Monday, March 31, 2008

"WHAT'S IT LIKE BEING YOU?"...

The above quote is from a scene in Mike Leigh's Naked, where David Thewlis looks upon Ewen Bremner with dumbfounded curiosity over why this 20th century homosapien is grappling with a predicament so inane.

Last month, the NY Times published a guest column by Ann Hood where she came out of the closet, so to speak, and revealed that she was... (gulp) married to a Republican. GASP!!!:

---
IT was happening again. I was at a cocktail party where the hosts were people I had just met, people I wanted to become friends with, and was sipping chardonnay and nibbling papadum chips when a woman said, “Oh, the people next door! They’re ...,” she paused and lowered her voice, “ ... Republican.”

Everyone grimaced. The conversation quickly turned to complaints about the current administration. Before long it wasn’t just the administration being bashed but Republicans in general.


I stood there nodding, my dirty secret lodged in my throat like a golf ball.

The woman I wanted to befriend looked at me conspiratorially and shook her head. “Can you imagine?” she said. “Right next door!”


“No,” I lied.

Not only could I imagine a Republican in my neighborhood, I could imagine one in my bed. Every night. I’m a Democrat married to a Republican.
---

That passage is one of my favorites of the year b/c it perfectly exhibits - unbeknownst to the author - the high-minded bigotry of pseudo-intellectuals. "I was at a cocktail party where the hosts were people I had just met, people I wanted to become friends with, and was sipping chardonnay and nibbling papadum chips"... Hilarious, and an all-time classic!

Well, yesterday, the Times published another goody... a piece on people that break up with their lovers over their taste in books.

---
“I know there were occasions when I just wrote people off completely because of what they were reading long before it ever got near the point of falling in or out of love: Baudrillard (way too pretentious), John Irving (way too middlebrow), Virginia Woolf (way too Virginia Woolf).” Come to think of it, Collins added, “I do know people who almost broke up” over “The Corrections” by Jonathan Franzen: “‘Overrated!’ ‘Brilliant!’ ‘Overrated!’ ‘Brilliant!’”

and...

“I did have to break up with one guy because he was very keen on Ayn Rand,” said Laura Miller, a book critic for Salon. “He was sweet and incredibly decent despite all the grandiosely heartless ‘philosophy’ he espoused, but it wasn’t even the ideology that did it. I just thought Rand was a hilariously bad writer, and past a certain point I couldn’t hide my amusement.

and lastly...

Judy Heiblum, a literary agent at Sterling Lord Literistic, shudders at the memory of some attempted date-talk about Robert Pirsig’s 1974 cult classic “Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance,” beloved of searching young men. “When a guy tells me it changed his life, I wish he’d saved us both the embarrassment,” Heiblum said, adding that “life-changing experiences” are a “tedious conversational topic at best.” (NY Times)
---

Hmm... and you wonder why so many white, privileged, educated thirtysomethings whine and complain that they can't find steady love. Well, YOU might wonder, but I don't : It's them, stupid!

MEMO to people that break up b/c their partner reads a book they find objectionable: Focus on the positives that initially attracted you to that person, and learn to live with your disagreements.... IT'S CALLED RE-LA-TION-SHIPS!

Maybe it's a bit of the "opposites attract" thingy, but the couples I know that have the healthiest relationships - including my wife & I - are those that have differing opinions on a variety of things. It's the confidence to stand-by your convictions that is attractive, not mirror-image agreeability.

Sunday, March 30, 2008

STOP LOSS

Sometimes I get a kick out of embarrassing my wife. Sometimes it's unintentional : making noises in the grocery store that are audible to other customers. (I think they're cute... she turns red). And sometimes it's intentional : saying "oh my god...", or, spraying "pfffft!" during obnoxious trailers at the art house theater.

The latter happened during the trailer for Stop Loss, just before Christmas. It screamed, "STOP: this is an important film!", and the yippie couple in front of us were all "right on, preview!", so I couldn't help myself. (Still, I probably deserved that elbow she planted in my side). When I told her I was going to see Stop Loss this weekend she couldn't understand...

[NOTE: Why must I constantly explain this?: 1. I like movies. 2. I like thinking about movies. 3. I like writing about movies. 4. I can't do #2 or #3 without seeing movies.]

... "What !? (sigh), if you end up liking it I'll give you $10 (BIG sigh with a slight push-off and a roll of the eyes)". Well, she can keep her $10, but she owes me at least $1.35.

The first 30 minutes of Stop Loss are pretty good. Instead of slamming us with her personal take on the war in Iraq, director Kimberly Pierce gives the spotlight to the soldiers. Their digital video montages and base camp camaraderie feels natural and relatable to today's 25 and under generation. Dialogue like, "Don't fire yet, there are too many civilians", and "We should just drop a bomb on the entire country" express a soldier's frustration with feeling honorable, angry, and homesick at the same time.

Pierce even brings a rare Hollywood sensitivity to small-town Texas when the soldiers arrive, while on leave, at a welcoming party in their home of Brazos. The excitement and sincerity with which Pierce films the parade - adorned with stars and stripes on everything from caps to light posts - is refreshing after Richard Kelly's snotty and hateful take on Abilene,TX, last year, in the dreadful Southland Tales. But after Brandon (Ryan Phillipe) gets stop-lossed, Pierce flips the switch, and her film goes south.

Her free and easy point-of-view gives in to the urge of delivering crowd-pleasing "message" scenes:
1. Tommy (Joseph Gordon-Levitt) singing "courtesy of the Red, White, and Blue" - from that Toby Keith song - as he walks off to commit suicide.

2. Rico (Victor Rasuk), already without one leg and one arm, saying he would go back to Iraq and die "just so my family could get green cards".

3. A fellow AWOL soldier - living in a dilapidated motel where room numbers are written in permanent marker - telling Brandon that he's fleeing to Canada so his sick child can get better health care.

and the worst...

4. Brandon calling Steven (Channing Tatum) "stupid" for re-enlisting.
Moments like these betray what Pierce had accomplished in the film's first quarter. Her open mind gets clouded by agenda. Surely, making a film that revolves around a story of stop-lossed soldiers provides for a timely and provocative film, but by not accounting for the soldiers whose lives have benefited from volunteering for service, Stop Loss feels dishonest. The only conclusion we're left with is that serving in the military destroys your home, health, and heart.

What I'd really be curious to hear, are the thoughts of Iraq War veterans after watching Stop Loss. From soldiers who are against the war, to soldiers who are for it, to soldiers that feel like they're just doing their job. Not that Kimberly Pierce's view is unwelcome. Her brother was stop-lossed. I just think, with a movie like this, the best film critics could be our soldiers.

Saturday, March 29, 2008

"WE CAN'T HELP YOU" - STEPHEN MALKMUS & THE JICKS

Given the song's title - after falling under an album title like Real Emotional Trash - you'd expect "We Can't Help You" to be a cynical little slack ditty. The lyrics add to that hunch:
There's no common goal/There's no moral action/There's no modern age/From which to run away/There's no grace in love/With a new projection/There's no sky above/For you to cry into
Booooo!

Stephen... we know you're a reluctant lyricist, but how 'bout spraying some cheer on that cloudy veneer? WELL... the jokes on you, Jick! No matter how hard you try and keep it cranky, you just ain't the negative type.

Contrasting with the lyrics, Malkmus' early A.M. lilt, and his band's Dylan-esque chapel shuffle, instantly reveals that day-after optimism that the songwriter - even in Pavement's early days - could never slag off.

And you can really let go of any lingering thoughts of nastiness once drummer Janet Weiss brings back her much-missed Quasi harmonies in the "Laaaaaa la la la LA, la la la la la" of the chorus. (Weiss is irrefutably one of rocks top drummers, but she's always absolutely GOTTEN IT when it comes to backing vocals).

In "We Can't Help You"'s final verse, Malkmus finally concedes:
Well, I've seen the storm/It is off your shoulder
Sir Malkmus, you, in your modest ways, may think you can't help anybody, but for many, many, years now your music's been doing exactly that.

Thursday, March 27, 2008

A STONE AT HAND WILL CAST FOUR IN THE BUSH

Olive Stone has the primary actors set for his George Bush Jr. movie, W.
We already knew about Josh Brolin as Bush 43:

(Dude.... I've never noticed this before, but Brolin in The Goonies is totally a tribute to Joe Dallesandro in Flesh.)

but now... we know that...

James Cromwell will pay Bush 41:


Ellen Burstyn will play Barbara Bush:


(this is actually one of the early leaked stills from W. It looks like Oliver Stone intends to play-up the whole Bohemian Grove thingy.)


and, Elizabeth Banks will play The First Lady, Laura Bush:


The casting of Banks is dead on. Check out her face. It's almost identical to a younger Laura Bush!

As for the rest of the casting??? Eh... who cares. I just wanna know who will be playing the Bush daughters. I would lobby for The Olsen Twins!

Tuesday, March 25, 2008

OMG... UWE BOLL, PLZ B MY BFF!

WORST CRITIC QUIPS EV-ER!

Forget, for a second, how unappealing the design for the poster of War, Inc. is ("Hey guys! Let's line some bullets up on the bottom and replace one of them with a roll of cash in order to mock the military industrial complex!! Yeah, yeah... OMG, brilliant!!....oy), and look how horrible those critic quotes are (CLICK TO ENLARGE):

I mean, really!

What is that?!?! Full paragraphs? Imagine squeezing those onto a TV screen for a teaser.

And, btw, nice round-up of critical minds you've got there... Pete Hammond of Box Office Magazine (and formerly of Maxim), Vicky Ward of Vanity Fair (and, really, everything else... but not a filmhead), and Naomi Klein (incoherant commentator and sourpuss anti-capitalist).

If you can't take in the text of a film poster in 15 seconds or less, then it's a failure. Back to the drawing board dudes....

Monday, March 24, 2008

DRILLBIT TAYLOR

Weezer's "Photograph" pumps out over the end credits to Drillbit Taylor. While that ditty - from the king of the liberated nerds himself, Rivers Cuomo - plays as a fitting coda to a film about three hopeless high school freshmen, Drillbit Taylor doesn't match the look-at-me-know vindication in that flawless song.

Instead, the film comes off more like Superbad - The Early Years, replete with prepubescent versions of Evan, Seth, and McLovin in Wade (the lanky one), Ryan (the curly-haired fat one), and Emmit (the third wheel). This isn't a surprise, considering Seth Rogen co-wrote and Judd Apatow produced, but it's a disappointment after learning that the original brainchild of Drillbit Taylor was John Hughes.

Had Hughes - who seems to have dropped off the pop cultural map a la J.D. Salinger and Don Van Vliet - directed, or even fleshed-out the script a bit, Drillbit could've been special ... something in between Uncle Buck and Weird Science. What Rogen and Apatow seem to lack, thus far, is an understanding of the awkward, acned drama that goes hand-in-hand with surviving the seven period battleground.

Sure, Superbad nailed the horny-ness of Seniors like no other film I've seen, but it's not exactly a multi-layered character study. (In hindsight, after watching Superbad's DVD extras, one wonders how much of that film's greatness is attributed to Michael Cera's improv and Jonah Hill's riffing, rather than Rogen's script.)

But it's nice to see Owen Wilson back on screen after his personal tragedies of 2007. That trademark Wilsonian charisma is the most winning thing about Drillbit. During a flirtatious hall scene with Wilson, Leslie Mann appears to become so charmed behind-the-lens, that you half expect her to get all Purple Rose of Cairo and bust through the screen with Wilson en route to the nearest empty projectionist booth.

But Wilson's best scenes are with the kids. He has a presence with the teen actors - on display in You, Me, and Dupree as well - that hints at a new, lighter direction for him. Perhaps his real life started blurring too much with the extravagant excesses of Zoolander and Wedding Crashers. Drillbit is a homeless man with a clean slate, and on the road to building his life back up. Hopefully, Owen Wilson is doing the same.

Saturday, March 22, 2008

SNAKE EYES SURFACES

The coolest G.I. Joe comes to live-action life:


Although I am not a fan of the forearm, tricep, and forehead stress lines, they've done a pretty nice job of making Snake Eyes not look lame. His rubbery pecs and six pack are a little too Bale-y Batman for me, but oh well...

Now I wanna see Storm Shadow...

Friday, March 21, 2008

ASIA'S DYSPLASIA

I love tattooed and bruised skanks.

I don't mean that disparagingly. They are liferz. They've lived hard and been scarred. The type that probably put out cigarettes on the chests of their male conquests.

Mostly... mainly... I think, I'm attracted to them out of sympathy.

Take Asia Argento. In my opinion, her dad was a scumbag for casting her in he and his buddies giallo films, and for telling her inappropriate bedtime stories ("The only things her father would read to her at bedtime were his movie scripts" [Swindle] ) .

It may not be true that violent movies corrupt the impressionable mind, but when the parent of that young mind is the creator of Tenebre (stylish as it is in its slashing...) then that makes for a very interesting case study in itself.

Well... in honor of Asia's role in the just released Boarding Gate, the NYT put together a photo essay of her. Here is my own private slide show:








...un amore per sempre, la mia Asia. nel mio cuore siete benvenuti eternally.

Thursday, March 20, 2008

SEPARATED AT BIRTH (#8) : "CONTEMPT" AND "MULHOLLAND DRIVE"

I watched Contempt again last night, and, midway through, started feeling some similarities between it and Mulholland Drive...

Briget Bardot's wig:



Laura Harring's (on your right) wig:


The shadow dancing in Contempt:


The shadow dancing in Mulholland Drive:

Three other, more obvious, similarities:

1. Both films end with the word "silencio" spoken.

2. Both films have a fractured love story at the center.

3. Both films are about Hollywood.

However, like most of my self-excited revelations... somebody else got there before me.

From the Lost on Mulholland Drive web site:

*Camille (in Contempt) gets into an early 60's convertible with a film producer who makes a pass at her - Camilla (in Mulholland Drive) gets into an 40's convertible with a film director who kisses her.

*Contempt is a French film, partly made by American money - Mulholland Dr. is an American film, partly made by French money.

*The Contempt poster is reminiscent of Camilla's photo résumé.

*Camille wraps herself in large red towel after her bath just as Rita does after her shower.

*Both, Camilla and Camille get into a near-to-impossible car crash.

So... if you get bored this Easter weekend, pop in both films and see for yourself... or, don't see, and laugh me off as a idiot with too much time on his hands!

I LOVE MOVIES!!!!

Wednesday, March 19, 2008

MAKE ROOM FOR KATIE

I've blabbed and blogged about my love for "Kates" ... Kate Middleton, Kate Nash, and (Blond) Kate Moss ... but it's time to amend the Kate rule, and allow room for the skinniest vowel to work its way in between the t and the e.

Kat-I-e!

As in Katie Holmes. She's so adorable these days...

But Kate Middleton is still # 1. I gots the crushes so bad on that one that I've actually had dreams about her. And not gross dreams, but dreams where we are watching baseball and looking through used cds together.


And just cuz....

Hey... don't tell me there isn't something psychological going on here, b/c my wife's name is KAT!

Who knows... maybe I was conditioned at an early age... maybe I was voodooed by some girl in junior high... whatever the cause, I'm a lucky man!

p.s. Sophia Bush, Elisha Cuthbert, Anna Faris, Carla Cugino... if (when) you read this, do not feel slighted. Y'all are still in my Top 10, it's just that your parents really screwed up when they named you... sorry.

Tuesday, March 18, 2008

THE H.I.S.B.S.C.F.D. BLOG-A-THON : PHOENIX RISING IN "PHANTOM OF THE PARADISE"

------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------- Final Girl is hosting (in what's sure to be the record for longest blog-a-thon title...) the Hey, Internet, Stop Being Such Cynical Effing Douchbags Blog-A-Thon! It will be a one day only explosion of movie love and feel good appreciation without the red tape of bitter infighting (I think...). Please click here and enjoy all of the entries as they pile in throughout the day!
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When I think of a filmmaker that fills me with "total unbridled f*cking retarded joy", Brian DePalma immediately comes to mind.

There is:

* The opening shot in Snake Eyes...

* DeNiro's 16mm peep sequences in Hi, Mom!...


* Amy Irving's telekinetic terrorism in The Fury...

* The Craig Wasson/Melanie Griffith Frankie Goes to Hollywood porn tracking in Body Double...

* The split-screening of the split personality Michael Caine in Dressed To Kill...

* Every second of Raising Cain...

* Every second of Femme Fatale...

* Every second of Blow Out...

* Every second of Phantom of the Paradise...

But, whoa... this is a blog entry, not a book, so let me slice off a piece of that last masterstroke and squeeze some love into it as hard as I can.

Jessica Harper was only 25 when she starred as Phoenix, the would-be chanteuse of Winslow's doomed Faust cantata. The audition scene in Phantom of the Paradise, where she sings "Special To Me", features Harper coming out of that adorable brown-eyed precociousness and rocking the cord of a hot mic like it's a whip or leopard's tale.

True, it gets awkward at times - especially when Phoenix's end song dance looks like she's riding an imaginary pony - but the performance is some much needed in-person validation for the hapless, nerdy Winslow: a poor schmuck who's been conned by Swan (the weirdo Paul Williams), sent to jail, had his teeth knocked out, and got mutilated in a record press machine.

Following Greetings and Hi, Mom!, Phantom... was the last time Brian DePalma was able to let his playful freak flag fly. If it feels good, shoot it! No restrictions, it was just total unbridled f*cking retarded joy!

Monday, March 17, 2008

EXCITED

Ever since I saw just one still of Barbara Stanwyck in Anthony Mann's The Furies, I was on a mission to see the movie. But it must be out-of-print because none of the deep-catalogued video stores in my town had nary a sniff of it on their shelves.
BUT NO MORE!!!

This June....


Oh Barbara... I love you.

Sunday, March 16, 2008

DOOMSDAY

How did this cutting-room-floor storyboard of a movie escape the grip of the January dump machine and win itself a slot in the spring break release week? Excellent question! Maybe it was the minor success of writer/director Neil Marshall's previous film, The Descent, that gave Universal high box office hopes this time around.

Well, you get what you pay $28 million for, I guess. Marshall is the type of directorial half-wit that thinks it's cheeky to play The Fine Young Cannibals while a tribe of fenced-in Scottish savages tear the roasted flesh off a captured English soldier. The Descent was bad, but Doomsday descends past the point of intolerable, where you start counting cuts per minute because there's nothing better to do. So far, this is 2008's cinematic low point.

Like Marshall's first major league full-length, Dog Soldiers, Doomsday is an assault on the eyes. Not for the reason of striking, brutal imagery, no, but for the A.D.D. editing that denies your brain the hunger it has to swallow down one fluid frame. "Hey! If it's too fast you're too old!". Nah, it ain't about that. The construction of Doomsday is a matter of covering up the potholes in the celluloid. It's like a terrible band cranking up the reverb so you won't notice the shanked notes.

All of this is a shame, because Rhona Mitra (as Sinclair) has as modern female action hero on-screen demeanor that rivals Milla Jovovich in the Resident Evil films, and Kate Beckinsale in the Underworld films. Their strapping sexuality is convincing. It bests the cutaway fake-ness in Buffy and the cartoonish-ness of the Kill Bill girls. Even the bitch-feminism of Ripley, in Aliens, feels a tad contrived compared to this new breed.

Here's to hoping that these ladies - especially Jovovich - won't tire of this genre after starring in less than stellar vehicles. The fantasy/action film needs a woman's touch, and the new breed is ready to rule! Now if the male directors would just get out of their way...

Friday, March 14, 2008

MAIMING MAMET

So David Mamet "came out" this week in the Village Voice and said he was no longer a liberal. To me, making a public declaration such as that is as silly as holding a press conference to announce that you're gay, or, if you're Larry Craig, to announce that you're NOT gay. But whatevs... I'm sure it was cathartic for him.

Soon after Mamet's unveiling, theater critics, - as is procedure when any artistic type expresses a conservative viewpoint - started going bonkers... specifically in England where they seem to be really passionate about their stage stories. I guess Shakespere was from there, or something.

Micheal Billington, of The Guardian, wrote a blog entry entitled "David Mamet has swung to the right: how depressing". If the title of the piece didn't make it clear that he was "depressed" over it, Billington gets right to it again in the opening sentence (parentheses mine):

---
I am depressed to read that David Mamet has swung to the right. In an essay for the Village Voice, Mamet claims he is no longer a "brain-dead liberal" and increasingly espouses a free-market philosophy (GASP! Oh my!) and social conservatism (didn't really see much of that in his article, actually...). As a citizen, Mamet is free to do as he likes (Well, how gracious of you Mr. Billington...). What worries me is the effect on his talent of locking himself into a rigid ideological position (um... pot calling the kettle???). (Guardian)
---

It gets funnier...

---
In short, I've always seen Mamet as an inordinately complex writer: one whose apparent tough-guy, Hemingway-esque stance conceals a sensitivity to social and sexual issues (Aye, now that he is conservative this must no longer be true...). But when Mamet talks openly of his admiration for conservatives like Milton Friedman and Paul Johnson, I begin to worry that he may be painting himself into a corner (wow! I never knew that reading the opinions of two free-thinking, accomplished, minds could be so limiting...) Already in his last but one play, Romance, seen here in 2005, there were tell-tale signs of his talent going off the boil. (Ah hah! It's b/c he was going conservative!) And the precedents for a shift to the right on the part of creative artists are not exactly encouraging. (...........)
---

I can just picture Mr. Billington sitting in front of a makeshift campfire, tonight, scanning all of Mamet's plays for signs that he shoulda seen it coming(!!) then tossing them into the fire in order to cleanse his tainted soul. "Ew!! I can't believe I let a conservative touch me!"

Thursday, March 13, 2008

PUSHING OFF A LITTLE ON "NO COUNTRY FOR OLD MEN"

I watched No Country For Old Men, for the second time, last night. I still like it, but I don't like it as much as I thought I liked it the first time I liked it. Let's say - on the universal Netflix measuring stick - that it fell from a "REALLY LIKED IT" to a "LIKED IT".

Which is weird... because thirty minutes in, I was feeling a bump of a "LOVED IT" status coming on. So what happened?

Up to the point where Llewelyn puts his wife on the bus, No Country is pretty flawless. Josh Brolin commands the screen like a Fritz Lang protagonist: a decent man finding himself, by chance, wrapped up in a plot with only dead ends. And Javier Bardem, pursuing to the beat of a blood-stained code of ethics, frightens, not because he kills, but because he seems to have the ways of life figured out.

But when Llewelyn hits the road, and the Woody Harrelson, and Tommy Lee Jones sub-plots kick in, the enticement drains. And where Barry Corbin's wheel-chaired and feline infested monologue once felt like appropriate punctuation, it now feels like a cameo in one of those 18 crime scene dramas on television ... silly and overwrought.

[NOTE: Why can't the Coens ever get accents right? Sure, Tommy Lee Jones and Barry Corbin sound authentic, but they're native Texans. The deputy??? Sounds like a goober. Carla Jean's mother??? A weak attempt at regional humor. Kelly McDonald and Stephen Root don't do well for themselves either. I'm sure the Coens exaggerate inflection on purpose ... sometimes it works (Raising Arizona, Tom Hanks in The Ladykillers), and sometimes it's annoying (Fargo) ... but it serves as a distraction in their less comedic/more serious films.]

Simply: No Country For Old Men has already aged... and not in that well kind of way. In contrast, I watched The Darjeeling Limited for a second time, Monday night, and I now think it's greater than I did the first time I thought it was great.

Sadly, no new doors opened up on my second viewing of No Country ... just a few shut windows.

Wednesday, March 12, 2008

SHE WAS HOT...


... worth $4300 for a 2 hour session, and the shame of your family? Hell no!

But... she was pretty hot.

p.s. I'm predicting $1.8 million for a book deal.

p.p.s. Will Oprah have her on? Is that too skeezy for Oprah?? Yeah... but she'll definitely have Mrs. Spitzer on sometime soon.

THE ROAMING GNOME

****UPDATE!!!****


THE PLOT THICKENS:

Our sources in Argentina have revealed that the gnome in questions is actually the creepy knife slashing dwarf from Nic Roeg's Don't Look Now!



This was our source:

TRACTOR FACTS has obtained the crazy gnome footage that is rocking the world!!!

Who cares if it's real or not... what's important is that this 49 second clip is better than Cloverfield:

Monday, March 10, 2008

14 DEADLY SINS

If David Fincher ever entertained the idea of making a sequel to Se7en (Dear Obama, please no!!!...) the Holy See has just helped him along with the screenplay:

---
The new seven deadly, or mortal, sins are designed to make worshipers realize that their vices have an effect on others as well.

"The sins of today have a social resonance as well as an individual one," said Mgr Girotti. "In effect, it is more important than ever to pay attention to your sins."

[...]

Mgr Girotti said 1.) genetic modification, 2.) carrying out experiments on humans, 3.) polluting the environment, 4.) causing social injustice, 5.) causing poverty, 6.) becoming obscenely wealthy and 7.) taking drugs were all mortal sins. (Telegraph)
---

So while we wait to see if Brad Pitt reprises his role in 4ourteen, let's think about this new breed of bad deeds for a second...

The CLASSIC seven deadlies were straightforward: Greed, Wrath, Sloth, Envy, Lust, Gluttony, and Pride. One word... no mixing about ... just straight-up old school directives.

But these new ones?!?!? "Causing poverty" ... could you be more specific? ... "taking drugs" ... what about Levitra? ... "becoming obscenely wealthy" ... is the Pope gonna lay down a salary cap or something?

I feel bad for Catholics that are gonna twist themselves up over whether they need to go to confession or not. Like, if you drive to the store in your non-hybrid, or, skip out on jury duty, without confessing, are you hell bound?

CHINA BANS TANG

---
China’s newest film star, who shot to fame in director Ang Lee’s sexually explicit spy thriller Lust, Caution, has been blacklisted by the Beijing authorities.

The ban on Ms Tang, which has not been officially announced, was ordered in part because of the sex scenes but in the main because the movie has been deemed to glorify unpatriotic behaviour, Chinese sources said.

[...]

The State Administration of Radio Film and Television (SARFT) sent a memo to all television stations and print media last Thursday ordering a halt to broadcasts of a new advert in which Ms Tang promotes Pond’s brand skincare products. Her deal was reported to be worth 6 million yuan (£450,000) to the actress who was plucked from obscurity by Mr Lee to star in the film.

The Taiwanese director expressed dismay at the move. He said: “I am very disappointed that Tang Wei is being hurt by this decision. She gave one of the greatest performances in a movie that was properly produced and distributed. We will do everything to support her in this difficult time.”
---

More -----> HERE

4 MONTHS, 3 WEEKS, AND 2 DAYS

There's something a little creepy about a tense abortion drama that doesn't pause to grapple with the personal morality of a mother after she's decided to terminate her pregnancy. Especially when said mother wears a golden cross around her neck. Unfortunately, 4 Months, 3 Weeks, 2 Days director, Cristian Mungia, becomes so preoccupied with his "can they pull it off?" trajectory, that important character probing - which could have made 4 Months interesting - gets ignored

Admittedly, Mungia does an convincing job conveying the look-over-your-shoulder paranoia of life in 1980s communist Romania. Actors are framed in tight hallways, doorways, and rooms. Sounds startle, and civil distrust is rampant. The iron grip of the government has trickled down among the citizenry, paralyzing person-to-person courtesies of hotel clerks, doctors, and neighbors.

But is abortion the right "right" to use when examining the oppressive lean of an intrusive/abusive state??? Is Mungia hamstrung by his pro-choice agenda??? In The Lives of Others the crushing of political dissent among artists in communist East Germany was the focus, but director Henckel von Donnersmarck inserted that into the playing out of simple relationships, ambition, loyalty, and charity. The gravity of living in a police-state was felt more deeply because of the breadth of it's reach.

Another similar, and far superior, film, Vera Drake, dealt with the illegality of abortion in 1950's England. Vera's decision to perform abortions for poor women is born out of sympathy and kindness. She is a moral, ethical enigma in herself, and director Mike Leigh used Vera to bounce off societal and familial conditions that exist around one of the most tirelessly debated human topics of our lifetime.

In 4 Months, 3 Weeks, 2 Days, when the abortion happens, and the fetus is covertly disposed off, a brush across the forehead is felt. The two women then retire to a restaurant and stare emotionless across a table. It's an appropriately vacant conclusion to a means-to-an-end drama because the means are never allowed meaning.

Sunday, March 09, 2008

10,000 B.C. : AND A WHITE MAN WILL LEAD THEM

With his latest cheap-looking show boat, Roland Emmerich re-imagines the world, 12,008 years ago, as some type of hippie hero fantasy land. A dread locked white boy goes on a search for his dread locked, blue-eyed beauty who has been abducted by the establishment (i.e. The Almighty and his band of slave-driving, utopia-loving, "four-legged demon" yes men).

D'Leh - looking handsome above - fights killer ostriches, horse-whispers to a saber tooth, gets mystical about the moon, plants crops, and leads a legion of black men into liberating themselves (and pyramid slaves) from The Almighty. That last bit comes off as more than a little condescending, because, for some inexplicable reason, large villages of capable black warriors are unable to rise up until a white man shows them the way.

It's all good though, cuz after the prehistoric revolution gets realized inside The Almighty's palace, D'Leh frees the slaves and gets the girl (Emmerich throws in a Snow White-like resuscitation for bad measure...). In the end, it's all a little curious that this adventure is supposed to take place 10,000 years "before Christ" because D'Leh sure comes off like the messiah himself ... albeit, much more chiseled and sexy than J.C. was. Or, so they say...

Friday, March 07, 2008

IT'S CHOW TIME! : FORBIDDEN CITY COP (1996)

On the release day of the new Stephen Chow film CJ7 (sadly it's not opening in my city, yet...), I find it is very necessary to revisit the classics of my hero, my main man, my imaginary BFF!
Forbidden City Cop has one of those lost-in-translation titles. Chow plays Fat, not a "cop", but a protector to the emperor. His heart, however, is in being an inventor. An inventor of domestic devices that makes life easier on his wife. Oh, and he's also a gynecologist... see what I mean??? Chow's films take delight in absurdity without ever quite going off the edge of madness.

At the heart of FCC is Fat's relationship with his wife. Chow's comedic take on the manners of marriage brings to mind the screwball comedies of Capra and Lubitsch, yet updated and culturally connected to the customs of the Pacific Rim.


But the lunacy of the action sequences and cross-dressing counseling sessions is all Chow. His imagination is powered by a juvenile stream-of-consciousness with nobody around to edit it.

Unfortuneately, mainstream American audiences have been separated from experiencing this exuberence. Take, for example, Chow's first stateside domestic release, Shaolin Soccer. Miramax butchered it to a cute 87 minutes - the Hong Kong version is 113! - because they never know what to do for a movie that isn't Pulp Fiction.

I can't wait to see CJ7, and I hope it ends up getting a mid-market push the way Kung Fu Hustle did. Watch the trailer for it -----> HERE

Thursday, March 06, 2008

"DEAD SOUND" - THE RAVEONETTES

Stephin Merritt appropriately titled his new collection of reverb pop songs Distortion, but as it's played out in this first quarter of 2008, that title should belong to The Raveonettes. In fact, why not have the two artists do an exchange: Lust Lust Lust (a title that also serves Merritt appropriately...) goes on over to the Magnetic Fields, while Distortion trades over to The Raveonettes.

While their melodies aren't nearly as sophisticated as Merritt's - The Raveonettes' tunes stay loyal to the songs of the spectacled Lubbock, Texas songman they honor in namesake - they cover-up their shortcomings by globbing on feedback and alien boy/girl harmonies a la My Bloody Valentine (not especially good songwriters either...).

Track # 4, "Dead Sound", from the new Lust Lust Lust, is the mightiest example of this formula. It's nothing but physical, visceral pleasure. These are chords and melodies and hooks (a drum machine/xylophone break lifted straight from Suicide's "Cheree") that you've heard before, but that's the point. The Raveonettes are archivists, pale-faced pop chemists rejecting the idea that no sound is indeed ever dead... they might just need to be retroactively defibrillated now and then.

Wednesday, March 05, 2008

NOTORIOUS

The primary casting for the Notorious B.I.G. biopic is done.

Rapper Gravy is Biggie:


Derek Luke is Puff Daddy:


Anthony Mackie is Tupac:


and Angela Bassett is Biggie's mom:


Outside the casting of Gravy, I think they did a pretty poor job... especially in the cases of Derek Luke and Angela Bassett. The director should have pushed for no-namers.

I hope I don't end up laughing like I do every time I see Cate Blanchett as Bob Dylan. That's gotta go down with the all-timers goofers, like when Burt Lancaster played Massai in Apache.