April 26, 2006

Wes Anderson Shills for the Man, But We Still Heart Him

Even selling his soul for an advertising buck, Wes Anderson is a total genius. That's why our love for him carries on like a bad Celine Dion song. The last time Wes made a movie, CC spoke to him for Gothamist and we giggled a lot like an idiot, in between asking him stuff. [tip via Betterthanfudge.com]

Posted by karen at 1:02 PM |

April 25, 2006

Half-Assed 'American Dreamz,' That's Dreams With a 'Z'

Sunday morning Cinecultist texted Lisa with the following (slightly cryptic) message:

Too rainy for kickball I think. Want to catch a movie later? New M Moore?

See, the T9 function on our cell phone didn't have the word "Mandy" in its memory but we figured Lisa would know what we meant. She did, calling us later with the news that it was playing at 7:30 pm in her neighborhood. What was exactly? Why American Dreamz, of course.

CC has a bit of a thing for Mandy Moore movies calling Chasing Liberty (which we also watched with Lis), "the best film of 2004" on January 13th of that year. On the scale of Mandy goodness we'd rank this one not as good as "the one where Mandy's the president's rebellious daughter" but definitely better than "the one where Mandy's the cancer stricken preacher's kid." Basically, she's the thinking person's pop star slash actress. She's cute but there's substance there too.

In the film she plays a Britney-esque pop star wannabe who gets on an American Idol type tv show where she competes against a sleeper cell terrorist who loves show tunes, in front of the President of the United States who's a guest judge on the program. This silly, very-of-the-moment satire is mildly diverting, though it probably isn't something that will be resonant beyond six months from now. But no matter. A little political and sociological fluff in the cineplex never hurt anyone and at least there's enough of a dialogue going on these days that projects like this can get bankrolled in the first place. If our administration had any say in it there'd be no discussion at all, let alone the goofy cinematic kind.

Posted by karen at 10:26 PM |

April 24, 2006

Mirren Thinks Elizabeth Was An Everything But Girl


You know how the Cinecultist loves the historical dramas, so it's no surprise we watched with interest HBO's production of Elizabeth I starring Helen Mirren and Jeremy Irons*. There's something about a red head in a neck ruff that's just too fascinating for words, as Mirren proves yet again. She's wonderful in this two part mini-series which started last Saturday and concluded on Monday. All politically motivated flirtation, steely will and references to herself in the third person. Awesomeness. Also, HBO delivers on their reputation of icky yet historically accurate violence. While it's not as cool/cringe-inducing as Rome's mace-wielding gladiator fight, but Elizabeth does feature a royal decapitation that took two blows. Yes, the first one only went half-way. Gross and grosser.

Today, we were poking around the HBO website devoted to the miniseries and enjoyed the Will She or Won't She Marry suitors quiz, then read over their interview with the bad-ass Mirren. Our favorite part is where the interviewer gets Mirren to speculate on the historical icon's bedroom life:

HBO: What are your thoughts about her sex life? The big question.

Helen Mirren: The big question. Did she or didn't she?

HBO: Did she or didn't she.

Helen Mirren: Well, no one will ever know. Logically, it seems to me highly unlikely that she would ever have jeopardized her body or her political position. It was very dangerous physically for women to get pregnant....She was supposed to be a virgin, and she used it as a political pawn to keep her enemies at bay. So the practical side of my brain doesn't think that she would ever have jeopardized that. But having said that, I suspect she did everything else. She probably had sex in the Clintonian sense. I did not have sex with that woman. You know? I wouldn't be surprised if she got up to a lot of those kinds of sexual games.

Sassy British actresses of a certain age really are the best. Not better than gladiators with maces, mind you, but still pretty darn good.

*These two each respectively make gnawing the scenery over-acting look damn good. (See The Cook, the Thief, His Wife and Her Lover and Reversal of Fortune for further evidence.) But together? Forgetaboutit.

Posted by karen at 11:39 PM |

April 20, 2006

Cannes Do Attitude

The complete line-up of the Cannes Film Festival (May 17 - 28) came out today and it seems to be a pretty similar kind of mix from the past few years. There's some very mainstream American fare (The Da Vinci Code, Over the Hedge), some indie US (Richard Kelly's Southland Tales, Richard Linklater's Scanner Darkly and Fast Food Nation, Sofia Coppola's Marie Antoinette) and some highly anticipated new features from established international directors (Pedro Almodovar's Volver, Aki Kaurismaki's Lights at the Edge of the City and Ken Loach's The Wind that Shakes the Barley).

Variety points out in their run down of the list that there's only one South Korean feature The Unforgiven by Yoon Jong-bin which is a surprise considering how strong Korean cinema has been in the international market for the past few years.

For our part, we'd love to be a fly on the wall in the jury room during deliberation, it's a pretty eclectic bunch: Wong Kar Wai, Hong Kong director (president); Monica Bellucci, Italian actress; Helena Bonham-Carter, English actress; Lucrecia Martel, Argentinean director; Zhang Ziyi, Chinese actress; Samuel L. Jackson, American actor; Patrice Leconte, French director; Tim Roth, English actor and Elia Suleiman, Palestinian director. We sense that things might get pretty heated between Wong and Roth, then Bonham-Carter will start screeching and Jackson will have to punch a wall or just yell "Snakes on a Plane!" restore order. It'll be crazy, we're sure.

After the jump we've cut and pasted the full list of films in and out of competition.

"The Da Vinci Code," U.S., Ron Howard (non-competing)

"Transylvania," France, (non-competing)

"The Weakest Is Always Right," Belgium-France, Lucas Belvaux
"Summer Palace," China-France, Lou Ye
"Lights at the Edge of the City," Finland, Aki Kaurismaki
"Flandres," France, Bruno Dumont
"Selon Charlie," France, Nicole Garcia
"Quand j'etais chanteur," France, Xavier Giannoli
"Days of Glory," France, Algeria, Rachid Bouchareb
"The Wind That Shakes the Barley," Ireland-U.K., Ken Loach
"The Cayman," Italy-France, Nanni Moretti
"The Family Friend," Italy, Paolo Sorrentino
"Pan's Labyrinth," Mexico-Spain-U.S., Guillermo del Toro
"Youth on the March," Portugal, Pedro Costa
"Volver," Spain, Pedro Almodovar
"Climates," Turkey, Nuri Bilge Ceylan
"Red Road," U.K.-Denmark, Andrea Arnold
"Fast Food Nation," U.K.-U.S, Richard Linklater
"Marie-Antoinette," U.S., Sofia Coppola
"Southland Tales," U.S., Richard Kelly
"Babel," U.S.-Morocco, Alejandro Gonzalez Inarritu

"United 93," U.S.-U.K., Paul Greengrass
"X-Men: The Last Stand," U.S., Brett Ratner
"Over the Hedge," U.S., Tim Johnson, Karey Kirkpatrick

"Election 2," Hong Kong, Johnnie To
"Silk," Taiwan, Su Chao-pin
"Shortbus," U.S., John Cameron Mitchell

"Zidane, un portrait du 21e siecle," France, Phillipe Parreno, Douglas Gordon
"These Girls," France, Tahani Rached
"Avida," France, Benoit Delepine
"Ici Najac, a vous la terre," France, Jean-Henri Meunier
"Bamako," France-Mauritania, Abderrahmane Sissako
"Volevo Solo Vivere," Italy, Mimmo Calopresti
"Boffo: Tinseltown's Bombs and Blockbusters," U.S., Bill Couturie
"An Inconvenient Truth," U.S., Davis Guggenheim

"Cronica de una fuga," Argentina, Israel, Adrian Caetano
"Ten Canoes," Australia, Rolf de Heer
"Surburban Mayhem," Australia, Paul Goldman
"Luxury Car," China, Wang Chao
"La tourneuse de pages," France, Denis Dercourt
"La Californie," France, Jacques Fieschi
"Meurtrieres," France, Patrick Grandperret
"Paris, je t'aime," France, 24 directors (opener)
"Bled Number One," France-Algeria, Rabah Ameur-Zaimeche
"977," France-Russia, Nikolay Khomeriki
"Re-cycle," Hong Kong, Oxide Pang, Danny Pang
"Taxidermia," Hungary, Gyorgy Palfi
"Serambi," Indonesia, Garin Nugroho
"The Wedding Director," Italy-France, Marco Bellocchio
"You Am I," Lithuania, Kristijonas Vildziunas
"El violin," Mexico, Francisco Vargas
"Uro," Norway, Stefan Faldbakken
"Hamaca Paraguaya," Paraguay, Paz Encina
"Z odzysku," Poland, Slawomir Fabicki
"Cum Mi-am Petrecut Sfarsiful Lumii," Romania, Catalin Mitulescu
"The Unforgiven," South Korea, Yoon Jong-bin
"Salvador Puig Antich," Spain, Manuel Huerga
"Bihisht Faqat Baroi Murdagon," Tajikistan, Djamshed Usmonov
"A Scanner Darkly," U.S., Richard Linklater

Wong Kar Wai, Hong Kong director (president)
Monica Bellucci, Italian actress
Helena Bonham-Carter, English actress
Lucrecia Martel, Argentinean director
Zhang Ziyi, Chinese actress
Samuel L. Jackson, American actor
Patrice Leconte, French director
Tim Roth, English actor
Elia Suleiman, Palestinian director

Andrei Konchalovsky, Russian director (president)
Sandrine Bonnaire, French actress
Daniel Bruhl, German actor
Souleymane Cisse, Malian director
Zbigniew Preisner, Polish composer

Andrei Konchalovsky, Russian director (presi-dent)
Sandrine Bonnaire, French actress
Daniel Bruhl, German actor
Souleymane Cisse, Malian director
Zbigniew Preisner, Polish composer

"Primera Nieve," Pablo Aguero
"Banquise," Claude Barras, Cedric Louis
"Poyr," Belma Bas
"Ongeriewe," Robin Kleinsmidt
"Conte de Quartier," Florence Miailhe
"Film Noir," Parker Osbert
"Sniffer," Bobbie Peers
"Sexy Thing," Denie Pente-cost
"Nature's Way," Jane Shearer
"O Monstro," Eduardo Valente

"The Water Diary," Jane Campion
"Les signes," Eugene Green
"Stanley's Girlfriend," Monte Hellman
"Sida," Gaspard Noe
"Un lever de Rideau," Francois Ozon

Posted by karen at 3:00 PM |

April 19, 2006

All Our Cultural Knowledge Comes From The Screen

Remember how Cinecultist has been waxing poetic lately about how great it is to do our civic duty? It's a slippery slope people, checking in with the New York civic machine. Once you get a driver's license, register to vote and start paying New York State taxes (stupid blog income), eventually they want you to serve on jury duty. We've postponed a couple of times now, but today CC had to go down to 60 Centre Street, room 139 to submit our excuse in person. Things are tres hectic at le day job and we couldn't be all Law and Order tomorrow.

Exiting the Brooklyn Bridge/City Hall 6 stop and walking up Centre Street, we realized we knew exactly to which building we needed to report -- because we'd seen it on Sex and the City. Remember the one where Carrie has to do jury duty and she and Berger have the "Hollywood kiss" on the steps and the random dude waiting to be called has a coconut in his briefcase? Yeah, we're totally freaked out too that there's such an instant television recall from a little bit of architecture. Even after a few years of being off the air, CC still sees the city through that particular tv show's lens.

matthew_mcconaughey6.jpgSpeaking of Sarah Jessica Parker and her strangle-hold on our cultural memory, we saw her most recent romantic comedy Failure to Launch with Matthew McConaughey a few weeks ago and boy, does it stink. And it's done some $80 million at the box office so far. This is completely ridiculous as the plot makes little sense and the casting as well as the attempts at comedic scenarios even less. Here's our rant in a nut shell:

1) M McC plays Tripp, this boy-man who seems to live at home out of sheer laziness. His parents love him but they want him out. Also, they have lots of friends who are in the same boat and when one of them boots their kid from the nest, they all celebrate. However, in order to make Tripp seem appealing to Paula (SJP), the woman hired to get him to move on, they reveal he's not really lazy, only emotionally scarred. This is just stupid. Don't build up this "unlikable protagonist" premise and then undercut it the moment you get a chance! That's lame-o script writing.

2) M McC was born in 1969, making him 37 years old. SJP turned 41 in March. She's older than him and she's still not "launched." She lives with a roommate, played by an actress (the adorable but poorly utilized Zooey Deschanel) who's 26, for goodness sake. We heart SJP and we hate the idea of actresses having expiration dates but don't put her in this role, she's just too old. It makes on sense.

3) We thought that we'd seen the most misguided attempt at comedy in a rom com in Three to Tango (couple bonds over vomiting up tuna melts) but this film gives romantic vomit a run for its money. In a number of scenes McC and his two buds do various outdoorsy, guy-ish activities like mountain biking, rock climbing and paint-balling. Three times McC is bit by an animal while doing his manly stuff, by a dolphin, a squirrel/chipmunk thing and finally, a lizard. The lizard they've animated to laugh after chomping on McC. All of this ridiculousness is then explained by Bradley Cooper's character as nature biting back at Tripp who's rebelling against the order of things by not settling down in a relationship and moving out. Nature is biting back! Does this make any sense to you because it left CC completely flummoxed.

In conclusion, you may love SJP or even M McC and his hairless chest but do not see this movie. Don't see it in the theater. Don't rent it. You could maybe watch a few minutes when it's aired on TBS or something, but only if there's really nothing else to do. Spare yourself, even though the Cinecultist could not.

Posted by karen at 11:10 AM |

April 18, 2006

We Looked At the Look Book And All We Saw Was Layers

Today, our friends at Gawker asked us to contribute to their weekly feature, Looking at the Look Book wherein contributors make fun of New York magazine's man/woman-on-the-street-and-their-wacked-out-fashion-sense feature. It was a fun little diversion and you should read our responses post haste.

Did you go outside today? It was the most gorgeous day in New York. Even though Cinecultist is a slave to our day job, we did have to go on an errand around 2 pm and walking up Park Avenue and then back down Madison, we marveled at the sun dappled through the blossoming trees. Is there anything more lovely than springtime in New York?

Posted by karen at 7:54 PM |

April 4, 2006

Cinecultist Has A Good Day

Isn't it the funniest thing in the world when the tiniest things just make you happy? Cinecultist has been tallying up the little stuff today, and really, it's all good. Case in point:

- We figured out how to use the New York Public Library during our lunch break. The main branch is right near our day job offices, so we popped in today to register our new library card at the 40th and Fifth Avenue location and then check out our book for book club. Between this and those jury duty notices CC's been getting (and postponing) lately, we're really becoming a proper New Yorker.

- After work, Cinecultist hopped on the train to Lincoln Center for the 4th Annual Benefit for the Academy of American Poets held in Alice Tully Hall, courtesy of our gig with Gothamist. The $75 ticket (ah, press comps are the best) entitled poetry fans to readings from special guest readers Dianne Wiest, William Wegman, Mike Wallace, Wendy Whelan, Alan Alda, Oliver Sacks, Christopher Durang, Gloria Vanderbilt, Wynton Marsalis and Meryl Streep. There really is something to be said for poetry read aloud, especially by people with compelling delivery like this crowd. Marsalis's interpretation of Sterling A. Brown's "Ma Rainey" was a highlight, as he burst into deep, soulful a cappella part way through. Did you know that April is National Poetry Month? You do now.

- Our HBO On Demand has been all flooey and pixelated the last few days, so we called Time Warner tonight to ask what was up. Turns out, it's service wide with just HBO On Demand and they're trying hard to get it fixed as soon as possible. However, in the process CC decided to take the big plunge and switch to DVR while getting rid of On Demand. We hear this is going to change our life. But, it's been so long since we've modified our cable plan that it turns out we've been paying more than we need to for our service. Thus, this switch is not only giving us recorded Law and Order: Criminal Intent to our heart's fulfillment but we're also saving $16 to boot! How good is that?

- Finally, for dinner we stopped at our beloved St. Mark's Market and bought fresh flat leaf Italian parsley to sprinkle on our chicken sausage, spinach and garlic with whole wheat pasta. Have you chopped up fresh parsley lately? We highly recommend it -- it's like a burst of fresh springtime in your kitchen. The weather may be threatening a snow flurry tonight to dampen the lovely 60 degree days we've been having this past week but in Cinecultist's Eee Vee residence, it's decidedly spring.

Posted by karen at 11:45 AM |

April 2, 2006

Otakus: Even the Name For Anime Fans Is Cute

Learn more than you ever wanted to know about the Tokyo International Anime Fair from this article today in the New York Times. However, we were sad to read that cosplay, aka dressing up as characters in order to get off, wasn't allowed. No adult Sailor Moons wandering around, lookin' for luv? How boring.

Posted by karen at 10:25 AM |