film

RIP, YMDB; hello, redundancy

Woodruff-Paskal I know nothing lasts forever. I also know I'm overly attached to things. But a list of movies? Who thought I'd have to back up a list of my 20 favorite movies?!?

  1. If del.icio.us goes under? I lose my links. AKA I'm screwed.
  2. If gmail goes down? I lose my email backup. (I've got it all locally, but I'm perched on the edge of a rusty scimitar, AKA, I'm screwed.)
  3. If DreamHost goes down? I lose this whole blog, past the last time I backed it up (note to self: find that plug-in that backs up automagically) (and for good measure, back up when you're done with this).

Before I go on, please know that I actually do have a keen sense of perspective when it comes to "stuff", based in no small part to, well, I can't even bring it up in a post this frivolous. You'll just have to trust me, my friend: between my travels abroad and my travels, period, I have an acute understanding not only of the fundamental impermanence of life, but of priorities in general.

Still, we cling to what we cling to, idiotic or not. And today, I'm clinging to movies. I had a list of them on a site called YMDB, which I won't even link to, because it redirects to IMDB, which needs more traffic like I need more holiday fat around my middle, and it Summed Me Up in Movies, and it was a link between me and my beloved Neilochka, and now it's gone.

Worse, occasionally, when I'd be hard up for a good video rental, I'd hop on YMDB and find a similar list. You know, like how you people who don't yet know amazon.com is the devil sometimes use it for other recommendations on crap you might be interested in. Who doesn't want a nice page filled with crap they might be interested in!?! No one, I say!

So to hell with it. I'm putting my new and improved list of fave flickage right here. If anyone has any ideas on other stuff I might want to see, let me know. I gave up TV, remember? I need distraction!

Some disclaimers before I give up the list itself:

  • This list was cobbled together from dim, dim memory and a MySpace list, so, you know, it's likely to change
  • Drastic change
  • This list is in no particular order (although I really, really love The Third Man)
  • My criteria have more to do with desirability of repeat viewing than inherent greatness, which is to don't even start about Showgirls, people
  • That's it, but bulleted lists look better in odd numbers

Now, without further ado, the list itself:

  1. The Third Man
  2. The Godfather
  3. Alice Doesn't Live Here Anymore
  4. Showgirls
  5. All About Eve
  6. Jackie Brown
  7. Brazil
  8. Nashville
  9. Caddyshack
  10. Ed Wood
  11. Fat City
  12. Le Rayon Vert (aka Summer, in U.S. release)
  13. Johnny Guitar
  14. Saturday Night Fever
  15. The Gay Divorcée
  16. Sunset Boulevard
  17. Superstar: The Karen Carpenter Story
  18. Play Misty for Me
  19. Vertigo
  20. Singin' in the Rain

As I said, list subject to change. Like me...

xxx c

Image by bryanF via Flickr, used under a Creative Commons license

SXSW: Movies! Movies! Movies!

alamo drafthouse Outside of plain old good times, the chief feature of SXSW seems to be overwhelm. There are more great films crammed into a ten-square-block area than I could possibly hope to see in 30 days, much less four. (The 2006 SXSW Film Festival stretches from March 10 to the 17th, but The BF and I were only there for the part that overlapped with SXSW Interactive.)

Then there's the waiting time that eats into your movie consumption. Some of the theaters are tiny, and even with the magic badge that grants you first access, you need to queue up at least an hour in advance to gain entry. (Film passes, at $65 each, get you into a separate queue that gains admission after the Badge People enter; individual tickets put you at the very back of the bus.) The weather was lovely for the festival this year, unseasonably warm for the first three days, and we met some terrific people waiting in line, but still: every minute you're standing in line is a minute you're missing another panel or meetup or film.

Which brings me back to one of the Real Things I Learned at SXSW: a festival, much like money or alchohol, brings out the truth in people. My particular truth? I lack the easygoing gene. I'm not particularly good at going with the flow, and when faced with the possibility that one of my plans might fall through, I react with a mix of anxiety and crushing disappointment. I do not know why I didn't learn this particular truth about myself 10 years ago when I would break out in hives everytime I had to improvise at a Groundlings Sunday Show performance, oh, wait...yes, I do. I am an uptight control-freak asshole.

Anyway, what was fascinating to me about the film part of the SXSW equation was that it was my first experience with buzz, or the first time I was able to watch buzz play out in almost real time, because of the compacted time frame the festival provides.

Example: we were fairly interested in seeing Darkon, the feature documentary on a Baltimore-based live action role playing group, when we first looked at the schedule. (Well, The BF was, anyway. He's got better film-dar than I.) But after two days of hearing people talk up Darkon, we put it on our must-see list. It did not disappoint. The filmmakers, who spent a year filming the players on and off the battlefields of Darkon, winning their trust and gaining access to some pretty intimate details of the players' lives. As a result, the film offers a fascinating look both on the nature of the outsider (live action role playing is hardly a mainstream pursuit) and the basic human need for drama, connection and expression. There's a sideshow factor, too, of course, it's hard for most of us to relate to a group of grownups spending their weeks duct-taping their plywood and styrofoam shields for a weekend of ye olde combat and a chance at grabbing an imaginary slice of land in an imaginary realm. On the other hand, it's no weirder than scrapbooking, shopping or, let's face it, blogging as sport, so maybe I should lay off.

There was more fine, outsider action at The Last Western, a feature documentary about the rise and fall of a small "Western" town on the edge of the Mojave desert. Pioneertown was a fully-functioning Western movie set built by the Hollywood studios to facilitate filming. It was abandoned by the studios with the falling fortunes of the B-Western, but a number of inhabitants stayed on, creating a sort of Western Island of Misfit Toys. While a bit incohesive as a film, The Last Western does a fantastic job telling the stories of the individual dreamers, outcasts and iconoclasts who populate Pioneertown.

The residents of Small Town Gay Bar are outsiders for a different reason. Choosing to remain in their small, Bible Belt towns for whatever reason (this is never really explored or explained in the film), these gay men and women are (barely) tolerated at best, persecuted or killed at worst, and severely isolated at all times. Small Town Gay Bar is a fascinating look at the need for community and how it will out (no pun intended). The filmmakers do an incredibly thorough job interviewing the various denizens of small town Bible Best gay bars past and present, as well as showing the pressures they face from the community at large and a few especially vocal, intolerant entities in particular.

There are mainstream outsiders, too, of course. In the 2004 U.S. presidential elections, they were called "Democrats", and they struggled mightily to find their collective voice and make it heard. Al Franken: God Spoke documents the plight of American liberal Al Franken, as he worked to save the American people from four more years of tyranny, lies and land-grabbing by the administration in power. I won't lie to you: while often outright hilarious, Al Franken: God Spoke was the most depressing movie I saw at SXSW by a long shot, and I saw movies about gay men in the Bible Belt and transgender males in prison.

Oh, yes, what's more fun than being a liberal in new millenial America? Being an enroute, transgender male in the U.S. penal (!) system. Cruel and Unusual is a look at the special degradation and horror the pre-surgical transgender male undergoes in prison. Aside from the obvious nightmare of having to be some bad man's girlfriend, incarcerated transgenders are routinely denied treatment for their medically-recognized condition, suffering physical withdrawal and severe depression as a result of going off their hormone meds cold turkey. For its important message, I wish I could give Cruel and Unusual the unqualified thumbs up. Unfortunately, I came away feeling that while the subject matter is compelling, the film itself didn't have a point of view other than "this is really awful." I hope it finds life on public television as a special, where its mere reportage quality would serve the community, but I can't really recommend it as a film.

I can, on the other hand, heartily recommend The Life of Reilly, a filmed version of actor/teacher extraordinaire Charles Nelson Reilly's electrifying one-man stage show. Most of us of a certain age know Reilly as a mainstay of 70's crap TV. (Most of the rest of you don't know Reilly at all, which a funny montage in the movie takes pains to point out.) But Charles Nelson Reilly had a major career as an off-Broadway and Broadway actor before his TV years, and an active life during and after as one of America's preeminent acting teachers (he took over Uta Hagen's class when she died). Reilly is smart and funny and a consummate performer; while there are a few awkward "openings up" in The Life of Reilly, for the most part it is a hilarious, breathtaking telling of a fascinating life and a great insight into what makes performers tick.

kustom karMy chief issue with Tales of the Rat Fink, the story of kar kulture icon Ed "Big Daddy" Roth, has to do with the opening up of its story. Director Ron Mann is known for his iconoclastic takes on documentary subjects, but there were so many crazy elements in Tales, animation, talking cars, strange interstitial bits, the end result felt a little disjointed. According to Mann, there was virtually no archival footage of Roth; when Roth died shortly after Mann started the project (it was shelved for some time), the director had to come up with some alternate way of telling the story. To be fair, the cut we saw on opening night had been rushed through to make the premiere, but I think there are structural issues beyond tightening up a few odd editing gaps. To be even more fair, I am on my third Toyota Corolla, which is to say I am so not a kar person. If you like kars, or cool illustration, which Ed Roth is also known for, you'll probably love it.

The only narrative film we saw during our entire SXSW trip was The Notorious Bettie Page. We were mainly interested in seeing films that we weren't sure would get distribution, and Bettie is scheduled for release in April. But we thought it would be fun to see at least one biggie before the general public, since that's part of the thrill of the festival. For a thrill, and a fairly risque, fairly thrilling subject, The Notorious Bettie Page was pretty disappointing. The acting was solid and the cinematography was gorgeous (at least, I thought so, The BF was less impressed). But the script was pretty lame, lots of bad dialogue and a cringe-inducing first fifteen minutes, and the whole thing came off as more of a made-for-TV biopic than a great narrative film.

The BF saw another picture or two without me while I was geeking out at the SXSW Interactive panels, but no big recommendations, so we'll let them lie. I may post some mini-reviews from our new Austinite unicyling friend, Steve Wiswell, if he grants permission. And if you're into it, there are more great mini-reviews on some of the pictures I didn't see at SXSW by Andrew O'Hehir at Salon.com.

Of course, you can always just go to Technorati and hit the SXSW and film tags. SXSW is the nexus of all things arty and geeky.

I miss it already...

xxx c

PHOTOS of the exterior of the fabulous Alamo Draft House and a kustom kar outside the Rat Fink premiere taken by me and The BF with my spiffy new Razr.

My half-assed Oscar blusings*

108005993_6b16540c921.jpg Jon Stewart is God.

Whoever has Lauren Bacall in the death pool is going to cash in soon.

It is just plain cruel to schedule a nominee as a presenter if his nominated category comes before his presentation category.

Especially when there is no alcohol served at the event.

It is just plain stupid to shill for the film industry's output by saying "you just can't watch something like this on TV" and then proceed to do just that.

As much as I hated the big, vomity production numbers, I miss them even more.

Oh, wait, "It's Hard Out There for a Pimp" just came on.

M. Night Shamalamadingdong's AmEx commercial was more compelling than any of his last three movies. And it still had a shitty ending.

Whoever has Dolly Parton in the death pool might cash in pretty soon, too.

Clooney/Obama in 2008.

All the ladies look very chic and subdued.

Even, amazingly, Meryl Streep, who usually looks like she was styled by a gaggle of five-year-old girls playing dressup out of an old trunk in the attic.

Meryl Streep's birth name was Mary Louise.**

If I had any doubts that Philip Seymour Hoffman should win the Best Actor award, hearing that he shot the role in 36 days while producing has forever dispelled them.

If the Oscars moved to a points system whereby the most passionate and interesting nominees got to speak the longest, that director of Tsotsti would have been speaking for an hour and a half.

Having just heard (yawn) Reese Witherspoon give her acceptance speech, I don't think we're in danger of that happening anytime soon.

xxx c

*blusings = blog musings

**UPDATE: this is not technically a blusing, I know. My actual blusing after thinking about exciting, trashy days of Oscars past was 'I miss Cher', however I was so bowled over about Meryl Streep's birth name it knocked all real Oscar blusings out of my head. Also, I have had three scotches. At least.

Photo of setting up the 2006 Oscars by Donna Grayson via Flickr

The communicatrix's bathroom guide to the year's big events

Somehow, I wound up with a (free) subscription to Entertainment Weekly, a rag that has slid far, far downhill since the glory days following its launch (when I was a paid subscriber), but still holds some use as short-attention-span reading material. And so, having burned through the frighteningly well-produced SXSW newsmag whilst brushing my teeth yesterday and the current issue of Jane (which remains mystifyingly, defiantly fab years after its launch) in a long tub soak last night, I was left with one raggedy-ass copy of EW to peruse on the can this morning.

But what ho! Whilst flipping through the US-thin pages, I was struck by the muse: I'll review what EW reviews...in bathroom lingo! Short, sweet, and much easier to add to your del.icio.us than anything you read while performing ablutions. Erik, this one is for you...

The communicatrix's bathroom guide to the year's big events (film edition):

The Da Vinci Code: Poop that looks good coming out but falls apart as soon as it hits the water

Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man's Chest: Occasionally perfect shower ruined by incessant flushing of neighbor's toilet

M:I III: The hallelujah poop that accompanies the onset of one's period

Flight 93, World Trade Center: Tedious issues of The New Yorker that molder away in the bathroom rack because you feel too guilty throwing them out

X3: Outrageously expensive styling product moldering away in your shower caddy because you feel like an asshole throwing it out

Casino Royale: The long-awaited re-release of the contraceptive sponge

The Devil Wears Prada: Toothpaste sample you got from the dentist you use when you run out of your brand which turns out to be halfway decent, although not worth switching to from your regular brand

Miami Vice: Overly expensive set of matching Italianate-moderne bathroom accessories that you receive via regifting

Superman Returns: Mold-infected tile that looks good for a week after you scrub it with bleach but really needs regrouting, if not total replacement

Lady in the Water: (see The DaVinci Code)

The Break-Up: Otherwise satisfying poop marred by painful and unsightly corn kernels

Marie Antoinette: Paris Hilton, the fragrance

xxx c

Fat City

I bought an Oprah magazine on my evening walk to read in the tub tonight (gotta do something to make this semi-invalid lifestyle palatable) but when I got home and checked my email, I saw (cursed Yahoo!) that Fat City was on at 7. So much for that hot bath.

Have you seen Fat City? It's one of the great American 1970s movies and, after Sierra Madre and The Misfits, my favorite Huston flick. Not only does it have the strong sense of place that more and more I think is the main common denominator of the movies I love, it's set in L.A., it's got a killer soundtrack and it sports one of the greatest performances by an actress (Susan Tyrell) ever caught on film.

Fat City is nominally the story of two boxers, one, played by a peachy-faced Jeff Bridges, on the way up and the other, played by a not-too-craggy Stacy Keach, on the way out. But it's really a story about dreams and choices and what happens to the former when you don't keep a firm hand on the latter. There's a real spirit of my boy, Bukowski, about the thing, probably the wine-soaked Oma (Tyrell), the dingy residence hotels, the fringe dwellers pulling shifts at hopelessly dead-end jobs in a vain attempt to get a hair's breadth ahead of the eight ball.

Oh, hell. Just watch it. If you've got the Sundance Channel, it'll be on again Wednesday, February 9th at 3:35p and again on Sunday, the 13th at 12:20am.

And really, if one of you rich folk would TiVo it for me, I'd love that. Mostly because I'm dying to see what other gems the magical electronic box might unearth...

xxx c

The Station Agent

In my capacity as ornery cuss, unless I can screen them pre-buzz, I generally sit out wildly popular movies on principle. Often, this proves wise; in the case of a genuinely worthy film like Sideways or The Station Agent, I'm only punishing myself. That there are similarities between the films (strong sense of place, a rock-solid script, actors who look like real people) doesn't surprise me. I've always had a weakness for the indie film; I'll generally cut it more slack than a studio picture, just because I know that for as hard as it is to get any movie made the right way, the sheer force of will that's required to pull together the resources needed to make an indie deserves support.

But too often, indies piss away that good will with aggressively quirky stories or hackting. That The Station Agent is set in super-smalltown rural New Jersey and is populated with a train-loving dwarf/loner, a chatty Latino hot-truck operator with a lust for life, and a kooky painter who meets cute with the dwarf by nearly running him over not once but twice in her SUV, didn't bode well.

But the film unfolds slowly, ever so slowly, confident in the reality of the world it's creating, with beautiful, in-the-pocket performances by almost the entire cast (I had a wee problem with a couple of actors playing the local tough-guy losers winking at their characters instead of just playing them). I'm a fan of Patricia Clarkson's since her genius performance in High Art, and after seeing the unbelievably self-possessed Raven Goodwin knock it out of the park both in this and Lovely and Amazing I would like someone to please explain to me why this incredible little girl does not have a huge movie career, her own TV show or both.

Enough. It's on DVD now; if you're an asshole like me who sat it out while it was in the theaters, you can put it on your Netflix queue and no one will be the wiser.

xxx c

Kinsey

My friend, Patty, with whom I saw Spanglish, has been bugging me mightily (albeit nicely) about seeing Kinsey, mainly because she wanted to know if she was the only one who found it a little, er, hard to get into. I am sorry to report that she is not alone in her experience; for a film that's all about bringing sex to the forefront, Kinsey is decidedly unsexy. It just floats along on its pretty pictures and clever editing (although the retro/CGI montage of the Kinsey team's data-collecting trek across America was pretty disturbing, visually) and nice Carter Burwell soundtrack. No teeth, no electricity, no surprises and a bizarre, wearying kind of self-importance. Did someone decide that dialing up the pomposity would make a big, bad s-e-x movie go down better (sorry) with a still-Puritannical American audience? I don't know how true-to-life Kinsey is, but I'm of the opinion that you either play fast and loose with the facts and make a great fucking film or you hew to them like a maniac and make a great fucking documentary.

Other than that, I'm not exactly sure why Kinsey doesn't work. The script seems sound enough, there are more great performances than you can shake a stick at and Kinsey's own trajectory is a pretty fascinating one. I'm frankly baffled, because I thought director Bill Condon's Gods and Monsters was a superb film, thought-provoking, moving and finely calibrated in its emotional portrayals. And it was a period piece, too, although it felt timeless where Kinsey feels more like it belongs alongside the bloated, bland Hollywood epics of the time it documents.

Ultimately, I'm just not interested in analyzing exactly where Kinsey falls down. I'd rather revisit the  11-year-old Ed Wood or Crumb or the 15-year-old Reversal of Fortune for a fifth time (each) than watch this logy, lumbering Quaalude of a mid-century throwback again.

xxx c

Spanglish

I'll admit, I went into Spanglish not wanting to like it. I was one of three people who didn't like As Good As It Gets but my loathing was deep and pure enough for three million. My particular creative bugaboo has always been Wasted Potential, and believe you me, if you'd read Mark Andrus's brilliant, dark, tender, touching original screenplay for AGAIG, you'd be pissed off, too. I'm a lot older and a little bit wiser and I don't fall into deep, hopeless chasms of righteous indignation like I used to. Spanglish was...well, good. In a way. There are some charming scenes and some terrific laughs and some enchanting performances, Cloris Leachman is her usual crackerjack actor self, Adam Sandler has a few great moments and Paz Vega should be in every movie made until she dies.

Sadly, Spanglish was also very, very bad, in exactly the same way that AGAIG was. I'm beginning to think that the chief trick to good art is, as Albert Einstein said about, well, everything, to "make everything as simple as possible...but no simpler." Which is why it's as easy to go from rococco to kitsch as it is to go from Mies Van Der Roh to some tacky steel and glass box.

There's a real story about real people somewhere in Spanglish that I'd have liked to see. As the daughter of a charming, well-meaning, intelligent but often thoughtless drunk much like the one Leachman portrays, I know all about the damage mothers can inflict upon their children, and, by extension, their children's loved ones. But I don't know too many saints of the variety played by Sandler and Vega, who are given exactly one (delightful) flaw each, while poor Téa Leoni gets to play a skinny blonde antichrist. (Oh, and that whole thing about Leachman's character just giving up drinking after 60 years , and without anyone noticing for three weeks: Not. Gonna. Happen.)

To be fair to Brooks, had he cast a more inherently likeable actress (say, Renée Zellweger) as the unhappy Deborah Clasky, the character might have been a scoche more sympathetic. But it was his part to cast, he wrote and directed, and I'm guessing none of the producers had final creative control over casting, and he clearly opted for the shrillest of brittle harpies he could find. Maybe it's that i-dotting and t-crossing that's born of TV writing; after years of cramming problem, complication and resolution, plus a laugh every :30, into 22 minutes of sitcom, it's probably hard to recalibrate yourself to the delicate rhythms of (good) filmmaking.

But until he does, I'm afraid the James L. Brooks films I do see I'll see the way I saw Spanglish: free. Or on video.

After all, maybe they'll look better on the small screen.

xxx c

 

Closer to Python: My Mike Nichols Day, Part I

The old McClurg Theatres are gone. It's kind of sad, among many other films, I remember seeing Lawrence of Arabia there (the re-release, sonny) as well as walking out of Ishtar. However, my disappointment was short-lived because they have been replaced a block away by the River East Theatres, a 20-count-'em-20, state-of-the-art theater complex with stadium seating (which is what happens when you finally let a short person design a movie house).

I dragged my friend, Jan, to see Closer. Well, not "dragged," exactly; I just warned her that I didn't think it was going to be very good, but that I wanted to see it anyway (we've been friends for over 40 years, so she's used to such perversity). Last year, I saw a stage production of Closer at my old acting studio in L.A. that was absolutely loathsome, not necessarily because of the performances (fairly strong) or production values (low-budget, but inventive and uniformly excellent) but because I felt the script was a modern example of a butt-naked emperor, albeit a well-spoken one. I remember leaving the theater that evening feeling not only vaguely unclean over my complicity in perpetrating a hateful, useless piece of "art," but with a gnawing feeling of anger that grew rather than dissipated with the passing days.

I am delighted to report that I feel precisely the same way about Mike Nichols's filmed version of the verbally facile Patrick Marber's play, Closer: it's a big fat shiny turd. (I'm mostly alone on this, but it's not the first time.)

The production values are superb, from the melancholic smart-and-lonely-loser songs of the soundtrack to the understated palette the designers use to dress and backdrop the actors. London itself has never looked more elegant, sad and chilly, in one scene where Natalie Portman is wearing a tank top in what you'd think would be summer, you want to throw a sweater over her little shoulders even before she mentions how cold she is. There is no respite to be had in any corner.

And that, I suppose some smarty-pants people will say, is the point: life is hard and love is brutal. To which I say "so what?" That's a revelation? That's a reason to drag my ass out in zero degree temperatures and pay $8.50 and give up two hours of my life?

Smarty-pants art is no longer acceptable. I don't care if you can write (really) pretty words and find (really, really) pretty people to say them. I need a little illumination with my non-news, thank you, along with some characters, even one character, I actually care about. If I want to see that life is hard (in London), I'll watch any Mike Leigh film. If I want to see that love is brutal, how about or Little Voice, The Lonely Passion of Miss Judith Hearne or even the original Alfie?

One note on the talents of the more visible people involved: they are uniformly top-notch. Each one of the cast delivers a pitch-perfect performance, and I have to say I was blown away by Julia Roberts who gives a far, far richer and more nuanced performance as Anna than she did as showy blowhard Erin Brockovich. And Mike Nichols has an excellent understanding of what motivates these people and how they interact with one another.

What I don't understand is his motivation for spending a year of his life on a project like this. I'm aggravated to have spent the two hours I did.

xxx c

*Which was, I realize now, a lovely piece of symmetry in that it was directed by Mike Nichols's former comedy partner, Elaine May.

Sideways

Some good things take a little extra time and effort to truly enjoy. Sideways, the terrific new film directed by Alexander Payne (based on the novel by Rex Pickett) is one of those good things. Not that it isn't immediately enjoyable on its surface; Sideways has a cracking good script and some of the finest, funniest performances I've seen on film all year.

But like the wines the characters savor within it, the film itself has subtle charms and notes that only reveal themselves upon greater (and quieter) reflection. My writing partner and I laughed pretty much non-stop through an extended sequence where the two main characters, one-time college roommates who are making a pre-wedding pilgrimage to Santa Barbara wine country, make a detour to the best man's mother's house. But it was only after the movie, or at least well into viewing it, that we realized how remarkable it was that we cared so much about two characters who are, on the face of things, pretty darned despicable.

I won't spoil the film by going into detail. I'm not even sure whether details are the best way to sell someone on this really beautifully crafted gem of a story. I think the most remarkable feature about Sideways is its reality: it pretty perfectly creates a world and then does an amazing job of drawing you in.

Fine performances, an awesome script, pretty pictures and a bitchin', homage-to-Saul-Bass poster, Sideways is like a media home run.

Hmmm...no wonder the communicatrix loves it.

xxx c

Alexander the "Enh..."

From the IMDb news:

'Alexander' Panned

Critics have panned new Oliver Stone movie Alexander after early previews of the historic epic. The Oscar-winning director allowed a lucky few a sneak peek of the film - which stars Colin Farrell and is due for release later this month - but critics were unimpressed and have voiced their concerns on the world wide web. One review, posted on AintItCoolNews.com, reads, "This movie is a mess. According to Stone he just finished this film on Friday and, in my opinion, it looks like he rushed it out the door. The story is incohesive, the acting is uninspired, and the whole look is incredibly pieced together." Another adds, "I was stunned - and I say that without snarky irony - stunned by how bad this movie was. Overacting, bizarro camera work and frame tinting, lackluster battles. God, it was just a mess."

Well, duh. I mean, did you see that trailer?

xxx
c

See SAW?

sawI love scary stuff, but I am a big baby. My workaround is to see all scary movies early enough in the day that there is still loads of daylight to wash away the creepy.

My movie-going friend, Lily, feels similarly, so we hit what we knew would be the very scary Saw for the first show at 10:45 a.m.

Not early enough. This movie makes Se7en look like Bambi. There are some fine performances (although the first few scenes are a really badly acted exception), it's super-stylish, and it's a really good story with only minimal barriers to belief (as Lily pointed out, are there two cops anywhere who would [a] visit the dark and creepy lair of a sociopathic serial killer without backup and [b] do so armed only with their service revolvers and a smoke machine?)

But the torture/killing in this is so sick and heartless, it makes you wonder who could come up with it. Well, apparently handsome, young Leigh Whannell, who plays lead opposite a (sadly) puffy Cary Elwes, can. He shares story credit with the director, James Wan, and has sole screenwriting credit.

Yow.

Well, I guess congratulations are in order. Young man wrote a big hit. He can act, yessir. And he scared Lily and me so bad we had to walk it off in the shoe department of Nordstrom's for a good half-hour afterwards. No purchases; just a Holly Golightly kinda thing.

Wait a minute, just got an idea for the perfect psychic palate cleanser...

xxx
c

Out of the Past

out of the past

It won't nudge Double Indemnity out of the top slot for me, but I am thrilled to have discovered this glorious specimen of the noir genre this late in the game.

The male cast is outstanding, Robert Mitchum is solid and sexy and right in the pocket, as usual, and Kirk Douglas is a perfect foil, but that Jane Greer...yowsa! She was a girl of 22 when she filmed this and she walks away with the damned show. She's tantalizing and maddening and gloriously feline. It's magnificent.

As a side note, I'm now viewing it again as I type this (I looooove my Cinema Display!) and the commentary by James Ursini is excellent as well. It's not super-gnarly, Criterion-detailed commentary, but thorough and pretty engaging.

xxx
c