May 31, 2004

Some Lovin' For People CC Knows

The following are reluctant links — reluctant only in that we're jealous of how awesome these people that Cinecultist knows really are.

• Margaret Berry of Mighty Girl and a regular contributor to The Morning News attended UCDavis with Cinecultist and was her editor at our daily college paper, the California Aggie (Go Ags!). The digital self-portrait in this recent interview via is worth the click over alone, but it'd also a great way to get familiar with Maggie's unique writing voice if you're not already.

• Fellow NYU CS grad Saul Austerlitz has an article this week in the New York Press on up coming summer movie activities and an article on the best first movies by famous directors in this issue of Movie Maker magazine. Saul gives pretentious a good name and is surely a critical voice on the scene worth watching.

• Though we've never met in person, reading his writing and e-mails gives Cinecultist the confidence to recommend a new essay over at A Girl and A Gun on Holocaust films.

• A few people we know were mentioned in last week's Talk of the Town Ink article on bloggers writing books. Cinecultist is such a media dork that two degrees of separation from mention in The New Yorker actually makes us feel important. Shoot CC now, please. Thanks.

Posted by karen at 5:37 PM |

May 28, 2004

SIFF Strikes Back!

Cinecultist has tried in the past to warn Seattle Maggie, our new correspondent from the Emerald City, that seeing movies based only on the title can be a bad idea. She should really stick to seeing movies based solely on the fact that Brendan Fraser or Russell Crowe are in them (true story!). However, she did not take our advice to heart as is evidence in her second dispatch from the front lines of this year's Seattle International Film Festival.

On Monday evening, I took in a screening of The Tesseract written and directed by Oxide Pang of the Pang brothers. Having seen and enjoyed the Pang brothers' very creepy The Eye at last year's SIFF, I went into this movie expecting something along the same genre - dread Asian horror, perhaps tinged with a taste of sci-fi (so sue me, I fell for the Wrinkle in Time connotation). Alas, I had stepped into that most nefarious pitfall of film festival goers - making assumptions without research, aka the Movie That Makes An Ass of U and Me.

The Tesseract proved to be nothing I was expecting, and was in fact only bound to its title by the sheerest, most gossamer of threads. At the Heaven Hotel in Thailand, the fates of two feuding drug lords, a sweaty drug-running Englishman, a mortally wounded Thai hit woman and a painfully naive British psychologist are inextricably entwined.

Wit, the orphaned Thai houseboy who runs errands around the hotel, ties many of the stories together with his coming and goings. The movie is presented in what I can only describe as Memento-style storytelling (I know, that phrase is getting old) with some of the events happening out of sequence or being retold from a different perspective. From what I can tell, the tesseract that the title refers to this method of revealing the story to the viewer, although I much prefer the Madeleine L'Engle version myself. First, the good news: the cinematography is exciting and gorgeous, although almost to the point of distraction. There is a certain dreamlike quality that is echoed in the slowed special effects and the misty lenses. The movie's use of color is also quite good, especially using red to punctuate certain scenes and sepia tones to evoke nostalgia.

Next, the bad news: this movie sucks rocks. The characters are so frustratingly one-dimensional that we have no reason to care about them - the drug lords are pissed off, the Englishman is sweaty, the hit woman is stoic and the psychologist is so ridiculously sentimental that one longs for death by theater-lobby hot dog rather than put up with her rambling speeches about how time is a circle and the beginning is the end and how her life is like a bejeweled carriage (don't ask). And worst of all is the character of Wit, who manages to lie, steal and thoughtlessly cause random deaths throughout the movie without a second thought. While it is pressed upon the viewer that the kid has had a hard life and knows no other alternative, can't he have at least one endearing characteristic? He loves dogs? Opens doors for old ladies? Something? Some streak of good nature that makes us root for him? No, nothing. Wit's main drive in life is greed, greed and more greed.

Maybe we can mark it down to my admittedly curmudgeonly attitude toward children in general, but the biggest disappointment in a disappointing movie was the fact that this kid was still breathing by the time the credits were rolling. The Tesseract gets 1 out of 5 Golden Space Needles, and we humbly beg the Pang siblings to go back to making horror pictures. Until next time, this is Seattle Maggie signing off!

Posted by karen at 8:21 AM |

May 27, 2004

What'd He Say?

daysofbeing2.jpgThough Cinecultist did find our lack of Asian languages a hinderance at the Zhang Yimou event frusterating, but this isn't the first time in our week of movie watching that we've hit this wall. Last Sunday CC headed to Brooklyn for a screening of Wong Kar-Wai's Days of Being Wild at BAM Cinematheque, and while we always enjoy an evening gazing at the lovelies Maggie Cheung, Leslie Cheung, Andy Lau and in a brief but sigh inducing cameo, Tony Leung, the print shown left something to be desired to say the least.

See a good print and all you see is the movie; watch a bad print and all Cinecultist can notice is the scratches, the fading, the poor splices, the popping soundtrack and the faded subtitles. It brings out the geeky former archivist/projectionist in CC to discuss it but, this print blew. Most intrinsically, it seemed to be missing some essential subtitles, in particular a final voice-over performed by Leslie Cheung's character as we watch the lush Singapore trees glid by. The mostly white hipster kids around CC found this grumble inducing, and it did seem that the movie lacked some closure because of this omission. It appeared also that the film hadn't been well stored because the ends of each reel had excessive scratching, and there were visible jumps in the image which usually signals that the archivist had to trim off particularly damaged frames. All of this sad decay on a print from a film made only in 1991? It's enough to turn CC into some kind of crusading Martin Scorsese-Save-the-Orphans-of-the-Storm sort of person! How obnoxious would that be?

Posted by karen at 8:36 AM |

May 26, 2004

Director Zhang Takes The Stage

Zhang Yimou at Asia SocietyLast night Cinecultist raced out of the Day Job and uptown for Asian Cinevision and the Asia Society's A Conversation with Chinese director Zhang Yimou. A part of the "Fifth Generation" of filmmakers from China, Zhang is one of the foremost members of the group which brought international prominence to their national cinema in the late '80s. One of his new movies, Hero is finally getting American theatrical release by Miramax in August and his most recent production, House of a Thousand Daggers just screened at this year's Cannes. CC researched and wrote an extensive paper on Zhang and his collaboration with actress Gong Li for a grad school class, so we were particularly excited when our friend William put us on the list for the event.

CC knows William from NYU but now he's working for Cinevision, a non profit Asian cultural organization which puts on the International Asian American Film Festival every year in July. He acted last night as the translator for director Zhang in his conversation with MoMA video currator Barbara London, though when we call it a conversation we're using the word loosely. The evening consisted of out of left field questions from Ms. London (samples: What is the Fifth Generation? What do you think of the three questions in Turnadot? Why did you set Hero in the Ching dynasty?), extensive answers from Mr. Zhang in Mandarin on what felt like responding where most of the audience around us followed along, William scratching down notes, and then what could only be described as a paraphrasing of his answers by William. CC thinks William rocks, as a film scholar and a friend, and he's exposed us to a number of amazing films we wouldn't have ever seen on our own, but as a translator he sort of missed the point. Interesting but frusterating at the same time.

During the Q & A, one audience member did ask what CC had wanted to know, was Zhang upset by the way Miramax held off on releasing Hero for over a year and is now touting it as a Quentin Tarantino produced product? However, the diplomatic director deflected the question saying it was up to Miramax to destribute the picture as they saw fit and that he personally likes Tarantino very much having interacted with him when he was in China shooting Kill Bill. This soft peddling makes sense since Miramax did co-sponsor the event last night with the Asia Society and Cinevision, but it still burns CC up that Harvey has his meddling fingers in every cinematic pie we seem to be interested in these days.

For even more information about Zhang Yimou than you knew you needed, read Senses of Cinema's Great Directors entry on him. Comprehensive, thy name is Senses of Cinema. Also, check out the Tarantino hyping-Hero trailer, the only star in this picture must be Jet Li, here.

Posted by karen at 8:04 AM |

May 25, 2004

Live From SIFF

Sorry about that whole dropping off the face of the earth there loyal cinecultists. Just when you think you've paid up on the year's expenses in terms of hosting and registration fees, turns out no. You haven't. And we're cutting off your web service until you pay up. So there. Argh. Anyhow, all is well now for Cinecultist and "Obsessing Over Movies In the Eee Vee since 2003," and in the meantime we bring you the first report from our new Seattle Correspondent, the ever pithy Maggie, who attended some ass-kicking asian fare at this year's Seattle International Film Festival.

This year, I kicked off my SIFF experience with a midnight screening of Azumi at the Egyptian theater on Saturday night. Nothing says SIFF like waiting in line in a dark, muddy alley for half an hour whilst faux drag-queen club girls mince by you into into Neighbors on ridiculous platform heels. Luckily, I had the foresight to bring cookies, so the time passed swiftly.

At any rate, the movie itself was worth the wait. Azumi tells the story of a young woman who, orphaned at an early age, joins a band of likewise orphaned children led by the mysterious Master. Tucked away on a remote mountain, he teaches them to be assassins in pursuit of an equally mysterious Mission. Once they reach adulthood, they are unleashed upon feudal Japan and much slashing ensues.

While this movie has many of the over-the-top touches that one expects from the this type of movie - pressurized blood geysers erupting from wounds, flashy costumes and big hair (especially on the men), gravity-defying leaps and somersaults - it also includes some moments of seriousness. Azumi and her fellow assassins contemplate the single-mindedness of their mission and indeed the question of their entire existence, as they are instructed to stand by while an entire village is slaughtered by bandits. As one of their party falls ill, the rest are pushed to abandon him to certain death rather than delay their journey. As assassins, they are not allowed to question their path; a target is presented, and they must kill without thought or emotion.

This is emphasized in the most memorable scene in the movie, which happens just as the young assassins are about to set forth on their journey. Their Master separates them into pairs based on who they care for most, and then sets them the task of killing their partner to prove that they can indeed kill without question. The young assassins, who moments before have been playfully romping like puppies, are suddenly transformed into killers. Azumi is paired with the man that she loves, and the look they exchange before their battle is almost more heartrending than the inevitable conclusion. That being said, the main reason for seeing this movie would still have to be the elaborate fight sequences.

When Azumi stops an arrow in mid-flight with her sword by splitting it down the middle, we couldn't care less about the moral tribulations of an assassin. We just want to see her kicking some more samurai butt. And enough butt is kicked during this film for me to give Azumi 4 out of 5 Golden Space Needles. Until next time, this is Seattle Maggie signing off!

Posted by karen at 4:24 PM |

May 21, 2004

That Cannes Do Attitude

Cinecultist's reaction to the Cannes Film Festival scheduled screening/"psyche! no screening, yet" of Wong Kar Wai's 2046: What the hell, dude? Did it screen? Is it totally awesome? A. O. Scott in the NY Times today says, yeah and it rocked. But clicking over to IndieWire's correspondent Eugene Hernandez, it appears the film has been rescheduled to Friday. And today's Friday right? Would the time difference or some sort of wrinkle in the space time continuum allow Scott to see the picture and then file his story for publication on the web this morning? We suppose if it was very early Friday, as IndieWire reported Thursday it will be. But all of this waiting and delaying has put CC in a kerfuffle. Don't forget, you still can see some previous Wong Kar Wai pictures at BAM through this weekend, if like Cinecultist you're in a bit of 2046 tizzy.

In honor of this being Cinecultist's 401th post on this site, we bring you a quote from Jonathan Rosenaum's book Placing Movies: The Practice of Film Criticism, a birthday gift from our friends John and Adriane which we've just started reading and really like. Concluding a section where he details his at times rocky relations with other critics like Annette Michelson, Pauline Kael and finally Andrew Sarris, he writes:

"In recent years, I should add, he's been friendly. This paragraph, of course, may conceivably lead him to cut me again, but I should stress that I'm less interested here in settling old scores—or opening old sores—than in revealing to disinterested students the prices that have to be paid sometimes for speaking one's mind in print, especially when it concerns critics in the New York area."

Maybe that's what Cinecultist needs to do to boost up the traffic on this site, a bloody public throw down with anther critic. Take that AMD! Want a piece of CC, Doug French? Karate chop to the neck Michael Koresky! Just kidding guys, we're all still buddies and partners in crime in trying to rock the NYC critical establishment. Kisses!

Posted by karen at 8:30 AM |

May 20, 2004

Always Look On The Bright Side of Life

Cinecultist is a firm believer that despite the technological advances and conveniences of watching movies on DVD, if you can get a chance to see a movie on film on a big screen, you should. Rereleases and reperatory runs of older films are the bread and butter of being a cinecultist, and fortunately for CC New York is awash with this kind of fare. Last weekend, CC caught a screening of Monty Python's The Life of Brian (1979) at the Landmark Sunshine theater on Houston. While Brian isn't the type of movie that needs the scope of a large screen to revel in its photography, it surely benefits from the collective experience of being in an audience. And it's goofy and fun to be walking down the street afterwards and encounter other people humming the final song as though they were turn of the millenium martyrs nailed to the cross with Brian.

Posted by karen at 8:28 AM |

May 19, 2004

Random Thoughts (While Watching Television)

1. The voice-overs for the trailer on tv of Jerry Bruckheimer's new movie, King Arthur pronounces the once and future king's name as Ah-tha. Not Are-thur. Is that because the cast is (primarily) English? Are the voice-over people/publicity people ashamed of our good old fashioned American accents? Does this matter to anyone besides Cinecultist? Does this pronounciation give the film — ostensibly an summer action-er with hotties Kiera and Clive which CC is so rushing to see based on Keira's face make-up alone — more gravitas? This picture's is out July 7 by the way, if you needed to mark the calendar or something.

2. The song used for the promo of HBO's new summer movies, the Von Bondies "C'mon C'mon" is a freakin' catchy tune. It makes Cinecultist walk around the apartment flailing the arms about in a mimic of that '50s dance, the swim.

3. The final bit in the Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban trailer where Daniel Radcliffe yells out "spector patronum!" give Cinecultist the arm hair goosebumps. 15 days left, baby.

Yay for Summer Movies! They make Cinecultist all stupid and we heart them.

Posted by karen at 11:44 PM |

May 18, 2004

Add An Exclamation To That Title

Cinecultist really thinks much would have been enhanced in Wolfgang Peterson's newest extravaganza with an Oklahoma!-style punctuation — Troy! Anything really to distract CC from the fact that this Greek epic runs over 2 and a half hours long. That's just unnecessary for an action spectacle, surely they could've cut some of the superfluous Brad Pitt bare ass shots? It seemed like every few minutes there he was, cheeks bare to the Mediterranean air. Not that we're leveling this as a criticism of the film per se, but just that it added to the over long quality of the picture. Summer action extravaganzas with big stars and lavish sets should keep it short and sweet in Cinecultist's point of view.

Mostly Troy wants to be earnest in it's over the top delivery, in the tradition of the '50s ancient world costume epics. There's no Clash of the Titans-style cheesy gods and godesses on high, just enormous set piece scenes, scads of extras and elaborate Greek armor filling every frame. In fact, all discussion of the Greeks religious convictions sounds like a monotheist editor got in there to sprinkle seeds of Judeo-Christian doubt. Achilles (Pitt) knocks the head off of the statue of Apollo in Troy and everyone wonders why he's not struck down instantly by a lightening bolt or whatnot. But despite these anachronistic details, the film has no problem sticking with what it must think is period dialogue. A ridiculous example: when furious Achilles insults the hated king Aggamemnon (a growling Brian Cox) by calling him "a wine sack." As in, "you wine sack!" Because that's what all the kids on the Sparta playground are saying to each other these days when the teachers aren't around.

Posted by karen at 8:33 AM |

May 17, 2004

The Four One One On '9/11'

There's been quite the buzz around the release/unrelease of Michael Moore's newest documentary, Fahrenheit 911, one of the official selections at this year's Cannes Film Festival. The New York Times reports today about the growing controversy over whether parent company Disney will allow Miramax to distribute the potentially polarizing film.

Cinecultist's initial reaction to all this was that the idea that any distribution company wouldn't want to cash in on the follow up to such a highly grossing docu as Bowling For Columbine had to be great PR from a persecution-happy Moore. But the Times article rather implies that Disney never intended to allow Miramax to distribute the film, and its only just recently that Harvey & Co. realized that da Mouse intended to stand firm on the decision. While CC still thinks someone will end up funding this picture so it can hit US screens, because certainly it will make money not just from the curiosity ticket buying alone, we're not entirely sure it will be Miramax. Has Mike gone too far this time with his vocal politics? Are the Iraq scandals tailor making an eagerly anticipating anti-Bushie audience for this movie? We'll keep you posted as all this develops.

Posted by karen at 11:18 PM |

Airing of the Birthday Tiara

tiara.jpgCinecultist doesn't often provide too much of the personal info in this space devoted to New York cinephilia but we thought those who couldn't make it down to Plant Bar last Saturday might like to see the birthday tiara in all its glory. Cinecultist is a princess, and don't you forget it. Thanks to all who came by and helped CC toast the new year.

karen & fiona
self-portrait with fiona
stephanie, kudah and ilana sitting a little too close to the drunken camera woman
lisa and janelle
lisa chats it up with janelle
how cute, it's amy and josh
jen and the bemused host at 7A
celeb sighting — it's the hand from Evil Dead 2! no wait, that's just john and adriane
that arm band is so eee vee, joshie with the punk rock fi

Posted by karen at 10:49 PM |

May 15, 2004

Double The Trouble, Double The Fun

We'd sort of been putting off mentioning it this week but Cinecultist watched New York Minute, the Olsen sisters/girls/starlets (since they don't want to be referred to as "the twins" anymore) theatrical release last Friday. Picture it — Cinecultist and about 35 to 40 under 15 year old girls watching a Mary-Kate and Ashley movie in the Eee Vee. The amount of plastic, pseudo-'80s Urban Outfitters-esque accessories peppering the audience was staggering. One girl, looking to be about 12 was wearing a Spence t-shirt. Yup, it was that kind of evening, filled with squealing and giggling and gushing every time Jared Padalecki came onto the screen.

Here's where this movie won Cinecultist over — when Andy Richter doing a bad Chinese accent pulls out nunchucks and starts kung fu fighting one of the Olsens on a subway platform Matrix style. So bizarre and sorta brilliant. This is not to say that much of the film didn't try our teenie-bopper cheese tolerance. Mary-Kate and Ashley have this "acting" technique wherein the look really wide eyed to give the semblance of emoting. It's very disconcerting. However! They are kind of cute in a way similar to those Japanese electronic pets from the early nineties where you had to feed them on the hour by pushing buttons or else they would die. It's a novelty act difficult to look away from but all in all not very satisfying or probably very lasting.

Twin-ish Remainders: Ultragrrrl (aka UltraOlsen) recommends drinking while watching this picture, check out her rules on the May 7 posting. Amy Benfer wrote this wonderful article on the Sweet Valley High books and our collective fascination with twins for the Believer last December.

Posted by karen at 8:36 AM |

May 14, 2004

Over The Weekend

Hey, That's My Bike! Through Sunday, May 16 Anthology Film Archives hosts the Fourth Annual Bicycle Film Festival. Featuring, "Film/Parade/Art/Music/Performance/Parties/Fun!" this is the festival devoted to the simple credo "bikes rule." One such interesting entry screening tonight — Warriors: The Bike Race, a short film about the group of 400 bicyclists who decended on NYC in 2002 to recreate the cross-city bike ride depicted in the 'spoitation classic The Warriors.

No Half-Caf Here If like Cinecultist and our friend Pete, you missed the sold out screenings of Jim Jarmusch new flick Coffee and Cigarettes at the Tribeca Film Festival, have no fear. The collection of 11 shorts shot in black and white opens Friday in New York at the Landmark Sunshine. According to TONY critic Joshua Rothkopf, "Made for an audience of one, Coffee percolates with enough private obsession to make it more than a mere curio."

Turn The Beat Around The American Museum of the Moving Image begins a series through May 21 devoted to Japanese director, star, poet, newspaper columnist Takeshi "Beat" Kitano on Saturday called "Violent Lives, Fragile Beauty: The Films of Takeshi Kitano." This is to gear up for the release of his newest feature, The Blind Swordsman: Zatiochi, an updating of his samurai series that's sure to be brutal and awesome at the same time.

You Say It's Your Birthday! Sunday is the Cinecultist's birthday. We will be 27 years old. Cards, letters, eternal devotion and Criterion DVDs will be accepted. On Saturday night we'll be down at Plant Bar on E. 4th Street if you want to stop by and say hi. We'll be the one wearing the birthday tiara.

Posted by karen at 8:29 AM |

May 12, 2004

The Day After That

Cinecultist doesn't often get the chance to comment on politics and its intersection with cinema, though now that we think about it, with the amount that Hollywood and Washington are in bed together, it should come up more often. Just when you thought poor Al Gore was running out of things to do, what with his busy schedule of growing beards and reading his daughter's chick lit manuscripts, he's offering comment today in the New York Times about the growing controversy over disaster flick The Day After Tomorrow and how it may or may not influence environmental legislation.

In a telephone news conference on Tuesday former Vice President Al Gore compared the exaggeration of the film's premise to the approach of the Bush administration to global warming. "There are two sets of fiction to deal with," Mr. Gore said. "One is the movie, the other is the Bush administration's presentation of global warming." He accused the White House of "trying to convince people there's no real problem, no degree of certainty from scientists about the issue."

This seems like a lot of hullabaloo over nothing to Cinecultist. In a nutshell: the environmentalists are cranky because they think that the producers of the film are distancing themselves from any involvement with any actual information about global warming (the cause of the big ol' disaster in the movie's plot). But the filmmakers, including schlock king Roland Emmerich, say the movie is a fiction. Correct CC if we're wrong, but isn't there something essentially conservative about disaster movies? Even when they're not funded by Rupert Murdock's money. Save for perhaps Godzilla with its nuclear fall out/effects on the bombed Japanese cities commentary but that was removed from the original US release anyhow. We think the real issue here is that these invitations were extended, retracted and then offered again to the environmentalists. CC doesn't like being uninvited to stuff either.

To ask this movie to offer real debate about our country's current policies on the ecosystem seems to be asking too much from a summer disaster popcorn flick. Disaster flicks post-release can be interesting historical artifacts to use for examining our thoughts at the time of their making (like Independence Day as a metaphor for terrorism) but to ask for impact on their release is a bit pie in the sky to Cinecultist.

Posted by karen at 8:47 AM |

May 11, 2004

Two All Beef Patties

There was a brief moment, we think it was 1993, wherein Cinecultist was a vegetarian for six weeks. Some might think our briefly adopted vegetarianism was just a further extension of our childhood eating designation "picky," but at the time CC honestly wanted to try on this lifestyle to see if it fit. In the end the lure of grilled chicken, and a few years later Seattle's Two Bells hamburgers, led us back to meat eating but the impulse to examine your eating choices, as filmmaker Morgan Spurlock does in his new movie, Super Size Me, makes sense to CC.

Cast in the mold of a Michael Moore documentary, though with less bitter and more funny, Spurlock brings his downtown New York liberal, anti-corporation, living with a vegan chef point of view to the question of America's growing obesity. Inspired by the lawsuits filed against McDonald's by a pair of severely overweight girls, Spurlock's shtick is to undertake a 30 day all McDonald's diet all to the service of exploring the detriment our fast food laden diets take on our health. In particular, Spurlock's concerned by this trend for children and spends quite a bit of screen time showing how McDonald's markets to kids and how most school lunches are also influenced by corporate interest.

What scared and grossed out Cinecultist the most in all of this — not the second day vomiting from just eating a super size Big Mac meal — was how unprepared his team of three doctors were for Spurlock's rapid health deterioration. No one seemed to anticipate that eating like this would "turn his liver to patι" in a matter of weeks, but it does. Also, CC wasn't aware that New York had so many McDonalds' for such a small island. Super Size Me made Cinecultist linger even longer than usual in the produce aisle during this week's grocery trip. That bag of spinach salad never looked so good.

• Morgan is blogging about the release of his film Super Size Me and his current press junket through IndieWire.

• Thanks to our Canadian reader Jeremy (Victoria, B.C. no less) for pointing out this article in Sunday's Los Angeles Times about the coming summer's trend for more "adult fare" after last summer's onslaught of caffeinated sequels. Just as long as we don't have to sit through League of Extraodinary Gentlemen again, Cinecultist will be fine.

Posted by karen at 8:45 AM |

May 7, 2004

Don't Forget About Mama

Perhaps all of those diamond ads on television have clued you in, as they have Cinecultist, that Mother's Day is this weekend. CC also received recently in honor of the holiday, in addition to the increased Send Flowers e-mail spam, two lists of Mother themed movies from the good folks at Usually our purveyors of box office news, industry brewings and an endless source of made up nouns (a "laffer" describes a comedy, a so and so "starrer" for a star vehicle, etc.), Variety felt it necessary to provide a viewing guide of Good Mom and Bad Mom movies this past Monday to our inbox that we found a bit suspect.

On the side of Good:
1. Terms of Endearment
2. Freaky Friday
3. On Golden Pond
4. Rambling Rose
5. Aliens

Aliens?!? While the rational for the inclusion of this flick seems in the description of the movie to be that the relationship between Ripley and the little girl she saves at the alien space station is maternal, we can't help but recall the horrifying image of the alien pod field and the fact that the scariest alien is the mother. We always thought from watching Aliens that the writer had at least some serious mother issues, if not problems with women in general from this depiction.

Considered Bad Mom (if you were curious):
1. Cinderella
2. The Positively True Adventures of the Alleged Texas Cheerleading-Murderer Mom
3. Mommie Dearest
4. Psycho
5. Bloody Mama

And then an e-mail with even more Mom themed movies arrived yesterday. Because we need two of these messages? Some of the titles included All About My Mother, Big Momma's House, I Remember Mama, Serial Mom, and Throw Momma From The Train. Cinecultist might also throw on there Albert Brook's Mother, Postcards From the Edge and Stella Dallas but once you start trying to think of these lists it can be difficult to stop.

Posted by karen at 8:41 AM |

May 6, 2004

Like, A Law Or Something

Brosna10.jpgAs Cinecultist searched the web today to post an image to accompany our thoughts on Laws of Attraction, the lawyers rom com with Pierce Brosnan and Julianne Moore we caught last weekend, we found ourselves drawn to pics not of the two stars but to ones just of Pierce. And we like the Julianne, but Pierce — zowie. Swoon-worthy. Hunk-alicious. Bring over some of that devil-may-care attitude to Cinecultist, baby. And the movie's not have bad either, by the way.

The premise of this Hepburn-Tracy style farce is that Brosnan and Moore find themselves squaring off as high powered New York divorce attorneys for various opposing clients as their own attraction to each other grows. Then in a night of drunken revelry in a tiny Irish town, as you do, they get married. As is customary for more and more current rom coms, the dramatic pull of this narrative is that the guy wants to commit but the girl can't because of that darn feminist chip on her shoulder. She must learn to love, folks, rather than focus so much on her pesky career and independence. It's totally retrograde to posit that Julianne would be a schoolmarm of a woman with this successful career, but who cares when you have Pierce looking this good? All thoughts of legitimate film criticism have flown out the window for Cinecultist on this movie. That accent, that twinkly eyed look, the ease with which he removes his shirt... Enough!

Perhaps this is some sort of conspiracy on the part of Hollywood to keep us questioning critics from getting to thoughtful but parading your Pierces or Keira Knightleys before us? Just a thought.

Posted by karen at 8:35 AM |

May 5, 2004

Pinnacles of Product Placement

Perhaps you've heard about or seen the previews for Steven Spielberg's new movie with Catherine Zeta Jones and Tom Hanks called Terminal? Cinecultist had noted that the romance is set in an airport, but had not yet got our mind around the product placement potential from shooting a movie inside a place that already acts as one big commercial. This article in Reuter's today, about all the chain retailers thrilled to be asked to spend thousands of dollars to replicate their stores for a mock up of JFK airport built in southern California on the chance that they'll get some face time in the movie, gave Cinecultist a fright.

The premise of the flick is that Hanks, through various political issues, ends up stranded without a country in JFK airport where he falls in love with an United Airlines stewardess, Zeta-Jones. Some of the stores they used to fill the space the set designers approached — you know to give it that "authentic" corporate feel — while other came to the movie makers asking to be included. Then "each of the brands had a team of store architects, merchandisers and setup managers on hand to ensure that the sets conformed to their standardized layouts and design." They even gave the extras playing, say a Starbucks barista, that corporation's training. So they'd look like real employees. Because that's where CC'd be looking for realism.

A particularly choice bit of corporate fawning:

One possible disadvantage of having so many brands appear in "Terminal" is that it might be difficult for any of the retailers to stand out, says Mark Workman, president and CEO of First Fireworks Group. But still, the film is likely to produce at least one or two magical moments that take place in a retail outlet and leave a lasting impression in consumers' minds, he says.

Posted by karen at 8:36 AM |

May 4, 2004

Watch It Because It's Good For You

okladka.jpgThere are certain films which Cinecultist considers "vegetable movies" (as in, watch them, they're good for you) and we definitely count the Danish director Lars von Trier's work in that category. The only caveat — we like veggie movies in theory, we know we should watch them but often we have a difficult time sitting all the way through them like von Trier's Medea (1987) produced for Danish television from a script by Carl Th. Dreyer.

Cinecultist borrowed this DVD from our veggie film loving friends Adriane and John after a discussion a week or so ago of Dogville, a movie CC knows we should see but hasn't gotten around to it yet. Adriane has her reservations about Dogville (Brechtian goodness but a muddled tone), but recommended highly Medea as an example of von Trier's superior early work. That's the thing about veggie films, they sound really appealing in the abstract, especially if you get someone passionate about the picture describing it to you.

The DVD only runs 76 minutes and CC once sat through all 190 minutes of the Birth of Nation, that's over 3 hours of Klan fun, so we figured this wouldn't be a problem. On a Tuesday night, we popped the DVD into the player. Moody, grainy, washed out video stock captures well the marshlands and castle where this Greek play is set. The actors are very expressive, and von Trier captures this confidently with a Dreyer-esque emphasis on facial close up. The drama is compelling even though we know where it's going, Medea will kill her kids to spite Jason but when and how? Despite all of this, 35 minutes in, Cinecultist is stretched out on the couch fast asleep. CC thought we were coming down with the flu or something, our exhaustion came on so suddenly. A day or so later, we're waiting to go to dinner with a friend so we try to watch the end. Again we couldn't finish the film and it put us into a total depressed funk. We've now removed the DVD from the player and put it back in the pile of things to return to Adriane and John. Our health and well being just couldn't finish it.

Maybe it's too moody a movie, Cinecultist is a sensitive sort. Maybe CC just doesn't like von Trier even though we think we should. We're not certain but Cinecultist wanted to share our struggles so the next time you can't make it all the way through some veggie movie you know you should like, you won't feel quite so bad.

Posted by karen at 8:35 AM | | Comments (2)

May 3, 2004

Feels Good To Be Mean

With such a gorgeous weather weekend for New York, Cinecultist spent part of it outdoors slathered in sunscreen (not to worry Daily Gusto!) and of course the other part indoors watching movies. One of the highlights of our viewing was the Tina Fey scripted/Lindsay Lohan starring teen chick movie, Mean Girls. Knowing full well that any sort of movie about girls in high school is going to be automatically compared to Heathers and parts of the John Hughes oeuvre, Mean Girls embraces this history rather than merely spoofing it. It also goes in two unique directions for a teen film which Cinecultist can't help but respect — allowing its main character to become unlikeable and twisting the expected heart warming speechifying with a dark denoument.

Like some other people we know, Cinecultist lurves Saturday Night Live head writer Tina Fey. She's so smart and sassy, you can't help but admire her wit. And the fact that she optioned a nonfiction book before its release to base this script on. Smart. Fey took the observations from Rosalind Wiseman's Queen Bees and Wannabes: Helping Your Daughter Survive Cliques, Gossip, Boyfriends, and Other Realities of Adolescence as well as her own to craft her knowing script. Without giving away some of the best lines because they're best enjoyed without expecting them, the script is filled with one off barbs that sound straight out of a SNL Fey written script. The casting is also reminiscient of SNL with Amy Poehler, Ana Gasteyer and Tim Meadows making appearances along with Fey herself as the bitter but inspiring math teacher. But even this tiny decision on the part of the filmmakersis is great, when it could have been lame, as each of these actors have real roles to play rather than just being familiar face cameos. See what we're saying? Smart.

Promotional Website for Mean Girls Remainder — our horoscope as read by a mean girl guessing by the tone: "Taurus you are really starting to bore me. All these 'deep' feelings you are having are making you a real drag. Just because you got dumped last month doesn't mean anyone cares this month. I don't know, I'd say go to the mall and binge shop but more clothes at the discount stores isn't going to cut it. Oh well. Better luck soon."

Posted by karen at 8:38 AM |