a seemingly random journey through cinema's heart of darkness. so to speak.

Wednesday, May 30, 2007

YouTubing-To-Obscure-Shameless-Self-Promotion Wednesdays: Sonny Bono Turns into a Plant Pod

Everyone's going nuts over this bit from Troll's cheapo(-er) Italian sequel, and rightly so. But even hilariously unemotive line readings that lead into way over the top screaming can't top the part in the first one where Sonny Bono turns into a forest. Sadly, this isn't the whole thing, missing the infectious ring stab (don't ask) at the beginning and the rest of his plant growth at the end. This scene, though, made the kid version of me totally fucking wretch. (I have something of a crush on this movie, as this exhibits.)

Da Weekly. I totally interviewed Chris Eigeman, the brilliantly sardonic star of Whit Stillman and Noah Baumbach movies and who would already rather be bow hunting. (I got him chatting about Gilmore Girls and his brief stint on the unaired Red Dwarf U.S. pilot, but didn't have the room to put it in.) His new film, The Treatment, which finds him cast interestingly against type, opens in Philly this weekend, and I reviewed it here, along with the wildly overrated but not bad Irish musical drama Once and the majorly spotty Brit-horror Severance. Also, Rep. Also also, don't miss Burnsy's spot-on rave of Knocked Up -- the only summer movie worth your buckazoids thus far.

Tuesday, May 29, 2007

How I Spent My Memorial Day Weekend

I did a lot of non-cinema activities over the three day weekend. (Actually, four day, since I didn’t work on Friday, either.) I got food and drinks with people on a couple occasions. I finally played Wii. I visited friends I haven’t seen in ages. I went to an MD party where, on three separate occasions, groups of us left the hordes to go play basketball and some made-up wiffle ball thingamajig. I lost a game of Pig to an 11 year old.

But as far as this blog cares, I plowed through ten movies. Apart from catching William Friedkin’s partly awesome Bug and going to a long-awaited Alejandro Jodorowosky double feature (which I'll go into later), the holiday siege was all about catching up with DVDs I either bought recently or needed to ship back to NetFlix.

Let’s do this shit.

In his NYT DVD column a couple weeks back, Dave Kehr went mad for Canyon Passage (1947, B+), a western from the French-born Jacques Tourneur, who’s best known for Out of the Past and being the prize horse in Val Lewton’s stable of directors (Cat People, I Walked With a Zombie, The Leopard Man). I initially skimmed the rave, so I wasn’t sure what made Kehr so frothy. I couldn’t quite place what it was till late in. For the longest time, it seemed like just a case of humanism. In short, this is a western without any clear-cut baddies or goodies -- where the “hero” is kinda sketchy, where his best friend has a dishonorable streak, where whatever villains there turn out to not be so evil. It’s easy to overrate these things. I know I have.

But there’s no reason to overrate Canyon Passage, because it’s not humanistic -- it’s realistic. Dana Andrews plays a taciturn, tough guy businessman as he returns to remote, developing town of Jacksonville, OR. There, he gets embroiled in a series of events, ranging from romantic triangles, vigilantism and an Injun siege. Plot isn’t Canyon Passage’s strong suit, and that’s just fine -- Tourneur’s after the rhythm and textures of his town, which is open enough to include both hothead Lloyd Bridges and wandering minstrel (er, fiddle-player) Hoagy Carmichael.

Its appeal can be best summarized by a comparison someone made on Kehr’s blog to McCabe & Mrs. Miller, to which Canyon Passage is like a grandfather. (I was going to say prototype, but that feels condescending.) Though Jacques Tourneur possesses little of Robert Altman’s wise-acred cynicism, the two films share a need to debunk western tropes, and to establish a feel for how communities try to find a balance. There are many moods in Canyon Passage; a typical passage finds Tourneur working up a lather with a cabin-raising party, only to stroll off with Brian Donlevy’s banker and Susan Hayward's longtime-g.f. as the former remarks, crankily, “There’s so much of this world we’re missing.” The film doesn’t have anything like McCabe’s devastating arc, but that may be because I haven’t found it yet amongst the riches. I can’t wait to start watching Canyon Passage for the rest of my life.

Paired on the same disc with Canyon Passage was King Vidor’s 1936 docudrama The Texas Rangers (1936, B), so why not? Luckily, it’s very ‘30s -- fast-paced, quick-witted, clever, not much for bloat and, for the most part, fairly unsentimental. Fred MacMurray and Jackie Oakie may eventually turn into noble heroes worthy of statues, but not before logging time as vile, snickering bandits who, upon being recruited into the fold, initially try to use their power for their own needs. Had this been made a decade later, it would have been grandiose and bloodless. But it wasn’t made a decade later.

Kehr’s Canyon Passage gushing aside, the real eye-opener for me was Sam Fuller’s Fixed Bayonets! (1951; A-), which I had always assumed was somewhere in the middle of its director’s oeuvre. Oh my, no. This is Fuller on all cylinders, mixing high octane incident and troop repartee even more effectively (arguably, I guess) than he did with The Steel Helmet and The Big Red One, with which it shares similar concerns (Richard Basehart plays a weak-willed gunman who freezes when he has a perfect shot). Moreover, it projects a more affecting dissection of how war is fought -- the ethics of survival; the need for working with blinders; killing as a job the need for fun and banter amidst the horror. Did Béla Tarr rip off the nighttime tracking shot, with each character lapsing into narration before the climax, for Sátántangó?

I also saw Fuller’s Hell and High Water (1954, B), which, like Fixed Bayonets!, was released just in time for our war-themed holiday. Apparently this was purely for-hire, the studio asking Fuller to test out the new cinemascope frame on a submarine set. But it’s still pretty good. Reuniting with his Pickup on South Street director, Richard Widmark is awesomely sour as a sub commander, and Fuller manages a couple bits of purple prose. (The opening credits feature a mushroom cloud.) It’s a lot fatter than a Fuller should be, which is to say, really, that it strikes equilibrium between Fuller and The System. Gene Evans is totally wasted, though, which is sad. Aside: Godard must have been homaging this one’s red-filter scenes in Pierrot le fou’s party sequence (which featured Fuller). That’s so like Godard.

The less said about Let’s Go to Prison (2006, C), the better. Bob Odenkirk, how could you? Subversive but almost never funny, it reconfirmed my suspicion that the whole The State/Reno 911 troop, members of whom wrote it, just aren’t funny, and prone to wasting promising subjects. It also reconfirmed my suspicion that Dax Shepard is kinda awesome. With this, Zathura and Idiocracy, me and Dax are three for three. Dare I rent Employee of the Month? (A: I daren’t.)

Lastly, I finished up my Mario Bava Box Set (or “Bava Box,” as the top lid reads). I haven’t yet written about Bava, the famed Italian genre director, but the Box -- which includes five, rather randomly selected ‘60s works, including Black Sunday and the ur-giallo The Girl Who Knew Too Much -- makes him come off like the missing link between the minimalist horror of Val Lewton and the baroque gore of Dario Argento.

The Lewton comparison aside, Bava hasn'talways much for subtext, but he’s a whiz with resourceful, striking and transporting mise-en-scène. Black Sunday (1961) -- in which Barbara Steele’s executed Satanist threatens to take over another, more innocent Barbara Steele -- always seems on the verge of sneaking in some feminist statement, but whiffs in the end. That’s okay -- it looks fucking great. Kill, Baby...Kill! (1966) comes awfully, frustratingly close to being a rich portrait of man snuffing burgeoning female sexuality. That’s okay, too -- it looks even fucking greater. (I love how the opening fifteen minutes of this film have a cheap, faded auburn sheen, while the rest of it is one of the most overly-colorful films this side of a Vincente Minnelli musical. Dig the OCD staircase shot, above.) Thematically, Knives of the Avenger is the richest, taking Shane and turning it into a swords and sandals epic starring a guilt-ridden knife-thrower. But it’s also not as fun, slightly deficient in the action category.

None of this, by the way, is meant as a diss on Bava, who’s clearly one of the great technical directors -- a master of color, B&W shades, camera movement and mood. Bring on the one with the vampire aliens.


Friday, May 25, 2007

Alright, America: Ready...Set...Decipher!

As you lug your notebooks, spreadsheets and Venn Diagram paper with you to see Pirates o' Caribbean: Retroactively Kinda Irrelevant Title this holiday weekend, be prepared to consider the following on your way out:

Is Pirates 3 the most confusing movie in history (yes, even moreso than the cinema of Alain Robbe-Grillet and Syriana) because

a) it's stacked wall-to-wall with impenetrable and arbitrary exposition, with characters literally explaining the plot to eachother in a fashion that winds up making things more confusing still?; or

b) screenwriters Ted Elliot and Terry Rossio are simply inept at storytelling, akin to someone who stretches out a simple anecdote with endless diversions, corrections and irrelevant explanations?

I ask because, like many who've seen it, and even moreso than with number two (which I still sorta liked), I had no clue what was going on from moment to moment. I'd written it off as an immense latticework of tedious backstabbings, reversals, abrupt-changes-of-heart, tedious re-backstabbings, re-reversals, double whammies, re-double re-whammies and triple backstand quadruple gainers. But then Slate's Dana Stevens somehow managed to coherently summarize at least part of it (while intentionally leaving out at least half of the plot, that is). So I'm not sure what to think, and really have no desire to ever set eyes on that fucker again. (Had there been a triple fight on a runaway water wheel, that would be another thing.)

In any case, have fun, America! You've sure got your work cut out for you!


Wednesday, May 23, 2007

YouTubing-to-Obscure-Shameless-Self-Promotion Wednesdays: Plodding Along

As you well know, Cannes is in full swing, and by now you've doubtless found a couple bloggers to habitually read. (Regardless, here's a no doubt needless shout-out to Mike D'Angelo's contributions to Nerve's Screengrab.) Premiering this week is Bela Tarr's latest, The Man From London. So once again, I'm posting a random selection from his brilliant 7 1/2 hour epic Satantango, in which two characters stroll down the windiest, most garbage-strewn street in cinema history. To the unitiated: no, it doesn't spoil anything and yes, it gives you a good idea of what it's like without taking up too much of your time.

Weekly!! Weekly!! Reviews of the dull omnibus film Paris Je T'aime and Hal Hartley's comeback film Fay Grim, as well as mucho words in Rep on an Alejandro Jodorowsky double feature descending upon Philly this weekend. There's also another edition of The Six Pack, this time belittling the MPAA's decision to start considering cigarettes into the rating of movies.

The lack of a "best of" or "greatest" in the semi-regular "Six Pack" feature works two ways: one, it eliminates any arbitrary ordering (who cares why In the Mood For Love is a slightly better smoking movie than The Man Who Wasn't There, just to make a hypothetical example?); and two, I (or anyone else writing it) can completely forget obvious examples and brush off carps by saying, "Well, it's just a sampling!"

Which is to say that I forgot (or just felt compelled to leave off) a couple really obvious examples. I very nearly threw Michael Curtiz's 1950 Gary Cooper vehicle Bright Leaf (as seen in Ross McElwee's Bright Leaves) on there, as it's about turn-of-the-century tobacco growers. Ditto The Treasure of the Sierra Madre, of which I squeezed in a mention. And had film noir not been well represented by Out of the Past, I certainly would've mentioned Double Indemnity, which has that great bit where Fred MacMurray's relationship with Edward G. Robinson is charted through the lighting of the latter's cigars. Similarly, had I not already had two R-raters on there, I surely would have mentioned Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas, in which Johnny Depp rocks an off-white cigarette holder. And I'm just appalled that I neglected to remember Jean Genet's almost-gay porn classic Un Chant D'amour, which features the memorable bit of blowing smoke through prison walls through a phallic piece of straw.

Labels: ,

Monday, May 21, 2007

So much for the auteur theory

Q. What does the trailer for the visually striking Hungarian Holocaust drama Fateless, as seen here

have to do with the trailer for the über-chick flick Evening, as seen here?

A. They were both directed by Lajos Koltai. No, really. No, really, I'm not joking. I'd really appreciate if you'd stop insisting that this is a tall tale told by me, a liar.

The cherry on top? Koltai is a longtime cinematographer who's worked for Tornatore, Szabó, Albert Brooks and even Jodie Foster. I suppose his tenure working on pictorially homely Hollywood fare like the Born Yesterday remake and Out to Sea have prepared him for a middlebrow maelstrom. Still: What. The. Fuck.


Saturday, May 19, 2007

YouTubing-To-Obscure-Shameless-Self-Promotion Wednesdays...er, Saturdays

A power outage with my wireless -- and my service's typically slow reaction to it -- caused me to miss plugging my shite this Wednesday, and then I just couldn't find the time till now to hop on here. Sorry 'bout that.

Anyway, a couple months ago a friend tipped me off to a Britcom called Peep Show, whose gimmick is one hell of a: every shot is a POV. That means, in essence, that our chief characters -- stuck-up, Tony Blair-supporting office monkey David (David Mitchell) and dopey slacker would-be musician Jeremy (Robert Webb) -- are rarely shown physically interacting. Kisses are particularly awkward, with large chunks of the characters' heads disappearing beyond the frame while the rest of it bobs and weaves. There's more meat to it than just the gimmick, and however mean-spirited and bleak it gets, it's quite a rich -- and consistently hilarious -- show, particularly the performances by Mitchell and Webb. (The two are also the stars of the UK version of the Mac/PC ads, with Mitchell as John Hodgman and Webb as Justin Long.)

I highly recommend you looking up the clips, because I'm not posting them here.

Instead, I'm posting a clip (two, actually) from their sketch show That Mitchell and Webb Look. The duo's first show, The Mitchell and Webb Situation was also a sketch comedy show, but it only lasted one series. Peep Show's made them a sensation (over in Britain, anyway), and so last year the two went sketchy again, showing that they, like John Cleese, can do EPs as eloquently as they can LPs. The following is one of their more popular bits -- a send-up of superhero duos where one arguably doesn't even need a partner:

And here's their first of many goes at "Numberwang," a game show that makes not one lick of sense:

Weekly? Weekly! A review of 28 Weeks Later..., the vastly superior, Danny Boyle- and Alex Garland-free sequel to the fast zombies original, plus an interview with Chris "Kazi" Rolle, the star/subject of The Hip Hop Project. Also, Rep.


Friday, May 11, 2007

R.I.P. PG-Rated Movie Smoking

First it was Tom and Jerry; now smoking will be considered during the rating process of all movies. Yet another reason I'm glad I quit months back. One thing: will this apply to older movies, too? Has Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas now earned its rating for its "Pervasive Extreme Drug Use And Related Bizarre Behavior, Strong Language, Brief Nudity, and Pretty Much Near Constant Smoking?" Will Out of the Past, named by Roger Ebert as the greatest smoking movie ever, now be a hard R? So much for rearing your kids on the classics.


Wednesday, May 09, 2007

YouTubing-To-Obscure-Shameless-Self-Promotion Wednesdays: Peter Greenaway Comes Back?

Long ago, so the story goes, avant garde filmmaker Peter Greenaway sold his soul for the riches of modest, art house success. In hits like The Draughtsman's Contract and The Cook, the Thief, His Wife & Her Lover, he kept his obsessions with formalism, patterns, absurd organization and symmetrical static shots, but merged them with (gasp!) narrative film. Bad avant gardist! But even the art house crowd only tolerates formalism so much, so when the balance tipped back into obscuritanism via Prospero's Books, the backlash came something fierce. "Ha ha!," chuckled his former avant garde compatriots! "How pretentious!," chortled the art house crowd! And save for a brief sojourn filming Ewan McGregor's uncircumcised dick, Greenaway's success completely waned. Why, even a mammoth project -- boasting three feature films, an impenetrable website, a game, a planned phallanx of DVDs, TV shows, books and who knows what else -- couldn't get the world to jump back on his trolley.

Which brings us to Nightwatching, his film on Rembrandt painting (brace yourself) The Night Watch. The film is due at Cannes this month, which I suppose gives it a leg up in terms of anticipation over any of the Tulse Lupers. (By the way, there are at least five of us who'd really like to see the other two films in that (aborted?) series.) At the very least, it features the first purely dramatic turn from Martin Freeman. I know, it sounds weird having Tim from The Office headlining the latest Peter Greenaway. But at least on the evidence of this trailer -- which also shows that if Greenaway's coming back, he's coming back pretty much the same as ever -- it appears that he's actually quite the ideal Greenaway character. He knows how to deliver the director's nasty, self-impressed lines quite well. And I could probably listen to Freeman saying "goddamn" all day.

And here's his awesome 1974 short Windows

Me!! Me!! Three reviews of The Hip Hop Project, The Valet and Charles Burnett's amazing 1977 Killer of Sheep, which I hereby command all I know to see forthwith. Also, Rep.

Labels: ,

Sunday, May 06, 2007

The best Zoo headline pun finally arrives

The release of Zoo, Robinson Devor's film about a group of men who used to fuck horses, in Gotham has unleashed a maelstrom of yukky, defensive puns, as this Nerve ScreenGrab piece noted a couple weeks back. I'm not interested in going into the pros and cons of the squirmy, defensive chuckling this film has produced (at least not now). But this line -- which a friend also came up with at a party back in March (when the film was about to descend upon the Philadelphia Film Festival) and which I had been impatiently waiting to be made by someone with access to newspaper headlines -- is pretty fucking hilarious, not to mention way, way wittier than "horse of a different color" or "year of the horse." (Or the one that the article itself is actually titled, "Bareback Mountain." Do one-liners come so easily to Slate they can waste their best ones on covers that will be up for no more than a day?) Well done, Slate.

Twelve Reasons Spider-Man 3 Isn't So Good

First off, and this has been sounded by almost too many elsewhere, this movie is seriously overcrowded. Four villains, five if you count Spidey-as-wearing-the-symbiote-suit, two love interests, two speeches from Aunt May and roughly ten thousand subplots. (And yet Pirates 3 is the one that lasts 172 minutes.) The script has a clearer throughline than anything this jumbled ordinarily should have, with a Peter Parker arc that’s almost as novel and organic than in the previous outings. But that’s upset by how

Everything feels way phonier and corporate this time around. Installment three is well-noted as the one where franchises take a choice: develop a new radical approach (Alien 3, Batman Forever), or repeat the same thing only with a certain weariness. Spider-Man 3 does not take a new radical approach. (Like, Dunst’s awesomely insane idea for a Rosemary’s Baby-style Mary Jane off-shot on an Evil Dead 1 budget.) So repeating the same thing only with a certain weariness it is. You can detect this yourself any number of ways, but most noticeably in how

Everyone’s going through the motions, if that. Here’s one example: the Front Page-style newsroom. Now, I love J.K. Simmons, Elizabeth Banks, Ted Raimi and Bill Nunn. (I crack up even now thinking of Simmons’ head leaning into the left side of the frame during the latter’s wedding scene.) But they’re there but briefly, not used terribly well and there only to get a little rise by merely popping up. As in, everyone in the audience suddenly thinks, “Look! It’s J.K. Simmons’ Walter Burns routine!” A little rush, a flurry of nostalgia, and that’s it.

The principal cast and crew pretty obviously wants to move on. As you’ve no doubt heard, Tobey no longer wants to be Spidey, and clearly relishes the part where he gets to go all Buddy Love. Kirsten Dunst very obviously no longer wants to be Mary Jane, and conveniently her dissatisfaction and antsiness are written into the movie. Sam Raimi, having finally unleashed his true self in parts of Spidey 2 (the Doc-Ock-awakes scene; the obvious-blue-screen-while-falling-from-Darkman bit; a scene featuring many, many shock zooms-cum-tilts in a row), essentially returns to the invisible-auteur of the Spidey 1. Only the initial Spider-Man-Green Goblin 2 tussle screams Raimi. Do not they realize that they’re in the most expensive movie property ever devised? Perk up a little! But the living (at least until they nix the franchise) no doubt envy the dead (i.e., James Franco).

The action scenes are pretty lackluster. Number two showed a significant improvement over number one, with two for-the-ages action sequences, plus a better fusion of Tobey Maguire with the mesh of 1s and 0s that takes his place when he dons the mask. This one features only one decent action smackdown (see above) and generally returns to having Maguire completely disappear when Spider-Man’s slinging about the boroughs.

Kill Aunt May. I’m one of the few who read her end-of-second-act speech in S-M 2 on the value of heroism as winking, if not to say sarcastic -- as in, Aunt May had figured out her Peter was Spider-Man and was just trying to drive into his skull what he should do. (There’s also a slight sarcastic, jokey tinge to Rosemary Harris’ delivery.) But her two major appearances here make me want her to go the way of Uncle Ben, and just reiterate the whole going-through-the-notion vibe of the film. Or not the way of Uncle Ben, because...

Re-Kill Uncle Ben and Norman Osborn. Enough with the fucking flashbacks already. Also, Cliff Robtertson was terrible in 1. It’s not like he’s Marlon Brando or somesuch.

That part where he goes all Buddy Love is actually kind of excruciating. Not a deal-breaker, mind, but this whole stretch is just too broad for my taste, missing the balance (and the neat slide into despair) of 2’s “Raindrops Keep Falling On My Head” sequence. A Travolta strut? Just too obvious.

The plotting, while not always the franchise’s strong suit, is especially head-slapping this time around. Yeah, the news summary bit is pretty appalling -- a new low in clunky blockbuster plot management. But how about the whole pointless bit of revisionist history w/r/t Uncle Ben’s death. Oh, it wasn’t completely clear that that anonymous scumbag killed Uncle Ben, was it? How convenient for unimaginative screenwriters who run into a wall when trying to characterize Sandman! I’ll give the astonishingly uncreative way the black goo shit is introduced a pass because it’s from the comics. (Still no reason to keep it, given how much they trash the source this time around. I’ll get to that in a sec.) But there’s no excuse for the bit where Harry/Green Goblin suffers amnesia, just to get him out of the way and make room for Sandman. (The movie’s so overpacked I almost forgot the amnesia thing ever happened. Ha ha.)

Characterization is noticeably sketchy, rather than agreeably so, as it was prior. “I’m not a bad person,” Thomas Haden Church’s Flint Marko says pre-Sandman transformation. END OF CHARACTERIZATION. You see, the Spider-Mans are, at heart, humanistic and empathetic, meaning they don’t subscribe to purely good or purely evil characters. But it’s one thing to have Marko say, point blank, “I’m not a bad person,” and to demonstrate it. Thing is, Raimi et al. had an excuse to deepen his character: he’s trying to make money for his ill daughter. How many times do we see this bedridden spawn? Eddie Brock-as-Venom brings this up when he proposes a team-up with Sandman, which would have given the bloated climax some emotional heft: Spider-Man fighting off two baddies who are actually trying to do some good. But as you well know, that’s not what happens.

Why isn’t my friend who’s well-versed in and madly in love with S-Man lore hopping fucking mad at how this movie manhandles and anally abuses the source? Venom’s not even exactly a villain. Once he calms down, he’s closer to a vigilante, with all the questionable associations that classification brings with it. But oh well, he’s shoehorned in at the end, so fuck it, he’s just a villain. (This smarts extra because the casting of Topher Grace is, come to think of it, pretty ideal. Raimi seems to have got the idea to find the aggression and evil in his fast-talking charmer routine. A wasted opportunity.) And what in the holy hell is Gwen Stacy doing in this film if she’s just a plot point? Have comic book movie so desecrated the idea of a decent comic-to-film transition that no one really bats an eye at this shit? (Answer, he begrudgingly admits: uh huh.)

This whole thing has no point except [rubs fingers together, signifying a wad of cash]. I know this will sound naive, but I really don't mean it that way: the first two films, while obviously instigated by greedy execs, didn't come off that way. They felt lovingly crafted by actual human hands, acted by actual human beings. The people behind it cared. The first installment was that rare thing: an action-minded blockbuster where the bland, uninspired action scenes and special effects were but a distraction from the plot and characters. It’s a great portrait of adolescence and young adulthood, with its elliptical sudden jump-forwards and deep feelings of self-discovery and disappointment. Installment two struck equilibrium, exploring the struggle between hero and alter ego better than anything since -- whaddaya know? -- Superman 2. (Original cut, not Richard Donner’s after-the-fact Frankenstein monster.) This is just the one that costs more than any movie ever has.

The Spidey Franchise™ could very well have kept everything at the same level of 2, but they felt the need to go bigger (triple everything, if you will). And the result is just fucking bombast, repeating the same things, only bigger and more hollow. It is the first one to not feel lovingly crafted by actual human hands, or acted by actual human beings. The thrill is gone, and the greedy instigators have reclaimed the reins. Enjoy being wallet-raped, suckas.

Okay, there are good things about this movie. Hey, it’s not like this is Batman and Robin. The film is generally likeable enough that I was never completely soured, even while I kept waiting (and waiting, and waiting, and waiting...) for things to click like they did before. It could even almost pass for the first two. But I kept thinking of that great moment of Cronenberg’s The Fly where Geena Davis eats the transported steak and says, “It tastes fake.” This movie just tastes teleported.

But this is supposed to be about good things in a movie I don’t even hate that much. Right. The part where Sandman pulls himself together and learns to, y’know, work is pretty magnificent. (A friend compared it to Svankmajer’s work with clay.) And despite her transparent real-world irritation, Kirsten Dunst was kind of affecting at conveying Mary Jane’s unraveling, especially during the proposal scene. Speaking of which, Bruce Campbell should have wrestled Steve Martin for Inspector Clouseau, and as I mentioned, that first action scene was pretty tight. Also, Mageina Tovah rules.

But what do I know? I liked the movie about the girl who blew her dog directed by Bobcat Goldthwait.


Wednesday, May 02, 2007

YouTubing-To-Obscure-Shameless-Self-Promotion Wednesdays: From Nakameguro to Everywhere

Like Béla Tarr or (of late) David Fincher, Japanese headphone masterpiece-maker Cornelius doesn't release work very often, meaning you get unduly worked up over something you'll have plenty of time to digest and generally mull over. I was for a long time a bit let down by his previous album, Point (2002), whose mellow, laid-back tones stood in sharp contrast to the near-constant nattering of its predecessor, Fantasma (1998). But when I broke it out two years later, it immediately jumped to pantheon status. So I'm pretty cool with the fact that I find his latest, Sensuous -- which finally arrived here after hitting many other parts of the globe last fall -- to be, you know, only pretty really good. After five years, I was hoping for something a little more different than Point (not to say something more like Fantasma). But really, my opinion's not wholly valid till, say, 2009. (That said, if you can listen to "Beep It" without doing a really terrible robot, you're a stronger listener than I.)

(By the way, please advise: at least on my copy (and one friend's), there are two second gaps between each of the songs. It's pretty obvious that each song is supposed to bleed into the next. Has everyone else found the same problem? Is this a problem? Is it, in fact, a radical artistic decision, perhaps a satirical comment on how older iPods -- but not the latest -- had this short but irritating gap between each of the songs? Wtf, Cornelius?.)

Here, in celebration, is his video for my favorite song off Point, "Smoke":

Two weeks of the Weekly!! (I slacked. Sorry.) From this week, an interview with Paul Laverty, screenwriter of Ken Loach's The Wind That Shakes the Barley, a review (second down, after Sean's awesome take on Barley) of the cycling docudrama The Flying Scotsman, a buncha blurbs on films being shown in our area's Black Lily Festival, and Rep. (Also, Sean is so, so right about S-Man 3. Get our your handkerchiefs.)

From last week, I had a review of the three-hour monk doc Into Great Silence, a Six Pack thingie on actually decent courtroom movies, and Rep, which has a lot of wordage on the traveling Russian Fantastik program that finally hit our neck of the woods. Ruslan & Ludmilla is pretty unbelieveable.


Tuesday, May 01, 2007

I Want to Blog!

This blog has been on life support (or just purely self-promotion duties) for too long. It's about time I returned to semi-active duty. Here's what to expect round these parts from now on:

  • Quickly tossed off observations on films, both new and old, that I haven't been paid to write about elsewhere
  • Random, possibly eccentric minor observations on various errata (like the one you'll stumble upon in a minute)
  • The very occasional and very interesting factoid about my daily life
  • A political/social rant, but one well-considered and, well, not very rant-y
  • Shameless self-promotion. As though I could give that up.
To start things off, here's something I noticed after looking at the cover of the latest issue of Skeptic. I can't believe I never caught this before, but ye gods does the great, late scientist resemble Nouvelle Vague superstar Jean-Pierre Léaud (The 400 Blows, Masculin-Feminin, etc.). Quick! Some enterprising French filmmaker go make a Carl Sagan biopic with the aging former child actor, possibly even in the French language. (And I really do mean quick: Léaud, 63, is currently one year older than Sagan was when he died.)

(An unusually fiery Sagan, from the cover of Skeptic, as mentioned; a typically laid-back Léaud, from, I believe, Bed and Board.)