Dystopia Countodwn: Vampires and Girls
I wrote about “The Twilight Saga” on Entertainment Maven because I fucking watched all the movies in one sitting a few weeks ago. And it’s probably the Kraken vodka speaking but I didn’t hate the experience, despite my drunken howlings of ‘what the fuck’ to the screen.
And here’s a crazy theory that is aided by my rudimentary math skills. The first Twilight book came out in 2005, when its fans are at the sad age of fourteen or something. It is now 2012, when all those girls are now 21. Half of those girls graduated from Twilight into “Fifty Shades of Grey” or “Girls,” while the other half are still fans of Twilight but see it as the silly thing they still like. They have healthy laughs about the production, the campiness and the shitty supernatural laws that don’t make sense. And I don’t know if it’s my quasi-masculine perspective but to me, the saga doesn’t just give a poorly constructed love story. The saga is also schizophrenic in a way that one movie would have a ‘romantic’ story and another would have a bloodbath with lost of decapitated heads. It’s introducing girls to violence and the necessarily the kind that they would use inwardly.
Since there are impressionable girls around, they need a role model and they have found an unlikely one in Kristen Stewart. Stephanie Meyer’s first choice to play Bella was Emily Browning, and I imagine that actress to have brought the same awkwardness of a contemporary art painting, palatable in her awkwardness, the kind of person who falls down gracefully. Stewart, however, is defiantly awkward with her blunt edges, only capable of beauty when she’s being photographed in a fashion spread. Whether the unformed person we’re seeing is Bella or Kristen is up for debate, really.
She also reminds me of a less rewarded Rooney Mara, or the kind of actress whose honesty in engendering a desexualized female would have flourished on cable television a decade later. And that’s not necessarily an insult because I love TV. And again she works capably with other actors even if she can’t carry a movie herself. I’m probably writing these words after being misled by all my ‘research’ on the series, which include People and EW’s puff pieces about the saga, but they don’t necessarily make my words less true. Basically, I just wasted four hundred or so words in saying that the girls who read Twilight and the girls acting out Twilight will be fine. I’m not so sure about Meyer, who apparently is going through a writer’s block now.
As I said before, the soundtracks are better than the movies. Who would have thought that indie-tronica would be the unlikely accompaniment of the vampire-action saga? This juxtaposition has good intentions, like a sage trying to sway their younger sister from Justin Bieber to Feist. The soundtrack then implies that the people behind the movies are cooler than the one who wrote the books. But this still remind me of the syndrome that late 90’s alternative music that become devalued once they ally themselves to movies/TV shows about teen romances/angst. Alas. But once again, IT’S OVER!
- The Twilight Saga (Paolo Kagaoan and Nadia Sandhu) (entertainmentmaven.com)
The House Bunny
The House Bunny is the only movie that allows Anna Faris and Emma Stone to share the same screen and since the movie views women to Faris’ standard, Stone will probably never get this naked and Mean Girls-y again. Shelley Darlingson (Faris), being last out in the orphanage (the movie pays lip service to this part of Shelley’s character which, to be honest, is all it needs), always thinks of herself as an outsider even though she has one of the most coveted jobs that conventionally beautiful women have, a job that some of those women use to stab each other with. She’s grateful and has a sunny perception – she says something like “It’s like being naked in the centre of a magazine and people unfold you!” – about her precarious place within the mansion, as a 27-year-old she sees herself as 59 in Bunny years. After being schemed out of the Playboy mansion, Shelley becomes house-mother to Stone’s sorority house – the Zetas – although both mentor each other, the former with knowledge about how to attract men to help them save their sorority house and the latter knowing how to attract a man who isn’t superficial (Colin Hanks, obviously son of Tom). One of the movie’s funniest montages involve her trying to smarten herself by reading many books at once in a library and going to senior level classes in which she’s not enrolled. It reminds me of one of the movie’s earlier scenes where she asks one of the girls from a rival house where all the desks are. Both scenes are, to my limited knowledge of the subgenre of frat/sorority movies, the biggest indictment of college culture in cinema.
Stone, like her other housemates (Kat Dennings, Katherine McPhee and Rumer Willis) go through two makeovers. The first, through Shelley’s guiding hand, takes too long to set up. The second is when one of the Zetas tell the other that they’ve become as superficial as their rivals. Stone’s character soberly advertising Zeta’s mission statement as being about acceptance is how we’ll see her onscreen persona in future rules.
Even if Faris and Stone are regarded as underrated comic gems stuck in a cinematic era that treats them like shit, the former, a secret national treasure and a celebrity impression that some cheerleaders have in their comic arsenal – is good but not enough to elevate this movie. There is absolutely no reason for everyone to watch this movie or to call this as a comedy – but then I read a lot of complaints that contemporary mainstream comedy isn’t funny so I guess this movie’s first few scenes might fit in with that description – and I felt the same way until I heard Faris’ voice get deeper and more guttural because that’s the way Shelley remembers names. I’m immature and get amused by stuff like that – it’s actually the first thing I’ll remember with this movie, the ‘erythromycin/meteor’ soliloquy in the end being the second. OHLIVEHR! That voice, simply enough, makes Faris’ Shelley a physically straining, full-bodied performance. You can call it as Faris putting the wool under our eyes but I still like it.
Aside from those two leads the movie also boasts a cast that sounds useless on paper but are awesome together. I tweeted earlier that McPhee acts and sings more here than in all of “Smash” and I stand by that. And who knew that Willis, whose character is stuck in a body brace for most of the movie, ends up having the best body in a cast of many beautiful women? Dennings in her most sarcastic yet most restrained, surprisingly. I love the scene where the sorority girls take out their fake eyelashes and tell each other that despite of Shelley’s inadvertent bad influence the latter still has style. Anyway, back to the cast, Beverly D’Angelo’s villain reminds us that, despite not necessarily deserving a lead role in anything, she’s a competent and more preserved Faye Dunaway. This is an ensemble picture in, as many would see it, its worst and most embarrassing way bot I can’t knock it because of its entertainment value and that I keep rooting for these actresses in their future projects.
Vimy Week Movie: Passchendaele
This is the second installment of Vimy Week and the first movie of the series that I saw on the big screen that is not a new release and therefore fits into John’s Big Screen Challenge. I promised to watch a safe number of 26 non-new release movies on the big screen but since I’m almost halfway I know I can totes do more than that. Come join us!
As a 1.5 generation Canadian the country’s curriculum exposed me of its generation rift. Its youth, though increasingly becoming centre-right, still look like multicultural pot-smoking passive hippies to our old teachers so they’re trying to educate us that when this country was still full of just integrated Europeans, we were the world’s fourth biggest military. We educated of the former glory that is the Great War and the Franco-Germanic names where our troops have fallen and risen again, Ypres, the Somme. The movie is cyclical in nature, beginning and ending with Michael Dunne (Paul Gross, who also wrote and directed) in European battlefields, the first time in Vimy and the second in the titular Passchendaele.
That title is a misnomer since its first half takes place in Michael’s home town of Calgary, where he finds himself being treated by a nurse named Sarah Mann (Caroline Dhavernas), these characters expressing their love through drug withdrawals and battlefield sex, scenes of which are automatically ridiculously awesome. Not by intention she poses problems for him because her German father fought for the other side. The movie magnifies race and ethnicity, as Sarah gets fired from her job. Her brother David (Joe Dinicol), ridden with Daddy issues and too effete for a barely legal lower middle class boy, is guilt-tripped into signing up for the war by a English-descended Canadian to be his bride. Neighbours vandalise the Mann home with red paint spelling ‘HUN’ – the movie intermittently shows drawn Asiatic caricatures of Huns, curiously enough. This anti-Germanic plot line’s similarities to the one in East of Eden which would be distracting if it didn’t have roots in reality. The front lines eradicate those issues – the Englishman, First Nations and Québécois have their archetypal one-liners before they get painted in with the rest of the Canadians, all of them muddy due to days on the trenches. And the enemy, which they kill in glorious hand-to-hand combat, look just as dirty as they do! But despite of how many bodies get flung in the air or close-ups of decent looking men one second before dying by gunshot, this still feels a bit shiny and CGI’d for a war movie. Image via Guardian.
“You don’t scare me”
The aristocratically named Gina Prince-Bythewood directed her well-intentioned magnum opus The Secret Life of Bees, adapting it six years after Sue Monk Kidd released her novel of the same name. After being interested, with apprehensions of course, to seeing it in that interesting movie year of 2008 when it was released, I finally got around to watching it in the same weekend as The Wicker Man. Which got me confused. What was I supposed to think of bees and women and America and men now? This strangest of double bills made me realize that I wish movies work in such an interactive way so that the casts of these two movies could switch around. Both movies have the same character archetypes anyway.
I again understand the sexism attack against The Wicker Man and that the script labels them all as duplicitous but the actors execute their performances in shades as opposed to delineated borders. The class differences between them isn’t as plain because we see them through Edward’s perspective, and that they don’t out-yell Cage because no one should. The characters in Bees, however, don’t exude that same surprise, no matter what kind of dark secrets they have in their histories. We know the purpose they serve in the story and each other when the movie introduces them to us. They are stereotypes and their flaccid character arcs don’t change and deepen our understanding of them.
Basically T. Ray Owens is the entitled, emotionally stunted and volatile white man (Paul Bettany). His sense of entitlement eventually motivates him to chase his daughter, Lily (Dakota Fanning) out and find where she is and ‘rescue’ her for her own good. Lily (Dakota Fanning), instead of T. Ray, is the perspective with whom we see the narrative. She’s between the close-minded world of her dad’s and the matriarchal world that is tolerated and more secretly powerful. She eventually knows how to gain this power over her father. Rosaleen Daise (Jennifer Hudson, this movie shamefully under-utilizing an Oscar winner), the distraught one, is also between two worlds as Lily’s companion. They leave for a Pepto-Bismol coloured house in Tiburon, South Carolina where Lily’s mother once stayed. Her race is one of the factors that make us assume that unlike Lily, her bond with the women in that manor is easier to meet.
These new friends live in one of whom is the mansion’s owner, August Boatwright, (Belated Happy Birthday, Queen Latifah!). Latifah plays the maternal and soft one, only showing her edge and she and Lily talk about the latter’s mother who happens to be one of the children August took care of as a former black maid. August has a sister named June (Alicia Keys). We know she’s the mean one because she’s the mean one because she’s hostile to the newcomers as well as wearing the most make-up and the most tailored clothes in an already sartorially sharp family.
If this is going to fail in aspects of writing and directing, it also doesn’t succeed as an acting exercise with the exception of the third Boatwright sister May, the simple one (Sophie Okonedo). There are things about Okonedo’s performance that elevates it from two-dimensionality, the lower timbre in her voice stopping us from thinking that she’s just an overgrown child. But when something, like a gash on Rosaleen’s forehead or any mention of a sad or traumatic thing, the ticks and the mannerisms come out. There are no transition between these two spheres of her personality but that doesn’t mean that she makes it look jarring – she makes the attacks look seamlessly beautiful. This makes her the MVP in this flawed movie.
Guilty Pleasure? 27 Dresses
I’m sorry for inflicting this movie unto you, which began Katherine Heigl‘s reign of terror of romantic comedies, making films more sexist that the ‘sexist’ Knocked Up. I tuned into 27 Dresses just when the impossibly altruistic Jane (Heigl) juggles two weddings during the same night. The Brooklyn Bridge backdrop during a montage makes it obvious that the studio didn’t want to pay real money for an on location shooting if this queen of box office flops follows her tradition.
Jane’s tricks a handful of people except for one man, Kyle Doyle (James Marsden), a marriage hater who writes for the style section of a minor league newspaper. Which, by the way, what other kind of newspapers are there in the Big Apple between the New York Times and tampon wrappers? Maulik Pancholy and Michael Scott’s girlfriend, by the way, costar as Kyle’s co-staffers. Anyway, Jane’s idealistic, he’s cynical, they bicker until the hour mark where he relents and they fall down the fuck in love.
Movies like this sets up glamorous stars like Heigl into ‘best friend’ types. Let’s dye her hair to a honey brunette so she’ll look frumpier compared to her hotter blonde sister, Tess (Malin Akerman), the latter falling in love with Jane’s boss (Edward Burns, Christy Turlington’s husband)! And what kind of person goes to the club and wears a top that makes her look like a Regency-era woman? Although I do admit that there are parts of this characterization that I believe. Heigl morphs her slender bone structure into showing us herself in her younger years, the kind of girl-turned ingenue with puffy cheeks and wore braces as a child. And there’s something about her line deliveries, a little husk in her alto voice, effectively playing a woman that’s frazzled yet witty.
And you know what? I also don’t mind the script, making its main gimmick to make Heigl look like a loser. It also allows its ensemble of B-list actors to talk on top of each other. This is the kind of movie that would be deemed a ‘classic’ had it been released in the 80’s or earlier. James Marsden’s charisma willfully distracts us from how Kyle is Jane’s terribly written foil.
Again, it’s ridiculous to have Katherine Heigl as the ‘always the bridesmaid’ type but it’s equally unfair for the talented Judy Greer to keep holding the ‘slutty best friend’ torch. She thanklessly gives the movie its dirty tongue colour – watch out for some daddy issues and sexual references from other characters too – and she slaps Heigl here, which is something, I assume, that you also want to do.
- Seriously, Another Katherine Heigl Movie?! (lessthanthreeit.wordpress.com)
Chick Flick Remix: The Women
In Dianne English’s re-adaptation of The Women, Meg Ryan comes out of obscurity and plays Mary Haines. Mary is praised by her circle of rich, Long Island housewives even if her hair looks like that of a drowned rat and she dresses like her window curtains. Her husband, Stephen, is cheating on her and her friends Debra Messing and Jada Pinkett Smith) are all so surprised. Cue a more forced character arc than the original, her ‘I’ll change myself in hopes of getting him back’ is implicitly placing blame on Mary for Stephen’s indiscretion with a girl behind the perfume counter, Crystal Allen (Eva Mendes). This material has already been remade before with the 1956 film The Opposite Sex starring the insufferable June Allyson. Films about the rich were both a fantasy and a target for satire but today it just seems out of touch, upper-class snobbery falling flat in front of contemporary, more cynical audiences.
Despite my strong words above, I can see some things where this remake excels. The original has Mary’s declaration along the words of ‘In [her mother’s generation], women were chattel. Today we’re equals.’ She stays a trophy wife from beginning to end. It would be easy to fall towards Crystal’s methods by pretending to learn how to bake like a fetishized housewife, but in the remake, Mary is her own woman, actually getting her own career, her seduction is independence instead of subservience. Speaking of careers, this film also makes a bigger deal about the falling out between Mary and her best friend Sylvia Fowler (Annette Bening). It allows us to see Sylvia’s side as well as her clichéd struggle between her friendship and career, betraying the former to keep the latter intact. Slyvia inadvertently hijacks the story and even gets Mary’s daughter’s friendship because of her more realistic take on life.
Bette Midler is also in this movie. I’ve always been on her side in the Bette versus Barbra debate, although that changed in recent years with discovering Barbra’s work in Funny Girl and her winning streak in the 70’s while Bette is doing indie films with Helen Hunt that I nor many people have not seen. But all it needs to take me back is watching her character smoke pot with Mary. She looks good and she doesn’t overdo her lines, saying them like she’s experienced love and loss without them scarring her. If only the movie was two hours of female stoners, I would have paid to see that.
Vacay Series: Richard Jenkins…
…has been in ‘terrible’ movies.
(Sorry for the hiatus, by the way.)
Adam McKay‘s Step Brothers came out in 2008. In the same year Jenkins, not to be mistaken with the guy from Third Eye Blind, had movies out like The Tale of Desperaux and was nominated for an Oscar in The Visitor. Despite the many “Six Feet Under” episodes he’s been in, Adam McKay’s Step Brothers is actually on the upper half of the movies that have better votes on his long CV on iMDb. someone out there who would call Hall Pass his Norbit, but I imagine more people think that his movie choices are getting better because of the Oscar boost.
But you know what, I actually enjoyed this movie that I saw for Easter with my family, flipping between this and the Game 4 between the Lakers and the Hornets. Jenkins plays a step/father to the titular step brothers, played by Will Ferrell and John C. Reilly. This movie falls in the same sutured structure as Anchorman – although Anchorman does it better. Ferrell’s character clashes with person who takes things more seriously, a random epic back/side street fight involving Ferrell and secondary/tertiary antagonists, amicable dénouement between Ferrell and his foil. I do enjoy their antics, the two of them wearing Chewbacca masks, crashing their father’s boat, wearing racist costumes to detract a douche of a Realtor (Adam Scott) from making a sale and burying each other alive. Watching a comically rendered sex scene with my younger cousins was awkward.
This is the third movie for the past week that I’ve seen that involved dog poop, and the second involving eating it. I’m not sure if this dog poop marathon is better or worse than the movies I’ve seen earlier this year that had many close-ups of genitalia.
The Vacay Series is intended for AnomalousMaterial.com. I’ll continue the series there for movies with which I can actually say something about, unlike Step Brothers. The first on the series, is here.
[ETA: I’ve lately been obsessed with the Feller-Gasteyer-Gellar dinner sketch on SNL in 1997. Here he reminds me of Steve Martin in Planes, Trains and Automobiles. I wish Ferrell would do a movie where he’s the straight man to someone else’s goof, but that’ll never happen.
Supporting roles also include Ken Jeong before The Hangover, Rob Riggle, Seth Rogen and Mary Steenburgen.
- Exit ‘Anchorman 2’, Enter ‘Step Brothers 2’? (latinoreview.com)
So I missed the first 20 minutes of this. Sophie Sheridan (Amada Seyfried) invites three of her potential fathers (Pierce Brosnan, Colin Firth and Stellan Skarsgard, who are more shirtless than the women in this film will ever be) to the Greek island resort that she and her mother runs. She does so because it’s her wedding soon and she wants to know which one is the real father. Her mother Donna (Meryl Streep) doesn’t know about all of this. We wouldn’t suspect sluttiness from someone wearing overalls.
Oh hai Sky, Dominic Cooper having the most ‘decent’ character here for his CV. Also hai Julie Walters, who gets blindsided by bad lighting when she’s with her co-stars. Thankfully she gets a song of her own that’s also an ABBA favourite and does her best to sell it, just like some of the other supporting cast do. Also Skarsgard in his most all-American.
Seyfried here can handle the comic aspects of this film as with her earlier films. She talks over and under other characters so naturally and sometimes behaves as if she’s surprised by her own words. She and Meryl match both in the emotional levels, rapport and blonde hair. This movie makes the case for her being the best Meryl Streep’s daughter figure in film, the spot held by Lindsay Lohan’s underrated performance in A Prairie Home Companion, but thankfully Seyfried’s whining here still makes Lohan the victor. Speaking of mother-daughter, Michelle Pfeiffer was considered to play Donna, both Seyfried and Pfeiffer having those wide captivating eyes. Before I get depressed.
Oh no, the depression won’t stop, that despite the film does remind me of the licentiousness of the disco group in a time when they seemed tame compared to punk bands, ABBA’s music going well with the women reflecting on their former ways. As well as those ways haunting them when Donna realizes what the former has done. Streep’s vocals and interpretation are the best in this cast, making the lyrics lighter instead of growling them or evoking too much emotion from them. There’s also literal transition between the characters speaking and singing, which I very much appreciate.
Nonetheless they’re still butchering ABBA. And I can’t believe I’m actually putting ABBA on a pedestal by writing that sentence. It’s either Donna Sheridan and her friends (Christine Baranski and Julie Walters) sounding like karaoke that comes up short. There’s also Seyfried being pop autotuned, and I’m not even blaming her for that. I actually like her rendition of “I Have a Dream,” a song I know because Westlife covered it. The seventies flair just isn’t always there, only coming up in songs sung by the chorus group. There’s an ABBA song once every five minutes, reminding us of the cast’s imperfect renditions. Of course, the adapted musical tradition of the songs being used in a montage. There’s also me hating the sight of men in swimsuits for the first time because they’re in flippers and singing another song. Why is Brosnan the lead male cast member? He has great chemistry with Streep, both cancelling each other out, but did they have to give him the most songs? I also don’t mind his voice, but it’s not like he can pay me to listen to him sing again. Also, why is Seyfried wearing a peasant skirt? I know it’s a resort but that trend is three years too old!
For someone dipping her foot into film, director Phyllida Lloyd jumps her camera from one place to another, going against theatrical staging/POV’s. Which I appreciate actually, even if I’m a snob when it comes to letting adapted musicals/plays on film staying as stage-y and with a meditative pace as many musicals and/or plays are. She use the scenes well and making it, I guess, cinematic in its spaciousness. She also makes everything happens so snappily, portraying what seems like a two-day time frame.
I also like the Aegean blue used in the mise-en-scene and costumes. They even use the blue in the shot in Donna’s bedroom, in both cases feminizing a normally masculine colour. The few times the film noticeably breaks from the colour palette happen in the film’s third act is when Donna wears a pink scarf with her blue dress, as she’s pouring her heart out to Brosnan’s character. The second time will be the yellows and browns leading to the wedding scene. I don’t know what those colours mean.
Nonetheless everything and the Chekovian crack on the floor, I forgive this movie for all its transgressions.
I only watched this film is because of Abbie Cornish. Her most famous role yet is that of a romantic lead, but here she both plays lover and fighter. As Michelle, she’s known the boys in this film since third grade, and she won’t stop reminding Sgt. Brandon King (Ryan Philippe) that when the both of them get in trouble. When Brandon tries to road trip to DC to petition his stop-loss, it’s her car he’s using and she’s on the driver’s seat. Some detractors might see her performance as a bit Aileen Wuornos, but she’s very convincing as a tequila drinking, pool playing tough girl, and I’m a sucker for characters like hers.
I guess I shouldn’t judge a movie that I’ve only seen in parts, but many clichés are scattered in this film. For example, a hoe-down scene when almost everything that happens seems like it’s part of a checklist of what Texan veterans do. I have to remember that these characters are based on living persons, so I don’t know how racist these real people really are. And God forbid one or these characters weren’t written as Sorkinian deus-ex-machinae. It’s better to leave characters to speak and acting in their own vernacular. However, there’s no consistent rawness in the script nor in the acting. The said scene, and others after that, portrays them as textbook racists and shooting, fighting drunks doesn’t work, and instead of making the audience pity or deride them, the film makes me feel like it’s questioning my intelligence. When Brandon makes his way to DC, everyone he meets and everyone who tries to call him back seem more like allegories instead of fully fleshed-out characters. Those characters’ terribly delivered speeches are accompanied by slow electric guitars I’ve heard in every Iraq war film. I reacted more ambivalently to the way the male characters have flashbacks of their tour in Iraq, which again are very clichéd but the actors unhesitatingly go to those dark places. By reenacting those traumatic moments in their home country, it kinda lessens the images of the atrocities these soldiers have done to the Iraqis. Because we needed more of those.
P.s. Lame actor trivia/shpiel: In the early 2000’s, I had this opinion that Philippe was gonna be the best actor of his generation, seeing his roles and performances were showy in the late 90’s and all. He still did a lot of interesting stuff after that time, but he’s two inches short of being an A-lister. Philippe was born in 1974, just like Christian Bale, Michael Shannon, Joaquin Phoenix and Leonardo di Caprio. All five have different career trajectories, only Christian and Leo went ‘big’ so far as well as competed for the same roles, and none of them look like they were born the same year.
Three Colours – Red
Gone with the Wind (Victor Fleming, 1939)
Black Narcissus (Michael Powell, 1947)
A Star is Born (George Cukor, 1954)
The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie (Ronald Neame, 1969)
Salo (Pier Paolo Pasolini, 1975)
Flash Gordon (Mike Hodges, 1980)
Pee Wee’s Big Adventure (Tim Burton, 1985)
Se7en (David Fincher, 1995)
Kiss Kiss Bang Bang (Shane Black, 2005)
Let the Right One In (Tomas Alfredson, 2008)
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.
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.
Because of this, and because The Thin Red Line will be at the Revue at 3 as the first film they’re screening on their Cinematography series. Or on the History Television at 9. I couldn’t exclude Saving Private Ryan, Road to Perdition and There Will be Blood, all three in the ASC list, because I’m not a dick.
Saving Private Ryan Janusz Kaminski, ASC (1998)
The Thin Red Line John Toll, ASC (1998)
The Royal Tenenbaums Robert D. Yeoman, ASC (2001)
Muholland Drive Peter Deming, ASC (2001)
Road to Perdition Conrad L. Hall, ASC (2002)
Cold Mountain John Seale (2003)
Marie Antoinette Lance Acord, ASC (2006)
The Prestige Wally Pfister, ASC (2006)
The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford Roger Deakins, ASC (2007)
There Will Be Blood Robert Elswit, ASC (2007)
Speaking of TIFF Cinematheque…
TIFF via Craig from LivinginCinema released their 100 essential films. I’m only doing this post so that I can push back the other stuff I’m already working on/done. Lists like this are supposed to make me feel inferior, but as I’ve watched 48 of these already I kinda feel good about myself. But then, you know, I’m the only douchebag that wrote down a number, and tomorrow someone’s gonna say 72, or 81, or 90.
These are the ones I haven’t seen and will hope to see. This list and post also exists for the purpose of telling the four or five people who read this blog who actually know me in real life and telling them what I’ll be doing for the rest of the year, unless hindered by unexpected circumstances like bankruptcy, or worse, Rob Ford shutting down government institutions that supports the arts.
1 THE PASSION OF JOAN OF ARC (Carl Theodor Dreyer) Seen parts in TCM.
3 L’AVVENTURA (Michaelangelo Antonioni)
5 PICKPOCKET (Robert Bresson)
7 PATHER PANCHALI (Satyajit Ray)
11 ALI: FEAR EATS THE SOUL (Rainer Werner Fassbinder)
13 BATTLESHIP POTEMKIN (Sergei Eisenstein) Clips in film class.
15 TOKYO STORY (Yasujiro Ozu)
19 L’ATALANTE (Jean Vigo)
20 CINEMA PARADISO (Giuseppe Tornatore)
21 LA GRANDE ILLUSION (Jean Renoir) Parts at TCM.
23 PERSONA (Ingmar Bergman) Saw THAT part.
27 VOYAGE IN ITALY (Roberto Rossellini)
29 CITY LIGHTS (Charlie Chaplin) Parts
31 SHERLOCK JR. (Buster Keaton)
32 RULES OF THE GAME (Jean Renoir – 2)
35 L’ARRIVÉE D’UN TRAIN À LA CIOTAT (Frères Lumiere Louis Lumière and Auguste Lumière)
37 LA JETÉE (Chris Marker) (parts on TCM)
39 NIGHT AND FOG (Alain Resnais)
47 SALÓ, OR THE 120 DAYS OF SODOM (Pier Paolo Pasolini) August 3!
48 THE SEVENTH SEAL (Ingmar Bergman – 2) Parts.
49 LE VOYAGE DANS LA LUNE (Georges Méliès)
53 VIRIDIANA (Luis Buñuel)
54 LIFE IS BEAUTIFUL (Roberto Benigni) Saw the ending.
55 THE SORROW AND THE PITY (Marcel Ophüls)
57 THE EARRINGS OF MADAME DE… (Max Ophüls) Parts on TCM.
59 THROUGH THE OLIVE TREES (Abbas Kiarostami)
60 LES ENFANTS DU PARADIS (Marcel Carné)
63 JOHNNY GUITAR (Nicholas Ray)
65 MEMORIES OF UNDERDEVELOPMENT (Tomás Gutiérrez Alea)
67 SCORPIO RISING (Kenneth Anger)
69 DUST IN THE WIND (Hou Hsiao-Hsien)
70 SCHINDLER’S LIST (Steven Spielberg) Saw ‘Look at the snow!’
71 NASHVILLE (Robert Altman)
72 CROUCHING TIGER, HIDDEN DRAGON (Ang Lee) Seen enough of it.
73 WAVELENGTH (Michael Snow)
75 CHRONIQUE D’UN ÉTÉ (Edgar Morin and Jean Rouch)
77 GREED (Erich von Stroheim)
79 JAWS (Steven Spielberg – 2)
81 THE BIRTH OF A NATION (D.W. Griffith) Can’t wait for the picketing!
82 CHUNGKING EXPRESS (Wong Kar Wai – 2)
87 ANDREI RUBLEV (Andrei Tarkovsky)
90 WRITTEN ON THE WIND (Douglas Sirk) Saw the beginning. Betty?
91 THE THIRD MAN (Carol Reed) TCM has been dicking me on this movie.
94 BREAKING THE WAVES (Lars von Trier) Parts.
95 A NOS AMOURS (Maurice Pialat)
96 CLEO DE 5 A 7 (Agnès Varda)
97 ALL ABOUT MY MOTHER (Pedro Almodóvar)
99 OLDBOY (Park Chan-wook) My cousin Antoinette’s favourite.
100 PLAYTIME (Jacques Tati)
The Luminous Kate Winslet
I realized how well April Wheeler (Kate Winslet) is photographed in Sam Mendes’ Revolutionary Road. She’s often wearing white or bright colours. Summer colours, like she’s on a permanent summer vacation in the Hamptons, or stuck in heaven. Or more than likely sitting or standing near a window. Frank Wheeler (Leonardo di Caprio) has a beautiful wife and so did director Sam Mendes, and the latter wanted to show that off. And it’s like there’s light within her but, as per the movie, I have the feeling that that light in her is clamped down.
Revolutionary Road is gonna be screening at the Revue Cinema at 7 tonight, with an introduction and post-screening discussion led by Toronto critic Geoff Pevere. I’m still wondering whether I’m going or not. I don’t particularly wanna slit my wrists tonight. I also don’t wanna see couples masochistically watching the movie and coming out talking about the performances, because they don’t wanna talk about Frank and April’s relationship. I also think about the numerous casting possibilities if this movie have been greenlighted earlier (Paul and Joanne, Mia and Robert, Jessica and William, Julianne and Dennis). I’ll give the movie another shot, and hopefully, so will you.
Female Performances List
Inspired by Nick and Antagony via Nathaniel . Se nervous. It took me like a month of listing and can and can’t to do this. How do I even judge a great performance? Physicality? Double or triple threats? Filling the shoes of a memorable literary character? And I combine leading and supporting performances because I’m cool like that. Anyway, here goes –
Vivien Leigh. “Gone with the Wind,” as Scarlett O’Hara. Directed by David O. Selznick & George Cukor, 1939. Oscar winner.
I’m pretty sure I”m gonna be clobbered if I didn’t include her in the list. I tried not to, but I can’t help it. Watching the film means finding another great line that Leigh delivers, considering that she doesn’t have the best lines in the film (the honour would go to Melanie Wilkes). Of course, there’s watching Leigh in four hours going through different stages of Scarlett’s life, in different eras, and both actress and character fit well. She grows into an adult yet her eyes hint of childlike mischief. She’s a character, on paper, that we should love to hate, and yet we still love her.
Hattie McDaniel. “Gone with the Wind,” as Mamie. Directed by David O. Selznick, 1939. Oscar winner.
Writing this, I realized that Mamie’s often brings bad news. Most of the time, she’s the one to tell other characters whether a member in the family has died or is suffering. She’s also there to tell Scarlett if she’s making a mistake. She’s family whether Scarlett thinks otherwise., arguably Scarlett’s surrogate mother, feeding her and clothing her. In “Gone with the Wind, McDaniel puts some subtlety into crucial scenes not permitted to any actress of her race in any other movie at the time. McDaniel took on Mamie character with tragedy and comedy and ambiguity.
Bette Davis. “The Little Foxes,” as Regina Giddens. Directed by William Wyler, 1941. Oscar nominee.
Despite of the performance’s reputation, Davis doesn’t make her character that much of a monster. There’s honesty in Regina’s wish to give her only child Alexandra a better life she couldn’t have in her youth. Yet she’s an anti-Scarlett, or a more ruthless version of the Southern woman. She has the ability to attack after being vulnerable and cheated, has to do certain unspeakable things for her ambition and survival, crushes her family like enemies and in minutes she treat them like friends. All of that done with great finesse.
Moira Shearer. ‘The Red Shoes,” as Victoria Page. Directed by Michael Powell, 1948.
I apologize for the forthcoming use of adjectives and nouns, but who else can show youth and exuberance and pathos. She has this childlike quality, and her ambition for a dance career has thrust her into this adult world where people, sepcifically her boss (Anton Walbrook) and husband, would be pulling and tugging for her. I make it sound like a coming of age story, but Shearer’s performance shows the difference sides youth and the decay of that youth. She goes from rosy to fragile. That and being the quintessential pre-mod British girl holding our attention for at least fifteen minutes in that dance sequence.
Isuzu Yamada. “Throne of Blood,” as Lady Asaji Washizu. Directed by Akira Kurosawa, 1957.
This is Noh and Kabuki at its best. It’s also one of the most interesting interpretations of Lady Macbeth, as well as any royal consort who has to act through her man instead of being free to do so in her own right. The audience sees her sitting down, like in meditation, symbolic of someone so ingrained her own rhetoric and dragging down her devoted husband with her. She is calm as a person who helped her husband kill a man. Yet in public she is a gracious host and tries to behave as if she’s advising her husband and not suffocating him. She shows her as guiltless because those with guilt actually live through the end – she won’t. She spends the final act being tortured on earth. More conventional interpretations of the character shows her as hollowed out, yet Asaji is fully fleshed yet possessed. She’s a monster and not a queen.
Helen Mirren. “Age of Consent,” as Cora Ryan. Directed by Michael Powell, 1969.
Helen Mirren’s trademark is to show off her body, but she uses it in this movie to its fullest potential. When she’s skipping and posing on the beach or in the dirtiest places, trying to hide money from her tyrannic grandmother, she’s that kind of actress that you can tell her what to do or say and she’s game. Her Shakespearean training helps convey this class and strength, surprising for this feral child in the middle of nowhere, yet still make us believe that she’s innocent. No wonder James Mason’s character Bradley was attracted to her and wanted her as a muse. Like and unlike a Galatea-like character she professes her love for her man and she’s so certain of it that Bradley nor the audience can doubt it. Her accent work’s good too. Mirren’s later performances will be that on an ice queen, and we’ll probably never get something as invigorating as this performance from her again.
Faye Dunaway. “Network,” as Diana Christensen. Directed by Sidney Lumet, 1976. Oscar winner.
She knows how to walk into a room. To talk Max Schumacher’s (Billy Holden) ear off and let him just stand there and take it. Being a seductress yet frigid is a hard thing to pull off, and Dunaway does it. Her performance, especially the ending, makes its audience wonder whether she’s a victim or survivor. Max condemns her, that she’s probably gonna jump off from her corner office in a year or two. Yet she placidly and without hesitation plans for an assassination without Max’s words clouding her brain. Also, here and in any other movie, Dunaway is a master of modern American elocution. She doesn’t veer off in a fake British accent like most of her predecessors not does she talk like an accordion like most American actresses. She commands the other person so quickly yet doesn’t get them and the audience lost.
Helena Bonham Carter. “A Room with a View, ” as Lucy Honeychurch. Directed by James Ivory, 1985.
Bonham Carter’s work in this movie can arguably be that on an ingenue’s, but you know the Chinese proverb of an apprentice’s limitless possibilities. As Lucy, she goes on vacation in Italy to learn about art and culture and watch Italians fight, but her stature while absorbing this information that makes her less passive than any other character in that film. She speaks a certain way depending on her situation. She could be ghostly and trapped, childlike in her complaints, or assert to others that her conventional life makes her happy. There’s also that moment when she answers a crucial question and breaks down and becomes free, and is so matter of fact about that answer. Bonham Carter’s recent reputation as Tim Burton’s wife and muse also makes this early performance a discovery of how soft and subtle she could be.
Cate Blanchett. “The Talented Mr. Ripley,” as Meredith Logue. Directed by Anthony Minghella, 1999.
She’s a star even in her many supporting roles like this one. Watch Blanchett’s performance create a back story in a few seconds by a look, by simply flipping her hair and being swept by her surroundings. Meredith is one of the Americans in Venice, yet refreshingly not as jaded as her peers. She doesn’t just use her appearance to shape her role. That insufferable inflection as she calls Tom Ripley ‘Dickie’ is one of the most memorable parts of the film. Fact: Gwyneth Paltrow arguable stole Blanchett’s Oscar, and in return this movie gets Blanchett to steal Paltrow’s boyfriend.
Viola Davis. “Doubt,” as Mrs. Miller. Directed by John Patrick Shanley, 2008.
This wonderfully paced supporting work reveals so much about the shocking words coming from Mrs. Miller. Another way of talking about this scene stealing performance is that of a pressure cooker, a women dogged by Sister Aloysius (Meryl Streep) until she explodes and tells the truth. She uses the words ‘caught’ and ‘nature’ not like innuendos but a natural part of an oppressive vocabulary. She makes herself understood. Remember that in the film version, their conversation happens in public and Davis doesn’t hush up nor careless go into histrionics. She doesn’t apologize for her presence and makes herself an equal by sharply telling Aloysius that she has to go back to her life, and to defending and loving her son without making the latter nor the audience think that she didn’t ask for him, as many fictional mothers like her do.
I saw “Mid-August Lunch” at its last day at the Royal, and I really hope it gets a second life in this city. Looking like a complex postcard, it succinctly tells the audience what they needs to know about the movie’s characters, who can present enough back story with a sentence or two.
Nonetheless this movie’s also a double-handed text in gender, with an unemployed Gianni and the four elderly women in his rustic condominium. He reluctantly lets them stay over for two days in the Ferragosto holiday, but he already has a lot on his hands. The women dominate him and he tries to keep their medications and diets in mind. At the same time they’re trying to dominate each other with passive aggressive talk about how Gianni’s mother Valeria raised him.
We do have to consider that men did leave three other elderly women for him to take care for. The special arrangements are negotiated because Gianni owes money to them. His doctor prefers to spend time with his wife and children, while his property manager says what the doctor is saying while running off with a blond woman who can’t possibly be his daughter. The grandmothers then, feel a little abandoned. In essence this movie’s about men dominating women dominating a man left behind.
The exquisite nature of the movie relies on how they deal with these emotions, sometimes distilling them or dissociating them. They eat and smoke not with purpose but as routine. Gianni downs his drinks without looking like an alcoholic – he’s in control but he really needs this break, now. And they try to have fun with the little things they do have like meals and dances.
And for a last thought, forget “The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo,” because this movie’s perfect for a Hollywood remake. I don’t know how the holidays and the business rules are gonna translate, but the main plot and cast is good enough. Try it, suits!
Through the Toronto Japanese Short Film Festival that wrapped up this past weekend, I finally saw the Oscar-winning “La Maison en Petit Cubes,” which is what I imagine what “Up” would be. Yes, I haven’t seen “Up.” It can wait when it premieres on Teletoon. Shoot me.
It’s about a self-sufficient old man who has outlived his adult children. It’s about seeing a man and as he scuba dives down to submerged foundations of his home, we come with him and see his lives the way he does and the way we never get to towards other people. He looks at the foundations of the homes around him and imagines them as the scattered farm houses of his youth. At first we ask why this fictional world exists in this state, but eventually we just go with the emotional ride. Screening this short after “Gaki” puts in context the Japanese skill in parchment, because stereotyping is faster. Or I could be an asshole and say that this movie is about global warming.
La Maison in Petit Cubes is part of a program in the festival I assume as the animated short category. Also in the program is the cute overload of “Komaneko -The Curious Cat- ‘The First Step’ ” and “Mitsuko’s Freedom,” which is by far the weirdest homoerotic thing I’ve ever seen in my life.
My Favourite Supporting Actors in a Post of their Own
I’m a little copycat, got a problem with that?
The Best Supporting Winners for the past three years have been villains (same thing with the ladies) for some reason. Otherwise, they make up a surprisingly satisfying list (Alan Arkin, Heath Ledger, Christoph Waltz), but I wanna be a devil’s advocate and create my alternate universe where:
2000: Johnny Depp, Before Night Falls. Snubbed. Directed by Julian Schnabel.
2002: Jude Law, Road to Perdition. Snubbed. Directed by Sam Mendes. Paul Newman got nominated for the same movie/category, as you all probably know.
2005: William Hurt, A History of Violence. Nominated. Directed by David Cronenberg. “Bro-hiem,” if I spelled that correctly.
2006: Jackie Earle Haley, Little Children. Nominated. Directed by Todd Field. The funny thing is is that when you put hair on him, he looks and acts normally!
2007: Javier Bardem, No Country for Old Men. Won. Directed by Joel Coen. It’s not the same Anton in the book, but he gave exactly what the Coens wanted.
2008: Michael Shannon, Revolutionary Road. Directed by Sam Mendes. Fact! At the Oscar ceremony he was introduced/speeched by Christopher Walken.
2009: Christoph Waltz, Inglorious Basterds. Won. Directed by Quentin Tarantino. He told you what to do and you followed. Unless you’re Aldo Raine, of course.
And I took Michel Shannon over Heath Ledger than having to put Woody Harrelson over Christoph Waltz. The former seemed easier to defend because I really liked Michael Shannon’s performance. He commanded the room the same way just like the others nominated in his category. RDJ would have won in 2008 if Heath didn’t.