Sunday, September 30, 2007

DIETRICH WOULD DIE

There was another article today in the NY Times about the continued movie studio crackdown on smoking in movies. But the interesting part of the article was this:

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Yet Hollywood is also waking to the realization that a committed band of advocates is rapidly changing what is permissible in the movies. And that precedent could embolden other groups campaigning to rid movies of portrayals of gun use, transfat consumption or other behavior that can be proved harmful to the public.
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Yippee! Then our movies will become as enjoyable as eating a piece of macrobiotic sunflower pie while reading an issue of Adbusters.

A GREAT END TO THE REGULAR SEASON

It couldn't have happened to a more deserving team! Thank you! O', THANK YOU, baseball gods!

The New York Mets let a 7 game lead, with 17 games to go, slip away (FOR NON-BASEBALL FANS: This would be like a friend challenging you to walk over and drop a piece of paper in the waste basket, but you somehow end up bouncing it off the rim...) and thus became one of the biggest chock job bunch of losers in the history of baseball. HAHA! You guys suck! Speaking of suck... hey Carlos Beltran .... suck on this! You'll have plenty of time so since you're season is over!

Check out these beautiful works of art below:


Saturday, September 29, 2007

THAT'S RIGHT, YOU'RE NOT FROM TEXAS

The wife and I are going to San Antonio tomorrow (actually, my wife is going, and I'm dragging along on her coattails...).

It's a weird lil' city. Forever the baby brother to Houston and Dallas, yet not hip enough to hang with the fad cats in Austin. Poor ol' San Antonio is like a middle child that's kinda just .... "over there" (still , that's much better than being "I would never live there" like Waco or Forth Worth, OR, a "get me the hell outta here!?!?" like Corpus Christi or Lubbock).

But some things unite us all: 1. We love our state. 2. We think other states suck (especially Louisiana). 3. We like football. 4. We like dogs. 5. We think our food is the best. 6. We are more attractive than y'all. 7. Every other state is just totally jealous of us (especially Louisiana).

but back now specifically to San Antonio ...

We're gonna be staying in a hotel on the Riverwalk. Something special happened on that Riverwalk. Do you know what it is???? My dad always says "You can't call yourself a Texan if you don't like chili". Well, I apply the same qualifying judgment to this:

You can't call yourself a Texan if you don't know what these images are from:



Thursday, September 27, 2007

SAMUEL FULLER'S "FORTY GUNS"

I guess it does take one to know one.

I watched Forty Guns for the second time last night. What was different this time around - besides the film being on widescreen DVD instead of double bootlegged VHS - was that I had developed a crush on Barbara Stanwyck in between viewings. It's not surprising. In Forty Guns, she is 50 years old, and just doesn't have that hop n' tickle in her step like in Ball of Fire, or that seductive lean in Double Indemnity, or the cub-among-tigers charisma of the title character in Stella Dallas. Forty Guns was Stanwyck's fourth to last film, and it's Samuel Fuller's loving elegy to her.

Having that movie love inside me for this second screening, I saw Forty Guns with brand new eyes. It's clear to me that Samuel Fuller had that same respectful, butterfly feeling about Stanwyck. Her introduction in the first scene is like a freight train comin' round the mountain. On a white horse she leads her posse of forty hired hands; she's Cleopatra of the plains, and they're her he-men harem in boots.

Although the movie oozes sexual subtext throughout - there are enough scenes between men, women, and 7 inches of cold steel, to get your chaps steamy - Fuller saves the ultimate money shot for a climactic scene between Jessica (Stanwyck) and Griff (Sullivan):

Jessica: "Is that your gun?... May I feel it?"
Griff: "No"
Jessica: "I'm just curious"
Griff: "But what if it goes off in your face?"
Jessica: "I'll take that chance"

ooo la la!

But this is Samuel Fuller's triumph. At 79 minutes, there is not a moment wasted. Fuller had that skill of disguising how carefully crafted each scene and shot actually was. He wasn't flashy or showy with the camera, yet there are shots in Forty Guns, and the preceding House of Bamboo, that will make you hit the little 2x rewind button. But Fuller did it for the good of the film, the fluidity of the imagery, not the backslapping. That's what was so special about Samuel Fuller to me. He brought seriousness to the genre film without taking himself too serious.

Wednesday, September 26, 2007

"FOR REVEREND GREEN" - ANIMAL COLLECTIVE


Like the latest Frog Eyes album, the new Animal Collective is an album I love to sing along to without knowing most of the words. It's great. It's like a throwback to youth when melody was the only thing you cared about. That's why Matthew Wilder's "Break My Stride" and Joey Scarbury's "Believe It Or Not" were two of my favorite songs as a kid.

[NOTE: I like to make up lyrics about our cat Porkchop and sing them along to Strawberry Jam's melodies. Sometimes I sing them directly to him. But he just looks at me for 2 seconds and then goes back to sleep.]

"For Reverend Green" is my favorite song on AC's Strawberry Jam. It opens with disjointed chords that sound like they're coming from of a pipe organ recorded on 4-track. Then Avey Tare sings (something) like himself and screams (something) like Black Francis through two and half verses. I don't know if it's accidental brilliance (these guys seem to be on drugs a lot...) or genuine craft, but I can't get it out of my head.

And the song seems to be dedicated to Al Green. Don't know why though. Like I said,... a lot of drugs.

BUNUEL-A-THON

MOVIE LOVERS!!! : Don't forget to keep checking in with the Bunuel-A-Thon over at Flickhead. Entries are added daily, and will continue to be so until Sunday night.


FANTASTIC FEST : DAY 6

Viva La Espana!...

Dark Spanish cinema has emerged as one of the small themes running through this year's Fantastic Fest. You have the universally popular Timecrimes (currently the second highest rated film on the Fantastic Fest site with a collective score of 4.4 out of 5), the technically astute short Maquina (disgusting to the bone, but so well made I still admired it...), and the sci-fi favorite of the of the festival, The Cold Hour (currently sitting with a score of 4.0 out of 5 on the FF site). Another Spanish film, The Backwoods (starring Gary Oldman!) generated some hallway buzz, but I never got a chance to see it ... I'll explain why soon ...

The horror genre had it's heavy runs (and re-runs) in America, Italy, Japan, Korea, and most recently France. Will Spain be next? It will interesting to see.


The Cold Hour had it's true blood devotees at the festival. In fact, the FF organizer introducing the film claimed that it was his favorite of the entire program. I can't say I felt the same... or that I even shared some of the symptoms. I wonder if it's because I've never been much of a "sci-fi" freak. As the masses lined up for the late late features, I heard many a geek fight over what the ending to The Cold Hour meant. I have my guess, but I couldn't really care. I guess that's what keeps me excluded from the sci-fi worlds. I don't desire to pinpoint that one absolute explanation to the ending... I'm always satisfied with the one in my head.

The plot to The Cold Hour unfolds over four days in an unknown country, in an unknown abandoned bunker, with a group of survivors that all happen to be named after classic Biblical figures (Jesus, Judas, Pedro, Magdalena, Mateo, Lukas etc.) All we know is that the outside world is in the midst of a nuclear war ("It's one side of the Earth vs. the other"), that for one hour each day the corridors of the bunker freeze over (i.e "the cold hour"), and the days of the calendar are counting backwards. (Day 4, Day3, Day 2 ... a screen title keeps advertising).

All of this sets the film up for a surprise ending that sent the audience into the hall chattering over what just happened. Maybe I should be one with the geeks and give it more thought, but my gut tells me the film doesn't deserve it.

Now. The reason I didn't go see The Backwoods after this....



....because EXTE: Hair Extensions was playing!!!

Even the casual fan of J-Horror knows that "long black hair" has become somewhat of a tired tool within the genre. Pale girl, in a white dress, with black hair is J-Horror's stereotypical image; the equivalent to America's masked slasher.

But instead of putting a hair net over that cliche, cult director Sion Sono (Suicide Club) pours an economy sized bottle of Propecia over that bad boy and explodes it beyond places once thought unimaginable. Exte: Hair Extensions is both glorious absurdity and feel-good family drama (Asian directors seem to have the knack for tying such disparate moods together).

A young woman is abducted, killed, and used in the underground organ trade. In addition to her kidneys and eye, they shave off her hair. But the body remains intact as some sort of a "soul in limbo", and when she gets angry her hair grows...and grows...and grows. Ren Osugi (of Miike, and Takeshi Kitano fame) discovers this and uses her to harvest his line of hair extensions. In this role, Osugi is at his most bizarre. It's a freewheeling performance that brings both comic relief and legitimacy to a premise that is, on the surface, quite retarded.

But Sono takes advantage and saturates the screen with ... well, HAIR! Hair on cars, hair in fax machines, hair on tongues, hair as punching fists... the hair flows like wine, blood, and oil. Exte: Hair Extensions is demented, fun, questionable, and sweet. Kinda like Takashi Miike or Shinya Tsukamoto in their greatest moments. Check your local import friendly video stores soon and treat yourself to some wholesome madness!

Tuesday, September 25, 2007

"BEFORE THE DEVIL KNOWS YOU'RE DEAD" POSTER

Sidney Lumet channels the ghost of Saul Bass for the poster of his new film (i like it):

more on POSTAL

Uwe Boll on "why the world should see Postal" (imagine it in a loud German accent):

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After the September 11th attacks, our world went through some dramatic changes. We have wars and terror in Afghanistan, Israel, Lebanon, Iraq and various states in Africa. The USA and Europe are scared to loose the leadership of the planet to China and India. Muslim fanatics and fundamentalists are gaining enough power to destroy our security and freedom.

The American and European people are heavily swayed by the mass media that is supporting the USA strategy of resolving these threats through war. We have quickly developed an innate self-censorship in order to survive this crazed and fragile state of existence. People are now afraid to speak their mind for fear of repercussions. If Bin Laden is a crazed fanatic, mass murderer, are we to assume that George Bush is a wonderful leader? If Moslems are perceived as terrorists, then are all Christians and Jews doing the right thing?

The world is in need of a film that is tougher in it's humorous mockery of the globe than SOUTH PARK. The audience is ready to approach this type of satire with live actors rather than cartoons. POSTAL will not accept any form of censorship.

Our present political situation is intolerable. We have deranged religious fanatics on one hand and lobbyists from the oil and weapon industries on the other hand. Both sides are actively working at destroying the planet. This world is slowly dying due to global warming and pollution caused by man’s corporate greed and stupidity. If intelligent people do not stop this madness, then our grandchildren will not experience life.

POSTAL will insult all cultures, religions, political groups and leaders. No one will be spared. The film is intended to provoke thought, laughter and open debate. Our world is out of balance and POSTAL will reflect just how fucked up we are.

I see myself as a member of the world community. I have no religious affiliation. Religion has often been a catalyst for the many crimes and wars throughout history. Religion allows people the opportunity to blame their actions on a higher source. We live in a world that is sensitive to people's religious beliefs. How ironic that non-religious groups fail to receive the same level of sensitivity from the establishment.

I agree with Salman Rushdie who said a few months ago in an interview something to the affect that we don't want to hurt your feelings because you are religious.… who thinks about the daily insults non-religious people are getting? How can the President of the United States think, that Adam and Eve were created by God, but Darwin is bullshit? How can they teach this in certain American states? This is an insult to everyone with an IQ over 100!

Apart from the firemen and rescuers of 911, how about the victims of the September 11th attacks that are now being labelled as heroes? I say that they were not heroes at all. They died in a terrorist attack. They were normal people and did nothing heroic but dying an unfortunate death.

Since September 11th, more than ONE MILLION AFRICANS, JEWS and ARABS have died in terrorist's attacks, civil wars and wars. Their lives and deaths were not featured by the mass media. Does this mean that their lives had less value than the life of a NY stockbroker dying in the World Trade Centre?

It's time to wake up! May POSTAL shock, stir, offend and entertain you!

-Uwe Boll
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I don't agree with much of what the man says (...some of it doesn't even make sense!), but something attracts me to him. Maybe it's because he walks to his own beat. I admire that type of person.

HERE is another reason he's so damn ANGRY! I never knew video gamers were so sensitive. It might explain a few of the "incidents" and yelling matches that broke out during and after the Q & A (this was the Q & A for the first screening. I saw the second... and he wasn't present for that one. Hmmm...I wonder why.)

FANTASTIC FEST : DAY 5


Day 5 done... no late late movies tonight. I think the crowd kind of thinned out after a loooooong weekend. I'm sure they'll be back tomorrow for Secret Screening # 4. Plus, they organized some film nerd version of Family Feud for tonight, at midnight. I was kind of interested, but then I was also very tired.

Oh, and the Secret Screening last night was a film called DAINIPPONJIN. Don't know anything about it beyond the title. Tomorrow is a pretty big day. I don't know if I can pull off a triple feature, but there are three films playing one after the other that I'd like to see.


The first thing I saw tonight was Devils Helper : The Folk Art of Phil Chambliss. It was 4 shorts - chosen from a collection of over 50! - made by a man from Calhoun County, Arkansas. The fable goes that Mr. Chambliss saw a movie as a child, liked it, and wanted to make them for the rest of his life. Thing is, he didn't have any training, money, technique etc. According to the times, and according to what he could afford, Chambliss' used Super 8 cameras, VHS video cassette recorders, overdubs done with a mic plugged into a VCR, and any other home shelf movie tool you can think off. Chambliss doesn't even own a computer ("I'm too old at this point to learn how to use one...."). He's the last of the hardcore kitchen sink filmmakers.

No, the films are not well made. They aren't even good. But they are enjoyable because they come coated with miles of charm. You're watching the work of a man possessed , unwavered by what anybody may think. He values your opinion, for sure - he asked us questions - but he'll never quit. (In fact, the only reason he started getting attention was b/c of Lucinda Williams of all people. Chambliss also plays music and crossed paths with Williams one night. He sent her one of his movies and next thing you know the guy has a screening in London... London, ENGLAND!)

A screening of Phil Chambliss' films will shame a film like American Movie even more that it already is. In fact, watching his films in bunches, you start to feel like you're watching a one-of-a-kind, self-portrait documentary. Anyone that claims to like the phony Tarnation, should watch a few of Chambliss' films, and then write letters of revocation to all their friends.

Next up... Postal.

The director of House of The Dead, Bloodrayne, Alone In The Dark, Bloodrayne 2, and Alone In The Dark 2 goes scatological political satire.

If you've seen the trailer for Postal of two 9/11 hijackers arguing over how many virgins they will get as they slam into the WTC, then you know what type of movie you're sitting down for. Postal is like Team America, but not as smart, and not as funny. It's a comedy that grants everyone the equal opportunity to be offended (director Uwe Boll even lampoons himself, and the criticism he gets for making so many movies out of video games...). When it's funny, it can be very funny, but when it's not funny... there's dead silence in the theater.

Even though it's ultimately got more problems than successes the politically incorrect, no holds barred approach is welcome in these hyper-sensitive times. I imagine when - or if - Postal hits theaters, mobs from the Christian, Muslim, homosexual, welfare, fat people, black people, immigrant, trailer park, midget, pervert, handicapped, law enforcement, and social services communities will protest in some fashion...somewhere...somehow.

Which is probably Boll's goal. He may not be a good film maker, but he's got lots of money, and he's just used it to make a movie about how angry he is at everyone.

Monday, September 24, 2007

BUNUEL BLOG-A-THON : "GRAN CASINO"


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I happened upon Luis Bunuel's Gran Casino by mistake ... twice! In a local video store I saw a puffed-up case for the 2-Disc Luis Bunuel Collectors Edition of Gran Casino / The Young Ones. Well, I'm not a "collector" but I've always considered myself a Bunuel fan, so it itched a little when I realized I hadn't heard of either of these films. "Hmph," ... I rented Big Daddy and went home.

I decided later to Netflix The Young Ones because it sounded the more provocative of the two. But when the red envelope arrived at the house it was Gran Casino in that little white sleeve!!! Either Netflix screwed up, or it was some deliberate divine intervention (Prankster Bunuel playing nasty tricks next to god...). Disappointed, I still watched the film. What followed was my most bizarre Bunuel viewing experience.

Gran Casino is radical Bunuel in that it's conventional Bunuel. It is Bunuel as director-for-hire. Bunuel as studio hound. Bunuel as storyboard sketcher. Bunuel as low budget Michael Curtiz. It's also a musical ... and a sincere one. Actors Libertad Lamarque and Jorge Negrete perform three songs each. Negrete's are especially odd because of Bunuel's inclusion of a three man harmonizing chorus that mysteriously show up whenever Negrete breaks into song ... be that in jail, on an oil field, or in the casino.

**(Even stranger is the cover for this 2-disc set. It's a photo of Bunuel riding a camera crane like he's Joseph Mankiewicz underneath a subheading that reads "The Legendary Master of Surrealist Cinema". Fine, but to attach that tag with Gran Casino?)**

Despite these ordinary elements, ordinary plot points, and ordinary performances, watching Gran Casino gives you the impression Bunuel was having a blast. It was 1947, fourteen years since he made his last picture (Land Without Bread) and three years before unveiling his first masterwork (Los Olvidados). So Gran Casino served as the perfect punching bag for Bunuel to the tweak out the kinks.

By "punching bag" I don't mean to dismiss Gran Casino as slag. Not at all. It's true that the soapy romance, and "little man vs. big man" storyline tilt toward tedium, but there's enjoyment in watching this abstract technician go MOR in the straight man's system. It's Bunuel relearning the basics in order to unlearn them yet again: classical framing, musical tracking shots, set direction, lighting set-ups (if anything, Gran Casino at least looks beautiful). While none of this suggests Bunuel could hang with the Hollywood studio greats, it's still easy to imagine him whispering in his assistant's ear, "see, I could be Howard Hawks if wanted to."

But who would've wanted him too??? I'm assuming that if you're a reader, or participant, of this Bunuel-a-thon that you've more than just a passed a glance at the man's films. You've probably enjoyed reading his eventful interviews, heard him laugh off critical readings, and shift ideological gears on a dime. You can't choose your film director obsessions, they just happen. So when you catch small benchmarks of his/her career along the way - event it's a minor work like Gran Casino - you feel obligated to stick a matchstick flag on the timeline and say "Hey, check this one out ... someday. I mean, you don't need to rush or anything, just don't forget about it." That's the kind of endorsement I'd like to leave in the ears of fellow Bunuel-a-freaks.

FANTASTIC FEST : DAY 4

There's no doubt. The front runner for best film at Fantastic Fest 2007 is Son of Rambow. It's not "in competition", but it's my personal fave of the fest, not to mention one of the best films I've seen this year...period!

But more on that later....

There were two secret screenings today. I tried to get in to the one at 11:30 but, nope. Word is that the earlier secret screening this afternoon was Persepolis, the animated Iranian film based on the childhood of director Marjane Satrapi during the Islamic Revolution. I think it's cool that the programmers brought her in, especially since she was banned at the Bangkok film festival earlier this year.

We'll have to wait and see what the next special screening is. My guess is that The Golden Compass, Doomsday, I Am Legend or Sukiyaki Western Django could be among the candidates for the final three slots.


The first film I saw today was Uncle's Paradise. It's a Japanese "pink film", which is a term I learned today. Basically it means "softcore porn". Japanese studios churn these 60-70 minute films out like straight to video horror in the U.S. Uncle's Paradise appears to be on the extreme side of the "pink film" genre...it's more like Gonzo softcore porn.

Why???

Well, the plot revolves around a man that must keep himself awake 24-7, because if he falls asleep he will masturbate himself raw over a beautiful three-eyed woman in his dreams. To make things more ridiculous, right when he's about to fall asleep the man gets a major hard-on like some kind of self-defense mechanism that allows him to have sex instead of going to bed.

Keeping its context - and short running time - in mind, Uncle's Paradise is watchable trash. Some may argue that there is some cultural subtext about Japan's sex obsessed males within, but I think it's probably just some artfully shot crazy sex film where a man ejaculates on snakes and signs his name on his partners in magic marker.


Death Note 2 : The Last Name is a manga to movie adaptation. Death Note - the prequel - played before it, but I was in another film. Luckily the film gives you a rapid fire remembrance of things past. Basically, there is a book. If your name is written in the book you have 23 hours to live. There are some exceptions to the rule, but let's not waste time over that here...

The book's powers were originally meant for good, to bring justice to a crime ridden city where criminals go unchecked. But the power soon corrupts it's once well-intentioned owner, and like most morality tales in the this vein, he grows drunk with said power.

Death Note 2 is too long (141 minutes) and like Beautiful Beast - a film I saw yesterday - it feels like the filmmaker wants to translate the comic straight from page to screen without any of his own influence in between. For that reason, DN2 feels strictly like a film "made for the fans". If you're a fan of the manga and have always wanted to see the screen depiction, then you'll probably be pleased, but for everyone else, Death Wish 2 would probably be more entertaining (and it's only 88 minutes if it isn't...).

Son of Rambow so fiercely caught me by surprise because I knew so little about it before walking in. Just a small still inserted in the the Fantastic Fest brochure was it. I had wrongly pegged it as a "woe-as-me-childhood-sucks" picture, but maaaaan was I wrong! (I almost chose to go see another film, but luckily, instinctively, I chose this one...).

Like Joe Dante's Matinee, Son of Rambow is about movie escapism as a way to deal with familial loss or grief. But more than that, it's about movie love, friendship, blinding childhood ambition, imagination, heroism, and...First Blood???

Yep. Young Will comes from a deeply religious family that forbids him from watching TV, and especially movies (the opening shot is of Will's brethren protesting the small town screening of First Blood). Will lost his father to a sudden brain hemorrhage, and because his choices of recreation are so limited, he draws cartoon sketches in his Bible that correspond with the daydream stories in his head.

By accident - and on on the heels of doing a good Christian deed - Will sees First Blood playing on a TV. The slow zoom on his wide-eyed expression while he watches Rambo take on 200 men ("200 MEN!?!?" Will excitedly exclaims...) is perfectly captured. No doubt director Garth Jennings knows that feeling that many of us felt, growing up, when we saw Conan The Barbarian, Star Wars, Raiders of the Lost Ark, Flash Gordon etc. for the first time.

(the sequence that follows this moment, when Will runs home with Rambo fresh on his mind is outstanding! Jennings captures a moment of the intangible childhood imagination on fire better than I've seen before. It's up there with Michel Gondry's visually interpretations of emotional love.)

Son of Rambow is so much more than what I've already stated. I can't wait for friends, family, readers, critics etc. to see it, just so I can hear how other people react to this.

Sunday, September 23, 2007

FANTASTIC FEST : DAY 3

So the first Special Screening was......................

Southland Tales
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I'm glad I didn't stand in line for three hours and miss two other screenings for that. I don't like Donnie Darko, and I don't like Richard Kelly, so... A few comments I heard after the screening let out: "What a waste of time..." , and "Why was that a special screening?!?! Hasn't it been done for 2 years now and been paned at festival after festival?" Sorry dudes, can't answer that one.

One thing that the AICN Special Screening scramble has made very clear is the pseudo-class system within this little microcosm of Alamo South civilization. (VIP = First Class, BADGE = Middle Class, Regular ticket buyers = Lower Class). I'm kind of surprised they let in so many VIPs for the special screenings when most of them are already friends with the director and/or Harry Knowles, Tim League etc. I mean, they've probably seen the movie already anyways, and had just come from having lunch together at a strip club. Give us lil' dudes a chance!!! Only 20 BADGE people made it in. In the future, I think they should designate at least one special screening for the BADGE people.

Oh well, maybe I'll get into tomorrow's Special Screening. On the other hand... I think I'd much rather just go watch a weirdo Japanese flick with some excited manga nerds than share a theater with jerks like ___ ______ .

My mind (and body) was fighting with me today. I guess 3 days of 9-6 work, followed by movies until midnight or 2 AM - without my regular afternoon nap - isn't really treating my body (and mind) right.

So I felt I was cheating the Thai film Alone when I went into it sluggishly, especially since I was looking forward to seeing it as soon as FF had announced that it was screening. Like many Asian horror films, Alone relies on the supernatural and the payback of bad karma to drive it's story. Pim, is the survivor of a Siamese twin operation. Upon hearing of her mother's illness back in Korea, Pim decides to go home for bit. But the reincarnation of her dead twin sister, Ploy, now haunts her childhood home.

The trouble with Alone is that, despite it's interesting premise, it feels kind of run-of-the-mill compared to other Asian horror films that have mined similar territory (A Tale of Two Sisters, Wishing Stairs, The Uninvited...). Not to mention Brian DePalma's Sisters.

[NOTE: A short called Lump played before Alone. I found it the more fulfilling of the two. It plays on the fear of breast cancer (which I'm not sure is a fear to be "played" with, but...), lump detection anxiety, and surgery.]

Up next was La Belle Bete (The Beautiful Beast). Again, I'll take into consideration my drowsiness, but I thought this film was a disaster. It's a dark humor horror flick with an incest twist. Mom likes son because son reminds her of her late husband. Son is flattered by mom by is really in love with his horse (non-sexually). Daughter resents mother for dad's death and manipulation of her brother so she starts stroking brother's penis in the bath tub and pouring boiling water on his face in a plot designed to break-up the sick love triangle taking place up in their crib!

La Belle Bete has an decent soundtrack, and props should go to the casting director for finding a man that really does resemble a horse, but methinks director Hussain spent too much time trying to stay loyal to the novel and it hindered his abilities to make a strong film based around it.

Think Catherine Breillat, but 18 times more tedious.

Saturday, September 22, 2007

FANTASTIC FEST : DAY 2

Actual things that happened at Fantastic Fest tonight:

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1. Dude behind me in line talking about Timecrimes to his friend dude: "I don't wanna spoil the plot, but let me just say ... YES! ... it's true what they say about the girl in the movie. (very excitedly, but in a hushed tone) She has the best tits I've seen on a chick in 15 years!!! I was gonna blog about it, but then I thought, eh...I don't wanna sound like a pervert".

2. Dude walks up to me and says, "Is this the line for Wrong Turn 2?" ... "Yeah" ... "Cool." Then he pulls out a Manga comic and reads until the line starts moving.

3. Dude walks up to me and Manga dude and says "Is this the line for Wrong Turn 2?" ... "Yeah", "Yeah" ... "Cool". Then he pulls out his PSP and plays until the line starts moving.

4. After the credits roll for Wrong Turn 2, director Joe Lynch picks up the mic and farts into it making the dead tired staff and audience laugh to pieces.
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I had a very interesting time watching the very, very low budget horror/chase film Five Across The Eyes tonight. 20 minutes in I thought it was crap. 1 hour in I thought it was maybe pretty great. 93 minutes afterwards I couldn't decided what side of the fence I was jumping to.

It takes getting used to, both visually and sonically. (In the director's own words: "This might be the worst looking film you'll see at the festival"). But the movie making grows more confident as the film rolls along. And refreshingly, Five Across The Eyes stays away from glorifying gore or violence. Don't get me wrong, the film is disturbing, but the camera doesn't bathe over the victims like in Hostel, Rob Zombie films, or the work of the new French Sadists (The French New Sade?... I called it first).

But what really made me sit up care was the unique sensitivity that director Greg Swinson gave to his girls. They start off as caricatures of High School girls, but end up reacting like naturals. The moments where the girls confess dishonesties to each other in the face of survival are actually quite touching.

I'll say this about Five Across The Eyes, I'm not fully sure how I feel about it, but it's been on my mind more than anything else I've seen so far.

Wrong Turn 2 was the opposite of Five Across The Eyes. It's all fun and games. Gore and boobs. Whores and rubes. Probably just exactly what the target audience member at Fantastic Fest looks for in a film.

Wrong Turn 2 also has the distinction of being a slasher sequel that is better than the original (not that the original was anything, but...). Before the movie, director Joe Lynch mentioned admiring Re-Animator as a kid, and it comes through in his film. The over-the-top gore is not so far away from the work of Stuart Gordon, or early Peter Jackson. Maybe it's not quite as slapsticky as the latter, but it definitely has it's roots in goofs.

Lynch has a skill at creating gooey sight gags, but not as much when it comes to humor. Think of really bad (not "offensive" bad...but "bad" bad) "lesbo", vegan, redneck, and penis jokes and you're probably around the neighborhood he plays in. Wrong Turn 2 is too long, and the story gets pretty boring pretty quick, but it if you let yourself get pulled in with the cheering Alamo crowd you might just get a bit of a B-movie boner. I'm sure Mr. Lynch would take that as a compliment.

Friday, September 21, 2007

FANTASTIC FEST : DAY 1

The big hurrah festival-opening screening this year was Diary Of The Dead, George Romero's new film. I went straight to the Alamo from work, hoping that there were at least a few bad seats left. But nope.

Later that night I saw Romero leaving the Alamo, and he didn't look very well. I mean that he looked sick, like "disease" sick. I hope his alright. He was moving gingerly and appeared rail thin. But it was cute to see his biggest fans trailing him like jesters to a king. If he would've been wearing a flowing cloak, no doubt the legion would be carrying its tail.

So the default second choice was the Japanese film Wicked Flowers. Some dude outside the theater was correct when he said "it looked like a student film". Yep, it did. And it drug (dragged?) like one too. The quirk of Wicked Flowers is in the script, while the film making makes you daydream what it coulda been with a bigger budget or an ambitious director. The Fantastic Fest pamphlet labled it "Lynchian", but I didn't think so... unless the fact that there are a lot of red curtains in it makes it "Lynchian".

The premise is about a young, male, Japanese NEET (Not in Education, Employment, or Training) that leeches off his parents, plays video games all day, and buys all his clothes online. So, like The Game and the Saw series, an anonymous "man behind the curtain" decides to teach this ungrateful boy a code of ethics by challenging him to a game of survival. But Wicked Flowers is the type of film where you just know the finished product wasn't close to what the director had originally envisioned, and it was a disappointing start to the festival.

But Timecrimes made up for it. It's Fantastic Fest's first real find. You can imagine it carving out a niche for itself on the foreign film/indie circuit sometime in the near future. It has the feel of early Guillermo Del Toro, if Del Toro was less into monsters and more into suspense. Which may not be such a coincidence since both directors hail from Spain. In person, Vigalondo is playful and gracious, and he was beyond honored to be premiering his film for a bunch of us dorks in Austin.

Timecrimes is about an everyday married man that gets caught up in his own self-fulfilling prophecy ... literally. In hindsight, it might sound ridiculous trying to summarize the film... but here goes: Hector stumbles into trouble, then stumbles into time traveling, then deliberately time travels, then multiplies himself times three, then tries to kill his multiplied selves, then gets bored, then... (all that and more in just 88 minutes). Knowing the predetermined result of each fateful move, Hector can't resist falling down wormhole after wormhole. For some relief, Vigalondo inserts a recurring gag of Hector bumping his head as some kind of subconscious "DOH!".

Yes, Timecrimes is a first feature, and at moments you can tell, but if the next screening pulls a full theater it just might have a chance of ending up a festival favorite (or winner?).

Thursday, September 20, 2007

FANTASTIC FEST : DAY 0

The official starting time for Fantastic Fest 3 isn't until today at 6:45 PM, but the nice people at Ain't It Cool News and Alamo South decided to give badge holders a special Fantastic Fest-Eve gift basket.

On Tuesday, news dropped that there would be a sneak preview of The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Bob Ford with Casey Affleck in attendance (in addition to Affleck, director Andrew Dominick showed up for the Q & A as well...) for badge holders only. Today, they opened up tickets to the general public, but when I got to the Alamo I was still given the royal treatment as a "badge holder" ("Oh! Why hello Mr. Osborn. Please go on in sir..."). The peasants had to sit against the wall, and only gained admittance once the "badge people" got their pick of seat. Hmph!

So... on to the movie...

The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Bob Ford is about as long and cumbersome as its title. At 160 minutes, it runs 40 over, and it seemed like there was a collective nod to that point once the credits finally rolled. Brad Pitt plays Jesse James as an existential anti-hero. He's Sartre in cowboy boots. "Do you ever think about suicide?" he asks Charlie Ford (Rockwell). And before he offs one of his riders James says, "I can't count the stars anymore. I lose track .... your body remembers what your mind forgets" while the clip-cloping of the horses mimic the finger snaping in a beatnik coffee house.

An even odder portrayal is that of Bob Ford played by Casey Affleck. I don't know if it was Affleck's choosing or that of director Dominick, but Ford comes off like an obsessive teen getting off on an idol crush. He keeps a box of James Brothers clippings under his bed, and has memorized all of Jesse James demographics and "accomplishments" as if Jesse were a sports star. In one scene involving some inter-family gun play, Ford sits bashfully on the bed in his pajamas fingering his pistol like it's a My Little Pony. And in a later scene with Jesse, Ford sits Indian-style on the floor, fiddling with what looks like a wooden set of Weeble Wobbles. I know the adjective preceding Ford's name in the movie title is "coward", but was he also known to be an unassertive 9 year old in a 20 year old body?!?!

[Interestingly, during the Q & A, there was a sense of tension between Affleck and Dominick when talk came to "direction of character". I can't remember the exact phrase, but Affleck made it clear that Dominick was somewhat of a bull to work with and that they butted heads on ideas quite a few times.]

The swell photography, and the Nick Cave/Warren Ellis soundtrack will probably get TAOJJBTCBF (phew...) enough congratulatory reviews to get its Metascore somewhere up around a 72, but Dominick's mythic retelling doesn't get near the heights of say Walter Hill's The Long Riders or Fritz Lang's minor, and storybook like, The Ballad of Frank James. TAOJJBTCGF is a weepie western, and sadly, predictably, it feels too much like a western of our times, and sometimes I don't think I was made for these times.

Wednesday, September 19, 2007

DELIVERANCE

After watching John Boorman's Deliverance for a second time, it seems to me a perfect companion film to his 1985 movie The Emerald Forest. The setting, in both films, is nature under construction. In both stories, land is being cleared in order to build dams for future energy sources. The construction of the dams brings a society towards progress, but they also stunt the lifeblood of self-sustaining habitat.

The first lines uttered in Deliverance are "you wanna talk about the vanishing wilderness?". On their way to a canoeing trip, Lewis (Burt Reynolds) preaches to three buddies about what he sees as the "tragedy of industrial sprawl". Others in the caravan argue that construction is just "progress", but the romantic ideals in both views hit a wall when the four men reach their destination and greet some locals living by the rivers edge. They've chosen a vacation spot where evolution came to die.

Watching the film today, the toothless, inbred, and unwashed clan - now famous in pop culture - may come off as a bit over-exaggerated and silly, but this was Boorman's intent. He means to show these separated-from-society people in an extreme light. They are like underdeveloped half-humans; monster by-products of a forgotten time. (Unfortunately, this idea of Boorman's has been used and abused by many of today's horror films: Calvaire, Wrong Turn, Shietan, The Hills Have Eyes (remake), Cabin Fever, House of 1000 Corpses...)

The interesting think about Deliverance is that it can be taken as an argument for or against industry pushing into nature. Lewis swoons over the virtues of the forest and the purity of wildlife, but it's that same natural landscape that bred the backwoods people who eventually bring horror upon the four city boys.

Late in the film, after reminiscing over happier days, one of the locals laments "this town deserves to be under water". Is Boorman arguing that the land clearing will be an eventual good for these locals? Some much needed slate-cleaning to a community trapped in time, four decades behind the niceties and customs that a civilized society functions on? Perhaps. Or perhaps Boorman is just fascinated that as man progresses, nature stoically stays the same... and continually kicks our ass.

Tuesday, September 18, 2007

BRITISH TEETH ... MOHAMMED'S FAULT?

What would you do if you went to the dentist's office for your yearly check-up and the dentist on-call was "the older brother of former Islamic extremist Hassan Butt, who once declared he had 'no problem' with terror attacks on Britain and who said that September 11 "served the pleasure of Allah"?

Hmmm.... I'd be a little nervous. But hey, you can't judge a kook by his brother... right?

OK, now let's say you find out that the same dentist was "featured in immigration hearings involving an asylum seeker suspected of providing a safe house for Kamel Bourgass, an Algerian terrorist jailed for life for stabbing PC Stephen Oake to death in Manchester in 2003.

Alright! By this point I think I would be removing that little blue bib that they put around your neck and start making up some excuse. But wait... come on! Give the guy a chance!

OK. So you sit there, and wait... and wait... and wait... and finally the dentist comes in, but before the drilling starts, he "asks whether you are Muslim; told you words to the effect that, in order to receive treatment from him, you would need to wear appropriate Islamic dress; and quoted to you parts of the Ahadith (The Ahadith is a series of instructions on behaviour attributed to Prophet Mohammed)"?

Well.... at this point, I don't think it's up to you anymore if you can stay or leave.


Check out the full story -----> Daily Mail

Monday, September 17, 2007

STICKY FINGERS

Ewww!!!!

The Atlanta Braves' fans are gross!

A recent "study" by the Soap and Detergent Association (I know...right?!?) said that only 57% of men at Turner Field washed their hands after using the toilets. (USA Today)

[a quick shout out of sympathy to the poor guy that had to sit in the bathroom for nine innings and count the number of dudes that didn't wash their hands....]

On the other hand (haha..."hand"....erm), 95% of women at Turner Field did wash their hands!

This confirms the suspected truth: Men are totally disgusting.

The results don't surprise me though. Any sensible man I know avoids going to the restroom at a ballpark because they are quite possibly the nastiest places in America.

Uh oh! I feel a TOP 10 list coming on.....


Top 10 WORST places - if you're a man - to use the restroom:

1. Sports arenas/stadiums
2. Public park
3. Outdoor rock concert
4. Gas station that you need a key for (and said key has a block of wood as the key chain)
5. Airports
6. Any restaurant where the staff shares a bathroom with the customers.
7. Adult video store
8. Bookpeople (Austin,TX)
9. Indoor rock concert
10. Zoo

"YOUTH WITHOUT YOUTH" POSTER


I don't think I like the poster, but who cares... what's most important is that it signals the first Francis Coppola film since The Rainmaker (10 years ago!!).

SAGGY PANTS LEGISLATION

In cities such as Atlanta and Trenton, N.J. city officials are passing laws that would slap a fine - and in some cases handcuffs - on men for wearing pants that hang below the booty.

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Proposals to ban saggy pants are starting to ride up in several places. At the extreme end, wearing pants low enough to show boxers or bare buttocks in one small Louisiana town means six months in jail and a $500 fine. A crackdown also is being pushed in Atlanta . And in Trenton, getting caught with your pants down may soon result in not only a fine, but a city worker assessing where your life is headed. (AP)
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I can understand if a person's bare bottom or genitals are showing, but their boxer shorts? And why is this particular style being singled out? Is it because it's typically associated the with hip-hop or "gangsta" culture?

If you wanna argue that low-ridin' pants are an issue of "indecency laws" then why aren't they slapping fines on women with g-strings hanging out their low ridin' sweatpants? And what about the 300 pound woman that thinks she's sexy enough to wear a tube top to the mall? And how does cleavage get a pass?!?!

Mark Wise of Trenton says he lets his Levis hang low for practical purposes:

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"The reason I don't wear tight pants is because it's easier to get money out of my pocket this way," Wise said.
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OK ... so that pretty stupid too, but not as stupid as wasting tax payer's money by having cops stop you on the street for your style of jeans.

P.S. On g-strings issue...

Ladies: I don't how that trend got started, but guys really prefer to see pantie lines on a woman instead of a jock strap. If you wanna toy with a man, give him some VPL action. Sorry, but anytime I see a thong on a woman, all I can think about is poop dental floss.

Friday, September 14, 2007

DUH!, HE DID IT

I'm not a mindmelder, but I couldn't help wonderin' if the cover of O.J.'s new book is a "tell". Check it out:



The book looks like it's called I DID IT. But in small type, inside the "I", there is an "IF". Is O.J. just taunting us? Wagging his knife in our face like an index finger? I think he knows what he's doing with that cover, and it's pretty sick.

So is the "Exclusive Commentary" by the Goldman Family!?!?! Huh??? There are other ways to raise money for your son's foundation than teaming up with the guy that murdered him!!!


Sadly, this publishing debacle leaves the door open for a whole new genre of "I didn't do it!" / "Yes you did!" choose-your-own-adventure books: Michael Jackson and the parents of the boys he molested.... Catholic priest O'Grady and his victims.... Sen. Larry Craig and the bathroom cop.

But what I'm really waiting for is the movie adaptation of I DID IT ....er "IF" I DID IT. It will be like Rashomon, ... but really bad. Hmm... maybe that can be Stephen Soderbergh's next project:

OPENING (San Francicso, 1960)

(Narration over montage of Orenthal as a child...)

"O.J. was a gentle boy. He rode his bicycle around and crafted intense diary entries in his spare time after 14 hour work days."

(Narration cont'd ... montage of young Ron Goldman...)
[note: insert menacing music here...undecided on what though.....]

"On the other side of town lived an evil little Jew by the name of Ron Goldman. He never worked, sucked blood from bunnies, and frequently held Palestinian flag burning parties..."

Thursday, September 13, 2007

PRETTY BIRD...PRETTY BIRD

Awww.... cute Katie!

Gossip mags always go after Katie Holmes, but it's the one named Middleton that gets my heart crushing.

Would you laugh if I said I had a dream about her? No, no... not a naughty dream ... a cute dream. We were in school together. Books, and sidewalks, and knee-length skirts.

The above picture also make me think there is a trend going on with the famous girls I crush on, because Kate comes off looking like the British Lauren Conrad in that photo. Smart, ambitious, aggressive...yet still making the effort to look simplistically classy and pretty.

Although.... I also crush on Elisha Cuthbert, and according to my wife she's far from classy. She's a "____ing ___ ___ ___!!!!!" So, yeah, I guess I have an affinity for the simplistically skanky as well.

p.s. Nice calves, KM!