May-December Series: The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo
Mikael Blomkvist, a well meaning but scandal ridden journalist and Lisbeth Salander (Noomi Rapace) a young hacker with dyed black hair find themselves working on a forty year old cold case about the missing niece of an industrial magnate. Well, the journalist was there first until he realized the young girl was hacking into his laptop and decides to get her help. The missing girl’s other relatives, who ironically are the suspects of this familial crime and have Nazi pasts to boot, are a bit alarmed by this collaboration because the newspapers got a whiff of them and decides to call the girl “his whore.” Is their apprehension legitimate?
Well, they did sleep together.
It’s not as disappointing of a plot turn as it sounds. She comes on to him and it’s obvious that she’s looking for something more physical, but the movie doesn’t portray that clumsily. The shame that the Vangers try to attach to this relationship isn’t floating around it neither. They’re both cautious to fall in love and he thinks it a bit unfair that she’s so closed up and distant. It’s a bit one sided in that he looks at her with admiration and she has to muscle up to solve the case and save his life. But they’re taking their relationship one step at a time, and that seems very mature. The relationship feels unprofessional but not creepy, since she’s just as much as an adult as he is.
I’ll talk about Lisbeth the character and performance, that I was forewarned that Noomi Rapace looks nothing like the girl she plays made me concentrate on detaching the facade of ‘Lisbeth’ while watching the movie. That her face looks cheekbone-y and angular unlike the soft faces of most women in Hollywood. That she’s allowed to be an adult especially when meeting Henrik Vanger’s lawyer, and she exceeds expectations in this part. There’s just something about her mannerisms, her black clothing, her gait, the she smokes to escape tense situations. Everyone’s excited about Lisbeth because she’s not passive like many Hollywood female characters. But when I watch her I feel like I’m seeing another archetype instead of a full, nuanced character.
And I could have done away with one of the rape scenes. And done away with “fuck,” “evil motherfucker” and other ub-subtleties. And I’m not sure if people on probation in Sweden are that defenceless against their parole officers. And I don’t like the direction of the denouement of the movie. And I don’t like how the movie portrays certain sexual acts as punishment. And why is Clarice doing research while Crawford is with the killer? That’s not how it works although I respect the spin.
I also have issues with the trailer of the film, or at least the version that I’ve seen. It barely lets us in on any dialogue. Why hide the fact that the movie’s in Swedish?
May-December Series: Greenberg
(The heading’s pretty self-explanatory.)
The first few minutes of “Greenberg” play like a lost Hal Ashby, watching Florence (Greta Gerwig) walking with a dog. It isn’t said if she’s a born Angeleno or if she moved from somewhere else. She straddles the line between smart and ditzy, having the same, almost drowsy voice that girls in their mid-20’s have. She’d be a full ditz if she didn’t have the indie girl look. She has a decent nightlife and sometimes has gigs in bars, crooning about the prairies. I live in Canada and I’m up to here with prairie shit and I didn’t know white girls sang about the prairies down there too.
Then Roger Greenberg (Ben Stiller) comes in to house sit and dog sit for her brother and the mood of the film changes into a portrayal of one bad date into another between Florence and Roger. “Do you remember they played Albert Hammond when it’s raining.” “You like old stuff?” For some frustrating reason she still comes back to him despite warnings from her best friend, who knows from Florence that he’s been in a mental institution, saying “If you see him again, I’ll stop talking to you.” Most of us would say the same thing.
For a while the movie veers into unwatchable territory. Some people have to be prepared for this kind of movie. I wasn’t – this is my first Baumbach. But at the same time, there’s an integrity in showing Roger mistreating people and accusing people of parental issues and people having awkward conversations and having really awkward sex.
The romance between Florence and Roger isn’t cookie cutter at all and it delivers a message that there’s probably no right person for anyone. Metaphorically, the two of them are different pieces of the puzzle. One thing they have in common except for their disfranchisement, which we don’t often remember because they clash so much. But in finding each other, they have to make it work.
There’s also honesty in the multitude of voices in this movie. There’s Florence, there’s Roger’s acerbic humour, there’s Roger’s college age niece and her friend calling other girls sluts. All of these portraits are brutal but not denigrating. When these voices clash, it could be excruciating but it’s, again, honest enough not to have the distance to make those characters hilarious – we empathize with them instead of being entertained by them. Most of the time we’re stuck with Roger’s, but despite how infuriating his personality could be, he is right about a few things and right about calling them out. His best friend (Rhys Ifans) shouldn’t go back to his marriage to a racist woman, it is annoying when people treat public spaces as their living rooms, and what is up with Florence’s ironic Girls Gone Wild story?
P.s. Saw this at the Varsity. I had to change seats because some old guy kept dropping sunflower seed shells on the floor, people kept their iPhones on to navigate through the dark theatre for their friends. Two fratboys in white T’s kept whispering to each other (I couldn’t hear him but a guy with a girlfriend yelled at them at one point), and finally walked out telling everyone in the theatre that the movie was fucking boring (they may have a point, but they didn’t stay ’till the end). These fuckers should have been filtered out after the second week but there they are at week 5. It’s both strange and comforting that Ben Stiller + Artsy movie join forces together and are still standing after a month. But again, apparently not everyone’s cup of tea.
P.s. Speaking of not everyone’s cup of tea, here’s a review from my friend’s friend, Julien.
Incoherent Grace Kelly post
Two weeks ago my friend Matt and I were in the greatest monthly movie event when I geared the conversation towards the new Vanity Fair cover with Grace Kelly. Didn’t know she was a Kennedy. He talked about about his absolute disgust at Laura Jacobs‘ article and its insistence of her purity. He said that if she stayed in Hollywood she would have been a sex symbol and not the upstanding demure lady that she groomed herself as. Then we talked about princesses, in which he decided to take a breather and talk about the real world for a while.
My childhood understanding of Grace Kelly was Princess Grace. My young adult understanding of her is the insulting “quitters don’t win” out of frustration. Most importantly are the more recent revelation of her romantic proclivities. But there’s nothing wrong about that because there’s a place in our hearts for girls like that. She was just the beauty that could get away with anything.
I always marveled at the domesticated image of woman of the 1950’s, because the stars of that time, Grace Kelly and half of her competition – Marilyn Monroe, Audrey Hepburn, Elizabeth Taylor sans “Giant” – didn’t look like women who made your eggs and toast. That’s also ironic knowing how Grace Kelly ends up.
(ph German Marie Claire via mojopin via tFS)
And again, the insistence that she was a 50’s girl, which I’m staring to question as a fallacy given her many incarnations in other actresses – Vivien Leigh, Catherine Deneuve, Jessica Lange, Gwyneth Paltrow. True, most of those women have odder roles and didn’t take on the same airs as she did. But if you pay attention to her lines in her movies, written to deconstruct her ladylike image. We should also remember that societal constraints also prevented her from playing the titular character in “Marnie.” Who knows what risks she world have taken?
I look at the picture above and the Vanity Fair cover and the picture where she comes out of a pool and I see Helmut Newton moreso than the New Look.
My mind goes all over the place too while I’m thinking about Grace Kelly. It’s true that for every statuesque blonde there are five actresses who are more petite looking and more aloof than her. But I keep trying to place her at any time in film history and insisting that she could have happened anytime.
- Grace Kelly brings classic Hollywood to Australia (travelnews.britishairways.com)
Image: My Fellow Americans
Plugs: “Cities of Refuge,” Empire Magazine, etc.
Fuck. So I’m gonna try to be like Oprah and tell 36 of you what book to buy. “Cities of Refuge” is the new novel by Michael “Papa” Helm and it just came out in Canada and I think England last week. It’s about a young female security guard for the ROM gets sexually assaulted, and that event adds to her colourful life as well as the lives of those around her. It’s been highly praised already. My broke ass actually bought the book and there’s something factual yet psychological about his tone, so far. It’s also very urban, multicultural story and he makes us walk with the characters in the spaces they go through and think about the city like they do.
Helm is also gonna be a part of the Harbourfront Reading Series and he goes on Wednesday. He taught me Creative Writing in UofT until he defected to the enemy at York. He’s cute, he kinda sounds like Johnny Cash, go buy his book and see him read it.
Lars, who I was in the Creative Writing class with (here’s his un-updated blog by the way), also linked me to Empire’s List of 40 Great Actor and Director Partnerships. It’s a very dry list and there are a few glaring omissions (Allen and Farrow), but at least the website didn’t turn it into a fucking slide show. Also, I’m gonna buy this magazine. My friends will know that I barely buy movie magazines because I can access the same information on the net, as well as other reasons that I’ll probably never get to.
Also, The Playlist via London Times gives us the first look at Cary Fukunaga’s Jane Eyre. I’m really excited about this because Michael Fassbender plays Rochester, the same role played by Orson Welles and Ciaran Hinds. I also didn’t know whether or not Mia Wasikowska is British or American (she’s Australian), and hopefully giving her Jane Eyre will give her something more to chew on than her role as Alice early this year.
Lastly, today’s gonna be really busy. I saw three movies last night, all strangely about May-December romances.
The Secret in their Eyes
(Sequence in their Eyes ph. SPC)
I’m taking everyone I know to see this movie.
The movie, portraying Argentine detective Benjamin Esposito (Ricardo Darin) trying to write a novel about a rape-murder case he’s had a twenty-five year obsession with, could have been a “baffling masterpiece” if I left it alone. But like every great film, I can’t, and it becomes more cohesive the more I think of it.
The movie, comfortably jumping from 1974 to 2000, has everything. Class conscious banter. The Hitchcockian theme wherein a man acting out on his impulses reminds another of his repressed desires and romances. A portrayal of human stupidity by Esposito and his partner Sandoval, whom, despite its intentions, prove that they’re neither cunning nor untouchable as they think. All of that in a slow marinade that is neither sleepy nor frustrating.
Then it has a climax like the seamless, much talked about chase scene in a full capacity soccer stadium.
The second half is, forgive me, a series of what-the-fucks. It’s one of those movies that can end in so many places, with slow dramatic volleys from one possible scenario to its exact opposite. One of those possible endings transports us to the year 2000, when both Esposito and his love interest, Irene Menendez Hastings, are older. She examines the novel and becomes dissatisfied where and how the rough draft ends, her way of encouraging him to find real answers and truths that both the characters and the audience deserve. This second half isn’t jolting but is nonetheless disturbing. Saying ‘that was the most fucking up thing I’ve ever seen’ was a gauge learned to judge great movies in high school viewership, and it’s still just as effective. The real ending that the characters and audience do deserve took a lot of buildup, and it’s believable and nonetheless human made by a director who can make great films.
The movie’s about how people treat each other, how people punish each other, a desire for vindication. It’s about a new cinematic language to articulate an idealism that hasn’t vanished in the personal nor national level, although it’s easy for that ideal to slip away.
Now that’s done, I’ll reintroduce Nathaniel R’s discovery of Natalie Portman’s three block rule, a rule that the Cumberland audience is notorious for breaking. And it’s funnier when middle-aged bourgeois feys break this rule.
“I thought the movie was so horrible.”
“Have you read the New Yorker review? I think you’re alone in this.”
“Just everything was set up. The female judge just happens to have her shirt a bit open when the suspect was there. And the elevator…”
“That’s like every other movie. It wasn’t as bad as the movie yesterday.” (Please don’t tell me these idiots didn’t see J.Lo)
“And the judge closing the case just like that.”
“Well, you don’t know what the Argentinian (ARGENTINE!) justice system was like. And it was the 70’s. It was a dictatorship.”
And so forth. I’m pretty sure I’m a loser for forestalking them (walking in front of the person you’re actually following). I just thought the dialogue was gold.
Apparently this movie’s about guilt. The best thing I could come up with was that the characters weren’t as annoying as my first impression of them was and that it wasn’t really that feminist and that there’s so much. Food. In this movie.
P.s. Fuck it.
Half of Scorsese movies are a Sisyphean project towards empathy, but he strikes gold in analyzing Henry (Ray Liotta) and Karen Hill (Lorraine Bracco). In a scene, Karen tells Henry that she flushed $50,000 worth of cocaine because of the police presence near their house, he is exasperated by knowing that their lavish lives become hollowed out. They repeat the same rationales for or against throwing out said cocaine for a few lines. At one point, I really thought this scene is gonna end like the last time. If I have to remind you, he hits her, she flails to the floor like a Guy Bourdin model (thus giving me ambiguous feelings about that, Marty), he storms out, the huge argument further fractures the relationship.
Now back to this scene. Instead of another assault, she apologizes, he doesn’t say but implies that she could have been right about making said cocaine disappear. Tour de force character writing/directing/acting come together as he goes into fetal position by instinct. He doesn’t have to think about being vulnerable, it’s surprisingly a part of his nature. She joins him, bellowing another “SORRY!” They become a lump of black and white bodies and as cheesy as it sounds, become one. Her lamentation articulates his the anguish that most Scorsese men can’t verbally produce.
This movie has a lot of flaws, specifically around Karen’s characterization. I can’t still understand how he attracted her. Passivity is under the guise of being observant and pragmatic, materialism under the guise of female desire. But there’s this appreciation or realization that gangsters will always have mistakes because they’re illegitimate by nature. And that the characters seem in a better light under a second view. And the food.
Late Thoughts: “Shutter Island”
Riku Writes his second post on “Shutter Island.” This may or may not be a good response to both posts. Unlike him, I haven’t read the book and I should. I’m just gonna talk about elements in this movie that I liked and disliked. I saw it through a free promotional screening through CINSSU the day before it came out, and it’ll take a lot of convincing for me to actually pay towatch it again.
That the second Rachel Solando (Patricia Clarkson) never really gets explained in Scorsese’s movie, and don’t you dare take that away from me. That shot of Teddy Daniels’ (Leonardo di Caprio) face while he’s drugged and dreaming, white as lightning. That Dolores (Michelle Williams) looks beautiful even though she wears the same fucking yellow dress. That Ted Levine. That the score crept into my spine and I don’t care if I heard it before. That sometimes I think the star rating system is bullshit for putting “interesting failure” below “flawed first feature by an up and coming autuer.” That Elias Koteas incites both my lust and wanting to build a time machine to see a young Robert de Niro, even if he intended to scare me.
That if Quentin Tarantino made the same movie, people would have fawned over it. That it would still have had Oscar nominations if it was released last year, and now that opportunity is gone.
That infuriating, clichéd high angle shot when he finds out that his children are dead. That not even Martin Scorsese can come up with a good ending to a horror movie, because when was the last time you saw that? That Scorsese and/or Lehane didn’t really need to incorporate the Holocaust into this movie. That the premise of the story was unconvincing. That Teddy Daniels’ arc from contempt against the insane to sympathizing with them was, again, unconvincing. That you knew the ending to this movie by just watching the trailer. That even by knowing the ending, would it still be worth it just for the ride? That seriously, Martin Scorsese, Quentin Tarantino knows how to use the n-word in a movie better than you do, and that’s shameful in so many ways, and if you use that word again, I will cut you.
p.s. NicksFlickPicks writes a more articulate version of most of the stuff I say above.
“Empress” Double Bill
(Poor little rich girl ph. secret)
My English teacher in high school pretty much said that you can write a unifying topic about any two texts. I’ve used that spirit in this blog, and it’s been useful while watching both “The Young Victoria, out on DVD last Tuesday, and “Alice in Wonderland.” My focus is not on how good they are. “Young Victoria” is passable and “Alice in Wonderland” sucks donkey. I thought at first that the Queen Mother documentary and my kooky mind was the only thing both movies had in common but boy was I wrong.
On the surface, both movies are about girl power. My basic knowledge of the titular “Young Victoria” was her older self, she was the most powerful woman in the world but is crippled by mourning her husband’s death. What the film shows is a girl (Emily Blunt) who, like many renowned rulers, have no or have lost her siblings and cousins. It also shows her fighting off her stepfather Sir John Conroy (Mark Strong) who wants her to sign her regency away to him in what could have been her deathbed. It’s a typical female royal narrative about having to deal with the men who try to influence her, the movie thankfully incorporating treaties and negotiations and letter writing culture that Royal history was full of. Nonetheless, the men break down either through her own strength or through fortunate circumstances. She forges political partnerships with men like William IV (Jim Broadbent), Lord Melbourne (Paul Bettany) and her husband Prince Albert (Rupert Friend, our generation’s Omar Sharif).
Alice in “Alice in Wonderland” goes through the same things as Queen Victoria. She’s the daughter of a businessman who’s imaginative as he is – he wants to venture into other continents, she dreams of fantasy lands. Growing up (Mia Wasikowska, groomed as a pallid Gwyneth Paltrow), her mother and sister thinks of her good enough to marry into blue blooded English snots. If she even thinks about not marrying the aristocratic Hamish, her peers remind her of the delusional old maid Aunt Imogen. She storms out of her engagement party not defiantly but to chase a rabbit she can only see, hence out of a compulsion to regress into her childhood dreams. Going into the rabbit hole she falls on hard surfaces, gets scratched up by huge animals and gain the courage to meet her destiny and kill the Jabberwock.
The most interesting parts for me for both films were the last acts, since the emancipation of one results into the slavery of many.* We feel her empowerment when she snips at Prime Minister Peel about her ladies-in-waiting, but a bit uncomfortable when she has a shouting match with her husband about her ladies-in-waiting. Sure, both sides have their faults, but she asserts herself to him many times that she’s her Queen and he can only leave a room when he’s dismissed. They kiss and make up, and the title cards in the end show that Victoria births nine children who will rule the crowns of Britain, Germany, Russia, Romania, Spain, Sweden, Norway, Serbia, Greece and they forgot Denmark. Ironically, at least half of those monarchies still stand.
In “Alice in Wonderland” Alice stays true to her father’s mercantile leanings but now uses aristocratic influence to do something profitable. She refuses Hamish’s hand in marriage but has a business proposition in store for his father, Lord Ascot. Her father and Lord Ascot’s business has posts in Southeast Asia and Hong Kong, but she presents the opportunity to tap into China and its products. Ambition wins him over, and she gets her ships. In a way China becomes her wonderland – they do have tea after all. And as we historically know, China really loved every minute of that.
We can’t, however, show our disdain towards womanhood for heralding English political and economic imperialism, since men just have a hand in shaping both characters. “Young Victoria” implies that Victoria’s uncle, King Leopold of Belgium, takes credit for making many crowns in Europe bear the name Saxe-Coburg-Gotha. Victoria and Albert can be either lying to themselves or actually have made an honest, loving relationship out of a marriage strategized by those above her. “Alice in Wonderland” has a bit sinister – some may call it honest – portrayal of a man behind the great woman. Alice maybe seen as her father’s daughter. Lord Ascot notices the look in her eyes that eerily reminds him of her father, but goes ahead and follows her whims anyway. Both women are figureheads in both an active or passive definition still makes me uncomfortable for a few seconds.
*I know that I’m treading murky waters here, and I’m blaming my red-eye working habits and thumping headache/sinuses if I get un-PC).
Obsessions I: Brit Edition
I can’t even conjugate a sentence now because:
First item. Two days old news, but the paps got a look at the Kate Winslet vehicle “Mildred Pierce.” Haven’t read the James M. Cain source material and the only knowledge I have of the story is the Joan Crawford movie. This new “Mildred Pierce” miniseries covers the titular character’s struggles in the Depression when she leaves her husband. Ballsy move for the character and Todd Haynes who’s directing the project. I don’t know if I should readily assume things by just looking at paparazzi photos, but this homely Mildred looks like a continent away from the glamorous Mildred of Joan Crawford. And wait, the story’s set in New York instead of LA? We’re probably gonna see more snaps in the future, but I wanna see Kate’s version of Mildred get rich. Ad to see the episodes next month somehow.
I also found my way again to Nick’s Flick Picks, who by the way wanted more from Kate in her career best in “Little Children,” and who’ll have a profile on Kate Winslet coming soon.
Second item. I saw a documentary on TV called “Queen Mother: Her Reign in Colour” about the 16 years when King George VI and his wife Queen Elizabeth ruled England. The focus is both between the Queen Consort and her subjects, as both have to deal with her brother-in-law’s abdication and the Second World War. With the archive footage we hear about her duty towards her husband and country as well as how she charms people in her foreign tours. That doesn’t mean we don’t get the other viewpoint on royalty, as her lavish lifestyle gets criticism from working class Britons. I’m still surprised how republicanism had its early starts. What I know about her is progressive thinking, quick wit and loving the gays, which makes her probably one of the best historical figures ever.
Which leads us to me getting excited about “The King’s Speech.” Some worry that it’s gonna be another bid for the Weinsteins to get Colin Firth an Oscar, which is a weird yet noble obsession of theirs, by the way. But just like the woman who would become Queen Mother, I really hope Helena Bonham Carter steals the show. Weinsteins, don’t screw this one up!
And the thinking about royalty and Bonham Carter makes me finally wanna see this and this.
Yes, her name’s Martina and her blog is called That Other World. She already got an introduction but I’ll give her another one anyway. She’s both beautiful and intelligent. I took a film class with her when she was in second year and I was in my last. She brings out my inner child and kinda freaked out that a mutual friend pretended not to know who Heath Ledger was.
She did a post on Parnassus, like I, and gave it tough love, like I.
I want 34 of you to read her and comment the shit out of her (respectfully, of course). Now, my liege!
I Like Other Things: Charice Sings in Gay Club
My mom’s gonna have a heart attack if she ever sees this.
I don’t even know how many people still care about David Archuleta, but there’s a quiet shit storm about his appearance in a gay bar, apparently to support Clarice. At one point she wasn’t even allowed to sing about boys, but now she’s singing on top of tables wearing mesh over mesh (she pulls it off, though) while a guy in a thong is serving drinks? Oh my stars! And this is important to me because she is from my home country, after all. Also that what I feel right now is probably the same when we found out that Dakota Fanning was gonna get raped in a movie.
But to the naysayers, I gotta say in my own personal experience that gay divas are more well-balanced than pop stars, and she could have been one of either. We don’t hear about Ultra Nate or Jully Black or Kylie Minogue shaving their heads and doing drugs, right? And if she’s still to young for a boyfriend, she’s not gonna find one in a gay club.
Also, advice for David Archuleta/”straight men” in gay clubs: Usually, you’re not allowed in because straight women to gay bars is like criminals to a church – they go in those places so they don’t get bothered. But because straights allow us in their clubs, we’re letting you in. Here’s a rule, however, that you must wear a sports jersey or loose-fitting hip hop gear so we’ll leave you straight guys alone.
Another thing – my music taste is becoming too gay. I’ve gone to gay bars twice a month now and Lady gaga is invading my iPod. This has gotta stop.
(Should I say fierce. ph secret)
(Repeat viewing, again I didn’t blog at TIFF ’09)
One of my favourite scenes in “Mother” is the abandoned amusement park scene. There’s awesomeness in the closeups of Jin-tae’s boots as he willfully beats the shit out of the horny, gossipy teenage schoolboys . But what I’m here to talk about is when Jin-tae’s best friend’s Mother (Hye-ja Kim) interacts with the same boys. She lights a cigarette and plays good cop to Jin-tae’s bad cop. She asks where the murdered schoolgirl Moon Ah-jung’s cellphone is. The previously fragile mother now looks tougher and sharper than nails, easily she gets the answers she needs.
That’s one of the hurdles that the titular Mother has to go through to prove that her slow-developed son is not the murderer of a girl. She tears up, she bravely ventures to places like the victim’s funeral and a sleazy Karaoke bar, she lies through her teeth. She’s technically a supporting character in her son’s life, their view of each other both Freudian and furious. But we later realize that it’s all about maintaining her world order as much as it is about getting her son out of jail. Hye-ja Kim also fills this character’s highs and lows, giving the best female performances of the past year.
(Pretty much explains and summarizes the movie)
This is the second Joon-ho Bong film I’ve seen (the first one was “The Host”). He explores known terrain/archetypes like schoolgirl innocence, low functioning emasculated men and according to Rick Groen, incompetent government officials, but he twists them in “Mother.” I’m not an expert in South Korean history and culture – cellphone culture and interconnectedness and other Asia-na is assumed as a part of a depiction of the said culture. But this movie’s so character driven anyway that it doesn’t get pigeonholed as a ‘film as national metaphor.’
Almost every frame in this movie is beautiful. From the close-ups to the natural landscapes of a Korean city to the valley-like cemeteries and streets to its attention to water and rain to its willingness to explore darkness. Blue hues are neo-noir’s best friend.
Sure the movie’s a bit slow and even the shocking twists (they’re the best ones in about a decade) don’t give it the punch that “The Host” did, but “Mother” is becoming more enigmatic the more I think of it.
Bad Movie: The Room
Worst movie ever?
A friend of a friend who saw this with me said that the worst movie ever is “Battlefield Earth.” That apparently was a Tower of Babel-like effort, watching the fall of a multitude of bricks, just like the worst movie ever must be.
But then I’m paraphrasing what my TA said in person, while showing two scenes from the film to his class, that seeing “The Room” can make anyone appreciate all the other movies ever made because this one’s made so artlessly. Most of the other terrible films has consistent shot by shot continuity but they’re dragged down by a bad script or bad acting. The terrible editing can also make the movie earn its title.
What else? That Lisa (Juliette Danielle) cheating on Johnny (Tommy Wiseau) with Mark looks like Jesus porking post breakdown Britney Spears – also that Juliette Danielle, not the worst actress in the world, sounds like Britney Spears is gross. And yes, she should cheat because Mark’s cuter. Nice casting, Wiseau! And that the sex scenes are like white people and the Robert de Niro Frankenstein cast in a Tyler Perry movie. And that I’m starting to hate guys who buy their girlfriends flowers.
And the offensive interior decoration that looks worse than Harpo’s taste in china. It could be worse – the red/white/brown colour scheme that dominates the rooms don’t drive me crazy. But the random gray marble columns and pipes that ugly up the red walls. That the cast insists on having sex on white surfaces and that is unacceptable except for hotel rooms. That tinted windows and heavy curtains in homes are for poor film productions or Greta Garbo. That hideous faux ermine stole on the sofa with dour looking throw pillows. How a man or his girlfriend manages to have no gay friends in San Francisco is beyond me. Why are there lamps in front of windows? Why do the prints lack character? Why is there a makeshift seating at the foot of the stairs? Why does the hearth look like it was never lit? Why does Lisa’s friend lie down on the couch like that? How rude.
And Lisa’s blonde hair and jet black eyebrows. And Lisa wearing blue eyeshadow after having sex.
And Johnny’s tragic fashion sense looks worse because of his face.
And the worst reaction to a blow job on a friend’s living room.
Tommy Wiseau, after realizing that this is a black comedy and passing it off as thus, and people aren’t buying it. For a few seconds, he gets a believer in me when I hear Lisa’s mother complain about the people who come and go in the house. Then she talks about her cancer again and I’m back at realizing that she’s Wiseau’s unintentionally surrealist creation, just like every other character.
This movie also shatters every other person’s dreams of making a film out of their broken hearts and worry that they might end up repeating this.
How was this in the big screen? I’d say go and see in with a friend on DVD/whatever first. Then go to the screening. Half of the crowd’s surprisingly good-looking but they’re a rambunctious crowd. I couldn’t even hear what the characters were saying half the time, and for a while I’m thinking this is just a mediocre movie with too much hype. And I was sober.
They did, however, hold the sanctity of that flower shop scene and quieted down. And the shadows of the spoons thrown towards the screen was mesmerizing to look at.
May 21 at the Royal, for those who dare.
Half of this post will be mostly me chickening out of grandiose statements. I’m not alone in what I’m gonna say, but I still don’t feel comfortable writing it. And note that I haven’t seen the original for comparison, and that I have a short list of DVD’s I’ve yet to see so the original version of this movie’s on the bottom of the list. Anyway, here goes.
Everyone else has pretty much said that this is a zombie movie without zombies. Stark realism, yadda. Instead of seeing sub-humans walking with their hands in front of them, the film shows the sheriff David Dutton (Timothy Oliphant) shooting his neighbor and bearing the consequences of doing so. The film also shows a man killing his wife and child rendered more as familial abuse than a zombie’s act. Horror is masculine camp in a way that you’re expecting a monster that you know doesn’t exist, and in turn you’re scared like you’re shrieking in a roller coaster ride. When you witness realistic events in a movie while expecting to watch fantastical ones, you’re more uncomfortable than scared. Not necessarily a bad thing.
What adds to my discomfort is the political message of the film. It’s subtly presented (no speeches, etc.), but I can still see it, and since I’m on the one side of the spectrum I’m worried about those who might watch this movie representing the opposite. The crazies are toting guns and killing their wives because they’re drinking government Kool-Aid water by mistake. And since Ogden Marsh, Iowa is already crazy, the government doesn’t wanna be accountable and wants to kill off the town, shooting family members in front of each other, and does so except for our sheriff and his doctor wife (Radha Mitchell). Familiar.
The film also follows the Romero formula of scary stuff, a few people try to get away, they have misadventures, scary stuff follow them for a final showdown. With the Duttons is the sheriff’s gun-toting but altruistic deputy and a great teenage screamer, all four competently presented as complex gender archetypes. It’s acceptable enough of a formula, but what it’s used against kinda peeves me.
This is pretty much a condensed version of the last ten or twelve posts. If you like brevity, go here. There’s also a hint of what will be up for the future.
And there are two blog entries up about an OK movie and a movie touted as the worst ever, if 33 of you care.
The Big Chill
(Not what you think. ph secret)
Sometimes when I look at a person older than me, I imagine what they looked like and were like when they were my age or younger. It’s easy to see that most of the time. What you don’t see is the time when they were younger, whether they wore bell bottoms or had really long hair that wouldn’t suit them at their current age.
That’s what I felt watching this. These are adults in their thirties raising children, smoking in their corner office (I wish I could still legally do that), going to each other’s funerals. There was no way anyone could have convinced me that this shoulder pad wearing group of old college friends, united by their fried Alex’s suicide – none of whom wore black by the way, have been hippies or activists. They neither show each other old pictures of play the Hair soundtrack. Karen’s husband Richard tells her that he can’t believe that they’re the same people she described.
And they have an angst towards realizing that they’ve changed in fifteen years, like sleeping for that long and waking up in a different life. Robert Osborne, while introducing the movie, talked about the chagrin that the characters felt. It fits but it’s too strong of a word for me. I would have used something around remorse and reflection. There’s something beautiful about Sarah (Glenn Close) and her husband Harold (Kevin Kline) talking about their past. Both actors do great work in not yelling. The only explosive emotion from either of them comes when Sarah looks unrecognizable, crying in the bath.
In the end, everyone gets to spend a night with a different partner either in a platonic way. Chloe (Meg Tilly, with a surrealist spin to her airhead character) gives Nick (William ‘Broheim’ Hurt) Alex’s jacket, which finally gives Chloe a chance for an emotional release. Sarah and Michael (Jeff Goldblum, RIP) sit in front of a camcorder and joke around. Or they consummate (two married people have sex with people they’re not married to). The Motown music, used throughout the movie, tries to convince me that everything including the sex is all right with these grownups, but doesn’t. If I as much think of having sex within 72 hours of burying someone, I’d be called a slut.
Nick worries me, though. He’s a Vietnam vet, shows up late at his friend Alex’s funeral, then gets cited by the police for bad driving. He’s the only one who’s calm when everyone else is going passive aggressive at each other’s throats. He remembers what Alex would say in that hostile situation with a quiet sadness. Alex’s girlfriend Chloe tells him that Nick reminds her of Alex. Nick decides to stay in a platonic relationship with Chloe and work the property that Chloe and Alex have owned. By we’re still talking about drug using Nick here. It’s either he’s gonna cause everyone pain by really following Alex’s footsteps or have a difficult time changing.
Also, the movie has a subtle pastel cinematography that reminded me of “Ordinary People.” It’s also pretty shadowy when Nick and Chloe and in the same room for some reason.
Canadian Television: Corner Gas
Why do people always think that horror movies are about teenage girls getting sliced up or about evil cats?
Seminal Television: SNL
Canadian Movie: Chloe
(All relative to the size of your steeple. ph. OutNow)
Atom Egoyan has the benefit of a conventionally beautiful Hollywood cast and make them straddle between that and the common non celebrities that they were playing. The bridge in Chloe’s (Amanda Seyfried) nose disappears, Catherine (Julianne Moore) is Freckle City, David (Liam Neeson) looks like the typical British person who moves to Toronto and says “soccer” – yes, those people exist and they piss me off. Michael looks like the Torontonian with one or two weird features. Not saying that white people in Toronto have weird features, the upper middle class are beautiful and Nordic, just like half of the cast members I talked about. And there’s also the name dropping of certain places that makes me feel like this is supposed to be some twisted love letter to Toronto or something.
With that sort of ordinary people look is the ordinary people outlook. Specifically, a robotic, cynical, urban outlook of sex. Catherine is a gynecologist who tells a mousy troubled virgin that an orgasm is just a series of muscular contractions. Appetizing. Chloe narrates that she knows how to touch a man and what words to say, in an unconvincing baby voice but the text should stand in for her character. The sex scene between them is more honest than it is erotic, which I’m glad for that.
Which is why it’s so contradicts how Chloe would fall in love with her female client and stalk her. The arc between professional prostitute to histrionic stalker wasn’t done well, and Amanda Seyfried couldn’t make the material work. She’s the right age in the second half of the movie, but too young for the first half. And she keeps wearing that same jacket every single time and there’s no way that’s warm enough. Chloe and Catherine’s mindset may break down and succumb to the erotic but within two extremes?
Michael, however, is enjoyable to watch as the ungrateful private son and probably has the best put-downs in movie history (“Isn’t my mom your gynecologist?”). But he and Chloe eventually consummate because he’s a horny teenager and she’s just that good in seducing everyone, right?
There is an honestly good scene between Catherine and David putting all the cards in the table. They talk over each other, they say everything with conviction, they’re neither loud or campy enough to get the attention of everyone else in the cafe. But Chloe has to show up and ruin every other scene she’s in.
And I guess it’s my Torontonian cynicism about sex and adultery. Good examples either rationalize the act, that their partners are neglectful or that the adulterers have a memory they like to cling to. Most of the time in this movie I just kept shaking my head at these fucking idiots.
Listen Atom Egoyan. I know where you hang out, and when I see you I will panhandle the shit out of you. At least George Clooney is good enough to those who saw his Batman in theatres.
Ze Trailer – Resident Evil: Afterlife
via my friend Matt
Hearing Maynard Keenan in this trailer depresses me more than knowing that Billy Corgan is fucking Jessica Simpson now.
Seminal Television: Cake Boss
Everything You Always Wanted to Know…
An uneven start for Woody Allen. Only two of the segments were really funny. Three if you count the sodomy scene, which was hilarious until it went a little too long. Four if you count the aphrodisiac scene, showing that he can do Marx Brothers better than the Marx Brothers. But that scene has foundations on base humour. But the good outshines the bad.
My favourite sketch would have to be the perverts sketch. The whole movie is full Holy Batman Gene Wilder/Burt Reynolds, but here we have Regis Philbin, looking and sounding the same. It takes a bourgeois and banal approach to sexual perversion, as Regis and the panel take guesses, nobody snickers or passes judgment. Both perverts featured on the show are male – most of the film focuses on male desire and trying to figure out women. The gag is that this show would have never made it on television even if this is the sexy 70’s. Add a masochistic ending involving a Rabbi’s fetish and we have a winner. I don’t know why I love Jewish humour but I do.
My other favourite is the female orgasm scene. Woody’s best acting is probably in this movie and this scene, perfectly embodying the cool Italian lover instead of the awkward New Yorker persona that he has. His early career has films showing his take on European auteurs, this time taking on Antonioni but making it hilarious. Sure, the character still has insecurities but those insecurities don’t weigh him down. He and his wife in the scene look good together. She can only reach orgasm in public places, and that’s the only thing we know about her.
Remember when John Wayne was hot?
With him is a prostitute, an alcoholic doctor, a whiskey peddler, a soldier’s wife, a Confederate gambler, and a banker. That’s pretty much a capsule representing The West, all of whom are stuck with each other in the titular “Stagecoach.”
I wanna focus on the female characters in this movie. There’s Mrs. Mallory, a woman who I decided to like because of her complexity, but boy was it hard to like her. Her determination is admirable as she goes on a suicide mission to see her husband deep in the West where the Americans and the Apache are in war. Also, the film shows her worry about her husband while upping the bitchy treatment towards Dallas the prostitute (Claire Trevor). Some of us may excuse her condescending attitude to Southern breeding, but she already decided to ride the coach with Dallas. Would it hurt if she was two places away from her on the dining table? Besides, I’ve always preferred the whore over the virgin because the former juggles love, compulsion and loyalty while the latter is disgruntled like Mallory is sometimes. What made me turn around to liking her is seeing these two separate emotions and states of mind switch within seconds and still the same person, a woman having to deal with a volatile environment while learning more about herself.
Dallas is a more straightforward character, deeply affected by societal rejection. Besides, if the Ringo kid (John Wayne) likes her we must follow suit. The film also drops the bomb that she’s an orphan, something that she and Ringo have in common. Like Mallory, she gets a little bitchy towards Ringo because she doesn’t deserve him, she’ll just end up breaking her own heart.
I don’t even know why I’m questioning if they’re great characters or not, since they both have one problem atop another and both use meanness as a crutch. Maybe having those problems are a surefire way for us to like them despite their flaws. Or perhaps we get to know their past as a way of compression and to balance out the growing up that they have to do in a short time. Does having one problem after another equal nuance? Sure. Happens to male characters all the time. They’re the best written women in the John Ford movies or even better than half of the female characters written then and now.
I also wanna talk about how the movie looks. It’s visually uneventful and even badly acted in the beginning, and the burned stagecoach stop could have had more gravitas, but we get a zoom towards Ringo and it’s one good shot and moment after another. Documentary-like shots of the horses dipping across a river, Hatfield the Southerner (John Carradine) pointing the gun at Mallory’s head in slow motion, the light on Ringo and Dallas capturing the romance and the fear. Orson Welles apparently said that all he needed to follow the shot schemes at “Stagecoach” for “Citizen Kane,” but I saw the John Ford film as a precedent for “Touch of Evil,” the chiaroscuro and speed in both films capturing the chaos and violence of the time.