Tuesday, March 31, 2009

March. It's a Wrap

I'd like to report that March contained pots of gold but my experience was quite the opposite. I am so pleased to close the door on this month away and walk away. Nay, run! Ever had one of those months? April will be more fun. It must. But in case you missed anything here are 10 highlights from the month that is over... o-v-e-r. Get out of here, March!

Valentina! this classic star and fashion post didn't get much response but I loved typing it up. NYC has such rich culture. It's everywhere
I promised more reviews this year. Off to good start
Kristin Scott Thomas in interview with the acclaimed actress as I've Loved You So Long hit video. I'm so excited for her upcoming duet with Sergi Lopez in Partir. And you?
Signatures I'm so proud to host Adam's fine series. March featured Mia Farrow, Gena Rowlands and Edith Massey.
Isabelle Adjani Talent, beauty and Oscar record-holding

Breakfast With... ends with Cagney, Jolie and Bette. You want a second season?
GOOP and Sofia Coppola Sofia loves Let The Right One In. We should've known. It's just like one of her own movies.
I Dream of Celebrity star-packed REM time
Battlestar Beefcake JA bids the men of TV's most ambitious series goodbye. (sniffle)
"Cherry Bomb" Fanning We all grow up. But do child stars have to?

Coming in April: First round of 2009 Oscar Predictions, a trip to Nashville (I'll be jurying at the film festival), Spielberg's Schindler's List, Eastwood's Unforgiven, A Chorus Line, Tribeca Film Festival, Casablanca and another round of April showers. Wear a raincoat.

Padded Link

<--- Last week Rope of Silicon shared the creepy teaser poster for Shutter Island (previously discussed here) and now JA is all hyped up. Has Scorsese made a picture as brutal and scary as Cape Fear since? I'm not thinking "Whatever Happened to Patient 67?" So much as "Is Emily Mortimer Patient 67? And if so, will people finally realize how versatile and quite awesome she is?" I know that's not quite how the marketing folks wanted me to react but I'm a special case. I think only of actresses whenever possible. I guess I really need to read Dennis Lehane's novel before this picture opens.

Tapeworthy shares the news that Friday Night Lights has been renewed for two more seasons. Grand news for any fans of quality television.
The Big Picture wonders about the idealogical inconsistencies of snubbing movies because of an actor's politics.
Empire on the girlpower casting of Zach Snyder's Sucker Punch. I was going to say Snyder doing a movie with female leads? ... but then I remembered the wonderful Sarah Polley and she sure as hell anchored and powered Dawn of the Dead. May one of his new actresses can do the same for this film.

Boy Culture points us to an inspiring new site inspired by Harvey Milk's activism.
MightyGodKing finds the difference between Pixar and Dreamworks Animation
My New Plaid Pants wishes Ewan McGregor a sweet birthday. I miss Ewan. Please make lots of good movies very soon.
Extra Criticum offers some excellent DVD rental ideas on that "10 Characters" meme I struggled through earlier today.
Cinemavistaramascope enthuses about the trailer to Taking Woodstock. He worked on the film.
The Exploding Kinetoscope RIP Andy Hallett, Angel's colorful demon host "Lorne".
MTV News Eastern Promises sequel? I am totally willing to go back for seconds although I can't imagine what plot point could get Viggo Mortensen completely starkers again. Bummer.

Top 10 Movie Characters

I've been asked "What are my ten favorite characters in the history of movies?" Curse you Timothy! And Squish. The question is not something specific like ten favorite characters in Moulin Rouge! (easy) or ten favorite performances by an actress in the past three years or ten favorite Disney villains. No, this question is broader than Ursula's tentacle span. This is like asking someone "What are your ten favorite notes in the history of music?" Insanity. So I'm doing this off the top of my head. I'm avoiding things I talk about too much (Ursula, Lt. Ellen Ripley, Dorothy Gale and any character played by Michelle Pfeiffer). I'm also presenting in chronological order so as to avoid nervous meltings or celluloid breakdowns.

Top Ten Movie Characters

Peter Pan
The movies are full of franchise characters, but usually I stay picky only getting wrapped up for short bursts of time. Take James Bond. It totally depends on the Bond for me. And though I love vampires in general I prefer them when they're not actually Count Dracula himself or Vlad the Impaler or whatever he's calling himself now. I could definitely swing with some Tarzans but I don't seek out his movies. But Peter Pan? From the
silent version in 1924 (starring Betty Bronson) the stage musical (starring whomever... though I always hate that it's a girl playing the impish boy), through the Disney cartoon right up to the underappreciated 2003 incarnation, I'll always watch him fly. Even though I sometimes regret it. Bonus points for Tinkerbell even if Disney is attempting to destroy my love for her [on Tinkerbell and Wendy]

Lucy Warriner
in The Awful Truth (1937)
If I could marry Lucy and Jerry Warriner, played by Irene Dunne and Cary Grant, I would. Every time I watch the movie I fall madly in love with Lucy and fall totally in sync with Jerry. He and I become totally discombobulated. She's impossible and hilarious, sexy and maddening, baffling and endearing all at once and often at the same moment. Though to tell the truth, I could just as easily have picked Hazel Flagg in Nothing Sacred (1937), Susan Vance in Bringing Up Baby (1938), Ellie in It Happened One Night (1934) or Sugarpuss O'Shea in Ball of Fire (1941). There is no list of Greatest Anything that is complete without the screwball comedy.

Norma Desmond in Sunset Blvd (1950)
The ur diva actress and arguably the best mirror character for the cinema as a whole, reflecting back on the silents and still projecting forward and resonating today. She's a nightmare avatar of stardom curdled that forever haunts the movies. It doesn't matter how small the pictures get. She's also the unavoidable reminder of the inevitability of aging and death even for the true immortals of the screen.

Clyde Barrow in Bonnie & Clyde (1967)
I should say "Bonnie and..." but that'd be cheating. And though I love Faye Dunaway's fierce style and her eagerly swift descent into criminality, my heart tips ever so slightly to Warren Beatty's Clyde... beautiful, violent, impotent, infamous Clyde shooting and stealing his way through a short life in those dust bowl days.

Sevérine in Belle de Jour (1967)
For her perversity and beauty... but most of all for her unknowability. Few characters in cinema retain their mystique so well once the credits roll. Was Catherine Deneuve ever better? Then again... when isn't she superb? [more Deneuve]

Sally Bowles in Cabaret (1972)
Doesn't her body drive you wild with desire? I realize there's stiff competition out there but she may well be the most quotable character in all of cinema... or at least within the musicals. [on Cabaret]

Roy Batty in Blade Runner (1982)
I never quite understood the deep pathos of the Frankenstein myth until I came face to face with his futuristic descendant, replicant Roy Batty as portrayed by Rutger Hauer. With his white shock hair, adult malice and incongruous little boy pouting he mesmerized. That double emotional arc/climax stunned: the first in which he meets his physical maker and exterminates him, the second in which he himself expires knowing there's no spiritual maker to go home to. All those moments will be lost in time, like tears in the rain... [more on Batty]

Freddy Honeychurch in A Room With a View (1986)
When Lucy Honeychurch's uncouth suitor George shouts "Beauty!!!!!" into the open air in this Merchant/Ivory classic, I think not of the landscape he shouts to or of Lucy, but of her little brother Freddy. I think of the young Rupert Graves and his amateur hour musicality, vivid immaturity, impossible bangs (his hair seems as eager to frolic as he is) and uninhibited enthusiasms... "fancy a bath?". What's mo --- okay, okay, it's a sexual fixation. I confess. But it's not like we all don't have them with movie characters. You think Rita Hayworth's Gilda became a classic character strictly for her personality? [previous Freddy Honeychurch]

Suzanne Vale in Postcards From the Edge (1990)
She combines three elements that are utterly amazing on their own, let alone fused: Carrie Fisher's wit, channelled through Meryl Streep's awesomeness in order to illuminate what happens to be my favorite species on earth, the Actress Neurotica. It's not exactly an endangered species but I still think we ought to set up a preservation fund to make sure they never go the way of the dinosaur. And maybe get zoos involved in case things get too dangerous for them in the wild.

Amber Waves in Boogie Nights (1998)
The foxiest bitch in the whole world. In some ways Amber Waves forever cursed Julianne Moore to be seen as "the bad mother" but if you have to get stuck in a typecasting rut, get there by playing one of the most indelible screen creations ever. Bonus points: Good actors spoofing bad acting (see also: Jean Hagen in Singin' in the Rain and Jennifer Tilly in Bullets Over Broadway) is one of the greatest pleasures of the silver screen.

Wither the Aughts? If you're on your movie-loving training wheels --there's no shame in that. We all start with movies of the here and now, whenever our here is now -- and would like this list caged into the past 10 years, well... I decided to save the current decade for a later list. Turns out this wasn't as painful as I thought but fun to create even as it fails on the definitive front. There are just too many characters to embrace.

Who should I tag (i.e. punish)? I really want to see the lists that JA, Dave, Gabriel, Fox and Adam would whip up. And I tag you if you haven't a blog of your own should you like to share in the comments. And tell me what'cha think of my ten ...do we share a few character obsessions?

Last Day To Prove You're "Actress Psychic" !

Last year five readers predicted 4 of the 5 Best Actress nominees correctly 10 long months in advance. That ain't easy to do. This year doesn't seem to have as many 'sure thing' prospects on paper as someone like Meryl Streep in Doubt last year so you'll need all your ESP to win.

Do you think the Academy will be in the mood for young ascending stars like Romola Garai or Evan Rachel Wood? Will they want to make it up to people they've ignored: Robin Wright Penn or Vera Farmiga? Perhaps last year's 'make it up to Kate Winslet!' fever will inspire some kindness to other big stars still waiting for their gold man like Natalie Portman or Amy Adams? Or maybe AMPAS just likes what they like and will stubbornly fall back on a shortlist filled only with previous Oscar winners like Helen Mirren, Hilary Swank, Renée Zellweger and Charlize Theron. Not that that ever happens. (Has that ever happened? That's a question for the trivia experts among you).

Delayed a couple of days: The Film Experience's first Oscar Predictions for 2009. Stay tuned.

¡Átame! ...and Brüno?

Antonio Banderas was on my mind. I blame Fernando in the comments. Happy b-day Fernando

Tie Me Up! Tie Me Down! So many exclamation points. ¡But it's worth exclamating! Tis one of the very best films of 1990.

If you ask me this one never gets enough attention in the Almodóvar oeuvre. It's the MPAA's fault (It's fun to blame things on them. Try it). 'Round about '89/'90 a lot of specialized films were having huge problems with the ratings board. Films like The Cook, The Thief, His Wife and Her Lover and Henry & June were just too much for the simple "R". Regarding the latter film, I still maintain it was the fully clothed Uma Thurman that did it in with the board. She was unbelievably smoldering in that picture. And you can't really edit a title character out of the picture, can you? In this climate was born the NC-17 rating which is still protecting fragile Americans from ever being subjected to films as permanently scarring to their psyches as....

Lust, Caution

(I'm sorry to scare you out there. Settle down, it was only an Ang Lee movie!)

There are a few violent pictures on the list of films that got slapped with 'the new X' but mostly it's sex that gets them angry enough to outlaw any parent from bringing their teenagers into the theater with them. Meanwhile, it's totally OK for a parent to bring their 5 year old into Saw XIV. "All is right with the world", he typed sarcastically.

The new victim of the NC-17 is... Brüno ???

The Wrap reports that the new Sacha Baron Cohen comedy, his follow up to Borat, got slapped with the dread rating. Perhaps reading the full (informal / gifted?) title will make the MPAA's objections more comprehensible.

Brüno: Delicious Journeys Through America for the Purpose of Making Heterosexual Males Visibly Uncomfortable in the Presence of a Gay Foreigner in a Mesh T-Shirt

The film hasn't even opened yet and Brüno's already achieved his purpose. They're visibly uncomfortable. The comedy, presumably with a few snips, cuts and resultant "R" rating, will open July 10th in theaters everywhere.

Monday, March 30, 2009

"Van Gock"

"Van Goch! Did you hear that? She said
'Van Goch'. Like an Arab she spoke."
-Woody Allen Manhattan
Today marks the 156th anniversary of the birth of one Vincent Van Gogh. Strangely I've never seen any of the film versions of his life. Neither Robert Altman's Theo and Vincent (1990) nor the César lauded French biopic Van Gogh (1991). Not even the Oscar winning Lust For Life (1956) with Kirk Douglas. Have you? The only time I've seen him portrayed onscreen was by none other than Martin Scorsese in Akira Kurosawa's Dreams (1990). Kurosawa began as a painter so perhaps the affinity was born there. Dreams was my first Kurosawa and I saw it, believe it or not, in Japanese with Norwegian subtitles. Not that the language barriers mattered with such a visual film... Oh and don't freak -- I've since rectified my former Kurosawalessness.

What were we talking about? Oh, Van Gogh. I'm of the opinion that we don't have enough crazy artists any more... particularly in the movies. Which movie people do you think are crazy enough to cut off an ear?

Some suggestions in the comments include Uwe Boll and Joaquin Phoenix (naturally), Harvey Weinstein (good call!), Terrence Malick's agent (ha!), Brad Pitt (hmmm. even missing an ear the beauty would be undiminished), Kathleen Turner (hey now! Leave my Kathleen alone) and these two...

Paul Outlaw thinks Vincent Gallo might inspire fears for ears. Alexa disagrees. And Wayne B's evil thoughts go straight to Dakota Fanning (?!?)
I could see [her] cutting off an ear as long as it'll guarantee her an Oscar before she turns 20; that way she'll beat Marlee Matlin's record.
Dakota's focus apparently freaks Wayne out. Does it freak him out enough to...

I promise this is the last birthday post of the day. I'm tired of March. I need a fresh start. Be over March! Be over.

Dollhouse 1.4 to 1.7

Eeek. This is why I don't write about TV. It's always on and thus too easy to fall behind in. I haven't mentioned Dollhouse in nearly four weeks. I can't offer the extensive write-ups I did last time, but here are a few quick thoughts. I've started each of these posts with a photo of a doll. Subtle! But today let's go with this painting of a Doll holding a doll. It's my beloved Pris from Blade Runner.
She's the right iconic character to throw up because she's a pleasure model. That isn't far from what the Dolls in Dollhouse are... except they're not androids but actual humans. Though sometimes I think the writers get confused.

"Gray Hour" I'm struggling to remember this episode. Echo (Eliza Dushku) was imprinted to be a master thief, helping to steal priceless art. As usual things went very wrong. B-

1.5 "True Believer" Echo is made blind (don't ask me to explain the science, the show can't and I wish it wouldn't try!) in order to infiltrate a cult. It's another chance for Joss Whedon to bash religious fundamentalism. I'm sympathetic to that. Eliza was better than usual in this episode. Perhaps it was that Mormon'ish environment she originally sprang from? B

1.6 "Man on the Street" Easily the best episode and written by Joss Whedon himself, natch. It's the one we were promised through the buzzvine "where it gets good". The snarky critic in me suggests that shows should be good from the beginning rather than promising future quality (Hi, Heroes. I stopped watching long ago. You cried wolf too many times), but the realist in me knows that it often takes time for complicated shows to find their footing. The Dollhouse team should feel pretty good about landing this episode. They managed for the first time a completely integrated vision. The A (imprint assignment), B (Dollhouse mythology) and C (FBI investigation) plots all worked as one to take us on an icky thrill ride. Usually they've been standing awkwardly side by side, staring oddly at one another. There were three fine reveals in this episode. The first, which involved a sleeper agent Doll --"there are three flowers in the vase"-- wasn't that big of a surprise but it was still plotted quite well. The second was that there's someone within the Dollhouse ranks who wants to help the FBI Agent. The last and big reveal was a great surprise (at least to me). Turns out we've barely scratched the surface of this shady operation. "There are over 20 Dollhouses..." [shiver]

Best thing about the episode: Ms. Dewitt, the boss lady, finally got some scenery to chew. She's a devious one. Her final scene was brilliantly succinct and Olivia Williams handled it perfectly.

Worst thing: The interstitial, man on the street news report, with civilians talking about the urban myth of the Dollhouse, was awkward. A bit too "on the nose" I suppose, what with the foregrounding of the show's non consensual sex and slavery conundrums. Still the dialogue was sometimes funny and the show probably needs more laughs to balance out the heebie jeebies those twin issues unavoidably inspire. A-

<--- Is Enver Gjokaj who plays "Victor" the best 'Doll' actor on the show? His personality does seem to subtly shift with each assignment. The show's concept requires chameleons. They don't seem to have cast most of the young actors that way.

1.7 "Echoes"
Oops. After that thorny near-thrilling sixth episode we reverted back to 'what the hell are they doing?' doubts about this show. A Plot: A group of dolls are sent to lock down a college campus affected by a drug which removes inhibitions and messes with your memory and self control. Too much of a dose and things get very violent/ugly. And oops, the drug/virus goes airborne... or something (again sloppy with the science). B Plot: Turns out the Rossum corporation which develops this drug is intimately connected to the Dollhouse's very existence. In Echo's former life as Caroline, she was out to take down the Rossum corporation. She was something of a political activist/animal rights hellion. C Plot: the FBI Agent's sex life was totally ruined by that assassination attempt on his new girlfriend in the last episode. That always kills my sex drive, too.

Best thing about this episode: The drug going airborne within the Dollhouse gave Olivia Williams her first comic scenes as Ms. DeWitt started binging whilst her chief imprint tech man, usually the only character on the show with any jokes, ended up pants less for half the episode.

Worst thing about this episode: the writing and Eliza's uneven playing (sigh. I love her but...) continue to make Echo look like an idiot rather than an interesting character. This episode contained the single worst (?) moment in all seven episodes. Echo and a college student want to escape from the Dolls that are supposed to be locking down the campus. They're basically sitting in a containment tent. The tent opening is mere feet away with no one guarding it. Echo and the student sneak out by walking out and Echo turns to the student and says, with a sense of wonder and accomplishment "That worked!" Duh. Walking out of a room you don't want to be in when it doesn't have a door to begin with is often a piece of cake!

This episode gets two grades. Scenes inside the Dollhouse: B Scenes outside the Dollhouse C

And that's it for now. Next week's episode "The Awakening" is supposed to be game changer just like episode 6. We'll see. Don't be crying wolf people.

Happy Birthday Warren Beatty

He'll drink to that!

He's so vain. He probably thinks this post is about him.
[editor's note: Um... it is, Nathaniel]

Sunday, March 29, 2009

Cheeky Willem Dafoe

In honor of the first still from the new Lars Von Trier picture, subtly titled Antichrist, that was making the blog rounds this week.

Places Willem Dafoe's Ass Has Been

How I Felt / How I Almost Feel

As sung by the most talented person in the known universe, Meryl Streep.

I'm not about to expire like pathetic homeless Helen Archer... (that was how I felt yesterday) but I'm quite ready for this spring flu to leave me be. Like Suzanne Vale I'm ready to move on from this particular heartbreak.
I ain't gonna live on lonely street no more,
no more *prrphrphrph*

Coming in June: When I listed my 20 Favorite Actresses a few months ago I posted a poll asking which actress you'd most want to see a retrospective of. You voted for Streep by a wide margin. So June will be Meryl Streep Month up in here. She's turning 60 (so hard to believe, right?) and we'll look back on several of her films.

Saturday, March 28, 2009

"don't you think that's kinda weird?"

'Drip Drip Drop Little April Shower...'

'beating a tune as you fall all around'

April is almost here. Time to shower with the movies. It's not that we're perverts. It's that the cinema is an exhibitionist. Weekdays at 11:00 PM in April. Sometimes it'll be sexy. Sometimes it'll be scary. Sometimes it'll be just about the details.

"Actress Psychic" ~ 3 Days Left to Enter

If you've already entered the contest you should have received notification this morning that your entry has been processed. If you haven't yet, join us. There's already a clear collective prediction for the Academy's 5-wide Best Actress shortlist... funny how that happens, even in a year with as many potentially viable candidates as this one. Another 40 women have been mentioned on anywhere from a single ballot to a good 20% of them.

Friday, March 27, 2009

In Links

MNPP loves watching Jane Wyman get hit by a car in Magnificent Obsession
The Bad and the Ugly The Ice Age franchise, never a high brow toon, is now selling dick jokes?
LA Weekly is LA actually the best place now for challenging theatrical musicals?
Low Resolution surveys the week in TV

ModFab gets a sneak peek at Broadway's Spider-Man musical
Film of the Year asks if wider is better as screen imagery goes... (starring 1954's A Star is Born)
Bright Lights Dead Lesbian Society welcomes Watchmen's Silhouette
Scanners great piece on critical consensus and textured individual responses to films
Culture Snob on In Dreams. I had to include it since the Scanners piece also mentions the largely forgotten Neil Jordan/Annette Bening movie. Strange coincidence?
Crazy Days has an interesting post about an Angelina Jolie related lawsuit ~ a charity donation gone wrong. As an official member of the have nots I've never even considered what happens to rich civilians who play those "win a date with a celebrity" auction games for charity. Who knew?

i09 has a good piece on the ways sci-fi fare uses and/or abuses religion. This list/rant was inspired by the series finale of Battlestar Galactica last week. For the record I loved the first 90 minutes or so... especially all the ways they managed to swirl so many past issues into such a tense and chill inducing action climax. The new pre-apocalypse backstory segments were yet another reminder that this show had the best ensemble acting on television. But I could've done without most of the last "new earth" half hour. I never really enjoy long-form explanatory wrap-ups. More than once my mind drifted to the awkward goodbyes of Lord of the Rings: Return of the King. I think I need to always wonder a little bit about what happens to characters I've fallen in love with. If I know, it's easier to fall out of love. It's like you're robbed of a reason to continue thinking about fictional characters if their stories have all been told.

Now Playing: Giant-Sized Women

links go to trailers

Guest of Cindy Sherman This documentary sounds fascinating. It's about Cindy Sherman, the famous multihyphenate artist, but it's also about the awkward "plus one" status of those who date people exponentially more famous than themselves. Directed by a former boyfriend of Cindy's, the artist Paul H-O.

American Swing a documentary about the swingers movement in tumultuous 70s New York

The Education of Charlie Banks is a coming of age tale set in upstate New York in the 80s. Jesse Eisenberg, so great in both Roger Dodger and The Squid and the Whale, stars. Is he about to break through to wider fame? This would be the year to do it. He's got about approximately nine pictures opening in the next 24 months. Craziness. This is Fred Durst's (Limp Bizkit) directorial debut. (Next up for Eisenberg is Adventureland with Kristen Stewart)

Shall We Kiss? French romantic comedy starring Michaël Cohen, who happens to be the "plus one" (i.e. husband) of the far more famous French goddess Emmanuelle Béart -- see how I'm working a theme into what might otherwise be a really dull "informational" post? I'm amazing. I work so hard pour vous, n'est-ce pas? --Béart is sadly not in this movie. Michaël's lips are busy with co-star Julie Gayet.

Spinning Into Butter This long delayed screen adaptation (filmed in 2005) of a hit play that once starred Hope Davis (replaced by Sarah Jessica Parker for the movie) is about racism on a college campus. Beau Bridges, Mylketi Williamson and Miranda Richardson co-star. I was suspicious of this movie the first moment I saw SJP's flat brown color job. I'll never understand why filmmakers tend to think reducing the style/beauty of actors makes a film more potent dramatically speaking. Usually it just makes the movie appear as as flat as the hair. Boo to deglam.

Goodbye Solo this well reviewed indie is about the unlikely friendship between a Sengalese immigrant and a good ol' southern boy. From writer/director Ramin Bahrani whose last picture, Chop Shop won him the "Someone to Watch" Award at the Indie Spirits.

12 Rounds I hadn't even heard of this movie until I started typing this sentence. But I thought it looked familiar. It turns out I knew its parents!

Its poster parents, that is. 'Lil 12 Rounds'... so cute! Although he's really too young to be playing with so much firepower. No matter how violent his parents happen to be.

The Haunting in Connecticut I'm starting to feel like the horror genre actually produces more movies each year than even Bollywood. This one stars CGI gunk that projects out of the mouths of young boys (I'm just guessing from the advertisements). Virginia Madsen is aghast! You would be too if you could do what she can do and this is all your agent could find for you.

Monsters vs. Aliens Reese Witherspoon (well, her voice) gets all giant-sized in this 3D animated adventure.The movie has found a way to humorously visualize what we all subconsciously know to be true. That Reese towers above us all. She could crush anyone on a whim. This looks like fun and box office pundits claim it will tower over the competition, crushing them with ease.

Which actors would you cast...

as your parents in the movie of your life? And why...

Woody Allen Still Searching For New Muse

By now you've heard that Nicole Kidman will appear in Woody Allen's next untitled film (they're always untitled for a good while) due in 2010. It'll be his fourth film set in London and the cast currently includes Anthony Hopkins, Josh Brolin, Freida Pinto, Naomi Watts, and Antonio Banderas.

While the Kidman/Allen match might prove fascinating -- she loves real auteurs / he loves actresses with neurotic edge -- it also might be a big news item signifying nothing. Think of Julia Roberts and Drew Barrymore starring in Everyone Says I Love You back in 1996. What's that, you say? You'd forgotten they were in that one. You're forgiven. See, they were major gets in the mid-90s but they proved to be far from the highlights of that film (Goldie Hawn easily won 'best in show' honors there). The media has a tendency to see every female casting decision made by Woody Allen as a sign of a new "muse". It's silly but understandable. The pull of the collaborative director/actor mystique is powerful.

Wilder had Jack Lemmon. Ford had John Wayne and Henry Fonda. Kurosawa had Mifune. Bergman had Liv Ullman and Max von Sydow. Werner Herzog and Klaus Kinski drove each other mad. Josef von Sternberg and Marlene Dietrich are forever intertwined. Wong Kar Wai has Tony Leung Chiu Wai. Scorsese had DeNiro and then DiCaprio. And then there's Woody...

Cinema's most beloved/hated intellectual neurotic New York Jew is as regular as fiber, churning out approximately one film per calendar year since nearly the very beginning of his career. He's been in the muse business a long while. First came Louise Lasser in the 1960s (she was his second wife). Girlfriend Diane Keaton took over for a classic run in the 1970s. His longest lasting collaboration came with girlfriend Mia Farrow in the 1980s. She made her first Woody film in 1982 (A Midsummer Night's Sex Comedy) and appeared in every one of his films thereafter until the last one in 1992 (Husbands and Wives) which was filmed during their brutal breakup.

Woody's actresses and the number of his films they appeared in, from top left: Mia Farrow, Diane Keaton, Julie Kavner, Dianne Wiest, Louise Lasser, Judy Davis, Scarlett Johansson (there are a few other actresses who've been in three of his films and a whole bunch have made 2. Here's a full list. Will Nicole Kidman, Naomi Watts or Frieda Pinto get follow up films?

The rest is scandalous history and cinematic meandering. Their very public very nasty split and Woody's subsequent marriage to Farrow's adopted daughter Soon-Yi Previn arguably coincided with a downward spiral in the quality of Woody's films with only Bullets Over Broadway (1994) generating the type of critical and specialized audience hosannas that Woody's films had previously enjoyed. But things have been on the upswing for him since Match Point (2005) his first collaboration with Scarlett Johansson. That thriller won surprisingly strong notices and the best box office he'd seen in many years. Scarlett got a lot of press for being his new muse but three films isn't much to go on... and was she the best thing in any of them? No.

If you ask me I'd say he hasn't yet found (or stuck with) the actress he needs for a truly inspired resurgence. The actresses that bring out the best in Woody's writing are the more mature, complicated, brainy and/or very funny ones. Patricia Clarkson is on her second feature with Woody (this summer's Whatever Works) and I hope he gives her more to do this time around. Why he stopped working with Dianne Wiest, Tracey Ullman or Judy Davis... (valuable Woody players all) is beyond me.

If Woody wants to continue working with the 20something set (and his last several films imply that he does) I humbly request a collaboration with either Ari Graynor (Nick & Norah's Infinite Playlist), Jess Weixler (Teeth), Kirsten Dunst or even Amanda Seyfried who have all exhibited comic flair in one project or another... or at least more than Scarlett herself who tends to be strongest in lower key dramas with or without comic elements (Ghost World, Lost in Translation, etcetera).

I'm excited to see Kidman, one of the best actors in the business, under his directorial hand but I don't hold out much hope that he'll start writing with her in mind. It's been awhile since he was writing regularly for older women. If he'll write something for a 30something woman again (more likely) I think Charlize Theron, who was very good in both of her very bad Woody Allen pictures (Celebrity and The Curse of the Jade Scorpion), deserves a lead role in one of his films. I really do.

Wouldn't she be worth musing over?

Recent Related Post: Whatever Works (Woody's 2009 movie)

Put the Blame on Mame

Thursday, March 26, 2009

Takeshi Kaneshiro Lost in Thought

Perhaps he's contemplating his beauty?

This could take all night.

In fact, he should probably lie down. Carrying around all that Beauty can be exhausting.

Speaking of Takeshi...

Whatever happened to that Emporio Armani campaign he was supposed to be in these past couple of months? It was a big deal that he was joining David Beckham as advertising's latest [insert celebratory trumpets] Underwear Man -- first Asian and all that.

But here's the pressing question that has me lost in thought. Why, despite his international profile, do none of his movies open in America? The last time he graced US screens was five whole years ago when the international hit The House of Flying Daggers opened. Since then Takeshi has appeared in one strange Oscar submission from Hong Kong Perhaps Love (2005) and a crime drama Confessions of Pain (2006) with an even higher profile co-star Tony Leung Chiu-Wai. He followed that up with a Brad Pitt/Meet Joe Black-like star turn in Accuracy of Death (2007) and another crime drama K-2 (2008).

Finally he was part of the orgy of Asian film stars fighting it out in not one, not two, but three action blockbuster spectacles: The Warlords (2007) and the John Woo directed double Red Cliff (2008) and Red Cliff II (2009). None of these films ever saw the inside of US theaters (outside of your festivals or errant one offs) !?!?! Me no understand.

Asian action flicks like Crouching Tiger ($128) and Hero ($53) once made considerable bank in the US. I'm assuming that distributors got gun swordshy with the comparatively low takes for Curse of the Golden Flower ($6) and Flying Daggers ($11). Or maybe it was the non success of the Oscar submission The Promise (which did not crack a million at the US box office) that did it. Though if it was the latter that's a rather unfair comparison point since The Promise had no stars as famous as Kaneshiro, Leung, Li, Cheung or Ziyi to advertise and not many high profile critical champions either.

If you're a Takeshi fan you basically have to settle for DVDs, pirated or otherwise. No big screens for you! Somebody splash some cold water on US distributors and wake them back up.

Or just throw it on Takeshi.


Red Carpet Lineup

because someone is always walking one...

The glamour is a bit toned down this time of year but here's a handful of actresses that were lit by flashbulbs in the past couple of weeks.

Pedro Almodóvar and Penélope Cruz hold hands for the world premiere of Broken Embraces in Madrid. They won't have to smile for stateside paparazzi for awhile yet. It's a rule of distribution that everyone in Europe has to have a chance to see each new Pedro movie three times before it opens in the US. There are several reviews of his Volver follow up floating round the web but I'm avoiding them. Spoilers, ya know. Almodóvar movies always hold surprises of plot, theme and/or character and it's best to see them unfold organically.

Emily Mortimer seems stunned to be photographed in her sparkly maroon cocoon... maybe she's just stunned that the flashes don't go off more often. She and hubby Allesandro Nivola should both be much bigger stars than they are. But then, as I've said before, Hollywood is no meritocracy. Scarlett Johansson continues to be absurdly beautiful. That is all. Gemma Arterton wants to know why I included her. Consider it a thank you gift, Gemma. You're the only one that got Daniel Craig out of his clothes in Quantum of Solace.

I saved Marcia Gay Harden for last. She's currently treading the boards on Broadway in God of Carnage with three other fantastic actors: James Gandolfini, Hope Davis and Jeff Daniels. One of my friends has already seen it twice and keeps saying "it's great!"

How many of you are watching Damages? but I love her confidence and sensuality as "Claire Maddox". Marcia's roles usually leave her fighting for scraps on the sidelines. But there she is on Damages completely unafraid to play in Glenn Close's sandbox. More to the point, she acts like said sandbox is hers. While a handsome woman, she's not a typical screen beauty and she's pushing 50. But there she is on Damages languorously scrunching up her curls, seducing younger men and pulling up her stockings like some Attorney for the Defense of Mrs. Robinson. More to the point, she acts like those men are already hers.

She makes a strong case. Marcia Gay Harden can strut on my screen (big or small) any time she likes.

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Actress Psychic - Balloting Open

You can now enter round 3 of the infamous Actress Psychic contest. Guess the Best Actress Oscar nominees for the 2009 film year right now. How many can you guess this far in advance?

You have until Wednesday, April 1st at 12 NOON Pacific Standard Time to send in your ballot. Here's a cheat sheet list to help you pick your five possible shortlisters. Here's the details on how to enter. Read that carefully because there is a standard tiebreaker question, NEW bonus point questions and important rules.

Who will it be?
Which Oscar virgins: Jessica Biel? Emily Blunt? Alicja Bachleda-Curus? Abbie Cornish? Cameron Diaz? Romola Garai? Maggie Gyllenhaal? Sally Hawkins? Rachel McAdams? Carey Mulligan? Maya Rudolph? Audrey Tatou? Evan Rachel Wood?
Which previous nominees: Amy Adams? Brenda Blethyn? Kate Hudson? Catherine Keener? Keira Knightley? Michelle Pfeiffer? Natalie Portman?
Which past winners: Halle Berry? Jennifer Connelly? Penélope Cruz? Helen Mirren? Meryl Streep? Hilary Swank? Renée Zellweger?

P.S. I had a lot of requests to expand this contest to include Supporting Actress but I couldn't figure out a way to make it manageable since this many months in advance there are (literally) hundreds of possibilities because so many roles are supporting. Nevertheless, I hope to hold more contests this year once Awards Season hits so you'll have other chances. But this is the big fun one so please enter and spread the word to your Oscar fans who you'd love to trounce in this tough contest.


Nathaniel is back. C'est moi. I need to thank JA from MNPP for filling in for me yesterday. JA is dipped in a vat of awesome. Love him. Much more from me in a few hours but for now enjoy this awesome Iron Man vs. Bruce Lee stop motion short.


If we're playing to The Film Experience base I think we need something more along the lines of "Catwoman versus Lt. Ellen Ripley". Or maybe "Carol White vs. Cathy Whitaker" --would they just stare absently at each other or have a crying jag face/off ???

Cathy: My hair. I experimented. Do you like it?
Carol: Oh god Cathy... is that hairspray?

Yes, someone make those short films! Or do I have to do everything?

"I pity the poor foo' who don't eat mah cereal!"


I am not a morning person, but I think I could be if I woke up like Pee-Wee did every day.

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Who Watches The Wild Things?

Hey ho, it's the trailer for Spike Jonze's Where The Wild Things Are! Watch it below, or head over to Apple where you can see it in a larger format. I also took a bunch of screen-grabs from the trailer and posted them at MNPP so check that if you feel the urge.

.What do we think? Honestly, I would sacrifice a year of my life to be transported immediately through time to see this sucker. I would! I swear it! For those of us who grew up loving this book, I think the sight of seeing these images in motion... it's heart-stopping. Magical. Cannot wait. (#2 Cannot Wait, actually)

Them's Some Sexy Clintons



"Dennis Quaid is set to star as President Clinton, with Julianne Moore taking on Hillary in an upcoming HBO film called The Special Relationship. While, at first glance, this might seem like a tale that will discuss certain forays in the Oval Office and risque behavior with cigars, the piece will look at an entirely different relationship -- the "sometimes turbulent political relationship" between Clinton and British Prime Minister Tony Blair -- who will be played by Michael Sheen.

You might remember that Sheen already played Blair in both The Deal and The Queen, so this will be old hat. (Helen McCrory, who played Cherie Blair in The Queen, is also set to reprise her role.) He was also the Frost to Langella's Nixon, and Frost/Nixon playwright Peter Morgan wrote the screenplay to this project and is hoping to make his directorial debut with the feature, should it get greenlit."

Well? What do we think? Is it giving the project too much of a "he's a closet-case and she's sleeping with the help" vibe?


"Oh I know what y'all really want..."

" ...is some gross, caricature of a woman to prove some idiotic point that power makes a woman masculine, or masculine women are ugly.

Well shame on you for letting a man do that, or any man that does that. That means you, dear. Miss Marshall. Shame on you, you macho shit head."

Robin Wright Penn Is Nothing But Trouble


I like to believe that there's a human-character equivalent to Roger Rabbit's Toon Town and that The Princess Bride's Westley and Forrest Gump have gotten over the constant drama Princess Buttercup and Jenny keeps putting them through and have found each other, moved into a ice little apartment together, and at last found peace.

I like to believe that.

What ridiculous movie character fantasies do you harbor?

Brother, Can You Spare Some Eggs?


JA from MNPP here, gently tapping on the screen door to Film Experience headquarters, politely requesting some eggs for your neighbors. Nevermind the white gloves, can I just have the eggs? Please? Thank you. Oh your cat jumped up on me, Nat, and I dropped the eggs. Can I have the other ones? I see them right there. You can go to the store tomorrow. No I am not being rude. No, I will not leave without the eggs.

Hey everybody, sorry about that, but... Nat's not gonna be here today! He's... preoccupied. Much like Susanne Lothar (sidenote: who else adores Susanne Lothar?) and Naomi Watts before him, he's... preoccupied.

But I'm here! Ready, willing, full-bodied, able, to guide you through your Wednesday. And it's funny that I brought up Michael Haneke's dueling Funny Games pictures here because I actually mean to speak a bit about the "Home Invasion" movie genre here for a moment. (Funny how that I works! I brought it up, and I want to talk about it! Funny!)

Although it's a genre near and dear to my heart, I've been thinking about the genre this past week or so more than often than usual. I just finished the chapter in David Hughes' book The Greatest Sci-Fi Movies Never Made on Steven Spielberg's never-happened Close Encounters sort-of sequel, to be called Night Skies. Night Skies was going to tell the story of a family on a farm who come to be terrorized by a group of outer-space aliens who trap them inside their farmhouse and kill their cattle and are generally bad guys (and yes, if that immediately made you think of M. Night's Signs, you are not alone.) Anyway, the story goes, Spielberg wasn't liking where the story was heading, but did like the side-story in the script of the farm-family's son who befriended the only nice alien out in the group, which turned into you guessed it again E.T.: The Extra-Terrestrial. And then Spielberg got his home invasion ya-ya's out by "producing" "Tobe Hooper's" Poltergeist the same year (switch out the aliens for ghosties, and wha-la).

And besides that sordid tale, I also saw the remake of The Last House on the Left last week, which, befitting the current "Home Invasion" film renaissance - Ils (Them), The Strangers, and Funny Games being recent torch-bearers - feels more like your standard Home Invasion film than it's previous Bergman/Craven incarnations. The bad guys are still invited into the home like they've been since The Virgin Spring, but due to alterations in certain outcomes (trying to stay spoiler-free here), it becomes more about maintaining the safety of the home space than just straightforward vengeance. (as an aside, if you can handle the brutality of what Last House has to offer, I'd say that Dennis Iliadis' film is a mostly artful contemplation on The Horrors Men Can Do... at least until that slightly silly denouement).

I'd be remiss, in discussing Home Invasion movies, without giving a shout-out to three of the genre's most important figureheads, so here they be:

(Sam Pekinpah's still controversial Straw Dogs,
Jodie "Mother Hen In A Confined Space" Foster,
and Attempted-Child-Brutality-Has-Never-Been-So-Funny
superstar Macauley Culkin)

Alright, so now that I've lured y'all in here and quietly clicked the lock into place, behind you, you ain't going nowhere without telling me your favorite Home Invasion movie. And why do you think these movies have been so popular specifically the past couple of years? What I'm getting at is, do you think the genre will subside a bit now that we don't feel locked in this country with a madman who seemed to have swallowed the keys to the Oval Office anymore?