Wednesday, December 24, 2008

"A nanny goat????"

One of the things I value most about the films of Arnaud Desplechin is that he understands the messiness that arises when people aren’t exactly on the same page. In Desplechin’s work, there’s a tension that comes out of people’s perspectives not lining up quite right, and it’s rare to find two lives that fit together completely in a way that is largely free of this tension. In this respect, it seems almost inevitable that Desplechin would eventually make a movie about a family gathering for Christmas.

Click here to read the full review.

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Criterion Watch, December 2008 (Revised 20 December)

Lately, it seems like Criterion has been slowing down their new releases. Is this because the upcoming Blu-Rays have cut into the company's resources? Who can say? Me, I'm just glad they're still fighting the good fight.

Now, this month's new announcements:

Truffaut's 1980 Occupation drama isn't exactly my favorite of his, but it's still pretty great, and nice to see Criterion giving it some love. Perhaps this means they'll be doing Two English Girls sometime in the future? Hope so. Incidentally, as a Deneuve fan of long standing, I feel compelled to go out on a limb and say that the late seventies and early eighties were probably the time in which she was at her most beautiful. By then, she was in her mid- to late thirties, having shed the girlishness of her early performance in favor of a more womanly bearing, along with a softer and more carnal presence. Or maybe it's just that she made The Hunger around this time, which naturally was a highlight of my teenage years. Anyhoo, this will be coming to Blu-Ray in March as well, along with The 400 Blows, so that's cool.

As I've written before, I have yet to fully embrace the greatness of Rossellini. So far, I've had an easier time respecting his work than truly enjoying it. Will this be the film that changes my tune?

Finally- or as it turns out, not-so-finally- the clue from the newsletter, which anyone who faithfully reads MuseMalade's blog will have no problem guessing:

I mean, duh.

Revised 20 Dec to add: So it appears that Criterion has added two more DVD releases to their March calendar, along with a new Eclipse box. For some reason, the cover art for Eclipse 15: Travels With Hiroshi Shimizu isn't uploading, so I'll just say I've never heard of the filmmaker in question, which has me intrigued. After all, if a relatively unknown director is getting the Criterion/Eclipse treatment, he must be pretty special.

Moving on, here are the new Criterions I missed:

Not the story of Angier aka The Great Danton, but Wajda's film about the French Revolution figure. This is one I haven't seen in years, but I remember really digging it back in the day. We'll see if it holds up.

Here's a Kurosawa I've yet to see, and a color one, no less. I've heard mixed things about it, but I'm curious all the same. Reviews By Request, anyone?

Friday, December 12, 2008

20 + 1 Actresses (for the Meme, don'tcha know)

Earlier this week, Nathaniel over at The Film Experience posted pics of his top 20 actresses, and since then it's become the meme sensation that's sweeping the blog-nation. As yet, nobody has officially tagged me, but I've never let that stop me before. So here's my contribution to the cause- if these aren't necessarily my "top 20", they're certainly 20 who've fascinated me and given me plenty of enjoyment as a moviegoer. And now, away we go, in rough chronological order:

Louise Brooks

Marlene Dietrich

Barbara Stanwyck

Gloria Grahame

Delphine Seyrig

Gena Rowlands

Catherine Deneuve

Vanessa Redgrave

Juliet Berto

Liv Ullmann

Hanna Schygulla

Madeline Kahn

Isabelle Huppert

Meryl Streel... er, Streep

Linda Manz

Judy Davis

Juliette Binoche

Maggie Cheung

Emmanuelle Devos

And finally, in tribute to the overpowering awesomeness of Synecdoche, New York, the Kaufmanesque doppelgangers...

Samantha Morton, and...

Emily Watson

Saturday, December 06, 2008

"I used to be a baby."

It’s not hard to see why Charlie Kaufman’s Synecdoche, New York has sharply divided critics and audiences. It’s almost impossibly ambitious, yet at first glance it seems to strike many viewers as show-offy and self-indulgent, particularly given the way its sobering worldview undermines any of its potential entertainment value. Yet to dismiss the film as Kaufman getting stuck up his own ass (to quote Mike D’Angelo) is to deny just how wise and sneaky a piece of work it is.

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Criterion Watch, November 2008

In the interest of time, I'll get right to the good stuff.

First, the non-news this month is the release of two more titles that originally appeared in the Cassavetes box. Still, it's good news for me that they're doing this, since I would love to have Faces on my DVD shelf but have no pressing urge to own Shadows, or the no-doubt-upcoming Opening Night for that matter. I do wish they'd release some more new Cassavetes titles though- I'd love to see a Criterion Minnie and Moskowitz or Love Streams.

I missed this one at October Lean series at the Wexner Center, so nice to see it showing up here. I'm a little surprised I haven't seen this yet, since as a Laughton fan you'd think I'd be all over it. Also, noticed that Prunella Scales is in the cast, and it should be interesting to see Sybil Fawlty when she was younger.

Being a Bunuel fan, this is big news, especially the latter title, one of the "major" Bunuels I have yet to see. Future Review By Request, anyone?

Finally, this month's clue:

Some of you might be stumped by this one, but considering the location referenced here and the appearance of the masks, I'm pretty sure it's Peter Yates' awesome, long-unavailable for home viewing The Friends of Eddie Coyle. Good news indeed.

Sunday, November 16, 2008

From AZ to Z: The latest craze in memes

A recent blog meme (begun by Fletch over at Blog Cabins) that’s been making the rounds is the A-Z list. Each blogger I’ve encountered so far has had his own wrinkle on the list. My pal Adam Ross has made a list of notable titles he hasn’t seen, Larry Aydlette has compiled an alphabet of classic noirs, and SLH favorite Dennis Cozzalio has listed 26 films he believes to be underappreciated. I actually wrote a piece about four years ago along these same lines, but this meme has inspired me to try it again, even though nobody actually came out and asked me to do so. Seeking a unique angle, I decided to list movies I believe I need to see again, for whatever reason. In some cases, I was ill-prepared or ill-equipped to fully appreciate them the first time around (I’ve only seen one of the listed titles in an unsubtitled French print, with only a printout to aid me in translating in the dark). In other cases, I saw them too long ago that my initial impressions of them are hazy at best. In still other cases, they’re movies that have aged well in my mind and could very well hold up to a second viewing, should I ever give them another spin. Anyway, here’s my list, be it ever so humble.

Arizona Dream (Kusturica)
Beavis and Butthead Do America (Judge)
Crimson Gold (Panahi)
Demonlover (Assayas)
Edvard Munch (Watkins)
Freddy Got Fingered (Green)
Gregory’s Girl (Forsyth)
Harder They Come, The (Henzell)
Irma La Douce (Wilder)
Juliet of the Spirits (Fellini)
Kundun (Scorsese)
Lord Love a Duck (Axelrod)
Marnie (Hitchcock)
Notre Musique (Godard)
One From the Heart (Coppola)
Putney Swope (Downey [a prince])
Q: The Winged Serpent (Cohen)
Rock’n’Roll High School (Arkush)
Small Soldiers (Dante)
Tremors (Underwood)
Underneath, The (Soderbergh)
Visit to the Louvre, A (Straub/Huillet)
Wayward Cloud, The (Tsai)
X: The Thing With X-Ray Eyes (Corman)
Yellow Earth (Chen)
Z (Costa-Gavras)

I'm tagging Andrew, Jason, James, Craig, and Adam to keep this going. Go nuts, folks. Or, you know, don't. Up to you.

Sunday, November 09, 2008

Public Service Announcement

Looking at my blog, I noticed that it's been nearly three weeks since my last post. I would just like you all to know that I haven't forgotten you, but I've merely been busy of late. In case you haven't poked around my links over to the right, I regularly add new reviews to my reviews page, with the latest being Changeling (mild pro), A Girl Cut in Two (highly enthusiastic PRO), Madagascar: Escape 2 Africa (decidedly mixed), and Rachel Getting Married (ecstatic PRO). Also, I'm posting half a dozen or so piece a week over at The Screengrab, so that takes up a lot of my spare time. Believe me, it'll only get more hectic in the future.

So in the meantime- or at least until I can post another Criterion Watch- here's something to keep you folks busy:

I recently took a look at my DVD collection. I noticed a number of remakes, as well as even more titles that have been remade. However, in only one instance, I own both the original movie and its remake. Let's see if anyone can guess the title in question. It'll probably surprise you, but maybe not.

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

An Appeal to My Base

I first discovered the super-cool auteur/rock star t-shirts from CineFile Video some time back, but I mostly forgot about them until yesterday, when Noel at the AV Club posted something about them. Of course, now that I've seen them again I sort of need to buy one. Question is, which one?

There are several ways to go about trying to decide which might be for you. There's always the option of choosing the one that imitates your favorite band of the bunch, although eighties-era metal has never really been my thing, so I don't think that would be my best course of action. In this case, I'd say that going with my favorite director from the choices they've given me would be more my speed. Then there's the option of going with the most willfully obscure, the coolest-looking, or even the funniest. But even exhausting all these options, I've still only been able to narrow it down to the following five choices:

Ingmar Bergman / Iron Maiden

Brian DePalma / Def Leppard

Yasujiro Ozu / Ozzy

Bela Tarr / Black Flag

Lars Von Trier / Van Halen

CineFile also sells three other t-shirts, which I eliminated for various reasons- Herzog because his shirt is the most ubiquitous of the bunch, Scorsese because he's such an obvious choice, and Fassbinder because... well, I dunno. The Fassbinder/Metallica thing is an interesting juxtaposition, but the shirt just isn't speaking to me.

Anyway, folks, here's where you come in. Help me decide which of these shirts I should buy. I've embedded a poll of my five favorites, from which you'll be able to select one.

<a href="">Which Cinefile director t-shirt should I buy?</a> <a href="">BuzzDash polls</a>

In addition, I'd invite all of you to elaborate on your choices in the comments section. Bear in mind that all input will be considered if not necessarily heeded.

Thanks in advance, buds.

Monday, October 20, 2008

Where I've Been

I just realized it’s been more than two weeks since I last updated this thing, which despite my agenda generally being packed is practically unprecedented for me. Anyway, here I am, alive and well, and busy as ever. Besides work and Screengrab, I’ve been spending plenty of time with Angela, which of course has been great. I even went to the Ohio Renaissance Festival with her and her child (henceforth to be known as The Offspring), wearing a costume she made for me. I’ll spare you the photos for the time being, but I had a great time. Lots of fun to be had, even if the place was swarming with jerks who took every opportunity to gawk at those who actually dressed for the festivities (what did they think it was, the county fair?). Still, I enjoyed myself, and if nothing else I’ll take away the memory of The Offspring, in deep concentration while playing the Diabolo I bought as a gift.

In addition, Angela and I (sans Offspring this time) spent much of this past weekend together. Attended my first hockey game on Friday night, with OSU taking on Lake Superior St. OSU lost, but still a good time. One thing that isn’t conveyed on televised games is how fast the players move. I’ve always been hopeless on ice skates, so I’m sort of in awe of how they bolted all over the ice like it was no big deal. But then, they’ve probably been doing it all their lives, so I’m guessing it wasn’t a big deal. Anyway, between this, a long nostalgic discussion I had last week about the NBA of my youth, and my recently re-emerging interest in Major League Baseball, I suppose I’m less of an anti-sports curmudgeon than I’d previously thought. Although I still couldn't care less about football.

And Saturday night Angela and I took in the Horror Marathon. Wasn’t sure she’d be down with it, but I think she enjoyed it at least as much as I did, although it didn’t look like she got into Meet the Feebles as much as I. Alas, we had to bail before it was over, a sad side effect of our having to work regular 9-to-5 hours during the week. You might say I’ve gotten assimilated.

In short, my girlfriend rocks. Need more proof? She loved Lawrence of Arabia when we saw it in 70mm a few weekends back.

Somewhere in the middle of my busy schedule, I also found time to catch some new releases and review them for your enjoyment and edification. Click on the titles for my posts on W., Let the Right One In (shown at the Marathon), Miracle at St. Anna, Choke, and I Served the King of England.

Passing the Hat

Normally, I'm not the sort of blogger who goes hitting up his readers for money. I think it's a little tacky, especially when I update this blog so infrequently that it barely even qualifies as a hobby. But I'm making an exception here for what I believe is a worthy cause.

Earlier this month, fellow blogger, longtime Silly Hats Only reader, inaugural Muriel Awards voter and all around good dude Andrew Bemis finished shooting his debut feature, entitled Black Light. Now that shooting has been completed, Andrew has begun trying raise funds for post-production and promotional costs. Andrew goes into greater detail on the film's blog, Black Light Journals.

Now, I realize that times are tight right now with the economic crisis and all. But I also believe in helping out stand-up folks who are trying to get a foothold in the movie industry. I realize what a tough racket it can be, and Andrew is to be applauded for even trying to navigate it. Any help you might be able to give him to complete the film will be appreciated by both Andrew and me.

To information on how to donate, click here.

Criterion Watch, October '08

One reason I enjoy doing Criterion Watch is because of the sheer diversity of the films. Now that the great majority of canonical classics have made it to DVD, the folks at Criterion are now doing something just as vital, if somewhat less marketable- they’re finding less-universally-acclaimed titles that are worthy of being ranked beside the big-name masterpieces. This month’s crop is no exception, with an indie-film landmark, an old-school melodramas, and numerous films from by an Italian master sharing the spotlight.

We begin with this one, which I haven’t seen in ages. I remember being moved by the sheer breadth of the story Nava and collaborator Anna Thomas tell here, although it remains to be seen whether the film has aged well. (also coming to Blu-Ray)

This is probably the best known of Douglas Sirk’s movies that I haven’t seen, the release of which was hinted at a few months back. As they did previously with The Lower Depths and The Killers, Criterion is including both versions of the film for our enjoyment, which should prove interesting.

The final titles on this slate come from Criterion’s previously-promised influx of Rossellini titles. I’m not sure why the awkwardly-titled The Taking of Power by Louis XIV isn’t included in the Eclipse set- perhaps because Louis Quatorze came after the Enlightenment?- but regardless of the reasoning, I’ll be glad to catch up with Rossellini, a filmmaker I admire but have yet to fully embrace. Perhaps his approach to historical drama can change this.

Finally, here’s the clue for this month:

I hate to admit it, but it took me a while to get this. Maybe I was reading too much into it, as is my way, but this would almost certainly have to be The Wages of Fear, considering it’s one of the thirteen titles that made the original roll call of Blu-Rays. I don’t have a Blu-Ray player, but still- pretty cool.

Sunday, October 05, 2008

Everything old is new again

Ever since my grandfather passed away in February, the family has struggled with getting his affairs in order. After moving Grandma into an assisted-living community (she's loving it there, by the way), they switched their energies to dividing up the possessions he left behind. And seeing as how it's October and the job isn't close to being finished, you can probably guess that there was quite a bit to sort through. Truth is, Grandpa and Grandma lived in the same house for more than fifty years, and in that time one can accrue a whole lot of stuff.

It was sort of strange visiting the old house on Saturday for the first time since Grandpa passed away. All of the curtains were drawn, and the furniture was in unfamiliar places. All the personality and character of five decades' worth of living there had been drained from the place. It was no longer Grandma and Grandpa's home, simply another old house.

My Dad, who was with me at the time, asked me if I might be interested in taking any mementos of Grandpa. A few months ago, he got two of Grandpa's old candy dishes that were a fond memory of my youthful visits to his home. This time, I took an old fedora of his that he once wore to work, from back when men still did such things. What I found interesting about this hat wasn't simply that it once belonged to him- though that's certainly part of it. I also liked that it was an honest-to-goodness remnant of the past, rather than simply a bit of retro nostalgia that someone like Justin Timberlake might wear onstage. I've long been interested in the difference between vintage and retro, and I'd say this fedora falls comfortably in the former category. Hell, when I showed it to my mom, she immediately responded, "that looks like an old man's hat." But that's what I liked about it, that it belongs resolutely to the past.

As I was leaving the house, I noticed an old rotary telephone sitting on top of a chest. Naturally, this piqued my curiosity, and when closer inspection revealed not only an old-school phone jack (the wires had to be screwed into the wall) but also a label with the antiquated letter-prefix of "JEfferson-5", I knew I had to take it home with me. The old-fashioned style of phone prefixes has intrigued me for years, perhaps because it fell out of use before I was born but was still in effect during my parents' lifetimes, which makes it both alien and somehow familiar to me in a comforting way.

Now, I don't anticipate that I'll use the old telephone- which is even heavier than I'd remembered- in the way it was designed, but I'm sure I'll find a place for it in my home, just like the fedora will find its logical new place in my wardrobe. The candy bowls might hold candy again, or maybe something else entirely. The house will eventually be cleared out, cleaned, and sold to someone completely new. And Grandma, miles removed from where she was less than a year ago, is as happy as she's been in years. Life moves forward, with or without us.

Sunday, September 28, 2008

Horror Marathon 2008 Lineup

October will upon us within the week, and soon enough will come this year's Horror Marathon at the Drexel Theatre. As always, I'm planning to go this year, although unlike previous years I may not be going alone. Of course, her interest in going will depend on her reaction to the following recently-announced lineup. Let's see what awaits us:

We'll start off with the classics, beginning with this old-school Wes Craven movie that I've yet to see. I imagine many of the Marathoners will have caught this numerous times, so it might not have the proper effect on me, what with the MST3K-ing and peanut gallery contributions. Still, should be a good time.

I was recently telling some buds that I've only seen one Mario Bava film, and since that movie is Planet of the Vampires, I'm not sure it really counts. But this movie should help me start boning up on my non-Argento giallo.

Now, this one I HAVE seen, and while it's not exactly my favorite Carpenter, I do enjoy the way he basically manufactured a horror movie out of little more than a smoke machine and some creepily-attired extras.

This one might be the deal breaker for Angela, given its brutal rep. I don't usually go for really violent exploitation stuff either, so we might duck out on it depending on where it's positioned on the program.

Another one I've seen, and while I'm not sure it belongs on a horror program, it should be fun to watch with this crowd. I can only imagine Angela's expression when I start singing along to the "Sodomy" number.

Finally, the two area premieres, both of which are pretty well-regarded, especially compared to some of the premieres they've screened in the past. Mandy Lane has become something of a cause celebre among horror buffs, given how it's been postponed and buried by its distributor. However, I'm even more curious about Let the Right One In, which is allegedly being remade by Hollywood in the near future. Then again, so was The Grudge, and that didn't exactly stop that one from sucking.

The Fifth Annual Incredible Two-Headed Marathon will be held from Saturday, October 18 until Sunday, October 19 at the Drexel East. Tickets are now on sale.