Friday, October 31, 2008


The Russian Communist Party is pissed off that Ukranian-born actress Olga Kurylenko is the latest Bond girl in Quantum of Solace.

"In the name of all communists we appeal to you, prodigal daughter of poor Ukraine and deserter of Slavic world." (Yahoo)

If there's one thing Commies have never understood, it's the art of romance and seduction. (Why do you think Nabokov didn't fit in???) Granted, Eastern Europeans weren't exactly born with the type of diction that lends itself to window serenades and booty calls, but dudes need to learn a little finesse. That type of tone only works when you need your old lady to gnash some yeast.

"[The Soviet Union] gave you free education, free medical care but nobody knew you would commit an act of intellectual and moral betrayal that you would become a movie kept girl of Bond, who in his movies kills hundreds of Soviet people and citizens of other socialist countries: Cubans, Vietnamese, North Koreans, Chinese and Nicaraguans.

Sergei Malenkovich, head of the party's regional organization, told The Associated Press that latest Bond movie is 'an insult for Russians'. "

They do know about Red Dawn and Red Heat, right??

"In this movie they wanted to show that a Ukrainian girl sleeps with an American. It's a part of information and psychological war."

Actually, sir, the psychological war started when your former Prime Minister, now President, did the following in front of the world:

That will never not creep me out! Even if it was just a zerbert (I'm not convinced it was...) it's still icky-poo yucky! But the best thing about it is the kid on the left scratching his head like "Um,... what in the fu*king hell is he doing?!?".

Thursday, October 30, 2008


A while back, blog buddy and recent marathon runner (!), Jason Bellamy, asked if I'd like to participate in an e-mail volley about documentaries. I told him "absolutely", but only on the condition that the work was pro bono. I just wouldn't feel right getting paid to blabber on about my view that documentaries equal "lazy cinema". (It took some arm twisting, but Jason finally ripped that $10,000 check in half).

So... did that "lazy cinema" label get your blood boiling???? GOOD! Because what I'm trying to do here is get you to click over to Jason's excellent blog The Cooler and get involved in the discussion.

But first... be sure to read the transcript that Jason's posted of our excited and geeky back-and-forth. Yes, it's rather long, but it's the weekend, and most of you are too old to go trick or treatin', so put on your favorite Halloween mask and come join us for some old people couch n' laptop fun (no, not that kind...).

Plus, the discussion is a perfect lead-in to next Tuesday's (that's November 4th!) highly-anticipated, much debated, and controversial episode of 90210.

P.S. Don't forget to participate in the Politics & Movies Blog-A-Thon that Jason is hosting from Nov. 4th - 9th.

Tuesday, October 28, 2008


While some of us were hoping Peter Jackson would take the $500 quadrillion he made from the Lord of the Rings decade and funnel it into some radical special effects splatter-comedy fare, he ended up getting distracted by a CGI gorilla and apparently just can't quit those damned Hobbits!

Coming off of a Spider Man decade, some of the same fan desires were placed at the feet of Sam Raimi. And while it looks like he might be going back to Spider Man for at least a fourth time, he was able to sneak in something called Drag Me To Hell.

I'm excited, and I'm glad they ended up with Alison Lohman in the lead instead of Ellen Page. Nothing against Page, but I like Lohman better. Oh, and Sage Stallone is in it!

Here's the plot as described by Worstpreviews :

In "Drag Me to Hell," an unsuspecting young woman (Lohman) becomes the recipient of a supernatural curse cast upon her by an older Eastern European woman who was defied and humiliated by others.

Lohman plays a loan officer who won't give one to an old lady (Lorna Raver) and gets hexed for her heartlessness.

Kind of a fitting plot for our current credit crisis, huh? But can you blame Lohman? I wouldn't give a loan to a woman that looked like that. I mean look at her grill! If she can't take care of her teeth then she sure as hell ain't paying back a loan.

Monday, October 27, 2008


The Visitor is one goofy movie. Like the recent An American Carol, it is so drenched in its own agenda that it ceases being a movie early on. Scene after self-gratifying scene, writer/director Tom McCarthy uses the creation of NYU global economics professor Walter Vale (a poorly "veiled" attempt at symbolism if there ever was one...) to grapple with issues of white guilt. Richard Jenkins - a mild talent that people frequently misjudge as "great" simply because they recognize him from other movies - plays the depressive, widower professor going through life's motions until he finds his groove in the rhythm of the djembe drum he learns to play from a squatter unknowingly living in his apartment.

In the characters of Tarek (Haaz Sleiman) and Zainab (Danai Jekesai Gurira), McCarthy does a disservice to real-life illegal immigrants by using these Syrian and Senegalese characters as race defined chess pieces. There is no honest attempt at understanding or empathic reach extended to the struggles of immigrants seeking asylum in a country he or she now considers home. McCarthy can only resort to silly Ellis Island set-pieces that intend to expose Walter's unappreciated sense of citizenship. On a ferry to Staten Island, Tarek's mother (Hiam Abbass) asks Walter if he's been to the Statue of Liberty. He says no, she looks surprised, he recoils in shame... ungrateful Americans!

Later, a women approaches Zainab's hand-crafted jewelry table at a street fair. After admiring her work, she buys a bracelet and asks Zainab where she's from. Zainab tells her Senegal, and the woman responds, "Oh, I was in Cape Town once!". But when the woman leaves, Zainab's neighbor leans in and snarks, "How far was your home from Cape Town?", "About 800 miles", she answers as they snicker together. Stupid Americans! (But, you know, this is just absurd to me. How believable is it that a new immigrant could turn into snotty New Yorker in just six short months. Right???)

These unbearable moments build and build, ultimately leading to The Visitor's uber-climactic moment of idiocy: After Tarek's mother unsuccessfully tries to get him out of an immigration detention center, she weeps "It's just like in Syria", referring back to the time her husband was jailed by the government for writing an article in the Damascus newspaper. Yes, being in the country illegally, ignoring asylum rejection orders, and then being deported - on American dime - back to Syria, is just like a citizen of a country being jailed for free speech. Mean Americans!

Like many well-intentioned political films that get tangled-up in rhetoric, The Visitor lacks any semblance of visual clarity or beauty that could have alleviated some of the heavy-handed pressure put on the viewer for the entire feels-like-forever 103 minutes. McCarthy's direction is dispassionate and the camera work is flat, never once attempting expressiveness in a film that hinges on the drama of humans. But that's just it, McCarthy puts the sermon in front of the drama, leaving an empty shell of a film resting in the middle of central park. Thing is, when you bang on it, it just sounds hollow.

Sunday, October 26, 2008


Anybody paying attention to domestic politics and world affairs over the past eight years will bring a lot of mind-baggage into a screening of Oliver Stone's W. It's a bit unsettling at first. Every real-life character - from President Bush to Ari Fleischer to George Tenet - have body doubles up on screen, so fighting off the urge to giggle at impersonations may take some discipline. (This fades quickly. However, Thandie Newton's Condoleezza Rice remains painfully cartoonish throughout.) The film rolls on as a series of dramatic highs (80% approval rating after 9/11... how bizarre is that!), and lows, back-and-forth between well-known signposts of George W. Bush the President and his life prior to that.

It's uncommon to have a biopic hit theaters when the subject is a figure still so prominent in our daily lives. Yet as biopics go, W. is, itself, fairly uncommon. Equal parts historical fiction and father/son melodrama, W. sufficiently sells itself to a freshly ideologically divided America in the midst of a Sarah Palin obsessed media culture. Like Tina Fey's nonpartisan spoofing of that Republican Vice Presidential nominee, Stone gives the audience plenty of the Bush knocking they crave without spinning off into that unbearable red-fanged lunatic fringe territory.

With age, Oliver Stone has become humble. His fervor to cram info-messages down our throats has softened with his maturity and a calmer, more artistic approach to his subjects has emerged. (Phedon Papamichael's emotionally tuned-in cinematography is some of 2008's best.) Because of this, W. feels like Oliver Stone's most personal film in years. And while it's clear that Stone is anti-Bush, the director has little interest in playing puppeteer for an audience of Bush-haters simply wanting more of the "alright already" that they can get daily from their favorite cable shows and internet hangouts.

Indeed, the parts of W. which drag deepest are moments we've already been through ad infinitum: the pre-Iraq war room discussions, Karl Rove's string pulling, Bushisms, Dick Cheney domination, etc. Some of these scenes linger, grow tedious, and slow the film down, yet at film's end - W. is bookended by scenes of Bush at his favorite place, center field at Arlington Stadium - the significance of them is clear. It is Stone's intention to challenge viewers opinions of President Bush by running those common knowledge bumps up against a more human story of an ugly duckling "Jr." growing up in the shadow of George Bush Sr. and his more accomplished brother, Jeb.

In fact, Stone is most generous to George W. Bush when it comes to the origins of his born-again Christianity. Framed in between the lines of Bush's well-known battle with alcoholism, Stone portrays our president's return to god as a form of faith-through-therapy. Not just from alcohol but via the ego bruising inter-familial Bush clashes, Stone expresses sympathy for Bush when he bucks expectations and includes a scene of touching vulnerability between Bush and his preacher. Equally, Stone shows how Bush's overzealous evangelicalism bled over into his life decisions and political electioneering. (This running motif in W. bests the entirety of Bill Maher's worthless Religulous.)

It's that interpersonal battle, within Oliver Stone, of trying to understand George W. Bush that makes W. much more across-the-board approachable than one may have previously thought. The film isn't great, but it's a fascinating result from an extremely ambitious undertaking. Loathe it or love it (or neither), W. is a film that will work with whatever experiences you've had with this 43rd Presidency.

Part of the W. experience is seeing it in a full theater. Because there is plenty of red meat, certain scenes will set off the pack, howling as they congratulate themselves on their shared opinions. When a youthful, Lyndon Johnson lovin' Laura Bush (the great Elizabeth Banks) says to a pre-gubernatorial, Goldwater readin' George W. (Josh Brolin, also great), "You're a devil... a devil in a white hat!", the guy next to me snipped "yes, he sure is!" as if hoping to receive an "attaboy!" from the people around him when we all just wanted him to stop talking. (Are these the same people that clap on the treadmills at the gym when Jon Stewart gets out a good one-liner???... what is that?!?!?). Catharsis through cinema? It just very well may be. As we hit ad nauseam on electoral politics approaching November 4th, W. oddly makes for some appropriate and entertaining escapism.

Friday, October 24, 2008



"Steven Soderbergh Making 3-D Rock 'n Roll Cleopatra Film"

I am seriously a serious artist, y'all...


I was so distracted by the disturbing headline yesterday that I failed to see this in the news article:

"The punk rock group Guided by Voices are believed to have written the musical score for the film already, while the script is being written by the band's bassist, James Greer."

This isn't too bizarre since Robert Pollard scored Soderbergh's Bubble, but does
"Guided By Voices are believed to have written the musical score for the film already" mean that Soderbergh is just gonna use old GBV songs to drive the film??? Because they've been broken up for years now. I mean, will Cleopatra (2009-2010) have a scene with Mark Antony singing "My Valuable Hunting Knife"?

What makes that scenario likely is that James Greer is writing the script. Yes, that "James" Greer, as in Jim Greer... as in the former SPIN Magazine writer, Jim Greer... as in formerly married to Kim Deal, Jim Greer... as in the bassist on Alien Lanes, Jim Greer. That guy is writing the script?!?

This is getting weird... especially when you go to IMDB and find out that Greer wrote the scripts for Larry The Cable Guy : Health Inspector and Lindsay Lohan's Just My Luck.

Thursday, October 23, 2008


I don't know much about the particulars of camera mechanics, but I'd imagine that cinematographers aren't too jazzed when a director tells them they'll be overseeing a bunch of "highway footage". The tough work pays off well for the viewer, though. Tracking shots, in general, are pleasing to the mind and eye: smooth, fluid, horizontal, seamless. But add to that the high speeds of the open road and they can become as close as you get on Earth to a genuine space ride.

Spielberg's Duel is the obvious touchstone here when it comes to technical savvy (Sugarland Express has impressive road shots as well), but rarely has a highway adventure film given us a character so robustly entertaining as Roadgames' Pat Quid. In a note perfect performance from Stacey Keach, Quid is an expatriate Australian truck driver who talks to his dog, murmurs bad puns, eats lots of celery, and loves poetry. It sounds like a goof of a character, and it could've been had someone miscast a Clive Owen type in the role, but Keach is suave, sardonic, and sweet; a big-hearted eighteen-wheeler.

Escaping a barely touched-on past in America, Quid sits in his captain's chair like a perched bird observing the paved world beneath him. Kids in Kiss make-up, station wagons hauling sports equipment, hitchhikers, a Just Married couple pulling a "Parenthood", and... a serial killer? A guitar-playing serial killer who uses guitar strings to strangle his victims? Yeah, the plot to Roadgames ain't much, but credit the visual gags of Richard Franklin and the sharp-tongued dialogue of Everett De Roche for making a near genre masterwork out of these simple pieces.

Jamie Lee Curtis shows up midway as a 19 year-old runaway ("I walked away", she tells Quid) that's introduced as a sort of Ricky Shroeder type sidekick but quickly which evolves into a forbidden buddy/love interest for Quid once he realizes she's able keep up with his verbal wit and references. (It's easy to think you're the smartest man in the room when your only competition is an obedient dog!) But a high-budget movie this unique can't stay that way forever, and Roadgames soon falls in line with conventional thriller tropes. Luckily, Franklin and De Roche are sharp enough to roll with it and insert original frights of their own, including an excellent killer reveal and a gonzo kangaroo moment that rivals Large Marge's climactic appearance in Pee-Wee's Big Adventure.

It's funny, I love watching horror/thriller movies, but I never get oiled-up over them like many of my friends do this time of year. (Call me old-fashioned, but Christmas is the holiday where I like to break out the classics, such as the John Lithgow/Dudley Moore/Burgess Meredith masterpiece Santa Claus : The Movie). However, I strongly urge everyone that's read this far down to go out and rent Roadgames before next Friday. And if you DON'T like it, I will watch one of your lame recommendations as a refund. I mean, do you really wanna watch Halloween for the 29th time? I mean, that movie's approaching It's A Wonderful Life-type status in the holiday overkill department!

Roadgames in '08! It's the right choice

Tuesday, October 21, 2008


It's nice to see this picture of Heath Ledger from his final film, The Imaginarium of Doctor Parnassus:

I don't know if he plays a clown in the film - in the photo he looks like a cross between the phantom of the opera and the mime from Children of Paradise (with jeans on) - but I like to think someone involved with the film released this still as a rejoinder to his unfortunate Joker role in The Dark Knight.

I wasn't a real fan of Ledger's, but I thought he was budding talent and was kind of bummed to see his last hurrah be of a stupid sadistic clown in a comic book movie. Who knows, maybe he plays a flat character in this movie too; it's the photo alone that I like...

... because in this photo, in my fantasy, it appears that Ledger has just walked through that glass darkly, taken a knee, removed the clown mask, and is giving a quiet, muted "fu*k you..." to Christopher Nolan and all his friends.

Monday, October 20, 2008


I've always admired San Francisco-by-way-of-London film critic David Thomson, not only for his encyclopedic knowledge of Hollywood (see his A Biographical Dictionary of Film & The Whole Equation: A History of Hollywood, among others), but for his consistently provocative opinions that escape the charge of knee-jerk contrarianism.

Thomson is a free thinker, and that tends to chap the hides (and typing fingers) of his peers. So, it's not that Thomson necessarily sets out to be a provocateur, it's just that film critic circles have become such incestuous (group) think tanks that if you've read the gal from New York, you've read the guy in Chicago, and you've read the transgendered in LA. Don't even get me started on those pesky bloggers!

Thomson published a commentary today in the Guardian UK, about how modern Hollywood doesn't have the talent to artistically respond to the current economic crisis the way studios did with The Great Depression-era in the 30's and 40's:

You only have to look at the films the US mainstream has made in this century so far to know that we lack the talent or experience that will count. In 1930, the talent in American pictures was from literature, the theatre and journalism, with educated backgrounds and a shared sense of the moral identity in being American. Today's talent consists of absurdly rich young people who have made the hits of the past dozen years. They know very little about life, except what they have to lose.

Those people and much of the audience have lost the habit, or even the memory, of hard times.

That "shared sense of moral identity" - or lack thereof - is exactly why Hollywood's Iraq War-era films have tanked. Critics and filmmakers alike scrambled to make sense of that, usually coming up with the ignorant conclusion that audiences weren't interested in seeing films about war during war time (this is code for "we think film audiences are dumb").

But back to that "shared identity". John Ford, George Stevens, Preston Sturges, onto Elia Kazan in the 50's, Martin Ritt in the 70's, and someone like John Boorman with a film like Where The Heart Is in the 80's, connected with audiences because the experiences felt like they were from a common place. Check out the indispensable insight of Martin Ritt from that University Press Anthology of Interviews. It's striking how his social liberalism of the 60's and 70's contrasts with the more obnoxious, angry-mob mentality of today.

Still, I don't know how much I agree with Thomson's charge (even he himself, offers a bright spot at the end of his piece). Populists like Steven Spielberg, Kevin Costner, and maybe a Clint Eastwood - despite their class status - have the ability to make the type of empathetic social films that Thomson says are lacking. Of course, comparing the era of The Great Depression to today's fractured economic climate is already a misfire in itself, but Thomson is tapping into something true here. I mean, who in their right mind wants jokers like Toby Gilroy, Steven Soderbergh, Steve Gaghan, and Paul Haggis representing them? ANSWER: More disconnected jokers like themselves... and Mark Cuban.

Saturday, October 18, 2008


In 1958, with The Left Handed Gun, Paul Newman and director Arthur Penn sucked the well-storied mythic qualities out of famed outlaw Billy the Kid. Instead of a chew-spittin', whore-hittin', son-of-a-gun that could shoot the teeth off a beaver three hundred yards away, Newman's Billy was reimagined as a beautiful, tortured every-kid not unlike James Dean in Rebel Without a Cause. Fifty years later, with Paranoid Park, Gus Van Sant tries to restore that mythic outlaw quality to high school skater youth.

Van Sant calls his period of work from Gerry to Last Days the death trilogy, but closer examination reveals that, starting with Elephant and up to Paranoid Park, Van Sant has really been celebrating destructive, young outcasts as the western anti-heroes of our time. Murder, drug abuse, suicide, and manslaughter are the dirty deeds that Van Sant gets dangerously close to justifying with his characterizations of Alex & Eric in Elephant, Blake in Last Days, and Alex in Paranoid Park.

Because he's always been wise in the department of hiring talented directors of photography (Christopher Doyle shot Paranoid Park), Van Sant has cleverly been able to fool audiences and critics alike into thinking that there is substantial depth to his artful meandering. In fact, that folly reaches a goofy pinnacle when critics start comparing Van Sant's casting of faceless models to the blank acting style that Robert Bresson pushed on his actors. The difference is that Bresson's models either came already from trained backgrounds, or were novices with enough talent to connect with the vision of Bresson's direction.

Van Sant, on the other hand, mistakes straight-up poor acting as some kind of reach towards neo-realist charm. This is apparent in the forced reaction of shock that Alex (Gabe Nevins) gives after seeing a local Portland news story about the crime he's committed. Same for the moment when the actress who plays Macy (Lauren McKinney), is obviously mouthing the dialogue of the actor opposite her. I suppose Van Sant would argue that those bumps were left in by design and that there was artistic purpose in such a decision. Thing is, that type of argument gets swallowed whole by critics these days, allowing precedent for future crap like that to fly.

Paranoid Park is the name of the makeshift skate park that a makeshift family of burnouts, homeless, and runaways have constructed as their refuge (it's a modern day saloon, whore house, and bath house all in one). Too shy to skate with the others, Alex just goes to Paranoid Park to sit on his board and idolize the others. Though Alex's inner dialogue never gives way to an overly romanticized admiration of these punks, Van Sant insists on pushing that notion through with his camera. In one hilariously dumb shot, Van Sant shoots a line of skateboarders verting off a ramp in slo-mo, giving their frozen air time an awed sense of spiritual bravura. Later, all of the skaters at school are called to the office. One-by-one they file out of their classrooms to form a line of strutting rejects like a wild bunch kicking up dirt in Tombstone.

My guess is that Gus Van Sant envisions his current batch of films will one day serve as a kind of time-stamped portrait of Generation Whatever for viewers decades down the road. But in the way hindsight has been unkind to some of the misguided social dramas of the 50's, the message movies of the 80's and 90's (Mississippi Burning, anyone?), and the 00's documentary explosion, I predict that down the road Van Sant's work will be treated to the eternal recurring question of "What was he thinking?!?". I submit that you get ahead of that curve now and start asking yourself that question today.

Thursday, October 16, 2008


Three years after its completion, Abel Ferrara's Mary is finally getting a very limited release this weekend.

Ferrara is one of my favorite directors. He takes the ugly and molds it into passionate & personal filmmaking. He gives "nasty art" a purpose, unlike so many of the current boho nihilists.

Even in the days of Driller Killer Ferrara seemed to be on the edge of death, yet twenty-nine years later he's surviving.

Not just in art, but in education, spirit, and philosophy, Abel Ferrara is a true independent.

I love people like him.

(From MCNBlogs)

Wednesday, October 15, 2008


Last week's Presidential Debate '08 party was such a success that I decided to hold another one.

Oddly, everybody sat in the same spot as last week.:

Then the Kindertrauma guys showed up and tried to murder us!...

...but Snorg Tees girl gave them a tease and everyone became friends again.

Ah yes, and we did wrestle, again...

Tuesday, October 14, 2008


Look up Myrna Sokoloff on the IMDB and you will see a resume that reflects the quality of the screenplay for An American Carol. Or, perhaps the name is an escape-door pseudonym like "Alan Smithee" allowing the writer to become a ghost, thus saving his or her career. Some may think that by "saving" I mean covering-up the writer's conservative leanings in the decidedly liberal working town of Hollywood. But no, I mean that the script to An American Carol is so abysmal that any aspiring screenwriter should quickly want to erase it from their portfolio.

An American Carol plays out more like a list of right-wing agenda items that David Zucker wanted to hit on rather than an fully formed comedy that the well-liked director is known for in Airplane! & The Naked Gun. In fact, seeing those film's reliable eighty-two year old Leslie Nielsen hobble on screen in the film's first shot is sad foreshadowing of the eighty minutes that follow. Honestly, An American Carol barely resembles a film at all. Scene 1: Spoof Michael Moore in Cuba; Scene 2: Spoof ACLU lawyers; Scene 3: Spoof Good Night, and Good Luck; Scene 4: Spoof indoctrinating college professors. Zucker obviously wants to flex his opposition to such things, but the package he delivers it in is a pill rather than a cupcake.

This summer, in the Kevin Costner produced Swing Vote, Kelsey Grammar and Dennis Hopper played opposing mainstream party candidates in a message-comedy about America's largely uninformed electorate and its hunger for a significant third party point-of-view to contrast the Tweedledee and Tweedledum options we currently have.

Both Grammar and Hopper effectively expressed the ethical self-shame in compromising convictions in order to get elected. (Swing Vote's flip-flopping sequences hilariously bandied this about, preceding McCain and Obama's own repositioning of themselves in their 2008 campaigns.) But there is no warmth in their portrayals of General Patton and a circuit court judge in An American Carol. Instead, you sense an itchy let's-hurry-this-up urgency in their performances, as if they trusted David Zucker's track record when signing on, but by mid-production wished they had an emergency eject button in their pockets.

It's not that Zucker's targets couldn't make for some welcome and ripe fodder (see the career of Trey Parker & Matt Stone), but An American Carol simply sets up dated and hated left-wing sign posts just to knock them down. I mean, the premise of poking Michael Moore in the eye is at least two years too late at this point. (Does anyone take him seriously anymore?) Add to that Rosie O'Donnell... Leni Riefenstahl comparisons... suicide bomber jokes... all are tired and boring. The fact that An American Carol's script relies on an age old Dickensian story arch to keep these random fragments together just proves how uninterested the film's creators were in making something of substance to go along with their talking points.

Monday, October 13, 2008


Downey Jr. is playing Robert Ford as REALLY gay this time instead of "undertones of gay" like Casey Affleck did in the 2007 original.

Since Guy Ritchie is directing, expect cameos from Goldie, Tricky, and that girl from The Sneaker Pimps. Also, there will be a scene where someone accidentally gets shot and it's real crazy and intense and "funny". There will also be dogs on collars, loud pop music, and loads of British people pretending to be intimidating.

BONUS: For putting up with this post, so far, here is some toilet paper for you...

Like strategically eying the icing on a cake in order to choose which slice to eat, there are a variety of areas here to pick from for your first wipe.

It's understandable that you'd want to immediately go for BeniCheo's head, but I think the most productive move would be to go for the CHE title, becaue you could then take out the names "Che" and "Steven Soderbergh" at the same time!

Lastly, word has it that stupid skank and casting-couch heroine, Rose McGowan, will be playing Linda Lovelace in the upcoming dead pornstar's biopic. Obviously, McGowan won't be doing any research for the role.

Sunday, October 12, 2008


I found this stupid movie still. This is the first time it's ever been released to the public.

The above title is what it is because despite the loud movie, my screaming friend, and the nacho twins behind me asking each other "is that...?", "why is...?", and "what did...?" questions, I passed out in a reclining stadium seat like it was my rocking chair from grandma's porch.

Still... I feel confident saying this movie is a waste. (And poor Jay Hernandez. I think I could like the guy if he would quit picking such terrible films.) While I was awake, I don't remember anything fun happening on screen, so if I do the math, odds are that Quarantine never amounted to Dawn of the Dead 1979-levels of excitement while I was asleep either.

I'm sure others have beat me to this, but if you've played Resident Evil, then you've seen Quarantine. (Oddly, the Resident Evil movie is nothing like either!). Rade Serbedzija is in it, which is cool until it's depressing, and the shaky-cam footage just reaffirms my desire to see that style of anti-cinematography over and done with.

Which could also be said of the entire "found footage" sub-genre. Blair Witch Project, Cloverfield, Poughkeepsie Tapes etc. (the exception here is Diary of the Dead, which I thought was great). They're ugly to look at and the gimmick never leads us to anything profound. Thankfully, Quarantine spares us the ominous beginning where we're told that this footage was found by an archaeologist or crackhead or somebody, and has never been seen before... unless that moment happened while I was snoring.

Friday, October 10, 2008


So, I had a solo drive to Dallas today. That makes for some good music listening leisure (the new Cold War Kids and Verve records...) and some good reflection on stuff that work and life got in the way of in the past week. A lot of that thinking - obviously - generally goes back to movies, movie culture, and movies and our culture.

Well, since it's October, and since I'm still fresh from a sci-fi/fantasy/horror genre festival, I've kinda had that species of movie on my mind.

Last year I saw an under-appreciated horror film called The Abandoned. It was part of the original 8 Films To Die For series that's become so popular via DVD. The director, Nacho Cerda, had previously done a handful of shorts, and this week I finally watched them. One of them, Aftermath, is about a pathologist who is also a necrophiliac. I will spare the details, but I need to mention that it's extremely graphic. I thought long on this film, especially as to why the director would even want to make a such a thing.

Aftermath doesn't strive for mindless sensationalism or shock-horror (though the imagery is, indeed, shocking...). The film was made without much of an audience in mind, so entertainment value was of no concern, and despite my disliking of the film, it's technically well made. Then it hit me: Cerda's intention was to intellectualize a real-life sexual perversion that exists on the fringe of our society. But why? Is there really much left to intellectualize about necrophilia, a behavior that exists on the fringe because it doesn't have a place in civilized society? What is left to examine? In conclusion, Aftermath is simply a terrible art film with lifelike autopsy visuals.

contemplating certain evil

My conclusions about Aftermath pushed me onto thinking about the intentions behind movies such as The Woodsman (intellectualizing pedophilia), Zodiac (intellectualizing murder), I Stand Alone (intellectualizing BOTH!), and others like them. Raunchy ugliness dressed-up in art film garb in order to misdirect an audience into taking it seriously. Stay with me...

... cuz this took me to thoughts on a film I've been thinking a lot about lately, and that's one of 2008's most buzzed about horror films: Let The Right One In. Overall, I think the film is average-to-good in its offbeat handling of a pre-teen friendship, but there was something I disliked about it hanging over my head. Now, I know what it is. Director Tomas Alfredson - after realizing the genre he was working in had run its course and back thrice over - had "intellectualized" the vampire film, and poorly so. Lord knows he wasn't the first, and he won't be the last, but Alfredson's end result is nothing more than lean-on-me playground romance.

Yet because Let The Right One In has an air of heavy headed-ness about it, has clean & moody cinematography, and - let's be honest - because it's Swedish, critics have been giving it not only a pass, but an over-the-top golden halo: "masterpiece!", "best horror movie I've seen in ten years!", and all such premature excitement.

With movie culture branching out to include critical voices of all ages, backgrounds, and education (something which I think is great, for the record...), it seems the audiences who have truly become the easiest to fool are the ones that are supposed to know better.

Wednesday, October 08, 2008


When you watch a movie every night, sometimes the ego goes to the head and you think "Hmm... maybe I'm actually making a dent in the grand catalog of cinema titles?". Then you go to blogs like this one, this one, and this one, and realize you've only just begun... or, more brutally, you haven't seen sh*t yet! It's not discouraging. It's liberating, in a backwards way. So with all of these new resources, in addition to the books up on the shelf, it's pretty amazing when even word of a film can slip past you... especially one that is apparently so well known.

I first heard about Long Weekend while watching the gonzo documentary Not Quite Hollywood about Ozploitation ("Aussie Exploitation") cinema. Quentin Tarantino was explaining - in that overly expressive QT way - why it's one of his favorite films (I think he has 25,000 "favorite films"). Well, criticize Tarantino all you want, but the guy knows how to sell a rental. He may run on hyperbole, but it's that good, pure, smooth, Grade A kind.

Long Weekend survives the hype. Made thirty years ago, director Colin Eggleston and screenwriter Everett De Roche crafted a tersely paced and controlled thriller where nothing seemingly, actually happens. There is a scene where male hubby protagonist Peter (John Hargreaves) runs wild and random through the woods in broad daylight, and dare I say it's as neurotically effective as the snow-shrubbery maze chase at the end of The Shining.

Unlike modern eco-horror films (The Last Winter and The Happening) where Mother Nature is given an eye-rolling politically convenient face of rage, the Mama in Long Weekend is more indifferent to her punishment: She don't mind if you inhabit her habitat for the weekend, but once you start littering and clipping at her bushes, you best watch your back. In fact, Long Weekend kind of rides a fundamentalist theme of reaping what you sow.

Peter and Marcia are already at each other's throats when they set out on a marriage mending weekend trip. Marcia hates Peter because he loves the dog more than her, and Peter hates Marcia because she slept with the neighbor and had an abortion ("committed murder", he accuses her of). Their marital difficulties are a result of the decisions they've made. This philosophy extends into the secluded coastal area where they set up camp for the weekend.

Bad decision 1 is when Peter throws a glass bottle into the ocean. Bad decision 2 is Marcia finding a nest fallen egg and not putting it back. Bad decision 3 is Peter firing his rifle into the water and wounding a sea lion. These build until an eye-for-an-eye scenario plays itself out. Long Weekend makes this conceit fascinating by jumping beyond the culturally accepted Old Testament origins of it and arguing that such a methodology has always existed in the laws of nature.

Somehow (brilliantly, in fact!), cinematographer Vincent Monton shoots the passive landscape in a manner that evokes quiet domination. And there is caustic pain in the imagery of a still tree that's had its bark chopped off or of a sandy shore that's been bruised by tire tracks. As humans, we're always aware of our superiority amongst the creatures of Earth. But when Peter and Marcia enter their spot of leisure for the weekend, the filmmakers of Long Weekend transform the dunes into hills of dirt, making the married couple look like a pair of unsuspecting ants through a wide-angled magnifying glass.

Monday, October 06, 2008

R.I.P. : KEN OGATA (1937 - 2008)

Films he was in that I enjoyed:

The Demon
Vengeance Is Mine
(enjoyed him in the movie... don't like the movie)

Sunday, October 05, 2008


I've followed Bill Maher down a similar path. He was raised Catholic and is now a non-believer. The same is true of me. The difference is that Maher has turned his rabid agnosticism into an ideology as forceful and obnoxious as the religious extremists and fringe believers that he interviews in the new documentary Religulous. The film ends with a warring call-to-arms locker-room speech from Maher to other non-believers (and "modest believers") to rise up and fight the fight against faith for the good of humanity. Maher's crusade doesn't preach violent conversion but his line drawing comes off just as ignorant as the "infidel" speak of radical Islamic Imams.

Maher's subjects are so dead certain of their beliefs that they refuse to budge from a stance even when a twinkle of doubt is apparent in their eyes. Such is the case when Maher confronts an owner of a Christain gift shop and asks him if he truly believes in the Old Testament story of Jonah and the Whale. The store owner gets smiley and noticeably shifty when Maher says how ridiculous it is to believe that a man could live inside a fish for three days and nights.

Yet Maher suffers from the same blind stubbornness. When he stops at a tiny truckers chapel for a gotcha session with a handful of members, one trucker tells Maher that he was saved by Jesus and feels reborn. Prior to being a Christian, this man was a Satanist, living large off rolls of cash, drugs, and women. Director Larry Charles then quickly cuts to a shot of Maher in his traveling van snidely saying, "and why did he leave Satanism again???" This shows Maher's blanket unwillingness to accept even the positives that faith can have on people.

Such is the problem with the entirety of Religulous. Like Larry Charles previous film Borat, he and Maher have chosen easy marks to air their quibbles and argue their points. More than once, an interviewee says that they were unaware that "this type of documentary" was going to be made. And like Sacha Baron Cohen, Maher treats his interviewee's generosity with disdain. After the conclusion of one interview - a one-on-one with a gay conversion counselor - the interviewee offers Maher a hug, yet he can only respond with, "you didn't get an erection from that did you?"

More telling of Religulous' agenda is the way Maher and Charles run from information when it doesn't fit into their tunnel-vision screed. In one fascinating aside, Maher talks to an astronomic scientist from The Vatican, who mentions that Pope John Paul II said evolution is "more than an hypothesis". Yet Maher doesn't take this as an opportunity to explore the large chunk of Christians in America who find no conflict between their faith and the foundations of science.

But, you see, it just doesn't make for entertaining propaganda to have two opposing scholars sit down and debate faith versus agnosticism, no, cuz that would be too beneficial to people and could perhaps seal cracks that exist between disagreeing parties. Sadly, much like Mahmoud Ahmadenijad, whom Maher references often because of his wish to see Israel "wiped off the map", you get the feeling that Maher doesn't care to coexist with people of faith. He'd just prefer that once and for all they be wiped off the ideological map.

Saturday, October 04, 2008



Scott (aka El Gringo) is hosting a unique blog-a-thon this weekend. It's unique in that he is not requiring us to write anything new in order to contribute! It's the "Best Post" Blog-A-Thon: each blogger picks their best work for a kind of Anthology of American Blogging 2008.

I also like to think of this as the "Hey Scott, thanks for giving me an excuse to not have to think of original material to post for one day!"-Blog-A-Thon.

Below is my contribution. Last year, I decided to live blog the first season of Silver Spoons (I only made it through 8 episodes...) because I thought it would be an opportunity to explore the dichotomy of pop culture trends in the Reagan-era versus the .... PFFFT!! Nah, it's cuz I used to love Silver Spoons, and I have a blog, and I'm anti-social, and I'm just retarded enough do something like that.

Please leave comments too. The more accurate your recollections of Silver Spoons are, the better I will be at being able to gauge your age. After that, go over to He Shot Cyrus and enjoy the other great entries.


LIVE BLOGGING the First Season of Silver Spoons
(Episodes 1-8)


EPISODE 1 - pilot episode

10:46 - Uh oh...only 1:38 in an there is already a questionable "indian" joke!!! But a black man (the lawyer) made the joke so that takes some pressure off.

10:48 - Whoa! Mr. Stratton (the dad) just called the black lawyer a "pimp". I think the audience was a little unsure. Man, the 80's ruled!

10:51 - Mr. Stratton is out of money, but we don't know why yet...

10:52 - Hey Ooooh! Some racial and political humor as Ricky shows up cold at the dad's house.

Black Lawyer (answering the door)
Ricky : "Dad??"
Black Lawyer : "Not unless your from Philadelphia."
(BIG laughter)
Ricky: "Well, I thought it was a's a liberal!"


10:57 - The mom put Ricky in a military school? But she's a liberal?!? Maybe she was a limousine liberal...

10:58 - Oh my god....there is Kate. I thought she was so hot when I was uh...about to hot puberty.

11:03 - Ricky is sad b/c Mr. Stratton says he can't stay there.

11:08 - Ricky figured out that Mr. Stratton's assistant was stealing money from him.

11:13 - Back at military school. Jason Bateman (Derrick) is Ricky's roommate.

11:15 - Mr. Stratton takes Ricky in.

MORAL - If you have sex with a liberal, wear a condom...or at least pull out.

EPISODE 2 - Boys Will Be Boys

11:19 - more pilot awkwardness. Ricky is older, Kate is hotter!

11:21 - Black Lawyer has a facial tick. Whenever he delivers a joke he clinches his jaw...

11:23 - Ricky is in trouble for being late and the dad ponders "punishment" for the first time!

11:25 - Whoa, an Idi Amin reference by Ricky?!?!?

Ricky (on Derrick - Jason Bateman) : "Dad, Derrick's a creep! He used to write fan mail to Idi Amin!"

11:30 - Derrick is manipulating Ricky...telling him his dad doesn't really love him if he never punishes him.

11:36 - Ricky goes buck wild and finally gets punished! LOVE LOVE LOVE!

11:39 - TOTALLY FAKE tears on Ricky's freckled face!

MORAL - Kids want to be punished. Kids want boundaries.

EPISODE 3 - Grandfather Stratton

11:44 - Rick Shroeder's Boston accent just eked out..."Grandfahthuhr".

11:49 - Ricky wants to meet his grandfather against his dad's wishes. He's manipulating Kate with his puppy dog eyes to get the address...

11:53 - John Houseman (Grandfather) and Rick Shroeder actually have some rapport with each other.

11:55 - This episode totally sucks!!!....I feel bad for John Houseman having to read this dialogue.

***NOTE*** Sit-coms were longer back then. This show runs 24 minutes compared to today's running time of 20 minutes. More ads today, I presume...

11:59 Is this where the "kids are wiser than the adults" sit-com trend began? My dad hated that about Family Ties.

12:01 - do do do...dum de dum...yawn.... (I wonder if that White Stripes album is good? I can't wait to listen to it tomorrow. That Rihanna cd sounded pretty good on the way home tonight...)

MORAL - It's never too late for father and son to bury old hatchets.

EPISODE 4 - Me and Mr. T

12:06 - Hell yeah!! They make up for that dreadful last episode by following it up with a Mr. T storyline!

12:07 - It's Ricky's first day of school, and dad gives him a $100 bill for lunch money b/c he's new at this "dad stuff". That is so funny.

12:10 - Uh oh...Ricky has a black eye b/c he's the "rich kid"!

12:12 - Kate gives Ricky a rape whistle in case he gets picked on again.

12:13 - SWEEEET! Dad hires Mr. T to be Ricky's bodyguard!

12:18 - Mr. T explains "no taxation without representation" in Ricky's class.

12:26 - Uh oh...Mr. T comes out of the kitchen eating a bucket of chicken! uh??

12:29 - The multi-ethnic class stands up to the bully and teach him a lesson.
MORAL - Sometimes kids need to stand up for themselves.

EPISODE 5 - Takin' A Chance on Love

"Here I am/A tot-al loser/Watching the 5th episooOODE/of Silver Spoons..."

12:34 - The 80's sex term of "whoopie" just made it's first appearance.

12:35 - Kate is going on a Singles Cruise. Dad is jealous but won't let on...

12:37 - Ricky thinks something is wrong with his dad b/c he doesn't date. He tells his dad he understands a man "has needs", and that he does too "but he's too young to do anything about it" (he just made the "hourglass body" hand gesture). Kinda perverse...

12:38 - Holy crap!! It's the girl from Can't Buy Me Love!! She was so hot! I don't mean on this show!! Geez...I meant later in life when she was in that movie....gawd!

12:40 - Jason Bateman is back! ... and Ricky has it bad for the CBML girl.

12:44 - Dad is dressed up as Cyrano DeBergerac for a ball he's going too. How appropriate.

12:46 - I just laughed, earnestly, for the *first time*!!!...

12:48 - Uh Oh...Bateman is up to his manipulatin' again ("Sally is every guy's pal-y"). Whoa he pretty much just called CBML girl a whore!!

12:53 - Ricky is wearing a pink belt.

12:55 - This milkshake at Hilarious Hal's is called a "Slurp and Suck". hmmmm....


MORAL - Heartache is part of growing up.

EPISODE 6 - Evelyn Returns

1:28 - Ricky's mom shows up...

1:28 - She's wearing gloves w/ sleeves. I mean, really.

1:29 - Kate is kinda jealous...

1:32 - Uh oh. Evelyn wants Ricky back (remember, she's a liberal...wishy-washy on responsibility).

1:36 - Ricky's Dad and Mom were only married for 6 days, and Evelyn returns on the 6th episode. Cute.

1:37 - Pffft. Typical women...thinking they can rear and go as they please!!!

1:40 - Leonard (the lawyer) thinks the Mom has the better custody case.


1:44 - Evelyn: "If we're lucky, we can make the midnight flight to London"

1:45 - Dad just charmed Evelyn with a purple sock puppet....I think things could be turning!!!

1:48 - Evelyn changes her mind.

MORAL - Men make better single parents.

EPISODE 7 - The Great Computer Caper

1:52 - Ricky and Dad ride on in on the train, straight from a fishing trip.

1:53 - New video game addition to the arcade : SWAMP WARS.

1:54 - WHOA!! Gary Coleman guest star! And he's playing Arnold. He's at Ricky's to do a school newspaper story on Ricky's computer skills.

1:56 - Arnold's paper is called "The Pecker" (Short for Woodpecker). Seriously, this show is perverted.

1:57 - Ricky's computer looks like a retarded ColecoVision. Uh oh...he just hacked into a classified military database.

2:00 - FBI show up at Ricky's.

2:02 - Ricky has to squat down to hide ... Arnold can hide while standing up.

2:04 - Uh...something awkward just happened. Arnold held up his arms as a way of saying "EUREKA!" and Rick Shoreder thought he was trying to hug him, so he went in for a hug, but then stopped. Poor little Gary has to deal with that situation a lot, I bet. :(

2:08 - Arnold and Ricky take cover as cabin boys on a cheese ship.

2:11 - The Captain cleverly tells Arnold and Ricky a little anecdote that makes them homesick.

MORAL - Honesty is the best policy.

EPISODE 8 - I'm Just Wild About Harry

2:19 - This episode is about Bigfoot...

2:21 - Ricky is sneaking out at night to do some discovering. He ends up in a graveyard. Jason Bateman is there to surprise him.

2:24 - Whoa. An orangutan is playing an harmonica on a gravestone. Dude, orangutans are so ugly.

2:30 - Anything that the orangutan does the audience laughs at. He's like the Olsen twins on Full House. I wonder if there are two of him on set too??

2:34 - It kinda looks like Ruth Gordon...but younger, and more vibrant.

2:36 - UGHH!! What a disgusting creature!!

2:38 - The monkey's owner shows up. Oh comes FAKE RICKY TEARS!!!

2:41 - Ricky gives the monkey his Yankee cap as a parting gift. Sweet! A monkey in a Yankee cap! Just like the dorks that wear them in real life!

MORAL - Monkeys don't make sensible house pets.