October. It's A Wrap.

Posted by julian On 8:59 PM 0 comments
Oh, 2010. We're just getting to know you and you're already approaching history's grave. Stay a little while longer please? Two months... give us two months. Here are a dozen Film Experience highlights from October in case you missed 'em.

Claremont & Hammerstein's "The Sound of Mutants"

Jake Gyllenhaal Speaks a revealing evening with the star. Quotes on his three key movies.
BPFTOI The popular series returned for a drive with Miss Daisy and the war heroes of The Best Years of Our Lives. This is one of my personal favorite eppys of the whole series.
Modern Maestros Robert closes off his provocative year-long series with an intense rundown of auteurs he didn't cover.
To "Snikt" or Not to "Snikt" on Darren Aronofsky and Wolverine 2
Hit Me With Your Best Shot concludes its first season with Mean Girls and Night of the Hunter.
A History of... Julie Andrews from magically gifted infant to Queen of Genovia

Oscar Scheduling I proposed an easy audience-friendly fix to boost ceremony ratings and make the public more excited about the Academy again. Alas, the powers that be don't listen and the big media dogs don't want things to change (too much revenue from the elongated season I suspect).
Foreign Film Beauty Pageant because we like pretty things
"Get Away From Ripley, You Bitches" JA ponders Sigourney Weaver and the Aliens franchise
The Dark Knight Rises Review Starter Kit Too snarky?
FYC Hell Alice in Uglyand and the Art of Self-Editing
Best Actor Babies is Jesse Eisenberg to young for Oscar's favor??

Tilda illustration by Sandro Kopp
Coming in November...

Elizabeth Taylor is "the slut of all time!", Clark Gable has a 'stache, Nathaniel goes to Iceland and Dustin Hoffman is "definitely not wearing any underpants".

We'll also have a few ginger moments with Julianne Moore and Tilda Swinton among others. What else is coming we're not sure. Things are complicated right now. We're transitioning. No, no, not like that... although November also includes the International Transgender Day of Remembrance so something on that, too.

75th: "A Midsummer Night's Dream"

Posted by julian On 5:30 PM 0 comments
Other the years I've been writing for The Film Experience I've realized I'm quite obsessed with chronologies and time. Stars that have been part of our rear view mirror of film history our whole lives were once fresh faces. It's a simple concept but intermittently hard to absorb. I mean, Olivia de Havilland and Mickey Rooney, two of the oldest living film stars, were once newbies! In fact, seventy-five years ago on this very weekend in 1935 the Shakespearean adaptation A Midsummer Night's Dream opened, introducing the world to Olivia, than billed as de Haviland for some reason. She picked up an extra "l" shortly thereafter.

Mickey Rooney playing "Puck" at 14 years of age.

Have any of you seen it? It still looks beautiful in 2010, all black and white and shimmering; the fairy motif helps with the sparkliness.

Rooney, who'd been acting since he was 6, was already famous and his "Andy Hardy" franchise was just around the corner. I know this will read like an exceptionally odd non-sequitor, but if you get a chance to watch this movie soon, I swear that you'll have to wonder whether Leonardo DiCaprio watched this performance directly before playing What's Eating Gilbert Grape? (1993). I'm not saying that Puck is mentally disabled in this picture, only that there's a shocking similarity of early teenage exuberance and tree branch bounciness, paired with uninhibited squealing and odd vocalizations. (It struck me as entirely uncanny, but perhaps it's only that I watched Gilbert Grape just recently.)

When we first spot the lovely Olivia de Havilland as Hermia, she spots her love Lysander (Dick Powell). This is our endearing introduction to her.

Introducing! Olivia de Havilland (and Hermia)

This introduction was doing double duty 75 years ago, since movie audiences had yet to meet the actress herself. She would of course go on to major stardom (The Adventures of Robin Hood, Gone With the Wind), double Oscar wins (To Each Their Own and The Heiress) and an enviable place in the twinkling constellation of Classic Hollywood stars.

One thing that's totally odd about the movie though is the battle between the male romantic leads: Dick Powell as Lysander vs. Ross Alexander as Demetrius. A Midsummer Night's Dream is built to withstand a lot of silliness and comic flexibility,  Powell is doing a weirdly fey/sassy interpretation while Alexander keeps standing with arms akimbo like he's Superman or Gaston. Presented with these options, Hermia responds like Lysander is the barrel-chested dreamboat whilst Demetrius is the Hunchback of Notre Dame. Weirdness.

Take these screenshots for example.

Lysander (left) to Demetrius (right): "Oh no you di't girlfriend!"
Lysander (right) to Demetrius left (after literally tossing his cape up around
himself like a shawl / fur wrap): "Sashay... away. Chanté, you stay!"

But no matter. A Midsummer Night's Dream is hardly the right place to get all heternormative gender reductive and freak out about a lack of "butchness". Never mind!

Though I've gone on record many times as suggesting that filmmakers should give Shakespeare a rest for at least a decade, I was actually happy to see another version back in 1999. Or at least, I was happy in theory before it arrived. At the time I thought that the casting of Rupert Everett and Michelle Pfeiffer as King & Queen of the Faeries was unexpected but inspired.

It's just that the finished film lacked a certain... je ne sais quoi. Maybe it was too safe. I don't remember it well. Perhaps it just didn't find the right balance between naughty impishness and guileless magical innocence. That's hard to pull off, sure, but I had hoped for more.

Have you seen either version? Would you like to see any of today's filmmaker have another go at this magical comedy... and if so who would you cast as Puck, Hermia or Oberon & Titania?


Cher, Christina Ricci, Mermaids (1990)

If you dare to disagree, you'd better list an inspired trick or a whopper of a treat in the comments!


The Final Linkdown

Posted by julian On 8:15 AM 0 comments
My beloved bloglines -- where I subscribe to hundreds of blogs and websites in case something interesting pops up -- goes the way of the dodo tomorrow. This is the final link roundup as you've come to know (and love / be indifferent to). I'm taking this opportunity to rethink my web reading and start from scratch in terms of what I "follow" since I spend too much time surfing, skimming, reading, wandering. Not that I won't keep sharing things that amuse me. Question: Would you like the Film Experience to have more frequent tiny-ass posts to cover a broad range of news and topics or do you enjoy the major compilations where everything gets smooshed together like so?

The Film Pie has an interesting "inside movie journalism" story about being the 'first' review posted on Rotten Tomatoes (re: Paranormal Activity 2).
Pink is the New Blog Jude Law on Sesame Street. Awwww. I don't get enough Jude Law these days. Or felt puppets. Both at once? Yes, please.
Low Resolution Halloween words of wisdom from Beetlejuice. Speaking of...
The Exploding Kinetoscope has some birthday wishes for Winona Ryder. Could her career be back on the upswing?
popbytes 'Hottie with a Rubik's Cube'. How 80s and now simultaneously.
Everything I Know... is not among the fans of Julianne Moore's Off Broadway musical Freckleface Strawberry.
Blog Stage considers the changes made for Rabbit Hole as it shifts from stage to screen.
Dear Old Hollywood For California readers: The Arclight is hosting a Steve McQueen tribute event on November 11th.

A Toy Story Moment
I thought this was cute. It's a moment of closure for director Lee Unkrich who has been working on the Toy Story franchise forever. If you've ever said goodbye to a long term project that you actually completed, you'll understand.

But this moment would be way cooler if we knew that there'd be no more Toy Story movies after Toy Story 3 which really did close the franchise beautifully. Sadly, Pixar, which once was THE studio for originality, is rapidly becoming like all the other studios when it comes to sequels and franchises and they're going to be beating all their horses way past the time that they're dead (to mangle a metaphor).

Finally, over at Pussy Goes Grrr Andreas made me lol with his love for Cat People. Have you ever seen that movie? There's almost nothing in the world I love more than clever people obsessing over movies. To this day I lol (literally) every time I think of the time Nick, hearing I had just watched Nashville, said "I want to rub that movie all over me." LOL. See, I did it again? It's too bad blogs don't have sound so you could hear. I speak the truth.

Craig here. It's Halloween and the new horror tv series The Walking Dead is nearly upon us. This is what I've been thinking about day-to-day for the last few weeks. So here's a Tuesday Top Ten Special (i.e. it's on the weekend instead... and it's Halloween themed) to get you thinking about all things zombified. Perfect for a day made for the dead. Alive or recently embalmed, all enter here. But shuffle in s-l-o-w-l-y now...

A Top Ten Undernourished and Underloved Zombie Characters (in no order) are all getting some love this Halloween. Who's first out of the grave...?

1. Colin in Colin (2008)

Colin: the most exotically-named zombie character ever

Poor old Colin. He should rank alongside Day of the Dead’s Bub as one of the most sympathetic cinematic zombies ever. Apparently it only cost director Marc Price £45 to bring Colin to the screen; not a penny was wasted on achieving pleasingly affecting acting from the man himself, Alastair Kirton. If, like me, you wonder just what went on in the pre-zombified lives of the unnamed undead – folk like, say, Second Zombie on the Left or Gunshot-Wound to the Head Zombie or Uncle Zombie Who Can Recall His Past Lives, those who dwell at the foot of the end credits – then watching Colin may come as a refreshing treat. It's about one of those very bit players. And very bit he was. The film takes a superfluous character and gives him a movie of his own to walk amok. Although Colin's the shy and retiring type, just looking to escape mad, apocalyptic London and reconnect with his girlfriend. He's a zombie with heart. The heart may have been in his hands, but he had love to give all the same. The guy deserved a break: even he ran from the undead hordes. So, Colin, mate, here’s to you: First Zombie on This List.

2. Dr Freudstein in The House by the Cemetery (1981)

Dr Freudstein waving for the camera. Bless him.

With a name like that I'll bet you had an insurmountable array of problems in your life as you did in your afterlife, eh, Dr. Freudstein (Giovanni De Nava)? Kept in the basement by the cemetery by director by the cemetery Lucio Fulci for the entirety of The House by the Cemetery, you didn't half moan about your lot. But then, you did look like a brown paper bag glued to an over-sized peanut. But piss and moan you did. Not before getting your hand lopped off and being outfoxed on a ladder by a girlish-sounding 10-year-old misery moppet by the name of... Bob. Still, you had Mrs. Freudstein to keep you company all those decades spent beyond one of Fulci's Seven Gates of Hell. (Why not click here for more Fulci-on-Zombie action.)

3. Tarman in The Return of the Living Dead (1985)

What is it with directors keeping their zombie charges trapped in basements. Subterranean dude Tarman (Allan Trautman), birthed from, yup, some kind of dubiously nuclear tar-like goo, dwells "below" just like Dr. Freudstein. Well, at least it's below a medical supply warehouse right next to a handy morgue-slash-cemetery. This brain botherer spends the film awaiting the split skulls of a band of '80s hooligan punks to sink his rotten teeth into. Looking more like some kind of lavatory skeleton, Tarman's a bona fide zombie in name, rank and number – all of which were printed on the septic tank he arrived in. Lovely.

Gay zombies, musical zombies, and celebrity zombies after the jump...

4. Davina McCall in Dead Set (2008)

Davina, you're live on Channel 4, please don't... rip the housemates' faces off

I’m not entirely sure how famous Davina McCall is elsewhere in the world, but she’s pretty darn famous in the UK. So when Charlie Brooker (I’m not entirely sure how famous...) decided to marry TV’s Big Brother with Dawn of the Dead, and keep it true to both, he of course had to cast Ms. McCall: the face, voice and hair of Big Bro. Davina was game for gameshow gore – she jumped right into it, ghoulish make-up and all. Those that have seen the three-part TV zombie series Dead Set will know that it was no light entertainment reality telly. It was wall-to-wall housemate carnage: a settee satire with garden-based grue. Never has Davina’s catchphrase “You have been evicted – I’m coming to get you!” been so apt.

5. & 6."Jay Leno" & "Burt Reynolds" in Dawn of the Dead (2004)

Jay and Silent Burt stare back

Because when this exploding-head double act cropped up in the crosshairs in Zack Snyder’s yes-it-is-still-pretty-good remake of Dawn of the Dead, it was a hoot. They're on the list purely for reasons politically incorrect, more than a little bit wrong, but funny as all hell. The inclusion of Zombie Jay and Zombie Burt was surely Snyder's hearty nod to the fashions and facial hair of the Romero’s original sequel's setting as well as a sly comment on our celebrity-obsessed society: we see celebs everywhere! So let's shoot them! Ah, pity the poor, anonymous rambling shoppers simply going about their own undead business who just happened to resemble popular icons. Shoot ‘em in the head! They did.

Otto was more of an anarchic mission statement of intent than a fully worked through feature film. But then that’s always the way with filthy provocateur Bruce LaBruce. If he’s not flashing quasi-political slogans at us, he’s giving us a bit of man-on-man. In this he went for some undead man-on-undead man. Re-animated gay hipster corpse Otto (Jey Crisfar) blunders through an arty backdrop whilst random rebellious and subversive stuff happens around him. I mainly liked seeing Otto blankly chow down on road kill (left).

And just like buses, you wait for one gay zombie movie directed by Bruce LaBruce to come along and two arrive at once: his controversial L.A. Zombie, which is about – and I’m hazarding a wild guess here – a zombie in L.A., is due soon. Rejoice. Then rebel.

8. Mary in Shaun of the Dead (2004)

Mary (Nicola Cunningham), we spied you briefly on the supermarket checkout at the start of Shaun of the Dead (2004). But we’d of course forgotten about you by the time you came stumbling into Simon Pegg and Nick Frost’s garden. Sneaky Mary. Poor Mary. Proud Mary keep on gurning. We know you weren’t “sooo drunk”. You were simply a pulse-denier like the rest of Greater London. Not that we could tell any difference between you on the checkout counter and you at the point where you got speared through your midriff on the base fixture of a rotary washing line. Oh, Mary. You had such a good photo face as well. And Mary? You’ve got red on you.

9. Michael Jackson in Thriller (1983)

This one doesn’t need much pre-amble. He was ushered in by the smooth and assured voice of Vincent Price for his 1983 benchmark music video. He danced his undead dance, backed by decomposing body-poppers, and clapped and shuffled to the top of the charts. MJ routinely got props for the video but lesser kudos for embracing zombie lore at a time, unlike now, when it wasn’t exactly plastered all over the media. I’ve never been a Jacko fan, but this is my very favourite thing he put his talents to. But John Landis and special effects wiz Rick Baker (and his team) get my share of the Thriller praise.

10. Anyone and Everyone Who’s Ever Had a Small Role as a Zombie in a George A. Romero Film.

Because the night... belongs to zombies

You lot are the luckiest moulding death sacks on legs to have ever groaned and moaned your way through a movie. If you’ve ever been a Romero zombie – big or small, young or old, freshly dispatched or long in the grave – you know what it really feels like to be a true movie zombie. From the old gormless guy (S. William Hinzman) stomping the graveyard and coming to get Barbara in Night of the Living Dead (1968), to the horseback zombie lady (Kathleen Munroe) endlessly galloping the island in Survival of the Dead (2009), every human being gracelessly converted into a braindead walker gets the last, but never the least, place in this ten. For any extras or out-of-work actors getting their parts bit in a Rom-zom bit-part, corpsing for George is the highest zombie-honour of all. Every one of you have my praise. And my eternal envy: I’d give my right arm for a split-second walk-on in a Romero zombie flick, even if you'd prefer my brains.

In an off blog e-mail correspondence earlier this week, one of my fellow movie bloggers said to me "The best thing about this year's Best Actress race is that Streep isn't in it." That's funny. It's true that her ubiquity can be exhausting. It must especially feel like a relief for other Tinseltown goddesses in those rare years when she isn't in play. More room for them. But since Streep at 60, a web series we started over a year ago, needs to wrap up, let's discuss her final (to date) nominations.

"Streep @ 60" Previous Nominations Discussed
78, 79, 81, 82, 83,
85, 87, 88, 90, 95, 98, 99, 02 and 06

In the past two years Streep put yet more distance between herself and her nearest competitors. Her two closest Oscar rivals, Bette Davis and Katharine Hepburn, are long gone from planet earth. Streep's similarly aged / Oscar friendly peers (Lange, Close, Weaver, Sarandon, Spacek & Field) have faded from the movie spotlight, comparatively speaking, robbing them of Meryl's abundant Oscar-tallying opportunities.

We suspect Streep's "most nominated" record will stand forever unless, and it's a longshot, Kate Winslet's career (she's only 35) has similar curves, reinventions and renewals: When Streep was 35 (circa Falling in Love) she had collected 5 nominations and 2 wins; Winslet has collected 6 Oscar nominations and 1 win.

  • Anne Hathaway, Rachel Getting Married *Nathaniel's vote*
  • Angelina Jolie, Changeling
  • Melissa Leo, Frozen River *Nathaniel's second choice*
  • Meryl Streep, Doubt
  • Kate Winslet, The Reader
Other women for context
Probably Came Close: Sally Hawkins (Happy Go Lucky) and Kristin Scott Thomas (I've Loved You So Long); Traction Trouble: Emma Thompson (Last Chance Harvey) and Cate Blanchett (The Curious Case of Benjamin Button)... I suspect they just needed a break with the latter since they loved the film; Low Impact: Nicole Kidman (Australia -just discussed), Keira Knightley (The Duchess); Box Office Queens: Meryl Streep (Mamma Mia!), Kristen Stewart (Twilight), Sarah Jessica Parker (Sex & the City) and Reese Witherspoon (Four Christmases)

  • Sandra Bullock, The Blind Side
  • Helen Mirren, The Last Station
  • Carey Mulligan, An Education *Nathaniel's second choice*
  • Gabourey Sidibe, Precious: Based on the Novel Push by Sapphire *Nathaniel's vote*
  • Meryl Streep, Julie & Julia
Other women for context
Probably Came Close: Emily Blunt (The Young Victoria) and Saoirse Ronan (The Lovely Bones); Traction Troubles: Abbie Cornish (Bright Star) and Tilda Swinton (Julia); Low Impact: Julia Roberts (Duplicity), Hilary Swank (Amelia); Box Office Queens: Sandra Bullock (The Proposal) and Meryl Streep (It's Complicated) a rare case of the main Oscar rivals also being big bank in separate films within the same year.


IMPORTANT NOTE: These last two years of the Best Actress category have been very polarizing battles with the winners beloved & loathed in seemingly equal measure. Let's NOT discuss those divisive wins again but the fields in general. Stay Positive. It'll allow new discussions to unfold.

Answer me these questions, four
  1. Which performance has grown on you?
  2. Who do you think landed in the dread six-spot in both years?
  3. Concerning the newbies (Mulligan, Sidibe, Hathaway, Leo, Bullock)... which do you think will return to the race and how soon/often? [Keep in mind that most don't. Approximately 67% of acting nominees are never recognized with a second nomination.]
  4. Meryl Streep's Julia Child offers to cook you dinner. But only if you eat it at the table with Sister Aloysius icily judging you with every bite, chew and shallow. Do you accept the offer?

What if "Australia" Had Ended Here?

Posted by julian On 5:55 PM 0 comments
On this very day in 1939, Australia's Northern Standard incorrectly assumed that The Lady Ashley (Nicole Kidman) and her Drover (Hugh Jackman) had both perished in the Kuraman Desert!

Newspapers. They've always had it rough; The second you publish something it's ancient history.

Just as soon as this news was making the rounds the lady and her cattle driving man, rode into town in a cloud of triumphant dust and defeated their main rival. They won! Celebratoryparties, long delayed lovemaking and a return to the now thriving Faraway Downs followed.  After a short orgiastic montage of Australia's natural beauty (the country's and the movie's), the epic movie ends with a speech by the young narrator Nullah (Brandon Walters)
Just like Drover say 'that rain make everything come alive.' The land it grow green and fat and we all go back to Faraway Downs. Mrs Boss happy. Drover Happy. 

I hear for the first time that thing called Christmas. Then the rain, it stops. And then Drover, he go droving. The Mrs Boss, she always misses Drover. But I know, he's going to come back.

How perfect are these golden shots as closing romantic images?

Only there's no closing. The epic movie didn't end there, not on October 29th (and the cattle drive was already quite a movie) or with Nullah's first Christmas. Or even after the Drover went a-drovin' again, an amusingly brief montage which consists only of this leaving and returning, beautifully illustrating a family falling into its future pattern.

But there's a lot more adventure, World War II adventure, coming. There's roughly sixty more minutes of it. I've often thought that had Australia wrapped up with that three shot shown above and this clear romantic narrative about the formation of a family (after one hour and forty-three minutes of a rousing western adventure), the critics and audiences might have been kinder. Wasn't Australia's main sin only that it was desperately overstuffed, that it didn't trust that one adventure, one tone, or one lead character arc was enough and it had to pack in at least a few of everything? Sometimes less is more, even for gorgeous sun-kissed epic that aspire to the mythic.

Australia came out two years ago and though two years isn't a long time, you rarely hear people discuss this one anymore. Have any of you watched it recently? If you haven't seen it since its premiere, what is your most vivid memory of it?

With screeners arriving and campaign parties starting, awards season is raring to go. The Oscar FYC ad pictured below, the first of the season, arrived today in my mailbox from the delightful Guy Lodge with the completely sensible command "Stop. This. Now." As many of you know, I loathe Tim Burton's Mia in Uglyland but I'm not dumb enough to think that it doesn't have a shot at a handful of Oscar nominations. Money, and hundreds of millions of bags worth of it -- each much larger than the Red Queen's oversized noggin -- goes a long way towards warming industry hearts.

The ad starts with the Claudia Puig USA Today quote "The movie should come with a note marked 'Watch me' for its extravagance of whimsy and wonder." and proceeds to list the names of 28 awards hopefuls (some of whom are very talented indeed... but... 'stop. this. now.' indeed)

There are so many things to be concerned with on this page, not least of which is how many optometrist appointments Ms. Puig seems to have cancelled recently.

[more bitching after jump]

Guy notes that you know this is going to end with Johnny Depp getting at least a Comedy Globe nod and my heart died a little from this astute prophesy. See, I love Mr Depp. I thought he absolutely deserved the Oscar for his rich and instantly iconic comic creation in The Pirates of the Caribbean: The Curse of the Black Pearl (2003). Just a couple of weeks back I was caught up in some Edward Scissorhands again and admiring the invention and, this is an important note, sublime simplicity of that early performance.

But Depp, like his preferred auteur Burton, seems to have lost his knack for self-editing. I'm thinking of self-editing because the finale of Project Runway just aired [SPOILER] and self-regarding crunchy bohemian amazon Gretchen won the contest over richly inventive diminutive pattern-freak Mondo. The judges dinged Mondo for his lack of self-editing skills. While I thought Mondo deserved the win (like Burton, he's a uniquely creative fellow), I can't say that they weren't entirely off the mark in this one criticism. Did the clothes really need those pattern ball hats and other accessories... which read cutesy and pulled attention to themselves and their color and pattern repetitions rather than allowing you to just enjoy the great already busy clothes?

Now, one can easily claim that a movie blogger such as myself, examining my own cinematic brain vomit like tea leaves each day of the year, has no business bitching about anyone's lack of self-editing.... and to this I'd say touché but also: different field, different purpose, different budget (none), different cost (free), different team (i.e. none to talk you out of your worst impulses or help you shape your best ones with their own creative expertise)

Anyway... it wouldn't hurt Burton at all to be asked to deliver something on a tiny budget with a team who isn't completely enamored of / dependent on his brand. There needs to be someone to say "Um, that's a lot of garishness in one scene, let's pare down!" or "I get where you're going with this... how about we try it this way which accomplishes the same thing but is less fussy/muddy/ornamental!"

Edward Scissorhands (1990) still looks sensational twenty-years later. For a film which collects avon ladies, gothic castles, daytime talk shows, elaborate hideous hairdos, ice sculptures, scissor handed simpletons, christmas parties, and crazy ass topiary the size of two-story buildings under one broken drafty roof, it's remarkably uncluttered. It's suffused with whimsy and wonder. Someone should deliver it to Mr. Burton and Mr. Depp's offices with a note marked "Watch me." 

Kiss The Girl, Win an Oscar?

Posted by julian On 9:19 AM 0 comments
random Oscar thought of the day 

If the Best Actress race really narrows down to The Bening (The Kids Are All Right) vs. Natalie Portman (Black Swan) than we have a seriously sapphic situation going on this year.

"♪ I Kissed a Girl just to try it, I know Oscar won't mind it. ♫ "

Hey, it worked last year for the ladies in this category.

P.S. Does this mean that The Oscars are basically like frat parties with a stricter dress code? Maybe they will love The Social Network as much as critics do.
Annette Bening Meryl Streep Sandra Bullock


Posted by julian On 7:20 AM 0 comments
An endless series of links. I don't know what's wrong with me. I'm seriously going to go cold turkey. But let's start with "Boba Fett's Invoice" designed by Brock Davis because it's just making me giggle. [Discovered via]

Self Styled Siren great piece on being drawn to older movies and why it's incorrect to reductively label that "nostalgia."
Guardian Snarky (but funny) "Can Nicole Kidman pull an Oscar out of a Rabbit Hole?"
Serious Film writes up five overlooked horror film scenes worth remembering. Zoinks I love that moment in The Host.
OMG Blog absolutely destroys the new D&G / Matthew McConaughey advertisement. Ha.
TOH the European Film Academy nominates three documentaries for its Prix Arte prize. One of those is the Finnish Oscar submission "Steam of Life"
In Contention Guy Lodge thinks Sofia Coppola's Somewhere is a familial beauty, more than a Hollywood retread.
CHUD "Hollywood Needs a Handjob" Aubrey Plaza (who is hilarious) and an unproduced screenplay causing some buzz

/Film Noomi Rapace top choice for Alien prequel. I think this is SUCH a terrible idea (I don't think you cast a tough older-reading brunette to compete with memories of the tough older-reading brunette. I think, if you're smart, you try to carve out a new identity for the franchise to breathe new life into it. Sigourney Weaver cannot be replaced.
All Things Fangirl has an AMAZING idea for a Halloween costume although I wouldn't call it a "last minute costume" as she does. Seems like the prep work would be intense but it's still a great idea.
The Big Picture doesn't like the idea of James Cameron 'reducing himself' to a sequel maker (via Avatar). Uhhhh... Terminator 2 and Aliens suggest that if anyone in Hollywood should waste their time with sequels, it's Jimmy C.
24 Frames Avatar 2 arriving in less than three years. Yeah, right. I'll believe that when I see it. Why does everyone believe these things just because filmmakers say them? I'm guessing 2016... or ...never.
Scanners fine piece on Mad Men in case you've been missing it "The Ladies and the Boxes"
Flick Filosopher has a new series called "The Female Gaze" and her latest subject to ogle is Rupert Graves. Having once worked worked on a not published article about him, I can assure you that she is correct that there aren't many great photos of him online. This dearth of images happened to a lot of 80s and 90s beauties. I blame it on their chronological positioning between "classic thus nostalgic i.e. 70s and earlier" and "became hot after the internet was hi-res image friendly i.e. late 90s and the Aughts"

Finally, if you don't mind a little corporate ranting, I must complain about Dannon's "Cups of Hope." I start each morning with a cup of Activia yogurt. I had no choice. "The power of Curtis compels you!"  Yes, celebrity endorsements do work on we, the feeble minded. I was having a cup each morning for awhile before I realized that I actually had to enter codes on line to donate to the breast cancer charity I saw on the package. See, I had seen the advertisement on the package and I'm all, 'I'm a good person. I'm maintaining Jamie Lee Curtis's lifetstyle AND I'm donating money to women's health." Only to find out I wasn't! Many dimes I spent were not forked over to this charity. Now, I don't object to going online to enter codes per se if it's something for myself like a sweepstakes; if we want to be greedy, we should have to do a little work. But in this case, I highly doubt anyone is doing it even though they would be happy to see some of the proceeds go to charity. Consider that you have to remember to lick off the yogurt from the seal once you open each cannister (that'd be gross except you are meant to eat the yogurt so whatever). But then you have to hold up the messy seal  to read the code and then type it in online in order for this 10¢ to be donated. If you're not already logged into the computer while spooning out your yogurt are you really going to do this? And what if your fingers touch the yogurt on the seal while you're typing? And worse yet: if you have an overdeveloped sense of guilt, like uh, my friend, you're going to have to find a way to save up the gooey lids until you remember to enter all the codes once a week or something. YUCK. Just give 10¢ for every yogurt sold to charity, Dannon. Don't be misleading and cheap!

LFF 2010: Zero Hours Remain

Posted by julian On 10:00 PM 0 comments
David from Victim of the Time with one last report from the 54th BFI London Film Festival.

Craig gave you a packed wrap-up earlier today, but I couldn't let you go without getting in another word myself. I caught near to 50 films during the past month (give or take a couple I, er, nodded off during), and I'm happy to say there were an abundance of highs and a general lack of lows - maybe I just chose well, or maybe the programmers did. My standout film remains Kelly Reichardt's menacing Meek's Cutoff (review), while the festival practically brimmed over with stunning female performances, from Michelle Williams' two-hander in Meek's and Blue Valentine (capsule), to Jeong-hee Lee's damaged optimism in Poetry (Nat's review), to Lesley Manville's jittering sorrow in Another Year (capsule). Huge thanks to Nathaniel for hosting Craig and I, huge thanks to the festival for putting on such a great show, and huge thanks to you for reading.

For my final post, let's stick with the positivity, since the year's closing film proved a surprising package from a director I usually dislike...

127 Hours may give you a headache, but Aron Rolston had to hack his arm off, so maybe you I should stop complaining. Danny Boyle rather pre-empts the inevitable intensity of witnessing someone detach their arm with a blunt penknife by assaulting your senses from the very first moment; it’s all split screens, fast edits, impossible pans from inside kitchen units, close ups of taps dripping, and so forth. This is all rather disorientating and it barely lets up, but the film is enclosed in some vague, meaningless allusion to the speed of modern life with shots of commuters that resemble Koyaanisqatsi, and so the headrush of Boyle’s direction is a very straightforward interpretation of living in Rolston’s world. Once he gets trapped in the crevice, these stylisations barrage instead into his mind, continually taking us on flights of delirious imagination and memory.

Trapped in a limited space, this approach cracks open the film to a freewheeling, if no less intense than you’d expect, experience. The ‘realer’ scenes are kept vital by a dynamic use of sound to express the physicality of the situation. 127 Hours is a rather aggressive experience, but even if the schizophrenia of the visuals makes you put your head between your legs, the generous sense of irony and humour the script exudes, and that the playful James Franco expresses so engagingly, keep the film alive. Though maybe cover your eyes when he removes his contacts. (B+)

Coming-of-age dramas are ten-a-penny, yet the festival threw up a fair share of superbly imagined gems of that specificity. South Africa’s Oscar entrant this year is Life, Above All, where the adolescent Chanda deals with a useless, drunk stepfather, an ill mother, a rebellious friend and the judgmental gazes of her entire neighbourhood. Khomotso Manyaka is a vibrant, perceptive anchor for the film, never characterising Chanda either as burdened by or martyring herself, and importantly maintaining a sense of innocence and childlike fun in her gait and attitude. The script’s heavy emphasis on social judgment is intriguingly endorsed by the intensity of the style in these sequences, hammering home the point to such an extent that it takes on an extra layer of the camera’s judgment; it doesn’t merely observe, but judges the judgers. But specially, Life, Above All is a nuanced, powerful and engaging drama that eschews the ‘poverty porn’ that most African exports seem to engage in, without severing itself from the depiction of the nationhood that inspired that stunted idea in the first place. (A-)

More literally coming of age is Anna (Clara Augarde), centre of Katell Quillevere’s intriguing Love Like Poison. It initially seems set up as a reticent period story, in the 1.33 aspect ratio and dangerously cosy country settings. Very rapidly, though, we see that this is a modern story, with a handily unjudgmental and open attitude. Familial dynamics are skewed – Anna’s mother ashamedly confesses to being jealous of her daughter’s burgeoning sexuality; and Anna reveals herself to two very different males with markedly different intentions – and their tangle with the essence of religion is a set of thematics dealt with by the script on an unpredictable, deeply complex level. More essentially, Quillevere’s film has an innate sense of what the realisation of sexuality is like, and the repercussions it has on the people closest to Anna prove amusing, surprising, depressing, and memorable. (B+)

Michael C. here from Serious Film for another episode of Unsung Heroes. With Halloween fast approaching I thought now would be a great time to shine the spotlight on my pick for the best horror movie of the last decade.

I was researching Neil Marshall's The Descent for a post I was writing about horror movies when I was surprised to stumble upon this trivia item:
No real caves appear anywhere in the film.
Goes to show that it's easy to be guilty of the same behavior we so often criticize awards groups for displaying, namely, having a narrow idea of what greatness in a particular field looks like. Despite being a huge fan of the movie, until that moment the brilliance of Simon Bowles' production design for The Descent had not occurred to me.

Of course, if you think about it for two seconds you realize they're sets. Real caves wouldn't be safe, would be impossible to light, would not match the needs of the plot, and would most likely look boring on camera. But Bowles' work is so convincing you don't pause to think about it. All you can focus on is the horrible trouble these women have gotten themselves into.

Horror films live or die on atmosphere. Studios can produce successful comedies that are indifferently filmed, but not horror movies. If The Descent ever gave the impression, even subliminally, that the actresses were actually filming safely on a soundstage somewhere, the suspense would vanish instantly. As it stands the feel of the film is so strong that it's easy to forget it's a horror movie at all. The cave-diving sequences are already nerve-wracking enough. When the horror elements do kick in it is so well grounded in reality that the terror increases exponentially. It's like 127 Hours if James Franco were attacked by monsters halfway through.

Like Buffalo Bill's basement in The Silence of the Lambs or the Overlook Hotel in The ShiningThe Descent's caves are destined to be one of those touchstones of the horror genre. One wouldn't think something as dull as caves could be made so interesting, but I can vividly recall the various twists and forms the tunnels took as the women descended deeper and deeper into the Earth. From the putrid nest of the creatures to the chasm the women attempt to cross via the cave ceiling; from the huge, yawing entrance to the claustrophobia-inducing tunnel where poor Alex Reid gets stuck, every stage of the journey has its own distinct personality. Not bad considering roughly half the screen is pitch black most of the time.

The theme of this series is shaping up to be the showy versus the subtle. It's already come up with costume design and special effects. The design of this movie is another example of work that does the job without calling attention to itself and has therefore gone overlooked. So here's to the production design of Simon Bowles along with the art direction of Jason Knox-Johnson. Considering how much junk horror clogs the multiplexes, their contributions to one of the few truly effective horror films of the last decade should not go unrecognized.

Lunk. Subgenius. Monster.

Posted by julian On 3:35 PM 0 comments

awwww, poor Frankenstein Monster. Always so pathetically lonely. Hit refresh ya big lug! I'm sure someone will cozy up. If you're lucky she'll have a huge skunk inspired beehive. [Note: This illustration is brought to you from the wonderful imagination of Mr Hipp.... click over and see other illustrated wonders.]

Captain America's Mighty Shield Pecs

Posted by julian On 2:29 PM 0 comments
Behold: Chris Evans as Steve Rogers (aka Captain America), post-serum obviously.

Captain America: The First Avenger

In all seriousness now, I have to ask: How they gonna make him look scrawny and unfit before he drinks the drink that transforms him into a super soldier?  If you would like to reread this post for several minutes  (no one will blame you) here's a little musical accompaniment.

 Read my weekly column @ Towleroad...
for a little more Chris Evans, some Cary Elwes, Ryan Kwanten, and the wonderful Stephen Merritt of Magnetic Fields fame.
Captain America: The First Avenger

Craig here from Dark Eye Socket with my LFF wrap-up.

As of tonight the BFI London Film Festival is done for another year. It's been a stellar year all told, if the surplus of reports are to be believed. And I'd willingly add a further approving nod to the list. I didn't manage to see everything I wanted (juggling festival times and dates with travel arrangements is an art – one that's open to fateful intervention...and multiple tube delays), but what I saw was on the whole a bumper crop. Roll on next year, I say. Here are five previous reviews, selected from the films I saw:  Uncle Boonmee, A Screaming Man, Winter Vacation, Rare Exports and What I Love the Most. And below are five final mini reviews of a few festival highlights.

Thomas Vinterberg introduced his new film, Submarino, in a cheeky fashion: “if all goes well, you’ll be depressed at the end of the film. Enjoy yourselves!” It was no happy time sure, but it was an enthralling film, despite its determinedly grim subject matter. It follows two brothers’ hard, poverty-stricken lives in contemporary Copenhagen; a family tragedy as kids has left them scarred and emotionally unable to cope with adult existence. Hope is hard to grasp, but not too far away; redemption comes at a cost but may just stop dead the cycle of despair plaguing one or both of the brothers. The characters' direness isn’t forced or over baked and sympathy is well-earned. Lead actors Jakob Cedergren and Peter Plaugborg are excellent as, respectively, the older and younger siblings. Vinterberg’s humanistic approach is thoroughly rewarding and the tautness of the script ensures we become embroiled in the brothers’ plights. It’s strangely an easy film to like, but not always pleasant to watch. B-


Abel, the second directorial effort by actor Diego Luna, was a complete contrast to Submarino (I saw them consecutively). The story of a boy, the titular Abel, who returns home from a stay at a psychiatric hospital to resume living with his mother and siblings – only to assume the role of patriarch of the house, brought on by his father’s disappearance years earlier. The family go along with the ruse in the hope that it aids the boy’s recovery. It’s an amusing, sweet-natured look at how families are truly peculiar to themselves more so than to others. It also questions the role of the father in modern Mexican life and makes more than a few choice and aptly conveyed criticisms of male-dominated hierarchies.

Though it plays all this with pleasant abandon, Luna handles the few slightly troubling darker moments with able care. If the ending seemed a bit easily arrived at, it was made up for by the wonderful photography and easygoing performances, not least a cracking turn by young Christopher Ruiz-Esparza as Abel. C


Two excellent documentaries at the LFF this year were, for my money, two of the fest's best. The first, Journey’s End (La Belle visite) from French-Canadian director Jean-François Caissy, looks at the day-to-day lives of the residents of a Quebec retirement home for the elderly – the L'Auberge des Caps – over five seasons. Situated between a frosty ocean view and a busy Highway, the home, refurbished from an abandoned motel, is a building once made for passing visitors, but now houses folks in the later stages of their lives. Caissy unobtrusively documents random events with warm assurance: dear old gals getting their hair done, the comings and goings of deliverymen, birthday celebrations, personal prayer time and even the home’s resident dog, who frequently scarpers the vast, long corridors. All the community is shown with great thoughtfulness, and interest in their lives is duly maintained through Caissy’s sure-handed control of his material. The inherent tranquillity of it all is thrown into sharp relief by the inevitable idea of finality aroused by the title. It was a joy to spend time with these people. B

Journey's End

The second documentary to wow me was Frederick Wiseman’s Boxing Gym, now playing in US theaters. Wiseman is as much a film artist as any fiction filmmaker, and is often (rightly) held up as such alongside many a fellow documentarian (Chris Marker and the Maysles bros, for instance), especially for his no talking heads, no descriptive onscreen captions and, ultimately, no fuss approach. As ever, his mastery of the form is present and apparent. The titular gym in Austin, Texas is the focus of Wiseman’s elegant and measured gaze: its owner Richard Lord and various members – including lawyers, students, young mothers, doctors, soldiers – train, chat and generally box happily away whenever their often busy lives permit. All the while Wiseman, with his signature visual dexterity, acutely captures key moments and exchanges which reach far beyond the activity at hand to reveal insights into contemporary America. The sounds and aural rhytms of the gym are particularly notable: the noise of fast punches to speed bags, the constant buzz from the training timer chart, the white noise of friendly banter in the background. It’s a visually splendid film, too: light falling on the gym floor, frenetic, dance-like close-ups of nimble-footed boxers and still shots of the city in bright daylight all display Wiseman’s skill with crisp composition. But the telling snapshots of individual gym members resonate most. I was interested in each person’s history, the fleeting ins and outs of their lives, and could’ve happily spent many more hours with them at Lord's gym. Wiseman gets every aspect spot on. A

Boxing Gym

Finally, Sofia Coppola’s new film Somewhere was, at once, a pleasant surprise and a film seemingly set on autopilot. It’s lovely to look at but it feels rather too much like happy stasis. The first half hour is largely a series of beautifully photographed scenes simply woven together, featuring a strung-out Hollywood actor played by Stephen Dorff frittering his time away lounging with pole dancers and film world flakes in between routine appointments. That’s all well and good until he has to take charge of his estranged daughter (Elle Fanning) and attempt to emotionally re-engage with his real self.

Dazed, cool-around-the-edges drifters are common currency for Coppola, and the film doesnt tread anywhere fresh. It’s fairly easy to predict where Somewhere will end up. The film meanders nicely enough – Sofia does love those lazy days – but it loses some of its early finesse on later scenes which don’t go anywhere or say anything particularly interesting. Coppola is obviously criticising the Hollywood machine here, but she’s also clearly enamoured with it. Is she maybe too close to really have something coruscating to say. She’s a direct product of it, which makes several of her soft attacks come off as slightly too precious. It’s not ivanssxtc (though I’m actually quite glad about that), but it does effectively pinpoint some of the less glamorous actorish tasks with effective wit and clarity. (An 'old-man make-up' test sitting is both deliberately dull and languorously creepy, and my favourite moment in the whole film – it subtly speaks volumes about the sometimes tedious nature of stardom in one acute slow zoom.)


Somewhere has the most relaxed, laid back atmosphere of any film I’ve seen in 2010 so far, save for perhaps Greenberg, and is a refreshing and escapist diversion for a globe still in economic crisis (though is an indulgent tale about a privileged, self-examining A-lister quite what the world desperately needs right now?). Dorff and Fanning are very good and Harris Savides’ photography (more L.A. kinship with Greenberg) is some of the year’s best. But, to be honest, Coppola is coasting, however blissful the ride. C-

My personal top five from the LFF were: 1. Boxing Gym, 2. A Screaming Man, 3. Journey's End, 4. Submarino, 5. Our Life


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