Friday, December 28, 2007

How Does It Feel? Like 2007 Rocked

It's official. Todd Haynes's "I'm Not There" is at the top of my best films of 2007 list. Check it out.

I also reviewed the sometimes outstanding and sometimes obnoxious"Juno" and Mark Forster's increasingly ridiculous "The Kite Runner."
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Monday, December 24, 2007

Utah Film Critics Association announces year-end awards

You'll see my own best-of next week, but here's where my organization landed:

Best Picture: No Country for Old Men
Runner-up: Juno
Best Achievement in Directing: Joel and Ethan Coen, No Country for Old Men
Runner-up: Paul Thomas Anderson, There Will Be Blood
Best Lead Performance, Male: Daniel Day-Lewis, There Will Be Blood
Runner-up: Casey Affleck, The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford
Best Lead Performance, Female: Ellen Page, Juno
Runner-up: Amy Adams, Enchanted
Best Supporting Performance, Female: Amy Ryan, Gone Baby Gone
Runner-up: Cate Blanchett, I’m Not There
Best Supporting Performance, Male: Javier Bardem, No Country for Old Men
Runner-up: Hal Holbrook, Into the Wild
Best Screenplay: Joel and Ethan Coen, No Country for Old Men
Runner-up: Diablo Cody, Juno
Best Documentary Feature: The King of Kong: A Fistful of Quarters
Runner-up: My Kid Could Paint That
Best Animated Feature: Ratatouille
Runner-up: The Simpsons Movie
Best Non-English Language Feature: The Host
Runner-up: The Diving Bell and the Butterfly
Utah Film Critics Association Top 10 Films of 2007 (alphabetical):
3:10 to Yuma
The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford
No Country for Old Men
I’m Not There
Into the Wild
Knocked Up
Michael Clayton
There Will Be Blood
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Need Gifts? Need estranged sisters? Need Cox?

I've met all my holiday deadlines and fulfilled all my voting obligations, and then slept for a very long time. If you haven't seen it yet, you don't have much time to read my holiday gift guide for film snobs, part of IN's last-minute gift issue.

You should also check out my reviews of Noah Baumbach's "Margot at the Wedding," which features Nicole Kidman in one of the best performances of the year, and "Walk Hard: The Dewey Cox Story," a hilarious parody in which John C. Reilly reveals he can sing like nobody's business.

And, don't forget my column about how much motion capture sucks.
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Thursday, December 13, 2007

WTF? 12 Best Picture Nominees and No 'Knocked Up'

Judd Apatow's "Knocked Up" received exactly zero Golden Globe nominations. No nomination for its brilliant screenplay or direction. No nomination for Seth Rogen's breakout performance or Paul Rudd's endlessly surprising supporting role.

There must have been a three-way tie for fifth place in the Golden Globes' Best Picture - Drama category, as there are seven nominees: "American Gangster," "Atonement," "Eastern Promises," "The Great Debaters," "Michael Clayton," "No Country for Old Men" and "There Will Be Blood."

With all of those out of the way, you'd think there would be room for "Knocked Up." But the Best Picture - Musical or Comedy category only includes "Across the Universe," "Charlie Wilson's War," "Hairspray," "Juno" and "Sweeney Todd." Why not have six films in this category and nominate one of the funniest and most observant films of the year?

PS Casey Affleck is the lead in "The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford."
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Tuesday, December 11, 2007

AMPTP for Fake

Can you tell which of these sites is the real home of the Alliance of Motion Picture and Television Producers and which is a fake (perhaps created by WGA strikers)?

Be sure to read the FAQ.
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Monday, December 10, 2007

Awards Announced

The first set of critics awards has been coming in this weekend. The New York Film Critics Circle heavily favors the Coen Brothers' "No Country for Old Men," while the Los Angeles Film Critics Association favors Paul Thomas Anderson's "There Will Be Blood," which the New York critics honored with Best Actor and Best Cinematographer. The Boston Society of FIlm Critics also favored "No Country," and gave Best Director to LA's most popular runner-up, Julian Schnabel's "The Diving Bell and the Butterfly."

Amy Ryan took the treble with the supporting actress awards from all three organizations for "Gone Baby Gone" (LA also included her work in "Before the Devil Knows You're Dead"). Other recurring names include Marion Cotillard in "La Vie En Rose (Best Actress in Boston and LA), Persepolis (Best Animated Film in Boston and LA (tied with "Ratatouille"), "Ratatouille" (Best Animated Film in LA (tie) and Best Screenplay in Boston. Janusz Kaminski's cinematography in "The Diving Bell and the Butterfly" won top notice from Boston and LA, while Robert Elwit's work in "There Will Be Blood" was New York's top choice and LA's runner-up. Javier Bardem won Best Supporting Actor for "No Country for Old Men" in New York and Boston, but LA conspicuously snubbed the Coens' film in all categories.

New York and LA both went with Sarah Polley's "Away from Her" in their award for young filmmakers, while Boston favored Ben Affleck's impressive "Gone Baby Gone" for its new filmmaker award.

My favorites? I'm still rewatching some stuff (Utah Critics vote next week), but for the most part all these organizations picked respectable contenders.
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Saturday, December 8, 2007

Ever Launched a Format Before You Finished It?

Gizmondo has provided an excellent rundown of the current state of the HD DVD format, to compliment their state of Blu-ray Disc piece from last month.

As you may remember, I recently declared my love for HD DVD (as well as my timidity and frustration—thanks format war!) in a column. Gizmondo's enlightening rundowns only make me more confident in the future success of HD DVD. The HD DVD piece juxtaposes the slick and agreed-upon HD DVD standard with the still-in-the-air features of Blu-ray, whose various manufacturers can't agree on anything. A comparison of the user experience of the "Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix" discs is most enlightening.

"Never mind that you could watch the entire HD DVD with pop-up actor-commentary windows on screen—if Warner had implemented this in the Harry Potter Blu-ray, it would have been compatible with exactly one currently shipping Blu-ray player.

The surprising thing was, even when you compared the exact same experiences, the HD DVD behaved much better. Every so often an icon appears in the top left corner of the screen, indicating a behind-the-scenes featurette about that particular scene. On the HD DVD, you click it, watch what you want to, then click Enter again to return to the point you left off in the main movie. With the Blu-ray, the system had no way of returning you to the movie; it could only dump you in the featurette menu, where you were stuck watching more of those."

Unfortunately, we still have a long way to go in the format war, but it's clear that Blu-ray can no longer be painted as the runaway winner.

And at the current bargain prices available from retailers like, you can get an HD DVD player for similar prices to up-converting DVD players. I'm routinely impress by how well my HD-A3 plays standard-definition DVDs on my HDTV.

NOTE: The Amazon deal linked above now charges $50 more for the player and gives two fewer free discs than it did a short while ago. And it's still a good deal.
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Friday, December 7, 2007

This Compass Points in All Sorts of Directions

When viewed with the wrong attitude, all fantasy is nonsense. Elves, witches, wizards—these things don't exist in real life, and certain people refuse to accept them as fictional constructs as well. These certain people I speak of are rubes, churls, killjoys. So why did writer/director Chris Weitz feel the need to give them "The Golden Compass?" The film lets them sit back and smirk—the film makes their argument for them.

While I'm unfamiliar with Philip Pullman's popular and controversial source novel, there's no denying that the resulting film adaptation is pure nonsense—nonsense posing as repetitive exposition, nonsense disguised as bad computer animation, nonsense as the basis for a cursory plot. The movie takes place in a parallel universe, see, and the worlds are connected through dust. I'd be happy to leave it at that, but the characters are obsessed with it. They want to kill the dust or love the dust or moisten the dust, depending on their outlook and circumstances.

I didn't care about the dust, I just wanted to know what the people in the story felt and what they were trying to accomplish. It's apparent enough that young Lyra (Dakota Blue Richards) is simultaneously running from Miss Coulter (Nicole Kidman), and trying to rescue her friend Roger (Ben Walker), whom Miss Coulter kidnapped. But why exactly is Miss Coulter kidnapping children all the time? To stop the dust, of course.

Miss Coulter is part of the Magesterium, a government organizations who believes they can do whatever they want, but that everyone else shouldn't be afforded the same right. That's all well and good, but the film rushes through the story so quickly that we don't really feel any impact of the oppression. Even the kidnapping is glossed over.

In story's universe, souls are on the outside of bodies instead of the inside. They take the form of poorly computer-animated animals called daemons who have an uncanny knack for stating the obvious. For example, if I lived in this universe and some thugs jumped me in an alleyway, stabbed me, and stole my money, my little chipmunk daemon might declare, "Psst. Hey Jeremy—those people weren't very nice! They stabbed you and stole your money. Also, we're in an alleyway. They jumped you. They looked like thugs to me."

Lyra's shape-shifting daemon, Pan (voiced by Freddie Highmore), excels in this exercise. When Lyra tries to infiltrate an evil lair, he lets his human counterpart know that she shouldn't use her real name. When a character says something that Lyra and the audience know to be untrue, he pipes in, "Liar!"

To aid her in her voyage, Lyra meets a group of anti-Magisterium sea folks, an aeronaut named Lee (Sam Elliot) and a drunken polar bear named Lorek (voiced by Ian McKellen). The quality of Lorek's CG animation almost equals that of the Coca Cola bear. Polar bears don't have daemons, they have armor. When Lyra meets Lorek, he doesn't have his armor because the townsfolk stole it.

Luckily, Lyra has the only golden compass in the world, and is the only person who can read it. She asks it a question, the compass answers by pointing at a bunch of symbols. Turns out her ability to read it fulfills a prophesy or something—whatever, let's keep the plot moving. Where is the armor? Ih the town's most heavily guarded building—what a surprise. With a remarkable disregard for character explanation or storytelling, the film rushes through the motions of Lorek's transformation with the disinterest of a grade schooler writing a report on Andrew Jackson.

The film treats all its developments with the same slap-dash lack of wonder. Eva Green appears twice as a witch who, I'm told, wore very little clothes in the book. In the movie, we don't see enough of her, in both senses of the phrase. It's too bad, as Green's saucy persona might have brought a bit of liveliness to the sterile proceedings. And when a story like this is told without passion, it turns out looking like a bunch of nonsense.
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Sundance Selections, Snubbed Oscar Docs, Women in Film, etc.

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Thursday, October 25, 2007

Lame Movie Theater Entertainment, Some Movies That Aren't Lame

My column covers the latest pre-movie entertainment at the old Megaplex theater chain.

And I also reviewed these movies:

"Into the Wild" ***1/2

"Lars and the Real Girl" ***

"Dan in Real Life" ***
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Sunday, October 14, 2007

A Bit of Time in Chicago

So I ended up in Chicago last weekend, saw a few movies about its International Film Festival and wrote my column about it.
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Thursday, October 4, 2007

Not Quite Dead

Well, I'm finally feeling much better than I was, having overcome the worst part of mononucleosis, which I've had for the past couple months. There are many interesting movies and other items from the dead-air interval that I hope to discuss, but let's start with the columns and reviews I managed to file during my illness. In general, the writing process was similar to my usual method. I passed out, my head on the keyboard, and ran a word count when I woke up. If the article wasn't long enough yet, I passed out again.


Wilder's "Ace in the Hole" makes it to DVD at long last

Digital not there yet

Summer recap

Kenneth Branaugh's "Hamlet" makes it to DVD [NOTE: The headline claim of the DVD matching the film's native "resolution" is incorrect—70-mm film his much higher res.]

Get thee to a DVD release!"

The Iraq movies of the prestige season

Summer movies not about Iraq

An airline movie bill? Please let it prevent airlines from showing movies!

Apatow and Rogen continue their roll with "Superbad"

"Becoming Jane": Kinda like a Jane Austen novel, but boring

Frank Oz delivers a harmless but less-than-hilarious farce in "Death at a Funeral"

"No End in Sight" an engaging modern history lesson.

James Mangold helms a traditional western with great performances in "3:10 to Yuma"

"In the Vally of Elah" Features a great performance and a forced third act

"Feast of Love" sucks

So does "The Game Plan"
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Thursday, August 16, 2007

What Dylan Sounds Like On Film

It is now possible to imagine what it might sound like to watch Todd Haynes's highly anticipated Bob Dylan biopic, "I'm Not There." Vinyl Fever leaked the list, an the tireless folks at The Playlist continue to put the pieces together.

Artists include Sufjan Stevens, Glen Hansard & Markta Irglov of "Once" fame, Tom Verlaine, Sonic Youth, Antony and the Johnsons, Jeff Tweedy of Wilco, Yo La Tengo, Stephen Malkmus and Dylan himself. The 34-track soundtrack, however, does not include "Visions of Johanna" in any form, giving me cause to question whether Haynes does, in fact, know what he's doing.

The two house-bands seem to be Calexico and "The Million Dollar Bashers, which The Playlist says consists of Sonic Youth's Lee Ranaldo and drummer Steve Shelley, Dylan bass player Tony Garnier, keyboardist John Medeski, Tom Verlaine and guitarists Smokey Hormel (Beck, Smokey & Miho) and Nels Cline (Wilco).

The full list:

All Along The Watchtower --Eddie Vedder & The Million Dollar Bashers
As I Went Out One Morning--Mira Billotte
Ballad Of A Thin Man--Stephen Malkmus & The Million Dollar Bashers
Billy--Los Lobos
Can You Please Crawl Out Your Window--The Hold Steady
Can't Leave Her Behind--Stephen Malkmus & Lee Ranaldo
Cold Irons Bound--Tom Verlaine & The Million Dollar Bashers
Dark Eyes--Iron & Wine & Calexico
Fourth Time Around--Yo La Tengo
Goin' To Acapulco--Jim James & Calexico
Highway 61 Revisited--Karen O & The Million Dollar Bashers
I Wanna Be Your Lover--Yo La Tengo
I'm Not There--Bob Dylan
I'm Not There--Sonic Youth
Just Like A Woman--Charlotte Gainsbourg & Calexico
Just Like Tom Thumb's Blues--Ramblin' Jack Elliot
Knockin' On Heaven's Door--Antony & The Johnsons
The Lonesome Death Of Hattie Carroll--Mason Jennings
Maggie's Farm--Stephen Malkmus & The Million Dollar Bashers
Mama You've Been On My Mind--Jack Johnson
The Man In The Long Black Coat--Mark Lanegan
Moonshiner--Bob Forrest
One More Cup Of Coffee--Roger McGuinn & Calexico
Pressing On--John Doe
Ring Them Bells--Sufjan Stevens
Señor (Tales Of Yankee Power)--Willie Nelson & Calexico
Simple Twist Of Fate--Jeff Tweedy
Stuck Inside Of Mobile With Memphis Blues Again--Cat Power
The Times They Are A Changin'--Mason Jennings
Tombstone Blues--Richie Havens
When The Ship Comes In--Marcus Carl Franklin
Wicked Messenger--The Black Keys
You Ain't Goin 'Nowhere--Glen Hansard & Markta Irglov
"I Dreamed I Saw St. Augustine" - John Doe (X)

(via Shawn Levy)
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Wednesday, August 15, 2007

Advice from Ed Harris

In his recent Q&A with The Guardian, actor/director Ed Harris lays down a series of blunt answers that reveal his humor, hangups and bitterness. In regards to his new movie, it's mostly bitterness:

What has been your biggest disappointment?

The distribution of Copying Beethoven in the US.


What is the most important lesson life has taught you?

Don't let MGM distribute a film you care about.

Also find out the answer to "How often do you have sex?"
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Bergman: The Most Theatrical Hack to Ever Change the Face of Cinema

While I've managed to get most of my writing jobs done on time, illness has prevented me from fulfilling my blogging duties, which undeniably involve diving into such sticky conversations as whether or not Ingmar Bergman is a great film artist. I also still need to contribute to the Antonioni discussion. Since Bergman isn't among the 30 directors about whom I'm most knowledgable, I wouldn't have nominated myself to defend him so verbosely against a piece published in the newspaper of record. But I haven't found any other articles that say what I want for me. So here I go…

The question of whether Ingmar Bergman was in fact a great film artist is one that should undeniably be discussed in the wake of his death. But the discussion thus far has been disappointing, starting with Jonatham Rosenbaum's piece for the New York Times, "Scenes From an Overrated Career," an uncharacteristically presumptuous argument which is almost as smug as its headline. Many of the responses that I read (perhaps I missed the best ones) were equally out of touch with where the real discussion of Bergman's worth lies. While the debate should certainly be going on, it should exist with honesty and actual analyses from both sides.

The premise of Rosenbaum's article is that although Bergman seduced audiences in the 1950s, '60s and '70s with his talent to entertain and ably direct Sweden's supply of hot blonde actresses, he didn't do anything interesting to change the face of cinema. In fact, perhaps his talents were (cue sinister music)…purely related to the theater!

"The stylistic departures I saw in Mr. Bergman’s ’50s and ’60s features — the silent-movie pastiche in “Sawdust and Tinsel,” the punitive use of magic against a doctor-villain in “The Magician,” the aggressive avant-garde prologue of “Persona” — were actually more functions of his skill and experience as a theater director than a desire or capacity to change the language of cinema in order to say something new. If the French New Wave addressed a new contemporary world, Mr. Bergman’s talent was mainly devoted to preserving and perpetuating an old one.

Anyone who's been to film school immediately recognizes the quiet dagger that is the condescending classification of a film or filmmaker as theatrical. (I recently used this infallible critique when I called "The Producers" a giant-budgeted documentary of the stage musical.) It's the equivalent of me setting myself above Rosenbaum by calling his piece "smug" in the first paragraph of my counter-argument. WIthout any elaboration or explanations, he establishes that Bergman didn't do anything new. He was just stuck in the past, practically setting his camera up in the auditorium and shooting the actors a stage. It's as primitive as "L'arroseur arrosé." In fact, Bergman had a different world view and set of goals from the French New Wavers, but that doesn't make his work any harder or easier to discount.

Rosenbaum is willing to declare Bergman a genius of the theater without ever seeing one of his productions, so long as it equates to a cinematic dis. Even when he did something challenging and experimental, like "Persona" (which apparently only experiments with form during its prologue), he only did so in a theatrical manner. Unfortunately, Rosenbaum doesn't really elaborate on how making the film look as if it were burning up in the projector—a move that still leaves post-modernists in awe of the consummate modernist—was purely a theatrical move. Maybe Bergman wanted to set a theater on fire, but didn't have the budget to do so night after night and had to compromise.

Bergman liked the theater, and liked that much of the environment had to be created in the audience's imagination. But he also appreciated the atmospheric capabilities of film. Once, he and cinematographer Sven Nykvist famously spent three days in a small church to study the light throughout the day, only to determine that they'd have to rebuild it in the studio to recreate it.

While Roger Ebert makes a solid effort to defend Bergman, he overlooks Rosenbaum's unsupported claims.

"I think Rosenbaum gives away the game when he says, Bergman’s “movies aren’t so much filmic expressions as expressions on film.” He means form itself is more important (and entertaining, I guess) than narrative, emotional content and performance. Not everyone would agree."

That's true, not everyone would agree, but that's an entirely different debate. Most, Ebert included, would agree that a sense of cinematic form and its differences with the theater are essential to making a cohesive work. Ebert's mistake is to nearly give Rosenbaum's premise a free pass. Bergman's best cinema isn't theatrical in the least. His expressions are personal and cinematic.

While Bergman is one of many film directors who frequently worked in theater (Robert Altman was another), that doesn't mean he was unaware of the differences between the two mediums. In fact, his love of the human face and all the mysteries it contains made film much more his medium—he could put the emphasis where he wanted. To over-simplify, theater is a medium of words, bodies and voices, while cinema is a medium of faces (among many other things). Bergman's 1984 short, "Karin's Face," devoted itself to old family photos (specifically his mother's), emphasizing telling looks and bodily gestures and searching for their significance. Rosenbaum passively mentions such a key component to Bergman's work at the end of his essay, saying, "It doesn’t diminish his masterful use of extended close-ups or his distinctively theatrical, seemingly homemade cinema to suggest that movies can offer something more complex and challenging." But Bergman's genius was in his ability to find something complex and challenging in something so simple as a face.

In "Persona," Bergman leaves the camera on Bibi Andersson's face as she explicitly recounts an unforgettable sexual encounter. A more conventional, classically or theatrically edited piece would have contained a conventional shot sequence, including reaction shots, but Bergman unflinchingly refuses to cut away from his actress's face. This single, fixed gaze was bold and revolutionary, breaking with conventional structure and denying the audience the space that theater by its nature provides and that film usually provides for comfort's sake. The influence of such bold direction can still be seen today—some examples, off the top of my head, include "Boogie Nights," "Magnolia," "Birth" and "Brick."

The face obsession is just one example. Bergman explored his "bitter and pinched emotions" (along with other ones like joy, hope and happiness) in many ways that always struck me as quintessentially cinematic. The haunting, psychological assault of "Persona" owes itself to editing and composition. The comparably more classical "Wild Strawberries" uses odd, dreamy timing to accentuate its study of the worth of a human life. The sweaty atmosphere of the hotel in "The Silence," whose influence can be seen in works by Kubrick and the Coens, relies entirely on cinematic atmosphere for its success. To call these works theatrical and no longer relevant is like calling Benjamin Franklin a hack for inventing the furnace stove when we already had plenty of ways to cook.

Bergman's fascinations and innovations were different from than those of Carl Dreyer and Robert Bresson, whom the article claims are totally more important than Bergman because their films are in more retrospectives than his. Some might justifiably place more value in Dreyer and Bresson's work, because their artistic interests led to more extreme experiments in form. But Bergman's hangups and motifs resulted in several stunning, distinctively Bergmanesque moments. Also, nothing against Dreyer and Bresson, but during my film school career, I probably watched, on assignment, three times as many Bergman films than films by those two directors combined. (I only mention it because Rosenbaum wants to use it as a measure of worth.) And I was enrolled much more recently than Rosenbaum. (In the interest of full disclosure, several students said that one of my professors, William Siska, looked like Bergman-lover Woody Allen, so maybe that has something to do with it.)

If Rosenbaum genuinely believes in the decades-old critique that Bergman was purely a theatrical entertainer who contributed little artistically to the world of cinema, he needs to start by explaining how some of the most memorable images in film history (the hill dance in "The Seventh Seal," for example) are merely theatrical. If he finds that he can't do so, he needs to frame his argument against Bergman in another way, in order to generate some real thought on the subject and allow the director's admirers a chance to defend his legacy.
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Tuesday, August 14, 2007

Misanthropic in Regards to 'Moliere'

Sorry I haven't posted much, but I've been terribly sick lately. I'll try to weigh in on some of the various happenings of the past week soon. Until then, enjoy my column on trailer fatigue and these reviews:

Stardust ***
Arctic Tale **1/2
Rush Hour 3 *1/2
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Friday, August 3, 2007

So Much to Read—Good Thing You Have Nothing But Time

Wow, Jeremy, you sure wrote a lot of stuff this week, you say.

Yes, I did.

So which stuff can I skip and which stuff is a must-read?

I'm afraid all the articles are must-reads. Sorry.

In Memory of Ingmar Bergman

It’s impossible to sum up Ingmar Bergman’s contribution to cinema by only giving examples of one or two of his films — or even a decade’s worth of his work. So individual and profound are the experiences of so much of his work that only detailed examinations could do each of his films justice. To only note the eerie dream sequence of “Wild Strawberries,” or the chess match between a medieval knight and Death in “The Seventh Seal,” or the intertwining faces of “Persona,” neglects the completeness that all three films have.

"The Bourne Ultimatum:"

No other thrill-offerings this summer have come close to the level of suspense, excitement and propulsion that “The Bourne Ultimatum” pours out with seemingly no effort. The film could get by on its remarkable action sequences alone, but still takes the time to house them in a multi-layered story performed by great actors.


While mixing the formula for “Joshua” at the movie factor y, writer/director George Ratliff and his co-writer David Gilbert hit a snag. There was a leak in the credibility-injection machine. The more ingredients editor Jacob Cray-croft poured in, the faster the component leaked them out. There was still a reel of film to be spooled out, and the boys were stumped.


One’s a soccer player, one’s a cheerleader, one’s a math geek (and also loves fashion!) and one is a singer, but won’t perform because she’s too shy. At one point, when all four of the girls are holding cards stating their clique, the shy one’s says “journalist,” but she’s never actually shown doing any writing or reporting. In fact, she seems to be completely friendless once the other three ditch her. But no worries—before we can even see what adjusting to high school is like for these four hot shots, a “two years later” title card comes up.

"The Simpsons Movie:"

You might think that “Austin Powers” already adequately sent up the convenient obstruction of genitalia during nude scenes, although you remember that “The Simpsons” did that gag long before Mike Myers, when Marge painted Mr. Burns. But the issue isn’t who did it first, but who does it best, and “The Simpsons Movie” wins hands down with a beautiful, fluid movement and as perfectly absurd a punch line as could be conceived."

And don't forget to catch up on my commentary on the show's greatness from last week!

Or my review of "I Now Pronounce You Chuck and Larry."

Hope that's enough!
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Tuesday, July 31, 2007

Michelangelo Antonioni, 1912 - 2007

It's sure been a shitty week.

I just marveled at "Blowup" again last week, too.
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Monday, July 30, 2007

Ingmar Bergman, 1918 - 2007

I'm sure everyone has heard the heartbreaking news by now. I'm currently rewriting my column on the great Ingmar Bergman's passing.

The Guardian on his best scenes and and on Woody Allen's love of the director's work.

More on Bergman and Allen in the New York Times
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Tuesday, July 24, 2007

László Kovács, 1933-2007

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Meet Potter Before the Dwights

The Harry Potter films have given us a unique chance to watch a talented batch of young actors grow up, so I wrote my column about it.

"Introducing the Dwights" has a character who is so annoying that you can't stand a second she's on screen, so I wrotea review about it.
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Thursday, July 19, 2007

Emmys Are Lost Again

This year's Emmy nominees for Best Drama include cloying, tacky, melodramatic trash, a series that has ridden its star's performance as a wise-cracking doctor who doesn't play by the rules for about 60 near-identical episodes and a derrivitive, zany David E. Kelly dramedy. It doesn't, however, include "LOST."

While some have been ever-so-quick to declare "LOST" dead, it has been consistently taking risks and surprising its audiences. Compare the finale of "LOST" with that of its Best-Drama-nominated imitator, "Heroes," and it's clear which one has the more compelling story. While "LOST" has had a few weak episodes this season (though none so bad as "Fire + Water" from season two), it has also had more brilliant, gripping, heartbreaking and hilarious episodes than any other program. "Heroes," on the other hand, had two or three great episodes, six or seven intriguing episodes and the most disappointing climax since Freddy Adu lost his virginity. (Quit dancing around it and shoot the damn ball!) Everything that was expected happened, no unexpected twists happened and the cliffhanger wasn't half as intriguing as it was tacked on.

The third season of "LOST" pushed towards a delicious twist that turned the whole format on its head and left everyone wondering how it would start next year.

My favorite Emmy nominee is Ricky Gervais for "Extras" in the Outstanding Lead Actor in a Comedy Series category, where he will compete with Steve Carell for his American version of Gervais's character from BBC's "The Office." Tony Shaloub also has his annual nomination for "Monk" in the category, alongside Charlie Sheen in "Two and a Half Men" and Alec Baldwin in "30 Rock."
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Wednesday, July 18, 2007

Is it Just Me or is it Hot in Here?

My column from Thursday is all about heat, because you weren't getting enough outside.

"The best filmmakers can make you feel the burn — even while sitting at a cool 70 degrees — with harsh light, red tones and rough, dry and/or sticky textures. Here are five films that will remind you just how unpleasant it feels outside."

Read on.
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Monday, July 9, 2007

Did I Mention I Hated Transformers?

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Wednesday, July 4, 2007

Transform your 'Transformers' Ticket into One for 'Ratatouille'

I should admit that I wasn't as excited to see "Transformers" as a rather large number of people my age seem to be at this very moment. For whatever reason (knowing me, probably my esteemed five-year-old taste in cartoons designed to promote toys), I favored the less successful toys with transformational abilities. Namely I remember Gobots—which Tonka imported from Japan at the same time Hasbro imported Transformers—and M.A.S.K., whose characters could change their non-intelligent vehicles from one kind to another. I had some Transformers toys, and my mom claims I liked "the red scooter one." That red scooter, however, is a Gobot.

So my "Transformers" experience relied solely on the filmmaking abilities of Michael Bay. I had hoped that, with Steven Spielberg's guidance as a producer, Bay could make a fun, exciting popcorn movie. But Bay is still doing the same old shit.

Summer entertainment isn't supposed to be deep or meaningful, but it is supposed to be awe-inspiring. "Transformers" lacks any sort of magic or wonder, any sort of storyline that holds momentum, any action scene that builds to something suspenseful and amazing. Bay's plan seems to have been to shovel shit so rapidly into our faces that we don't have time to wipe it off and take in what we're covered in. There are no breaks from the clanks and explosions, rendering them meaningless. There is no sense of the size or shape of the robots, and their complex design serves more to show off special effects than to make them emotive, let alone distinct from one another.

There are lots of moving parts in titular robot-alien characters, but that doesn't translate to emotions (and they are supposed to be sentient beings). Sometimes simplicity can bring out personality, or at least help us see the robots for what they are. Sure, the special effects are impressive, but while they're special, they aren't at all effective.

Most of the time, I didn't know which character was fighting which or why I should be interested. At one point, Bay puts the camera in the car of a mother and son who were driving near a robot fight. The camera whips back and forth as the ground shakes the car around. It's a cool shot, but there's a problem: The two characters have absolutely nothing to do with the story, and don't appear before or after this moment. What's worse, however, is that we can barely see the fight that pertains to the story. We never do see anything comprehensible or that relates to the characters in any meaningful way. The film exhausts us, gives us a headache and spits us out.
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Friday, June 29, 2007

They're Blocks of Text, They're Online

The farce that is In Utah This Week's webpage continues. My review of "Sicko" and my column of the AFI's new top 100 list have mated and, since they were both my children, spawned some mentally disabled offspring. If it's been fixed, read on. If not, come up with a funny joke about it for the comments section.
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Friday, June 22, 2007

Once, Controversy Strained My Mighty Heart

EDIT: Apparently all the articles are fucked. You may want to hold off until they're fixed. ("A Mighty Heart" might be OK—haven't checked.)

So, everyone has been gushing about Michael Winterbottom's "A Mighty Heart" for the past couple weeks, but I didn't think it was amongst his best work. Maybe it's that I like Winterbottom and hold him to a high standard, maybe it's that I saw the film in Cannes and had just seen several of the year's best films. Maybe it's just not as great as everyone says it is. If I have time, I might give it a fresh look and see if I feel any differently. It does have a couple great moments, but overall history will prove me right.

I am, however, in agreement with the fawning over "Once," a great re-imagining of the backstage musical. (The page seems to be fucked, though).

I remember some recent and one not-at-all-recent controversial films in my latest column—dig it.
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If You'll Allow Me a Moment of Fanboyishness…

He's back.
(Photo by Little Stevie)
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Thursday, June 21, 2007

I Have Seen the Future

And it's a big-ass table called the Microsoft Surface.
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The End of a (Quite Shitty) Era (That Won't Be Missed)

Disney is no longer going to make sub-standard, direct-to-video sequels of its contemporary and classic titles. Although I've gotta say, I was looking forward to "Cinderella 17: The Cute Mice Sing Another Song," which has been removed from 2008's release slate. It looks like the Pixar crew is making some smart moves to clean house.
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Let the Complaints Begin

"Fargo" was booted to make room for "Titanic" (which I didn't think anyone respected nowadays), but we can all breath a sigh of relief in knowing that Buster Keaton finally made it onto the American Film Institute's revamped top 100 American films of all time. I'll be filing a column on it this week, but let's go ahead and voice some complaints here. (I know Chris Bellamy already has some ready...)

As someone who prefers "Raging Bull," "The Searchers" and "Vertigo" to "The Graduate," I think overall this list is much better than AFI's 1998 effort, even if it still lacks "Sherlock Jr." (Keaton went from not being on the list to having the no. 18 spot with "The General.") Robert Altman's "Nashville" should be much higher, but I guess we should just be grateful it's there at all.

Note: I linked to Ebert's article on the list because it has all 100 films on a page. If you want to enjoy the AFI's "visual tour," feel free.
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Wednesday, June 20, 2007

Bringing It All Back Home

Sorry for the big gap of content, but just as I was starting come back from my Cannes exhaustion, I had to leave town for a funeral.

I'm now back, and you can read my column from last week, on the best films of the year so far if you haven't already. I also did a story on the "Out/Ex" film program's collection of archival frame-at-a-time film strips and Brian Dewan's modern use of the art form. Unfortunately, the program took place on Saturday, so that's pretty much screwed.
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Tuesday, June 12, 2007

Dali Dali Oxen Free (I Have No Idea What This Headline Means)

In his review of a Dali on Flm exhibit at the Tate Modern, Richard Dorment points out that Dali was nothing without the great Luis Buñuel as his collaborator.

But real dreams normally take place in ordinary, everyday settings - it's the oddness of what happens in them, and the disorientation caused by abrupt dislocations in time that feel so weird. In the films Dalí made with Buñuel, he respects this reality. What he serves up here is high camp, cardboard stage sets that so insistently call attention to their strangeness that the meaning the dream has within the film's narrative is overwhelmed by the screaming symbolism of the backdrops and props.

My only complaint would be that Dorment gives Dali a bit too much credit for Buñuel's work.
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Have I Mentioned How Much I Love Judd Apatow?

Oh, well then I guess you don't have to read this.
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Gracie's Got a Good Heart, but Mr. Brooks Has no Brain

The sweet little soccer movie gets it's job done, which is more than I can say about another of this week's releases.

I was really ready to give "Mr. Brooks" a good review after the first scene, but after sitting through some crime procedural crap and other lame subplots, I was forced to reconsider.
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Friday, June 1, 2007

Get Knocked Up Now

The biggest mistake you could make this summer isn't forgetting your SPF 40 and falling asleep in the sun. It isn't going to a high school kegger and getting to drunk to ask the girl you're hitting on if she just graduated or just finished her freshman year. It isn't going to see "Georgia Rule" (although that's close). But if you miss "Knocked Up," which will surely be the funniest comedy of the year, you'll regret it.

Read my review, check out an interview with the supporting cast in USA Today, but most importantly, see the damn movie. Now.

Also, in my review, I somehow (might have had something to do with traveling, jet lag and a film festival) switched the names of Jonah Hill and Jay Baruchel.
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Thursday, May 31, 2007

I Totally Invented This Thing in 2001

The Boston Herald reports that some schmoe has finally passed off the invention—which up to this point only existed in my mind—as his or her own. The Regal Entertainment Group has tested the Guest Response System, with mostly favorable responses. My idea: the picture's out of focus? Some asshole won't turn off his cellphone? Don't want to miss five minutes of the movie to tell the theater employee? Now you don't have to. I always pictured the buttons built into the seat, and not limited to one specially selected snitch, but the basic idea is the same:

"Select patrons will get a pagerlike device to notify managers of concerns inside the theater. This new breed of hall monitor can alert theater authorities by pressing either the “picture,” “sound,” “piracy” or “other disturbance” button.

The last button can flag anything from ringing cell phones to loud talkers."

I guess I should have patented it or something…
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Tuesday, May 29, 2007

Back in the states and still recovering

In my mind, I had already posted my last column from In while I was at Cannes, which includes my thoughts on the deserved Palme d'Or winner, "4 Months, 3 Weeks & 2 Days." I guess the stress of Cannes got the better of me and I just assumed that it posted itself. Other than Julian Schnabel's Best Director award for "The Diving Bell and the Butterfly," most of the Stephen Frears's jury's selections are rather bizarre, but at least they got the big one right.

On Sunday, the Tribune ran my interview with U alum Isaac Chung, whose new film about the Rwandan genocide played in Un Certain Regard.

More to come soon.
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Saturday, May 26, 2007

Kustirica Closes Out the Competition

Emir Kustirica is unlikely to win a third Palme d'Or for his ridiculous but amusing "Promise Me This." Charming enough to get by but not funny enough to explain its nonsensical, broad-comedy plot about a young peasant who comes to the big city to fight gangsters and woo a bride twice his age, the film was nevertheless a nice cap to the 22 Official Competition entries, most of which were not what you might call "jolly." The other competing film that screened today, "Mourning Forest," for example, slowly followed a crazy guy and a young woman through the forest for a couple hours. Too much may have been going on in "Promise Me This," but at least it was something.

What will win? Julian Schnabel's excellent "The Diving Bell and the Butterfly" has been picking up word—even Chris Bellamy, who couldn't be arsed to see the thing, thinks it will win. My four other favorites are the festival's surprise hit, "4 Months, 3 Weeks & 2 Days" from Romania, Gus Van Sant's "Paranoid Park," Joel and Ethan Coen's "No Country for Old Men" and Quentin Tarantino's "Death Proof." Of those films' directors, only Romanian Cristian Mungui hasn't won the Palme d'Or. Yet.
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Thursday, May 24, 2007

You, the Living Must See 'You, the Living'

Due to a series of scheduling dominoes, I had a choice this morning: see "Ocean's Thirteen" or surreal Swedish director Roy Andersson's "Du Levande" ("You, the Living"). This was not a difficult choice, as Andersson's last film, "Songs from the Second Floor" premiered at Cannes in 2000 and I didn't get to see for three or four years later, and Steven Soderbergh's new film comes out in a week. After seeing "Du Levande," I only wish that I could re-erect some of those dominoes and see the it one more time.

Well worth the seven-year wait, this late addition to the Cannes Film Festival's Un Certain Regard sidebar is a certifiable, holy-shit-that-was-amazing masterpiece. Describing a Roy Andersson film to someone who has never seen one is like telling a blind person what green looks like. The deep-focus, often static photography, hilarious gags, haunting emotions and unexcitable tableaux add up to such an unexpected sum that the film's wonders charm and hypnotize you. "Du Levande" is at once a musical, a romance, a tragedy, a comedy, a dreamscape, a series of unrelated vignettes and a cohesive unit. Andersson has created dreams within a dream world and finished it off with one of the best closing shots in cinema history.
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'Persepolis' an Animated Surprise

Could an animated film win the Palm d'Or? The possibility has been on a few tongues since yesterday's screening of "Persepolis," Marjane Satrapi and Vincent Paronnaud's "Persepolis," a stylish, sparsely colored but consistently vibrant tale of growing up while a country crumbles.

Adapted from Satrapi's popular autobiographical graphic novel, the film is a lively, constantly inventive and fun account of Satrapi's childhood in Tehran, Iran and life in Vienna and Paris after she left the country. Satrapi and animator Paronnaud bring out both the personalities of the characters and the history of a troubled country, while recalling different styles of hand-drawn and cutout animation.

It's been 20 years since a French film won the Cannes Film Festival's prestigious top prize, but based on the lengthy standing ovation it received in the Grand Theatre Lumiere, some people think that it could add a nice surprise to the festival's 60th celebration of film. It still has lots of stiff competition, however.
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Tuesday, May 22, 2007

When the Competition's Away…

With only one film screening in the Official Competition on Sunday (thanks largely to "To Each His Own Cinema," a collection of new short films about going to the movies, in celebration of the festival's 60th Anniversary), the Cannes Film Festival's Un Certain Regard section got to spend some time in the spotlight.

"My Brother is an Only Child," an uncommonly fresh coming-of-age tale about an Italian boy who supports the dying, post-Mussolini Facism party in Italy in the 1960s while his older brother becomes a communist. Director Daniele Luchetti warmly captures the folly of immature youth with a touch of humor and character that has been lacking from many of the Official Competition entries. We see these siblings grow from teenage boys to young men, and deeply care about how their fragile, shaky lives turn out.

The Chinese film "Mang Shan" ("Blind Mountain") directed by Li Yang, centers around an outstanding performance by its leading actress, Huang Lu. Huang plays a college student who is kidnapped and sold as an imprisoned wife in a poor, backwoods town where no one is willing to help her. The family whose son she has to marry doesn't care if she was kidnapped or not—they paid for her—and her resilient quest for escape only leads to greater pain.

The film plays like a cyclical nightmare, and the ending is a perfectly frank commentary on where this kind of helplessness leads people. Unfortunately, the lousy Chinese government plans to make Li change this ending to make them look better. Stupid government censorship. I guess that's why you've got to see 'em at Cannes.
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Van Sant, Schnabel, Coens and Tarantino (With the Lapdance) Triumph

I only care about Americans in my latest Cannes report for Film Threat.
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Monday, May 21, 2007

Kim Ki Duk's 'Breath' of Fresh Air (Now That's a Headline!)

Kim Ki Duk's latest film, "Soom" (translated originally as "Breathe" but now as "Breath") is about a connection between a man and a woman who barely know each other but desperately need connection. The man is a murderer on death row who constantly tries to kill himself, only to be kept alive until the execution. The woman is in a loveless marriage with a husband who doesn't understand her, and talks at her rather than to her. After seeing the constant TV news coverage of his execution, she decides to pay him a visit.

Thanks to a prison warden who is much more lenient on the rules than the Cannes Film Festival employees, meets and performs for him in the visitation cell, which she decorates with absurd wallpaper that creates a brilliant contrast between freedom and confinement. The imagery throughout the film contrasts between the open and the confined, as the characters try unsuccessfully to break out of their prisons and find peace.

As best exemplified in his strongest film, "Three Iron," Kim likes to work in silences and small moments, and "Breath" masterfully creates character dynamics by means of who speaks (or sings) to whom and whether or not they can shut the hell up. The two leads both add to Kim's careful direction. Zia is fragile and exuberant. Chang Chen, who doesn't speak during the entire film, provides a range of emotions that make us see his character as more than just a killer.
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Insert Bad Headline About 'Sicko' Being 'Healthy' Here

Michael Moore's latest film, "Sicko," shows the opinionated documentarian in full power of his abilities to tug at his audience's heart strings. "Sicko" presents a thorough arguments against HMOs and the priority of making money over curing the sick.

Moore started moving away from his trademark ambush interview in "Fahrenheit 9/11," and his only such tactic in this involves a half-hearted, just-for-fun effort to obtain healthcare from the Guantanamo Bay U.S. military base in Cuba (the trip also launched a government probe, which has been the source of much conversation on the Croisette).Here, he presents a collection of personal stories like he did in his first and best film, "Roger and Me." We meet the people directly affected by the corporate healtchcare mentality, and learn first-hand about the process of refusing people's care—all with Moore's usual combination of humor and compassion. Moore also visits countries to show how happy people are with socialized medicide (although he didn't need to spend full sequences in Canada, England and France to prove his point).

However, I fear that Moore may be intentionally underplaying issues like the over-crowding in Canadian hospitals, which he should have learned by now could come back to bite him in the ass. The healthcare systems in other countries are portrayed as a bit too utopian, which can only hurt the film's credibility. That doesn't mean that universal healthcare is a failure. It's just better to acknowledge the issues and address how they can be fixed if the United States were to adopt such a system.
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Sunday, May 20, 2007

The Coens Are Back

After a pair of limp offerings, Joel and Ethan Coen have delivered a consistently tense, brilliantly acted film in "No Country for Old Men." The only major flaw in the film, which premiered at Cannes on Saturday, is that the most tense, horrifying chase scene in a decade comes in the middle of the film, leaving things to peter out a bit by the end. I'll write more later, but must inform all immediately that Javier Bardem's performance is probably the most sinister, amusing and troubling incarnation of evil in years.
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Friday, May 18, 2007

The Cannes Competition, Days 1-3

In just two days, the Cannes Film Festival's Official Competition has already displayed a variety of nations and styles: Wong Kar Wai's opener, "My Blueberry Nights," of which I wrote about two days ago, David Fincher's "Zodiac," which I wrote about several months ago, Cristian Mungiu's "4 Months, 3 Weeks and 2 Days," from Romania, Andreï Zviaguintsev's "The Banishment," from Russia, and Christophe Honoré's "Les Chansons d'Amour" ("Love Songs"), From France. I've already written about some of these for Film Threat.

So far, the top of the competition is "4 Months, 3 Weeks & 2 Days," which swiftly and starkly portrays an illegal abortion in 1980s Romania during the dying days of the Soviet Bloc. With unflinching realist bluntness, it follows a college student as she helps her friend get an abortion. Reminiscent of the Dardenne Brothers and fellow Romanian Cannes alum "The Death of Mr. Lazarescu," it tells its horrific story with compelling simplicity.

The performances are all outstanding, living up to the unblinking scrutiny of Mungiu's camera, which captures most of the scenes in long, unbroken takes. As the abortionist, Vlad Ivanov sinisterly captures his character's manipulative abilities as he turns himself into a victim. And in the lead, Anamaria Marinca creates a young woman who is smart and strong, but undeniably troubled by the ever-increasing stream chaos and despair around her.

The bottom of the competition is easily "Les Chansons d'Amour," a puzzling little musical that had a very funny, short and sweet catalogue description, but didn't live up to it. The music is bland pop and the first and third acts are astoundingly unconvincing, leaving the middle as the only part with any emotional truth.

That leaves "The Banishment," a disappointing—but not awful—follow-up to Zviaguintsev's poetic "The Return." Executed with stunning direction and cinematography, the film falls short in Zviaguintsev's screenplay. The film, about a middle-aged businessman, his distant wife, his young son and daughter and his estranged criminal brother, strives for Bergman but ultimately betrays its own storytelling by miscalculating the equation for a resonant depiction of people who live in misery and aren't even comfortable communicating it.
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Sounds Like a Mess? Well, It Is!

What happens when three Hong Kong directors each helm half an hour of a feature film—not a collection of stand-alone shorts, mind you, but a feature-length story? Well, it turns out to be a complete mess. The hypothesis was tested and proven with the film "Triangle," directed by Tsui Hark, Ringo Lam and Johnnie To (whose "Triad Election" is playing stateside now). The film, a sort of crime-drama/comedy (depending on which third you're watching), has no discernible sense of character or purpose. I almost went to the press conference just to ask if any of the directors could offer a brief synopsis of the plot, which involves smuggled money, ancient artifacts and a nonsensical love triangle involving a married couple and a cop.

To be fair, the film is occasionally entertaining. Making the final third, To must have realized that the project was a lost cause, and went for straight-out comedy. So at least I started laughing while wondering what the hell was going on.

I guess when you make a film like this through an experimental process, you better show it at Cannes, where people will be interested in the technique. If you try to show the public "Triangle" out of that context, it ain't gonna fly.
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Wednesday, May 16, 2007

Wong Kar Wai Finishes Film On Time—But Should He Have?

Well, Wong Kar Wai managed to get his film, "My Blueberry Nights," completed on time not only for its opening night screening at the Cannes Film Festival, but for the morning press screening as well. Commendation is in order. The film, the Hong Kong wizard's first in English, is pretty much everything you expect from a Wong film: an aimless tale of disconnected lovers, brilliant compositions, vibrant color palettes, interplay of light and color. This film won't win any new converts, but will satisfy its directors followers.

A little more time to work on it, however, and it could been more notable. As it is now, it's a little too spelled out at times, especially in its cringe-worthy voiceover narration. Singer-turned star Norah Jones delivers an inconsistent but usually passable and sometimes charming debut, with hints that her innocent, genuine aura could eventually turn into a fine screen presence. But the one thing she can't do is deliver bad lines convincingly. She delivers the already-all-to-obvious narration in the most obvious way possible. By contrast, when Jude Law narrates as her romantic interest, he manages to draw some attention away from theses glaring flaws.

The film is constructed as a road movie, but it's really just three extended vignettes—one in New York, one in Tennessee and one in Nevada. The real wow comes in the middle section, thanks to a remarkable portrayal of alcoholism from the always great David Strathairn.

Since Wong notoriously returns to the cutting room, he might want to consider a few things to adjust to improve the movie. Top among his priorities should be to pick up English well enough to realize how obvious some of the lines are, and change them appropriately. There are so many great elements in the film that it's really frustrating that it isn't as good as it could be.
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Tuesday, May 15, 2007

I'm in Cannes. Where Are You?

I'm now in Cannes. The festival starts tomorrow and I'll be updating you with all the goings on. Dig it.

Until then, check out my stuff from last week—a review of "Blind Dating", which was shot in Ogden, Utah and is almost as enjoyable as the town, and my column about forced deadlines.
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Wednesday, May 9, 2007

Raimi Turns Into Pot for Lucas's Kettle

Alright, here we go.

If you can push on through (or better yet, skip) the first six paragraphs of Roger Friedman's Fox News column, in which he rhetorically jerks off to Cate Blanchett, and the next eight, in which he discusses how much fun he had at a fancy Time magazine party, you'll find that George Lucas has jumped on the bandwagon of people bravely declaring that a fun summer action movie is not a hands down masterpiece. Lucas, who has never made a cinematic misstep in his life, doesn't like the one summer blockbuster for which Industrial Light and Magic didn't provide any special effects.

"It's silly. It's a silly movie," he said. "There just isn't much there. Once you take it all apart, there's not much story, is there?"

Well, it's not "Star Wars."

"People thought 'Star Wars' was silly, too," he added, with a wink. "But it wasn't."

I will not attempt to examine the totally not-bloated prequel trilogy and, as Lucas puts it, take it all apart. If I did, I might realize that so much happened, it there should have been five movies.
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Tuesday, May 8, 2007

Compromise is a Bitch

So, there are going to be about 20 more episodes of "LOST" than the producers originally envisioned, combining for a grand total of 120. The 48 episodes after this season's finale will be spread out over three mini-seasons. From January to May every year, you'll have some LOST. Then you'll be screwed for most of the year. Repeat until 2010.

I guess it's the price the producers had to pay in order for ABC to agree to end the show before it reaches season 9 of "The X-Files" bad. I would have preferred, however, the planned that had already been pitched: One more full season, followed by one mini-season. I can only assume that I'll see how the story can go on after the season finale.

CUSE: You now know exactly where you stand in the story. We've done 72 hours and we have 48 hours to go.
LINDELOF: We're 60 percent done.
CUSE: We're over the top of the mountain and heading down the backside. And we believe that our most exciting storytelling is yet to come.
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Seven More Hours of Spidey?

In a slap in the face to the advice I gave in my column last week, Columbia Pictures is going to make three more damn "Spider-Man" movies. I think that "Spider-Man 3" is a solid summer super-hero movie and a lot of fun, but come on boys: Quit while you're ahead. The stories are wrapped up, the love story is feeling repetitive and you've got a trilogy you can be proud of. Call it quits.

Also, I never linked to my review of "Next." That was easy to fix.
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Tuesday, May 1, 2007

You Can't Stop Progress

My man Chris Bellamy recently tipped me off to an article in Variety by David S. Cohen (presumably not the same one who wrote for "The Simpsons" and "Futurama") highlighting the challenges of digital archiving..

You see, a collection of digital data may not degrade, but the media that it's stored on sure can, and how! Not that many Hollywood films have been shot on digital, but those that have are a real bitch to maintain. While you can just store an archival film print in a proper environment and ignore it for decades, nine-month-old digital files already had dropped frames. Luckily, one company found a simple way to solve the problem:

Their solution takes the data from a digital intermediate and turns it into three-color separation negatives.

In other words, they take the digital movie and turn it into good old-fashioned film.

Or they could shoot on film to begin with and save some money and worry.

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You Want Me To Do What in 48 Hours?

My latest column for In documents my adventures as a director of a film in the 48 Hour Film Project. Since writing the article, I've received more reasons to question the festival's competence and intentions, not least of which, I must admit, was the botched projection of my movie. The top of our actors' heads were cut off along with the top of the frame (this was not a TV-safe issue, and occurred with both films that were shot in the 1.33:1 aspect ratio, the ratio that the website suggested was preferred). The other issues were brought up to me by sponsors, who noticed that the festival receives a lot of money without giving much back.

The entrance fee of $125 or $148 only gets filmmakers a screening of their movie and TWO tickets to the screening. The festival charged more than $7 for all additional tickets, claiming at the opening event that it was to pay for the venue. But the venues, the Broadway and Tower Theatres, were apparently donated. And the sponsors who so generously donated had to pay for drinks—which were also donated—at the wrap party. I like the way the festival puts on pressure and makes filmmakers be productive. I'm just not sure whether they're giving to the community more than they're taking away. Depending on my time, I may try to do a piece that explores all aspects of the festival and gives each side its say. For now, you'll have to settle for the bitter ramblings of a man whose film was butchered.
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Thursday, April 26, 2007

Happy LOST Birthday to Me!

I just realized that the last two LOST episodes took place on my birthday in 2004, and nobody got me a present. What gives?
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Monday, April 23, 2007

Done (Updated)

I know that everyone has been anxiously awaiting my return from filmmaking chaos, so I thought I'd announce that we finished the film on time (barely) last night. We ended up having to turn in a rough cut that could still use some work, but the result is still very funny (at least for those who haven't slept much for 48 Hours). It helped of course, to have my Avid whiz sister behind the cutting the scenes so that our rough cut will probably be comparable to most of the other edits. I served as writer and director of our movie, which is called "Runner's High." We drew the "detective/cop" genre, which generated a few problems in regard to runtime, but was very fun. I'll write more later about my opinion of the festival's format.

We are in group B, which—oddly enough, screens after Group C. The program that includes our film screens at 9:30 pm on Tuesday at the Broadway Centre Cinema. They allege that tickets will sell out, but who knows? Rumor has it that only 3 Group B participants turned their films in on time, but the films turned in late on Sunday will still screen. I don't want to advocate that people pay $7 if they're only going to get a half an hour worth of movies, so hopefully additional films from Groups A and C be added on. Hopefully I will be able to regain coherence soon and resume my blogging duties.

UPDATE: I've been told that there will be additional films after the four from Group B that turned in their work.
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Friday, April 20, 2007

How to Grind, Edit Other People's Movies and Make a Bad One

I'm back in town now, and have somehow found myself working on a film for the 48-hour-film festival this weekend, under the leadership of producer extraordinaire Stephanie Geerlings. Will our film be tons better than any of the other entries? I can only assume yes. (No offense to the losers who aren't on our team. Once 7pm hits, I'll be too busy to post, but here are some articles to tide you over:

You don't need to read my review of "Perfect Stranger" quite as much as you need to avoid seeing the thing.

My guide to "Grindhouse" will tell you all you need to know about the film's visual references to scuzzy movie theaters.

And in case you missed it, my column from last week made fun of so-called open-source cinema.
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Thursday, April 12, 2007

'Who Doesn't Have an Atomic Bomb Nowadays?' Kurt Vonnegut, 1922 - 2007

Few men could express as bleak an outlook on humanity as Kurt Vonnegut while making us laugh about it and give us hope, and no one could do it with the same level of wisdom and insight. One of my heroes, the great Vonnegut died last night as a result of brain injuries sustained in a fall a couple weeks ago. He left behind 14 novels, at least three of which are masterpieces (and I would argue for some of the others as well), as well as a body of essays, short stories, plays and radio programs. Perhaps Vonnegut put it best when he—a lifelong atheist, humanist and joker—gave a speech as the Honorary President of the American Humanist Association. Speaking of the organizations former honorary president, Isaac Asimov, he said, "He is in heaven now."

I fell in love with Vonnegut when I read Slaughterhouse Five in high school for a banned books class. It inspired me to devour everything in his catalogue over the course of a year. Other people got into Vonnegut at that age as well, not because he wrote youth-oriented novels, but because his humor, unmistakably unpretentious voice and fearless exploration of the profound questions of humanity are refreshing to teenagers surrounded by adults who prefer to ignore such questions. Without Vonnegut, I cannot say with any certainty that I would have made it through high school.

Slaughterhouse Five, written in 1968, dealt with one of the defining moments of its author's life: the British fire-bombing of Dresden, Germany. Vonnegut witnessed the obliteration of an entire city as a POW in World War II. Vonnegut wrote that he was originally looking to capitalize off his experience with a macho military picture, until his friend's wife reminded them that they were just babies during the war. Vonnegut's end result was a brilliant mish-mash of science-fiction, dementia and troubled memories.

Delving into his catalogue yields more riches. After finishing college, Vonnegut wrote two novels, Player Piano and The Sirens of the Titan, in the 1950s, and finished his first stone-cold masterpiece in 1963. Cat's Cradle created a religion, Bokononism, satirized the short-sightedness of military science and taught us why we should never write our own indexes.

In 1973, Vonnegut's experimentation reached its pinnacle with the unforgettable Breakfast of Champions a masterful meditation of what it means to live in this modern world, what it is to means to make decisions (if the chemicals in your brain don't make them for you), what it means to be alienated, what it means to write a novel and what it means to go insane. Filled with simplistic illustrations of assholes and American flags, references to himself as a deus ex machina and reminders that he knows how it ends. That a film of this unadaptable work was made is baffling. That it in no way lived up to its source was no surprise.

Vonnegut finished his last novel, Timequake, in 1997, vowing never to write another because it is too difficult and, since he's still in print, too hard not to repeat himself. Hocus Pocus, his novel before that, is one of his best later works. He kept the promise to stay out of novels, but did turn two collections of essays, God Bless You, Dr. Kevorkian, in which he takes a a series of trips to the after life, and A Man Without a Country. He continued to write attacks on the Bush administration for In These Times and practiced his illustrative talents.

Vonnegut's endings always linger. After all that came before, it would be easy to be disappointed at the conclusions. But they were vibrant, hopeful and alive, begging you to turn a few pages back and take them in again. Vonnegut's 84 years may be over, but he left us a hell of a lot of stuff to go back to and read.
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More Than the Daily 'Grind'

During the climactic car chase in "Death Proof," Quentin Tarantino's half of the double feature "Grindhouse," two old-school cars that had heretofore been duking it out on empty highways and dirt careen onto a main road. Tarantino suddenly reminds us that this film doesn't take place in the 1970s, but in 2007. The high-speed drivers race around and smash into bland, modern SUVs, posing the question: Is there a place for this kind of film in these modern times?

The question lingers throughout the film, which suggests that between the occasional prestigious art film and the polished, PG-13 crap shoveled out to junior high students every weekend, we've lost the joy of exploitational trash. We don't have the films that kids see posters for and describe—with an active imagination and bated breath—to their friends, the films that promise hot women, bloody decapitations and tense explosions beyond your wildest dreams.

For many, the simple existence of these films is lost. Stuntman Mike, the cheerfully ambiguous character played by Kurt Russell, talks about the TV productions he worked on, and realizes the young, hot young girls with whom he's conversing have no idea what he's talking about. Tarantino knows that his own encyclopedic pop culture knowledge is lost on most of his audience.

Yet he has made a brilliant homage, part recollection and part deconstruction, to this lost age, merging the stalker/slasher and the female revenge genres into a glorious, constantly surprising game.

Many of the best stalker films take their time establishing the nonviolent life that the ticket-selling violence encroaches upon. "Halloween," for example, spends more time in the creepy, pre-murder atmosphere than on the actual killings. Lesser exploitation films use cheap drama to fill out the runtime. The difference between Tarantino's development and most grindhouse films is that it's detailed, observational and entertaining. Tarantino wants to get to know these women in all sorts of light. They aren't women of the road, they're local girls who like to go out and party, and their car lets them drive from place to place, hitting a few bars before heading out to their cabin. Although they don't actually go to most of their destinations, the possibility itself is exciting.

Russell stands (or maybe lurks) in the center of it all with an outstanding performance that's both personable and creepy. He tells stories, makes small talk, and observes everything that goes on around him: the text message love scenes, near sneezes and fights. Everyone knows him, but no one actually knows anything about him.

[SPOILER NOTE: You can't really discuss the film without giving stuff away, so consider yourself warned.]

Abruptly after our four initial females are killed off in less than a second (although Tarantino gives us a closer look at each one's demise), a new story starts. Stuntman Mike is at it again, and he has his eyes on four more ladies, who are working on a film production. After the initial chase, which interrupts a helluva game called masthead, the ladies decide to strike back. They are not helpless females in distress. Russell is no longer the calm, methodical madman, but a shrieking, crying baby. Tarantino's women are empowered in a very different way than those in most revenge exploitation films, and they're having a hell of a lot of fun as they go on a wild ride and track down their pursuer. Their sense of adventure lacks the desperation of typical film portrayals, and bears more resemblance to the audience watching the film, cheering for the bad man to get what's coming to him.

[Awkward pause.]

Robert Rodriguez's "Planet Terror" is also good cheesy fun, more notable for its study in scratches than anything else. And "Shaun of the Dead" director Edgar Wright's trailer is pure genius. Of course, if you've seen "Grindhouse," you already know that, and if you haven't, you need to see it for yourself.
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Movie-to-Musical Mania

For last week's colum, I totally stretched out that thing about a "Goonies" musical. Enjoy
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Friday, April 6, 2007

You Know What You're Seeing This Weekend

So, I'm sure that everyone is going to "Grindhouse" this weekend anyway, but a quick warning: Stay the fuck away from "The Reaping." More on both films soon...
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Thursday, April 5, 2007

The Man Who Created a Christmas Tradition: Bob Clark, 1941-2007

Not all of Bob Clark's films were great, but one is all you need, and "A Christmas Story" will be a holiday favorite as long as people remember what it's like to be a kid, dreaming of a perfect present as if it's the most important thing on earth. Clark and his son died in a car accident yesterday, leaving behind an immortal film that required more than a decade of commitment.

The film, written by Jean Shepherd and culled from his short stories, was a passion project for Clark, and he was trying to finance it long before its 1983 release. He was only able to make it thanks to rousing success of his previous effort, the raunchy high school sex comedy "Porky's" (1982). If the MGM executives wanted a sequel, they had to let him make "A Christmas Story." But the studio didn't want to make it, and they sure as hell didn't want to release it. After a sparsely advertised opening that garnered greater ticket sales than expected, "A Christmas Story" abruptly disappeared from screens. The film seemed destined for oblivion. But it continued to air during Christmastime and became a tradition for more and more families each year.

My dad was a fan from the beginning, and I remember watching it each year after decorating the tree. As the years passed, my perspective changed, and Ralphie's desires and his fantasies worked on new levels. Age has only improved my appreciation of the character study of family dynamics and its humorous portrayal of how young minds that get worked up over the magic of the holiday. The 1930s/40s setting lends itself to the bygone memories of the past, when we felt innocent and safe in our own world. The betrayal of Little Orphan Annie's secret message is as funny now as it was anti-climactic for the excited child who had, against all logic, hoped for something truly adventurous. Clark perfectly cast Darren McGaven as The Old Man, who embodies fatherhood like few characters in cinema history.

Clark would never reach such grand heights for the remainder of his career, the nadir of which is surely the two "Baby Geniuses" movies. And even as they earn more recognition, his early horror-comedy B-movies, like the recently remade "Black Christmas" (1974)—which went on to inspire John Carpenter's "Halloween" will probably only be remembered by a small cult audience. (One of Clark's upcoming projects was a remake of his 1972 horror comedy, "Children Shouldn't Play with Dead Things.") But for one great moment, Clark was able to make the film of his dreams, and it's become an important memory and tradition in many people's lives.

UPDATE: Dennis Cozzalio and Kim Morgan have more on Clark's "Black Christmas" (originally titled "Silent Night, Deadly Night," making me eager to re-watch it after many years. Cozzalio also has some great insights on Clark's warm personality.
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Tuesday, April 3, 2007

Don't Get Too Excited Just Yet

Everyone is buzzing about the news that Orson Welles'sincomplete final film may finally see the light of a projector. Welles spent five years making the "The Other Side of the Wind," starring John Huston as a film director who—ironically enough—dies while working on his final film. The flashback structure that follows sounds a bit like an obscure Welles film called "Citizen Kane." Welles presumably figured that no one had seen that one, so he could get away with re-using the concept.

"The unedited negatives of the film have sat in a Paris vault for more than 30 years, unseen by anyone other than Welles, who died in 1985."

In his infinite, I-Knew-Welles-and-interviewed-Howard-Hawks-and-John-Ford-too wisdom, director Peter Bogdanovich decided to announce, unofficially, that "the deal is 99.9% finished." Other men might wait for that final tenth of a percent to make things definite so that they don't get burned (again) when things fall through, but that's not how Bogdanovich rolls.

Hopefully this time Bogdanovich's efforts will bear the cinematic equivalent of tasty fruit, but it's important to note that "The Other Side of the Wind" is very incomplete. Welles editted 40 to 50 minutes and, if the New York Sun is to be believed, no one but him has seen any of the raw footage, which he said was pretty much done complete. What happens when Bogdanovich finds the footage and realizes that he has no idea what the fuck he's doing?

Did Welles share his plans for the film with any collaborators prior to his death? Did he take extensive notes? Can we ever really get something close to "The Other Side of the Wind" that Welles would have made? If we do and it is great, can we give it awards and include it on our top 10 lists like some did with "Army of Shadows?" Until these questions are answered, don't set your expectations too high.
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Sunday, April 1, 2007

On Easter Candy

I would be remiss in my duties if I didn't advise people that Cadbury Royal Dark Mini Eggs are not as good as the company's original, milk chocolate Mini Eggs. While the combination of dark chocolate's sensual flavor and the addictive decadence of Mini Eggs may sound like a combination that's too good to pass up, it sadly is a dissonant disappointment.

The Cadbury Royal Dark bars are undeniably delicious, but the chocolate doesn't mesh with the crisp, sugary-shell with the same orgasmic taste stimulation that the milk chocolate Mini Eggs deliver. When you're buying your Easter candy, stick with the classic. (Or, in the very least, sample a small pack before buying the big bag.)
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Saturday, March 31, 2007

Immigrants, Weather, Apple and Ralph Nader

My column this week focuses on Apple TV, which, I am sad to report, doesn't seem to have the features to do its elegant design justice. Then there are my reviews...

"Climates": A great second effort by the director of "Distant." I had less than a day to review this film and the next one on the list, and was faced with one of those gems that I know the majority of casual readers will hate. Good fun.

"The Namesake": An interesting take on the immigrant experience from Mira Nair.

"An Unreasonable Man": A reverent recollection of Ralph Nader's life bogged down only by the need to apologize and make excuses for costing Al Gore the election in 2000.

On a sidenote, the In This Week webpage slaves have now fixed the star-rating graphics to show that the films are rated out of four, bringing a sad end to my weekly disclaimer that clarified the matter.
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Thursday, March 29, 2007

What We Always Wanted, Without Realizing It

Though the film's much-rumored sequel looks to be dead in the water, director Richard Donner has informed Entertainment Weekly that his classic tale of adolescent adventure, "The Goonies," could become a musical.

It makes perfect sense, really. The dialogue was already very lyrical...

Up there,
It's their time
It's their time!
Up There!

Down here,
It's our time
It's our time!
Down here!

And I can't wait to hear the hit ballad, "You Know, We're a Lot Alike, One-Eyed Willie."
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Wednesday, March 28, 2007

On the Opening of 'The Host'

Joon-ho Bong's "The Host" feels less like a movie than a dream inspired by a day spent watching too many movies. The satirical Korean political-monster-family-bonding comedy/drama might not always have a firm grasp on where it's going, but it has a hell of a fun time getting there. Bong opens his film with an absurdly hilarious scene that's so good that he spends the rest of the film trying to top it.

It begins with a wide shot inside a mortuary, where an American doctor on one side of the nearly symmetrical frame lectures his Korean subordinate on the other about his strong dislike of dirt. The outside of all the formaldehyde bottles are coated in dust, so there's only one solution: Dump the formaldehyde down the drain.

The creepy comedy builds on the impending realization that the doctor knows the consequences of what he's doing, but isn't concerned. Every time his subordinate points out a hazard, like "but it drains to the Han," the doctor responds with an affirmation of his insanity. "Yes, let's dump formaldehyde in the Han." It leads to one of the most masterfully insane lines in cinema history: "The Han is a broad river. Let's try to be broad-minded."

With an opening like that, I'd sit through "The Hills Have Eyes" in the off chance that such brilliance would make an encore appearance.
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Monday, March 26, 2007

Now I Can Finally Sleep at Night

Thank god we know how Anna Nicole died. I've been a nervous wreck—a la Jake Gyllenhaal in "Zodiac"—ever since the news of her death, driven mad by the mystery.
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Saturday, March 24, 2007

Reviews Galore

I wrote lots of stuff in this week's In Utah This Week, starting with my column on some recent digital cinema and ending with four...

Reviews (scores seem to be missing on some, and are always out of four, not five.)
"Days of Glory" ***1/2: An excellent study of soldiers fighting for a country that doesn't respect them.
"Reign Over Me" ***: Find Out if the film is exonerated for its lame-ass ending.
"Starter for 10" ***: James McAvoy is all charm in this romantic comedy.
"Pride" **: Good performance, not much of a movie.
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Friday, March 23, 2007

The Dumbest Fucking Idea I've Ever Heard

So, ABC has apparently been hyping a proposed new method to deliver ads to consumers without them noticing. For example, an ad might pop up on a TV, and then the show will cut in to the TV's picture. Brilliant! People won't even know that they're watching a commercial! Of course, the question would be: If all commercials are integrated into the programs, then they'll have to zoom into another show, and then zoom into its seamlessly placed add. And what if it's a period piece? ABC's "LOST," for example is set a couple years in the past now and all its flashbacks take place even further in the past.

says president of marketing Michael Shaw:

“We want to bring the audiences right to the commercial so they don’t feel they’ve gone into the commercial."

At least one advertiser is smart enough to (sort of recognize that this won't work:

"Shari Anne Brill of ad agency Carat USA, who watched the presentation, remarked afterwards that the examples presented "an interesting idea," but she wondered whether the shows' "writers and producers will help them pull this off. ... I imagine more powerful producers would say, 'No way, Jose.'""

You know why they'd say "No Way Jose?" Because they wouldn't be able to tell a fucking story! Sure, breaks are annoying, and they might cause pacing problems with the action, but at least you can tell a story about a bunch of people stranded on an island without needing them to walk by a TV every god damn 15 minutes. And you know what? ABC has a show with that very set up.

Commercials are enough of an annoyance already. Don't make it worse by invalidating the dramatic value of our entertainment by having John Locke talk about how he's not only in tune with the island, but also in tune with tastey Apollo Chocolate.
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Wednesday, March 21, 2007

The Three Amigos to the Rescue

It's been an exciting decade for Mexican cinema, so it's nice to hear that three of the men most responsible for the Renaissance are working to encourage more production in their native country. According to Yahoo News, Afonso Cuarón, Guillermo del Toro and Alejandro Gonzalez Iñaritu met with the President of Mexico to discuss distribution and production strategies for the Mexican film productions. I agree with one of the key points, that the TV stations should play a stronger part in film productions, as they do in Europe.

The filmmakers—Cuarón in particular—have already done a great deal as producers to encourage the region's filmmaking. If we can discover some more young talents through this initiative, all the better.
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Watch at Your Own Risk

Dennis Cozzalio has posted a rather disturbing collection of Youtube videos from the set of David O. Russell's "I Heart Huckabees." If you want to see an actor (Lilly Tomlin) and a director turned to disturbing fits of rage, click away. If not, journey no further.
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How to End a 'LOST' Episode

The ending of last week's episode was deliciously surreal. So great, in fact, that it's got me thinking about all the other great episode endings. Post your favorite surprises and reveals in the comments section, and sometime soon I will compile the ultimate top 10 LOST endings (maybe in preparation for the season finale).

If you aren't caught up on "LOST," stop reading and do it now!

Really, I don't want you reading this if you haven't seen every episode up to Wednesday, March 14.


OK, spoiler warnings on. Skip to the next entry.

The ending of last week's episode was deliciously surreal. The mission to break into the Others' suburban barracks has been accomplished. Next step: Find Jack. Only, what's that off in the distance? Jack is running for the bushes? Does he see his friends? If so, what of all the enemies in the area? Then, like in a dream, one incongruous image leads to an even stranger one. Jack catches a football. And throws it back to Tom! The two are smiling at each other, while Kate, who was so adamant about the rescue mission, looks on in disbelief. Jack catches the ball again, does a little spike-it victory dance and the LOST closing title comes up just like we knew it would.

The conclusion is at once surprising—we don't expect to see the castaways' petulant leader admitting to the enemy that he's having a good time—intriguing—what happened in the day or two since we last saw Jack, and is he (figuratively) playing his enemy or truly converted—and funny. It's funny not only because the image is so unexpected, but because you admire the show's writers and director for finding such an impressive way to manipulate your expectations and get you jonesin' for the next episode.

With tonight's installment looking to explain why Locke's been acting so fucking batshit insane, the show better continue the roll it's been on for the last couple episodes.
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On 'Zodiac' and the Deeper Meanings of Digital

Screenwriter Larry Gross loses me at the very beginning of his Movie City News essay of a few week's ago, hailing the genius of David Fincher's mesmerizing study of fear, "Zodiac."

"Zodiac is an important postmodern work. It's an authentically “new” and even experimental thing attempting, to quote from Susan Sontag's essay Against Interpretation, to put content in its place. It's very very much a film constructed on a 21st century conception of information as a non-substantive, purely relational digital phenomenon, and the fact that it was shot on video and exists immaterially as digital information is thus not a merely decorative issue but crucial to its meaning.

While Fincher's intense character study of the effects of fear is easily one of the best releases so far this year, there's nothing digital about the story or the setting other than a subpar image. (The argument that the film isn't about its period, but about all periods, can be made about a great number of period pieces.) Fincher seems to have chosen digital as his medium of choice because he likes the working process, and is shooting his next effort on the same format. Is it also crucial to that film's meaning? Other than his working method (which I discuss in my upcoming column), I don't see much of a difference in how Fincher would visually approach a 35-mm film.

I also disagree that the film exists "immaterially." Whether a movie exists on a hard drive or on film-stock, it's still stored on a physical device. It comes to life when put through a projector. And 35-mm prints were struck of "Zodiac." Most people who see it in the theater will see it on a material print. If the digital is so crucial to the meaning, Fincher wouldn't allow it to be shown on film.

Like a virtuoso violinist with a child's training instrument, director of photography Harris Savides tries his best to make it look nice, and does a reasonably good job, but the limitations of the medium are still apparent.

Jim Emmerson had a better grasp on the film in his commentary on Gross's piece, comparing the digital impact on "Zodiac" compared to the aesthetic in "Inland Empire":

'Zodiac,' on the other hand, impressed me as very much an analog film. Yes, it was shot on HD video (though with few of the showy CGI tricks Fincher played with in 'Fight Club' and 'Panic Room'), but the narrative, technique and structure of the film are inexorably linear and chronological."

While I consider "Zodiac's" deconstruction of the psychological effect a killer has on a city to be far better than the self-parody that is "Inland Empire," the latter clearly does more interesting things with its visual medium. The digital revolution might be in better shape if more filmmakers could better mesh their style, medium and message.
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