August 30, 2005

Wherein We Try To Get Out Of Posting Via IM Chat

But am tricked into writing a mini-review of Junebug anyhow despite our self-imposed, full stomach-related impediments.

Scene: 11:00 pm. An East Village walk-up. Conversation via instant messenger.

cinecultist: i ate too much dinner. i'm in food coma.
capndesign: haha. where'd you go?
cc: i should blog something but can't. Kitchen & Cocktails on Orchard. It had a good write up from Frank Bruni on Friday.
cd: and did you enjoy it?
cc: it was pretty yum. but as i said, i ate too much. i hate that.
cd: just puke it up.
cc: uh. no. ew.
cd: ok, fine, bad idea.
cc: i went to see junebug last night with jp.
cd: did you like?
cc: yes. see, if i had more to say i would post it on my blog. say something witty about movies and then i can post that.
cd: ah. should i see it?
cc: yes, it's a smart little movie. it may have been over hyped at this point, but i think that might be the problem for all films touted at sundance. it's very observed and contemplative. feels like a fall movie more than a summer one. funny and sweet and sad.
cd: hmm, maybe i'll wait until after labor day to see it. it'll seem more fall-y.
cc: that could be good. ben mckenzie is good in it. you'll hardly recognize that he's from the oc. and amy adams of course, steals the show. she's amazing.
cd: sounds great.
cc: it's as though she thought to herself on each scene "i could have one level of reaction to this. but i'll instead do twice as much and see what happens."
cd: now i just need to see 40 y.o virgin.
cc: yeah, i haven't seen that yet either.
cd: tomorrow night?
cc: hmmm. sure.

And...end scene.

Posted by karen at 11:28 PM |

August 29, 2005

More Relaxation, Less Movies

sixteen candles

This weekend Cinecultist didn't watch any movies. Instead we read books! Took naps in the grass! Went to a flea market! Drank lots of white wine! Drove around the Vermont countryside introducing the locals to Clap Your Hands Say Yeah! which blared from the stereo. Unfortunately though, more relaxation equaled less movies. Unless you count the 20 odd minutes of Sixteen Candles that we caught on Sunday as we packed our bags and tried to help tidy up the house.

Here's what we observed, in that short span:

- Nobody makes movies like John Hughes any more. Some might call this a good thing, but CC finds it just sad. Texture, people. Character. Comic timing. Milieu. The Hughes-ster had it all. Each little throw away moment -- from Joan Cusack using her sweatshirt as a towel to Anthony Michael Hall unable to open the shop car door until Molly Ringwald pulls up the door lock -- is like a poem.

- Molly Ringwald's outfits in this movie are so for sale right now down at your local Urban Outfitters. Doesn't her top in the picture above look like something you could pop into American Apparel to pick out this afternoon? Crazy fashion trends.

The moral of the story? We're getting back in the saddle this week, promise. More movies, more obnoxious opinions to come. In the meantime, check out the adorable article about our newlywed friends in this Sunday's New York Times Vows section. And you thought they only wrote about blue blood Ivy League-types with finance jobs and perfect teeth.

Posted by karen at 11:35 PM |

August 23, 2005

What Took You So Long?

Coincidentally enough, with the arrival last week of this year's New York Film Festival's line-up, Cinecultist had finally got around to watching on DVD the opening film from last year, Agnes Jaoui's Look At Me just last weekend. This is such a great little movie, we can't believe it took us this long to watch it. Like a Gallic-Bridget Jones's Diary only less silly, the movie follows an unlikely heroine, the overweight daughter of a famous novelist.

If you've ever wondered what kind of complexes Sofia Coppola must have had before she was an Oscar-winning director and style icon, when she was merely a daughter with a famous name, a struggling clothing line and an interest in photography, Look At Me might shed some light. The parent-child relationship is one of the most complex ones we ever have. The desire to live up to their expectations, to compete with them or even surpass their accomplishments but also to feel validated and loved by them. Then throw in some body images issues and a step-mother who is your age, only thin and blonde, and you can understand why our main character, Lolita (the wonderfully natural Marilou Berry) is a bit neurotic.

Always fearing that her friends or boyfriends only like her for her famous father's connections, she's still a person accustomed to getting what she wants by association. Even Lolita's singing teacher Sylvia (played by the director) is initially drawn to helping Lolita because of Sylvia's admiration for the father …tienne Cassard's work and the way he can help Sylvia's husband Pierre's struggling writing career.

The complexity of these characters and their relationships, as well as the simply human ways they react to various situations, really sneaks up on you while you're watching the film. You don't realize how much you've come to care for them and how strongly you are rooting for a just or fair resolution. This is where Jaoui and her long-time writing as well as life partner Jean-Pierre Bacri (who plays Lolita's father) really succeed. The movie ends just as you would hope it would in your most sappy Hollywood-ish fantasies and yet it feels as naturalistic as the rest of the picture. That's a precarious and delicate balance to achieve, and the product of a real narrative master.

Review from the Reverse Shot folks on indieWire back when it had theatrical release earlier this year and an indieWire interview with Jaoui.

Posted by karen at 8:45 AM |

August 22, 2005

Eee Vee Celeb Sighting

After lunch on Saturday, Cinecultist was wandering around the nabe with Josh trying to ignore the growing humidity with some Sugar Sweet Sunshine banana pudding. Josh was recounting a Jude Law rant previously featured on his blog -- ie the argument that Jude should learn to Keep It In His Pants -- when we simultaneously spotted another bold-faced name, innocently enjoying Indian food for lunch. Passing actor Alan Cumming and trying not to look, CC and Joshie's conversation trailed off pretty abruptly. Then we both started giggling like little school girls.

This may seem pretty immature behavior for cool downtowners like ourselves, unless of course you've seen the commercial for Alan's new fragrance, known quite simply yet blatantly as Cumming.

If only we'd had the presence of mind to turn to the English actor, director, producer and composer and say as he does in his ad, "Well, hello."

Posted by karen at 9:02 AM |

August 19, 2005


It's Friday, right? Thank goodness. Click away good readers, Cinecultist is too tired to talk.

On Reverse Shot this issue, the kids are discussing the man with the white white hair, Jim Jarmusch.

Michael Russell of Culture Pulp out in Oregon, has a new comic up about drive-in movies.

The trailer to 40 Year Old Virgin, which you're surely going to see this weekend, right? Aaron Out of Focus really thought it was funny.

NYFF 2005 full schedule now available. Drool or curse accordingly.

And finally, regarding last night's highly anticipated show at Summerstage: The hottest moment of the evening captured by Jeff. And it was set to a Fleetwood Mac soundtrack, go fig. As Scott said via text message during the show, that band from the O.C. they're pretty good.

Posted by karen at 9:06 AM |

August 17, 2005

Sing A Song, Sing Out Loud


It's a nice thing to have friends to go to the movies with -- except for when it takes nearly 2 weeks of scheduling discussions to get there. But no matter, last week Cinecultist and our friend JP pooled our collective Michael Winterbottom love and took in the director's newest, 9 Songs. Before we even agreed to see the movie together, we joked about the inherent weirdness in going to see a sexually explicit art house movie with a friend and good thing too because Winterbottom puts his camera in places CC didn't know cameras could go. It brings new meaning to the phrase, "extreme close-up."

The film is about a young British guy, Matt who reminisces while in Antarctica about his relationship with an American girl Lisa, flashing back to their nights out at indie rock shows and in bed. Or on the kitchen table. Or in hotel rooms. Or the bathtub. Anyhow, there's lots of sex in this and the aspect that everyone's been talking about is how it's "real." Hipster porn, if you will.

However, like porn 9 Songs is heavy on the action but lighter on the characters or motivation. Apparently all that Matt really recalls is the music and the sex, but none of the talking or the connection. In most romances we at least get to see how the couple met, but here it's a quick cut from interior concert scene to interior bedroom. What was the initial pick-up line? For Winterbottom's story, that detail is mere detritus. Not to seem like a total chick about it, but CC finds it difficult to identify with movies where the characters don't prioritize talking. Of course we're meant to understand that they just feel, but for someone who spends a lot of time in our own head this is tough to buy.

Even in Godard's Contempt, another movie about an insular relationship and the power of sex on screen, we get at least a glimpse of the Brigitte Bardot character's interior life. But in 9 Songs, Lisa is a complete cypher. She's there and then she's gone. It is only at the end that we find out that Matt only stepped foot inside her apartment the day she left London. If this dude can't even get inside her front door, how could he really think he's entered her life?

Cinecultist's complaint about the concert footage in the film, that it never really gets close enough the visceral experience of being at a great show, seems to also be our problem with the characters. The camera captures every physical detail of them, but doesn't actually take us to the heart of things.

Posted by karen at 8:50 AM |

August 16, 2005

Sorta Gross, So Good

Cinecultist participated in the group review of Park Chan Wook 's newest US release Sympathy For Mr. Vengeance today on indieWire with some other Reverse Shot writers.

Of the three films by the Korean director's we've seen thus far, Sympathy is perhaps our favorite. It's gross but also poignant and complex. It has some really wonderful cinematic flourishes, like the use of intertitles to stand in for dialogue from the deaf main character Ryu. While it does not include any good dumpling references (raise your hand if after seeing Oldboy, the next time you ate dumplings you wondered if there was too many scallions in the filling?), there's lots of bits worth rehashing over coffee or drinks after the screening.

Posted by karen at 10:29 AM |


Cinecultist wants to apologize in advance if we seem a bit distracted this upcoming week. We're in the midst of closing our October issue at the day job but more importantly, CC's declared this officially Oggle Hipster Boys Week. Within the span of a few days, we'll be basking in the glow of quite the indie rock triumvirate -- Sufjan Stevens, Colin Meloy and our beloved Ben Gibbard. Le sigh. It's enough to leave a downtown girl seriously absentminded.

normal_poalcap026.jpgRemember that scene in Portrait of a Lady where Nicole Kidman can't decide on which of her three suitors she likes best? And then Jane Campion throws in that anachronistic scene not in the original Henry James where Nic starts a four-way Victorian make-out session with all of them, rather than choose? Um, yeah. That scenario hasn't been skipping through out mind with indie rock boys replacing them. Nope.

By the way, Jen talked with Colin for Gothamist (why? because she has all the stupid luck). Thursday and Saturday can not get here fast enough.

Posted by karen at 12:02 AM |

August 15, 2005

The Upbeat Bergman

Two cute kids named Fanny and Alexander.In case you haven't noticed, there's a lot of movies out there. Even if you spend quite a bit time like the Cinecultist going to the movies, renting movies, boring perfect strangers at parties with movie talk, there's bound to be a few classics that slip through the cracks. One of those was Ingmar Bergman's Fanny and Alexander which CC is now happy to have in our "seen" column. Well, "seen and loved" actually.

The story of the Ekdahl family in the early 1900s Sweden, it meanders over a number of years as the extended family celebrates, mourns and supports each other. Part costume drama, part childhood nostalgia piece, part psychological character study, the movie has a richness and depth you don't see very often. Watching this movie feels like snuggling down with a good long book. Clocking in at three hours in the theatrical version (Bergman also created a 5 hour television cut), there's plenty of time to really fall in love with these characters like you can with a novel. Of course, now we have to rent that 5 hour version that's in the other part of the Criterion box set.

As an aside, Fanny and Alexander is a movie that our friends, the newly married Adriane and John have been trying to get CC to watch for ages and we can't believe we waited so long to do it. Just goes to show, when you have friends whose movie opinions you trust, you should always take their rental advice sooner rather than later.

Posted by karen at 9:04 AM |

August 14, 2005

Congratulations to John and Adriane


"A couple cannot last if they don't share a singular vision of the cinema. One can love rap and detest Beethoven and the other the contrary. But if one loves the cinema of Spielberg and the other detests it, one day, they will separate, because the cinema is still a representation of the world." -- Jean-Luc Godard

More pictures of the happy evening in the Eee Vee.

Posted by karen at 11:37 PM |

August 11, 2005

We Prefer Appalachian American

Last night on the way home from an evening screening of the Dukes of Hazzard -- we had a long day, okay? We needed to see junk blow up -- Cinecultist got to thinking about what we liked about the original television show. It boils down to these three things:

1) That the Dukes never ever ever used the car doors. For some reason, the climbing in and out of the car windows, while being chased no less, was so incredibly anti-social and fascinating.

2) Sheriff Roscoe's pet basset hound, Flash. He talked to it. It was his best friend.

3) The theme song. Waylon Jennings and good sing-along fun. It was about as close to country music as you'd get in suburban Northern California.

The new movie with Johnny Knoxville, Jessica Simpson, Willie Nelson, Burt Reynolds and our boyfriend, Seann William Scott has all of these things in it, but we don't think we need to put a fine point on it: this movie is not good. It's really, really bad. Boring bad. Despite many scenes of car chases, flaming arrows shot at explosives and various lame sexual puns, we didn't blame those two people in our screening for leaving two-thirds of the way through.

There were a few bits we did like, moderately. Willie Nelson is a surprisingly good actor. He should find a Straight Story type of script directed by someone like David Lynch. The growing sexual disfunction of characters SWS plays. His Luke Duke wants to make love to his car, the General Lee. No seriously, he wants to have sex with the car. So weird, and so awesome at the same time. Johnny Knoxville's white suit and aviator glasses at the end was kinda a hot look for him.

If only there had been a way for the out-takes credit sequence to be the whole movie. You don't realize how much they really beat the living hell out of those orange cars in all of the action sequences and then there's a Willie Nelson version of the theme song over it. A perfect good ol' boy combination.

Posted by karen at 9:01 AM |

August 10, 2005

How Dirty Can You Be?

At a party a few weeks ago, Cinecultist was standing around having the "what have you seen lately" conversation with a few friends. CC was probably talking up Broken Flowers or Wedding Crashers or something, we can't quite remember. What we do recall is that our friend Ricky told us he'd just seen the Aristocrats and thought it was hilarious. Which really makes quite a lot of sense if you know how he pays his rent, ie. via the site he runs with his friends, College Humor.

Anyhow, CC has no personal recommendation to offer about the Aristocrats because we still haven't seen it yet, however if you have and thought it was the most awesome thing your twisted little mind could ever consume, we suggest you enter the "Be An Aristocrat" contest.

THINKFilm and their promotional partners, and, invite fans of THE ARISTOCRATS to participate in a contest to come up with their own version of THE ARISTOCRATS joke in two different categories: Live Action and Animation. Winners from each category will have their rendition of the joke presented on THE ARISTOCRATS DVD and each will receive $1,000 cash. The contest runs from July 29th through September 30th, 2005. More information regarding submissions via the official website.

In the meantime, here's a link to the South Park version of the Aristocrat joke which may be the first No Safe For Work thing we've ever posted here. Huh. Go fig.

Posted by karen at 9:05 AM |

August 9, 2005

Box Office Cuteness Factor 10

So after our disparaging but uninformed and off the cuff remark yesterday about how movie goers were going to see a movie about penguins instead of the excellent Murderball, we read on Variety today [sorry, subscription required] that March of the Penguins is after last weekend's box office the "2nd highest grossing documentary of all time." Yeah, OF ALL TIME. We read the sentence twice, just to make sure.

CC didn't entirely understand the reason for this, until we watched the trailer today. Here's what we learned about the movie: 1) Morgan Freeman says penguins are the birds that think they're fish. Weird. Okay, and 2) This movie is about finding love. Penguin love. Awww. That's so cute, right? The little guys in tuxes are in a nature Woody Allen movie, neurotic about their identity and searching for romance but without references to Bartok and riding in taxi cabs. We get it now. We see the appeal.

Here's some sweet penguin pictures courtesy of the production company (Warner Bros. is having a good summer.) Isn't it sad that the cuties are the ones usually in need of a good Freudian shrink? That's what living in Manhattan and watching too many Woody Allen movies has taught us.

Baby penguins! Yay!

They're so cute and furry. You want to take them home and keep them in your pocket. Or spend $10.75 to watch them cavort. Whichever is easier.

Posted by karen at 11:29 PM |

August 8, 2005

New Dude Cinema

Great cinema catchphrase in the making: New Dude Cinema from today's Believe the Hype feature on the Wedding Crashers by Tim Grierson. A sampling:

The New Dude company of actors, dubbed the "frat pack," includes Will Ferrell, Jack Black, Ben Stiller, and the stars of Wedding Crashers. Unlike the dude comedies of a generation ago, these new films' heroes aren't fighting the system -- they're fighting maturity. You see this phenomenon everywhere. Whether it's Esquire or Adult Swim or Xbox, the modern man is battling to stay in a perpetual adolescence where you never have to grow up, but you get to have tons of cool gadgets and expensive material possessions anyway. Remember how you always told yourself that those fraternity blockheads would be in big trouble once they entered the real world? Well, guess what happened? There's a whole industry devoted to them now.
Posted by karen at 3:00 PM |

A Conversation With Director, Henry-Alex Rubin

What follows is the first in hopefully an ongoing series of interviews, The Cinecultist Gets Drunk With Filmmakers. For our first installment, we sat down at the Bowery Bar on E. 4th Street with documentarian and fellow downtown New Yorker, Henry-Alex Rubin (left in the suit, in the image below) whose movie Murderball which he directed with Dana Adam Shapiro (right), won best documentary at this yearís Sundance Film Festival and is currently out in theaters.

henry_alex_rubin1.jpgUnfortunately, their uplifting, smart, hilarious little docu about quadriplegic rugby players is being trounced in the box office by a few migrating penguins. Weíve got nothiní against penguins, but this is a crying shame because Murderball is one of the most deftly crafted movies weíve seen so far this year. Please rush out to see it, then talk loudly about it at as many cocktail parties as you can. Well, read the following conversation first, but then head out to the movie.

KW: So I guess the first thing to talk about, since the movie is already out, would be what are your thoughts on how itís doing?

HAR: Box office?

KW: Yeah, box office.

HAR: Pretty miserably. I know no one believes me that I donít care, but I really donít. The emotional high point for me was a long time ago. It was when we finished the film and showed it to the guys and they loved the movie. And the second high point was people loved it at Sundance. Everything after that itís been a little bit anti-climactic, quite frankly. It wouldíve been great to become a millionaire but, whatever. Thatís not why you make movies.

Murderball, KW: Certainly. Do you think the studio had expectations that the film would do a certain amount of money?

HAR: Definitely.

KW: Did they have conversations with you saying itís next Capturing the Friedmans orÖ?

HAR: It was a guarded hope, always. I canít impress this on you enough, of the three of us who made this movie, me, Dana and [producer] Jeff [Mandel], youíre talking to the guy who cares the least. Who was the least involved in withÖI never check the box office. My agent will once in a while tell me how itís doing. Honestly, I wish more people would go. But itís hard to get people to go to a movie about cripples. I mean the bottom-line, Iíve said that in almost every interview is that weíve always had two strikes against us. One, that weíre a documentary but that stigma is going away. You can bust out. But two, itís a movie about disabled people. I donít know. Speculating about why youíre movie is doing well is not interesting. It really isnít, Karen. Letís twist the knife around.

KW: Sorry, no the reason why I wanted to bring this up at all is because I saw it this weekend and I thought it was wonderful. And it surprises me that more people arenít going to see it.

HAR: All I know is that the guys in the movie really love the movie, and thatís all that really matters to me. In fact letís call Igoe [one of the people featured in the film] right now and see what he has to say about it. A statement from Chris Igoe. [Henry pulls out his cellphone and starts dialing.]

KW: So that was something that I was going to ask you. Are you now buddies with the guys from the film? Because it seems like you are from interviews and the film itself.

HAR: Definitely. Chris, Zupan especially. Theyíre some of my closest friends.

KW: When you set out to make a documentary, is there a part of you that feels like a journalist?

HAR: [speaking into his phone] Hey Christopher Igoe, how are you? Iím sitting at a table with a journalist who just asked me why more people arenít going to see our movie? So I thought you might have some interesting thoughts on the subject, so call back. All right. Mademoiselle.

KW: So when you make a documentary, do you feel that you are more of a journalist or more of a filmmaker?

HAR: The great thing about this movie is, that Dana really is a journalist. Heís hardcore. Heís been writing stories for years and years. He helped start Icon magazine, he was features editor at Spin. So a lot of that investigative work, I left to him. It was great. He would bring different story lines and ideas. But no, it was liberating.

KW: So there wasnít ever a moment for you while making that film that you thought, it shouldnít be too personal?

HAR: No, quite the opposite. The more you become friends with the guys, the more access you got and the more emotionally available you are to whatís occurring. Inevitably the filming of the events becomes more moving to you. Everything becomes more touching because you love these guys. And then you end up wanting to translate that emotion that youíre having up on screen for other people to have. You want them to be experiencing what youíre experiencing. You want everyone else to love these guys.

KW: I definitely feel thatís a part of the film that comes across very strongly. There are scenes that it seems that if the person behind the camera wasnít just another guy sitting around. There are quite a few scenes that are very intimate, very personal.

HAR: They forget you because they just think thereís a friend in the room. But Iím already on to the next project. That guy, Sean that you met [outside the bar, before the conversation began] is a captain in the army. Who has left the army and has become a writer. Weíre working on a movie. Itís going to be about returning Iraq war veterans. Iím in a completely different mindset. You make a movie and itís like youíve sent a kid away to school. You donít know it anymore. You donít recognize the clothes itís wearing. Youíre shocked when you hear people talking about it. When it brings home girlfriends, you donít recognize them. It has itís ownÖit has nothing to do with me anymore. Itís a stranger.

KW: So letís talk about movies.

HAR: Oh, that I can do.

KW: Letís talk about movies in New York, what are you favorite places to go to movies in New York?

HAR: There are two places. One is in the theater over in 33rd and 2nd Avenue. The Kips Bay movie theater. Love it. Always empty, big screens. Empty. Love it. Also, 68th Street. I like to sneak into movies, once I see one, I like to see another and you can do that at these two places very easily.

KW: So youíre not a Film Forum person, youíre not a Sunshine person?

HAR: No, I like action movies. I like war movies, action movies, cop movies. I like genre. I think most of the movies that come out today are really bad but my favorite movies are from the Ď60s and are all action movies. Like The Great Escape or Bullitt or Dirty Dozen, Badlands. These are my favorite movies. Deerhunter is probably one of my top favorite movies of all time. Top three.

KW: You also have that Blow-Up poster.

HAR: When did you see my Blow-Up poster? Oh right when you were in my room. [Ed note: This may sound sketchy, but CC innocently set up the tape recorder for an interview for our Day Job in Henryís apartment a few months prior, which is when we saw his poster.] That movie really filled me with the mystery of moviemaking. It was so mysterious. You grew up trying to figure that movie out. I saw that when I lived in France. I lived in FranceóIím half-Frenchóand I grew up in Paris for a number of years. Thatís where I saw a lot of movies, at La Gobelins, itís right on the edge of the 13th arrondissement. Itís a row of theaters and thereís a bunch of them playing revivals. And I would go there, when I was 15, 16, 17 years old. I remember seeing Blow-Up and loving it and not knowing why and being very frustrated by it. As frustrated as David Hemmings. I love good movies. Itís not like I love the French. I hate the French. I am French, so I can hate them. I love their movies. They make the best gangster movies and the best thrillers. People like Clouzot and Melville. These movies are fucking great because theyíre genre movies, so thereís a plot and thereís gunfights, which keeps me interested and theyíre incredibly human. Theyíre all about people and relationship, whereas the genre movies here in the US are not about people. I love very, very real movies. Blow-Up is not one of my favorite movies. Itís been with me so long, that itís gotten under my skin for at least 15 years now. Itís become a part of my identity.

Posted by karen at 8:30 AM |

August 5, 2005


tony leung is our imaginary husband

Don't forget that Wong Kar Wai's newest film 2046, a sequel, an extension, a further obsessing over? using some of the characters from In The Mood For Love hits theaters this weekend. In the downtown area, it's playing at our fave nabe theater, the Sunshine. Make your plans accordingly.

Just an idle question: Imagining that Carina Lau, Tony's long time partner, weren't a factor, do you think that Karen Leung Chiu Wai would be easy to get monogrammed onto stationary and towels?

Posted by karen at 9:02 AM |

August 4, 2005

Dead Flowers Are Good Flowers

Bill Murray is one sad dude

Cinecultist attended the New York premiere last week of Jim Jarmusch's new film, Broken Flowers and despite being a little dazzled by the celebrity/red carpet factor of the event (Sofia Coppola is a tiny, tiny woman), we actually tried to judge the movie on it's own merits. Outside of the fact that we'd chatted with Jim about his air conditioner before an interview conducted at our Day Job, or that we had an invite to the after-party or even that a few of our close friends had even worked on the film's production (apparently, Jim's a good boss). No, as the lights dimmed it was just the Cinecultist and the screen. As it should be, of course.

Bill Murray plays Don Johnston, an aging bachelor whose most recent girlfriend (Julie Delphy) leaves him the same day a mysterious pink envelope arrives informing him that he has a 19 year old son who may or may not be trying to locate him. Don's amateur sleuth and settled family man neighbor (Jeffrey Wright) convinces the melancholy Don to plan an elaborate multiple city trip wherein he visits each of his former flames who could potentially be the mother of his alleged child.

But even with these plot details neatly laid out, it's important to acknowledge that for Jarmusch this "detective" narrative is entirely a MacGuffin. A MacGuffin is a fancy film critic term used usually by Hitchcock scholars to describe the plot lynchpin around which the story revolves but which is actually just a ruse, an seemingly consequential detail that actually isn't, designed to draw the viewer into the action. To have these many girlfriends, to have this pink letter or even the nosy neighbor are all excuses for Jarmusch to put Murray into various poses and locales where he can contemplate him with the camera.

Which is not to say that the performances by each of the actresses who play the girlfriends (Sharon Stone, Frances Conroy, Jessica Lange and Tilda Swinton) are inconsequential or even that the various other supporting players (Alexis Dziena, Chloe Sevigny and Pell James) should be written off completely. Certainly they all evoke nuance within their short scenes and bare sketches of characters, though at times it does devolved into a bit slapsticky in its obviousness. All this fuss is lovely and exists but as the foil to Murray's most Eeyore-meets-Droopy-the-Dog performance yet. He's a man wounded by a life's worth experiences and yet he still retains the ability to naively believe he could connect. If only.

Certainly there are bits of the whole thing which don't make a lot of sense and Jarmusch leaves the ending intentionally vague. Like the obvious and yet disavowed connection between Don Johnston and the mythical Don Juan (Don watches an old movie version of Don Juan. People keep thinking his name is Don Johnson, like the actor, who was a sort of Don Juan.) How could a guy who seems this sad, who reaches out so little actually have this many hot girlfriends? Did these women just throw themselves at him? Regardless though, Murray is so very compelling on screen it seems worth it to revolve such an elaborate game around what he can do. He barely needs to speak, let alone show emotion on his face and yet he communicates so much.

It seems paradoxical that so much could be supported or surrounded by so little and yet Jarmusch carries it off. There's not a lot of there there and yet, it's all there. If that makes any sense. Or maybe like Jim, we'll just leave it at that.

Posted by karen at 10:56 PM |

August 3, 2005

Podcasts and Self-Indulgent Directors

If you are an iTunes junkie like the Cinecultist or a reader of the New York Times* you may be aware of this crazy thing all the kids are doing these days, the Podcast. Essentially, it's a DIY radio broadcast postable on the internet. A perfect forum for all of those crackpots and ramble-heads who like the talkie more than the typie.

Of course it was only a matter of time then, that windbag filmmakers decided that the commentary track on their special edition DVDs wasn't enough of a free-form forum for their special thoughts. Currently on iTunes' Podcast page you can link through to a download of Spike Lee's on-set observations as he shoots his new film Inside Man here in New York. There will be four episodes, running between 20 and 45 minutes in length. Three of the four are available so far, and as always Podcasts are for free subscription from iTunes.

One time at NYU, CC saw Spike in the elevator and we wanted to yell at him like one of the direct-to-the-camera haters in Do The Right Thing. We probably were cranky because we'd been forced to watch Bamboozled too many times. The sort of imbalance that could happen to anyone spending too much time thinking about minstrels. [Thanks to our co-worker Jonathan for the heads up on the item!]

*Guilty pleasure acknowledgment: CC <3 the Pogue. David Pogue knows his tech writing. Too bad he's already married, gadget talk is hot.

Posted by karen at 9:44 PM |

The Cloon and The News

Production photo care of Warner Bros. From left: George Clooney, Robert Downey Jr. and David Straithairn

Cinecultist hears that this year's New York Film Festival opening night movie will be George Clooney's sophomore directoral effort, Good Night, and Good Luck about the conflict between Edward R. Murrow and Senator McCarthy during the HUAAC hearings. More information via indieWire.

Posted by karen at 8:53 AM |

August 2, 2005

Influences: Stanley Cavell, Pauline Kael, J. Hoberman

This is not the Cinecultist. It is David Edelstein, film reviewer for Slate. Read the whole scoop in Aaron Aradillas' interview on [via GreenCine Daily]

Posted by karen at 2:53 PM |

Salsa Shark

Tomorrow, August 3 at the Hudson River Park -- free screening of Clerks at dusk. It's BYOIS -- Bring your own ironic smirk. Bunch of fuckin' savages in this town.

Posted by karen at 2:16 PM |

Ah, To Be A Variety Film Critic...

Two of the more choice sentences from the review of Dukes of Hazzard by Variety's chief tv critic Brian Lowry [subscription required] :

Urban box office appears unpredictable, but hicks don't figure to nix this sticks pic.

In that respect, credit Dukes of Hazzard with managing to make a juvenile romp with free-spirited rednecks go down as smoothly as a slug o' moonshine on a hot August night.

Can you believe people get paid to write this way?

Posted by karen at 2:00 PM |

August 1, 2005

The Conformist: What Movies Can Be

what an awesome flick

The Cinecultist begs you. If you live in the New York area and can make it down to the Film Forum between now and next Thursday, August 11, please please please go see Bernardo Bertolucci's 1970 movie about fascist Italy, The Conformist. It will remind you all the amazing, gorgeous, stirring, sexy, sad, surreal ways that the movies can be. And it's a great looking print, to boot.

More reading: a Senses of Cinema essay on Bertolucci which discusses Il Conformista.

Posted by karen at 11:32 PM |