January 29, 2004

Best In Animation

The award for the best animated feature at the Oscars has three entries this year, but Cinecultist loved Finding Nemo so very much it seemed difficult to imagine any other film supplanting it in our affections. But after seeing the Triplets of Belleville yesterday with Josh, our loyalties will definitely be torn. The film has also garnered a nomination for best song with that catchy jazz theme "Triplets of Belleville" which sticks to your brain like glue.

There's been talk about how Sylvian Chomet's style of little dialogue on a soundtrack which favors sound effects and atmospheric music instead is similar to Jacques Tati, and that wouldn't be such a stretch since we glimpsed a Tati movie poster in Souza's bedroom. The wit here is very different from Finding Nemo which depends on banter and word-play, Triplets is a mostly visual humor experience. It also expanded our movie vocabulary for battling gangsters -- would Scorsese or QT have thought to attack a roomful of shoulder endowed men in black suits armed only with a frying pan and some hats? We think not.

Posted by karen at 8:33 AM |

January 28, 2004

For Your Consideration

Yesterday as Cinecultist checked in on the Oscar nominations from the desk of The Day Job, we were a bit flabbergasted to say the least. SEA-F*CKING-BISCUIT??? FOR BEST PICTURE OF THE YEAR???? Wha? And CC's not the only one surprised, Cultivated Stupidity was also beside himself, although that's partly because he is a one gay man Nicole Kidman fan army. The slight against Cold Mountain is a slight against CS. But seriously people, what happened here? It was as though the spirit of Harvey entered the publicity department of Universal spurring them on to complete media saturation for their horsey picture.

And House of Sand and Fog is dominating the acting noms, now compelling CC to go see the freakin' thing. This happens to us every year, one particular film we've let slip through our ordinarily obsessive viewing schedule (last year it was the Pianist) gets all of this critical accolade. Why does it matter? Because then, Cinecultist can't weigh in on the picture with the verve and certainty we like. And that makes us cranky. We like to alienate and offend with our movie opinions whereever we go, it's part of the CC shtick. So damn that Academy and their off the wall nominations!

Posted by karen at 10:37 AM |

January 27, 2004

And The Nominees Are...

oscar.jpgToday the Academy of Arts and Motion Picture Sciences will announce their nominees for their annual awards, the Oscars. They've moved up the awards night from its usual mid-March to late February (the 29th to be exact, Sunday at 8pm Eastern time/5pm Pacific), supposedly to try to cut down on the production companies campaigning. But instead it seems that the speculation is flying faster and more furious this year and the names batted around seem to be on a steam roll from one awards group to another.

Everyone loves to look at the Golden Globes (awarded last weekend) as an indicator of who'll be on the lists of 5 nominees but we've already discussed how fawning the Foreign Press Association can be for the Hollywood machine. We'll update further as this thrilling entertainment world news comes in. Director Blake Edwards (Breakfast at Tiffany's) will be awarded the career achievement award and Billy Crystal will host again the ABC broadcast.

Posted by karen at 8:24 AM |

January 26, 2004

Loving That Love/Hate Relationship

When Cinecultist was but a wee movie watcher, our favorite kind of love stories were the ones where at first the couple hated each other. There's something about good bickering caught on screen that is so electifying and hints at feelings below that acrimony that we're only seeing a glimmer of. The Shop Around the Corner, Ernst Lubitsch's 1940 classic which CC caught for the umpteenth time last night on TMC, is one of these stories where first they hate each other and then, they're in luv. It's so damn great -- the banter, the sniping, the (innocent) lies, the drawing room deception leading up to the big pay off in the end.

Cinecultist always found this kind of romance so captivating and who wouldn't with the look on Margaret Sullivan's face as she discovers Jimmy Stewart is actually her letter writing boyfriend and the final kiss as it fades to black? But when you think about this much maneuvering going into an actual relationship -- you know in that weird place called "real life" -- shouldn't it all be much more straight forward? With less mistaken identity and lying? Obviously this makes for a Lubitch-less kind of thing, but less therapy in the long run.

Posted by karen at 8:19 AM |

January 25, 2004

Golden Guesses and Predictions

With the Golden Globes coming up this Sunday, PCC thought she would indulge in a bit pre-award guessing and predicting. While she doesn't have the best track record, it's always fun to take a stab at these things. See the official site for a list of the nominees.

Best Picture- Drama
PCC's Choice: Mystic River
Sean Penn's performance alone would secure PCC's vote, but when he's surrounded by, among others, the quiet pain of Tim Robbins and the cool, calculating Lady-Macbeth-in-training Laura Linney, Clint's latest film should triumph.

Likely Winner: LOTR: Return of the King
Peter Jackson's final installment has everything the closing chapter of a trilogy should: epic physical and psychological battles, true friendship, amazing visuals and top-notch acting. PCC would have no problem if this film finally got its precious.

Best Picture- Comedy
PCC's Choice: Lost in Translation
Sofia Coppola's film is gorgeously filmed, emotionally moving and truly funny. Bill Murray and Scarlet Johansson are perfectly cast as the aging actor and his new friend. The scene where they whisper goodbye is made even better by Coppola's choice to exclude any actual dialogue. Even though PCC loved Pixar's Finding Nemo, she will reserve her fish vote for the Oscars when Nemo will surely be in the running for Best Animated Feature.

Likely Winner: Lost in Translation
Coppola's sophomore feature was one of the best-reviewed films of the year and there is a strong Oscar buzz for Best Picture, Director, Actor and Actress. Both of these are excellent indicators for a "golden" evening come Sunday.

Best Actor- Drama
PCC's Choice: Sean Penn for Mystic River
Penn's performance is amazing. Enough said.

Likely Winner: Sean Penn for Mystic River
Remember the "amazing" part?

Best Actress- Drama
Likely Winner: Charlize Theron for Monster
Not only was her physical transformation amazing, but the character she created elevated a simple narrative into a gut wrenching saga.

Likely Winner: Charlize Theron for Monster
Beautiful women + weight loss/gain and/or prosthetic appendages = golden

Best Actor- Comedy
PCC's choice/Likely Winner: Bill Murray for Lost in Translation
First Rushmore and The Royal Tenenbaums, now Coppola's masterful second feature: we're seeing a whole new side of the extremely talented Mr. Murray.

Best Actress- Comedy
PCC's choice/Likely Winner: Diane Keaton for Something's Gotta Give
Almost 30 years after Annie Hall, Keaton's chances for a golden year look more than promising. She outshone Jack, was courted by Keanu and still managed to make the audience feel as comfortable with her as she appears to be in her own skin.

Best Supporting Actor
PCC's Choice/Likely Winner: Tim Robbins for Mystic River
Robbins' shy, broken Dave was a perfect counterpart to Penn's angry, vengeful Jimmy. Hopefully they can both walk away with a statue.

Best Supporting Actress
PCC's Choice: Patricia Clarkson for Pieces of April
Clarkson is long overdue for some recognition for her amazingly varied resume. Her performance in Pieces of April is touching and funny without ever falling to the sappy trap.

Likely Winner: Renee Zellwegger for Cold Mountain
This is always a hard category to call, since the Hollywood Foreign Press and the Academy lives to throw a wrench in prediction lists everywhere. Even though PCC isn't a fan of RZ, she has to admit that her performance in Cold Mountain was wonderful.

Best Director
PCC's Choice/Likely Winner: Peter Jackson for LOTR: Return of the King
Is there even a need to explain?

Best Screenplay
PCC's Choice/Likely Winner: Sofia Coppola for Lost in Translation
From touching kareoke scenes to whispered goodbyes, Coppola's script deserved all the kudos in the world. Jim Sheridan could also walk away with a statue for his touching account of growing up Irish in America.

Best Original Score
PCC's Choice/Likely Winner: Howard Shore for LOTR:Return of the KingAn epic trilogy needs an epic score and Shore delivered.

Best Original Song
PCC's Choice: “Time Enough For Tears”—In America (lyrics by Bono and Gavin Friday)
There's nothing like a touching song written by Ireland's premiere musical export for a touching movie written and directed by one of Ireland's great film directors.

Likely Winner: “Into The West”—LOTR: The Return Of The King (lyrics by Howard Shore and Annie Lennox)
LOTR: ROTK seems destined to rake in the statues and this song is no exception.

Posted by jordan at 1:04 AM |

January 24, 2004

Brits Add Another List to the Pile

This year's BAFTA nominations have been announced. Sometimes called the British Academy Awards, they will be announced in the UK on February 15th, two weeks before the Oscars are announced here in the States. The nominees are as follows, courtesy of Premiere Magazine.

Big Fish
Cold Mountain
The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King
Lost in Translation
Master and Commander: The Far Side of the World

Benicio Del Toro, 21 Grams
Johnny Depp, Pirates of the Caribbean: The Curse of the Black Pearl
Jude Law, Cold Mountain
Bill Murray, Lost in Translation
Sean Penn, 21 Grams
Sean Penn, Mystic River

Scarlett Johansson, Girl with a Pearl Earring
Scarlett Johansson, Lost in Translation
Anne Reid, The Mother
Uma Thurman, Kill Bill: Volume 1
Naomi Watts, 21 Grams

Supporting Actor:
Paul Bettany, Master and Commander: The Far Side of the World
Albert Finney, Big Fish
Bill Nighy, Love Actually
Ian McKellen, The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King
Tim Robbins, Mystic River

Supporting Actress:

Holly Hunter, Thirteen
Laura Linney, Mystic River
Judy Parfitt, Girl with a Pearl Earring
Emma Thompson, Love Actually
Renée Zellweger, Cold Mountain

Tim Burton, Big Fish
Sofia Coppola, Lost in Translation
Peter Jackson, The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King
Anthony Minghella, Cold Mountain
Peter Weir, Master and Commander: The Far Side of the World

Original Screenplay:
21 Grams
The Barbarian Invasions
Finding Nemo
Lost In Translation
The Station Agent

Adapted Screenplay:
Big Fish
Cold Mountain
Girl with a Pearl Earring
The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King
Mystic River

Foreign-Language Film:
The Barbarian Invasions
Belleville Rendez-vous
Être et Avoir
Good Bye Lenin!
In This World
Spirited Away

British Film:
Cold Mountain
Girl with a Pearl Earring
In This World
Love Actually
Touching the Void

British Director/Producer/Writer Debut:
Sergio Casci, writer, American Cousins
Jenny Mayhew, writer, To Kill a King
Peter Webber, director, Girl with a Pearl Earring
Emily Young, director/writer, Kiss of Life

Film Music:
Cold Mountain
Girl with a Pearl Earring
Kill Bill: Volume 1
The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King
Lost in Translation

Cold Mountain
Girl with a Pearl Earring
The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King
Lost in Translation
Master and Commander: The Far Side of the World

21 Grams
Cold Mountain
Kill Bill: Volume 1
The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King
Lost in Translation

Production Design:
Big Fish
Cold Mountain
Girl with a Pearl Earring
The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King
Master and Commander: The Far Side of the World

Costume Design:
Cold Mountain
Girl with a Pearl Earring
The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King
Master and Commander: The Far Side of the World
Pirates of the Caribbean: The Curse of the Black Pearl

Cold Mountain
Kill Bill: Volume 1
The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King
Master and Commander: The Far Side of the World
Pirates of the Caribbean: The Curse of the Black Pearl

Special Visual Effects:
Big Fish
Kill Bill: Volume 1
The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King
Master and Commander: The Far Side of the World
Pirates of the Caribbean: The Curse of the Black Pearl

Makeup and Hair:
Big Fish
Cold Mountain
Girl with a Pearl Earring
The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King
Pirates of the Caribbean: The Curse of the Black Pearl

Animated Short:
Dad's Dead
Dear Sweet Emma
Jojo in the Stars

Short Film:
Brown Paper Bag
Bye Child
Sea Monsters
Talking with Angels

Posted by jordan at 12:33 AM |

January 22, 2004

Down With Remake & Rehash

For the last few weeks, every time Cinecultist would tune into TNT for the Law & Order syndication fix, we'd be innundated with commercials for the remake of The Goodbye Girl. CC had vowed to ourselves not to watch this for the intensely offensive Hootie and the Blowfish slo-mo water droplet accompanying music video alone, but what with the weather as it was this weekend and fighting a cold, we found ourselves in front of the tv watching it. Please please don't see this thing, we beg you and join CC in our new campaign to outlaw remakes.

Partially this aversion to redoing what was pretty good to begin with has to do with nostalgia. The 1977 Goodbye Girl with Richard Dreyfuss is one of those childhood movie discoveries that whenever it is on tv, we always sit down to hear the famous line, "well then go cry on the horsey!" But when you are familiar with a movie intimately, down to the certain way that a line is delivered or a scene played, then a new version is always going to seem wrong. And to spend this much energy comparing the old and the new only detracts from any viewing enjoyment and even CC knows it's pretty silly. Although we must say with indignation, no out of work dancer and off Broadway actor is going to be able to afford a palatial West Village apartment like the one used for the TNT set. That's what it always comes down to for New York movie watchers, does the real estate seem believable.

Sadly though, this good fight against mediocre simulacra is going to need a lot of grassroots support, since it has infiltrated not only television and the big screen but the stage as well. The Producers, Hairspray and the like have been huge Broadway hits and while originality (whatever that is) isn't the end all be all, there has to be something else we can come up with here people. A new take, a new interpretation of our old obsessions and no Patricia Heaton thankyouverymuch.

Posted by karen at 8:23 AM |

January 21, 2004

Hot Asian Chicks

Cinecultist loves those Asian chicks and the release of a new biography and coinciding retrospective at MOMA of one of cinema's original H.A.C.s Anna May Wong will further expand our historical understanding of these loverly creatures. Anna May, born in San Francisco's Chinatown and involved in moviemaking at an early age, was the Dragon Lady launching a thousand stereotypes of sexy femme fatales. While some have argued that Anna May set back the image of Asian women, this new historical interest in her work wants to revitalize her importance in early cinema.

Author Graham Hodges of From Laundryman's Daughter to Hollywood Legend: Anna May Wong will be facilitating an in-depth multimedia presentation and answering questions on Anna May Wong, with book signing and reception to follow today Jan. 21 at 6:30pm at the AsiaSociety,725 Park Ave at 70th St. $5 students; $7 Asia Society/MOMA members; $12 nonmembers. [An interesting article in the Times last weekend, although sadly to read it now on the Archives will cost you.]

From Jan. 22nd until Jan. 25th Hodges will be introducing the five films in the retrospective at MoMA. These pictures include The Toll of the Sea (1922), Hollywood Party (1937), Shanghai Express (1932), Picadilly (1929), and Dangerous to Know (1938). [thanks Fiona for the reminder!]

Also upcoming at MoMA, An Evening with Yang FuDong, a Chinese film artist whose work draws on "he decadent glamour of classic Chinese cinema and that of its stars, such as '30s actress Ruan Lingyu." Ruan Lingyu, isthe original H.A.C. and the subject of one of CC's favoritest films, Actress by Stanley Kwan, so we're definitely going to have to check out any work that references her. Hottness.

Posted by karen at 8:34 AM |

January 20, 2004

Media Fairy Tale

tadhamilton.jpgHere at Cinecultist we like to appeal to all of your movie-going needs and thus bring you the following picture at right as a part of our new ongoing feature, Beefcake Tuesday. Just kidding sillies, that's actually a production still from the new film Win A Date With Tad Hamilton which CC saw over the weekend at a preview screening. (We strongly urge you to click over to the official website just so Josh Dushmal can whisper to you in the Flash intro, "Dance With Me" it will make your morning.)

Win A Date isn't a very good movie, it's very typical of this January film season littered with filler and fluff at the cineplex. If it comes out now, there's a reason that it's not a part of the end of the year Best Of pool. But even in its badness, there was something interesting about the picture, in that it seems to be strangely representative of this fascination with "real guys" versus media constructed hunks ala tv's "Average Joe". These stories show us the average guy pineing for the girl who is enamored with this construction and it expects us to be rooting for him. It is the most natural thing in the movies that the girl should give up the rich actor who says he loves her because its crystal clear that he couldn't love her as much as the average guy does. But in the end, this foregone conclusion is surprisingly unsettling. Not that CC doesn't like Topher Grace or think he's unworthy of Kate Bosworth's Barbie dollness but it felt more "unreal" than anything we've seen at the movies in a long time. Maybe CC just wants to see movie characters acting more crass, materialistic and self-serving on screen. That's what reality tv says we're doing in real life, after all.

Posted by karen at 8:32 AM |

January 19, 2004

The Monster Within


Dramatic physical transformations of actors and actresses are often perversely fascinating, even when PCC reminds herself that these people have the money, and the time, to hire trainers to drop or gain back the excess weight before the next role beckons. Cynicism aside, Charlize Theron's transformation from a tall, blonde beauty with a model's body to a paunchy, disheveled prostitute in Patty Jenkins' debut film, Monster, is truly remarkable. Theron plays Aileen "Lee" Wurnos, widely regarded as America's first female serial killer, a prostitute who killed seven of her johns in the mid-1980s before being executed in Florida in 2002. The victim of abuse as a child and a long string of bad luck, Lee found herself hitch-hiking and prostituting along Florida highways. It was along a rainy stretch of road near Daytona Beach that Lee first met Shelby (Christina Ricci), a shy lesbian who tries unsuccessfully to hit on Lee in a bar. After denouncing Shelby's homosexual advances, Lee eventually gives in and the women become friends and eventually lovers. Shelby leaves her home to live with Lee in a rundown motel, drinking and partying all day long. It is during this time that Lee kills her first "customer", a man who drives her deep into the woods and proceeds to rape and beat her. This is the first and only of Lee's murders that can be considered self-defense. After her escape, Lee develops a pattern of shooting her johns and stealing their money and cars, until she is finally caught and sentenced to death.

The narrative structure of Jenkins' film is nothing special, and at times feels a bit repetitive, what with the numerous drunken bar excursions and hitch-hiking late at night. But any lag in the story is compensated for ten-fold by Theron's phenomenal performance. The weight gain alone shows committment, but just because one packs on the pounds for a role doesn't mean that the audience will buy into the psychological transformation necessary when a film's heroine is a serial killer. Theron's Lee is bold and fragile, fiercely protective of Shelby, but unsure at times of the direction her own life is heading. While it is almost impossible to make a film about a female serial killer without some degree of valorization, Lee isn't a completely sympathetic character. We understand that her life has been horrible since day one, but we don't excuse her murder spree along the humid Florida highway. Theron's ability to make us both fascinated and repulsed by her heroine is evidence of a huge step in the actress' career, away from just another pretty face and towards a serious dramatic player.

Posted by jordan at 8:43 PM |

January 16, 2004

File It Under...

Scary Thought For The Day: According to Variety.com, last year over the Martin Luther King, Jr. holiday weekend the largest draw at the box office was (wait for it) -- Kangaroo Jack. The movie where (quoted from Imdb.com's plot outline) "two childhood friends, a New York hairstylist and a would-be musician, get caught up with the mob and are forced to deliver $50,000 to Australia, but things go haywire when the money is lost to a wild kangaroo." It made $21.9 million dollars over the three days. TWENTY-ONE POINT NINE MEEELION DOLLARS. Think about that people long and hard as you plunk down your $10.25 for Torque on Monday afternoon.

Posted by karen at 8:41 AM |

January 15, 2004

Another Piece of the Oscar Puzzle

The Screen Actor's Guild nominations, another step on the road to little golden man ownership, were announced today, with more than a few surprises.

In the best ensemble cast category, National Board of Review favorite Mystic River will compete against LOTR: Return of the King, In America, Seabiscuit and the surprise indie choice, The Station Agent.

Mystic River also picked up a nod in the best actor category for Sean Penn's riveting performance as a grieving, vengeful father. His competition includes Peter Dinklage for The Station Agent, Bill Murray for Lost in Translation, Johnny Depp (!) for Pirates of the Caribbean: The Curse of the Black Pearl and Ben Kingsley for House of Sand of Fog.

One of PCC's new favorite actresses, Patricia Clarkson, is nominated for both best actress (The Station Agent) and best suppporting actress (Pieces of April). In the best actress category, she'll face stiff competition from another of PCC's favorite actresses, Naomi Watts, in one of PCC's favorite performances of the year, Watts' turn in 21 Grams. Also nominated are National Board of Review winner Diane Keaton for Something's Gotta Give, Evan Rachel Wood for Thirteen and Charlize Theron for Monster.

In the best supporting actress category, Clarkson will face competition from Maria Bello (The Cooler), Holly Hunter (Thirteen), Renée Zellweger (Cold Mountain) and the phenomenal Keisha Castle-Hughes in her debut film, Whale Rider.

Mystic River's Tim Robbins picked up a much-deserved best supporting actor nomination for his searing performance as a past abuse victim and struggling father. His fellow nominees include Alec Baldwin (The Cooler), Ken Watanabe (The Last Samurai), Chris Cooper (Seabiscuit) and Benicio Del Toro (21 Grams).

Notable omissions, justified or otherwise, include Scarlett Johansson (Lost in Translation or Girl with the Pearl Earring), Nicole Kidman and Jude Law for their performances in Cold Mountain, Jennifer Connelly and Shoreh Aghashloo (House of Sand and Fog), Tom Cruise (The Last Samurai), Ewan McGregor and Albert Finney (Big Fish), Russell Crowe (Master and Commander: The Far Side of the World) and any of our hobbit, elfish, human or wizard friends from Middle Earth.

The SAG Awards Ceremony will be broadcast from the Shrine Auditorium in Los Angeles February 22nd at 8 pm on TNT.

Posted by jordan at 11:27 AM |

The Battle Rages On

Two Sixties film events in Manhattan worth an addition to your schedule:

Film Forum continues to screen The Battle of Algiers, the 1968 classic of cinema verite style from France. It's a new 35mm print of the film with newly restored subtitles and in case you didn't know, considered to be one of the big dogs for film studies. Its recreation of events in the uprising in the early '60s in Algeria contains "such gripping realism that the original U.S. distributor had to insert the disclaimer “Not one foot of newsreel or documentary film has been used.”" The kind of picture that deserves a big screen for its emotional resonance, this print of Battle distributed by Rialto will also be appearing in a few cities besides New York, Washington D.C., Chicago and Los Angeles.

Village Voice critic, former CC teacher and all around nice fellow, J. Hoberman discusses his new book The Dream Life: Movies, Media, and the Mythology of the Sixties at Coliseum Books (11 W. 42nd Street) tonight at 6pm. He will also be signing copies, if you're the type who deifies film critics and heck who are we kidding? If you read this site with any regularity you're definitely that type. [via Flavorpill]

Posted by karen at 8:36 AM |

January 14, 2004

Marriage Is For Punks

Ever fear that you've missed something, cinematically speaking? Like there's this (probably) terrible movie out there but you haven't seen it, so maybe it's one of those hidden gems, hated-nay-reviled by the world until you redeem it as good stuff? Okay, even we can hear the eyes rolling in the blogosphere, perhaps this is only a problem encountered by Cinecultist. But something must be to blame for leading us to watch dreck like Just Married last night on HBO, after judiciously avoiding it on the big screen as well as the little up until now. Stupendously stupid -- that's the only way to describe this little Ashton Kutcher/Brittany Murphy gross-out rom com vehicle.

Gawd, remember when they were an "actual couple" and there were pictures of them being all couple-y and junk in US Weekly? Before Ashton and Demi and the whole Punk'd thing, in those innocent halcyon days of our youths ... Can you believe that was only last January? Early 2003? It seems like a lifetime ago, no? Perhaps this movie might be a bit more interesting if you could look at it as an artifact of their celeb love, kind of like a pop cult museum piece such as Far and Away. Rather, it has been striped of its potential meta, it can really only be consumed as it is and thus is not a very fulfilling product. The couple, mismatched of course, travels through Europe destroying stuff and coming to hate each other. Ho hum. Strangely, CC couldn't help noticing having just read this week's EW, that the blonde rich chick/brunette manly man paradigm in the match up of the characters mirrors the dynamic on display in Jessica Simpson and Nick Lachay in MTV's tv show the Newlyweds. Is this some new couple archetype going in our cultural consciousness?

Remainder: Miss Fiona So Much Modern Time (otherwise known as the future Mrs. Elijah Wood) attended the marathon LOTR event at Lincoln Center recently, including Q & As with the director and the cast and has quite an extensive review of it, well worth reading.

Posted by karen at 8:14 AM |

January 13, 2004

Chasing Down Cheesy Goodness

With temperatures in the teens and below this weekend in New York, it was tough getting the Cinecultist to leave the East Village headquarters. It was as cold as Eskimo hell, if that gives you any kind of idea of our weather and the pain it inflicted. But Sunday we did venture out with Lisa for a screening of the teeny-bopper-tastic Chasing Liberty in the nabe. What did CC know about this movie before going to see it? 1) Mandy Moore, pop star turned actress is in it, 2) she still has brown hair, 3) her character is the President's rebelious daughter, and 4) there's a hunky boy in it. To be honest, we've thrown down good money knowing less about a movie than this, but everything evident in the previews made Chasing Liberty look like the most inconsequential bit of cheesy fluff. Which it turned out to be, but completely in the best way possible.

First off regarding the hunky boy, known to most as Matthew Goode. This kid is so handsome you'll want to catcall him from your reclining theater seat. "Hey sugar baby, bring that English-accented, hard ab, faux-backpacking scruffy goodness on over here! Yeow!" Or something along those lines. The interaction between him and Ms. Moore is lovely, in particular this one scene where he offers her toothpaste for some finger toothbrushing after a night on the train. So sweet.

Why are they on a train, then? See, Anna the President's daughter (secret service code name: Liberty) has traveled to Europe for some diplomat stuff with her 'rents but she's all fed up and stuff with being always watched by those secret service dudes. So she like, takes off with this hot guy on a moped that she meets outside a club in Prague and they visit all of these cities in Europe together with like, no money. It's awesome. CC and Lisa were rockin' out in our seats to the Euro-pop soundtrack and giggling like girlies at the kissie bits. Dare we call it the best film of 2004? Okay perhaps not, but we did vow to purchase it straight away when it comes out on DVD.

Posted by karen at 8:24 AM |

January 12, 2004

Not Your Average Love Story


After a recent re-viewing of Lisa Cholodenko's excellent film Laurel Canyon, starring Christian Bale and Frances McDormand, PCC decided that it was high time to rent Cholodenko's first film, High Art (no pun intended). A love triangle with a twist, High Art stars Ally Sheedy as Lucy Berliner, a once-famous photographer living the reclusive bohemian life in New York City with her washed-up German actress lover, Greta (the always wonderful Patricia Clarkson). Lucy accidentally meets Syd (Radha Mitchell), an assistant editor at a prestigious photography magazine, Frame, when Syd's notices that her ceiling is leaking and comes to investigate the apartment above her, where Lucy lives with Greta. The two immediately hit it off, though at first the attraction appears to be platonic, especially since Syd lives happily downstairs with her straight-laced boyfriend, James (Gabriel Mann). The relationship between the two women starts to become more than friendly after Syd slips into Lucy's hipster world of drugs and parties, convincing her new friend to come out of her self-imposed retirement. The love that grows between Syd and Lucy is complicated by the jealous Greta, Lucy's drug habit and the pressure to produce a cover piece for Frame worthy of Lucy's obvious talent. Without giving away the ending, suffice it to say that this is not a love story where everyone walks away happy.

While the actual story of the film, which was written and directed by Cholodenko, isn't especially brilliant and at times even feels contrived, the dimension the actresses bring to their characters elevates the film to a whole new level. Sheedy in particular is brilliant in her portrayal of Lucy, whose emotions seem to boil right under the surface. Equal parts angry artist disgusted by the corporate machine and caring lover, Sheedy's Lucy strides so confidently through the film- the epitome of heroin-chic with her boyish frame and thin, veiny arms- that you are almost convinced that she's really as tough as she claims. But her subltle mannerisms, especially the nervous flicking of cigarette ash, allow us to see a woman torn between a comfortable, yet self-destructive existence, and the promise of a fresh start. Mitchell's role isn't as demanding or layered as Sheedy's, but she plays the seemingly naive, passionate Syd with great ease, never letting herself slip into the role of a child in awe of the "grown-ups" (i.e. Lucy and Greta) around her.

The other cornerstone of the film is Patricia Clarkson's name-dropping Greta, who mentions the late German director Fassbinder every chance she gets. Her love for Lucy is obvious, but so is the control she holds over her younger lover, manipulating her through guilt and just a touch of masochism in the form of excessive heroin use. But even in her drugged haze, Clarkson makes Greta feel real, not a charicature or a figure for comic relief. We know that Lucy can only fall with Greta, but part of us feels sorry for the deluded redhead who likes to remind us how Fassbinder would have done it.

Posted by jordan at 2:36 AM | | Comments (1)

January 9, 2004

Kids Galore!

cheaperby12.jpgThe most innocuous movie in America, aka Cheaper By The Dozen, is also the most popular comedy at the box office (trailing behind LOTR, but then again, who wouldn't be?). How can something so blah blah blah, be so damn popular? Cinecultist guesses it's the same think that keeps vanilla ice cream, Yanni and USA Today in business. But should you go see this picture, since everyone else seems to be loving it?

DO NOT SEE THIS MOVIE IF... you think it will be like the book of the same name published in 1948. The similarities are bare -- 12 kids is about where it begins and ends.
...you prefer the darker side of Steve Martin ala Spanish Prisoner. This is all very Eddie Murphy-kid friendly stylin' here.

DO SEE THIS MOVIE IF...you can't wait for the Lizzie McGuire Movie 2, Coyote Ugly: Uglier Than Ever, or The WB's Superman: Hunky With a Vengence as the tween stars all have moments worth oggling. If oggling is your thing.
...you'd like a little meta-Ashton Kutcher. As the uncredited model/actor boyfriend of eldest daughter Piper Perabo, Kutcher basically is humiliated time and again by the gaggle of kids (underwear soaked in meat, etc.). He also does a little winking at the camera acknowledging that he knows he's not such a good actor, he needs his pretty face to get parts. Heh. Ashton punk'd himself, sorta.

These are the film's charms, take them as they are, expect little but entertainment soon forgotten after exiting the theater.

Posted by karen at 11:50 AM |

January 8, 2004

Marry CC Tony Leung

Last night at the screening of Chung King Express as a part of the Young Friends of Film at Lincoln Center series, Cinecultist decided we're ready to give up our prolifigate single gal in Manhatta ways for a life with Tony Leung, Hong Kong action/drama/pop star. When he steps into the Midnight Express snack bar for the first time in the film and the camera zooms in on his face as he removes his policeman's cap, CC literally swooned in her seat. Although, we fear we might have to have a knife fight with Miss So Much Modern Time for his affections, but regardless, when Tony realizes he wants to settle down with a nice girl film critic in the East Village, we'll be waiting.

The real clincher for CC on this screening of Wong Kar Wai's filmed on the fly masterpiece was when Leung's character No. 663 consols all of the inatimate objects in his apartment. The soap is letting itself go apparently by getting too thin and the dishtowel cries too much, now that 663's girlfriend is gone. So sweet, so melancholy and so clever, this is a movie filled with moments you want to memorize. If you haven't seen it, rent the DVD just ignore Quentin Tarantino's beyond stupid bookend commentaries.

The rest of the evening on the Upper West was filled with free food, too much red wine and sightings of movie geek friends. We heard the latest from a few Reverse Shot-ers never short on an opinion (Gus Van Sant=idiot. Movies at Gramercy Theater=filled with scary old people. Donor screenings=lots of free booze.). Evidently, we look like someone who went to school in New Jersey and we may have won a lunch for two at tony fish restaurant RM, we'll find out after the drawing January 7. As you can see, a good night out indeed.

Remainder: Happy Birthday to the fine folks (and EV neighbors!) over at Black Table! One year of publishing some of the best writing on the web is quite an accomplishment and deserves the oddest word of praise ever -- Kudos. They're also have a celebration party this Friday if you're around which sounds like fun. Mostly because having drunken, struggling writers flirt with us always sounds like fun.

Posted by karen at 4:37 AM |

January 7, 2004

Brrr, It's Cold In Here

Despite attempts to keep us from the theaters, Cinecultist did attend a screening of the Oscar hopeful Cold Mountain over the weekend. Sidebar: has Miramax won it's war for our brains that something compells CC to mention Oscar-wannabe in the same sentence with Anthony Mingella's new flick? Anyhow, like Master and Commander, CC wanted to dislike the film on Weinstein brother-hater principle alone, more than we did. Well shot, with intense performances and brutal extras-tastic battle scenes, it is tough not to get caught up in its emotional steamroller. Although its difficult not to see Cold Mountain as that tarted up chick with the huge corsage standing around in the corner of the prom (aka the Awards Season). Depending on how cynical you are, either you hope she gets lucky or you secretly wish she's left there alone to cry.

When talking about this movie, we need to acknowledge that Jude Law is a very pretty man. Heck, even one of the characters in the movie calls him a pretty man. If like CC you want to break off a hunk of Jude, might we also recommend renting Enemy at the Gates with his stellar performance in last year's Russian army story. He's good here as well, showing his longing to escape the horrors of war for this promise of a romance. Despite the fact that everyone is saying it, props do need to be handed to Renee "Zelweggs" Zelwegger. We want to hate her with the stupid weight issues but she delivers damn good performances so we begrudgingly appreciate her abilities. We loved seeing indie rocker Jack White on the screen as well in his small but sweet role. Cinecultist has also heard good reviews of the soundtrack album where White's songs written for the film appear.

Posted by karen at 8:14 AM |

January 6, 2004

Can I Play Master Tonight?

m&cboyDespite our documented skittishness around the publicity juggernaut promoting Master and Commander back at its release in November, Cinecultist and Ilana decided to catch a screening of it anyhow on Saturday a few weeks post-hype. M & C is the kind of movie that invariably ends up being nominated for various awards but that CC hasn't got around to seeing, and thus cannot bash with the abandon we'd like. Not that this stops us, per se, we just don't feel good about it. But after seeing the film we can say, lo and behold, shiver our timbers, swab Davie Jones's locker and other faux-nautical exclamations, Cinecultist really liked this movie. We're not motifying the top 10 or nothing, but if Russell Crowe makes good on his buzz, or better yet we see some kudos for director Peter Weir or the delectable Paul Bettany, CC won't be sad.

Somehow, CC has turned into the kind of movie-goer who comments on battle scenes, and the ones in M & C are particularly beautiful to look at and horrific to contemplate. Hanging around exploding cannons, not really such a hot idea. Also, some of the apparently very realistic looking 19th century doctoring scenes made CC pull our turtleneck over our face but as we've said, we're squimish. A lesser director than Weir might have allowed the insider details and sea battle trivia drag down the story's pace, but the movie clips along with a compelling intensity. Though if anyone has some translation of what happens exactly in the last 10 minutes, please send them along. CC did get a bit bogged down in the vocab.

Despite all this and the stellar performances by Crowe and Bettany, teaming up for a second time now in a very fruitful way, as well as the rest of the prodominantly male cast, do the filmmakers really expect us to believe life on a ship with a bunch of men for that long was so very straight? "I slept next to him in a hammock for two years, but we're just good friends." Does this statement sound as fishy to you as it does to CC? Nary a longing look, and some of those fellas are quite pretty in their royal blue.

Posted by karen at 8:12 AM |

January 5, 2004

Boycott Called For 'Cold'

Cinecultist received the following e-mail forward this weekend from one of our "sources" in the "film industry" who's still sort of new to the whole electronic missives thing, and thus still thinks we'll be friends with her even if she sends us forwards. The e-mail, allegedly from Erik Todd Dellums originally (an actor who's fan site worthy apparently), requests that viewers boycott the Miramax release and Oscar-hopeful Cold Mountain because it does not contain enough depictions of blacks, despite the story being set in the South during the Civil War. We quote below some of their beef (you can read the entire e-mail posted here):

It is also a sham; a slap in the face of African Americans everywhere, whose ancestors gave their lives in the Civil War, fighting for true freedom (Sorry, President Bush!) from the most heinous slavery system known to modern man:  the American Slavery System.  How could a 3 hour film depict life in the heart of Virginia and North Carolina during the Civil War use 30 seconds of Black people picking cotton as its total reality of slavery during this period?

The thing which gets tricky towards the end of his complaint is the way he compares the proliferation of Holocaust movies to the lack of slavery movies. Hollywood would never make a Holocaust movie without the real depiction of the horrors of the Holocaust, so how can they do they do less than depict the "truth" in a movie about the Civil War, according to Dellums.

No offense intended to those fans of Dellums or his tv show Homicide, but this e-mail is obviously a hoax masked in anti-Semitism intending to draw attention to a legitimate concern like race representation but it an utterly inane way. Sure, we didn't see a whole lot of black people on screen in the course of Cold Mountain but that's because Jude Law and Nicole Kidman's heads looking longingly into the distance takes up most of that screen space. This movie, and we're guessing the book though we haven't read it, is not about race or Southern slavery even. It is about ill-fated romance and getting golden statues for its actors. It all smacks of anti-Miramax Academy Awards campaigning to Cinecultist, but we'd appreciate any e-mails from readers telling us we have this all wrong.

Posted by karen at 8:14 AM |

January 2, 2004

New Year Movie Resolutions

Happy New Year Cinecultists! We wish you all the best in 'Ought Four and as CC comes out of the haze of peppermint candy canes and too much vodka (CC likey vodka), we've been thinking about the new year that is now upon us. We ordinarily don't believe in new year's resolutions, as they usually are a bunch of irrelevant hooey about cutting down on smoking or loosing weight. However! CC does want to take stock in our suspect movie consuming practices and thus brings you the following list of resolute promises.

1.) To be less overtly rude to our fellow movie patrons. There really is no call for humiliating people with our disdainful glances and whithering responses who say, cut in front of CC in the ticket line because they can't figure out where the end is or ask us to move over a seat and then put their sticky, squirmy child next to us. We all share this space, CC resolves to be nicer about their uncalled for infringements.

2.) To quit smuggling food into the theater in our large handbags. Sure, concessions in this city are astronomically priced, but those ticket takers need their popcorn-paid wages to fund their next piercing. Also, a rustling granola bar wrapper at 6:30pm in Walter Reade Theater during the short really is annoying, despite the fact that CC raced from her day job without dinner to the screening. Sorry about that, it'll never happen again you hoity-toity West Side bee-otch.

3.) To quit laughing really loudly at the silliness of Hollywood cliches and conventions, especially during noisy action flicks. We realize that snickering about how awkward it is when Vin Diesel kisses a woman may be raising the consciousness unnecessarily for the frat boy and his blank-stare girlfriend next to us. We resolve to keep the subtext acknowledgement down to a minimum for the unsuspecting.

4.) To keep mum during the previews, commercials and the Regal Cinema Twenty. CC knows we are but a warm body in the seat capable of walking out of the theater and buying junk, but first we need to be told what junk to buy. Remix Sprite, the newest TNT special series and those Levi's for wearing while lassoing your car are really important stuff. They deserve our utmost attention, conversation and social interaction be damned.

5.) And finally, Cinecultist resolves to continue to be resolute about providing quality movie related content in this here space. Thanks for all of your readerly support over the last seven months, we appreciate all of the e-mails, IMs, links and shout-outs. Keep 'em coming kids, and we promise bigger and brighter rants and raves in '04.

Posted by karen at 10:44 PM |