Friday, October 31, 2008

October. It's a Wrap

October is my favorite month of every year. Love the weather, the spooky/fun holiday, the transitional feeling as the festive cool season begins. But it hasn't been my favorite month of blogging... I've been pulled in many directions lately and though I haven't exactly been institutionalized or weeping profusely in the movie of my life off-blog like Angie is in Changeling, I do feel like I'm always wearing the same hat, the direction is funereal and the cinematography is inky black. And maybe that's showing up here...

"I want MY blog back"

I'm probably too hard on myself but next month I'm going to try to be more like "Poppy" in Happy-Go-Lucky. She's my new heroine. I dig her worldview. I probably won't be taking up flamenco or trampolining but the truth is I need more good cheer. But anyway... who cares about my personal life -- you're here for THE BLOG.

10 fav bits from October in case you missed any

Women Who Should Star in Grand Guignol Horror Films ~ Inspired by Straight-Jacket (1964) but nobody even commented on my jokey Debra Winger poster [*sniffle*]
Podcast Relaunch I hope it's back for good. You like?
Brad Pitt is a "Basterd" more Tarantino is always good news
"How do you score an orgasm?" one of the joys of guest bloggers (for me) is reading things that I would never have posted / thought of myself. Thanks again to my magic elves
Changeling yes I need to write reviews more often
Eqqqqq! the Broadway revival of Equus with Harry Potter
NYFF Wrap the highlights from a disappointing fest
Cabin in the Sky This MotM was fun, weird and previously unseen
Nick and Norah scattered thoughts about gay in teen movies
The Road
Under Construction
thoughts from a test screening. I had internal drama about posting this. When something is a work in progress always give the benefit of the doubt

Coming in November ~an interview with Sally Hawkins from Happy-Go-Lucky, the long awaited release of Australia, the 10th anniversary of Velvet Goldmine on November 6th (Join the 'Musical of the Month' party on your own blog), Hitchcock's Rebecca (can you believe I've never seen it?!) and more... though the rest will be as much of a surprise to me as to you. I basically have no idea what's coming for the next 30 days. Discover it along with me.

The Coolest Thing Samuel L Jackson Has Done Since Pulp Fiction

"It wasn't that long ago that discrimination was legal in California..."

Samuel L Jackson telling it like it is.

Far scarier than any ghost, goblin, vampire, or beasty tonight on Halloween is the knowledge that it's the last few hours to donate to the campaign to defeat Prop 8 in California. While some notable Hollywood A listers (Brad Pitt, Ellen DeGeneres, Steven Spielberg, etc... and now Mr. Jackson here) with lots of moolah have donated their names, voices and/or cash to stop this injustice from passing, they haven't raised nearly as much money as various "Christian" churches have --I use quotes because modern Christianity seems to have almost no recognizable connection to its namesake these days. The Mormons are the most despicable and the best fundraisers on the 'Yes on 8' front. As a former Mormon, I would find it very amusing in its boldface underlined hypocrisy --Mormon doctrine is decidedly NOT "one man/one woman" traditional no matter how frequently or how smoothly they lie about it -- if the stakes weren't so high for the future and if it weren't so depressing for the soul. I'm not really comfortable with my country, let alone my tax dollars, being used to prop up discrimination of my fellow citizens. I hope the majority of California voters aren't either.

The Monsters of the Aughts

JA from MNPP here. Happy All Hallows everybody! Today is my favorite holiday of the year, so I've gotta spread some extra horror-flavor over this way when I can get away with it. I hope Nat doesn't mind me reposting something that I posted awhile back at my own blog, but it seemed an appropriate counterpart to his question yesterday and in the spirit of this unholiest of days.

Back when Stan Winston passed away I briefly pondered the state of the Modern Movie Monster and what monsters from our current decade have scared me the worst (so far). Now, when I say "monster" I mean to conjure up an inhuman, ghastly, monster-riffic appearance, not a monstrous human being like Patrick Bateman or Mick Taylor. Anyway, I made a list of my five favorites. Here they are.

The Pale Man, Pan's Labyrinth - Undisputed; the champ. Give credit to Del Toro (not to mention the genius beneath the make-up, Doug Jones) for a long future ahead of sleepless nights for ourselves and our children and our children's children with this fine fella. I expect loads more creature-y goodness from Del Toro with Hellboy II as well.

The Crawlers, The Descent - Director Neil Marshall gives these mole-people monsters just enough of an evolutionary bullshit back-story to make them seem credible enough, and then let's them run amok with a kinetic shit-storm of gore-hued horror. The make-up work is damned fine - the opaque skin and eyes, ruddy and slick, is shudder-inducing. And then there's the lady one...

The Mouth of Sauron, Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King - This creep only shows up in the extended DVD version of this flick, but I'll be gosh-darned if he isn't scarier than every single orc, Ringwraith, Fell beast and Sauron himself all thrown in a blender and set to "Terrify". That... that mouth. Ugh!

Grendel, Beowulf - While I haven't revisited the film since it plucked my eyes outta my head in IMAX-3D, the bit that lingers most favorably is Crispin Glover's alternately heart-breakingly sad and back-smashingly scary performance as the monster Grendel. (Grendel also benefits the most from his character not having to look fully human, and therefore not being as dead-eyed as the rest of the cast.)

The Medeiros Girl, [REC] - That is not The Medeiros Girl pictured above, but rather a character reacting to The Medeiros Girl; not enough people have seen [REC] yet for me to go spoiling the film's creepiest surprise. But let me just tell you, I am not shitting you that this girl deserves her spot here. Holy effin' shit! Ahhh!!! [edited to add that I have since seen the American remake Quarantine and the scary-quotient of this character remains fully intact therein - eep]

If They Only Had (Some) Brains

Please set your blood curdling screams to vibrate so as not to disturb your neighbors.

Avoid all zombies tonight whether they're hungry for your gray matter or just your Body Thetans. Have fun and be safe! Happy Halloween

Thursday, October 30, 2008


Collider video interview with Taraji P Henson. She declares her Benjamin Button to be Best Pic material. But then she would (not that it's not. We shall see)
IMDB Joaquin Phoenix says he's quitting acting. Are you vexed?
The Playlist shouts "En Ra Ha" for Happy-Go-Lucky's Eddie Marsan. Have you seen the film yet? It's worth a look. I'll share my interview with Sally Hawkins right here soon
Banned in Hollywood Disney's new Tarzan toy is, uh, right handed
Reverse Shot remembers the classic Buffy episode "Hush" --perfect viewing for Halloween. I think I'll watch it tomorrow

The Witches of Eastwick in 2008

La Pfeiffer, Cher and Sarandon... photographed in 2008

I'm aware that John Updike did not like the film version of his classic novel The Witches of Eastwick. But now that he's written its sequel, set three decades later appropriately titled The Widows of Eastwick... can we please have a movie sequel? Pretty pretty pretty please. I know the experience wasn't exactly a happy one for the actresses involved or the author himself but could you imagine seeing these three legends together again one last time? Who needs the devilish Jack Nicholson?

photo by Richard Corman

I mean Alexandra Jane and Sukie dumped him in the first movie anyway. When does filming start? Oh come on! LET'S GO HOLLYWOOD, LET'S GO. Which devil do I have to sell my soul to to make this fantasy happen? My soul is available at a discount for this one.

This post may not seem scary enough for Halloween but I bet you Veronica Cartwright is pretty damn unnerved whilst staring at it. She may even projectile vomit!

Which movie monster do you find most terrifying?

It's "Devil's Night", the day before Halloween. I thought I should ask.

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Hump Day Hotties, "M" and "Bond"

Your eyes do not deceive you. This is Dame Judi Dench working both daring cleavage and henna tattoo @ the premiere of Quantum of Solace

My guess: She's been hanging with Dame Minx Helen Mirren. Well, "M" is the original Bond girl in a way. But this is so Quantum of Mirren, is it not?

Oh... I won't deny you a little Daniel Craig, too. But you must always remember that I saw him first. And long before he was licensed to kill at that. I only loan him to the rest of the world now that he's in demand. I'm a giver.

So sexy he hurts ...himself (see far right, also from the premiere). One assumes there are millions who wish to kiss it better.

I would really like Quantum of Solace to be open right now. Not two weeks and some days from now, thank you very much. Can M and Bond ever make that crazy relationship work? You can always cut the tension between them with a knife.

previously on Hump Day Hotties
Sigourney Weaver, Lee Pace, Matthew Goode, Penélope Cruz... and more


The Curious Case of Maria Bello


Maria just wanted to say hi.

Maria Bello needs a job. No seriously. How you do what she did in A History of Violence (my review --she won my gold medal, too) and not be deluged with major offers. How do you do what she did and end up playing second fiddle to Alison Lohman in a horse movie? Sigh. Her most recent ignoble defeat at the hands of Hollywood? Replacing Rachel Weisz in the Mummy pictures past their prime this past summer. That vaguely reminded me of that horrific moment when they threw a brunette wig on Elisabeth Shue for what was amounted to a throwaway part in Back to the Futures II & III ...perhaps hoping that nobody would notice the replacement of the original actress whatshername. That was so weird. Anyone old enough to remember that? As a young boy I was desperately in love with Elisabeth Shue via The Karate Kid -- 'tis true. This McFly move emotionally signified the end of Shue's stardom for me (yes, even as a kid I went all white-knuckled, fearing unemployment for my actresses wonder I'm getting worry lines). But then 5 years later Leaving Las Vegas premiered and the blessed Oscar nomination happened for Ms. Shue.

What does all this mean? Maria Bello in 2013, people... Maria Bello in 2013!

Hilary DeGeneres

Yesterday Hurlywood pointed me to this bizarre video of Hilary Swank as Ellen DeGeneres in the comments. Should I thank him or curse him?

On the one hand I found myself grinning like an idiot as two-time Oscar winner Hilary (née Beelzebub) danced around in a fairly decent, or at least high spirited, impression of the endearing comedienne. You may realize that grinning is, for me, not a common facial reaction when faced with the double Oscared one. But by the time Best Actress Twice Over drops (literally) into the guest chair I was back to my usual endangered stance, every hair on end. I'm so entirely weirded out by her shameless ability to make everything about herself. She's promoting what sounds like a great wig-making charity for cancer patients but when she talks about "cutting eight inches off" I'm totally transported back to the transgendering of Boys Don't Cry (though in that case it'd be adding inches on) and even once I bring myself back around to the 'for cancer wigs' part I'm mentally shouting at the screen 'You didn't cut your hair for cancer patients. You cut it to try to win Oscar³ as Amelia Earhart. I'm on to you Mister Sister!'

Amelia (2009) and Amelia (1928)

I'm so deeply suspicious of her (not excusing this bias ...just aware) that my only take-away was this: Is she trying to win her first Emmy for guest appearance with the old awards standby of celebrity mimicry?

I've been ignoring Halloween for some reason this year so the scariest thing I have to offer blog-wise is this totally random post on Hilary Swank. It's sooooo 2005. My apologies.


Got Link?

StinkyLulu Oscar Smackdown 1976: teen hookers, religious kooks, and women scorned
Towleroad Interesting. James Schamus (of Focus Features) responds to that Hollywood Reporter article I linked to yesterday on Milk's marketing campaign
Hot Blog
wowed by Milk
CHUD How far we haven't come since the days of Harvey Milk
MetaCafe you have approximately two weeks to make a 30 second commercial for Australia (the movie) and win a trip to NYC and Australia. Go...
Wired on flailing third parts and Chris Nolan's hesitation re: Batman³ (which is actually Batman8... so relax, fella)
Thompson on Hollywood campaigns for golden boys begin: first up WALL•E & The Dark Knight
Oscar and the City a poll regarding and a shot from the set of next year's musical Nine
MTV Huh? Robert Pattison (Twilight) as Salvador Dali?

and to sign off on this Milk-y link roundup, here's Diego Luna and Emile Hirsch at last night's premiere @ the Castro

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Best Actress Questions. Got Answers?

In my Oscar prediction revamps, you'll immediately notice that I don't think any Best Actress contenders should be fitted for dresses just yet --unless they're planning their GOLDEN GLOBE night (where most of them will be invited). That's because any combo of this top eight still seems plausible. Why? Well, half of the films have yet to face their fates with critics & audiences and all of them still await approval from the precursor organizations that influence Oscar so regularly -- particularly if they copy each other's choices. In most cases all of the top contenders still "look good on paper". But we learn each year that "buzz" doesn't always translate to reality.

  • Is Streep's Doubt role the slam dunk it's always seemed in advance?
  • Can Hathaway, Scott-Thomas and Hawkins all ride rave October reviews into January?
  • Will Winslet's double December dipping (The Reader and Revolutionary Road) live up to the hype or prove doubly disappointing?
  • Can Angelina Jolie make up for last year's Mighty snub with the boost of all those tearful Oscar clips from Changeling?
  • If Australia is great, isn't it time for Nicole Kidman to be celebrated again?
  • <--- Who will work the campaign trail as tirelessly as Marion Cotillard did last year?
  • How did the studios not notice that both of last year's Actress front runners were released early in the year? Why were the releases all held until October or later?
  • What's with the waiting game or shaky release plans for Skin and Nothing but the Truth?
  • Who will the critics organization rally behind?
  • Which contenders will be made / broken by box office results?
  • If Meryl & Kate end up frontrunners which will AMPAS voters feel most obligated to award: Streep for the first time in over a quarter-century or Winslet for the first time period?
The answers won't be arriving any time soon... unless you can see the future in the comments.

Suicidal Thought of the Day

High School Musical 3 made more in its opening weekend than Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind, There Will Be Blood, Zodiac, Pan's Labyrinth, Children of Men and Pride & Prejudice did in their entire theatrical runs. The earth is doomed.

Milk Premieres Tonight in San Francisco

There's an interesting piece over at The Hollywood Reporter on Focus Features promotional tactics on Milk. They differ somewhat from the Brokeback approach. Of course if you know me you know I gotta take issue with this one little aside
...may drive voters to cast a ballot for Penn (a lock for an Oscar nom) or best picture.

The bold is my addition. So, explain to me again how Sean Penn is a "lock" before the film has screened, opened, been reviewed, encountered box office, or been discussed by the media, audiences and industry voters ... all while there are at least 8 or 9 strong candidates for those 5 Best Actor spots and Penn is only one of three playing famous politicians!

I am splitting hairs here, true. I too believe he'll be nominated. But it's not written in stone. Not with Eastwood trying to win his first acting Oscar, Rourke & Jenkins and who knows who else battling it out for potential critics prizes, Langella & Brolin also appealing to Oscar's love of famous people playing other famous people and three huge celebrities (DiCaprio, Pitt and Jackman) headlining expensive, luscious looking Oscar-Bait.

More Milk
SF Gate a streetcar dedicated to Harvey Milk
The Castro's screening calendar
Harvey Milk info and tributes
Emile Hirsch Web is planning to deluge you with photos
The Times of Harvey Milk Put this Oscar winner on your queue. It's one of the most moving documentaries you'll ever see.

Psssst. If you have tickets to tonight's SF premiere and you're a film experience fan, please consider e-mailing me on the other coast with notes or photos from your experience so we can enjoy them right here.

Still the Greatest Single Moment in Josh Brolin's Filmography...

You must agree!

Monday, October 27, 2008


in case you have something off-topic on your mind...

Kiss of the Spider Woman Contest Winners

Monologue Monday (Interrupted)
This is where the important part begins. The part about the lovers...
William Hurt was named Best Actor @ Cannes and by Oscar, NBR, LAFCA & BAFTA voters

Lovers of actresses & cinema for our purposes today.

For the entire first reel (and then some) of Kiss of the Spider Woman, William Hurt's "Molina" tries to monologue his way through memories of a favorite film. He loves to perform but his cell mate "Valentin" (Raul Julia) never lets him get lost in his speechifying the way he plans to, continually interrupting him with requests, jokes, corrections and commentary. And so begins an odd couple film that wraps political idealogy, cinematic obsessions, and sexual identity into a memorable actor's duet with as much theatricality as Molina himself wraps his head while daydreaming of his favorite screen diva (Sonia Braga).

The Kiss of the Spider Woman was a best picture nominee for 1985. The other shortlisters were more traditional fare: a beloved novel adaptation The Color Purple, the romantic epic Out of Africa, the mafia black comedy Prizzi's Honor, and the contemporary hit drama Witness. Kiss... has since been the hardest film for younger Oscar completists to see but a 2 disc collectors edition is now out and I have four copies to give away, one for each of its nominations. But before I announce the winners (drawn randomly) I wanted to share some really fun contest entries. I asked contestants to throw a headwrap on and make like Molina, obsessing over a favorite actress/performance in their imaginary prison cell. Some of them even sent photos --can I just say that TFE readers are so awesome to play along!

Originally I was going to post my favorite entries but there were so many that I decided I had to limit the 'extra' sharing to the entries that came in with photos ;) The following contestants did not win the random drawing but but they are so awesome for playing along...

<--- Jonathan from NY
Meryl Streep. Sophie's Choice. Cliched? Perhaps. But can the others recite word for word, facial tic and intonation down pat, the scene where she struggles to tell Stingo about being sent to Auschwitz? Or what about that accent? And she's never been more sexually charged in a film. Best performance by any actor (that I've seen but no, I'm just going to say it, EVER) in history. Streep at her streepiest, and I've loved every 20+ viewings of it. Whoever's in that jail cell better know what I'm talking about when I reference the famous silent scream in the climactic scene, or else they'll be getting an earful.....
Brian in New Mexico --->
I would likely develop, and discuss at length, whose marvelous powers I most wished to possess on any given prison day. Would I want to channel Sissy Spacek's Carrie White and her telekinetic grudge match powers? Or would it Rita Moreno's Anita and her ability to deliver a scathing insult as though it was a love pat? Or would it be Meryl Streep's dexterity in self-transformation that I would covet? (Of course, on really bad days, I would likely pretend to be Hope Emerson and leave it at that...)
<--- JS in the Philippines
Anyone in prison would have to learn and emulate the virtues of Glenn Close's performance in Dangerous Liaisons because like her, you'd be in a similar environment where you would have to practice detachment, learn how to listen and deceive all in service of devising means of escape no one had ever thought of before. It's "win or die." :)
Mark in Manchester --->
I could have gone the easy route and picked Sigourney in Aliens but if I shared a cell i'd obsess over Brooke Smith as Sonya in Vanya on 42nd Street. I only saw this performance recently and was so moved we could act out her final monologue scene with the cellmate as Wallace Shawn.
Cenzig in Florida
Liza Minnelli as Sally Bowles. She oozes that Fosse sexuality that we all know and love. She captures our attention with "Divine decadence darling!" and holds it, even through the tears during "Cabaret" You root for her. You know the mess that is about to be WWII and you want her out, to live with Brian in delicious sin. She's Fun. She's Fabulous. She's Fucking Sally Bowles!!!
You know who is fun and fabulous? Everyone who entered this contest!
For those that didn't win or haven't seen the film, catch up on a little 80s Oscar lore
by seeking it out now that it's available again for home viewing.

[drum roll please]

And the winners are...

Nick in Connecticut
I would talk with my cellie about Salma Hayek in Desperado, because, while the film isn't a masterpiece, she was INCREDIBLY sexy in that film. The way Rodriguez lit her, and her willingness to take part in that steamy love scene with Antonio, set my pulse racing as a 15 year old action-movie junkie. She's still one of the hottest women ever to grace the silver screen, and the way she looks in Desperado is the sort of thing that dreams are made of. Those sun-dresses, that long, wavy hair, her accent, her curves… man-o-man what a stunning creature she is.
Ben in Los Angeles
Naomi Watts in Mulholland Dr, hands down. You get two characters to talk about individually, and then you get to talk about the two together. Plus, you can obsess over how overlooked she was in terms of bling for the mantle - no Oscar? Psh!
Dennis in Wisconsin
If I had to go with one performance, it would be Vivien Leigh in Gone With the Wind. That movie had such an impact on me when I first saw it at 12 years old. She rocked my world! I could talk about Scarlett/Vivien for days.
Chuck in Kentucky
Maria Falconetti. Perhaps it is unfair to choose an actress who appeared only in one film. Yet I believe that Falconetti's performance in Dreyer's seminal The Passion of Joan of Arc goes beyond a mere cineast obsession, and can be viewed instead as a sort of religious longing, a desire for emancipation, a devotion to something intangible and ethereal. Falconetti's struggle would be my own, and the haunting memory of her performance would move me more than any other celluloid creation. My memory of those tortured eyes would no doubt provide the sort of spiritual solace only found in prayer; she would be the single slash of light that cuts through the coagulating and ever-present darkness.
I hope you enjoyed reading about these personal cinematic obsessions as much as I did. And while we're on the subject of Kiss of the Spider Woman... you can check out my vague recollection of my favorites in 1985 If you have any thoughts to share on that 1985 Best Picture race, do so in the comments. Out of Africa, Kiss of the Spider Woman, Prizzi's Honor, The Color Purple or Witness? How many have you seen and what's your choice for "Best" ?

Mad Men in Manhattan

Remember that Mad Men Season 2 party I invited y'all to last week? None of you showed --or if you did you were too shy to introduce yourselves but it was a ball and well attended, too. My basic rule of thumb for invites in Manhattan is "ACCEPT" because you can always leave and you never know who might show up. It was a bit strange at first to watch the often very quiet / subtle show with a big responsive group but it somehow made the show funnier and more surprising, too. Audible gasps and big laughter were heard throughout the night.
"This is ridiculous. If I'm going to die I want to die in Manhattan."
-Pete Campbell (Vincent Kartheiser) on Mad Men, refusing to leave the island with his wife during the Cuban Missile Crisis
The Lipp Sisters who run the Basket of Kisses Mad Men fan blog were great hosts i.e. friendly, inclusive and high spirited (you may remember Deborah from frequent comments here at TFE -- she also runs Ultimate James Bond fan blog). Matthew Weiner, the creator of the show, even stopped by once the credits were rolling to chat with us, the collected fans of his Emmy winning creation. There were Utz potato chips everywhere (great touch, Sisters Lipp!) and even a little swag for guests. You can read the run down of the party here.

When I host a party for something or other (I hope to do so soon) y'all better show...

La Blanchett

...the camera sure does loves her

Prediction Revamps -Best Picture

I've narrowed my Best Picture chart to 15 (and flipped back to my September predictions --I briefly lost faith in Benjamin Button but it's returned) but since the studios have played a shell game with roughly 2/3rds of their presumed hopefuls waiting till December, we won't know much with any certainly until very late in the game. But for the first time I'm looking at my predicted five and thinking "this could TOTALLY happen". I can hear these five titles as a flash-forward January 22nd 2009 utterance... "And the nominees are: Australia, The Curious Case of Benjamin Button, The Dark Knight, Milk and Slumdog Millionaire" ... can't you?

It's a plausible mix even if we still know too little. If enough of the November/December bids in the top 15 underperform (and some will) expect buzz for well regarded pre-Fall pictures like The Dark Knight, The Visitor or WALL•E to reignite. Plus there's always the outside chance that films like Rachel Getting Married, The Wrestler or Happy-Go-Lucky (all of which have goo-goo eyed fanbases) could fill an unloved vacuum if the more typically Oscar-Sized films don't endear themselves to enough voters. You have to win their hearts to top their ballots.

Updates Complete: Picture, Director, Foreign Film, Costume Design (new pics!), Screenplay, Sound Categories, Actor and Supporting Actor,

Sunday, October 26, 2008

FWIW: Quantum of Solace Buzz

Text received from friend who caught a Quantum of Solace screening this week:
A worthy follow-up to "Casino Royale" that shouldnt really disappoint anyone. Craig is still awesome, a LOT of action & minimal pathos -for better or worse. It's fun, short, kind of confusing, and doesn't ever really get stupid -- though the explosion-filled climax comes close
Good to hear but I'm still saddened by the news that there were no more happy on-set "accidents" to give us shots of Daniel Craig in speedos.

< -- in lieu of light blue swim trunks please enjoy icy blue eyes

All that celluloid + All that man ≠ more beefcake? This math is all wrong.

Prediction Revamps: Best Actor & Supporting Actor

With release dates recently shifting (The Soloist to 2009 and The Road probably headed that way ...among others) it's time for a major Oscar overhaul. I'm starting with the actors. I think it's safe to say --or as safe as it can be to say at this point -- that we can narrow our Lead Actor candidates to nine or ten. [Everyone together now: "But there can be only five"] I hope the campaign battle gets bloody and stays at least nine-wide (it's more fun that way) but recent years have seen the true candidates narrowed to 6 or 7 quickly by the abundant precursor organizations. Those early awards bodies (SAG, BFCA, Critics, NBR, Globes) agree far too often considering how subjective the whole idea of "Best" is, don't they? How did it all become so conformist?

Not "maverick" at all, these Oscar competitions. But then, that word doesn't seem to mean what it used to mean, now does it?

Meanwhile: Supporting Actor continues to remain more of a mystery ...outside of Heath Ledger's ghostly Joker. But then, the Supporting categories always are. It's so much easier to suss out Oscar appeal lead performances early on. The supporting players are always better at hiding within the plot synopsis and editing decisions. The supporting players need "best in show" citations, good campaigns, strong "clip" scenes, and enough screen time to make a case for themselves, and usually love for the film itself --none of which get really clear until the films open.

And finally... is Last Chance Harvey (trying that age old and eternally annoying 'day after Christmas' limited release to Oscar qualify) starring Dustin Hoffman & Emma Thompson an American President type of charmer (i.e. well liked but too lightweight for real Oscar attention ~ that's the vibe I get from the trailer at least) or something more. The trailer for your consideration:


Saturday, October 25, 2008

Link: The Farewell Tour?

I'm gonna be like Cher and just quit one day while I'm ahead behind... and the first thing to go will be the links.

CNN details on that terrible terrible Jennifer Hudson relatives tragedy
Lilok Pelikula on the gay Thai Oscar entry Love of Siam
Blake Snyder "finding the spine" 5 questions for struggling screenwriters
Flickhead enjoys some early Angelina days with Foxfire
The Big Picture with more on Steven Soderbergh's bizarre directorial choices than JA was talking about yesterday
Gold Derby Synecdoche New York might make both "best" and "worst" lists come year's end
In Contention thinks Clint Eastwood will win Best Actor for Gran Torino
Coffee Coffee and More Coffee an open letter to IMDB on their 18th birthday
The Bad and the Ugly all those Dr. Imaginarium Heath Ledger photos

Wake Up Call, starring Emile Hirsch from ace norton on Vimeo.

Politics as unusual
David Sedaris "Undecided" I love this because I can't for the life of me figure how some people haven't made up their minds in this election
Gallery of the Absurd Talking Presidential Candidate dolls
Margaret and Helen an awesome letter and response
Reports from the Edge a typo my ass!
Grow a Brain "Camelot 2" unusual Obama linkage

Zhang Ziyi Sings... Breathily

Who knew? This duet (with co-star Leon Lai) is called "You Understand My Love" from the upcoming bio on opera star Mei Lanfang

With the death of music video's prominence as a pop cultural force I had (almost) forgotten about this mode of music video making. Film your singer(s) in less than an hour in one plain setting... maybe with a wind machine. Accessorize the boredom with movie clips. Presto! A 3 minute commercial for your movie is born. Mei Lanfang is from director Chen Kaige (Farewell My Concubine, Temptress Moon, The Promise). I originally thought his latest would be China's submission to the Oscar but it's not being released until December and the Oscar submissions had to be released in their home country before September's end. Miramax will distribute the film in the US...eventually.

Kisses (and Opportunity) Blown

And Nathaniel (c'est moi) has reentered the building. A quick thank you, round of applause, kiss blown, genuflection, what have you to Erich, Thom, Adam, James, Jason and Campaspe who filled in for me while I was away. Read their blogs. I love doing so.

Acidemic "deadpan satire and intellectual savvy..."
Planet Fabulon "a galaxy of glamour, camp and kitsch"
Club Silencio, "cinematic obsessions and (one-sided) conversation"
Out1 Film Journal "film from the inside out"
My New Plaid Pants "nonsense incarnate"
...and the classic film call of the Self Styled Siren

I had all six of these generous souls on my mind last night in my hotel room. I imagined them breathing a collective sigh of relief and packing their mental bags to exit my blog --or maybe that's just because I was packing my bags in the hotel room and I tend to project.

I should have been thinking about Hancock since it was playing on the telly. But it wasn't giving me enough to think about. If we must have a new superhero film each month why not more risky ones? At first I said to myself 'this is more interesting than the critical drubbing had led me to believe' but then I would lose interest again quickly, so... maybe not. I couldn't even decide if it was cocky about itself or worried that it wasn't quite pulling its high concept halves (thirds?) together. The danger of making movies with behemoth stars like Will Smith now (or Tom Hanks ten years back) is that they will cover up a myriad of sins. It's easy to get sloppy, derivative or lazy when you know it'll work without much of a push in other areas. Whosoever the audience loves the audience will (mostly) forgive. Tom Hanks could talk to a volleyball for a couple of hours on a deserted island with no film score and nobody minded. Will Smith can be an unsmiling a**hole for an entire film because the audience will fill in the blanks. They know him so well they'll force the goddamn charm upon him. Perhaps that's an unfair comparison because Cast Away was a good film (well 2/3rds of it at least) and Hancock is... not. But you get my point?

For those of you who saw it in the theater (it's on DVD next month) I'd love to hear your thoughts as it's fresh in the mind though it's a jumble [The Incredibles ÷ Spider-Man + (Superman˚÷ Bad Santa) x Mr & Mrs Smith³ =Hancock ?] and so is, frankly, the mind: Hopped up on thousands of room service calories I was whilst watching it. Hotels are pure evil. They will cover up a myriad of sins. It's easy to get sloppy. You can talk to inanimate objects for hours and nobody minds.

Friday, October 24, 2008

See These, Not Saw

JA from MNPP here again. Well it's late October, and that means the human collective brain is turning towards the scary things... you see them on the tee-vees, hyping their doomsday approach. The day is imminent, they say! And not only do they plan on winning, but they plan on dragging us all to Hell with them. Oh sure, we might scream to the masses, "What about these past several years? This long National nightmare must be stopped!" But will the masses listen? Will they save us from the same tired horror-show, seemingly stuck in an endless loop?

No, I don't mean Sarah Palin & Co. - they're too scary for even a hardened horror vet like myself. I mean Jigsaw, that booby-trapping madman of the Saw franchise, whose series has dominated the past four Halloweens horror-movie release schedules. And he must be stopped, I cry!

I don't want to get into a "torture porn" debate here (though I am pro-Hostel for the record) but I find the Saw films to be painfully bad (I stopped watching after Part 3) and just haven't been able to fathom what audiences have been getting out of them year after year. The so-called moral conundrums that Jigsaw perpetrates with his "diabolical" schemes are at best on the level of how I imagine an especially dyspeptic Judge Judy would explain the concept of Murphy's Law to a class of first graders only able to use farm equipment instead of words, and at worst just window-dressing for cheap CG renderings of what a bone splintering would look like.

So with Part 5 coming out today and likely to dominate the marketplace yet again with its miasma of bullshit, I really would love to take this opportunity to direct you to the other horror movies coming out that you should see instead... IF THERE WERE ANY. But the brain-trusts at the studios have apparently ceded all control to Jigsaw - I'm especially pained that Warner Brothers has apparently given up on Michael Dougherty's supposed-to-be-great Trick'r'Treat - and once again I am forced to feel shitty for being a horror fan as this cursed franchise scrapes the barrel's bottom of what the genre I love could be about for one more year (and Part 6 is being prepped for '09, yeehaw!).

But wait - there are two! Two horror flicks - both foreign, natch - that are actually out this week to counteract this Saw madness... in LA and NYC. Which is fine for me since I live in New York but I don't think they'll really be making much noise elsewhere. Still let's have a look at 'em all the same so I can feel a little better about my beloved genre this weekend.

Fear(s) of the Dark, aka Peur(s) du noir, is an animated anthology film that I am calling the second best film that I've seen so far this year back at MNPP. Of specific interest is the section by Black Hole author Charles Burns, whose phenomenal artwork comes alive in creepy detail, but every segment has something wonderful to offer. If you can find the film, you won't be sorry - I guess it's playing on OnDemand now too. Watch the trailer here for a good idea of what you'll be in for.

Let the Right One In, aka Låt den rätte komma in, is a Swedish vampire film that's been getting raves for months. I have not seen this one yet but I assume some of our foreign readership has and can tell us if the general verdict is on the mark or not - still it sounds like a fascinating take on the ever-morphing vampire mythos. Let the Right One In will be rolling out in theaters across the country over the next few weeks - you can find where and when right here.

Ahhh... they smell like sanity, don't they? There are still horror movies worth seeking out, here and there, sprinkled through the manure. Sometimes ones forgets even when one is a die-hard fan.

So do yourselves, do us all a favor - if you feel the late October scary-movie bug nipping at the back of your neck... don't fall prey to Saw. Seek out one of these if you can, or just go rent Halloween! It's the treat that does the trick every year better, thirty years running!

Paging Miss Cleo

JA from MNPP here. I know Nat doesn't often do stories on Breaking News!-type topics, but I just cannot resist hearing what y'all have got to say on this bit from today's Variety:

"For his next directing effort, Steven Soderbergh is plotting a 3-D live-action rock ’n’ roll musical about Cleopatra.

He is courting Catherine Zeta-Jones to play the Egyptian queen and Hugh Jackman to play her lover, Marc Antony.

... The music has been written by the indie rock band Guided by Voices, and the script is by James Greer, a former bass player for the band and an author."

I literally opened my calendar to check the date upon seeing this news to make sure it wasn't April 1st. That is the oddest thing I have read in quite some time.

What do we think? Genius, or this-movie-will-devour-us-all- and-implode-the-very-fabric-of-space-and-time?

Thursday, October 23, 2008

Olga's House of Pain!


The Russians are coming and the cat women are here! This being an actressexual site, I thought I'd shout out to Ukrainian model Olga Kurylenko. For one reason, my ex-roomate dated a girl who ALMOST got the part in Hitman that went to Kurylenko. Second, she's slated to appear in Quantum of Solace, so her hour has definitely come, and third: sexually aggressive Eastern European models are scary! They're taking over Manhattan nightlife and have become figures of great anxiety for many of us and she's great at playing them. My friends, beware the Russian model! She comes, she takes and leaves her victims broken, shattered, aching. She's voracious! (I'm beginning to sound like the announcer at the beginning of Faster Pussycat, Kill! Kill!)

If you've ever seen a 1970s Euro-horror film or been to a party full of models or read Lacan, you know that the scariest thing in the world is to suddenly have a Russian model hit on you. Yeah, yeah, you think you can handle it. Trust me, you can't; you'll run for the exit. Lacan writes that this sudden fear is a result the "over-proximity of the objet petit A or in the English translation: "too much too soon." After years of poring over the pages of Vogue, suddenly a 6 foot tall 110 pound, Chanel evening dress-swathed babe is in your lap, drunkenly whispering obscene proposals into your ear while dropping ice cubes down your neck, and what do you do? You find yourself hyper-ventilating and running away like a little bitch. We never imagine that the object of our lust might lust back at us twice as strong; that's a nightmare, not a dream!

Even the bravehearted Timothy Olyphant had this problem in Hitman - and he drugs Olga unconscious rather than allow his perfect bald head to be corrupted by her maddening wiles. And now in Max Payne, Marc Wahlberg kicks her out of his apartment when she's lying on his bed with her legs aggressively uncrossed, beckoning him hither (she only laughs derisively as she walks out).

Kurylenko is the ideal for this feral nympho party girl; she's got a weird canine kind of look and an ease with her body that makes you believe she could sleep with a room full of men (and women) and they'd all go home wrecked empty shells while she strode arrogantly on to the next orgy, oblivious to anything but her own decadent pleasure. Goddamn those Eastern Europeans with their great genes and inherited sense of Nietzscheanity!

Read her latest statements to the press about being a Bond girl and not a bimbo here

Inverting A Classic

by James Hansen @ Out 1 Film Journal

Ever since Ed Halter ever so briefly mentioned the video in his 2007 Year in Experimental Film article for The Village Voice, I have been looking forward to Jennifer Montgomery’s Deliver, an all-female video “remake” (really an inversion) of Deliverance. Although Deliverance was popularized by the classic 1972 film, Montgomery makes it clear that it is not the film, but the book that is her main source of inspiration.

My guess is the near sell out at Deliver’s world premiere at BAM had more to do with John Boorman’s Deliverance (the film) than with James Dickey’s Deliverance (the book), not that it matters all that much. However, the people expecting a Hollywood-esque estrogen driven remake of Deliverance were likely disappointed and will continue to be as Deliver makes the small rounds to other experimental film venues across the country. Deliver is deeply problematic, just as it is meant to be. But, if you ask me, it is fascinating, frustrating, and thrilling, in its own distanced way, all at once.

Montgomery, a terrific, award winning video artist, (her recent work Notes on the Death of Kodachrome (1990-2006) was shown at the 2008 Whitney Biennial) is obviously not interested in the action aspects that dominate Deliverance and make it what it ends up being (for better or, if you agree with Montgomery, worse.) Deliver is undeniably more interested in social construction and the overriding forces that shape historical identities. Despite being shot in high def video (Montgomery’s prior work has very predominantly been shot on Super 8), it has the same personal extension and feeling that has been a highlight of her past work. It is ripe with contradictions and paradoxes, particularly in the pivotal rape scene, which will dominate any discussion of the video.

While plenty of people will undoubtedly strike Deliver down for various choices that it makes (assuming people unfamiliar with Montgomery will stick with it once they realize this is not a Hollywood action remake), each choice adds to the video’s identity and manage to confound pretty much every issue that Dickey’s novel and Boorman’s film proposes. In attempting to reconstruct and question the cultural history of a classic literary and filmic text, not to mention gender, homosexuality, and sexual violence, Montgomery forces Deliver to confront a lot of major issues in a short amount of time. That it feels like a totally completed work-in-progress goes to show the ever-contracting depths to which Montgomery’s art, highlighted in Deliver, reaches.

I plan to think about this more and post a deeper, more specific analysis at Out 1 sometime in the future. Just want to mention that, while I have the chance, in case anyone out there is super interested.