Monday, March 31, 2008

Yet another new media discussion from a too young curmudgeon (and some random tidbits)

The other night, before I began my wedding in Wisconsin adventure I had the opportunity to catch Jaws at the Zigfield Theater in midtown Manhattan. The print was lovely and the audience pumped. I've seen Jaws by myself, with groups, I've seen it in crappy Parisan hotels, I've seen it on big screen fancy plasma-liquid-razor thin TVs. But until last Thursday night I don't think I'd ever REALLY seen Jaws. This is all just a fanciful way of saying that the raw experience of seeing a big exciting movie on the big screen can't be beat, the same can be said for seeing it with a primed, reasonably polite and expressive audience. Media grows increasingly accessible, increasingly affordable and increasingly portable, the problem is the experience is diminished. Seeing Jaws with three old-friends who are old hands at Jaws and three who had never seen it before? You can't replicate that holding your iPhone sideways. Plus seeing THIS on the big screen allows you to applaud at the end:

So what say you valued readers: Are you fed up with theaters or do you still believe in the magic? Or has a third way caught your eye? Put it in the comments.

Some other newsworthy tidbits that don't merit full posts include:
It's weird to see all this stuff about Jason Segel and movie-making buddy Nick Stoller taking over the Muppets because it could have been an honest to God Sickness Cinema exclusive as I heard about it two weeks before it was announced officially. Damn my paranoia. Anyway I could not be happier about the arrangement. Especially when Segel says stuff like this.

Apparently Juno is getting an additional soundtrack full of stuff that missed making the movie by "just that much." More Kimya Dawson, more Buddy Holly and another sampling of Ellen Page's delightful soprano voice. Haters to the left, everyone else can order online to the right. Learn more here.

Thursday, March 27, 2008

Mazal Tov

Alas, no posts this weekend. "Why?" you may ask. Well why tell you when I can show you. And why show you when I can show you with Muppets.

Yes, this weekend I will be serving as best-man to one of my best friends as he takes that great, big, scary step further into the Stargate of real-life (which would make me Kurt Russel in this analogy...bitchin'). Anyway I'll be kicking ass and taking names this weekend in Milwaukee so no new posts until Monday. Enjoy the weekend kids.

Wednesday, March 26, 2008

Lovely ladies of the Apatow-verse news

The gorgeous, talented (and somewhat recent convert to the tribe) Elizabeth "funniest person in Seabiscuit" Banks has been cast as Laura Bush in the forthcoming Oliver Stone biopic W. Josh "Holin' in my" Brolin will be playing George W. I wasn't wild about Stone's World Trade Center or Alexander but to my mind he's stll got some talent credit in the bank from classics like JFK, Nixon and the hasn't aged particularly well Wall Street (still a fun movie though). The Bush presidency has definitely been the stuff of great drama...or comedy. Banks remains a sexy, talented lady who I've thoroughly enjoyed in 40 Year Old Virgin, Wet Hot American Summer, Slither and the Spider-Man movies and helped me get through Seabiscuit, Definitely Maybe and Fred Claus. Banks can next be seen opposite her Virgin love interest Seth Rogen in Kevin Smith's Zak & Miri Make a Porno. She can also be seen opposite Two-Face (the new one) in Meet Dave and opposite many Eddie Murphys in Meet Dave.

It's also worth mentioning that the equally sexy and talented Leslie Mann (that's Mrs. Apatow to you chumly) is celebrating her birthday today. It's not polite to mention a lady's age but I will say that I'd gladly have her chew me out in front of the club. I extolled Ms. Mann's considerable acting gifts in one of my favorite posts here. She recently appeared in Vanity Fair looking SENSATIONAL. So happy birthday to Ms. Mann, looking good Mrs. A! Mann can currently be seen flirting adorably with Owen Wilson in Drillbit Taylor. Mann's romantic prospects will not be improving much in the coming year as she will be playing opposite a de-aged Matthew Perry -cum-Zac Efron in Seventeen Again.

Tuesday, March 25, 2008


In this USA Today article George Lucas is "tempering" expectations for the new film. I rhetorically beg you George, step away from the computer, step away from the ranch and step away from the microphone and shut up. Why don't you go make an experimental film. Remember George? The kind of movies you weren't allowed to make because you got caught up in Star Wars? Remember? Didn't you set-up an entire system allowing you to work independently of the studios. George has been threatening for YEARS to make his own movies with limited commercial appeal, what the devil is he waiting for? With the exception of his buddy Steven, George Lucas can probably snap his fingers and make a project happen more effectively than anyone in film. The man is self-financed, he doesn't need to make an animated Star Wars movie, the teet has been milked.

What particularly galls me is this comment:
It's just a movie. Just like the other movies. You probably have fond memories of the other movies. But if you went back and looked at them, they might not hold up the same way your memory holds up.
Really George? "Other movies?" Let's see, let's consider some of the movies I've enjoyed when I was...oh I don't know...ten. Hmmm Mary Poppins, nope still great. The Godfather...sorry still a classic. The Sandlot, hits all the buttons just right. Back to the Future? Just saw that at a revival theater with an overjoyed audience. Worked for every single person in the theater no matter what age. What about Raiders of the Lost Ark, you know, the first Indiana Jones movie? Oh right, sill the greatest action film of all time. Now maybe I've been a bit selective in picking my films, but the movies I like are still largely the movies I liked because they were good. George Lucas can put out ll the theories about fan reaction he likes but comments like these are pretty frustrating. A director and especially a producer (which Lucas is serving as in this film) has to be the biggest cheerleader for his film, but Lucas is acting like the boat is sinking before it's even left the dock. Most filmmakers would kill for the level of enthusiasm that Indy has going for it, don't act like you've got a dud on your hands. I hardly think Jon Favreau is telling the press Iron Man isn't worth getting excited about.

Why are you wearing that stupid movie suit?

Let me begin with a few qualifiers lest I should be flamed in the comments. I really enjoyed Donnie Darko (like many I caught it on DVD), though I think that Richard Kelly's script for Domino (and the ensuing picture that came from it) are a mess. I hope against hope that his yet to be produced Bessie script gets made and since he's he's providing James Marsden with his next lead role in The Box I'm generally a fan. But I don't care how big a Kelly fan (or apologist) you are, Southland Tales is a horrible, terrible, no good, very bad mess.

One can see the beginning granules of good ideas but I am floored that executives allowed for any of the elements to get past the script stage. It's just, ugh, unbelievably frustrating film-making. Kelly packs too much into the films and bogs it down with so much exposition you'd think it was a Uwe Boll film. The film takes aim at too many targets all at once and subsequently misses all of them. Jut to run-down a checklist; celebrity culture, the energy crisis, homeland security, election tampering, Communism, war in the Middle East, religion and the nature of reality. Weaving through these myriad bits is Kelly continuing his interest with time travel, which is EXACTLY what this movie needed to seem less convoluted.
So in the midst of all this what is the movie about? The movie follows right-wing action star Boxer Santoros (Dwayne Johnson) who after a bout of amnesia has now started a new life and he may be the Messiah. Or maybe it's just the Messianic, apocalypse preoccupied screenplay that he co-wrote with porn-star-cum-reality-TV-star Krysta Now (Sarah Michelle Gellar). Boxer's screenplay may indeed hold the secret behind how the world ends, which seems to mysteriously sync up to an evasive scientist's (Wallace Shawn) plan to use the power of the oceans as a renewable energy source. Meanwhile Boxer needs to research his role in the script as an undercover cop so he rides along with Roland Taverner (Sean William Scott) a member of L.A.'s newly fascist police regime (well...maybe not SO new). Except Roland is really Ronald, Roland's twin brother (OR IS HE? [he isn't]) a member of a Neo-Communist cell that is looking to royally screw over the newly instated USIdent (the US Government now owns the internet and is using it for purposes of homeland security). Did I mention that the cell is stock full of former SNL cast members and Avon Barksdale? Also Justin Timberlake performs a musical number based around The Killers "All These Things that I've Done."

With all these unique elements you may think that this is an interesting movie. It isn't. There's so much to keep track of (I haven't even mentioned the election or any other number of "twists" the movie throws at you) that you can never sit back and enjoy or even ponder the film. The acting is fine but the casting is distracting. I will say that Sarah Michelle Gellar is pretty spot-on as a former porn star and that as usual the Rock gives 100% to a movie he's much better than.
Ugh, what a mess. I guess no one wanted to say "no" to Kelly. Maybe he just layered in too many ideas in one script. Maybe the movie just got away from him. I applaud any filmmaker that wants to tackle the issues of the day and really put his own spin on them, but damn it, a film should at least cohere even if it doesn't make complete sense. I will say this in the films favor, stylistically the film matches up with one of its reoccurring motifs, this is the way the world ends, not with a whimper but with a bang. Stop the banging Mr. Kelly, please.

Southland Tales is now available on DVD. I'd recommend it only to Kelly completists or film sadists.

Monday, March 24, 2008

Listing away

SamuraiFrog over at Electronic Cerebrectomy (still love a blog that names itself after an obscure Muppet Movie device) is spreading this pseudo meme that is a sort of checklist based off the imdb's top 250. Mind you the list being internet user generated has transformed over the years, there are fewer foreign films and films that pre-date the 1970's, still this list represents a pretty solid grouping of films. How many have I seen? I've bolded them.

1. The Godfather (1972)
2. The Shawshank Redemption (1994)
3. The Godfather: Part II (1974)
4. The Good, the Bad and the Ugly (1966)
5. Pulp Fiction (1994)
6. Schindler’s List (1993)
7. One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest (1975)
8. The Empire Strikes Back (1980)
9. Casablanca (1942)
10. Seven Samurai (1954)
11. Star Wars (1977)
12. The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King (2003)
13. 12 Angry Men (1957)
14. Rear Window (1954)
15. Goodfellas (1990)
16. City of God (2002)
17. Raiders of the Lost Ark (1981)
18. The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring (2001)
19. Once Upon a Time in the West (1968)
20. The Usual Suspects (1995)
21. Psycho (1960)
22. Dr. Strangelove or: How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Bomb (1964)
23. Fight Club (1999)
24. Citizen Kane (1941)
25. The Silence of the Lambs (1991)
26. North by Northwest (1959)
27. Memento (2000)
28. The Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers (2002)
29. Sunset Boulevard (1950)
30. It’s a Wonderful Life (1946)
31. The Matrix (1999)
32. Lawrence of Arabia (1962)
33. There Will Be Blood (2007)
34. Se7en (1995)
35. Apocalypse Now (1979)
36. Taxi Driver (1976)
37. American Beauty (1999)
38. Léon (1994)
39. Vertigo (1958)
40. Amélie (2001)
41. American History X (1998)
42. The Departed (2006)
43. No Country for Old Men (2007)
44. Paths of Glory (1957)
45. M (1931)
46. To Kill a Mockingbird (1962)
47. Chinatown (1974)
48. The Third Man (1949)
49. The Lives of Others (2006)
50. Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind (2004)
51. A Clockwork Orange (1971)
52. Alien (1979)
53. The Treasure of the Sierra Madre (1948)
54. Pan's Labyrinth (2006)
55. The Shining (1980)
56. Spirited Away (2001)
57. The Pianist (2002)
58. Double Indemnity (1944)
59. Monty Python and the Holy Grail (1975)
60. Forrest Gump (1994)
61. Saving Private Ryan (1998)
62. The Bridge on the River Kwai (1957)
63. L.A. Confidential (1997)
64. Das Boot (1981)
65. Requiem for a Dream (2000)
66. Reservoir Dogs (1992)
67. Downfall (2004)
68. Aliens (1986)
69. The Maltese Falcon (1941)
70. Raging Bull (1980)
71. Metropolis (1927)
72. Rashômon (1950)
73. Terminator 2: Judgment Day (1991)
74. Modern Times (1936)
75. Hotel Rwanda (2004)
76. Singin’ in the Rain (1952)
77. Sin City (2005)
78. 2001: A Space Odyssey (1968)
79. Rebecca (1940)
80. The Seventh Seal (1957)
81. All About Eve (1950)
82. Some Like It Hot (1959)
83. City Lights (1931)
84. Amadeus (1984)
85. On the Waterfront (1954)
86. Life Is Beautiful (1997)
87. The Great Escape (1963)
88. Touch of Evil (1958)
89. The Prestige (2006)
90. The Elephant Man (1980)
91. Jaws (1975)
92. Full Metal Jacket (1987)
93. The Sting (1973)
94. Cinema Paradiso (1988)
95. Once Upon a Time in America (1984)
96. The Manchurian Candidate (1962)
97. The Apartment (1960)
98. Braveheart (1995)
99. The Great Dictator (1940)
100. Blade Runner (1982)

Hell yeah. That's right, 100 out of 100. Not that I don't have some problems with this list, there are couple that just flat-out do not belong on a 100 top list. Counting up from 100 I can see that The Prestige is a brilliantly constructed puzzle-box but it's too soon to call it an all-time classic. That's the problem with a lot of these, they've got their spots from recent enthusiasm. It's just too soon to tell. The same could be said for The Pianist, No Country for Old Men and There Will Be Blood. Time has shown Life is Beautiful to be a rather mawkish, manipulative and ultimately forgettable film (man did people get over Roberto Begnini fast). Sin City is a solid, nasty, b-movie for grown-ups but greatest of all-time? No. Downfall is an epic look at the last days of Hitler but for me didn't provide a lot of insight. I do think the film works well as a parable discussing the crumbling of a regime but I do not think it will endure. Hotel Rwanda has some moving performances and hopefully put some well-intentioned eyes on African genocide but is not particularly remarkable in it's film-making (though I did read an excellent article about the passionate production of the film in Premiere [back when such a thing existed]). Saving Private Ryan and Forest Gump present a thorny sent of problems, I think both get bumps of praise from Greatest Generation fans and Baby Boomers respectively. I'm not wild about either film but respect them for the advances both films made in forwarding HOW films are made.

Ultimately there are a lot of great movies on this list but it's a popularity contest. A striaght-male heavy popularity contest. I still think it's a good foundation for start-up film fans, but if you really want to branch out check THIS site here. I will say this though, The Godfather is a worthy number one. Anything you think belongs on this list or absolutely does not? Anything you haven't seen you want a recommendation on? Put it in the comments.

Saturday, March 22, 2008

Happy birthday to the GREATEST...ACTOR...EVER!

Seventy-seven years ago on this day in the wilds of Canada the greatest actor ever to live was born. Star of stage and screen, William Shatner has redefined the art of the dramatic pause, the carefully enunciated delivery, the burly swagger and the skill of chewing scenery, pooping the scenery and then eating said poop-scenery again. Shatner can bring it dramatically or comedically (he's certainly not afraid of mocking his image...or shilling). But damn it all, Shatner is better than that, behold one of his finest moments as captain of the USS Enterprise NCC-1701, James Tiberius Kirk:

Glorious. Shatner is so much more than a great actor, he's worked as a musician (his Ben Fold's produced album Has Been is a genuine delight), writer, director and producer. Good stuff. People forget that he is a Shakespearean trained actor and appeared in dramatic work like The Brothers Karamazov, Oedipus Rex and Judgment at Nuremberg. I would also make the argument that he turns in sterling work on a weekly basis on the David E. Kelly series Boston Legal. If only I could remember the name of the character he plays, want to help me out there Mr. Shatner:

Thanks Bill. Happy Birthday, live long and prosper and most importantly, Denny Crane!

My 150th Post, what COULD it be about?

Examining the special features of the Enchanted DVD ultimately wind-up as a fun and informative tease. The blooper reel is the same paltry two minutes that showed-up on Youtube a couple of weeks ago so no surprises there. The deleted scenes aren't wildly interesting just a lot of script padding that the story made apparent earlier. There is a nice moment where Nancy effectively "rescues" Edward towards the end but it's so brief as to be inconsequential. The real meat of the disc is the look at three of the major set-pieces of the movie; Happy Working Song, That's How You Know and the ballroom.

My respect for Kevin Lima and his collaborators has increased exponentially after watching these bits. Looking at Happy Working Song reveals an enormous amount of the number was done with practical effects. Especially fun was seeing the rig that Adams had to wear when the birds put the dress around her as well as the self-propelled sponges and soap bars. Good stuff. It also comes off as a testament to A-Dubs acting abilities in that she's reacting to a whole lot of nothing so well in the CG shots (suck it Lucas). In the That's How You Know section you get to see the AD nightmare that is a massive on location musical number. It's especially cool to see the experience of some of the older dancers in the number (some are veterans from West Side Story and Mary Poppins). Sadly there is no in-depth examination of the awesome Marsden fist in mouth move. In fact there is no Marsden to be found in ANY of the special features. Boo! Mega-boo as well to the "hidden" (just click the Mickey Mouse logo) special feature that amounts to an add for the Blu-Ray edition of the movie (which has more features). While I'm glad that Disney has embraced the medium I don't understand WHY they couldn't include it on BOTH versions.

My request to Disney in future editions: Two commentary tracks one with Kevin Lima and Bill Kelly, the other with Amy Adams and James Marsden. A spot the Disney reference pop-up branching feature and most importantly a look at the cut "Enchanted" number that was to be sung by Marsden and Menzel. There I've said my piece. Now to re-watch the movie...a billion times.

Friday, March 21, 2008

Linkbit Taylor

LAST MINUTE ADDITION: Ok so yeah it's official Mutt Ravenwood's got some moves. AHHHH! This is pretty damn cool. Get sliced by the seed of Jones here.

Comedy: The dashing and handsome Patrick Cassels from did a funny, nostalgic piece on some of the familiar faces from the Indiana Jones Trilogy here.
Amusing but true. tells the sad tale of Hollywood's six favorite stereotypes right here.
Ooh the Paley festival, so much good TV getting talked about, check out this Judd Apatow love-in here (be sure to watch the vid for a hilarious anecdote about Mariah Carey from Jonah Hill).

List:, in honor of St. Patrick's day picked ten great Irish movies. Kiss the blarney stone here.
Here's a fun list of bad (well maybe not so bad, in fact some are a lot of fun) musicals from great directors. Marvel that Popeye ever got made here.
Someone took the time to compose a massive Futurama time-line. For mega dorky fans only here.

Interview: My beloved femmate (female roommate), Dani, pointed me in the direction of this thoughtful interview with Funny Games director Michael Haneke here.
My former professor (and head of Focus features) James "Jimmy Scham" Schamus does a fun piece with his hetero-life partner and collaborator Ang Lee here.

Misc: Ready to kill some time and delight your senses, check out these 25 brilliant animated short films here.


So yeah I will be disposed this weekend on account of my girlfriend being AWESOME and sending me THIS in the mail:
My apologies about the hair, I'm normally far less disheveled. Thank you baby, you're number one in my book. Best early birthday present EVAHR!

Thursday, March 20, 2008

And knowing is half the battle

Against my better judgement nine year old the Sickness is kicking and screaming to put THIS up on the site. Ain't it Cool News got sent this AMAZING promo pic from G.I. Joe comic creator Larry Hama. If you're a fellow child of the eighties this is probably the coolest non-Ghostbusters, Ninja Turtle, He-Man thing ever.
That's former Darth Maul, Ray Park, in full uniform as the silent ninja Snake Eyes. I'm sorry but that is just sooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooo cool.
You can got to aicn here for more details. At last we'll get a decent looking Snake Eyes on the big screen (sorry De Palma and Cage).

And there was no lawyer that would be this great again (except for Denny Crane)

Ugh, I don't like writing about people because they died. It's a massive bummer. One of the great orators of stage and screen, Paul Scofield, passed away at 86 (so at least he had a long life).
You won't find much argument that Scofield's greatest role was that of Sir Thomas Moore in A Man for All Seasons. Check out the clips below and then I urge you to go out and take a look at this awesome epic drama filled with glorious speeches.

Wednesday, March 19, 2008

Thing that bummed me out, thing that cheered me up

I am definitely bummed by the passing of Anthony Minghella. In the interest of total candor I was never especially close to his work as a director, but the man did have an eye for directing complex, adult dramatic material, something that grows increasingly difficult to do in studio films. The infinitesimally tiny silver lining is that this may prompt many to go discover or re-discover the man's small but powerful body of work as a director. It should be noted that Minghella was a legitimately multi-talented worker in the film industry serving as writer, director and producer.

Of my own personal connection to Minghella I originally disliked The Talented Mr. Ripley but I am happy to say that subsequent viewings of the film have altered my dislike into great affection. The director's other film I've seen, Cold Mountain, is certainly ambitious but encumbered by all sorts of tinkering to make it award bait. It rarely feels organic. Obviously my q needs some tinkering.
On the OTHER HAND I was thrilled to wake-up and discover this golden nugget (which I first heard from Frank via e-mail and subsequently saw at this link). Edgar Wright, probably my out and out favorite director working today, is in talks with the sublimely talented Michael Cera to star in the director's adaptation of Bryan Lee O'Malley's superlative comic series Scott Pilgrim. If you're not a reader of Pilgrim (something you can rectify by clicking here and dropping a few shekels, it's only ten bucks cheapo) let me fill you in. Scott Pilgrim is a Canadian slacker who must defeat his new flame Ramona's seven evil ex-boyfriends in combat to make her his girlfriend. In the process Scott grows and matures in tiny baby steps, he also gets extra lives, plays in his band Sex B-Bomb and re-evaluates his own sordid love life. Think Superbad meets Kicking & Screaming (the Baumbach one) meets Kung-Fu Hustle and you're getting closer. What's particular exciting is that Scott Pilgrim doesn't really match up with the current awkward/cute schtick that Cera excels in. Scott can be hyperactive, a bit of a jerk, egotistical and a bit of a dunderhead all at once. It'll be great to see Cera stretch and really show to the world the no doubt enormously talented comedian I just know in my heart of hearts he is. Honest and truly people you should be getting excited (and buy those Pilgrim trades).

Tuesday, March 18, 2008

Your Sickness Background

Hey everyone have a little task for you. I'm thinking of making some changes to the design of the blog. Nothing drastic mind you, just time to shake things up a wee bit. So I will put it to you, which of these following pics, posters and screen shots should be the official background (you know, the still from Manhattan up top) of the Sickness Cinema.
I like this one for obvious reasons. It's like she's introducing me. :)
Oh Wall-e I've seen maybe two minutes worth of you and you already may be the greatest thing Pixar has EVER done. My God.
Start the plane Jock! Start the plane Jock! I like this one because it's like you're about to begin an adventure.
This was briefly my opening image, it's the stand-off from The Good, the Bad and the Ugly, and if you needed me to tell you that drop what you're doing and go watch The Good, the Bad and the Ugly.
A big face full of Jack Elam from the opening of Once Upon a Time in the West. Another Leone showdown.
You can never have too much Paulie Bleeker. It's just science.
My favorite New York based action film. This poster is, as the kids say "teh sex."

Please put your votes in the comments.

Monday, March 17, 2008

Happy St. Patrick's Day

A day where I, in all my Jewish-ness, scramble to find something green lest my elementary school fear of ceaseless pinching come to be.

Other sites may be celebrating with clips from The Departed or The Leprachaun or Miller's Crossing or Once or something but not this film blog. Oh no, down at the Sickness Cinema we roll with musicals. They may be old, shabby (and in the case of this one contain some HORRIBLY offensive stereotypes) and creaky but damn it, I love 'em. Feast your eyes on the opening to the ode of all things Irish Finian's Rainbow, the freshman studio assignment of a young director by the name of Francis Ford Coppola. Oh yeah, deal with THAT!

I like this film despite it's faults which are MANY; the local commune is saved by inventing menthol cigarettes, a racist mayor is turned black as a punishment and the story prominently features a horny leprechaun. Still the songs are great. Three of them can be found in this clip below (my favorite of the three "If this isn't love" shows up about 11 minutes in).

Happy St. Patrick's Day everyone.

Sunday, March 16, 2008

Do you know this man?

Advertisers seem to think you do. I mean I certainly know him and apparently he has been deemed a draw (which he is). However, I don't know if my favorite zombie killer/fuzz/Scotty-to-be has the renown to be the subject of many a billboard and taxi-ad all over New York. Don't get me wrong, statues and tapestries and topiary gardens should be made in this man's likeness but do YOU know who he is? And would you go see a movie starring him called Run Fat Boy Run? Answer yes or no in the comments please.

Saturday, March 15, 2008

Games yes, funny no

In preparation for Michael Haneke's revision of his sadistic work Funny Games I made it a point to check out Haneke's original film.
I am admittedly only slightly familiar with Haneke's filmmography having seen Cache. I'd heard about Funny Games and that it was a brutal home invasion film but that was the extent of it. What Cache had prepared me for is that Haneke is a director who enjoys luring his audience into a false sense of security and then shattering them with intense images and situations. Funny Games is even more sinister. A meditation on an audience's compulsion and innate appetite towards violence, the film skews viewer expectations at every turn making them hide their eyes while at the same type eager to see more.

The film is a tiny chamber piece with a cast of five characters; a family of three (man, wife and son) and two well-dressed, well-mannered psychopaths. The film takes place over the course of one torturous day where a bourgeois family visits their country home only to encounter the two young men dressed in white claiming to be friends of the neighbors and asking to borrow eggs. It's an in auspicious start to be sure but the scene quickly devolves into the wife screeching for the young men to get out of the house. Actually the troublesome sequences begin even earlier where the couples in car discussion of classical music is suddenly interrupted by incredibly unpleasant heavy metal music as the title card appears. The characters continue on with their discussion (the music is non-diagetic) however the dissonance is incredibly jarring and off-putting. This is only the first of many instances where the audience is "punished" while at the same time getting a visceral buzz. You can check it out below:

Haneke continues to pummel the audience, not with graphic violence, but with incredibly sadistic human behavior. The film is hypnotic, as the two men played by Haneke regular Arno Frisch and Frank Giering effectively cut the family off from the rest of the world and hold them hostage, breaking the father Georg's leg (played by the late, great Ulrich Muhe) with a golf club. They put the family through a number of psychologically torturous situations, embarassing them, degrading and humiliating each member. Haneke teases our expectations suggesting back-story and motivations for the two men and then snatching them away, dismissing them as pointless nonsense, ultimately saying this is malfeasance for malfeasances sake. As the film progresses Haneke goes deeper into a bag of nasty tricks breaking the fourth wall in ways that are shocking and incredibly upsetting. Of course if it weren't for these alterations the movie would come to an end and then where would we be?

Haneke never shows any blood coming FROM people (except in one pivotal scene, with a twist) and provides no answers. The viewer is left with a cold, empty pit in their stomach at the end. There is no sense and no answers to gain from this film. Does it work on it's own merits? It does serve as intriguing meditation on visceral responses from an audience (and contains some devestating performances from Muhle and Susanne Lothar who plays his wife), but as a film to be enjoyed? I wouldn't want anyone liking this film as anything other than as an academic examination of it's audience responses.

I'm not entirely sure why Haneke would want to remake the film (other than to expose it to a broader audience with prettier leads). People have suggest that an American version is more appropriate as we have an insatiable appetite for screen violence and degradation, but the foreign version gets this point across just fine on it's own.

Friday, March 14, 2008

Horton Clicks a Link

Last night in honor of this column while playing the new Smash Brothers Game (SO MUCH FUN) I played as Link (and Captain Falcon-FALCON BOMB!)

Analysis: King of non-fiction pop-culture musing Chuck Klosterman has some intriguing things to say on the subject of "the road" in film. Click here.
Burbanked has some intriguing thoughts on the pointlessness of female love interests in comics. Make your own Hulkling/Asgardian jokes here. looks at five of the most awesome fictional fighting styles from movies here.
The New York Times was the first of a WAVE of people to point to how unbelievably disappointed I am in Ben Stein. Prefer Jimmy Kimmel here.

TV: Just because The Wire is over doesn't mean I'm done talking about it. EW does a nice piece on their favorite moments. I should warn you though it's fairly spoiler heavy. However, if you know the show you'll enjoy looking back on these moments here.
Speaking of The Wire, The Playlist offers up seven things you didn't know about Omar. Stand-off with Brother Muzone here. Oh also the same site has eleven things you didn't know about David Simon here.
Pajiba looks to be doing an intriguing features that I wish I'd thought of first; their favorite individual seasons of TV shows. Up first, season two of Arrested Development here.

A-Dubs: Oh yeah guy from Modern Fabulousity YOU love Amy Adams. Click here to see the last horse join the race.

Now Hear THIS Whos

This week's release of Horton Hears a Who has been garnering some positive reviews in stating that it's superior to the manic and obnoxious live-action Seuss adaptations that have preceded it. Talk about damning a film with faint praise. Is it so impossible to create a feature length, live action Dr. Seuss film? Maybe, Seuss' simple but clever works succeed in short form, which is why the preferred Seuss adpatation have always been the Chuck Jones animated shorts. But what if, dear readers, what if they DID make a good live action Seuss adaptation?
Well what if I told you that Dr. Seuss WROTE a completely original movie? And what if I told you it was AWESOME?

The 5,000 Fingers of Dr. T (a perfectly Seussian title if ever there was one) deals with some heady themes while retaining a charming innocence and timelessness found in all of Seuss works. The film is also LOADED with some truly awesome homo-erotic undertones as chronicled in THIS post which brought the film to my attention.
The story follows young Batholomew Collins who is stuck taking piano lessons under the tyrannical Dr. Terwiliker. His single (ooo single in the 50's) mom is insistent that young Bart practice but Bart wants to go out and play. Bart also pines for another bonding male influence in his life and takes to the burly plumber Mr. Zablodowski. During one boring solo practice Bart sleeps his way into a glorious surreal world where Dr. T plans on using 500 boys to play a MASSIVE piano to complete his masterpiece. His mother is under the hypnotic control of Dr. T so she's no help, so Bart calls upon Mr. Zablodowski (who's helping with the plumbing in the surreal world too) to free his mother, himself and the other boys. Mr. Z is reluctant and it's up to Bart to escape Dr. T and explore the incredibly strange and wonderful world filled with would-be helpers and henchmen.
Most notable of course are a pair of roller-skating twins connected by their BEARD! THEIR BIG BUSHY BEARD! AHHHHHHHHHH! GLORIOUS!
The film is a pretty wild-ride for a kids story and loaded with surreal touches. It's just so bizzare. Check it out:

There are some musical numbers and they're solid but ultimately forgettable. To my mind the film is about a boy trying to find and assert himself as a young man. For all his toughness Mr. Zablodowski is a bit of a push-over and only really acts when spurned on by Bart. It's an intriguing topic and the film never loses sight of it as we're constantly reminded of Bart's feelings of loneliness and isolation in the strange new world.

To my mind the performance to savor is Dr. T himself as essayed by Hans Conreid. Conreid's appearance is likely unfamiliar to many but his voice certainly is not as a veteran voice actor (probably best known for playing the original Disney Captain Hook). Conreid throws himself into his live-action work alternating between genuinely menacing to silly with ease reminding me of Jack Buchanan's similarly amusingly tyrannical director in The Band Wagon. He also gets to wear some outfits in this thing that Bjork would insist on keeping her dignity rather than wear. Yet Conreid never shows a hint of shame in his work. The film really is something special and just begging to be discovered en masse. It's available on netflix so fire up those q's people.

Thursday, March 13, 2008

I'm sorry

Oh please forgive me internets. I know I've been a bad daily blogger. Two WHOLE days post-less. Real-life has demanded a great deal of my time and there was just no time for you. Don't worry though, I've got a big exciting line-up and this time blog-less has left me refreshed and ready. Coming up I'll be providing you with some counter-programming suggestions for this weekend's film's releases and since it's Friday you know what that means...links! I'll be back either later tonight or early tomorrow. Until then put some more comments on that Wire post. Or rent it.

Monday, March 10, 2008

We'll all be safe from Satan/when the thunder rolls: My thoughts on The Wire Finale

Warning: This article will refer to characters and events from all five seasons of The Wire. I IMPLORE you to be familiar with the series and watch them on DVD or HBO before reading this article.

I realize I've been doing a lot of talking about TV on this "FILM" blog lately but the fact of the matter is that visits to the theater have not been in the budget lately (haven't had a lot of free time either and the two tend to go hand in hand). But who needs Donny Osmond and Martin Lawrence when you've got the conclusion to quite simply the greatest television series ever? Oh sure, I love the Office and Arrested Development, Deadwood and Battlestar Galactica, love them dearly (my relationship with The Sopranos is a tad more complex [if there's interest I'll comment on it at a later date]). But there is no show that has more purely engaged me as a viewer. It's broadened my consciousness, causing me to reconsider the institutions that I live and work in every day (being in the education racket it's little wonder my favorite of the bunch is season four) and even more importantly has made me consider the people I live alongside in a city of millions. In renouncing the traditional themes of good versus evil creator David Simon and his incredibly gifted collaborators create empathy for every single character (with a notable exception I'll be mentioning later) no matter where or how they live.
I could go on and on about favorite scenes (Boadie learns chess, Prez's first day, Carcetti's phone calls, Kima says goodnight etc), favorite characters (Carver, Omar, Prez, Stringer, Norman, Gus and of course BUNK), favorite lines by Clay Davis (Shiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiit) but let's talk about last night's finale. I was surprised (and somewhat pleased) to hear that rumors of McNulty's death or suicide were greatly exaggerated (though they teased it nicely with the start of the Irish wake). Considering the absolute mess his life had become, driving many a man to put his service revolver in his mouth, it would've been a logical turn of events. Some may even say that many of the characters got off too easy. I disagree, McNulty gets to live and possibly save his relationship with Beadie, but he's no longer doing the only thing he's truly happy to do, the only thing he CAN do, being a murder police. Daniels FINALLY became commissioner, but his ideologies regarding juking the stats (WHICH HE WOULD'VE BROUGHT UP ANYWAY grrrrr) got his ass-kicked out minutes after he was sworn in. Even I was surprised to finally empathize with Marlo. His brief time hobnobbing with the rich and powerful in Baltimore away from the criminal element has essentially severed his connection with he streets. His power base is gone, he may be a free man but like McNulty he can no longer do what he excels at. In true Wire fashion no character really won, at best their were those that didn't completely fail. Carver got promoted but I can't imagine working under the newly christened commissioner Valchek will be fun. Some may say that the cyclical nature of the characters and institutions may make the ending seem too pat, but history demonstrates time and again that the names may change but people basically remain the same. It's fitting (and tragic) that Michael is the new Omar and it was devastating (I got completely teary) to see Dukie become the new Bubs. Jeez is that depressing.

There's only one weak spot in the shows environments and that has been the media section. Don't misunderstand, there was plenty of intriguing material at the Baltimore Sun but of all the character I felt that only Gus Haynes was presented with multiple dimensions. Everyone else was a goody-two shoes cub reporter, bumbling money and awards hungry editor, cynical reporter on their way out or an opportunistic bastard. The other institutions always made you reconsider the "bad" guys and the "good" guys. Valchek, Rawls, Landesman, Avon, the Sobotkas, the kids, Bunk, McNulty, Carver all alternatively got moments to show off the angels and demons of their inner nature. Maybe it was the crunch of episodes predicated by the writer's strike, but these newsroom characters didn't really get an opportunity to expose alternate sides to themselves.
But if the most critical thing I can say is that eight of the shows hundred plus characters came off as not completely multi-dimensional then that's a damn good show. The Wire could make you laugh as hard as the best sitcom, put you on the edge of your seat better than the best police procedural and make you wonder more about the world you lived in better than hours of cable news. I will miss it, but if it had to end, I'm glad it ended like this.

All right readers, lay it on me. Tell me your thoughts on the finale, the series, favorite lines, moments and characters in the comments.

Sunday, March 9, 2008

Adams Eve: Live-blogging Amy's Night on SNL

I'll be live-blogging (well, kind of) this episode alongside my roommate Scott. Scott is great because he is the ultimate sounding board.

Late night phone call: I really don't understand the whole SNL is pro-Hillary thing. A show is entitled to an opinion, it's not their fault that Americans are so easily convinced (I do think they had a small impact in Hillary's recent leads but come on). The still photos were a nice touch and it's good to see Armisen playing Obama less stiff. I wonder if this bitter, more cut-throat depiction of Hillary is a reaction to the last two weeks of "Pro-Hillary bias."

Oh first Amy promo photo very cute

Ladies and gentlemen Amy Adams, YAY!

Ooo purple. She always looks so good in purple. Crowd seems particularly psyched (I really wish I could've gotten into this show).

Monologue-LOLCATS Kristen Wiig and Amy Adams DO look similar. Did I not say this is LAST WEEK!?
Annnnd I'm gay.
Scott is a jerk. He says Kristen Wiig's voice is better. But now I'VE now called him a jerk in front of an average of a hundred daily readers. Hah hah, my power is great.
Ok I'll admit that opening PROBABLY could've been better, the sound you're hearing is a hundred middle Americans changing their channels.

"Mirror Image" ABC family series-OK...two sketches about how Amy Adams and Kristen Wiig look similar. Not wild about this bit. Bill Hader already appears 15 minutes in. Good. Ah sly wink to the audience, nothing makes me happier. It really seems like if they wanted to showcase Amy they should've had HER play the fat one. Well at least she's committed. I will be using "ass right I am" at some point in the future. Scott says this sketch is terrible but I reply with "don't you think it EMBRACES it's terribleness?" Scott says no.

Ooo sultry promo photo.

Couples Therapy-Scott says with dark hair A-dubs (yeah we're calling her THAT now) looks like Sarah Michelle Gellar, when I inform him it's funny he should say that because A-dubs played SMG's character in Cruel Intentions 2 he looks at me funny. This sketch belongs to Poehler. It also should've lasted maybe 30 seconds. Besides this sketch is ridiculous, who would EVER marry someone she only met from a soviet bloc country to help them gain citizenship? Who I ask you, who?

Digital Short-A so-so song is redeemed by a solid face punching. It's like a summation of EVERY Snl digital short. And they're still going. Oo blood, it's funny again.

Fierce: The Hot Mess Makeover Show-I haven't yet figured out the new large breasted cast member's deal. Nor have I bothered learning her name. Sorry, repeating "hot mess" and "tranny" is not funny. Yay another flawless Bill Hader impression. Dear SNL, saying that other people over-rely on catchphrases does not excuse composing a sketch made-up entirely of catch-phrases. Also I feel like A-Dubs was not happy about playing Elle McPherson.

Vampire Weekend performs-I wonder if A-Dubs has a whole closet full of nothing BUT purple dresses. In my head she does.

Weekend Update-All right, so again we're seeinga lot less Jim Downey based material as the first two jokes seem fairly pro-bama (I am FULL of words tonight). I feel like in an alternate universe I AM Will Forte. My lips are a little bigger than his though. Wow, Scott really likes Bill Calhoun. My roommates have the STRANGEST taste (the girl likes Psych and the Highlander series...the TV series). I just laughed at the headline "German Soldiers Fat", cause come on, that's funny. Amy Poehler you are JUST cute enough to make the "joke of the week" line funny, once. Once. I know Frank is enjoying the bootleg Ghostbusters theme song. Scott asks if there is really a Brooklyn Ghost Investigation, I remind myself that I am moving in two months. There is a perverse pleasure in hearing Kenan Thompson saying zout a'lours. I have to explain the Keith Richards joke to Scott, didn't he major in music?

Scott theorizes that the reason the show seems off was that they partied too hard after last weeks after-party. I chime in with "Yes, everyone very excited about Ellen Page pseudo-coming out." That probably was pretty wild.

Did anyone else catch Lorne Michaels hugging Amy for a little TOO long during the shot of the show mid-commercial?

Traffic School- Oh wait, it's that Kristen Wiig character she played in Knocked Up. Trailing off while competing with everyone else in conversation always fun (cough). Why is A-Dubs playing the straight-man/authority figure in all these sketches? Isn't she a comic actress? What the deuce. She's not Ralph Nader, you can make her do more funny stuff. What I am getting is that Adams and Wiig are total bffs, I bet she lends her purple dresses. Ooo her imitation of Wiig is solid.

Where can I get these promo photos?

Dr. Uncle Jimmy's Smokehouse and Outpatient Surgical Facility-The title is satirical and appropriate, but I don't know if there is anything MORE to it than that. Ellen Pompeo's exit line is amusing, as is "I hope those aren't MY ribs."

During a commercial for Drillbit Taylor Scott mentions how hot and talented Leslie Mann is. Way ahead of you Scott, way ahead of you.

Roger Clemens Presents-Heh, look at the arms. "Major red-ass" lol. "Do you get it?" yes Mr. Clemens, we do. Tomboy Amy, adorable, also her fall is excellent. "I need power from you this year, steroid power." Sudekis is bringing it in this sketch.

Tookie Stiles-I can't imagine Spike Lee likes this sketch, yeeee (collar pull). Awww A-Dubs Irish accent is adorable. Scott asks if Tookie Williams is a real person, google says no. Or maybe they did say yes but I never search for more than one page.

I love theater, love it, but my god, please no more commercials for plays. It's soooo awkward.

Second Vampire Weekend performance-Ooo a mandolin. I need to get this CD.

Last random sketch, Celebration bar-Big hair is exactly the right kind of trashy, don't ask me why. The dance is very amusing. A-Dubs knows how to cheat out while staying characters and THAT is why I like her. I hope that they don't do this dance three times. But the comedy rule of three is about to smack me on the back of the head. Annnnd I'm right. Ugh. I'm super annoyed that the rehearsal time for this sketch could've been better spent writinga shorter funnier sketch. Though the reaction shots of Hader are solid. Tsk. Sigh.

During a commercial for Virginia (the state) Scott asks "Is this where Dave Matthews songs go?" I reply with "Yes, to die."

Ok so that wasn't GREAT. Or even good. Damn. I wanted to like it, BELIEVE me. But oh man, she is sooo pretty and talented (but not as pretty as my ACTUAL girlfriend who is amazing and wonderful and very good to put up with this kind of post). Oh well. Pettigrew next week, gotta be better.

Saturday, March 8, 2008

Vote Dent

Now normally I don't go in for writing about politics on the blog. However, this guy I like. He doesn't strike me as one of those two-faced politicians who says one thing during the campaign and then becomes a whole other person when elected. His whole "stop on a dime" approach to crime is very appealing. I hope you'll consider him on election day, I bet you double or nothing he gets it with your support.

Friday, March 7, 2008

Miss Pettigrew Links for a Day

Friend pimping: Terry of fame had some very nice things to say about me and the blog. Which is funny because I happen to have some very nice things to say about him. Particularly now that he updates more frequently and you never know what crazy, random thing he'll blog about next. You should make it a point to check him on the daily here.
Also worth mentioning is Josh Heller taking a break from composing jingles to sit down and write a serious look at the amazing sounding Urban Iditarod competition. It's some pretty damn compelling reportage, both equal parts informative, thoughtful and hilarious. If you absolutely, positively must click on only one link in this whole article make it this one here. Then reassess why you only can click on just one link. Get it together man.

Funny Stuff: lists the Top 25 piecs of Movie Merchandise too awesome to exist. Laugh at the Capote action figure here.

TV Stuff: A ton of solid TV related stuff this week. First up is a link that is already being hailed as "controversial" and has my friend Offer threatening to kill me for potentially ruining Lost. The guys who created this page were EXTREMELY thorough so beware. The mysteries of the island may well be revealed here.
The man who created Hamsterdam wants to make it happen in real life. Wire fans check out David Simon's take on the war on drugs courtesy of Time Magazine here.
It's Always Sunny in Philadelphia creator Rob McElhenny has some big, hilarious sounding plans for next season. "The gang takes on the sub-prime mortgage crisis" anyone? You can await the return of "Day Man" (yes they're bringing it back) here.

Lists: I'm a sucker for lists like how Nelly is a sucker for cornrows and manicured toes. Radar provides a look at the most misogynistic films of the last decade here.
Film Babble has a look at the ten most misleading posters/DVD covers of all-time here.

Analysis: Creative loafing makes a pretty compelling defense for the recently lackluster Will Ferrell. Break out of the glass case of emotion here.

Forgetting Sarah Marshall: I can think of no better gift than having a great comedy arrive square on my birthday (actually yes I can but I've been sworn to not mentioning it on the blog by the lady :)). This year will be full of chock full of glorious Apatow produced goodness but I'm especially excited for audiences to discover what fans of How I Met Your Mother and Freaks & Geeks already know. Namely that Jason Segel is a glorious comedy lead. The film, which Segel writes and stars in, will look at break-ups the way Knocked-Up looked at pregnancy. The film already has a very character specific website up, though the url is being rumored to change (a fun but tricky to execute gimmick). Try it at either or It should be noted that the titular Sarah is being played by Veronica Mars herself, Kristen Bell.
There is also a not especially informative but VERY funny interview with a good chunk of the cast (including Jack McBrayer 30 Rock fans) along with director Nick Stoller and producer Shauna Robertson done by Quint over at AICN here.

Youtube faves for this week:

Frank pointed me to this remarkable little gem first (though I received it MANY times subsequently). The opening titles of Star Wars redone as though they'd been created by titles impresario Saul Bass.

Sweeding is taking off (as I predicted) and one of the best I've seen so far is the concise, hilarious and still great version of Once. Damn I love that movie.

Screw that little girl who described the plot of Star Wars. Here is a young man after my own heart. Drainage indeed!

And lastly, Jason Sudekis goes too far. Isn't it enough being Tina Fey's fictional boyfriend? Sudekis!!!!! Oooo I can't wait for Saturday.

Thursday, March 6, 2008

Quis custodiet ipsos custodes? (A look at the Watchmen photots)

Well I will definitely being watching the Watchmen when it comes out in 2009 but based on these newly released promotional character photos I will be making the trip to the theater with some reservations.

In general I like director Zak Snyder but I want to love him. His Dawn of the Dead remake was far better than I could've hoped for (though it traded on dread for action). I would even go so far to say that the ten minute opening sequence is one of the best pure horror sequences of all time. The rest of the film can't compete with it (though the "birthing" sequence is solid). While his follow-up film, 300, was visually inspired I felt it was dragged down by ponderous, pedantic narration and an extremely silly, myopic attitude and atmosphere. Audiences more than embraced it and helped Snyder have the cache necessary to take a big, high profile film like Watchmen.

"What is Watchmen?" asks those of you who probably lost their virginity before college. Watchmen is quite simply THE definitive analysis and deconstruction of superheroes and a masterpiece of the comic medium by Messrs. Alan Moore and Dave Gibbons. Even if you don't like or read comics I cannot recommend it enough. Many story elements, archetypes and themes from Watchmen have been pilfered since its release in 1986; The Incredibles, Mystery Men and Heroes have all borrowed generously (though I would say that Watchmen is superior to any of these...especially Heroes), but it definitely has it's own feeling and flavor. Do these pictures convey that? Kind of. It's interesting to see how these fan reactions come in cycles, I've been reading a lot of "too leathery, too stiff, too Matrix-y/Batman and Robin-y" negative comments except if you'll remember back (something good fanboys OUGHT to do) almost identical reactions were leveled at the first X-Men in costume promo stills.

All right enough jibber jabber, let's get to critiquing.
First up, the Comedian (Jeffrey Dean Morgan). Well I'm so glad they kept the mustache. The ammo belts make him look awfully busy but just cause it's in the picture doesn't mean he'll be wearing it throughout the movie. I can't wait until the Grey's Anatomy fans come to this film and think "Awww Denny Duqette" and the Comedian shows up. Oh and then there's that smiley face button. How to sum it up? :)

Ozymandias (Matthew Goode). I like this actor in general but I'm not wild about this particular casting. He looks too young and in this shot (which I realize does not constitute the entire movie) he does not convey that he is the smartest, nicest, most physically proficient guy in the world. He just looks like a snot nosed kid. My friend Etan also pointed out that Snyder and co's typically myopic views of good and evil may be shining through in the poster. Also where's Baranbus? I want a genetically modified Lynx in the background damn it (I am nothing if not reasonable in my requests). I'm glad they kept the purple, very regal, but where's the yellow? Ozy should look friendly and approachable, this isn't it.
Rorschach (Jackie Earle Haley). Perfect. Exactly right. If they hew towards the book everyone is going to go CRAZY for Rorschach. Also Jackie Earle Haley doing martial arts. How cool is that? Get ready for a lot of ink blot masks come Halloween 2009.
Silk Specter (Malin Akerman). Frankly, I'm more looking forward to seeing Carla Guigino as the original Silk Spectre, but cie la ve. I think Akerman is a competent comedic actress, even if she's been stuck in some stinkers (Brothers Solomon, Heartbreak Kid). But Silk Specter is called on for some heavy dramatic stuff. She comes off as more tough than sexy in the picture. Also a lot of black in here, I'd rather have more yellow, but oh well, we'll see come '09. Is this the woman who a god could fall in love with?
Nite Owl (Patrick Wilson). Nite Owl is supposed to embody the more embarrassing, impotent, fetish-y, parts of super-heroing. I guess one COULD argue this costume looks silly, but the lighting and posture kind of read as "bad-ass." I also wish they had kept the gut (though this could be a pic of Minute Men era Nite Owl). Still if you hire "the Prom King" you're going to want to show off those abs. I do LOVE that Archimedes (his flying owl ship) is in the background.

Argh, where is Doctor Manhattan? He's tough to market (being he's a bald, blue, naked adonis) and hard to show off (for the aforementioned reasons), but I want to see how he looks really badly.

All in all I'd say good but with reservations. I know, I know, stills aren't a movie. I'll just wait until the first preview comes out, then I'll praise/hammer on it with great ferocity.

One last thought, I finally realized today that this movie contains the former and current beaus of Ms. Mary Louise Parker, Billy Crudup (Dr. Manhattan) and Jeffrey Dean Morgan (The Comedian) respectively. Must have made for some...awkward moments on set. That's actually kind of cool as the characters do not like each other either.

Wednesday, March 5, 2008

Monkeys aren't donkeys, quit messing with my head

Did you see The King of Kong? In addition to being one of the best (and easily the most entertaining) documentary of 2007, it also made my top 20 (number twelve to be exact) so before I go with today's entry I MUST implore you to go and check out this film (currently on DVD) as I will be getting into "spoiler" territory here. It's funny, dramatic and finally triumphant.

If there's one person who comes out of the film smelling like roses and shining with the divine light of God behind him, it is Steve Wiebe. In addition to being a teacher (yay) the man could not be nicer and any post Kong accolades are well deserved. However if you're the sort to keep up with video game scores or already purchased the DVD you'd know that Billy Mitchell usurped Wiebe's hard fought title for all-time highest Donkey Kong score. Sorry but as anyone who saw the movie will tell you that this is simply not acceptable so TONIGHT Steve Wiebe is re-challenging Mitchell for the title in Las Vegas. No super-delegates, no polls, just a man and his joystick (and occasionally a hammer for smashing barrels). Find out the details here. Our nerd prayers are with you Steve, you're a honest to gosh American hero.

Tuesday, March 4, 2008

You're a part-time lover (no kidding) and a full time friend (sort of): Asking about the Juno backlash

Look everyone is entitled to their opinion, but I definitely resent it when that opinion is formulated directly to counter popular opinion. I'll grant you there are some clunker bits of dialogue early on in the film but at the end of the day it's a well-constructed, funny, heartfelt look at a young girl's coming-of-age and her growing perception of the world around her. Juno is SUPPOSED to seem to inhabit her own bizarre world (we all do when we're young and TRY to convince me you and your friends didn't have your own bits of slang) at the start of the film, you'll note a lot of the colloquialisms disappear as the story progresses and the plot lines pick up steam. This is not me being an apologist, this is an hones request that for people who USED to like Juno who then flipped on the film when it became a phenomena.
I think a lot of this may have to do with Diablo Cody. With one, EXACTLY ONE, script turned into a film everyone is ready to peg her as the rhyming, pop culture referencing, too cool for school soundtrack maven that would make her an easy punchline. Oh, has anyone mentioned that she's a stripper? Good lord. I think this is one of those situation's it's not entirely out of the question to throw out a word like "sexism." There is a situation where this can easily be disproven because all the hot screenwriter's get pegged as a "type" when they've got big personalities and are successful early on (QT, Kevin Smith, the Coens, Charlie Kaufman & Rian Johnson all been branded) but that label gets lifted once they demonstrate a little versatility (or not, sorry Kevin, love you but let's try to grow just a bit). As someone who made it a point to read all the old entries of her blog (click here for the oldest one I could still find), I can say with confidence that she is a genuinely funny, honest and talented writer who is not banging out a formula to try to be cute and impress anyone. I haven't yet picked up her memoir (saving it for summer reading) but there's no reason you can't here. Her next screenplay, Jennifer's Body, certainly sounds quite different from Juno (though both are about a young women in high school the differences DEFINITELY stop there). If you're intrigued you can get a spoiler-y early review of the screenplay courtesy of CHUD here.

All right guys, I want some help. Where do you come in on Juno? Hating it? Loving it? Changed your mind? If so, why? Put it in the comments.

Nicholson and Hillary: How an ad becomes a phenomena in under 24 hours

Look guys, I wasn't going to blog this but Frank demanded, DEMANDED that my readers see a phenomena in the making.

Ok so check this out:

All right, so let's make fun of it:

Ok so let's now comment on the whole thing (warning: Contains unhealthy doses of Rick Dees):

Yeah. So have fun with THAT. Also please read and comment on the below Juno article. It's not getting a lot of play time on the front of the page.

Monday, March 3, 2008

Curse of the Golden Man: Susan Sarandon

For many actors, winning an Oscar is the crowning achievement of a career, for others it's a way of elevating a career to the next level allowing actors the coveted ability to pick and chose roles. However, there is a darker side to an Oscar win. For one, it alters public perception; if an actor is universally recognized for a certain role and is then awarded for it, it can act as a brand. This brand forever marks the actor or actress as a certain "type." While being type-cast has it's advantages, casting agents always looking for a certain type, it also locks in actors into the same part over and over again, halting their progress as an artist. In this on-going series (as suggested by one of our favorite loyal readers, Cary) will take a look at some popular actors and act as a sort of career assessment slash therapy. I should point out that these articles are not meant to be mean-spirited, quite the opposite. They're to have us consider why we like these actors in the first place and make you, the educated film-enthusiast that visits this site, demand more from our favorites.

Tonight, our subject is Susan Sarandon.
Susan Sarandon is an actress of enormous talent and poise. She possesses a regal poise that shines through in every role and a real wisdom behind her penetrating gaze. But quite frankly
Sarandon has been more interesting lately and prolific as an activist and husband to Tim Robbins. At this point Sarandon has been far more interesting at say, the Democratic National Convention than on screen ever since...well lookee here, since her Oscar win. In 1996 Sarandon won her first Oscar (after several nominations) for playing Helen Prejean in her husband's film Dead Man Walking. Sister Prejean is a stern, compassionate and thoughtful woman, Sarandon has basically done riffs on this character ever since, except now the part is played alternatively as demure or too over-the-top.

One of her better, more passionate appearances

Don't believe me? The post-Oscar resume says it all.

Her first big starring role post-win was the syrupy Stepmom where Sarandon plays the terminally-ill saintly mom who indoctrinates the incoming titular stepmom played by Julia Roberts (which is gross when you stop and think about it for more than a minute). The film has since gone into regular rotation on the likes of TBS and can be found in bargain bins in your local electronics retailer. It also posited Sarandon as both "the mom" and "the wife." Here comes another mom the next year in the Natalie Portman vehicle Anywhere But Here. Sarandon does Mom AND wife with minor variations in The Banger Sisters (comic), Igby Goes Down (sardonic) and Moonlight Mile (maudlin), Shall We Dance (bland and paper-weight-ish) and finally in Elizabethtown (ugh, just...ugh, why was she tap dancing for those yokels-I mean the paying Elizabethtown audience). Oh and I forgot Mr. Woodcock (something my brain was grateful for until...just now). She's also a mom, or should I say stepmom (cocked eyebrow), in Enchanted. Her character, Queen Narissa is probably the worst part of the movie and any scene she's in suffers because she's written as though she A) belongs in a different movie and B) is played with a different kind of broadness (Enchanted is wonderfully illustrative as to there are many levels of "broad"). Of all the movies I've mentioned (and I've seen them all but Woodcock) Enchanted is by far and away the best that Sarandon has been in lately. And as the web's biggest fan of Enchanted (suck it KittyPrincess87!) let me firmly state that it pains me to think about any of this.

When Sarandon does "bring it" these days, she doesn't seem to do it with anyone watching. The whole impetus for this series came from a discussion about Cary watching In the Valley Of Elah (elah, elah, elah, hey, hey, hey, hey). I missed the film because the credits contained the phrase "directed by Paul Haggis" but the completist and awards fan in me has it on my "q" to ensure that I've taken a look at every nominated film. This doesn't change the fact that Elah was one of several "Iraq" films that tanked this year so if Sarandon did do some new and exciting work, most of the population doesn't know about it yet. Her work on the series Rescue Me has been well recieved and she had a good little bit of work in her hubby's other film The Cradle Will Rock (an unfortunately under-seen film). I liked her smooth, silky turn in the Alfie remake, but damn it, it's the ALFIE remake! Even her voice-over work has been poorly applied (with the noted exception of James and the Giant Peach).

Looking at these films simply does not inspire the confidence that Sarandon's earlier chunk of resume does.
I mean come on; Atlantic City, Thelma and Louise, Bull Durham, The Hunger (HOT!), The Witches of Eastwick, The Rocky Horror Picture Show, Lorenzo's Oil, Little Women and Bob Roberts (hell why not throw in The Client, the performance is good, even if the movie is trash). In each film Sarandon plays dynamic, intriguing characters who cut a bold swath through their films. I know it's silly to say, why not pick more films like these? But could a younger, hungrier, pre-Oscar Sarandon have been more picky? It should also be noted that right about the time Sarandon started taking these broader, frothier roles in the public eye is right when her kids became old enough to become regular movie-goers. Now I won't begrudge an actor-parent wanting to make material suitable for their children but I'm curious to see through this series the returns start to diminish when the kids begin to grow-up.

Looking ahead for Sarandon she has a dramedy where she sacrifices one daughter's (another mom) college fund for another daughter's modeling career in Middle of Nowhere. She'll be Mom Racer in the upcoming Speed Racer live-action cartoon by the Wachowski's (not exactly a major acting challenge for one of Sarandon's considerable gifts). In her most Oscar-baity future role she'll be the Grandma in Peter Jackson's The Lovely Bones. While transitioning from Mom to Grandma can be rough for an actress, the role has a lot of opportunities for Sarandon to really strut her stuff (and not just in a sassy Cloris Leachman type of way). Here's hoping.