Monday, March 31, 2008

Naked Gold Man & Early Bird Oscar Preview

Until we get closer to Oscar season (round about November) the Naked Gold Man column will be coming at you weekly on Sundays --starting on April 6th or 13th --to give you your golden fix. I know a lot of TFE readers would inject gold plating into their veins or snort red carpet debris if they could. For those of you who don't live for movie awards, I salute you for supporting The Film Experience anyway. We'll try to keep it corralled into Sundays until the season so hopefully there'll be enough movie loving of all other varieties to keep you here year round.

Until that time, enjoy the first round of my annual madness. Read The Early Bird Oscar Preview: a look at what hands the major studio players are holding and also a vague current release calendar (that will shift a million times before the year is through). I wrote this in a mad rush so please pardon any sloppiness --and correct me should you see errors: I can take it! Tomorrow, I'll start posting my annual year in advance Oscar Predictions. I'm proud to say that last year I had my best ever 'year-in-advance' success managing to predict 2 (several) 3 (in best picture and actress) and even 4 of the eventual nominees (in art direction) in certain categories.

Your comments, as always, are welcome.

Tom, Dick or Harry?

one of the 25 greatest musical numbers of all time

Ann Miller isn't picky. In Kiss Me Kate (1953) she's a maid who wouldst marry and she'll take with no qualms any Tom, Dick or Harry... any Harry, Dick or Tom. (Not their real names... that'd be Hortensio, Lucentio and Gremio I think. Movies where actors are playing actors playing roles are so confusing)

If you're not picky, however can you decide?

Harry promises riches "and if thou wouldst attain the upper brackets... marry me." Dick is poor but "if for love unending thou arst pining... marry me" I'm not sure what Tom is promising --he's still "spraying his decaying family tree" er... -- I guess it's class "to give a social lift to thy position ... marry me"

Bianca (Miller) finally tips her hand before the dance break in the middle of the song...
Any Tom, Dick or Harry,
Any Tom, Harry or Dick.

Dick, dick, dick,
A dicka dick,
Dick, dick, dick,
A dicka dick,
Dick, dick, dick,
A dicka dick,
Dick, dick, dick,
A dicka dick!
The men sing with her! Just how interested are they in Bianca anyway? And then they launch into what has to be one of the most thrilling tap and clap numbers ever performed.

Still even after Bianca has chosen her man later in the movie (Dick) they're still quite a lovey-dovey quadrangle. It's probably the friendliest love quadrangle in all of the movies. I have to say: Ann probably made the right decision choosing Dick. In the "From This Moment On" sequence very late in the film, Harry reveals himself to be none other than...

Bob Fosse himself! Trying out his signature moves for the first time on film. Ann Miller chose well. She could've ended up a character in All That Jazz and Fosse didn't treat the ladies that well, don'cha know. [see previous All That Jazz review].

Tom, Dick or Harry? A question (and a musical number) for the ages.

Here's a couple videos to enjoy if you're in the mood. To your left, the "Tom, Dick or Harry" number from the movie. To your right, "Bianca" (it starts a little ways in) by Michael Berresse (Lucentio in the 2000 Broadway revival), who I met the other night (thus, this movie being on my mind) and who is one of my favorite stage performers. He's got a role in the new Russell Crowe movie so maybe we'll talk to him again soon for the podcast

Sunday, March 30, 2008

Who Will It Be? Your Collective Best Actress Prediction

brave film experience readers have spoken, daring to predict the Oscar lineup for BEST ACTRESS many months before the films even open. How close will your collective prediction be this year? Here it is...

You can read all about it here and see the other 16 top vote getters, too. Plus the individual ballots!

To all
Best Actress Psychic contestants: Thank you for entering the contest. We have almost 200 competitors. Because the ballots have proven so similar this year (last year there were no duplicates) TFE may be experimenting with special bonus point questions, possibly bi-monthly, so if you have entered please make sure that e-mail from filmexperience (at) gmail (dot) com is approved in your e-mail account and does not go in your junkmail!



Correct Opinion love this X-Files poster.
Cracked investigates 6 of Hollywood's favorite offensive 'types'
Cinematical great images from The Fall
Golden Fiddle has some fun at Kate Bosworth's expense
Popnography interviews one of my fav scene stealers Loretta Devine
Out in Hollywood has helpfully compiled a bunch of incarnations of Gypsy for you to decide who is best as Mama Rose. He also chats with Joseph Gordon-Levitt of Stop-Loss
Boy Culture celebrates Madonna's return to the Vanity Fair cover (it's been a loooong time) and the likely chart topping of Hard Candy to come.
Everything I Know... shares interesting buzz about the upcoming West Side Story revival on Broadway.
Filmonic real life actors cast as The Simpsons? Fun choices.

Popular Mechanics "Ten Most Prophetic Sci-Fi Movies" [tip: Glenn Kenny]
Empire has new photos from Bryan Singer's upcoming Valkyrie. I am really excited to see Carice Van Houten in another film (after her breakthrough in Black Book) but for some reason I feel like this still is from a superhero film and not a war drama...

er... maybe it's just the high saturation of the color that's leading my brain there. Or Tommyboy's eyepatch? I'm not sure. But I just think: superpowers!

And, finally, don't you just love low budget creativity. The following two videos would surely make Michel Gondry happy. Here's two you've probably seen but I love them so I'm sharing, like it or not. The first is a cardboard tribute to Tron (1982) [tip: Drawn] and the latter is a Harry Potter puppet show seen by gazillions already [tip: ModFab]. Both are so fun.

Uploaded by freres-hueon

Saturday, March 29, 2008

Day of Rest

Shhhhhh! Making a living is hard. Especially when you work irregular hours. Let Julia and I sleep.

Friday, March 28, 2008

Run New Release, Run

Backseat -an indie that describes itself as a "coming of age late" story. Co-starring Donald Sutherland as himself. How about that?
Chapter 27 -This is that bio of John Lennon's assassin that Jared Leto added tons of lbs for. Co-starring Lindsay Lohan and Judah Friedlander.
Shotgun Stories -Michael Shannon (Bug, Before the Devil Knows You're Dead) adds another lowlife drama to his filmography in this indie about a violent rivalry in the South.
Flawless -Demi Moore and Michael Caine headline this thriller about a janitor and an executive who scheme to lift jewels. Speaking of flawless, this is Demi Moore out on the town in NYC the other day...


F O R E I G N / D O C U M E N T A R Y
My Brother is an Only Child -a comic crime film from Italy which played at Cannes last year
Priceless -America's favorite young French actress (well, until February 2008 at least) Audrey Tatou returns as a schemer who mistakes a young bartender for a millionaire in this romantic comedy
The Cool School -Jeff Bridges narrates this history of the LA artworld of the late 40s.
Hats Off -a contemporary documentary about a 92 year old actress in NYC
Under the Same Moon -It opened last week but it's expanding quite a bit now. You'll see a review this week.

Would you have a beer with Phillipe?


21 -Kevin Spacey trains college kids (including frequent Spacey co-star Kate Bosworth) to count cards in Vegas in this high spirited drama.
Run Fat Boy, Run -Simon Pegg (Hot Fuzz) is out to win the heart of Thandie Newton. He has to run a marathon to do it.
Stop-Loss -Kimberly Peirce (Boys Don't Cry) directs this buzzy drama about soldiers who are home from Iraq for far less time than they imagined. Starring Ryan Phillipe, Channing Tatum, Joseph Gordon Levitt (also starring in MNPP's "do, dump or marry?" series don'cha know --great fun). Co-starring Abbie Cornish and Victor Rasuk.
Superhero Movie -Another spoof film. I guess they're cheap to churn out. Although... really now. Won't this genre soon be self-parody with how many movies its producing each year?

When Sergi Met Nathalie

a french film I love.


There's only 297 days left of Bush's presidency (too long!) and I can't imagine anyone being able to suffer him for 298. Which is why I find the whole notion of a W. movie suspect [tangent: my sympathies go out to Starwood Hotels]. It's so soon. Still the cast that controversy magnet Oliver Stone has gathered is appealing. Josh Brolin as the worst president ever (albeit before he was president), Soon to be 'it girl' Elizabeth Banks as Laura (previous coverage of Bank's big year here), and now Academy Award nominee James Cromwell as H.W. and Oscar Winner Ellen Burstyn as "Barbara Bush"... that's a hefty lineup.

This is sure to be Burstyn's most frightening role since The Exorcist, the malevolent refrigerators and pill popping of Requiem for a Dream be damned.

Ellen Burstyn's troubled screen children

[Tangent #2: So, Burstyn will get her seventh Oscar nod for this, right? That'd move her up to tied for 5th place of all time in Oscar's actress hierarchy (a spot currently deadlocked between Ingrid Bergman, Jane Fonda and Greer Garson with only Fonda having a very remote chance of breaking the tie). Burstyn is currently in a nine-way tie for 6th place of most nominations from a female actor. The top four, in case you're wondering is composed of: 1. Meryl Streep, 2. Katharine Hepburn, 3. Bette Davis, and 4. Geraldine Page.]

Do you want to see this W. picture despite or because of all that's gone by... or maybe you would rather forget this dynasty forever? How do you feel about Oliver Stone's presidential films: Nixon and JFK?

What's Punctuality Got To Do With It?

My only excuse for not mentioning this sooner is that I was offline in Salt Lake City when it happened. A hearty overdue congratulations to the one & only Angela Bassett, who got her star on the Walk of Fame one week ago.

That's a deserving five pointer! She's still best known for her fierce Oscar nominated work as Tina Turner in the fine bio What's Love Got to Do With It (1993) and lighting the screen (and a car) on fire in Waiting To Exhale (1995)

I'll always have a soft spot for her ass kicking bodyguard Mace in the underrated sci-fi thriller Strange Days (1995). My favorite non-Juliette Lewis' related part of that movie is when Angela gets all confrontational with Ralph Fiennes who can't quite let the past go. She pins him to the wall and in that inimitable enunciating Bassett fashion gives him this tough love truth
Memories are meant to fade.
They're designed that way for a reason
Memories may fade but movie stars are forever. Congratulations Angela.

Thursday, March 27, 2008

Fourteen Thoughts I Had While Watching I Could Never Be Your Woman

The following post is brought to you by a nonstop flight from New York to Utah in which Nathaniel, sandwiched inbetween two strangers, dared to (re)watch this Amy Heckerling misfire. Let's begin...

1. The title card "An Amy Heckerling Film" always worries me. She’ll always have Clueless and Fast Times at Ridgemont High but otherwise her films are a mess, aren't they? The Look Who's Talking? franchise, Loser... I mean: YIKES. She’s a two hit wonder. And right away you can sense that I Could Never Be Your Woman is not raising it to three. The screenplay is forced and stale. The first three scenes are all over the map and also too spot on (if such a dichotomy is possible). A politically reactionary monologue/rant from Mother Nature (Tracey Ullman) is followed by grotesque plastic surgery images overlayed with cutesy music and credits is followed by an unfunny introduction scene in which we meet a bantering divorced couple (Jon Lovitz & Michelle Pfeiffer --only in the movies, pairings such as these) who both appear to have issues with arrested development and tease each other about their age.

...Woman bears the very distinct 'honor' of being Michelle Pfeiffer's first straight-to-DVD movie, a rather ignominious defeat for a “comeback” performance from one of the great stars but in some ways this movie's elusiveness was a gift in disguise. The twin triumphs of her 2007 villains (Hairspray and Stardust) look much better adorned with a cheery "we've missed you!" yellow ribbon.

Michelle's unique eyeball workout

3. Michelle rolls her eyes constantly. I counted ten eye-rolls in about that many minutes. [Nathaniel puts on rose colored glasses for this next sentence] I imagine this to be Michelle's own running commentary track --hey it is a DVD-- on the tonally garish screenplay, the forced gags, the cheap fish in a barrel shots at aging and other things frowned upon in pop culture... like Britney Spears. [Off with the glasses, tough love time] Either that or she's lost. Eye rolls are not a character choice so much as they're a sign of 'I have no idea what to do with this' despair. In fact, Hollywood historians believe that only Winona Ryder was ever successfully able to base an entire character on the ocular flip.

Pfeiffer plays "Rosie" the top creative force on a fading hit TV sitcom about Brianna, a teenager (played by Clueless's Stacy Dash), called You Go Girl . The show wildly overuses cliched hip hop slang and yet the character of Rosie has totally incongruous moments in which she seems to know nothing at all about what she does. She actually asks her daughter what the adjective "ghetto" means. Huh?

4. Stacey Dash is hilarious... in a subtle way. This script is terrible (and the script within the script for You Go Girl even worse) but even the way she says “yeah” is funny --or funny in theory, if the movie knew how to capitalize on it. It doesn't so she's mostly wasted. But here is reminder (in miniature) that Hollywood missed a golden opportunity when it opted not to throw quality comedy scripts her way post Clueless more than a dozen long years ago. Maybe she should have been on that black actress list I wrote up some months ago.

5. Michelle acts well with children. Saoirse Ronan (playing Izzy, Rosie's daughter) with her ice blue eyes (already familiar and used to great effect in Atonement) and ratty blond hair just like her screen mother's 'do' makes for a believable offspring. Ronan was born in NYC and raised in Ireland but she does a perfect American accent... I've already forgotten if that's her natural voice or not from Oscar's red carpet. Saoirse & Michelle have two amusing scenes in which they play with Barbies and bring their issues into the game with them.

6. "Makeovers are so played out" Rosie says in one of her few lucid moments (seriously now, this woman's IQ fluctuates wildly from scene to scene). She's protesting a You Go Girl plotline forced upon her by the suits to highlight her scene-stealing casting find "Adam" (Paul Rudd). While they suit Adam up, Rosie and he start flirting and he compliments her impossible beauty and hair. Question: How does Michelle still look so fine even while utterly messy? The woman's DNA is magical, magical I say. There's even a joke about how she achieves the look with an “egg beater.” Unfortunately this joke leads to Pfeiffer's least convincing screen moment when she stares at an egg beater and laughs in recognition of a private joke. It's an incredibly awkward acting moment, her worst since that shrill climax to otherwise sharp work in The Story of Us. I kept thinking of that 'if you rest you rust' truth... even major movie stars can seemingly forget what to do in front of the camera after a long break. Didn't Julia Roberts seem extra stiff in Charlie Wilson's War last year? I'm glad Pfeiffer had this as warm up before she wowed in Stardust.

Selfish note from an actressexual to all great actresses: Don't take several year breaks for plastic surgery recovery, child rearing or for any other reason! Work your talent to the bone. Especially if you're a one in a million sensation.

Yo, Yo, Yo. P.Rudd be gettin' janky widdit. Don't be frontin', aiiiight?
The previous sentence is a close approximation of I Could...'s way with slang.

7. Audition scenes are so played out (Pt 2) I said it. Not the movie. See, the movie's IQ fluctuates rapidly, too. Before that self-aware makeover revolt, Heckerling employs the even more exhausted comic audition scene. You know the type: a series of terrible untalented people humiliate themselves until the perfect candidate strolls in, looking that much better in comparison. That would be Adam, a ham and a half, who is about to win the part and Rosie's heart, too. At one point during the terrible auditions, based around a scene involving a nerd getting a wedgie (um, yeah), Rosie utters the line
I have to rewrite this scene. I mean, they can’t all be that bad.
You said it, Michelle. Not me. You wrote it Amy Heckerling. Not me.

8. The writing is terrible. There are stray lines and even --no surprise with a cast of this caliber -- bad jokes that amuse through skillful delivery but the movie is not very flattering to anyone. Golden comic opportunities are lost like a scene where Rudd courts Pfeiffer (pictured below)with Mother Nature looking on. It should be the type of scene that gets you giggling consistently and makes you want to hit rewind to watch each performance separately but, though sweet, it's not particularly funny. I love multiple actor wide shots and so few filmmakers even try for them anymore, preferring the over the shoulder one actor reaction shots and constant quick cutting. But it takes a cast at the top of their game and a sharp eyed director to maximize this type of group comedy.

'I took this role so I could make out with you. Can you blame me?'

9. How does this movie really feel about older woman/younger man romance? I couldn't tell you exactly. Mother Nature is decidedly against it. Rosie keeps changing her mind. For a film with aging as a theme it's very skittish and indecisive. The film keeps making fun of the older folk even though we're supposed to sympathize with Rosie. It also has some tough lighting that isn't flattering and doesn't help Paul Rudd or Michelle Pfeiffer pull off characters that are supposed to be younger than they are. Rudd is playing 29 (he's 39 next month). Pfeiffer is playing 41 or thereabouts (the actress turns 50 next month)

It's unclear why the characters can't be the real ages of the actors --no one on You Go Girl, a high school sitcom, is anywhere close to their teen years though this topic is not really addressed in teh film. Possibly there's a joke in there about the casting of high school movies that got left on the cutting room floor?

10. Clueless, it's not. Heckerling's great 1995 comedy has Jane Austen for its skeleton. Here, without a masterful blueprint, the plotting leaves much to be desired. There's a lame subplot involving Rosie's vindictive personal assistant who is attempting to sabotage her relationships with Adam by setting him up with Brianna. If it falls flat as "conflict" goes, it still affords us a mini Clueless reunion between Dash and Rudd.

The other Clueless alum in the movie is Wallace Shawn who makes a brief appearance as Izzy's angry teacher that Rosie has to meet with. His scene is the type I always hate: Some poor schmuck is set up to be 100% insensitive even though, if played differently, one could imagine the character being well meaning. Think of that audience baiting scene in Juno where the step mom tells off the ultrasound technician. It's just there to reinforce your love of the main characters and the poor supporting actor is basically playing "target". Cheap 'them against us' audience manipulation to make sure you're attached to the principals.

If you are what you eat than this sandwich is made of ham.

11. Beauty and Her Geek. Charisma is key and Paul Rudd and Michelle Pfeiffer both got it by the gallon. Their chemistry and star power makes this watchable but, listen, they're only human. They can't make it work. In fact, though Rudd hasn't misplaced his charisma he misjudges this performance on more than one occasion opting for vaudeville hamminess at every opportunity. I haven't seen so much mugging since the last time I saw a Martin Lawrence movie trailer. Rudd is playing a ham actor, surely, but it's still a problem. The gay minstrel asides from Rudd, complete with lisp and limp wrists were a particular thorn in the side. Nevertheless, I did love watching Michelle watch him. She's always been expert at selling romance. Martin Scorsese once called her 'our greatest romantic actress' and she never hurts for chemistry with male leads. Even when she’s not doing great work, she connects, especially romantically.

Her best scene is one in which she reconsiders their May/December September romance and breaks up with the young enthusiastic actor who clearly adores her. Pfeiffer's true gift is in dramatics. She's never been a particular slouch at comedy but neither is it her strength. The scene flirts with the comic toward the beginning (her hair gets stuck in his buttons) and when it sours, she soars. It's the most sincere and pained scene in a film that often feels disingenuously "light".

12. I know too much about Michelle Pfeiffer. I’m watching her grill her daughter on the numerical value of Pi and I’m like 'Don’t act like you know it all Miss Thing. You were a checkout girl and you never went to college!' And when I watch her movies everything reminds me of something else. At one point she runs out of her car to break up a fight between two school children and my mind suddenly raced to Dangerous Minds again... which isn't paradisical no matter what Coolio says.

And then there's the 'getting ready for the date' montage. You've seen it in 12,000 movies but this one doesn't begin to measure up to that scene in One Fine Day when she gets dolled up for George Clooney in the mirror (who has fallen asleep on the coach) remember that? Roowwrrr.

13. I'd watch it a third time. Even bad Pfeiffer is good Pfeiffer. It's the pfirst law of pfandom. Though I liked I Could Never Be Your Woman's one truly dramatic scene the best the co-stars seem to be having a good time together and the chemistry and physical humor is especially strong on their first date as they hit the town. She's all nerves and 'what am I doing?' dazed and he is eager to please and wired to perform.

Left: the oldest (and most beautiful) person in da club. Right: one very lucky guy

14. A sitcom without the laugh track. Before the climax of the movie, in which ---no, the plot is too boring to reveal --there's a scene where the happy cast and crew gather to watch You Go Girl. It's entirely painful because the show is not funny and they are all laughing hysterically. This movie probably needed a track to spur our own giggles on. Adam is essentially playing Urkel. If you think Urkel is funny, maybe you'll love this movie. Earlier in the film Brianna tells Rosie
I think Adam’s broad humor cheapens your wonderful writing
She has a point. Well... except for the wonderful writing part. After this group scene there's a seduction scene that's a little gross and juvenile. That's purposeful but it also plays as clumsily as Adam's unbuttoning of Pfeiffer's shirt. Instantly there's a montage to speed up the lovemaking (the movie, like Adam, can rarely sit still and just be) and as the lovers jump on the bed the song playing is what else "What's My Age Again?" Another moment that's so on-the-nose that you want to smack it across the face rather than pinch its cheeks.

The problem is not the age of the co-stars or the age of the fictional lovers. It's the age of the script. It's at once juvenile and ancient, like a rough draft that fell into a drawer and emerged years later, without so much as a polish, all covered in dust.

I Could Never Be Your Woman: D+ Michelle Pfeiffer: C


random thought of the morning...

Don't you wish they'd make another movie together? What's that you-- They are?
Well... maybe. That Ryan Murphy (nip/tuck) fellow sure has a lot on his plate though, don't you think?

Order Me Around

JA's fun "Make Me Watch a Musical" posts this past week have nearly inspired me to do the correlative "Make Me Watch a Horror Film"--though JA and I are friends it's a direct correlative: we mostly avoid each other's preferred genres, and we both have huge gaps in our film knowledge in those categories as a result (musical for JA, horror for me). But that sequel might have to wait a bit. There's some topics I've been meaning to write about that I promised some donors to deliver. I need a motivating shove so vote for which ones you're most excited for and that will spur me on roughly the order you decree.

I didn't include "finishing that Moulin Rouge!" piece because I knew that would win ;)

Wednesday, March 26, 2008

Hump Day Hottie: Matthew Barney

Because some days, like days in which you return to New York City from Utah (just... hypothetically speaking), nothing but a Mormon obsessed art world superstar will do.

Matthew Barney in "The Order" from Cremaster 3

There's nothing like a man who likes to toss his own sculptures around, wear feather headdresses, pink kilts and shove bloody rags into his mouth.

The many faces (and bodies) of Matthew Barney

Sometimes there's nothing like a man who dresses his nude body in intricate outfits and squids, obsesses about viscous fluids, shrinks his own testicles for art and then ties ribbons on them, chops up his pop star girlfriend in rising water before transforming into a whale, and reworks the Guggenheim as a video game setting.

There's nothing like a man who makes things with his hands.

Today is one of those days. No other man but Matthew Barney will do.

Nathan Jones's Diary

On my flight to Utah on Delta airlines last week, the little free TV on the back of my seat was showing a variety of unappealing series. Two movies happened to be playing. The first choice was King Arthur which looked ridiculous with a capital R whenever I flipped past it (I haven't seen it). The second choice was Bridget Jones Diary. Renée Zellweger is really veddy veddy good in it. But you knew that already. I'm totally down with her Oscar nomination that year (though I think she's even better in Nurse Betty the year before). You can see all of Renée's familiar facial tics but there’s nothing calcified or forced about her comic mugging. It’s like at some point in her career --I'm guessing Chicago but your chronology may vary -- she decided to Perform Renee Zellweger rather than just Being Renée Zellweger. It was and remains disconcerting.

Also: she’s so much hotter with a full figure. There's a couple of unflattering outfits in BDD but mostly she just looks healthy... comfy even. Too bad she became the poster child for the stick figure revolution among actresses. Spilling out of her playboy bunny outfit and giggling / embarrassed at her giant underpants, she’s adorable with a capital A. Bet you never thought you'd hear me say that again. Hey, it was a long flight. She thoroughly distracted me and you have to give thanks for unexpected gifts.

But the airline's satellite feed was lost and Renee’s image was eventually scrambled, her face distorted and frozen in mid-expression... art imitating life retroactively.

To Link

some of these links might be a day or two old but I've been away. enjoy them again if you've already had the pleasure...

To Ponder
Slant Ed Gonzalez looks at film criticism, race, Barack Obama and politics. Heartfelt thoughtful stuff
The Projectionist on the (unfulfilled) talent of Anthony Minghella (RIP)

To Read
FourFour on the Madonna / Justin Timberlake collaboration
Self Styled Siren
, who can always be counted on for a good movie star tribute, expresses love for the excellent and undervalued Joan Crawford
Movie Marketing considers the Flashbacks of a Fool poster (starring Daniel Craig)
Go Fug Yourself Juliette Lewis vs. Keira Knightley / Sharon Stone vs. Scarjo
PopWatch "Harvey Scissorhands" is at it again. This time with Fanboys. And they aren't happy about it. I know I've asked this question too much but why does anyone sell their film to him?

To Look At
Circus Hour Renée Zellweger lamp. teehee
Movie City Indie "Sometimes I Doubt..."
Everything Oscar Johnny Depp as John Dillinger in Public Enemies
MNPP a very special Buffy reunion

Check this out, the Psycho shower scene back to back (or side to side rather, with the original Hitchcock and the Van Sant recreation) thanks to Dennis for the heads up...

I'm Back!

..but before I reboot my daily activities I want to squeeze Susan, Thombeau and JA with love for filling in with such commitment and verve in my absence. It was interesting to see some different films mentioned for a change and it will hopefully inspire me to look beyond the usual suspects this next month. More soon.

Tuesday, March 25, 2008

Top Ten: Movie Hookers

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

Susan of
Awards Daily here again, with my final guest post, the "Tuesday Top Ten." Thanks to Nathaniel, my co-guest bloggers and the Film Experience readers.

This week's countdown focuses on a subject that's been in the news lately, especially for those of us in New York. That’s right, those short-skirted, high-heeled and gold-hearted dames (and dudes) who practice the "oldest profession" in the world: Hookers

Top Ten Movie Hookers

10 “Lana” in Risky Business (1983): Need quick cash while your folks are out of town (especially after trashing dad's Porsche)? Why not turn your house into a brothel? You know it's a teenage fantasy when the prostitute looks like Rebecca De Mornay. And the john is a young, dances-in-his-undies Tom Cruise.
Emperor’s Club or Street: Would probably command Emperor’s Club rates today.
Heart of Gold? More like head for business.

09 "Luenell" in Borat: Cultural Learnings of America for Make Benefit Glorious Nation of Kazakhstan (2006): Actress/comedian Luenell Campbell makes the "perfect" dinner party date for the Kazakh reporter. She's also one of the few performers in on the joke.
Emperor’s Club or Street: Definitely street.
Heart of Gold? Yes.

08 "Vivian" in Pretty Woman (1990): Julia Roberts' breakthrough role had her sashaying down Hollywood Boulevard and into Richard Gere’s fancy car, hotel suite, bed, bath and ... beyond.
Emperor’s Club or Street: While she works it on the street, her weekly rate comes to $3,000. That’s far below the hourly rates of the Emperor’s Club, but one must consider inflation.
Heart of Gold? Yes. And by the end of the film, she's got the credit cards to match.

(tie) 07 “Mike” in My Own Private Idaho (1991): River Phoenix never seemed more vulnerable than when he played this young, narcoleptic street hustler.
Emperor's Club or Street: Street, but only in this film.
Heart of Gold? Yes.

(tie) 07 “Lynn” in L.A. Confidential (1997): Kim Basinger’s Veronica Lake look-alike prostitute manages to make both Russell Crowe and Guy Pearce swoon. Not bad.
Emperor’s Club or Street: Emperor’s Club, and unlike the other "starlet" hookers, she didn't need to get "cut" to achieve the Lake look.
Heart of Gold: Yes, especially when it comes to Crowe's troubled cop. (Can't say I blame her.)

06 “Linda” aka "Judy Cum" in Mighty Aphrodite (1995): Oscar winner Mira Sorvino adapts a voice that could cut through glass as the prostitute/porn star mother of Woody Allen's adopted child. The performance grates on the nerves until it wins you over.
Emperor’s Club or Street: She looks like she should be in the Emperor’s Club, but sounds Street. Bonus points for good genes.
Heart of Gold? Yes. And based on her porn credits, she also has an Enchanted Pussy.

(tie) 05 “Simone” in Mona Lisa (1986): Cathy Tyson portrays a high-priced call girl who forms a unique bond with her paid driver, the blokey George, (the wonderful Bob Hoskins). A sleek and disturbing film.
Emperor’s Club or Street: Emperor’s Club with Street ties.
Heart of Gold? She’s a little too complicated to pigeonhole.

(tie) 05 "Bai Ling" in 2046 (2004):
The breathtaking Ziyi Zhang can win the lust, but not the love of her neighbor (Tony Leung Chiu Wai) when she moves into room 2046. The film never explicitly states that she's a prostitute, but it's implied.
Emperor's Club: She's just working out of her apartment, but everything about this character is Emperor's Club.
Heart of Gold? Not in the traditional sense, but definitely more vulnerable than she'd like to be.

04 “Ophelia” in Trading Places (1983): Jamie Lee Curtis shows off that “Perfect” 80s bod and manages to keep pace with the comic talents of Dan Aykroyd and Eddie Murphy.
Emperor’s Club or Street: She’s street in the movie, but that’s only in a movie.
Heart of Gold? Definitely.

03 “Severine” in Belle de Jour (1967): Ah, marriage, soooooo mundane. That's one reason to take up an afternoon hobby as a prostitute. The ridiculously beautiful Catherine Deneuve is frigid, damaged and only able to connect with herself within the fantasy of "Belle de Jour."
Emperor’s Club or Street: Her rates are probably closer to being Street, but she's definitely Emperor's Club material.
Heart of Gold? Who can tell, it's surrounded by ice.

02 “Satine” in Moulin Rouge! (2001): Nicole Kidman broadly plays the “sparkling diamond,” at first, and then reveals the woman inside. Still, truth, beauty, freedom and (above all things) love are definitely held on a pedestal, and that’s where the tragic Satine remains.
Emperor’s Club or Street: Definitely Emperor’s Club--or in this case, The Duke's Club.
Heart of Gold? Yes. Unfortunately, her lungs are made of less durable material.

01 “Lulu” in Pandora’s Box (1929): As the doomed prostitute in this silent classic, stunning Louise Brooks launched herself, her iconic hairdo, and perhaps the prototype of the sexually liberated woman (who must pay the price for her freedom), into the cinema consciousness.
Emperor’s Club or Street: Emperor’s Club--she's a screen Goddess.
Heart of Gold? Uncertain, as Brooks is too enigmatic to define.

What ladies (or gentlemen) of the night would you pay for?

Juliet of the Spirits

One of the most fabulous movies ever made, Federico Fellini's Giulietta Degli Spiriti is some sort of crazy masterpiece, and one of my very favorites. It is nothing less than an explosion of cinematic fabulosity, all glamour and insanity. Laden with over-ripe symbolism and incredible hats, Juliet of the Spirits deals with archetypal imagery and the feminine psyche. This was Fellini's first full-length venture into color film, and legend has it that he took his one and only hit of acid shortly before filming began. The result can be described as nothing short of...Fellini-esque!

The above images are only a tiny sample from a film that overflows with extravagant visuals. The sets and costumes are to die for! What plot there is to speak of is minimal, and there aren't many actual characters, yet it's easy to be seduced by this trip into another realm---one that could only exist on film. So invite some friends over, mix up some sangria, and enjoy the ride!

(Thanks to Nathaniel for letting me share some wacky pictures, and my wacky opinions as well. And thanks to you all for humoring me!)

MMWAM: Singin' in the Rain

The following review, while appearing on The Film Experience blog, is decidedly not the opinion of Nathaniel Rogers or The Film Experience blog, but belongs solely to his crusty guest contributor, JA of My New Plaid Pants. Its appearance here does not indicate any approval, agreement, vetting, endorsement, or anything of the sort, or perhaps even coming close, by Mr. Rogers and his fine establishment.

Y'all voted to make me watch a musical. And I did.

So this is what is thought of as The Greatest Musical Ever Made, huh? Two hours of shameless mugging and buffoonery? Singin' in the Rain is a disgrace to the "talkies" - I kep hoping some intertitles would pop up and shut these morons up...

Wow, that'd be a downer, eh? If I actually came on here roaring like that? Scared ya, didn't I? He gone and done it; he's gone deranged, you thought. Well relax your furrowed brow, turn away that business-end of your hammer and take that alcohol-soaked rag out of the wine bottle; I couldn't keep up the hate-charade for even one paragraph. Hell, the truth is, I had to do some household chores at the exact half-point of watching the film and I couldn't dry the dishes fast enough to get back to the movie.

So yes, it is true. Singin' in the Rain was an absolute pleasure, a joy, to watch. It's harder to write about things when you sorta kinda wholeheartedly like them, though. Where's the fun in that sort of nonsense? One's critical faculties turn to "durrr" when faced with something so effortless, so enjoyable. But I owe y'all all a review, something beyond "durrr," so let's look at it.

I can pinpoint the exact moment when my hateful, rage-filled defenses were broken down by the film. When I first laughed out loud, and realized it was inevitable that I was probably gonna love this movie. It was with this woman:

"She's so refined. I think I'll kill myself."

Nothing melts this cynical heart quicker than some good suicide humor.

And I'll just come right on out and say it: I kinda wanted to make shameless, dirty love to Gene Kelly. What a pip!

Sexy scar alert!

I was afraid at the start that he'd slide into ham territory; see, one of my main problems with musicals is that I get a little... uncomfortable... when somebody's trying so very hard to, well, Make Me Laugh (yeah... I'll get to Donald O'Connor is just a minute...). It's why I feel nauseous whenever I go to stand-up - if you can see the desperation in their eyes, the wild-eyed terror to please, I want to crawl out of my skin. But I guess there's a reason Gene Kelly was such a big star - who'd have thunk it? - never do you see the seams; never does it feel like he's trying. Effortless.

And as many times as I've seen the "Singin' in the Rain" number, in all sorts of contexts other than within the actual film, seeing it now, in the right context... I get why it's so revered. It's one of the most magical things ever put on screen. My eyes actually kinda welled up, it made me so happy.

Now as for Donald O'Connor...

I have to say he worried me at first. He was the frantic yang to Kelly's yin, all slapsticky buffoonery... but then, about midway through the "Make 'Em Laugh" number as I became progressively worried for his safety - he had to have some bruises after filming that thing - I realized he was actually sending up the hamminess I so fear. He was taking the shtick so far over the top that I breathed a sigh of relief - this movie was definitely smarter than I was afraid it wouldn't be.

As for Debbie Reynolds, well, she was just a doll. No, I mean that literally. Her resemblance to a plastic doll was uncanny and, frankly, slightly terrifying. Tell me if you can spot anything different here from above:

I thought not! Mutant! Plastic baby woman!

I kid. I kid because I love. She too could be described as a "pip." But alas, my heart will always truly belong to another...

Yes, my long sordid history of falling for the villain continues... Jean Hagen as the ditzy (but then not so ditzy, but then mostly ditzy again) villainess star seeking to go all Ursula the Sea Witch on Debbie's voice is and will always be my ain true love.

Give 'em squeaky-voiced hell, Jean!

And because being pervy amuses me, I did find myself wondering at some of the weird subtext within the film. If a dance between two people falling in love symbolizes their, uh, let's just say "courtship" - and I'm pretty certain that's a pretty surefire way to read it:

Then what exactly was going on with the "Good Morning" scene?

Mmmhmm. Heathens!

There was a load of subtext bubbling under the surface of the film between Kelly and O'Connor's characters; I'm sure it's been written about by now, though, so I'll have to go do some digging, check that out. Anybody got anything?

What exactly what Moses supposing anyway?

If I had one problem with the film, it came right at the end: why couldn't they tell Debbie (I just realized I'm calling all of these actors by their own names instead of their characters) what they were going to do when they forced her to stand behind the curtain and sing for Jean Hagen?

It seemed a needlessly cruel route to go that added a dash of false melodrama to what had proceeded so naturally up until then. I guess it was just because Debbie looked cute with tears in her eyes:

Still, I smiled as he brought her back to the stage (after semi-creepily screaming for the crowd to stop her from escaping) and they duetted us out on a happy high.

Here are some other random things that entertained me, but I don't know enough about the context on which the film was riffing, my musical knowledge being so lacking, as to really comment upon (all y'all who know such thing, please feed me your knowledge in the comments!):

Spider Woman rocked! I wanted more of her.

The weird costume song. Apparently this was something that was actually really featured back in musicals back in the day? And Singin' was making fun of it, I guess? The only time I remember seeing this happen was that INSANE scene in The Women when the film slid to color and the most ridiculous outfits I'd ever seen were suddenly paraded out - that scene seemed even more over-the-top then this one. Also, I'm convinced this model was a man:

Those giant pearls are totally hiding an adam's apple.

I don't know what the hell was going on here:

But Gene Kelly sure did look fine dressed all in black.

I know I'm forgetting some things, but I'll let y'all remind me what you find great about Singin' in the Rain in the comments.

And a hearty thank you to everyone who participated in the voting, and has checked out what I've had to write whilst here at The Film Experience. But my biggest, heartiest thank you goes to Nathaniel, for allowing me to pollute his blog with my ramblings once again. I'd be lying if I said I was a little worried I might find myself locked out after not adoring West Side Story completely! But no, he's a generous and kind soul. Thanks, Nat! And thanks everybody! Look for me over on the wrong side of the tracks next time around...