Saturday, May 30, 2009
Wednesday, May 27, 2009
Walter Huston plays the "George Bailey" in this brief, 81-minute Capra pic. No, Thomas Dickson didn't sacrifice his hearing by saving a kid from an icy pond, but he's the banking equivalent of a good Samaritan, a jolly and generous branch manager too good to be true. So good, that he will lend out a loan without much collateral on the other end. (In this way, actually, Huston more closely resembles Jim Carrey's "Carl" from last year's Yes Man.) But don't you just know that Dickson's thrifty lending is gonna pay itself back when the proper time comes?
American Madness' quickly delivered, universal message works because it's on a infinite spin cycle of sorts. Capra's film is almost symmetrical, the ending reprising the beginning as events come to a comfortable close. But there is some darkness here. There is crime, and there is death, and there is a slightly uncharacteristic black humor to Capra's handling of it all.
In fact, the one scene that stood me up and stood out amongst the predictable idealistic pleasures was the darkest place I've even seen Capra go to (though I'm certainly not a well-versed Capra devotee). The sequence involves Huston, guilt, a gun, and a silhouette by the office drapes. I won't say more as for wanting to keep it special for anyone else who will see it, but the scene deserved a sad round of applause mid-film, for sure. Perhaps this moment was the result of American Madness being a pre-code film. Regardless, it felt otherworldly compared to my frame of reference for movies of this time, a sweet surprise that I probably wouldn't have experienced if not for the Paramount.
Monday, May 25, 2009
But there is also something culturally current about Terminator Salvation. All of the Terminators have had an "end of days" scenario looming over them, but this latest episode fully lives in the dystopian nightmare that the previous films only hinted at, a calculated nightmare brought upon humanity by a silent, intangible, global elite. Well, for news nerds like myself, many of you may know where I am headed here... that's right, Bilderberg/NWO/Jekyll Island. Just name your preferred powerful puppet-master poison and you'll be on the track. Those who follow the conspiracy theories attached to these big names will know that the elimination of 80-90% of the world's population is one of their "agenda items". Sky Net's mission statement probably says something similar.
Lest you think I'm stretching it here in my attempt to connect a modern and topically hot form of global paranoia to T4, well, check this out...
The Halcyon Company produced Terminator Salvation. THC is a newly formed, independent media venture that owns the rights to the Terminator franchise and who also plan on releasing a series of Philip K. Dick film adaptations (Flow My Tears, the Policeman Said is currently in production). I'm no Philip K. Dick expert, but an "Orwellian future" is something I feel safe in saying the author drew upon in some of his work. The same can be said of the Terminator franchise. Interestingly, it was just reported a wee few days ago that The Halcyon Group purchased the rights to The True Story Of The Bilderberg Group, a book about... well, you know. Whether this will makes its way to screens as a documentary or a political-thriller starring Clive Owen, I don't know, but it makes for some fun brain candy when you're out of Twizzlers and there's still forty minutes of a mess of a movie left to stare at.
Saturday, May 23, 2009
The film's title doesn't refer to the temporary female companionship that Chelsea's socially and sexually dissatisfied customers purchase from her, but to the commitment she craves in an after hours living partner. She seems to have found that in Chris, a personal trainer who accepts Chelsea's offbeat profession, but that soon falls into jeopardy when Chelsea decides to go on a weekend trip with a client who matches up well with her beliefs in Personology ("it's NOT astrology!", she corrects her friend... um, ok). Chris doesn't approve of her overtime ("we agreed on no out-of-town jobs!"), but Chelsea lets her voodoo beliefs drive her decision making anyway. Soderbergh ends the film in a fashion that film-journo types might call "artistic", but I think he just didn't know how to end it.
When I first heard of Soderbergh casting the young (and veteran... sad how the Adult industry works) porn star Sasha Grey in a mainstream film, I was intrigued. This wasn't just a cameo for the perverts in the theater to wink at, no, this was a film that was going to revolve around a frequently fu*ked actress. But after seeing The Girlfriend Experience, I was scratching my head as to why Soderbergh felt he needed Grey. Sasha Grey is a beautiful woman: her porcelain jaw curls around her chin, up to a pair of perfect lips that lead to a nubile nose, while her eyes, like arrows, piercing and dark, are given complete power by the heavy and bold brows that hang above.
But Soderbergh and, er, "Peter Andrews", confoundedly ignore the character in Grey's mug. Outside of an often used over-the-seat close-up of Chelsea's face, Soderbergh routinely shoots her from a distance, from behind, and - in a extended climactic scene - fully hidden behind couch cushions. Further, none of the confidence and dominance that that Sasha Grey exudes in her porn performances is given a chance to play out here in a safer setting. My suspicion is that Grey could be a fine mainstream actress, but The Girlfriend Experience is not the place to test that hunch. Soderbergh constrains her, puts limits on her exuberance, and ultimately makes Sasha Grey out to be more of a doll and sex toy than in her adult films.
Based on its intentions, Soderbergh's film should be renamed "The Pornstar Experiment", because, frankly, the casual offhand casting of Sasha Grey comes off as mere exploitative stunt, more so than any DP scene she might have filmed.
Thursday, May 21, 2009
LIKE THOSE FREAKS AT THE BALLPARK WHO HAVE THEIR HEADPHONES ON SO THEY CAN LISTEN TO THE RADIO COMMENTATORS DURING THE GAME...
The Brothers Bloom is currently playing in theaters and is getting decent reviews. To get you to see the flick, Summit Entertainment has made available a download of the Director Audio Commentary. The idea is for you to download it onto your iPhone or MP3 player, grab your headphones and then listen to the movie with the commentary while you watch it on the big screen.
But is anyone planning to actually do this, especially if it's your first time seeing the film? (Worstpreviews)
I actually like this idea.
Well... let me qualify that. I like the idea of having a director's commentary available to listen to after I've seen a movie on the big screen. Most industry critics are given press packets with their preview screenings which can add a bit of context before or bit of perspective after seeing a film. I've kind of always been envious of that. Simultaneously releasing director commentaries with a film's release could rememdy that selfish issue.
Of course, I don't wanna see the glow of iPods in a theater while watching a movie, but, as Worstpreviews said above, I doubt anyone will actually do that. I'll take their word that the studio is doing this so viewers can take a commentary track into theaters with them, but my hunch tells me that director Rian Johnson ultimately did this to convenience curious customers after they've exited for the evening.
Tuesday, May 19, 2009
Rudo y Cursi. Cursi y Rudo. Rudo and Cursi. I wish it was actually Curso y Rudy. Or Curso and this Rudy. If it was the former, she would stand a tad taller than Gael Garcia Bernal who is probably the shortest actor alive. Not that short people got no reason to act, or anything. Bernal is quite good in this film in fact. Diego Luna is good as well. They are the best things about it. It's really not a good film. But the two actors bring a oddball humor to the film that directo Carlo Cuaron totally ignores. Is this what Del Toro, Innarritu, and A. Cuaron intend to do with their CHA CHA CHA company??? Just put out movies by each others bros and brothers? Yep. Carlos is Alfonso's brother, and not that I care for Alfonso at all, but his brother seems in over his head. (Actually, I probably like Carlos a bit better... but that's getting away from myself and I only have 1o minutes her, man...). Anyways. Getting your brother a directing gig isn't exactly the best idea for good art or even good movies, right Tony Scott??? Yeah. Also, the title made me think of Jules et Jim before I saw it. Also because people kept comparing Y Tu Mama Tambien to the French New Wave, and while it may have had some Godardian internarration going on a la a Two or Three Things I Know About Her if it wasn't in a whisper, to think of Alfonso Cuaron in the same mind bubble as a French New Waver is pretty gross. But yeah, the two actors are pretty charming. Diego has a mustache and he owns the sucker the whole movie. Bernal could be a pretty same swell comic actor, I think. It must be weird though for actresses to have love scenes with him though because he is so small. I mean SHORT. I know, it sounds like I have a thing against short people. I don't! I just think of the scene with Bernal and the female lead opposite him in Rudo y Cursi and when they have sex he seems to be on his tippy-toes in an effort to slip it in while she's on the counter. Maybe he was on a foot stool. Poor guy. But he's good looking and makes more money than me.
Monday, May 18, 2009
Saturday, May 16, 2009
Mikey is a middle-class husband and father living in California. Upon a business trip to his birthplace of New York City, Mikey becomes comfortably reacquainted with the house he grew up in and, at departure time, finds it emotionally and physically impossible to leave. Jacobs and Boren do an expert job of patiently revealing the metaphorical clumps of cement on Mikey's feet, eventually leading to a subtle and tasteful sequence where Mikey crawls on hands and knees through the home he grew up in.
And what a home it is. Upper East Coast eccentrics and artists, Mikey's parents live in a loft with organization and storage not unlike that of a warehouse. Theirs is not a filthy living, just one of convenience and quick access. Cardboard boxes, Tupperware drawers, stacked rafters, art supplies. Dinner conversation tends toward such off road topics as the death of modern art movements, but Jacobs portrays it in a casual, truthful way, taking pains to not paint his parents as intellectual stereotypes. Still, Mikey is an outsider. He doodles during art talk and shrugs when his father points out the jazz-rock fusion coming through the speakers. Mikey prefers two chord rock-pop chuggers and comic books.
These differences aren't points of friction or generational walls erected for the purpose of high drama, but simply examples of a common disconnect we've all felt with our parents whether it be over politics, religion, art, or sports. The love is unconditional, and because that is universally understood, Jacobs doesn't waste time convincing us of the bond between Mikey and his parents. In fact, Momma's Man never even explains the internal dilemma that is keeping Mikey away from his wife and daughter and job in California, and grounded in pajamas and four-day old stubble in his childhood bed next to high school memorabilia and sticker books.
Sometimes what we feel and what we need is something we can't even identify ourselves, and that's what makes Momma's Man's autobiographical elements transcend regional, class, and social differences. This is in stark artistic contrast to other art house autobio-pics like the awful The Squid and the Whale, which instead seemed keen on promoting class envy by way of Noah Baumbach's bragging on how "hip" his New York asshole parents were. If anything, Momma's Man is a movie that Ken and Flo Jacobs can be proud of, not just because their son made a great film, but because the sensitivity and insight within it is a partial reflection of their own guidance.
Wednesday, May 13, 2009
"Not only in those scenes, but every shot in the film -- as was true with my last film -- the camera never moves. You look in the corner of the frame of any movie, you will see it is constantly adjusting and moving. In this film, it is rock steady, because, in fact, there is no operator. These are framed images, and everything is done through the structure of the editing. I don't think you notice, when you see the film, the extreme to which the camera doesn't move. It moves about seven times in the entire film -- when people are moving or when there's a dramatic moment. This is, over the years now, a style that I feel comfortable with -- a little reaction to contemporary movies where the camera is moving around so much I get seasick. It's more of an offshoot of the way we shot "The Godfather," where it was a very classic style where the camera didn't move at all. Everything was tableaux. Or the Japanese filmmaker Ozu, who at the end of his career decided that if you don't move the camera, then all the movement within the frame is more exciting, people's entrances and exits."
Yep. Most of that is mostly true and needed to be said (again) in these Ides of The Blockbuster Summer - Part May.
"What, you don't like camera movement?!?"
Bite your tongue! I'm no purest. Brian DePalma is probably my BFFilmmaker, for chrissakes! But there is a difference between elegance and retards running around with steadicams and hand-helds.
Let's take some extreme examples : Blair Witch, [REC], 28 Days Later, Cloverfield. These films may be conceptually interesting, but each one ultimately fails because the viewer can't see a damn thing. Defenders of the shaky-cam cinematography in those four films might counter with "well, that's kind of the point!". Well, maybe, but I didn't find the shaky-ness in Diary of the Dead* or Rachel Getting Married to be a distraction, nor a betrayal to the eyes, so there must be another variable at play.
Lest you're thinking that I'm a hand held hater or digi-damner, well, last weekend I watched a movie called Trigger Man that was shot guerrilla-style on digital and I thought it was very well made. So, much like the truth of "guns don't kill people, people kill people", there is now born, "camera's don't film bad movies, bad directors film bad movies". The director is that variable.
Tuesday, May 12, 2009
Sunday, May 10, 2009
I have little doubt that Bahrani is someone to watch. Goodbye Solo is superior to Chop Shop, noticeably correcting some of the faults in that previous film. The characters in Goodbye Solo are more assured. There is a slight humor on display. Bahrani's camera feels more at home in the streets and corner shop parking lots of Winston-Salem than that of Queens (indeed, Bahrani is from Winston-Salem). But it's the scarcity of Bahrani's style that bothers me. Some will laugh, but I think rich characters such as William and Solo belong in a road trip movie. Perhaps a modern mix of Jonathan Demme's Something Wild and Melvin and Howard.
Bahrani should let go of the modern "realism" approach he seems so enamored with. To me, it feels stifling, like walls around a would-be major player.
Friday, May 08, 2009
Wednesday, May 06, 2009
Well if Rep. Linda Sanchez gets her do-gooder way, we may end up with a blogosphere of inane criticism like that Rolling Stone movie man provides on a bi-weekly basis. True, I'm jumping ahead of myself... I'm sprinting to the worst case scenario... I'm getting all Andrew Sullivan hysterical up in here, but so long as everyone is talking about freakin' Star Trek (and probably will be until the end of the month... or at least until T4 comes out) I've decided to get drunk on coffee and let it rip.
Let's back up for a sec...
Megan Meier was the young woman from Missouri who killed herself after being bullied and humiliated on MySpace. It was a terrible story. The pain of a parent in a tragic situation like that must be unbearable, and a mother's desire to have something done in order prevent future tragedies of the same kind is understandable. However, what happened to Megan Meier - a victim of bullying - cannot be prevented, especially through legislation that would open up a cans-o-worms like the recently proposed "cyberbully bill" introduced by Linda Sanchez of California.
Her bill, co-sponsored by fourteen other members of Congress, defines "cyberbullying" as such:
(a) Whoever transmits in interstate or foreign commerce any communication, with the intent to coerce, intimidate, harass, or cause substantial emotional distress to a person, using electronic means to support severe, repeated, and hostile behavior, shall be fined under this title or imprisoned not more than two years, or both.
(b) As used in this section--
(1) the term "communication" means the electronic transmission, between or among points specified by the user, of information of the user's choosing, without change in the form or content of the information as sent and received.
(2) the term "electronic means" means any equipment dependent on electrical power to access an information service, including email, instant messaging, blogs, websites, telephones, and text messages.'.
For example, what does "substantial emotional distress" mean? A quickening pulse? Crying Trouble sleeping? And is there anyone reading this who has never felt intentionally "coerced", "intimidated", or "harassed" before... especially in the arena of ideas, critical opinion, and debate???
Of course, being a politician, Sanchez is trying to sell this on the back of a "let's do it for the kids!" campaign. Check out this sentence pulled from her recent op-ed in the Huffington Post:
"When so-called free speech leads to bullies having free-reign to threaten kids, it is time to act."Errrrrk! Hold up, L.!! In your proposed legislation you said "distress to a person" and now you are saying "kids" (ie anyone under 18). Which one is it? And since most bullies of other kids are kids themselves, are you calling for the imprisonment of children? I'm confused congresswoman. Will you please explain it to me without making me feel stupid, and thus, "emotionally distressed"?
But, since we talk movies here, let's bring this issue back to the realm of movie blogging...
So, according to Sanchez's op-ed, I couldn't get in trouble for blogging how Eli Roth is a hack, but I could get in trouble if I blogged the same thing about Dakota Fanning. But in the legislation, it states that I could get in trouble in both situations. (This, of course, presumes that Eli Roth and Dakota Fanning read my blog, which I'm almost certain that they do... at least in the case of Dakota.)
Now, because Eli and Dakota are celebrities, that would probably make it harder for them to find someone like me guilty of cyberbullying (although, the conclusion of this case should make for interesting precedent concerning "public figures"), but what about when I get in a dust-up with Bill or Marilyn or Rick or Ed or Greg or Jason ? That happens, often. And while they are generally friendly fights, who knows when I'll go "Sean Penn" on one of them one day?
In any case, to be especially safe, I now want to go ahead and formally recuse myself of possibly "substantially" nasty things that I've said about "persons" on here in the past:
*Bill, you were right about The Dark Knight.
*Jason, you were right about Gran Torino and JCVD.
*Documentarians, you make great films.
*Gus Van Sant, you are is NOT a pervert.
*Rick, Alabama is the best place ever.
*Sacha Baron Cohen, you are awesome... awwwww, SCREW IT! Sacha Baron Cohen, you are a hateful scumbag!!!!!
-Fox, founder of TRACTOR FACTS, admitted "cyberbully", and proud of it!
Monday, May 04, 2009
I mentioned earlier that Lucky Star is a simple film. The set is basically constructed of two houses with a winding path in between. Mary (Janet Gaynor) is a bloody-knuckled teenage farmhand playing the role of husband and son to her widowed mother, and Tim (Charles Farrell), is a young, foppy-haired, ethical and honest cutie who works for the utilities company. Their paths cross when Mary brings Tim and his co-workers some milk but they kind of hate each other at first like star-crossed lovers always do. WWI comes between them, and when Tim gets back, he's in a wheelchair and Mary has matured (almost). Her idea of a first reunion is to go schoolyard on Tim's house by slinging a stone through his window. But Tim shrugs it off, or, rather, in his loneliness, welcomes it like a angry kiss. Mary and Tim are inseparable.
The rest of the film mixes through classically romantic and melodramatic images that have been parodied away in the eighty years since Lucky Star's release, but it is validation of Borzage's talent (and Gaynor and Farrell's as well) that the onscreen moments between the two lovers retains a passionate sincerity. It's difficult for me to pinpoint how. The explanation probably lies somewhere in the intangibles of a great director, the invisible genius you can't capture or teach, but just admire from afar and in wonder over nerd-circle discussions.
I'll take my shot in naming at least one definitive, however. Key to Lucky Star's brilliance, I think, is Borzage exploiting his cinematic limitations. Yes, this was the silent era, so directors were without a cloud of reference that included sound, color, tracking shots, etc., but Borzage still exhibited a tremendous amount of confidence in his actors by letting his camera sit on a scene for an extended take. Take, for example, the scene where Tim attempts to walk on his crutches for the first time. The still frame simply holds Tim, his wheelchair, the crutches, a dresser, a window, and a door, yet the moment is like a mini-movie in itself. We know Borzage is letting it roll, so we settle in and tell ourselves stories about Tim's struggles. It's the ultimate in image-to-eye transference of information, and it rings like anything but silence in my head.
**The image of Janet Gaynor was found on DVD Beaver.
Saturday, May 02, 2009
The Wolverine movie. It wasn't the worst movie of the year so far. Hugh Jackman jumps of a waterfall naked and it weird. Patrick Stewat looks like a Magick Marker drawing behind the worst greenscreen ever. But those are good things. Good things (maybe) were one of the little elves from Lord of the Rings in a brief supporting role. He was good. Also, "Fat Bastard" is in this movie. It's weird. It might be the only good part b/c it looks like the guy is wearing an actual body suit instead of dumb CGI like in Iron Man when Jeff Bridges turned into the villain. Liev Shrieber looks kind of cool. They all have muscles and veins. The girl looks like a Megan Fox reject which isn't supposed to be a compliment to Megan Fox because I agree with whichever annoying celebrity blogger said she looked like a tranny. Wolverine doensn't die in the end! If you thought that was a spoiler then you are dumber about comics than I am. But any below average movie is at least fun to watch at the best movie theater in the world (the Alamo Drafthouse with 4K projection. Best projection in the world. I bet the president doesn't even have that quality in his movie theater). But the guy next to us talked to his girlfriend! And this was right after their was a faux-PSA beforehand from Danny Devito to tell everyone to shut up. This one thing I don't like about the Alamo. They let you drink beer. Beer makes normal people think they are funny. The dumb guy next to us threw out one-lines like "bummer" and "ouch" that luckily made nobody laugh. He was also wearing gross shorts and had a goatee and use a flashlight to eat his food. But Wolvering. Yeah, the director of that movie Tsotsi did this Wolverine movie. That movie wasn't any good. People said it was b/c it was about a little boy who lived in a shack and smoked crack but it was really not good. Then he did Rendition which was just terrible. So then why Wolverine?? Who knows. OH, and Will.I.Am is in the movie as a shape shifter. What the hell? And then I'm about to watch Planet Terror which has Fergie in it. Nice Black-Eyed PEas in all the movies I"m watching. Why are the BEPs in movies? At least WIl.I.Am dies from Liev Shreiber takeing his claws and crishing his spine. Is this how he financed those lame Obama yes wE Can videos on YouTube? Yeah, I bet you guys are gonna be embarrassed by those one day. Or maybe not because you think it's cool to name yoursefl Will,I.Am. THE END.