Thursday, April 30, 2009

April. It's a Wrap

If this blog had skin, it'd be all pruney after a whole month in those April Showers. If you didn't enjoy that series you were probably cursing the blog. It's safe to come back in the room. We've towelled off. Here were ten dry highlights of the month that was.

Nicole and Rabbit Hole some thoughts on the great actress and her eclectic filmography
Movie Themed Easter Eggs Watchmen and more... I was feeling crafty
Nashville Film Festival my narrow Nicole Kidman miss and some interesting films: zombie picture Make-Out with Violence, future romcom hit (500) Days of Summer, lost 70s gem Girlfriends and the jolting transgendered doc Prodigal Sons.
Foolish Oscar Predictions
the first round. Can't wait to see how year develops
Thinky Sci-Fi two new pictures falling on the brainier side or conceptual side of the sci-fi genre
Cannes LineUp or 'What Everyone Will Be Talking About in May'

I had much help from guest bloggers this month
Whatever Works Rosengje took in Woody Allen's latest at ShoWest and liked what she saw. Particularly in regards to the ever wonderful Patty Clarkson.
Chlöe Sevigny Adam's take on her secretive screen presence
The Art of Self-Advertising Adam on Almodóvar on Almodóvar
British Films in the 00s Dave's choices for the best of the Brit-flicks

Coming in May
<--- April showers bring... May Flowers. Plus: Hugh Jackman, lots of Terminator nonsense (I'm sorry. I love the franchise... why aren't any of you with me on this?), my various issues with Star Trek, Tilda Swinton in Julia and Pixar's Up. And finally, *hopefully* a return to those previously regularly scheduled blog series I've been neglecting (sigh)

April Showers, Marilyn

Light me up too, Georgie
Not even a hot shower can wash of Marilyn's lipstick.

Kelly McGillis Comes Out

The Amish will not be pleased.

Not that The Amish ever saw Witness (1985) mind you. Maybe they don't even know who she is. But wasn't she good in that film as the Amish widow who resists falling for Harrison Ford for as long as she can? I still find it a bit odd that she didn't end up in the Best Supporting Actress list that year. Her chemistry with Harrison Ford was crazyhot. Further proof that it's ridiculous that people think gay actors can't pull off romantic leading roles.

But back to Kelly. If you're saying "who?" you're forgiven. She had a very high profile career for five short years (two Oscar winning films with one blockbuster sandwiched inbetween) and then *poof*. Hollywood lost interest... or she did... or the public did. It happens.

It happens a lot. We just never know who it's going to happen to until they're gone. Someone who is all over high profile movies this year will be gone from the public consciousness by 2013, mark my words.

Cruise mounts McGillis in Top Gun. His sperm is magic

Kelly's sexual orientation has been gossiped about since at least her co-starring gig with Jodie Foster in The Accused 21 long years ago. Now, she's officially out and "done with the man thing." Her Top Gun co-star might call that statement "glib" but then...

Saoirse and the Dakotas

When someone in Hollywood needs a 15 year old blonde with dramatic chops to headline or co-star in their movie, I imagine that Saoirse Ronan and Dakota Fanning are getting the scripts first. Can we get a few mailed to Dakota Blue Richards, too?

Dakota Blue Richards in Five Miles Out (2009)

She's exactly 1 day older than Saoirse Ronan (weird trivia!) but I fear she may get lost in the shuffle. Fanning has two months on both of the Dakotas and many more years of experience and celebrity. But Saoirse already has an Oscar nomination and a primo gig with Peter Jackson. Richards, on the other hand, is only known for headlining The Golden Compass, the blockbuster that didn't bust blocks. Since Compass she's made 1 TV film, 1 short and 1 feature.

<-- Saoirse and Dakota the First

In that stack of shorts I saw whilst in Nashville, Richards had the lead in a beautifully shot miniature called Five Miles Out. She played a morose and preoccupied girl, trying to shake off the heavy weight of a family crisis during a trip to the seaside. That 18 minutes was enough to remind me that she holds the screen really well. You look at her face and you must know what's going on inside her head. It's the same feeling I get when I watch someone like Samantha Morton... albeit on a much smaller scale in this case.

Did you think Richards was strong in The Golden Compass? Any other mid-teen actresses you think are worth watching? It won't be long before they're all fighting it out for what we now think of as the Keira Knightley, Amanda Seyfried, Scarlet Johannson parts.

Tribeca, Quentin Crisp, Departures

I've been doing some Q&A and panel coverage for Tribeca so if you're interested, read and click on.

Last night I caught Okuribito (Departures) [Q & A] which you'll undoubtedly remember won the Foreign Film Oscar in February. Though it's hard to believe, this marked Japan's first competitive win in the category (though they had a few honoraries early on). Had I seen this film prior to Oscar night, I would have known that Japan's wait would be over. It's more traditional and accessible than The Class (my silver medalist for 2008) and the Academy loves traditional and accessible especially when they're paired with tears. Departures plucks the heartstrings practically as well as its leading man Masahiro Motoki pretends he's plucking his beloved cello strings. [previous post feat. Motoki]

I also caught Englishman in New York [Q & A] which is a non-sequel/sequel to The Naked Civil Servant in that it also stars John Hurt as Quentin Crisp. This time we're getting highlights from the last year's of Crisp's life in the 1980s and 1990s. The film takes place entirely in New York City but for a brief amusing trip overseas for a recreation of the filming of Quentin's "never grow old" scene in Orlando opposite Tilda Swinton. Unfortunately Tilda Swinton does not play herself in this scene.

left: John Hurt as Quentin Crisp in Englishman in New York
right: Quentin Crisp as Queen Elizabeth I in Orlando

This viewing was an exceptionally odd experience for me since a dear friend of mine in Manhattan ("Mr. Steele") was once Quentin's editor and friend and he's played by Denis O'Hare in the movie! I probably don't have to tell you that it's very curious if not outright bizarre to see one of your own friends portrayed in a movie.

And finally, I ran into Katey (podcast listeners will perk up now) at an industry party at the most crazy-expensive multiple storied apartment I've ever seen in Manhattan. It was so dripping with money, even well to do movie characters who live in Manhattan could never afford it ... and you know how movie types always live in apartments that cost several times what their real life salaries would be. As a "have not", it's fun to accidentally find oneself in situations wherein one can pretend to be a "have", sipping cocktails on a rooftop patio looking out at skyscrapers. It's the life a life. P.S. Katey and I are brainstorming on a collaboration so stay tuned for that sometimes this summer.

previously @ Tribeca

Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Leigh's Legs

Alexa here dropping in from Pop Elegantiarum again. I recently found this great publicity photo of Janet Leigh in a thrift store. Apparently the film it was shot for, Safari, was a bit of a dud, but I had to have it. I mean, check out those legs, so famously shot by Orson Welles in Touch of Evil! Then I was up all night the other night and I caught John Carpenter's The Fog, and while it was the perfect thing to watch at 3 a.m., I realized that this woman's career ran the gamut from classic to crap. I started wondering what my favorite Janet Leigh performance might be. While not the best of films, I think Holiday Affair might top my list because of the thick sexual tension between her an Robert Mitchum, plopped in the middle a saintly Christmas story. What are your favorites?

To Michelle on Her 51st Birthday

Happy birthday to the one and only Michelle Pfeiffer, keeper of my fool fan heart.

<-- This photo of La Pfeiff was taken just four months ago. I have lately become convinced that we have a problem with accepting aging in our society because we are always staring at celebrities.Think on this: they start out with an advantage. If you're so beautiful that people want to stare at your face blown up dozens of feet tall when you're in your 20s and 30s... chances are you're going to be an outstandingly beautiful 50something, too. The rest are mere mortals.

You know those cards that tell you who you share a birthday with?
Do you suppose celebrities ever get them and geek out on which other celebrities they share birthdays with? It's an oroborus.

If you must know, Pfeiffer shares her exact birthday with Jan Brady herself, Eve Plumb. But she shares the general April 29th date with a number of other famous types including: tennis giant Andre Agassi, fellow celluloid goddess Uma Thurman, Jerry Seinfeld, actress Kate Mulgrew, former SNL regular Nora Dunn and Pfeiffer's former co-star Daniel Day-Lewis who is one year her elder -- too bad Hollywood doesn't notice how well similarly aged co-stars go together.

A joint birthday celebration on the set of Age of Innocence (1993)?

There's also conductor Zubin Mehta, director Phillipe Noyce (Rabbit Proof Fence), acclaimed French actor Jean Rochefort, Oscar winner Celeste Holm (Gentleman's Agreement), two time Best Director Oscar winner Fred Zinneman (From Here to Eternity), the legendary Duke Ellington and newspaper giant William Randolph Hearst (real life counterpart to fictional Citizen Kane).

And no... I didn't know any of this before typing up this post. I'm not that crazy.

The Art of Self-Advertising

Adam of Club Silencio here. In full anticipation for Broken Embraces (and full disgust with a US dramedy of Women on the Verge of a Nervous Breakdown), let's play Six Degrees of Pedro Almodóvar! One rule: you can only use Pedro Almodóvar movies...

Upon re-watching his brilliant film-noir tribute Bad Education, I couldn't help but notice how many times Pedro actually pays tribute to himself and even gives advanced previews to his own films. Simple enough I suppose when one of the lead characters is based on Pedro himself (in)directly: a queer filmmaker drawn to offbeat character pieces and an explosive exposé on Catholic priests exposing themselves.

Decked out in alter-ego Pedro's production office are posters accentuating these close ties. The two worth special notice are for a film titled La Abuela Fantasma, which translates roughly to "Ghost Grandma." I can only assume this means Almodóvar was tinkering with Volver at the time - his sensational saga of a mother seeking closure beyond her supposed death. Or at the very least he was interested in making a Spanish variation on Ghost Dad.

"She's old, she's bold, and she's back from the beyond!
She also has candy in her purse."

Of course Almodóvar already gave us early glimmers of Volver way back in 1995 with The Flower of My Secret, in which he (in)directly tells of a Pedro-like author veiling her potent plotlines behind fake names. The film has our alter-ego author criticized by the angriest of agents for delivering stories that seem too absurd, without any discernible love behind them. One dissed idea is Volver down to a tee:
"A novel about a mother who discovers her daughter's killed her father who had tried to rape her? And so that no one finds out hides the body in a cold-storage room of the neighbor's restaurant?

Glad she's not Pedro's actual agent! Volver would have never seen the light of day. But by that description alone, one can barely imagine Volver's eventual richness and stunning ode to a mother's devotion.

Pedro also taps into his back-catalogue with a second dissed plotline:
"Who'll dream of people living in a seedy slum like the living dead? Who'll identify with a protagonist who works emptying shit out of hospital bedpans, who's got a junkie mother-in-law and faggot son who's into black men?"

Well, pissy agent woman, perhaps fans of What Have I Done to Deserve This? would identify with that... only replace "black men" with "creepy pedophile dentists."

Plus, even if it goes unspoken, a film like Tie Me Up! Tie Me Down! certainly takes a knowing thematic leap from Law of Desire, with its "stalkers make the best soulmates" conceit. (A clingy Antonio Banderas is still Antonio Banderas.) Almodóvar's one of the few auteurs whose ideas we've seen visually and vocally gestate throughout his career. The inspired streams of consciousness for his characters eventually become the inspirational threads for his finest films. It's this kind of self-influence that leads to such personal, passionate and effortless touches on his part. It's also I'm sure what leads to his mammoth collection of devoted followers. You know the type: bloggers who make the most of insignificant details in his films.

April Showers, Midnight Express (1978)

April Showers

I've always been a little bit a lot perplexed by the famous shower scene in Alan Parker's Midnight Express (1978). I'm not exactly sure why it's in the movie. Midnight Express has, at its best, an expressive physicality and a gritty tactile quality. You often feel like you're right there in the grotty hellish Turkish prison, sweating and suffering along with Billy Hayes (Brad Davis). But the sexual vibes coming off of Midnight Express are at times unfathomable. Is it gay? Is it bi? Is it straight? Is it just horny? Or is its ambiguous eroticism simply a by-product of casting Brad Davis in the lead role?

As warm up to the famous shower scene we get a montage detailing the friendship of Billy and Erich (Norbert Weisser) a fellow prisoner. They've been in this hellhole for years. They do yoga together. They bathe each other. They even duet on a private meditation mantra...
Monastery. Cloister. Cave. Prison
They lock eyes while chanting this repetitive phase. Billy drops his head with sadness at the word "prison" and we dissolve to a shot of the intimate friends showering together. In the steam Erich tenderly grabs Billy's soapy hand, slides his hands up Billy's body and pulls him slowly into a passionate kiss. Billy hesitates and then fully reciprocates.

Here's the curious part.

Moments after he's begun passionately kissing Erich back, he pushes him away. Lifts his hand to kiss it, shakes his head in a strangely condescending manner (I love you but I'm not that way) and exits the shower. Despite his willingness to work out, chant, bathe and lock lips with his friend... he draws the line at sex.

Erich is understandably bummed.

Never mind sequential logic. Never mind that Billy has gone for years without sex. Never mind that he's already comfortable kissing, being bathed by and getting naked with Erich. Never mind that the real life Billy Hayes actually did have consensual sex with fellow prisoners according to his autobiography. In Oliver Stone's Oscar nominated screenplay, "Billy" isn't having it. This scene has always utterly confused me on a basic human level, sexual orientation being beside the point. I'm gay but if you threw me in a prison for years and my only option for human tenderness was sex with a girl I liked who was into me? I wouldn't shake my head and walk away. I'd be... 'how often, when, where and what position? Let's go!'

I recently saw the elusive picture Girlfriends (also from 1978) and there's an oddly parallel sequence: the lead character's new female roommate begins to caress her shoulder and tries to kiss and undress her. Our heroine gently pushes the misguided girl's hand away and quietly says "no." I can only come to the reductive conclusion that in 1978 this was exactly the way liberal Hollywood felt about the gays -- tolerated them, kinda dug them on an one-on-one basis, but were still totally weirded out by them. The sequence in Girlfriends is a throwaway and doesn't interrupt the movie's flow. In the case of Midnight Express, the filmmakers seem to be letting their own sexual prudishness get in the way of narrative logic. Answer me this: If Billy wasn't going to have sex with Erich, why was their foreplay still included in the movie?

Tuesday, April 28, 2009

You Got The Cates Stuff... Baby

JA from MNPP here. The bizarre news this morning of a remake of Drop Dead Fred coming our way got me thinking on the loveliness that is Miss Phoebe Cates. I guess I was of the right age but my childhood was filled with her. On her I nursed one of those girl-crushes back at that age before I knew where my desires were leading me... what I mean is, being a gay-in-training, her infamous red-bikini moment in Fast Times at Ridgemont High never did anything for me like it did for my booby-admiring peers (although I did take a lesson or two from that scene with the carrot); rather I preferred her when she played it safe, cute and innocent, like the spunky yet neutered girlfriend Kate she played in the Gremlins films. Rosy-cheeked and always ready with a smile or a swift-kick to Gremlin crotch. She was my girl!

And then... poof! The mystery of Phoebe Cates disappearance haunts us all, doesn't it? She hasn't been in anything since her pals Alan Cumming and Jennifer Jason Leigh dragged her in front of a camera for their "Look at us being real people with our real friends!" flick The Anniversary Party in 2001. She's apparently been content to just be Mrs. Kevin Kline and stay out of the spotlight... here's what she's been up to via her IMDb page:

"Since her 'retirement' from films, she and her movie star husband, Kevin Kline, divide their time between their country estate in upstate New York and their luxury penthouse in Manhattan's tony upper east side. When not supporting her husband's continuing fine stage and film work, she fills her time attending openings and benefits and her favorite activity, hosting dinner parties and 'dishing the dirt' with her celebrity friends."

That's the life! Or, it's a life. Woody Allen's, I think. Anyway, I miss her. The world misses her, don't we? She had something all her own, I think. Come back, Phoebe Cates! Put down the dirt-dishing and fine china and, hey here's a thought, do a Woody Allen movie! About dirt-dishing and fine china. It's perfect!

'Veronica Lake'

You're different Officer White. You're the first man in five years who didn't tell me I look like Veronica Lake inside of a minute.
You look better than Veronica Lake

Monday, April 27, 2009

April Showers, Glenn Close

April Showers evenings @ 11

I was too young to understand or appreciate the rise of Glenn Close in the early 80s but by the time the one/two punch of Fatal Attraction / Dangerous Liaisons hit in 87/88 she was knocking me out. She was already a star by then, though. Those fourth and fifth Oscar nominations (and who knew they would be her last?) only amplified her celebrity. Critics and Oscar voters had been devoted since her feature debut in The World According to Garp (1982).

The murderous climax to Fatal Attraction wasn't the first time a Close movie scored big with a tub/shower sequence and it wasn't the first time she starred in a Best Picture nominee either. The Big Chill (1983) brought her her second supporting actress nod and some people believe her nude shower scene sealed that honor.

We're not far into this reunion film when it happens. The film has had a surprisingly light mood despite its kick off funereal plot point (Kevin Costner is the dead man, though he was left on the cutting room floor). Suddenly Close kills the laughter but amplifies the movie's dramatic undercurrents. There's no warning.

Directly on the heels of a light scene the camera pans very slowly through her bedroom (we don't understand what's happening at first) until we reach Glenn racked with sobs in the shower.

As The Big Chill's "Sarah" she's arguable at her warmest if still a little cool and guarded. That's why this sudden but tellingly private display of vulnerability works. Ah! So she does feel after all. Close performs this same rug-pulling stab of pain in even more devastating fashion for the finale of Dangerous Liaisons five years later. But after her 80s heyday, that sudden reveal of the three dimensional woman behind the icy mask became as rare as Yeti sightings. Close's screen persona hasn't altered that much over the years but it has hardened.

What would Sarah Cooper make of Patty Hewes?

She has no trouble commanding the small screen on Damages but even in those moments when her character "Patty Hewes" appears to be vulnerable, tears welling up furiously in her eyes, one still can't trust her. Close was always expert at showing us the mask. Now, when she lets it slip, aren't we only seeing another mask just underneath?

Oscars Abroad (Hong Kong)

While I sometimes feel guilty about the ethnocentricity of calling any film prizes "the [insert nationality] Oscars" it's convenient shorthand. I think awards junkies (and you know who you are) would be a lot more interest in "the ____ Oscars" like the Cesars (France), the Goyas (Spain), the Guldbagge (Sweden) among many others if the films were readily available for viewing and information/photos were easier to find*. I dream that someday corporate globalization will have one good cinematic result: easier access to any type of cinema instead of the interminable waits, spotty drawn out release patterns and the bewildering practice of doing all the work of getting a film on DVD and yet only making it available in one market, cutting off potential revenue.

Your octuplet guide to popular titles at 2009's Hong Kong Film
Only one of these films (CJ7) was released in the US.

Which is all a long way of saying that I wish I could watch all the Hong Kong Film Award winners (announced last week but still not on IMDB?) back to back for at least one Oscar'ish article. I'd love to do the same for other countries, too.

One of the amusing things about checking out the winners of 'the ____ Oscars' is that they tend to follow the same patterns. The often formulaic biopic genre excites voting bodies everywhere... not just in Hollywood. Ip Man, a biopic about Bruce Lee's master took Best Picture. Wouldn't there be at least a small market for that film in the US? Dragon: The Bruce Lee Story was among the top 50 releases of 1993 without anything other than the Lee mythos to sell it. This is only tangentially Lee related but still... KUNG FU! Action is the most internationally marketable genre.

Though Ip Man won the top prize, Donnie Yen (left) lost best actor and the film only collected one other prize: Best Action Choreography. The Way We Are, a small drama about women in a working class neighborhood was the most celebrated winning director, screenplay and both female acting prizes. Beast Stalker, a kidnapping drama, won both of the male acting statues. The star heavy blockbuster Red Cliff (its lack of US distribution still puzzles me) took home five technical prizes. The supernatural action film Painted Skin won only two prizes (cinematography and song) suggesting only mild support. Why was it their Oscar submission last year, one wonders?

Oscars 2009? Beast Stalker and Ip Man were both released after the AMPAS eligibility period in 2008 so either could theoretically be chosen as Hong Kong's Foreign Language entry later this year. Stay tuned...

*If you know of any non-US blogs that are covering their home country's cinema / celebrities / awards well, please share them in the comments or e-mail me a recommendation.

"but what I really want to do is link"

Hollywood Reporter acquisition talks at Tribeca for The Eclipse, Don McKay (with Thomas Hayden Church & Elisabeth Shue!) and Serious Moonlight
Disturbia "Bateman" Ts. Love it
Coming Soon More Lovely Bones photos
LA Times answers the question I've been asking forever: what the hell is going on with Kenneth Lonergan's Margaret (now three years in post-production)?

Cigarettes and Red Vines check out this marquee for There Will Be Blood. Hee
OMG a sequel to Clueless??? Be careful what you wish for
StinkyLulu Smackdown 1959
Pop Elegantiarum Grace Kelly "Ice-Cold"
Sunset Gun on David Cronenberg and JG Ballard's Crash
Nerdcore unites icons Kirk & Leia. I wish I'd thought of this photo mashup

Sunday, April 26, 2009

$100 Million. No Questions Asked.

Twitch asked a great question on Friday that has been dancing around in my head naked all day: which auteur would you like to see handed a huge pile of money ($100 mil') and complete freedom to make whatever the hell kind of picture they wanted to make with it? Our pal JA answered (always worth a read) and I should, too.

My five.

Jonathan Glazer. Birth and Sexy Beast are both so well directed and imagined with limited budgets. They're also the kind of features that scream 'this director will have trouble getting his films financed!' Imagine how pissed the cinephiles of 2050 are going to be if his feature career ends with Birth, only his second, a movie that will undoubtedly be revered by then.

Terry Gilliam. He makes every list like this... and that's out of more than pity. Even when he doesn't have a lot of money, the visuals are memorable. And an always fascinating if not always great filmography that includes Baron Munchausen, Fear & Loathing in Las Vegas, Tideland, The Brothers Grimm, Brazil, The Fisher King ... he so deserves a major comeback.

Paul Thomas Anderson
. Because, for such a contemporary auteur, he does period incredibly well (Boogie Nights & There Will Be Blood) and I love that its hard to predict what he'll come up with. That said he's never going to get $100 million to work with since he's never made a sizable hit. That's the audience's fault, not his. His films are so thrilling. Why isn't everyone lining up every opening weekend? He should be a household name by now.

Warren Beatty. Mostly because I want to see him work again one last time. He's getting up there in years (72) and he's only directed four pictures: Heaven Can Wait, Reds, Dick Tracy, Bulworth; none of them looked cheap so he'd need a lot of money to play with. No conditions but if there's another Reds in him, my god it needs to come out.

I'm cheating for the last picture with both conditions, cast and theme. I want a Women's Picture omnibus film. Each entry must be as obsessed with actresses as your average Almodóvar picture and Dianne Wiest must appear in all ten segments.

portraits from Portroids

Other suggested cast members: Kristin Scott Thomas, Julianne Moore, Jane Fonda, Kerry Washington, Samantha Morton, Emmanuelle Béart, Holly Hunter, Ari Graynor, Ludivine Sagnier and Catherine O'Hara. The following 10 directors gets $10 million and 10 minutes for their entry: Lynne Ramsay, Jonathan Demme, Claire Denis, Jane Campion, Richard Linklater, Wes Anderson (but only if it's completely about Angelica Huston), Patrice Chéreau, Brad Bird, Brian de Palma and Jodie Foster (provided her segment is an abbreviated version of Flora Plum. That's the only way we're ever seeing it)

I know that only 20 people would buy tickets but I love all 19 of you who'd join me in the theater.

What movie reminds you most...

...of summertime?

(I know it's only April but we're having 80 degree weather in Manhattan)

Saturday, April 25, 2009

Goodbye Dorothy Zbornak

Less than a year after we lost her television mother, Estelle Getty, television superstar Beatrice Arthur has passed away. We always knew her as "Bea" but her first name was actually "Bernice".

She'll live forever in reruns with both the trailblazing Maude and the blockbuster sitcom Golden Girls to her credit. She won EMMYs for both characters. Every once in a blue moon she lent her indelible sharp tongued comedy to the screen, most memorably as "Vera Charles" in Mame, a reprisal of her TONY winning performance for the screen.

Bea was born way back in 1922 when the movies were still silent. If it seems like she's always been an elderly woman, we can chalk that up to her unglamorous no-nonsense celebrity persona and the fact that she didn't become truly famous until she was in her 40s. It was a good long life and we have a very celebrated career to remember her by. The Boyfriend and I recently rented Maude (we'd never seen it) and were so impressed that everything we'd heard about its politics was true. You could never make a network television show like that today. We've regressed.

I last saw Bea on stage during her musical one woman show Just Between Friends in 2002. Today I'm wishing I'd clapped and whistled a little louder when she took her final bow.

Tribeca, Marianne, Supermodels

<-- Ciarán Hands and Aidan Quinn on the town to promote The Eclipse.

I'm on assignment for Tribeca covering Q & As over the next few days, so last night I saw the ghost story The Eclipse from playwright Conor MacPherson. Calling it a ghost story is reductive but it's the easiest hook to get your attention. The new film is juggling a lot of balls at once (grief drama, love story, literary comedy, character study) and it's coming to a theater new you just as soon as... well, you never know with these festival films. But the audience really liked it so maybe distribution won't be that far away. John Patrick Shanley (Doubt) was a few rows behind me. I guess these playwrights eye each other like hawks.

And two celebrity sightings to tell you about. Before leaving Nashville I had a chat with Marianne Jean-Baptiste at the festival after-party downtown. She was in great humor and much shorter than I expected her to be. We talked about Mike Leigh, the film she directed Ink and Happy-Go-Lucky. She was absolutely convincing when telling me that she's not sick of people telling her how great she was in Secrets & Lies. So she's either still a fine actress or 13 years later she still doesn't really mind being recognized as "Hortense".

Back in Manhattan 17 hours later, I was grabbing a quick bite after an exhausting day of airline travel, bag problems and running around Manhattan for press arrangements before The Eclipse. Who should sit kitty-corner from me in the diner but Ronnie from Make Me a Supermodel. Remember him?

Since we were both alone I felt there was no harm in saying "hi" though I have never interrupted a celebrity at a restaurant. I only share this with you because I'd venture to say that he's the nicest semi-celebrity I've ever met: Sweet as can be, talkative and (rather impossibly) even better looking in person. Some people have all the luck. But when they're as nice as they are pretty, who could ever hold it against them?

If you're in NYC are you attending Tribeca?
For those of you outside the isle of Manhattan, any movie plans over the next few days?

Women on the Verge of a Bad TV Show?

Have you heard the news that Pedro Almodóvar's comedic 1988 classic Women on the Verge of a Nervous Breakdown, the film that first won him a major following in the US and his first trip to the Oscars, is going to become an English language TV series for Fox?

Pass the gazpacho!

When I read the headlines I felt like I had downed a pitcher of glee. Smashing news, especially since Almodóvar himself is producing. But ... then I read the fine print. There's always fine print.

Apparently it's NOT a comedy but a "suburban drama" (huh?) AND it's about women who've known each other a long time (what? no complex comedic interweaving of strangers?) AND it's being written by a Grey's Anatomy writer? (oy!) This doesn't sound anything like the movie and it sounds way too much like a soapy redux of Desperate Housewives. Next thing you know we'll be hearing that they've cast generic TV actresses without any of the absurdist deadpan force of Carmen Maura and Julieta Serrano or the wacky presence of Rossy de Palma or the nervous comedic energy of Maria Barranco.

Pass the doctored gazpacho please. I need a heavy sedative. Don't wake me until the show goes off the air. (Do you share my admittedly horribilizing despair or do you think it'll all work out just fine?)

Spanish beauty: Check out this NYT 2004 portfolio of Pedro's women. Mmmm.


Friday, April 24, 2009

April Showers, Rupert Everett

April Showers evenings @ 11

Have any of y'all seen Cemetery Man?

It's a schlocky Italian horror flick from 1994 starring Rupert Everett as the titular character who has to fend off zombies including his lover (the busty Anna Falchi) with some regularity. Despite my longtime Everett fandom (I've been with him since the Another Country/ Dance With a Stranger), I've never seen this one. Nick, who loves the movie, showed me the shower sequence while we were in Nashville on account of this here series.

Everett's character Francesco Dellamorte apparently takes a lot of showers and apparently he's used to getting attacked by zombies -- just part of the job. But on this night they come earlier than expected. The lights go out in the shower, he sees one approaching in shadow (shower curtains = scary in movies), and then the zombies, in what looks like boy scout uniforms -- tee hee -- begin to attack. He begin to shoot them in the head. The most hilarious thing about the gorey sequence is that Rupert is attacked in the shower but when he fights back he's suddenly wearing pants. How did this happen? Zombies move slowly but slow enough for their victims to slip on a pair of pants before finding a weapon? It's not for some no nudity clause either -- both Falchi & Everett get naked elsewhere in the movie.

This final post shower attack makes me giggle. Who can blame the little shit for wanting a nibble?

Early Halloween Planning?

Alexa here again from Pop Elegantiarum. My thoughts today have turned to all things costumey; Halloween can't come soon enough! So in honor of Nathaniel's love of Nicole, I decided to try and find the best Nicole costume items out there. While it is sold out, I love this Lady Ashley hairpiece over at Fascinating Creations so much, I may just beg her to create another for me. All the better to imagine kissing Hugh in the rain. Now if I could only summon the sewing skill of Molly Ringwald in Pretty In Pink, perhaps I could recreate the dress in that scene too... shopping for these picks just isn't the same somehow.

But really, nothing tops this Moulin Rouge gown over at Deconstructress's etsy shop. Just wearing this, my 5'4" frame would morph into a lithe 5'10" Satine, no? Now I just have to come up with the $700...a bit tough in this economy. Maybe I can find my own evil Duke to invest in my makeover? I have six months, after all.

Tatumic Temptations

This week my Towleroad article is gauging the amount of heat in the room (or subway) for one Channing Tatum since Fighting opened today. Don't you love that Tatum's extending his pinky in the screengrab? It only makes me love him more. This article also covers the gay bits (there weren't many) from the Nashville festival.

After I wrote the piece I saw one more film that could have figured in. It was called True Adolescents. The movie was about a 30something rocker (Mark Duplass) with more than a little of the Peter Pan syndrome. His aunt (Melissa Leo) convinces him to take her son and her son's friend on a camping trip. The movie starts out all slackerish and obnoxious but as it develops it becomes unexpectedly sensitive, especially in regards to the subject of adolescent sexual confusion. Not a gay film but gayish. It's uneven but it redeemed some of its louder impulses with a subtly tough ending.

What was the last movie that you watched...

... on an airplane?

It's JA from MNPP asking this while Nat is presumably still on an airplane, and while I'm thinking about my first trans-Atlantic flight which I'll be taking in a few weeks. I'm scared! I've never been on a plane for longer than three or four hours before, and now we're talking about close to nine! I'm going to have to stock up on lots of movies I think. I should probably avoid titles like Alive, Final Destination, and Fearless though, right?

A second question that that brings to mind: What's the scariest plane crash you've ever seen on film? I think the ones I named above are all pretty amazing, but I always hold a special place in my heart for that sudden imagined mid-air collision in Fight Club. Scary!

Um... safe travels, Nat! ;-)

Best of the Fest ~ Goodbye Nashville

As you read this I am quite possibly thousands of miles above you in a huge aluminum alloy vessel, travelling back to NYC. Nashville was a treat and I hope I get invited back to NaFF in some capacity. Here's a quick run down of the cinematic highlights for me. I was on the short film jury and didn't have a chance to see some of the narrative features so this is from a limited pool.

Best Overall Prodigal Sons Filmmaker Kimberly Reed tells me she'll be ineligible for the Oscar for Best Documentary because of something to do with BBC screening or funding (?) which is a real shame because I could see it getting nominated. Other goodies: (500) Days of Summer and That Evening Sun, pictured left. [more on Prodigal / more on Summer]
Best Actress Zooey Deschanel in (500) Days of Summer
Best Actor Hal Holbrook as "Abner Meecham" in That Evening Sun. It's based on the short story by William Gay about a farmer who escapes the old folks home and returns to his beloved farm only to find it occupied by new tenants. The film is well directed by Scott Teems, graduating from short films to his first feature, and an Oscar campaign could materialize for Holbrook if this movie gets a solid enough release. Holbrook plays a stubborn old ornery codger... one could say it's an Eastwood'ish role with less of Clint's squinty menace and more of Hal's weary sensitivity. Honorable mention: Joseph Gordon-Levitt in (500) Days of Summer

Best Supporting Actress Three standouts for me. Don't make me choose. It's actresses.

Kaitlin Olsen in Weather Girl pictured right. At first I thought she was doing just an amusing but generic perky blonde sendup. Then she took a late film monologue much farther than I believed it could go. Laugh out loud funny. 4realz. I actually LOLed. Shellie Marie Shartzer in Make-Out with Violence. She has no lines to speak of as dead girl "Wendy" but man does she sell the conceit and work her physicality [more on Make-Out]. Remember that woman that Clive Owen comically seduced over martinis in Duplicity? That's Carrie Preston who is moving in That Evening Sun as a woman who is trying to stand by her man. Mia Wasikowska is also good as her restless friendly daughter. [You'll be seeing the In Treatment regular a lot onscreen soon. She's in Amelia later this year and then Tim Burton's Alice in Wonderland]. She wants to get away from Daddy as soon as possible.

...speak of the devil.

Best Supporting Actor
Ray McKinnon as Lonzo Choat in That Evening Sun. He plays the tenant of Meecham's old farm. They both want each other off the land. They both intend to stay. McKinnon never once lets his white trash role teeter towards dimensionless bad guy, even though he does despicable things and is pitted against the ultra sympathetic Holbrook. That's quite a feat and this treatment of the character really girds up the central conflict. You might remember McKinnon as Revered HW Smith on Deadwood.

I didn't see the performance that won a special prize for acting from the main jury here (Vincent D'Onofrio in The Narrows) but since the character is disabled I don't know how much to trust that prize. You know how disabled equals kudos as acting goes.

I don't know if I'll have time to talk about the dozens upon dozens of short films I screened but Nick has done a frankly awesome job of relating what our jury decisions were about and reviewing many of the best shorts along his way.

Here's his take on the animated shorts (my favorite was Western Spaghetti) documentary shorts (The Witness was tops and I wanted Steel Homes for our honorable mention but I couldn't convince my fellow jurors to go with it for the prize. grrrr) and several posts on the plethora of live action shorts. We watched for hours upon hours.

Oh, look here's Western Spaghetti. It fills me with delight.