December 2009 posts
Inspired by totally weird lists (with no crossovers? How very convenient, boys…) compiled by A.O. (stop calling me “Tony”) Scott and goofy dad Michael Phillips, here are Kimberly’s top ten movies of the decade. Even she doesn’t understand how this all shook out. And hey! She totally cheated and listed more than ten! A cheap metaphor for a holy mess of a decade. In alphabetical order:
*BEFORE SUNSET (2004) – A melancholy revisiting of the characters created by Julie Delpy (her hilarious 2 Days in Paris just missed this list), Ethan Hawke, and Richard Linklater in 1995′s Before Sunrise, with an ending so achingly perfect…it leaves you thrillingly depressed, hopeful, and crossing your fingers for another installment in 2014.
*BROKEBACK MOUNTAIN (2005) – Well, DUH. If this isn’t in your top ten list you are a monster and don’t deserve love, let alone a timeless, star-crossed love that dare not speak its name.
*CHILDREN OF MEN (2006) – We have discussed that I can never watch this one again—of all the postapocalyptic movies I have been terrorized by, this one struck me as an absolutely realistic portrait of civilization lost to chaos. Last weekend I flipped past Showtime (as per usual) and saw a glimpse of this scene—like something out of a fucking nightmare. Read more »
CAT PEOPLE (1982/DVD/STARZ RETROPLEX) is the semi-famous horror/erotic film, set and filmed in New Orleans, directed by Paul Schrader and starring Nastassia Kinski and Malcolm McDowell as brother and sister were-cats—humans who become black panthers after sex and need to commit murder (and make that gore laden murder) before they can regain their human shape. The movie is based on the original 1942 B&W film of the same title directed by Jacques Tourneur and featuring Simone Simon as the female cat/human. A young John Heard makes up the human element of the movie’s triangle—he’s the zoo curator who falls for Kinski—and learns her secret the hard way. If you’re looking for big fun, get a few friends together and practice your feline walks—Kinski and McDowell have them down to a science! Try not to laugh at the old special effects. In its day, this movie was well regarded (3 ½ stars from Roger Ebert).
Grade: B. Warning: Plenty of 1980s style nudity and loads of fake blood
BATTLESTAR GALACTICA: CAPRICA (2009/DVD) & BATTLESTAR GALACTICA: THE PLAN (2009/DVD) The legions of Battlestar Galactica fans heartsick over the farewell of their fave frakkin’ show ever were somewhat assuaged by the announcement earlier this year that two BSG related films were to be released directly to DVD within a few months of each other. The first released, Caprica, a prequel taking place 50 years prior to the series, follows The Most Famous Scientist On The Planet (played with extra serious science by the Mask kid) as he creates the first Cylon as a way to give life to his dead teenage daughter’s, uh, personality (?), which lives happily online in an awesomely leathery (read: boob-packed) sex ‘n’ violence virtual world she created. If I had died but happily lived on in MY OWN awesomely leathery (read: boob-packed) sex ‘n’ violence virtual world and my dad yanked ME, er, my few gigs of personality, anyway, outta there to live in a cold and clumsy robot shell, I would so totally run away. AND NEVER WOULD I COME BACK! Read more »
So you have no idea what the heck D-Box Motion Code (TM) is? Join the club. The club of which I am no longer a member. Because I have experienced the D-Box in all its glory (!) and have returned, slightly rumpled but relatively unchanged, to tell you all about this fun, silly, and more expensive (varying between $6-$10 more than a normal feature) way to enjoy your favorite, hopefully deafening theatrical releases that happen to be released in this exciting (read: sitting on a subwoofer) and loud (what?) format.
You may have noticed the in-no-way-unassuming D-Box display drawing stares from 8yo boys (and your boyfriend) in the lobby of your local D-Box-equipped theater. Do not be afraid of said display—two bucking D-Box seats in front of a mini screen showing a promo loop of D-Box infused scenes from blockbusters like 2012 and the new Sherlock Holmes—plop right down and test it out. What you’ll find is a cherry red (radical!) modern and comfortable theater seat (albeit slightly firmer and with less of a headrest than most), with two obvious distinctions: a small control panel at the front of the right arm rest with four settings to control the intensity of the movement and vibration, and a mother subwoofer under the seat. Basically, D-Box is an advanced version of the “4-D” motion seats you’ve (maybe?) enjoyed in tourist spots throughout America, from Branson, MO to Niagara Falls, Canada (wherever THAT state is!), where the seats wiggle and bounce and follow the action on screen in an immersive (fake word) experience that allows the viewer to take part in the action on screen. D-Box takes that format, which usually accompanied short 20-30 minute thrill-seeker fare (NOW YOU’RE ON A ROLLER COASTER! NOW YOU’RE FLYIN’ A BI-PLANE!), and applies it to the Hollywood Blockbuster, with more active and precisely coordinated motions that can ripple wave-like through the seat cushions, and louder, vibrating sensations that make every explosion personally interact with the viewer’s suddenly liquefying innards. Read more »
UP IN THE AIR (IN THEATERS/2009) Loads of great reviews have been written about Up in the Air, which boasts a 91 rating on Rotten Tomatoes, is already an award winner, and now is up for no less than 6 Golden Globes and 3 SAG awards. The GG nominations are for all the big ones: Best Picture, Best Director (Jason Reitman), Best Screenplay (Reitman and Sheldon Turner), Actor (George Clooney), Actress (Vera Farmiga) and Supporting Actress (Anna Kendrick). And the Oscar noms will be coming. Kudos to Reitman who based his screenplay on a book of the same title written back in 2001 by Walter Kim — who, according to Wikipedia, wrote the book after meeting a fellow passenger in a first class cabin who enjoyed being on the road more than 300 days a year and was literally living out of an airport locker. Though Reitman began working on the screenplay in 2002, he is ironically fortunate to have brought the film out in 2009—when the theme of corporate downsizing really hits home with the audience. But the bigger theme involves the main character’s philosophy of life—cleverly presented in his “What’s in Your Backpack” corporate seminars. I will not detail the plot of this movie (it’s covered everywhere, literally) but SPOILER ALERT: if you have seen the film and want to discuss the near-final plot twist and the last shot of Ryan Bingham (Clooney) in the film, logon to http://popwatch.ew.com/2009/12/17/up-in-the-air-twist-ending-polls/ and cast your vote! And don’t miss Jason Reitman’s own take on that ending. It’s here ….and it’s a wonderful read.
Grade: A Excellent and worth more than one viewing for sure.
NATIONAL LAMPOON’S CHRISTMAS VACATION (DVD/1989) For some time during my teenage years, I believe I was a gigantic a-hole. Though my family is far too kind to confirm this, I have many memories of them asking me to join them for outings and deeming myself far too cool (ie, lazy) to join them. One such evening came in 1989, when they decided to see a movie together—a rare event. I remember deciding to stay home in a spontaneous fit of annoyance, then watching them shrug and head out (without even begging me to join them! Not a single tear!). I went through the many stages of teen grief: disbelief, self-righteousness, self-pity, hunger, and finally, stinging regret. Anyhoo, eventually they returned, The Little Mermaid (ew) having sold out, with tickets for National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation. Having entered the stage of relief/gratitude, I graced them with my presence. Good choices all around! Read more »
Continuing in our TOP TEN FAVE FILMS OF THE ‘00s series—inspired by similar lists announced by A.O. Scott and that other guy on the awesome new edition of At The Movies, even though their lists are kind of, uh, ridiculous—Brian chimes in with some absurd junk that will surely cause him no end of grief from the guy who cuts his hair.
10. DEADWOOD (2004-06/HBO DVD) & BATTLESTAR GALACTICA (2004-09/SCI-FI CHANNEL DVD) What! Am I crazy? Starting off my list with *sniff* cable TV junk instead of worthy efforts like Billion Dollar Barbie or Grandpa Torino? Hey, cool it, Keith! I know these are TV shows, which is a whole different thing than film, but frak, experiencing the compelling construction (and near destruction) of these two godsforsaken worlds was a more satisfying viewing experience than just about anything released on film. Whole sections of dialogue have taken residence inside my head. And it’s a MESS in there. (Shhh! It likes the bleak.) The dialogue in the opening scene of my fave Deadwood ep, season one’s “I Am Not The Fine Man You Take Me For,” is profoundly heartbreaking epic poetry.
9. O BROTHER, WHERE ART THOU? (2000) My favorite Coen bros. film since Raising Arizona (yeah, I hear ya, nerd, I also prefer the silly underrated Hudsucker Proxy over the way over-praised, merely OK Big Lebowski) rides squarely on the sturdy comic shoulders of George Clooney’s charming and hilariously verbose Ulysses Everett McGill, an ever cheerful Dapper Dan-slick depression-era convict that convinces his two slooooowww chained accomplices (played all slack-jawed to perfection by John Turturro and Tim Blake Nelson) to escape their dusty chain gang and journey to his old homestead to collect a buried treasure that might or might not exist. If their extremely silly takes on old south draaawwwls and just plain dumb old southerners rubs you funny, that is indeed the point. This isn’t all silly accents and yokel jokes, though—the photography, Grammy winning soundtrack, and art direction combine with the material to create something transcendent here. While I do really do appreciate the serious side of what the Coen brothers do—their dark, brooding adaption of Cormac McCarthy’s No Country For Old Men is one of their best—I find it’s their lighter stuff that connects most deeply. Read more »
WHITE CHRISTMAS (1954) So it’s Christmas. And the smash hit musical you produce with your business partner is on hiatus. What else is there to do but follow a singing sisters act to a Vermont inn, organize a last-minute reunion of your WWII platoon, and put on a play? This is the mother of all Christmas movies, starring Bing Crosby, Danny Kaye, Vera Ellen, and a slim and lovely Rosemary Clooney. What was at the time, I’m sure, a completely straightforward offering of holiday fun has morphed into high camp, an artifact from a time long past when ladies floated around in peignoirs and matching fur-trimmed robes and the people sitting up all night in the dining car of overnight trains were happy, successful singers and dancers enjoying milkshakes instead of some unfortunate homeless-looking guy who just barfed on himself and smells like pee. Or when be-turtlenecked crooners singing bedtime songs to ladies over midnight snacks of liverwurst sandwiches and warm milk seemed totally romantic. Even the trenches of World War II get the nostalgia treatment in the hands of these happy people, in the form of a musical number (“Gee, I wish I was back in the army!”). Try to imagine a time when Bing Crosby was considered a heartthrob, and I think you’ll start to get the idea. My family watches this every year. And yes, we know all the words to all the songs and yes, it makes holiday visitors visibly uncomfortable when we all sing along and YES, this only makes it more hilarious. The costumes and sets, the insane choreography of the dance numbers, the sweet and ridiculous plot contrivances, the genuinely talented and funny cast – so much to love! Netlflix it this holiday and give in to the fun.
THE MAGIC FLUTE (Trollflöjten, 1975, Swedish TV) Ingmar Bergman creates a light-hearted, beautiful and very sweet version of Mozart’s The Magic Flute in this lovely film from 1975. I saw it in the theater around Christmas when it first came out and so I remember it fondly as a holiday film. When my children were young, I rented it and made them watch it (opera! horrors!) on New Year’s Eve one year. I think they liked it. Bergman, who evidentally loved this opera as a youth, offers it to us through the eyes of a young boy in the audience. There is a stage and it is absolutely the opera. If you like The Magic Flute, you’ll love this cast. Papageno will remind you of Sam Gamgee the Hobbit—loveable and huggable. Tamino is very handsome, making the perfect hero of the piece. And the Queen of the Night is not only an incredible soprano, but she is beautiful—stunning, in fact.
Available from Amazon (Criterion Collection). Also available on Netflix. A great holiday treat. Enjoy!
HANNAH TAKES THE STAIRS (DVD/2007) After watching a trailer for Noel Baumbach’s upcoming Greenberg (apparently he’s entered the male-midlife-crisis-exploration–era of his career—proceed with caution, Noel) I was curious about vaguely familiar featured actress Greta Gerwig. Apparently she’s one of the more high-profile actors from the “mumblecore” film movement—a term that immediately struck fear in my heart and dry heaves in the rest of me. Described as low budget D.I.Y. affairs with mostly improvised relationship-y dialogue by 20-somethings (and at about 2 years old, considered dead and buried by many critics), it sounds pretty much like your worst emo nightmare. But assuming there are clever participants, this could possibly be interesting, you say? You are wrong! At less than 90 minutes, Hannah Takes the Stairs, starring Gerwig as our titular, um, hero, is drudgery. I required frequent mental health breaks to make it all the way through—sighing loudly, engaging in soothing deep breathing exercises, and popping off a few pushups. I highly recommend this! (NOT the movie. It is terrible.) Read more »