Monday, March 1, 2010

Moved: So Long and Thanks for all the Fish

This will be my last post at blogger. Goodbye for now blogger, you were great but it's time to move on to my very own url.

You can now check my own by just checking out

That's it. THAT SIMPLE! Come check out our newer, sleeker, sexier design with all the great content you love.


And now to say goodbye:

Sunday, February 28, 2010

Cave 76 Episode Three: Mega-Sized Oscar Special

It's our biggest episode yet clocking in at over an hour and a half of Oscar-y goodness. Perfect for long road trips or an exhausting work out. This episode brings out the Oscar fever part of the Sickness and venerable co-host Frank.

It's a long episode but I think it's also our best one yet. The organization of episode 2, but with the easy back and forth of episode 1. I will be back later to update the time signature break down of the episode. Until then enjoy.

Much thanks to Frank for editing this monstrosity so quickly.

Thursday, February 25, 2010


Big news. One of my co-workers in my day job is a pretty solid web-designer and all around creative type, so he's in the process in helping me radically renovate the site. This design will be smoother, more user-friendly and easier on the eyes. It's very, very exciting. We'll be looking into owning my domain name as well. Which, you know, all respect to blogspot, but it'll be way nicer to drop the "the" and the "blogspot" when I give out the link.

So lets see; brand new electrifying podcasts, quality content, sleeker, sexier design. Yep, 2010 is going to be a banner year for the Sickness Cinema. Stick around.

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

In which a list is is debated

This White Ribbon review continues to vex me. Hopefully inspiration will strike some time in the next 48 hours. In the mean time, normally I'd save this for Friday but it's such a strange list I just had to share my thoughts on it.

Entertainment Weekly online put up a list of their 50 greatest living directors (though they've only posted 25 so far) and you can check it out here. My thoughts are below. Please feel free to discuss in the comments.

Nancy Meyers-Hahahahaha no. There are great female directors (Kathryn Bigelow, Agnes Varda, Nicole Holofcener and Andrea Arnold) but there could always be more. However, a scarcity is no reason to give a spot on this list to an overrated lifestyle pornographer. She's as beige as beige can be.
Belongs on the list?: No

Michael Moore-Moore should be applauded for bringing documentaries into the mainstream. He makes galvanizing films and that is largely the point. That being said, I think he's limited audience knowledge of freeing the documentary form can be. I hope he's not the only documentary filmmaker on here.
Belongs on the list?: No

David Lynch-NOW we're talking. David Lynch is incapable of making a dull, impersonal film. Sure they may vex some audiences but he creates unforgettable film images and constantly pushes boundaries. The man lives, breathes and is constantly finding dynamic ways to push cinema forward.
Belongs on the list?: Yes.

Andrew Stanton-Hmm, interesting. Stanton has an innate sense of storytelling, invaluable for a director. Just check out the recording of his pitch and story boarding meetings on Nemo and Wall-E. I am extremely eager to see what he does in live action.
Belongs on the list?: Wait and see. Hopefully.

Wong Kar Wai: Wai paints in powerful sensual emotion and creates memorable images. He has a wonderful group of collaborators and his films get stuck in your draw. I've only see In the Mood for Love once, but my memory of it only becomes clearer over time.
Belongs on the list?: Yes.

Mira Nair: I've only seen two of her films (Monsoon Wedding and The Namesake) but I think she has an innate sense of how to capture family stories in film without having them descend into melodrama. That being said I've never revisited either film and don't give her much thought in terms of directors.
Belongs on the list?: Maybe eventually.

Mel Gibson: He makes big films that attract audiences but there is nothing special about them. I have no desire to revisit anything he's directed.
Belongs on the list?: No.

Spike Lee: Here's a very complex choice. I think for a long time Lee was on lists like this as a matter of tokenism. As his CV has filled out though I think he's proven to be powerful but completely inconsistent. For every Do the Right Thing there's a She Hate Me, for every 25th Hour there's a Miracle at St. Anna. In the end though I think the wins in his win column have a little more oomph than his failures.
Belongs on the list?: Yes.

Richard Linklater: Another largely inconsistent director. When he's on he can make incredibly moving, humanistic films. When he's off though it comes off as dishwater dull. The Before
movies are beautiful, Slacker and Waking Life have wonderful dreamlike qualities. But Bad News Bears, Fast Food Nation? Yeesh. In the end though, he remains one of those 90's guys who when he's on makes loving, personal films.
Belongs on the list?: Yes

Roman Polanski: Personal life aside (rough I know) new Polanski films are an event. He knows how to generate unforgettable images and nightmare material. You can definitely ignore his fallow period from the mid 80's to mid 90's as his 70's and 00's work more than makes up for it.
Belongs on the list?: Easy yes.

Oliver Stone: Man, talk about polarizing. Griffith's Birth of a Nation talks about writing history with lightning and I think Stone was doing that for a while. I think the sheen has worn off a bit. Actually, it's worn off a late. The fact that he's revisiting a past glory doesn't bode well.
Belongs on the list?: At one time yes, not anymore.

Judd Apatow: On a list of most influential directors absolutely. Same goes for writers and producers. What Apatow lacks as a technician he makes up for with an innate sense of character and dialogue. What I appreciate about him is that he's trying to grow and he's on the path. Funny People was a go for broke mess but he was clearly trying to push himself out of his comfort zone in terms of atmosphere and theme and largely succeeded.
Belongs on the list?: Not yet, but getting closer.

Jon Favreau: He's solid, but I think his success is more dictated by his material than the other way around. There are lots of things he does very well but if this is a list of the "greatest" I don't think he makes the cut. That being said, I certainly wouldn't mind him directing anything I wanted to see made.
Belongs on the list?: No, but still worthwhile.

Mike Leigh: He's not my favorite but lots of critics dig him. I for one have not yet found a film of his that connects with me or my experiences. He is a wonderful director of actors.
Belongs on the list?: No, not a list I'd make anyway.

Bryan Singer: Man, what happened? He got shoved into the super-hero ghetto os what happened. I'm not suggesting one can't only make super-hero movies and not be "serious" but I think what happened was that in an attempt to be so big and so portentous he actually dragged himself down. He does such marvelous action and can juggle multiple characters well but I haven't seen that Usual Suspects, X2 energy in a while.
Belongs on the list?: No.

David Cronenberg: Now we're talking again. His slide into the mainstream has not dulled his instincts or impact. Cronenberge remains a cunning stylist who manages to make personal films about prescient topics. He's also hugely underrated as a director of actors.
Belongs on the list?: Yes.

JJ Abrams: Wonderful producer but it's way too soon to call if he's a great film director. I think that MI:3 was about as good as a good episode of Alias. But Star Trek succeeds because of its casting and its direction. What Abrams does in the film is damn near alchemy. But one film does not a great director make.
Belongs on the list?: No. But time will tell.

Ron Howard: Nice guy and solid producer, but just entirely mediocre as a director. He gets the job d0ne and he's reliable but he rarely does more than is asked of him.
Belongs on the list?: No.

Sam Raimi: Long after he's gone Raimi is going to be influencing generations of new directors. The more you limit him the more he finds ways to innovate and push boundaries. He's changed independent films and he's changed blockbusters. I'm eager to see what he changes next.
Belongs on the list?: Yes.

Sam Mendes: Works well with actors but I've found the bulk of his output fairly disposable. He has a concrete vision but his material doesn't really connect with me.
Belongs on the list?: No.

Sofia Coppola: Off of three movies? She is a wonderful visual stylist but I need more to say for sure.
Belongs on the list?: Not yet. Could be.

Woody Allen: I think his track record ultimately has him winning the marathon. Individual sprints... not so much. He has his own voice, style and manner and it works, not for everyone, but it does for me.
Belongs on the list?: Yes.

Paul Greengrass: Like Coppola I think its' too soon. He's been very influential on the blockbuster landscape but I'm curious to see what he does when not doing straight historical re-enactment or a Bourne movie. I've certainly enjoyed or been effected by all his films.
Belongs on the list?: Wait and see.

Alfonso Cuaron: The man is incapable of making a dull, uninteresting movie in any genre. Good sign. He finds wonderful collaborators and makes memorable, dynamic choices. It's been too long since Children of Men. Allons-y Alfonso!
Belongs on the list?: Yes.

Darren Aronofsky:I've criticized earlier directors on this list with short filmographies and taken a wait and see approach with them. Aronosfsky though pushes every one of my buttons and moves me to every extreme. I've come out of his films frightened, moved, crying my eyes out and filled with hope and love. True artists make us feel and that's what Aronofsky does for me.
Belongs on the list?: Yes.

10 out of 25 (with a few a maybes), not bad EW. This was fun, I'll do more when they do more.

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Cave 76 Episode Two: Shutter Island and taking Gandhi down a peg or two


Now a special treat. My amazing co-host has quickly edited together a newer, tighter (yet somehow LONGER) episode of Cave 76. We also aren't going to deal with any penny ante hosting site anymore. Frank got us on podomatic, which you can check out here. And hey if you click subscribe to iTunes on that page we'll show up in your iTunes podcast feed right next to Bill Simmons, Dan Savage and all your other favorites.

Of course you can always just listen to us right here by hitting play:

In this episode we talk about curling (it was Frank's idea I swear) from about 0:00-0:05.

We talk about why you should be watching the excellent sitcoms Better Off Ted and Community. Better Off Ted discussion from about 0:05 minutes to 0:20 minutes. Community about 0:20 to 0:40. That's a lot of talk about shows you PROBABLY don't watch. Maybe we can convince you.

We weigh in on Martin Scorsese's Shutter Island. From about 0:40-1:03. Very solid. My highlight for the episode (especially since we had to record it twice).

Frank gives his Lost Theory of the Week (I sing the theme song and it is great). 1:03-1:09

And to wrap it up we preview what we're looking forward to this coming week. 1:09-1:17.

Sunday, February 21, 2010

Searching for Rachel Solando: Meditations on Cheney and Scorsese

Warning: The following article contains polarizing political views in addition to spoilers for Shutter Island. If you wish to avoid both, I suggest you not read the article. I am by my nature not a political writer and if you want two far more insightful and cogent arguments about the nature of torture and Cheney's admission you'd do well to look here and here.

Last week former Vice President Dick Cheney casually admitted in an interview to supporting waterboarding terror suspects. You can read the transcript of the interview where he does this here. Regardless of whether or not you think it makes him culpable as a war criminal, it undoubtedly makes him complicit in torture. Let me make it clear, we're talking about government sanctioned torture. For decades the perception of America on a global scale was that of a principled nation, adhering to the tenants of the Geneva Convention not just because it was afraid of being caught red-handed in illicit activity, but because it was the right thing to do. It was the humane thing to do. Not engaging in torture lets us hold our heads up high, it says with confidence that not only are we not our enemy but that we will not let the action of terrorists drag us into an absolute moral morass.

But the fact is, it's too late. We have been ethically compromised by decisive political action of the previous administration. Which is shocking when you consider that whole political movements are dedicated to the damage that could happen HYPOTHETICALLY to the country if say, gays were allowed to marry, or if health care were accessible and affordable. No, we have been compromised already, our reputation for being humane and decent has been irreparably damaged. Further, the fact that our current administration has chosen to turn a blind eye in investigating who permitted this to happen drags us further downward. It's the kind of thinking that says if we ignore the problem, sweep it under the rug, it will go away. It won't, we just sink deeper.
Which, is all a lengthy preamble to why I think on a subconscious level critics and audiences have been attracted to Martin Scorsese's latest film Shutter Island. In the film Leonardo DiCaprio's federal marshal is drawn to the titular locale to solve the mystery of a criminally insane woman, Rachel Solando, and her disappearance from the institution. Solando has been institutionalized ofr drowning her three children. While he's there DiCaprio uncovers what he believes to be a massive conspiracy wherein the prisoner's are being used as test subjects for government experimentation. Increasing the strenuous nature of his visit, DiCaprio is struggling with memories of his former platoon's liberation of Dachau and the death of his wife at the hand's of an arsonist. He is also, and this is essential, a man with great cunning and capacity for violence.

As the film progresses DiCaprio's already tenuous grasp on his own sanity loosens and the conspiracy seems to grow ever more dense. This is in turn echoed by the presence of strong elemental forces that fill both DiCaprio's reality as well as his fantasy life. The audience is inundated with images of waves crashing, torrents of water gushing down and the sounds of water dripping everywhere. This is in contrast to the fire that we also see in DiCaprio's dream. The extreme, destructive polarities push us and the protagonist to the edge. Even if the film does not outright use the term "waterboarding" DiCaprio is pelted with he stuff from above enough times to create the association. The same goes for the image of drowned children.

Bear in mind the setting of the film, 1954, where people are still shaking off the horrors of WWII and HUAC is beginning to rear its ugly head. It's also, as explained by Ben Kingsley's psychologist at the prison, a critical juncture in psychological treatment. Kingsley's character purports to being a medical progressive. Moving away from the more medieval practices and into more psychoanalytical and pharmacological alternatives. Kingsley keeps some grim reminders of these past horrors as etchings in his office and upon seeing them DiCaprio is set-off and flashes back to piles of emaciated bodies. If it wasn't already clear, Scorsese wants us to create the following linkage-concentration camps, asylum, psychology, insanity.

Now in addition to all of this psychological duress, the killer of DiCaprio's wife, an arsonist played by Elias Koteas is also being held in the most dangerous ward in the prison. DiCaprio is pulled in multiple directions. Is he there to find the missing patient? Reveal the conspiracy? Or is it a more personal vendetta to find his wife's killer and avenge her death? Scorsese and DiCaprio keep the proceedings as ambiguous as possible. Here now an essential component enters the dialogue of the film, the twin ideas of guilt and revenge. DiCaprio's feelings of helplessness continue to eat at him. There was death and he was unable to prevent it and he remains uncertain as to whether or not avenging this is the proper course of action.
Similarly the presence of Max Von Sydow's German doctor leads DiCaprio to believe Nazi experimental techniques have been brought to the island. DiCaprio's visions and the rumbling of inmates point him to the isolated lighthouse at the edge of the island. Another island in the already isolated setting. He is warned that what he will find in there will only bring him misery. As DiCaprio storms the lighthouse Scorsese, working in conjunction with his set designer, DP and DiCaprio ramps up the tension. The lighthouse has a spiral staircase with several floors. The twisty nature of DiCaprio's own psyche nicely mirrors the staircase but with each door that DiCaprio kicks down only to find nothing makes our anticipating sense of dread grow. It seems to go on forever. When he finally does reach the top floor he does only find misery, but not the kind we're anticipating.

What greets him is Kingsley's doctor who has been waiting for him. There he calmly explains that the entire investigation has been an elaborate role-playing session in which everyone on the island was complicit. DiCaprio, while an actual federal marshal, is also the one responsible for killing his wife. The arsonist was a creation of DiCaprio's psyche. The patient who has disappeared was a surrogate for his wife. It was DiCaprio's who had drowned her children, Solando was a creation of DiCaprio's mind. DiCaprio in turn killed her for drowning their children. Kingsley goes on to explain that DiCaprio has been undergoing an elaborate role-playing therapy where everyone on the island was complicit in treating him. Now here, the pulp threads of the story really begin to show. Presumably we are supposed to take what Kingsley and his confederates say at face value. He begs DiCaprio to agree to treatment to accept this shocking reality at face value. This is problematic because to deny the treatment would mean that the advance psychoanalytic procedures don't work and that Kingsley and his team will have to resort to the draconian measures of the past. This puts DiCaprio in an untenable situation. He must become complicit to the new reality and advance a broader humanist cause or he risks appearing as the insane, vengeance obsessed lunatic who has the entire system opposing him anyway.

For a scene it appears that Kingsley treatment worked. DiCaprio admits to what has happened. He complies with the narrative. The next scene however has DiCaprio reverting to his original vengeance obsessed persona. He still believes he is searching for the missing prisoner. With that Kingsley turns to his team and it is clear that the orderlies DiCaprio is walking off with are leading him to a full frontal lobotomy. Before he goes he turns to his partner played by Mark Ruffalo (now having been revealed as his primary psychologist) and says "Seems to's better to die a good man, than live as a monster."

This is all a very long ways around to getting to my main point. My sense is that one of the reasons audiences and critics are responding to this film and it feels so of the moment, despite its past setting, is that the film is engaging in an intense dialogue about (and our complicity in) government sanctioned torture. Imagine DiCaprio's character as America. Cunning, professionally successful and prone to fits of violence. Coming out of a bloody war and having undergone intense personal trauma for which he wants vengeance? Oh yes, there can be no doubt. Now the character is struggling with the idea of being tortured in lieu of an effective cure as we too as a nation have been confronted with "enhanced interrogation" in lieu of effective intelligence gathering.
Now if we follow this thread along to the film's conclusion DiCaprio ultimately chooses to meet his own end living in the fantasy where he is righteous and rational rather than confront the much grimmer reality. The hero instead of the monster. However, there are dual consequences to this. For one, it prevents the progressive treatment. Second, it does irreparable harm to DiCaprio. Similarly, in leaving our torture crimes go unaddressed and not investigated we do damage not only to our international reputation and our national psyche but it damages our ability to move forward and grow. We live in a country where we pretend to be the hero, but were just left with monsterdom. There is no Rachel Solando, for our sake accept it.

Saturday, February 20, 2010

Link Island (Plus Site Update)

Wow, where did THAT week go? So it was a wonderful week full of all kinds of people saying nice things about the podcast. Let me tell you guys, my co-host and I are in constant communication about what we can do to make it even better. We will be recording on Sundays and it's looking like we'll be focusing more on movie and tv rather than music and some of the other minutia in pop-culture. That's probably more in our wheelhouse. This thing is just going to get tighter and better the more we do it (just like exercise, or so I'm told).

So where was the content this week? Well for one thing this White Ribbon review is killing me. It's a deep, complex film that has a lot to say and inspires a lot as well. Compound that with one of my busiest week's of work EVER (typically got home at around 9 every day) and you just weren't going to get new content.

Anyway, next week we'll get back on schedule with an entry a day PLUS you'll get some sweet podcast action.


Analysis: The sometimes controversial but always illuminating Matt Singer analyzes one of my absolute favorite scenes from one of my favorite movies Bringing Up Baby. Also at the AV Club, Scott Tobias considers Synecdoche, New York, a difficult film if ever there were one.

If you missed it, you MUST read this Esquire piece on Roger Ebert. Powerful and deeply moving, please, please, please read this.

Awesomeness (all QT edition): Someone made some amazing alternate Inglourious Basterds posters. I'd like these to cover my walls please.
And speaking of Quentin, the director purchased the New Beverly Cinema in Los Angeles. I have been a bad film fan and have not been to the New Bev, but I've heard nothing but good things. Amazing that QT has taken it upon himself to save this beloved institution.

Lists: The AV Club talked about the most frequently overused literary adaptations. But best of all they suggest some alternative choices from the same authors. So much fun.

Sunday, February 14, 2010

Cave 76 Episode One

Attention fans of things that are AWESOME!

You can download our first ever podcast by clicking below.

Discover Simple, Private Sharing at

Save File: Cave76Ep1.mp3

You can also stream it here:

Hey everyone, this post marks a very special occasion for the blog where we move to a new way to inform and present our content. This is our first podcast, which we've decided to call "Cave 76." I am joined by my good friend Frank Angones who's credentials as a fellow Columbia University film major (and current film grad student) are impeccable. Frank has all sorts of great writing projects on the horizon (but I won't jinx it here by going into details). He is a wonderful director, superb writer and overall great collaborator.

Obviously since this is our first episode it's going to be a little rough. We're learning as we go and I'm sure one day I'll look back at this episode and cringe a bit. For now though I think it's great. We're going to try to keep it at a tight hour and you won't just get movie reviews and analysis for your money (oh btw this is FREE FOR YOU!) but we'll be covering TV and music as well.

Will we be on iTunes? Yes, but probably not for a while so for now you can get it right off this page.

Here's the rundown for the first episode:

Opening: We set up the show and talk a little bit about the Asylum video phenomenon.
Main topic: Frank and I look at Joe Johnston's The Wolfman.
Secondary topic: Our review goes into a discussion of scenery chewing both good and bad.
TV moment of the week: Just like it sounds. This week we discuss Parks and Recreation and Lost.
Frank's Lost Theory of the Week: Again, just like it sounds. We'll see how long this stays a recurring feature.
Pitcher/Catcher: In what's sure to become an audience favorite one of us will try to convince the other to watch, read or listen to a little known gem. In effect one of us will be "pitching" an idea to the other. This episode I try to get Frank into the UK TV series Black Books.
Looking Ahead: We talk about Peter Gabriel's upcoming cover album Scratch My Back and our excitement about Martin Scorsese's Shutter Island.

For reader's of my blog let me give you a special Episode 2 preview. Frank and I will be covering Shutter Island, talk about the resurgence of 3D and of course there will be more favorite TV moments, Lost theories and pitching.

Please let me know what you think about by commenting OR if you want to send segment ideas sing our praises or criticize viciously you can e-mail the podcast

Saturday, February 13, 2010


There is rarely a more satisfying experience for me as a reviewer then stepping into a theater with next to no knowledge about the film and walking out amazed. I went into Andrea Arnold's Fish Tank aware of only two things, one that the film contains some very difficult to watch moments and that it contains wonderful performances from Michael Fassbender and Katie Jarvis. While both statements are true, Fish Tank unspools to reveal a film of equal parts heartache and beauty.
The plot is simple. Mia, a young, poor girl grows up in a bad part of UK. Her mother is woefully negligent (in part because she's also too young to be a parent-let alone twice over) and Mia is a bit of a wild terror. She gets into fights, drinks, swears and is perpetually truant. She also has ambitions to dance and finds herself vexed by the appearance of an old horse being chained up in a neighbor's backyard. One solitary source of serenity and approval in this harsh world is Connor (Michael Fassbender), her mother's new boyfriend. Of course, this new positive presence in her life can't last because Mia's pull toward Connor smoothly, uncomfortably descends into a mutual, intensely sexual attraction. Of course when the inevitable happens it's only the first of a harsh spiral of truths that show seemingly-mature Mia is only now REALLY starting to grow-up.
As Mia, newcomer Katie Jarvis is convincingly tough and believable as a street-tough kid but at the same time shows the character's intense yearning and vulnerability. It can be startling to see the character go from one polarity to the other but it's effective as well. Equally adept is Fassbender as Connor who is 180 degrees away from his David Niven-esque soldier in Inglourious Basterds. His Connor is a man with great charm and charisma but it quickly becomes clear he's hiding something. When that revelation comes out (and I wouldn't dream of spoiling what it is) the tension that director Anders creates is palpable. It's rare I watch a film and have no idea what a character will do next and with a character like Mia who's emotions run so hot and cold her decisions create genuine suspense and discomfort.

Fish Tank is about the cycles of poverty, abuse and betrayal, but at the same time underlines the enormous reservoirs of personal strength young people can possess. Mia's tempestuous relationship with her family is capable of showing moments of enormous solemnity and beauty and these moments are incredibly moving. This is not to say the film is without flaws. When director/writer Arnold moves away from the naturalistic drama and moves toward the symbolic the filmmaking can be a bit obvious and didactic (the last shot of the film puts the Departed's scurrying rat to shame). However, the virtuosity of the performances and the powerful emotional conflicts on display will leave most viewers breathless.

Friday, February 12, 2010

Linkentine's Day

Analysis: Devin from CHUD talks about the deserving and undeserving snubs of this year's Oscars.
The AV Club also takes a look at one of my favorites from this decade, Let the Right One In. The truly GREAT vampire love flick from the aughts.
A solid primer for Buster Keaton. Don't know who that is? Read this article and FIX THAT!

Interviews: All around great actor Kevin Corrigan expounds on some of his past work. As does Mad Man Jared Harris.

Lists: io9 looks at the worst sci-fi Oscar snubs (in light of Moon's shut out). AV Club runs-down some of their favorite bad-asses.
My new plaid pants did their annual golden trousers awards. Fun choices as always.

Funny: Nate from Film Experience provides some amusing stats on this year's Oscar nominees. In an unusual reversal the AV Club (not CHUD!) talks about The Manitou.
What's this? Wes Anderson's Spider-Man? I'm there.
Finally, a comprehensive look at everything Avatar...uh..."borrowed" from.

Awesome: This is just great, the films of the 2000's.
Devin visited Bob Burns' museum of movie memorabilia and it is amazing. Check it here and here.