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.

Thursday, February 11, 2010

What's going on around here?!?!

Ok so I've been busy. My day job took me to a conference in Conneticut (which was lovely by the way) but, well, the timing was not good. You know that storm you've been hearing about ever and been seeing on the news? Yeah, I got caught in THAT! So now I'm stuck here on the East Coast. No worries, I'm making the best of a bad situation and will try to squeeze in some writing. So what's coming up?

Lots of reviews for some very different movies: the hard hitting British drama Fish Tank, the Academy Award nominated White Ribbon and should all go according to plan the newest version of the Wolfman.

I will be good and put up my links from last week and should all go according to plan you may be getting the Sickness Cinema in an ENTIRELY NEW FORMAT!

I will give you a hint...rhymes with shmodcast.

Thursday, February 4, 2010

If you cannot sing then hum along

So this little tidbit showed up in Variety today.

Now obviously I'm not going to freak out and get over-excited about the mascot film of this site getting a sequel. It's tempting but lets proceed with cautious optimism.

As of now Anne Fletcher, who brought us the mega-hit The Proposal and 27 Dresses is attached to direct. Fletcher, a former choreographer certainly knows how to bring in a wide mainstream audience, could be an asset. I don't know if the film will have the nuance of the original without animator/director Kevin Lima at the helm. Who knows? It may be an enjoyable romp and that rarest of species, the good sequel.

Also a bit concerning is Jessie Nelson writing who's previous credits include Because I Said So and I am Sam. Though with these characters and situations acting as a foundation the material could transcend its origins.

I will say this though, having Fletcher around is a good indicator that James Marsden, who worked with Fletcher in 27 Dresses will likely be back as Prince Edward. Yay.

Wednesday, February 3, 2010

Come take a spin on the carny ride

I've been planning a Rohmer retrospective for a long time on the site, but unfortunately his films have been in high demand on netflix since the great director's passing.

So instead I rented the Insane Clown Posse movie "Big Money Hustlas."

Alongside two brave companions and a six-pack of Firestone Pale Walker (thanks Ter) we set about to watch this jug-sterpiece and let me tell you, I don't know how we managed to make it out alive.

The film which, alleges to be a parody/homage of blaxploitation films, is really just a piss poor series of messy, poorly timed, cheap looking scenes filled with "clever" "meta" "jokes" (I assure you each of these words belong in quotations). It's an hour and forty-five painful minutes that stretches out seemingly to eternity.

The plot is simple. New York (really Detroit, a fact the characters bring up many, many times) is under the grips of crime kingpin Big Baby Sweets (Violent J). Big Baby "needs his mother fucking money", something he repeats countless times in every scene. He and his crew of white gangsta posers, an ape man and a gas-mask wearing ninja terrorize little old ladies and stock footage of deer. I know that sounds amazing but it's just so poorly executed it's jaw-dropping-ly painful.

The apoplectic and gluttonous chief of police (played by the guy who does Mort Goldman's voice on Family Guy) calls upon San Francisco super-cop/pimp Sugar Bear (Shaggy 2 Dope) to clean up the streets. In the tradition of blaxploitation characters Sugar speaks in rhyme and is the coolest guy in the (juggalo-filled) room. He is partnered with the only non-corrupt cop on the beat Harry Cox. Sigh. Harland Williams, who was clearly given no script as the creatives felt he could rely on his improv chops, plays the nebbishy Cox. Terrible mistake. Williams work in this film makes his work in Half-Baked look like Daniel Day-Lewis in My Left Foot by comparison.

The film is loaded with cameos. Rudy Ray Moore drags out the last little scrap of credibility his Dolemite character has and pretty much runs it into the ground. He's not around for long though as "the movie couldn't afford him for that long." Mick Foley shows up as wrestler Cactus Sac (get it?) and the punk band the Misfits show up, for no discernible reason.

The movie is an unending stream of violence and vulgarity and I wouldn't have a problem with this if it weren't so damn amateurish and obvious. There is not one original or clever moment in the whole thing. Each attempt to be funny or meta or cool falls terribly flat. To make matters worse the DVD contains two ICP music videos which within seconds blow away the level of production values on hand for the movie.

Really this is a film for the sadomasochistic, the brave or the foolish. I mean unless you'd like to spend an hour and forty five minutes with a film where the most clever moment is a pair of ninjas trapping an obese stripper with an elaborate pizza trap, this is probably not worth your time.

Tuesday, February 2, 2010

The Nominations Conisdered AGAIN

We come once again to the time of yelps for joy and nerdy hand-wringing-Oscar Nominations. Below you will find a list of the nominees and below each individual list my thoughts on who belongs, who doesn't and who was snubbed. Just a quick FYI I took out Documentary short subject as well as the shorts category as I've seen none of the films nominated and can't really speak with any authority on them. All due respect to the people who put the care and effort into these films but well, there just aren't a lot of opportunities to watch them. Hopefully digital media should change this soon. Anyone curious about my thoughts on the other categories please feel free to ask in the comments.

Best Picture
Avatar: James Cameron and Jon Landau, Producers
The Blind Side: Nominees to be determined
District 9: Peter Jackson and Carolynne Cunningham, Producers
An Education: Finola Dwyer and Amanda Posey, Producers
The Hurt Locker: Nominees to be determined
Inglourious Basterds: Lawrence Bender, Producer
Precious: Based on the Novel Push by Sapphire: Lee Daniels, Sarah Siegel-Magness and Gary Magness, Producers
A Serious Man: Joel Coen and Ethan Coen, Producers
Up: Jonas Rivera, Producer
Up in the Air: Daniel Dubiecki, Ivan Reitman, and Jason Reitman, Producers

Thoughts: Avatar's nomination was inevitable and it's definitely the sort of popular, attention grabbing film that the population can get behind and thus have a stake in the Oscars and boost ratings. That being said, its presence negates the need for the Blindside. Even the film's strongest supporters couldn't contend there are more deserving films that have been shunted aside for its spot. Unless of course those supporters are the sort that only see two or three movies a year (which indeed may be the case with many Blindside fans). It's very cool to see Up in the category since it further legitimizes animation as a method of storytelling instead of a separate genre to the mainstream. I'm pleased and surprised to see An Education in here but I don't have any expectations it will win. Congrats to District 9 too who wins just by being nominated. Precious was always going to be here but its subject matter may be too distressing for older (and let's face it, white) voters.

Will Win:I still put my money on Up in the Air for being topical and appealing to the highest number of voters. Still I'd love to be wrong and have it be Hurt Locker (Bigelow's DGA win is a handy indicator that UITA may be upset).

Should Win:Hurt Locker and Inglourious Basterds are both films people will be talking about LONG after 2009. The craft behind them is too strong to not make them indelible. A Serious Man is simply too dense and polarizing to connect with viewers but the more I think about the film the more I find to relish.

Snubbed: I will maintain for a long time that In the Loop was one of the best to come out this year (certainly the funniest). I had high hopes for the thuoghtful, somber Where the Wild Things Are but I can understand voters not getting it. Surprised to see Crazy Heart represented in other categories but not here. Same goes for the Messenger.

Actor in a Leading Role
Jeff Bridges in Crazy Heart
George Clooney in Up in the Air
Colin Firth in A Single Man
Morgan Freeman in Invictus
Jeremy Renner in The Hurt Locker

Thoughts: This was a pretty predictable bracket with the exception of (deserving) wild-card Renner. I'm actually pleased to Freeman in here as he really nails Mandela. Clooney as it his Clooney-ist is UITA and does nice work with it but it doesn't feel very stretchy. He shows himself to be vulnerable, sure, but it doesn't feel brave. The real contest is Bridges and Firth. Bridges perf feels very lived-in while Firth is a revelation. Neither man's work is overtly showy which is a nice change of pace but both are honest and exciting.

Will Win: Bridges will likely ride on the traction of his previous wins. Plus he gets the nod for representing a career's worth of great work.

Should Win: That being said Firth's work made me (and doubtless many other viewers) completely re-evaluate what the man is capable of.

Snubbed: Michael Stuhlbarg's wonderful, desperate work in A Serious Man is missing. Also, if you want to go quirky Matt Damon's very funny, very different sort work in The Informant! is woefully absent. Frankly i found Tobey Maguire's work in brothers to be powerful, unpredictable stuff. The actor showed depths I hadn't previously seen and as his character's psychosis grew I genuinely feared him. I didn't believe him as a baddie in the Good German but he sure as hell is believable in this. Sam Rockwell has his supporters for his intense work in Moon but the Oscars almost never reward genre performances.

Actor in a Supporting Role
Matt Damon in Invictus
Woody Harrelson in The Messenger
Christopher Plummer in The Last Station
Stanley Tucci in The Lovely Bones
Christoph Waltz in Inglourious Basterds

Thoughts: This has always been Waltz's to lose. He won't. Boy will I be ticked if he does lose. Also Damon in Invictus is so damn inconsequential, what they're really doing is rewarding his physical transformation from The Informant! to soccer star.

Will Win: Waltz.

Should Win: That's a BINGO!

Snubbed: Frankly I would switch out Tucci in Lovely bones and replace him with Tucci in Julie & Julia. Wouldn't mind seeing some love for Christian McKay in Me & Orson Welles. Oh also Peter Capaldi and James Gandolfini deserve nods for their work in In the Loop.

Actress in a Leading Role
Sandra Bullock in The Blind Side
Helen Mirren in The Last Station
Carey Mulligan in An Education
Gabourey Sidibe in Precious: Based on the Novel Push by Sapphire
Meryl Streep in Julie & Julia

Thoughts: I know what's going to happen here. I know what's going to happen and I don't like it one bit. Sidibe is too young and I can't see her career extending past the film (though you could say the same for Jennifer Hudson, who basically won an award for singing a song well). Mirren doesn't have the traction she had with Queen, Last Station is too unknown. People love Streep (and it's certainly jusitified for her work here), but the movie may be too light for it to be a contender.

Will Win: That leaves Bullock for playing a sassy-brassy Texas mom who just can't help but be wonderful and help the under-privileged. I'm glad that Bullock is trying to push herself dramatically but come on. This is not the best female performance of the year.

Should Win: From this list it's Mulligan who gives a real, lived in performance. Oh wel,, I see a very long career ahead for this girl and the traction from the nomination should only help her career.

Snubbed: AGH! Where is Tilda Swinton whogave one of the years best performances in Julia? What's especially damning is that the role is so different from the ice queens (both literal and figurative) that Swinton normally play. Abbie Cornish's delightful work in Bright Star (a movie that's generally been ignored this award season) is also deserving.

Actress in a Supporting Role
Penélope Cruz in Nine
Vera Farmiga in Up in the Air
Maggie Gyllenhaal in Crazy Heart
Anna Kendrick in Up in the Air
Mo’Nique in Precious: Based on the Novel Push by Sapphire

Thoughts: Pretty much the bracket we've seen all season with the exception of Cruz. I can't begin to fathom what she's doing here. She sings fine, but if you had to pick someone from Nine it should have been Cotillard (again if you HAD to pick someone from Nine). Kendrick has a whole career ahead of her so we'll see her again. Gyllenhaal is great but there is nothing that feels unique in the part that suggests that only she could play it.

Will Win: Mo'Nique. It's a big, powerful performance from someone who has been in the industry for a while but has never pushed herself dramatically on this kind of platform. It feels like a "brave" vote for voters.

Should Win: Farmiga does subtle work in UITA and does what no woman with the exception of JLo has done in a film. That is, have genuine charisma with Clooney. She's that rarity in film; a career driven woman who really does have it all and plays it convincingly.

Snubbed: Melanie Laurent's Shoshana from Basterds goes from victim to angry wrath of God and the movie is richer for it. The role is a wonderful showcase for the actress and a fascinating character. Samantha Morton's work in The Messenger is nuanced, moving stuff. She does a lot with not a lot of screen-time. Rachel Weisz also brings heretofore unseen comic chops in Brothers Bloom and kind of makes fans re-evaluate her.

Animated Feature Film
Coraline: Henry Selick
Fantastic Mr. Fox: Wes Anderson
The Princess and the Frog: John Musker and Ron Clements
The Secret of Kells: Tomm Moore
Up: Pete Docter

Thoughts: Most years this is Pixar and whatever animated movie came out that yar. This year, however, I'm pleased to say this is a legitimately solid field. Except of course for Secret of Kells which apparently was only released to voters and came with copious bjs and hjs. I'm sorry if Oscar nomination morning Roger Ebert tweets he's never heard of your film there is something MIGHTY fishy going on. Kels aside, I thoroughly enjoyed all of these films and what's more they all feel different. Great year for animation.

Will Win: Up. Because despite all the competition Up still has got it.

Should Win: Up.

Snubbed: Such a rich year that three better known films could just as easily takes Kels spot. First, there's the much better than you'd think Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs. Don't let the advertising fool you, this was maybe the movie that made me laugh third-most of any movie I saw this year (behind In the Loop and Zombieland). I've heard wonderful things about a Town Called Panic (though it never played near me) and the same goes for Miyazaki's Ponyo.

Writing (Adapted Screenplay)
District 9: Written by Neill Blomkamp and Terri Tatchell
An Education: Screenplay by Nick Hornby
In the Loop: Screenplay by Jesse Armstrong, Simon Blackwell, Armando Iannucci, and Tony Roche
Precious: Based on the Novel ‘Push’ by Sapphire: Screenplay by Geoffrey Fletcher
Up in the Air: Screenplay by Jason Reitman and Sheldon Turner

Thoughts: Yay, finally a nod to the brilliant In the Loop. I'm a bit baffled that having a pre-existing character in your film suddenly shuts you out from an original screenplay nom, but there you go. Similarly District 9 being based on Blomkamp's short-film feels pretty weak to render it adapted. These were big, exciting ORIGINAL ideas people. Anyway it's Reitman's to lose as he's been cleaning up all over the place for this one.

Will Win: Reitman and Turner (doubt Turner will be at the awards).

Should Win: I'd love to see the In the Loop guys take it. I'm sure the speech would be wonderful and if the fun and good reviews didn't encourage them to make another movie maybe the award would. Also wouldn't mind hearing Nick Hornby's speech. Always awesome.

Snubbed: Where the Wild Things Are, no doubt a challenge to adapt but I think they perfectly captured the tone of the thing. Crazy Heart is apparently based on a novel and it's script is pretty tight despite the hangdog aesthetics that abound in the film.

Writing (Original Screenplay)
The Hurt Locker: Written by Mark Boal
Inglourious Basterds: Written by Quentin Tarantino
The Messenger: Written by Alessandro Camon and Oren Moverman
A Serious Man: Written by Joel Coen and Ethan Coen
Up: Screenplay by Bob Peterson, Pete Docter; Story by Pete Docter, Bob Peterson, and Tom McCarthy

Thoughts: Great line-up. No complaints here. Thank goodness Avatar wasn't nominated. Even the film's most ardent defenders couldn't possibly champion the script.

Will Win: This would probably be a sure thing for Hurt Locker...

Should Win: ...but oh man it would be so cool to see Quentin get the nod for his talky, extremely unconventional WWII film.

Snubbed: You could make an argument for (500) Days of Summer...if you've never seen Annie Hall.

Avatar: James Cameron
The Hurt Locker: Kathryn Bigelow
Inglourious Basterds: Quentin Tarantino
Precious: Based on the Novel Push by Sapphire: Lee Daniels
Up in the Air: Jason Reitman

Thoughts: Precious is known far more for its performances than its direction (though OBVIOUSLY the two are intertwined). Frankly Reitman's been a bit of a snotty shit on the campaign trail and lord knows Cameron doesn't need the ego boost. That really brings it down to two.

Will Win: Bigelow has been churning out quality action films for nearly three decades. She has mastered her craft and creates taut films. Throw in the weight and timeliness of the Iraq war and the Hurt Locker looks like a lock. Plus the Oscars are long overdue to reward a female director (especially one who deserves it).

Should Win: Bigelow, though Tarantino brings equal portions manic energy and grace to Basterds so I wouldn't mind it if he upsets.

Snubbed: Spike Jonze does a pretty remarkable job with Wild Things, both in terms of technical work and performances. The Coens do career best work in A Serious Man but the work was likely too personal and inaccessible for many.

Monday, February 1, 2010

The Best of the Worst

Empire Magazine posted a list of the "50 Worst Movies of All Time" and my friend Joel asked if I'd be interested on commenting on the list on the blog. I'm always happy to take requests (especially since they relieve me of the burden of original content) so lets do this.

50. Spider-Man 3-WRONG! While overstuffed and a bit too much helplessness from the protagonist the film is hardly a wash. Plenty of great moments and I LIKE the dancing. Why? Well because Peter Parker is inherently a dork and even if he was acting like a jerk, he WOULD be a goofy sort of jerk. There's just too much stuff in here that makes the film worthwhile to be considered a "worst." Most disappointing maybe.

49. Showgirls-Certainly a contender; bad acting, worse dialogue and beyond trashy aesthetics. Some of it's deliberate on the part of Paul Verhoeven (who has since gotten back on track) but some of it...yeesh.

48. Town & Country-Happy to say I missed this one. Warren Beatty was great in the 60's, 70's and 80's, but man know when to fold 'em.

47. Soul Plane-Soon to be advertised with "Oscar Winner Mo'Nique." Never seen it.

46. Howard the Duck-Good lord, yes completely belongs on this one.Awful, awful, awful. The movie that will make you wish for the time when Leah Thompson was creepily hitting on her own son as opposed to a DUCK.

45. Blade Trinity-Listen to enough interviews with Patton Oswalt and you might hear about the absolute crap storm that went down with Wesley Snipes behind the scenes in this one. With two such strong entries preceding it, Trinity is a pretty crappy come down.

44. Matrix Revolutions-Can anyone explain this to me? Can anyone explain this crappy Messiah parable to anyone? Definitely belongs.

43. Year One-Not great, not especially funny, but Oliver Platt's pretty solid. Bad but maybe not quite ready for "all-time."

42. Parting Shots-Never seen it (or even heard of it). Next.

41. Van Helsing-Yes. Stultifying action scenes abound as Universal whores out its legacy monster characters. Ugh, what a crap factory.

40. Superman IV-Jon Cryer as the incompetent nephew, the crappily named Mark Pillow as the Nuclear Man. Epic fail.

39. Dungeons and Dragons-Whatever happened to writer/director Corey Solomon? Who knows and who cares? This shoddy crapsterpiece nearly ended the fantasy genre on-screen before Rings and Potter saved it.

38. Son of the Mask-A sequel nobody ask for that arrived years after its sell-by date. Creepy dog, creepy baby and Alan Cumming as Loki for no reason. Frank put it perfectly "Fucking boo!" Definitely belongs on the list.

37. Max Payne-What I have seen of this looks pretty staggeringly bad. But I think it's just the sort of generic bad/boring as opposed to all-time bad.

36. Eragon-Hey look, the original idea train is no wait, we missed it.

35. House of the Dead-Any Uwe Boll film is a solid contender for a list of worst. Everything from technique to story is awful.

34. I Know Who Killed Me-But I don't know who saw this movie.

33. Ultraviolet-Kurt Wimmer's Equilibrium feels fresh (if occasionally heavy handed) but with a bigger budget Wimmer only made a mess. You don't care about the characters or situation one bit.

32. The Spirit-It's a mess but an entertaining mess. It appeals to a certain sensibility, a mad sensibility to be sure. I can understand why it's on the list but it definitely has vision. Crazy, crazy vision.

31. The Pink Panther 2-Too dumb and harmless to be on this list. Go pick on something truly terrible. The plot is actually kind of clever, just not well executed.

30. Scary Movie-Profane and obvious. It belongs on this list because you can certainly trace a line from this, to say, Epic Movie.

29. Southland Tales-Another mess but I don't fault its ambitions. There is definitely a lot of thought behind this but it's not especially well-executed. It's very frustrating to watch so I can understand.

28. The Sweetest Thing-An attempt to make a gross-out film "for girls" doesn't really work. More like a massive blow to the actresses' dignity than all-timer.

27. Street Fighter-Gloriously camp. Awful, yes, but lots of fun to watch.

26. Glitter-Oh yeah, definitely belongs on a worst of list.

25. Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen-A fun, fun punching-bag. I don't know if what I hate is the movie, but what it represents. Getting closer to the future in Idiocracy, that's for sure.

24. Speed 2-Nice, solid choice.

23. Freddy Got Fingered-Points for insanity and boldness. Points off for absolutely crap execution.

22. Jaws: The Revenge-Silly, silly movie. But it's not the worst single on this list.

21. Alone in the Dark-Ha, yes, excellent choice.

20. Swept Away-Whining, obnoxious and damaged the good rep of an actual good movie. Damn skippy.

19. Gigli-"It's turkey time, gobble gobble" It sure is gang, it surrrrre is.

18. Dreamcatcher-Awful and belongs on the list, but funnnnn to watch.

17. White Chicks-Yes, definitely. Crap, crap, crap.

16. Plan 9 from Outer Space-It's not well made but it's made of love and vision. It's a special little movie for all its ineptitude.

15. Catwoman-Oooh yeah, totally belongs.

14. Disaster Movie-This one and all its ilk need to be burned.

13. The Avengers-"John Steed, what a horse's ass of a name", what a horse's ass of a movie.

12. Norbit-Ugh, each entry is starting to get more and more painful.

11. Meet the Spartans-Please make it stop.

10. The Room-Makes me both hope, and worry for, humanity. You're tearing me apart Lisa!!!! Wish I could watch this with a big group of friends so they too can know what I've suffered.

9. Highlander 2: The Quickening-Doesn't belong on the list, for the subtitle alone.

8. The Happening-May be too soon to call but definitely a contender.

7. Sex Lives of the Potato Men-Never saw it or heard of it. Must be a British thing.

6. Heaven's Gate-Dull and messy but not a worst of all time.

5. Epic Movie-Gahhhh this is terrible. Make it stop.

4. Raise the Titanic-Really? Is it THAT bad?

3. The Love Guru-Embarrassing and ego-driven, but more forgettable and unfunny then worst of all time material.

2. Battlefield Earth-Ah yes, right where it belongs.

1. Batman and Robin-And so endeth the lesson.