February 2010 posts
SML will be attending AMC’s Best Picture Showcase this weekend and attempting to tweet (full disclosure: that word makes us barf) about the movies, attendees, available snacks (no free soda refills this year? Fascists!), and our plans to sneak in something other than popcorn and peanut butter M&Ms so we don’t go into diabetic shock.
Please note that we have no idea what we’re doing (you can play FarmVille on this thing, right?). We’ll start around 10:00 AM CST. Be there or be doing something much cooler. Check it out here.
BRÜNO (2009/DVD) The scariest movie moment in 2009 didn’t arrive in the much ballyboo’d alt ending of Paranormal Activity, but in the unlikeliest of horror films: Sasha Baron Cohen’s Borat follow-up, Brüno. No, I’m not referring to the super close-up shot of an actual penis, talking, THROUGH THE PEE HOLE, that scandalized fly-over state Midwestern-types*, but to the terrifying Cage Fighting climax where our hero Brüno—an über-gay 19yo German fashionista who, in a fit of pique decided that the only way to be famous would be to un-gay himself—emerges on a CF ring in Arkansas made over as Straight Dave, the most anti-gay mancowboy in America.
Straight Dave gets the insanely drunk ex-con/sex offenders in the out of control auditorium riled up to an insane fever pitch by yelling out a barrage of absurd gay-bashing rhetoric, which is taken at face value and violently cheered on by the crowd. So, pretty much exactly what Cohen pulled in Borat’s rodeo scene, but gay. It serves him just as well here, though— the many psychotically out-of-control faces in the audience serve as the scariest punch line ever. And these faces will stick with you.
Sarah and Kimberly (at left; the Rest of the World, at right) are nothing if not “gals on the go.” They barely have time to honor each other via Luna bar and pick up a new pair of jeggings, let alone finish watching Center Stage for the tenth time. They are dancing as fast as they can! Wasted Weekend is a weekly discussion of the films they watched, half-watched, or turned off in disgust during the previous few days. We hope you still respect them after reading this.
Kimberly: Sarah! In honor of our inaugural edition, I managed to fit in viewings of some terrible movies this weekend. Firstly, I am troubled by the youth of today. The boys look like this, the girls pose like this, and they are scared by weenie crap like Paranormal Activity. Have you seen this yet? It is in no way frightening, and I say this as someone who has slept with the hall light on for the last year after reading the first chapter of The Strain and watching Dawn of the Dead during Wasted Weekend: Nah, I Don’t Need Sleep to Live Edition. The plot holes in this thing are a mile wide (what 20-ish couple wouldn’t post actual videos of ghosts/demons on YouTube immediately? Or change their Facebook status to “Looking for a demonologist”?) and by the end I was happy to see—SPOILER ALERT—these two defeated by Satan. Good one, Dark Lord! (By the way, did you know that demons have chicken feet? FACT.)
Sarah: Kimberly! The thought of Satan having chicken feet is actually super scary! In a circus freak kind of way, which may not actually be what they were going for. So, I think people will be able to tell right away which of us has the better cable package, because while you watched a movie that came out in the last year, I watched parts of several terrible movies that have not graced a screen in many moons. First up, the last 40 minutes of Armageddon on TNT. What can be said about this genuine P.O.S. (that is short for Piece of Shit, everybody) movie that hasn’t already been said? Not much. Why do I have any respect for Ben Affleck? I think it must be that I just feel bad for him about how much everyone made fun of him when he turned himself orange and dated J-Lo? That was so embarrassing. But, really, he is so unforgivably bad in this movie. The Liv Tyler love scenes are unwatchable. What the hell is Buscemi doing in there? Notable: Every single line of dialogue in the last 25 minutes is SCREAMED. Not a single word is uttered using inside voices. “GET BACK ON THE SHIP AND TAKE CARE OF MY DAUGHTER BECAUSE I WON’T BE THERE BECAUSE I’M ABOUT TO BLOW UP FOR THE SAFETY OF THE PEOPLE OF EARTH!” “NOOOOOOOO!” “DO IT!” “OKAY!” Despite my husband’s protestations to the contrary, this movie is still as stupid as it was the first time we all saw it. Next! Read more »
PRECIOUS (2009/IN THEATERS) I admit that I put off seeing this movie for months now (it premiered in Denver last November), worried that I just wasn’t ready to witness all the suffering of the main character, Clareece Precious Jones (Gabourey Sidibe in a fabulous first performance). As I’m sure you’ve read in the many write-ups of this film, Precious is only 16 but her life is already a horror show: she is illiterate, obese, victimized by her father—pregnant with her second child by him, living with the mother from Hell (Mo’Nique) who collects child support checks as guardian of her daughter and grandchild, but otherwise does nothing except smoke, watch TV and remind Precious that she’s stupid, fat and going nowhere. The idea that this movie would be miserable seemed assured. But…it’s not. It’s powerful and uplifting; it’s funny at times and of course, horrifying at others. The Director uses dream sequences for Precious which allow her to cope with the worst of times—she imagines herself on the Red Carpet, for example—a reality Sidibe has now experienced in real life. And he gives us a Teacher named Blu Rain (Paula Patton) who reaches into the self-protective shell Precious has developed, finds the person inside and with firm continued support, lifts her into a meaningful life. Mariah Carey deserves a shout-out as well as the Social Worker who gets the real story at last from Mo’Nique, in a scene that is absolutely riveting and yes, shows you why that Oscar is more than deserved. Don’t miss this movie.
BTW: Precious is up for 6 Oscars: Best Picture, Best Director (Lee Daniels), Best Adapted Screenplay (Geoffrey Fletcher), Best Actress (Sidibe), Best Supporting Actress (Mo’Nique), and Best Editing (Lee Plotz).
Every year we try to get together to watch the Oscars. Party’s at Sarah’s this year, and we need to start working on our nominee-inspired menu. With 10 movies of varying quality to match, we’ve got a lot to think about! Let’s talk about it.
IN THE LOOP (2009/DVD) Touted as the British answer to Wag the Dog (one of my all-time favorites), In the Loop provides a brilliant illustration of the vast ocean separating American and British satire. Director and writer Armando Iannucci refers to his film as a “screwball comedy”—the dialogue coming thick and fast. Thick is the operative word—particularly for the character of Malcolm Tucker (Peter Capaldi), a Scot who spits out expletives at an amazing pace, playing the role of “enforcer” to a British prime minister hot to trot to back the U.S. President in heading into a mideast war—sound familiar? Everything in this movie is inspired by the Bush/Blair effort to launch the Iraq war at all costs, including bullying past the United Nations. In the Loop is based on the BBC series “The Thick of It” and is nominated for an Oscar for adapted screenplay. It has already won that very accolade from the British Independent Film Awards and the New York Film Critics Circle Awards. Several familiar faces appear in the movie: James Gandolfini as a peaceful U.S. General, Tom Hollander (Amadeus) as the pawn—a tongue tied UK Minister, Anna Chlumsky (My Girl) as the savvy political staffer whose “anti-war paper” has been leaked to the BBC.
Grade: B+ Fun for all Anglophiles.
Be sure to check out this link–Great interview with writer/director Iannucci and a link to the complete screenplay.
INGLOURIOUS BASTERDS (DVD/2009)
From: Sarah Gremillion
Sent: Thursday, February 11, 2010 11:52 AM
To: Kimberly Faulhaber; Brian McClelland
So, Inglourious Basterds!
I liked it! A lot! You guys know that I am a Quentin Tarantino fan. Nearly all of his stuff works for me, and this movie was no exception. It took me a long time to sit down and watch this one because the subject matter seemed in such bad taste. But now that I think about it, good taste isn’t really something Tarantino strives for in any of his movies — with the exception of maybe Jackie Brown? Although not really there either. (Side question: Where is Bridget Fonda these days?) Anyway, rewriting the end of World War II as a gore-laden revenge romp is definitely not in good taste, but neither is Travolta accidentally blowing off an innocent person’s face and then having to pick up bits of his skull in Pulp Fiction, and damn if Tarantino didn’t make both of those scenarios really entertaining. It’s his gift. In addition to making giddy Jew-hunting Nazis and a merry band of Nazi-scalpers seem totally reasonable (to me), Tarantino has also made a visually beautiful film here. The cinematography during the opening scene is The Real Deal. And he manages to have his actors switch freely from English to German to French without it being distracting or even, after a few minutes, noticeable. Props to Pacey-arm-candy Diane Kruger, who I’m pretty sure spoke all three languages so effortlessly that I didn’t even realize she’d done it until hours after the movie was over. And Brad Pitt is hilarious. So much better here than when he’s trying to be all “I’m Benjamin Button and I have an Important Lesson to teach you,” or whatever. Eli Roth, on the other hand, was maybe not so great when asked to deliver more than a few words of dialogue. He made up for it with his bad Italian accent, though. Read more »
CRAZY HEART (2009/ IN THEATERS) It’s easy to see what all the Jeff Bridges Oscar Best Actor buzz is about. He couldn’t be better as country singer Bad Blake, who’s 57 and on the bottom rung of his life, driving his beat up truck, singing in bowling alleys and bars, and living in cheap motels all over the southwest. Interviews with Bridges say that he turned the role down at first, liking the script but worried about the lack of music–but once T Bone Burnett was aboard, so was he. Turns out T Bone and Bridges are long-time buddies from the set of Heaven’s Gate where word has it they jammed together throughout the shoot. Bridges has a perfect voice for the part, as well as the general unwashed, worn-out look necessary to make Bad Blake more than convincing. Speaking of voices, Colin Farrell is also just fine as Tommy Sweet, Bad’s former disciple who’s now a mega country singing hit. Tommy offers money for new songs. Bad says he hasn’t written anything in three years. Enter Supporting Actress nominee Maggie Gyllenhaal , single mom from Santa Fe, New Mexico and an aspiring writer—not of songs, but of profiles and news stories. Suffice it to say Maggie inspires much from Bad, but not until he wakes up to the wasted life he’s living. Great movie. Great music. And beautiful southwestern skies. Bridges is a shoo-in for that Oscar. Perhaps Best Song is also in the future: “The Weary Kind” by T Bone Burnett and Ryan Bingham.
BTW: Check out this link from the LA Times
for a great portrait of Scott Cooper, the film’s director and screenwriter; he’s only 39 and spent a decade as a working actor. Nominated for First Feature and First Screenplay by the Independent Spirit Awards, he credits Robert Duvall, an old friend, for opening up many doors when he agreed to be a producer on the film.
IS ANYBODY THERE? (2008/DVD) Looking for an alternative to The Hurt Locker and Avatar action? Try renting this small film, featuring a wonderful performance from Michael Caine, who looks every bit of his 76 years. He’s supposed to, since he portrays Clarence, a new resident at Lark Hall, a seaside British home for the elderly. The story is set in the 1980s and presents the growing friendship between a not-so-nice Clarence (a bitter and sad retired magician) and the young son of Lark Hall’s owners, Edward (a 10 year old growing up among the elderly). Naturally, Edward is fascinated by death, placing his tape recorder under the beds of those he hopes are dying—trying to discover the secrets to their passing and possibly to the afterlife. Edward is played by Bill Milner, who was nominated for Young British Performer of the Year (2010) by the London Critics Circle Film Awards. He is excellent in the part. His parents are trying, especially his mother, but Edward remains a lonely and awkward young man. Enter Michael Caine, who, despite being crusty, turns into the best thing that ever happened to Edward. A bit of a cliché but very warm and likeable with original parts and certainly a good rental for a quiet winter night.
Suggested double-bill: Mrs. Palfrey at the Claremont (2005) with Joan Plowright and Rupert Friend as the comparable pairing. Note: Mrs. Palfrey is the better of the two films IMHO, if you have to choose.
BROKEN EMBRACES (2009/IN THEATERS) It’s great that Penélope Cruz is once again nominated for an Oscar…but isn’t it for the wrong movie? Her performance in Nine is fine, but she is so incredible and shows so much range in Broken Embraces, her fourth collaboration with Pedro Almódovar. Only four? Seems like they have been making films together for years—bringing out the best in each other. This movie meaningfully focuses on a filmmaker (Harry Caine, aka Mateo Blanco, played by Lluís Homar, a dead ringer for Patrick Swayze!) and his muse—Cruz as Lena, his lead actress and lover. The film is so multi-layered, it’s difficult to sum up in a few short words. If you’ve read the reviews, you’ll know that there are many flash-backs and much to be revealed. Harry, when the movie opens, is blind and working under his pseudonym. As the story develops, we learn more…and more, not just about Lena, but others as well. The supporting players in this complex and dark story are equally marvelous. José Luis Gómez plays Ernesto Martel, the film’s bad guy—the rich man who “owns” Lena and bankrolls Mateo’s movie, only to seek ultimate revenge when the filmmaker and actress consummate their love. Blanca Portillo (Agustina in Volver) plays Judit, Harry’s production manager and friend, a seemingly straight forward relationship–but just wait for the many twists. Lisa Schwarzbaum of Entertainment Weekly has recommended seeing this film twice to catch all the twists and turns. I have yet to make it for my second viewing, but I’m definitely planning one.
Grade: A For Almódovar fans ONLY.
P.S. Did I mention that Penélope Cruz is absolutely mesmerizing? You can’t take your eyes off her. A.O.Scott (NYT) calls her “haunted and haunting.” High praise.
P.P.S. Most fun of all: the movie they’re making in the film, entitled “Girls and Suitcases,” when we finally get to see it, is a take for take remake of the hilarious last scenes in “Women On the Verge of a Nervous Breakdown”—the first Almódovar movie I ever saw in 1988. Wonderful….