Monday, April 30, 2007

IIFF #2: The Weekend

I'm now in the thriving metropolis of Indianapolis. So far it looks like one of those work complexes where everyone drives to to go to work and nothing else happens (?) Big buildings in the middle of invisible suburbs. I can see for miles from my hotel room which just aint right. Shouldn’t there be like another building blocking my view, says the New Yorker. In point of fact I am a Midwestern boy so if this sounds snobbish --apologies. Went to a party last night and found the Indianans (?) very friendly and, this being a festival, mostly movie mad. Which is, I'm sure you'll agree, always a sign of good character. And anyway I'm hear for movies not the architecture.

Milk and Opium (Doodh Aur Apheem) takes place in India but it’s no Bollywood feature. There are no spectacularly staged musical setpieces or throngs of characters and it's not 4 hours long. It shows a side of India I haven't seen much of in features (I freely admit that this is possibly my fault and not the cinemas). It starts in the desert village of Keliyah where a young boy Swaroop from a caste of musicians longs for more from his life. He claims in voiceover to be bored with only sitting around or singing. But despite lipservice to the contrary he does seem to come alive when clicking away on his handheld instrument (the name escapes me) or singing. This is the only thing he knows of the world but he wants to know more. It's agreed rather suddenly that he will accompany his frequently absent and not altogether pleasant uncle on his next trip: these musicians lead semi-nomadic lives, the village is home base but they spend a lot of time on the road searching for work. Once out on the open road on buses or on foot Swaroop learns more of the hard realities of their lives and sees the world he wanted to: although it's not quite the one he expected to see. New Delhi is the first city he's ever been to. At the mall he observes 'Everything is in English. It's like we're in a different country'

Debuting writer/director Joel Palombo is mostly content to paint a portrait of this monotonous vanishing wisp of a life: all buses, dusty roads, and no use for street musicians. The spice is the easy lived-in bursts of music (I assume the cast here is professional musicians) which were beautiful and sometimes moving: in large part because the actors were actually singing and playing. Gone was that cold distance that's so common to big budget prerecorded musicals these days (or maybe this is because I recently sat through the echo chamber studio sound of From Justin to Kelly. Oy) Swaroop and family's way of life, Milk and Opium suggests, are going the way of the dinosaur. In the film's last act in New Delhi, the themes become crystal clear: die out or be assimilated. If that sounds totally dramatic, I apologize. To the movies credit this message is not handled in a mournful or exclamatory way but with a practical observational quality that deepens the modest impact. There are a few obvious exchanges but the awkward moments feel like a byproduct of the novice quality of the acting. Professional actors can sell thesis lines without underlining them. The last musical number, set in a country and western club in New Delhi, is curiously funny and sad. It manages to say both a farewell to Swaroops past and a cool hello to his future. How you feel about the resolution, which I saw as a matter-of-fact acknowledgement of the inevitable more than a mournful requiem, may depend on how you feel about progress and/or globalization -- or, more tellingly for this movie's intimate scale, whether it’s better to stay on the farm after you’ve seen Paris or pack your bags.

L’Heritage (The Legacy) is directed by Géla Babluani (13) and Temur Babluaniis. Like Milk & Opium, it's a tale of a cultural clash between city and country folk but this time the stakes are upped with a cross country language barrier. The production is from France and The Republic of Georgia. Three friends from France (filmmakers/reporters… it’s not clear. At any rate they like to film things) are traveling to Georgia on personal business. One of them, played by the fine Gallic actress Sylvie Testud, has inherited land there. Because they don't speak the language they bring along a translator. During their long bus ride through the mountains they become distracted by a perplexing local mountain folk story involving a young man (George Babluani, the directors brother) and his grandfather who are traveling on their bus with an empty casket. The French trio begin asking questions. The answer do not satisfy but merely serve to amplify their curiousity. They begin to take intrusive action to prevent what they see as an avoidable tragedy. The strength of this curious and shifting movie is that you’re never really quite sure who the story is about, what the best course of action is, or even whose side to be on. This puts the moviegoer right on the bus with its almost comically odd assortment of characters. There's even a mute salesman, a stranger to most of them, who gets plenty of camera time.

Though the movie begins with the translator, years of traditional narrative structures in my head misled me into believing that L'Heritage (The Legacy) was about the French cast. Still, I felt the film pulling away from there subtly during the running time, perhaps in judgment of their actions? Is the story actually about the grandson on his morbid journey? He’s shot in close-ups so tight I wondered if it was a conscious choice to pull you into his largely unexplored life and make it his movie or because he looks like this. The camera loves him. Eventually I came to grips with the realization that all of the lives within L'Heritage are unexplored. The story is in the gaps and the frisson between them. Gradually the film circles back to the French translator on whom it began and makes its statement, somewhat the opposite of Milk and Opium’s I think: stay where you are. The translator stays right where he is, but true to the movies quirky textures, that's right where the story was: in the gaps.


So what have I learned so far on this off-hollywood adventure? I’ve learned that though I follow all types of cinema as best I can, I need a larger dose of non-mainstream films than I’ve been giving myself. Time to readjust my movie diet. Even when these foreign language entries have rather obvious thesis or rather unfortunate budgets there’s still a certain ambiguity of feeling in them that Hollywood can’t ever approximate. A little ambiguity can be sweet salve for the jaded moviegoer.

If you missed the previous festival installment just click the label below

20:07 (Apocalypse Now)

Each morning a screeenshot from the 20th minute and 7th second of a film (along with the dialogue) During my festival week Nick is generously covering this duty for me.

Capt. Benjamin Willard (Martin Sheen): Charging a man with murder in this place was like handing out speeding tickets at the Indy 500. I took the mission. What the hell else was I gonna do?

[related article personal canon entry #100]

I Never Pforget

I am reminded in the comments that I let the day pass without so much as a mention of Michelle on her 49th birthday. I have two good excuses. 1) I was travelling and am just now reconnecting to the internet 2) Look what I did for my girl last year!

Current Approximate Countdown: I Could Never Be Your Woman opens in 46 days. Hairspray opens in 80 days. Stardust opens in 100 days. Each month of summer gets a new Michelle Pfeiffer movie.

Sunday, April 29, 2007

Australia Photos

Most paparazzi photos of movies in pre production or filming stage focus on movie stars loitering about the set or, if the movie is of a particularly geeky genre (say comic book or fantasy/scifi): costumes and set choices. Set photos from Australia (2008) Baz Luhrmann's romantic 30s epic about an aristocrat (Nicole Kidman) and a cattle driver (Hugh Jackman) are making their way around the web courtesy of Just Jared. As is the norm, the photos that are getting the web atwitter are the ones of Hugh Jackman ...sorry the link has escaped me (but he sports a tux (and a 'stache! Eep). But this is my favorite.

It makes me happy in so many ways ~ let's just go over five of them.

1. I don't know who this woman is since her back is turned but it looks a bit like Catherine Martin so let's just pretend it is. Catherine is Baz's wife and secret weapon (she handles production design and costumes and you know how crucial those elements are to his movies)

2. People are thrilled to see Hugh Jackman in a tux and they'll be even more thrilled to see Kidman in anything once pictures of her start to surface. But this is BAZ LUHRMANN ! This is the reason for the excitement: he's directing again. Oh joy. He's only made three feature: Strictly Ballroom (1992), Romeo + Juliet (1996), and Moulin Rouge! (2001) but what a trio. As Glenn pointed out in his guest blogging here, he takes too long between movies but the results are impressive. You have to let it slide.

3. The birdcage instantly made me think of "One Day I'll Fly Away" and Nicole Kidman, drowning in red gownage. This cage is just fancy enough that I'm allowing myself to hope that Baz hasn't completed abandoned his "red curtain" aesthetic for this new epic which is presumably more down to earth than Australian ballroom dancing, time period clashing Shakespearean freakouts, and spectacular musicals. For those who may be asking "what the hell are you talking out?" it goes like this. Baz often described his first three films as a red curtain trilogy, since they were all excessively theatrical in their visual style and subject matter. So theoretically what we know and love as Baz's style might be but a small piece of his aesthetic. But still... maybe I'm just stubborn but I'm betting he'll still have theatrical flair, with or without red curtains & musical numbers.

4. I'm pretending the older gentlemen is Sir Ian McKellen. He's not in the cast but I like to think about seeing Sir Ian in all new movies.

5. Above all else this photo puts a huge smile on my face because it means that this movie is really happening. In one or two years we'll have ourselves a mammoth epic directed by a world class auteur starring two of the most beautiful and talented movie stars on the planet right up their on our silver screens. If that's not a reason for bliss, what is...?

Saturday, April 28, 2007

Actress Psychic ~ Point Updates

For those 100+ brave souls who joined the Best Actress Psychic Oscar Prediction Contest, your first batch of point totals are here There's a tie for the lead amongst our contestants. One month down. Nine left to go. It's going to be a long year.

Scarlett Johansson (The Other Boleyn Girl) is an early point magnet: She's already hosted SNL (+2) and been chosen as one of People's "Most Beautiful" (+2). Christina Ricci (Black Snake Moan) is up there with her at 3 points. Her film has opened (+1 --I've decided that's worth a point for each contestant. So Molly Shannon in Year of the Dog gets one too. This +1 when films open will help me keep track. It will affect all contestants equally I though it was OK to add after the rules announcement). Christina Ricci's film has passed the $6 million mark (+1) too and she was also in the People Magazine's Most Beautiful issue (+1)

So why is Christina's "Most Beautiful" tag worth less than Scarletts? Well... People expanded their "50 Most Beautiful" coverage to "100" and since I can't get their beauties to add up to 100 I figure they snuck in a bunch of stars in the form of group graphics --only their face and name in cute charts like "Perfect Cuts" although that adds up to more than 100 people so I'm lost. Since People got creative to please hard-working publicists and entitled stars, I've gotta make an executive decision with points. Anyone who made their most beautiful pages without any of the typical cheesy ass text describing their beauty or quoting them on the same received only +1. So it goes like this:
  • Standard "Most Beautiful" List +2 points
    Jessica Alba, Halle Berry, Anne Hathaway, Scarlett Johansson, Angelina Jolie, Nicole Kidman, Jennifer Lopez, Julia Roberts and Reese Witherspoon
  • Most Beautiful List -Small photo only. No Text +1 point
    Julie Christie, Jane Fonda, Jodie Foster, Lindsay Lohan and Susan Sarandon
And yes there are others but we're only talking about those that were predicted to be Oscar nominated next January by at least one of our participants. Once again the current totals.

Ridley Scott To Become George Lucas

Director Ridley Scott and I have had our differences in the past (his filmography is more than a little uneven) but he has directed a few truly extraordinary films. My three favorites from his filmography are Alien (1979), Blade Runner (1982) and Thelma & Louise (1991).

Recently I read news of reshoots to Blade Runner (1982) and my whole body went shivery. Not in the good way. The reshoots in question involve changes to a fairly early scene wherein the title character (Harrison Ford) kills a runaway replicant named Zhora (Joanna Cassidy). But if there's one scene being reshot whose to say there aren't more? Apparently these reshoots are for another "director's cut" DVD release of the classic. If you're scratching your head thinking you've stumbled on a post written before The Film Experience even existed, that's understandable. Blade Runner has already received directors cut treatment. That version was much preferrable to the original primarily because it strengthened the ending and removed narration that the studio had forced on the picture in 1982 when they were worried that audiences would find it hard to follow (Yeah, this problem is a classic: it never goes away). Those revisions netted the influential sci-fi film an awesome theatrical rerelease in the 90s. But there is no reason to reshoot and change the film at this point in time. It is now twenty-five years old and it's still more exciting to watch and more impressive looking than many sci-fi blockbusters that are just hitting their opening weekends.

We've already been through this 'can't-let-go' fever once recently with George Lucas. Obsessive tinkering tends to deflate original intent. Han Solo shot first and all that... I'm thrilled for 61 year-old Joanna Cassidy that she can still fit into her amazing and barely existent Zhora costumes but save that admirable triumph of fitness for sci-fi convention appearances, please. Classics are classics. Why can't filmmakers leave their work alone? You don't see painters adding strokes to a masterpiece a quarter of a century after the painting hit the galleries.

20:07 (They Want Action)

"But it's one at a may not be enough."

Friday, April 27, 2007

IIFF #1: First Three Days

I'm not actually in Indiana yet for the IIFF (Indianapolis International Film Festival) but just pretend I am for the sake of this early report. The festival was kind enough to send me some films early. The first couple of days of smaller festivals are usually light. Once the weekend hits it'll be in full swing.

Day 1 Wednesday
Thicker Than Water (Blóðbönd) is a solid feature debut from 35 year-old Reykjavik native Árni Ásgeirsson. This was the runner up selection to Iceland's Oscar submission, Children in 2006. Blóðbönd begins with an ultrasound and we meet proud parents-to-be Pétur (played by the excellent Hilmir Jonsson) and Asta (Margrét Vilhjálmsótter) but somber music, a cool color palette, and a fainting young boy (their 9 year old son as it turns out) let you know that things aren't so idyllic for this couple. Thicker Than Water isn't quickly paced but the story set up is over in minutes: blood tests clue Pétur into a ten year old lie: he isn't his son's father. The rest of the movie is a justifiably angst ridden unravelling of the discombobulated family, particularly the father. If it's not quite exciting to watch - it leans so far towards realism that it's not just anti-Hollywood but nearly anti-drama (every time you want an explosion of feeling you get implosions. People do sometimes clam up rather than vocalize their rage) - there's still a good deal to recommend in it's incisively observed moments. Plus, the strong ending gives it staying power: Thicker Than Water's resolution details the way that people who unravel generally stitch themselves back up. The haunting final shot reminds us that there will be scarring.

Day #2 Thursday
They did not send me a screener of Away From Her... so unfortunately you'll have to wait for that review. I do love myself some Julie Christie (who is, according to everyone who has seen it, strong enough to warrant Oscar consideration) so I'll let you know as soon as I manage a screening.

Day #3 Friday...that'd be today.
I absolutely love that this festival is showing the Buffy sing-along tonight. We've had it here a few times in Manhattan but it sells out fast. For the poor unfortunate souls reading who have still not joined the cult of Buffy the Vampire Slayer (of which I am a zealous missionary) that's the extra long musical episode "Once More With Feeling" from that landmark show's amazing and difficult sixth season. Neither of today's entries that I've seen The Living and the Dead (UK) and Nevermore (Germany) can hold a candle to that Buffy episode but then, it's not really a fair contest. They do however share with that classic a willingness to go way the hell out on a spindly limb.

The Living... circles an unhappy family: father, sick mother, and heavily medicated son who live in a huge empty estate with a name that sounds like "Lonely House". The rest of the movie isn't subtle either. The father leaves for a brief trip and the mother and son descend into hell. The director Simon Rumley seems to be enjoying his looping narrative and especially his static camera placements which, through repetition, become more alarming for the changes that occur within the frame. It's all rather baldly played to shock and horrify but mostly I just wanted out of the house. The aim is surely to put you in the schizophrenic mindset of its main character ? characters (?) and this is not an impossible task, but it surely is no easy one. I remember the film Clean/Shaven some years back accomplishing the disorientation trick without losing control. But this particular film piles too many tricks on top of tricks (film speed and nonlinear chronology are the guiltiest parties) smothering the actors who have little to do other than embody guilt (father), sickness (mother), and insanity (son). They spend a lot of time screaming and crying. I never audibly joined in but I know just how they feel.

I had better luck with Nevermore (Nimmermeer) This dark fable is about a poor fisherman, his young son and a travelling magic circus. Its the first feature from 28 year-old German writer/director Toke Consantin Hebbeln who has previously directed short films. Hebbeln's style is decidedly cinematic, he loads the movie with visual flourishes which are well executed by the creative team. That said he most definitely errs on the side of overkill: a little slo-mo and swirling cameras go a long long way. (Pull it back!) These things tend to work better in music videos which need instantly potent images rather than visuals which sustain and compliment a narrative. Thankfully Nevermore calms down and improves as it goes along. The climax, a magical circus show, is blissfully simple. For its final surprise, this movie that didn't seem to know when to quit wraps up just after the hour mark. Imagine it: a movie that knows that when your story is over, you end the movie. I'll be curious to see Hebbeln's sophomore effort.

Michelle on Ellen

I've been looking forward to it all week and then, today, on the day it airs I completely forget that Michelle Pfeiffer is guesting on the Ellen DeGeneres show. ARGH! I'm an idiot. If anyone taped it please put it immediately on YouTube or Daily Motion. I thank you in advance.

Opening (04/27)

links go to trailers...
Wind Chill. Double unexpected hotness alert! Emily Blunt (The Devil Wears Prada) and Ashton Holmes (A History of Violence) co-star in this horror film directed by Gregory Jacobs.
Jindabyne. The Lovely Laura Linney, Gabriel Byrne and Mrs. Hugh Jackman star in this film that Stale Popcorn has been getting us hyped up on. Directed by Ray Lawrence (Lantana) [related post]
Snow Cake. Sigweavie's autism drama finally makes it into theaters. Co-starring Alan Rickman.
Diggers. Interesting cast (Paul Rudd, Lauren Ambrose, Maura Tierney and Sarah Paulson among them) in this indie drama about a young man forced to reconsider his life when his father dies and the family business is in trouble.

Next Nic Cage tries out a new hairpiece. Jessica Biel attempts to justify her ubiquity. Julianne Moore gets some action in (she's not quite Jodie Foster in this regard but she's in more of them than I remembered: The Fugitive, Assassins, The Lost World, Hannibal, The Forgotten) [related post]
The Invisible (spoiler) Remember how Justin Chatwin survived that massive mile-wide explosion in War of the Worlds (he played Tom Cruise's son)? Apparently he's still indestructable now that he's playing Marcia Gay Harden's son. If this spoilerific trailer is any indication, everyone thinks he's dead but he's only mostly dead but not really in this new thriller.
Kickin' it Old Skool. I had no idea Jamie Kennedy was still alive.
The Condemned. The url for this one "" just about sums up the rampant and celebrated sadism in American moviegoing these days. Never mind the contents of the actual movie (who cares) --think about that advertising line. It's like we're in the Dark Ages and the mobs is thrilled to turn out for public executions. I don't even mind if I sound like an uncool ancient relic shouting at kids to get off my lawn. I really worry: movies don't seem at all shy about promising torture (saw et. al), rape (remember those captive billboards), and brutal everything (hills have eyes etcetera) and they're usually rewarded for those promises.

Will you be at the movies or curled up with a promising DVD?

20:07 (Bridegroom)

Each morning I post a screenshot from the 20th minute and 7th second of a movie along with the dialogue

Answers...I need answers. What's going on here? Where am I? Who are you?

[editorial note: Those big bug eyes and this disorientation? This is actually a portrait of me as a moviegoer (they got my eyebrows wrong but still...) when dealing with Tim Burton movies. He has never been great at storytelling but once upon a time (and still, to be fair, in certain sequences) he had no problem widening my eyes by summoning up real movie magic. I worry about Sweeney Todd too much but I'm just hoping it's in the magic camp (Corpse Bride, Edward Scissorhands, Pee Wees Big Adventure, Ed Wood) and not so much in the 'Answers... I need answers' camp of lost fandom (Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, The Planet of the Apes). For the record, Big Fish, Mars Attacks! and Sleepy Hollow lie somewhere between those two poles with Mars tipping towards the magic group on account of unmitigated weirdo hilarity. And thus ends todays uncharacteristically longwinded 20:07 installment. Occassionally that happens. Off to the comments with you]

Thursday, April 26, 2007

A Link By Any Other Name

sorry 'bout the barebones posting today. enjoy other people...

Michel & Charlotte have a video chat about filmmaking and acting & The Science of Sleep over at Bright Cove.
Damian remembers Spider-Man (from television) do I.
Brad, George & Matt: do, dump, or marry? You know you wanna answer.
Julie Christie talks to the International Herald Tribune [thx]
Apichatpong ( "Joe") pisses off moviegoer in Manhattan
Javier to play Dracula? I offer my neck.

20:07 ("the unseen is all around us")

Each morning a screenshot from the 20th minute and 7th second of a movie. Along with the dialogue if there is any.

"That's what I like about you, Guy. You really don't care, do you?"

Wednesday, April 25, 2007

Hump Day Hottie: Maggie Gyllenhaal

Whilst ordering the Boyfriend around this morning he mentioned to me that it was Administrative Assistants Day and I should pay him for his efforts...or at least send flowers. Never mind all that, I said, (i must be a joy to live with!) for my mind had already drifted from administrative assistants to Secretary to the perfect choice for today's Hump Day Hottie Maggie Gyllenhaal, and I suddenly had a blog post to write. (That's when I came across this bizarre picture to your left which I had to use)

I don't really recommend ignoring your boyfriend secretary / assistant to daydream about movies. And if you're at work it's particular unwise to dream about Maggie's secretary. Please don't chain your admin to their desk or make them fetch your mail with their teeth. Can you say lawsuit?

I really don't get all that S&M stuff (so, no, Secretary is not my fav Maggie film by a longshot). My knowledge of S&M is about on par with Judy Bernly's:
And if I want to have an affair,
or play sex games, or do M&M's, you can't stop me!
Speaking of indelible moments with Jane Fonda. I think Maggie is molten lava hot in a very specific early 70s Fonda 'don't f*** with me' way --particularly in movies like Sherrybaby and Stranger Than Fiction. So her submissive Secretary part isn't the turn-on. But she's a fine actress and getting finer all the time. And I don't mean to suggest that her charisma is limited to the more intimidating roles. There is a sweetness to her that peaks out to soften those edges at perfectly chosen moments. Plus there's the entourage adding luster: talented parents, superstar brother, new baby girl and Peter Sarsgaard (and they are adorable together).

I recently reread my 2005 actress of the aughts list which is now a year and a half old. It was intended as a halfway bookmark of sort for the 'best of decade' lists. Since it's tabulation, Maggie is the actress that's made the most enormous leaps and bounds forward. If she keeps this up she could be shaking up the top ten ranks when the decade closes. So here's to Maggie.

Back to Secretary to wrap this up and bring it back to me (me! me! me! god, I'm insufferable today. My apologies). Lesley Ann Warren co-stars as Maggie's mom in that provocative movie. Warren was a fixture of my training wheels stage in movie fanaticism (circa 1982-1985) and she's a special guest of the Indianapolis International Film Festival this weekend which I told you I'm doing jury duty for. I'm crossing my fingers that I'll get the chance to meet her at the gala to thank her for Clue, Choose Me and Victor/Victoria in particular. If that happens, I'll share the moment with you right here.

Lunchtime Poll: DVD Commentaries

When DVD commentaries first became the rage I used to listen frequently but aside from a couple terrific ones (I recommend Julianne Moore's commentary on The End of the Affair) I got bored by either:
  • nothing interesting being said (maybe it's too politically dangerous for Hollywood types to share opinions about what works and what doesn't and why)
  • lack of participation from my favorite auteurs --some of them don't believe in commentaries you know
  • stars who have obviously not been together during the recording so it's all cobbled together bits and pieces
  • lots of participants but too party-like and insular to involve talking to you, the listener about the actual film (I'm talking to you Boogie Nights)
So I don't listen much anymore. But I've been in the mood recently. So...

What DVD commentary do you find most fascinating / enjoyable?
Give us recommendations. Nick recently told me that Junebug's is terrific (Embeth Davitz and Amy Adams, everyone's favorite meerkat loving pregnant chatterbox, participate) but let's have more recommendations.

'Soundtrack' Updates

I've added three songs to the jukebox (sidebar) which I'm calling "soundtrack" since I try to keep it movie related, natch. I always suggest refreshing your screen weekly at the film experience since i love to tinker with graphics, banners, sidebars ... This widget is such a fun toy. Like all wondrous things I discovered it through ModFab. He gets all the best toys and gets them first!

The new additions
Julie Delpy "Waltz for a Night" from Before Sunset. Both grounded and ethereal --how the hell does she pull that off? Miraculous.
Mika "Grace Kelly" Great song. Great lyrics plus, hello, the title. Is Mika an actressexual?
Björk "Earth Intruders" from the upcoming CD Volta. I read a horrifying thing at Electroqueer wherein they stated they'd taken a break from Björk after Post. You don't take breaks from Björk, people. I can't even begin to describe what you've missed the past decade if you haven't been listening. She is a genius. genius. if you stopped listening when the radio stopped playing her you've missed her two best CDs (Homogenic & Dancer in the Dark) and one beautiful undervalued one (Vespertine) Oh, the movie connection: she was in one once.

20:07 (Sugar Bowl)

each morning a screenshot from the 20th minute and 7th second of a movie. along with the dialogue should there be any

"You could smell the stink all the way back in Wales"

Tuesday, April 24, 2007

Judge and Jury

Blogging may become a bit erratic soon -- I'm heading to the midwest for a movie frenzy. Starting this weekend I'll be blogging from the Indianapolis International Film Festival where I'll be serving as a member of the jury.

I hope my fellow jurors are amenable to being cast in my imagination as the Toni Collette or the Maggie Cheung of the group --I have to live out my Cannes jury fantasy. Who can blame me? That said, I promise to behave. I won't ask the Maggie proxy to wear the Irma Vep catsuit, promise.

If there are any readers familiar with Indiana who are planning to attend or just have helpful suggestions (good restaurants, internet cafes, etc...) shoot me an e-mail. And if you see me at the festival, say "Hi"

Tues Top Ten: Funny (?) Girls

for the list maker in me and the list lover in you

Today is the birthday of both Barbra Streisand (the Funny Girl herself) and Warren Beatty's Sister (like Babs, expert with the comic timing) so in honor of them and other funny ladies of yore (I'm partial to Carole Lombard, Irene Dunne and Judy Holliday) I thought I'd do a list of female comediennes. The only trouble was that once I started to form it I realized that I don't see a lot of what passes for comedy these days (mostly because it's male driven and those comedy stars aren't always that funny to me and some I'm straight up allergic to: David Spade and Jon Heder for example) so my list would have too many glaring omissions.

So, rather than do a list of the "funniest women", which might include a few SNL or sitcom alums or even Charlies Angels if I'm generous and would include everyone who works with Christopher Guest, I thought I'd do a list of people I wish would yuk it up more often on the big screen

Actresses Who Should Do More Comedies

10 Jamie Lee Curtis. It pains me greatly that her career ended with Christmas with the Kranks and not the one for which she shoulda been Oscar nominated: Freaky Friday. She never got the credit she deserved during her acting career. She was nearly always much better than she had any right to be given the films and the roles. Such a funny and unique talent. sigh. Well we'll always have Halloween, True Lies, A Fish Called Wanda and Freaky Friday

09 Anna Faris Perhaps I should have said "actresses who should do more good comedies" --I think she's quite funny in the bit roles in which I've seen her but it's not like I'm going to sit through most of the dreck she finds herself in to see if she's as funny as she seems. Can't someone who writes intelligent comedy (f.e. the Coen Bros, David O'Russell, Christopher Guest, Woody Allen, or Alexander Payne) get her some better material?

08 Christina Ricci. Now that she has taken a step back towards recovering her screen mojo (Black Snake Moan), I'd love to see her seize a comedic role with the same intensity and enthusiasm that she did back in her Addams Family Values days. That'd be off the chain. Get it? Um... Black Snake Moan plus... oh never mind.

07 Holly Hunter. More on Holly's best work here.

06 Rachel McAdams. I sometimes get the sense that we're all holding our breath for nothing. It's clear that should she want it, huge stardom is hers. But her career is awfully quiet in proportion to the enthusiasm from moviegoers. She proved she could carry films with Red Eye and The Notebook but my favorites in her filmography are in comedic supporting roles: the caustic sister in The Family Stone and that already classic queen bee in Mean Girls ("I know right?")

05 Meryl Streep. Last year's twofer (Prairie Home Companion and The Devil Wears Prada) confirmed what Streep fanatics have known for a longtime: her legend was built from drama but her delicious silliness deserves its own act in her career.

04 Lily Tomlin. Never mind those Huckabees videos... what matters is what ends up onscreen and Tomlin always delivers. So why is it that one of the best film comediennes only gets teensy roles once every three years or so? Huckabees, All of Me, Nine to Five and Flirting With Disaster are lonely for company in the great comedies playroom

03 Joan Cusack. She's the only female Saturday Night Live alum to win an acting Oscar nomination, two of them in fact (Working Girl and In & Out), marking one of the rare times that Oscar voters have really been wise to the skill and inspiration a comedic performer has brought to the filmmaking table. I wish she'd make more movies. It was good to see her again in Friends With Money.

02 Laura Dern. She's a subtle hoot in The Year of the Dog as an overprotective suburban mom. Pair that with her brilliant film carrying work in Citizen Ruth (1996) and be forcefully reminded that there's much more to this undervalued actress than playing formidable muse for David Lynch.

01 Reese Witherspoon. She's following up her somewhat divisive Oscar-win for Walk the Line with another teary drama (Rendition) and I get the sense that that's the direction she's headed in in general. But she's a spitfire in a good comedy, elevating both Legally Blonde movies and selling the heck out of her career breakthrough in Election. I had to "Pick Flick" for the top spot.

Who would you like to see in more comedies?

20:07 (1612 Havenhurst)

Each morning a screenshot from the 20th minute and 7th second of a movie.

No dialogue, just ominous music. Can you guess the movie?

Monday, April 23, 2007

They're All Gonna Link At You

You Don't Have to Visit This Blog has rare tracks from Carrie: the Musical [src]
JoBlo reports on Uma Thurman's car chase (directed by Kathryn Bigelow!) now online
pop gurls has an interview with a Heroes writer and gets the dirt on that gay character's "in"ing.
WOW Milla Jovovich is with child. No more white tape Gaultiers for her.
I Don't Like Renée Zellweger has an uncomfortably funny interview with Mike White (Year of the Dog)
Comics Continuum has an interview with Oscar winner James Acheson re: his Spider-Man work. You know how I love my costume designers.
ion cinema has a pic of Viggo & Naomi in David Cronenberg's Eastern Promises

Out Damn Spot: Enough Hamlet. Give Us Lady Macbeth.

This post is my contribution to the Shakespeare Blog-a-Thon

I've often thought there should be a moratorium on Shakespearean film adaptations, if only for a couple of decades. Theoretically this would offer some breathing room to other famous authors in which they could increase their posthumous cultural capital. I assure you the movies would not suffer. Shakespeare is not the only great and famous playwright to have lived and not all filmmakers would be drawn to adaptations of TV shows should their favorite source of classic literature be suddenly verboten. They'd just have to be a teensy less lazy when looking for projects to adapt. When it comes to the movies, is their any author who's been more amply masticated than Shakespeare? Time to spit him out and try a new meal.

I'm aware that this proposed Bard sabbatical would never actually occur. But if we must have several new Shakespearean films per decade I wish that the net were cast a little wider. Anything other than Hamlet would give sweet relief. Shakespeare wrote nearly 40 plays and there are hundreds upon hundreds of film versions, so let's just zero in briefly on his tragedies and recent Engligh language cinema (1990-2007). In this time frame performers as diverse Mel Gibson (1990), Kenneth Branagh (1996) and Ethan Hawke (2000), have filled the crazy boots of that Prince of Denmark, Hamlet. Meanwhile Troilus and Cressida, Coriolanus,
Timon of Athens, Julius Caesar, King Lear, Antony & Cleopatra, and Cymbeline (sometimes considered a comedy) gather cinematic cobwebs. Of the tragedies only Titus Andronicus ( Julie Taymor's Titus, 1999), Romeo & Juliet (Baz Luhrmann's Romeo + Juliet , 1996) and Othello (Othello, 1995 and the indie O, 2001) have gotten popcorn play lately. Hamlet may have been an indecisive fellow but Hollywood clearly chooses him to be... their go to guy.

My personal favorite of Shakespeares tragedies is Macbeth. It has been modernized twice recently: The American indie Scotland Pa. (2001) had a clever fast food spin and a strong performance from Maura Tierney as "Pat McBeth" and there's an Aussie film Macbeth (2006) set in the Melbourne underworld. But this particular tragedy hasn't made a major cinematic stab at glory since Roman Polanski filmed it (The Tragedy of Macbeth, 1972) with Jon Finch (Kingdom of Heaven) as the dagger wielding would be King and Francesca Annis (Dune) as his deliciously guilt-ridden Lady.

Since I don't get Macbeth often and since Shakespeare is so ingrained in the collective cultural psyche I often end up "seeing" his characters --particularly Lady Macbeth, a great literary figure --echoed elsewhere. To end this post, I thought I'd share three characters that resurrect Lady Macbeth vividly in my mind and hint that if we must have Shakespeare, there's considerable cinematic drama that could still be wrung out of Macbeth. Let's let Hamlet sleep this next decade out.

Lady MacBeth Revised
Glenn Close's rather grandiose acting style and intimidating persona might be too obvious a casting choice ...or a touch too steely a match for Lady MacBeth's operatic yet hidden crimes, but it was a hoot to see Close playing the famous character (albeit briefly) in Heights (2005) wherein she played a famous actress --she even has a speech about Lady Macbeth's monologue, But my favorite Close performance, and the one that brings the Lady to mind, is her work as The Marquise de Merteuil in Dangerous Liaisons. Merteuil seems harder and less human than Lady Macbeth. Initially it's hard to imagine the Marquise feeling the levels of remorse that overwhelm Shakespeare's infamous blood spattered wife --the Merquise enjoys her string-pulling too much. But toward the end of 1988's best picture (well, it gets my vote), when her cold ambition and games have robbed her of the only two things she loved (Valmont and her social standing) ....well it's hard for me not to see the DNA of Lady Macbeth. I think of the "out damn spot" monologue as the Marquise purposefully yet catatonically wipes off that white mask of makeup. That teardrop falls. It's one of the most impactful film endings of my lifetime. Rub and cry though she might, you know she'll never feel clean again.
Here's the smell of the blood still; all the perfumes of Arabia will not sweeten this little hand

I've often pondered whether "Faith" (Eliza Dushku) from Buffy the Vampire Slayer is a pop descendant of Lady Macbeth. Though considerably less eloquent in her speechmaking than Shakespeare's character she too invites nearly supernatural corruption into her heart, daring evil to have its way with her. She too ends up with blood on her hands ("Bad Girls") and hides her guilt which starts to eat away at her from inside ("Consequences"). Faith doesn't die in Joss Whedon's Vampire Slayer narrative as Lady MacBeth does in Shakespeare's tragedy, but she most definitely invites it. It's up for debate whether or not Lady Macbeth's death is a suicide but in the thick of her tragic story arc, Faith's self-loathing is revealed to have quite a bloodlust: for her own ("Graduation Day, Part One" and more emphatically in "Who Are You?"). Lady Macbeth goads her husband into killing the king with a dagger. Faith commits murder with her own hands but blood is blood. A rather fetishized dagger enters Faith's own story. Depending on how you read the story, isn't she goading Buffy into killing her with it?
Things without all remedy should be without regard; what's done is done

Finally, there's The Lovely Laura Linney as "Annabeth Markum" in Mystic River (2003) to consider. For most of Clint Eastwood's acclaimed adaptation she is a sidelined character, a seemingly simple wife of Sean Penn's thuggish Jimmy. Many film fans feel that her late film reveal -- turns out she's a rather manipulative ambitious woman who doesn't mind so much that she has a killer for a husband --is too much of a shock. I'd agree to an extent. It doesn't carry the dramatic jolt it could have had the screenplay or direction, prepared us just a tiny bit more. But directorial choices aside, Linney delivers in admirable fashion adding just the right chilling note to the film's cynical denouement. Like Lady Macbeth she's 'crown to the toe top-full of direst cruelty'

20:07 (Meerkat)

Each morning a screenshot from the 20th minute and 7th second of a movie. Along with the line 'o' dialogue spoken.

My favorite animal is the meerkat. Do you know what they are? They're so cute, oh....

Sunday, April 22, 2007

Entertainment Weekly's Summer Movie Preview

I sat down to the computer and I swear to god I was about to start liveblogging the entire issue of Entertainment Weekly's Summer Movie Preview. What wrong wit me? That From Justin to Kelly recap must have done a whammy on me. But sanity has returned.

Let's just liveblog the cover...

When I took this issue out of my mailbox I secretly hoped that one of the potential Best Actress nominees would be on the cover so I could give some of y'all points (more on that contest very soon) Instead it's Tobey Maguire who is...not an actress. Why didn't they let Kiki share the cover with him. She's Mary Jane. What up wit that? This is one of the many reasons I'm holding that Action Heroine blog-a-thon in June. The girls never get enough action ... literally or figuratively.

Where were we? Oh yes, the cover. I sometimes wish that The Film Experience were famous enough that I could totally cover up the logo with a photo and everyone would still know where they were: Hey, it's The Film Experience! Rolling Stone and Entertainment Weekly both regularly obsure their logos. Tobey's head is huge here. I hear Mike Myers voice in my head shouting at him to move his giant cranium. Quick --what movie is that from? With Tobey's head in the way the magazine is now called 'Ent Ent weekly'. How guttural sounding. How very Mars Attacks ("ack ack")

or maybe it's a hot periodical in Middle Earth [click to enlarge]

I love Tobey Maguire as Peter Parker but I don't love Tobey Maguire himself. I can take or leave him outside of Sam Raimi's inspired webslinging. On an entirely superficial note: Tobey has the most nonexistent movie star lips since Kenneth Branagh who, perhaps you've forgotten, basically just had a horizontal slit between his nose and chin from which Shakespearean dialogue could escape. I can't picture Tobey reciting Shakespeare. It's impossible not to notice the Spider-Man 3 overkill in this magazine. "115 New Films" they promise to chat about inside. Meanwhile the cover has four photos and two of them are for Spider-Man 3. It's as if only that film, Pirates of the Caribbean: Oh My God It's Trilogy's End and Harry Potter and the Order of So Many Sequels are the only movies opening this summer. And maybe they are to John Q Public but whatevs EW, share the wealth. I wouldn't normally care but since Premiere folded Entertainment Weekly is basically the undisputed print power in mainstream moviegoing. Does this make Owen Gleiberman and Lisa Schwarzbaum the most powerful critics in the world?

Speaking of print --I should probably confess: I barely read magazines anymore. That's a pity because in theory I love them. I still have subscriptions. I mourned the loss of Movieline and Premiere. And yet... and yet... the only print thing I read regularly is books. I get so much more entertainment news online than I know what to do with anymore.

And thus concludes the live blogging (i.e. brain vomiting) of EW's Summer Movie Preview. It's been sitting beside my computer for many hours now and I have yet to open it and look inside.

20:07 (Mob Hit)

Each morning a screenshot from the 20th minute and 7th second of a movie. Along with the line o dialogue being spoken if there is one...

A mob massacre is about to occur. The witnesses will be on the run for the rest of this awesome movie. But we're 20 minutes in and we're only now getting to the plot?

Saturday, April 21, 2007


There's a new sidebar addition to your right just below "current screenings" courtesy of Box. It's a mini jukebox for those of you who want tunes with your reading... I'll change up the songs weekly if there's interest (it's easy) but your three debut selections are: Spanish goddess Victoria Abril (Pedro Almodovar's post-Maura/pre-Cruz muse) singing "Bubbles", ABBA singing "Under Attack" (they're on the brain due to constant additions to Mamma Mia's film cast: the latest is Colin Firth), and Nellie McKay and Cyndi Lauper's duet "Bee Charmer" which I'm kinda obsessed with. I'm also green with envy about ModFab's Cyndi-riffic moment.

20:07 (The House Began to Twitch)

We must be up inside the cyclone!

Friday, April 20, 2007

Well, La Link Da

Eddie Copeland
celebrates Annie Hall's 30th anniversary. As should we all. Is there anything better than Diane Keaton in that movie? Arguably no.
La De Da
Defamer has a pretty funny take on the upcoming remake of The Birds --I love them for skewering the tell-tale hack notion that everything must be explained. Jeez, people have no imagination.
The Hot Button
investigates current star bankability in various categories. Kinda interesting. Kinda depressing. Kinda baffling.
novaslim on Madonna's new collaboration with Timbaland.
Queer Sighted has a pretty funny (well, blackly comic) post about homophobia, racism, and other competing idiot prejudices.
Ed Gonzalez on London's excellent Equus production.
Worth has funny movie posters. Change one letter in the title.
Cinematical on a Rob Marshall (Chicago) helmed film version of Broadway's Nine. I like Nine but this is a terrible idea. It'll have to compete with itself and with memories of Frederico Fellini's 8 1/2 from which it's already been wrestled and musicalized.

Cannes 60: The Jury. The Films. The Competition

What will lucky travellers see at Cannes this year? What films will we hear reactions to very very soon...

My Blueberry Nights Wong Kar Wai's first English language feature --a road movie starring Norah Jones and several famous actors including Jude Law and Natalie Portman.

The Age of Darkness is a comedy about a civil servant with a highly active imagination from Canadian writer/director Denys Arcand. Arcand is a Cannes and Oscar fixture for films like Jesus of Montreal and The Barbarian Invasions. This film stars Marc Labrèche and features and appearance by Rufus Wainwright as a young prince.

GALA (Not in Competition)
Sicko Michael Moore's documentary expose on the Heath Care industry (good topic choice, right? Should provoke lots of anger)
Ocean's Thirteen by Steven Soderbergh. They usually have at least one commercial effort that gets a high profile. This ensures a high American movie star contingency showing up...or at least 13 of them.
A Mighty Heart Michael Winterbottom directs Angelina Jolie as Marianne Pearl, wife of the slain journalist Daniel in this true story. Can she snag an Oscar nom for playing a real person (that's usually strong bait for AMPAS regardless) ?

British director Stephen Frears (The Queen, Dangerous Liaisons) heads the international prize giving group which also includes actors Michel Piccoli (La Belle Noiseuse) from France, film experience fav' Toni Collette from Australia, Canadian Sarah Polley (who is moving into directing now with Away From Her), Cannes winner Maggie Cheung (Clean, In the Mood for Love) from Hong Kong, and Maria De Medeiros (Pulp Fiction, Henry & June) from Portugal, Italian director Marco Bellochio (My Mother's Smile, Good Morning Night) and nobel prize winning Turkish author Orhan Pamuk.

They'll be choosing from the films playing...


Une Vieille Maitresse by provocatrice Catherine Breillat. Her most recent film was Anatomy of Hell but she's most famous for Fat Girl (France)
Les Chansons d'amour a musical by provocateur Christophe Honoré who gained fame from films like the incest drama Ma Mére with Isabelle Huppert. This film stars The Dreamers Louis Garrel and Swimming Pool's Ludivine Sagnier (France)
The Diving Bell and the Butterfly by Before Night Falls artist turned auteur Julian Schnabel. If memory serve this biopic of editor Jean-Dominique Bauby (who suffered a stroke that paralyzed his entire body) was once slated to star Johnny Depp. Obviously that version didn't happen but we've got a fine actor in his place. It's now Mathieu Almaric, who starred in Kings and Queen (tfe top ten list 2005), in the lead role. (France)
Auf der anderen Seite des Lebens by Fatih Akin. He made an international splash with the strong erotic drama Head On a few years ago and if you haven't seen that one. By all means, rent it. (Turkey)
No Country For Old Men by The Coen Brothers. They have fallen out of favor since the heady days of Fargo. Can they regain their cultural capital? This is an adaptation of Cormac McCarthy's novel and stars Woody Harrelson, Tommy Lee Jones, Josh Brolin and Javier Bardem (US)
Zodiac by David Fincher (US) my review

We Own The Night by The Yards director James Gray. This movie is about a nightclub manager who must save his family from the Russian mafia. Joaquin Phoenix, Mark Wahlberg, and Robert Duvall star. (US)
Mogari No Mor by Golden Camera winning director Naomi Kawase (Japan)
Promise Me This by award gobbling Emir Kusturica (Underground, When Father Was Away on Business) who has won the Golden Palm twice (Serbia)
Secret Sunshine a romantic comedy by Lee Chang-dong of Oasis fame (South Korea)
4 luni, 3 saptamini si 2 zile by Cristian Mungiu who had a strong festival run with Occident in 2002 (Romania)
Tehilim by Raphael Nadjari (France)
Silent Light by Battle in Heaven bad boy Carlos Reygadas (Mexico)
Persepolis an animated adaptation of the famous graphic novel (pictured to your left) about an Iranian girl directed by Marjane Satrapi and Vincent Paronnaud with the voices of Catherine Deneuve, Danielle Darrieux, Chiara Mastroianni and Gena Rowlands (France)

Import/Export by Ulrich Seidl (Austria)
Alexandra by Aleksandr Sokurov who had his biggest success with the technical bravura of Russian Ark five years ago. His films Father and Son and Molokh took home prizes at Cannes in past years. (Russia)
Death Proof by Quentin Tarantino. I've already said my bit here (US)
The Man From London by the influential Bela Tarr. A switchman at a railway station witnesses a murder. Tilda Swinton appears. In what role I know not. But she's there. And it should be noted don't you think? (Hungary)
Paranoid Park by Gus Van Sant who took two prizes at Cannes for Elephant in 2003. Here he's adapting a Blake Nelson novel about a teenager who commits an accidental crime. (US)
The Banishment by Andrey Zvyagintsev who made the well received father/son drama The Return (Russia)
Breath (pictured) by Kim Ki-Duk who directed the exquisite spring, summer, fall, winter...and spring (tfe top ten list 2004) among many others. This one is about a distraught woman who visits a death row inmate repeatedly. She decorates his cell using the seasonal motifs (South Korea)

* Any predictions as to which films Toni, Stephen, Maggie, Orhan et al. will favor?

[You can read more info --there's lots more-- at European Films, Twitch and GreenCine amongst other fine sites]