Wednesday, October 31, 2007

Taking The "Scar" Out Of "Scary"

Happy Halloween, my lil’ ghouls and goblins! JA from MNPP here, all awash in the Horrible Holiday’s spirit. A little too awash, actually, if you caught the zombie-licious post (warning: that link leads to all manner of gruesomeness) I did over in My…Pants today. Which got me thinking – that sort of thing is fine for my own turf, but here at The Film Experience I think Nat might appreciate it if I kept things a little less… well, entrail-y.

There are all kinds of Scary Movie lists all over this week, and to be honest, after spending all day yesterday scouring a stack of DVDs for scenes of flesh being gouged and ripped and shredded with teeth, I don’t have the strength/mind-set/sanity left to do something terribly in-depth of that sort again. But as I know y’all know, horror’s not just about splattering the screen with all manner of viscera. If you look at all these Scary Movie lists you’ll see that some – hell, a lot – of the films considered The Scariest don’t show you much, if anything, at all.

So in these films honor, and on this unholiest of days, here are my five favorite moments in a few of the horror films considered the ultimate examples of the genre that show us pretty much nothing at all but crawl under our skin something bad all the same.

Psycho (1960) – The Shower Scene
A big duh on this one, I know, but it had to be included. So much has been said for so many years about Hitch’s use of editing to imply violence here when we don’t actually ever see any, ahem, penetration, that I’ll refrain from repeating what we all already know. I know a lot of people revere the film but no longer find themselves scared by it, but I swear to Alma I expect a shadowy bewigged figure to loom upon the other side of the shower curtain almost every damned time I’m showering myself. Hitch would be so pleased.

The Texas Chain Saw Massacre (1974) – The Meat Hook
We all know, at this point, that this film is practically explicit-violence free, right? I think it bears repeating. We see Leatherface lift Pam in the direction of the hook. We see her dangling there. We hear the sound of the chainsaw going at her boyfriend. We see her screaming. And… that’s about it. Tobe Hooper puts the pieces into place and our brains fill in the rest.

Halloween (1978) – The Race For The Door
I’m fairly certain you don’t see a single drop of blood in all of Halloween but, even if there is a stray bead on a knife or something somewhere within the film, my favorite part of the film doesn’t even have any violence, implied or otherwise, in it. Our Final Girl Laurie Strode has escaped the house across the way, wherein Michael Myers has lovingly laid out her friend’s corpses in silly configurations just for her, and vaults herself straight into what I consider to be one of the most tense sequences ever put on film. She runs to the neighbor’s house, pounds on the door screaming for help, and they shut the lights out on her. She runs to the house in which she’s staying, and the door’s locked. She can’t find the keys. Michael Myers’ figure appears across the street now and is coming straight towards her. The kids are upstairs, sleeping. A potted plant is thrown. A groggy little boy slowly makes his way to the door. Michael Myers is still coming. Ahhhhh!!!! I’ve seen this sequence probably twenty-plus times and it gets my heart racing every single viewing.

The Blair Witch Project – The Basement
I know this is as divisive a horror film as there is out there – people seem to either worship it or absolutely loathe it. Well I’m a lover, and the final scene of this film is another instance where it doesn’t matter how many times I’ve seen it and know the outcome; as the camera scans those kiddie-prints on the walls and Heather goes deeper and deeper into the house - and the wailing – I find myself inching away from the screen every time, as if whatever I’m not seeing just off frame is actually going to end up in the room with me in the end. I’d go so far as to say that Blair Witch is the modern equivalent to my next choice, actually, as the scariest film in which we see really and truly absolutely nothing at all.

The Haunting (1963) – Something’s At The Door
Save two quick jump-inducing shots of figures coming out of nowhere, what do we actually see to scare us so in Robert Wise’s The Haunting? We see… the inside of a door!!!! And… ceiling beams!!! The terror! Yet, aided by the greatest horror sound-design ever – runner up: poor little Regan’s voice, of course – and a camera that seems as if it’s going to crawl right inside the wood grain, this specific scene – Theo and poor little Eleanor huddled on the bed together, staring at… the door!!! – is completely horrifying.

Tell me in the comments: What’s your favorite example of a film scaring you without showing you anything at all? And how scary is it that every single one of these films have been remade except for Blair Witch; give me your guesstimates for how long until Blair Witch follows suit? It's eight years old now - basically ancient!

Test your "NathanielQ"

How long have you been visiting The Film Experience? Consider yourself an expert on film or the proprietor of this site? Ready to prove it?

While he’s off working on personal matters, I thought it would be fun to test everyone’s movie-related “NathanielQ.”

1. Nathaniel hails from:

a. Kansas
b. A closed-door meeting between Robert Wise, Jerome Robbins and Natalie Wood. They were discussing a West Side Story sequel, but astutely realized Nat would bring more joy to the world
c. Michigan
d. A random thought that Julianne Moore had on a bright spring day during her childhood

2. Actressexuality is:

a. A tendency to sleep with actresses
b. Considered an addiction
c. A mild skin condition that can be cleared up with calamine lotion
d. Someone with a female actress preference

3. Nathaniel's favorite movie of all time is:

a. Moulin Rouge!
b. West Side Story
c. Shrek
d. Belle du Jour

4. “She who must not be named” is:

a. The villain from “Harry Potter”
b. Renee Zellweger
c. Hilary Swank
d. Too terrible to mention here

5. Nathaniel is sometimes mistaken for:

a. Lance Bass
b. Channing Tatum
c. Anthony Michael Hall
d. K-Fed

Extra Credit:

Nathaniel is given the opportunity to interview and have dinner with Michelle Pfieffer, Meryl Streep and Julianne Moore. He'll have plenty of time to chat and ask questions, but there's a catch: Beforehand he must spend 3 months on a deserted island with no movies except either the Hilary Swank or Renee Zellweger collection.

What would he do?
What would you do?

20:07 (A Woman in Trouble)

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 WinDVD

JEREMY IRONS [voiceover]: This script, this world we're going to plunge into—if we all play our role, do our best, if we work hard together... well, this could be the one. This is a star-maker if ever I saw one. You'll see. I think we have a chance to pull it off. What do you say?

I couldn't avoid it. I couldn't go with anything else. I worked for over an hour on a different banquet of 20:07 images for today, and I'll probably still share them tomorrow. But it is Halloween, and nothing in recent memory, or perhaps ever, has spooked me as badly in a movie theater as INLAND EMPIRE did. The first time I saw it, I screamed at least twice, somehow managed not to jump into Goatdog's lap, exited the theater into a back street at midnight, and cried on the bus on the way home. The second time I saw it, I screamed at least twice, the same two times. (If you've seen the movie, no points for guessing when.) The third time I saw it, I took 14 pages of notes, partly to start working on an essay about the movie, partly to insulate myself just a smidge against total psychosis.

Though the image isn't exactly definitive (though what image from this movie would be?), I love that 20:07 pinpoints this particular moment in the script: the moment where "Nikki Grace" commits herself completely to "Susan Blue," who may or may not be the same person as herself, and which therefore may or may not entail a terrorizing pledge of allegiance against her own well-being, even her own reality. Also the moment where the full ride of Laura Dern's performance really begins; and the moment where INLAND EMPIRE raises its own stakes as a "plunge" worth taking, as the "one" movie that Lynch fans have been begging him to make in the five long years since Mulholland Dr. Clearly we do have to "work hard together" with this movie if we're going to get anything out of it, but there's so, so, so much to be gotten. Trick or treat? Both, I think.

LAURA DERN: I'm tellin' you, it was a night like any other night.

If you rent or buy the DVD of INLAND EMPIRE, you gain access to 75 more minutes of extra footage, or what Lynch dubs "More Things That Happened." I haven't waded through all these expansions and effluvia yet; everything I read assures me that no "explanation" of INLAND EMPIRE arises from these sequences. I do love that, in another glorious and fortuitous surprise of this feature that Nathaniel dreamed up, the Nikki pinpointed at 20:07 of the bonus disc is the polar-opposite Nikki of the ambitious Hollywood glamor gal we find at 20:07 of the theatrical version. Oh, that Nikki—always somehow exposing at least two sides of herself at, quite literally, the same time. As she so mellifluously puts it, "That's the kind of shit I'm talking about."

As for "a night like any other night"? I don't think so, Nikki/Susan/Laura/David.

And as for you, here's wishing you a happy-scary night unlike any other night.

Tuesday, October 30, 2007

Tuesday Top Ten: Wigs

tuesday top ten: a weekly series for the list lover in you and the list maker in me

Time for the Tuesday countdown. In celebration of Halloween, this week's list focuses on a subject that's been on my mind since screening the notably "wiggy" Elizabeth: The Golden Age in which Cate Blanchett emoted beneath a parade of hair pieces. Thus, I give you:

Top Ten Movie Wigs

10 "Hedwig" in Hedwig and the Angry Inch (2001)
John Cameron Mitchell's German rocker grabbed that "Wig in a Box," helping to kick-off the return of the movie musical with style. The Farrah Fawcett hairdo, with an edge.

09 "Amadeus" in Amadeus (1984)
I'd like to consider Tom Hulce's Mozart a distant relation to Hedwig. They certainly share a certain flair when it comes to wigging out.

08 "Ron Burgundy" in Anchorman: The Legend of Ron Burgundy (2004)
Will Ferrell has made his career through kitschy bad hair. In the case of this smug portrayal of a 1970s news anchor, his hairpiece (it is a rug, right?) is frighteningly similar to one my father used to wear.

07 "Bernadette," "Mitzi" and "Felicia" in The Adventures of Priscilla, Queen of the Desert(1994) The costumes took the prize at the Oscars, but each of these lovely drag queens (brilliantly embodied by Terence Stamp, Hugo Weaving and Guy Pearce, respectively) topped their sparkly duds off with fantastic and outrageous faux hair.

06 Owen Wilson as himself in anything. Yes, I know he's not wearing a wig, but he makes the list because he's got the kind of hair I'd most like to see copied by others hoping for that perfect crown of California sunshine. Farrah, eat your heart out.

05 "Hobbits, Elves, Wizards and Men" in The Lord of the Rings (2001, 2002, 2003)
Whether it was the eighties-like curly mullets sported by the Hobbits, the "never had a bad hair day, EVER" tresses of the Elves, the unruly locks of "Galdalf the Grey" (replaced by the sleek style of "Gandalf the White," who apparently discovered conditioner when he made his return), or the greasy rocker look of "Aragorn," nearly every character in the trilogy was be-wigged.

04 "Elizabeth" in Elizabeth: The Golden Age (2007)
Immediately after a screening of this film, I declared that the film should have been called "Elizabeth: A Wig for all Seasons." My personal favorite was her long and luxurious look for battle. It went so well with that shiny armour.

03 "Marie Antoinette" in Marie Antoinette (2006) Living the decadent lifestyle as the doomed French queen, Kirsten Dunst and her royal gal pals wear wigs that are as tasty looking as a beautifully layered cake.

02 "Velma Von Tussle" in Hairspray (1988)
No disrespect to Michelle Pfeiffer's '07 incarnation, but Debbie Harry's Velma has one of the most gloriously loopy wigs in movie history.

01 "Mia Wallace" in Pulp Fiction (1994)
While there are certainly more outrageous movie wigs, Uma Thurman's black-haired bob (an update of the stunning look made famous by silent star Louise Brooks) is the most iconic. I think I have a special affinity for the 'do, since it turned into my lazy Halloween costume option during the mid 1990s.

Which fake hairdo is most inspiring to you? What movie-themed wigs have you sported on Halloween in the past and which one will it be this year?

DVDs: Spidey, Stanwyck, And A Slice Of Cherry Pie

Howdy folks! JA from MNPP here, bringing you the dish on what DVDs are arriving today at the local Stop 'N Shop for that most All-American of pastimes: the pursuit of unfettered consumerism.

Spider-Man 3 - I wasn't as derisive towards this third installment of the web-slinging series as most - for one, I enjoyed the goofiness of Peter Parker's emo-slide into the evils of hair-dye and musical sequences - but I'll certainly admit it's the sloppiest and least satisfying of the trio. What worried us fans beforehand - too many villains! - turned out to be the case, and the film feels rushed like a shoddy superhero suit, bursting its seams. Edna Mode would have had none of this nonsense.

Talk To Me - Don Cheadle and 'Chewie' Ejiofor (he lets me call him 'Chewie', by the way) spar as real-life D.C. radio personality "Petey" Green and his producer Dewey Hughes, respectively. Directed by the terrific Kasi Lemmons (Eve's Bayou).

El Cantante - I had nothing to say about this when it came out in theaters; I have nothing to say about this now that it's on DVD. I just hope it means I'll never have to watch J-Lo shake her behind in my face ever again. It does, right? Right???

Boob Tube Box-sets - Big day for TV-on-DVD lovers!
Twin Peaks: The Definitive Gold Box Edition - I've been waiting for this entire series to come onto DVD for years. I've never seen a single episode, nor Fire Walks With Me; I've been waiting for the entire run to become available. So I'm tinkled pink that the day's finally arrived that I can now know what the hell a Log Lady is.

My So-Called Life: The Complete Series - This came out in a super-expensive box-set a few years back that's been basically impossible to get one's hands on for about as many years, so this lower-priced re-release (of sorts - it looks like there are new extras added on, including an audio commentary by Angela Chase herself!) will mark the first time I'll see the episodes since their initial run, wherein I fell hopelessly in love with Jordan "So you, like, read and stuff?" Catalano... I fear the power of that old flame could consume me once again.

From The Vaults
Barbara Stanwyck: The Signature Collection - How crucified will I be for admitting on this site that I'm fairly certain I've only seen a single Barbara Stanwyck film (that being Double Indemnity)? I know for certain that I've seen none of the films on this set, which includes Annie Oakley, East Side, West Side, My Reputation, Executive Suite, Jeopardy and To Please A Lady.

So tell me about her in the comments. What should I see? What am I missing here?

20:07 (Year-Old Scares)

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 WinDVD

You think it's dark when you turn out the lights? Well, down there, it's pitch black. You can get dehydration, disorientation, claustrophobia, panic attacks, paranoia, hallucinations, visual and aural deterioration...

That discussion yesterday about alternate movie "horrors"—elegant horrors, horrors that linger, horrors of the spirit and the wallet and the government and the land—got me realizing how much more often those are the horrors that continue to trouble me after I leave the theater.

Don't get me wrong, now: I am a screamer. Sudden noises, things that go bump, things that jump, subterranean albino beasties that munch on pith-helmeted girls: I will scream at all of it. So here's The Descent (my review here) to commemorate one of the superior straightforward scarefests of the last couple of years. I haven't attributed these words to their particular speaker, warbling her precautions in voiceover. She's one of the sisters. I don't remember her name, and even fans of The Descent never claimed that character delineation was the movie's strongest suit. I'll tell you this: the speaker is not the Main One or the Shady Leader or the One Who Gets Pick-Axed By Mistake or The One Who Was in The Magdalene Sisters (more horror!). She's one of the other two.

Does it really even matter? Don't fret about who she is, just listen to what she says, because it isn't just the cave that delivers on all her Cassandra-like promises—it's the movie, too. I don't remember feeling dehydrated during The Descent (nothing a little Mountain Dew couldn't handle), but disorientation? Check. Claustrophobia? Check. Panic attacks, paranoia, halluncinations? ✓ ✓ ✓ Visual and aural deterioration, though? No. The movie looks spectacular, and though I quibbled with the sound mix and the score, the whole pic, if we wanna indulge some Varietyspeak, is definitely a thrill ride for all of your senses.

Still, when I ask myself a question like, "When were the wits last scared out of me at the movies?" I'm much more likely to think of the grinding unease and grueling terror produced by a movie like this...

THEO: I was hoping you could get us the transit papers to get us to the coast.
NIGEL: Transit papers? That's quite a favor.
THEO: I know.
NIGEL: Highly controlled. [testy pause] Alex, take your pills.

...or the extended, immersive horror of this one:

BEN SLINEY: That was a possible hijack. Haven't seen that in years. It's been quite a while, quite a while. I can't even remember precisely. No, no, it's Boston to LAX, American 11. Yep, they're on it, and they're gonna keep me informed. I'll brief you.

As much as we're veering away from the "Halloween" register I intended to hit, United 93 is scarier than Saw. Greengrass & Co. braid two horror films together: the anguish aboard the plane and the confusion on the ground, which this eerily precise 20:07 pegs just as it originates. Sliney, playing himself, doesn't even have the airline right, and the whole group around his conference table is quizzical at the very notion of a hijacked American plane more than they are instinctively propelled to fear and decisive action. How much things have changed.

Y'all only have to put up with one more of these high-minded and depressing riffs on "horror" before—by the end of the week, I promise—we get back to more obvious frights. Look forward to that on Friday (as if the looming prospect of Bee Movie weren't blood-chilling enough). First, though, a few more frights of the mind... but not until tomorrow!

Monday, October 29, 2007

Film Faces

Greetings friends/fans of The Film Experience. Susan P here, helping to fill the gaping void while Nathaniel is away.

After a recent screening of Gus Van Sant's Paranoid Park a friend sent me a link to an interesting comparison between the face of lead actor Gabe Nevins and that of Renaissance painter Raphael. The images underscored the fact that I hadn't been able to get Nevins' mug out of my head after viewing the film.

It got me thinking about the importance of an actor's visage to his or her performance. And I don't just mean the best looking actors. A compelling face can be beautiful, but it doesn't have to be. Over at Awards Daily I share my thoughts on Nevins and a few others whose expressions (or in one case lack of one) have sent me soaring at the cinema this year.

You can read the entire post here.

What recent (or not so recent) onscreen faces have made an impression on you?

20:07 (1940 Smackdown Edition)

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 WinDVD

I'd like to leave a forwarding address if they happen to find that book.

Unfortunately, along with her book and her own name, the soon-to-be second Mrs. de Winter has also mislaid her syntax. Presumably, she would like to leave a forwarding address in case they find that book, and she would still like to leave it (and in fact will have done so) whether or not they do find it.

I am Nick Davis, and I am an Assistant Professor of English.

But I also have good qualities, including a knack for knowing the right movie-obsessed people: not just Nathaniel, but also StinkyLulu, who hosted one of his notorious Supporting Actress Smackdowns yesterday, in honor of the ladies of 1940, quite possibly my favorite roster in the history of the category (give or take 1996, which we've already covered). Unfortunately, the other smackdowners felt less bewitched, as you will read.

I was particularly surprised by the weak showing registered by Judith Anderson as the skulking, mongoosey housemistress Mrs. Danvers in Alfred Hitchcock's Rebecca, one of the few mystery films ever to win Best Picture and a terrific rental choice for the week of Halloween, even if you've seen it before. Portentous elegance and Gothic neurosis have rarely been evoked so hypnotically on screen. As for Anderson: iconic and deliciously malign, her Mrs. Danvers originated a pop-cinema archetype that dozens of equal and lesser actresses, and not a few drag queens, have mimicked in the decades since. She's not in the 20:07 screenshot reproduced above, which concerns a bit of nervous business while Joan Fontaine (who turned 90 exactly one week ago) agitates herself over an impending and frequently interrupted phone call from the broodingly romantic Laurence Olivier. We haven't even come close to meeting Mrs. Danvers by this point in the film, but you can assume that wherever she is, she already knows what's happening, and she loathes it. (After all, isn't Rebecca all about women who are Around even when they're not?)

If you know and love Rebecca and are hungry for a comparably creepy experience, with similar psychosexual omens and crypto-lesbian flava and wronged women in the invisible background, hunt around for Lewis Allen's 1944 hit The Uninvited, where last-place Smackdown finisher Ruth Hussey co-stars with Lost Weekend Oscar winner Ray Milland as a brother and sister who move into an English seaside estate (huge mistake!!) only to discover its salacious past and supernatural habits (well, duh!!). Along with its skill at mood and narrative, The Uninvited boasts Oscar-nominated cinematography by Charles Lang, who managed 18 cinematography nominations spread over more than 40 years, and only three times for Best Picture nominees: a good sign of a real talent, and also of a well-liked fella. Plus, it was his camera that caught Marilyn blowing a kiss at us.

Back to 1940, though: the Academy as well as the Smackdowners crowned Jane Darwell of The Grapes of Wrath as the category's Best in Show, and it's a hard performance to argue with. (It only testifies to the strength of the field that I like Anderson and Barbara O'Neil even better.) The Grapes of Wrath isn't a spookfest or a horror movie in any conventional way, so I wouldn't normally include it within this week's special Halloweenapalooza in the 20:07 listings. But what of economic horror, haunted spirits, and the undead life of the dispossessed Depression-era migrant? And what of that sooty, scary darkness that engulfs so much of The Grapes of Wrath that even the sight of a gaunt and candlelit face like Henry Fonda's comes heroically across as an ember of life amidst the snuffing out of a whole way of life?

And if none of that gives The Grapes of Wrath any horror cred, don't forget that we learn at this very 20:07 moment that nothing more than a few feathers got in the way of Ma Joad's second career as an axe murderer:

What I don't understand is my folks takin' off. Like Ma. I seen her almost beat a peddler to death with a live chicken. She aimed to go for him with the axe she had in her other hand. She got mixed up, forgot which was which, and - when she got through with that peddler, all she had left was two chicken legs!

That Ma Joad. She's sump'm fierce. So is the Supporting Actress Smackdown. So is Nathaniel. So is The Film Experience. So is 20:07. Catch y'all tomorrow.

When Nathaniel is Away The Guest Bloggers Will Play

For physical, emotional, creative, financial and five other reasons [drama] I have to step away from the blog for a week. My four lifesavers this time are the brilliant Nick from Nick's Flick Picks, Piper from the very enjoyable Lazy Eye Theater, the goddess Susan P from Oscar Watch (I'm sorry "Awards Daily) and the one and only JA from My New Plaid Pants. I'll be back on Sunday but I'll pop in when I can to bring it in the comments. Happy Halloween! What are you going as this year?

Sunday, October 28, 2007

Naked Gold Man: The Supporting Actress Stock Shortage

He's 13 1/2 inches tall. He wears only a sword. He's shiny. Everybody wants him. He's the Naked Gold Man and this is a new weekly Sunday series --my attempt to keep Oscar discussion corraled in the weekends until we're truly in the season.

Previously: The Michael Clayton Fix

A truth as I see it: There is never a shortage of quality “for your consideration” candidates for any acting category at the Oscars. The truth as other people see it: There is often a shortage of viable contenders in one acting category or another at the Oscars and that shortage usually occurs in the actress categories (This year, the age old “empty!” gripe is aimed at the Supporting Actress category).

These truths may seem contradictory but they’re not. The variable that causes the disconnect is this: Though there is never a shortage of quality work there is sometimes a shortage of stock roles that are typically deemed worthy of attention. When this disconnecting factor occurs people say a category is empty. But the category is never empty. You just have to look beyond the usual suspects; Actors do award worthy work in non-traditional roles and less “baity” genres frequently.

To cite three quick examples: Daryl Hannah slam dunked her boo!hiss! Elle Driver role in the Kill Bill movies, many film buffs think that Drew Barrymore was astonishing in Scream (any less of a performance and would people really still be talking about her scene more than a decade later?) and everyone in the known universe loves the depths and weird wonder of Michelle Pfeiffer's Catwoman in Batman Returns. But the cold hard truth is that actors don’t win awards (and are rarely nominated) for nontraditional triumphs.

I recently chatted with Supporting Actress expert and archivist Stinky Lulu (who hosts monthly “smackdown” retrospectives of his favorite Oscar category –this month: 1940) and asked him to help me identify the five most commonly Oscarable “types” within this particular category. We came up with the following “perfect” (i.e. most traditional) Supporting Actress Shortlist. It would consist of these five character blueprints in descending order of nominated frequency:

Read the rest ...for Oscar's 5 favorite supporting actress "types" and thoughts on the women of Atonement and other golden hopefuls

Sidney Lumet on Marisa Tomei

From an interview in Time Out New York to promote Before the Devil Knows You're Dead:
First of all, Marisa arrives full-blown from the head of Zeus; she’s ready to work. Totally. She’s so secure she’s able to help with the others.

Like with the opening sex scene with Philip. I rarely use sex as a big dramatic device. Here I thought it was critical because you have to understand right away that this is what drives him. But I don’t think Philip has ever conceived of himself in the nude fucking onscreen. It’s just not something that comes his way. So when we started blocking, Marisa hopped up on the bed, got on her hands and knees, slapped her ass and said, “Come on Philly, let’s go!” I could kiss her. Because if Philip had any inhibitions, they were gone.
I've been thinking about her performance as "Gina" a lot since I saw the film and I'm anxious to hear your opinions once you see it. (related post on Marisa in BTDKYD)

Actress Psychic (Updates)

For those who joined that early bird Actress Psychic Oscar Contest --updated point totals here... October was very quiet for this category aside from Ellen Page's growing buzz (no points unless we figure out a way to quantify "buzz") and Blanchett's Elizabeth stumble --she still might get nominated though. TFE reader Victor S retakes the lead with two Bens (JT & W) and Vincent S coming on strong

points since last update
+2 Opened in theaters and passed $6 million mark:
Blanchett (Elizabeth the Golden Age), Witherspoon (Rendition)
+1 films opened Berry (Things We Lost...), Harden (Rails and Ties)
+1 In the Valley of Elah finally crossed that $6 million mark for Susan Sarandon and Charlize Theron --can you believe how much that film flopped?

+ 1 Cate Blanchett (for I'm Not There only) made the cover of the NY Times Style Magazine Bob Dylan
+1 Marion Cotillard (La Vie En Rose) also played NY covergirl

[Best Actress Predix -next Oscar chart updated on 11/04]

Saturday, October 27, 2007

Links: The I Hate Men Edition

Zoom In -Holiday Preview: my quick rundown of the movies headed our way. Tis the season
Awards Daily -mmm glossy FYC ads (Tis the season...again)
Hollywood Elsewhere -the fall failure glut
Just Jared -Natalie Portman gets Scholastic
Cinevistaramascope -looks back at Alien: Resurrection (fun post and '97 was on the brain after the Boogie Nights poll)
<--- MMM -the new Harold & Kumar teaser poster. High-larious. I'm so glad NPH has a career. Why are teaser posters always better than the real thing? Discuss
EW -no gay studio films after Brokeback. Why?
New Now Next -greatest soundtracks?
Everything I Know I Learned From Musicals hates on Mel Brooks Young Frankenstein (the Broadway version)

Straight Men Suck
Zap2It Maxim's unsexiest women. I worry about straight men. They don't do themselves any favors. This list basically states: women must not have big personalities or individual style. Apparently only vacant generic bimbos will do (Does Frank TJ Mackey edit that mag?)

Gay Men Suck

Out 100 has to go and honor Perez Hilton. I worry about gay men. They don't do themselves any favors. Way to promote the unflattering stereotype: shallow, catty, misogynistic. How is that "provocative"? Seems like reinforcement of the status quo to me.

"What a floozy!"

Friday, October 26, 2007

Mark Your Calendars. Or Not

The arrival of a blog-a-thon used to be an event. Now they're starting to feel like a Wednesday if you know what I mean. Or even a Groundhog Day eternal loop. I don't mean to be overly negative. I love blog-a-thons: fun to host, satisfying to participate in, enlightening to read... but I think something has gone awry. Eddie provides a well known easy to use 'blog-a-thon calendar' and still nobody seems to be checking with this handy resource before announcing their dates. Either that or they're not thinking about how much potential participation and readership they're losing and/or costing each other if they overlap. There's only so much time in a week. Blog-a-thons are way better if there's time to interact with the ideas being presented. Isn't that their 'whole goddamn raison d'être'?

Consider this upcoming clusterf*** of a fortnight in November.

6th-11th Pure Comedic Moments -not strictly a film blog-a-thon
7th-9th Film & Faith -great topic. Wide enough for variety but also interesting specifics
10th-11th Bob Fosse - deserves one...and all that jazz
15th-21st Akira Kurosawa - big filmographies fill a week
19th Queer Film -another broad worthwhile topic

I'd love to participate in all but at this point I'll be lucky to even find the time to read more than one all the way through. I'm not sure what the solution is other than to ignore most of them but that is a disappointing realization. After all, one of the best things about the 'thon phenom is when a topic pushes you out of your comfort zone, prodding you on to learn more about a topic you're unfamiliar with or asking you to think harder or more creatively about a topic you know and love.

December is not drowning in them... yet.

Dec 16th It's a Wonderful Life Bringing the 'thon back to its one film origin
Dec 27th- 30th Endings -the good, the bad, the ugly... get spoiled

Before you know it it'll be 2008 and StinkyLulu will host another of these --Stinky hasn't announced it yet but you know it's coming. And how fun was that back in early January? Very. I'm already curious to see who will make the "class portrait" this year, aren't you? Last year's results were surprising.

Kissing Marilyn Monroe

Monroe... she wants to be kissed by you
_______ [staccato breathy voice]
"Just. you. nobodyelse. but. you"

I'd forgotten how dreamy Marilyn Monroe was, singing and puckering up for the camera in Some Like It Hot (1959) as Sugar Kane Kowalczyk. I'd been a little cool on her for the past few years. I was tired of seeing her. Those ready to go lips (and resulting lipstick print) are beautiful but overly familiar. They're even part of the logo at her official site.

But this happens to a lot of icons. Their estates overexpose them. You see them all the time through the inevitable over merchandising. They infiltrate every large discussion since they're so busy signifying something else, something less flesh and blood; an abstraction personalized. Monroe is Hollywood. Monroe is sex (the movie variety). Monroe is that Troubled Actress™ we're still always reading about.

But here's the niftiest thing about Monroe: watching her work her magic provides an instant cure to the disease of her over familiarity. Just pop the DVD in the player and ta-dah: her radiance, her talent, that breathy delivery...she huffs and she puffs and she blows the Icon down. For a couple of hours in the resultant rubble you're left with a fine actress and the character she's playing, just as it should be.

Some Like it Hot, one of the comedy greats, gets a lot of mileage from her kissability. It's not just the puckering but the literal smooching. In one of the film's most famous sequences, Joe (Tony Curtis) whom she knows in drag as "Josephine" fools her into sexcapades with an elaborate charade as a yacht-dwelling frigid millionaire named "Junior". It's a little icky. The audience is essentially asked to root for the cad to trick her into putting out. Without Monroe's deft playing this scene would play too misogynistic for comfort. Her unique pathos and aggressive sexuality (it's still eyebrow raising to watch her pounce --she's the top) keep the comedic ball in the air. The love scene that could've felt like an abusive game of dodgeball plays more like a tennis match.

For all of Sugar Kane's funny enthusiasm, Monroe never hides the character's heartbreak either. Soon Sugar is "Through With Love" a broken hearted songbird right there on the stage. And whaddya know, she melts the jerk's heart. The con artist is finally feeling for her rather than objectifying her and knows he's done her wrong. Joe plants another on her, but this time the kiss is honest --he does it as Josephine, thereby giving up his game.

Chaos that has nothing at all to do with Sugar erupts as gangsters chase Joe through the hotel and he runs for his life. The songbird also gives chase "Wait! Wait for Sugar!" Guess she wasn't through with love after all.

a-deedalee deedalee deedalee-dum, boop boop-a-doop!

previously on "kissing" (new series) Volver

Now Playing: Before the Devil Knows You're Dan in Real Life

Before the Devil Knows You're Dead -Director Sidney Lumet (Network) is gunning for a sixth Oscar nomination for directing. Remarkably he's never won. His not so secret weapon this time? Returning to the heist gone wrong crime subgenre which served him so well in Dog Day Afternoon (1975). The new film stars Phillip Seymour Hoffman and Ethan Hawke as desperate brothers robbing a jewelry store (a word on them) and Marisa Tomei the wife and sister-in-law (more on her). The poster, pictured left, is cute but entirely misleading. This is no comedy but a rapid descent into multiple personal hells.
Bella A romantic drama that won the People's Choice @ the Toronto International Film Festival last year (just now making it to US screens. Strike while the iron is...cold. I know it's probably not the film's fault but I am sick to death about the general media perception that festival success doesn't translate to real success. How can we know? Maybe it would if films came out when they were being talked about rather than 6 to 18 months later)
Lynch A documentary on Lynch's creative process on INLAND EMPIRE.
Music Within Ron Livingston stars as hearing impaired Vietnam vet Richard Pimentel, who finds new purpose in fighting for Americans with disabilities.
Rails & Ties Kevin Bacon and Marcia Gay Harden star in this drama
Slipstream Anthony Hopkins wrote and starred in his own directorial debut

Dan in Real Life An advice columnist (Steve Carrel) falls for a woman (Juliette Binoche) who is dating his brother (Dane Cook) --oops. I love Steve Carrel but I love pancakes more so the poster image (right) always makes me crazy. Don't waste the pancakes Steve!
Saw IV I've never seen one of these movies and I'm quite pleased to have gone without.

Two precious films get the biggest expansions: Ryan Gosling's sex doll loving in Lars and the Real Girl adds a number of screens and Wes Anderson's passage to India The Darjeeling Limited is now in wide release. The Expansion of Jesse James By The Unsupportive Warner Bros seems to have ended though ---argh. Why aren't they pushing this harder? How do you spend the money on Brad Pitt (!) and not take the film wide?

20:07 (Dream Lover)

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

On your feet soldier. I love you Sarah. I always will
(If memory serves this scene is not in the original film. But here it is in the DVD at the 20:07 mark. Damn those special editions!)

Thursday, October 25, 2007

Boogie Fever in its Tenth Year

I meant to mention this earlier -- "too many things...too many things" -- Boogie Nights, one of my very favorite films and one of yours [right? the correct answer is "yes"-ed.] turned 10 years old this month! So in honor of the film that introduced most of us to the wondrous writer-director Paul Thomas Anderson (Hard Eight, Magnolia, Punch Drunk Love next up: There Will Be Blood) a poll

If your favorite Boogie porn star isn't listed (this thing only offers us five options) tell us how groovy they are in the comments

Jury Duty interrupting my blogging! Somehow when I tried to explain that to the State they didn't see that as a valid "hardship" or "emergency". They're so old media

20:07 (Messin' Around With Her)

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

[squeaky giggling]
"Sing it to me, honey"

Wednesday, October 24, 2007

Jumper and Streamer

February action flicks aren't usually my thing (if its an action flick @ Valentines you gotta worry the powers that be feel it's not strong enough to survive summer's blockbuster throwdowns) but I checked out this Jumper trailer on account of research I was doing for an audition I had for a talking head gig on some cable movie show (cross your fingers. or not)

<-- Careful Hayden. Don't get that scenery stuck in your teeth.

Or I tried to. I despise streaming video. Why do sites use it? Jumper is jumping itself. Watching streaming video is akin to covering your eyes with your fingers and allowing yourself a freeze frame peak now and then --1 frame per second when it's supposed to be 24 damn you studio fools! But it's worse than that. A friend should be covering your ears while you cover your eyes, allowing you only intermittent blasts of sound... that aren't in sync with the images. I have high speed internet action and I'm still living in staccato motion land. The technology sucks. Blah. Give me Quicktime that's fully loadable before you watch every time. It's sad when YouTube quality video is better than official site videos from multi billion dollar corporations.

Anyway. From what I can make out, Jumper is about genetic anomalies that allow hot young men of wildy disparate acting skill* to teleport. Mace Windu ditches his lightsaber but brings other cool looking gadgets to do battle with the jumpers... in Egypt and elsewhere. I'm not sure.

But I'll probably see it. If only for the joy of watching Jamie Bell blow the others off the screen.... and that includes you Mr. Jackson (though you did do some creative recharging on Black Snake Moan. Good on you. More please)

*[Olympic Acting Scores: Hayden Christensen: 3.1 Jamie Bell: perfect 6.0 across the board but for Canada --they're rooting for Hayden]