November 2010 posts
Sarah: So Kimberly, what do we make of yesterday’s announcement that Anne Hathaway and James Franco will be hosting the Oscars this February? I think it’s weird. Do you think they’re just calling everyone in Hollywood until someone says yes, or what? I guess Hathaway sang a song with Hugh Jackman a couple of years back when they had that “salute to Broadway” theme (UGH), and I heard she was a decent SNL host last weekend. But does that qualify her to run the show, really? And is it some sort of conflict that they’re both in movies that are being talked up for nominations this year (Franco more so than Hathaway, but still)? I say we nominate these dudes instead.
Kimberly: Yet another reason why you should be our Oscar producer. Truly, I am baffled by this choice. Pretty people get everything in this crazy world—the biggest houses, the shiniest cars, the hottest drug dealers, the finest meats and cheeses—now they get to host the Oscars too? Are these two even popular enough to increase the numbers for the usually low-rated telecast? Are they going to do a dance number? You know Hathaway wouldn’t sign on until they agreed to give her a Judy Judy Judy moment. And I guess Franco can add this to his overachieving, manic resume—he is officially qualified for all the jobs now. I hope Twitter is still around in February, because this will be fun.
Sarah: The New York Times seems to think it’s a bid to lure younger viewers, I guess? But does that even make sense? Hey kids, tune in to watch the stars of The Princess Diaries and Pineapple Express make jokes about The King’s Speech! We know just what you like! Perhaps it’s time for producers to accept the Oscar telecast for what it is: a low-rated celebration for movie and fashion nerds (this is us, Kimberly) that most people don’t care too much about. Own it!
THE SPANISH PRISONER (1997/DVD) The Spanish Prisoner is a wonderful pseudo-Hitchcock-ian light thriller worthy of any weekend—or week night for that matter. David Mamet wrote and directed the film, which presents a labyrinth of twists and turns, suckering in both his main character and you, the viewer, along the way. Like all good Hitchcock films, almost nothing is what it seems. The cast is truly interesting: Campbell Scott in the lead as Joe Ross, the “everyman” of the story; Rebecca Pidgeon as Joe’s loyal and true-blue assistant Susan Ricci; Steve Martin as the super suave and obviously rich Jimmy Dell; Ben Gazarra as Joe’s boss; and Ricky Jay as Joe’s friend, truth-speaker and company lawyer, George Lang. As the story opens, Joe is about to become rich, thanks to an invention which, true to form, is never described or revealed, but is kept in a red notebook, locked away with only Joe wearing the “key” to it around his neck. Early in the film, Joe, his boss and the lawyer are off to a “meeting” on an island in the Caribbean to theoretically sell his secret. While there, Joe runs into Jimmy and the story begins to run. Campbell is great in the Cary Grant/North by Northwest role and I personally have always liked Rebecca Pidgeon—she looks so earnest, it’s creepy.
Grade: B. Not a true Hitchcock, but pretty darn slick. Maybe a little too slick for its own good, actually, especially toward the end. But hey! Fun nonetheless.
BTW: The title is a nod to an actual confidence game which according to Wikipedia dates to the late 19th century.
P.S. For Steve Martin fans only: Be sure to enjoy this link: “You’ll be a Dentist.”
Come join us for a discussion of the trailers we’ve been privileged to experience over the last month or so. Are they tantalizing nuggets of the hits of tomorrow? Or harbingers of The Next Three Dayses to come? We do not know! But we will assume that we do, because it is our way. Have YOU seen a trailer lately? Do tell. In the Comments, please—we can’t hear you from our cubicles.
Sarah: Kimberly! There are like 40 million new trailers making their way around the internets right now! I really had a hard time choosing just two to focus on here (although, Warner Brothers helped me out some by taking down the Green Lantern trailer that popped up briefly last week. Sexiest Man Alive [NOPE] Ryan Reynolds in tights! HEE!).
Anyway, I’ll begin with Your Highness from used-to-be-really-arty-and-interesting director David Gordon Green. This trailer pains me physically. A wacky period stoner comedy with pointlessly profane contemporary dialogue and gratuitous nudity? Did we as a nation learn nothing from Year One? This is a big deal cast, too! Danny McBride, James Franco, and even the lovely Zooey Deschanel: sure. But Portman is a bit of a surprise here, yes? Flashing her ass and her really, really bad British accent around? Help me understand, Kimberly. What are all these people doing in this? How did this get made? Will people see it? (A note before you click play: Red Band trailer alert! Pitifully misused F-words aplenty!)
127 HOURS (2010/SLIFF: PREVIEW) Oh, Danny Boy(le)! What has that horrible destroyer of quality cinema “Oscar” done to you? It certainly hasn’t dampened your relatively newfound affection for manipulative cheezeball OTT synth-rock score, or for your new fave composer and Slumdog Millionaire alum A.R. Rahman, who seems to have been under the impression that this was indeed a sequel to that misguided, overrated, Oscar-sweeping crapsterpiece with this samey collection of bombastic beats. Exhibit A: Your soon-to-be released and much buzzed about Oscar bait grossout adventure 127 Hours. It’s source material is a true story, however slight: Our oddball (read: dumbass) fitness adventure nut hero goes run-hiking ALONE through treacherous canyons in Utah when he suddenly finds himself trapped under a boulder in a remote crevasse. He struggles in vain for 127 hours or theareabouts, eventually freeing himself (SPOILER, SORTA) via chopping off his arm just under the elbow with a dull pocketknife. But while you succeeded in stretching this 20 minute, tops, story into an engaging full-length feature—much to the credit of a game and funny James Franco in the challenging role of the self-amputee—what ultimately knocked your film down a couple of letter grades for me was your Slumdog-esqe ham-fisted, overcooked visuals (Oh, split screens of office drones scored by Coldplay-in-overdrive-type tunes, etc, go fuck yourselves) and the aforementioned crap score. MIND YOU: This film will be a huge audience-pleasing hit, let there be no doubt about that. And it will likely be a Best Picture contender. *Sigh* I do hope that this is just the inevitable keep-making-what-the-people-want phase of your post-Oscar career that will eventually run its course, allowing you to tone down your current 30 Seconds to Mars music video treatment M.O. and move your focus from the flash-pots and blood bags into creating something a little subtler and hopefully a bit more resonant. Something more like your creepy sci-fi masterpiece Sunshine.
Don’t get me wrong here—127 Hours isn’t a terrible movie. And the scene with Franco taking his arm off will indeed stick with you. As for the rest, it’s certainly just as rousing as any other energy-drink-infused popcorn thriller. Aw, Danny. You break my heart.
My grade: C+
HOWL (2010/ IN SELECT THEATERS) As I was leaving a crowded showing of Howl in Taos, one woman asked her friend: “Did you ever read this whole poem?” Good question! I certainly had not, but now, thanks to this very creative film, we can all answer yes. James Franco turns in yet another solid performance as a young Allen Ginsberg, the poet laureate of the Beat Generation. The film essentially (and cleverly) divides into three inter-woven parts: there’s Franco as Ginsberg (in B&W) reading the poem to a rapt coffee house audience in San Francisco on October 7, 1955; there’s Ginsberg in 1957 (this time in full color) giving an unseen interviewer the background on how he wrote the poem, while awaiting the results of an obscenity trial focused on the work; and finally there’s the trial itself against Lawrence Ferlinghetti who published Howl as part of his 4th in the Pocket Poets Series from his bookstore and publishing house, City Lights—happily still operating in San Francisco . Ferlinghetti was arrested and charged with publishing “obscenity”—Howl is full of it and also full of explicitly homosexual depictions and drug-induced rantings. It paints the Beat Generation in vivid colors for us and brings famous characters like Jack Kerouac and Neal Cassady to life. The court section of the movie also brings us some sweet, small performances from a wonderful group: Bob Balaban as the judge, Jon Hamm as the defending attorney, David Strathairn as the prosecutor, Mary Louise Parker as the prim “expert” denouncing the work, Jeff Daniels as the scholarly “expert” also denouncing the work in a wonderfully convoluted use of words—based on the actual script from the trial, as I understand it. Also appearing as witnesses are Treat Williams and Alessandro Nivola. The movie sucks you right into the period, with music from Carter Burwell. And the topic of freedom of speech and tolerance in general is certainly a topical one for this post-election U.S. This movie will be hard to catch in theaters, but hopefully will be out soon on DVD. Watch for it!
Grade: A- The minus is for the weird animations chosen by the filmmakers. These have been widely criticized and while they were strange, I didn’t think they damaged the film materially.
BTW: This film was nominated for the Grand Jury Prize at this year’s Sundance
The 19th Annual Stella Artois St Louis International Film Festival (but still SLIFF, because SASLIFF just looks silly) kicked off on a more somber note than had originally been intended, with the sudden death last week of St. Louis-born filmmaker George Hickenlooper turning the opening gala screening/reception featuring his new buzzy film Casino Jack into a makeshift memorial ceremony. (Of course, I missed this reportedly moving tribute, due to a sneak preview of Burlesque playing across town in Chesterfield. There are priorities, people!) The film’s star, Kevin Spacey, was respectfully in attendance and, according to a SLIFF rep, later closed several bars and, eventually, sidewalks, in and around the Loop. Friendly!) After such gravitas, I think a laugh or two was definitely in order. Funny songs about priests molesting deaf boys, anyone?
Well, if that sounds fun to you (and it surprisingly was!), you likely (wish you had) caught the following night’s packed but surprisingly not sold out SLIFF coup, An Evening With Harry Shearer, a fun and revealing two hour live interview/career retrospective of the comic actor/writer/director, already in town to promote his Hurricane Katrina exposé doc, The Big Uneasy, which was screening the following afternoon in the same venue, the gloriously unfashionable time machine known as the Hi-Pointe theater. Read more »
TOY STORY 3 (DVD/2010) We were way more excited than grown adults probably should be to finally see Toy Story 3 at my house, being big fans of the first two and Pixar in general, and having missed it in 3D in theaters over the summer. I remember reading the rave reviews when it was out, and it’s on all the early Oscar lists as a done deal for a Best Picture nomination. And we watched it, and it was…fine? Okay, more than fine. It was great-looking and genuinely funny and sweet. This final chapter in the film series follows the toys’ adventures as their owner Andy prepares to leave home for college. As usual, they find themselves removed from their house and have to struggle and work together and learn lessons in order to get back to where they belong. There are some new toys to get to know–some good, some mean, and some SUPER CREEPY. Also, John Lasseter and crew made the very wise decision to exclude any musical numbers this time. There is a lot to like about the movie, really. There was just no way it was going to live up to our expectations and the hype. And I think by the third movie in a series, writers are trying to show the audience something new and exciting, so the action in this one seemed really amped up. Read more »
BURLESQUE (2010/IN THEATERS) The siren song of a potential camp classic compelled me to make the trek out west to Chesterfield (home of a mile-long strip mall of horrors) for a preview screening of this somewhat mysterious Christina Aguilera/Cher musical.
I don’t think I was disappointed? It’s certainly not bad–the plot was thin (we have to band together to save the old burlesque house from evil developers!), but moved quickly and there were enough strobe lights, high kicks, and scenes of Aguilera strutting down the street practicing dance moves while fellow pedestrians looked on admiringly to keep the audience happy. But where was the camp? The only Showgirls worthy line came about 3/4 of the way through when Cher reminded Kristen Bell (really sweating it here to play a humorless, self-destructive bitch [and, well, to dance], with a chirpy delivery that gives away the Doris Day within) about “How many times I held your hair back while you threw up everything but your memories!” Now that’s what I’m talking about. More please. Read more »
ONDINE (2009/DVD/NETFLIX STREAMING) Both Be and I wanted to see this film last summer when it was finally released in the U.S. but it came and went too quickly in the art house theaters and we missed it. Luckily, it’s easy to catch now thanks to Netflix, as a traditional DVD rental or in the online streaming option which I took advantage of last night (note to readers: the streaming works very well even on a MAC, with no awkward “buffering” hold-ups once you start, and the film and sound quality are excellent).
Neil Jordan, who won a Screenplay Oscar for The Crying Game, wrote and directed Ondine, which has a definite fairy tale and lyrical quality to it, particularly in its first half and its ending. The setting for the film (Castletownbere, a fishing village on Ireland’s southern coast) is where Jordan actually lives and it’s like another character—full of personality and feeling and tons of Irish-ness. Colin Farrell stars as Syracuse (nicknamed “Circus”), a local fisherman who catches a beautiful woman one day in his nets. The woman calls herself Ondine (from the water) and when she joins Syracuse on his boat, her singing causes his lobster traps and fishing nets to fill (and gives us some gorgeous underwater shots at the same time). Syracuse is a recovering alcoholic who is devoted to his young daughter Annie (a very strong performance from 10 year old Alison Barry)—a key figure in the story here. Read more »
MORNING GLORY (2010/IN THEATERS)
I predict a darn good box office for this movie. At last night’s screening here in Denver (thanks to GOFOBO for those free tickets—see Brian’s write-up just below), we had a BIG line to get in and lots of laughing out loud from the audience. I think the movie is fine—funny, well written and with some really good performances. I always love Jeff Goldblum and he’s wonderful here as the cynical boss of IBS—the 4th ranked network– with its failing morning show “Daybreak.” Also really enjoyed Diane Keaton in her pitch-perfect spot as the morning anchor—particularly when things got nasty on-air. Rachel McAdams does a fine job with her incredibly perky main character, Becky, and Harrison Ford is appropriately grumpy (maybe even a little over the top) in his portrayal of the “3rd worst man on earth” former news anchor from hell Mike Pomeroy. People in my audience were roaring at the montage of scenes about 2/3 of the way through the picture when Becky has transformed her weather man into her “live action” reporter (bringing to mind Bridget Jones sliding down that fire pole in Bridget Jones Diary).
Many others writing about this movie have mentioned Broadcast News, but seriously, this one is not in the same league. It is fun, however, in a light-hearted, skim the surface kind of way. Would I recommend this movie to others? Definitely.
My Grade: B
P.S. I’m sure you noticed how Becky’s hair cleverly mirrors her rising self-confidence in the film…heck, Harrison Ford’s Mike Pomeroy even calls out her poor bangs. Nothing like beating the audience over the head with symbolism.