…and the quest to see everything

Archive for August, 2010

Mad Men Before and After


Taking in the new office of the new Sterling Cooper Draper Pryce, I thought that the fourth season of Mad Men means that the show can’t turn back the clock. The season’s sixth episode, “Waldorf Stories,” proved me wrong. It’s character instead of plot for this episode, a challenge to the actors like Christina Hendricks, Jon Hamm and January Jones to regain the glint in the eyes that the characters have had five years ago or so. The more cynical of us think that this episode is written specifically so that the Academy can see that the three deserve Emmy’s already, for Christ sakes.

Before. Don Draper circa 1959 [ETA: Christopher Rosen and S.T. Van Airsdale talked theories, and now I think it’s 1953], telling just another customer, Roger Sterling (John Slattery), what ‘we’re’ gonna do. His pitch is one of the show’s cruxes, ‘what women want,’ yet here it is about a mistress and not a mother.

ph. AMC

After. Draper in 1965 is award-winning but more rudimentary and uninspired, trying to wing the presentation with talk of adult ‘irony.’

Before: Roger Sterling and Joan Holloway in private, treating the fur coat with more importance than the ‘genius’ who has sold it, giving each other ‘one gift at a time.’

After. Joan is Joan Harris. Appearing together in public, Joan speaks on behalf of Roger, no longer taking his shit and eventually leaving him drunk in the bar.

Before. Betty Hofstadt, cold. Her slogan represents independence and her face exudes hope. If you notice, for some reason Betty has the blonde version of Joan’s curly, longer hair. Overread that, if you like.

After, her name is Betty Draper Francis, fuming, reminding Don that ‘It IS Sunday.’ She divorced, yet ironically still dependent on her first husband.


So Stuck in the 90′s…


While ruffling through old…stuff I guess, Nathaniel R found issues of his old zine. He re-listed what he thought the greatest performances of that decade are.

Best Supporting Actor


– Joe Pesci, Goodfellas, (199o)
Hey look, it’s Joe Pesci with feelings!

– Ted Levine, Silence of the the Lambs, (1991)
You know what, this performance is a little bit campy, but scary and will offend generations to come.
– Anthony Hopkins, Dracula (1992)
Scarier here than as Hannibal Lecter.
– Leonardo di Caprio, What’s Eating Gilbert Grape (1993)
He’s proven what he can do at such a young age.
– Samuel L. Jackson, Pulp Fiction (1994)
Put cool, hilarious and scary into one gunman.
– Vincent Cassel, La Haine (1995)
Great as the funny, deluded guy from the Paris ghetto.
– Steve Buscemi, Fargo (1996)
Makes the audience realize how crazy these kidnapping plans go.
– Timothy Spall, Secrets and Lies (1996)
This family man role puts him on different emotional fields.
– Robert Forster, Jackie Brown (1997)
You wouldn’t think of him as Pam Grier’s best leading man, but there he is.
– Brendan Fraser, Gods and Monsters (1998)
Remember when this guy did actual acting?

Best Supporting Actress

– ETA: Lorraine Bracco, Goodfellas (1990)
Can’t believe I forgot about this innocent turned crazy-emotional performance
– Jessica Lange, Cape Fear (1991)
Smoldering sexuality comes easy with this lady.
– Angela Bassett, Malcolm X (1992)
The only woman who could play Malcolm X’s wife and in one or two incidents, his formidable opponent.
– Winona Ryder, The Age of Innocence (1993)
As May Archer, a woman who sounds so nice saying the most manipulative things.
– Melanie Lynskey, Heavenly Creatures (1994)
Gotta give Ms. Lynskey a hand for how brave she tackled her sexually blossoming character.
– Sharon Stone, Casino (1995)
Goes all out as Ginger, the boss’ damaged wife.
– Kristin Scott Thomas, Richard III (1995)
The best in show in a film of great women, she gives her one speaking scene as Queen Anne great complexity.
– Bridget Fonda, Jackie Brown (1997)
Exudes confidence as the surfer girl, Melanie.
– Julianne Moore, Boogie Nights (1997)
That scene outside the courthouse.


Best Actor

– Anthony Hopkins, Silence of the Lambs (1991)
Slithers his way into Clarice Starling’s sympathies, and ours too.

– Denzel Washington, Malcolm X (1992)
Great range from anger to spiritual enlightenment.
– Colm Feore, Thirty-Three Short Films About Glenn Gould (1993)
Feore helps us learn about this fascinating man.
– Bruce Willis, Twelve Monkeys (1995)
Out of the performances in this list, his is the most visceral.
– Billy Bob Thornton, Sling Blade (1996)
He makes interesting choices in this role.
– Samuel L. Jackson, One Eight Seven (1997)
Again, scarier than Jules when he teaches us about the ‘philanges.’
– Johnny Depp, Donnie Brasco (1997)
One of the greatest performances within the performance.
– Jeff Bridges, The Big Lebowski (1998)
Boring answer, but he plays a stoner awake.
– Dylan Baker, Happiness (1998)
Such a sympathetic portrayal that you won’t even believe the truth about him.
– Matt Damon, The Talented Mr. Ripley (1999)
Great as a love-to-hate shape shifter.

ETA: Italics represent Oscar winners.


Laurel Canyon


ph. Focus

Laurel Canyon, the perfect boring couple, Sam (Christian Bale) and Alex (Kate Beckinsale) talk at each other and sometimes lie to each other. Sam has to move back to the titular Laurel Canyon to practice psychiatry in a great hospital there, and Alex comes with to finish her dissertation. temporary bunking with Sam’s mother Jane (Frances McDormand) and her lover Ian (Alessandro Nivola), the environment proves to hinder work and shake up relationships.

Hey! Catherine Hardwicke and Wally Pfister helped make this movie.

It’s funny that 60% of the major players in this film are British but make for more convincing Californians than Julianne Moore and Mia Wasikowska. And that bale and Nivola could have changed roles but the American Nivola does fit the hairy-chested, childlike Chris Martin-eqsue role better.

Alex is such a complex character that Cholodenko has to justify the script’s choices within and around her. When she gets invited to join Jane’s group, Jane explains that she can judge Jane’s work because common sense drives popular music, thus anyone can judge it. When Sam pours his heart out to Sara, it follows with a scene when Alex misunderstands everything he’s been saying to her. A question is often followed by an answer, thankfully those answers aren’t too expository.

And oh Lord, Kate Beckinsale. I’ll always love her for her deadpan fierceness, if that exists, in The Last Days of Disco. Her MUBI profile doesn’t show how derided she is after The Aviator. As the soft-spoken Alex, her retreat with Sam lets her go through a sexual awakening at the same time as Sam, but hers is more intense, later on explaining that she’s never experienced fucking up. Within the film, she goes from routine lovemaking to romantic desire. It’s sad that they didn’t go through the full experience together. And she smokes a joint like a true beginner. I miss this girl.

Would it be fair to say that Cholodenko almost perfectly encapsulates the white experience? She doesn’t have the Holofcener/Fey guilt thing, but Cholodenko puts the straight-laced and the wild ones within the same square inch, or in this case, the same family. Most of the movie shows Sam and Jane treat each other passive aggressively until the big explosive scene in the denouement, which air some raw emotions out.

And again, time to download me some Mercury Rev.


The Kids Are All Right


ph. Focus

The trailer for The Kids are All Right shows Manohla Dargis calling it a ‘near note-perfect portrait of a modern family,’ in a way that it shows complex implications to the words ‘biological’ and ‘parent,’ there are clashes,  affairs, dinners with people who are having affairs, cathartic speeches of redemption. It’s a typical formula if not for the slow pacing, the script, tick-y acting from the major players and the hand-held cam close-ups in group scenes, all giving the impression of a balance between improvisation and direct delivery.

Basically, two teenagers from lesbian parents look for the sperm donor, and whatever ensues, ensues.

Annette Bening as Nic is the best in show without trying. I’ve only seen her in crazy parts (American Beauty, Running With Scissors). Other reviews have tried to sell her as the stable one in the relationship, and she is that. She can also be ‘not my real self,’ be acidic, be the embarrassing drunk one, be the one who has to deal with the headaches just like a parent. Her first line at the first dinner conversation about Jules’ (Julianne Moore) truck makes the audience follow her more. Her calm reaction to a shocking revelation proves that Bening’s performance becomes the greatest one within greatest performances.

I’m ambivalent about Laser (Josh Hutcherson) as a character. It was his idea to contact their sperm donor Paul (Mark Ruffalo). A little selling point for the movie and his character that he might or might not be ‘too close to his loser friend Clay,’ that subplot being really hilarious. He also doesn’t know how to talk to Paul, being directly hostile about Paul’s opinions about little things, this approach somehow different from his sister, college age Joni (Mia Wasikowska) just smiling at him. Despite of those things, I don’t feel like I got to know the guy. He must have had female friends, unless that’s what ticked off Nice and Jules. I think Laser just fades into the background after the scene with the talk.

O hai, HaySpayTu. Tanya (Yaya da Costa) is a bit Earth Mother Archetype to me, just like a grown-up version of the real Yaya da Costa we know.

And hai, Peggy’s lesbian wooer (Zosia Mamet) from “Mad Men!”

I also wanna talk about the Susan G. Cole critiques to this movie. A) Mark Ruffalo doesn’t even act like a stoner in this movie and the last time he did that was in Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind. I think he actually does his best to defend his character – a lesser actor would have just laid there and portray Paul as the dirt bag that he is on the script. B) Bisexuality exists. I’ll concede that the film uses a Degrassi: TNG storyline, and that she’s not alone in thinking that the Jules and Paul thins is BS, but a plausibly realistic one.  But then I’m not a lesbian so I don’t know how strong their fortitude is against Mark Ruffalo. Mine isn’t.

Now that that’s all out, time to download the rest of the soundtrack!


Period Films: The Bank Job


Last Tuesday me and my friend Shabiki could have seen either seen The Bank Job or 500 Days of Summer. If my hipster teenage cousin knows about this choice, she’d go halfway around the world to kick my ass. We got to the place ten minutes after nine, or ten minutes after sunset in Toronto. I didn’t know that we got to the place 50 minutes after the movie started, a move that would make Woody Allen burst a blood vessel.

ph. Lionsgate DVD

Martine Love, a fashion model/childhood friend/lover of working class car shop owner Terry (Jason Statham) tips him and his friends off to rob a branch of a not-so-major bank in London, the team unknowingly used as pawns to recover compromising pictures of a royal family member – the fast one. Eventually the team finds out that the safety deposit boxes in said bank have more compromising pictures and documents that corrupt politicians and business owners desperately want returned.

Watching a movie cold, if those are the proper words, means that I wouldn’t know that the events portrayed within the film really happened. In 1971. I guess the brown leather, the brown wool, the popped collars, large lapels and the turtlenecks should have tipped me off. I guess black and brown are timeless. Besides, the movie probably prioritized on letting us see Terry beat the shit out of someone, talk bad-ass, wear a suit and maybe take his shirt off if you were patient enough. Watching the first 50 minutes of the movie made me see the pastel of typical 70’s films. The infrastructure should have tipped me off too, but then I was just thinking ‘That’s just the UK being quirky.’

I hate the phrase, but for a Jason Statham movie, it’s pretty subtle. Yes, there’s a lot of sex, and the movie dangles the possibility that Terry’s kids could be harmed but thankfully they weren’t.  There’s class conflict and shift in power portrayed but again it’s for the audience members who want to see it this way. There’s a brown guy in the team and multiculturalism on the most part is a footnote instead of a ‘token.’ Martine, who gets his hands dirty, isn’t fully blamed by the mostly male team members. Although the film’s depiction of black people makes me feel uncomfortable. Also, there are lots of nudity and children were watching.

Nonetheless, I kinda feel like watching The Expendables or Mesrine now.


Before Night Falls


ph. Warner Home Video

Cut it, Javi. You’ve had bad hair for a role before.

Before Night Falls is playing at the Cinematheque at 9:30 tonight. Come because I probably on vacation and can’t.


Best Shot Redux: Bring It On


The follow-up posts are just a product of my indecisiveness. As Torrance (Kirsten Dunst) says in her pep talk, ‘we have to learn and discover new types of dance.’ Form merges with content, as one of the film’s positive points is its snapshots of greatness, alluding to art house directors. Really.

Bring It On, written and directed by Jane Campion. Posted by cheapseats and theonewithmjd.

ph. DVD

Bring It On – Roman Orgy, written by Gore Vidal and directed by Federico Fellini. Posted by season days – el fanatico.

We’ll also look at the unsung heroes, like Torrance’s (Kirsten Dunst) love interest (Jesse Bradford). Glenn Dunks

And this guy, who’s probably a real cheerleader.