinecultist never got hooked on this Baltimore cops/drug dealers/politicians/media show. Fortunately HBO offered a series recap program before the new episode, so that whet our whistle and filled in a few character arcs. All of the talking heads on the special, from the series regulars to critics, are over the moon for writer/producer David Simon's creation. With that much love showered on this program, and the "Dickensian" adjective batted around, CC will record it for the season. Though the zillions of characters and at times confusing, jargon heavy dialog in the first episode was daunting.

The bad news: Cashmere Mafia, Cinecultist knows our Sex and the City and you madam, are no Sex and the City. Sure, the program has four beautiful, high powered women stalking around Manhattan, tapping away on BlackBerries and plotting affairs, but the dialog and plot is so wooden its laughable. Also, the director has taken a page from Aaron Sorkin and has the cast practically sprinting around the sets. It's off putting. Not to mention that in the face of The Wire's social agenda, a show this fluffy and done badly no less, seems insulting. CC doesn't mind fluffy, in fact we like it, if its done with original characters and just a few witty lines. During the commercial break as we washed the dishes, Cinecultist felt compelled to coin a new (nonsensical) phrase to describe this show: kstupid. So insipid and annoying, that it's beyond stupid into kstupid. Avoid at all cost is our advice, even if you have a soft spot for Lucy Liu and the concept of an Asian romantic lead on TV .

Frankly, it wasn't an encouraging evening for Cinecultist's TV loving heart. Here's hoping one of three things happens—the strike ends soon, Jon Stewart can return funny without his writers tonight or that new Gabriel Byrne series In Treatment which starts in a few weeks is worth regularly watching. Cancel that, Cinecultist is an optimist, let's hope all three things happen.

Posted by karen at 9:00 AM | ABC, Cashmere Mafia, HBO, The Wire | Comments (0)

November 12, 2007

Cinecultist Is...

Not dead. Promise. While we know it's one of the cardinal sins of blogging to let said blogging diminish to such a meager frequency it only consists of brief check in posts, that's what has happened to CC.

In lieu of lame apologies, some bullet points of what's been tickling our fancy lately:

* We bought a copy of the new translation of War and Peace put out by Richard Pevear and Larissa Volokhonsky which the Times and the New York Review of Books have been raving about. Cinecultist promised our friend Adriane we'd set up a schedule of reading so we could discuss it, but apparently we'll not be able to beat the Bill Keller reading pace. Damn dude, you devoured 1273 pages (including summaries and appendixes) in a week, while also running the NYT? Impressive.

* Sometimes for giggles, Cinecultist tries to horrify the salespeople at Kim's on Saint Marks' with our DVD purchases. Unfortunately they're a pretty jaded bunch, but we thought we'd at least get an eyebrow raise when CC put Ratatouille and the Special Collector's Edition of Flashdance on the counter last Saturday. No dice. Both DVDs come with some nice extra features though. On Ratatouille, which is just as charming as it was in the theaters, you can enjoy a hilarious short about the history of rats as narrated by Remy and Emile. Flashdance also includes an extra disc of six classic toe-tapping, nose-blowing audio tracks. In fact as we type right now, CC is bopping along to "What a Feeling." Don't be surprised to see us decked out in leg warmers and t-shirts with the neck cut out shortly.

* If you aren't enjoying Gossip Girl on The CW already, Cinecultist suggests adding it to the DVR sched. It's surprisingly geeky and fun. Case in point, last week when the young Dan (Penn Badgley) wanted some tips when wooing experienced Serena (Blake Lively) he rented I Am Curious Yellow! References to kinky, experimental Swedish cinema from the '60s in a teen-sploitation soap? Awesome.

July 23, 2007

When Men Smoked In Meetings and Assistants Were Called Girls

img_home_madmen_cast.jpgCinecultist 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.

July 19, 2007

A Question For the Ages

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.

July 5, 2007

Mixed Feelings: Sex & The City Goes To Hollywood

"After much foreplay, the feature version of the long-running HBO series is gearing for a fall start, with New Line near a deal to finance and distribute," according to Variety today.

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.

June 15, 2007

Great Casting, Canned Laugh Track Not So Much

Cinecultist was excited to find some promo clips from the new Amy Sherman-Palladino series, The Return of Jezebel James with Parker Posey* and Lauren Ambrose. Watching all them on the official website, Cinecultist was buoyed by the ASP-ness of Posey and Ambrose's performances but the canned laugh track that seems to be a prereq for any show billed as a sitcom? Painful. We're keeping our fingers crossed for no clichéd lameness on this series. [via Jump Cuts]

*Not-so-confidential to Lisa: Posey's character is a children's book editor, how awesome is that? We'll expect a full review of believability once the show airs this fall on Fox.

May 3, 2007

Nooooo!

Not Rory and Lorelei! Don't take them now, Lord.

From Variety today: 'Gilmore Girls' canceled. CW, WBTV wrap production on show

March 27, 2007

Nothing Perks Up CC Like a Samantha Morton Movie

samanthamortonlongford.jpg

Being busy is good for the pocketbook and the emotional well-being but not for the blogging. Cinecultist has been freelancing up a storm and hardly finding time to see movies, let alone blog about them. However little works to revitalize our blogging instinct than a good movie starring Samantha Morton. Her work is like poetry. She emotes like nobody's business. Basically, we totally heart her which is why we'd taped via our DVR her new film on HBO Longford a while ago and finally found a spare moment over the weekend to watch it. Please try to make a point of seeing this movie, it has so many elements that make it really compelling programming.

The script was written by Peter Morgan, our current film writing hero and the pen behind two of the strongest films from last year's The Last King of Scotland and The Queen. This is another historical biopic, Morgan's genre of choice lately, about a controversial English friendship between Lord Frank Pakenham, the 7th Earl of Longford and condemned murderer Myra Hindley. Hindley was convicted of murdering a number of children and then burying their bodies on the Moors with her boyfriend Ian Brady during the '60s. Longford was a renowned advocate of prisoner's rights, he began visiting Hindley and crusading on her behalf for parole. However, the revelation of Hindley's intrinsic involvement in the brutal murders years after her incarceration led to Longford's public ruin.

In addition to Morton's great performance as Hindley, Jim Broadbent is also top notch as the title character. With those naive, idealistic, wide eyes behind the gold rimmed glasses and that liver-spotted bald head, he's utterly compelling. It's not often in movies that you see spirituality and faith depicted as noble causes but Longford's unshaken belief in the power of God's love to redeem even the most hardened criminal is incredibly moving.

Other notable cast members include Andy Serkis (Peter Jackson's Gollum in the Lord of the Rings movies) as an intensely creepy Ian Brady, and two favorites from the recently completed series Rome, Lindsay Duncan (Servilia) plays Longford's fellow activist wife, Elizabeth and Lee Boardman (Atia's Jewish servant Timon) has a brief role as a talk show host.

P.S. Morgan's next project is an adaptation of the best-selling historical fiction book about the Henry VIII era, The Other Boleyn Girl starring Scarlett Johansson, Natalie Portman and Eric Bana, as the womanizing monarch. CC, for one, can hardly wait.

February 5, 2007

Monday Night TV, the High Highs and the Low Lows

howimetyourmother.jpgDear me, Cinecultist loves her DVR. We will tell pretty much anyone who asks that the ability to record television no-muss-no-fuss has totally changed our lives. So it was with extra meta-mirth that we enjoyed "A Quiet Prayer to the Tivo Gods," courtesy of tonight's Super Bowl themed How I Met Your Mother episode.

"All mighty Tivo. We thank you for all the gifts you have given us. The power to freeze live TV to go take a leak is nothing short of god-like. Let's not forget being able to fast forward through commercials. It seems greedy to ask for anything more from you, oh magic box. But if you malfunction and miss the Super Bowl, we will destroy you in the alley with baseball bats. Amen."

studio60cast.jpgMonday night is a good night for television if HIMYM is on; Cinecultist was happy to hurry home tonight through the bitter cold knowing a new episode was waiting for us in our recorder. However, Monday is also the night that Aaron Sorkin tortures us with a new installment of Studio 60 On the Sunset Strip. Lordy, this show gets worse and worse. As of last week, we were but a hair's breath away from declaring Sorkin, a man who brought us the joy that was Sports Night, dead to us.

At the beginning of the season, we often defended the series out of affection for Sorkin as well as some of the cast members like Amanda Peet, Sarah Paulson and Bradley Whitford who through sheer force of charisma we thought might propel the program. However, now we realize that this show has dug itself into such a Well of Unlikable that it will never yet again see the light. Every character on this show is such a king sized jerk/fuck up that we can't root for a single one. Have we seen any of these characters do their jobs as well as they supposedly do? We don't even want the two couples to get together and you know that CC is the most incurable of all romantics. And the plot gets more baroque each episode, yet it still doesn't add up to anything substantial. Where are we going here, Sork? Do you, the allegedly OCD TV creator, even know?

Tonight as Danny (Whitford) goes running through the theater yelling out "Jordan" (Peet) because he's realized she's crazy about him, from the note she slipped into his sleeve of course, all we could say, out-loud to the TV no less, was "you've got to be kidding me!" This show tries to pretend it's smarter than such hackney rom com structures, but it's not. It's less smart that even the lamest clich�. Less smart! Even a good Pretenders song over a montage isn't enough to cloud CC's judgement on this one. The other good thing about DVR? You can cancel a series recording mid season and that's our next order of business dear Sork, after we post this entry.

January 27, 2007

Alexandra Pelosi Asks The Important Questions

"Do you think the holy spirit is here in this Burger King parking lot?" So says the disembodied voice of documentarian Alexandra Pelosi to some of the Cruisers for Christ, a Christian car club, during her new film, Friends of God now airing on HBO.

Posted by karen at 3:51 PM | Alexandra Pelosi, HBO | Comments (0)

January 15, 2007

A Slightly Foggy Golden Globes Crystal Ball

Over on Gothamist today, Cinecultist offered a few predictions for tonight's Golden Globe winners. Making suggestions of winners or figuring out the odds is not exactly CC's strongest suit, even in a year like this one when we've seen about 92% or so of the nominees. Even in the Oscar race, we usually feel like we're stabbing a pencil into a map and calling that our destination when it comes to knowing who will win. Our watchword then on these (probably totally off) picks was the Hollywood Foreign Press's utterly mainstream, middle of the road, most popular kid on the block wins taste. They so often honor actors or their movies or tv shows on what seems like ratings or box office alone, not artistic merit. Not to say that something which is good can't also be popular but not at the rate that the HFPA lauds the Little Miss Sunshines or the Heroes on the ballot. For goodness sakes in '97, they gave the best actress in a Comedy/Musical to Madonna for Evita over Frances McDormand's performance in Fargo.

The Golden Globes airs tonight at 8 pm on NBC, but CC's going to try to focus on the pretty dresses.

Posted by karen at 2:08 PM |

November 7, 2006

Grassroot Graham

gilmore-girls.jpg

Cinecultist just finished watching today's episode of Gilmore Girls, and we have to comment that it's almost as though the writers got an advance copy of Virginia Heffernan's smack-down in the Times today. The banter was definitely back up a notch from previous episodes this season. As a major fan of this show since the first season, we can understand Heffernan's almost slavish devotion to Amy Sherman-Palladino's role as creator. We too have been second guessing the current producers and writers decisions at ever turn so far this season. 'Is that really what Lorelai would say? Would she really reference that particular, quite mainstream, film?' (See Lauren Graham's recent rant against Snakes on a Plane. A S-P's Lorelai probably would've dug Samuel L. Jackson and his motherfucking snakes.)

But all over-analysis aside, we do agree with Heffernan's thesis that Lauren Graham is a brilliant, brilliant performer who is underutilized in Hollywood. Good news on that horizon though: She costars with the ever side-splitting Steve Carell in Evan Almighty, the sequel of sorts to Jim Carrey's Bruce Almighty. It doesn't come out until this coming June, so for now CC will continue to weigh each new GG episode carefully, keep watching old eps in syndication, and begin a quiet but insistent grassroots campaign for Lauren Graham's big Hollywood recognition. That girl deserves a break, she works her cute butt off.

Semi-related: CC really enjoyed this interview by Terry Gross with Sherman-Palladino on Fresh Air last year.

[Pictured: Graham (at left) with GG co-star Alexis Bledel.]

Posted by karen at 9:57 PM |

September 18, 2006

Out With The Creek, In With The Mother

dawsonandjoey.jpg

Last night while tidying up around Chez Cinecultist and scrubbing the tub, we stumbled upon the sad but brilliant final programming of the WB. That's right, last night was the official change over from WB to CW, aka the station that is melding together the mediocre yet oddly engaging programming of the WB and UPN. In honor of, they were re-airing the pilot episodes of some of their most lasting TV shows and so CC sat down to enjoy both the Buffy the Vampire Slayer pilot and the Dawson's Creek pilot. Such excellent television and we're not afraid to admit it.

It was actually a bit weird to see the very fresh faced Katie Holmes doing her mouthy tomboy shtick at a young James Van Der Beek, because but a few feet away we had our Vanity Fair issue featuring Kate, Tom and little Suri waiting to be read. While we still have the sinking feeling that they got this kid from Central Casting, she is darn adorable and all of Katie's protesting to the profile's writer Jane Sarkin about how normal and real their family life is, made CC feel a bit like a jaded beyotch. (Though of course, we do realize that's what the Team Tom media machine wants us to feel. Crafty that one.)

In other highly anticipated television news, tonight is the season premiere of How I Met Your Mother. The HIMYM's blogosphere fan club will be meeting tonight to savor the episode together. We're totally counting down the hours at this point. CC's hoping for catch phrases that are nearly as hilarious as Marshall's legendary put down "lawyered." To whet the whistle, via the Wikipedia HIMYM quote page, from the Mary the Paralegal episode:

Barney: [To Ted] Do you have some puritanical hang up on prostitution? Dude, its the worlds oldest profession.
Marshall: Do you really think thats true?
Barney: Oh yeah, I bet even Cro-Magnons used to give cave hookers an extra fish for putting out.
Marshall: Ah ha, so the oldest profession would be fishermen. Kaboom! Youve been lawyered!

Please adopt this show as your own, if you haven't already. It's some seriously good television.

[Update: Seriously, Lindsay and Cinecultist are not sharing a blogging brain lately. We just like a lot of the same stuff. And we hang out.]

Posted by karen at 11:47 AM |

August 28, 2006

Spike Rocks the Doc

whenleveesbroke.gif

Over the weekend, Cinecultist watched all four hours of Spike Lee's documentary, When the Levees Broke: A Requiem in Four Acts which we'd DiVo'ed from HBO the weekend prior. This is some powerful stuff, ol' Spike's put together and we had to watch it only one chunk per day or else the despair and heartache might have been too overwhelming.

One of Cinecultist's favorite part time hobbies is ripping on Lee's self-important windbag shtick and often finds his movies to be patronizing at best and sledgehammers at worst. However, When The Levees Broke avoids that heavy handed sermonizing on race and really let's the people tell their stories. With real people, Lee has a deftness and empathy that's remarkable. He's obviously moved deeply by their incredible plight and is able to communicate that to his audience.

In an interview on HBO's site he says,

"...Many of them expressed their outrage too. And one interesting thing is that these European journalists were saying the images they were seeing looked like they were from a third world country, not the almighty United States of America. So hopefully, this documentary will bring this fiasco, this travesty, back to the attention of the American people. And maybe the public can get some politicians' ass in the government to move quicker, and be more efficient in helping our fellow American citizens in the Gulf region."

One of ways Lee most powerfully brings home the destruction of New Orleans is through some amazing still photography. It's not easily identifiable during the doc who took these photographs of dejected children, families struggling to stay together and houses broken into matchstick sized debris but they kick you in the gut. Unfortunately, the HBO website doesn't list or showcase them either but these images are reason enough to watch the flick. They really stick with you. Like the European journalists told Spike, they make the US look like a Third World country and this destruction seem to be of biblical proportions.

All four parts will re-air tomorrow night at 8 pm on HBO to mark the 1 year anniversary of Hurricane Katrina. Please try to make it mandatory viewing, this movie is important stuff.

Posted by karen at 4:22 PM |

July 31, 2006

Cinecultist Implores You To Hug It Out

Vince and Eric.jpgAri Gold

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 oncea 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.

Posted by karen at 9:00 AM |

July 7, 2006

The Most Recent Guilty Pleasure: A Mean Chef

GordonRamsey.jpgEver 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.

Posted by karen at 11:32 AM |

June 22, 2006

A Man, A Video Camera and A Dream

Ever since Michael Moore stormed the popular screens with his documentary Fahrenheit 9/11, docs have been the big story in major distribution. Every sorry, former film student these days seems to think they should pick up a camera and film life around them cinema vrit style. Not that Cinecultist doesn't love your Hoop Dreams or your How to Draw a Bunny, but not everyone with an HD cam is the next Fred Wiseman, if you catch our drift.

My-Date-With-Drew.jpg

Last summer this documentary, My Date With Drew came out and we recall that we did our best to avoid it. But last night it was on TV and we couldn't help but get sucked in by the silliness of Brian Herzlinger running around like a complete idiot on camera. The "premise" is that Brian wins $1,100 on a game show and decides to use the money to try to get a date with actress Drew Barrymore, someone he's admired since he was 10 years old. With the slightly faulty technique of using friends of friends in the LA movie industry to connect with Drew, Brian gives himself 30 days to meet his goal.

It's probably not giving too much away to reveal that in the end Brian does get his sit down with the actress, coincidentally enough at the Miracle Grill restaurant, which is right near chez Cinecultist. This is the part that really hit home for CC and actually makes this movie worth watching. All along Brian seems to be intimating that his quest is all about his pre-teen crush on Drew, but rather she points out that his project is really about chasing down a dream. Brian obviously wants to make movies and he'll stop at nothing--whether it's interviewing Corey Feldman, working out to the Rocky theme or making fake passes to get into the Charlie's Angels after-party--to get there. Drew sees that right away, even if Brian can't.

At their date, Drew and Brian exchange gifts which are quite telling in their blatant symbolism. Brian buys Drew the best gift ever from our childhood, the Snoopy Sno Cone Maker. He wants to acknowledge their shared cultural past. Drew bring Brian a video camera, to replace the one he bought from Circuit City which he had to bring back before the return policy was up. She sees his future behind the camera. Even though it may seem cheesy, a big star like Drew Barrymore understands the value of striving for what you really love. Cinecultist needs more optimism like that in our life, even if it comes from gimmicky documentaries.

Posted by karen at 6:07 PM |

April 26, 2006

Wes Anderson Shills for the Man, But We Still Heart Him

Even selling his soul for an advertising buck, Wes Anderson is a total genius. That's why our love for him carries on like a bad Celine Dion song. The last time Wes made a movie, CC spoke to him for Gothamist and we giggled a lot like an idiot, in between asking him stuff. [tip via Betterthanfudge.com]

Posted by karen at 1:02 PM |

April 24, 2006

Mirren Thinks Elizabeth Was An Everything But Girl

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You know how the Cinecultist loves the historical dramas, so it's no surprise we watched with interest HBO's production of Elizabeth I starring Helen Mirren and Jeremy Irons*. There's something about a red head in a neck ruff that's just too fascinating for words, as Mirren proves yet again. She's wonderful in this two part mini-series which started last Saturday and concluded on Monday. All politically motivated flirtation, steely will and references to herself in the third person. Awesomeness. Also, HBO delivers on their reputation of icky yet historically accurate violence. While it's not as cool/cringe-inducing as Rome's mace-wielding gladiator fight, but Elizabeth does feature a royal decapitation that took two blows. Yes, the first one only went half-way. Gross and grosser.

Today, we were poking around the HBO website devoted to the miniseries and enjoyed the Will She or Won't She Marry suitors quiz, then read over their interview with the bad-ass Mirren. Our favorite part is where the interviewer gets Mirren to speculate on the historical icon's bedroom life:

HBO: What are your thoughts about her sex life? The big question.

Helen Mirren: The big question. Did she or didn't she?

HBO: Did she or didn't she.

Helen Mirren: Well, no one will ever know. Logically, it seems to me highly unlikely that she would ever have jeopardized her body or her political position. It was very dangerous physically for women to get pregnant....She was supposed to be a virgin, and she used it as a political pawn to keep her enemies at bay. So the practical side of my brain doesn't think that she would ever have jeopardized that. But having said that, I suspect she did everything else. She probably had sex in the Clintonian sense. I did not have sex with that woman. You know? I wouldn't be surprised if she got up to a lot of those kinds of sexual games.

Sassy British actresses of a certain age really are the best. Not better than gladiators with maces, mind you, but still pretty darn good.

*These two each respectively make gnawing the scenery over-acting look damn good. (See The Cook, the Thief, His Wife and Her Lover and Reversal of Fortune for further evidence.) But together? Forgetaboutit.

Posted by karen at 11:39 PM |

March 31, 2006

What A Feeling! She's A Maniac!

flashdance.jpg Today the Cinecultist has a lovely comp day from El Day Job to make up for last week's super long hours and what are we doing with our time off? Not outside enjoying the gorgeous spring weather (not yet, anyway), we're watching Flashdance on HBO. Dear god, we'd forgotten what a Hollywood formulaic pleasure this picture is. You can time the plot to a stop watch, thanks to Joe Eszterhas's script and really who can't appreciate Jennifer Beal's toned ass and director Adrian Lyne's '80s visual modernism? It's really quite a combo.

In the first fifteen minutes alone we learn the following key plot points: Our hero Alex is a welder, which is a man's world (hence the football betting dialogue between the boss and his friend). She's got a hot body and fits into the slightly sketchy dancing at a bar scene. We see the infamous pound of water dropping onto her from the ceiling. The boss man gives her the flirty flirt but she's aloof 'cause she's a good girl. Then, we learn she's actually a serious dancer (she tapes her feet, she sweats) as she works out in her apartment to the "Maniac" song. All that packed into 15 minutes -- brilliant, right?

Oh wait, it's now minute 25 and there's a work out montage where they're wearing headbands and Jane Fonda leotards. We gotta go. Enjoy the Friday, CC certainly is.

Posted by karen at 12:26 PM |

February 19, 2006

Bring On The Glib and Salacious HBO

HBO's Big LoveWill Big Love with Bill Paxton, Jeanne Tripplehorn, Chloe Sevigny and Ginnifer Goodwin become Cinecultist's new HBO obsession? The preview in today's NY Times certainly has further peaked our interest. Particularly the following telling quote from one of the series' writers:

"The only way this material can truly be handled is to be nonjudgmental,"Mr. [Mark V.] Olsen said. "We're not interested in the glib and salacious. We're interested in universal themes about family and marriage."

But there is plenty of glib and plenty of salacious, and in that sense the material does seem true. A few months ago I asked Ross Chatwin, one of the renegade residents of Colorado City, about what truly motivated the elders of the fundamentalist church to marry so many women religious calling, or sex?

"It's all about sex," he said.

Posted by karen at 4:13 PM |

January 30, 2006

Is That Our 12 Year Old Self In The Mirror?

Diane and Lloyd have coffee as friends with potential

Cinecultist has been battling with this terrible cough for the last week and honestly, it's wearing us out. We've been exhausted lately and over the weekend actually spent over 12 hours in bed one night. Fortunately for our debilitated state our favorite movie from junior high school was on AMC on Sunday morning, Say Anything. Surely you know how wonderful this flick is, but we'll just elaborate a little. (Also, to give this posting its proper Live Journal pre-teen feel we'll tell you that we've been blasting Morrissey, Depeche Mode and the Cure while writing this. Everyday is like Sunday! The Moz is so totally right.)

Your eyes, the light, the heat. Your eyes, I am complete.Say Anything is a movie CC saw in the theaters and countless times since, so almost every part of this movie is like an old friend. We were literally walking around our apartment, tidying a bit and doing the dishes while it was running yet still able to recite almost every line about 2 seconds before it was said on screen. It's a comfort blanket of a film.

Although oddly as we get older, CC is beginning to realize how very young and innocent Diane Court and Lloyd Dobler really are. When we were 12 of course, they seemed so mature and star-crossed in their love affair. We saw no sense of irony in the final moments of the film as they sit on the airplane to England, flying away to their future yet terrified of the prospect. Lloyd tells her that as long as they make it to the bing of the seat belt fastening sign turning off they will know the flight will be fine. Director Cameron Crowe lingers on their faces, pursed in anxiety for a moment too long as a commentary on youthful idealism. It's affective stuff despite being a little ham-fisted in its sweetness.

Also, we noticed much more recently how completely over the top and hilarious Lili Taylor's performance as Corey is. At the big party, she's not going to talk to Joe (Loren Dean), the dopey cute boy who broke her heart and caused her to write 65 sad songs for him. Yet, as soon as he corners her by the beer refrigerator (how much do you love the light bathed on those two young actors?) she declares "you invade my soul." Your usual high school banter, right? Then, after Lloyd and Diane's big first time she has such earnest council for Lloyd. Someday, many years from now Lloyd may see Diane on the street, they'll talk, or whatever but what he'll be thinking is "we had sex," she declares. Isn't it grand when life seems so sweeping? When to tell your best friend, "don't be a guy, the world is filled with guys -- be a man," is the deepest thing ever?

Lots of people of my generation rhapsodize about the boombox over the head moment in this film as the penultimate in romantic gestures. But here's another thing we've discovered as we grow older than the characters in our favorite movies from childhood: romance doesn't really come in sweeping, grand gestures. It's trickles out in little glances and moments. It builds like a stalactite until it's hang smack dab in the middle of your living room.

Still the best exchange ever: "Give me my Firebird keys! You must chill! You must chill. I have hidden your keys. Chill. I love you man. All right. I love you too, go to sleep. Before I budge. All right." [sound of drunk Jeremy Piven smacking into the ground.]

Posted by karen at 10:58 PM |

October 27, 2005

At The Very, Very End

home3.jpgCinecultist likes to rag on Colin Farrell and his weirdo womanizing ways but to be honest, he's a damn compelling actor. We've been thinking lately for the Day Job about Farrell's new movie, The New World, the John Smith-Pocahontas epic directed by the great but reclusive Terrence Malick. So when we saw the HBO On Demand had A Home At The End Of The World available, we clicked on it over the weekend. And darn it, if we didn't reluctantly really enjoy it.

Based on Michael Cunningham's novel, with a script also written by the Pulitzer Prize-winning writer, Home tells the story of two best friends who grew up together in '60s and '70s Cleveland and then New York. The two men form an unconventional family with their girl roommate and the three move to upstate New York where they open a cafe and have a baby. Those crazy kids who idolized Woodstock, what will they think up next? Farrell plays the space cadet innocent Bobby whose sad childhood leads to an adulthood one might call emotionally stunted but for the openness and love he shows everyone in his life. It's hard to understand his motivations, yet Farrell's portrayal is so compelling any leap in plausibility is forgotten. There's no guile in Bobby and Farrell makes this totally fascinating. Oh and Farrell makes out with adorable Dallas Roberts so surely it's worth a rental.

Of course Cinecultist also loved the fact that part of this movie is set in the East Village. It was a rough and tumble nabe during the '80s but movies like Home make it look so hip and interesting and populated by magenta haired chicks with only one eye done with make up, like Robin Wright Penn. If CC could use a time machine, we'd love to travel back to that time though perhaps without all the dirt and crime. We'd dress up like vintage Ann Magnuson and take to the street with some sort of performance art schtick. Surely we'd be a huge hit.

Posted by karen at 11:01 PM |

October 9, 2005

A Little Obsessed

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Back from freezing Montral and slowly recovering from our French bistro food coma (sauces! no more sauces!), Cinecultist spent the evening in front of the tellie. Specifically, HBO and our two current television obsessions -- Rome and Extras. Ordinarily we try to keep the obsessing on this blog to the cinematic but both of these shows are so lovely, it's difficult keeping it to ourselves.

Rome taps into our deep love for all things melodramatic, historical and costumed. This miniseries keeps getting better and better as the plot around the ascension of Julius Caesar to ruler of Rome thickens. While the political stuff is quite engaging, what CC really loves is all of the day to day Roman details. Discussion of the gods, attitudes towards marriage or sex, clothing, the sale of slaves as property and those crazy hairdos are all fascinating stuff. If you've ever been to the ruins in Pompeii or even read casually about the ancient world, you'll know that it really gets fascinating when you can see the culture come to life. That's what this miniseries has done. Breathtaking. Plus, it has in it James Purefoy whose Imdb profile includes some classic costumers (Vanity Fair, Mansfield Park and A Knight's Tale*). His is not the only stand-out performance in the ensemble but rrowr, he's h-o-t, so if that doesn't get you to tune, we don't know what will.

Speaking of our love for costume drama, this week Ricky Gervais's brilliant new sitcom, Extras found itself on the set of a made for television historical drama. In it, Gervais's extra actor character Andy Millman chats with his buddy Maggie (the sublime Ashley Jensen) about one of the handsome young actors dressed to the nines in period Napoleonic splendor:

Maggie: Why does no one dress like that these days?
Andy: Because they would get beaten up on the Tube.

As a devotee of The Office it was difficult to imagine that Gervais could translate his ability to complete inhabit that banal, yet utterly real and completely modern character into anything else. But he has. We've said it before but it bears repeating -- brilliant. Utterly. Our favorite so far has probably been the one with Kate Winslet, because the image of Kate Winslet playing the actress Kate Winslet giving graphic but silly advice on phone sex is comic gold. Also, we totally love the guy who plays Andy's agent, Stephen Merchant, who also happens to be Gervais's long time writing partner. He reminds us of Gareth and we want to see lots more scenes with him acting completely stupid. It makes the Cinecultist laugh and laugh.

*Mock our taste if you must, but the Heath Ledger vehicle did include Paul Bettany as a nude Geoffrey Chaucer and for that, our English major heart will always be grateful.

Posted by karen at 11:29 PM |

July 25, 2005

Insta-Classic

Cinecultist realized today that we never got around to blogging about Wedding Crashers, a movie we saw over a week ago and which those fickle box office goddesses seemed to favor much more than Mikey Bay's product this weekend. We enjoyed WC well enough, though our enthusiasm for it pales in comparison to various "guy guys" with whom we've discussed it. "Hilarious." "Instant classic." "Vince Vaughn's best role since Swingers." -- all examples of the wild, guffawing, smirking* praise we've heard.

VV and our boy Owen Wilson certainly do have a lot of on-screen comedic chemistry. They seem to be having a blast, as does their uncredited guru whose riffs on pick-ups in mourning really puts the "fun" back into funeral. However, we're not so sure about the status of movie classic. Better than a sharp stick in the eye? Certainly. More enjoyable than feeling your skin bead up with dirty, humid city gunk outside of a fiercely a/c environment? Bien sur. So by all means, if it's a decision between melting into your flip flops or attending WC at the cinematheque, you know what our advice would be.

However, two movies on television tonight reminded us what we think a classic movie really looks like.

1) Empire Records (1995). Gin Blossoms. Better Than Ezra. Toad the Wet FREAKIN' Sprocket, people. Can't you feel the mid-90s love? These kids have so much energy. They're so silly in their problems of commerce and social standing. They wear brief clothing (hello, young Renee Zellweger!). The reveal their souls. They love with the intensity wrought with the fire of a thousand suns, or at least with the cheese at Liv Tyler's disposal while boogying in front of a neon sign. Ultimate moment? When the band Gwar talks back to the stoner kid high on pot brownies and then eats him.

2) Dangerous Liaisons (1988). This movie doesn't have an alterna soundtrack, but it does have corset. Gawd, corsets are so hot. As are the sparring wits of John Malkovich and Glenn Close. This movie also has brief clothing (hello, young Uma Thurman!), soul revealing, too intense love and more good stuff like sword fights in the snow. It does not have Gwar in it but it does have leeches and blood letting. Ewww. Ultimate moment? Seeing Malkovich and Close dressed separately by their army of attendants as they prepare for their drawing room wars.

Awesome and awesome!

* Perhaps the smirking is a result of the gratuitous bare breast montage in the first fifteen minutes? Just a shot in the dark.

Posted by karen at 11:03 PM |

March 1, 2005

Christina Ricci Makes Our Skin Itch

In a recent post, Cinecultist expressed an interest in seeing the much delayed adaptation of Elizabeth Wurtzel's 1994 book Prozac Nation which is available on DVD outside of the States but never found theatrical release despite a Miramax distribution deal. Apparently, the cinema gods were smiling on our curiosity because a few weeks afterwards with skinny Christina Ricci still lurking in the recesses of CC's mind, our co-worker dropped on our desk a VHS screener copy of the picture which is due for a release on cable channel Starz! in March.

With much anticipation CC watched Prozac Nation last week and we're pleased to report this film has issues no amount of time on the script doctor's couch could cure. It'd make for a great story to think Wurtzel's ill-timed and totally insensitive remarks regarding 9/11 doomed the film's release, but that may be giving her too much credit. Frankly, Elizabeth Wurtzel as played by Ricci is so repugnant, self-centered and whinny CC wanted to leap through the screen to throttle her. We haven't had this violent a reaction against a character since, uh well, Amanda the repugnant, self-centered neurotic whiner Ricci played in Woody Allen's Anything Else.

Unlike Amanda, who's mostly a projection of the penultimate High Maintenance girlfriend by the Allen surrogate played by Jason Biggs, Elizabeth fancies herself mysterious and sexy in her HM-ness. She prances about most of the film giving various Harvard undergrads her dorm room eyes or launching into crying jags for the benefit of her best girlfriend Ruby (Michelle Williams). All of this typical co-ed behavior might be relatively compelling if it weren't for the grossly incongruous details thrown in.

Tell tale signs things aren't going well for you -- Anne Heche is judging your sanity and prescribing you medication (she plays Elizabeth's therapist). You dump Jonathan Rhys Meyers after you offer him your virginity because he doesn't understand that sophisticate girls treat sex like it was a nail appointment.You describe Biggs as "a tall, sexy intellectual type" on the phone to your Mom (Jessica Lange). Then, when he breaks your heart because he's 19 and YOU'RE A HEINOUS BITCH, you invent the telephone stalk. (Did they have stalking before the early '90s?)

The film wraps up all of this weirdness with what sounds like a direct quote from Wurtzel's book about how we all live in a prozac nation, one devoid of genuine emotion just drugged up blahness. So taking too much prozac is a bad thing? No the film says, because on prozac Elizabeth was able to write again and everything was happy, tra la la, The End. Wha? Granted, Cinecultist had started flipping through a fashion magazine at this point, but we really don't think there was a further plot point/argument which bridged together the Hollywood happy ending with what seems to be Wurtzel's indictment of therapeutic drugs (i.e.. she's rather feel, than function).

Posted by karen at 8:58 AM |

February 27, 2005

Cinecultist Live Blogs the Oscars

Three hours is quite a long time to spend on the couch watching Hollywood's brightest parade about in their borrowed frocks. Maybe this is our cranky art house movie side talking, but every year the Academy Awards awards ceremony seems to just gets longer, more formulaic and more onanistic. Yet we still can't stop being compelled by the US Weekly-ish nature of the coverage of it. It really is a sickness.

Last year, CC chatted with fashion blogger Megastyles about the Joan and Melissa Rivers post-show coverage but this year in honor of the potential shake-ups brought on by, gasp, a black man hosting, we thought we'd live blog it. Something post-worthy could happen every few minutes during the telecast, right? If so, we'll be prepared to report. So, we're set: comfie drawstring velour pants, a 2 liter of Diet Coke for energy and plenty of pillows on the couch to cover our eyes and ears when it all gets too ass-kissing for words. Bring it on Chris Rock, Cinecultist is ready for you.

8:31 pm -- God, We Love Movies montage #1. Dustin Hoffman and classical music keeps the back patting grounded, sorta. Charlie Chaplin footage cut in with Shrek and an Eminem soundtrack, totally odd.

8:34 pm -- Chris merits a standing O. He tells them, "Sit yo asses down." Rocky V joke. Awesome monologue. So much better than Bily Crystal tap dancing or something. Pootie Tang reference, with the punch line "After seeing it, Cuba Gooding Jr. sent me a check for $80." Hope there was a bit of squirming in the audience when Chris talks about the state of black depiction in film.

8:44 pm -- Art Direction. We bet this is the beginning of The Aviator's small technical sweep. Yup, we were right. Who are these people with the cute Italian accents? They know Marty, that's all the Academy needs to know.

8:50 pm -- Best Supporting Actor presented by Renee with very dark brown ah-ctress hair. It should be Alan Alda, but it will probably be Morgan Freeman with his serious actor look. We do lurve Clive Owen though. God damn, he's hot. We were right, it's Morgan. Morgan hearts Clint Eastwood, in case you didn't know.

8:54 pm -- Robin Williams, that is the scariest color shirt we've ever seen but you still know how to do the celeb impression. Animated Feature, if the Incredibles doesn't win we're going to sic Edna on the Academy. Yay! Brad Bird is a genius! And so very affable.

9:00 pm -- Why is Cate Blanchett standing in the audience giving her little talk? This blocking is very distracting. We've already forgotten what the category is but Lemony Snicket won. Oh, Make up. Wait, now they're accepting from the audience. No waiting for them to climb the stairs? Guess that will help shave off some moments from the telecast.

9:03 pm -- Drew Barrymore, annunciate hon as you read that teleprompter. You can do it. Beyonce sings in French sporting some quite bright green eyeshadow. Almost as wrong as Robin's cerise shirt earlier.

9:11 pm -- Chris Rock does a Jay Walking thing where he talks to black people at Magic Johnson theater in LA. They love Saw and Chronicles of Riddick but they haven't seen Million Dollar Baby. They also loved White Chicks. We love the real people giving acceptance speeches. So freakin' cute.

9:13 pm -- Scarlett Johansen reports on presenting the boring categories, ie. the technical awards. Bathroom break and Diet Coke refill time!

9:15 pm -- Even hunky Pierce Brosnan and dah-ling animated Edna along side him presenting Costume award still isn't enough to interest in this category. We'll just rest our eyes for a mo. The Aviator again? That's how these kind of movies end up with video boxes that say 11 Oscar wins on them.

9:19 pm -- Tim Robbins gives the Best Supporting Actress. Cate was wonderful as Kate, but actually everyone was great in this category. We think it'll be Sophie Okenado though as a sop to Hotel Rwanda. First one we were wrong on, it was Cate. Her husband thinks its cheesy to be thanked in an acceptance speech. Wow, he looks totally regular guy in comparison to her movie star looks. Rock on regular looking dude!

9:27 pm -- Carson tribute. Sniff.

9:30 pm -- Leonardo diCaprio on Docu Feature. Could it be little Morgan Spurlock who goes home with it? It was Born Into Brothels, the other docu in this category we actually saw.

9:32 pm -- Kirsten Dunst and Orlando Bloom on Film Editing. Kirsten, hair too blonde! Hurts our eyes! Freakin' Aviator again. Thanking Marty, again.

9:34 pm -- Mike Myers quotes Bazin and Godard and then makes a fart joke in his intro to the best song nominee from Shrek 2. Adam Durtz, dear lord what is that hairdo? You look like one of those Play-doh push ups.

9:43 pm -- Adam Sandler does a lame bit with Chris where Chris pretends to be Catherine Zeta-Jones. Don't ask, it's not worth it. Adapted Screenplay. Sideways. Sandra Oh goes nuts in her seat. Totally deserved. Cut away to Thomas Haden Church and the fakest looking smile ever.

9:46 pm -- Jake Gyllenhaal and Ziyi Zhang. Jake, what'd you do to your lovely hair? Is this supposed to be concentration camp chic? Couldn't you visual effects on a better do? Nominees standing in a line of awkwardness on stage. Why? More weirdo blocking. Spiderman 2, whatevs.

9:50 pm -- Al Pacino gives the honorary Oscar to Sidney Lumet. Pronounced "Lou-met" apparently, not "Lou-meh." Huh. Al, you are so freaking boring with your stories about Sidney. We're going to go clean our bathtub during the montage.

10:04 pm -- Emmy Rossum announce the best song nom from her film, The Phantom of the Opera the one Oscar nommed film we refused to see on Aaron's warning. More Beyonce singing this time in a more reasonable set of eye makeup and dress combo (see: 1960s). Girl has a nice set of pipes.

10:04 pm -- Chris called Jeremy Irons a "comedy superstar." Heh. Live Action short. Now onto cleaning the dishes in the sink! They're doing Animated Short too. See our readers' comments from the Gothamist post on Friday for more thoughtful commentary than we have on this category.

10:15 pm -- Kate Winslet (gorgeous!) announces Cinematography and big surprise, another cotton pickin' win for The Aviator.

10:20 pm -- PriceWaterHouse accountants joke: get it, they look like 7 ft tall black bouncers but they're supposed be accountants. Penelope Cruz and Salma Hayek, looking weirdly alike with their spikey up hairdoes, give the Sound Mixing award. Hey! Something for Ray. Only vaguely exciting because it's not The Avaitor again. Now, Sound Editing. This is the battle of the goofy Latina accents at the podium. The Incredibles again. Yay, again. When is this movie coming out on DVD? We're totally buying it.

10:35 pm -- Nathalie Portman needs some tweezer action. She's announcing the Documentary Short Subject nominees and she "applaudes them." Oy, could she be any more faux serious? Go back to that Ivy League uni, you poser!

10:39 pm -- John Travolta, on comeback # 5 gazillion, announces the Best Score nominees and Finding Neverland gets one. Jan Kazcmerck has a cute Eastern European accent, and has a serious looking wife with some serious specks that he's just thanked. He's also thanked Harvey Weinstein, detente at work.

10:42 pm -- Marty baby, we love you, as does everyone else in this audience. He's giving another honorary award. Look there's some footage of film cannisters ravaged by vinegar syndrome, neat. That's super geeked out.

10:48 pm -- Yoyo Ma on the cello as we watch the movie tribute montage "In Memorium". It's such a popularity contest. Everyone claps politely for The Gipper. Elmer Bernstein gets more love. Jerry Orbach, the audience is even louder. Janet Leigh, and Christopher Reeves big favorites as was Ossie Davis. Tony Randall died? We didn't realize that. Huh. Finally, Marlon Brando gets a whole bunch of images. He must have been important or something.

Are we nearing the end here? The Diet Coke high is starting to wear off.

10:56 pm -- Sean "Don't Mention Any of His Nicknames" Combs must have more money/influence than God, he's out here announcing another song nominee, "Believe" from The Polar Express. Josh Grobin, snore, and more Beyonce now in a sparkling silver get up. Look, fake snow. And the smoke machine. It's movie magic on stage.

11:00 pm -- Prince in purple (didn't know he had an Oscar didja?) announcing the song winner in the most bored monotone ever. The Motorcycle Diaries, one of our favorites from last year won. That's nice. But now he's singing as his acceptance speech in Spanish. Deduction of cool points.

11:03 pm -- Sean Penn, out here defending Jude Law (Wha? Joke, dude. Joke.) and giving the Best Actress. We're going with Hilary Swank, though we wish it'd be Imelda Staunton. We were so right. Hilary looks regal in navy and she's such a neat woman. We love her at CC's day job. Aww, she's crying. And she thanked her publicist Troy Nankin as the music played. Adorable, she called him her best friend.

11:13 pm -- Gwyneth Paltrow looks awful purdy in peach, she's announcing best foreign language film. We're boycotting a guess in solidarity for Pedro Almodovar who was robbed. The Sea Inside, which we haven't seen. We have a Javier Bardem thing, don't ask. Oops, they put Amenabar too far back, he had to run up to the stage.

11:16 pm -- Original Screenplay should be given to Michel Gondry and Charlie Kaufman for Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind. Whoopie, and they got it. Kate Winslet is excited too, she yelped. These guys are so brilliant, we can hardly stand it. Get off the stage, so you can make more movies Charlie and Michel.

11:23 pm -- Winding down, thank god. Charlize Theron, also brunette, this is the big trend this year, on the Best Actor. Sigh, we want Don Cheadle. Could it be Jamie Foxx, the favorite for the last few months, or Clint Eastwood, who we've noted a swell of support for lately? We're guessing Clint. It's Jamie. The love held out and the standing ovation proves it. When he says in the thanks to his managers "living this African American dream," we see a raised power fist from Oprah. Tears for his grandmother who whipped him, sweet but verging into the Too Much Information category Jamie.

11:32 pm -- Julia Roberts on the best directors. We're guessing Marty. Whoa, dissed again. Clint Eastwood won for Million Dollar Baby. She got him with the lipstick. Looks, it's Clint's mom. Cute. She's 96. Clint thinks he's just a kid, in relation to Sidney Lumet who's 80. We're feeling the love for Clint here, this is nice.

11:36 pm -- Dustin Hoffman and Barbra Streisand on the Best Picture of the Year. Our guess goes for The Aviator, since it was shut out of the majors up until now not because we particularly liked it. Wrong again, more affection for Million Dollar Baby. The producer wants a slice of lemon pie with the real filling, nice reference. They all hobble off the stage.

Say goodnight Chris. Goodnight Chris. "Goodnight Brooklyn, yo."

Nothing too shocking here sadly enough but only 11 minutes over the allotted trois heures so we should be relieved. Not bad for a night's work and with that, the Cinecultist signs off from the Eee Vee.

Posted by karen at 11:44 PM |

January 23, 2005

Teen Years Through Rose-Colored Dresses

Pretty In Pink cast

Sigh. Remember when everything in the world seemed possible because Andie Walsh took two ugly, pink prom dresses and then sewed them together into one fabulous '80s confection? Pretty in Pink on TBS is the perfect annecdote to snowed in Sunday here in blizzard central. Molly Ringwald. Andrew McCarthy. Jon Cryer. Annie Potts. James Spader as Stef. Gina Gershon as the gum-chewing, rich girl number two in the gym. God, it's so freakin' awesome.

"I justed wanted them to know they didn't break me."

"You buy everything, Stef. But you couldn't buy her. And that's what's killing you. She thinks you're slime. And deep down, you know it's true."

Coincidentally, our current default iPod playlist contains a cover of "If You Leave," the OMD classic, done by Nada Surf. How our generation loves the ironical covering of classic pop tunes from the late twentieth century. By the way, CC thinks we'll try to start using the phrase "let's plow" in our regular conversations just to confuse people. And because everything Jon Cryer does in this movie as Duckie is just too cute for words. Geeky devotion in rolled sleeve blazers and suspenders with wing tips? So totally hot.

Posted by karen at 1:42 PM |

January 14, 2005

Golden Statues and Drunk Stars

This weekend is the Golden Globes telecast, that hallowed awards ceremony wherein Hollywood stars of movies and television receive awards from the H'wood Foreign Press Association. Other people with a better knowledge of probability than Cinecultist have determined how frequent the winners of Golden Globes go on to receive Oscars at the Academy Awards, but let's just say it's a lot. So we should be excited about watching the telecast on Sunday, and yet CC's having a tough time getting into it. It all seems too much like business as usual for the movie making machine and really there's no underdog movie we feel we have to root for against any Big Bads. Have we become too jaded too soon?

Since the recepients and presenters will be living it up Beverly Hilton Hotel at this 62nd annual event, ie. getting drunk off their asses since the event is a sit down dinner in a ballroom not just an awards telecast in a theater, CC thought we might come up with some ways to drink along with the stars.

Each time Joan Rivers on the red carpet jokes that she's going to swoop in on the newly single Brad Pitt, drink something.

Every time they call anyone of the following a "Movie Legend" take a drink:
Clint Eastwood, Martin Scorsese, Mike Nichols, Joel Schumacher or Robin Williams.

Every time they show that blasted clip from Sideways with Paul Giamatti instructing Thomas Haden Church how to properly consume wine, swig something.

Each time they cut away to Renee Zellweger's pursed little face, drink something quick.

Anytime you see a cast member of "Desperate Housewives" contorting herself into a glamorous pose, pour yourself another tall one.

If the Phantom of the Opera wins anything at all, or if they by-pass Don Cheadle or Hotel Rwanda, get up and turn the whole thing off, then curl up in bed with the bottle.

PS. We meant to link to it earlier in the week but be sure to check out Manhattan User's Guide's year long guide to the film festivals. What an awesome resource. Now there will be no excuses. Write it in your calendars, set those Outlook reminders and get on that ticket buying in time for good seats to good reperatory cinema.

Posted by karen at 9:12 AM |

September 13, 2004

Audrey, Anna and Distressed Velvet Blazers

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Cinecultist sacrificed our Sunday afternoon to Turner Classic Movies, inadvertantly. We really intended to get out of the house before 6 pm, honest. It's just that Audrey Hepburn and Peter Fonda in King Vidor's War and Peace was on Turner Classic movies. And you may not know, that can take up a good 3 plus hours of your day if you're not careful.

CC read Richard Pevear and Larissa Volokhonsky's translation of Anna Karenina two winter's ago and we've been eagerly anticipating their translation ofWar and Peace because they made Anna so accessible despite it's heft. We always wanted to be the kind of girl who loved Russian literature, it goes with the perfect ringlets and carrying off peasant skirts* with distressed velvet blazers while drinking strong tea fantasy that we sometimes wish we could indulge in. (See, look at us go, even without realizing it. Tolstoy almost begs to be referred to as "that author's work we read two winters ago. How pretentious. Blech.)

*Anyone with even a little bit of an ass know that peasants skirts are a bad, bad idea. Hence the fantasy.

TCM offers these lovely little factoids before the film that for the trivia minded are like delightful snacks. For instance, did you know that Henry Fonda wanted to play his part of Pierre in glasses, because he thought it made him look more intellectual, but producer Dino Di Laurentiis didn't approve? Hence, when Dino's on set, no glasses but when he's isn't there they are, all silver and twinkling. This amused CC to no end because poor Henry doesn't realize that he exudes dorky in his acting style so naturally, making his character a specky is entirely unnecessary. As the actor who brought us geeky snake doctor Hopsy from The Lady Eve and the squarest cowboy ever, Wyatt Earp in My Darling Clementine, he really doesn't need any props to achieve this affect.

Do we also need to mention that Audrey Hepburn is spritely and the most charming as young Natasha? We didn't think so either. Oh, and there's a Nino Rota score. Throw in a few ball scenes and some battle scenes and my friends, you have a Historical Epic like only the '50s can do it.

Posted by karen at 8:30 AM |

July 27, 2004

Meet Movie Lovers, Get Paid & Be On TV!

Imagine a TV show that's IFC's Film Fanatic meets Blind Date but without Roger Lodge -- sounds brilliant to us. But maybe that's because Cinecultist has been known to rule out potential dates based on their DVD collection. CC received the following call for submissions in our inbox yesterday and so we pass it along to our readers in hopes that one of you cuties will get cast on this thing, so we can get the inside dirt. We have the contact name and address, so if you'd like to submit yourself drop us an e-mail or IM.

"Movie Match" for AMC hooks up men and women based on their movie compatibility. Very fun, very classy movie-themed dating interstitial. Looking for real people, actors, comics (all are welcome!). Each week someone is selected as "host" and interviews fellow movie lovers of the opposite sex during commercial breaks. After each break the host gives candid asides to camera. Picks favorite during last commercial break and they are rewarded with a movie date. Pays $250 for up to 3 hours of shooting + $100 bonus to "winner" and host + all expense paid movie date.

Movie Lovers should be very attractive, charismatic and altogether interesting, must have great sense of humor and strong opinions about Movies and Life, and know what they're looking for in a potential mate.

Shoots week of August 19th in NYC.
No union jurisdiction.

Posted by karen at 8:02 AM |

June 3, 2004

A Bit Off The Point

Last night Cinecultist settled down to enjoy some chicken take-out from Dallas BBQ with some QT on Bravo, as they screened his first feature Reservoir Dogs. Slight problem though apparently on Bravo, the N word is totally acceptable for their sensors but every other cuss word in the English vernacular is not. As we've noted of late, CC is experiencing some translation issues and this seems to be becoming a trend here. If you watch a QT movie for the first time with no actual cussing on the soundtrack, you seem to be missing an essential cognitive layer of the text. We can lip read and all but it's just not the same. Sort of like the time we watched Martin Scorsese's Buddhist monk movie, Kundun dubbed in Italian. Cinecultist really missed something there.

Remainder: CC had some thoughts on the BBC sitcom Coupling which we shared with the Daily Gusto readers this week, if you're at all curious.

Posted by karen at 8:33 AM |

April 23, 2004

Naughty, Bawdy, Gaudy, Sporty

Cinecultist doesn't know about you but sometimes when we get a song stuck in our head, it just won't go away until we look up the lyrics and really think about what they mean. Case in point: after watching 42nd Street (1933) on TCM last weekend, we've had Harry Warren's showstopping finale "42nd Street" in the back of our mind all week.

"Hear the beat, of dancing feet it's the song I love the melody of 42nd street." This is a bit ironic since anyone who's visited CC in New York knows, we loathe the actual 42nd street and Times Square. It's not New York, it's the Disneyland version of New York. But the dance sequence at the end of the movie, which we would guess tries to replicate the Times Square of the '20s, looks scary and thrilling. For those who watch old movies, or what is called Pre-Hayes Code, know is that these early features can be surprisingly frank in their portrayals of the sexual and cultural mores of the time. Busby Berkeley choreographs this street scene where a camera swoops in through a window above 42nd street to witness a girl being attacked and potentially raped by a man. She jumps out the window to escape, and lands on the street where she dances a bit with the chorus until she's stabbed by that man who is chasing her. Yes that's right, stabbed. And CC thought the dances someone like Susan Stroheim makes with a bed and a motorcycle, as she did in Center Stage, were edgy.

Cinecultist loves this about old movies, just when you think you remember them as being a certain way (ie. Ruby Keeler is the chorus girl who makes good, *yawn*), they can surprise you. 42nd street may be Disneyfied now in our post-Giuliani Manhattan but we guess calling it "naughty, bawdy, gaudy and sporty" was apt at one point.

New York city movie historian and Village Voice film critic J. Hoberman wrote a monograph for BFI on 42nd Street. One of his first jobs was as Ruby Keeler's chauffeur. Since one of CC's first jobs in New York was as Jim's projectionist, let's hope we also have such an illustrious career ahead of us.

Posted by karen at 8:42 AM |

April 2, 2004

What Could've Been

Cinecultist had to put aside the Challenge last night because of other viewing priorities (aka The Apprentice -- Four left! Who will the Donald fire next?!), but we'd like to point out how much more difficult this has been than we expected. There isn't a Made For TV to watch every night of the week, good or bad, even if you wanted to try. Programming we might have enjoyed reviewing for the Challenge -- BBCAmerica and A&E airings of English television films like BBC's Pride and Prejudice or Gormengast. Or IFC original programming which often gets theatrical screenings but has most of its distribution on television such as Josh Pais's 7th Street. And as Maggie wondered, we did see Celeste in the City when it aired on ABC Family a week or so ago, about a young girl (not unlike Cinecultist) who moves to the Big Apple to work in publishing, gets made over by her gay cousin, straightens her hair and finds love with the metrosexual boy next door. It's a story as old as time -- or as old as the last glossy chick lit book to grace the bookstore tables.

CC was hoping that the Challenge would sort of cure us of this need to watch such bad Made For TV movies, in a Clockwork aversion therapy kind of way. Sadly, this experiment did not succeed. The itch is still there, although hopefully CC won't have to burden our readers with the recaps.

Coming Up on Cinecultist: The television advertisements tout that "audiences love Jersey Girl." We're not so sure about this -- investigation to follow.

Posted by karen at 8:28 AM |

April 1, 2004

Feedback From The Field

Bottom of the Barrel Time Here: The only bad Made For TV-ness Cinecultist could find last night was a E! Hollywood True Story on N*Sync, featuring all the boys and their moms -- except for the notably absent Justin Timberlake and the actual music of the band. There's really nothing to write about there, only that this challenge continues to highlight how high the CC tolerance for horrid programming really is. Fortunately, we received the following e-mail from our friend and faithful reader, Maggie in Seattle regarding her own TV movie obsession. If Gawker says two mentions equal a trend, then if CC and Maggie find something fascinating that surely equals nation-wide phenomenon.

Hey There Cinecultist, Just a quick note - I read your post about the TV movies, and had to have a chuckle - for some reason I was addicted to those cheeseball ones on ABC Family channel...I haven't seen the Ryan Banks, but I did see *note* titles may actually vary:

Lucky Seven Patrick Dempsy as a bagel shop owner in Seattle (that is SO not Seattle, but whatever) who this control freak lawyer chick feels she must date as her #6 of that Mr. Perfect Brad Rowe can be lucky #7.

Picking Up or Dropping Off with Scott Wolf as a single father weatherman in Colorado who keeps meeting up with single mom at the airport as they are sending off kids to respective spouses - what is it about weathermen? I think I am obsessed.

Also saw a very bad Christmas drama with the guy from Will and Grace as stuck up womanizing rich dude while hires lady from Touched by an Angel to pretend to be his wife for boss who likes family values - of course, he realizes that family is wonderful and gives up womanizing ways. Can't remember what this is called.

AND Lifetime movie about scary wife Ann Margaret who has husband killed by brainwashed teenage boys - I only mention this because the husband is played by Peter Coyote, who is [her boyfriend's] Todd's friend's uncle - this movie was very bad and like 5 hours long - plus Toby Maguire plays the geeky son.

Okay, I am going to stop now because I am scaring myself. <--- Maggie

Posted by karen at 8:21 AM |

March 31, 2004

Painful Viewing

Three days in and this challenge -- to watch a Made For TV movie every day this week -- is starting to get a little brutal. Mostly because we had to search around our digital cable to find something that counted as Made For TV and ended up on the Lifetime channel. Lifetime makes Cinecultist feel bad, not because the tear-jerker stories are so moving but that we find them inadvertently funny. Is CC a bad person for giggling when the teen jock with cancer collapses during a backyard BBQ to celebrate his football scholarship? How exactly was Shattered Hearts celebrating women? Corn-fed Luke Moldenhauer finds out he has cancer, he battles it, it battles back and somewhere in there he and his girlfriend, Julie, run off to Vancouver for the week. CC guesses the idea is that chicks like disease movies, especially ones where women stand strong and fight against adversity or discrimination and whatnot. The irony must be pretty deeply entrenched to snicker at that. But if being snarky in the face of a Lifetime melodrama of this low caliber is wrong, CC don't wanna be right.

Remainder: CC has begun contributing to Daily Gusto's new group blog format under the tag Cinecultist, though we will be probably solely writing about non-movie related topics. It may sound confusing, but head over to check out our thoughts on eating at Jean-Georges Vongrichten's Spice Market this past weekend.

Posted by karen at 8:20 AM |

March 30, 2004

That's Hollywood, Madam

As Cinecultist's harrowing challenge to ourselves to watch a Made For TV movie every day this week continues, we took in USA's Call Me: The Rise And Fall of Heidi Fleiss, a version of the Hollywood madam's career and subsequent jailing. Like any '80s/'70s excess rags to riches to rags story there are certain obligatory scenes, as the plot steam rolls to its inevitable conclusion and Call Me is no different. The obligatory sex-and-money montage with "Relax Don't Do It" playing on the soundtrack. The obligatory cut-away-to-spurting-fountain to allude to another kind of shooting. The obligatory Heidi-converts-innocent-girls-to-hooking montage. And of course as it all goes down, the obligatory torching-the-diary-on-the-BBQ sequence. Jamie-Lynn Discala, our sweet little Meadow and Broadway's Belle in Beauty and the Beast, wants us to know she's all growed up. CC has now seen Discala's coke snorting face and fake orgasm face a few too many times than is really necessary.

A few choice quotes culled from Call Me's classic dialogue:

As Heidi gestures to her honking diamond ring, "It's from the richest guy in Brazil. I like to wear it with sweatpants, it looks Arab."

Heidi: What business are we talking about here, show business or hooking?
Pockmarked boyfriend/pimp Yvan: Same thing.

Because I'm the only girl she (Russian Madam Alex) knows that can add and subtract.

Heidi on her former mentor, Madam Alex: Sometimes I really hate that fat mumu slob.

I don't hook anymore, I'm management now.

Toothless Vice Officer: There's a bull dyke in Lompoc who's just waiting to meet you.
Heidi: Stop sergeant, you're making me all wet.

Even in the fast lane, you never quite knew when you'd be pulled over.

And CC's personal favorite: If only my Hebrew school teacher could see me now.

Posted by karen at 8:19 AM |

March 29, 2004

Let The Challenge Begin

Cinecultist wishes to apologize for the lateness of this Monday posting -- our Dreamhost servers were down all day today, hence the AWOLness of all the Cinecultist-y content you know and love. We'd planned on posting a real barrel scraping entry about I Want to Marry Ryan Banks, a ABC Family channel movie about reality tv CC had found ourselves inadvertently watching from start to finish. CC has long resisted the siren call of reality tv, even mocking Survivor and American Idol to the face of huge fans even blatantly dissing Meredith the Bachelorette when we saw here in 7A on late Saturday/early Sunday, so why the hell were we watching this fictional narrative account of the making of some Bachelor rip off?

Why, for the love of all that is good and holy, why? Because the Cinecultist likes a challenge. Our mission -- to watch an irredeemably bad Made For TV movie every day this week, preferably on less than premium cable, and write about it. Will our eyes fall out from the insult, our brain ooze out our ears from the lowering of our I.Q., or our sides split from the laughing at the stupidity? Surely.

There's something sort of fascinating about aging, former hunklet Jason Priestley and his valiant efforts to be more than the guy who was Brandon Walsh. Here he "turns his goodie two shoes persona on its head" by playing the womanizing actor Ryan Banks whose career needs the boost only image-happy reality tv can offer. Nice guy Will from Alias, Bradley Cooper plays his best friend and manager Tod Doherty who concocts the whole reality tv scenario to deal with Ryan's philandering but in the process falls for one of the contestants, Charlie (Emma Caulfield).

Even the names of the characters scream bad tv movie -- cool girl Charlie with masculine tom-boyish name, and Tod freakin' Doherty which sounds like one of the boyfriends from the Sweet Valley High series. But the oddest thing about this little film was not the dry heave reflex CC experienced every time we had to watch that cheesy "key ceremony" in the two hours, but the sense of deja 90210 vu watching Jason and Emma on screen together. Oh yeah, that's right before Emma was Anya "I Hate Bunnies" on Buffy the Vampire Slayer, she was brunette Susan Keats, nerdy college newspaper editor and uptight girlfriend to Brandon! That's what Cinecultist really looks for in our Made For TV movies, correlations to Beverly Hills, 90210 plots.

Dear readers, what travesty will CC watch next? Only our digital cable remote knows.

Posted by karen at 11:16 PM |

February 16, 2004

HBO Has A Thing For Angels

Hilary Swank & Frances O'Connor in HBO's Iron Jawed Angels
Honestly, Cinecultist is sorry if you're not one of these decadent New Yorkers who insists their television isn't complete without HBO and are missing the really great original movies they've been airing lately. You may have heard that we kinda liked Angels in America but Cinecultist was also blown away by Iron Jawed Angels, a movie about suffragists Alice Paul and Lucy Burns starring Hilary Swank and Frances O'Connor which premiered last night.

The film has a few notable strengths that set it apart from your usual tv, historically-suspect biopic. A top notch cast reminded CC that so many of these women actors are favorite character players, who we really ought to seek out in the future. Swank and O'Connor have each done some real good, critically lauded work (Boys Don't Cry and Mansfield Park) and then each had a bit of a fall from grace (eeek -- a histronic The Affair of the Necklace and a wooden AI) but both redeem themselves here doing what they do best. Sassy, out-spoken, kicking-ass-and-taking-names or as their characters say in one memorable monologue "pissing in the senator's boot," this is what CC wants to see Swank and O'Connor doing on screen. Others in the cast who are equally faboo -- Anjelica Huston (We don't really need to tell you who she is, right? But do catch her in The Grifters if you haven't), Molly Parker (The Center of the World), Brooke Smith (The Contender: Series 7) and Laura Fraser (A Knight's Tale). You go girls!

The other notable thing about this picture is the anachronistic details, taking the story out of its historical setting, but at the same time making it more immediate and the characters more likable. They speak slang and with modern inflections. They express doubts about committing their lives to the cause. They learn to drive cars. They touch themselves in the bathtub, while thinking about Patrick Dempsey. These are not your grandmother's suffragists. But director Katja von Garnier and screenwriter Sally Robinson make what could be jarring elements organic to the whole project and arguably this heightens our sense of shock at what the women must go through to get their 19th amendment passes. CC doesn't think we could withstand force feeding in a worker's prison, but this movie made us proud that these American heroes had. You go girls!

Posted by karen at 12:15 PM |

January 26, 2004

Loving That Love/Hate Relationship

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When Cinecultist was but a wee movie watcher, our favorite kind of love stories were the ones where at first the couple hated each other. There's something about good bickering caught on screen that is so electifying and hints at feelings below that acrimony that we're only seeing a glimmer of. The Shop Around the Corner, Ernst Lubitsch's 1940 classic which CC caught for the umpteenth time last night on TMC, is one of these stories where first they hate each other and then, they're in luv. It's so damn great -- the banter, the sniping, the (innocent) lies, the drawing room deception leading up to the big pay off in the end.

Cinecultist always found this kind of romance so captivating and who wouldn't with the look on Margaret Sullivan's face as she discovers Jimmy Stewart is actually her letter writing boyfriend and the final kiss as it fades to black? But when you think about this much maneuvering going into an actual relationship -- you know in that weird place called "real life" -- shouldn't it all be much more straight forward? With less mistaken identity and lying? Obviously this makes for a Lubitch-less kind of thing, but less therapy in the long run.

Posted by karen at 8:19 AM |

January 22, 2004

Down With Remake & Rehash

For the last few weeks, every time Cinecultist would tune into TNT for the Law & Order syndication fix, we'd be innundated with commercials for the remake of The Goodbye Girl. CC had vowed to ourselves not to watch this for the intensely offensive Hootie and the Blowfish slo-mo water droplet accompanying music video alone, but what with the weather as it was this weekend and fighting a cold, we found ourselves in front of the tv watching it. Please please don't see this thing, we beg you and join CC in our new campaign to outlaw remakes.

Partially this aversion to redoing what was pretty good to begin with has to do with nostalgia. The 1977 Goodbye Girl with Richard Dreyfuss is one of those childhood movie discoveries that whenever it is on tv, we always sit down to hear the famous line, "well then go cry on the horsey!" But when you are familiar with a movie intimately, down to the certain way that a line is delivered or a scene played, then a new version is always going to seem wrong. And to spend this much energy comparing the old and the new only detracts from any viewing enjoyment and even CC knows it's pretty silly. Although we must say with indignation, no out of work dancer and off Broadway actor is going to be able to afford a palatial West Village apartment like the one used for the TNT set. That's what it always comes down to for New York movie watchers, does the real estate seem believable.

Sadly though, this good fight against mediocre simulacra is going to need a lot of grassroots support, since it has infiltrated not only television and the big screen but the stage as well. The Producers, Hairspray and the like have been huge Broadway hits and while originality (whatever that is) isn't the end all be all, there has to be something else we can come up with here people. A new take, a new interpretation of our old obsessions and no Patricia Heaton thankyouverymuch.

Posted by karen at 8:23 AM |

January 14, 2004

Marriage Is For Punks

Ever fear that you've missed something, cinematically speaking? Like there's this (probably) terrible movie out there but you haven't seen it, so maybe it's one of those hidden gems, hated-nay-reviled by the world until you redeem it as good stuff? Okay, even we can hear the eyes rolling in the blogosphere, perhaps this is only a problem encountered by Cinecultist. But something must be to blame for leading us to watch dreck like Just Married last night on HBO, after judiciously avoiding it on the big screen as well as the little up until now. Stupendously stupid -- that's the only way to describe this little Ashton Kutcher/Brittany Murphy gross-out rom com vehicle.

Gawd, remember when they were an "actual couple" and there were pictures of them being all couple-y and junk in US Weekly? Before Ashton and Demi and the whole Punk'd thing, in those innocent halcyon days of our youths ... Can you believe that was only last January? Early 2003? It seems like a lifetime ago, no? Perhaps this movie might be a bit more interesting if you could look at it as an artifact of their celeb love, kind of like a pop cult museum piece such as Far and Away. Rather, it has been striped of its potential meta, it can really only be consumed as it is and thus is not a very fulfilling product. The couple, mismatched of course, travels through Europe destroying stuff and coming to hate each other. Ho hum. Strangely, CC couldn't help noticing having just read this week's EW, that the blonde rich chick/brunette manly man paradigm in the match up of the characters mirrors the dynamic on display in Jessica Simpson and Nick Lachay in MTV's tv show the Newlyweds. Is this some new couple archetype going in our cultural consciousness?

Remainder: Miss Fiona So Much Modern Time (otherwise known as the future Mrs. Elijah Wood) attended the marathon LOTR event at Lincoln Center recently, including Q & As with the director and the cast and has quite an extensive review of it, well worth reading.

Posted by karen at 8:14 AM |

December 15, 2003

The Dark Side of Dahl

chocolate.jpgWhen it's rainy and snowy and slushy on a Sunday afternoon, movies on television can be your bestest friend. As the film adaptation of Cheaper By the Dozen with Steve Martin and Bonnie Hunt approaches theaters, Cinecultist has had favorite childhood books translated to the big screen on the brain. Yesterday, TNT played back to back two Roald Dahl classics turned pretty darn good movies that CC treasured as a kid, Matilda (1996) and Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory (1971) and CC got to thinking about Dahl's imagination on screen.

Dahl, and by extension movies based on his books, are really best when they're darkest. The treacle-laden ending of Matilda where she finds a family with her teacher, sorta made CC want to puke from the sweetness overload. Which is why we were so pleased with our reviewing of the first hour of the Chocolate Factory, a dark and cynical build-up to the zaniness of Gene Wilder as Willy Wonka. CC mostly just remember Oompah Loompahs and the part where the little girl turns into a blueberry, but the first hour recounting how the world goes nuts for the Golden Tickets is quite clever and suspenseful. Charlie is so clearly the main character and yet various circumstances do not make his finding the Golden Ticket a foregone conclusion. The film is also filled with details that jab at popular culture in a very cutting way. Newscasters relay breaking news about the contest as though it were the most arresting thing occuring on the globe and one vignette shows a woman weighing a box of Wonka bars versus her husband's life.

Also, the image of the four grandparents all in the same bed end to end is so odd and yet unexpectedly sweet, it's a delightful rendering of Dahl's imagination. We can only have such high hopes for the Tim Burton remake in the works.

Posted by karen at 8:08 AM |

December 8, 2003

Angels In Our Midst

aiaascension.jpgDear children, Cinecultist awoke Sunday morning with a raging case of HPH, Holiday Party Hangover and here it is only the first weekend of December. Not a good sign, not a good omen for the weekends to come. How does one go about eleviating the symptoms of HPH? With aspirin, brunch and movies, movies, movies of course!

CC applied said remedy STAT and we will now report on the most moving aspect of the cure, Mike Nichols' filmed version of Tony Kushner's award winning play Angels in America aired on HBO. The first part of the six hour miniseries played this past Sunday and the second three hour installment will be on next week. What a phenominal piece of work this movie is. Although we can understand how the project could polarize viewers as it seems to be doing on the HBO message boards. A story that seems to be about a very narrow topic, characters in '80s America coping with AIDS and homosexuality, only transcends when you let your personal politics fade away to hear the text's commentary on humanity. One might think this would be more difficult outside the live theater parameters but that's not the case here.

In a movie filled with all-star acting performances by some of the best performers working today, for Cinecultist it was all about Meryl. Ms. Streep is the kind of actor who just gets better over the years and her ability to inhabit a character completely works well for her here as she (and some of the other actors) play multiple roles.

If you missed the first part of Angels in America, HBO will be reairing the three hours all this week, as well as breaking it down into more manageable 1 hour hunks starting in January. And even if you don't have the premium cable channel, it is pretty certain they will release the film on DVD at some point, as sales of their other shows have done gangbusters. We taped it too, and it seems that CC already has a waiting list for loans the VHS tapes.

Posted by karen at 8:09 AM |

November 26, 2003

I've Seen This Before

Being a Cinecultist is about seeing the same movie more than once. Even if we didn't really like it much the first time, it can be tempting for CC to see a particular movie again partially just because it's there on tv and partially to see if we still really did hate it as much as we thought we did the first time. We conducted said experiment last night. The Good News? Roger Avary's Rules of Attraction looks much better on the small screen. The pretension fits in more with the smaller scale. The Bad News? It's still pretty damn pretentious twattle at that, all masquerading as a teensploitation flick. And there's no way to get around it, James Van Der Beek has an enormous forehead. Huge.

Cinecultist can offer this confident assessment of the Van Der Forehead because we saw it in person the first time we saw this movie, at it's New York premiere in Chelsea last year. In all fairness, CC didn't know it was going to be the premiere until spotting the limos and red carpet out front. We just thought we were catching an advance screening with our friend Jose, hence the marinara-stained cotton dress we had on. When watching Rules on tv, you can enjoy the good bits like Victor's whirlwind debauched tour through Europe or when minor character Richard "Dick" tells his drunk mother Swoosie Kurtz that school "sucks coooooock." The rest of the ponderous angstifying (they're so jaded from all that meaningless sex and drugs, *snore*) can be spent doing the dishes or picking lint out of the rug. Ex-cellent.

"Dude, I'm the Dude." In other re-viewings, the Cohen Brothers' Big Lebowski (a favorite movie of some we know, a reviled blight on cinema to others) is playing as a midnight screening at the Sunshine Theater on Houston for the next four nights. Cinecultist recommends many many White Russians before and after the film, it makes so much more sense that way. [via flavorpill]

Posted by karen at 7:58 AM |

November 21, 2003

Gawking At The Rich

Goodness, the fabulously wealthy really are such strange and fascinating beasts. Sex tapes and court settlements and all that. If like Whatevs.org and Megastyles you've been watching the MTV reality show Rich Girls like the trainwreck it is, completely unable to look away (oh Ally, dear sweet dumbass Ally), may we point you to the documentary Born Rich currently airing on HBO made by Jaime Johnson the Johnson & Johnson heir.

First off, let's establish that Jaime Johnson is no Errol Morris or Fred Wisemann. But what he lacks in properly grave voice-over abilities, he makes up in, well not to put a fine point on it, money. The docu looks great, it's well shot and nicely edited which Cinecultist suspects has to do with the caliber of technicians Master Johnson was able to hire for the project. But not to fault him for that, it seems like a good use of the budget to us. The movie also offers an intriguing insight into the inner life of the rich because Johnson's own status as a major American heir allows him a different kind of emotional access with his subjects. As the old Wisemann adage says, "Point a camera long enough at people, and they will spill their guts." (Okay, CC just made that up, but it sounds like something Wisemann might say and it's true in this case.)

Highlights of the film: getting to see how S.I. Newhouse IV was beat to a pulp by his prep school classmates and how Ivanka Trump (like Cinecultist) had Beverly Hills 90210 trading cards mounted on the wall of her childhood bedroom. Except that CC's bedroom window looked out on our Nor Cal backyard and Ivanka's looked out on Central Park from 32 floors up. Only a slight difference, right? Fascinating stuff.

Posted by karen at 8:02 AM |

November 3, 2003

Geek Cinema

If you spend enough time sitting on the couch flipping through the movie channels, you might think the Geeks have inherited the earth. And you probably would be right. They certainly have the economic power to keep their vanity projects churning through the cultural zeitgeist. Cinecultist caught quite the triumverate of Geek cinema on tv this past weekend and here's what we've learned:

angelina.jpg1. A 28.8 bit modem and a dial-up connection is enough juice needed to hack into the FBI's database of names and manipulate people's crime records and such. Thanks to a viewing of Hackers (screened on Spike TV "the Channel for Men"), CC also can say Angelina Jolie could've been Liv Tyler's long lost elfin sister, with that pixie do and the strange red eye shadow in the film she looks like an extra from Lord of the Rings.

jeremyirons.jpg2. Dragons signal some sort of connection to all life on earth. Also good actors can go bad, and with glee. CC watched with amazement and horror as Oscar winner (!) Jeremy Irons gnawed every inch of faux medieval tapestry in Dungeons and Dragons. Can you believe Thora Birch did Ghost World and this picture back to back in the same year?

yoda.jpg3. In Star Wars: Attack of the Clones, Yoda really does kick Count Dooku ass with that light saber. Okay CC knew this one already, having spent good money to see that CGI-packed travesty in the theaters but a year later, it's still a rocking scene. Is this a good sign for the next installment set for release in 2005 or just a sign of CC's complete dissolution of taste?

It's just as we feared. With a steady dose of cinematic propaganda, the geeks have made CC one of them. Now we suppose we'll just have to embrace our inner geek as the days count down to Wednesday's big release of Matrix Revolutions aka the Geek Grail.

Posted by karen at 7:52 AM |

September 3, 2003

Four Classic Fassbinders

fassbinder.jpg We hate to be the sort of cinecultist to deliver absolute pronouncements about Taste and The Canon, and with our recommendations of certain actors you may not believe us anyhow, but really, if you haven't seen any movies by Rainer Werner Fassbinder you must. Fortunately for those who missed the excellent retrospective at Film Forum this last year, the Sundance Channel is doing a mini-fest this month every Wednesday night at 9pm. Tonight's Veronika Voss, followed by The Bitter Tears of Petra Von Kant, CC's fav Ali: Fear Eats the Soul and concludes with The Marriage of Maria Braun. Amazingly prolific and responsible for rejuvenating world-wide regard for German cinema, Fassbinder's work is so lovely, creepy and not a little bit sad that the films' emotional resonance can make them surprisingly accessible, even if you don't consider yourself a cineaste familiar with his host of references (Douglas Sirk and classic Hollywood cinema being major ones). Fassbinder loved movies and that's blatantly evident when one sits down with these wonderful films.

Posted by karen at 9:28 PM |

June 16, 2003

Actual Essentials

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Everytime CC turns on the television these days, we seem to be inundated with commercials for this series on Turner Classic Movies channel, the Essentials. Hosted by Sydney Pollack, director, producer, actor and generally creepy old man (see Eyes Wide Shut's pool room scene one too many times and you'll agree), its a repeating series of movies shown every Sunday through December chosen by the channel and Pollack as essential viewing for the movie buff.

Here at CC we love lists -- they're so much fun to compile and so much fun to refute. These are the movies on Pollack's list, what would you add or subtract?






Ang Lee's The Hulk will be?







  

Free polls from Pollhost.com


The Philadelphia Story
Stagecoach
Bonnie and Clyde
Wuthering Heights
The Wild One
The Magnificent Seven
Guys and Dolls
Touch of Evil
2001: A Space Odyssey
Force of Evil
It Happened One Night
Once Upon a Time in the West
Champion
Pillow Talk
A Star is Born ('54)
Strangers on a Train
The Shop Around the Corner
Lawrence of Arabia
The Apartment
An American in Paris
The Best Years of Our Lives
The Bridge on the River Kwai
Rebel Without a Cause
Bringing Up Baby
Notorious
On the Waterfront

Let Cinecultist know via an e-mail, so we can compile our own essentials. (Pollack appears to agree with the famous Peter Bogdanovich sentiment that there are no good movies made after the '70s or made in any other language than English. Can we be more inclusive?)

Posted by karen at 1:08 PM |

Peck Fest on TCM

Turner Classic Movies channel has answered the call for a Gregory Peck tribute festival. Airing today, TCM features a number of Peck classics, including Moby Dick, MacArthur and The Paradine Case. To check out the schedule to set the VCR or TiVo, go to their site. Happy (and mournful) viewing!

Posted by karen at 12:40 PM |

May 27, 2003

Elmore Leonard Meets TV

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Announced in ABC's Fall line-up, a spin-off of the kick ass Elmore Leonard character, U.S. Marshall Karen Sisco will be appearing on Wednesdays at 9/10c in a show called Karen Sisco.

Friends of CC know she digs Soderbergh's movie Out of Sight and this character as depicted by booty-licious Jennifer Lopez. On the tv show, the character will be played by Carla Gugino, who's also good people (CC like her particularly in the miniseries of "The Buccaneers", an Edith Wharton adaptation). The question, of course, is whether the snappy fun from the film can translate into a compelling tv series. As we know, for every M*A*S*H, there's a My Big Fat Greek Life. Check back in the fall for an assessment from CC.

Posted by karen at 9:49 PM |