Friday, November 30, 2007

Twelve Thoughts I Had Whilst Watching Enchanted

01 Amy Adams Amy Adams Amy Adams Amy Adams Amy Adams Amy Adams Amy Adams Amy Adams Amy Adams Amy Adams Amy Adams Amy Adams Amy Adams Amy Adams
02 (opening animated scene) Prince Edward: "Tomorrow we'll be married!" LOL 4realz
03 ohmygod could Amy be any cuter when she collapses into her ginormous white gown beside the homeless man? Her body language is aces in this movie --isn't this mimicry as impressive as anything Cate Blanchett can cook up for the Dylans or Hepburns. I'm just sayin'

04 "Happy Working Song" --ewwww and also: hee. And can the song be over now? 2007 just became the year of the gross but still kinda sweet rodents (see also: Ratatouille
05 (later in Central Park) Alan Menken and Stephen Schwartz. And these are the best songs they could come up with. Seriously now...
06 Adams is really committed to this part but why the hell are people expecting an Oscar nomination? I can't see a precedent. Maybe Julie Andrews in Mary Poppins but that was up for everything and Enchanted is not as good as its central performance. It's not gonna happen.
07 The repeated joke about Giselle making her own dresses: priceless
08 "116th and Broadway!!!" Hee. Can James Marsden be in every movie next year? Please. Please. Please. Pretty please with a cherry on top. [prev post]

09 I'm bored
10 Amy Adams looks (real) good in purple but why when she's finally in modern garb is everyone else dressed like they're in Andalasia? This movie is messy
11 Susan Sarandon isn't very good at heightened/stylized acting. Love her (in general) but maybe they oughta have nabbed Miranda Richardson? SigWeavey? La Pfeiffer?
12 [the finale] What just happened. What the hell is going on? Wait, did the chipmunk actually rescue the damsel man in distress? The princess doesn't get to stab the dragon? This movie is stupid.

Enchanted the movie: C+ Amy Adams & James Marsden: A-

Jones @ The Pioneer Theater

A few months back, Susan P and I ventured daringly into the arctic theater of Anthology Film Archives (their air conditioner was an all powerful malevolent being that night I swear) and the strange lands of no-budget filmmaking. We were there to check out Jones a first feature from Preston Miller. Having read about the DIY film movement a lot this year I figured I ought to give more no-budget films a chance. I wasn't going to write about this one assuming none of you would get a chance to see it but it's coming out on DVD and playing for one week in December at NYC's teeny-tiny Pioneer theater. I've been there a few times to see films that are so miniscule they don't even show up at the bottom of box office mojo's weekly 100+ movie chart.

Jones starts off rough but at a merciful 76 minutes (I like the short movies) it's worth sticking with. It begins with an uninterrupted shot of a married man in a hotel room on the phone. It's all half conversation and partial views, filmed in real time and very unmovie. The opening scene goes on too long without much information coming at you. I'd venture to say that this is a dealbreaker scene for many viewers and considering this is a no-name indie, festival programmers too --you know they don't watch all submissions all the way through! I'd also imagine it's a common no budget filmmaking mistake. It's totally crass to make this comparison but, bear with me here it's what popped into mind, the original Star Wars is a good example of how to open an unknown property with no stars and no rooting audience interest to begin with. To some incalculable extent you've got to start with an earthshaking bang. If you've no budget go for tiny tremors.

Still, I'm happy to say that the film gets much better after that. What we've got here is a sly real time comedy with the sad undertow you'll invariably get when confronting addictions. The substance abused here is sex, or more specifically, Asian prostitutes. Jones (the frequently naked Trey Albright) is on a business trip but he can't stop thinking about sex and his job isn't distracting him sufficiently (you'll see why). You don't realize all of this immediately but the payoffs do come. Jones rewards the patient viewer with amusing punchlines, all the funnier for having to wait for them in real time.

Jones may be slight, but I enjoyed it. This is a welcome edition to the burgeoning mumblecore movement, Miller's clever guerilla filmmaking (NYC filmmaking without permits!) and his game lead actor create a funny/sad character study.

Now Playing: Diving Bells and Savages

Oscar Watching
In Hollywood's effort to jam all awards season contenders into December --annoying the hell out of me and other year round moviegoers -- Julian Schnabel's artful disability weepie The Diving Bell and Butterfly (my review) and Tamara Jenkins comedic nursing home weepie The Savages have finally opened on both coasts. Either one could catch on with wider audiences if they catch on with Academy voters. They might -- and for similar reasons, too. Both expertly portray moving familial bonds with the aid of brilliant actors. At this point we need to crown Laura Linney as the best "sister act" in all the cinema, don'cha think? Max Von Sydow's confused father in Diving Bell is a major highlight of the other film.  Cross your fingers for both actors to make it to the endless red carpets this winter.

psssst. I also interviewed Max Von Sydow today. He was gracious, friendly, well spo
ken and I'll try to have the interview up real soon.

Also opening:
Awake -Jessica Alba freaks out because Hayden Christensen might die on the operating table. Please let it be so! ...what was that... It's only a movie!? damn, never mind
Aaja Nachle -a new Bollywood film starring Madhuri Dixit
Chronicle of an Escape Rodrigo de la Serna (Motorcycle Diaries) stars in this film about an Argentinian kidnapping.
The Protagonist -a documentary with Greek drama overlay. Looks interesting.
The Rocket an ice hockey biography

Most importantly:
His Dark Materials: The Golden Compass sneaks on nearly 900 screens tomorrow. Eeep. The Boyfriend decided yesterday whilst rereading the great book this is based on that my cat Montgomery is actually my daemon, since we are both wildly moody and often [cue twilight zone music] in the exact same mood. But get this... when I went to the official website and asked to meet my daemon they tell me her name is Melania and she's ... a mouse ??? 

Monty will not be pleased and "Melania" probably won't survive for too long in his apartment. (Then again the website also tells me I'm "spontaneous, modest, outgoing, competitive and inquisitive" and  well, interactive games aren't perfect. I suppose 3 1/2 out of 5 isn't so bad as character trait guesswork goes...)

20:07 (Falling Slowly)

Screenshots from the 20th minute and 7th second of a movie
I can't guarantee the same results at home. I use a VLC

You have suffered enough
And warred with yourself
It's time that you won

Take this sinking boat and point it home
We've still got time
Raise your hopeful voice you had a choice
You've made it now

I love that that "Falling Slowly" the best song and best scene from Once arrives so quickly in the movie and that it resonates for so long afterwards. The effect that the sequence has on its leads (the first time the leads are musically joined) is similar to what's happening to the audience: you find yourself ever more drawn to these two souls as they're drawn to each other, sharing in a musical passion.

In truth this is the first 20:07 image that I've doctored. In the second in question the camera does a swift pan right to left from Markéta to Glen. Neither are fully in the frame simultaneously. It's a point for the movie and its insightful wise portrait of this bittersweet relationship, that I couldn't bear to see them separated. [prev article on Once]

Thursday, November 29, 2007

Linker by the Dozen

[] (a visual blog) on Zodiac
Gold Derby tells you which films got comedied for the Globes
Zoom In you've seen Enchanted, here's 3 other animated/live action hybrids to enjoy or revisit
Is That So Wrong recalibrates  Oscar buzz and loves Kidman's Margot
Defamer's recap of last night's Project Runway made me laugh out loud. Twice
Just Jared Jamie Bell @ the BIFAs

Towleroad so that's what Ewan MacGregor's been up to!
The Projectionistis a critic without a country re: I'm Not There. I have visited that same non-country
Evening Class interviews 2007's best girl Laura Linney
My New Plaid Pants bids adieu to Brad Pitt's ass. Hey, all good things must come to an end
Mainly Movies it still exists!!! this blog I mean. Some Oscar thoughts from MIA Tim
Everything I Know I Learned From Musicals details the Broadway and Disney voice players in Enchanted

Eeek! I'm So Not Ready For This

After the Gotham Awards and the Indie Spirit Nods and now this first top ten list I’ve seen –excuse me top fifty (geez, dudes. Calm down) it’s safe to say that the awards season has begun. Pretty soon we’re going to see top ten lists and statues passed out along with candies on Halloween.

Paste Magazine (the aforementioned top 50 culprits) are crazy for not a girl not yet a woman Juno and in truth she’s easy to get crazy about (provided your tolerance is very high for precocious fast talking wise cracking affect). I resisted Juno for the first hour but I finally gave up. I wish the film didn’t try as hard as it does --I swear I heard 5 cool songs before the ten minute mark so I was begging for a little less effort to charm me --but by the end it got to me. Love the end. And you really have to end well to be loved, don’t you think?

20:07 (King Kong x 2)

Screenshots from the 20th minute and 7th second of movies
I can't guarantee the same results at home. I use a VLC

Neither beast nor man: something monstrous, all powerful, still living, still holding that island in a grip of deadly fear. Well, every legend has a basis of truth. I tell you there's something on that island that no white man has ever seen!

If there’s anything that you need, please don’t hesitate to ask.
God woman, just get on the boat already! In the original movie they're already talking about the giant ape

Wednesday, November 28, 2007

Kissing Betty/Diane

When you think of Mulholland Dr. (2001) what comes immediately to mind? I can’t hear you through the web din but I’m betting you’re calling out "Betty’s audition" (the scene that put Naomi Watts on the map) or "Club Silencio" (in which one of the nation’s most beloved eccentric auteurs delivered on all possible Lynchian expectations). I think of those scenes too but today I find myself between them, both narratively and figuratively speaking, on a bed shared by Betty/Diane and Rita/Camilla (Laura Harring). They’re going to kiss.

Even if you didn’t see it coming, you saw it coming.

That is to say that the whole movie is leading to it. It's an inevitably --even if one suspects that Lynch didn't always know it was going there (it being a longform proposal, a TV series, in origin). The greatest thing about Mulholland Dr remains its flexibility: so many things to so many people; so many readings seem correct. Today I’ve decided that the entire movie is about the kiss between Betty and Rita. The great audition sequence is mere foreplay.

Consider “Bob”’s instructions to Betty in the audition.
It’s not a contest. The two of them...with themselves. So don’t play it for real until it gets real.
In the literal sense this advice is about the scene Betty is about to play with a lecherous older actor. But wouldn’t that speech, superimposed over Betty & Rita’s upcoming consummation make just as much sense? Or more. "The two of them... with themselves" is strange phrasing. More suitable in the context of mutable cris-crossing actress identities? Anyway, Betty shifts into a new mode of expression in the audition: Watts has gone from stylized wide eyed innocent to carnal being. The audition kiss, which preceeds the sapphic kiss is like a funhouse mirror warm-up.

In both sequences Watts' lips graze over her scene partners as she fills up with desire. In the first, she follows the kiss with threats and hateful rhetoric "Get out before I kill you" and "I hate you... I hate us both". Once with Rita she bookends the kiss with incantations of love. "I want to with you. I'm in love with you. I'm in love with youuuuuu"

Because it's a David Lynch film it's never as simple as that (not that that mirrored construction wasn't complicated) so we have to work in humor, actual eroticism, and fear. The Betty/Rita pre-sex exchange is justifiably famous
Naive Betty: Have you ever done this before?
Amnesiac Rita: I don't know.

Have you?
She doesn't wait for an answer and the scene doesn't fade out with that smart sexy joke but instead dives straight into the erotic. Things in Mulholland Dr are about to get even stranger (Club Silencio coming right up) but isn't there something vaguely threatening about that declaration of love, as well? It's too emphatic, too early, too trancelike to be romantic or healthy. I adore this sequence and it's not just because it's hot to see two beauties in a naked liplock. It also seems to be Mulholland Dr. in a nutshell: a complex fusion of dream, nightmare, feminine mystique, Hollywood glamour, and unstable identities.

Quoth Louise, the crazy neighbor:

Something bad is happening. Someone is in danger.
She might be talking about Betty/Diane. But when watching this film (or any Lynch effort for that matter) its easy to suppose that that 'someone' is actually the audience. When his mysterious movies envelop you in their dark magics, how exactly do you escape?

previously on "kissing" Jake Gyllenhaal

Mood Sweengs (More Todd)

If you add up all of my mood swings in regards to the Sweeney Todd film, I think I qualify for a mental disorder -- schizophrenia, bipolar disorder... something. Is a straitjacket in my future or a padded cell? Check out this very brief snippet of the "Little Priest" number.
Mrs. Lovett: It's priest. Have a little priest.
Sweeney Todd: Is it really good?
Mrs. Lovett: Sir, it's too good, at least!
Then again, they don't commit sins of the flesh,
So it's pretty fresh.
Sweeney Todd: Awful lot of fat.
Mrs. Lovett: Only where it sat.
Sweeney Todd: Haven't you got poet, or something like that?
Mrs. Lovett: No, y'see, the trouble with poet is
'Ow do you know it's deceased?
Try the priest!
There's also snippets of "My Friends" and "Not While I'm Around" among others. I already think I love Helena Bonham-Carter as Mrs. Lovett. Or at least I want to. I've seen Lady Jane and Getting It Right for chrissakes. HBC and I go way the hell back.

20:07 (Make an Entrance)

Screenshots from the 20th minute and 7th second of a movie
I can't guarantee the same results at home. I use a VLC

Tuesday, November 27, 2007

Top Ten: Better Than The Movies They're In

Let's sing the praises of some actors that warranted better material or at least better decision making to frame their game performances...

10 Performances From 2007 That Deserved Better Films
(I figure the title is self explanatory)

10 Thomas Haden Church as "Sandman" in Spider-Man 3
First things first: He looked perfect in the part. Second and even better: that hangdog expression he was wearing like an anvil combined with Sam Raimi's careful tragic attention to his origin augured another super sequel. Sadly, the film lost its focus. They shoulda stuck to sticking with this Sandman. [my original reaction]

09 Lindsay Lohan & Jane Fonda as Rachel and Georgia in Georgia Rule
I know what you're thinking. What!? Yes, yes, the movie is a mess. But know this: it'd be unwatchable without LiLo's wildchild magnetism and Fonda's effortless force of presence. Ditch the poorly conceived and terribly executed middle generation character/performance/actress (sorry Felicity, I don't mean to bag on you constantly) and give these two stars a non repetitive throwdown of a movie. My guess is that that imaginary movie would've had a fighting chance.

08 Marion Cotillard as "Edith Piaf" in La Vie En Rose
Surprised? If you've read my review you know I'm no fan of the movie. But there were individual moments when I thought I might buy into the Cotillard hype, only to be dragged away with another off chronology tangent --seriously filmmakers, this gimmick is stale. And there's only a couple people who can do it well to begin with. Is her performance as great as the fans claim? I doubt it but I'd have to see her scenes with some logical throughline to know. As it is it feels like Saturday Night Live sketchwork (without the humor): a different wig here, a different body posture there; unrecognizable from one scene to the next. That's no way to sell a character's evolution.

07 Zöe Bell as herself in Death Proof
Like some swashbuckling Princess Charming, she rescued me! I was sleepily trapped in talky tedium and her fresh physical presence and confidence woke me up. I'm so glad this stuntwoman is getting more acting work.

06 Ben Foster as "The Stranger" in 30 Days of Night
His detractors will tell you that he's a total ham, shamelessly begging for "one to watch" media attention. I'm not here to argue with that assessment. So far I agree with it. I haven't yet seen his other 2007 entries (3:10 to Yuma and Alpha Dog) But if you're making a movie about vampires in an Alaskan town, try to entertain me. I'm begging you. He's the single element of the film that works beyond the concept stage. His performance is just weird enough... just self-consciously creepy enough to sell me on the proceedings and the characters own truth. Josh Hartnett and Melissa George aren't spinning their blandness into any interesting places as the lead marrieds. Danny Huston is terrible as the head vampire (how is it that he's cast in everything?). Only Ben Foster seems to know that there's an audience and that you have to really work for their thrills and chills.

05 Shia LaBeouf as "Sam Witwicky" in Transformers
Anybody who can make me deaf to terrible dialogue in --something nobody in those Star Wars prequels could do --earns respect. You don't win Oscars for this type of accomplishment but you do earn bank if you can make action films better for your mere presence. He's a star. (my review)

04 Nicole Kidman as Margot at the Wedding
More on this star turn in previous posts

03 Sigourney Weaver as "Lenny" in The TV Set
It won't come as a surprise that Ms Weaver can do corporate soulessness with style and aplomb. She was Oscar nominated for the same 19 years back in Working Girl. She's working just as hard for this new film. Unfortunately this mild satire doesn't quite know how to capitalize on her wicked wit.

02 Michelle Pfeiffer as "Lamia" in Stardust
This fantasy adventure was thisclose to being a good movie despite its many annoying and easily remedied flaws (how did no one on this production realize the overkill happening in so many places: editing, CGI, Danes twitching, DeNiro mugging?). That it manages to almost be good is a tribute to this goddesses way with a foregrounded cartoon villainess. Practice makes perfect I guess, though I hope my personal goddess steps away from the evil bitches for her next couple of roles. Keep us guessing, Michelle. [my review]

01 Tabu as "Ashima Ganguli" in The Namesake
A text book case of a film adaptation trying too hard to be the novel. It's a different medium, Mira, let the book go! Two hours cannot contain three hundred and four pages. That said, the movie worked well whenever Tabu's lovely evocative face was onscreen as the mother... this movie was begging for trimming and focus so focus on what works. These parents (Irfan Khan, even better in A Mighty Heart was the dad) were always more interesting than the son.

Lunchtime Poll: Indie Spirit Nominations

How much do you think these enthusiastic Indie Spirit endorsements of Lust, Caution, Juno, Diving Bell and Butterfly and A Mighty Heart will help or hinder those Oscar chances? Or do you think the sometimes nonsensical nominations (The Savages but no Laura Linney?) won’t mean much at all?

20:07 (The Future Mrs)

Oh, there’s a new girl from Paramount. Yes?

Monday, November 26, 2007

Guess Who? I Draw For You

Thought we'd try something a little different tonight. It's a game. Tell us how well you did in the comments. But first you have to watch...

p.s. I'd like to thank my friends at The Rec Show for pointing me to this nifty sketching device!

Laura Linkey

Must See
Deadline Hollywood "Speechless #11" with Laura Linney. Another video in support of the writers strike. This is laugh out loud funny. Question: Is The Lovely Laura Linney trying to transform us all into subservient loveslaves for 2007...I ask cuz it's totally working. I already sent this to Nick who replied "Is she not totally better in this clip than, like, all of the Best Actress nominees from '05?" to which I must reply in the affirmative. Hilarious.

More Linnkey
In the Company of Glenn grapples with that mysterious hotel room sequence in No Country for Old Men [there be spoilers]
the Moviegoer Roger Deakins on "the boys" (i.e. the Coen Bros)
Boy Culture investigates the NY Times "Movies Rock" segment and predicts an Oscar nom for Travolta in Hairspray
Derfwad Manor confesses to having secret boyfriends ... and she's got (mostly) good taste. But props for managing to give it up for The Bening along the way

music break

current this isn't really current but it's so sci-fi I was mesmerized. "Björk has one", it figures
Arjan Writes about Pink's "Dear Mr. President" -Pink is so underappreciated

one last thing
Are you as sick as I am of waiting around for Atonement to open? Release that damn thing already -- Give me Joe guiding Keira & James... now.

20:07 (Disgruntled Troops)

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

~ While we slave over this mud, he goes off to have a few drinks!
~ Someday I’m going to take one smack at him –just one.
~ Me too. That’s going to be my life’s work from now on.
~ Why only one? I’m going to take several.
~ I might even kick him when he’s down.

Sunday, November 25, 2007

Naked Gold Man: Whither the Globes...

He's 13 1/2 inches tall. He wears only a sword. He's shiny. Everybody wants him. But today we're talking about those round golden puppies that inspire him...

The fate of early Best Actress Oscar surges lies in the hands of Marion Cotillard, Laura Linney, Cate Blanchett and Helena Bonham-Carter. Or rather: the various Actress Oscar campaigns will know what hit them when the Hollywood Foreign Press Association (AKA The Golden Globes), announce their nominees on December 13th. La Vie En Rose, The Savages, I'm Not There and Sweeney Todd are wildcards of a sort. Which categories will they compete in? Drama or Musical/Comedy. For the men, it's far less complicated (categorically) except that there's far more candidates for drama.

Read the rest...
for a look at the crowded Golden Globe battles in all four leading acting (film) categories.

Oscar Voters to Face Impossible Sophies Choice

Now that David Poland has broken the news that Cate Blanchett will be Oscar campaigned as a lead for I'm Not There, I fear for the mental and physical health of Academy voters everywhere. When faced with two frontrunners (Blanchett's Bob Dylan & Marion Cotillard's Edith Piaf) both performing Oscar's unarguably favorite parlor trick --"ohmygod, look at that famous person transforming into an entirely different famous person!!!"-- will their biopic loving heads literally explode while staring at their ballots? The horror. I'm suddenly imagining an Oscar ceremony directed by David Cronenberg.

pssst. I'm aware I'm growing tiresome on the mimicry topic but as long as Oscar overindulges their biases in this direction, I'll feel free to overindulge mine in the opposite one.

1955: Natalie Vs. Jo

It's been awhile since I whipped up an Oscar "Smackdown" clip for StinkyLulu's monthly festivities, so here ya go. 1955. Elvis Presley was huge, Rosa Parks got arrested, James Dean made his film debut, died and then received his first of two posthumous Oscar nominations, The Mickey Mouse club and McDonalds (the chain) debuted, and my girl Natalie Wood went from child star to true movie star in arguably the greatest teen angst movie ever made, Rebel Without a Cause.

And Oscar's heart went out to these actresses at the edges...

Of this lineup I'm most impressed with Natalie Wood but Jo Van Fleet's centerpiece mystery woman in East of Eden is a very respectable Oscar winner.

The rest of the shortlist are more suspect as nominees go... I haven't seen enough 1955 films to know who should've replaced them but I figure someone should've. That's an easy assumption to feel confident about when you realize that Marty was the Best Picture winner (!) whilst Rebel Without a Cause and Night of the Hunter couldn't manage lousy BP nominations. Nathaniel wept.

Watch the video. Read the smackdown. Time travel back to '55 in the comments.

Saturday, November 24, 2007

While You Were Digesting

Even though Thanksgiving is over, I love the holiday banner so much that I'm leaving it up until Monday. It wasn't easy to find pictures of classy movie stars eating --pictures of useless celebrities (i.e. famous because they're famous. zzz) were plentiful. After the fact I spotted this Shia LaBeouf photo which made me laugh. Bananas are a comedy staple for a reason, y'all. Shia would've ruined the all fab actress lineup anyhow.

Meanwhile Pt. 1
I have never come up with a good reason to post this off the cuff Ledger & Bale lunch (?) shot either --no food enters their mouths so Thanksgiving banner participation was out-- I assume it's from the set of The Dark Knight (or thereabouts) so while I'm purging, here it is:

Meanwhile Pt 2
I spent way too much time this week watching and rewatching the first two episodes of Project Runway (season 4). Such is the danger of DVRs and everybody you know on their own TV watching timetables. Guests kept arriving who hadn't yet watched it and wanted to. ModFab snarkily and insightfully dubbed the record breaking debut episode "now with 750% more gay" And that was even before the second episode when Sarah Jessica Parker showed up and wreaked absolute homo havoc on the contestants: They gasped. Their eyes went buggy. They shreaked. They couldn't form sentences. They cried (no really). I feel butch when I watch that show... which is saying a lot.

Anne Thompson reminds that you have to ignore favorites when making Oscar predictions --is No Country leaving Oscar voters cold? Speaking of...
Rob's Dad reacts to No Country for Old Men. Hmmm
My New Plaid Pants 5 thoughts on Hairspray (and a eery/accurate twin for John Travolta's Edna)
NoFo discovers Crawford treasure trove "Christina, bring me the internets"
Film Squish If you're like me, you're finding it impossible to keep up with all the blog-a-thons. Now in a quiet week, it might be the time to read this recent Akira Kurosawa love-in
Deadline Hollywood Six episodes of Speechess so far (starring Holly Hunter, Sean Penn, the cast of Ugly Betty and more)... in support of the writers strike.

And speaking of strikes: If you're in NYC any time soon looking for a show, please note that Xanadu is not affected by the current Broadway stagehands strike and who knows when that's ending. The adaptation of the notorious turkey is worth seeing even if it weren't one of the only shows playing. It's quite funny and the ELO/Olivia music is still excellent 27 years later. Because one can never get enough Cheyenne Jackson (the show's male lead) and because I can't get enough Xanadu here's an interview captured by Two Gay Guys over at After Elton

Online Videos by

mmmm Cheyenne

Now Playing: Monsters, Princesses, Rock Stars

My Thanksgiving routine is highly unoriginal: I eat too much and then I veg out whilst watching movies. Today I binged on '55 with Rebel Without a Cause (love muchly), Marty (dated) and The Rose Tattoo (nutso!). Tomorrow I'll get to '07 and Enchanted.

I'm Not There - Todd Haynes experimental biopic on Bob Dylan is finally strumming and singing in select cities. I'm waiting with bated breath for Nick's reaction since he's a Haynes fanatic expert. (my feelings here)
Starting Out in the Evening a new drama starring Frank Langella and Lauren Ambrose as an writer and graduate student whose lives become intertwined

<--- Enchanted -People keep saying that this is Amy Adams "star-making" role. I understand that only a few thousand people saw Junebug but after the hoopla surrounding that performance and the resulting frenzy of love and first Oscar nomination, "star making" feels a teensy redundant. But still: rock on Amy. When we think of you, this movie's title is more than appropriate.
Hitman -bang bang
Stephen King's The Mist -There's something out there in the mist. There's also something creepy inside from the looks of the trailer. Should I see it?
August Rush and This Christmas -Are there to meet your holiday quotient of treacle. It has its time and place. This is most definitely the time.

Did you see anything this weekend after stuffing your face? Or did you merely absorb "sports"? (people do that on holiday weekends, right?)

Wednesday, November 21, 2007

The One Where We Give Thanks

With ten guests arriving @ our NYC apt for Thanksgiving dinner tomorrow, you are correct to assume that we have a ton of crap to do. I'm thankful to have wonderful friends to share the holidays with and I'm also thankful to have thousands of you to share daily movie thoughts with. I remain thrilled that when I check statistics I'm seeing more countries than I can ever hope to visit in my lifetime. (Just for kicks, here's a snapshot of about 100 recent visitors from 6 AM EST this morning --was one of them you?)

Well, I'm not thrilled that I can't travel the world but you know what I'm saying. In its own microscopic way the film experience has reach. THANK YOU (and, yes, I meant to shout) for supporting the site with comments, e-mail, donation dollars, enthusiastic reading and your own invaluably specific movie love.

Some other things I'm thankful for (off the top of my head)

Now you know how it goes here --participation! Name some things you are thankful for (off the top of your head), where are you visiting from? Let's hear from the lurkers, too. Even if you don't have a holiday to celebrate, it can't hurt to vocalize the positives.

p.s. I'll be back when my guests have fled. Coming soon: More Oscar talk, more Moulin Rouge!, reader requests, some Golden Globe prospecting (finally), Trips back to 1955 and 1997, an interview with a septugenerian film legend (!) and the usual mix of the serious & silly movie mad writings

20:07 (At Truvy's)

Screenshots from the 20th minute and 7th second of movies
can't guarantee the same results at home. I use a VLC

I'm so anxious to discuss this topic for the 900th time this week

Tuesday, November 20, 2007

Blogosphere Multiplex: Kim Morgan, Sunset Gun

It was high time to have another writer-to-writer chat. There are days in which Kim Morgan wants to be Tuesday Weld. There are days in which I want to be Kim Morgan. Her fine movie prose can be found at Sunset Gun and at MSN's Movie Filter and you may have even seen her on your television sitting in for Roger Ebert once on Ebert & Roeper. Chase any of the links in this article to some of her pieces. We're jumping right in since Kim has a lot to say about cinephilia, actress worship, classic films --I know my rental queue is already reordered after speaking to her....

10+ Questions with Kim Morgan of Sunset Gun

Nathaniel: How often do you go to the movies and/or watch at home?

Kim: If I'm out of a shut-in spell, I go to the movies about once a week. If there's a great film series going on or screenings I have to attend, more. As for in home viewing...I think (of late anyway, I've been watching movies like crazy) I average three movies a day, sometimes four. If I get anything that says "Film Noir Box Set" or "Women in Peril" I'm in trouble. And I always re-watch a movie I’ve seen a million times before I go to sleep. I go through phases. I used to watch Marnie constantly. And All the President's Men. And then I went through this They Shoot Horses, Don't They? obsession. Baby Doll was another. I'd wake up with Karl Malden screaming "Baby Dooolll" in a continual brain loop. I think that's slightly healthier than Gig Young's depressing, mocking "Yowza, yowza, yowza."

Nathaniel: I can't fall asleep if a movie is on myself (i need pitch black and silence... so fussy) but i envy you. ... well, not the Gig Young or Karl Malden hauntings.

Kim: I recently spent time in the desert and became reacquainted with darkness, silence and deep sleep so I really should change my habits. But then I live right off Hollywood Blvd. so it's never exactly quiet.

Nathaniel: Do you dream about movies too?

Kim: Unless the movie is bleeding into my sleep, I don't think I've ever had a dream about a specific movie. But since I always take a movie to bed, I'm not so sure. Maybe I'm never getting proper REM sleep. I have had two dreams about Gene Hackman though, those were good dreams. I wish John Garfield would find his way into my slumber.

Nathaniel: When and how did you first discover your cinephilia?

Kim: In terms of cinephelia, probably when I was seven-years-old and saw High Sierra on TV. I had to see every Humphrey Bogart movie after that. I also kept a journal listing actors, directors and movies (old and current) I liked. Oh god, and when I saw Rebel Without
a Cause at a revival showing, not only was I knocked out by seeing all those colors and angles and chicken races on the big screen but I had to find that red jacket James Dean wore. I wore that red coat all through middle school. I wish I still had that jacket.

Nathaniel: I think a lot of movie obsessives wait patiently (or im) for movies that remind them of those initial heady all enveloping thrills. Any recent movies or movie objects trip your switch in this way?

Kim: Whenever I see a movie I love on the big screen for the first time, it’s incredibly thrilling. Like when I saw Baby Face at UCLA a few years back or Cisco Pike at the American Cinemateque or nearly everything at the Noir Fest (The Crimson Kimono and Pickup on South
Street writ large? Watching close-ups the way Samuel Fuller intended? Richard Widmark and Jean Peters’ faces when Widmark’s lifting that microfilm from her purse? Chills). When I first saw Vertigo in re-release – I was in a state of total bliss. I wanted to pull a Mia Farrow Purple Rose of Cairo and step into the screen (though I don’t know if I’d want Jimmy Stewart following me outside and telling me how to do my hair. Oh, who am I kidding? Of course I’d want Jimmy Stewart following me around and dressing me in crisp grey suits).

As per current films, I was nutty over I Heart Huckabees (if that counts as current). I went to that movie over and over and over again. It wasn’t just that it was brilliant, or that it merged some of my favorite things in the world: perfectly timed screwball comedy, existential philosophy and Lily Tomlin, but it was gorgeously filmed and scored in this bittersweet, off kilter way that got me in all these mysterious places. Zodiac, Bug and The Darjeeling Limited were also on that level. And I want that train car in Darjeeling. I’ve taken two cross country train trips this year in a sleeper car but to have a car that detailed and that beautiful, well, is it even possible? What other movie items have I recently coveted? More from Darjeeling, I want Adrien Brody’s sunglasses. I want the Dodge Charger from Death Proof. And I want any dinner Samuel Jackson cooks for Christina Ricci in Black Snake Moan.

Nathaniel: Hallelujah and amen. Listening to you I felt like I was in a revival tent just then. I believe! the cinema.

Any thoughts on why it's such a challenge to get the industry or the public or even young film fans more interested in the classics? Why do you suppose film culture is so narrowly focused on the now?

Kim: Actually, I think it’s a pretty good time for classic film lovers. There’s some lovely restored pictures being released, things we’ve never seen on DVD (like Barbara Stanwyck and Ralph Meeker in the great John Sturges picture Jeopardy), there’s lots of film discussion, especially online, and obviously Hollywood, usually to their folly, looks to classics for re-makes. Like Michael Bay’s ridiculous idea to re-make The Birds. Ugh. Why is Naomi Watts agreeing to do that? But you are right -- living in Los Angeles, I’m amazed by how many people working in the film industry have either no interest or very little knowledge about older, classic cinema. There are exceptions of course, and there are those with a base knowledge, but it’s really depressing. I’ve met a few film majors turned “filmmakers” who’ve seen nearly nothing. They think watching Garden State is the kind of inspiration they need to make their first movie over say, I don’t know…the early work of Polanski (which every aspiring filmmaker should watch, in my opinion).

And kids, well, I don’t know what to do about kids these days. All the teenagers who went to Saw IV – go see Saw, but in addition to that, I really wish they’d watch Eyes Without A Face. Just observe how truly horrifying and weirdly poetic it is when you watch a face being ripped off (and in French). That might pique their interest. That, and anything with a young Ann-Margret. Ann-Margret in The Swinger? Or Kitten With a Whip? What kid could resist that? And it might lead them to Carnal Knowledge. And if Lindsay Lohan can watch all of Ann-Margret’s oeuvre (with all of her shit to deal with), I think other young ones can follow suit. Maybe then Fox will finally release The Pleasure Seekers on DVD.

Nathaniel: Good for you for avoiding my negativity. My brain got stuck there once I realized how many Montgomery Clift performances were getting hard to find.

Kim: Wait, you're right about that. There's so many movies not on DVD it's sickening.

Nathaniel: Popcorn or Candy?

Kim: I'll stay positive and say popcorn. Popcorn without a question.

Nathaniel: On Sunset Gun you seem to have no aversion to lists. I'm not going to torture you with something huge like a top ten that would make a big article on your on blog. But humor us a little. Name your favorite film, director, actor, and actress ... or if you're feeling really generous two for each (one classic, one modern)

Kim: Oh, you are trying to torture me here. I don't know if I can answer that! Hmm…well I just re-watched Bring Me the Head Of Alfredo Garcia, so at this very moment it would be Sam Peckinpah and Isela Vega, but then she’s made all the more powerful with wily Warren Oates at her side. (I have an enormous crush on Warren Oates which I’ve talked about frequently, probably too much.)

<-- Kim with Tuesday Weld... I couldn't resist

Also, have you ever heard the story about Peckinpah wanting to direct the adaptation of Joan Didion's great LA novel Play It As It Lays? It eventually starred Tuesday Weld (whom I worship) and was helmed by Frank Perry and turned out to be an intriguing picture that's now very hard to see, but imagine Peckinpah dancing with Didion. Maybe that would have been absolutely perfect, I'm not sure.

But anyway...back on track here, favorite director and actress. That's immediately making me think of all the great directors of women like Sirk or Cukor or Fassbinder or Robert Aldrich for Autumn Leaves alone, an incredibly sensitive look at female loneliness. I'm currently working on an essay discussing Sam Fuller as one of cinema's great, unsung directors of the female animal, from Thelma Ritter and Jean Peters in Pickup on South Street (Ritter is stunning in that picture and I love the part because it could have just as easily been played by a man); to Constance Towers in The Naked Kiss (how many films open with a bald sexy woman beating the crap out of some guy? And then that woman becomes the heroine? And in 1964?); to the extraordinarily adult, complicated and touching way he shows Victoria Shaw fall in love with James Shigeta in The Crimson Kimono. And then there’s Stanwyck in 40 Guns, where she’s this ass-kicking, whip wielding force of freaking nature.

Did I answer the question?

Nathaniel: You probably answered it in the only way you could have. A horrible Sophie's Choice question for cinephiles.

Of today's current directors or stars who do you think is doing the most interesting work --stuff we might still be talking about in years to come? Or, if you'd care to conjecture... who do you believe could really kick it up a notch if someone gives them the right opportunity.

Kim: With actors, for me at this moment, it’s all about Josh Brolin. He’s got this rugged 1970’s thing going on – great/weird looking (my favorite type), but quirky as hell and essentially a leading man character actor. He was hammy and hilarious in Planet Terror, and then soulful and subtle (while still being funny) in No Country for Old Men, so far the best picture of the year. He reminds me of a young Nick Nolte with a little Charles Bronson and not surprisingly, his father thrown in. But he’s all his own and was at times, brilliant in the four movies he appeared in. He was finally given a chance this year and took it up quite a few notches. The guy is needed in cinema – he’s a man!

And then of course there’s Christian Bale, Cate Blanchett, Joseph Gordon Levitt, Paul Rudd – there’s a lot of great people out there. In terms of directors there’s the obvious The Coen’s, who made a masterpiece this year (why, they haven’t received an Oscar for anything other than the screenplay to Fargo further shows how stupid the Academy is), Wes Anderson, Paul Thomas Anderson – I think the term classic is used too soon for movies these days though. I might sound like a bitter, chain-smoking, 90-year-old motion picture actress but, it used to take some time for a picture to become a classic. I was just reading something that called The Polar Express a classic. Um, no. I think it’s interesting to speculate which pictures might become later classics – like all of the movies in Shane Black’s oeuvre (as both writer and director) – The Last Boy Scout, The Long Kiss Goodnight and Kiss Kiss, Bang Bang.

Who else? I love the direction Gus Van San has taken – call me an aesthetic whore but I get chills just looking at the colors in Elephant or the way he follows the back of Michael Pitt’s head in Last Days. And unlike the detractors who think it’s so much arty, Bela Tarr posturing, the pictures really move me (especially Elephant). And I actually liked Gerry – I love a movie in which the sound of crunching rocks sends viewers states of apoplectic hysteria. I also think Gaspar Noe is savagely brilliant – both I Stand Alone and Irreversible – I wish he’d make other movie. God, I’m practically hyperventilating here. I didn’t even discuss The Rock, as in Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson – I love him. He’s someone who, if given the right part could be absolutely brilliant. Seriously.

Nathaniel: I share the Brolin enthusiasm. At least as far as 2007 is concerned. I met him recently and I'm being totally presumptious here assuming this but I got the impression that he was pretty giddy about the work he's done this year. And justifiably so I should add.

If you ran Hollywood, name three things you'd immediately do.

Kim: Oh God, there's more than three things. But off the top of my head I would, come to an agreement with the writers. Lower ticket prices. And...require that all working in the business watch at least two classic movies a month -- and read a classic piece of literature. Except Beowulf.

Nathaniel: Hee. OK, last question.

They make a movie of your life. Who stars. directs. What's it called. Rating. Tagline? GO!

Kim: Jesus! No, not Jesus, the movie (exclamation point), Jesus Christ this is a tough one. Err…for some reason I immediately thought of Angel Dusted starring Jean Stapleton, but that’s not quite right. Then there’s the other PCP movie where Helen Hunt jumps out of window, Desperate Lives – PCP movies have great titles. OK, uh…I’m going to have to go with the old Susan Hayward drunk movie for title alone, Smash Up: The Story of a Woman with the tagline from that other harrowing Hayward booze-fest, I'll Cry Tomorrow: “Filmed on location; inside a woman’s soul.” It’s my movie so Warren Oates and Lee Van Cleef have to appear. Roman Polanski directs. I want this to be good, so Tuesday Weld stars, of course. I guess I better start drinking...

Nathaniel: Thanks again Kim for your illuminatingly thorough and movie drunk answers. Just the way we like 'em.

Readers, I hope you'll check out Sunset Gun if you aren't already a fan. And add some of these well-loved movies to your rental queue. I know I'm delinquent in getting around to 40 Guns and Pickup on South Street and especially Tuesday Weld's early filmography.

20:07 (Grumpy Old Men)

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

Eddie: The man’s a rub down whore. Today he doesn’t want one.
Frankie: You ever do any work around here?
Eddie: It’s not my job I’d worry about if I was you.

Monday, November 19, 2007

Where Did the Drag Queens Go?

I haven't had the opportunity to read the Queer Cinema Blog-a-Thon yet but I feel confident in assuming that many posts will bemoan the dearth of important and quality GLBT filmmaking these days. Gone are the heady days of early auteur work from Haynes, Araki, Kalin, Van Sant and genderbending masterpieces like Orlando and Paris is Burning. The 90s are looking more and more like the golden age of GLBT cinema. I recently found myself in Blockbuster searching for a movie they did not have (Maurice if you want to know) --the gay films I did notice on the shelf were all checked out (some things haven't changed) but I wouldn't have rented them anyway. The titles escape me but there was an alarming number of comedies about gay boys wanting straight boys. That still has appeal? My how little we've progressed. It was such a prevalent theme on the DVD cases that I began to suspect that my neighborhood was a DL hotbed (very possible) or that this is merely the type of straight to DVD gay movie being made (also possible). Muscle boys and dumb comedies galore... but where were the dramas? where were the outré offerings. Where were the drag queens? Seriously, where'd they go?

John Travolta in Hairspray does not count. Nor does Eddie Murphy in Norbit. Nor does Cate Blanchett in I'm Not There.

I came home suddenly desperate for wigs and heels and watched The Adventures of Priscilla, Queen of the Desert for the first time in years. I remembered the great Terence Stamp performance, the astounding costumes (all that on a $15,000 costume budget??? I still can't believe it) and the ABBA jokes. I had forgotten the sheer quality of the movie itself. It's just a fine film: beautifully shot, very funny, well acted, well paced, moving and technically assured -- never mind the drag, never mind the queerness... though it must be applauded for that, too. For you see Priscilla is truly queer, not some neutered asexual thing like its American imitation To Wong Foo, Thanks For Everything Julie Newmar.

Mitzi (Hugo Weaving), Felicia (Guy Pearce) and Bernadette (Terence Stamp) are remarkably well drawn. They have more than one character trait, more than one motivation for their actions and each one of them refuses to be merely a vehicle for your amusement: they're funny, sure, but they have insufferable qualities too. They'll make you laugh but while you're giggling you're forced to confront their loneliness, their sexuality and their coping mechanisms (both healthy and un).

I always enjoyed the movie but seeing it again made me miss both early 90s queer cinema and that other short-lived lively burst of filmmaking: exportable Australian comedy -- Americans loved those for about 4 years. I hadn't seen The Adventures of Priscilla, Queen of the Desert in a long time and I was stunned watching it to remember its success: Adjusted for inflation Priscilla took in a healthy $17 million and won a freaking Oscar. It was as successful as its sort-of straight peers (Muriel's Wedding and Strictly Ballroom) as much of a limited release hit as recent queer-friendly classics like Far From Heaven and Y Tu Mama Tambien, more successful than recent hit foreign imports like The Lives of Others, La Vie En Rose. That's quite an achievement for a bawdy 'we're here, we're queer, get used to it' sort of comedy.

If you look at the most successful gay themed films ever released, Priscilla still seems impressively queer. (I've taken this list from Box Office Mojo's adjusted for inflation pages -but I've discarded films that I don't think belong there like Interview with a Vampire and Frida, which would've been in #2 and #19 spots)

01 The Birdcage (96)
02 Philadephia (93)
03 The Talented Mr Ripley (99)
04 The Crying Game (92)
05 In & Out (97)
06 Brokeback Mountain (05)
07 Victor/Victoria (82)
08 To Wong Foo, Thanks For Everything Julie Newmar (95)
09 La Cage Aux Folles (79)
10 Cruising (80)

11 The Hours (02)
12 The Object of My Affection (98)
13 Monster (03)
14 Alexander (04)
15 Midnight in the Garden of Good & Evil (97)
16 Rent (05)
17 Capote (05)
18 Making Love (82)
19 Threesome (94)
20 The Next Best Thing (00)
21 Far From Heaven (02)
22 The Adventures of Priscilla, Queen of the Desert (94)
23 Chasing Amy (97)
24 La Cage Aux Folles 2 ()
25 Y Tu Mama Tambien (02)
26 Boys Don't Cry (99)
27 Partners (82)
28 Personal Best (82)
29 The Hunger (83)
30 The Wedding Banquet (93)

The recent success of Far From Heaven, The Hours and Brokeback Mountain gives me hope for the gay drama to enter a new silver age... but gay comedies? The hits are depressingly unqueer in personality and politics, the no-budget affairs are just plain terrible (Eating Out, Another Gay Movie, etc...) The gay comedy needs a makeover something fierce. Wo-Man, does it need Mitzi, Felicia and Bernadette! Queer comedy is on the rocks because it's missing its cocks in frocks.

Stop-Loss Sneak

I don't normally share test screening buzz. Movies often change from tests to final product and it can be unfair to the movie in question --I'd hate people to judge rough drafts of anything I've written. But since this one is positive and since I know it's no studio plant and since it's about the new Kimberly Peirce film (so many reasons), I had to spread the good news. I know many of you reading are fans of her well observed, evocative work on Boys Don't Cry (1999) and the performances she guided including Hilary Swank (who won the Oscar), Chlöe Sevigny (nominated) and Peter Sarsgaard (still waiting for recognition, damnit). Pierce has taken nearly a decade to follow up on her debut hit despite, I hear, numerous offers and false starts. Here's what 'the unknown critic' has to say about her latest, an entry in the growing field of Iraq War related dramas:
The term "Stop-Loss" refers to a loophole that permits the military to retain soldiers beyond their required term of service. The film Stop-Loss tells the story of one man faced with just this situation. Following a brutal ambush that resulted in the deaths of several of his men, Staff Sergeant Brandon King (Ryan Phillippe) returns home to his hometown in Texas, only to be told by his superiors that he will be required to return to Iraq. Understandably, he balks at the idea and runs out on the Army and embarks on a road trip to Washington, D.C., accompanied by Michelle (Abbie Cornish), the fiancée of his lifelong friend Steve Shriver (Channing Tatum).

I realize that the plot synopsis conjures up any number of formulas- the road movie, with lots of colorful characters and picturesque stops along the way; the
chase thriller, with Brandon and Michelle hiding out from the law; even the coming home story, with battle-seasoned soldiers uneasily returning to their old lives. But Stop-Loss doesn't really fit into any of these categories. The film isn't so much about a plot as it is about the characters who inhabit it.

Stop-Loss is neither an angry film nor a despairing one, although at times it appears to be both. Instead, it's a surprisingly clear-eyed film about a man whose life has been changed by his war experiences, for better or worse. Whether he likes it or not, the Army has shown Brandon that he’s a born leader, and the film demonstrates it not only by the respect he gets from his fellow soldiers, but also by how lost they are when he’s not around. Rodriguez (Victor Rasuk), severely injured in battle, spends his days in a military hospital. Tommy (Joseph Gordon-Levitt) is prone to becoming drunk and violent. And Steve finds that outside the military real life makes little sense to him anymore.

As for the awards potential of Stop-Loss, I'd say that a lot of it rests on how it catches on with the public. The film is set to be released in March 2008, which rarely bodes well for a movie's Oscar chances. In addition, while all of the performances are solid, none is particularly baity. Even the showier roles- Phillippe, Gordon-Levitt, Rasuk- lack the big histrionic moments that tend to come with performances that get awards attention. But what the Stop-Loss lacks in awards-show-ready clips it makes up for in textured storytelling and detailed characterization. And the feel Peirce exhibited for small-town life in Boys Don’t Cry is in full flower here. Stop-Loss is a major achievement, sure to be a discussion point among astute filmgoers when it’s released in March.
Hearing good news about the film fills me with satisfaction. It's been a long time in coming. I think the move to March is a good thing for two reasons. First, it puts some distance between itself and all of these Iraq war films that are currently flopping. Second, we need more adult friendly dramas in the first quarter of each year. This year we got Zodiac. Maybe Stop-Loss will be 2008's quality sip of water in the usually barren sand of March. You should know too (just for giggles) that the unknown critic assures me that Channing Tatum is still allergic to clothing. What? I swear I didn't ask!

Oh, and here's the trailer which you may have seen already