Friday, July 31, 2009
According to reports from Iran's national news service IRNA (and more reliably, this blogger) both filmmakers and Panahi's wife and daughter have since been released.
Wednesday, July 29, 2009
The "her" in 2 or 3 Things is Paris, circa 1966, a city still steeped in fashion and culture but stunted and stunned by a slowly progressing industrial landscape where stiff high-rise buildings house families and couples in tight spaces versus the lavish landscaped flats of Bardot and Piccoli's cozy life in Contempt. Cutbacks on state spending has forced Parisians to look for more work (what a concept!), which in turn has opened-up a Belle Du Jour-type job option for the movie's main MILF Juliette (Marina Vlady). But while decrying a government and marketplace he sees as discompassionate, Godard also spoofs his peer's (and his own) self-imposed problems, culminating in a wash of subtle, oddball humor that ranges from a meter man walking in on Helena Bielicic's bath time, to a john offering up cat food as payment to a pimp/babysitter for some "pussy", to a pair of pseudo-revolutionary buddies scanning classified conversations of LBJ in a room filled with materialism.
"Modest" may seem like an odd adjective to use in conjunction with the name Jean-Luc Godard, but the more I make my way through this great director's career, I truly think it's starting to fit. While Godard's self-confidence is unquestionably about as high as an filmmaker's has ever been, a careful examination of his work and interviews reveals a man so confident with himself that he can freely offer up where he is limited or when he is wrong. The title "2 or 3 Things I Know About Her" is an admission of limitation in itself. Godard, the narrator, unleashes his sometimes caustic, sometimes pensive feelings about Paris and its place in the world, all the while acknowledging that he really only "knows two or three things" about his beloved city. It's a naked, up front, and refreshing card for a political artist to play. Godard is by no means discounting any of his deep-in-the-gut feelings, but he's telling us he's not the authority either.
The style of 2 or 3 Things foreshadows the cinematic technique that Godard would eventually perfect in his under appreciated masterpiece Passion, where mixed-up juxtapositions of imagery and sound fold in on themselves to create a new language of film. Watching 2 or 3 Things today - an unbelievable forty-two years later - still presents a challenge, a jolt to our media consuming instincts that anticipate consonant ebbs and flows and cyclical storytelling. But it's a welcome jolt, a slap that comes with respect for you-the-viewer because Hollywood sure doesn't anymore. Sure, maybe it's too late some forty-two years later, but in just 87 minutes (you hear that Orphan? Eighty-friggin-seven minutes!!!) Godard reminds us of the significance in being an active viewer, and that - no matter what David Thomson says - a film can be just as rich and unfolding and layered as a great novel.
Monday, July 27, 2009
I mean, honestly, is there another actor out there as blank and monotonous** as this guy???
**As with most mean things I say, I hope I'm ultimately wrong about J.H., because I'm really looking forward to Jim Sheridan's Brothers this winter (although I'm not too thrilled by its screenwriter).
Sunday, July 26, 2009
I'm no prude, nor am I one that's ever been convinced of the damage that a specific role can have on the psyche of a child (Jodie Foster seems to be a well-adjusted woman today), but I still can't help but worry about an eleven year-old actress that is asked to portray a psycho killer and to be a part of mildly sexual subplot. Though, to be fair, editing wise, the filmmakers did appear to do their best in keeping Fuhrman out of any full-on sexual situations. Maybe, now, in being an uncle to seven kids, I am just more sensitive to these protective issues, or maybe it's because Furhman also appeared in Hounddog (which I've yet to see), that highly controversial Dakota Fanning movie which caught heat for its sexualizing of young actresses. I just know that when I walked out of Orphan, I was hoping Isabelle Fuhrman was an older actress playing young. When I realized she wasn't, I was kind of disturbed.
As for the film, Orphan surprises with its first half of cleverly paced lead-ins, slick cinematography, and across the board strong acting (Vera Farmiga, especially, is fantastic; Mick LaSalle of the SF Chronicle accurately describes it as a "two-hour nervous breakdown"), but then buckles to generic genre boredom in its second. Orphan quickly moves past frustration and into nearly unbearable tedium with that age old everybody-in-the-audience-can-see-that-the-mom-is-telling -the-truth-about-that-crazy-kid-so-why-don't-the-father-and-psychiatrist!?!. When the doctor finally tells the mother that she needs to enter rehab for relapsing into alcoholism (when a trained professional could clearly tell that she hadn't), I wanted to reach into the screen and grab a wine bottle to smash over my own head.
"Awww... come on Fox, roll with the punches, suspend that disbelief!". Fair enough, and ordinarily I would have no problem with that, but, in Orphan, director Jaume Collett-"I did the House of Wax remake"-Serra couldn't decide whether he wanted us to sink into a seriously tense thriller or ride along with a B-movie goof of a film. Screenwriters David Johnson and Alex Mace certainly filled their script with enough gags for the latter, tossing in darkly-comic pranks such as Peter Sarsgaard's perpetual blue-ball problems, Fuhrman's so-bad-it's-funny Russian roulette spot, and - for the ultimate - a ridiculously ribald reveal of a climax that had me cackling out loud and not really minding, anymore, that the douche two rows in front of me kept texting some other douche or skank while he should be looking at the movie.
But as a I sit here and ponder the reasons why Orphan ultimately doesn't get a passing grade from me, the answer is actually oh so seems painfully clear ... once again. A film like Orphan shouldn't play on past the 82-minute mark, yet Collett-Serra pushes it to 101! Why??? The only answer I can offer up is self-indulgence. Had Orphan ended 20 minutes earlier than it does, I would have liked it. I would have been able to find forgiveness for a second-half that still would have fallen short in comparison to the frontloaded first, but it would have at least had a merciful tourniquet tied on to stop the bloodletting - and thus, life - of the film. Maybe one day we'll start seeing Director's Cuts that are actually "cuts", shorter versions that better compliment the original intentions of the creators than what the studios eventually rolled out.
Thursday, July 23, 2009
I can't remember if this movie is called THE Horsemen, or just Horsemen. I don't know. Check your Netflix and I'll check mine after this. (The) Horsemen gives new meaning to straigh-to-video, or at least it might signify a new era in that little thing. Used to be kinda charming that straight to video thing. Some stars were born out of it. It was kind of fun. Now it's a sad graveyard. There's no question that this movie starring Dennis Quaid, Ziyi Zhang, and the weirdo Frogger guy from Seinfeld and weirdo Fargo guy from Fargo, was meant to make it to the big screen. Michael Bay produced it after all. Funny thing is, the credits are mostly white on a mostly white background, so you get the feeling everyone involved really wanted their names to fade away on this one. No kidding on that. Rent this for the credit sequence and then send it back to Netflix. You will impress your mailman and Netflix person on how quick of a turnaround time you have on your rentals. They might think you are cool or at least unemployed and then you will at least make them think that they aren't in your shoes and that life isn't that bad because of that. But yeah, Michael Bay. I mean you can say what you want, but the guy has an ear for what will do well at the box office. What they hell happened here? Jonas Akerlund directs. I guess that's a Norweigan name or somewhere from one of those three penis countries. He used to direct videos for The Offspring or No Doubt or someone. Poor guy. And then Patrcik Fugit is in it too. "Almost Famous" is sadly very true. They little dude just can't get over that hump. He's running out of time too because that baby face is gonna lose it's elasticity scene and he's gonna look washed up at 29 like Edward Furlong did. Poor E.F. And Lou Taylor Pucci does his best not to look too androgynous in his terrible haircut and angelic face. The kid is good, but like Fugit, his agent must just suck. So in the last few minutes here... the movie is like Se7en meets The Cell, but shortened down to 90 minutes b/c it sucks more than both of those movies combined. There is a seedy underside that I'm sure the set designers put all of their strength into. There is a dude who is like that Jaqioun Phoenix character in 8MM and he talks about wacking off to Belladonna. That was my favorite part b/c I'm into Belladonna too. She's scary but I like scary girls. And the dude talks about "cock stretching". I'm proud to say that even with all the sick thoughts and curiousities I have, I have no idea what taht is, but maybe I will look it up on Google after this. At least Horsemen, THE gave me that. Dude, Dennis Quaid, you are DOA in this movie. BAd joke, but kind of a cool reference. You get it?
Tuesday, July 21, 2009
A lot of the early hype surrounding The Hurt Locker singles-out the performance of Jeremy Renner. Well, believe the hype - I suspect the guy will be a shoo-in for Best Actor nominee - but don't discount the character work that both he and screenwriter Mark Boal fleshed-out together. In a way, Renner's Staff Sergeant is every part the typical Kathryn Bigelow cocksure male, but, in addition to that, he owns a kicked-back sensitivity that pushes the character beyond the awesome cartoonish-ness of, say, Bodhi in Point Break or Severin in Near Dark.
Our introduction to Renner's character is big-screen macho poetry. While listening to some heavy metal as Sergeant Sanborn (Anthony Mackie, also great... the two actors share on screen chemistry that rivals that of Sally Hawkins and Eddie Marsan from last year's Happy-Go-Lucky) approaches him for reassignment, Renner gets off a line about the trade-off of sunshine coming through the window versus mortar shells penetrating the roof. In many, many other hands, this scene would have flirted with the embarrassingly dramatic, but Bigelow's respectfully backed-off camera capturing Renner's posture and dialogue brings home a 2009 moment-to-remember.
Monday, July 20, 2009
This month, that place is Ed Howard's Only The Cinema, where TOERIFC members will be discussing Paul Verhoeven's crazysexycool WWII film, Black Book. But you don't have to be a TOERIFC member to get involved. In fact, I don't think any of us hold actual memberships, it just feels important to say such things.
But seriously, we want more people getting in on the debating, agreeing, arguing. It's so fun and your presence will only make it funner.
Thursday, July 16, 2009
Tuesday, July 14, 2009
Sunday, July 12, 2009
Of course, the human clones begin to physically fall apart (ie losing hair, elasticity in the skin, etc.), so the company painlessly disposes of them in some sort of zap chamber that misleads the clone into thinking they are being zapped back home. The last third of Moon attempts to yank at our humanity so we feel compassion for the cloned Sam(s). The thing is, I didn't feel anything. I knew the original embryo-to-adult Sam was back home with his family, so I saw the Sam(s) on the moon as nothing more than programmed blobs of tissue. I'm not suggesting that should be the proper real-word response, but it's how I felt. I've felt compassion for robots, animated fish, and inanimate objects in countless movies before, so I blame Duncan Jones for not taking me to that place with a being that looks as close to human as you can get.
Thursday, July 09, 2009
This post is part of Cinema Styles' week long The Spirit of Ed Wood Blog-A-Thon.
Because Cohen's non-horror fare generally comes with a one-to-grow-on social message dressed-up in a clunk-ily acted, shot, and produced package, these "serious-minded" movies of his often feel like After School Special episodes for adults. Yet it's amazing how light-hearted a director's heavy-handed approach can become when you realize that one of his actors is wearing a really awful wig. All-in-all, though, none of that can discount Larry Cohen's earnestness. Many will laugh at the set-ups and line readings in Original Gangtas, but there's no denying the genuine concern he expresses for those inner city blues.
Original Gangstas missed out on the early nineties box office success of inner city hood films (no matter, it went to straight-to-video anyways), but its premise isn't too far removed from the well-known BoyzJuiceMenaceNewJack story lines. Kenny is a talented high-school basketball prospect on the verge of breaking free from the ghetto, but after he hustles some hoods in a one-on-one game (where the rim looks like it's only eight feet high), he goes down in a drive-by denouement. When an old shopkeeper snitches on the culprits, he goes down too... but not completely. He lives. And his son is Fred Williamson. And Fred Williamson's friend is Jim Brown. And Jim Brown used to be married to Pam Grier. And now they're all back in Gary, Indiana ready to kick-ass and clean-up the streets.
With a budget of just under five million, I'm guessing that half of that bank went to the movie's "big names" and the rest went to a dramatic fire sequence (pictured above). Because of that, there is a guerrilla-style feel to the makeshift sets and costumes look of Original Gangstas. Punches don't land anywhere near the face, scream match-up with lips worse that The Wilhelm Scream, and bullets don't leave holes around pools of strange-looking blood.
Cohen's ultimate message here is not unlike when our parents used to lecture us "more respectful days". Williamson and Brown's characters used to gang bang too, but at least they didn't kill people! In Original Gangstas' most unintentionally funny moment, the young gang leader looks up at Brown with an end-of-life clarity and waxes philosophical about how it is Brown and Williamson (the old-school that laid the path for the new-school) who have blood on their hands and who are partially responsible for Gary, Indiana's tough times by abandoning it. Without a beat, or even quick cut to Brown's face to show pause or contrition, Brown knifes the dude and he and Williamson walk off into the smoggy sunset.
This isn't calculated cynicism on Cohen's part, just the product of a four day shoot with actors and crew who don't improvise that well. It may be bad, but it's honest, and because of that it retains the spirit of movie-love until the very end of the end credits.
Tuesday, July 07, 2009
Monday, July 06, 2009
I will have a post up later in the week, but in the meantime, go enjoy everybody else's by clicking on the link above.
**Pictured banner made by Greg @ Cinema Styles.