Sunday, August 31, 2008
Rachel Getting Married = Anne Getting Nominated ~ This better happen now that I've tooted the horn of my own good judgment (nails officially bitten)
Queens of Scream ~JA's chilling rundown of great horror performances
Manni Peddis with Marcia ~ How much do I miss NYC and celebrity spottings? Very much
Capra Corn and Math Porn ~ It Happened One Night is awesome. A Beautiful Mind not so much. I hope you enjoy reading this "Best Pictures" series as much as we've been enjoying writing it.
This Car Won't Start ~ I finally revved my engine for Final Girl's popular blog party
Kate's Oscars ... 1,2,3,4 ~The National Portrait Gallery holds at least four wonders. They're shiny (mostly) and gold (mostly)
What I Learned on My Summer Vacation ~ While Nathaniel was trying to save up pennies working for The Man, his guest bloggers filled you in on lessons learned in cold movie theaters
To Ruth ~Adam's lovely tribute to one of our favorites "The earth is my body; my head is in the stars."
The Olympics ~coverage was spotty (hey, it's a film blog) but I do so love the games
08th ~this bizarre and awkward series that didn't really excite you (I had fun!) concludes with a tribute to Persona
Nathaniel R in September
Things are in flux as you know. I'll do my best to return to full time writing --I'm anticipating regular programming and Nathaniel postings to resume shortly. Why must I speak in the third person? Why must careers and personal economies be so vexing? At the very September will bring us some festival coverage: TIFF & NYFF, the return of Julianne Moore in Blindness, and definitely more Oscar hijinx from the 90s: American Beauty, Shakespeare in Love and Titanic and the 1930s, too. Plus! Little Shop of Horrors (the second edition of "Musical of the Month Club") and more, more, more... of the To Be Determined variety. Stay with us.
Saturday, August 30, 2008
I don't get into posting movie news and I know Nathaniel doesn't either but I read this article at Variety about Tom Cruise dropping out of the spy thriller Edwin A. Salt only to be replaced by...
wait for it...
Angelina Jolie! Okay. So they're going in a totally different direction. I can respect that. But here's the part of the story that I liked best: "'Edwin A. Salt' will undergo a title change."
Some writers just don't miss a beat.
Friday, August 29, 2008
Macario (Gavaldón, 1960)
Tlayucan also known as: The Pearl of Tlayucan (Alcoriza, 1962)
Letters From Marusia (Littin, 1975)
Amores Perros (Alejandro Gonzalez Iñárritu, 2000)
The Crime of Father Amaro (Carrera, 2002)
Pan's Labyrinth (Del Toro, 2006)
As you can see there, Mexican cinema has recently caught Oscar's fancy again after that long dry spell that followed Mexico's triple play in the 1960s. The resurgence has a lot to do with these four men.
Pictured from left: Gonzalez Iñárritu who has had both a foreign nominee (Amores Perros) and a reg'lar old Best Picture nominee (Babel); everyone's favorite Mexican movie star Gael Garcia Bernal (who kicked off the Aughts with back-to-back-to-back arthouse hits), Guillermo Del Toro who after years of cult favor has rather successfully branded himself for the mainstream as a creepy creature feature kind of pop force; and the best filmmaker of the group Alfonso Cuaron who has yet to win a foreign film, a director or a Best Picture nod but whose films are well known and often well regarded. Only one of these four men might be involved in this year's Oscars.
Mexico has yet to win the Foreign Film Oscar but Pan's Labyrinth obviously lost its race in a squeaker (if its 3 other Oscars are any indication). This year's submission possibilities (links go to official site or video footage) are:
- Arráncame la vida. Roberto Sneider adapts the period novel from Ángeles Mastretta.
- Cochochi's claim to fame is that it's an indigenous drama spoken in Tarahumara. You don't see that every day... or, well, ever. Laura Amelia Guzmán & Israel Cárdenas's film has a certain relaxed fly on the wall vibe but I can't say that I'm a fan. Having seen it I can assure you that Oscar won't go for it. It's too alien in feel without that exotic pull that can get AMPAS interested in a foreign culture in the absence of more familiar strengths like acting, epic atmosphere or Hollywood plotting.
- Cumbia Connection is a Monterrey set urban musical from director René Villarreal.
- Déficit. Gael García Bernal gets behind the camera. His directorial debut concerns the wealthy set in a tourist hotspot. Bernal's starpower will make Oscar voters curious at the very least.
- Two Embraces. Enrique Begné directs this split drama.
- Nonna's Trip from Sebastián Silva is a family comedy about a simulated vacation.
- Familia tortuga Directed by Rubén Imaz. A drama about family loss.
- La zona a class warfare drama from Rodrigo Plá.
- Lake Tahoe. This teen drama is the sophomore film from Duck Season director Fernando Eimbcke. It won the Alfredo Baeur Award @ Berlin. I haven't seen it but I'm sorta rooting for it already given my instant crush on Eimbcke. It all began in Toronto in September 2004... sigh. Seriously, he's a doll. And if you still haven't seen Duck Season, it's not for the lack of me preaching for it.
- Partes usadas Mexico loves teen movies this year. This one, directed by Aarón Fernández, involves car part thieves.
- Burn the Bridges. (see previous post) When I was on the jury at IIFF this spring, we gave the young lead actress our only acting prize. She's very affecting.
I snapped my fingers. Will you say 'sure'?
_______The "Musical of the Month" is Little Shop of Horrors. Participating blogs we'll be going down on skid row Saturday September 6th. Join us.
Two sweaty men in combat for their lives against a tyrant whose subjects don't respect him. Two actors who are notoriously fond of themselves. Two alpha males of Hollywood's pantheon. It's the second consecutive showdown of 30's icon Clark Gable & 00's icon Russell Crowe in our "Best Pictures From the Outside In" series.
It's fun how closely the Gable/Crowe stars align.
- Blatant self-regard
- High school dropouts
- Late blooming -- both started acting young but became huge stars in their early 30s
- Storied prickly relationships with other movie stars
- Heighth, well, by Hollywood standards at least ...Crowe is nearly 6' and Gable was 6' 1"
- Public adoration and true box office power
- Gable had songs written about him / Crowe sings songs with his band
- And finally, most importantly to our purposes here, there's the Oscar magnetized filmographies: Crowe starred in 5 Best Picture nominees, 2 of them winners in a span of seven years: LA Confidential (97), The Insider (99), Gladiator* (00), A Beautiful Mind* (01) and Master and Commander (03); Gable starred in 5 Best Picture nominees, 3 of them winners in a span of seven years: It Happened One Night* (34), Mutiny on the Bounty* (35), San Francisco (36), Test Pilot (38) and Gone With the Wind* (39)
For Nick this episode was all about realizing how little he'd seen from 1935 (and new 2000 indecisions). For me this BPFTOI episode was all about reconsidering both Gable and Crowe, neither of whom I've been all that attached to in the past. Crowe's Oscar'ed turn as Commodus Maximus improved for me a lot on this revisit (though I still think either Javier Bardem or Ed Harris' would have made a stronger choice for Best Actor in 2000 --and those are both biopic turns so, whaddya know? I'm not entirely predictable)
I admired Gable's 1935 performance, too. After his work in Mutiny on the Bounty (I'd only seen the 1984 Mel Gibson version) plus that recent return trip to It Happened One Night and my virgin screening of Red Dust, plus his connections to two of my favorite leading ladies (Carole Lombard, his wife pictured left with their siamese kittens awwww and Norma Shearer, his three-time co-star), I am officially considering membership in Team Gable.
Horror characters will never learn... at least not until there's a plot point to guide them. In this era of genre self-awareness, it seems odd that potential victims still don't get the concept of sticking together, or picking up anything nearby just for its stabbing potential. In doubt, you take things off the walls and chuck them like there's no tomorrow - because, hello, there might not be! I'm talking children's art, decorative plates even... Scott and Liv, just because you're pretty doesn't mean you get to stand around being useless. Not without nude scenes anyways.
The Last Mistress
Catherine Breillat is a vampire... Now the second film of hers to advocate blood drinking. It's not Anatomy of Hell memorable, but Asia Argento's a force to be reckoned with here, with or without menstrual tea. I think Breillat tried teaming up with Lipton, but they're going to stick with chamomile.
Sex and the City: The Movie / The X-Files: I Want to Believe
Sometimes TV is better on TV... I couldn't help but wonder... was Sex and the City worth it just to see Charlotte Poughkeepsie her pants and Carrie beat Big with a bouquet? Yes and no. It's harmless, it's flashy, and pretty much nothing worthwhile happened plot wise so as to ruin the show's legacy. I guess the same can be said for Mulder and Scully, only even less happened and audiences seemed to forget there was such a legacy. The impending crossover will hopefully correct this. Charlotte sets up playdates with Scully's alien offspring, and Louise from St. Louis falls for Mulder because they both really believe... in love.
Vicky Cristina Barcelona
Loving Woody is unpopular... Also, finding innuendos with that name is still remarkably easy/shameful. I'll happily defend Woody Allen through all his ups and downs, mainly because his ups are so unforgettable. So Cassandra's Dream is like having someone else tell you about their dream. No one cares. But Vicky Cristina Barcelona is a like taking a revitalizing trip, with all the sensuous sights and sounds, and Javier Bardem is your slutty tour guide!
It's possible to hot box in a theater... and you don't even have to supply the weed. It's like that quote from Beyond the Valley of the Dolls: "In a place like this you get a contact high!" You better believe the potheads will unite for the stoner movie of the summer. It's almost like seeing a movie with a laugh track, because even if nothing's happening, someone there thinks it's the funniest thing they've ever seen.
To sum it up: Stay in school or in Spain, and don't let Catherine Breillat fix you that drink!
Thursday, August 28, 2008
"I can't believe he's falling for Lucy. That'll all change once I take the stand. Oh who am I kidding, I'll just break down because I love the big lug so much. Anyone have a little model of an oil derrick I can stroke for comfort?"
[Jonathan, Cinema Styles]
Short Answer: Nothing. A big fat stinkin' nuttin!
Long Answer: Not much more.
Jonathan here from Cinema Styles and I gotta tell ya: I'm not a summer moviegoer. As such, what I learn from the summer movies I generally learn from my kids as I try to convince them to go see as many movies as possible while assuring them that their mother and I will not die of loneliness without them around. Through them I have learned many things:
1. In big city multiplex theatres, ticket takers aren't very astute. I discovered this about a month ago when my oldest daughter was off to the movies. "Wait a minute," she said to her friend, "I forgot my ticket." "What do you mean?" I asked, "You haven't bought a ticket yet." That's when I learned that at the multiplex (where you buy the tickets on the first level and hand them to the takers on the second level amidst the hustle and bustle of multiple concession stands) one simply has to go get their popcorn first and then flash their torn stub that they bought 37 movies ago as they walk by the ticket takers. See, there's a reason all theatres used to have the ticket taker RIGHT INSIDE THE DOOR. People forget why things are done a certain way sometimes. Those who do not know history are doomed to repeat it, or something like that.
2. Iron Man is so great, oh my god, you totally have to see it right now because... no, wait, The Dark Knight is so great, oh my god, you totally have to see it right now because... no, wait, Tropic Thunder is so great, oh my god, you totally have to see it right now because... no, wait (you get the idea).
3. A good way to get into an "R" rated movie if you're under 17 is to buy a ticket to The Sisterhood of the Travelling Pants. I wonder how many ticket buyers for that movie actually saw it.
4. It's a great time to catch up on old movies. As you know from my movie stills that I post here from time to time to deafening silence I love old Hollywood. And when the kids are away the grown ups will play (and that obviously applies to more than just watching old movies - this is the moment when my kids would go "Eeeeeewwwwww!!!!!!" - and if you don't have teenagers can I just tell you how amazingly entertaining it is to get a reaction out of them, and how easy).
So that's what I learned. Like I said, it ain't much. Now winter, that's a whole different animal. The kids are at home bored to death because "nothing good is playing" and I'm out there seeing everything I can before Hollywood reverts back to the pupa stage of the Bells/Whistles/CGI/ADD Magical Movie Sausage Maker of Summer. Oh, there's good, and even some great, stuff in summer too. It's just that as a rule, it's not my thing. And I re-learn that every summer.
[Jonathan from Cinema Styles] 45 years ago today, Dr. Martin Luther King Jr delivered his "I Have a Dream" speech on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial in Washington D.C. It was delivered as the culmination of the March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom. Five years later King would be assassinated just one day after delivering his "I Have Been to the Mountaintop" speech in Memphis, Tennessee.
In 1969 Haskell Wexler, the noted cinematographer, directed the film Medium Cool. It takes place in Chicago during the 1968 Democratic Convention and is justifiably famous for combining real footage with the actors in the film to such an extent that the line is blurred between what is real and what is not. Not by the usual methods of interlacing documentary footage into a fiction film. No. In Medium Cool Wexler and his crew were in Chicago in 1968 and filmed their actors amidst riots and clashes with police. Since the fiction footage and the real footage were both shot by Wexler, the blend is seamless and makes for an extraordinary historical record.
Late in the movie John Cassellis (a television cameraman played by Robert Forster) is watching a news documentary on Martin Luther King with Eileen (Verna Bloom). As they watch King's "I Have Been to the Mountaintop" speech Wexler closes his camera in on Eileen, a school teacher transplanted from West Virginia to Chicago, and observes the effects on both characters.
We watch Eileen who is emotionally connected to what she is seeing until we hear John who sees only media technique. His words, listening to this heart wrenching speech by King? "Jesus, I love to shoot film." Eileen's visual response is bewilderment. As he goes on about tv, asking rhetorical questions about where it gets its power, Eileen says, "I don't know what to think. Seems like no man's life's worth anything anymore."
Watching Medium Cool today is like exploring a time capsule of Chicago, 1968. As we watch the chaos and witness the despair of many characters we remember that despite all of it, it is the hope of the sixties, the hope of men like King that lives on today. Movies like Medium Cool remind us of the chaos, but King's "I Have a Dream" and "I Have Been to the Mountaintop" speeches remind us of the courage, and the principles, of this great man during that turbulent period in American history.
"The earth is my body; my head is in the stars. "
Of all the endearing wisdom that Maude gave to Harold during their May 1st/December 31st romance, that one seems particularly special given the anniversary of Ruth Gordon's death. She lived to the full age of 88, passing on August 28, 1985. I can't imagine there was a more hilarious woman of her generation. Someone just as likely to teach you the splendors of life as to dose your chocolate mousse... Either way it's "snips and snails and puppy dog's tails!"
There would have been a vast hole left in cinema without Ruth Gordon. We'd certainly never value life and we might even trust the elderly.
Her turn as the nosy Minnie Castevet is so completely delightful. How often can you say that about your neighbors, let alone one who's a Satanist? Her character's devious deeds would be nothing without Gordon's disarming nature. She looks like someone who'd play bridge with your grandma, and you'd kindly eat her inedible desserts. Even if she told me she was responsible for my birthing Satan's offspring, I'd just laugh and force down another slice.
And then there's Maude... Brought to charming life by Gordon, she's one of the most inspirational and life-affirming figures in cult cinema. Greeting card sentiments would wear on most audiences, but Gordon gives them a vibrancy so human that they dig right to the heart. She creates in Maude a spirited memorial to living life to the fullest, while stopping to honor death along the way.
So let's all steal a tree and transplant it in her honor. Here's to Ruth with her head in the stars.
Send her your love in the comments!
Wednesday, August 27, 2008
JA from MNPP here. The word of the day is: BIRTHDAY! Everybody scream! A very happy BIRTHDAY going out to Mr. Reubens today. I already threw him some Pee-Wee-less birthday love over at my blog, but... well, I can't help myself. It always comes back to Pee Wee. I know... if I love him so much, why don't I marry him? Oh I would. You hear me, Paul? Make an honest man out of me!
So... back to sanity. I don't think anyone can dispute that Pee Wee Herman is Paul Reubens' finest accomplishment. Whether we're talking the racier show he did on-stage in the early 80s, or Pee Wee's Big Adventure with Tim Burton, or The TV Show That Raised Me, Pee Wee's Playhouse... it's all gold, man.
But I think it's fair to say that Pee Wee's Big Adventure is what most of us think of first. Whether he was learning that there's no basement in the Alamo or the fateful tale of Large Marge or simply modeling a lovely little lady outfit for discerning gentleman police officer, PWBA is chock-filled with hilarity. Speck the dog! Francis! "I pity the foo' that don't eat Mr. T cereal!" I wanna hear what y'all's favorite part is. Give some love! If you need me, I'll be over here listening to reason. Shh!!! I'm listening to reason!
Club Silencio "Diagnosing Jennifer Connelly"
Premiere Paul W.S. Anderson reveals how he got Joan Allen to star in Death Race. Among other things... But that's the important part, right?
ócio-pop intermezzo (yikes)
Acidemic pre-code Hollywood and Barbara Stanwyck in 10 Cents a Dance. (The opening photo is freaking me out since she looks too much like Jennifer Jason Leigh)
Hell on Frisco Bay on the new Korean queer film No Regret
Lazy Eye Theater "I Want Morgan Freeman to Deliver My Eulogy"
Humanizing the Vacuum has a wonderful take on Vicky Cristina Barcelona. Have you seen it yet? You've been quiet about it people.
Cinephilia cracks me up. I won't give away the name she gifts Javier Bardem's "Juan Antonio" but it's choice.
NY Times Woody Allen's hilarious faux diary from the set
Scarlett came to me today with one of those questions actors ask, “What’s my motivation?” I shot back, “Your salary.” She said fine but that she needed a lot more motivation to continue.Olympic Hangover
EW casts Usain Bolt in 12 movies. Hey, are they reading TFE or something?
Daily Kos has some words for NBC. Notice how they skimped on the Matthew Mitcham bio coverage they normally dole out. The only "out" Olympian and he proves a major upset to Chinese dominance winning a gold medal and it's like he just didn't really exist for them. For shame.
Tuesday, August 26, 2008
Even though I could write up a thousand word essay on how Robert Downey Jr. is only bearable while wholly unrecognizable -seriously, y'all - I'll stick to what I (pretend to) know best: The things that go bump in the night. In this case, the hot, sticky Summer night. The horror shows of the Summer of '08, that is. I had to expand the definition of "horror" here and there since proper fright flicks were semi-scarce over these heated months. But scares can come from anywhere, so here's a random assortment of all the things that scared me this Summer.
Let's just get the obvious outta the way: Heath Ledger's Joker. The be-all-end-all for scares probably all year. I've been working on perfecting his magic trick myself at home, but I've already run through an entire box of #2's and I keep missing. Any advice? TIA!
Those jellylike fur-matted things that were extending outward below Tom Cruise's eyeballs in Tropic Thunder. I think... I think they were supposed to be... his limbs? Shudder.
That someone would make a cartoon involving maggots but not make absolutely sure the maggots in question were actually cute, and not creepy dead-eyed flesh-tinted monsters with teeth and tongues. Pixar it ain't.
That those girls are still sharing that pair of pants. That just never seemed very sanitary to me. I mean, I've seen what my friends do in their pants, and... I don't want any of that on me. But then, maybe I just have filthy friends. Hmm.
The way that Lionsgate screwed over Clive Barker's Midnight Meat Train. Boycott!
That Chris Carter could take six years to come up with a new X-Files story and the best he could give us was Gay Frankenstein and his two-headed dog.
The Strangers was pretty decent, but they really ruined themselves with that phenomenal trailer that gave away the best scare.
The Teeth Fairies in Hellboy 2. Or that Elemental thing. Or the Angel of Death. Really, where ever Guillermo Del Toro let his freak flag fly with regards to creature design.
That is wasn't a bad dream, but it was actually The Happening.
Break-up via text message. Way harsh. See also: "You're not special."
Like a cockroach always scattering out the light, so went my relationship with Baghead. Every time I saw the trailer I told myself I wanted to see it. And then I forgot. And then I remembered. And then I forgot. But the trailer was one of the legitimately scary things of the Summer. Anyone actually catch the movie?
But the thing that scared me the greatest this Summer, so badly that I refuse to A) post a picture from it here, lest I google it and an image of this horror should appear, and B) even think about seeing the film in which it is contained (and I've sat through some effed up stuff)? Ben Kingsley and Whichever Olsen kissing in The Wackness. The very thought of it makes me question all that is good in the world. That, my friends, is horror.
The Nightmare Before Christmas (2-Disc Collector's Edition) More than 15 years later, the Christmas hijacking exploits of Jack Skellington still delight and Tim Burton still gets more credit than Henry Selick. I say buy a copy then head down to your local Hot Topic and taunt people.
Salo, or the 120 Days of Sodom I've seen this movie twice and before you call me a horrible human being, there's really something intriguing about how Pasolini converts the Marquis de Sade story into an indictment of Fascist life beyond morals, rules and human decency. That and rape, murder, and torture to an extent beyond imagination. Okay now call me a horrible human being.
The Errol Flynn Westerns Collection A box set featuring our favorite man in tights, taming the west, lovin' the ladies (and the ladies lovin' him back) but not stealing from the rich and giving to the poor. Montana, Rocky Mountain, San Antonio and Virginia City are the very geographical movies included.
Cimarron What can I say here that hasn't already been covered by Nathaniel and the boys in their Best Pictures from the Outside In segment. Though it may not make you run out and buy the DVD
N E W R E L E A S E S
Redbelt This David Mamet movie snuck into theatres. No one saw it then but with Mamet and Chewetel Ejiofor, who wouldn't want to see it now?
Where in the World is Osama Bin Laden? Morgan Spurlock's doc about his quest for Bin Laden was a bit of a critical let-down. No word on whether or not he quit looking after 30 days.
The Rape of Europa This well-received documentary explores the Nazi's plundering of Europe's art and treasures (part of their goal of being evil in every way imaginable) and attempts by art lovers, historians and curators to fight back.
Monday, August 25, 2008
Sixty-nine years ago (August 25th, 1939 to be exact) The Wizard of Oz opened in movie theaters. It's since become one of the most justly beloved movies of all time and deeply embedded in our culture. Everyone knows it by heart even, I sometimes suspect, people who haven't actually sat down to watch it. Its turns of phrases are part of the vernacular. Its minor characters are instantly identifiable and loveable, too. Gah, it's so so ... wonderful.
I've enthused about the movie before --surely you know about my love of all things Judy G and my childhood crush on the Tin Man and that I know every word of its score by heart -- so I thought I'd turn this one over to my guest bloggers. What do they love most about this American cinematic touchstone?
Whitney from Dear Jesus: The Tin Man was by far my favorite character. I don't know if my five-year-old self related to him and his heartless, shapeless tin can body or what, but I spent a month of my childhood pretending I was him. Everyone had to call me "Tin Man" or I would not answer. I made my little sister pretend to be Todo and together we roamed the neighborhood... doing what, I don't know. Things that tin men and terriers do.
JA from My New Plaid Pants: All day long I've been thinking about the Flying Monkeys little jackets. Where do they come from? Does the Wicked Witch of the West have a sweatshop in the castle basement? Does she outsource to one of the other lands? Maybe they're cast-off Munchkin uniforms? Or do the Flying Monkeys have to make and maintain them? You'd think they'd have to be laundered an awful lot, with all the Scarecrow-shreddings, dog-nappings and other assorted Flying Monkey duties. Plus... they're monkeys. Not the cleanest beasts in the world. Yet they always look impeccable. Those monkeys are dedicated to putting forth their best appearance at all times. If I were the Wicked Witch of the West, I'd be suspicious. Who knows if they might be all dressed up because they're sneaking off on job interviews whenever she sends them out on another ridiculous excursion? Fetch me some ice cream from the corner store, she demands. I'll show her; I hear they're hiring in MunchkinLand, the monkeys whisper defiantly in return.
Jonathan from Cinema Styles: There are so many things to love about The Wizard of Oz it's no wonder it has remained a must see for children for almost 70 years. I think my favorite part of the whole movie is the acting. Everyone seems to have a different style and yet it all works together. The two that stick out for me are Bert Lahr and Frank Morgan. They're in full-tilt Vaudeville mode throughout, modern film technology be damned.
But of the two Frank Morgan is the one that consistently amazes. He has more roles in the film than anyone else and brings a smile to my face every time he's on the screen. But my favorite moment with him comes at the entrance of the Emerald City. Straight out of the Vaudeville gag book Dorothy and friends ring the bell only to be asked, "Who rang that bell?!?" by an exasperated Frank Morgan who goes on to ask didn't they see the sign - which isn't there - only to then explain that the bell's broken before putting out the sign that says so. Stupid? Yeah, definitely. Vaudeville? Sure. Funny? Every time. Frank Morgan. As far as that movie goes, he really is the Wonderful Wizard of Oz.
Readers: Click your heels three times and tell us why The Wizard of Oz is home to you. What parts of it do you love the most?