June 30, 2004

Just Don't Mention The Shoes

In Ramona Diaz's documentary Imelda, currently playing at the Film Forum and held over for an extended run, Diaz allows the Filipino former dictator's wife to speak in her own words, which is at moments even more shocking than her legendary collection of shoes. Unlike other rulers who sucked their country dry of resources in pursuit of their own vanity such as Marie Antoinette or your sundry feudal lords, Imelda Marcos came to power during the television age and Diaz combines extensive archive footage with current interviews to show viewers the woman at close range. It turns out there's so much more to her than all those shoes, though not to worry the documentary gives a detailed enough look at all those '80s pumps to satisfy even the biggest shoe fetishist.

The scariest and simultaneously most fascinating thing about hearing Imelda speak is how much she thinks her actions were justified, even an aid to her country. Popularly elected in the mid '60s as President of the Philippines, Ferdinand Marcos and his former beauty queen wife seemed to be the Kennedys for South East Asia with all the optimism and dynamism necessary to transform a currently underdeveloped country. Only thing is, after 8 years in office they just decided not to leave and declared martial law, staying in power for the next 18 years as dictators. During this time, Imelda ordered acres of couture dresses, acted as ambassador to her country visiting despots from around the world, cozied up with the Reagans and built million dollar cultural centers for a country who lacked basic services in some areas. All the while, she believed she and her husband were a beacon of beauty to her country. She's even developed an almost cult-like religion around her theories of humanity and beauty, which she attempts to explain to the camera with a notebook and a sharpie pen. Bizarre and hilarious and sorta freaky, this earnest rationalizing must be seen to be believed.

Imelda is booked to begin playing in other cities besides New York around the country through the summer, check out the official website to see when it's coming to your town.

Posted by karen at 8:01 AM |

June 29, 2004

Excuse CC While We Drool On Jake Gyllenhaal

09f.jpgIf one could break down into percentages how much time Cinecultist and Josh Cultivated Stupidity have discussed actor Jake Gyllenhaal, it would probably be a pretty scary number. Last night, CC tried to stress the importance that CS run not walk to the newsstand to pick up the July issue of Vogue magazine with Kirsten Dunst on the cover because the photographs inside of Gyllenhaal with model Daria Werbowy were amazing (insert various noises here which embarrassed even Josh). Fortunately for CS and our readers, Style.com has posted Mario Testino's lovely images in a handy dandy slide show as well as an abridged version of the accompanying feature story.

Good-night. That Jakie G is one powerful handsome young feller, shoot. CC's fascination with him, and subsequent screening of his entire oeuvre, began as one might expect, from watching Donnie Darko two summers ago on DVD. (Word to the wise, nothing clears a room faster than admiting you've watched Bubble Boy. Trust us on this one Gyllehaaliacs.) If you've been living under a rock shielding yourself from cinema news you might not be aware that the midnight screening-feuled cult movie is getting a re-release with extended footage from director Richard Kelly sometime this summer. But the pictures in Vogue capitalize on his other up coming role, as a gay cowboy in Ang Lee's 2005 film, Brokeback Mountain. Though they do not feature Heath Ledger (Gyllenhaal's co-star) or any compromising positions, the style editors do one better — they imagine Gyllenhaal as a cowboy who wears Ralph Lauren and Paper Denim & Cloth jeans. For the label conscious objectifier like Cinecultist, that's almost better than some glossy Heath/Jake lip lock. Almost.

Posted by karen at 8:14 AM |

June 28, 2004

What We Really Need: Governator Swag

governator t-shirtsTraveling to California this past weekend, Cinecultist had to forgo our usual multiple visits to the cineplex in favor of tromping through the gorgeous wilds of east Sonoma in highly inappropriate footwear. (You can take the CC out of Manhattan, but you can't take the high heels off her pedicured feet. Or something like that.) However! Who needs to go to films, when a real live movie star runs your state government? Despite our misgivings, it appears that Californians love their Governator, as we found his swag conveniently for sale in the Oakland airport magazine and snacks shop. In her article in last week's New Yorker (available in print version only), Connie Bruck writes of the "Supermoderate!" that "Schwarzenegger has combined marketing savvy and elaborate Hollywood staging to bombard Californians with this message: he is their action governor, just as he was an action hero—and together they will do the impossible!" The deliberate blurring of image and reality is intriguing, no?

Posted by karen at 7:58 AM |

June 25, 2004

Before The Sun Sets (In Sonoma)

before sunriseAs the week of film-viewing and buzzing comes to a close, Cinecultist is off like a cheap prom dress to Nor Cal for the wedding of our dear friends, Greg and Vanessa. Greg, a F o' CC (Friend of Cinecultist) since our undergrad newspaper days when we snuck into bars underaged and called it "journalism," met the lovely Virginian Vanessa while we were all living abroad in England. In honor of their Continental romance and the eminent release of Before Sunset, Richard Linklater's new film, a follow-up to Before Sunrise set 10 years later with the same characters (July 2, baby!), we bring you the above picture from the first film. We should all be so lucky to find a life long traveling partner like these.

Posted by karen at 8:00 AM |

June 24, 2004

Michael Moore Preachin' To The Converted

It's not really that Cinecultist expected boos and rotting fruit to erupt from the audience at last night's 8:45 pm screening of Michael Moore's newest Fahrenheit 9/11 in the East Village, we just weren't prepared for the rousing support in the form of applause before and after the film. Then again, if there ever were a choir to Moore's preacher man, it would be the 20 and 30 somethings gathering on opening night in Manhattan's downtown for a liberal political flick. Moore is a propagandist of the highest order, he constructs his argument and footage to fit his message but CC wouldn't say that it's not a persuasive case that he makes. It certainly is an unsettling and at times moving argument, as CC jumped, cringed and cried a little through the 2 hours.

Cinecultist will say that MM and his editors Kurt Engfehr and T. Woody Richman do know a little something about the Kuleshov effect. As the Russian director Lev Kuleshov and his Moscow film students discovered in the '20s, most meaning in films are derived from the mental association between two images edited side by side and MM deploys this effectively as he cuts together pictures like playing Iraqi children and exploding bombs. As per his usual pull at your heart strings documentary technique, MM takes to the streets sharing the stories of "ordinary Americans" whose interaction with the policies enacted by the Bush Administration reveals its corruption, injustice and heartlessness. In particular the scenes with a Flint Michigan mother who professes herself as a patriotic American reacts to her son's death in Iraq particularly wrenched our guts. MM wants to make it clear that this is a person who feels they've been lied to by the government in regards to terror and the Iraq War, but now her eyes are open.

While CC would never advocate all Americans switch from mouthing the platitudes of Rummy, Cheney and Bush (WMDs, Saddam and Al Qaeda linked, etc.) to spewing exactly what MM tells you, we will be keeping our eyes and ears open to further support of this severely dissenting evidence. To put next to each other 3 or so minutes of black screen with sounds from September 11th and then to show Bush just sitting in the Florida classroom for minutes on end doing nothing, its enough to make anyone sit up and pay attention to this coming election. Which if CC understands MM's agenda and the purpose of making Fahrenheit 9/11 in the first place, is exactly what Michael Moore intends.

Below you can see Cinecultist's slightly grainy phone cam pictures taken at the screening, from the left: A listing of available showing on the door last night, starting at midnight and running through the early morning to 8 am. A group of political activists talk it up to the exiting crowd at 11 pm. A view of the theater from across the street, Loews VII according to MM's website this morning, brought in record ticket sales of over $49,000 worth last night. Zowie, that's a lot of politico hipster kids at the movies.

sold out screenings political action outside the view from the street

Cinecultist's thoughts in May on the Disney distribution controversy. IndieWIRE's coverage of the release.

Posted by karen at 8:20 AM | | Comments (3)

June 23, 2004

This Week In The New Yorker: Extreme Fishhook Penetration?

Last Friday, a screening of Zhang Yimou's Hero marked the kick off of the New York Asian Film Festival at Anthology Film Archives and the New Yorker covered the festival this week in their Talk of the Town. (The Festival runs through June 27). Cinecultist loves hearing stories like the one which follows about their J-horror series or the Exorcist urban legend that fainting and vomiting viewers had to be carried from the theater on stretchers. it's just that much more hard evidence to explain our own extreme squemishness when it comes to the genre. CC likes horror on an intellectual level but has to watch it through our fingers and often from behind the chair.

"The first year, 2000, was a modest success, but everything changed during year two, when [one of the festival planners and NYU alum Grady] Hendrix screened a Korean film called The Isle for members of the press. The movie contains what Hendrix calls 'a moment of extreme fishhook penetration,' and it was shortly after this part of the film that a critic emerged into the lobby, made a high-pitched gurgling noise, and passed out on the floor. Hendrix checked to see that the man was O.K. and then called the Post. The story was reprinted in other newspapers, and soon The Isle acquired a reputation as the most dangerous movie around."
Posted by karen at 8:08 AM |

June 22, 2004

Terminally Terrifying

Cinecultist had one particularly fussy and uptight Lit prof in undergrad who used to make us identify the stressed and unstressed syllables in iambic pentameter and had this to say about literary criticism — "some books ARE up for discussion, but some books are just GOOD and some just BAD and there's NO room for discussion." Insert "movies" for "books" and you'll understand why CC had to literally yell at the newspaper after reading ol' A.O.'s review of The Terminal in the Times this weekend and then at the computer upon reading Charlie Suisman of the beloved MUG's praise of it. The Terminal = BAD. Maybe Scott is blind? And we should know, because like AMD we actually went to go see it on Saturday afternoon.

[Ed. Note — Excuse CC while we continue to use the all caps key in this here review but apparently, the memo did not get to Steven and thus the need to shout.] Firstly) airport security, the homeland department and the fact that our country works so damn hard to keep people out ARE NOT funny. Secondly) the ubiquity of corporations and America's equation of consumerism equal a national past time ARE NOT funny. Thirdly) Tom Hanks's utterly ham fisted accent IS NOT funny. The only thing really funny in this movie — and when we say "funny" we really mean "perplexing" — is the complete disregard for anything resembling realistic causality, continuity or the way the world actually works in this picture.

What so rankles CC then about Scott's review is the way he characterizes the film's glossing of any disturbing aspect into clichιd comedy types as admirable in these troubled times. He describes what passes for the plot as "...a mess of runny egg yolks and artificial sweeteners that Mr. Spielberg has somehow cooked into a light and pleasing soufflι." Our faithful readers know that CC likes escapism in our movies perhaps even more than the usual viewer but there's no credible attempt made by the movie to be either a complete fairy tale or a comedy about the realities of our global culture. The Terminal is merely "real" when it suits and less so when it doesn't. It's lazy filmmaking.

In addition to Aaron of Out of Focus's well thought out questions to the causality of the film, here are a few of CC's that particularly bugged.
• How can you have a listing of flight destination be Frankfurt, Berlin and then Krakozhia? That's like saying next stop, Iowa. You fly to Des Moines, not Iowa. Couldn't they think of a fictional capitol city for this lame-ass named fictional Eastern European country?
• Why doesn't some New Yorker kick Victor Navorski's ass when he steps out of the Terminal finally and hails a cab? Doesn't everyone know JFK is all about the militant taxi queues?
• Homeland security provides Navorski with a PAGER to get in touch with him if they need to, but not a HOTEL ROOM? Or any of his own Krakozhian money changed into CASH? But they leave him inside what is essentially a crowded MALL to shop for 9 odd months?
• How does Navorski acquire all of the materials to build his romantic gesture in the airport? Is there a ACE HARDWARE next to the Discovery store and the Hugo Boss in that place?

For even more snark on The Terminal, leave it to the Cinetrix and TMFTML to provide. (Are there bees in the room? No wait, that's just the blogosphere.) Cinecultist's previous thoughts on the corporate branding in the film.

Posted by karen at 8:04 AM |

June 21, 2004

What Makes For A Chronicle Exactly?

Somehow in Cinecultist's humidity addled mind, we've deemed our Summer Schedule Fridays (done with the Day Job at 3 pm, baby!) a free pass to go see complete crap at the cineplex. Something about the convergence of drawing that salary, having 3 plus hours to kill and a need to sit in air conditioning while drinking smuggled in ice coffees which allows for complete indulgence. This week's installment featured burly Vin Diesel in the Chronicles of Riddick, his follow up to the star-making role in 2001's sci-fier Pitch Black. Much has been snarked about in the film media regarding Diesel's expanding ego and his unlikely costarring with Dame Judi Dench in Riddick, but Cinecultist found ourselves instead thinking much more during the screening about the Aliens connection.

When Cinecultist watches sci-fi or horror films, it's hard not to always be thinking of Aliens — but also Blade Runner and to a certain extent Star Wars — because with the bar set by these films, their aesthetic and themes in some way or another seem to be borrowed by nearly every other picture in these respective genres. But Aliens has also been on the CC brain lately too because we watched The Thing with our movie group a week or so ago which has a strikingly similar plot about a parasitic alien thing which invades a group and takes it over as well as the previews coming down the pike for Alien vs Predator. Conveniently enough, an edited version of Aliens was also playing this weekend on TNT, so CC watched it again and started having a Ripley versus Riddick face off in our head. Here's how the stand-off progressed:

Both Ripley and Riddick are bad-asses softened by a maternal devotion for a grimy young girl with piercing eyes and an oddly masculine name. Where Ripley is the voice of caution and at times a Cassandra of doom, Riddick's all about the fearless rush into danger and a disregard for being out-numbered because he's confident he can whomp anything that comes into his path. Both have a lair to infiltrate to save the girl, both must battle one on one with an evil parental figure who is birthing minions, and CC doesn't think we're giving anything away to tell you both end the film exhausted but triumphant.

Perhaps the connection in CC's mind between the two films also occurs because of their ability to be read with a cultural subtext. Aliens starts to get really interesting when viewed through its feminism (Vasquez as the ultimate lesbian, the Alien's a bitch, etc.), while the Chronicles of Riddick and Pitch Black take on a different cast when read through their relation to race. Following his shades of slave monologue in the first film, Riddick is told by some bounty hunters who capture him that he's "back of the bus" and discovers later in the film, his race has been systematically wiped out following a Macbeth-ish prophecy.

And speaking of Macbeth, Thandie Newton makes for a brilliant Lady Macbeth, at least that's what her character really should be called as she uses sexual heat and conniving to get her way. The two favorite scenes in CC's screening: the moment when Newton parades out in a smokin' bustier dress and Riddick's saving of Jack by Tarzan bungee cord from a blast of 700 degree sunlight. Don't ask, it's too complicated to explain. Certainly, Riddick's plot is nearly as unnecessarily baroque as the interior decorating in the Necromancer's space ship but there's something much too intriguing about it for CC's part to dismiss as pure summer fluff.

Posted by karen at 8:01 AM |

June 18, 2004

Let's Hear A Holla For Dads

There's a few key people whose movie opinions have shaped Cinecultist's own viewing practices, but none more so than CC's Dad. In honor of Daddy-o Day this Sunday we bring you a top three recommendation list for DVD viewing if our Dad always had the reigns on the DVD remote control. Happy Father's Day!

mycousivinny.jpeg • My Cousin Vinny (1992) Except for perhaps Spirited Away (which has been CC's little brother's favorite movie for the last 6 months and thus on heavy rotation in our house), My Cousin Vinny could be CC's Daddy-o's most watched movie. He love the courtroom set up, he loves the cultural disconnect between the Brooklyn lawyer with the Southern setting and he loves that Joe Pesci. Though its plot is firmly entrenched in the three act structure, on a re-viewing its all too easy to get caught up in Vinny's narrative undertow. And its also tough to deny the incredible chemistry between Pesci as the imported Yankee lawyer and Oscar-winning actress Marisa Tomei as his supportive spandex-wearing girlfriend. CC's not sure that "positraction" is a real word, but it sounds great coming from Tomei in that climactic scene.

newleaf.jpg • A New Leaf (1971). Speaking of amazing comedic chemistry, it doesn't get much better than the sparks between Walter Matthau and Elaine May in this comedy about a broke playboy who marries the first rich woman he can find and then plots to kill her. CC bought this flick on VHS a number of years ago as a gift and then spent the afternoon with our Dad watching over and over again certain scenes just to catch the look on May's face when she delivers particular lines. There's a drink her ditzy scientist millionairess character loves which has the most baroque name and sounds like it tastes just terrible, May can barely keep a straight face as she discusses it. If you're not already a fan of hers and Matthau's, A New Leaf will surely convert you to our side.

paperchase.jpg • The Paper Chase (1973). Apparently, the first year of law school is just like the depiction of the first year in this movie. At least that's what CC's Dad always insisted when we'd watch Paper Chase together. We always thought our Dad just identified with Timothy Bottom's massive moustache as it sort of resembles the 'stache sported by our otherwise very stylin' father through the late '70s and much of the '80s. Despite the dated styles in this production, this is a really stirring movie, one that's sure to inspire you if you're at all interested in the law or dating your stern professor's daughter.

Posted by karen at 8:03 AM |

June 17, 2004

Something Wicked This Way Comes

Harry & Hermoine
Towards the end of last week, Cinecultist discovered our not particularly movie savvy boss at the Day Job had already seen Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban twice, when we hadn't even seen it once yet. This was something CC remedied post haste, but as soon as we walked out of the theater after the two hours, CC wanted to duck into another one just to see Daniel Radcliffe et al do it all over again. When a artistic product is set up from the outset as a serial — whether it be novels, movie sequels or even 69 Love Songs on 3 CD volumes — it is difficult to expect them to maintain or even build upon the quality of an original. What a relief then to see Harry Potter the movies following in the legacy of Harry Potter the novels in a progression of complexity and sophistication.

It's pretty easy to allow a review of Azkaban lapse into pot shots at Chris Columbus, and lord knows there are times when his treacly direction of the first two pictures deserved it. However! It is not just the take over by Alfonso Cuaron (he of the artsy threesome, Y Tu Mama Tambien) which results in such a splendid installment. Rather, it's the freedom allowed to all of the filmmakers, we're talking everyone from the title designers to the CGI geeks, to not produce a slavish 3 hour adaptation of the novel but a separate cinematic universe which strives to capture the tone as well as the details of the beloved books. It also wouldn't be a Harry Potter movie without the best supporting cast in all of the realm of Britainnia. David Thewlis, Gary Oldman and Alan Rickman all on screen at once? Now that's a threesome Cinecultist can really get excited about. Even John Williams' score sounds less like a amusement park ride theme song and more like a mood setting device. Kudos to all involved, Azkaban is a film Potter fanatics can be proud to call their own.

Posted by karen at 8:03 AM |

June 16, 2004

SIFF V: Seattle Maggie Lives!

In her final Seattle International Film Festival report of the year for Cinecultist.com, Seattle Maggie goes searching for a good cry but finds an even more satisfying cinematic experience with a little Thai film about unlikely lovers.

In past years at SIFF, I have been lucky enough to find at least one film that was good enough to reduce me into a tissue-sniveling wreck. For example, there was 2003's Last Scene, a sweetly sentimental turn by Ringu horror-master Hideo Nakata, or 2001's Joint Security Area, with director Park Chan-wook's final potent image leaving me sobbing in the darkness like a little girl, sympathetic patrons shuffling their way out of the theater around me. This year, while I didn't shed a single tear during any of my screenings, I did find a certain solace in Last Life in the Universe. Emerging from the Saturday afternoon screening, I felt as though I had just had a good cry - I felt emptied out, emotionally spent, but also refreshed in a quiet sort of way. It was a perfect way to end my SIFF screenings for the year.

[Ed Note: It appears that Palm Pictures is distributing this film, but has no general theatrical release dates on their site as of now. You can also visit the film's official site for interviews with the director and cinematographer Christopher Doyle. Anyone from Palm have an update for Cinecultist's readers on when we can get a chance to see Last Life?]

The film tells the age-old story of two outsiders finding comfort in each other. Kenji is a Japanese librarian living in Thailand, whose quest for neatness borders on obsessive-compulsive (his shoes are sorted and labeled for every day of the week, including slippers for Everyday). He is preoccupied with thoughts of suicide, which creep into every aspect of his life - stack of books become a perfect stepstool for a hanging, or a bridge becomes an opportunity for jumping. His monotone life is disrupted by a visit from his brother, a shady character from Osaka, and the events that ensue shake up the quiet life that has been pressing in on Kenji like a coffin.

Through a twist of fate, manifested as a terrible street accident, he meets his polar opposite in Noi, a Thai free spirit, whose rusted VW convertible and messy ways both attract and repel him. She is all bare feet and beery rings on countertops, lazily tapping the ashes of her cigarettes into anything and everything, including her own dinner. Through feelings of loss, guilt and loneliness, the mismatched pair find comfort in each other. The relationship never quite reaches a sexual context, but instead shoots way beyond that - there is a fragile beauty captured in the ordinary, with Kenji and Noi casually sharing a bowl of noodles, or curling up on the couch to watch TV. The plot throws in scuffles with Noi's philandering ex-boyfriend, two dead bodies and a trio of Japanese gangsters, but the real sentiment of the film lies in the relationship of the two lead characters, a spark of hope that loneliness is not the final answer for anyone, not even the most broken and desperate of souls.

Needless to say, I liked this movie quite a lot, although its slow pacing might not be for everyone. I especially liked the use of subtitles in this film - Kenji speaks little Thai and Noi speaks little Japanese, so they communicate mostly in broken English; however, sometimes there are no subtitles provided, which helps the viewer connect with the characters' feelings of "huh?" when faced with a foreign language. Also, the cinematography is gorgeous, a serene meditation on anything from a dribble of shocking red blood on the pristine pages of a book to a beautiful sunset beach strewn with the discarded trash of modern Thailand. The two leads have that certain chemistry that speaks to each other without having to say anything, and the viewer feels privileged to be witnessing something so precious. As Kenji's unused Post-It suicide note says so simply, "This is Bliss."

I give Last Life in the Universe 5 out of 5 Golden Space Needles, and please give it a chance when it wanders into your local cinema or video store. Happy movie-watching until next year's SIFF and many thanks to our beloved Cinecultist for posting these reviews. Until next time, this is Seattle Maggie signing off!

Posted by karen at 8:04 AM |

June 15, 2004

SIFF: Resurrection

As the Seattle International Film Festival wound down last weekend — congrats to the big winners the makers of Facing Windows from Italy — Seattle Maggie sent to Cinecultist her final two reports. While CC doesn't like to see a cinematically confused Maggie too often, she's not the type of movie-goer to let some incomprehensible plot stand in her way, as you can see in her fourth review which follows.

I must admit I'm at a bit of a loss. Let me start out by telling you about my boyfriend Todd. Even though he is a very smart fellow, he's one of those?I yam what I yam guys, if you know what I mean. He likes documentaries, and biographies about obscure jazz musicians, and Discovery Channel specials about bears. Hence, when I drag him to movies where an object might represent a feeling, certain colors are supposed to link scenes, or characters say things but mean completely the opposite, he sometimes needs me to provide a short debriefing afterwards to get what it was all about. However, after the SIFF screening of?Darkness Bride last Friday evening when credits began to roll, Todd looked at me expectantly and I had to cut him short with "Sorry, dude. I got nothing."?

This is what I could gather: In the remote Chinese village of Virgin's Tomb (named after a Virgin who chose death over undoing by rapists), a young girl named Qing Hua is having some problems.

While she is fond of her pre-arranged husband, the unfortunately named Sissy, she also has special feelings for another young man in the village, Chun Sheng. Sissy also welcomes Chun Sheng into their relationship, and they form a platonic sort of threesome. Then the vengeful spirit of the Virgin appears, some grave robbing happens, Sissy disappears while tending his flock of sheep, and Qing Hua is attacked by her crazed mother-in-law, who wants her to join Sissy in the afterworld. She and Chun Sheng run off to the city where they find Sissy miraculously alive, but accompanied by Yan Yan, a prostitute infused with the spirit of the dead Virgin. Qing Hua is overcome by jealousy and dread, which has devastating consequences for the future of their happy threesome.

The quality of the film itself was not that great, with too many gritty shadows and bizarre, lingering shots of farm animals, especially a weirdly reoccurring donkey with particularly baleful stare. The incidental music kept thundering ominously at odd times, making you think that something of note was happening, when nothing much actually was. Also, I found the characters to be too incomprehensible for my liking, especially the frustratingly semi-mute Sissy, who seems to live for sheep, Kentucky Fried Chicken and drawing in the dirt with his special stick, and not much else.

I see a fair amount of foreign film, but this was one of few that I felt as though I were watching in a completely different language as in, not relating to anything that I could recognize as the human experience. There was just something beyond my reach that I didn't, or couldn't, get. The film may have been about the nature of love, or the power of vengeful spirits, or country superstition versus the harsh reality of the city, or maybe it was just about Colonel Sanders triumphant invasion of the Chinese countryside. It may have genius or just plain strange, I just don?t know. The only thing I did fully understand were the shadow finger-puppets that magically appeared during the credits, compliments of an anonymous fellow SIFF festival-goer, perhaps finding the film as inscrutable as I did. Peace to you too, buddy.

I give?Darkness Bride 1 out of 5 Golden Space Needles, as well as a special jury prize of the Giant Platinum Question Mark. This is Seattle Maggie, signing off...now, if someone could only tell me what the deal was with that donkey?

Posted by karen at 7:59 AM |

June 14, 2004

Some Awfully Strange Fiction

Last night Cinecultist had a bunch of wonky political dreams wherein George Bush and John Kerry appeared fulminating away, and CC blames J. Hoberman for it. Watching large chunks of the made for Showtime movie DC 9/11: Time of Crisis is enough to give nearly anyone the fits, as it mythologizes the President's role in September 11th and the few days following in the mostly blatantly propagandistic way possible. As last week's Gipper Memorial shows, the American media and its public is quick canonize one of our former leaders once they're gone but as Hoberman argued in his presentation last night at Ocularis at the Galapagos in Williamsburg, DC 9/11 is an unprecedented during office silver screen-ifying of the American president.

Originally a presentation given at the Rotterdam Film Festival, Hoberman had modified a review/essay he'd originally written for the Village Voice last year to show the construction of GWB Superstar. A very clip intensive lecture (he really does put his projectionists through their paces and the person at Galapagos was up to the task - kudos), Hoberman interspersed his excellent talk with sections from the canceled comedy That's My Bush, campaign commercials, photo ops and press conference footage. The intriguing idea Hoberman's whole argument is hung on is that anything done by our political machine is a constructed text, and like a film text can be read for meaning. Spot-on, thoughtful, informative and entertaining, CC cannot say enough good things about Hoberman's speaking style. He's the kind of cultural critic CC aspires to someday be. You know, if somebody would like to pay us for our cinematic obsessing (hint, hint). But seriously, stop CC before we start a J. Hoberman fan club or something but the guy is really great and you should be sure to click through to the essay above if you're not familiar with it already.

Posted by karen at 8:09 AM |

June 11, 2004

This Weekend

Lingering in the office on a June afternoon can be tough and that's why Cinecultist fully supports the implimentation of Summer Hours at the Day Job. Done at 3pm — woohoo. Chatting with co-worker Pete yesterday, he wondered what CC was going to do with the afternoon. "The same thing we always do with a few spare hours strung together," we told him. "Go to the movies, of course."

A few things of note on this weekend in the cinema front in New York worth mentioning.

On Sunday, Village Voice critic and former CC instructor J Hoberman will speak to the hipster kids at Ocularis at Galapagos Art Space (70 N 6th St, Wburg, 718.388.8713) about the marketing of George W Bush's presidency. The illustrated lecture, GWB Superstar? begins at 7pm and costs $7. J Ho — a term we fondly think of him as but don't ever call him to his face — is one of those writers who's as excellent in person as he is on the page. Well worth the ride on the L to Brooklyn. [via Flavorpill]

To continue with the VV theme here, the Village Voice's Best of 2003 series continues at BAM and you'll have the chance to catch two luminaries from last year's release schedule. On Saturday, Goodbye, Dragon Inn the Tsai Ming-Liang CC caught at last year's NY Film Festival introduced by critic Dennis Lim (screening at 6:45pm only) and on Sunday, the French docu To Be and To Have about schoolchildren and one extraordinary teacher in rural France.

If Anthony Lane doesn't have any friends willing to head to Film Forum for an Ingmar Bergman double feature then he's got the wrong kind of friends in CC's book! Make it a party — well, a party of identity confusion and Swedish alienated angst anyhow — this weekend as a CC all time fav plays, Persona on Friday and Saturday.

Posted by karen at 8:34 AM |

June 10, 2004

What Would Mandy Moore Do?

Saved!Hopefully Cinecultist isn't going to encounter any lightening bolts today after posting the above headline alluding to a connection between certain deities and the pop princess. God forbid, though she did act in The Best Movie of The Year. It's just that her gleefully evil performance in Saved! — along with all of the other top young actors contributing to this stellar cast — makes CC want to flout any religious propriety we might have previously held.

We caught a screening last last weekend* with the dear Jose, recently released from his scholastic indentured servitude for the season and our favorite co-pilot for all teenage level cinematic detritus. This is our second Jena Malone picture we've seen together, after both enjoying The Dangerous Lives of Alter Boys, and we're also both big fans of Patrick Fugit's work thus far (Jose likes Spun and CC's a Almost Famous fan), so needless to say we were psyched. CC only mentions this pre-viewing internal hype because as is a proven fact, internal hype over a particular film can only lead to heartbreak and disappointment. Fortunately, that didn't happen here with Saved. There's not a weak member of the cast, the soundtrack is pop-y fun and the story dramatic enough to hold together the string of teen vignettes.

Apparently, there's been a criticisms by Armond White in the Press and others, that Saved is not irreligious enough and purely unpoliticized pop drivel. However, Cinecultist would argue that Saved represents that teenage awakening of consciousness, one where someone as religious as the main character Mary (Malone) comes to terms with her relationship to God through her unplanned pregnancy in a subtle way, that's neither pro nor con the Christian faith. To make a movie like this, filled with born again characters we're supposed to identify with and enjoy, would then be completely counter productive to vilify or satirize them to a degree that White appears to expect. Rather the redemption of their beliefs, or at least the softening of their exclusion of natural teenage alienation at the movie's end, makes for a more complex film which can be thought-provoking to those inside and out of the WWJD? fold.

*An aside, sorry for the quietness in regards to movie chatter around last weekend, your truly was in Nor Cal for a family funeral. But now we're back and chattier than ever. Promise!

Posted by karen at 8:28 AM |

June 8, 2004

Back To The SIFF

Cinecultist must give props out to Seattle Maggie, she's a real trooper. Despite meeting another birthday head-on (welcome to your late 20s girlfriend!), battling Eastern Washington traffic cops and a brutal stomach bug this past week, she still has time to relay her SIFF report. Sorta. Anyhoo, more actual film viewing at the fest is certain to come and in the meantime, some Seattle Maggie thoughts on anime.

On Monday evening, I was all set to attend a screening of "KAFAnime!", a collection of animated shorts from South Korea as a part of the continuing Seattle International Film Festival. Unfortunately, I was felled at the last minute by a Norwalk-esque stomach virus that I have been battling for the last couple of days (it's like a cruise - without the sun, water, midnight buffet and nightly towel animals) and retired uneasily to the close proximity of my toilet rather than chance having some kind of unpleasant accident at the theater. Nevertheless, I wanted to take this opportunity to cheer on the up and coming Korean animators who are constantly making greater strides in the field of animation.

I am a huge fan of animation in general — for beginners, I'd say give Iron Giant a whirl, it's one of my favorite movies period — but I am especially fond of Japanese anime. While 3D computer animation a-la Shrek seems all the rage these days, somehow there is a purity to the old line and ink drawings that appeals to me. There is a kind of weightlessness that is very freeing to the viewer, an "anything-can-happen" feeling that makes the action more exciting. Also, anime ain't your usual kiddy cartoons - the storylines can range from comic to adult, action to soap opera, or even a happy marriage of all of the above. If you look beyond the fascination with young girls in sailor suits and giant bosoms that defy gravity, you will often find that anime is enjoyable on both a entertainment and and an intellectual level.

Of course, I may be biased, having developed a mad crush on Vash the Stampede from the Trigun series, showing late night on Adult Swim on the Cartoon Network. Okay, so I do have a weakness for the tall, blond and skinny, but Vash is the perfect example of what anime has to offer - he is both zany and tragic, and often troubled with moral issues, punctuated with fits of brilliant action and gunplay. So what if he cries too much, has a Doomsday cannon implanted in his arm, and a 60 billion double dollar bounty on his head? Give me a swirl of red coat and those crinkly yellow sunglasses any day.

Getting back to my original point, while Japan is ruling the anime roost right now, Korean animators are inching in. I have been seeing a lot of Korean contributors listed in the credits, the latest sighting being the Cowboy Bebop movie recently released in the States. I have an inkling that we will soon be seeing animated features produced directly from South Korea, and the SIFF screening of animation from the Korean Academy of Film Arts is just the beginning. We salute all of those -oons, -ims, and -ans that will be taking the anime world by storm some day. More SIFF screenings to come later this week...until then, this is Seattle Maggie signing off!

Posted by karen at 11:28 PM |

June 3, 2004

A Bit Off The Point

Last night Cinecultist settled down to enjoy some chicken take-out from Dallas BBQ with some QT on Bravo, as they screened his first feature Reservoir Dogs. Slight problem though — apparently on Bravo, the N word is totally acceptable for their sensors but every other cuss word in the English vernacular is not. As we've noted of late, CC is experiencing some translation issues and this seems to be becoming a trend here. If you watch a QT movie for the first time with no actual cussing on the soundtrack, you seem to be missing an essential cognitive layer of the text. We can lip read and all but it's just not the same. Sort of like the time we watched Martin Scorsese's Buddhist monk movie, Kundun dubbed in Italian. Cinecultist really missed something there.

Remainder: CC had some thoughts on the BBC sitcom Coupling which we shared with the Daily Gusto readers this week, if you're at all curious.

Posted by karen at 8:33 AM |

June 2, 2004

Katie H Gets Maternal On Us

There are certain things which without fail turn Cinecultist into a blubbering sap. Even the hint of a death of a sibling in the movie's narrative is enough to send us straight for the hanky. For this, and a few other acting related reason, we didn't find Kate Hudson's newest, Raising Helen as terrible as we expected. Though that's hardly a ringing recommendation, CC thinks Gary Marshall and his manipulating, back-sliding feminism ilk should take the compliments where they can get them.

[An aside to the newly returned Uncle Grambo, as a big ol' Liz fan have you been keeping track of the number of films tracks from Liz Phair's most recent album, particularly "Extraordinary" the theme on RH's website, have ended up in film soundtracks this year? Is it a million zillion like CC suspects? A rough number would be interesting to see.] What saves this movie from the bottom of the Gigli slush heap are performance by a couple of character actors in the ensemble who understand what it means to actually create a character on screen. Though it's already an established fact that she enhances anything she graces with her presence, Joan Cusack as the uptight super mom sister to Kate Hudson's free-wheeling Helen actually elicits some real moments of tender pathos as she comes to terms with the death of their other sister. In addition, John Corbett has some pretty strong touching but comedic moments as well as the sensitive AND sexy Pastor Dan, though CC has wanted to write him off as a rom com actor after his involvement in the Big Fat Greek Waste of Time (highest grossing rom com ever, how it burns CC). And who can't appreciate a little Hector Elizondo every now and again? CC certainly can.

Back in April, during our review of Jennifer Garner in 13 Going On 30, we made the assertion that Katie H had more of the makings of a rom com star than Jennie G, and now seems like an opportune moment to assess that statement further. Kate certainly has the non-threatening sexually yet covetable physical form ala Meg Ryan down pat. She looks good in fancy clothing but she's not vavavoom, check. She sells the chemistry with her lead pretty well and she seems into the prat falls, but then again there's lots of chicks on the scene who can do this passably. Really the moment CC liked her the best in the whole movie is during a scene at the used car lot where she sells a mint green Lincoln to a Queens lothario — she appeared to be channeling her mother. Goldie Hawn has an ability to channel her sexiness into a power which charms her co-stars and her audience. In an instant, Kate had that power too and it was awesome to watch. Keep that up, and the kid might have a real career in Hollywood.

Posted by karen at 8:35 AM |

June 1, 2004

Oh, Baby

Cinecultist's first thought upon hearing that Julia Roberts is pregnant and set to give birth to twins in January? Julia's down to earth. Julia doesn't need to flounce around in poncy accents, pretending to be silver screen legends and whatnot. Julia has played working class. We can trust her not to give her kids some weird-o, fruit-theme names that induce the giggles. However, let's also hope this doesn't slow down the production of Ocean's 12 because we find even that no pictures of the stars trailer clever and charming. By the by, Full Frontal, Steve Soderbergh's hand-held DV indie project post-O11 is worth a rental. The whole cast is lovely and the extras on the DVD worth a view too, but in particular Julia is quite great playing two roles and Blair Underwood is s-e-x-y.

Congrats on the buns in the oven, Jules and cutie cinematographer husband!

Posted by karen at 8:09 AM |