Sunday, September 30, 2007

Katee Sackhoff. Still Hot ****

Just a reminder to the thousands of blogs out there currently and noisily kissing Katee Sackhoff's ass due to her orgasmic star turn as the evil bionic woman on NBC...

... I saw her first. That post is from January 2006 ;) Y'all should really listen to me more often. Surely she's TV's hottest find since, oh, Eliza Dushku and Wentworth Miller (both introduced on the greatest show of all time don'cha know). As for the rest of Bionic Woman, I'm less impressed. Carry on.

New Season @ TFE

Have finally joined the DVR/TIVO masses. Just finished programming the television shows I'm interested in --for the life of me I can't be bothered trying to figure out when shows air so I should've done this looong ago. Is anyone interested in more (albeit still limited) television coverage here? Speak up

This programming endeavor got me to thinking about the "series" on this blog --I'm basically me own amoeba sized network. See, I'm the numbers obsessed executive and the rundown abused talent. Still, regular programming has helped me keep up the output so I'm giving myself deadlines and structure since blogging has been getting wobbly during festival season

Sun: "Naked Gold Man" (new Oscar-centric series. Premieres 10/14)
Reader Request (Topics controlled by kindly contributing $ patrons. Premieres 10/15)
Tues: Top Ten (Returning 10/16)
Wed: Hump Day Hottie / Kissing (sharing this timeslot -returning/premiering 10/24)
Thurs: "A History of..." (returning Nov 8th)
Fri: TBA
All that plus the usual assortment of one-off goofs, reviews, guest bloggers and midseason replacements in case this network starts losing ratings. I've also heard the pleas and "20:07" returns (10/19) for one last month of screen capturey goodness.

Writing is less pleasureable and sustainable in a vacuum so please link up when you love something and speak up in zeee comments. Y'all have been quiet lately. And while we're on the topic of programming, put the film experience blog on your

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If you're old fashioned, there's always the bookmark. And thus ends today's massive self-indulgent promotion. Thanks for your patience, xoxo

NYFF: Blade Runner, Scrubbed and Polished

From the 45th Annual New York Film Festival (Sept 28th through Oct 14th)

My eye has seen the glory of Blade Runner: The Final Cut. Technically my eyes saw it... but I am thinking about just one of them since the film's opening shot is so dependent on that reflective eyeball. I'd forgotten that, so entranced have I been for decades by its widescreen cityscape with fiery explosions. But the macro eye closeup is a perfect statement for Blade Runner's opening, human but abstract... unconnected to a face.

When you finally get a chance to see this film in its clean and pristine form (i.e. not some grubby VHS print or DVD from ancient negatives) it's difficult to imagine how you lived with previous versions.

I've seen Blade Runner in theaters before (most memorably in the early 90s rerelease) but this experience was divine. My earlier fears about the rejiggering (click the label below for more Blade Runner fanaticism) proved mostly foolish, though I did catch a glimpse of what I believe was a new Joanna Cassidy shot. Otherwise it just felt entirely new through being completely refreshed. God bless chemicals or digital technology or Ridley Scott... or whatever / whomever is responsible.

Though I loved Blade Runner from the start I've always been a little surprised (pleasantly so I should add) that it's developed such a rabid fan base. For, narratively speaking, it's really unsatisfying as typical movie thrills go. The hero is decidedly unheroic. You are not eager to see the villains get theirs. The action sequences end quickly. The big finish is quiet rather than explosive. This 1982 classic is almost anti dramatic yet it's completely absorbing, hypnotic and resonant.

In 2007 it's a time travelling mindf*** to see a movie so clearly and heavenly 80s looking like it just came from the lab. Blade Runner is that rare thing, a piece of art that has definitely aged but is none the worse for having done so. It's not "aged" in the typical derogatory sense of the word. It's only older.

I'm miffed that many of you won't be able to see this in theaters where the über influential imagery and lush immersive soundscapes really make it an experience rather than just a movie. It will have a very limited rerelease before it hits stores. The upcoming DVD release will include all previous versions of the film and will cost a measly $78. That's OK. Starving artists like myself don't need earthly --or in this case offworldly-- possessions (sniffle).

Saturday, September 29, 2007

NYFF: The Darjeeling (Very) Limited

From the 45th Annual New York Film Festival (Sept 28th through Oct 14th)

Despite the buzz you may have heard surrounding the hush hush screenings of P.T. Anderson's There Will Be Blood it was not sadly not part of the general press offerings since it’s not in the festival. So I must wait. There Will Be Tears… from me.

So let’s talk about the other writing/directing Anderson. Wes.

The Darjeeling Limited, the story of three brothers on a spiritual journey through India, opened the New York Film Festival last night. It is unmistakably a Wes Anderson picture. The Wes elements are out in full force: obsessively designed sets, amusing rectangular compositions, eclectic song scores, privileged lost boys, bright colors and theatrical costuming, Angelica Huston and Bill Murray. The question is really whether or not those elements, pleasing to a one, add up to great movie. I’m not sure they do. Though I remain completely enamored of The Royal Tenenbaums (2001) there’s beginning to be a distinct whiff of branding to this auteur’s work. His movies are always lovely and still fun but they don’t smell as fresh.

Read the Rest @ AWARDS DAILY

Friday, September 28, 2007

NYFF Thwarted by Evil MTA

Those of you who live in big cities will understand: sometimes public transport conspires against you. You're like a flea on an unruly animal. You need the beast but it might just kick you off and be done with you.

This morning before squeezing in some hours for my abandoned day job I planned to take in The Orphanage, a big buzz Spanish title, at the NYFF. The innocent-looking conductor of the 2 train had other plans. He nonchalantly announced that he was going local instead of express. Various types exited the train in protest and I, having just exited, got back on. I was happy to have the MTA deliver me to my cinematic destination a few minutes earlier than the walking I was about to do. (OK, I was lazy. That, too)

But...horrors! The conductor then revealed his true malevolent film-hating nature and proceeded to skip all the local stops he'd just promised. He dropped me off 10 minutes away --too late to retrace my steps to catch the one and only press screening of this film that doesn't open until late late December. [/whining]

The Orphanage has recently been announced as Spain's official Oscar submission. You must always pay close attention to Spain. They have the third best foreign Oscar record of all time, just behind France and Italy.

Guillermo Del Toro, who nearly won this category last February with Pan's Labyrinth, produced this movie and it's another supposedly vivid genre piece. Will the Oscar voters want to go there --or near there again? Can The Orphanage overcome the dozens of strong contenders already announced? This looks like a competitive Oscar year for the Foreign Film Category (click here for lots of updates)

NYFF: Mungiu and 'Message'

From the 45th Annual New York Film Festival (Sept 28th through Oct 14th)

In the Q & A following the press screening of 4 Months 3 Weeks and 2 Days, the terrific Palme D'Or winner from Cannes, writer/director Cristian Mungiu was discussing why he makes commercials to pay the bills. (What !?! Art films don't pay...who knew?) He said:
I never wanted to make television because television is... uh... something else
I can't say that I knew exactly what he meant with that evasion but, curiously, I can say that I get it. But then I like to fill in blanks.

Mungiu wants us to do that anyway. Repeated attempts were made by the audience to pin the soft-spoken director down on the subtext, meaning, message and politics of 4 Months, 3 Weeks and 2 Days. They wanted clarification because the movie obviously has more meat to its bone than its threadbare abortion plot suggests. His repeated refrain regarding "messages" delighted me...
I don't believe in this
This aversion to didacticism is one of the reasons that his movie is so damn good. It's also why it will never win the Foreign Film Oscar (though I hope its critical rep will force it into the shortlist)

updated: a few words about the lead performance by Anamaria Marinca

Now Playing (09/28)

Lust Caution opens in exactly one theater. Oh the withholding...not from director Ang Lee mind you. He doesn't pull punches in this one: there's graphic sex (in the service of a fairly gripping story) and even some disturbing violence. In tribute to this movie and since you can't see it yet I'm offering up three DVD recommendations of other racy dramas. Well, you can technically see it now if you live in NY but you'll have to risk cramped seating, sell out crowds and bad sightlines the latter of which is just ideal for a subtitled movie... sheesh. For reasons only the distribution gods know, it's the Lincoln Plaza Cinema that got it. How Lincoln Plaza and the Angelika (two of the worst venues in the city) continue to get great movies as exclusives is a mystery to me.
Outsourced -a man loses his job and travels to India to train his replacement. Somehow it's a comedy
Trade -Kevin Kline stars in this sex-trafficking drama. Given that it's being massacred by early reviews perhaps it'd be wise to rent Lukas Moodyson's earlier Lilja 4Ever instead. It covers the same general topic and is quite good

Feast of Love -Academy Award winning director Robert Benton and actors Morgan Freman, Gregg Kinnear, Radha Mitchell and a bunch of others (ensemble movie) investigate love in its many forms through several couplings
The Game Plan -Big lug's life altered by playing caregiver. Not a sequel to the Pacifier! Whatever happened to Vin Diesel anyway?
The Kingdom -Jennifer Garner, Chris Cooper and Jamie Foxx shoot 'em up in the Middle East. Something about using our current political nightmares for typical action thrills disturbs me but I haven't seen it so I'll shut up. Maybe it's better than that

Wes Anderson puts three brother on The Darjeeling Limited in India for some family bonding and art directed comedy. It opens the NYFF tonight before moving into regular theaters Saturday. It opens properly next week. In expansions In the Valley of Elah more than doubles its screen count so you can see what all the fuss is about Tommy Lee Jones (but doesn't it feel like Oscar buzz isn't really kicking in as expected for the movie itself?) and Warner Bros still doesn't want you to see The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford. We may have to retitle it The Assassination of 'The Assassination of Jesse James by the Corward Robert Ford' by the Disapproving Warner Bros. In its second week it's only at 5 theaters. Talk about withholding

Random Lynchian Thought

" ...walk ...with"

Why is it that David Lynch can always scare the crap out of me?

And why do I always get the sense that the actors helping him are as unnerved as I am by their own efforts? See also: Naomi Watts in Mulholland Dr, Laura Dern in INLAND EMPIRE, Grace Zabriskie in Twin Peaks, etc... it's not just "Bob"-channeling "Laura Palmer" here.

Do any of you worry for their sanity while you watch his movies. Or do you just find yourself craving cheese?

Thursday, September 27, 2007

NYFF: Julian Schnabel Said So

The 45th Annual New York Film Festival runs Sept 28th ~ Oct 14th but the press screenings began on Sept 17th and end Oct 12th. The postings here at the blog run from now through October 16th. Don't even try to follow the chronology for it will defeat you. It's like a blog project with Rashomon angles Pulp Fiction looping and even Memento reverses. I'm already totally confused and this is the first post.

<-- Director Julian Schnabel with his former leading man Javier Bardem (Before Night Falls)

I'll also be chiming in at Oscar Watch Awards Daily soon to add to the (my) confusion. So let's start with something easy just to flip this switch.

Ready? Here comes the annoyingly hooky title...

12 Things I Learned (or was reminded of but had forgotten) While Listening to Julian Schnabel at the Press Conference and Watching His New Film The Diving Bell and Butterfly (and how I feel about those things I learned and remembered)

1. Johnny Depp was supposed to star in this movie which is about a man (Jean-Dominique Bauby) paralyzed entirely but for one eye, but the mega star dropped out. I'm glad he did actually. A movie star essentially offscreen for huge portions of the film since you're seeing things from his bedridden perspective? Maybe not the best use of star magnetism.
2. Max Von Sydow is a helluva actor. He plays Bauby's dad. If the movie breaks out at all, expect Supporting Actor nomination talk. He made me cry and I don't cry at movies.... not regularly at least.
3. Mathieu Almaric deserves a big career. Seriously he was so good in Kings and Queen, Munich and this. Three in a row.
4. Julian Schnabel likes to name drop --Andy Warhol, Johnny Depp, Marlon Brando were just the tips of the iceberg. But it's all film related so...
5. Julian Schnabel is a flashy director. This works for the movie. How else to make a movie about a man lying immobile in bed interesting?

Von Sydow gets a shave from his screen son Almaric in The Diving Bell and Butterfly

6. Julian Schnabel is a Buddhist. Cool
7. Julian Schnabel seems miffed that he didn't win the Palme D'Or and had to settle for Best Director at Cannes. Not cool -- but in fairness this might've been a joke. It was hard to tell
8. Julian Schnabel was offered both 8 Mile and American Gangster but turned them down Yeah, chew on that one for awhile. Try to imagine the results
9. Julian Schnabel really wanted to make Perfume: The Story of a Murderer. He didn't see the film when it came out. Neither did I

10. Julian Schnabel only makes biopics --Basquiat, Before Night Falls, The Diving Bell and Butterfly. He claims that this is unintentional, it's just that he's interested in artists and writers.
11. Julian Schnabel doesn't care about movies. He said so. Still, he's good at making them. This is not quite a Salieri/Mozart moment I'm having, but it's annoying when someone so gifted at filmmaking doesn't really care or know that it's the greatest artform in the world.
12. Julian Schnabel would probably love seeing his name this many times in a row. I'm just sayin'

Further suggested reading: bad boy painter turned fêted director"

Wednesday, September 26, 2007

It's ONJ Day

Today is the birthday of my childhood icon Olivia Newton-John. One of my dearest friends argues in utmost seriousness that Olivia's voice is what we'll hear the angels sing with in heaven. Who am I to argue? Maybe it's because she was the first celebrity I ever truly loved but she still sends me.

I really don't know why she isn't more celebrated these days --even if it would be in a shallow nostalgia way. At the very least she deserves her own theme night on American Idol given that far less famous singers have had them and her discography is loaded with #1 hits.

Since this is a film site here are five movie related goodies for you. Clockwise from top left for these first four: "Suspended in Time" from Xanadu (1980) one of my all time fav flicks and Olivia songs; "Take a Chance" with John Travolta (check out the hairspray'ed 80s 'dos) from their unfortunate attempt to rekindle the Grease magic with Two of a Kind (1983); "Those Summer Nights" with Travolta again from Grease (1978); and a comedic number with Gene Kelly from a TV special where they adapt "Makin' Whoopee" (yes, the song that makes us all think of my beloved) into "Makin' Movies"

And this schmaltz fest you just gotta take in... It's ONJ with Bette Midler, Meryl Streep, Cher and Goldie Hawn singing "What a Wonderful World". Put that many film divas (+ Olivia) in the same room and it sure is. The angels are already singing

I'm also noticing on IMDB that Olivia is in talks to reprise her last film role for a television series. That'd be Bitsy Mae Harling an ex-con lesbian biker (I'm not making this up) from the strange, countrified, and intermittently funny Sordid Lives. The movie has developed a mini cult of sorts, due in large part to its fun cast which also includes Beth Grant, Bonnie Bedelia, Beau Bridges and Leslie Jordan

Tuesday, September 25, 2007

I Am Subtitles

Daily updates to the foreign film Oscar submissions are becoming my full time job. In addition to my other job. and the other one. Still it's nice to have a mission and there's so many reasons you should care about the foreign film Oscar race... there really is. I'm happy to proselytize.

That said, I hope to post some random non-subtitled goodies soon. I treat my blog a bit like a television network and you know it's time for the season premieres of the regular "series" (see sidebar). But first: NYFF musings, reviews, anecdotes. Soon... soon.... I am only one man.

Lust, Caution Fever in Taiwan

Frequent reader and tipster Tony sent me these great photos from a press conference and lavish premiere for Lust Caution in Taiwan. Seems it's getting the blockbuster push there and that 'event' status is paying off big time. Apparently its early box office receipts are even outpacing Ang Lee's own Crouching Tiger Hidden Dragon. That's quite a bow for a racy 150 minute drama.

It's hard to know how the Oscar voters will react to this film. It was greeted with lots of negativity at Venice only to rebound with the Golden Lion win. Early buzz suggests that its length and its MPAA rating (NC-17) will marginalize it severely for both Oscar and American box office. But wait...

Can one can ever count Ang Lee out?

Consider: His filmography is only 10 movies long and 3 of those have been Best Picture nominees and 3 have been Foreign Film nominees (Crouching Tiger being the only double dipper). He's the only Asian to ever win Best Director and he won that for a gay romantic drama. For someone whose films are so classical in feel and leisurely paced, this man sure is full of surprises.

Monday, September 24, 2007


Josh & Josh Brad Pitt makes looooooooong movies
PreFix concert dates for the Once duo. November 19th for us New Yorkers. Are you going when they hit your city?
Kenneth in the (212) "Set and the City"
Dr X Brigitte Bardot: Photos of the Day
Hollywood Elsewhere casting on Spielberg's Abraham Lincoln
goatdog 'The William Wyler Blog-a-Thon.' It kills me that I had to let that one go. I love me some Wyler. So do 20+ fine blogs/sites who chimed in with excellent articles on everything from Funny Girl to Roman Holiday

In the middle of this post
a picture of Javier Bardem in
No Country for Old Men.
Just because.

the only movie related story that properly reenacts how crappy I've been feeling this week
The Bening has dropped out of what was supposed to be her triumphant return to the Broadway stage later this year (maybe she realized I was going to stalk her or get even more obsessed than I already am?) [src]

Lunchtime Poll: Your Audition

Audition sequences in movies are a dime a dozen but they’re strangely reliable for a cheap laugh (usually at the auditioners expense) and a way to boost the audiences cheerleading for the right candidate (usually a movie star) when they show up.

Today’s poll: If you were an actor, which movie moment or theatrical monologue would you use as your audition piece?

Break a leg! Really sell it in the comments

Sunday, September 23, 2007

International Oscar Fever

So... I've finally put up the Oscar Foreign Film Submission / Prediction Pages. My apologies that I'm so late this year. Usually I'm the go-to site for those wondering what Japan, Estonia, Tanzania, Japan or Canada (among 60+ others) might submit. I've been referenced in newspapers as far away as Egypt. But, curses!, I fell so far behind this year that I can only offer up this pathetic babel'ing apology:

je suis désolé, ana asif, lo siento, Я сожалею, prepac, Förlåt mig, desculpa, 我抱歉, ich bin traurig, przepraszam, mijn verontschuldigingen, ขอโทษ, Özür dilerim, promin, žao mi je, che questa pagina è ritardata!

What I'm doing this year is frantically adding the official titles as they're announced with info on the films with the help of valuable film experience readers who send me tips from all over the world (you are thanked on the pages)

First round of official entries coming atcha from:
Page 1: Austria to Finland
Page 2: France to Mexico
Page 3: The Netherlands through Singapore (their 'getai' musical 881 pictured, left) all the way to Venezuela

Lots more to come. Love this part. (Make your international predictions known in the comments) Now, if someone would only send me all these films...

Saturday, September 22, 2007

20:07 (Two Letters)

The 20:07 series officially ended only 32 days ago but I've heard your pleas so we might have one last farewell tour soon (maybe). At any rate... this is exactly how I'm feeling today --and why posting is light-- so I thought I'd share it.

screenshots from the 20th minute and 7th second of a movie
I can't guarantee the same results at home (different players/timing) I use a VLC

You know when Khrushchev was forced out he sat down and wrote two letters. He gave them to his successor and he said 'when you get yourself into a situation you can't get out of open the first letter and you’ll be saved. And when you get yourself into another situation you can’t get out of, open the second letter.'

Well, soon enough, this guy found himself in a tight place so he opened the first letter which said 'blame everything on me.' So he blamed the old man and it worked like a charm. Well, he got himself into a second situation he couldn’t get out , so he opened the second letter. It said 'Sit down and write two letters'.

Friday, September 21, 2007

Eastern Promises (and other new movies)

One of the most satisfying things in all of filmdom is watching a great director find a signature muse. These matches made in celluloid heaven yield such riches. Von Sternberg discovered and claimed Marlene Dietrich. Johns Ford and Wayne made many movies together. Scorsese had DeNiro (and now he’s trying to recapture that with DiCaprio, bless him). For a brief and glorious time greedy Julianne Moore had both PT Anderson and Todd Haynes to sing her praises. Woody Allen had Louise and then Diane and then Mia and Dianne on the side and now, possibly Scarlett Johansson. Uma Thurman, rather famously, has Quentin Tarantino wrapped around her little finger big toe (If QT would stop dilly dallying between projects there’d probably be more filmic evidence).

I could go on but I should get to the point. After only two films together, David Cronenberg and Viggo Mortenson are making a strong bid for that director/muse pantheon...

[continue on to the Eastern Promises Review]

Cronenberg + Viggo obsessed though I currently be, there are other movies opening today. Chief among them is The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford the long awaited western starring Brad Pitt and Casey Affleck as the title characters (and in that order). Pitt won the prize for best actor in Venice. Can he convert that into an Oscar run for Best Actor?

You can also catch Into the Wild, Sean Penn's Oscarable (?) adaptation of the nonfiction bestseller. Or, if early Oscar bids aren't your cuppa --and if they aren't did you take a wrong turn getting here or something ;) --there's always Good Luck Chuck, The Jane Austen Book Club, or Milla Jovovich's Paycheck ... whichever gets you in that moviegoing mood.

Thursday, September 20, 2007

Southland Trailer now online. I'm not one of those skeptics who assumes this'll be a disaster. I mean, nobody knew what to make of Donnie Darko either at first, right.

In other news: NYFF centric posts will probably begin on Monday. Sorry for the delay but N__a____t___h___a___n___i___e___l ... He be stretched way too thin.

Links: Blanchett, Foreign Films and Stupid Questions

Zoom-In Three questions you should never ask at a Q & A --a film festival rant from moi
Eddie on Film a nondefinitive list of the 122 greatest foreign language films evah. So many of them I will have to add to my rental queue
Burbanked It pays to be McConaughey's co-star. Unfortunate but true
Stale Popcorn Vin Diesel's new low?
Lazy Eye Theater here's to the conformists

Antagonie & Ecstacy An interesting 'workman' take on Eastern Promises
Awards Daily Despite divided reactions on The Golden Age Stephen Holt still think Cate Blanchett will win the Oscar for it. (Perhaps I'm way wrong about this but I doubt it) But he also thinks Angelina Jolie is a lock for A Mighty Heart and Keira Knightley only an 'outside' possibility for Atonement so... take it for what it's worth. But speaking of Blanchett...

<-- Oh Cate, don't look so surprised that I'm singing your praises

One last link:

As an olive branch to the Blanchettophiles who incorrectly view me as a hater (because I don't unconditionally love and because I often dread second Oscars when so few deserving greats have even one), I've devoted today's Thursday Triple at my other blogging gig to performances of hers that I think are undervalued. Enjoy.

Wednesday, September 19, 2007


I would like to see these movies right now. Please and thanks.

I do not wish to wait until October 2nd, October 6th and December 7th respectively.

Tuesday, September 18, 2007

An American in Toronto: Post-Mortem

Steve reporting on the Toronto International Film Festival

So I'm back in America now. (Truth be told, I've been back in America since last Saturday -- in fact, my last update was posted from my home computer... but now I'm spoiling the illusion). TIFF is but a sweet memory. Yet where have we been, really? Let's look back and see what good that Fest Pass really did.

Top 5 films: 1) Silent Light (Carlos Reygaydas)
2) My Kid Could Paint That (Amir Bar-Lev)
3) Stuck (Stuart Gordon)
4) My Winnipeg (Guy Maddin)
5) 4 Months, 3 Weeks and 2 Days (Cristian Mungiu)

Worst film: Christian Frosch's dreadful, incoherent sci-fi slagpile Silent Resident.

<-- Best lead actor: Martin Freeman in Nightwatching. (Runner-up: Guillaume Depardieu in The Duchess of Langelais.)

Best lead actress: Inés Efron in XXY. (Runner-up: Anamaria Marinca in 4 Months, 3 Weeks and 2 Days.)

Best supporting actor: Vlad Ivanov in 4 Months, 3 Weeks and 2 Days. (Runner-up: François Berléand in A Girl Cut in Two.)

Best supporting actress: Ann Savage for My Winnipeg. (Runner-up: Laura Vasilu in 4 Months, 3 Weeks and 2 Days.)

Worst acting, any division: Jaime King trying to look distraught in They Wait. (Runner-up: The rich kid in the mummy outfit in Diary of the Dead.)

Best direction: Carlos Reygadas for Silent Light. (Runner-up: Hou Hsiao-Hsien for Flight of the Red Balloon.)

Best cinematography: Silent Light. (Runner-up: Eat, for This Is My Body.)

Number of films seen: 36

Number of films liked: 19

Number of films walked out on: 2 -- Takashi Miike's Sukiyaki Western Django (I fell asleep) and Ulrich Seidl's Import Export (the forty minutes I saw didn't convince me that it would be about anything other than how Austria and Eastern Europe are the most awful places in the world).

Number of films to which I had tickets but skipped seeing: 7 -- Lee Myeung-se's M (terrible buzz), Doug Pray's Surfwise (arrived late), Julian Schnabel's The Diving Bell and the Butterfly (napped), Ben Hackworth's Corroboree (napped), Jacob Thuesen's Erik Nietzsche: The Early Years (packing), Jiang Wen's The Sun Also Rises (left a day early) and Alexandre Bustillo & Julien Maury's Inside (ditto).

Film I most regret missing: Until the last couple days of the fest, it was Lee Chang-dong's Secret Sunshine, but after a late surge of great notices, it's now José Luis Guerín's In the City of Sylvia.

Film I least regret missing: Either Nothing Is Private or The Jane Austen Book Club, take your pick.

--> Number of times I told people that Silent Light was my favorite film of the festival: At least twice a day after Day 4.

Number of times that was greeted with, "What's that?": About half the time.

Number of trips to the liquor store: Just one, surprisingly.

Number of days I rejoiced in not driving my car: All nine, baby.

Number of nights in which I got over five hours sleep: Two. And one of them was the pre-fest night.

Number of cups of coffee drank: Somewhere between 25 and 30 (I lost count).

Number of beers consumed: 18

Number of beers consumed in completing this rundown: Only one, but it's a big one -- Avery The Beast Grand Cru Ale 2006. 14.6% ABV will get words a-flowin'.

And that should just about do it for me... thanks for reading, folks. And thanks again, Nathaniel, for letting me blather on as I have. It's been fun.

Meg Ryan Gets Lucky: Now Allowed to Stand Next to Annette Bening

<-- The photographic evidence!

I believe the two stars are in character here on the set of the remake of The Women (filming in Boston). How else to explain Meg's hideous wardrobe?

Still, how does that even explain it. Annette Bening is playing the quippy 'Sylvia Fowler' (Roz Russell in the original). Meg Ryan's got the plum lead 'Mrs. Stephen Haines' (Norma Shearer). Now Mrs. Haines wasn't quite as glam as her frenemies in the bitch goddess classic but she never would have been caught dead in this getup. The hair looks like an homage to Carrie Bradshaw (circa '98), the top is totally "Papa Don't Preach" (circa '86), and the skirt is (gasp) ankle length. It's very Big polygamist Love.

Is Mrs. Haines now a cosmo-sipping Madonna wannabe Mormon ?!?

There's no costume designer listed on the IMDB but maybe they're a fan of the original catfight classic and sabotaging it from within? At least they've got a sense of humor: please note the "jungle red" belt.

For those of you who have no idea what the hell I'm talking about, I think it's time you rented the 1939 movie, don't you? Because believe me: The Bening, a remake of one of my favorites, and an all female cast. You'll be hearing more about this one.

A Guide to Recognizing You're Channing Tatum

Are you confused about whether or not you are Channing Tatum? If so, here's a simple guide to help you recognize.

Are you morally, physically... aesthetically opposed to wearing shirts?

Do you actually look younger with your head shaved?

Would you rather be modelling??

Do the simplest things confuse you???

Do you find that you can make everything about you?
(Like, say, when you're helping your friend choreograph her senior dance project and you give yourself the big solo in the middle of it. Or like when you're merely a supporting player --excuse me-- playa in a movie starring another young rising star and a hugely acclaimed comeback actor and your part isn't really bigger than the other supporting players (a double Oscar winner and a nominee), and yet you still make the DVD menu all about yourself)

If you answered to most of these questions, you are probably Channing Tatum!

still tampering...

...with the updated Oscar race prediction charts. If you see anything I miss (just noticed I hadn't added some Into the Wild and Diving Bell stuff) feel free to comment or send tips.

Monday, September 17, 2007

This is a Post and I am Linking It

Nick Davis gives out halfway there awards, before diving into fall cinema
Cinematical France chooses Persepolis as their Oscar submission
I Watch Stuff falls under the unstoppable spell of Juno: The Trailer
Big Screen Little Screen "full frontal week"
GreenCine an interview with Viggo Mortenson and David Cronenberg on Eastern Promises. They're my new favorite director/actor pair since Uma & QT will give us only one movie a decade and both Haynes and Anderson have left Julianne Moore behind (well, mostly). Sorry. Tangent. You're all going to see Promises on Friday, right? It's really good
Bright Lights rethinking your opinion on a film (in this case Elah)
Rob Scheer drops my favorite line in a film review this week. On Mr. Woodcock...
this is a movie and I am watching it
Four Emmy tidbits
1. The Gilded Moose "The Emmys in Zero Words or Less"
2. <--- Look. La Pfeiffer @ The Emmys (now if only she were such a reliable fixture @ the Oscars)
3. Read Roger has a fun little bit about why the Emmys aren't as respected as the Oscars
4. So I'm reading Daily Variety's recap this morning. Reporter Michael Schneider calls America Ferrerra's win for Ugly Betty "one of the biggest surprises of the night" Seriously now Michael... that's just whack reporting unless that was a late sneak entry to the Bizarro Blog-a-Thon. How is America Ferrara winning something a surprise? We're talking about the same 'America's Sweetheart' America right? ...Headlining a huge hit, winning other trophies, flavor of the year. Come on.

Festival stuff
Shooting Down Pictures , Anne Thompson and Girish wrap up their TIFF experiences.
And lookie here...

Yes, yours truly is covering the NYFF for Awards Daily and my own site The Film Experience. Watch out for those posts coming soon. And, my god, whatever will I wear to screenings when I'm forced into adorning a pink badge with red lanyard? Ouch my eyes!


I'm feeling weirdly anti post-making this morning. So while I do other things, watch Sally Field's Emmy speech. I hope this is not a curse on Brothers & Sisters. Consider: Sela Ward's emmy for Once & Again stayed awfully lonely. I'm not comparing the shows ... just the actress win thing. Once & Again was among television's very finest ever. B&S is more of a 'finest currently' situation with a slight side order of guilt for enjoying it immensely despite its unarguable hysteria about itself and what you might be thinking about it.

And that's all I have to say about the Emmys because I don't watch.

Sunday, September 16, 2007

An American in Toronto: Days 5-9 (Doldrums and Exhaustion)

Steve reporting from the Toronto International Film Festival

The hectic Toronto pace caught up with me. That's my excuse, and I'm sticking to it, mainly because it's the truth. The grind of hustling from theater to theater and sticking out one film after another while forgoing sleep wore me down in more ways than one -- on the 13th, I ended up seeing exactly two films. But there's more than that -- once I got past Day 5, the highs and lows, the films about which to get passionate, kind of dissipated and I was stuck watching one mediocrity after another. Still, I promised coverage, so coverage will be given. Even if it's half-assed, bleary-eyed coverage.

So here it is: a big, unpolished List o' Film that covers everything I saw from September 10th to 14th. The list goes in ascending order, so skip to the bottom if you're merely curious about what might have been good.

Exodus (Pang Ho-cheung): An okay short film turned torturous by the extension to feature length. Simon Yam plays a downtrodden cop who is told by a man arrested for voyeurism in a public women's bathroom about a female plot to exterminate all men; unfortunately, that plot, which in another film would make for a cracking B-movie, gets expressed via endless sequences of Yam skulking around, stalking the man, starting a relationship with the man's ex-wife, ignoring his own wife, etc. Yam's forceful charisma gets quashed by the thorough dullness of the character, and Pang's workmanlike direction does him no favors either. The very definition of a GUNDAN Movie.

Sad Vacation (Shinji Aoyama): Aoyama's films, of the ones I've seen, generally deal with people finding ways to deal with tragedy and horror in their lives; he's just never expressed said theme in such a lame way before. Story wanders, gets stuck in dead ends (what the hell is with the flameout on the subplot with the kid?), generally goes nowhere as slowly as possible. Aoyama's direction is surprisingly bland, lacking even the slightest hint of the dynamic visual sense that distinguished Eureka and Eli, Eli, Lema Sabachtani?. Even Tadanobu Asano, who is usually way more awesome than he is here, can't save this meandering dross.

Redacted (Brian De Palma): I wonder if De Palma realizes that he already made this film with Casualties of War and that it was a lot better without the multimedia verite clumsiness. Also, I wonder if De Palma knows that he keeps muddling his own message (i.e. the awful YouTube thing at the end, which I think is supposed to represent the gradual radicalism of youth culture but merely makes anti-war proponents look like ignorant, ill-educated, reactionary jackasses). I admire the intent, but I'm not sure reducing a complex and troubling issue to a black-and-white morality play inhabited by tortured noble folks and evil straw men is quite the way one should register one's disgust.

Help Me Eros (Lee Kang-sheng): Alternate title: Lee Kang-sheng Likes Pot and Sex But Especially Pot. Lee demonstrates that he's learned a thing or two about quiet pacing and image-making from his frequent director Tsai Ming-liang (the light show that plays off the bodies of the participants in a menage a trois is pretty cool); however, the lethargy and aimlessness that infects his main character is allowed to creep into the fabric of the film itself. Narcotized is the right word, I think.

Dr. Plonk (Rolf de Heer): The recreation of silent-film comedy technique is pretty impressive. All the technique in the world, though, can't make this funny. A bit too leisurely for my tastes, really -- I prefer the more frantic stylings of Buster Keaton.

Glory to the Filmmaker! (Takeshi Kitano): What the holy hell IS this thing? Completely insane knockabout comedy has several laugh-out-loud moments (my favorite being Kitano reacting to an evil spirit) but becomes wearying when its shapelessness becomes apparent. Some structure -- even a little bit -- would have helped this feel like more than a hazy collection of gags and non sequitors. There's no question that Kitano, at this point, is doing exactly what he wants, and that's cool, but he's doing it at the expense of the audience.

Dai Nipponjin (Hitoshi Matsumoto): Melancholic comedy in a mock-doc style, about a hangdog middle-aged screw-up who occasionally transforms into a skyscraper-tall superhero and battles "baddies," has some funny moments courtesy of Matsumoto's pitch-perfect performance in the title role. The big CGI sequences detailing the epic battles, though, generally kill the film's momentum, and there's no earthly reason that a lark like this should stretch to two hours. The best sequence is at the end, when the style of the film shifts to great effect; unfortunately, like everything else in the film, it's allowed to go on too long.

The Girl in the Park (David Auburn): Lots of good acting from Sigourney Weaver, Alessandro Nivola, Elias Koteas and even Kate Bosworth (an actress I generally despise) in this drama about a woman, damaged by her daughter's fifteen-years-prior disappearance, who forges a strange connection with a young layabout. However, though there's a lot I like about playwright David Auburn's directorial debut, I never bought the central relationship between Weaver and Bosworth for a second, and as such the film never quite convinces. Best scene: Bosworth regaling a fifteen-year-old boy at a party with a long, sordid invented life history. Worst scene: The long dinner sequence immediately following that scene.

Honeydripper (John Sayles): Exactly like Casa de Los Babys, the last Sayles film I saw -- nicely acted, sensitively written, intelligent and completely inert. I doubt I'll remember this film in two months' time. Whatever happened to the guy who gave us Lone Star and Limbo?

Mad Detective (Johnnie To & Wai Ka Fai): Like most of Johnnie To's films, this has a fabulous opening sequence. And like most of To's films, this never tops its opening sequence. Interesting for a while, but eventually buckles under the weight of its overloaded premise (a detective solves crimes by seeing people's "inner personalities"). Some streamlining might have helped, but nothing could have helped the jejune broken-mirror symbolism, which hasn't been fresh since Dario Argento flogged the hell out of it in the '70s.

The Last Mistress (Catherine Breillat): Breillat's first film since a near-fatal affliction that put her out of commission for several years sees her rendering her traditionally fiery gender politics in a more muted tone. Has many sharply observant moments and a properly fierce lead performance from Asia Argento; the second hour, though, is a bit redundant. Also, it's not Breillat's fault, but her film suffers in proximity to Rivette's The Duchess of Langelais, which has practically the same plot. Still pretty good, at any rate, with a perfect final cut.

Nightwatching (Peter Greenaway): Looks like Greenaway is ready to come back to Earth after The Tulse Luper Suitcases -- this biopic centered around the circumstances that led to Rembrandt's creation "The Night Watch" is, by Greenaway's standards, an accessible and traditional work of historical drama. By anyone else's standards, though, it's still pretty nutty, with an overtly theatrical approach to the staging, a thick atmosphere of hysteria and conspiracy and a preponderance of breasts and penises. Loses a little thrust when it abandons Greenaway's unsparing, earthy sense of humor and gets serious in the second hour, but worth consideration anyway as the promising return of a wayward master. Martin Freeman's exuberant, lusty performance as Rembrandt would be a starmaker in any other world.

Eat, for This Is My Body (Michelangelo Quay): Heavily symbolic rumination on the effects of Haitian colonization is beautifully filmed but a bit obscure and contains some shocking mixed messages. (Surely the scene with the children and the cake can't be saying what I think it's saying?) Fortunately, it sorts itself out about halfway through; it takes some time to understand what it's getting at, but it's worth the wait. This one's stuck in my memory, and I kind of hope I get a chance to see it again. Sylvie Testud makes a striking impression despite saying maybe twenty words total. Caveat emptor: There were more walkouts at this screening than at any other I attended.

A Girl Cut in Two (Claude Chabrol): Shockingly, this is my first exposure to Chabrol, and this makes me want to explore further -- it's a seductive and sneakily decadent tale of a woman caught between two rich men. Proceeds like a light comedy of manners until a certain fade-out halfway through, at which point it slips through the back door of suspense. The last ten minutes leave a bad taste, even viewed through the prism of upper-class exploitation of willing lower-class citizens, but I'd be lying if I said I wasn't entertained.

Paranoid Park (Gus Van Sant): Gorgeous meditation on states of physical being by Van Sant, who directs this thing for all it's worth. Bears superficial similarities to Elephant, but unlike that film Van Sant uses his non-chronological structure and sound design to implicitly takes a moral stance against the kind of teenaged apathy that leads to what happens here. Lead performance a bit deficient, but the rest of the cast performs admirably in a Bressonian-model sort of way.

Encounters at the End of the World (Werner Herzog): Herzog, one of my favorite filmmakers, keeps his late-career resurgence humming along with this smashing documentary at a research station in Antarctica that, among other things, functions as a somewhat grumpier yet still intoxicating companion piece to his strange and mournful The Wild Blue Yonder. The bizarre and beautiful visuals that Herzog seems to attract are plentiful (like the shots from inside a lava crater); unexpectedly, this is also funnier than most things that pass for comedy in modern cinema. The scene where Herzog hassles the penguin expert with hilariously inappropriate questions is, in itself, worth the film's length. That it also serves as a lead-in to a funny yet poignant image seems appropriate.

You, the Living (Roy Andersson): The knock on this is that it's very, very similar to Andersson's earlier chunk of mordantly deadpan wit Songs from the Second Floor. To which I can only reply: Yes, and? Two similarly awesome films are better than one, right?

Stuck (Stuart Gordon): I generally like Gordon, but if someone had told me that Gordon's new film, arriving with no expectations, would better the new films by Romero, Kitano or Argento, I probably wouldn't have believed you. (Well, maybe that last one.) What Gordon has done here is take the bizarre true-life case of Chante Mallard, the nurse who drove home with a homeless man she had hit stuck in her windshield and left him to die in her garage, and spin it out into a gruesome, blackly funny horror film in which the monster is towering self-involvement. Gets as much mileage as can be gotten out of its premise, with complications and screwy plot developments keeping interest fresh and tension high, and Gordon never lets the pace flag once Stephen Rea flies through the glass. Rea exudes desperate determination as the man in the window, while Mena Suvari perfectly portrays the type of blinkered obliviousness and concern for one's one station above all others that would be necessary for this sort of thing to seem okay. Builds more momentum and gets more amazing the further down it follows its diseased muse until the brutal showdown finale, where it transcends onto some generally-unexplored plain of tough-minded B-movie nirvana. If I haven't made it clear enough yet: This movie is freakin' awesome.

Miscellany and wrap-up tomorrow...

Post TIFF Oscar Update

The prediction updates are complete --did some minor and major reshuffling. At this point every year the awards gurus all think they know more than they do (I include myself in that mix of know-lessers): some films will rebound or gain unexpected momentum, some will stumble awkwardly. Box office results, media pets, good and bad campaigns, top ten lists --everything goes into the pot to make that Oscar season stew. For tonight at least I've lost my appetite. Must sleep. (Pssst. The Foreign Film pages will arrive this week. Sorry for the long wait)

Saturday, September 15, 2007

The End of TIFF

Ali reporting from the Toronto International Film Festival

The closing of TIFF each year brings an assortment of mixed feelings. Many festival goers wish the festival could barrel on for weeks and weeks, but there is a thing as too much stimulation. One can only survive on a diet of movies and caffeine for so long (haven't you heard? There's no time to actually eat solids or sleep during the nine days, silly.) I've certainly reached my limit in the last few days, even if some TIFF regulars would scoff at my paltry twenty-film count. All I know is, I've been falling asleep practically everywhere: on the bus, during films, in the middle of conversations... so it's been nice to have some regularity back in my life since Saturday. Things I will certainly miss: early morning screenings, seeing the Oscar bait early, eavesdropping on conversations in lineups, and the joy of "discovering" an obscure film every now and then. Things I will not: commuting stress, lack of sleep, bad movies, leg cramps from walking/standing all day, people kicking my chair, and having to accommodate classes in between screenings.

So... I know that I have a lot of work cut out for me, not only trying to cram four days' worth of coverage into one post, but also providing some final thoughts on the end of the festival. But I'm not going to try and write a review or capsule on every film I've watched since Monday, because we'd be here forever.

Ask me about them if you need more:

Just Buried (Thorne) - Clearly indebted to "Six Feet Under", this dark comedy tries too hard; Jay Baruchel flounders, Rose Byrne shines. C

Sleuth (Branagh) - Haven't seen the original, but this version is lots of fun with Caine and Law better than they've been in years. Perhaps it doesn't leave you with much, but those eighty-six minutes pass like fifteen. B

Margot at the Wedding (Baumbach) - Kidman and Leigh fantastic, biting one-liners galore; but feels overly familiar, with an awful climax/ending on top of it all. C+

The Diving Bell and the Butterfly (Schnabel) - Lookatme fussy direction, but still kind of impressive on that count. The first third is most valuable, unfolding solely through the perspective of Jean-Dominique Bauby, but becomes overly sentimental and dependent on flashbacks as it goes on. C+

Reservation Road (George) - Ghastly tragedy-mourning-revenge picture in the tradition of Todd Field's infinitely better In the Bedroom, there's nothing to discover here if you've already seen the trailer or know about the plot. Joaquin Pheonix is unwatchable, Mira Sorvino gets no scope. D

I'm Not There (Haynes) - I know nothing about Dylan and was still enthralled, start to finish. Blanchett, Bale and Whishaw are especially good (along with their respective threads), while Ledger and Gere are the most shaky. B+

The Last Lear (Ghosh) - Known as Amitabh Bachchan's first-ever English-speaking role, the revered Indian actor overcompensates and is too rehearsed. The film's pleasures then are restricted to a chamber piece segment involving Preity Zinta, Shefali Shah and Divya Dutta. Monsoon Wedding's Shah is the stand-out here as a jealous, cooped-up housewife. B

Celebrity sightings over the past few days: Noah Baumbach, Jennifer Jason Leigh, Chris Cooper (passed by him walking up Bay St.), Alan Alda (promoting his new book at Indigo), and Todd Haynes.

... goes to Cronenberg's Eastern Promises. Each year, the results of the PCA never cease to astound me, and this time is no different. First of all, it's baffling as to how they tally up these results and declare a winner; if a film screens at a tiny venue like the Cumberland twice (a couple of hundred seats), how could it ever compete with another that screens at Roy Thompson Hall or the Elgin (2500+ seats)? And secondly, since when did Eastern Promises emerge as some sort of crowd pleaser? When I saw Jason Reitman's Juno in the runner-up slot, things made a lot more sense... even if it makes me a little dead inside. People have been talking about this one non-stop ever since its first showing on Saturday, and I'm sure Fox Searchlight is going to do a fantastic job releasing it (see trailer here).

I've been following the Oscar discussion re: Cate's chances with a lot of interest, and thought I'd comment on it here. First, I did not see The Golden Age at TIFF, but I can tell you that she is definitely in for the Todd Haynes film. It's all people could talk about before the screening, during the screening and after the screening. When she made her first appearance, the auditorium went abuzz with whispering ("Is that her?") and laughed appreciatively at all the right parts. Even if the picture as a whole went over their heads, all I could hear was variations on "Cate Blanchett was amaaaaaaazing" in the lobby afterwards. She certainly has all the ingredients: a dash of stunt casting, a sprinkle of real-life personality and a generous helping of (inevitable) critical raves/prizes. I don't know if the Oscar is a definite thing (yet), but having won only three years before certainly won't hurt her. When the Academy loves you (see Sally Field, Jodie Foster, Dianne Wiest, Hilary Swank), they really love you.

TIFF 2007 - My Personal Awards
Best Film: 4 Months, 3 Weeks and 2 Days (runner-up: I'm Not There)
Best Director: Todd Haynes, I'm Not There (runner-up: Cristi Mungiu, 4 Months, 3 Weeks and 2 Days)
Best Actress: Anamaria Marinca, 4 Months, 3 Weeks and 2 Days (runner-up: Jennifer Jason Leigh, Margot at the Wedding)
Best Actor: Michael Caine, Sleuth (runner-up: Jude Law, Sleuth)
Best Screenplay: Cristian Nemescu and Tudor Voican, California Dreamin' (Endless) (runner-up: Tony Gilroy, Michael Clayton)
Best Cinematography: Fred Keleman, The Man from London (runner-up: Edward Lachman, I'm Not There)

Worst Film: Nothing is Private
Most Overrated Film: Juno
Worst Director: Alan Ball, Nothing is Private
Worst Performance
: Joaquin Pheonix, Reservation Road
Most Overrated Performance: Ellen Page, Juno

Thanks for putting up with my erratic posting over the last week and a bit, folks! And thanks to Nathaniel for his generosity and understanding - it was a pleasure writing for The Film Experience.

/goes back to sleep.