December 23, 2004

Leo Takes To The Skies

When one peruses the list of theatrical releases for the year with the purpose of composing a Top 10 of the year, which Cinecultist did last night, mixed emotions arise. Can one place a film on the list which one hasn't seen yet, but which we think will be on the TT (ie. Hotel Rwanda)? And what should one do with the guilt over certain pantheon directors still not making TT worthy films? It tears us up inside Marty! Quit breaking our hearts! This is our roundabout way of saying sadly, The Aviator was totally butt-numbing.

It's been requested that with our tremendous pull in the movie making industry, CC put a call out to directors to restrict themselves to 120 minutes. We don't need 180 minutes of Leo with long nails, twitching, peeing in milk bottles, seducing starlets and flying phallic airplanes. It's just not necessary. We did like Cate Blanchett as Kate Hepburn, she does that eccentric WASPy thing very well. Actually, now that we think of it, Cate has delivered two weirdly wonderful performances this year, as Kate and then as the journalist Jane Winslett-Richardson in the Life Aquatic. They're both just this side of caricature and quite engaging.

This doesn't redeem Martin Scorsese from the double whammy of Gangs of New York and now the Aviator, but at least we know he can still make some good choices. However, whoever decided on those wacked out faux superhero title credit should be given the boot.

Posted by karen at 11:11 AM |

December 21, 2004

Holiday Overload

Oy. It's getting to be that time of the season where the Cinecultist is hanging on by a thin thread. Everyone around us is either getting really sick with that evil stomach bug, freaking out over their workload or going hay wire from holiday shopping stress. We've tried hovering near the 1st Avenue tree stand breathing deeply from the pine-y goodness, but it's not done too much good so far.

A few things getting us through right now:

talkingedna.jpgOur eBay bid on the Interactive Talking Edna Doll from the Incredibles movie. This is so going on our desk at the day job in the new year. On Gothamist today, we also have some other movie related gift ideas, and Jen offered a few music related ones. Together, it's the Seth Cohen Christmukah Starter Pack! Beat that Virgin megastore gift table!

Ken Tucker at New York magazine called our friend John Walter's movie How To Draw A Bunny, his third favorite movie of the year. Yipee! Rent it today, you won't be sorry.

This random quote from this week's NY mag... "I learned what every self-respecting Ohioan has always known: Big chains offer their own kind of bliss. Most notably, popcorn shrimp, which I've been enjoying in immoderation at Red Lobster in Times Square. The little fried frizzles are yummy, and it's a place where no one will ever look for me: a big family restaurant in midtown. I can wrap a breaded coating around myself and go to sleep."

While we're not ready to start eating in Times Square chain restaurants, if anyone knows where CC can buy some fried breading pajamas, please send the info to our regular e-mail.

Posted by karen at 10:57 PM |

December 20, 2004

It's All In The Tone

Last week, Cinecultist alluded to the geeked out children's lit conversations between ourselves and our friend Lisa Graff, a student in the New School graduate writing children's lit program. Now we bring to you, in lieu of a straight up review, our continuing chat with Lisa about Lemony Snicket's A Series of Unfortunate Events wherein we discuss adaptation issues, how Klaus should have been fat with glasses and our favorite children's movies when we were kids. BTW: The Neverending Story scared the bejeebers out of Lisa as a child, in case you were wondering.

elysecritic: The more advertisements I see [for Lemony Snicket's A Series of Unfortunate Events], the more I'm struck by how they're touting it as a Jim Carrey movie, like the Mask or something. Odd, don't you think?

lisa: YES. It really bugs. Even the covers of the new books have Jim's face plastered all over them. Like the books didn't sell enough copies before he showed up to promote them.

elysecritic : Do you think that's to spread out the market -- appeal to Lemony Snicket fans and Jim Carrey fans, or do you think it comes from a misunderstanding of the "point" of the books, as you see them?

lisa: hmm. Excellent question. Maybe a mixture of both. I think you could be right about trying to appeal to JC fans who wouldn't otherwise see a kiddy Snicket movie, but then the movie itself really revolved around Count Olaf, which I don't feel like the books did. Olaf's present in every book, and he's certainly the most colorful character, but the story's really all about the kids and how their cleverness gets them out of these tough spots.

elysecritic: I caught a few minutes this morning of "Roeper and Ebert" and that idiothead Roeper was saying, he thought it was boring how the structure revolved around the three kids meeting a new guardian, Olaf shows up, then they have to escape. He thought they could have varied the plot more! He also wanted it to be more upbeat. That's the point when I just turned it off so I wouldn't have to spit at the TV, but I think it's always interesting to see how someone like Roeper — who does zero research on the movies he sees, in my opinion — can like any ordinary viewer misunderstand a movie. In otherwords, would the movie have been perhaps less misunderstood if it were darker? Less sunny at the end, as a sop?

lisa: You should have spit on Roeper.

elysecritic: Someday, I'll get my chance.
elysecritic: He's not an adaptations man.
elysecritic: I don't think he reads, actually. That's my personal theory.

lisa: There were parts I thought that were WAY too cheerful. Vomit-inducing, even. But I think the tone of the books was so hard to carry through to the big screen. Some of the parts that were so funny in the books didn't carry through completely, and maybe that's because they came off a lot darker than they did in the book. I'm trying to think of examples, you'll have to give me a sec.

elysecritic: So, is Snicket unadaptable? Or was it a case of the wrong director, or producers who didn't deliver on the promise of the book? (Side note, I don't think anything is unadaptable actually. But I'd like to see a book that could stump a really visionary director, just to see if it's possible. as I said last night, books and movies are different things, but I think most books can be translated to the screen.)

lisa: I've been debating over that since yesterday, and I think maybe it was unadaptable to some extent. It's like if someone tried to make a movie out of Tristram Shandy, say. It would suck. And that's because the story is not really in the events or the "plot," but rather in the narration. It's like that in Snicket, because all of the humor is in the narration. Because Roeper's right, to some extent. The story is really repetitive. And that's only fun to read when you have this crazy narrator cracking you up every other line. I thought they did a pretty good job with Mr. Law on that front, but still, narration's just hard to pull off in a movie.

elysecritic: Entertainment Weekly thought Law was spot on as the narrator. And I'll say I liked him as well, in particular that it was his voice but not his sillouete at the typewriter. That might have been distracting. Instead, we just get his perfect voice and some other person's hands and profile. I found that quite smart on the filmmaker's part.

lisa: I agree. And I thought of an example of where the movie was much darker than the books (it helped that I pulled them off my shelf...). I think a really great example is when the kids find out their parents have died. It's a sad moment, obviously, but still somehow in the book there's humor there. For instance, right after Mr. Poe tells them their parents "have perished in a terrible fire," he explains, "Perished means 'killed.'" And then Klaus gets mad because Mr. Poe thinks he's an idiot who doesn't know what "perished" means. See? Darkness and humor at the same time.

elysecritic: That's a great bit. But do you think your love of the book ruined your movie going experience? As a person who hasn't read them, though I've heard lots about them from you, I didn't know that moment could have been there, so I didn't miss it. Does a slavish devotion to a books details (ie. Harry Potter I & II) hamper a movie's ability to tell it's own kind of story?

lisa: Hmm. Another interesting point. I don't know. I think loving a book can mess up what you think of a movie, because as you pointed out, you know what's missing or added and you're constantly comparing. But I didn't really feel that way with the Harry Potter movies. I think I noticed most of the changes, but they were all so true to the story (and I could see how they were necessary to make the movie better) that none of them bothered me. I think with Snicket the changes upset me because they didn't seem to represent the books. The tone was off, and I'm a huge fan of the tone. It's what makes these books so great. So even the things I thought were really funny in the movie (like Sunny's subtitled witticisms) still kind of perturbed me because they wouldn't have been in the book.

elysecritic: That makes sense. Do you want to say some words about the casting? I know you felt strongly about that. Generally, I found the kids amiable and I enjoyed the adults in minor roles like Meryl Streep, Cedric ("Whatchyou doin' here Olaf, man?") the Entertainer, Luis Guzman, Jane tk her last name, etc.

lisa: Meryl Streep was perfect. Can't say enough great things about her as Aunt Josephine (or in general). Baby Sunny was the cutest thing on earth, and even though that goes against my perception of her as this ornery biting-machine from the books, I think that worked for the movie. I was SO not digging that Liam kid who played Klaus. Not that his acting was bad, but it just wasn't the Klaus I've come to love. In the books, he's not a moody kid. Or emotional and weepy. None of them are. When things go wrong, they're all business about fixing things, and Klaus fixes things by reading. None of this oh weepy me, my parents don't love me, let me soliloquize by the window now. No. It's all about the READING, and that's what's funny -- that we know they're in terrible danger and yet here's this kid who's going to read his way out of it.

elysecritic: You mentioned earlier, your love of the book's tone. Did you find the production design compelling, in terms of delivering on tone? If nothing else, I liked the way the thing looked. In particular, I found the closing credits quite arresting. It almost made me wish the whole thing had been done in Edward Gorey-esque cut outs, although maybe an animated Lemony Snicket would have been too precious, now that I think about it. But I did like the faux-Victorian English look of the sets and costumes, though the movie seems to not be placing the story in any particular place or time, despite the distinctive look.

lisa: You're right about the end credits. I think they were my favorite part, which is slightly sad, but kind of not, because they were seriously fantastic. I was taken aback by the slightly goth look of the movie at first, but I think it did do a lot to set the tone as being kind of out-there weird. The books aren't set in any real time or place, and that would definitely be a difficult thing to work with in making a movie. I think their decisions were probably good ones. But I felt like they let the sets and costumes run the show a lot of the time, and down-played the wackiness of the situations the kids were in. Like, don't they notice that Aunt Josephine's house is built on freakin' stilts?? Let them have a moment of reflection on that one, so the "look" and the story can interact a bit, you know?

elysecritic: Yes, I see that. Though, all of those odd details are taken in stride by these kids, which I thought you were implying was their modus operundi?

lisa: Hmm. Yet another good point. I must think upon that.

elysecritic: You didn't realize I don't dwell in the "dude that was awesome" reaction when I get down to it, eh?

lisa: Having had nothing to base your opinion of the movie on, did you think it was more funny, or more dark? I remember you said you liked the movie but you felt like it wasn't truly spectacular. What do you think it was missing?

elysecritic: Overall? I'm not sure what was missing. It just wasn't inspired, I guess. I expected more magic coming from the screen. Not hocus pocus exactly, just movie magic like the third Harry Potter. I feel that Alfonso Cuaron raised the bar on kiddie movies this year. Him and Brad Bird, of the Incredibles.

lisa: Excellent movies, both of them. AND kid-friendly. That's hard to do.

elysecritic: Children's films can be thrilling entertainment, even for adults. I remember how jazzed I was as a kid by certain movies, Dark Crystal, Mary Poppins, The Neverending Story, the Muppet movies when I was little. I don't know that all of those examples still hold up, advances in technology etc, but I think they are what could be.

lisa: Okay, The Neverending Story scared the bejeebers out of me as a child, but other than that I'm with you. And I think kid's don't need the technology. They're getting way more sophisticated, sure, but still it's all about the story. I think it's just like grown-up movies. We're willing to forgive some hokey fake punches here and there, or UFOs on strings, if the story is really intriguing. Of course, having technology AND a good story is even better.

elysecritic: True. Any final thoughts?

lisa: Excellent end credits.

elysecritic: Indeed. I don't know that I would recommend the movie per se, especially to discerning kid viewers, but there were parts I liked well enough. Not a complete disappointment. Faint praise, I know but hey, at least it didn't suck as much as the Fat Albert movie looks like it's going to. Talk about trampling on my childhood... How could Cosby? How could he? Well. That's a rant for another time.

lisa: Word.

Posted by karen at 10:10 PM |

December 19, 2004

Overpaid Actors Entertain Themselves


About a week ago, Cinecultist watched Ocean's Twelve, now referred to with fondness as The Twelve. Who knew a vanity project like this, chock-a-block with self-indulgent stars, and a sequel to boot could be so darned entertaining? It only goes to show that Steven Soderbergh is really The Man. At least when it comes to constructing likable Hollywood product, when he could be just paid to phone it in.

Right after she went to see it, our friend Ilana, programmer of the Twelve Days of the Cloon, called to warn us that The Twelve is a heist movie with no heist. Knowing this before you go to see the film will alleviate any pesky desires for causal plot. One of the strengths in The Eleven is the way the camera shows us every little black leather clad detail of the casino's heist. But this time out, Soderbergh eschews revealing for obfuscation, otherwise known in less skillful hands as inside jokes. Like the scene depicted in the still above where the young Matt Damon goes along with George and Brad for a sit down in an Amsterdam "café" to discuss business with one of their contacts. Like those weirdo childhood games where your statement has to include certain letters or images to count as a clue, the other three men seem to know how to communicate while Matt's character is completely useless.


No one in this is taking it all to seriously, except for perhaps Vincent Cassel, who plays François Toulour, the master thief and playboy trying to out nab Danny Ocean. Silly, silly man. Doesn't he know who he's dealing with here? This is the Cloon, in all of his middle-aged, salt and pepper, impeccable suits, rakish grin firmly planted glory. Look at the international super star go, as he does what he does so well. But getting back to Vincent, aka Mr. Monica Bellucci, he keeps himself in good shape. The sequence where he break-dances through a laser field is worth the price of admission alone. Though, the scene where he works out in those white pajama pants is pretty damn good too.

With so much loveliness and finesse and sleek little roadsters motoring up to Lake Como villas (remember Ilana, when you're Mrs. The Cloon, we're coming for late summer visits), it seems perfectly acceptable to ignore the less than stellar performances or bits that pop up. Yes, we're looking in your directions Andy "One Step From Liberace" Garcia and Julia "Look, I'm Preggers!" Roberts. Or rather, we have our fingers in our ears and are singing, while you're on screen. No hard feelings. With this much unabashed movie fun going on, we don't feel guilty about shunning you a bit.

Posted by karen at 9:48 PM |

December 16, 2004

Feeling A Bit 'Lemony'

lemony.jpgSo very excited for Lemony Snicket's Series of Unfortunate Events this weekend. So excited. Out theory: Any book wherein the author's photo (example seen at left) is taken from his back (?!) has to make for an awesome kid's movie. That's what Cinecultist hopes anyway. Further evidence, Jim Carrey in various get-ups wherein the adults never recognize him but all the children instantly do is potentially priceless. Also, two words: Meryl. Streep. Love her. She was a male Orthodox rabbi in Angel's In America. The woman can do anything. The baby, Sunny's main talent is that she bites things. Bites things! It's going to be awesome.

A big part of this level of fanatical excitement comes from our friend Lisa*. Children's book writer, part time nanny and zoo volunteer, she's has been psyching CC up for Lemony Snicket on the silver screen for ages now. It seems like nearly every time we get together the convo turns to either Lemony or Harry Potter (which may account for why we don't really have any other participants in these conversations), and then there's the obsessing. Full disclosure: CC hasn't read any of the books yet, but that's because Lis wants us to read them in order. It's a whole thing. Like most stories which you anticipate the telling of far before you actually read them or hear them, surely Lemony Snicket can't live up to this much hype. It's just not possible. And yet, it's the kid's book version of Tristam Shandy, which every English major worth their salt knows is a post-modernist masterpiece before they even had modernism, let alone po-mo.

*Last year from Halloween, Lisa went as Charlotte's Web. As in the whole book. She had tiny fake spiders in her hair, the web of words on her shirt, Templeton the rat was on her shoe and she carried a stuffed animal pig. My friends, she's hard core.

Maybe we'll hate the movie and have to print a retraction on this whole posting after the weekend. Or maybe we'll have a two thrilled kid's lit fans, CC and Lisa, leaving the theater cheering. Only the fates can tell us. The author would advise turning back now, this can only end in disaster.

[Note to LG: please let us know via one of the usual communication methods when we're going to the cinema this weekend.]

Posted by karen at 5:37 PM |

December 14, 2004

Damn The Man, Save The Vertigo!

Well, it’s a sad day on Pike street. Seattle Maggie is unhappy to report that our favorite movie rental haven, Video Vertigo, is going out of business today. It seemed to be a rather quick decision that no one was expecting; on a recent visit, several grieved patrons wandered in with forlorn puppy-dog faces, asking, “It isn’t true, is it?” Alas, it seems that it is.
Seattle Maggie wishes dearly that we could be in rock band that would rouse the Capitol Hill community to raise the money to keep Video Vertigo going at the very last moment (we may instead sway-dance around our apartment to Dire Straits’ “Romeo and Juliet”, or maybe glue some quarters to the floor in an artistic fit), but we don’t think it will help. The official word from the owner is that the closure is a personal decision not prompted by money woes. So, all of our Empire Records fantasies are going out the window, and we are left both sad and fuming that yet another cool independent establishment is shutting its doors for whatever reason.
So we salute thee, Video Vertigo. Thanks for introducing us to obscure Asian horror films, offbeat documentaries (we would never have known about Okie Noodling or taken a Wisconsin Death Trip if it wasn’t for you) and a solid selection of anime. Thanks for not holding it against us when we asked if you had Almost Heroes that one time when Boyfriend Todd was on his inexplicable Chris Farley kick. And thanks for being the funky, excellent video store that we could pop down to when we had a cinematic itch, where we could count on your good opinions to guide us (you were right, Castle Freak was pretty awful) and where, funnily enough, you always knew our name. Best of luck to Rhias, with whom we shared our love of H.P. Lovecraft, and Rob, who was nice enough to fast forward the in-store video so we could watch the crazy Christian turkey beast slaughter some unsuspecting pot smokers. Try getting someone to do that for you at Blockbuster. Yeah – we didn’t think so either.

P.S. We hear that Video Vertigo will be selling what is left of its inventory on Saturday, December 18 - come by and check it out if you're in the area.

Posted by seattle maggie at 4:20 AM |

December 13, 2004

Look! CC's A Legitimate Entertainment Journalist

What did you do this morning? Cinecultist pretended to be a legit entertainment journalist. We went to the Life Aquatic with Steve Zissou press junket at the Ritz Carlton hotel in Battery Park where we ate breakfast on Touchstone's dime (fresh fruit! all you can drink lukewarm coffee!) and then sat in on press conference style convos with screenwriter Noah Baumbach, Anjelica Huston, Willem Dafoe, Bill Murray and Wes Anderson. How funny to see our little name alongside the attribution posted on the press list outside the conference room. More quotes and thoughts on the junket spectacle tomorrow on Gothamist. Perma link now available.

For now, enjoy some promo pics from The Life Aquatic, which isn't getting such hot reviews but oh well, CC still liked bits of it anyway. (Bad sign, the dreaded AOS liked it. Ouch.) Also, we now have two The Life Aquatic with Steve Zissou CDs (one of the bits from the movie we enjoyed, those Portuguese acoustic Bowie songs), one of which we'll send to a reader who answers the following Wes Anderson trivia question:

Wes and Owen ran into budget problems while making Bottle Rocket until mega-producer James L. Brooks came on board and offered the first time filmmakers and UTA grads what sweet sum of money?



PS. The CD you'll receive is not the copy which our silly friend John Walter signed "Love You! Wes" inside just to mock us. That one we keep. Be sure to watch John's new movie, Some Assembly Required, on the Sundance Channel (Dec. 14 @ 9 pm) and Court TV this week, it's about the First Amendment's right to assembly and the cut we saw was super duper good.

Posted by karen at 10:02 PM |

December 10, 2004

Be Like Your Favorite Literary Figure

Last night, Cinecultist caught a post-day job screening of the much buzzed about movie, Finding Neverland starring one of our first American thespians, Mr. Johnny Depp. As soon as the "The End" title faded and the credits began to roll, CC and our movie going buddy, Capn' Design, launched into a debate* over whether this could be indeed considered the best movie of the year (as the National Board of Review thought last week), surely causing rampant second-guessing around us in theater and probably ruining our fellow audience member's viewing experience.

This kind of bitchy criticism for criticism's sake reminded CC that we recalled Dorothy Parker wrote reviews of J.M. Barrie plays and was a tad harsh on his sweetness and nostalgia for childhood. But then we were worried CC was just thinking of that one review where she rips A.A. ("Winnie the Pooh") Milne a new one. Rushing home to our Portable Dorothy Parker (no household should be without one), we were relieved to discover, she ragged on both of them. Gotta love our girl Dorothy! Just when you think the sight of Johnny Depp communing in an Irish accent with sickly Kate Winslet and her four towheaded poppets is enough to warm your heart through to new year's, you re-read some acidic DP and all is right in the world.

"I suppose that the fair thing to do is to let the blame for the dullness and the embarrassment of The Admirable Crichton rest equally upon the cast and upon Sir J. M. ("Never-Grow-Up") Barrie. It doesn't, I feel, matter. Conciseness is not my gift. All my envy goes to the inspired Mr. Walter Winchell, who walked wanly out into the foyer after the third act—there are four and they are long, long acts—and summed up the whole thing in the phrase, "Well, for Crichton out loud!"

Personal: Robert Benchley, please come home. A joke's a joke."
- from "No More Fun" published in The New Yorker, March 21, 1931

*By the by, CC's stance was "good but surely not the best thing we saw this year," while the Capn' says, "really like it right now, but not sure how I'll feel about it tomorrow."

Posted by karen at 8:30 AM |

December 9, 2004

Daggers At The Ready

zhang ziyiCinecultist was pretty psyched to see Zhang Yimou's The House of Flying Daggers. From people who'd seen it during this year's New York Film Festival, we'd heard it was better than Hero, a movie we enjoyed quite a bit. Also, it seemed to bode well that the distributor, Sony Pictures, seemed more anxious to get Flying Daggers into American theaters than Miramax did with Hero (2 years is a long time to sit on a movie people, we will continue to hold a grudge on that one).

However, Flying Daggers had an even patchier plot, and while the visuals are quite lovely (Zhang Yimou makes moving paintings, not moving pictures) it wasn't enough for CC. Leaving the theater we marveled over the awesomeness of Takeshi Kineshiro (feel free to whisper in our ear any day), but why the obsession with being the wind? Isn't that just another way of saying you're a commitment phobe? It all seemed too juvenile to CC. The kind of story written by a spurned junior high school boy convinced that the cute girls always choose the bad boy over the one who's really dedicated to her, ie. him. It seemed like too much special pleading to us, and not emotionally resonant as it was trying to be.

Posted by karen at 8:34 AM |

December 8, 2004

Happy Hannukkah!

ev hannukkah

Just a little greeting from our Village (The East One) to yours, on this the second night of Hannukkah. Or Chanuka. Or how ever you spell it. (We like to fit as many n's and k's in there as possible.) It's the holiday with a million spellings, yay! CC's planning to have a festive dinner of latkes at Veselka tonight, with extra applesauce.

(Small biographical note, this lovely menorah pictured in front of a synagogue in our nabe, the rabbi here is the uncle of CC's friend, Saul Austerlitz, who also writes about film for the New York Press. See how it all goes back to movies? See?)

Posted by karen at 10:20 AM |

December 7, 2004

Today Is Wes Anderson Day

Cinecultist <3 director Wes Anderson, and everyone who knows us suggested we try to refrain from completely drooling all over him when we interviewed him for Gothamist a few weeks ago. We tried. Honest.

Read the fruits of our brief telephone convo over at Gothamist today.

Also, we wrote a short review of The Life Aquatic with Steve Zissou as a part of Reverse Shot's weekly contributions to indieWire. Thoughts from Michael Koresky, Michael Joshua Rowin and CC, with many of the same points from each but with wildly different interpretations of how good those elements were.

And, if you're not one of the lucky winners of the Gothamist free passes to the movie tonight (don't worry, there were 1,475 odd click throughs who didn't get one. Crazy amount, no?), it's playing on Wednesday at 8 and 8:30 pm at the MoMA as a part of their Premieres series before it opens this weekend.

PS. If you're going to the movie, and or, you won one of the red Team Zissou ski caps and matching Speedos, please send us your comments or better yet, a picture. We'd love to hear from you.

Posted by karen at 8:35 AM |

December 6, 2004

A Sunday With the Cinecultist — Hello, Space Cadet

Picture a Cinecultist in the lobby of the 14th Street Loews trying to pick up a pre-purchased ticket to Closer on Sunday afternoon with our credit card. The movie starts a 1:55 pm, but we were way-layed in Filene's purchasing some new tights then held up at Cosi grabbing a sesame ginger chicken sandwich, and so it's now 2:07 pm. The reader won't recognize our card. Weird. Neither will the other one. That's funny. CC walks over to the counter to enquire with a real person as to why we can't pick up our ticket to Closer. Oh wait, here's why. Closer isn't playing at this theater. Head smacking and muttering ensues. Where is it playing? Quick consultation with Moviefone. 3rd Ave and 11th Street is where we're supposed to be for the 1:55 showing. Drat!

Needless to say, after we booked it over there, CC missed the first 15 minutes of the movie. But that's okay, as we think we caught the gist of it pretty well. Two couples, swapping of various partners, pain, upset, conversations about sex, and beautiful faces. As many of the reviews have been saying, it's a technically well done movie but it's not really something which resonates beyond the credits. Clive Owen, well, CC went to see King Arthur on his behalf so you understand the level of our devotion. Jude and Julia also quite good but neither give revelation performances. And Nathalie Portman, eh? She sure is pretty but we have to say we found her cerebral stripper a bit creepy. She's too tidy to be the sex industry, or maybe that's just us.

The most arresting part for Cinecultist actually was the theme song which plays all through the preview and is in the final montage of our sad protagonists. We've given you a downloadable audio link below and suggest just looking at pictures of Clive and Jude while listening to it, rather than spending the $10 on admission. It's cleaner and more to the point this way, wouldn't you agree?

Damien Rice — "The Blower's Daughter"

Posted by karen at 6:30 AM |

December 3, 2004

An Ethan Hawke For The 21st Century

Last night as a part of the Reel Pieces series at the 92nd Street Y, Cinecultist and Josh Cultivated Stupidity took in a screening of Gattaca (1997) before a discussion with the film's star, Ethan Hawke. It's sort of a relief when a pre-teen crushes of ours continues to be a credit to CC's interest in him. Hawke's a well-spoken and thoughtful interview subject, with the right awount of wry self-mockery and sincere, serious interest in the "craft" of acting.

CC enjoyed his release from this year, Before Sunset, quite a bit but we left it feeling a bit like a Jewish mother towards poor, gaunt Ethan. Someone needed to be force feeding that boy baked potatoes on the set, he was just far too thin. We were worried. However, last night he appeared to be in fine form, full of banter and also filling out in a reasonable way his brown corodoray suit thing. Welcome back from the precipice, E. It's feel comfortable to offer the guy nicknames because his on stage comfort with the moderator Annette Insdorf. She was well prepared and able to cover the breadth of Hawke's filmography from Explorers to Tape to even his theater work.

Watching Gattaca again after all of these years, it really did hold up surprisingly. The performances are all quite nice and the visual style, of sci-fi futuristic America combined with a '50s modernist aesthetic really works. If you're not totally sick of Jude Law this season (6 features!), it's worth a rental for his performance as the crippled Valid alone. As Ethan pointed out in the interview, the boy is gorgeous. We can understand how that was his initial impression of him as he walked into the casting office to read.

Getting back to Ethan, we're excited to see him take the stage in Hurly Burly later this year (he mentioned being in the process of memorizing lines) but we still think we'll avoid the remake of Assault on Precinct 13. Doing these more commercial projects might allow him to continue to do the small things too, but that doesn't mean we have to go see them in the theaters when they look that dreadful.

Posted by karen at 8:34 AM |

December 2, 2004

Crazy Accents and Nudity — Oh, That Oliver Stone


As we mentioned earlier this week, Cinecultist has been feeling a bit overwhelmed by the sheer number of great movies coming into the theaters right now (House of Flying Daggers! Finding Neverland! Life Aquatic with Steve Zissou! Bad Education!), and thus it was with perhaps a bit too much Schadenfreude-tinged glee that CC plunked down our $10 for Alexander the other day. And boy, was it bad. But it's one of those movies where the badness contributed to the fun and if your butt can stand the 3 hour running time, we might actually recommend it to you.

If only Oliver Stone were less himself ("this is my opus") and more Jerry Bruckheimer (Look, it's Johnny Depp in an eye patch!), then we wouldn't feel so much like we were puncturing his auteur balloon with our reveling in the bad epic-ness of the movie. Don't worry, we'll get over our Stone as serious director guilt in a second. Whew, it passed. And speaking of eye patches, CC was fascinated with Val Kilmer's single eye. Why is he missing that eye? Who the hell know. Battle injury, perhaps? There's another minor character who also only has one eye, also unexplained, but we think we recall it was on the opposite side of Val's, which then leads to the confusing thought that perhaps continuity messes up and switched Val's good eye back and forth during the picture.

Either way Mr. Kilmer yells quite a bit, which apparently is what counts for acting in this movie. Yelling and crazy, geography-defying accents is the method to this madness. The Macedonians all sound either Welsh or Irish and then anyone from the outer provinces or who you might call a barbarian behind their back, like Angelina Jolie or Rosario Dawson's characters, sound like Natasha from "the Bullwinkle Show". Poor Rosario. She sounds weird and then she has that blush inducing nude scene with our man Colin where they growl at each other. Girl has got no where to hide, and more enormous breasts than we realized, by the by.

Despite her weirdo accent and snake fetish, Angelina is the best part of this movie. She's seventeen different kinds of crazy, but to watch her in an epic, with all the sweep of history at her finger tips and a larger than life figure to inhabit, is heaven. With her as your mother, you can understand why Alexander had issues with women. We like Colin doing tortured and sexually confused, but for our blood there isn't quite enough pay off on the love affair between his character and Jared Leto's. Perhaps Jared is supposed to be just the coy tease but we would have liked to see a little more actual "stuff," beyond longing looks, requests to "stay" and declarations of undying manly love.

All of this is mere dressing to the climactic battle scene between the bedraggled Macedonians and the Indians with their elephants. Here's where Stone really gets cooking with the reverse color correction to red and the slo mo black stead versus charging pachyderm. That's pretty awesome. If only the whole movie could have had all that energy and verve but sadly, it was not to be.

Posted by karen at 10:34 AM |