Wednesday, May 30, 2007


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Zooey Deschanel to star in M. Night Shyamalan's The Happening. (Killer Movies)

UPDATE - Sin City 2 delayed

The buzz was right. (Cinematical)

Netflix This 9 - The Devil's Backbone

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I came to The Devil's Backbone (2001) after having been introduced to director Guillermo del Toro through his Oscar winning Pan's Labyrinth. I had seen del Toro's Hollywood efforts Hellboy and Mimic, but those more conventional films don't do this director's unique vision justice. On the commentary track of the DVD (del Toro calls it a "ramble"), del Toro declares his affinity for genre-busting and spends time annotating the historical roots of the Gothic romance. The Devil's Backbone combines Gothic romance with the historical facts of the Spanish Civil War, though for most of the film the war is a distant threat.

The "fresh set of eyes" that del Toro's Gothic vision requires belong to 12-year old Carlos (Fernando Tielve), who is left at an orphanage in the middle of nowhere in the film's opening scene. Carlos brings with him a collection of comics and other knick-knacks, and quickly has one of his possessions taken by school bully Jaime (Inigo Garces). The school is run by the principal Carmen (Marisa Paredes) with assistance from elderly Doctor Casares (Federico Luppi), who carries a torch for the headmistress.

All is not right spiritually at the school; the boys speak of a ghost called the "one who sighs" and Jaime seems to grow defensive every time a missing student named Santi (Junio Valverde) is mentioned. A figure that appears to be Santi's ghost appears to Carlos upon his arrival at the school, but who he is and what he wants isn't clear until quite late in the film.

Despite del Toro's historical and literary analysis of The Devil's Backbone, I'd argue that it shares a key political theme with Pan's Labyrinth. Both films take place in wartime, and children's lives are ravaged by contact with those in thrall to ideology. In this case the villain is a caretaker named Jacinto (Eduardo Noriega), who's after a cache of Republican gold that's hidden at the orphanage. When ideology reigns, who'll look after the children?

I haven't nearly done The Devil's Backbone justice. How to describe del Toro's masterful control over mood, anticipation, or the camaraderie of young boys. (The young actors are uniformly excellent) We learned at this year's Cannes Festival that world cinema is alive and well. Guillermo del Toro is one of its most promising and important young practitioners.

Sweet mystery

Terry Teachout on film and our understanding of death (About Last Night)

Alas, no one can tell us the end of our own story. We must live it, and once we have done so, we can no longer pass it on to anyone else. Even art, which tells us so many valuable things, sheds no light on that climactic puzzle, though it is interesting to know that Richard Strauss remarked on his deathbed that dying was "just like I composed it in Death and Transfiguration." Maybe--but somehow I doubt it. All we can really know is what Robert Browning told us: Young, all lay in dispute;/I shall know, being old. If not sooner.

Pedro Almodovar's film

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....All About My Mother is set to become a play in London. Lesley Manville (Topsy-Turvy) rumored to star. (The Guardian)

Blog power

Gossip blogger Perez Hilton as musical tastemaker. (Newsweek)

Kubrick interview

These screenings are completely sold out. It's become this movie that everyone genuinely loves. But it was this movie that just wasn't talked about for a while.

LEON VITALI: You know, the genesis of that, I think, was -- and Stanley always admitted this -- he took too long to make it. There was about a year of pre-production, a year-plus of shooting, then he took an awful long time to edit. And by the time it was ready to come out, I would say, the blockbuster action movies had become de rigeur. That was what the people really wanted to see. So when this film came out it was received as strange, slow, completely out of context to what was going on -- and I think people were expecting something a little closer to A Clockwork Orange, which, of course had caused such a furor.

Great interview with Stanley Kubrick actor and associate Leon Vitali on the occasion of screenings for a new print of Barry Lyndon. (The Reeler)

Tuesday, May 29, 2007

Scarred for life - Legal Eagles

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I'm absolutely convinced that Legal Eagles (d. Ivan Reitman, 1986) is the worst movie Robert Redford has ever made. This lame romantic thriller has Redford as an assistant DA-turned-defense-lawyer who gets involved with the case of Chelsea (Darryl Hannah, at her sexiest and most wooden), the daughter of a dead famous artist accused of stealing one of her late father's paintings. Redford's character becomes involved with the case at the urging of Chelsea's lawyer (Debra Winger), a perky and sarcastic brunette who of course clicks with Redford.

The solution to the mystery involves characters played by reputable actors like Brian Dennehy and Terence Stamp, but what's memorable about Legal Eaglesis the palpable discomfort of everyone involved. Redford soldiers through a scene where he has to tap dance and perform "Singing in the Rain" without mussing his hair. Winger looks so unhappy its no wonder someone later made a documentary about why she had left the movie business.

But the absolute nadir is the "performance art" scene, in which Hannah's spoiled brat heiress shows Redford something she's been "working on." The performance consists of non sequitur words ("piece of cake," "brush," "brush fire"), some writhing, and a good deal of setting stuff on fire. This scene, which does nothing to advance the plot, has served to make me giggle at the very mention of "performance art" ever since. Havana was pretty bad; but in its attempt to marry romantic comedy, mystery, and the erotic thriller, Legal Eagles stands alone as the #1 turkey of Redford's acting career. (The Legend of Bagger Vance is his worst directorial effort.)

I was going to

....see Bug, with Ashley Judd and Michael Shannon. But then I read this review by LINK colleague Katie Sholler (horror fan in residence) and now I have second thoughts. I'm not a horror movie lover, but I'd read enough interesting things about this one I thought it might be worth a look.

Sin City...

....a franchise in trouble? (Cinematical)

Monday, May 28, 2007

Laura Linney...

...never expected to be a movie star. She's playing Abigail Adams in HBO's upcoming John Adams miniseries.

This is funny...

...even though it's a fake designed to promote a big studio summer movie.

Natalie 24/7

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Natalie Portman denies "Truman Show" rumors, talks up FINCA. (Newsweek)

Straw poll '08

Only 8 total votes last week at the Mostly Movies precinct of the Pajamas Media Campaign '08 straw poll? Let's see if we can do better this week people! The results:

  • Bill Richardson took 2 of the 5 Democratic votes to take the lead. Richardson also won the overall poll for the week with 44.6%

  • On the GOP side, one vote each for Gilmore, Huckabee, and Hagel. Fred Thompson was the overall winner with 50.4%
  • Cannes prizes

  • The Romanian film 4 Months, 3 Weeks & 2 Days wins top prize at Cannes. (Variety)

  • Julian Schnabel wins Best Director for The Diving Bell and the Butterfly. (Cinematical)
  • Saturday, May 26, 2007

    Iconoclasts - Break the mold

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    I have a friend who's a dancer and choreographer, and recently I attended a showcase of her work during which she performed a solo dance to the song "Parting Gift" by Fiona Apple. That got me thinking about how much I liked Apple's Extraordinary Machine CD, and how when I'd first heard that song (before I knew who the singer was) it reminded me of show tune from the world's best musical that doesn't exist.

    So you can imagine I was intrigued when I learned Apple would be a participant in the Iconoclasts series on the Sundance Channel, sharing her episode with Quentin Tarantino. Iconoclasts is a series of mini-documentaries which put two creative people together and basically hope for an interesting conversation about inspiration, the creative process, being an artist, what have you.

    At it's worst, Iconoclasts is a self-congratulatory mess. The episode which puts together Saturday Night Live mastermind Lorne Michaels and Paul Simon seems to celebrate the fact that the two men are still alive more than anything else. Michaels may have been an "iconoclast" 30+ years ago, but now he can be likened to someone who keeps a very large and complicated machine running smoothly. Simon is still vital (I liked his last CD and thought he benefited from working with Brian Eno), and while he's still working at a high level there's clearly no urgency for him to prove anything to his audience.

    The best episode of Iconoclasts I've seen by far has Dave Chappelle visiting Maya Angelou at her home in Winston-Salem, NC. Chappelle and Angelou are an ideal if unlikely pairing since both are talking about the black American experience from different generations. Quite frankly I'd never thought very much of Angelou before this program, since she always seemed to be being celebrated for saying things which I thought were incredibly obvious. I was wrong. Whenever we assign beliefs or opinions to someone based on race, age, gender or anything else we of course do them the disservice which Angelou and Chappelle both rail against in different ways; I'll think before I speak next time, which is no doubt just what everyone involved had in mind.

    But back to Apple and Tarantino. Their episode is set in Austin, where QT shows Fiona the set of Grindhouse and hangs in a bar before accompanying her to her show. We get to hear quite a bit about what Grindhouse was supposed to be, as well as whether Tarantino has plans for the future films, how Fiona and P.T. Anderson were there for him during a break-up, and how film directors get worse as they get older. (Quentin, meet Alain Resnais...)

    It's mentioned that Apple went six years between CDs (partly due to differences with her label) and Tarantino took six years after Jackie Brown to make Kill Bill. Both QT and Fiona seem to celebrate the art of not doing anything for extended periods, which (to betray a personal bias) is about as interesting as an actor discussing the finer points of being a waiter. An artist's job, to quote Aaron Sorkin, is to "captivate you for however long we've asked for your attention." Extended periods of pontification become egoism, the artists who keep asking again and again (even when it sometimes doesn't work out) are the ones I want to hear from.

    Suggestions for the future of Iconoclasts: 1. Pair off people who've never met, 2.Pair off people with thematically similar interests of different ages/races, etc., 3.Pair off people who are accomplished but haven't already been enshrined into the Mt. Rushmore of their fields.

    My suggestions for Season 3 of Iconoclasts:

  • John Ashbery and Lauryn Hill
  • Ryan Adams and Merle Haggard
  • Willie Mays and Ryan Howard (ok, Mays is in the Hall of Fame)
  • Alison Krauss and Christina Aguilera (really)
  • Rufus Wainwright and Judd Apatow
  • Noah Baumbach and Gena Rowlands
  • Wednesday, May 23, 2007

    Lost - Time is out of joint (spoilers)

    The third season finale of "Lost" had no crazy revelations about the Others or science fiction hoo-ha about the Dharma Initiative or the apparently invisible Others leader Jacob we met a couple of weeks ago. Instead the writers wisely stuck to character and plot advancement and (in one major revelation) suggested that the question of what one does when given a reset on one's life is really what "Lost" is all about.

    More here.....(Link Daily Blog)

    Festival news

    Paul Thomas Anderson's There Will be Blood to debut at the (Aug./Sep.) Venice Film Festival. (Cinematical)

    Asia Argento...

    Photo Sharing and Video Hosting at in two out-of-competition films at Cannes, Boarding Gate from Olivier Assayas (Kim Gordon of Sonic Youth costars)and Go Go Tales from Abel Ferrara. The actress/director is the daughter of Italian director Dario Argento; her biggest U.S. roles have been in Coppola's Marie Antoinette and the Vin Diesel epic XXX. (IFC)

    Books I want to read

  • Falling Man by Don DeLillo (Entertainment Weekly)

  • The Yiddish Policeman's Union by Michael Chabon (NY Times)

  • God Is Not Great by Christopher Hitchens (Paste)

  • Fellow Travelers by Thomas Mallon (Intl. Herald Tribune, though I think I read this review in the NY Times)
  • Mighty reviews

    A good review for Angelina Jolie and A Mighty Heart at Cannes. (Hollywood Reporter)

    Trust the woman

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    I'd seen it years ago, but I'm glad I got a chance to see Hal Hartley's Trust (1990) on IFC last night. (It's showing again today at noon) I can't help wondering if IFC added Trust to its schedule because of the presence of the late Adrienne Shelly, the film's leading lady currently getting some overdue critical respect for directing the comedy Waitress.

    The plot of Trust is deceptively simple. Teenage Maria (Shelly) announces to her family that she's pregnant. An argument with her father ensues, and when Maria slaps him he immediately drops dead of a heart attack. Spurned by her grief-stricken mother (Merritt Nelson), Maria strikes up an unlikely and chaste friendship with Matthew (Martin Donovan). Matthew's life seems to consist mainly of a job at a computer factory (where he continually complains about quality control) and a home life with his sadistic father (John Mackay).

    If you've never seen a Hartley film, it's a little hard to describe his world. The dialogue is deadpan, the humor is dry, and choices have comically instantaneous consequences. (A woman speaking about a deceased child steals a baby that's conveniently left outside a store) But Trust contains a good bit more than its austere surface suggests. One of the themes the film keeps returning to is the compromises women make by becoming wives and mothers. Maria's mother and live-at-home older sister (Edie Falco way before Carmela Soprano) both seem to have never wanted any more than domesticity, a choice Maria symbolically rejects by wearing her glasses (which she earlier complained made her look "brainy") and reading Matthew's books. Trust may be the only movie ever made in which a man gives a woman flowers and a thesaurus at the same time.

    While Maria is blossoming, Matthew is fading. We're told he's a mechanical genius who can fix anything, but after he gets fired from the computer factory he refuses to take a fix-it job because he'll have to work on TV's. Later, after he's pledged to marry Maria and gotten his job back, Maria finds him zoned out in front of the TV and they argue. The image of TV-carrying customers lined up outside the door of the fix-it shop is one of Trust's most pointed shots.

    I think the key scene in Trust is a conversation that occurs between Maria and the nurse (Karen Sillas) she has met (and shared a drink with) at an abortion clinic earlier in the film. (Sillas plays a major role in Hartley's Simple Men) Maria complains about how the now TV-obsessed Matthew is changing, and the nurse asks, "Hasn't he changed you?" That's what Trust is really all about: the way people unexpectedly collide, learn from, trust, and change each other in a world where actions have consequences. Trust resonates all the more because of its simplicity, and (along with Waitress) serves as tribute to the too short life of Adrienne Shelly.

    Cannes killers

    A theme runs through some American films at Cannes, and Abel Ferrara makes an out-of-competition comeback. (NY Times)

    Viewed alongside some other American entries here — David Fincher’s “Zodiac” and Joel and Ethan Coen’s “No Country for Old Men” — “Death Proof” provides one of those festival coincidences that can sometimes be taken for a theme. All three films have at their center a serial killer who acts without apparent motive or sense — a manifestation of pure evil beyond the reach of reason and, in two cases out of three, of justice. In contrast with their Asian and European counterparts, American filmmakers in Cannes seem to operate in a Manichean moral universe. Perhaps our role is to keep the world supplied with bad guys. But only in the movies, right?

    Tuesday, May 22, 2007

    Jolie to take year off

    Photo Sharing and Video Hosting at PhotobucketAngelina Jolie announces plans to take year off from acting. What can I say, I'm a fan. If you look at some of Jolie's roles I think you could make an argument about the lack of good roles even for talented women in Hollywood. But she's got to put up a couple of more Oscar caliber performances before I can make that case. A Mighty Heart, in which she plays the widow of slain journalist Daniel Pearl, could be the ticket. (Cinematical)

    Spider Man 3 - A good movie lurks within

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    Better late than never. I didn't hate Spider Man 3 as much as I thought I was going to, but then I didn't like the second installment as much as everyone else did. In #2, Peter Parker (Tobey Maguire) spent a great deal of time dithering over whether or not to accept the responsibility that comes with being a superhero and trying to get up the you-know-what to declare his feelings for Mary Jane (Kirsten Dunst). I don't find the prospect of watching Tobey Maguire trying to be decisive for 2+ hours very exciting, so not even the antics of Alfred Molina as the villain could rouse me.

    In Spider Man 3, Peter has become more comfortable with his heroic role. Indeed, Spidey has become so infatuated with his good press that when he's given the key to the city he restages (in front of MJ) his upside down kiss w/ Mary Jane from the first movie with police commissioner's daughter Gwen Stacy (Bryce Dallas Howard). What mistakes might a self-absorbed super hero make?

    I wonder if that was the question that Sam Raimi and his writers had in mind when they dropped that much-reviled meteor into the film. The black substance it contains infects Peter and exacerbates his latent aggression. This is where Raimi goes tone deaf, as we get a Maguire acting like a goofball and dressing like the bass player for the Cure before busting up a jazz club at which MJ is a singer.

    I wanted to see more of vain Spidey against Flint Marko, aka Sandman (well played Thomas Haden Church), the reluctant villain trying to raise money for his daughter's operation. Marko gets zapped by some movie lasers and gains the ability to move like a human sand wave, leading to some impressive (and in one scene, actually moving) special effects. A reluctant villain and an overconfident hero sounds like a super hero movie for our times, but the filmmakers don't know when to quit.

    In almost 2 1/2 hours we get Gwen Stacy, Venom (Topher Grace as Eddie Brock, who gets infected by the black goo), comedy at the Daily Bugle from J.K. Simmons and Elizabeth Banks, and Aunt May (Rosemary Harris). Oh I haven't even mentioned Harry (James Franco), still hacked off about Dad's death in #1. The tone is considerably lighter than in #2, but I agree with those who say it feels like everyone involved is ready for the franchise to be over. Spider Man 3 didn't trust its audience enough.

    Run Vic Run

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    In a potentially great bit of casting, Franka Potente (Run Lola Run) joins The Shield as an Armenian Mob princess. Is getting involved with the Armenian Mob ever a good idea?

    Hal Hartley...

    ...on how his concerns have changed since Henry Fool and whether or not he cares what you think. (Hartley's latest, Fay Grim, came out last week and is out on DVD today thanks to HDNet)

    After "Henry Fool," I wanted to work in a different way and not in a commercial mode at all. That manifests itself in an odd way. It was almost as though I didn't realize I was making feature films during those years. Really, "Book of Life," "No Such Thing" and "The Girl From Monday" were all conceived around the same time as an exercise in genre, treating a bigger group of concerns. There are certain kinds of things you do when you're young, and there are other people doing that now and better because they're young. Personally, I'm not sentimental that way.

    Kirsten Dunst, the good years

    Here's a good consideration of Sofia Coppola's The Virgin Suicides, although the author works a bit too hard to cast Coppola as a victim of sexism. (Cinematical)

    Monday, May 21, 2007

    Who's a snob....

    Film critic Richard Schickel gets into the whole bloggers v. critics issue. My friend Jason deconstructs his argument (correctly) here, and here's what I wrote recently on the topic.


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    I'd had my Netflix DVD of Down in the Valley (2005, d. David Jacobson) for almost 5 months when I finally put it in the player. It's the tale of romance between Tobe (Evan Rachel Wood) and the older Harlan (Edward Norton), who at first appears to be a sweet-natured guy with a cowboy fixation.

    Tobe and her younger brother are being raised by their father (David Morse, a study in coiled violence), a corrections officer who instinctively doesn't trust Harlan. He's right too, since by the time my DVD stopped working (about 70 minutes in) Harlan was showing signs of turning into Travis Bickle.

    Despite its two strong leads, Down in the Valley didn't win me over. The film meanders and it's too easy to see Harlan's freak out coming. Since my DVD had what appeared to be melted wax on it, I'll have to wait to see how it all comes out. But based on what I've seen I don't think I'll be in a hurry to get back to this one.

    Once isn't enough....

    Photo Sharing and Video Hosting at PhotobucketThe mini-musical Once (starring Glen Hansard) is a unique experience (LA Weekly):

    Once is not enough for stars Hansard and Irglova The Irish romance Once is one of those urban fairy tales you come out of not wanting to switch on your car radio, make small talk or do anything but shelter in its beguiling ambiance for as long as you can to avoid re-entering the real world. In real life, you’d hardly register the ginger-haired busker and the elfin Czech immigrant who meet by chance while working the streets of Dublin in this small, simple movie written and directed by John Carney, the former bass guitarist for the Dublin band the Frames. Once is not strictly a musical, though its melodies — 10 ballads of love, loss and longing, written and performed by Frames lead singer Glen Hansard and his collaborator, Markéta Irglová, who also play the leads — carry the movie’s love life better than reams of well-written screenplay could accomplish.

    "I accept your apology"

    Unexpected drama at a Cannes news conference promoting the Daniel & Mariane Pearl story, A Mighty Heart. (LA Times)

    Goya's Ghosts trailer

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    A trailer for Milos Forman's Goya's Ghosts, which appears to be a sort of cross between Girl with A Pearl Earring and V for Vendetta. Natalie Portman plays a woman who inspires Spanish artist Goya (Stellan Skarsgard) before becoming a victim of religiously motivated torture. Javier Bardem costars.

    Musical Interlude (Ryan Adams)

    Ryan Adams & the Cardinals perform "Let It Ride" from the superb Cold Roses CD on Letterman.

    Flight to Cuba, now boarding

    Michael Moore (Sicko) on universal health care, and other Cannes matters. (NY Times)

    Sunday, May 20, 2007

    Mixed reviews

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    ...for Julianne Moore as a plastics heiress in Savage Grace at Cannes... (GreenCine Daily)

    Hey, she could have done Ocean's 13

    Julia Roberts to play late conservationist Joan Root. (Variety)

    Shrek shrug...

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    Yes, I sometimes get out and watch a movie in theatres. Although I try to remain uncynical about big Hollywood product, in the case of Shrek the Third it's depressing to watch something that exists solely for the purpose of making money.

    Photo Sharing and Video Hosting at PhotobucketWhat's the point of this dull, irrelevant mess? The meta-fairy tale concept has already been played out (I'm surprised the talking badger from Narnia didn't put in an appearance) and the plot involving Shrek's quest to find the young Arthur Pendragon (Justin Timberlake) was hamstrung by the fact that teen Arthur turns out to be a boring loser. The worst news of all? Shrek 4 arrives in 2010.

    Make your voice heard...

    This has nothing to do with movies, but you can vote weekly (once in each party) in the Pajamas Media straw poll to your right. So speak out and then get back to commenting on my DVD choices!

    Don't call it a movement

    Mumblecore! (The Guardian)

    No Country for Old Men buzz

    Good words for the Coen brothers' adaptation of Cormac McCarthy's No Country for Old Men at Cannes. Cinematical likes it, and Variety says:

    Reduced to its barest bones, the story, set in 1980, is a familiar one of a busted drug deal and the violent wages of one man's misguided attempt to make off with ill-gotten gains. But writing in marvelous Texas vernacular that injected surpassing terseness with gasping velocity, McCarthy created an indelible portrait of a quickly changing American West whose new surge of violence makes the land's 19th century legacy pale in comparison.

    For their part, Joel and Ethan Coen, with both credited equally for writing and directing, are back on top of their game after some less than stellar outings. While brandishing the brothers' customary wit and impeccable craftsmanship, pic possess the vitality and invention of top-drawer 1970s American filmmaking, quite an accomplishment these days. It's also got one of cinema's most original and memorable villains in recent memory, never a bad thing in attracting an audience, especially as so audaciously played by Javier Bardem.

    Saturday, May 19, 2007

    Netflix This 8 - Point Blank

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    In the excellent commentary on the Point Blank (1967) DVD, director John Boorman observes that in some ways this is really a film about Lee Marvin. The story of a gangster named Walker (Marvin) on a single-minded quest to retrieve $93,000 stolen by his former friend and partner Reese (John Vernon), Point Blank has been hugely influential. Mel Gibson starred in a remake called Payback and Point Blank lends setting, tone, and central characterization to Soderbergh's The Limey. Soderbergh chats with Boorman on the aforementioned commentary track.

    The plot of Point Break is really as simple as I've just described it. Walker chases his money higher and higher up the food chain of an outfit known as the Organization. Who the Organization are and what they want isn't important of course, and that ambiguity helps the film maintain a sleek narrative drive despite flashbacks, slow motion, and one apparent dream sequence. Walker's only allies are Yost (Keenan Wynn), who seems to know where all the key players are going to be, and Walker's sister-in-law Chris (Angie Dickinson).

    But as described, Point Blank is Lee Marvin's show all the way. Boorman and Soderbergh rhapsodize about the actor's physicality and his simultaneous embrace of and aversion to violence, of which there's plenty here. The attitude towards violence (and Walker's journey from a pre-opening credits "death" at Alcatraz) are related to Marvin's own experiences trying to distant himself from the psychic and physical wounds he sustained during WWII combat. Marvin had creative control over Point Break, but in a great act of creative generosity ceded much of his power (we're told) to a then-unproven John Boorman.

    The economy of storytelling, dialogue, and effects in Point Blank is of course a product of the film's time, but anyone coming to the film for the first time will be struck by how well it holds up against the more bombastic stuff out there today. Scott Frank's The Lookout is a recent work that comes close to this kind of no-frills genre effort - you'll notice I said comes close, not equals.

    I'm trying something new...

    Check it out, we're just getting started...

    Friday, May 18, 2007

    Hartley on Fay

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    American maverick Hal Hartley talks about whether or not his new film Fay Grim (starring Parker Posey, above) relates to 9/11. (Filmmaker)

    How do you spell "Amidala?"

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    Natalie Portman most popular Star Wars-related search. (The Force.Net)

    The Flight of the Red Balloon

    I'm still learning about meditative Taiwanese director Hou Hsiao-hsien, having only seen one of his films to date. Here's a review of his The Flight of the Red Balloon, which stars Juliette Binoche and opened the "Certain Regard" section at Cannes. (GreenCine Daily)

    Signs of life.... Romanian cinema and other early news from Cannes. (NY Times)

    But the menu and the mood at this festival changes rapidly. Mr. Wong’s gentle fantasy of America was followed by Cristian Mungiu’s harshly realistic look at Romania in the last years of the Ceausescu dictatorship in “4 Months, 3 Weeks and 2 Days.” Since 2005, when Cannes audiences were stunned by Cristi Puiu’s “Death of Mr. Lazarescu” in the sidebar program, Un Certain Regard, Cannes has been host to a series of tough, strong, darkly comical Romanian films, as directors in that country, assisted by a remarkable pool of native acting talent, confront the difficulties of the present and the brutalities of the past.

    Taking place in a single day, “4 Months, 3 Weeks and 2 Days” tells the story of two college roommates, one of whom is seeking an illegal abortion. At once unsparing and generous, unfolding in the long, tense takes that seem to be typical of the new Romanian cinema, the film exposes the decay of human decency under Communism. At its heart is a breathtakingly poised lead performance by Anamaria Marinca as Otilla, a young woman whose decision to help an unreliable friend (Laura Vasiliu) in need has fateful consequences.

    Thursday, May 17, 2007

    Your Majesty

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    Scarlett Johansson to play Mary Queen of Scots? (Cinematical)

    Veronica can't solve this one.

    Photo Sharing and Video Hosting at PhotobucketThe CW cancels Veronica Mars. (Washington Post) In other good-looking people news, Chad Michael Murray and the far sillier One Tree Hill are back for a fifth season that jumps the characters past college. (Zap2It)

    In the meantime....

    Photo Sharing and Video Hosting at PhotobucketThings may be light here for a day or two because the show I'm doing is opening this weekend. For the moment, entertain yourself with the question of whether or not Kirsten Dunst should play Blondie singer Debbie Harry. It's good to see some support for Maggie Gyllenhaal here. (

    Wednesday, May 16, 2007

    "Whatever. I Love You" (spoilers)

    My take on this season's penultimate "Lost."

    The episode ends with Jack leading the castaways to possible rescue at the radio tower (There's still that boat lingering offshore we've heard about). Sayid is at the beach with a party to set off the dynamite, Charlie arrives at the underwater station to be received at gunpoint, and the Others are on the way. This bittersweet episode (called "Greatest Hits") had a feeling of preparing for the inevitable, so I'd advise my fellow "Lost" fans to prepare to say goodbye to at least 1 or 2 of their favorite characters next week. (Of course, it's "Lost" so I could be totally wrong)
    We'll see. The potential good news for Lockeophiles is that actor Terry O'Quinn's name still appears in the opening credits despite his apparently fatal gunshot wound last week. Locke to the rescue.

    This is important, pay attention....

    Why weren't liberals outraged over the 2004 murder of Dutch filmmaker Theo van Gogh? And why don't they celebrate his colleague Ayaan Hirsi Ali? Here's an answer....(Ron Rosenbaum)

    UPDATE - Outraged or not, van Gogh's works are being mined by Hollywood.

    Trickling in....

    Photo Sharing and Video Hosting at PhotobucketA mixed review of My Blueberry Nights. (Telegraph)

    Their stories are secondary to the overall mood: bitter-sweet, gently melancholic. It revisits the road-movie genre of Wong’s dazzling early films, but adds to it lashings of the urban-nocturne aesthetic in which his recent work has been marinated.

    ...and another. Looks like good work from the dependable David Straithairn. (Cinematical)

    Blueberry anyone?

    The trailer for Cannes opener My Blueberry Nights suggests a different film from what we expected. (Cinematical)

    Look at me, don't look at me

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    Jessica Alba doesn't want you to think she's hot. (Stuff)

    Gilmore Girls 2000-2007

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    I forgot to record the last episode of the Gilmore Girls last night, but that pretty much sums up my attitude about the show the last couple of years. Here's an obituary. (House Next Door)

    "Roland Joffe should not be here!"

    The Cannes Film Festival gets started. (NY Times)

    Tuesday, May 15, 2007

    Netflix This 7 - The History Boys

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    Nicholas Hytner's The History Boys (2006) is one of the best films I've seen in a long time. Based on Alan Bennett's play, The History Boys is the story of the relationship between a group of very different teachers and a group of young men preparing to take exams for Oxford and Cambridge in early '80s Sheffield, England.

    The History Boys is an argument about what kind of knowledge is more valuable. Veteran teacher Hector (Richard Griffiths, reprising his Tony winning stage role) fills the boys heads with poetry, French, and a love of learning for its own sake. The younger teacher Irwin (Stephen Campbell Moore) has been hired specifically to rev the class up for the exams. Irwin prepares his students for a sort of intellectual gamemanship, the skills needed to write essays that will attract the attention of exam proctors. He urges them to find reasons to defend Stalin since that position will make their essays stand out.

    One would think that there would room for the approaches of both Hector and Irwin, but the Headmaster (Clive Merrison) is feeling the time crunch as the exams approach. Hector's methods don't "teach the test," to use current parlance. The Headmaster gets his ammunition when Hector's practice of fondling the boys while giving them bike rides home is revealed. Hector is told to take retirement at the end of the term, and it looks as though Irwin may take his place. The sexual dimensions of the film are its least accessible aspects to an American audience that isn't used to single-sex public schools, but a mood of situational homosexuality hovers over the school. Student Posner (Samuel Barnett) is attracted to Dakin (Dominic Cooper), but thinks that his same-sex crush "may pass." Dakin is attracted to Irwin, but claims he only wants easy sex and that he isn't "that way inclined."

    The students adult fates are revealed in an epilogue after tragedy strikes the school, and some boys have become Irwin's disciples while others follow Hector. Bennett's play doesn't judge those who work the system by cleverness, but simply reminds the History Boys and us that knowledge is king and that the important thing is to "pass it on."

    The Fountain on DVD

    Photo Sharing and Video Hosting at PhotobucketHere's a bit of what I wrote about Darren Aronofsky's The Fountain at the time of the theatrical release:

    I’m humbled by the ambition on display in Darren Aronofsky’s “The Fountain.” Aronofsky is the young director who made his name six years ago with the drug-addiction drama “Requiem for a Dream,” a film I found technically masterful but emotionally empty. Hollywood opened its doors after “Requiem,” but indecisive stars and play-it-safe studios meant that the next Darren Aronofsky film has only now arrived. What a film it is.

    The Fountain is out on DVD today, and Cinematical has a review specific to the DVD (no extras!)

    Jessica Biel...

    Photo Sharing and Video Hosting at Photobucket...gets her wish for a good role. She's co-starring with Forest Whitaker in an ensemble drama called Powder Blue. (Cinematical)

    I love this....

    An internet dating site's gay-friendly ads get eharmony mad. (Pandagon)

    Monday, May 14, 2007

    Georgia Rule

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    On a personal note, this reviewer feels strongly that the experience of hearing Lindsay Lohan say one’s given name on screen is a thrill that should be packaged and sold at department stores and in catalogues. But I digress.

    My review of Georgia Rule. Skip past the "About the Movie" section for the good stuff.

    ....Visual artists too

    Go here and here to see work by an artist who commented on one of my posts. The redefinition of the audience-artist relationship (see here) apparently extends to the visual arts.

    Cloggers (we're not dancing)

    There's a good deal of discussion the last few days on whether there are in fact too many film blogs. (It all began with this) How does one know which blogs to trust? Are bloggers as susceptible to being co-opted by the marketing departments of studios? Can an amateur critic-blogger ("clogger") hurt the chances for an indie film with little marketing budget and no big names?

    Well, it's true that anyone can become a critic by setting up a blog or posting reviews on IMDB. I wonder though if those wringing their hands about unskilled critics don't have a misunderstanding of the way people seek out movies. If you care about Tobey Maguire, Kirsten Dunst, Sam Raimi, or comic books, is any critic going to stop you from seeing Spider-Man 3? But let's say that it's 1999 and you're wondering whether or not to catch the opening weekend of the Susan Sarandon-Natalie Portman character driven drama Anywhere But Here. Maybe you read the novel by Mona Simpson and you love Susan Sarandon, but the movie is never as good as the book right? Would you, the discriminating moviegoer, be swayed by this? (From the film's IMDB page)

    I picked this movie up because I was curious to see Natalie Portman in something that was pre Star Wars. I liked this movie. Natalie and Susan were wonderful as mother and daughter. Susan Sarandon is such an outstanding actor. Better and better with every movie she does.

    This sounds like a snob's defense, and to a degree that's true. But those who are looking for something deeper than pure entertainment will almost by definition seek out critical writing that provides context. I'd call for bloggers to distinguish themselves by writing less about whatever Sony Pictures tells us we're supposed to like (nobody at the head office gives a damn about Spidey's Metacritic score) and more about work that's personally meaningful to each individual. This blog for instance is described in the header as an "informal notebook," and I've tried to keep it a mix of serious things that catch my eye and fluff. A large collection of strong individual voices fighting for what's good seems to me the only way the Web can become something more than the most efficient pablum dispenser ever invented.

    Are you ready to blog, Cleveland?

    Good piece about how the level of intimacy fostered by the Internet is changing the fan-musician relationship and may be impacting what type of person becomes an artist. (NY Times)

    Will the Internet change the type of person who becomes a musician or writer? It’s possible to see these online trends as Darwinian pressures that will inevitably produce a new breed — call it an Artist 2.0 — and mark the end of the artist as a sensitive, bohemian soul who shuns the spotlight. In “The Catcher in the Rye,” J. D. Salinger wrote about how reading a good book makes you want to call up the author and chat with him, which neatly predicted the modern online urge; but Salinger, a committed recluse, wouldn’t last a minute in this confessional new world. Neither would, say, Margo Timmins of the Cowboy Junkies, a singer who was initially so intimidated by a crowd that she would sit facing the back of the stage. What happens to art when people like that are chased away?

    Harold Perrineau...

    ...on 28 Weeks Later and Lost. (Moviehole)

    You'd watch, wouldn't you?

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    All Natalie Portman, all the time? (Valleywag)

    Sunday, May 13, 2007

    Mother's Day

    Happy Mother's Day to all. My mother proved her indie cred one day about 10 or 12 years ago. On school breaks (I went to the college where she's on the faculty) we used to drive down to visit my grandparents in Florida. To break up the trip coming back we'd stop in Atlanta for the night and hit a couple of art house cinemas, since these were the days when many fewer below the radar releases made it to Greenville. (Some highlights of our Atlanta trips included Whit Stillman's Barcelona and Kenneth Branagh's full-text Hamlet).

    So we're sitting in the theater before Ed Burns' The Brothers McMullen, much hyped at the time. The no-frills credits come up and Mom turns to me and says "Is this a low-bidget independent film?" She was pleased that I wasn't dragging her to some so-so studio offering. I think I remember that moment because it a. proves Mom has some good taste and b. the word "independent" meant a lot more than it seems to now.

    The Master's Voice

    Artist/director Julian Schnabel (The Diving Bell and the Butterfly) mesmerizes art students:

    After lunch, Schnabel stopped in front of a small patch of freshly planted daffodils and tulips. Next to it sat a discarded container and some scraps of wood stuffed inside a cardboard box. Schnabel said, “Now, this looks like it could be art. A little plastic, some flowers, and some cardboard.” Everyone stopped and watched while he rearranged the trash on the sidewalk.

    “It’s beautiful!” Lee exclaimed, lingering to stare at the garbage and the flowers as the master continued down the street.

    some of whom need more schooling:

    One of them, eighteen-year-old Cheryl Smith, had the word “Rauschenberg” written on her hand, because she had seen something of his she liked in the museum.
    (The New Yorker)

    Belated Birthday.....

    I'm acting in a play right now, a production of King Lear. So I haven't had much time to get revved up about the first wave of summer blockbusters. (The Spider-Man 3 reviews haven't helped my excitement level.) Of course, that affects the blog and leads to posts about Britney's hair - should "never blog while bored" be a rule?

    Here's something more on point. MovieMaker has a blog with daily "this day in indie history" posts, such as this week's birthday salute to Rosario Dawson....

    Saturday, May 12, 2007

    Celebrity hair news

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    Britney's buzz cut looks great!

    Getting the band back together

    Photo Sharing and Video Hosting at PhotobucketJust saw the trailer for next month's Evening, which is certainly counterprogramming for summer blockbusters. It's a partial reunion for the cast of The Hours: Claire Danes, Toni Collette (never sexier than in her Hours cameo), Eileen Atkins, Meryl Streep, and author Michael Cunningham (who co-scripted based on Susan Minot's novel). Streep's daughter Mamie Gummer (pictured) has a major role...

    Thursday, May 10, 2007

    While we're on the subject, Lindsay....

    ...your July film I Know Who Killed Me has you (reportedly) as a stripper who gets her legs cut off. You've professed your desire to take more serious roles, so I guess you shouldn't have dropped out of that Dylan Thomas biopic. (I'm still rooting for you). (Cinematical)

    Getting gossipy with Lindsay Lohan

    Photo Sharing and Video Hosting at PhotobucketYou'll rarely find celebrity gossip here, but it's on my mind after catching Lindsay Lohan on Letterman last night. LL was chatting up her new movie Georgia Rule and having fun with Dave about the rumors surrounding her behavior. I'm sure some of the stuff is true of course, but since I do think Lohan has some talent I just wanted to state my position for the record.

    Everyone has the right to make mistakes, and while I understand the interest and (to some degree) the temptation to joke I don't think there's anything inherently funny about the in-public screwups of a young person handed money, fame, and attention at a ridiculously young age. I'm moralizing here, but Lohan's career is the product of Hollywood's desire to create product for a certain demographic at almost any cost. A certain amount of attention is part of the deal with stardom, if Lohan's trip to rehab is a genuine attempt to deal with a problem then no one has the right to judge her harshly.

    I'm reviewing Georgia Rule this week, watch this space for my thoughts.

    Musical interlude (Avett Brothers)

    The Avett Brothers perform "At The Beach." If you're not familiar, this North Carolina trio does a sort of neo-bluegrass with very high energy live shows. If they happen to be playing your favorite song in concert and someone breaks a string, which happens frequently, they don't start again. Their new CD called Emotionalism is out next week; this video (sound is so-so) captures their in-concert style quite well.

    Veronica Starling?

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    Veronica Mars to return for 4th season with V. (Kristen Bell) as grownup FBI agent? It could happen.....(

    Lost - Oh no they didn't (spoilers!)

    Here's part of what I wrote about last night's Lost at Link Daily Blog:

    If Locke is dead, here's why it's a huge mistake. A great first-season episode revealed that before the plane crash Locke was in a wheelchair. Locke was the one character of the original cast who saw the island as a force to be explored and embraced rather than something merely to be survived. In a "Lost" without Locke the show becomes something lesser, merely a "Lord of the Flies"-esque war (as the commercials seem to hint at) between the crash survivors and the crazy Others - whose goals and history are still hazy. Locke's life and personality truly reboot after the plane crash, whereas Jack (Matthew Fox) is still controlling and kind of a jerk and Kate (Evangeline Lilly) runs away from all emotional involvements.

    Wednesday, May 09, 2007

    L.A. Confidential 2?

    Now that he's hot after Lucky You, director Curtis Hanson wants to do a sequel to his L.A. Confidential. (MTV Movies)

    Welcome to the 'sphere

    Well, MTV has a new movies blog and so far there's an impressive array of posts. Oscar winner Anna Paquin is set to appear in a new HBO series from Alan Ball (Six Feet Under). Read the description and judge for yourself whether this show will make it. How about a good role for Six Feet Under's Claire, Lauren Ambrose?

    Any new ideas left?

    A sequel to Wall Street? (NY Times)

    Tuesday, May 08, 2007

    Raving, a short film by Julia Stiles

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    Just saw Julia Stiles' short film Raving on the Sundance Channel, and here's the schedule of future showings. I don't have much experience watching short films but I did like Raving, which makes its points quickly and quietly like a short story.

    In present-day New York a woman (Zooey Deschanel) hustles strangers for money on the street while a man (Bill Irwin) in the same part of town tries in vain to swipe his security card through a reader at an office complex. The two meet and Deschanel's character initially sees Irwin's as an opportunity for profit. He hires her to clean his apartment and she discovers a cache of jewelry and old clothes. When Irwin sees her in a green dress belonging to his late wife things take an unexpected direction.

    It's not quite clear how the story wraps up, the film closes in a non-sequitur moment with Zooey fronting a jazz band and singing "Hello Dolly." Raving seems meant to be a tribute to the lonely souls of New York, who each live out their own stories amid the throngs. Stiles goes all warm and fuzzy on the city at the end, but the best compliment I can pay Raving is that I wanted to follow these characters for longer than the film's 20-minute running time.

    ...but this isn't one of them....

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    More pictures of Natalie Portman and My Blueberry Nights cast here.... (Rope of Silicon)

    More Cheerios, Mr. Emerson?

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    Michael Emerson ("Ben") and Elizabeth Mitchell ("Juliet") as the saviors of Lost. We'll see. I miss Ana Lucia. (LA Times)

    Producer Scott Rudin...

    ....has a passel of high-end projects in development at Paramount, including Noah Baumbach's Margot at the Wedding. (NY Times)

    Polley wants to direct (again)

    Sarah Polley (Away from Her) on love, career, and working with directors. (LA Weekly)

    Away From Her has been getting rapturous advance notices in North America. It’s the Canadian reviews Polley is nervous about, because that’s where her funding comes from and she is already hard at work pursuing the rights to Alias Grace, a novel by Margaret Atwood. Polley comes from a performing family ­— her father, Michael Polley, acted while working in insurance to support the family, and her mother, Diana Polley, who died of cancer when Sarah was 11, was a producer and casting director. Polley wants to maintain a dual career and talks intelligently about the relationship between actors and directors. “One thing that doesn’t really work for me as an actor is when a director has a ‘way’ or a ‘method’ with actors. For me, it was really important to try to learn each actor’s language and for us to develop a common vocabulary.”

    Monday, May 07, 2007

    So earn it already...

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    Jessica Biel wants respect as an actress. (SF Chronicle)

    Biel was miscast in The Illusionist, the only cast member with a pulse in Next, and interesting enough in a small role in Elizabethtown that I wondered what would have happened if Orlando Bloom's character had gone back to her. ("It's not goodbye," she tells him, "just goodbye"). Part of Biel's problem is that she was on the WB at about the same age Natalie Portman and Scarlett Johansson were working with Luc Besson and Robert Redford respectively. She may have to luck into a good role in an indie and prove herself, or else she'll always have that "TV kid" label.

    "Most movies being made today aren't about people."

    Great interview with Last Picture Show director/Sopranos costar Peter Bogdanovich about his involvement with a DVD of Hitchcock's To Catch a Thief and his feelings about "the foundation of movies."

    On The Last Picture Show:

    Most movies being made today aren’t about people. They’re genre movies, and the people in the movie are stereotypes. What) I was trying to do back then was get back to the foundation of movies. That was an idea that had always interested me, and to me, the foundation of movies was the silent era, and then the early era of talking pictures. The reason I was interested in seeking out the people who made those movies was because I was planning to make films.

    (Time Out New York & House Next Door)

    Keira Knightley....

    Photo Sharing and Video Hosting at Photobucket tired. I make no claims for Domino, but I don't think this haircut looks as bad as everyone says. (The Guardian)

    Philip K. Dick...

    ...goes mainstream, thanks to the Library of America. (NY Times)

    Sunday, May 06, 2007

    The Book I Read - You Don't Love Me Yet by Jonathan Lethem

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    I'd like to spend some time inside the mind of Jonathan Lethem, it's a place filled with music, movies, pulp sci-fi novels and the works of Philip K. Dick. But I'm not sure what part of Lethem's brain coughed up Lucinda, the protagonist of Lethem's most recent novel You Don't Love Me Yet.

    Almost 30-year old Lucinda has just left dull work in a coffee shop and now works in a sort of an art project run by her friend/ex-boyfriend Falmouth. The job is to answer phones of a "complaint" line, where regular folks call in to vent all sorts of things. Lucinda soon strikes up a phone relationship with one particular caller ("The Complainer"), whose talent for pithy complaints ("My eyes destroy you") is explained when it's revealed he's a professional slogan writer.

    Lucinda's heart really lies with the unnamed band for which she's the bass player. The group has a few songs and no gigs until Lucinda hands in some of the complainer's work as lyric ideas. When Complainer (an older guy named Carl) shows up in person, he enjoys quite a bit of sexual gymnastics with Lucinda and then invites himself to be the band's keyboardist.

    What's it all about? Well, Lucinda spends her time involved in the menial jobs and gadding about of a would-be artist, until her protective layer of irony is exploded by the Complainer's desire to connect in the real world. Unfortunately Lucinda is so vacuous its' hard to care either way. Lethem's energy as a writer is far more New York than L.A., (read his richly detailed The Fortress of Solitude) and his grasp on Lucinda's world never felt quite right to me.

    That said I'd still love to kick around Lethem's head for a time, and I'll be waiting for the next book to emerge.

    Two for one endings

    What if movies all came with two endings? One happy, one sad? (The Guardian)

    Here, at last, is our cure for the Hollywood Happy Ending. From now on, every movie ought to feature its own "28 Weeks Later..." - a coda in which the destinies of the major characters are outlined in the grimmest possible terms, so we can drain off the saccharine content of the studio-approved finale that just made us puke into our cupped hands. Call it a pre-emptive strike against all the moronic delusions a film can persuade us to accept.

    Maggie Gyllenhaal....

    Photo Sharing and Video Hosting at Photobucket in the anthology film Paris je t'aime. Her segment is directed by Olivier Assayas, who made last year's first rate Clean. There's a whole bunch of top-drawer talent in this, and Cinematical thinks that it may be a case of too many cooks.

    Thursday, May 03, 2007

    Netflix This 6 - Quinceanera

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    Quinceanera (2006, d. Richard Glatzer & Wash Westmoreland) has something that I'm always looking for films: a strong sense of place. (In this case, the Echo Park area of L.A.) Although at first pass it appears to be a well-told but familiar story of how teenage Magdalena (Emily Rios) deals with a pregnancy on the eve of her quinceanera (15th birthday), there's quite a bit more going on. Quinceanera is a film about family, values (note the comma), community, the passage of time, and a much underserved subject, gentrification.

    An odd sort of family forms when Magdalena moves in with her great-uncle Tio (Chalo Gonzalez) and gay cousin Carlos (Jesse Garcia). Both Carlos and Magdalena have been kicked out of their homes by families with a strict moral code, and the kindly Tio takes them in. Much is made of the fact that Magdalena has conceived without being penetrated, as though Glatzer and Westmoreland didn't want to touch the subject of teen female sexuality.

    Tio lives in a small house on the property of a gay couple who are part of a wave of Anglos moving into Echo Park. Carlos is welcomed into the landlords' home; after one three-way sexual encounter he begins a clandestine affair with Gary (David Ross), the younger half of the couple. The repercussions when this relationship is discovered set in motion a key subplot, in which the three roommates are forced to find a new home in a neighborhood that's changing.

    On the DVD commentary track, Glatzer and Westmoreland recount their own experience attending a neighbor's quinceanera. The codirectors have great respect for the ritual and formality of the ceremony, which resembles a sort of cross between a wedding and a coming-out party. They also gently refrain from judging the more conservative older characters, who are a mostly at a loss to deal with the choices of Magdalena and Carlos.

    Quinceanera should be required viewing for anyone with a narrow idea of what a "family" is. The film ends on a note of simple grace and a deep bow towards the culture that inspired it. With their low-budget, no stars effort, Glatzer and Westmoreland have taught us a little more about just how big America is.

    Judge for yourself

    Here's Scarlett Johansson with the Jesus & Mary Chain at Coachella. I don't know that she really adds that much, but she doesn't embarrass herself either.

    Video is here!

    Please check the sidebar for a selection of videos. I'll change the subject matter regularly, but have begun with a few Maggie Gyllenhaal related clips.....

    Wednesday, May 02, 2007

    Overkill is overkill - Hot Fuzz

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    Grade: B

    I was looking forward to Hot Fuzz, the comedy that serves as a follow-up to Shaun of the Dead from director Edgar Wright and star/cowriter Simon Pegg. Hot Fuzz is not so much a parody as an affectionate British homage to bloated action spectacles like Bad Boys 2 and Point Break, both of which Fuzz specifically salutes.

    When I learned that Hot Fuzz runs over 2 hours (2.01 to be precise) I got a little worried. The action films that Wright and Pegg are taking off from deserve a good mocking, but does that have to mean imitating their worst features? Everyone reading this has scene a noisy summer action movie that didn't know when to quit.

    Nicholas Angel (played by Pegg in an absolutely straight-arrow performance) is a London cop assigned to a sleepy village called Sandford because his arrest record is putting his city colleagues to shame. Angel's life is all about the job, even at the expense of his forensic tech girlfriend (a masked Cate Blanchett). Angel tries to apply his hard-edged ways to Sandford's underage drinkers and graffiti artists, but soon begins to think Sandford may not be so sleepy after all.

    Citizens are mysteriously dying, and Angel thinks that a local grocery magnate (Timothy Dalton having a blast) may be to blame. Meanwhile he gives his loveable lout of partner Danny (Shaun alum Nick Frost) a crash course in police procedure while Danny returns the favor by sharing his DVD collection of American cop movies.

    Hot Fuzz is satirizing an idea of placid rural Britsh life in equal measure with buddy movies. The villains are people who want things to remain just the way they are, and in response Angel and Danny go right to the Point Break drawing board. The final shootout is punctuated by laughs both dramaturgical (there's Billie Whitelaw with a machine gun!) and surreal (a swan plays a key role), but still drags on far too long.

    Transplanting the setting of a movie like this to a quiet English hamlet does provide plenty of laughs, you won't be sorry you caught Fuzz in a matinee. Pegg and Frost have a wonderful rapport and could be the next great screen team. But they are pastiche artists, who I think here may love their source material just a little too much. What's next, a Wes Anderson movie set at Wimbledon?

    Checking in....

    ...with Veronica Mars. After an eight-week hiatus, last night's episode was still disappointingly uneven. (Entertainment Weekly)

    Tuesday, May 01, 2007


    Edgar Awards for The Departed and The Wire....(LA Times)

    What the.....?

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    Scarlett Johansson sings with the reunited Jesus and Mary Chain at the Coachella Festival....(NY Times)

    You need a laugh

    I got into some other stuff and haven't had time to check my usual sources for blogging ideas today. As a diversion, let me offer this review (in it's entirety) of the Jamie Kennedy breakdancing epic Kickin' It Old Skool, written by my Link magazine colleague Katie Sholler:

    Sometimes movies affect its audience so profoundly that they can’t be addressed by simple prose. Sometimes they stir an emotion so deep, ring a chord so abstruse, that only the rawest of poetry will suffice. “Kickin’ It Old Skool,” you have moved a plebeian to haiku.

    “Skool” spelled with a “k”
    “Kickin’” spelled without a “g”
    The movie’s best jokes

    Terms like “tubular”
    Hammer pants and jamboxes
    Should not two hours make

    Jamie Kennedy
    Have you ever been funny?
    Much better in “Scream”

    Zero percentage
    Nobody thinks this is good
    Rotten Tomatoes

    Namedropping old trends
    Webster, He-Man, Atari
    Audience gets mad

    20 years later
    His clothes still fit when he wakes
    Boy in a coma

    Were stereotypes
    OK in 1980?
    Racial profiling

    PG-13 -- Sholler