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April 20, 2008

Cross-Eyed Diane Keaton

Spending my Sunday evening getting caught up on freelance work and watching Reds on HBO On Demand. It's a wonderful, complicated movie about the Socialist movement in the United States with great performances by Diane Keaton, Warren Beatty and Jack Nicholson, in a dynamite bottle brush mustache. However, whenever Diane stares intently at Warren or Jack, trying to explain her deep feelings, she gets sort of cross-eyed. Actually, really cross-eyed. It's both unattractive and distracting. Did no one see this in the dailies?

Posted by karen at 11:22 PM . On Television

April 12, 2008

Recent Opinions on Kid's Movies

Cinecultist's reviews that have been appearing over on

Slapstick, female empowerment and dreamy Gerard Butler in Nim's Island.

Springy, bright and elastic Whos in Dr. Seuss' Horton Hears a Who.

Raven-Symoné's star wattage and pet pigs in College Road Trip.

Reese Witherspoon's producing debut and Christina Ricci's plastic snout in Penelope.

Michel Gondry's visual styling and the advent of "Swede" as a verb in Be Kind Rewind.

P.S. We've also been doing a little tumblring and are in search of more folks to follow, so let us know if you've also joined. It's 2.0-tastic!

March 17, 2008

George Clooney Meets the Internet, Likes What He Sees

The ending to a fantastic article by A.J. Jacobs in this month's Esquire about George Clooney had Cinecultist ROFLing this afternoon.

"At this point, I make a segue that seemed relevant at the time but in retrospect was probably a very bad idea. "You know," I tell him, "I asked the guy who does the Esquire Web site* what I should show George Clooney, and he said, 'Show him 2 Girls 1 Cup.' "

"What's that?"

"It's the most disturbing video in the history of videos."

"Show it to me."

"Really? I don't know."

"I can take it," Clooney says. "I'm a grown-up. We're all grown-ups."

"It's scarring. It'll scar you forever."

"Is it long?" he asks.

"No," I tell him, "but it's so disturbing. I saw it once and can never get it out of my mind. I can't watch it again."

"I want to see it."

Well, he asked. After a bit of searching, I find the link. I click it.

After several seconds: "It's not so bad," he says.

Three seconds later: "Oh."

Another two seconds: "Oh, my GOD! Oh, my God!! Oh, my God!"

Clooney puts his hand over his mouth like he's going to throw up. He bolts from his chair and walks out of the room.

Clooney's longtime PR guy, Stan Rosenfield, wants to know what the fuss is about. Clooney tells him he just watched the most repulsive video he's ever seen. Rosenfield wants to see it.

"I want to go at least one second more than George."

"I've got to watch Stan watch it," Clooney says, recomposing himself. "It's like the rodeo -- see how long you can last."

Rosenfield lasts three full seconds before walking out.

Clooney, having regarded himself all morning, now just watches, doubled over with laughter.

* Cinecultist has hung out with said Web site guy, one Mr. Eric Gillin, and that's totally the type of thing he'd recommend.

Bewildered by March 17th

Drunk idiots in front of McSorley's, before 10 am
Originally uploaded by karencinecultist
Irish pride and parades up Fifth Avenue are all well and good, but the drunken insanity and everything colored green is really perplexing to Cinecultist. We should have recorded audio of the drunken jerks whooping it up out in front of McSorley's this morning as we walked to the subway to go to work. The people queued up in this picture are waiting in 40 degree weather to be let into a saw dust strewn bar. It's Monday morning people, go be productive somewhere!

We'd also like to point out that the Condé Nast cafeteria featured green colored scones this morning. There's no where that's safe.

March 14, 2008

SXSW Round Up on Metromix

opening night at the Paramount
Originally uploaded by karencinecultist
Who knew watching a bunch of movies in a small Texas town could tucker out the Cinecultist like it did? It's finally Friday, we've been back in New York since Monday night, and still need to post a few thoughts on the couple of other films we caught after our Alamo Ritz double debacle. In the meantime, you can read a wrap up of the festival CC wrote for the national Metromix feed.

Cinecultist is glad to see our reference to breakfast tacos, an only in Austin oddity we found particularly fascinating during our trip, ended up in the final piece. Although it should be noted that a round up of the festival which only features five movies barely scratches the surface of what was on offer at SXSW this year. Just in case that wasn't clear from our Lindsay Lohan level exhaustion references.

March 9, 2008

Twarted, a Theme at SXSW

a massive waiting line
Originally uploaded by karencinecultist
Twice now the Alamo Ritz has disappointed the Cinecultist. On Saturday evening we stood on line for the Harmony Korine movie but didn't end up getting in and then tonight, we were also denied entrance to the Duplass brothers' movie Baghead. That line stretched around the block and down the alley! Who knew getting to a theater a half hour before the screening with badge in tow would be such a recipe for disaster. Guess that's one of those newbie mistakes you only make once. Or in Cinecultist's case at this SXSW, twice.

March 8, 2008

Day 2 at South by South West

Nothing makes one feel like a bonafide blogger than free WiFi. Cinecultist is currently in the Ikea lounge area of the Austin Convention Center after a screening, getting caught up on emails and checking in. All around us are earnest, badge wearing interactive and film folks tapping away on lap tops, drinking coffees, chatting and planning their next move navigating this massive festival. It's kind of awesome, the creative hub bub here at SXSW.

Last night CC watched the locally made, fiction film, Goliath, about a middle aged white collar worker dealing with his bourgeois rage and the loss of his beloved cat, and then today we caught the documentary We Are Wizards, about Harry Potter fans. So far we've been sticking with our initial navigation plan of seeking out off-the-beaten path movies, not films that are coming to New York in the next week or so. Both movies were worth seeing for their zany, home-grown qualities.

Goliath is a film directed and written by David Zellner, and produced and edited by his brother Nathan, with both brothers acting in the movie as well as other indie fixtures like Wiley Wiggins and Andrew Bujalski. It has an Office Space vibe, only with even more depressed, hopeless characters who endure soul crushing humiliations. Moments like the bureaucratic signing of divorce papers or the inane chatter in a break room full of imbecile dudes are played out unblinkingly and the resulting laughter is appreciative if also slightly embarrassed. The Zellner brothers are interested in fixating on situations we've all been in, and frankly it's slightly uncomfortable.

After the Zellners, We Are Wizards was a more buoyant and celebratory selection, delving into the world of Wizard Rock—bands devoted to performing original songs about Hogwarts characters—HP fan sites and other creative expression centering on The Boy Who Lived. After attending a few Union Square midnight extravaganzas for Rowling's books and movies, it was really intriguing to see folks from all over the country using post-modern expression to explore their love of Harry. A stand-out character in Josh Koury's documentary is Brad Neely, a geeky cartoonist for Super Delux who recorded his own audio interpretation/commentary for the first film. There's something about this wizarding universe and it's characters which he says allowed him to make his most resonant work. He tells Koury's camera, he still thinks about it all the time. Intriguing that in our pop culture saturated world, it's appropriation that can lead to truly satisfying creativity.

Just now, we saw film writer Dennis Lim walking past and chatted with him about his experience so far. This is Dennis's first SXSW too, and because he's serving as a documentary judge, he's parked here in the Convention Center for the day watching all eight of the competitors. We recommended that when he gets a break from movie watching to eat a meal at the South Congress Cafe. Cinecultist had a delightful brunch there this morning, complete with mimosas and cornbread muffins. Yum. We also ate an equally scrumptious cupcake from the Hey Cupcake airstream truck parked across the street. Oh Austin, you're so quirky.

Tonight, we have plans to hit The Toe Tactic premiere party and check out the advertised performance by Yo La Tengo. But before that we'll have to swing by the drugstore for some decongestant, Cinecultist is battling a bit of a cold or maybe allergies.

March 7, 2008

Waiting for my first screening to begin

Waiting for my first screening to begin
Originally uploaded by karencinecultist
As the crowd files into the convention center theater, cinecultist plays with her mobile blog functions. SXSW baby!

March 6, 2008

Austin Bound!

Picture%203.pngIn a few short hours, Cinecultist will be winging our way from Newark, New Jersey to Austin, Texas, the site of the South by Southwest Film Festival. We could only take a couple of days off for the trip, and as we filled up our interactive film festival calendar yesterday with interesting screenings and panels, we realized it's shaping up to be a jam packed long weekend. Especially since we've heard such good things about Austin's bbq, tacos and margaritas from past festival attendees. Perhaps pulled pork will become our new go-to movie snack after this weekend.

Looking over the festival line up, Matt Dentler and his team have put together a great mix of mainstream new releases like the opening night feature 21 and Harold and Kumar Escape from Guantanamo, with documentaries and small indies. On our list so far are two docs we'd heard good thing about at Sundance, Gonzo and American Teen. But Cinecultist also hopes to make some introductions to new filmmakers, so we definitely want to check out some of the short subjects, Emerging Visions and Lone Star States collections. Plus, we're hoping to do some film party schmoozing and film panel attending, so as we said, busy, busy, busy!

CC has packed the digital camera and the laptop, so we'll be filing dispatches all weekend long. If you'll also be in town for the fest or have some bbq/taco consuming suggestions, drop us a line.

March 4, 2008

Chuck Klosterman on Road Movies

In the current issue of The Believer, dude extraordinaire Chuck Klosterman essayifies on that tried and true genre, the road movie. Recently, we'd decided our previous opinion of Klosterman's writing (mostly self-important, not a lot of there there) was misguided* but with this article, Cinecultist has gone back to sort of hating him.

As usual, Klosterman seems to have missed the forest for the trees, deftly writing around the main issue in a wholly unsatisfying and overtly-intellectualized way. He argues that road movies always lead the characters back to the beginning, are about reinvention, or discovering geography. Sometimes they have no structure, sometimes they have a strict three act structure. Maybe the point is nothing happens, maybe the point is something big happens. Klosterman throws all of these ideas out there for contemplation, and doesn't really pass final judgment on any of them.

But road movies, to our mind, aren't ever solely about asphalt or cars or nature versus society. They're about the externalization of that internal quest to know ourselves. Here's where we go a little Joseph Campbell: As the hero travels, exiting his home base/comfort zone, encountering archetypes and solving minor roadblocks, he comes to learn who he is. He may be traveling down the road in a car, but he's really trekking into his psyche. That's why 2001 is an interesting inclusion into the road movie genre—the road into space is a metaphor for Dave's real journey into that 18th century white alien room, ie. his mind.

Another annoyance from this essay is that Klosterman cites a lot of great examples of road movies like Easy Rider, Thelma and Louise, Old Joy and Two-Lane Blacktop (Most. Boring. Movie. Ever.) but neglects Cinecultist's fav, and the subject of a high school English AP paper we wrote about road stories in literature: The Muppet Movie. Kermit, a banjo, and a bunch of fuzzy buddies in a Studebaker going to Hollywood? How could Chuck have missed that one? Perhaps just like Fozzie, Klosterman learned to drive by correspondence school.

The Muppet Movie
*CC recently donated to This American Life for the CD Kings of Nonfiction, a dialog between host Ira Glass and writers Susan Orlean, Malcolm Gladwell and Chuck Klosterman at Town Hall. In this context, Chuck's writing or if you prefer, riffing about KISS for 600 words, seemed to have purpose. Obviously, we were wrong.

March 3, 2008

Chop Shop and Ramin Bahrani


A few weeks ago, Cinecultist got the opportunity to chat with director Ramin Bahrani again, this time for Metromix. Ramin is a cool guy and always a fun interview—he let CC veer the conversation off into Ingmar Bergman exaltations and he humored our questions about his favorite neighborhood haunts. He also is obviously and deeply passionate about cinema which tells the unlikely, untold narrative, as is evident in his wonderful new movie Chop Shop about two teenagers living above an auto body shop in Willet's Point, Queens. Cinecultist has been, at least once, to all five boroughs of Manhattan but we were unfamiliar with this industrial part of the city near Shea Stadium. Bahrani opens a window to this part of New York and the people living their lives there. His camera doesn't judge. It just appears to observe, and the performances he elicits from his primarily first time cast are wonderfully natural.
The film is playing now at Film Forum through March 11, be sure to check it out.

March 2, 2008

Another Episode of The Dakota Fanning Show

Another brilliant portrayal by Amy Poehler as the young thespian Dakota Fanning on this week's Saturday Night Live hosted by Ellen Page. The addition of the "Kids Speak" feature is really choice. Geektastic Dakota takes to the streets to ask kids the kinds of questions she wants to answer: "What's your favorite David Lynch movie?" "Did you catch Philip Glass at Carnegie Hall?" and "Is Sarkozy trampling French people's civil rights?" Ha. Poor Dakota, any little girl who has a celeb crush like Charlie Rose and plays the hurdy gurdy is so freakin' doomed. But she'd still totally be Cinecultist's friend.

February 28, 2008

Good Excuses to Click Through

Shooting Down Pictures hates on San Francisco Chronicle critic Mick LaSalle for boldly admitting he hasn't seen some canonical cinema classics and then tossing off cursory reviews of them. Cinecultist used to read LaSalle religiously when we lived in the Bay Area too, and he even emailed to wish CC a happy 22nd birthday following a column in our college newspaper. But dude, LaSalle, you hadn't seen 2001 or Blade Runner? Jeez.

Amy Monaghan on Radar lists some of the most misogynistic movies of the '00s. We say "right on, sister!" for calling out Superbad and My Super Ex-Girlfriend. These are not pro-lady movies.

• In our Movie Binge review of Garfield 2: A Tail of Two Kitties, Cinecultist contemplated the oddity of Garfield's premise, ie. that Jon Arbuckle is basically talking to himself when he chats with his fat tabby cat. In this inspired tumblr blog, the author has literally erased that lasagna eating cat and produced a hilarious, yet almost unsettling nihilistic strip. Is it wrong to laugh at a character who seems so close to the edge of sanity?

February 27, 2008

Paul Giamatti Promotes the Post Office

Post Office website
Now this is an advertising tie-in campaign Cinecultist's grandmother could get behind. We can just picture the boardroom meeting..."That John Adams was a great role model. You know why? Because he used STAMPS and sent LETTERS through the MAIL when founding our nation. It's hot stuff. And you know what's even better? Movie star Paul Giamatti will be portraying him on HBO.* They can show anything on cable! It'll make stamps sexy again!"

*Actually, CC is really looking forward to this seven part mini-series starting on Mar. 16. The previews we've seen so far look really good. We just didn't expect to see an ad for it when trying to figure out how late the post office was open tonight.

Confounded by Lukas Moodysson

containerposter.jpgInnovative Swedish director Lukas Moodysson continues to challenge the devotion of your Cinecultist. Last night, we went to see his most recent work Container at Lincoln Center, where it was playing as a part of the annual Film Comment Selects series and we walked out of the hushed theater perplexed. On the way home, we even contemplated accosting Film Comment's pithy editor Gavin Smith on the platform of the downtown 1 train for some further explanation, but then thought better of it. Sometimes it's better to struggle with the thoughts evoked by a Moodysson movie alone.

Moodysson has said cryptically that Container is his silent film with sound, which makes sense in a way because the diegetic characters, a cross-dressing fat man and his tiny female Asian alter-ego, don't speak. Instead we hear a continuous train-of-thought voice over from American actress Jena Malone who narrates what seems to be the man's twisted and self-hating inner life. Obsessed with religious iconography, celebrity culture, consumer detritus and cross-dressing, the voice-over is both fascinating and maddening. It leap frogs from topic to topic, musing over Paris Hilton's ubiquitous fame one minute, then gender confusion and the desire to lick everything the next. The droning buzz of Malone's whispers even began to make Cinecultist feel a little ill, which isn't surprising after sitting through the graphic surgery footage in Moodysson's last movie A Hole In My Heart.

Surely anyone paying for a ticket to see this film at this series would expect a challenging movie, but apparently a bunch of the audience members weren't digging Moodysson's avant-garde experimentation because at the 20 minute mark about 15 or so people boldly got up and exited the theater. Cinecultist though wasn't tempted to flee, we still wanted to see where Container was going. As the final pixelated gray image cut to black, we didn't have a concrete conclusion on Moodysson's purpose, though it seems clear that the movie is interested in false exteriors masking true interiors. We're all containers for something, etc. Interestingly, of all the oddities that flashed past in the 72 minutes, that shot of the beige cooked ravioli swirling around the bathtub was perhaps one of the most oddly unsettling images from the whole proceeding. Don't ask us why. It was just too weird for words.

Thank goodness, Cinecultist found out that our man Lukas doesn't intend to stay on this provocative avant-garde track for ever. As he says in a Channel 4 article on Moodysson and an exhibit of his work at London's Institute of Contemporary Art:

"I'm thinking of going back to making a film that's not about broken or ruined things but whole things," he says surveying the jumbled chaos of his installation. "I had all these things in the room where I write. But when I started working on the exhibition I had to clear everything out. My room is empty and clean and that's inspiring me. My next film is mainstream and totally linear. I need to tell simple stories again."

Whew, that's good news. Cinecultist needs some serious simplicity after convoluted complexity of Container.