‘I realize that it dun sound as funny as I described it.’ You bet, star and director Jay Chandhrasekhar.
‘Cocaine?’ And it’s customary with every thing written about Super Troopers ever to say that the ageless Lynda Carter, also known as Wonder Woman, makes a cameo here as Governor Jessman. Another cameo is Geoffrey Arend or Mr. Christina Hendricks, who looks taller here because he’s skinnier a playing a teenage partier back a decade ago.
‘Sorry I don’t talk to highway hog.’ Marisa Coughlan, one of the late 90′s smart blonde ingenues, is less embarrassing here than in her two other movies. She’s playing a ‘female cop facing sexism in the workforce’ kind of role, and she crosses bureaucratic lines, performs banter where no one laughs at each other and takes a liking to a titular state highway patrolman (Paul Soter, specifically) living in a small, fictional border town called Spursbury, Vermont. She helps him solve, in her own special way, the big drug case that will save the troopers from being slashed from the state budget. Part of the plot involves Canadians as drug supply enemies which, you know, it’s usually the other way around but we do have product to sell on our side too, admittedly.
I’m not sure whether this movie is ambitious or not so I can’t compare it in that yardstick. But ‘stoner frat boy comedy,’ in its early stages? Chandhrasekhar, with his comedy troupe called Broken Lizard, makes his movie look professional in the cinematographic sense. But he underplays the comedy, the camera too distant and the surreal sequences, which probably looked fantastic in the script, are not paced well. Not even sleep deprivation, which is a drug in its own classification with which I’m addicted, can make this funny. Too many dick jokes, unnecessary cursing and weird-for-weird-sakes kind of costumes. This is an almost deal breaking movie to those involved in making it even if yes, the mixed critical reception for this isn’t as bad as I thought. Broken Lizard also made Beerfest, a movie of which I have a sliver of interest because “Saturday Night Live” alum Will Forte stars in that one. And they’re making a sequel.
There’s also a subplot involving a trooper named Farva (Kevin Hefferman) who bounces between patrol work, desk and cleaning duty. These switches make him betray his co-troopers and join the real police force. I mention him to warn you guys that there is gross full male nudity here (sorry if the warning is too late). But at least it’s equaled by partial male nudity. Three times. The director takes one for the team.
And this is funny, Brian Cox being the veteran that he is and playing ‘angry drunk’ effortlessly. Although his musical speaking voice is betraying that he has better training than this movie.
It’s difficult for my mind to stray while watching Hayao Miyazaki’s movies, especially the bombastic sound work in Tenko no Shiro Laputa (the English title is Castle in the Sky. Laputa is an unfortunate title if you know a bit of Spanish but we’ll use it for brevity’s sake). I’ll never forget the dimensional feeling of the air crafts. But as the characters started to sink in I realized that I grew up with anime, especially ones that portrayed ‘Western’ narratives. This cross-cultural storytelling is interesting in the visual sense. I know the young arms catching Sheeta from the air, starting their puppy love – are just plain slabs of white meat between penciled borders but somehow I felt the characters’ sinewy qualities on-screen. I also like its accuracy, capturing how the European build is more muscular, dense and square shaped although that’s probably just my ignorance talking.
Also, older women such as Mama are booby but not in a sexual way. Speaking of which, the sexuality in Laputa is a bit disturbing, as Mama’s crew are metres away from preying on Sheeta although they do blurt out the subtext that the innocent-looking Sheeta might grow up to be a good witch like Mama. But it’s not just about the human characters, the robots and the plot also showing how Miyazaki influences Brad Bird and Chris Miller. Puss in Boots also has the same plot and imaginative spirit but the latter tucks in and lets out. Think about it.
Spirited Away begins with a family uneventfully moving into the smaller suburbs, makes a detour to what looks like an abandoned amusement park and turns into a ‘introduction to work and adulthood and its pitfalls’ metaphor. It also shows more slender Asian bodies in Chihiro and the other cynical bath house servants she joins. It’s a more Japanese narrative but that doesn’t mean that European visual tropes are completely absent. Chichiro’s father has the same stocky European build before he and his wife eat the amusement park food – where are the guests? – and magically turn themselves into pigs. The Mama lookalike of a matriarch, Yubaba, and her overgrown baby almost turn the exception into the rule, as well as the visitors of Yubaba’s resort for the gods, spirits and monsters, most of them looking like characters from Where the Wild Things Are. I’m not saying that Miyazaki relies too heavily on Western influences as he also includes river dragon gods into the mix and actually makes these characters, whatever they look like, into his own.
I’m also probably in the minority that likes the simple structure and the complex characters in Laputa although I do admire the consistent menace of Spirited Away‘s matriarch. I also like Laputa‘s three different visual textures while depicting the landscapes. Spirited Away, however, also marks a digitized aesthetic, especially in depicting objects and characters moving through vegetation. What does make the latter film special, in an Berlin Film Festival and Academy-award winning way, is its unrelenting and inexhaustible imagination, introducing more fantastical creatures and mises-en-scene like the hand lamp greeting them after a trip on a train that crosses an ocean, coming just after me thinking that Miyazaki must have run out of them.
Spirited Away has two screenings at the TIFF Bell Lightbox, on April 1st at 7:00 PM and April 7th at 1:00 PM. You can also catch Laputa one last time on April 7th at 6:30 PM.
While watching Lord of the Rings: Fellowship of the Ring on the big screen, my friends, as you, realize that I have never seen it until now. Yeah, it’s really sad.
Movies with people with long hair look more dated than movies with people with short hair. This is the conclusion I got from looking at Frodo Baggins’ (Elijah Wood) hair. But I don’t say the word dated as an insult and other elements in the movie that give it that vintage-y vibe. The colors here are deeper as opposed to saturated or drained. The CGI, which is unfortunately becoming director Peter Jackson‘s signature as of late, is almost absent if not beautifully seamless.
And yes, I’m surprised at how Peter Jackson-y this movie is, having fewer similarities with King Kong and more with his earlier and raw work like Heavenly Creatures. He takes shots of Frodo and other characters in a voyeuristic way through windows or through uncomfortable arm’s-length distances. It’s also close-up heavy, like that of Gandalf the Grey’s (Ian McKellen) who makes us feel like he’s larger than life. Jackson also gives that sense of urgency, telling Frodo, and us the audience, about strange lands from which Hobbits are supposed to stay away. In the same vein, tracking shots and zoom outs, like the one when Gandalf visits Saruman (Christopher Lee), have just enough wobble to let its audience know that a human being is behind the camera.
After a prologue, this trilogy starts with peace, showing the Hobbits living within the greenery of the Shire. Short shot lengths follow the unnamed citizenry of Hobbiton, their images accompanied by the bucolic music. The Hobbits seem immortal and magical but they’re more relatable because their lives aren’t as busy as the other races living miles away. The movie is more famous for its fantasy and its battle scenes, but this beginning shows how the hobbits are beautifully oblivious towards what could be lost. The same short cuts are employed when other races disturb the peace, as Jackson introduces the black riders. His camera bordering on sadomasochistic fetishism as he closes up on their hooded heads and horses’ hooves or mouths – i.e. they might be scary but those armored gloves look shiny and intricate. And when the Uruk-hai assemble their army, the Orcs’ faces crying out for battle.
The same rapid cuts are used when Arwen (Liv Tyler), a female elf, rescues Frodo, a male, and says something in Elvish to wash the black riders away. I mention the genders to obviously point out how the scene subverts expectations towards them. The only other thing I can say about that is that it reminds me of how these horses are weapon as they were used in historical crusades, the riders evoking evil Conquistadors while Arwen rides on with her virtuous looking white horse. It’s an intensely badass scene, transitioning into one of two hallucinatory hazes, the first one involving Frodo convalesces in Rivendell, as he sees other elves comforting him. These white flashes strangely fit into the movie itself.
Ok I lied. This isn’t the first time I’ve seen Fellowship, having seen glimpses of it when Teletoon was constantly playing this movie. They go to Mount Doom via the Mines of Moria where the titular fellowship made up of men of random races fight the Orcs. Gandalf and a Balrog have a death match culminating into Gandalf saying ‘YOU SHALL NOT PASS!,’ that seminal moment in gay history. Gandalf’s loss is one of two blows against the fellowship, but I held back my tears because rangers from the noble race of Men like Aragorn (Viggo Mortensen) and Boromir (Sean Bean) are on the screen. I had this irrational feeling that if I did cry, those men would have jumped off the screen and made fun of me for being such a wuss. Which says a lot about how it handles that event, these characters gaining control despite Gandalf’s absence.
The rest of this leg of the epic journey is pretty masculine with the well representation of Aragorn and Boromir, but it’s masculine in a valiant and not in a constricting way. The movie also questions that aspect of themselves, with Aragron’s self loathing doubts and Boromir’s close calls with temptation. It’s a great story about clashes and friendship set in the most luscious of fantasy worlds.
- Apocalypse World moves in the Fellowship of the Ring (takeonrules.com)
The first time I saw this film I thought it was lighter and less stiff upper lip than its reputation. I even tolerated that it used the oldest joke in the book – ‘…deaf in one ear.’ ‘Sorry?’ I also thought that this would end up being one of those movies where ‘nothing ever happens,’ even if it does.
Pardon the socialist reading of the film, but Robert Altman‘s GOSFORD PARK shows the class stratification between the dying British noble class and their servants. The latter is both gossipy best friend and lap dog to the former, this dual role making the relationship more complex, nuanced and multifaceted than any worse ‘camp’ possibilities it might have already had.
This latent function of the servants make them the eyes or the audience stand-ins for the movie, especially Mary MacEchran (Kelly MacDonald), the ‘Miss Trentham’ to Countess Constance Trentham (Maggie Smith), Mary being new to the country world as we are. She’s the one finding out things like bringing a small box to store jewels that would be used on the first night. The secrets of the house falls under her lap, and she spends a significant time in the film running around the servants’ level to ask her coworkers why they’ve done certain things she wouldn’t.
What I love about this film are the scenes like Constance throwing a scarf at Mary to pack while leaving the house. It’s simple moments like this that can create a feeling of outrage within an audience, specifically because of how fast they can happen. Constance also does this childlike, as if she’s doing nothing wrong.
Then I realized that Constance, just like the upper classes in most movies set in the first half of the twentieth century, is a child. She needs an allowance that is threatened by Lady Sylvia McCordle’s (Kristin Scott Thomas) husband, businessman William (Michael Gambon), who for some reason has control of the finances that would be passed down from centuries long lines of nobles. It also reminds me of Vera’s condescension towards her own mother in “Mildred Pierce,” a warped and archaic mind-set that income is a birthright.
By earning his, William is threatening the nobility’s old world order, although that doesn’t stop them from depending on him. He is the one to ask for allowances and investment money, having created many businesses that continually exploit the poor in many ways. And they get disgruntled when he ruthlessly takes away.
The movie also shows the characters’ diverse reactions what is happening around them. Constance anticipates the shame in the inevitable event that would lead all of them to confess their grievances about William. Mary grows, although the sills she attains as a novice servant may eventually be useless. Sylvia’s callous, thinking about selling the house as if that is only a minor change.
However, there are characters like Elsie (Emily Watson, who usually plays innocent roles), the first head maid, the woman who teaches Mary about the big and little things about serving in a country house. She’s like the older sister, smoking a cigarette and telling a younger Mary on her lovers and the realities of romance and sex in the upper and middle classes. She wards off Henry Denton’s (Ryan Philippe) come-ons. She gets sacked for speaking to Sylvia out of turn but she bravely says that this even ‘might be the making of me,’ riding off in Hollywood producer Mr. Morris Weissman’s (Bob Balaban) car, a beginning in itself.
This movie has some pretty grim stuff. In a scene from The Magdalene Sisters, Sister Bridget (Geraldine McEwan) tells a young woman something like all men are sinners and that women should guard themselves from these sinners. While cutting that girl’s desirable hair. She would also call one of the inmates, Margaret (Anne-Marie Duff) ‘the likes of you,’ disregarding the miraculous redemption of her titular patron saint however. She blocks many layers of cognitive dissonance, that women do have sexual desires that aren’t necessarily sinful or that her abuses are more depraved than the sex she’s repressing.
The film is about the order of Irish Catholic nuns who, in the mid to the late 20th century, run a laundry delivery service. In these institutions these girls received physical and sexual abuse and exploitation from the nuns, driving some of these women into suicide attempts, insanity and causing harm towards themselves and others. They denied their rights to emancipation even into adulthood, separated these young women from their families, children, friends and contexts. They’re not even encouraged from socializing with each other and are forced to sleep on mattresses on the attic floor. Although I’m not really sure who’s at fault here. We can’t blame the girls for doing things that they didn’t know were wrong. Nor the community who turns a blind eye like we do on the goods and services we consume. The nuns didn’t really kidnap these girls. It’s also their parents or guardians – Bernadette (Nora-Jean Noone) grew up in an orphanage where the nuns handed her over to the Magdalenes – that refer them to these places.
Bernadette’s origin story isn’t the only one being told in the film’s first five minutes, eventually unfolding the wanted, unwanted pregnancies and sexual indiscretions that these young, single women have had that has led them to be confined within the convent for at least one half of the 1960′s, when Protestant Britain and the rest of the developed world was loosening up.
There’s something matter-of-fact of the film’s cinematography – dominated by the dumpy and even fascist swatches of blue and brown in the costumes – and mood, letting the cruelty do the talking instead of adding any sort of context or directorial indulgences. The shots aren’t as beautiful on the small screen and it takes time to appreciate what’s within the frame, populated by objects, props or the characters faces. It’s like these characters – even the innocent women - and the institution itself shroud the film in darkness.
Sister Bridget has composure when she’s parading the girls outside, calm even when Crispina (Eileen Walsh, Britain and Ireland’s version of Heather Matarazzo) shouts the fiery “You’re not a man of God” more than forty times. Sometimes, like a scene after Margaret confronts her, she stops to think about herself yet continues on without changing. Nonetheless, she still ruins Miss Marple for everybody.
But the real treat here, or the silver lining in this very dark could, is the younger cast. My money on who would be famous was on Noone, who is skinnier than I remembered and looks like a punk rock girl I hung out with in high school. She has the same big feline spark, from the moment her big dark eyes flirted with the boys across the fence like a young Bettie Page to being the most misanthropic inmate in the laundry. She steals Crispina’s medallion. She also tells one of the oldest inmates (earlier in the film this character is an intermediary between the inmates and nuns, yelling at the younger ones to go back to work) that the laundry is the only thing that the nuns cared about and that even the most docile inmates didn’t matter to them, breaking that dying woman’s heart.
But it was Duff, now Mrs. James MacAvoy, who moved on to do bigger things. With that hindsight in mind I began to inspect her character and performance in this repeat viewing. She’s not the sluttiest, the most mentally vulnerable nor the insipidly prettiest, because those roles are for Bernadette, Crispina and Rose/Patricia (Dorothy Duffy). She, however, mends and minds the insanity that is brewing within the girls although yes, she gives Bernadette and her brother Eammon some tough love as well. She also serves as the film’s eyes, reacting to the world around her, very much aware of its changes and evolution despite being forcefully cloistered. She overlooks a wide set of hills during spring time and almost gets into a strange man’s car before she returns to the convent without getting caught. She watches her revenge against a priest having effects beyond her control or observant of instances when the girls start picking on each other. She is the film’s conscience and she might never be better than her earlier self in this movie.
Apparently Michael Pitt played a young, clean-cut football jock in “Dawson’s Creek,” thus becoming the show’s second most successful alum. I watched the show’s first two seasons but I wouldn’t know. The Michael Pitt that I know is the one who got his rocks off at a tub, as well as other forays into American indie cinema.
The off-Broadway incarnation of “Hedwig and the Angry Inch” has its star, writer, and director John Cameron Mitchell plays both the titular East German transsexual rocker and her arch-rival Tommy Gnossis. The film begins with Hedwig singing one of her songs about the origin of love and he might as well be singing about their broken relationship as lovers and mirror images as well as about his disjointed body. In the film, Pitt plays Tommy and we can see the characters in their separate lives when Tommy has become famous and during flashbacks, when Hedwig is still singing in restaurants and Tommy is still a God-fearing 17-year-old. Instead of an off-screen reference, Hedwig now has someone to lust for, to break her heart and to plot revenge against.
Pardon my ignorance on queer trans body politics, but it’s easy to assume that drag is an exterior performance. Camp and sex appeal, essentially. There is some truth to this bravado in the film, as we look at Hedwig’s glazed eyes as he looks into the mirror, looking like one of the deadpan mannequin heads where he places his many wigs. But Mitchell also remarkably infuses interior layers within Hedwig, a confident performer and a vulnerable child. There’s a revelatory scene when he appeals to Tommy that he Tommy loves her, he should also love the front of her. Of course it’s a hard sell. Nonetheless, her drag side is so human that we the audience might be surprised at what she looks like in the end.
In which I will use my armchair knowledge of film criticism and French history to write about The Affair of the Necklace.
I’m starting to blame Hollywood less for Americanizing any foreign narrative. If someone’s playing ‘let’s pretend’ in their backyard, they might as well play with the neighborhood kids. Hilary Swank, Adrien Brody, Brian Cox and Christopher freaking Walken are the last people the last people you’ll think about when you say ‘French costume drama,’ since they don’t make a lot of movies under that genre. But there it is, gnawing at the corner of their luck-filled and strangely eclectic CVs. She, playing protagonist Jeanne de la Motte de Valois, leads a cast of two Brits, an Australian and others who are mostly and blatantly too American for their roles, no matter how much they push their affectations to each other.
But I’m a nice, forgiving person and say that those affectations are a part of Hollywood tradition, another convention being the actors’ tight bodies which are a few sizes smaller than wealthy 18th century adult aristocrats. And the slow motion and soundtrack combination when something extremely devious or extremely violent is taking place. And stop trying to make the Illuminati happen, it will never happen!
The film Jeanne into a Scarlett O’Hara figure, she submits to the deceitful and decadent court life, getting herself into a plot to steal from Cardinal Rohan (Jonathan Pryce,as French as he has been before) who thinks is a loan for Marie Antoinette (Joely Richardson) to buy a diamond necklace the latter can’t publicly do so. But Jeanne will rationalize that plan, saying ‘I’ll finally get my home back,’ to her gigolo (Simon Baker) to remind us of it once every ten minutes that she’s a good person underneath. And I suppose we all are.
This film also exists to get Milena Canonero adequately employed, two of her three Oscar wins are from her work in movies set in the Rococo period. There’s one scene where de la Motte wears the same pink number that Kirsten Dunst’s Marie Antoinette wears. Canonero also works through fashions with de le Motte’s arc between a dour woman into the perfect yet classy seductress. I also remember mr e hats, veils and head-gear for de la Motte and the other female characters here than in Coppola’s film.
Which brings me to Joely Richardson‘s Marie Antoinette, my first time seeing her in a movie. Her brash force and dismissal reminds me of Cate Blanchett while her naiveté feels like 90′s Uma Thurman. I was wondering if the film considered Joely’s sister Natasha for the role but the latter doesn’t seem as gullible. She also looks slightly closer to the Vigee-Lebun paintings of Antoinette than Norma Shearer on Dunst ever does.
I also actually like how the film portrays Antoinette. I have a hazy recollection of Shearer’s Antoinette, but Coppola kept Dunst’s Antoinette away from the backroom, her most political decision is staying with her King despite the riots getting closer to Versailles. This Antoinette has her hand on the chess board, refuses the titular necklace because it was commissioned for her grandfather-in-law’s mistress Madame du Barry, overseeing the Petit Trianon’s construction, personally vindicates Rohan or decides a public trial about the necklace as if her husband the King isn’t in the same room. Joely’s Antoinette thus has a more active role in politics than the two more famous Hollywood depictions of her. But in compromises by showing the revolution against her and her beheading, just like the film shows everything we already expect in a movie about that era.
The film, choosing more conventional ways instead of going for an auteurial vision of the past, competent in telling its story. But after the credits roll, we can always go to wikipedia and find out that real de la Motte wasn’t a Valois, that she was probably killed by debt collectors instead of royalists and become severely disappointed that she looked less like Swank and more like Karla Homolka.
The only handheld moment I remember from Moulin Rouge, as Christian (Ewan McGregor) sneaks away with Satine (Nicole Kidman), cuckolding the Duke even if the latter if a few feet away. Naughty!
This movie’s whimsy and surrealism in covering late 20th century pop songs in contrast with Paris almost a century ago is a precedent to Ryan Murphy’s surreal abomination known as “Glee.” I understand people who don’t like this movie, as Michael koresky called it ‘porno garbage‘ in context of a review of the Hardwicke-Seyfried Red Riding Hood movie. I admit, I sometimes hate parts of this movie too. Harold Zidler (Jim Broadbent – he won an Oscar in the same year for Iris. I haven’t seen that, but I’m sure he should have won for this movie instead.) singing ‘Like a Virgin,’ or a ‘Roxanne’ in tango. In the end of the day, it didn’t matter whether the cast had the perfect voice, since they were auto-tuned just like pop stars and TV musical stars after them. But their gilded backgrounds help us dive into the film’s craziness, and as Christian belts out lyrics like ‘we can be lovers’ or ‘we can be heroes’ with an innocent enthusiasm and Satine, like us, can’t help but sing along.
I also believe this movie is created to venerate Kidman’s face, especially since this is her at her prime. Possibly the last time she’ll look immortal. Her emotions when Satine denies her affection for Christian, only to sing his loving words to him later. It’s really difficult to stamp any role of hers to be her best, giving something different here as she does with the naturalism of Grace in Dogville or the sincere upper-class pathos of Becca Corbett in Rabbit Hole. The first word that comes to mind is seduction, when Satine gets our attention by singing the words straight and looking directly at the camera with her big eyes. She doesn’t, however, shy away from the histrionic side of attracting men like Christian and the Duke, with high-pitched whispers for comic effect. Or when her game stops and has to tell Christian the truth, tearing up when necessary.
Also, when I was watching this, her face only has colour three times, when she’s adjusting her make-up, on top of the elephant singing along with Christian or when she’s trying to ward him off. She tells Christian that the Duke has given her everything, and anyone would have taken her word for it unless it’s someone as resilient as Christian. The rest of the time, the blue light makes her seem like an unreachable Parisian geisha, her wintry beauty under the evening blue light already foreshadows her tragedy.
This part seems like I’m over thinking this movie, but there’s also something interesting about her showstopper of a number, ‘Diamonds are a Girl’s Best Friend,’ a song she sings in two versions. During both times, she’s practically dressed in diamonds, shining as they hug her body. I’m not sure what director Baz Luhrmann’s intentions are, but using the song inadvertently puts Satine with Marilyn Monroe, the rest of the characters depend on the woman’s intelligence but none of them point that quality out. They both commit to their fictional selves. Their health and career are vulnerable and precarious, their broken hearts hindering them from moving on.
Let me now talk about the multicultural references in this movie include Switzerland, India and Spain (or arguably Argentina). I’m still figuring out the fictional turn of the century Parisian’s fascination with what’s outside them, letting pieces of the world in through Expos and caged zoo exhibits and, in the case of this film, cabaret shows. And the ‘legitimate theatre’ of the last act. The film also dedicates some time to show Christian, Harold, Lautrec (John Leguziamo) and the rest of the crew making sets and backdrops, rehearsing intricately elaborate dance numbers, looking just as fabulous as the finished product.
There are also some intermissions, when the bearded Christian is alone, when the titular Moulin Rouge is barren, its red curtains no longer blushing like a youthful face. The fictional world of the Moulin Rouge at its peak is still vivid and magical even if once in a while, we remember that it all has ended.
I’m writing about these two movies because of Andrew Parker’s Indefensible series, as he presents films that respected Toronto film critics will publicly defend. Among the trailers they showed before showing Alien Resurrection are the worst uses of a recent Oscar winner, a trailer of a vehicle for a guy who’s winning now, and another of the Chad (Tom Green).
Alien Resurrection falls within the wrong hands, with the writer of Buffy the Vampire Slayer and the director of Amelie. I asked critic John Semley about ‘race,’ which is the wrong word to describe the relationship between Ripley Clone #8 (Sigourney Weaver), the aliens, the crew, the space pirates (including Gary Dourdan and Ron Perlman) and a robot (Winona Ryder). Three of those groups work against the aliens and get out of the mother ship. Every alien or monster movie is practically a metaphor for race. The proper word is the ‘other.’ I didn’t want to be that guy in the theatre bringing up film jargon and taking a genre movie too seriously.
Anyway, Alien is a perfect movie because of its evocation of a style and simplicity, making the aliens mere intruders. The token mad scientist (Brad Dourif) disciplines the bred and captured aliens makes an even relationship between human and alien. Both perform unjustified violence against each other instead of only one side doing it to the other. The first scene of the film shows the scientists perversely fawning at her, calling her perfect. Watching Ripley eventually look at botched clones and imperfect versions of herself, and having to kill those clones out of disgust on what the scientist have done to them, and how perfection is achieved, and how people draw lines against each other.
Old adage says that Weaver hasn’t been good since The Ice Storm (released in the festival circuit earlier that year) an opinion she shuts down by elevating the film through moments within her performance. Half of the movie is ridiculous, culminating in a confrontation inside a smaller spaceship between Ripley and an alien who is also technically her son. John Semley made fun of the alien son being made of oatmeal, and watching the crappy special effects of his innards being splattered throughout outer space, but we go back to Ripley’s face, and Weaver’s sincerity and mourning doesn’t seem laughable nor out-of-place.
So what do the movies have in common? Well, viscera, inter-species relationships, parental relationships and the name Betty. The name of the pirate ship in Alien Resurrection is Betty and Freddy Got Fingered‘s protagonist Gord (Green) has a girlfriend named Betty (Marisa Coughlan). Trailers before Freddy Got Fingered include Arnold making fun of himself and a reason why I respect Chris Evans and Jamie Pressley.
Show two gross things, put one random image or plot point after another and 51% of us will be laughing. Every shock comedian probably knows this. It’s like the animation company’s CEO’s (I still don’t understand when Anthony Michael Hall became sexy) reaction to Gord’s father (Rip Torn), the absurdity of the violence is so physical that it seems measured and entertaining. What does a girl on a wheelchair who likes forced fellatio have to do with the Eiffel Tower? And why does Tom Green play a piano sausage and be called crass and excessive, yet when Dali and Bunuel put dead donkeys on top of a piano they’re called avant-garde? Well, even some critics looking at this film from retrospect have referred to it as a Dadist experiment. Its pacing is different. Neither does it compromise to make Gord cheesy and sympathetic like most gross out comedies end up doing to its protagonists.
I also love how Coughlan is the love interest instead of Green’s ex-wife Drew Barrymore, who instead plays a crazy receptionist. Drew’s sunk to a lot of depths but she wasn’t gonna permanently sabotage herself with this one. Well played. Coughlans’ the MVP of this movie. I’ll always have respect for Tom Green as with any guy who pronounces his T’s (I’m starting to notice that comedians and comic actors today have better enunciation than dramatic ones). Everyone else plays one note that go well together in this skull-beating symphony that is Freddy Got Fingered.
Oh, and after the movie, Mr. Wilner started impersonating Tom Green impersonation as if he’s fighting for the film’s final cut. That was great.
Andrew and Sasha James e-mailed me this press release, brightening up my day.
Andrew Parker and Toronto Underground Cinema proudly present the DEFENDING THE INDEFENSIBLE film series starting MARCH 4, 2011.
Film criticism is a strange business these days. In years prior to the rise of the Internet, it seemed like only a select few knowledgeable film critics held sway over the fickle viewing public. Now, it seems as if everyone is entitled to voicing their opinions no matter how strange or unpopular they might be. These conversations have lead to more heated arguments about films that in many cases, might not even be worth talking about. Even the most marginal of films can inspire passionate arguments amongst defenders and detractors. With that in mind Toronto blogger Andrew Parker devised the idea for the DEFENDING THE INDEFENSIBLE film series: a monthly exploration of films that time has either been unkind to or overlooked (or possibly should never be seen again) hosted by local film scholars, writers, and bloggers and designed to better educate the public that film criticism still matters even at it’s silliest.
After lengthy correspondence with several local film writers and various local film buffs, Andrew cultivated a list of suggestions of films that were liked by very few, but could be defended by one singular person very well. From this new list of films Andrew went back to the same writers and asked which of the films the other writers hated the most. Each screening will have a pair of local critics squaring off one on one in a discussion of some of the most divisive films in recent memory.
How it works:
-The evening will be hosted by an emcee that cannot stand the film screening that evening. This person will come on stage first to explain just why the film the audience is about to see is terrible and why the evening’s main presenter is wrong to defend it. This is all in good-natured fun and it will be dealt with in both a humourous and analytical fashion. The evenings should be thought of as a film school version of Fight Club crossed with the bravado of a professional wrestling match with a dash of old school Siskel and Ebert.
-Following the introduction by the evening’s host, our defender will take the stage and explain why the film about to be screened is a good film. This is an uphill battle not only because they are following someone who just blasted the movie about to be screened, but also because simply saying a film is entertaining is not a good explanation. All defenses must be grounded in some sort of close viewing of the film or in some sort of film theory. All defenses must be based somewhat in fact and no one can coast on the entertainment value of a film alone.
-The film will then be screened (in 35mm whenever possible and applicable) and following the film, the emcee and defender will once again take the stage for a brief recap of their arguments before turning over questioning to the audience that just viewed the film. For one of the first times ever in a public forum, a film writer will have to defend an unpopular viewpoint to the very public they have been writing for in the first place. Knowing that some people do not want to sit through these films for a second time, a special offer will be made to those who want to join in the discussion to come in after the film has screened to ask questions for a reduced admission price of $2 (all of which will be given to charity).
DEFENDING THE INDEFENSIBLE will be held once a month (on Fridays) at the TORONTO UNDERGROUND CINEMA(186 Spadina Avenue, Toronto, Ontario). Admission is $10 per screening with a portion of the proceeds to go to charities agreed upon by the evening’s emcee and defender. Much like Celebrity Jeopardy these people have been gracious enough to donate their time and energy for some truly great causes. People wishing to join the discussion, but not watch the film will be admitted at the end of the film for $2 to join in the Q&A session, all of which will be donated to the charities being represented that evening. All tickets available at the door with no advanced ticketing. Some films will also include special guests involved with the making of the films being screened and some screenings will also include bonus auctions for various charities.
DEFENDING THE INDEFENSIBLE SCHEDULE
(Films to be shown on 35mm when available. Films and Guests are subject to change.)
March 4th: Special Series Opening Double Bill ($15 double bill)
7pm: Alien Resurrection, Defended by Norman Wilner (Now, MSN). Hosted by John Semley (Torontoist, amongst others)
9:30pm: Freddy Got Fingered, Defended by John Semley. Hosted by Norman Wilner
Let me interject here. Through their Twitters, John Semley and Norman Wilner were warming up their snarky knuckles for this night. Their passive aggressive banter is already awesome online and I can’t wait to see in person.
And now, a sentence or three that will result in me never getting hired in any major publication in Toronto: You guys are both kinda cute, one of you is a marry and the other’s a boff, but keep the shirts on. No one wants to see that. And yes, that’s in the context of seeing them both before and after seeing ‘horsecock’ on a big screen.
April 1st: Special April Fool’s Day Critic Battle Royale
7pm MacGruber, Featuring Will Sloan (The Varsity, Exclaim), Adam Nayman (Eye Weekly), Norman Wilner, and many more. Special guests and prizes!
April 15th: One of Our Own Night
7pm Speed Racer Defended by Toronto Underground Cinema’s Animation Series coordinator Peter Kuplowsky. Hosted by Adam Nayman
May 20th: The Tag Team Title Match
7pm Observe and Report Defended by Will Sloan and series creator Andrew Parker. Hosted by John Semley and Adam Nayman
June 24th: Ashton Kutcher Appreciation Night
7pm The Butterfly Effect Defended by Adam Nayman. Hosted by Norman Wilner.
And so forth. To my Toronto readers, come! To my readers who don’t live in Toronto, still come. I’ll write about further dates and movies as written in the press release and updates.
I already complained about watching the Shrek trilogy on twitter and did it anyway. The sharp comedy that turned itself into a cliché simply by existing again and again and again. We watched the first one in Grade 9 religion class, I think.
One thing about lobbing off one gag on top of another is that one will eventually make you laugh. Or that on repeated viewings, you’ll actually laugh about the one you forgot about. Such as when the recently rescued Princess Fiona (Cameron Diaz) opens the new morning with a series of vocalizations. She sings with a beautiful blue bird. We know what’s coming. She intentionally sings with such pitch and volume that the bird explodes. She takes the bird’s eggs, and there’s a mixture of solemnity instead of pushing the gag. And you know, Fiona the 0rge cancels out how this movie’s supposed to be about couples who don’t look good together.
The best in show/scene for the second installment goes to British comedy queen Jennifer Saunders, who plays Fiona’s fairy god mother. In order to get Fiona to marry her son, Prince Charming (Rupert Everett), she locks Shrek up on Fiona’s childhood bedroom. She mocks his cries out for her. Great delivery.
Ooh, Shrek the human’s (Mike Myers) kinda hot. Looking back two paragraphs ago, yes, it’s a sad North American staple for a hot woman to be paired with Kevin James . That got my weird brain to thinking about what my former prof said about masculinity being the absence of performance. Both in ogre and broad-shouldered human form, Shrek is more acceptable as a masculine figure. Especially than his arch nemesis Charming, one of the gags involve the latter whipping his hair, feminizing the character. Even Fiona sees something wrong with Charming, pretending to be the transformed Shrek, mugging for the citizens’ attention at her royal wedding.
The theme of the masculine duality between Shrek and Charming rides on up to the third installment. It makes sense that Charming’s in a fairy tale version of a dive bar until you really think about it. He thus tries to rectify that wrong by getting the other bar patrons, fairy tale villains, to sign up to invade Far Far Away. I mean, what’s stopping him? It’s not like Shrek can function in his royal duties anyway.
I like the first half of the third movie. It was my first time seeing it, so the gags feel fresh. There’s a feminist spin to it – as Charming rounds up the villains, Fiona rallies her fairy tale princess BFF’s, who are normally passive and wait for a…prince charming. This came out when I was in summer school. For a class I was watching some old movie either about the Algerian resistance or one about a depressed Senegalese maid. Yes, I could have rebelliously written an essay about either of those movies AND Shrek 3.
I couldn’t hold out on this series any longer. I should have done this at July 14, but I don’t think Kieszlowski released his Trilogy movies at that date neither. I chose the screen caps for the colours, but I hope national allegory and emancipation are captured in these images as well.
Vertigo (Alfred Hitchcock, 1958)
Age of Consent (Michael Powell, 1969)
The Conformist (Bernardo Bertolucci, 1975)
Hausu (Nobuhiko Obayashi, 1977)
The Usual Suspects (Bryan Singer, 1995)
The Thin Red Line (Terrence Malick, 1998)
Ballast (Lance Hammer, 2008)
I first saw this movie on a plane, and not just a plane but on my plane coming to Canada. Save the Last Dance helped shaped my young naive mythology and imagination of this continent and high school. I ate the movie up, I ate the soundtrack up (featuring Method Man and Redman, Fredro Starr, Pharoahe Monch, Pink). When the cool kids in Grade 9 were talking about when they were talking about fake ID’s, this is what they were talking about. But unlike the kids who went to my high school the cast of this film, mostly in their thirties, won’t have a hard time getting into some grubby club that don’t look like the Le Deux copycats in our entertainment districts here. Yes, Fredro Starr, if you threw me to the walls of my high school washroom, I’d just make fun of you for being in high school at 34. So I was a bit elated when this movie came on TV less than a week ago.
I’m trailing. As you know, this movie is about Sara (Shakespearean actor Julia Stiles), who has to move to Chicago and give up ballet because of her mother’s death, insipid enough to wear little hair clips, deny that she accidentally calls Derek (Sean Patrick Thomas) an know-it-all asshole in front of his sister Chenille (Kerry Washington) and say ‘Noo’ when Chenille asks her if she likes him. She gets this sibling duo as her Uncle Toms, teaching her the ropes in a cutthroat urban high school milieu, that the correct word for ‘cool’ is ‘slammin,’ that dance is her passion and the way for a white girl in the country to connect with a predominantly black populous. What does she give them in return? She buys Kerry Washington‘s character a rum and coke, no ice, and she gives Derek (Sean Patrick Thomas) her body. He’s thirty years old, Julia, don’t ‘git’ with him.
Hey look, it’s that guy from “Oz.” Everyone else from that show got another show, like “Dexter,” “30 Rock,” “The Wire” but nothing for him. Another casting note is Nikki (Bianca Lawson) who also plays Kendra the Vampayar Slayer, my favourite slayer. That girl fights like girls in my high school used to fight.
A little part of me wishes she was more famous, if her acting and everyone else’s acting for that matter weren’t so bad. There was also a DJ named Snooki, a male character. So I changed the channel.
- Take Three: Kerry Washington (filmexperience.blogspot.com)
(Another “I remember in Art History” post. Sorry?)
Watching parts of A Knight’s Tale reminded me of this essay I wrote about Medieval costume and jewellery. My professor wanted to use that essay as an example to future students, and I’ve coasted ever since. It’s been three years, and after that have been coffee table books about the history of fashion as well as late nights watching Trashopolis. So take half of what I say with a grain of salt, including the part that the a certain percentage of production of clothing in that time had a trickle down system and that some of the clothes worn by the serfs are hand-me-downs from the royals, accounting for how ratty some of the clothes looked. I can’t even imagine living back then with that garbled factoid in my head.
The language of clothing is pretty interesting here with William Thatcher/Ulrich von Liechtenstein (Heath Ledger) and Jocelyn Shannyn Sossamon) wearing thin, loose, flexible fabrics, exuding the lightheartedness and youth of the film. We’re reminded of that young innovation when Kate the blacksmith gives Will a thinner but stronger armor. Or when William plays with a red rose in a short sleeved tunic.
I remember other Medieval flicks having thicker fabrics with bolder colours. A servant boy had a greener tunic than Ulrich, but the latter’s tunic had better detailing. But the darker, thicker and more layered the clothes, the more serious the character’s business is. For example, bellowing Geoffrey Chaucer (Paul Bettany) always wears a jacket and Adhemar’s (Rufus Sewell) is darker and more broody.
Of course, Jocelyn’s costumes are more anachronistic than the rest. She dyes her hair punk red and the tunics hang more like South Asian costume. There’s even one part of the movie where she wears a Regency looking hat and a Turandot-esque headdress.
Films like this try to ease its audience in its anachronisms and it works in this case. I like the clothes and the music, I’m just observing. I also like the colour-blind casting of Sossamon, and despite her emotional limits, who else can play a slender punky noblewoman other than her? If anything, the most fatal flaw would be how needy Jocelyn got in her relationship with Ulrich.
Costume designer Caroline Harris is also responsible for the costumes in Othello ’95, making it into my list of movies I will see one of these days.
Also, this is my primary resource for my medieval costume essay.
My TA John was talking about subtext in film and talked about this movie in how Julio (Gael Garcia Bernal) and Tenoch (Diego Luna) are using Luisa’s (Maribel Verdu) sexually to hide their feelings for each other. Annoyingly I interject ‘But isn’t it also about the history and sociology of Mexico undergoing generational and political change?’ He, like a saint, replies something in the lines of ‘Yes, as well as about two dudes who secretly wanna fuck each other.’
The second time around, I appreciated how much Luisa rubs that subtext in the guys’ faces.
My mom walked into the scene when Tenoch was having sex with Luisa. And apparently my aunt was ‘shocked,’ even though the latter quipped that my viewing of it was ‘educational.’ That went well.
The first time I full watched this movie was thankfully by the time I was in college, since nudity would be close to nothing to me and just cared about the bleak Mexican landscapes. And this movie also taught me what ‘pendejo’ means.
The second time around might feel like grasping at straws, but when you’re watching a movie the second time do you just look at things like the characters’ tastes in interior design, books, music, etc.? This is a movie about teenage boys, a social demographic that barely if ever cleans their house or are tacky enough to put lots of stickers in their cars. Like the anarchy sticker on the right hind (?) windows, showing how Julio shares his car with his college activist sister. That we’re always looking out through the right set of windows to be reminded of that sticker once in a while. Or, most likely unrelated to teenage aesthetics, that I’m kinda angry that I can’t tell who the girl is in that Vogue Eyewear ad campaign at the background in the end of the movies. Or that Luisa hasn’t touched that Yeats book that her pretentious, cheating ass fiance owns. Or that there’s a hotel in rural Mexico with nice beds and a shitty pool. Or, as Lars pointed out the Jules et Jim and Harold and Maude poster and in the room where Tenoch is fucking either Ana or Ceci. Both posters also foreshadow the film’s plot.
Also, where is Maribel Verdu’s ticket to Hollywood? Yes, she has Pan’s Labyrinth, but where’s her Bad Education or Milk or Vicky Cristina Barcelona? Verdu can tell Debbie Downer stories without sounding like Debbie Downer herself.
Speaking of Debbie Downer, I’m trying to fully articulate what I think about Luisa. She’s receptive of the adolescent goofiness of Tweedele-boi and Tweedle-bum, cries in private, receptive again – no pun intended, then she blows up on them, then receptive again. It’s difficult to believe that she easily adapted a Hanna Schmitz-like role towards these boys and/or that she only came out with them as a now-or-never thing. Tenoch lightly accuses Julio of being a leech, but she partakes in the leechiness too. Sexual favours, her escape towards a paradise death – dying in Heaven’s Mouth, so to speak. And that we only see her cry once without having a barrier between her and the camera shows how we’re seeing this woman from a man’s gaze – we pity her but we will never understand her, and it’s a bit frustrating but thankfully not distracting from the film’s merits.
Bechdel time! Luisa asks tour guide Chuy’s wife Mabel for travel tips for where the other beaches are, and she also asks about the beautiful native names of the beaches and towns. Pass!
And not the biggest fan of the shakycam.
Lastly, I also wonder whether Julio and Tenoch would ever friend each other on Facebook.
I’m trying to be nicer to this movie because what Roger Ebert and Liza Schwarzbaum and one other critic I can’t find have said about this movie are valid. Girls like sisters Elena, 15 and the titular fat girl Anais, 12, or at least adolescents, can be cruel to each other and then hug and comfort each other the next morning as if nothing happened. And yes, what happened in the ending can happen. You can’t blame the mother (Arsinee Khanjian) for making her choice because motels are just as creepy.
But there’s three things that bugged me during the movie. First is the mother’s thin characterization Her blase response to her husband’s question that “young people meet” makes her a passive accomplice to Elena and Anais’ sexual misadventures. Elena flirts with law student Fernando while Anais is the same room, while the parents are in the same house. Fernando and Elena opens doors, they converse, the smoke cigarettes, Elena has anal sex with Fernando for the first time. The first thing on that list should have woken the parents up. Then when Fernando’s mother reveals the relationship, both mothers are shocked as if nobody knew what was going on.
Second, that Elena is stupid enough to fall for Fernando’s lies. Anais is Elena’s foil in that she’s smarter and more jaded about sex despite being a virgin. She represents the contemporary adolescent, in theory smarter than their predecessors. Elena’s smitten by Fernando, and she really wants the experience. But she doesn’t even listen to reason, even from Fernando. When I was watching this movie, the future parent in me came out in full fury.
Lastly, there were parts when I felt there wasn’t enough of Anais. She is the fat girl in the title, why can’t she have her own misadventures? And the ending doesn’t count as one.
Why is everyone doing heroin on a Saturday night? Where is everyone’s parents?
“Thirteen Conversations About One Thing,” a movie with interwoven multiple story lines, went on after “Requiem for a Dream.” Both take place in New York, both have drugs.
But in “Thirteen Conversations,” the drugs are a minor note. A young guy in a secluded corner of the city shooting up. He’s the bane of his father Gene’s (Alan Arkin) existence, always asking him for parole money.
Minor characters like him are unchangeable. He’ll always be a delinquent like that Gene’s coworker Wade will always look on the bright side and like Bea’s (Clea Duvall) coworker Dorrie, who I swear to God looks like my coworker, will always be lazy and bitchy yet outgoing. In a way Gene’s always gonna be grumpy. Unfortunately enough we have to watch Gene and Alan Arkin be the weight in his workplace’s sinking ship.
However, the main characters like Bea and Troy (Matthew McConaughey) change because of an event that involves them. Troy’s a douchebag lawyer and Bea is spiritual and optimistic girl. That changes when Troy hits Bea with a car.
It was nice to finally see Matthew McConaughey do good work and play something close to a real character. Troy becomes noble yet masochistic after the accident, someone dedicated to justice that he couldn’t give to himself not to Bea. He still didn’t turn himself in and let Bea alone to die, and you can either forgive him for that or not. But there was a purity and innocence in his face that went well with the character’s redemption. He spends some of his time looking in the mirror, thinking about the consequence of his actions, or going back to the place of the accident. He could either have been a George Clooney or a Paul Newman or a Christian Bale, but he chose to become himself. It sucks watching movies and knowing the future.
Bea is in the choir and listen to the homilies, but she becomes a Debbie Downer so much that Dorrie stops taking her calls. Pardon the expression again, but it sucks having a taste of someone with rare genuine goodness only but the movie takes that away from us.
It’s an interesting film. I disagree with its worldview – that an event can turn a personality upside down. And Gene isn’t sympathetic enough as a foil against Troy and Bea. But I’m not bitchy enough to totally dismissive.