April 30, 2004

For Your Weekend Viewing

Many things to see this weekend, if you're of the movie going persuasion like Cinecultist.

Film Forum is screening High Noon (1952), the Gary Cooper western classic. Guy Maddin, the Canadian director who uses silent film grammar, has a new picture out with Isabella Rossellini called The Saddest Music in the World playing at Landmark theaters. Landmark will also be showing a rerelease of the Monty Python brilliant biblical satire, Life of Brian (1979). In addition, the midnight movie this week at the Sunshine is Shaft (1971). Can you dig it? As for general theatrical releases, depending on where you live you may see Josh and Uncle Grambo in line for Mean Girls the new Tina Fey scripted Lindsay Lohan film.

A little bit of book related reportage: CC went to see A.S. Byatt read last night at the Union Square Barnes & Noble in conjunction with the release of a new book of stories, The Little Black Book. (Yipee! CC <3 ASB.) When asked about Angel & Insects, the film adaptation of her 1992 novella, she mentioned that she's never found an audience member who didn't like this film. Then she asked us if everyone there had like it. When no one spoke up, because it was a moment like school only worse, she promised to report this back to the director. CC would've said we liked Kristin Scott Thomas in it, until we fell asleap half way through but we were standing in the back of the reading's audience. CC tries not to steal the thunder away from adorably English Booker Prize winning authors. It's just not nice.

She did not mention the adaptation of Possesion with Gwyneth and Aaron Eckhart by the way, probably because it stank.

Posted by karen at 8:34 AM |

April 29, 2004

The Big Three Oh

2055.jpgIt really shouldn't surprise any regular readers of this space that Cinecultist caught a matinee last weekend of the new bit of Jennifer Garner fluff, 13 Going On 30. It has all the hallmarks necessary to peak CC's interest — New York setting, cute girls, cute boys, cute clothes and reference to the publishing industry. (Play a "fun" game with yourself -- try to name as many film or tv titles that have that premise. Lots and lots, right?) We liked the film well enough, but only a few days later we're hard pressed to really recall anything memorable about it.

Except that some of the outfits they put Jennifer Garner into are just so beyond hideous, we can hardly stand it. We found this gem of an ensemble to show you at the right, but really this isn't the worst offender. This is an attempt at Patricia Field chic at it's most perplexing. With this much money supposedly at her disposal, why would a someday soon high level fashion (because see, she thinks she's 13 even though she looks 30) pick all of these hairy sweaters and necklaces made of roses? Cinecultist did appreciate though the soundtrack editors and their excellent choices of signature '80s hits. Kudos on getting the rights to "Thriller" and Pat Benatar's "Love Is A Battlefield," their inclusion really makes the scenes they appear in.

The question of course though on everyone's mind is — Jennifer Garner: the next big Rom Com star? Cinecultist will say this for Jen G., girl's got spunk. She attacks this role and takes no prisoners. But her intensity for comedy (insert wide eyes and concentrated prat fall), isn't too much different from what she displays every week in her intensity for action or drama on Alias. We admire this work ethic, but work ethic isn't really what's wanted for stardom. America like our stars effortless and of the toothy grin. Will Jen G.'s sweet dimples stand in for this Julia or Meg ease? CC thinks Kate Hudson will become a big Rom Com star before Jen, unfortunately.

Posted by karen at 8:27 AM |

April 28, 2004

Sundry Comments and Announcements

Posted by karen at 11:44 AM | | Comments (1)

April 27, 2004

Swordplay At Dusk

twillight samuraiThough Cinecultist would never really suggest a life free of movie publicity and journalism consumption, there are times where going into a picture with no expectations can be so delightful. On Sunday, CC thought we'd see one of the two Asian films playing at our neighborhood Landmark Sunshine theater and in the toss up between Shaolin Soccer and Twillight Samurai, we randomly decided on Twillight. What a wonderful discovery this picture is; filled with touching performances, gentle humor, gorgeous camera work, thrilling fight scenes and a daughter's dedication to a father that made CC a little weepy as the credits rolled. And CC's not one of those at the drop of the hat movie criers either.

Japan's official nomination for the foreign language Oscar last year, Tasogare Seibei was originally released in 2002 and actually is available on DVD already but is now getting a theatrical distribution by Empire Pictures. The story of a samurai set during the period in Japan's history just before the dissolution of this political institution, Seibei Iguchi's wife has just died and now finds himself responsible for his infirm mother, two young daughters, and a farming household while also fulfilling his duties as a low level civil servant. While there are two wonderfully dramatic sword fight scenes in the film, most of the plot focuses on the strictures Iguchi experiences as a samurai low on the totem pole in his clan's ranking.

Imagine Jane Austen meets Akira Kurosawa and you can get a sense of the film's rhythms and preoccupations. The director Yoji Yamada captures that Kurosawa drum beat necessary for the long walk to the moment of duty, but he also has a grasp of the deft touch needed for an intimate drawing room drama. Some might not think the two traditions could meld well together, but for a fan like Cinecultist who always thought Pride and Prejudice could have done with a little ass-whomping, it's a match made in heaven.

NYU Remainder Quote of the Day from a Times article about a writing student who has been living in Bobst Library: "N.Y.U. doesn't attract just smart students, it attracts smart, eclectic students," said Mr. Beckman, the university spokesman. "We had a film student who wanted to film a couple performing a live sex act in front of a class. We had students who set up a swimming pool in their dorm room. Now we have this fellow."

Posted by karen at 8:31 AM |

April 26, 2004

(Slightly Random) Links Of Note

Cinecultist has been spending a bit of time on this here world wide web and found a few movie-ish links worth mention. Two sentences on each should be enough to send you in the correct direction, because we know you trust us not to steer you wrong.

Matthew Clayfield is a screenwriter, watches many, many movies and lives in Australia. Then he blogs about it. Esoteric Rabbit Films.

Much useful independent filmmaking news and commentary regularly updated by the staff of Filmmaker magazine at their adjoining blog. Required reading for indie directors, producers and those who like to "accidentally" bump into them and then smile coquettishly at film festivals (i.e. CC). Filmmaker Magazine blog.

Looking for some more movie related blogs to become obsessive about? Seek no further than this extensive list of bloggers sponsored by indieWire, many of whom are regular contributors to their site. Indiewire blog list.

CC's friend and NYU cinema studies/politics student/shoe maven Michelle Chaplin is the smartest dumb blonde we know. Now she has a web presence too. the Tramp.

The intraweb needs more bloggers cuckoo for Asian cinemas and Godard. Fortunately for now, we've got the Film Brain to satisfy us. Film Brain.

You may have heard there's going to be a little festival of films in this New York neighborhood called TriBeCa. Tickets are available now for the screenings running from May 1 through May 9. Tribeca Film Festival. An article in this weekend's New York Times.

It's still a bit early to mention it but BAM is doing a Wong Kar Wai series in May, from the 14th through the 23rd. Ogle the list and the accompanying Faye Wong in Chungking Express production still with Cinecultist and get psyched. Living in Dreams: the films of Wong Kar Wai.

Cinecultist knows independent film director Fritz Donnelly from our Seattle tenure when he was finishing work on his first feature, Blue Lobster and we attended a fundraising screening. Lately, he's been in New York distributing his recent work, a shorts series To The Hills by selling DVDs of it from a table in SoHo. Fritz Donnelly's To The Hills.

Posted by karen at 7:59 AM |

Can You Say "So Best?"

What a lovely thing to rediscover that bloggers can be as charming and witty in person as their online personas suggest. This revelation courtesy of a gathering at Pianos on Saturday evening which Cinecultist dragged Josh Cultivated Stupidity to. Thanks so much for the buzz-alicious convos with the cuties Uncle Grambo, Lindsayism, Gawker, Real Janelle, and Miss Modernage, as the CC tendency was to stand in the corner intimidated by the talent in this hipster haven. How nice to know that introducing ourselves as "Karen" gets either a "hi/kind handshake" or a "are you Karen Plus One?" but saying we're Cinecultist gets a big old hug.

Posted by karen at 7:45 AM |

April 23, 2004

Naughty, Bawdy, Gaudy, Sporty

Cinecultist doesn't know about you but sometimes when we get a song stuck in our head, it just won't go away until we look up the lyrics and really think about what they mean. Case in point: after watching 42nd Street (1933) on TCM last weekend, we've had Harry Warren's showstopping finale "42nd Street" in the back of our mind all week.

"Hear the beat, of dancing feet it's the song I love the melody of 42nd street." This is a bit ironic since anyone who's visited CC in New York knows, we loathe the actual 42nd street and Times Square. It's not New York, it's the Disneyland version of New York. But the dance sequence at the end of the movie, which we would guess tries to replicate the Times Square of the '20s, looks scary and thrilling. For those who watch old movies, or what is called Pre-Hayes Code, know is that these early features can be surprisingly frank in their portrayals of the sexual and cultural mores of the time. Busby Berkeley choreographs this street scene where a camera swoops in through a window above 42nd street to witness a girl being attacked and potentially raped by a man. She jumps out the window to escape, and lands on the street where she dances a bit with the chorus until she's stabbed by that man who is chasing her. Yes that's right, stabbed. And CC thought the dances someone like Susan Stroheim makes with a bed and a motorcycle, as she did in Center Stage, were edgy.

Cinecultist loves this about old movies, just when you think you remember them as being a certain way (ie. Ruby Keeler is the chorus girl who makes good, *yawn*), they can surprise you. 42nd street may be Disneyfied now in our post-Giuliani Manhattan but we guess calling it "naughty, bawdy, gaudy and sporty" was apt at one point.

New York city movie historian and Village Voice film critic J. Hoberman wrote a monograph for BFI on 42nd Street. One of his first jobs was as Ruby Keeler's chauffeur. Since one of CC's first jobs in New York was as Jim's projectionist, let's hope we also have such an illustrious career ahead of us.

Posted by karen at 8:42 AM |

April 22, 2004

(Kill Bill) Again Mommy, Again!

Damn him. Damn him all to hell, that Quentin Tarantino. Just when Cinecultist think we've got him figured, or at least our opinion about him, he goes and makes a movie which causes our cinephilic heart to soar on a wing. Yup, just when you thought you couldn't be surprised -- CC lurved Kill Bill, Vol. 2. *Argh* Foiled by that nefarious QT!

A few bits to love about killing Bill all over again:
• The cinematography. As the frame fills with the sweeping western vistas in the obvious style of John Ford and Sergio Leone, the pairing of these visual influences with Kill Bill's revenge story works so well together. The Bride's lanky silhouette stands watch over Budd's trailer -- awesome.

• Uma Thurman looks amazing. QT slavishly dotes on her and the final credit "based on the character the Bride by Q & U", brings their collaboration to a new level of symbiosis. It's easy to think of fruitful creative pairings between directors and their female muses (Godard/Karina, Von Sternberg/Dietrich, Bergman/Ullman, Rosellini/Bergman, etc) but as usual QT wants to take his use of Uma to a new level. He wants to insist that he's not using her but creating with her.

(Slightly negative) Sidebar: Uma is really best when she's not compelled to speak. Perhaps the most impressive eyeball emoting since Maria Falconetti in Dreyer's The Passion of Joan of Arc, Uma sort of grates when she's doing the monologues. Don't try to out-David-Carradine David Carradine, hon. It's not possible. As mentioned in the dialogue, he is sort of the Man.

• Not having to see the Pussy Wagon on screen again, even though we hear mention of it. That joke was tired, QT.

• The final credit sequence (that rolls for 15 years, but whatever). So old school and so beautiful, in the vein of Todd Haynes and Steven Spielberg's amazing credit sequences from Far From Heaven and Catch Me If You Can, respectively.

• Gordon Liu. Those eyebrows are freakin' amazing.

• Punching your hand through wood. In Cinecultist's next life as an ass kicking assassin we're totally going to be able to do that.

Posted by karen at 8:38 AM |

April 20, 2004

Girl Crush: Anne Hathaway

mtv.jpgCinecultist is having a bit of a Uncle Grambo moment here as we fawn over Anne Hathaway, star of the new movie Ella Enchanted. She's so preeeety. Her hair is so shiny. Her smile so blinding. It's turning CC into a bit of a blithering pre-teen fan. Evidence: while walking out of a matinee of Ella this past weekend, we caught sight of a poster for The Princess Diaries 2, the follow up to Anne's first star turn as a girl who discovers she's a princess, and exclaimed, "oh goody!" All that's left now, before CC falls into the morass of girl-dom is a renewal of our YM subscription.

In the Teen Starlet Celebrity Deathmatch in our mind between Hilary Duff-Duff and Lindsay Lohan (wherein Lindsay would kick ass), Mandy Moore would be singing the national anthem but Anne would be in charge of ringing the bell to signal the rounds. And Amanda Bynes would be the m.c., "let's get ready to rumble..." Anyhow, we're not sure where this metaphor is going exactly only to say that there's something about Anne Hathaway, like these other girls, who inspires a certain kind of fan reaction. You want to cut pictures of her out of magazines and hang them on your walls. You want to have discussions with your girlfriends about whether their love of the cute tennis player is meant to last. If they put out a vanity pop album, you'd buy it, if only for that one catchy dance single.

CC said this to our friend Lisa about Anne in Ella Enchanted and she gave us a funny look, implying she never felt this way as a pre-teen girl, but we'll repeat it now because we think it's apt. You want to be her, and you want to possess her. It's simultaneous and it's not really sexual, it's just about being a certain kind of fan.

Posted by karen at 8:35 AM |

April 19, 2004

Manhattan Girls Who Watch Movies

So this is what Cinecultist has been doing wrong the last three years as we've sought to become a real New York girl, if not a Park Avenue Princess. According to the main character in Plum Sykes's new book, Bergdorf Blondes, which CC spent the weekend reading and then posted about today on Daily Gusto, we've been watching too many movies.

"I have well-founded moral and social objections to DVD players: there is nothing more depressing than a single girl in New York, a DVD player, and a pile of watched DVDs — it's an admission of worryingly low popularity levels. if you get as many invitations as a girl in Manhattan should get, you barely know where your apartment is, let alone have time to watch movies in it."

And yet, the main character "Moi", a fashion writer for a New York glossy living in the West Village, ends up with an up-in-coming movie director/landed English lord at the romantic conclusion. Hmmm, interesting advice to take home on this Monday morning: don't stay home watching movies and godforbid thinking about them, just go out and kiss some of those filmmakers! Perhaps CC will be doing a bit of lurking around the green room at the TriBeCa Film Festival in a few weeks to try to put our new strategies to the test.

Posted by karen at 8:11 AM |

April 16, 2004

Better Than A Poke In The Eye

Cinecultist's love for and abiding fascination with comedy can be a little scary sometimes. No really, we've been known to scare people (read: cute boys/potential dates) away with technical talk of structures and indicators. One time we even pulled out a graph. "You see, with the inverse ratio of banana peel to slippage..." It wasn't pretty. Thus, CC is loving the comedy issue of the New Yorker this week, in particular Ian Parker's article about the Farrelly Brothers Three Stooges feature currently in the works.

One of the bits we found quite amusing was the casting discussion on the film, a particularly strong point for the Farellys in the past. For some reason, CC can't picture professional hard-ass Russell Crowe -- he of the rippling biceps and clenched teeth at the Oscars -- wanting to be Moe. But then again the rest of their thoughts on the potential picks are even odder.

“If Russell doesn’t want it, then we should go straight back to Benicio,” Peter said from the passenger seat; the Farrellys had spoken with Benicio Del Toro, but Warner Bros. had balked at his asking price. “That could still work—Benicio . . . and Sean Penn as Larry.” The Farrellys have envisioned other casting scenarios. Peter later told me, “I’ve asked Larry David to play Larry maybe twenty-five times. He whines, ‘I don’t want to leave my family.’ Now I talk to him as if he’s in. It gives him a little panic each time.”

But hell, that's why they're the highly paid director/creators, they see potential things in performers a little critic like CC can only laugh at. Further online only content about the article is also available at newyorker.com.

Posted by karen at 8:28 AM |

April 15, 2004

Hipster Detritus

Making this kind of admission is always difficult, but Cinecultist believes in full disclosure to our readers. That's right, we admit it. Cinecultist is a hipster. We live in a hip neighborhood. We like to do hip things. Having hip taste matters to us. And we wear good looking shoes. Whew, now that wasn't as difficult as we'd thought it would be! Need more evidence that CC has become one of those dreaded New York hipsters? We rented The Work of Director Spike Jonze DVD from Netflix this week and really enjoyed exploring all of the extras and commentaries on Jonze's music video oeuvre.

This is a video available for sale at Urban Outfitters for goodness sake, it don't get much more obnoxiously hip than that. But Jonze is so winning, as is evident in his manic performance in the Fatboy Slim "Praise You" video, and so excessively talented, it's easy to loose one's lingering self consciousness about liking his work. Björk's video — inspired by the Umbrellas of Cherbourg and inspiring to Dancer in the Dark —"It's Oh So Quiet" is always worth a re-watch and don't miss Norman Cook's commentary track on "Praise You" which ends with a shot of him narrating from a hot tub. That's so hip it hurts.

Hipper Than Thou Remainder: What About Bill Murray? series at BAM began last night and runs through next Wednesday. Hell, if the cinetrix lived in New York she would've been there, so you know the crowd is going to be way too cool for school.

Posted by karen at 8:31 AM |

April 14, 2004

40 Minutes of Familiarity

There's little that Cinecultist likes more than switching on a movie we've seen a million times before and watching forty odd minutes of it from the middle. No need for the premise or the build up, we know that already, and certainly CC has no use for resolutions in these instances. We want sequences, great moments, quotable dialogue, or a particularly delightful reaction from a well-liked actor. CC was thinking about this yesterday evening after we got home from dinner and turned on Grosse Pointe Blank (1997).

Man oh man, Cinecultist loves this movie. We've seen it loads of times, we own a copy even, but perhaps because we've watched it so often we can just focus on impressions that delight, rather than taking in the whole. It's a different kind of viewing experience, certainly not something one could write about in an initial theatrical review. It's all about a screening on TV, in between commercial breaks, or on DVD, if you're also distracted by something else while watching, like the laundry. It's not a focused watching, except for perhaps because you know a scene you really love is coming up and you have to sit down to actually watch it.

Some impressions or thoughts while watching forty odd minutes in the middle of Grosse Pointe Blank, in no particular order —

Joan Cusack can deliver a comic line like nobody's business. She has a cadence and rhythm that's top notch. Her chemistry with her brother is just phenomenal too, CC could watch them on screen together all day long. Perhaps someday, CC will teach a class on the filmography of John Cusack. At Cooper Union maybe, a seminar? We'd include a little star theory, we'd talk about his influence on our perceptions of the ideal '80s masculinity. Possible paper topic: John Cusack and Jeremy Piven's collaboration, how have their personas evolved over their 10 films together? That waitress just offered John and Dan Ackroyd the Left My Heart In San Fran-cheesy omelet. Ha. Dan Ackroyd is also totally brilliant in this, as is Alan Arkin as the therapist to John's hit-man. Much funnier shades than Melfi/Tony Soprano and certainly more interesting than the Billy Crystal/Bobby DeNiro pairing. Minnie Driver is so freaking cute. When she slaps John in the nurses station before continuing to make out with him and that airplane flying scene in the bedroom, those get CC every time. This movie has a great soundtrack except that the CD is missing the "99 Luftballoons" song.

This is the part where CC turned the channel and finished brushing our teeth but continued to hum "99 Luftballoons" for the rest of the night.

Posted by karen at 8:23 AM |

April 13, 2004

Quotable Quentin

How is it that Quentin Tarantino's head hasn't become so big in the last 10 years of critical adulation that its just exploded? As everyone gears up for the release of Kill Bill, Vol. 2 on Friday, the media deluge begins. As our faithful readers know, QT's pretensions make the Cinecultist's skin itch. As a salve for the scratchies, we reprint the following worst offenders, mostly from this week's cover story in Entertainment Weekly (full interview online for subscribers and AOL members at ew.com/tarantino).

Uma On Quentin in the Associated Press (and other places, because CC thinks we've heard her saying this statement on the talk show circuit she's been running in the last week) — "Quentin's work is kind of a genre unto itself," she said. "And it's an amazing thing to be intrinsically a part of that."

Quentin On His Own Potential Pretension — "Where the tone changes at the beginning of the second movie? It happens exactly right there [in the script]. I decided to split it up because for the audience to get what I spent a year and a half writing, you have to see everything that's in 1 and 2. And there's something very pretentious about a four-hour exploitation movie."

If He Were Teaching QT101 —
EW: If you were teaching a class on your own films, what deficiences would you point out?
QT: The answer is none. I'm sure somebody else might find weaknesses, but I can't. If there's a weakness, I don't do it — you'll never see the scene.

Quentin On Marty —
"I really do think directing is a young man's game....If I say Martin Scorses's movies are getting kind of geriatric he can say, F--- you, man! I'm doing what i want to do, I'm following my muse, and he's 100 percent right. I'm in my church praying to my god and he's in his church praying to his. There was a time we were in the same church, and I miss that. I don't want to go to that church. If I was headed to that church, I would write novels."

Cinecultist On Vol. 1 — A Bloody Blood Bath

Posted by karen at 8:21 AM |

April 12, 2004

When The Critic Becomes The Extra

You know its Spring in New York City when you can't walk down the street without stumbling over power-cords leading to 10 foot spot lights. The film crews have returned to the shores of fair Manhattan, although we're still quite overcast and chilly here. We've noticed more so this year because Cinecultist kinda took MUG's essay last week on criticism to heart. Though Charlie mostly leveled his commentary at theater and restaurant critics, who can willy nilly make or break an establishment or event, we thought this part following applicable to film critics as well.

"...[Walter] Kerr wrote about the National Critics Institute (now the O'Neill Critics Institute) in Connecticut which was formed essentially to help playwrights and critics understand each better. "It is no doubt good for a critic, now and again, to become involved in the making off a play; it is surely good for the playwright to deal, however temporarily, with a reviewer who is not so much fiend as friend." He writes of one such session: "Prowling through the big red barn on the premises, I was cheered to see Edith Oliver of The New Yorker sitting most casually on the floor alongside her assigned author, checking the manuscript with him while keeping an eye both generous and sharp on the players who were giving life to his lines."

Thus, Cinecultist found ourselves righteously emboldened to head up to Josh Cultivated Stupidity's student film shoot in Yorkville on Saturday morning. We'd agreed to be an extra in one of the school yard scenes, and had even taken the clothing recommendations wearing a white t-shirt, flat black shoes, a coat to keep warm between takes and pants we could slip off under a skirt. White knee high socks were to be provided. Yes, that's right nice Jewish girl Cinecultist had agreed for the love of friendship and good film criticism to dress up like a Catholic school girl. However, when CC arrived at the corner of who-lives-this-far-north Josh was still shooting some of the principals so we headed to the Craft Services table. Even NYU student films have Craft Services and of course Josh's Craft Services had Krispy Kreme donuts so this entertained us for awhile. Then we read a pop culture magazine for a bit. Then everyone too a break while they set up the zoom lens. "This participating in the making of what we critique, Cinecultist can totally do this!" we thought to ourselves in third person.

After being on set for nearly an hour, Josh told us we could go with the costume girl to the van and get our plaid skirt and white button down top on. But those skirts would not have been forgiving on the CC derriere and it is at this point, we realized we really had to get going. Critics are critics for a reason, we don't want to be in front of the camera in knee-high socks. But to see our little Joshie yelling action like an actual director, giving the actresses pep talks and making decisions, it warmed the cockles of our Cinecultist heart. And we can't wait to offer our informed critic/muse/quasi-participant opinion of the completed project.

Posted by karen at 10:32 AM |

April 9, 2004

What To Watch

Just think of Cinecultist as your New York movie viewing datebook for this holiday weekend. We've found at least one faboo repertory film for you every day into Monday, so don't say CC doesn't look out for your screening interests.

Friday: The Midnight Movie this week at the Sunshine Cinema will be Tim Burton's paean to B movies, Ed Wood (1994). What's not to love about Johnny Depp in mohair? Playing April 9 and 10 at midnight.

Saturday: At Anthology Film Archives on Second Avenue in the East Village, much French surrealist goodness. Jean Cocteau's Orphic trilogy, Le Sang d'un Poète (1930), Orphée (1950), and La Testament d'Orphée (1960) plays at 7pm, while at 8pm catch Entr'acte (1924), Un Chien Andalou (1928) and Land Without Bread (1932).

Sunday: At Film Forum, the Orson Welles series continues with a new 35mm print of Carol Reed's The Third Man (1949), screening April 9-13. Ah, that Harry Lime.

Monday: At BAM Cinematheque in Brooklyn, the Czech New Wave classic Daisies (1967) about two young girls pushing the limits modern independence and sexual liberty, just as the filmmaker Vera Chytilová pushes film's expectations with her irreverent style. Screened as a part of BAM's monthly Favorites series. [via Flavorpill]

Posted by karen at 8:25 AM |

April 8, 2004

The Prince-apal Of The Thing

the Prince and MeIndependent American young women depicted in movies have it tough these days. We're encouraged to long for a handsome price to come sweep us away but also expected to insist upon our careers. Since when can't one put "Princess" on one's business card? It's already on Cinecultist's, the crown Princess of the Eee Vee; but for Julia Stiles in The Prince and Me, it's not enough to be whisked onto a horse in the midst of a Copenhagen parade by Luke Mably, she needs to be a doctor too.

CC has realized our favorite love stories begin with the two people hating each others guts, and that's the appealing structure used by Prince. He's a secret playboy prince come to Wisconsin for the coeds who flirts with the pre-med farmer girl but keeps getting shot down. They're chemistry lab partners but he sleeps through an important experiment. He gets a job at her bar by using her name as a reference -- oooh, how she hates his hottness! But then they have a romantic moment over the meat slicer (seriously! who comes up with this stuff? and why can't CC be paid to do it?) and you know how it will go from there. Couture ball-gowns, picking out jewels with Miranda Richardson, crashing the opening of Parliament, a butterfly-adorned proposal, that sort of thing.

Honestly though, CC can mock this kind of movie because it's so damn easy, but we did get caught up in its narrative. Julia's character may be trying to have it all -- career and prince -- but then again so is the Cinecultist. We want to enjoy watching our crap romances and our high end art house flicks, after all. Next week, reviews of serious cinema, we promise.

Posted by karen at 8:28 AM |

April 7, 2004

Pirates Without The Eyepatch

An article in today's New York Times on the apparent epidemic of pirated DVDs in Russia has Cinecultist thinking about our changing attitudes towards copyrighted material. As MPAA president Jack Valenti, one of the biggest advocates for harsh strictures against pirating, retires will the American attitude towards unlicensed material go the way Russia's has? It seems to CC it comes down to an issue of math -- according to the article, 9 out of 10 DVDs sold in Russia are copies but with the average monthly income set at $200, and the cost difference between licensed version versus pirated at $20 to $30 versus $4, it makes sense. Even CC won't pay $30 for a mass market DVD, except for the occasional Criterion box set, and we make a touch more than $200 a month.

The article also argues that the Russian attitude towards artistic production, wherein the artist is paid a salary and their product belongs to the state with no Intellectual Property issues, allows for the government's laxness towards the massive CD and DVD bazaars. Here in the States, we even think it important to remind you not to steal licensed material after you've paid $10.25 to watch the latest Angelina Jolie with those guilt-inducing commercials before the previews. That poor stunt man, he needs his paycheck from The Man, don't download movies from the internet damn you!

Thoughts on pirated material, Jack Valenti, those don't download commercials or why you wouldn't even pay $4 for a copy of the Brother Bear DVD? Leave them in the comments.

Team Gallery in Chelsea is currently showing work by Jon Routsen, a Baltimore artist who exhibits his pirated videos, capturing "the raw material of the original projected film, a second skin. One that was there all along but which we never noticed." Through May 8 at 527 W. 26th Street.

Posted by karen at 8:25 AM | | Comments (1)

April 6, 2004

Perplexingly Horrible

Sunday evening, Cinecultist let curiosity get the best of us and attended as screening of Kevin Smith's Jersey Girl, as we'd promised on Friday. We've long been a fan of Smith's work; even when we haven't loved the entire film he's made CC appreciates his point of view and deft turn of phrase. Which left us wondering how the hell did our Kevin end up making this illogical, emotionally discordant and at times, just plain creepy picture.

Ben Affleck, an actor Smith calls his "proxy, a way better looking proxy," stars as Ollie, a widowed Manhattan publicist who gives up his glamorous life to raise his daughter in New Jersey. Major problem straight off though, is that Affleck has zero credibility as a father and less than zero father/daughter chemistry with the precocious Raquel Castro who plays Gertie. He's more like a strange uncle dropping in for a weekend to inappropriately flirt with the seven year old, than a man who's raised this baby on his own from birth. What's up with the scene where Ollie takes Gertie to Manhattan for the day, which ends in a handsome cab ride in Central Park and says he's only going on dates with her, not the pretty lady from the video store? It gave CC the icks.

At least this element of the plot sort of made sense -- Jersey Girl is a romance between a father and his daughter -- as opposed to practically every other continuity detail of the film. Smith appears to want us to suspend our disbelief for his narrative, an incredibly vast task, but the holes even troubled David Ansen in the following interview in Newsweek.

Ansen: He has to run because the road in town is blocked, and I couldn't help but ask myself, Well, how did all those other people get to the show? They weren't running! It's picky, I know. Smith: David, this is the part of your job that would be the most irritating to me if I were a critic. Sometimes you just have to kick back and suspend disbelief and not ask, How did they all get there? Ansen: But as you know, you're more inclined to do that when a movie is working for you. Smith: That's true. Ansen: And when you become disengaged from the movie, you start to see things. Smith: You start to take it apart. Look, at the end of the day I'm not an inventive or very creative filmmaker....I cannot reinvent the wheel. All I can do is add a spoke to an already existing wheel, and hopefully it's my spoke and it kind of stands out a little bit.

Our final beef with the film came from his use of Liv Tyler's character, the pretty video store lady/romantic interest Mya. Ollie and Mya meet cute when he tries to rent porn from her store and she puts him on the spot by asking to interview him for her graduate school paper on family men who watch adult videos. This leads to a lunchtime diner scene where the two have an extended dialogue about their masturbation frequency. CC thinks that Smith must encounter these lovely, quirky independent women in real life and just write down their dialogues verbatim to insert them in his scripts. Which is fine, except that he doesn't understand their motivation -- why would this gorgeous young girl talk masturbation in diner -- and thus gives the actors no context to act these lines from. Screwball for its own sake really leads to nothing concrete and the promise of Mya's character falls flat.

Posted by karen at 8:30 AM |

April 5, 2004

Trivia Takedown

The Second Annual Great American Pop Culture Quiz from Entertainment Weekly arrived in the Cinecultist's mailbox this weekend, and we pulled out our pen and thinking cap with glee. Last year featured all around trivia, which we did much worse with than we would have expected, considering how much of CC's brain is filled with pop culture. But this year we knew we'd be able to get it on because the topic is All About The '90s, and that's our speciality. CC scored an 82, falling safely in the healthy 60 to 90 point range and apparently, "a race car in the red;...Superfly T.N.T.;...The Guns of Navarone!"

We'd offer you a link to the online-only version of the Pop Culture Quiz, but like the rest of their online content, you have to be a subscriber to access it. So, we guess you'll have to pick up a copy on the newsstand to see the whole thing. In the meantime, here's a few of the movie questions CC couldn't answer but probably should have, as we are the Cinecultist and have obligations to answer to from this (self-dubbed) title.

16. Whose liver does Hannibal Lecter eat with "some fava beans and a nice Chianti"?

25. In A League of Their Own, she is a Rockford Peach, but what tan is Kit (Lori Petty) traded to?

40. Which '50s ear celeb at Jack Rabbit Slim's waits on John Travolta and Uma Thurman in Pulp Fiction?
Bonus: What actor plays that celeb?

53. What was the movie that finally knocked Titanic out of the No. 1 box office spot after three and a half months?
a. Conspiracy Theory
b. Lost in Space
c. L.A. Confidential
d. Anaconda

69. Who plays Chili Palmer in the film-within-the-film at the end of Get Shorty?

74. According to Shakespeare in Love, what was the Bard's original title forRomeo and Juliet?

Answers: 16. A census taker's. 25. The Racine Belles, though we'll accept just Racine 40. Buddy Holly, bonus Steve Buscemi 53. B, Lost in Space 69. Danny DeVito, as actor Martin Weir 74. Romeo and Ethel, The Pirate's Daughter

Remainder: Welcome new viewers via Kinja.com! Cinecultist.com was graciously added to both the weblog aggregate's movie blog listing and Choire Sicha of Gawker's list of favorites. CC has also created an account with a page of some of our most frequent reads, visible at www.kinja.com/user/cinecultist. Happy blog reading, cinecultists.

Posted by karen at 8:26 AM |

April 2, 2004

What Could've Been

Cinecultist had to put aside the Challenge last night because of other viewing priorities (aka The Apprentice -- Four left! Who will the Donald fire next?!), but we'd like to point out how much more difficult this has been than we expected. There isn't a Made For TV to watch every night of the week, good or bad, even if you wanted to try. Programming we might have enjoyed reviewing for the Challenge -- BBCAmerica and A&E airings of English television films like BBC's Pride and Prejudice or Gormengast. Or IFC original programming which often gets theatrical screenings but has most of its distribution on television such as Josh Pais's 7th Street. And as Maggie wondered, we did see Celeste in the City when it aired on ABC Family a week or so ago, about a young girl (not unlike Cinecultist) who moves to the Big Apple to work in publishing, gets made over by her gay cousin, straightens her hair and finds love with the metrosexual boy next door. It's a story as old as time -- or as old as the last glossy chick lit book to grace the bookstore tables.

CC was hoping that the Challenge would sort of cure us of this need to watch such bad Made For TV movies, in a Clockwork aversion therapy kind of way. Sadly, this experiment did not succeed. The itch is still there, although hopefully CC won't have to burden our readers with the recaps.

Coming Up on Cinecultist: The television advertisements tout that "audiences love Jersey Girl." We're not so sure about this -- investigation to follow.

Posted by karen at 8:28 AM |

April 1, 2004

Feedback From The Field

Bottom of the Barrel Time Here: The only bad Made For TV-ness Cinecultist could find last night was a E! Hollywood True Story on N*Sync, featuring all the boys and their moms -- except for the notably absent Justin Timberlake and the actual music of the band. There's really nothing to write about there, only that this challenge continues to highlight how high the CC tolerance for horrid programming really is. Fortunately, we received the following e-mail from our friend and faithful reader, Maggie in Seattle regarding her own TV movie obsession. If Gawker says two mentions equal a trend, then if CC and Maggie find something fascinating that surely equals nation-wide phenomenon.

Hey There Cinecultist, Just a quick note - I read your post about the TV movies, and had to have a chuckle - for some reason I was addicted to those cheeseball ones on ABC Family channel...I haven't seen the Ryan Banks, but I did see *note* titles may actually vary:

Lucky Seven Patrick Dempsy as a bagel shop owner in Seattle (that is SO not Seattle, but whatever) who this control freak lawyer chick feels she must date as her #6 of that Mr. Perfect Brad Rowe can be lucky #7.

Picking Up or Dropping Off with Scott Wolf as a single father weatherman in Colorado who keeps meeting up with single mom at the airport as they are sending off kids to respective spouses - what is it about weathermen? I think I am obsessed.

Also saw a very bad Christmas drama with the guy from Will and Grace as stuck up womanizing rich dude while hires lady from Touched by an Angel to pretend to be his wife for boss who likes family values - of course, he realizes that family is wonderful and gives up womanizing ways. Can't remember what this is called.

AND Lifetime movie about scary wife Ann Margaret who has husband killed by brainwashed teenage boys - I only mention this because the husband is played by Peter Coyote, who is [her boyfriend's] Todd's friend's uncle - this movie was very bad and like 5 hours long - plus Toby Maguire plays the geeky son.

Okay, I am going to stop now because I am scaring myself. <--- Maggie

Posted by karen at 8:21 AM |