Saturday, April 28, 2007

Muriel Awards 2007 FYC #1

Best Ensemble Cast: Hot Fuzz

Yeah, it's a pretty great collection of Brit character actors both young and old. But while it's a treat to see Jim Broadbent, Paddy Considine, Billie Whitelaw, Timothy Dalton, Edward Woodward, Paul Freeman, and more sharing the screen in supporting roles, lots of movies would have taken this as an excuse to over-cast. Not Hot Fuzz- not only are the cast members awesome, but they're awesome TOGETHER. Think of the easy rapport between the cops at the station, the sinister over-familiarity between the Neighborhood Watch folks, and the ongoing double act with the Andys ("because talkin' to 'em is an uphill battle!"). Half the fun of Hot Fuzz comes from the fact that these people know each other, which makes Nick Angel's presence in town an irritant. Fortunately for Sandford, he's the kind of irritant that produces a pearl in the end.

More to come, leading up to this year's awards. Feel free to stump for your own favorites.

Thursday, April 26, 2007

Movie Moment #10

(That one's for you, Steven.)

Also this week:

When Good Directors Go Bad: Ready to Wear
- the first in a hopefully ongoing series

Nude Scenes We Just Didn't Need to See, part 1 and part 2- I somehow found time this week to blurb Robin Williams in The Fisher King, the naked unknowns in Japon, Bijou Phillips' gratuitous crotch shot in Bully, and Thandie Newton in Beloved. The last one is the real shame, since she's usually so damn hot, but yeesh- if you've seen Beloved, you'll understand. All in all, lots of fun, and all the work and sweating my next piece and slightly curtailed moviegoing habits have been worth it, just to have the opportunity to use the phrase "unencumbered girlparts" on a nationally-real Web site.

Finally, Privilege is on YouTube. Not how I'd watch it, but still- righteous.

Tuesday, April 24, 2007

Cinema is a bird, or something.

Tonight I attended a program of short films by Ernie Gehr, a filmmaker whose work I hadn't seen before. I was a little drowsy and for a while I had the sinking feeling that I would nod off, but it never quite happened. All in all, an interesting first glimpse at an unfamiliar filmmaker whose work definitely warrants further study. But I'm not going to write about the merits of Ernie Gehr films, a topic which I'm fairly ill-prepared to discuss here. Instead, I'd like to take this opportunity to come clean about what kind of movie lover I am, and more to the point, what kind of movie lover I'm not.

I suppose I started thinking about this during the Q&A that followed the Gehr program. We were fortunate enough to have Gehr in attendance, which naturally brought the serious art-film contingent out of the woodwork. Now, I like the idea of these Q&A sessions, since it allows the audience to interact with the filmmaker and sort of pick his brain about the directorial choices he made. But I find that more and more often lately, a lot of the questions that are asked sort of set my teeth on edge.

It used to be that I was cool with most of the questions that people would ask except for the really stupid ones- what was it like to work with so-and-so, etc. But lately most of those audience members have disappeared, replaced by knowledgeable (or at least silent) moviegoers. I'd guess that the recently-launched Film Studies department has a lot to do with this. But what makes me uneasy is that the questions that end up getting asked tend to be of a strictly technical nature, asking the artist to illuminate the conscious processes behind the making of his films.

Now, I'm not so naive as to think directors just haphazardly throw images together and voila, out pops a movie. But to me, trying to gauge the effect of a movie simply on the basis of the director's technical prowess isn't something that interests me. Maybe this makes me a lightweight cinephile, but I'm much more interested in gauging a film's effect on me, and the reasons behind it than I am at cataloging its component parts. To me, appreciating a movie strictly for the technical stuff is a lot like the story of the child who cut open a bird to see what made it chirp. Yes, you see the various organs that cause the sound to be made, but the sound you were curious about in the first place is lost.

As for me, I like the chirp. In cinema, the chirp is the soul of the filmmaker, who doesn't just make the technical decisions, but puts himself- his ideas, his fetishes, his eccentricities- right up there on the screen. I've never fancied myself an auteurist, but one of the things I value most in a filmmaker is the ability to refashion the world in his image, and to show the audience the world as seen through his eyes. I value a filmmaker who shows me interesting worlds much more than one who tries to wow me simply by virtue of his cold filmmaking skill.

I realize that it sounds gauche to say this, but even with all the studying I've done on cinema over the years, I still prefer to experience movies viscerally and psychologically rather than intellectually. It's not that I'm confused or intimidated by those would would intellectualize the moviegoing process, but it simply isn't for me.

Friday, April 20, 2007

Movie Moment #9

Also this week:

Ten More Great British Directors: An Alternate List- Bilge and I react to the recent Daily Telegraph list. See if you can guess which picks are mine.

The Most Historically Inaccurate Films Ever Made, Part 1 and Part 2- another busy work, so I only ended up blurbing MISSISSIPPI BURNING. It might not sound like it from the list, but I actually don't dislike the film. I'm not a big Alan Parker fan outside of his movies that star singing Irishmen (though not so much the ones with Irishmen who don't sing) but this is one of his better non-musicals. For what it actually is, MISSISSIPPI BURNING works. But what is actually is is quite different than what it pretends to be- a dramatic recounting of a pivotal event during the American Civil Rights movement. It sold itself as a recreation of actual events in the not-too-distant past, made while many of the players were still alive. And in that sense it's sort of reprehensible. That's what the article was about- it wasn't "The Movies That Made Shit Up and Still Sucked," after all. The funny thing is that I saw the flaws the first time, yet it really made an impression on me when I first saw it (it's nothing if not skillful filmmaking); viewing it now through the prism of historical fidelity called for by the assignment, the flaws stood out more and the good stuff receded into the background. Which Bergman film was it in which someone said, "if you look for God, you'll find him everywhere"? Same goes for historical inaccuracies in movies, I suppose. Although, Hackman and McDormand's performances? Still awesome.

Thursday, April 19, 2007

Cannes '07 Festival Slate

Man, I didn't even know that Shawn Levy had another movie coming out...

Just kidding guys. But seriously, is this year's official competition lineup looking awesome or what?

Fatih Akin- Auf Der Anderen Seite
Catherine Breillat- Une Vielle Maitresse
Joel and Ethan Coen- No Country For Old Men
David Fincher- Zodiac
James Gray- We Own the Night
Christophe Honore- Les Chansons d'Amour
Naomi Kawase- The Mourning Forest
Kim Ki-duk- Breath
Emir Kusturica- Promise Me This
Lee Chang-dong- Secret Sunshine
Cristian Mungiu- 4 Months, 3 Weeks and 2 Days
Raphael Nadjari- Tehilim
Carlos Reygadas- Silent Light
Marjane Satrapi and Vincent Paronnaud- Perseopolis
Julian Schnabel- The Diving Bell and the Butterfly
Ulrich Seidl- Import Export
Aleksandr Sokurov- Alexandra
Quentin Tarantino- Death Proof
Bela Tarr- The Man From London
Gus Van Sant- Paranoid Park
Wong Kar-wai- My Blueberry Nights
Andrei Zvyagintsev- The Banishment

Pretty sweet, huh? If even half those movies turn up at TIFF this year, I'll be elated. Many of these I'm looking forward to passionately, like the Coen brothers' supposed return to form, NO COUNTRY FOR OLD MEN, which should be their most serious film since BLOOD SIMPLE. But the one I'm really pumped for is the new Bela Tarr- not only is this the master's first film in 7 years, but it's an adaptation of a fucking Simenon novel, which sounds like a fascinating combo of director and author. Hell, even the directors whose previous films I haven't liked much- Reygadas, Zvyagintsev- have shown promise in the past, and maybe this time they'll finally live up to it.

All this in mind, I wonder if there might actually be a dark horse winner this year instead of one of the cavalcade of world cinema heavyweights. The jury- president Stephen Frears, plus Sarah Polley, Michel Piccoli, Maggie Cheung, Marco Bellocchio, Abderrahmane Sissako, Toni Collette, Maria de Medeiros, and writer Orhan Pamuk- is quite eclectic, but I get an artsy vibe from the stronger presences in the bunch. My early, no-clue-in-hell prediction? Schnabel, who'll make with the artsy for those so inclined while telling an "inspirational true story" for the more mainstream types (also, keep an eye out for James Gray, who doesn't get much love in the States but is a Cannes veteran). One thing's for sure- playing a severely impaired character makes Schnabel's lead actor, the awesome Matthieu Amalric, the one to beat for best actor, barring an impressive nonprofessional kid performance anyway.

And hey look- I've even seen two of the movies. Only one in its Cannes cut, but what can ya do.

Wednesday, April 18, 2007

Well, shit.

I do wish someone would've told me about this before I shelled out 40 bucks for the R2 BFI edition of Woman in the Dunes on eBay. Oh well, at least now I can finally see the other two.

Thursday, April 12, 2007

Movie Moment #8

Also this week:

In Praise of the Mass Experience: The Ohio Science Fiction Marathon- tickets are still available. Hint hint.

Cinema's Best No-Sex Sex Scenes, Part 1 and Part 2- I've been busy with other stuff, so I was only able to do one blurb. But if you're only gonna write about one scene for a piece like this, you can't get much better than PERSONA.

Thursday, April 05, 2007

Movie Moment #7

Also this week:

Forgotten Films: Privilege (1967)- I'm especially excited about the enthusiasm with which this piece has been received. So far I've received numerous e-Mails responding to it, plus it's been linked to on both Dennis Cozzalio's Sergio Leone and the Infield Fly Rule and David Hudson's GreenCine Daily (my first appearance on the latter). I'd say that if you crave attention for your work, the lesson here is to write about movies that are both amazing and underseen. Either that or encourage movie lovers to talk about actors they hate.

Weekly Top 10: Chicks With Guns, Part 1 and Part 2- I wrote up Aliens and So Close. Unfortunately, The Long Kiss Goodnight had already been claimed.

Tuesday, April 03, 2007

Money and pain.

To the surprise of no one, the content posted on this blog has plummeted ever since I started writing for ScreenGrab. For the time being, most of what I'll post here will be links to that site, since after all I'm getting paid for it. However, I do plan on updating my other blogs regularly. Keep an eye on my screening log in particular, where I intend to write at least a sentence or two about stuff I'm unable to expound on in long form. And of course the lists page will be ever-changing, so long as there are still great movies for me to see. I may even have the occasional personal observation to relate, so don't you give up on Pomegranate Rickey yet either.