Saturday, May 31, 2008

May. It's a Wrap

One thing I hate about the world of blogging / internet reading: everything disappears so quickly. It's the newspaper = fish wrap problem only with 'new media'... same as it ever was. I'm pretty pleased with the way the month went. I finally buckled down and reviewed some damn movies. So herewith, my ten favorite pieces from May... in case you missed any (oh, indulge me)

01 The Piano retrospective -the best film of the 1990s?
02 Network retro "That puts us in the shithouse. That's where that puts us"
03 Barbara's Revenge Dench is "chronically untouched" in Notes on a Scandal
04 Thank You For The Movie The Music ABBA live-blogged
05 Be Very Afraid Batman Begins... with mp3!
06 Arguably the Greatest Close-Up in the History of the Movies
07 Speed Failure -the undisciplined aesthetics of Speed Racer
08 Scarjo & Ryan body parts now legally allowed to marry!
09 Famke Jannsen from X3 to Turn the River. Nathaniel meets Phoenix!
10 April Showers Bring May Flowers I love pretty stars ...and photoshop

Coming in June: More Moulin Rouge!, The Incredible Hulk, A Touch of Evil, the kick-off to an Oscar Best Picture series, Julia, Magic Kingdom: While Nathaniel's away @ DisneyWorld the Guest Bloggers will play, The Curse of Chalion, TONY Awards, Geraldine Page appreciates Paul Newman's "hard gold" in Sweet Bird of Youth but I plan to appreciate Geraldine Page, Maurice, Monty Clift Off-Off Broadway, Wall-E ... and the usual cinematic fits and giggles.

"Thou Shall Not Pass"

The Balrog proves no match for Tink' and Gandalf

...but Nathaniel is allowed to pass into her magic kingdom in just 3 Days
DisneyWorld awaits!

Complete the Sentences

Sex & the City (The Movie) is _____________________ . When it comes to Sarah Jessica Parker, I ____________________ .T(Jennifer Hudson's Oscar for Dreamgirls ____________________ )

Friday, May 30, 2008

Hard Candy 2

"omigod you guys"

My friend just finished his civic duty as a jury member the other day and as he was leaving the courthouse what thanks did he get? This eyesore driving past the court house, bending and snapping...

I don't want my MTV. Wasn't that horrific Grease reality series enough?

I use to love the movie Legally Blonde and my friend (who snapped this pic) and I both still say "I object!" in Elle voice (don't pretend you don't) with some regularity... but the sad diminishing returns --it's best not to speak of this "Broadway musical" and I use the term lightly-- have so turned me off. It's like all those straight to video Disney "sequels".

Good vs. Evil: Theatrical Blondes
It's so gross that MTV, which has always ignored rock stage musicals that might have actually fit into their vague subject matter chooses THIS as the one stage piece to get excited about and force upon millions. My theory is if you're a tastemaker and you have a captive huge audience, you really ought to try to promote good work that your audience might actually like if they were given the opportunity to sample it.

MTV could have done wonders for Hedwig and the Angry Inch back in the day. Or Spring Awakening recently. Or... any number of shows with true rock and roll spirit, raucous youthful energy and artistic ambition. Not that MTV has a purpose beyond serving the corporate dollar.


Technical Difficulties -Update

My relatively new computer has requested a leave of absence for medical reasons. I am officially without my constant gorgeous 20 inch companion. He is now in the clutches of the magical Apple elves in their castles made of glass. There's some pre-written blog nibbles coming but otherwise --it's hard to write without a computer --Book Club and Moulin Rouge! posts will have to wait til after my Disney trip and the guest bloggers have had their way with the place. Stay tuned.

misery loves company: What's the worst computer malfunction you've ever experienced?

He's Not That Linked To You

Club Silencio Was Tony Leung placed in movies by the tobacco industry? A totally believable conspiracy theory!
European Films has a review of the Palme D'Or winner The Class (Entre les Murs)
<--- Purse Blog Kirsten Dunst's MiuMiu campaign. Not new but we've been neglecting Kiki. In other news the 'sphere is attacking her for claiming she went to rehab for "depression". Either way, I applaud her
ONTD Zooey Deschanel is touring this summer
Low Resolution
makes an important clarification about TV ladies

StinkyLulu hosts the Madeline Kahn Appreciation Day. If my computer weren't on the fritz I was going to write about Paper Moon
What to make of Sex & The City's box office prospects?
Hollywood Elsewhere on Sex & the City
The first hour especially is as garish and putrid and spiritually repulsive as can possibly be imagined without throwing up.
Is there ever this much vitriol for films about men?
Goatdog has seen almost every Best Picture nominee. Crazy
Fabulon, a great actressexual hangout, barely knows who Jessica Alba is. I am amused. (Incidentally I will be their guest blogger on 06/15)

Why am I posting the trailer for upcoming rom-com He's Just Not That Into You? Search me. Perhaps it has something to do with Ginnifer Goodwin getting a big role and my short-term (I hope) crush on Bradley Cooper and the outside shot that for once we'll get to see a Jennifer Connelly performance that doesn't involve moping and crying.

Pretty please.

Thursday, May 29, 2008

It's Tinkerbell's World...

and soon I'll be living in it.
_______ 5 Days until Nathaniel is in DisneyWorld

May Flowers

Wednesday, May 28, 2008

The Way We Link

on blogging
NY Times "Exposed" the blogging piece that the sphere is talkin' bout and
Gay Prof has a chart on the celebrity status of bloggers. I'm apparently "middling" in nearly every category. Not a real internet celebrity [sniffle]. Funny stuff

on Sydney Pollack
Three pieces on Sydney Pollack's talent as an actor: The Projectionist, Bright Lights After Dark and Humanizing the Machine. Dave Kehr will miss him as a mainstream director, too. Movie City Indie has a whole slew of videos of interviews about his films

on, well, other stuff
Dennis Cozzalio asks a gazillion (okay, 36) movie questions for readers to answer. My New Plaid Pants brushes its teeth with Jesse Bradford, he of the endearing if limited lopsided grin. He Shot Cyrus and Dear Jesus have both shared 5 movies they 'don't want to watch'

Carries, Samanthas, Charlottes or Mirandas?

Just to be a mite perverse here's some photos from the Sex & The City premiere in NYC that don't include any of the stars ;) I've given up worrying about the quality of the movie. How could it compare to six years of the TV show? I shall just see it and enjoy it for a chance to spend another 100 minutes with old (imaginary) friends.

Comment Game Time! The real question is whether these famous moviegoers are Carries, Samanthas, Charlottes or Mirandas in real life.

Don't pretend you haven't pledged one of the four cosmopolitan swigging divas as your own possibly more fabulous counterpart. Which Sex girl are you and which are they?

Cassandra's Nathaniel's Dream


New on DVD this week is the latest morality/crime thriller from Woody Allen Cassandra's Dream (2008) starring Colin Farrell, Ewan MacGregor and Tom Wilkinson. The Weinstein's played a release shell game with the theatrical release, finally dumping it in January's no-man land. The outcome was predictable: It became one of Woody's biggest flops only outperforming September (1987). Pity that, given that Woody had his biggest hit since the '80s with Match Point. Scoop seemed to benefit from that momentum.

One wonders how the Weinstein's will treat the far buzzier Vicky Christina Barcelona (2008)... which is currently due in August. Is there any momentum left from that Match Point resurgence?

If you don't adjust for inflation, Woody's top 5 looks like this
  1. Hannah and Her Sisters (1986, Orion) $40
  2. Manhattan (1979, MGM) $39.9
  3. Annie Hall (1977, UA) $38.2
  4. Match Point (2005, Dreamworks) $23.1
  5. Love and Death (1975, UA) $20.1
Obviously if you consider inflation, Match Point falls significantly south. His films were most popular in the 70s, back when moviegoing favored more sophisticated laughs.

Older Films: There's a Dario Argento Box Set for the devotees or the curious. You also have a new opportunity to see Cheng Pei-Pei (pictured right), who you'll remember as the old and evil Jade Fox in Crouching Tiger Hidden Dragon, back when she was a deadly young thing in the influential wuxia landmark Come Drink With Me (1966)

Also just out: The Air I Breathe, a four part ensemble story with Sarah Michelle Gellar, Forest Whitaker, Kevin Bacon and more; Cleaner with Samuel Jackson as an ex-cop who cleans crime scenes; Darfur Now which is that documentary starring Don Cheadle we've heard so much about; Rambo for the fourth time; FlashPoint an action flick starring Donnie Yen; Grace is Gone, John Cusack's strangely dumped-at-the-last-second Oscar bid as a widower who lost his wife in Iraq; and the Paul Schrader flick The Walker in which Woody Harrelson plays a gay escort of society women in DC.

On June 18th, We Begin...

a-ha !

Tuesday, May 27, 2008

ABBA: The Movie (1977)

A Reader Request (Long time in coming...and Happy Birthday Stephen G!)

I should warn you up front: Jeg elsker ABBA! [imagine beating cartoon hearts here] I just love them. And not in the way most people do, bopping around ironically or with retro amusement to "Dancing Queen" or "Gimme! Gimme! Gimme!". I mean I actually love ABBA. I'd make them breakfast in the morning. My love isn't camp-based or fleeting or based on one fun song. I know their first and last names. I've listened to Swedish interviews. I've seen all of their videos. I've bought box sets. I think they're musical geniuses... possibly the most perfect pop group that ever existed. Despite my ABBAlicious feelings, I've never seen this movie.

So I've decided to share the experience with you as I live it. Live Blogging.

Benny, Björn, Agnetha and Frida's pre-show jitters

Why haven't I seen it? Well, I'm allergic to director Lasse Halström (Chocolat, The Cider House Rules, The Shipping News) and I blame ABBA for setting him loose on the world. This was his first major film you see. I have also avoided the smash Broadway jukebox musical Mamma Mia! I considered it blasphemy when it premiered and reviews didn't endear me to it. The plotline alone gives me hives: a young girl wants her father to walk her down the aisle but her mom was a big whore and it could be any one of three men; They all come to her wedding in Greece. What is this Lace: The Musical !?!

That being said, my genuine unshakeable delight in Meryl Streep, especially when she's singing, has prompted me to set all my qualms aside and be excited for the movie version. I like the idea of Streep as a former floozy with a daughter who looks just like yummy Amanda Seyfried.

Does Your Mother Know that you read and comment on this blog?

Mad Hattering with Michelle

La Pfeiffer seems to be having lots of trouble with her hat on the set of Chéri.

Damn that Consolata Boyle and her millinery trickery!

Kerry Washington @ Cannes

I love her.

How great was she in The Dead Girl anyway? And Our Song and The Last King of Scotland and and and ...

RIP Sydney Pollack

This morning while brewing coffee and getting ready for the day, I've been listening to NPR reports about the passing of Sydney Pollack (yesterday, of cancer). The name fills me with so many memories. Tootsie came immediately to mind. I think it was the first film of his I saw and I fell absolutely in love. I didn't always enjoy Sydney as an actor -- probably because he played the same type of role frequently -- but his work as Michael Dorsey's agent remains my favorite of his supporting turns. The scene when Michael first approaches him as "Dorothy" is a perfect comic jewel. Pollack does flustered double taking with the best of them. I think about that scene almost every time I think of Pollack and it continually endears me to him. He must have been so proud of the scene and Dustin. He must have known that film was gold. But he's digging for his own there at the table.

I love so many of his films as a director. My other two favorites are They Shoot Horses Don't They (previous appreciation) and The Way We Were (with apologies to Out of Africa and This Property is Condemned --but mostly for Natalie Wood in the latter).

Regarding The Way We Were: I think it's one of the best romantic dramas Hollywood ever produced. When I first saw it in college --I'm not sure what prompted me, but it was probably one of my many aborted attempts to get through all nominated Best Actress Oscar performances -- I was completely wowed by how substantial it actually was. Romantic films are so often critically dismissed. Even the smashes are often scorned once there's a little distance (see Titanic appraisals for a modern case). I liken this to people being embarrassed about their initial openheartedness... sort of the way that most of us are so easily aggravated by our significant others after the heady rush of the falling in love phase passes. Surely the contempt with which many romantic dramas (and comedies come to think of it) are held with both the public and critics after the fact has more to do with human nature than with the work. Like any genre, romance has its masterpieces. I think it's better than the other Robert Redford picture that won Best Picture that year (The Way We Were was not nominated)

It's always interesting to see how people view the work of artists when they pass on. One of the voices on NPR was talking about the lack of auteurial signatures or visual flourishes in his movies. This was spun in the most flattering possible way. It went something like 'it makes you concentrate not on the man behind the camera but on the film itself' When people pass away, you should always go with the positive. In this case it isn't difficult.

Sydney Pollack, you will be missed.
(click here for latest posts)

The Linkening

<--- StinkyLulu Supporting Actress Smackdown '99: Jolie vs. Collette vs. Keener
Sunset Gun "Stark Raving Crawford"
Bright Lights After Dark "Dear DVD companies..." (pssst. I'd totally snatch up a stand alone of Red Dust. It's so hawt)
Correct Opinion news from the new Terminator film. Me, I'm totally confused about why they're doing another one when the franchise is currently on TV for free every week --albeit w/out Christian Bale but you can't have everything
i09 surprise: Battlestar Galactica's ratings have gone up. My theory: More and more people have watched the DVDs of the other seasons and are now tuning in
The Reeler on the lineup for the NY Asian Film Festival (06/20 - 07/06)

cinemavistaramascope on Douglas Trumbull's contribution to the endurance and "loneliness" (I love that observation) of Blade Runner
Goatdog looks back at Ballad of a Soldier, easily one of my favorite Russian films
The Spy in the Sandwich... is disappointed in Serbis' showing @ Cannes but sees a renaissance coming for Pinoy cinema
loves Laura Dern's tragicomic work as Katherine Harris in HBO's
Silly Hats Only How to recommend good films to complete strangers

Monday, May 26, 2008

Memorial Day

See you tomorrow.

Quote of the Month

Tilda Swinton, muse of 80s fringe auteur Derek Jarman (she's starring in a documentary about him which plays @ MoMA next month), was asked what that queer legend would have thought of her Oscar for Michael Clayton
I think he would have laughed and laughed and laughed and laughed and laughed. And then, he would ask me for the thing to melt it down into an artwork.
[New York Times]

Sunday, May 25, 2008

Naked Gold Man: Doubting December

On Sundays we talk Oscar!

For what it's worth, and if you haven't heard, Miramax is now repositioning John Patrick Shanley's Oscar hopeful Doubt into October --it was previously slotted for December. That's a smart move and it's now as good a time as any to discuss the release date shuffling that's happened. Those Oscar predictions I made back on April 1st are already obsolete (as they always are within a month or two) and will be updated on June 1st with all of these new fast-tracked contenders deciding for 2008 instead of '09.

Doubt's repositioning is a smart move. December is always over-crowded and at least on Broadway, Doubt was the sort of water cooler phenom' that benefited from audiences talking about incessantly. One of my favorite and most aggravating aspects of the Oscar game is release dates. I'm obsessed, as you well know, with complaining about the all December habits of studios... It definitely teaches serious moviegoers to only enjoy the cinema for one quarter of the year and that aint right.
Nobody puts Baby in a corner!
I am hopeful that the strategists start looking more closely at 2006 when audiences had a lot more time to see the eventual nominees before Christmas and even take a peak at 2007 . It led us us right back to old "dump it at Christmas!" habits, but in both years one of the earliest releases among the nominees won the big prize. The Departed (2006) and No Country (2007) had significant head starts winning over the voting bodies. (One wonders if There Will Be Blood would have put up more of a fight for critical prizes had it opened as early as No Country For Old Men)

Anyway, those years are over --LIVE IN THE NOW, NATHANIEL! With Doubt moving the expected major 2008 players are now looking fairly spread out... or at least as spread out as it gets with Oscar strategies these days.

August Vicky Christina Barcelona
September Blindness, Happy-Go-Lucky
October Body of Lies, Doubt and Miracle at St Anna's , W (moving up from 2009. It will be released while George W is still in office. Very odd)
November The Road (pictured right, moving up from 2009), Australia, The Soloist and Milk
December Frost/Nixon, Seven Pounds, The Curious Case of Benjamin Button, The Other Man, Revolutionary Road and Defiance
"TBA" (a cute nickname for December):
Che (in some form or another), Chéri (moving up from 2009), Brothers, Changeling (or The Exchange), The Reader and The Young Victoria

All of which brings to mind the question: Which films do you think are heading for a nomination come January? Make a wild guess. Five of them.

Cannes Winners

Official Competition Films
Palme D'Or
Entre Les Murs (The Class) by Laurence Cantet who previously won international acclaim for the film Human Resources [France]
Grand Prize (Runner Up)
Gomorrah by Matteo Garrone (First Love, The Embalmer) which looks at the Italian mafia not from the perspective of the wealthy leaders but from the working class underlings. AO Scott called it "furious and brilliant" [Italy]
Jury Prize Il Divo by Paolo Sorrentino, an inventive biopic on
Italian Prime Minister Giulio Andreotti (played by Toni Servillo) [Italy]
Best Director Nuri Bilge Ceylan for The Three Monkeys [Turkey]

Special Prize "Prix de 61st Festival de Cannes" awarded to both Catherine Deneuve for her participation in Un Conte de Noel (A Christmas Tale) (by Arnaud Depleschin) AND Clint Eastwood for Changeling
Screenplay The Dardenne Brothers (who never leave Cannes without some sort of prize) for Lorna's Silence [Belgium]
Benicio Del Toro who plays Che Guevera in Che [USA]
Sandra Corveloni who plays the struggling tough mother of four boys in Linha de Passe [Brazil]

Prizes from other Cannes Juries
(outside the main competition)
Camera D'Or (awarded to first time filmmakers) Steve McQueen for Hunger which is about the Maze Prison during the IRA's hunger strike in the 80s.
Camera D'Or Special Mention Everybody Dies But Me by Valeria Gaï Guermanika
Best Short Megatron by Marian Crisan about a Romanian boy on his birthday

Short Special Mention Jerrycan by Julius Avery about a kid suffering from bullying
Un Certain Regard Sergey Dvortsevoy's Tulpan
Ecumenical Jury Prize Atom Egoyan for Adoration

Saturday, May 24, 2008

Have you ever made out in a theater instead of watching the movie?

Tell us all the gory details!

[the comments have been rated R. No one under 17 may click without parental accompaniment]

Now Playing ~ Memorial Day Weekend

What will you be seeing this holiday weekend... or is it Off Movie adventures for you?

The Edge of Heaven -Anyone who saw writer/director Fatih Akin's (pictured left) powerful Head-On [queue it] probably should have his feature follow up on their radar. This one also toggles between Turkey and Germany and deals with an estranged father and son and the attempt to free an imprisoned Turkish activist, the daughter of the father's girlfriend.
The Children of Huang Shi -Ostensibly this stars Jonathan Rhys Meyers and Radha Mitchell rescuing orphans in 1930s China but the most interesting note (at least sight unseen) is that it reunites Crouching Tiger's Chow Yun Fat and Michelle Yeoh.
A Jihad for Love -This controversial documentary on the gay Muslim experience was filmed right inside deadly countries for gay men and women. Reviews are largely glowing. Here's the trailer.

Postal -Uwe Boll (!I know!) directed this satirical comedy about religious nuts and terrorists. Inspired by the video game.
War Inc. -Another contemporary political comedy, this one starring several 80s/90s stars including Ben Kingsley, Dan Aykroyd, Marisa Tomei and John and Joan Cusack (where ya been girl?)

Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull -Nothing dared open against it which is possibly wise given the expected gold it will dig up. I am probably the only person alive who isn't very interested. I've been burned too many times by Lucas, occassionally by Spielberg, and fairly regularly by wanting something to continue that already ended. Nostalgia should really mean just plopping a movie you love into the DVD player. Nobody has had to wait for re-releases of beloved films since the early 80s! If anything, nostalgia should make much less sense in terms of ticket buying than it once did. Strangely, it still does. Perhaps I shall see Indiana Jones 4 but I'm not in a rush. This week has been a little tough as previously noted. I maybe could use some old fashioned adventure.

...and you?

Friday, May 23, 2008

Cannes Nearly Wrapped


I can never keep up with Cannes news, which seems to erupt bi-hourly as journalists and critics exit the theaters reporting away and as photogs snap the next batch of arrivals. It's like an action film that never stops with new setpieces.

Samantha Morton, Michelle Williams, Phillip Seymour Hoffman and
Catherine Keener representin' Charlie Kauffman's Synechdoche New York

Sean Penn's jury will announce the winners this Sunday. Predicting Cannes wins is a futile game --nobody ever gets it right beyond maybe naming a film or two that will pick something up. But let's take a look at the official line up one last time and predict anyway. Because we're silly like that. How were the Official Competition films greeted? [I'm using the invaluable GreenCine Daily and the official Cannes site for most of the research here] If you haven't been playing along elsewhere, I'll sum up...

La Mujer Sin Cabeza (The Headless Woman) [Argentina] Lucrecia Martel (La Ciénaga, The Holy Girl)'s latest effort isn't going to detract from her burgeoning rep as an auteur but even the kind reviews don't seem truly enthused.

--> Leonera [Argentina] (pictured, right) Pablo Trapero tells the story of a convicted mother struggling to raise her son.

Le Silence De Lorna (The Silence of Lorna) [Belgium] The Brothers Dardenne (Cannes winners for Rosetta, Le Fils and L'Enfant) probably won't win this year. Four wins would just be so extravagant. But as per usual, critics are impressed.

Linha de Passe (Line of Passage) [Brazil] Walter Salles (The Motorcycle Diaries) and Daniela Thomas co-directed this film about a mother and her unruly amateur soccer playing sons. Reviews have ranged from mild thumbs up to very positive with comparisons to major films like Rocco and His Brothers and Salles own Central Station. Could be a dark horse of some sort.

<--- Adoration [Canada] Atom Egoyan (Where the Truth Lies, The Sweet Hereafter)'s new one has been met with mixed reviews. Critics are glad he's returned to the multi-character mosaics of his 90s work but most feel it's too sanctimonious. Hmmm, Sean Penn as head of jury? Sanctimony? A match made in... sorry Sean! I wouldn't expect big things, awards wise.

24 City
[China] Jia Zhangke (The Platform, The World) can do no wrong with cinephiles and this one continues his winning streak. Some say it's more accessible than his previous film and IndieWire floats the interesting notion that its picture of rapidly changing China is taking on unplanned resonance in the wake of the recent catastrophic earthquake.

Entre Les Murs [France] Laurent Cantet's (Human Resources) late competition entry met a mostly warm reception. It's about a teacher and his students and a look at France's multi-ethnic modern population.

La Frontiere De l'Aube (The Frontier Of Dawn) [France] Philipe Garrel (Regular Lovers) directed his ubiquitous movie star son Louis in his first ever competition film. The black and white love triangle with a supernatural overlay. It's proving very divisive. A 'whistle or boo' sort of film. You gotta love those.

Un Conte de Noel (A Christmas Tale) [France] Arnaud Desplechin has taken on a difficult task: Make a fresh movie about a dysfunctional family during the holidays. That's an overpopulated genre. But Desplechin is amazing and at least some critics, like Glenn Kenny, are ga-ga for it. The consensus seems to be that it's too messy to win over everyone (or win over the jury) but I can't wait to see it. Desplechin directing Kings & Queen cast members Catherine Deneuve and Matthieu Amalric again? I'm there.

The Palermo Shooting [Germany] Wim Wenders (Wings of Desire) starring Campino, Milla Jovovich and Dennis Hopper.

[Hungary] Actor/director Kornél Mundruczó's slow moving art film about reunited siblings is receiving praise for its formal aesthetics but it doesn't seem like a true competitor.

---> Waltz With Bashir [Israel] Ari Folman wrote and directed this animated war film which is in Hebrew and German. Reviews have been largely hyper positive citing its big statements and timeliness ... even if they're not always crazy about the animation itself.

Gomorra [Italy] I dismissed Matteo Garrone (First Love, The Embalmer) drama in my initial write-up because I feel like the Italian crime family drama has been oversaturated for decades. But critics are very impressed, feeling that the new angle (it focuses not on wealthy power players but their working class underlings) is fresh and the film is harrowing. AO Scott called it "furious and brilliant" and best of the fest.

Il Divo [Italy] Paolo Sorrentino (The Consequences of Love)'s biopic on the Italian Prime Minister Giulio Andreotti (played by Toni Servillo) has impressed critics with its enigmatic look at the man in question. But will the very Italian subject and ambitious political overview impress the international jury? Andreotti himself is reportedly not amused.

<--- Serbis (Service) [Philippines] Brillante Mendoza (The Masseur)'s movie about a movie house will have to make do with its status as the first Filipino film to make the competitive lineup in nearly a quarter century. Reviews haven't been especially positive.

My Magic [Singapore] Eric Khoo (Be With Me) says that this is his most personal film yet and that he was inspired thematically by Cormac McCarthy's The Road.

Uc Maymun (The Three Monkeys) [Turkey] Nuri Bilge Ceylan (Distant, Climates) returns to the fest that's helped build his rep. Reviews have been very positive calling it "gripping" and "powerfully bleak". Maybe I'm fooling myself to believe it's not going to win big since I wasn't a huge fan of the agonizingly slow if beautifully composed Distant.

Blindness [United States] If the mediocre reviews for Fernando Meirelles's film about a "white sickness" epidemic are indication, it won't win any Cannes prizes. I wouldn't rule out any Oscar campaign just yet. Haters say it's too earnest. That's not a negative with AMPAS.

---> Che [United States] Steven Soderbergh won Cannes' top honor on his first try (Sex, Lies and Videotape, 1989) but this Che Guevera biopic is only his third competition film. It's divisive already collecting fanatic devotees who love its epic ambition and violent spectacle and high profile detractors say it skimps on the stuff biopics are traditionally made of: Che's early life, why he is who he is, etcetera... It's journey through theatrical release to Oscar season should be mighty interesting.

Synecdoche, New York [United States] Charlie Kaufman's directorial debut is winning the expect huzzahs but virtually everyone is calling it an odd duck -- even less accessible, apparently than his other scripted work. (I don't really understand how movies as great as Being John Malkovich or Eternal Sunshine... are considered inaccessible but, alas, I live not by the laws of the mainstream multiplex) Can't wait for this one...

<--- Two Lovers [United States] James Gray (The Yards, We Own the Night) directs his apparent muse Joaquin Phoenix and the resurgent Gwyneth Paltrow in this romantic drama. It's been called "polarizing" ... in fact, reading over the collective pull quotes @ GreenCine it's hard to imagine that any of these reviewers saw the same film. But then again, romantic films are often among the most divisive, aren't they?

Changeling [United States] Eastwood and Jolie's team-up seems to have won the mainstream critics over in a big way (lots of Oscar talk) but what else is to be expected from an Eastwood film? Maybe the jury goes mainstream?

Palme D'Or, Jury Prize and Direction? Who knows what Sean Penn, Natalie Portman, Alfonso Cuaron and those international directors will groove on. Wild guesswork here but I'm predicting that the Palme D'Or goes to Matteo Garrone's Gomorrah (pictured right) the director prize to Steven Soderbergh for Che and the Jury Prize to either Waltz with Bashir or Linha de Passe
Best Actor? Benicio Del Toro's 4 hour biopic performance in Che seems likely as a winner but then, jury prizes aren't strict or easily guessed at. One could see a dual prize for both him and Demian Bichir (as Fidel Castro) if the jury likes the film. Other possibilities: François Begaudeau (Entre Les Murs), Toni Servillo (Il Divo) or the cast in Linha de Passe?
Best Actress? Angelina Jolie's Changeling mother won expected raves. She's already an international icon but can she join the exclusive list of Cannes Best Actress winners? Her competition: Maybe Martina Gusman (Leonara) or the female cast of Synechdoche New York?

The Curious Tease of Benjamin Button

If you hurry on over to YouTube you can catch the Spanish teaser to David Fincher's The Curious Case of Benjamin Button (before nervous execs pull it). It's mostly just imagery accompanied by Danny Elfman-esque music. It looks visually enticing even through fuzzy YouTube grime. This tale of a man who ages backwards is going to be weird but also (crossing fingers)... great? David Fincher deserves a huge success. Just seeing all the actors excited me a wee bit. [src]

Network (1976)

A reader request (long time in coming --my apologies Chris!)

One thing I suspect about director Sidney Lumet: He likes his drama super sized. I'm talking Empire State Building big. No 800 lbs gorillas in the room please, make it King Kong. Give them 16 tons of drama. Lumet wants grunting, sweating, lunging, screaming, gargantuan desperate drama like the kind you get in Dog Day Afternoon, Before the Devil Knows You’re Dead and Serpico. Never mind 12 Angry Men. How about 1 Angry Man, Sidney Lumet himself, and in the case of Network -- arguably his best film -- one angry fictional man named Howard Beale" (Peter Finch). Network eventually gets around to naming Beale the “mad prophet of the airwaves” but it’s also a self descriptive tag. This movie is mad as hell and prophetic, too. Network is Howard Beale and Howard Beale is Network. This impressively large but also miniature film --it's not hard to imagine it as a stage play --swings wildly from mood to mood just like its bipolar madman.

Peter Finch is 'mad as hell' in his Oscar winning role

A lot of movies steal from Network but I love the borrowing that it does right out of the gate, in ominiscient detached voiceover.
In his time Howard Beale had been a mandarin of television. The grand old man of news with a hot rating of 16 and a 28 audience share. In 1969 however his fortunes began to decline. He fell to a 22 share. The following year his wife died and he was left a childless widower with an 8 rating and a 12 share.
That calm voiceover, giving numbers as much if not more weight as the man's personal life, has already begun the chilling process of reduction. It's overtly reminiscent of both All About Eve's arch view of the theater world and Sunset Boulevard's ghost-eye view of Hollywood. Network’s target is television. Is it boldly proclaiming itself the final third of the Holy Trinity of Self-Loathing Showbiz Pictures? Whatever the intent, it moves with utter confidence, thereby forcing itself into the godhead.

Read the rest...

Return and report. Have you tuned into Network recently?
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May Flowers, Italian Style

Thursday, May 22, 2008

Complete the Sentence

Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull is... __________

Prince Jake of ...Persia?

As you may have heard by now, the rumors were true and Jake Gyllenhaal has been cast as The Prince of Persia in the film adaptation of the popular video games. [src] This news elates, alarms, depresses, and assures me all at once. It multi-tasks.

Elates for it promises ample opportunity to gaze upon the maximum amount of Gyllenhaal flesh that a PG-13 rated film (we assume) can offer. Think Lara Croft: Tomb Raider only with Jake properly objectified instead of Angelina Jolie. To borrow a quote from The Holy Grail "...and there was much rejoicing"

Alarms for it falls squarely within the unpromising realm of the video-game adaptation. Is there a video game adaptation yet that has also been a good film? Hollywood has even managed to make a theme park amusement into a good film... but video games? Not yet unless I'm forgetting something. Prince of Persia: The Sands of Time will be directed by Mike Newell which is neither here nor there, quality wise. He's hit & miss having directed great stuff like Dance With a Stranger and Donnie Brasco but also, I fear, Mona Lisa Smile and Love in the Time of Cholera.

Depresses for it reminds us of how "color blind casting" in Hollywood usually means the opposite of what the media implies that it means. It actually means this: Put pasty white people into roles that should require some ethnicity! Jake and Gemma Arterton the female lead hail from Los Angeles, USA and Kent, UK, respectively.

Gemma (who will also certainly be objectified, see Prince of Persia women to your left here) is hardly a box office draw. Couldn't they have thrown at least one of the lead roles to actors of Middle Eastern descent [Arabic isn't exactly accurate... but I hope you still hear where I'm coming from. -editor]? You can probably guess that the evil villains will be cast more authentically regional if they don't go for big names.

Good looking potentially audience-engaging Middle Eastern actors aren't impossible to find. None of them are as famous as Jake Gyllenhaal but still... who is to say that audiences wouldn't warm to the most charismatic among them if given a proper chance? Even Wentworth Miller, certainly a name, is a little bit more appropriate ethnicity wise. Here's just a tiny random sample of talent in the right age range and beauty for lead roles... took me barely any time to look up and I don't have the resources of a Hollywood casting director.

(From left to right) Men: Säid Taghmaoui (Three Kings, G.I. Joe) Haaz Sleiman,
Jake Yakobi and Babak Tafti (prev post). Women: Hadeel Sittuh, Summer Bishil (Towelhead), and Heather Raffo (actress/playwright from the terrific
one woman show 9 Parts of Desire).

I always wonder about well-known properties needing big name draws. Isn't the material selling the first weekend audiences (to some extent) and don't first weekend audiences word-of-mouth sell it from there (if it's any good). I know that people didn't love Superman Returns but isn't everyone happier that it was Brandon Routh (an unknown) rather than Nicolas Cage who was cast at once point (and paid. Ouch) in one of the aborted ve
rsions of the franchise relaunch. I know I'm living in a fantasy world. These are billion dollar properties. They won't be taking any big chances with unproven actors of Middle Eastern descent. Eventually someone will --It's a better world out there for black, hispanic and asian actors than it used to be after all -- but not in 2008.

Assures for it finally gives Gyllenhaal a franchise. Franchises are crucial to salary inflation and (presumably) long term bankability. Assuming that Persia is successful this will keep him bankable and employable no matter how many Renditions await. And many moviegoers (myself included) need the Gyllenhaal delivered routinely like a live-saving pill, injection, IV drip or a blood tranfusion.

Ahhh, the healing powers of Gyllenhaal.