March 4, 2008

Chuck Klosterman on Road Movies

In the current issue of The Believer, dude extraordinaire Chuck Klosterman essayifies on that tried and true genre, the road movie. Recently, we'd decided our previous opinion of Klosterman's writing (mostly self-important, not a lot of there there) was misguided* but with this article, Cinecultist has gone back to sort of hating him.

As usual, Klosterman seems to have missed the forest for the trees, deftly writing around the main issue in a wholly unsatisfying and overtly-intellectualized way. He argues that road movies always lead the characters back to the beginning, are about reinvention, or discovering geography. Sometimes they have no structure, sometimes they have a strict three act structure. Maybe the point is nothing happens, maybe the point is something big happens. Klosterman throws all of these ideas out there for contemplation, and doesn't really pass final judgment on any of them.

But road movies, to our mind, aren't ever solely about asphalt or cars or nature versus society. They're about the externalization of that internal quest to know ourselves. Here's where we go a little Joseph Campbell: As the hero travels, exiting his home base/comfort zone, encountering archetypes and solving minor roadblocks, he comes to learn who he is. He may be traveling down the road in a car, but he's really trekking into his psyche. That's why 2001 is an interesting inclusion into the road movie genre—the road into space is a metaphor for Dave's real journey into that 18th century white alien room, ie. his mind.

Another annoyance from this essay is that Klosterman cites a lot of great examples of road movies like Easy Rider, Thelma and Louise, Old Joy and Two-Lane Blacktop (Most. Boring. Movie. Ever.) but neglects Cinecultist's fav, and the subject of a high school English AP paper we wrote about road stories in literature: The Muppet Movie. Kermit, a banjo, and a bunch of fuzzy buddies in a Studebaker going to Hollywood? How could Chuck have missed that one? Perhaps just like Fozzie, Klosterman learned to drive by correspondence school.

The Muppet Movie
*CC recently donated to This American Life for the CD Kings of Nonfiction, a dialog between host Ira Glass and writers Susan Orlean, Malcolm Gladwell and Chuck Klosterman at Town Hall. In this context, Chuck's writing or if you prefer, riffing about KISS for 600 words, seemed to have purpose. Obviously, we were wrong.

February 28, 2008

Good Excuses to Click Through

Shooting Down Pictures hates on San Francisco Chronicle critic Mick LaSalle for boldly admitting he hasn't seen some canonical cinema classics and then tossing off cursory reviews of them. Cinecultist used to read LaSalle religiously when we lived in the Bay Area too, and he even emailed to wish CC a happy 22nd birthday following a column in our college newspaper. But dude, LaSalle, you hadn't seen 2001 or Blade Runner? Jeez.

Amy Monaghan on Radar lists some of the most misogynistic movies of the '00s. We say "right on, sister!" for calling out Superbad and My Super Ex-Girlfriend. These are not pro-lady movies.

• In our Movie Binge review of Garfield 2: A Tail of Two Kitties, Cinecultist contemplated the oddity of Garfield's premise, ie. that Jon Arbuckle is basically talking to himself when he chats with his fat tabby cat. In this inspired tumblr blog, the author has literally erased that lasagna eating cat and produced a hilarious, yet almost unsettling nihilistic strip. Is it wrong to laugh at a character who seems so close to the edge of sanity?

February 10, 2008

Chatting with NYT's Break Through Amy Ryan

Amy Ryan, flanked by John Ashton and Ed Harris, as Helene in Gone Baby Gone.

On Friday night the New York Times magazine hosted a conversation between editor Lynn Hirschberg and two of their featured subjects (and Oscar nominees) in this week's story on Breaking Through actresses Ellen Page and Amy Ryan, as well as Juno director Jason Reitman. After the fascinating hour and a half conversation, which featured discussions of their work in Juno and Gone Baby Gone as well as a cameo from portfolio photographer Ryan McGinley, Cinecultist had the opportunity to speak one on one with Amy in the green room. The critically lauded (she was nominated for two Tonys and now the best supporting Oscar nod) down-to-earth stage and screen actor couldn't have been nicer—she even complimented CC on our favorite earrings.

It’s so great to meet you because I’ve been talking about your performance ever since I saw it.
Oh, gosh. Thank you.

Something I thought that was interesting that you brought up in the talk tonight was that in your theater career, and then again in your movie career, you’ve had these breakthroughs and I wondered if there was anything that you thought was similar about these two moments?
It is similar to what Ellen was saying about when you read a script and it’s somewhat inexplicable, but your body is just propelling you forward [to do the project]. I think the common thread is that when I first read Uncle Vanya and actually Streetcar, these two plays, I thought 'I have to play these parts.' And when I read Capote, I knew this was a role I had to play, Marie Dewey. I just had to. It was the complexity of her being star struck in tandem with her neighbors just being murdered. What does that feel like, to be this person? I wanted to figure that out. And then with Helene [in Gone Baby Gone], how do you play a drug addict who is considering the fame and also wondering if her daughter is alive or dead, just trying to survive?

So it’s more about the chance to play a certain role rather than, 'Now the world will know me and I’ll have a chance to be famous?'
No, never had that. I remember when I was a kid seeing a play with a famous actress in it and I remember saying to my mom, ‘I hope I’m good before I’m famous.’ Because when you’re famous people will tell you you’re good.

I’m glad this has happened later in my life because I know I’m good at some things, but there’s going to be a lot of things that I know I’m shitty at. At least I know what I know now. Because I wasn’t as smart as Ellen, I keep having to remind myself of her age! She’s a phenomenal, grounded, intelligent person. Man, this girl is impressive. [Ed note. Up close Ellen Page is also very, very tiny. So much sardonic for such a little package.]

I know!
Because I didn’t have that, so I’m glad that it happened later in life.

And do you think being a New York actress, and being based here, is about that too?
For me it is. First of all there’s nothing like coming back home to New York where any other block you walk down, someone’s story is bigger than your own. You’re not the star. You’re not the center of attention. Everyone has a drama on each new block. Also after drama school I didn’t go back into training, I just started training by watching behavior in the streets and the subways. In that sense I need New York, I need that. I think it’s the balance of life.

Do you have a favorite place to watch movies in New York?
I watch movies on my wall now in my house, because I have a projector. But to go to the movies, nothing beats the Zeigfeld. You feel like you’ve stepped back in time. You feel like you have to get dressed up to go to the movies there. I also really appreciate—even though I do think the screens are too small—but I love a rainy day with no plans and you walk by the Angelika. They always have something interesting and worth seeing. I do wish their screens were a little bigger but that’s New York real estate.

Posted by karen at 10:34 PM | Amy Ryan, NYT, Oscar race | Comments (0)

February 8, 2008

So You Wanna Be a Film Critic

If you're looking to break into the film criticism racket, the second annual Moving Image Institute in Film Criticism and Feature Writing is now calling for entries to their five day program in April. "With sessions at the Museum and at production facilities and offices in Manhattan, members of the Institute will learn about the art and business of film from leading directors, editors, composers, screenwriters, publicists, and executives. Fellows will also have the opportunity to attend a weekly meeting between editors and writers of The New York Times." Sounds like geeky good fun, right? Cinecultist knows someone who attended last year and gave the program high marks.

They're looking for budding Pauline Kael's who've had at least one year of profession journalism experience. Send your home address and email; your employer’s name, address, and email; 350 words describing your experience as it relates to film criticism and/or arts writing; 350 words describing a likely/hoped for outcome of your participation in this institute; two published writing samples (These pieces need not be about film) and two professional references (including name, title, address, email, and telephone) to Film Institute, Museum of the Moving Image, 35 Avenue at 36 Street, Astoria, NY 11106. Email to: They'll pick 12 participants, so good luck!

In other professional development/mentoring news, Cinecultist volunteered to be a part of the "take a student to lunch" program at our alma mater, UC Davis. Two eager young Aggies should be contacting CC in the next few weeks for a chat, which should be interesting. (Though we'll be surprised if we can do the actual "lunch" part since the students will be living in California and we're in New York, but that didn't seem to stop UCD from putting our name in the pool.) We felt utterly clueless and lost when we graduated from college, so Cinecultist will be happy to pass along any words of encouragement and advice from the past 9 years that we can.

January 11, 2008

Age-Appropriate and other Misnomers

What movies are appropriate for children? is the subject of A.O. Scott's well-written essay in today's New York Times. This very topic has been on the Cinecultist brain lately too, between hanging out with our 11-year-old brother and 14-year-old sister over the holidays and writing reviews for, a parenting website. "If it's PG-13, should we write a review about it?" is often a discussion between CC and our editor.

When Cinecultist thinks back to the movies we loved as a child, a huge chunk of them were not children's movies per se. As Scott writes, it's great for kids to feel challenged by their entertainment. Why does everything have to be so sanitized and stripped of all points controversial? Surely there are bloody, disturbing movies like No Country For Old Men out in theaters now that should be avoided with a kid in tow, but something like Persopolis would be perfect for my politics-minded little sister.

When CC, our 27-year-old sister and her boyfriend wanted to take our little brother to the movies over the vacation, we all went to see National Treasure: Book of Secrets. It seemed safe for him and entertaining enough for us. During a few of the more suspenseful moments, CC turned to look at Mark and noticed he had pulled his feet up onto his seat and had his fingers in his ears. Smart strategy: he didn't want to hear the explosion that was about to happen but he wanted to know the outcome. Despite a few of those anxious moments, Mark totally dug the movie and all the way home was asking us if he could become a treasure hunter. When we all encouraged him to let his imagination fly, he seemed a little skeptical but still excited about learning more about his own ancestors just like Nic Cage's character does. Movies do have the power to thrill and inspire, especially for children. They don't always have to fluffy and G rated.

pirates4.jpgAnd speaking of CC's Kaboose reviews, you can read our opinions of Water Horse: Legend of the Deep and The Pirates Who Don't Do Anything: A VeggieTales Movie on their site. Regarding the Veggies, it was perhaps one of the more boring flicks we've reviewed but at least the angry Cheetos were cute.

January 10, 2008

Talking Back to Misleading Trailers

Last week in his email column, New York Times technology writer David Pogue sounded off against the misleading nature of some movie trailers, particularly National Treasure: Book of Secrets. Basically, Pogue was miffed that scenes so prominently featured in the teaser were no where to be found in the final $11.75 product and thought it amounted to false advertising.

This week he published some of the responses that email column got, including an interesting one from National Treasure's director Jon Turteltaub. Cinecultist enjoyed his trenchant response so much that we thought we'd quote it (especially because the column isn't up on the NYT site yet). We like mental image of Turteltaub watching a trailer for a movie he made and panicking that maybe he'd cut out the best parts. Poor directors, yet another thing to obsess over when trying to control your film.

“Yeah... the trailer issue is a weird one. At some point, we all wonder if there’s something misleading in the advertising if the scenes shown aren’t in the movie... but apparently, the studios and all their lawyers feel it’s not a legal problem.

“Basically, what happens is that as we film a movie, the ‘dailies’ are sent to the marketing department. They cut together the trailers LONG before we have had time to cut the movie together. The first trailer for Book of Secrets was finished when we were only halfway through the filming!

“Then, as we cut the movie, they get revised scenes and try their best to use what we give them, but often, the ship has sailed. They’ve finished a fun, great trailer without knowing whether the scenes will end up in the movie. Plus, scenes can get cut out at the last minute for all sorts of reasons... running time, they test badly, or they just don’t fit.

“What’s funny is that the filmmakers do exactly what you do. I was watching the final trailer for my movie, saying what you said: ‘Ummm....that’s not in the movie, that’s not in the movie, THAT’S not in the movie.’ But then I respond by saying, ‘Uh oh, did we cut out all the best parts???’

“The fact is, what works in a trailer isn’t necessarily what works in the full feature. Dialogue that is really blatantly clear and ‘explainy’ is GREAT in a trailer. Profound statements like ‘Let’s find that treasure!’ work in a 30-second commercial, but come out pretty lame in a real dialogue scene.

“For me, the biggest problem that comes up is when the trailers and TV spots don’t reflect the essence of the movie they are selling. You see that a LOT. The studio often feels that the movie they made isn’t a movie they can sell... so they sell it as a different movie. That can help fill seats on opening weekend, but it usually backfires. Personally, I think that’s what happened to Sweeney Todd. Perhaps they didn’t want anyone to know it was bloody, gory and a musical. So they hid that. What happens is that the wrong audience sees the movie on opening weekend, and the word of mouth is all wrong. Great movies can get lost because of this.”

January 3, 2008

Will This Meeting Come to Order?

The ever-enjoyable and thought-provoking Dana Stevens at Slate has called the annual Movie Club to order. First topic of convo: David Fincher's Zodiac and fellow debaters Nathan Lee, Wesley Morris and Scott Foundas's obvious Fincher love. Funny, Cinecultist and our fellow Fincher admirer Ilana were just discussing our love for Zodiac last night over beers at The Smith.

Stevens writes that "David Fincher has always seemed like a niche director to me, an expert spelunker into remote corners of the male psyche who never brings back quite enough from his travels to justify the descent," (ha) but CC disagrees. Or rather, the thing we found most intriguing (and ultimately resonant) about Zodiac is the way Fincher seems to be interrogating the very project of investigation and the thriller genre. By refusing to make one character the ultimate mystery solver and by scattering the movie's action across decades, he seems to be laughing in the face of our ability to catch evil-doers. Law and Order's Jack McCoy may be able to get the killer to confess in 50-odd minutes, but in Fincher's world, it's not so easy. And this from a director who was made famous by his tidy crime solving movie Se7en. Now he wants to spend 2 and a half hours exploring a story without a tidy conclusion, and that seems worthy of admiration and predictions of cinema history placement in our book.

Please keep clicking through at the above link for the other critics' responses, they're all quite well written. (BTW, Morris agrees with CC's opinion on Zodiac but we heartily disagree with his worship of Southland Tales. That Kelly mess put CC to sleep, literally.)

December 19, 2007

Linkage for Your Mid Week Blues

This week the Cinecultist weighed in on Alvin and the Chipmunks over at The filmmakers are pretty much pandering to the lowest common denominator when it comes children's entertainment, but we still think the fat, sentimental chipmunk Theodore is awfully cute.

Focus Films has launched a new website with tons of original content called FilminFocus. Check it out, there's lots to enjoy from features on Focus films like Atonement, a look back at film history from that corresponding week and interviews with smart movie bloggers like our friend Andrew Grant.

Have you gotten a $1 promotional movie ticket from Fandango yet? It's a sweet deal, you just send a text on Wednesdays and they text you a code. Could be good for some cheap seats during the holiday vacation.

The Backlash Has Begun, and You're Looking At Him

Run, Judd, Run.*

*This video is why Judd Apatow is sorta an evil genius. It's like he anticipated CC's bitchy/bored response to his saturation of the comedy landscape and cutesy viral marketing overload, then mocked it. Plus, the Paul Rudd eye candy combined with some self-deprecating Jewish jokes will always win Cinecultist over.

How about you, do you think you will ever get sick of Judd Apatow and his gang?

December 18, 2007

Looking Back on 2007, Viewing-Wise

The Cinecultist has been slightly under the weather lately, so while trying to take it easy this weekend we constructed our top 10 list for 2007. Now granted, CC still have two weeks worth of screenings we could (and probably will) try to cram in, so bear that in mind when you analyze our choices. Looking back it's been a strong year for drama, full of dysfunctional families, cultural malaise and senseless violence at the movies. But, CC still managed to toss a musical comedy, a Western and a summer action blockbuster on the pile. Because basically that's how we roll, viewing taste-wise.

After the jump, we also listed the rest of the movies we saw this year divided into the categories stuff we liked, stuff that we are now indifferent to and stuff that is just painful to recall. When you watch this many movies in a year (nearly two a week, on average! and that's not counting dvds or repertory), sometimes you have to sit through utter garbage. But if Cinecultist didn't suffer a little, we know we'd never discover the hidden gems, those little features that make this delightful obsession all worth while.

1. No Country for Old Men
2. There Will Be Blood
3. The Savages $ @
4. Michael Clayton @
5. The Bourne Ultimatum @
6. The Wind that Shakes the Barley
7. Enchanted $ @
8. I’m Not There
9. The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford $
10. Zodiac $
(special award) 4 Months, 3 Weeks, 2 Days (saw this year, but comes out in January and it’s amazing.) @

$ = paid money to see
@ = didn’t watch alone

Saw and Enjoyed
Catch and Release. Jennifer Garner at a grieving granola chick in the Pacific Northwest kind of hit a cord for us.

The Lives of Others. East Berlin was not a happy place but this is a great movie.

The Namesake. Kal Penn rewards us for our long term support of Harold and Kumar Go To White Castle. $ @

Blades of Glory. Funnier than you’d expect a one-note comedy about ice skating should be.

Black Book. Only Paul Verhoeven would dare make Nazis sexy.

The TV Set. If you’re lovin’ Juno, give Reitman’s other fellow second generation director Jake Kasdan's feature from this year a go.

Year of the Dog. How much do you love Peter Sarsgaard’s asexual vegetarian dog rescuer?

Hot Fuzz. Simon Pegg makes darn funny movies.

Waitress. $ The affection for Kerry Russell is not unfounded.

Fay Grim. Hal Hartley still makes movies that make us think.

Once. Bringing back the musical, one busking Irishman at a time.

Knocked Up. CC laughed until it hurt during our screening but we got tired of the over-enthusiasm and subsequent backlash against this movie.

La Vie en Rose. Marion Cottilard is a revelation in this one.

A Mighty Heart. @ Just pretend this isn’t an Angelina Jolie movie.

Broken English. This is how neurotic real New York single women are.

Ratatouille. $ Paris, this is my town baby.

Rescue Dawn. Christian Bale, you are the man. Steve Zahn isn’t too shabby either.

Sunshine. Like Solaris and 2001 but with Michelle Yeoh in it.

Exiled. Bad ass Asian gangsters but with a Western twist.

3:10 to Yuma. @ Better than we expected for a nouveau Western with Russell Crowe.

Into the Wild. Sean Penn brings out lots of great quiet performances and some gorgeous scenery.

My Kid Could Paint That. Quite well edited, and we’re not just saying that because we’re friends with the editor.

Lars and the Real Girl. $ @ Ryan Gosling does it again.

Gone Baby Gone. @ Amy Ryan is our favorite new discovery of the year.

Persopolis. A good, woman-centric story about life in a part of the world we want to know more about.

Juno. $ Ellen Page is great though the script has some overly cutesy moments to it.

Sat Through
The Water Horse
The Kite Runner
Alvin and the Chipmunks
The Golden Compass
Southland Tales $ @
Margot at the Wedding @
Mr. Magorium’s Wonder Emporium
Lions for Lambs
Bee Movie
Elizabeth: The Golden Age
The Darjeeling Limited
Transformers (saw on an airplane, okay?)
Sydney White
The Jane Austen Book Club $
The Brave One
December Boys
I Want Someone to Eat Cheese With
The Nanny Diaries
Mr. Bean’s Holiday
Super Bad @
The Invasion
The Last Legion $
Becoming Jane
El Cantante $
No Reservations
Goya’s Ghosts $ @
Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix $ @
License to Wed
You Kill Me
Ocean’s Thirteen $ @
Mr. Brooks @
Pirates of the Caribbean: At World’s End $
The Wendell Baker Story
Home of the Brave
The Ex
Paris, je t’aime
Private Fears in Public Places
Aqua Teen Hunger Force Colon Movie Film For Theaters
The Host
300 @
Avenue Montaigne
Music and Lyrics
Blood and Chocolate @
God Grew Tired of Us
Run, Fat Boy, Run (comes out next year)
The 11th Hour
Hannah Takes the Stairs
Great World of Sound $ @
Dans Paris
Day Night Day Night @
East of Havana
The Wayward Cloud @
Tears of the Black Tiger

Want/Need to See Before the Oscars
Sweeney Todd
Charlie Wilson’s War
The Diving Bell and the Butterfly
Eastern Promises
Away From Her

Painful. Utterly Painful. That’s 2 Hours of Our Life We’ll Never Get Back
Because I Said So. Worst Mandy Moore movie ever. And that’s saying something. $ @
Exterminating Angels. This was an art house French film that was actually porn, but not in a good way.
Evening. Dear god, the cheesy flash back-induced pain. It still hurts.

December 14, 2007

More Opinions on Kiddie Movies

Over on, Cinecultist has been weighing in on the new releases for the youngsters. We gave Enchanted 3 1/2 stars, and The Golden Compass 3 stars (out of five), 3 stars for Mr. Magorium's Wonder Emporium because we have a soft spot for living toys and Jason Bateman, and a less-than-buzz-worthy review for Bee Movie. Har dee har har.

All of this kid flick viewing has reminded CC that we've got a sentimental interior, masked by our high heel-wearing, Eee Vee-dwelling cynical exterior.

October 11, 2007

More NYFF coverage

Some Cinecultist thoughts on...

* Margot at the Wedding (published on Metromix)

* I'm Not There (published on Metromix)

* Our halfway mark recap on Gothamist

Posted by karen at 8:28 PM | Metromix, NYFF | Comments (0)

October 2, 2007


Cinecultist has been writing up a storm lately, just not on this blog. Please click through to check out our hard work. We're quite pleased with all of these endeavors.

2007_10_arts_tominecover.jpgWe interviewed cartoonist and great storyteller Adrian Tomine for Gothamist today. CC really enjoyed his new book Shortcomings, though Tomine's depiction of relationships can be pretty bleak. We were happy to learn that Tomine just got married, so all of that cynical energy isn't debilitating. (We also revealed in our interview that we have the New Yorker cover at right up in our apartment and have already gotten a bunch of response that other folks do too! So there are still some hopeless romantic saps in this town.)

Over on the parenting website Kaboose, Cinecultist recommended taking the kids to see December Boys and Sydney White. Getting paid to think and write about our love for The Bynes? It's a good world, people.

Also, CC is trying to work in as many New York Film Festival screenings as we can. We wrote a feature about the opening night film The Darjeeling Limited for Metromix last week. It was a movie CC had been hedging out bets on, assuming it was going to be as bad or worse than Life Aquatic but we actually found it to be quite charming. So our love for adorable Wes Anderson, his khaki suits and his reluctant quirk continues. This afternoon we're seeing Todd Haynes' Dylan movie I'm Not There and expect to be totally blown away. We also are looking forward to Persepolis which is the closing night film and is showing to press next week. Marjane Satrapi is another one of our favorite authors/illustrators and we're psyched to see her speak at the press conference. Oh and if your were curious, this year our press pass has CC's picture on it not some random other critic. Hooray.

September 4, 2007

New Writing Gig and Mr. Bean

Cinecultist has a new reviewing outlet with the parenting website With two much younger siblings and an inherently light-hearted view on movies, we thought we'd be well suited to watch some kid-centric movies and tell their parents if they should shell out the admission price. Although we will say taking detailed notes on how many times there's nudity or swearing in a movie is an odd, slightly prurient sensation.

Our first feature for Kaboose was the Rowan Atkinson slapstick comedy sequel Mr. Bean's Holiday. While this kind of simplistic comedy isn't really CC's cup of tea, we couldn't help but be struck by how much the kids in the audience really seemed to enjoy the movie, so we gave it a surprisingly favorable review. As we know from experience, if you take a kid to the movies and he's laughing so hard he can barely stay in his seat, you're lack of amusement pales in comparison to his good time.

July 6, 2007

Pre-Release Movie Reviews Are the New Black

Cinecultist is not sure when a review of a movie a week or two before its release became such a big "get" but apparently in the rarefied world inhabited by arts editors of New York tabloids it is.

Via the New York Times (with a distinct tone of *snicker* in their reportage):

"The two New York tabloids and their movie critics...have been duking it out all summer to be first to publish their reviews of major Hollywood releases. Both reviewed Sicko, Michael Moore’s documentary, exactly 10 days before its scheduled release. (The Post panned it; The News raved.) Both reviewed Live Free or Die Hard the Sunday before its official opening on June 27.

The Post even flew its critic Lou Lumenick to London to attend the British premiere of Spider-Man 3 so that he could publish his review on April 24 — a week and a half before it opened in Manhattan.

A touch ridiculous, right?

Posted by karen at 1:23 PM | | Comments (0)

April 10, 2007

Monks Heart Hobbits

Cinecultist had heard from our friends over at Film Forum that Into Great Silence, the three hour nearly silent documentary about Carthusian monks, has been a huge hit for them but this week's Talk of the Town confirmed it. “We had to turn away a hundred people,” an employee told the New Yorker reporter. “It’s ridiculously popular.”

An even better bit in this piece than the always happy news of sell-out shows at FF was the detail that New York's only Carthusian monk Father Michael Holleran loves Peter Jackson's Lord of the Rings. When commenting on the noisiness of the city and the quest for spiritual enlightenment in our modern age, Father Holleran totally geeked out thusly: “The battle, like fighting the Balrog in the dwarf caves, is defeating the noise inside you,” he said.

Spiritual dude, that Balrog was totally awesome. I feel you, man. BTW, CC still has in the freezer our novelty sample of Chartreuse*, the emerald green liquor made by the Carthusian monks and named after their home region in France, which we received as a publicity tie-in at the press screening of Into Great Silence. Maybe we should bust it out next time Frodo et al is on TBS, just to give Father Holleran the shout out.

*Fun fact: Quentin Tarantino also like Chartreuse. He name checked it in his section of Grindhouse, as the drink o' choice for his bartender character in Death Proof.

March 6, 2007

You Say Good-bye, CC Says Bonjour

A day for sad news and happy news amongst movie periodical fans like the Cinecultist. Hachette Filipacchi Media is shuttering the print version of Premiere magazine after their upcoming April issue. They will be continuing to run things on the web though, according to the Los Angeles Times. Meanwhile on the other side of the pond, the legendary French film periodical Cahiers du Cinema is launching an English translated monthly e-version for those of us who like French opinions but can't read actual French. You can "flip" through an English version of part of the magazine now and the rest of the newest publication will be online as of March 9. [Flip version via GreenCine Daily.]

By the way, it's kind of a fun day for the Cinecultist when Reuters references André Bazin, but maybe that's just the cinema studies geek in us rearing its snarky head.

Question for the comments: Is the film criticism from Premiere still relevant (or was it ever)? Does the thought of a more accessible Cahiers sound exciting for the history buff only?

January 4, 2007

Our Top Ten in 2006

Over on Gothamist today, Cinecultist finally got around to posting our top 10 for 2006. Honestly, we've been thinking about this list for weeks but the more movies we see in a year, the harder is seems to get to make our definitive picks.

1. The Queen
2. Letters From Iwo Jima
3. Half Nelson
4. Old Joy
5. Volver
6. Shortbus
7. A Guide To Recognizing Your Saints
8. Last King of Scotland
9. Woman on the Beach
10. Iraq in Fragments

Worth An Honorable Mention (in no particular order):
Children of Men, 13 Tzameti, The Puffy Chair, Man Push Cart, Miss Potter, Perfume, Notes on A Scandal, The Pursuit of Happyness, The Holiday, Casino Royale, Babel, Marie Antoinette, The Science of Sleep, Sherrybaby, Talladega Nights, Brothers of the Head, The Devil Wears Prada, The Road to Guantanamo, Lady Vengeance, United 93, Brick, Inside Man, 16 Blocks, Dave Chappelles Block Party, Tristram Shandy, Tristan & Isolde, Gabrielle, No Restraint

After the jump is the full list of all of the new releases we saw in the last 12 months. CC clocked in at over 100 this year, and remember that doesn't include repertory movies or DVDs. So for all of those critics who've put Army of Shadows at the top of their lists, Cinecultist says to them "Cop out dudes!" American audiences may have not ever seen this Jean-Pierre Melville movie but it was made in 1969 and thus doesn't count.

Last Holiday (on the plane)
Tristan and Isolde*
Tristram Shandy: A Cock & Bull Story*
16 Blocks*
Dave Chappelles Block Party*
Failure to Launch
Inside Man*
Friends With Money
Hard Candy
American Dreamz
United 93*
Lady Vengeance (NYFF)*
Mission Impossible III (on a plane)
Art School Confidential
Down in the Valley
Just My Luck
The Da Vinci Code
X-Men 3
The Break Up
Garfield 2: A Tale of Two Kitties
The Lake House
The Road to Guantanamo *
Superman Returns
The Devil Wears Prada*
The Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Mans Chest
A Scanner Darkly
Minis First Time
The Oh in Ohio
My Super Ex Girlfriend
Little Miss Sunshine
Miami Vice
Brothers of the Head*
The Night Listener
Talladega Nights: the Ballad of Ricky Bobby*
Step Up
the Aura
Half Nelson*
Material Girls
The Wicker Man
This Film Is Not Yet Rated
Riding Along for Thousands of Miles
The Covenant
The Last Kiss
Al Franken: God Spoke
The Ground Truth
The Science of Sleep*
The Last King of Scotland*
School for Scoundrels
A Guide to Recognizing Your Saints*
The Queen*
Employee of the Month
Marie Antoinette*
A Good Year
Harsh Times
Fur: An Imaginary Portrait of Diane Arbus
Casino Royale*
For Your Consideration
The Fountain
The History Boys
The Architect
10 Items or Less
The Holiday*
Off the Black
The Pursuit of Happyness*
Home of the Brave
Letters from Iwo Jima*
The Painted Veil
Curse of the Golden Flower
Notes on a Scandal*
Perfume: The Story of a Murderer*
Miss Potter*
The Piano Tuner of Earthquakes
This Filthy World
Flannel Pajamas
What Is It?
Old Joy*
Man Push Cart*
Wrestling With Angels
My Father is 100 Years Old
Bergmans Island
Mutual Appreciation
Le Petit Lieutenant
The Puffy Chair*
13 Tzameti*
The Good Shepherd
Triad Election
The Host
Woman on the Beach*
Gridiron Gang
Iraq in Fragments*
The Photographer, His Wife and Her Lover

Posted by karen at 12:41 PM |

December 4, 2006

Fandango Wants Our Opinion

Over the weekend Cinecultist did that rare thing in our obsessive movie-going lifestyle, we actually bought a ticket to see a film in the theaters. We'd missed the preview screenings of The History Boys and thought it might be worth a watch. If you ever go to the movies here in New York, or really any major American city these days, you know trying to get into a flick over the weekend can be tough sometimes, so CC bought ahead on Fandango.

Like a lot of online businesses these days, Fandango keeps track of all of your vital info, from your purchasing frequency to your favorite spending locations. In our account you can see all the movies CC's bought online over the last few years which is sort of a fun exercise in personal anthropology. Then today we got an email from those info trackers at Fandango asking CC to log on and rate The History Boys for a potential gift of up to $100. Our interest piqued, we clicked through the email to a log in page. Fandango wanted to know about our social habits and viewing preferences besides movies, to place in a public profile. We filed a bit of the most innocuous details about ourself and then proceeded to The History Boys page. We were asked to rate the movie on a scale of 1 to 5 (from Oh No! to Must Go!) and then fill in a review.

This kind of thing always tickles the Cinecultist and makes us rub our hands in evil glee because when companies or publicists at advance movie screenings ask for our opinion, they really don't know what they're getting themselves into. For god's sake, CC has an advance degree in being an obnoxious movie goer! We've been trained in this field but some of its leaders.

Afterwards we tried to click back to see our review online, but it doesn't seem to be up quite yet. Maybe they have to approve the reviews first, make sure no one uses some crazy obscenities or gives a rave review of Deck the Halls. Anyhow, here was our opinion, just in case Fandango tries to censor our lukewarm response to the flick.


I'd read a certain amount about the award-winning play but hadn't seen it, so thought a film with the original cast would be the next best thing. However, I didn't think the reported energy and intensity from the stage production translated into a visual or gripping movie. While the acting was good, particularly Samuel Barnett, and the soundtrack of '80s hits were fun, the various monologues about learning, history and thinking for yourself didn't really come across as strongly as I would've expected. Only later when I was describing the film to friends, in particular the issues of homosexuality and relationship between teachers and students, did it come across as a more interesting film than while I was watching it. That very intangible quality of a movie to move from scene to scene with force is tough to quantify, and while I thought the History Boys was a good movie, it didn't have that "something" that could've made it great. Too bad.

After all of that work, of course it turned out that the $100 was towards discounted magazine subscriptions. Yick. If there's one thing CC doesn't need in our life is even more magazines filling up our tiny apartment. Advice to Fandango, use this user talk-back feature to award your clients with discounted concessions or a punch card towards free movies. That would be a good incentive. Also, CC sort of likes that idea that a community could grow on these movie ticket websites and movie lovers could dialogue or interface with each other on line. Any way for film fans to connect and argue seems like a good idea to Cinecultist.

Posted by karen at 6:31 PM |

November 28, 2006

This Is Why We Don't Let Filmmakers Talk Back

Happily indieWire has recently expanded their criticism coverage to include more frequent solo reviews from their Reverse Shot contributors. However, it seems that the open comments structure of the site can lead to some cranky talk back from the review's subjects.

In this week's review from the always astute Kristi Mitsuda, she takes issue with Thom Fitzgerald's 3 Needles, an AIDs drama with a very strong cast which Mitsuda argues has suspect politics towards women and a dogmatic tone. She writes, "No one could argue against greater collective action to end the proliferation of this deadly disease, but Fitzgerald's film bespeaks a dodgy humanitarianism which demands scrutiny." In a very lengthy comment below, Fitzgerald himself tells Mitsuda essentially, Ohh no you di-n't. Going for the cowardly "well, uh, you movie critics are even more lame than filmmakers" is never pretty. He comments, "My humanitarianism is dodgy indeed. I make movies for a living, and that's about as shallow a career as one could choose (except, maybe, writing about movies?).... If Montreal is too exotic a locale for her to relate to, then really only by making yet another film about AIDS in downtown New York City would be close enough to home. The extremely narrow limitation of her point of view also demands scrutiny."

Petulant directors -- yet another reason why being a critic is fun work and why CC doesn't allow comments on our site.

Posted by karen at 10:25 AM |

November 22, 2006

CC Does Live In The Village, After All

Just a brief note that you can now read the Cinecultist's review stylings over on The Village Voice, a rag we suppose we could call our hometown newspaper despite their current upheaval. This week we wrote about The Piano Tuner of Earthquakes, a beautiful movie by the Quay Brothers that we didn't understand, and This Filthy World, a concert film of sorts with John Waters tell stories about his movies and jokes that are in very poor taste.

Yes, it's true -- our net of critical influence gets wider and wider. We'll ensnare the whole known universe very soon.

Posted by karen at 11:17 AM |

November 14, 2006

What Cinecultist Would Bring To A Desert Island

maymatthieu.jpgOur friend Matty pointed us to this article from last weekend's New York Times magazine where 22 various funny performers and artists listed their 5 desert island comedy DVDs. As Matty noted, these kinds of lists are fun for comparing the listers with the items (is David Cross being hipster ironic when he calls the musical Rent a comedy?), and for adding to your Netflix queue.

For our Jane blog post today, CC came up with what would be the Cinecultist's Five. They include:
* Annie Hall -- This Woody Allen classic about mismatched love won the Oscar for best picture the year CC was born, but that's not the only reason it's on the list. From the lobsters behind the fridge to the subtitled first flirtatious conversations, Allen and Diane Keaton capture so memorably and hilariously the way couples fall for each other. It's a movie that every time we see it we see something new, a definite prerequisite for any Desert Island-worthy movie.

* All of Me -- It's tough to go wrong with early Steve Martin comedies, but this one from '84 which co-stars Lily Tomlin always leave us in stitches. Martin's prowess with physical comedy shines as he plays a lawyer possessed by a selfish, millionairess. Plus, the tender ending makes us a little teary too.

* A New Leaf -- (pictured above) Our Dad first introduced us to this Walter Matthau and Elaine May movie from 1971, and it never gets old. Matthau plays an aging playboy who's spent all his money so he needs to marry rich. He picks a doddering botanist (May, who also wrote and directed the film) with a penchant for sparkling sweet wine, then plots to kill her. As J. Hoberman points out in this Village Voice essay, May is one of the real comedic greats and worth exploring if you're unfamiliar with her work.

* When Brendan Met Trudy -- Cinecultist has forced whole audiences of people to sit through this Irish comedy from 2000, and we've never heard one complaint. Written by renowned author Roddy Doyle, it tells the love story of a nebbish school teacher who's obsessed with the movies and the irreverent, blonde thief he falls for. This movie can be tough to find but it is available on DVD, maybe request it from your local store that has a good selection of foreign films.

* Coming To America -- A big factor in our decision making process for this list was how many times CC could sit through any given movie, and this one starring Eddie Murphy and Arsenio Hall, we've probably seen about 30 times. The plot is a little silly (an African prince wants to marry for love and travels to Queens, NY to find his bride), but all of Murphy's ability with characters and crazy makeup jobs are in tip top shape. Also, the scene where Murphy sings drunkenly on the streets of Queens after a great night with his lady love (and the New Yorkers subsequent responses) is just delightful.

Posted by karen at 2:18 PM |

November 8, 2006

Amber Tamblyn Fan Club Meeting Held Here

1106cover.jpgJust between Cinecultist, you and the internet, we kinda love Amber Tamblyn. Sure, she was a child soap star, and she writes super earnest poetry, but she's a lovely young actress. Even before she took the reporter at Nylon magazine to a magicians' clubhouse in LA for their cover story interview, we suspected she was actually kinda cool. After all she's a self-professed feminist, when most women in Hollywood just want to be ingnues and her new movie Stephanie Daley, about a teenager who leaves her newborn to die, sounds seriously intense.

You can read the entire November issue of Nylon in a downloadable pdf format, flipping through the pages and zooming into the images fancy pants style. CC still loves the feeling of a hefty, glossy magazine in our hands, but the more content archived and easy to access on the internet the better. We hope more and more publications adopt this technology, it's pretty versatile and potentially exciting. Imagine the possibilities for dynamic links.

In other magazine news: We'd also like to thank our editor Julie at for inviting us to Sarah's birthday party last night. CC is very happy to be even a small part of a women's magazine that throws parties with free drinks, pizza AND cupcakes for their guests. Sweet!

Posted by karen at 8:10 AM |

November 7, 2006

Grassroot Graham


Cinecultist just finished watching today's episode of Gilmore Girls, and we have to comment that it's almost as though the writers got an advance copy of Virginia Heffernan's smack-down in the Times today. The banter was definitely back up a notch from previous episodes this season. As a major fan of this show since the first season, we can understand Heffernan's almost slavish devotion to Amy Sherman-Palladino's role as creator. We too have been second guessing the current producers and writers decisions at ever turn so far this season. 'Is that really what Lorelai would say? Would she really reference that particular, quite mainstream, film?' (See Lauren Graham's recent rant against Snakes on a Plane. A S-P's Lorelai probably would've dug Samuel L. Jackson and his motherfucking snakes.)

But all over-analysis aside, we do agree with Heffernan's thesis that Lauren Graham is a brilliant, brilliant performer who is underutilized in Hollywood. Good news on that horizon though: She costars with the ever side-splitting Steve Carell in Evan Almighty, the sequel of sorts to Jim Carrey's Bruce Almighty. It doesn't come out until this coming June, so for now CC will continue to weigh each new GG episode carefully, keep watching old eps in syndication, and begin a quiet but insistent grassroots campaign for Lauren Graham's big Hollywood recognition. That girl deserves a break, she works her cute butt off.

Semi-related: CC really enjoyed this interview by Terry Gross with Sherman-Palladino on Fresh Air last year.

[Pictured: Graham (at left) with GG co-star Alexis Bledel.]

Posted by karen at 9:57 PM |

October 30, 2006

NYT Snark and Ridley Scott

In the New York Times today, writer John Leland reports on the new Ridley Scott movie American Gangster starring Russell Crowe and Denzel Washington.

Unlike when say Coppola or Scorsese sat down to make a gangster movie, the genre now has a whole host of meanings and connotations for an American audience. For Scott and producer Brian Grazer, the analysis of gangsters as a type and a trope are a big part of making this movie, according to the piece. Though unfortunately this deep thinking can lead to cloudy statements difficult to parse by journalists. Evidence (complete with snarky embedded response):

"I like to think in terms of a grand generic notion of an American gangster, as opposed to the American gangster, [Scott] said. Because there are too many famous and infamous American gangsters over the last century. The notion of American Gangster is almost like a new evolution of the adjustment of change. Change in this instance cost the Mafia the main precedence at the time, because they were having to buy the idea of progress in the idea of a black businessman.' (Somehow, when he talked to actors and his four camera teams, they seemed to follow him without decryption devices.)"

Oh, snap.

Posted by karen at 10:09 AM |

September 26, 2006

It's Not Easy Being Middling

You don't hate it, but you don't love itthus is the difficult life of the film critic. Recently, Cinecultist wrote about The Science of Sleep and Flyboys for Radar and the Movie Binge, respectively. We couldn't rave about either one, though they both had elements that were of interest and were entertaining, in their own way.

This has been one of our big dilemmas lately, if you can even call our movie going problems such a hyperbolic term. When you see as many movies as the Cinecultist been watching in a given week, it takes a lot for any one flick to rise above the rabble. We're not complaining about having to sit through most of them, because mostly we love just sitting in a darkened theater, but should we really recommend this "just okay" movie to a person who doesn't want to see every single film that comes through town? Also, what to do about a movie like The Science of Sleep that is of note because it was made by Michel Gondry, and compelling to CC within a director's oeuvre, but a movie that's kind of odd just judged on its own? Some people will want to see it despite our misgivings, but we have to be guarded in our recommendation. After all, if you go nutso for every single movie that comes out, how will anyone know what your taste really is?

Posted by karen at 4:22 PM |

September 25, 2006

Foodie By Day, Sex Film Reporter by Night

Gawker likes to rib the New York Times' food critic Frank Bruni about the often baroque metaphors peppering his reviews, but Cinecultist reads his column and blog faithfully each week. Like the best examples of criticism, Bruni in his food writing knows how to both turn a witty phrase and illuminate his experience sitting in a particular restaurant on a particular night.

That's why Cinecultist was intrigued to see Bruni reporting this weekend on John Cameron Mitchell's new movie, the already infamous art house porn, Shortbus. This seems to be a subject that's off Bruni's usual beat.

Yet the piece still contains typical examples of Bruni's literary-meets-cabaret-rim-shot humor. "Mr. Mitchell said sex was a way to look at characters longings 'Theyre trying desperately to connect,' he explained, making the inspiration for Shortbus sound like E. M. Forster by way of Marilyn Chambers. Perhaps he should have titled it 'A Passage to Orgasm.'" Wocka, wocka. Not surprisingly, the article makes the production of the film sound almost more interesting than the finished product. Hopefully, JCM will think about including a making of documentary or other supporting material on the DVD.

Related: Our friends over at Hamburger Today also interviewed him recently for their "Grilled" feature.

Posted by karen at 10:04 AM |

September 8, 2006

Elsewhere, for CC and Others

Yesterday, Sharon Waxman contemplated in the New York Times about whether Sacha Baron Cohen's Borat movie is subtle anti-anti-Semetic commentary or something else less political. It's playing at Toronto, btw and CC can hardly wait for it to open here.

There's going to be an interview with Laura Albert, aka professional liar and creative force behind the literary persona J.T. Leroy, in the up coming Paris Review according to the New York Post today. As we've mentioned before elsewhere, CC conversed with "Leroy" over the phone for various La Day Jobs so we've super curious to read what crazy town has to say as herself in print.

Cinecultist interviewed director Ramin Bahrani whose film, Man Push Cart, comes out today for Gothamist. Please don't miss this movie, it'll be playing at the Angelika and for the graceful New York photography alone is worth a viewing.

Posted by karen at 5:01 PM |

September 6, 2006

Wicker Is The Worst Material For Furniture

Nic Cage and Ellen Burstyn in The Wicker Man

Periodically, films will not be available for review before their release and Neil Labute's new movie starring Nicholas Cage, The Wicker Man was one of them. This became a bit of a thorn in the Cinecultist side over the last few weeks because we had an assignment to review it. So, with pride (and a notebook) in hand, CC reluctantly shelled out $11 of our hard earned dollars for the first screening on Friday. We won't lie to you and tell you it was a happy experience, mostly Wicker was like the furniture material boring, lack luster and in a few moment, completely laughable.

From the first moments of this movie, Labute plays it completely by the book. First up, rote psychological causality. Cage's character Edward is a hardworking, good guy cop in California. However, when he pulls over a young Mom and her daughter to return the little blonde girl's dolly, his do gooder-ness is thwarted as the car is slammed by a semi before it bursts into flames. Edward is understandably rattled by this emasculating experience, so when a pleading letter from his former fiancee arrives asking for help finding her missing blonde daughter, Edward leaps to the rescue. From this point on, we're subjected to one tiny blonde in danger fantasy from Edward after another. Every time there's a lull in the action, a blondie pops up and then is mowed down but an imaginary semi. It's distracting to say the least.

Meanwhile, Edward arrives on the mysterious island of Summersisle and doesn't get a warm welcome. In fact, no one likes interlopers from the mainland here and even the ex is being oddly stand-offish. If you've seen the original 1973 Wicker Man, you'd expect this to be the point where the movie launches into one odd encounter after another with the islanders intimating their aberrant sexual and religious practices. But here, Labute's film becomes surprisingly timid and instead veers into all of this nature girl, Queen Bee in her hive imagery. Ellen Burstyn plays the Queen Bee, aka Sister Summersisle, who runs the whole compound but she comes across as more benevolent than creepy. Molly Parker, as a school teacher, is a little menacing in the way she stares down Edward after he bursts into her classroom, but a few mean looks hardly adds up to a serious horror movie.

We're loathe to give away the ending but if you've seen the original, the remake ends in pretty much the same fashion, only with a Black Widow coda tacked on at the end. Is that supposed to be Labute's big wet willy goose, that sometimes women are sexual aggressors? Fatal Attraction had the same thesis almost 20 years ago, but at least that had some fear of feminism traction at the time. Here, it makes for about as flaccid a summer horror flick as you can get. If only Labute had acknowledged some of The Wicker Man's camp possibilities and encouraged Cage to do more of a La Depp self-parody performance. Then we might have had at least a fun movie, instead of this dour, boring clap trap.

Cinecultist's friend and fellow Movie Binger, Josh Horowitz will be interviewing Labute in a few weeks at the Astor Place Barnes & Noble, so maybe Labute will address some of these Wicker questions at that point. (Friday, Sept. 22 @ 7 p.m. -- mark your calendars!)

Posted by karen at 4:21 PM |

August 15, 2006

Are They All Out Of A Job?

Apparently, this is the story this slow summerfilm criticism is dead. According to the Los Angeles Times today, the death knell has sounded and the internet is the one pulling on the cord. Of course, it's important in a ground-breaking article like this to reference longingly Big Mama PK:

What we're seeing is not so much the death of criticism as the death of the culture of criticism, the culture in which a critic such as Pauline Kael despite writing for a small circulation magazine like the New Yorker could have a huge trickledown influence, not just with the chattering class, but with filmmakers and executives who hung on her every word, either in agony or ecstasy, depending on the verdict.

Then, the director juxtaposition in this next graf made CC a little ill:

But today we're in an era in which shared enthusiasm matters more than analysis, stylistic cool trumps emotional substance. The world has changed. The vanguard filmmakers of the '60s the era that spawned our last great generation of critics were Godard, Kubrick and Antonioni, filmmakers under the spell of the intellectual fervor sparked by existentialism and Marxism. The filmmakers with a youth-culture following today, be it Kevin Smith, Quentin Tarantino or Wes Anderson, are largely ideology free, masters of detachment and stylistic homage. Like their audience, they prefer irony to Big Ideas.

Maybe the real problem is that the mainstream critics have been in their cushy places for ages. They don't have the incentive to be inventive. In Cinecultist's mind, there's still important work to be done by criticism on the web or in print, it really makes little difference. The skill of any critic lies in identifying how cinema continues to represent our shared experience and what that means about our culture right now. This article goes on to say that places like the LA Times should be championing their critics and bringing them into the 21st century with up to the minute responses on the pop culture bombardment. But real commentary seems to need time to percolate. It may be at it's best when it's slow moving, but Cinecultist refuses to believe that the film critic is kaput.

Posted by karen at 6:09 PM |

August 7, 2006

Talk Amongst Yourselves

Linkage today regarding the new frontiers of criticism:

At the Wikipedia conference this weekend, the site said going forward it's going to be about quality not quantity, from the online encyclopedia that anyone can edit according to site founder Jimmy Wales. Also, irony abounds among the Wikifolks:

At times the conference itself seemed to be dealing with the same issues. One member of the foundations board, Florence Nibart-Devouard, stormed out of a news conference because she had not been told about the announcement being made. And on Thursday afternoon, signs concerning registration had the opening time crossed out, replaced by the word later.
Its a funny thing, Mr. Wales said. I had no idea that anyone was putting up signs. Someone somewhere said there should be signs, and someone did it. Its effective.
But, he added, its chaotic.
[via NYT]

Jeff Jarvis writes in the Guardian today about the impact of web criticism on the full time gigs of culture critics. Apparently, we're nipping at the heels of the establishment. To make up for this key change, critics should modify their purpose.

Would I have critics? Yes, but their roles would change. They still should give their views and set art in context. But rather than issuing pronouncements and bon mots, unchallenged, from the screening room, I'd want them to spark the discussion about entertainment: find the good voices, pinpoint the arguments, even referee debates among artists and critics. A great critic should be a magnet for fascinating discussion.

Posted by karen at 4:37 PM |

August 2, 2006

New Nora Ephron Essays Feel Like Old(er) Friends

badaboutneck.jpgCinecultist is decidedly outside of Nora Ephron's targeted demographic for her essays, but we love her anyhow. Her new collection, I Feel Bad About My Neck and other thoughts on being a woman details in the title essay her anxieties about pushing past 60 and other selections in the volume discuss parenting, her Upper West Side apartment and interning in JFK's White House press office. This is not the usual domain of the late '20s, Eee Vee-dwelling, singleton Cinecultist but Ephron knows how to make her maddeningly specific experience seem universal.

Just to make sure we are on the same page as to why CC would even be interested in this writing, Ephron is the main mama of the romantic comedy. When Harry Met Sally... is the Ur text of the '90s rom com, in our humble opinion. We initially got into Ephron's writing though through her novel Heartburn, a very thinly veiled autobiographical story about Ephron's second marriage. It features some hilarious New York neurotic girl plot points punctuated by recipes, including a peach pie which bakes up really well. The movie version stars Meryl Streep and Jack Nicholson and while it's not as good as the book, it's worth a rental.

Reading that book was a very special experience for CC, not unlike the feeling Ephron describes in the essay "On Rapture," which is in her new collection. "I've just surfaced from spending several days in a state of rapturewith a book. I loved this book. I loved every second of it. I was transported into its world. I was reminded of all sorts of things in my own life. i was in anguish over the fate of its characters. I felt alive, and engaged, and positively brilliant, bursting with ideas, brimming with memories of other books I've loved."

There really is something to this idea that good writing (or good movies) can make you feel creatively alive and engaged. They make you want to sit down with pen and paper and scrawl out all of your deepest thoughts. A writer like Ephron (or Dorothy Parker or Jane Austen or Edith Wharton), makes writing seem like a natural extension of thought. The words on the page seem like the dialogue running through her brain and in the best moments their to-the-pointness is electrifying. This is a style that CC strives for and thus a new opportunity to read her efforts, even if they are outside of our own immediate experiences, is a treat.

For more thoughts of Ephron's new book, read Janet Maslin's review in the New York Times last weekend.

Posted by karen at 10:35 AM |

July 31, 2006

Recent Movie Writing

Some articles that have been rattling around in the Cinecultist's noggin lately.

J. Hoberman's review of the new Andy Warhol Screen Tests book in the London Review of Books. J. Ho says, "Given the quality of the writing, the beauty of the reproductions, andcruciallythe difficulty of putting Warhol's enterprise between pages, Andy Warhol's Screen Tests is not simply a catalogue raisonn, it's a work of art."

Tom Hanks, a Hollywood A-Lister for more than just his ability to play the mentally incompetent on screen, according to this article in the New York Times yesterday about his production company, Playtone. Reporter Lorne Manly writes, "Over the last several years they have gotten a great deal done, quietly turning Playtone into one of Hollywoods most prolific filmmaking entities. Mr. Hanks is characteristically self-deprecating about its growth. It just happens. Its not like I sat down and had a meeting on the Death Star with my crack advisers, he said with a laugh, then lowered his voice into movie-villain mode: Now, we make our move.'"


Motherfucking snakes on the motherfucking plane, Jeff Jensen in Entertainment Weekly this week reports on the full scoop, blogger influence and all. Jensen writes, ""[Director David] Ellis takes creative responsibility for these additions...but [producer Craig] Berenson credits the changes to the lobbying of an active, vocal fan base. And [screenwriter John] Heffernan goes so far as to call the fans "co-creators" of the film."

Posted by karen at 10:48 AM |

July 24, 2006

Steve Carell Isn't Crazy, He's Just Acting


In this week's New York magazine, Logan Hill profiles the hilarious Steve Carell and his much deserved popular sucess. Apparently though, they're still letting people into movie Q&As who are both well-meaning and too stupid to live.

"During a talk-back [at Sundance], one woman said she was so moved that she wished she could just give him a big hug. So Carell opened his arms, and she ran into them. Another, a therapist, said she'd worked with suicidal patients and had never seen such a true-to-life performance. Had he, by any chance, spent some time in a mental ward? 'No, I didn't,' he said. 'I guess it's just...that I am an extraordinary actor.'"

Carell's movie, Little Miss Sunshine with Toni Collette, Greg Kinnear, Paul Dano, Abigail Breslin and Alan Arkin opens this Wednesday.

Posted by karen at 2:08 PM |

July 13, 2006

Richard Linklater's Slacker Aesthetic

In this month's Film Comment, the cover story interview with director Richard Linklater continues into an online part 2. Sweet. Cinecultist really applauds this growing trend by entertainment publications to make more content available on the web and it does seems fitting with Linklater's DIY roots. Blogging, free online articles, filming someone carrying around a vial with Madonna's pap smear in itit all goes hand in hand, right?

Here's just one choice bit from Linklater's conversation with Gavin Smith:

"When I did Waking Life, I was like, Yeah, this is the same guy who did Slacker. Its the way my brain works, I guess. This is how I feel about the world. Im looking for a new way to tell a story, Im looking for a way to cram in a bunch of ideas that dont necessarily fit into a moviewithout even being that conscious of it back then. The more movies you make, the less pressure there is on any one film. The trouble when you only have a few films is those films define you completely....So for me its about just carving off little pieces of myself here and there."
[via GreenCine Daily]

Posted by karen at 9:55 AM |

June 19, 2006

Monday Remainders

Just two things we thought you'd like to know:

- We interviewed two filmmakers last week, Nicholas Jarecki and James Toback. Toback made such movies as Two Girls and a Guy and Black and White and Jarecki made a documentary about Toback called The Outsider which is playing at Cinema Village right now. You can read the full interview on Gothamist. And for the record, CC thinks it would be a very bad idea if film critics were expected to offer a money back guarantee on their recommendations.

- Cinecultist enjoyed this article by Ginia Bellafante in yesterday's NY Times about The Devil Wears Prada's supposedly accurate depiction of the fashion journalism world. As a writer who sort of has a toe in this body of water, we're even more curious to see/judge the film now after reading this commentary. In fact, we're sorta thinking about having a whole DWP night where CC and the girl friends drink strong, bright pink drinks and wear high heels before attending a late night screening. Maybe there will be tiaras involved too, because really nothing says party like a bunch of drunk girls wandering around downtown New York in tiaras.

Posted by karen at 2:53 PM |

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 |

November 20, 2005

Sexuality and Current Cinema

This wonderful article from Caryn James in the New York Times movies section today explores all of the ways sexuality, particularly homosexuality, are in this year's Oscar-ish films. Gotta love the cinema studies in mainstream newspapers -- or at least the Cinecultist does.

Posted by karen at 8:45 AM |

November 10, 2005

A.O. on 50

Cinecultist didn't realize New York Times film critic, A.O. Scott was a hip hop fan. Having seen the mild mannered yet polarizing writer around at screenings, we'd never have guessed he could weigh in on say, the stylings of 50 Cent versus Kanye West, as he does in his review of Get Rich or Die Tryin':

As a rapper, 50 Cent has been an overachiever, selling boatloads of records in spite of his pedestrian skills. Lacking the verbal wit of a Jay-Z, the storytelling ability of a Biggie Smalls or the engaging personality of a Kanye West, he has gotten over through doggedness and a certain truculent charisma.

Should we start calling Tony 60 Cent for his use of such a great 10 cent word like "truculent" when describing Fitty?

* By the way, from Merriam Webster. truculent. Etymology: Latin truculentus, from truc-, trux savage; perhaps akin to Middle Irish tr doomed person 1 : feeling or displaying ferocity : CRUEL, SAVAGE 2 : DEADLY, DESTRUCTIVE 3 : scathingly harsh : VITRIOLIC 4 : aggressively self-assertive : BELLIGERENT - truculently adverb

Posted by karen at 2:04 PM |

October 19, 2005

Dinner And A Movie At The IFC

Today the New York Times $25 and Under column visits the new-ish restaurant next to the IFC's movie theater, the Waverly at IFC Center. Mostly writer Peter Meehan make the food sound good, a little eclectic but solid despite an apparent over-emphasis on prep with a pannini press (hehe, the Times can be so persnickety).

When CC went to see Me and You and Everyone We Know, we read the menu and peered in the place though we weren't tempted to stop for a bite. Frankly though, $15 is sort of a lot for us when it comes to a sandwich, especially when we could just go down the block and around the corner to Grey Dog for one of the best grilled cheeses ever with French fries and their awesome coffee (mmm, that sounds good right now). However, if a certain foodie friend and reader of this space who lives in the nabe suggests a nosh there one of these days, we won't say no. There's lots of good stuff playing at the Waverly coming up (despite their still sucky attitude toward the projectionist's union) and the combo of food with a movie is one intrinsic to the Cinecultist way.

Posted by karen at 8:40 AM |

August 16, 2005


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 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 |

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 |

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 |

June 8, 2005

Tom Cruise: Celebrity As Performance Art?

Essential reading -- Ken Tucker on Tom Cruise in this week's New York magazine:

How edifying to see a superstar saying things the way he wants to say them, unmediated. Even if some of those things are offensive, or dogmatic, or just plain incomprehensible. Why would he say them if they werent what he actually felt? Hes not winning anyone over with his charm offensive, and that fact only makes his words seem more, not less, candid.
Posted by karen at 8:51 AM |

May 4, 2005


Sometimes Matthew Baldwin at Defective Yeti seems to like making all other writers about movies just look bad. Here he did it again, with a simple Darth Vader song. Sigh. Damn him, it's too brilliant.

Posted by karen at 12:02 AM |

April 28, 2005

Sex and the Cinema

Should Cinecultist be concerned that we've seen almost all the films mentioned in Stephen Holden's Critic's Notebook article in the New York Times about hardcore simulated sex in films? This includes Lukas Moodysson's A Hole In My Heart which CC caught a few weeks ago at the Film Society with The Man, LM in attendance. With his witty "well, what do you think the movie means?" retorts, Cinecultist was won over for life but we'd like to warn any potential viewers to steel themselves for the extreme labial surgery and de Sadean feeding scenes. They're not for the squemish. And yet, their unflinching quality makes for a kind of cathertic cinema experience. That's the odd thing about film which pushes boundaries, we almost feel like better people for having gone to those far reaches with the filmmaker.

Posted by karen at 8:21 AM |

February 12, 2005

Mr. Do and Mr. Don't Go To The Festival

Mr. Do & Mr. Don't

Artist and film critic M.E. Russell displays some movie etiquette with his characters Mr. Do and Mr. Don't in honor of the Portland International Film Festival starting this weekend. Click over to his blog CulturePulp, to read the entire series of strips then hang around to read his previous movie reviews published in the Oregonian and on DVD Journal.

His finely wrought characterization and gentle ribbing on our geeky subculture makes Cinecultist nostalgic for our days spent waiting in line in the alley alongside the Egyptian theater before Seattle International Film Festival screenings. Ahh, Northwest hipsters, how we miss you! You smell so much more working class than our trust fund-ish fellow residents of the Eee Vee.

[Thanks Michael for the link and the reprint permission. Just because one can control-click-save doesn't mean one should.]

Posted by karen at 2:23 PM |

January 10, 2005

EW's 25 To Watch

With the bright yellow box exclaiming "25 Movies To See Before Oscar Night" on the cover of Entertainment Weekly this week, Cinecultist anxiously flipped through the magazine in search of this list. Not that we really expected to be surprised by anything they could've come up with but maybe there was a glaring omission in our screening schedule? No, no we've been good. Deep breaths, CC. We've read the reviews, looked at the glossy spreads in magazines, scanned the critic circle's awards lists and we feel confident we will see the award winners before March.

Our two major misses: #8 Ray and #9 Vera Drake. We don't know what happened there. Cinecultist usually will sit through the bio-pic without too much fuss and we lurve Mike Leigh after studying his films, particularly Naked, while abroad in England during college. With this kind of buzz for Jamie Foxx and Imelda Staunton's performances, respectively, we really got to get on ball with those two. But do we really have to watch #17 The Door In The Floor? We appreciated LA Confidential and you have to love The Dude, but there's something creepy about Kim Basinger and Jeff Bridges with their yuppie marriage dissolving out at the Hamptons that we didn't think we'd want to see. Same goes for The Woodsman. Love Kyra Sedgwick and Kevin Bacon but we wary about a pedophilia movie. That's not totally weird, is it? Can we get some kind of waver for the excessive creep factor when it over takes award-buzzed movies?

After the jump is the full list, re-typed by your Cinecultist because not everyone has access to EW's subscription only website. Then, please let us know in the comments if you think we have to see any of the pictures in Bold. Are there also flicks being lauded by critics that you know you should see, but can't bring yourself to attend?

1 Sideways
2 The Aviator
3 Finding Neverland
4 Million Dollar Baby
5 Closer
6 Kinsey
7 Eternal Sunshine
8 Ray
9 Vera Drake
10 Hotel Rwanda
11 Maria Full of Grace
12 Before Sunset
13 Being Julia
14 Collateral
15 The Incredibles
16 The Motorcycle Diaries
17 The Door in the Floor
18 Kill Bill Vol. 2
19 Imaginary Heroes
20 House of Flying Daggers
21 Bad Education
22 A Very Long Engagement
23 The Sea Inside
24 The Woodsman
25 Phantom of the Opera

Posted by karen at 8:32 AM | | Comments (5)

January 5, 2005

Briefest of Suggestions

A few ideas from the Cinecultist, so as to not let the winter mix* invade your soul the way it's invading your socks from through your shoes.

1) Read the New Yorker's brief ode to Susan Sontag, who recently left us, written by Joan Acocella. Remember, Cinecultist was a big fan of the Craig Seligman Sontag & Kael: Opposites Attract Me book, so if you haven't read this yet, think about picking it up. Or better yet, some of Sontag's originals like Against Interpretation which contains the brilliant essays on camp and photography. "To her, reading and experience were not just mental events; she received them as flaming darts. Without her, New York City seems a colder place."

2) Buy the Believer issue for December/January 2005 devoted to the visual. It contains a free DVD with short films by a number of artists, including Guy Maddin, a Cinecultist fave. The issue includes a hand written fax to the New York Times from David Hockney regarding the use of early cameras in painting, an essay on the film critic Manny Farber's paintings**, a visual representation fo the Genealogy of the Supermarket and other sundry wonderful weirdness.

3) Read the new Reverse Shot online devoted to the Taiwanese auteur, Tsai Ming-liang. Rent a few of his films, if you feel so inspired. CC loves The Hole (We're not trying to be dirty, that's the name of one of his films! It's great! Leave us alone!) They also covered the NYFF AND a bunch of new releases. Try not to be depressed by how many films there are out there, and how little you've gotten around to seeing. That bums us out too.

Our buddy Kristi Mitsuda contributed a review of the Machinist to this issue and she also has a new weekly review blog up, Artflickchick, so be sure to add that to your bookmark list too. She has her Top 10 up there now, and like CC she loved Before Sunrise.

4) Go see In Good Company (out in one theater in New York on the Upper West now, open wider on January 14) and buy the soundtrack (on January 11), because it rocks. We came home and bought 4 tracks from iTunes that are in the film, and in particular have been enjoying the Iron & Wine song, "Naked As We Came." CC posted on Gothamist today regarding the film, it's worth a watch, especially if you were a fan of About A Boy as it's also from Chris and Paul Weitz. Topher Grace and Denis Quaid are both top notch in it, and neither are hard to look at, so that's an added bonus.

* This is what New York weather guys call the unpleasant combo of rain and wet snow. This is not sleet, which is freezing snow. No, this is extra damp coldness. Winter mix, thy name is the bain of our existence.

** The exhibition devoted to Farber's visual work at P.S. 1 will be up until January 10, so you may want to head out to Queens to catch that before it closes.

Don't let the winter mix keep you down. Viva la cinecultists!

Posted by karen at 11:31 PM |

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 |

November 16, 2004

We're All About The 21st Century

Ugh. This much linked to and seriously cringe inducing article is why the Cinecultist tries to keep the writing limited to our movie-going life. Rather than dwell on what was a shocking train-wreck of Too Much Information in the Fashion & Style section of last weekend's New York Times, we turn instead to Manohla Dargis's essay in the magazine on The 21st-Century Cinephile. As our friend Matty who directed us to the article pointed out, that's us! The Cinecultist is so the 21st Century Cinephile. It could be our subheading description for this blog, if we weren't already enamored with the tag-line, "Crazy For Movies."

We couldn't put it better, as Dargis codifies what she sees as the current cinephilia:

Today, movie love means buying DVD's online, joining virtual communities on the Web and filling seats at regional film festivals. At once global and local, the new cinephilia simultaneously embraces old and new, avant-garde and mainstream, live action and animation, drama and documentary, celluloid and video. It supports modernist snobberies and promotes postmodern egalitarianism, worships dead masters alongside the living and takes film's aspirations to art as a matter of course. Its adherents use the Internet to track down cult directors and post reviews of films famous and obscure. For these new movie lovers, old divides like trash versus art, Hollywood versus the world have given way to an expansive inclusion of cinemas from around the globe.

The only place where our opinion on modern movie love diverges from Dargis's is with her emphasis on cinephilia as movie collecting. Later in the essay, she describes walking out of a theater and buying a difficult to find Japanese movie on Region 3 DVD to play on her hacked region-less DVD player. (Quite easy to do via Kim's Video, by the by.) To love movies now, according to Dargis, is to want to possess them, perhaps in little plastic packages on your shelves or in neatly catalogued review entries on your website. While CC sees that hoarding tendency in some of our friend's movie libraries, it's not our essential drive. Rather the "expansiveness" of our interests we think, has to do with cultivating taste, a more Sontag-ian model actually. How can a person say they love movies, if they don't take in and can weigh in on all the myriad possibilities of current cinema? If you can't find a bit of value somewhere in all of it, then how can you hold any of it close to your heart?

This is our roundabout way of saying in the coming months, CC will be thinking more on films and blogs in preparation for a discussion with the Reel Roundtable group during their season this winter on "Popular Culture and Film." Organizations such as Women Make Movies, Atom films and bloggers like Greg Allen of will be talking every Monday night about the convergence of music, the internet, anime and blogging with film. Plus, yours truly will be talking about film blogs on January 17. Mark your calendars now, but more details as we get closer to the date.

Posted by karen at 8:33 AM |

November 9, 2004

From Through The Tunnel

New Jersey's Star Ledger has caught on to the blog/film fanatics connection in today's paper. We always thought there were cinecultists on the other side of the tunnel.

Personal gratification time from the above article -- CC gets top billing over Harry Knowles and Ain't It Cool News. And our work here is done.

Posted by karen at 10:59 AM |

August 16, 2004

He Like Bunnies And The Color Brown

Cinecultist is quite excited, as we bought a $19 ticket to see filmmaker/model/provocateur Vincent Gallo on Wednesday night Aug. 25 at Rothko. Apparently, in addition to purchasing billboards over Sunset Boulevard showing himself getting a blowjob, he also is a musician. No kidding. He's put out two records. According to the nice salesperson at Etherea on Ave A, they're "folk-y rock" and that Gallo sings "like Chet Baker," according to our other friend who has seen him perform.

To further peak our interest, the Sunday Times ran this piece about Gallo's tour across America with the film, and they even obliquely referenced our dear Uncle Grambo! NYT unnamed quotation in graf nine buzz, so much hottness.

We promise a full report after Wednesday not that the web isn't littered with Gallo detritus already, but CC imagines we'll be unable to prevent ourselves from some sort of tirade and a weigh-in on the controversy. For now enjoy the following Vincent Gallo Quote For The Day:

"If you go to see The Brown Bunny without hating me or resenting me as a filmmaker then there's a beautiful film there," he said. "But if you can't get past your feelings about me, then you can't see that. Long after I'm dead which is any day now this film will still exist," he added. "I feel much better now that I've placed this piece of work in the world."

Thanks to Jen for the link to VG's eponomous website.

Posted by karen at 8:03 AM |

August 2, 2004

AMD v. Grambo: Best Critical Smackdown Ever?

Like the whole infamous Roger Ebert versus Vincent Gallo smackdown regarding Gallo's movie Brown Bunny at last year's Toronto Film Festival, a critical "disagreement" is shaping up on the Interweb that Cinecultist is following with interest. We thought we had our opinion on Brown Bunny all sewn up after Aaron Out of Focus's as always, exhaustive posting after seeing the film a few weeks ago. But now, Uncle Grambo's has weighed in via after a screening in Detroit.

Who will emerge victorious from this (up until now decorous) exchange of ideas? While Mark is taller and uses more slang (CC literally just figured out what bovs on the tees means), Aaron wields the power of DiVo and is a Nor Cal Member of the Tribe (represent!). It's a tough call. May be a photo finish. Drat! Now we may actually have to see this thing after reading such intriguing but differing opinions on Gallo's narcissism and the merits of his most recent project. If Gallo googles himself, Cinecultist would like to receive an invite to one of these cross country screening junket events in Manhattan. Drop us a line Vincent and adjacent PR group, we promise we'll reserve our judgment until after the three hour Q & A.

Posted by karen at 9:27 PM |

July 28, 2004

Sontag & Kael & CC

Have you ever finished a book, sighed deeply, put it down longingly and then seriously thought about picking up again to start over at page one? This is how Cinecultist felt upon completing Sontag & Kael: Opposites Attract Me by Craig Seligman over the weekend. As a personal friend of film critic Pauline Kael's and a long time obsessive reader of both hers and cultural critic/novelist Susan Sontag's work, Seligman sets out to compare them despite their having written at the same time though not ever about each other. What follows is a thoughtful ramble through their writings, not an autobiographical tour or even a strictly plotted argument, but an exploration of some common touch points that illuminates their distinct approaches to the same goal making criticism an art.

What Cinecultist found ourselves responding to the most in this book was Seligman's combination of intellectual inquiry with personal response. A 200 page blogging entry if you will, Seligman begins and ends his argument with his own feelings about reading Kael and Sontag, namely that he admires Sontag's writing but he adores Kael's. Though that's not to say that he bashes Sontag by any means, rather he analyzes her detractors and offers a historiographic approach to her most controversial opinions like the support of North Vietnam and Cuba's socialist regimes. Unlike most books of criticism, Seligman very prominently inserts himself into the accounting, though not in an intrusive or self-aggrandizing way. The book's final chapter catalogues where he was when he read each of the writer's major works and really there can be no more loving a tribute than to imply that reading certain works counted as milestones in your own development.

We'd love to quote for you some of our favorite passages in the book, to whet your appetite but CC didn't take notes or mark up our copy while reading it and without titled chapters or subheadings, it's difficult to find a particular memorable bit in all of that mass of writing. Seligman's ideas flow in an organic way, giving the impression of meandering through his thoughts, which is why on finishing the book we wanted to pick it back up again, to get back on that literal train of thought. While it would probably help to appreciate Sontag & Kael if you've read a little Sontag and Kael before picking it up, CC wouldn't say it's absolutely necessary to enjoying Seligman's work. Though if you've not at least perused I Lost It At The Movies and Against Interpretation, we would heartily recommend them. As Seligman argues, to make criticism a part of your way of thinking is to truly elevate it to an art form. And we think that should be the goal of any person calling themselves a cinecultist.

Posted by karen at 8:01 AM |

July 23, 2004

We Interupt This Blog... For Politics

Though it has nothing to do with movies, Cinecultist wanted to point out Philip Gourevitch's really wonderful profile of John Kerry "Damage Control" in this week's New Yorker. We knew which way our vote was going come November, but this article gives us real reasons for it. Intellectual inquiry in the White House, what an amazing concept.

Ok, enough of that partisanship. Enjoy the weekend cinecultists -- may it be popcorn and A/C filled for you!

Posted by karen at 8:11 AM |

July 15, 2004

Four Free Issues? Sign Us Up Star Magazine!

People often ask us, "hey Cinecultist with your cool gig as the Cinecultist, what kind of way cool stuff do you get to score?" Well kids, we've not got the swag coming out our ears but occasionally we do get something interesting in our mail, like yesterday's invitation to enjoy 4 Free Issues of Star magazine. Star magazine? Bonnie Fuller's recently revitalized, newly glossy but still getting trounced by US Weekly celebrity rag? Right away, we wondered which rat bastards had sold our mailing address. Probably not the liberal mailing list we appear to be on, what with our New Yorker subscription which lead to the inundation of requests to donate to Planned Parenthood, public radio and sundry soup kitchens. Could it have been that evil hillbilly Sallie Mae? We don't think so. Does being a subscriber to Lucky, Vogue, TimeOut New York and Jane magazine put us automatically into the demographic interested in the dieting lives of Oprah, Anna Nicole and Carnie Wilson? Seems unlikely. Maybe the invite is care of those bitches at New York magazine, though we do love our Deborah Schoeneman and our Lizzie Spears, there is a strong line in the sand between their delightful carping and pictures of the emaciated Mary-Kate. Perhaps not them either.

Cinecultist was all ready to just toss it out because for most movie star news we have the old online standbys Page Six and E! Online as well as Uncle Grambo and Stereogum for your Brit Brit in cut off shorts and what not. However! We began actually reading their pitch and realized a free four issue mini-subscription to Star magazine was just too good to pass up. First there is the picture of Colin Farrell with the caption "Nude This Summer" next to it. Is this on screen somewhere, perhaps in his new movie or it will it be in CC's apartment perhaps? Intriguing. Then the promise of Exclusive Interviews under a picture of Anglina Jolie that has the headline "Her Casual Sex Romps." And we'll be getting More Inside Scoops! according to one of the florescent pull quote features. Plus there are "wall-to-wall celebrity pictures sprinkled with juicy newsy [ed note. like news, only sorta] captions. The fast-breaking stories that Hollywood will be talking about tomorrow, YOU are reading in Star today. 'No way!' you say to yourself as you read about the iffy doings of one of your favorite celebrities." There's little CC likes more than iffy doings. We're not obligated at all so says the literature, so CC's sending off the reply card. It has to be good for a laugh or two and then we'll cancel at the first bill. We'll keep you posted cinecultists on the findings of our sociological dig into mainstream pop media.

Granted, we are concerned about now who Star will pass our address along to do they publish a Ultimate Evil Weekly nowadays, or is it still just called People?

Posted by karen at 8:27 AM |

July 12, 2004

Survived To Tell The Tale

Some movie viewings are a rite of passage long, drawn out and nearly as painful as a bris. But you have to admire the filmgoer for surviving to tell the tale, and often the amount of numb ass is proportional to how good the story/review is. Case in point, Aaron Out of Focus's detailed posting on Vincent Gallo's controversial Toronto Film Fest entry Brown Bunny. We highly recommend spending the time to read the entire thing especially since Aaron saves you the trouble of actually seeing the thing but still arms you with enough details about most of the scenes to talk about it at cocktail parties but we'll reprint the following quote because we can't help ourselves. Heh. Vincent Gallo is like a stupider version of Salvador Dal and Luis Buuel; he's so surprised the audience liked his film, he forgot to throw the rocks at them that he brought to the screening.

"I suppose the most important thing I learned from watching The Brown Bunny is that I now understand Gallo's purpose as a filmmaker. He wants to antagonize his audience. He wants people to hate him and his films. It's really the only explanation. In fact, I'd bet that he was shocked at how warmly so many indie film folks received Buffalo 66. Maybe he is really intelligent after all. Maybe he said to himself, "Well, if that piece of crap couldn't get the audience to hate me, maybe I'll go one better and show my erect penis on screen. Or better yet, I won't show that much of it because it will be gagging my good friend Chloe at the time." He did a magnificent job of antagonizing me and plenty of other audience members (at least two left about 30 minutes in and this was a press screening, I believe), although I would by no means speak for everyone, and I did overhear one woman say, "I really liked it."
Posted by karen at 7:38 AM |

May 31, 2004

Some Lovin' For People CC Knows

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

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

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

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

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

Posted by karen at 5:37 PM |

April 16, 2004

Better Than A Poke In The Eye

Cinecultist's love for and abiding fascination with comedy can be a little scary sometimes. No really, we've been known to scare people (read: cute boys/potential dates) away with technical talk of structures and indicators. One time we even pulled out a graph. "You see, with the inverse ratio of banana peel to slippage..." It wasn't pretty. Thus, CC is loving the comedy issue of the New Yorker this week, in particular Ian Parker's article about the Farrelly Brothers Three Stooges feature currently in the works.

One of the bits we found quite amusing was the casting discussion on the film, a particularly strong point for the Farellys in the past. For some reason, CC can't picture professional hard-ass Russell Crowe -- he of the rippling biceps and clenched teeth at the Oscars -- wanting to be Moe. But then again the rest of their thoughts on the potential picks are even odder.

If Russell doesnt want it, then we should go straight back to Benicio, Peter said from the passenger seat; the Farrellys had spoken with Benicio Del Toro, but Warner Bros. had balked at his asking price. That could still workBenicio . . . and Sean Penn as Larry. The Farrellys have envisioned other casting scenarios. Peter later told me, Ive asked Larry David to play Larry maybe twenty-five times. He whines, I dont want to leave my family. Now I talk to him as if hes in. It gives him a little panic each time.

But hell, that's why they're the highly paid director/creators, they see potential things in performers a little critic like CC can only laugh at. Further online only content about the article is also available at

Posted by karen at 8:28 AM |

April 5, 2004

Trivia Takedown

The Second Annual Great American Pop Culture Quiz from Entertainment Weekly arrived in the Cinecultist's mailbox this weekend, and we pulled out our pen and thinking cap with glee. Last year featured all around trivia, which we did much worse with than we would have expected, considering how much of CC's brain is filled with pop culture. But this year we knew we'd be able to get it on because the topic is All About The '90s, and that's our speciality. CC scored an 82, falling safely in the healthy 60 to 90 point range and apparently, "a race car in the red;...Superfly T.N.T.;...The Guns of Navarone!"

We'd offer you a link to the online-only version of the Pop Culture Quiz, but like the rest of their online content, you have to be a subscriber to access it. So, we guess you'll have to pick up a copy on the newsstand to see the whole thing. In the meantime, here's a few of the movie questions CC couldn't answer but probably should have, as we are the Cinecultist and have obligations to answer to from this (self-dubbed) title.

16. Whose liver does Hannibal Lecter eat with "some fava beans and a nice Chianti"?

25. In A League of Their Own, she is a Rockford Peach, but what tan is Kit (Lori Petty) traded to?

40. Which '50s ear celeb at Jack Rabbit Slim's waits on John Travolta and Uma Thurman in Pulp Fiction?
Bonus: What actor plays that celeb?

53. What was the movie that finally knocked Titanic out of the No. 1 box office spot after three and a half months?
a. Conspiracy Theory
b. Lost in Space
c. L.A. Confidential
d. Anaconda

69. Who plays Chili Palmer in the film-within-the-film at the end of Get Shorty?

74. According to Shakespeare in Love, what was the Bard's original title forRomeo and Juliet?

Answers: 16. A census taker's. 25. The Racine Belles, though we'll accept just Racine 40. Buddy Holly, bonus Steve Buscemi 53. B, Lost in Space 69. Danny DeVito, as actor Martin Weir 74. Romeo and Ethel, The Pirate's Daughter

Remainder: Welcome new viewers via! was graciously added to both the weblog aggregate's movie blog listing and Choire Sicha of Gawker's list of favorites. CC has also created an account with a page of some of our most frequent reads, visible at Happy blog reading, cinecultists.

Posted by karen at 8:26 AM |

March 18, 2004

The Build Up Continues

Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind. So excited. So very excited. Can't. Stop. Reading. Reviews. Of. It. This may overwhelm Cinecultist's very high expectations into an unreachable place where fantasy about the ultimate movies lie. Or perhaps not, since we are one of the few people we know who actually liked Human Nature (the first Kauffman/Gondry collaboration about evolution and sexual impulse. We thought it was charmingly weird). Join us in the review reading binge, it will make us feel better about our obsessive tendencies.

Peter Travers in Rolling Stone says, "Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind chases so many ideas that it threatens to spin out of control. But with our multiplexes stuffed with toxic Hollywood formula, it's a gift to find a ballsy movie that thinks it can do anything, and damn near does."

J. Hoberman in the Village Voice says, "Shot through with intimations of mental illness, Eternal Sunshine is scarcely as cheerful as its title suggests (although an Ingmar Bergman remake might be truly sidesplitting). It's playful and a bit gruelinglike love itselfand there's a sad shabbiness unlike anything in current American movies.

Anthony Lane in the New Yorker raves a little less than one might expect, but he's British, so we can discount him a bit. "In truth, when one looks back on Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind, one realizes how little of the movie has been devoted to the business of loving, let alone of making love. We get a double helping of first dates, and a bunch of barking arguments, but this is a romance assailed by time, and the promise of uncluttered bliss that is proffered by the title is held witheringly at bay."

Update: Even Aaron of Out of Focus has seen it and offered his astute but fawning opinion! "In an era when people are confusing Mel Gibson with God and a Janet Jackson performance has become known as "nipplegate" while sending shockwaves through the broadcasting industry, I just wish that we could spend more time focusing on a film which proves that not all movies are just popular entertainment but great works of cinematic art still can be."

Damn. Must See This Movie. Must See It Soon.

Posted by karen at 8:04 AM |

February 26, 2004

The Final Recap

The year end issue of Reverse Shot with the journal's collective 10 ten list as well as the contributors' top tens is now on the web. You may remember Cinecultist's list purposely excluded certain enteries (and is reprinted therein) and Reverse Shot also knows that some of the most critically lauded films of the year can seem over-rated to others. Their list consists of #1) Kill Bill: Vol. One #2) Lost In Translation #3) Mystic River #4) The Son #5) Spellbound #6) demonlover #7) Irreversible #8) Elephant #9) Lord of the Rings - The Return of the King #10) Raising Victor Vargas and they also offer a rebuttal to the inclusion of LOTR, Mystic River and Monster. A little friendly discussion and counter discussion, with only the tiniest bit of hair-pulling and biting involved.

Posted by karen at 8:02 AM |

February 25, 2004

Keeping The Scourging To A Minimum

On this Ash Wednesday, Cinecultist wants to be upbeat. But with all of these clips of Jim Caviezel with the living daylights kicked out of him on every screen, it can be tough to keep positive. Really though, let's put it in perspective here -- our friend may stand us up for sushi dinner, but at least we're not being scourged. The subway train may just sit on the track unable to move for half an hour in the morning but we're not being buried to our neck and stoned (as in the depiction of Afganistan in Osama). So we're actually ahead here.

As you may have noticed, the critical opinion on the Passion of the Christ are now flying fast and furious and according to Rotten Tomatoes, the average review is a negative one. The "big gun" who actually seems to like it, besides Peter Travers at Rolling Stone who's turning into the Larry King of film criticism in his old age, is Richard Roeper who called it "the most powerful, important and by far the most graphic interpretation of Christ's final hours ever put on film." Wanting to read the whole rave review for ourselves, CC clicked over but discovered this quote came from his television show review not from a print review. The show always features visual clips from the film to puncuate the reviews but the site only has audio, and remember the film is in Latin and Aramaic, so the clips on the mp3 are totally unintelligible. So picture here Cinecultist giggling delightedly at how silly Satan and Jesus sound speaking what we hear as gibberish. Expect the thunderbolt to hit CC headquarters any moment now for mocking his most noble and holy Gibsonness.

Posted by karen at 8:06 AM |

February 18, 2004

Calling Bullshit On So-Called 'Golden Age'

Sorry kids, Cinecultist's Day Job has been particularly taxing this week and thus the scanty posting. But we've had something in the CC craw since devouring the special Oscar section in this last weekend's New York Times that we want to share. CC calls bullshit on the thesis of this centerpiece article by A.O. Scott on the Golden Age of Movie Acting. It's tricky here, the fatwah does continue on A.O. after the Anything Else recommendation but it's not personal, our beef currently. He's just wrong wrong wrong in calling this year's acting performances unique or diverging from being driven by stars. We think the Oscars are nothing if not about building up the Hollywood star system, not being reverted by "ensemble movies" and "naturalistic Method acting" (quite the contradiction in terms, no?).

Those films, along with Mystic River, with its three acting nominations, suggest that the current acting renaissance may be subverting the star system in other ways by insisting on the primacy of the ensemble and by ignoring the invidious tradition of separating true or potential stars from character actors. It is difficult, in any of these pictures, to single out an individual actor without noting how enmeshed he or she is in a collective enterprise how interdependent the performances are.

But A.O., you are singling -- in particular, Charlize Theron and Sean Penn -- and if these two win, or whomever does, we will then expect Big Things from them next and look at their performances as typical or atypical of this Star. Blech, it makes CC ill in anticipation over the hoopla. Agree? Disagree? Cinecultist takes this opportunity to give you readers the chance to sound off below, as requested by various e-mails. And we better see some comments or we may cry. Method tears, ones motivated by deep emotional work done in workshop, of course.

Posted by karen at 9:48 PM | | Comments (1)

February 13, 2004

A Few Comments From Lincoln Center

One of our favorite film writers, Mike D'Angelo from Time Out New York, who Cinecultist may not always agree with on his reviews but whose writing style we always enjoy, this week writes about the Film Comment Selects series, a wonderful group of films chosen by the magazine's editors and writers. The series which started Feb. 12 and runs through Feb. 26, always includes difficult to see pictures who's quirkiness makes them some of the most memorable you'll see all year. D'Angelo points out one, whose fabulous description makes CC want to run out and see it right now. Now that's good film writing, if it makes CC want to put down the magazine and hop on the subway with the ticket money clutched in our hot little hand.

"More than almost any other filmmaker I can think of, Japan's Kiyoshi Kurosawa requires the discipline of a genre framework in its absence, his woolly philosophical speculations tend to swallow everything in their path, and the only possible reaction is basically 'Huh? Whaa? Kiyoshi, you so crazy.' Bright Future, the story of a boy and his pet jellyfish (honest!), can be filled alongside License to Live and Barren Illusion under Terminally Vague Portraits of Youthful Angst; I watched in a baffled daze, unable to make heads or tails of even the most mundane details. (This cut of the film the same one shown at Cannes last year is significantly shorter than Kurosawa's original version, which may explain some of the confusion.)"
Posted by karen at 8:19 AM |

February 4, 2004

Bitch Slap

Nothing makes Cinecultist chuckle like a little critical bitch slapping. Hehehehe, hear those titters resounding through the blogosphere. Two items which tickled CC as of late --

Slapper: Anthony Lane in this week's New Yorker, who incidentally has built a career as a critic on the snarky barb. This doesn't make him a good or insightful critic mind you, just sort of funny slash mean.
Slappee: Joe Eszterhas and his new autobiography, Hollywood Animal. Question is, is this really a fair fight? Over-paid screenwriter Eszterhas has a t-shirt at home that says HACK and he surely wears it proudly to BBQs and whatnot. Thus, is bitch slapping him around really any fun? Lane says yes, and he says don't forget Sliver.

Slapper: Robin Wood, editor of cineAction in a letter sent to Josh at Cultivated Stupidity, in his professional capacity as a periodicals clerk.
Slappee: George W. Bush. Wood says, a letter regarding a subscription to your film journal is a fine place to register your cranky Canadian political dissent. A right fine place.

Posted by karen at 3:49 PM |

February 3, 2004

Linky Link Lovin'

We interrupt this regularly scheduled movie diatribe to spread a little linking love to just a few of our movie blogging compatriots who've been throwing it our way as of late.

Tagline -- Brief reviews, news and quotations galore (many submitted by discerning readers) all brought to you by brothers Stephen and Alistair Reid.
Cinema Minima -- News-feed and brief entries with links to further information on the movie making industry. -- All about the marketing of movies, in particular the independent market, film festivals, theatrical and DVD releases.
Drew's Blog-O-Rama -- The blogging component of the long running site run by Drew devoted to compiling free movie scripts on the web, wherein he asks the age old question, "how you like them apples?"
D Speak -- A slightly more personal shout-out as our girl Kristi (fellow NYU CS grad and scholar of the road movie) and her boyfriend Darren blog from their trip to New Zealand. Of interest in particular, Kristi recently blogged on LOTR and how everywhere they go looks like the Shire. Sending all our CC affection and simmering jealousy to her across the pond.

Posted by karen at 8:31 AM |

January 2, 2004

New Year Movie Resolutions

Happy New Year Cinecultists! We wish you all the best in 'Ought Four and as CC comes out of the haze of peppermint candy canes and too much vodka (CC likey vodka), we've been thinking about the new year that is now upon us. We ordinarily don't believe in new year's resolutions, as they usually are a bunch of irrelevant hooey about cutting down on smoking or loosing weight. However! CC does want to take stock in our suspect movie consuming practices and thus brings you the following list of resolute promises.

1.) To be less overtly rude to our fellow movie patrons. There really is no call for humiliating people with our disdainful glances and whithering responses who say, cut in front of CC in the ticket line because they can't figure out where the end is or ask us to move over a seat and then put their sticky, squirmy child next to us. We all share this space, CC resolves to be nicer about their uncalled for infringements.

2.) To quit smuggling food into the theater in our large handbags. Sure, concessions in this city are astronomically priced, but those ticket takers need their popcorn-paid wages to fund their next piercing. Also, a rustling granola bar wrapper at 6:30pm in Walter Reade Theater during the short really is annoying, despite the fact that CC raced from her day job without dinner to the screening. Sorry about that, it'll never happen again you hoity-toity West Side bee-otch.

3.) To quit laughing really loudly at the silliness of Hollywood cliches and conventions, especially during noisy action flicks. We realize that snickering about how awkward it is when Vin Diesel kisses a woman may be raising the consciousness unnecessarily for the frat boy and his blank-stare girlfriend next to us. We resolve to keep the subtext acknowledgement down to a minimum for the unsuspecting.

4.) To keep mum during the previews, commercials and the Regal Cinema Twenty. CC knows we are but a warm body in the seat capable of walking out of the theater and buying junk, but first we need to be told what junk to buy. Remix Sprite, the newest TNT special series and those Levi's for wearing while lassoing your car are really important stuff. They deserve our utmost attention, conversation and social interaction be damned.

5.) And finally, Cinecultist resolves to continue to be resolute about providing quality movie related content in this here space. Thanks for all of your readerly support over the last seven months, we appreciate all of the e-mails, IMs, links and shout-outs. Keep 'em coming kids, and we promise bigger and brighter rants and raves in '04.

Posted by karen at 10:44 PM |

December 25, 2003

Another Voice, Another List

Now that the end of the semester has finally arrived, PCC wishes to contribute her proverbial two-cents to the year-end best-of list. Of course, this list most likely will change as soon as it's written, but fluid lists are more fun. Here are PCC's top ten films of 2003*:

1. Mystic River (Clint Eastwood)
2. 21 Grams (Alejandro Gonzlez Irritu )
3. Whale Rider (Niki Caro)
4. Swimming Pool (Franois Ozon )
5. Morvern Callar (Lynne Ramsay)
6. Lost in Translation (Sofia Coppola)
7. Finding Nemo (Andrew Stanton)
8. Spellbound (Jeffrey Blitz)
9. The Pirates of the Caribbean: Curse of the Black Pearl (Gore Verbinski)
10. Lord of the Rings: Return of the King (Peter Jackson)

*This list has been compiled without seeing the following films, some of which might very well out-rank the ones above: Big Fish, In America, The Fog of War and Triplets of Bellville

Posted by jordan at 3:21 PM |

December 22, 2003

Film Critics Like Porn

It's all about being self-reflexive, baby, the whole "critic" thing. When you spend so much time analyzing how others watch, you can't help but put yourself and your voyeuristic tendencies under the same scrutiny. But falling under the seriously too much information category, David Denby film critic for the New Yorker reveals his fascination with porn in his new memoir, American Sucker. The thing that amuses Cinecultist, though it does strike a little close to home, is the way Denby so easily lapses into pseudo-scholarly inquiry language when discussing how he likes to stay home and "click." The intellectualizing part, of course, not the other thing. This is a family blog, after all.

"I had no desire to chat; I wanted only to gaze. After a while, as I spilled from site to site, I felt not that I was controlling and discovering porn on the Net but that it was discovering me. It was seeking me out, reading me, and it found out things about me that I didnt know. I continued to review movies, I had dinner with friends, took care of the boys when it was my turn. I fed the cat, read the Times and the Journal, but I felt, at times, as if I were breaking into fragments. I had this appetite and that one, but what held them together?

[link via Gawker and]

Posted by karen at 8:08 AM |

December 19, 2003

The List : Version 2004

As promised last week for those who haven't gone through a complete list overload already, Cinecultist brings to you the Top Ten movies of the year (in our not-so humble opinion), *with links to our previous reviews as available*.

[Ed. note -- A word to the wise first though, CC has a hard time with this sort of thing. Not the arbitrariness really, nor the picking-an-opinion-and-defending-it-to-the-death thing, just the part about remembering what our opinion was exactly. CC generated the following list for an end of the year Reverse Shot issue (forethcoming in January-ish), but literally hours after we'd done it, we couldn't remember half the titles on our list for the purpose of a conversation about said list (Sorry Rick, here you go.). So the moral of the story is, either Cinecultist has a terrible memory or these types of lists are sort of silly.]

1. Lost in Translation
2. Shattered Glass
3. Lord of the Ring: Return of the King (probably, CC still has to see it.) [Review now available.]
4. I Capture the Castle
5. The Man Without a Past
6. Lilya 4Ever
7. The Pirates of the Caribbean
8. School of Rock
9. X2
10. My Life Without Me

Posted by karen at 7:55 AM |

December 12, 2003

Gotta Sing, Gotta Dance

Available now at their site and in select New York locations, the new issue of Reverse Shot devoted to Musicals and extensive reviews of New York Film Festival submissions (many of which are now in the theaters). The symposium focuses on modern musicals with essays on Hedwig and the Angry Inch, Everyone Says I Love You and South Park: Bigger, Longer and Uncut to name just a few.

Coming Soon: Cinecultist takes a look at the year's releases and breaks it down into a list with ten items on said list. Dear Lord, we're so creative around here it hurts. Who would've thought it would be so fun to write arbitrary lists? We know you await our assessment with bated-breath.

Posted by karen at 8:06 AM |

November 7, 2003

Screenings for the In Crowd

When those early cin clubs debuted in Paris about a hundred years ago, crowds of the fashionable would gather in cafes to watch series of 8 minute films. It was all very social, you see -- the drinking, the chatting and then the cinema. "Have we really come so far from there?" is what Cinecultist wonders while reading the following article in the New York Observer by Jake Brooks about the elite screenings publicists like Peggy Siegal organize to generate buzz among the A-listers for their pictures to fill the screener DVD void. Mostly though, these screenings seem like the usual who's who parties, more about checking out who's in the (fancy/trendy) room than actually watching the movie.

For instance, in this quote author Gay Talese who attended a screening of the Human Stain with his wife, seems more excited about the drinks and the Sir Anthony Hopkins sighting in the audience than the Philip Roth adaptation on the screen (which CC guesses is sorta understandable considering the reviews we've read of HS):

"The conversationwith people who are sitting in front of you, or behind you, or in the aisles on the straight-back chair because they were too lateis pleasant," Mr. Talese recalled. "So even if the film isnt a show worth seeing, the show itself, the atmosphere, the ambiance, made it worthwhile. Then you wind up as I did, with a Bombay gin martini, straight up with a twist, looking through the reflections of the simmering, shimmering, stupefying martini, and seeing the dazzling Mr. Anthony Hopkins," who showed up for the dinner at Arabelle.

All Cinecultist has to say about this business-as-usual in the moviemaking industry is -- where's our damn invite Peggy? CC's all buzz.
[Thanks Fiona So Much Modern Time for the linky link!]

Posted by karen at 8:01 AM |

October 16, 2003

Critical of the Critics

Stephen Schurr over on The Black Table yesterday stared into his crystal ball and predicts our Oscar future. It actually looks like a pretty complete list to Cinecultist and we do like the Sean Penn.

Our only quibble with his extensive preview of the season's up coming riches? Calling David Denby of the New Yorker "the best critic in the business, hands down". Give us a freakin' break. Denby couldn't find a good film if it came up and kicked him in the ass. At least Anthony Lane's reviews at the New Yorker are snarky, if misguided. We like our man Mick LaSalle at the San Francisco Chronicle if you want to talk good critics. Smart about movies and hilarious to boot. (He hated Kill Bill too.)

Brandon Judell over on IndieWire takes issue with A.O. Scott's rave over Mystic River and his deification of Penn in his coverage of the opening of the New York Film Festival. We've been cranky at Scott ever since he made CC excited about the release of Woody Allen's travesty Anything Else, so we understand where Judell is coming from in his issue at Scott's opinions:

"Just ask the New York Times's A.O. Scott. In a review that makes Janet Maslin's infamous take on "Titanic" seem even-measured, he opined that Sean Penn's performance is "not only one of the best performances of the year, but also one of the definitive pieces of screen acting in the last half-century." Not stopping there, he goes on to say Penn makes "Brando, Dean, Pacino and De Niro...all look like, well, actors." Only in paragraph nine of his review does he hint the film is not perfect: "The movie almost entirely avoids melodrama or grandiosity." A more balanced critic might share where Clint slips."

We hate to break it to Judell, but critics aren't obliged to be balanced. We're supposed to have opinions, with thoughtful arguments to back them up. That's what we pledge to do when we take the critic-ocratic oath. (God, we wish this were so. Someday maybe. When CC runs things.)

Posted by karen at 8:19 AM |

September 28, 2003

We Told You So

Okay, Cinecultist knows that Lost in Translation is getting a bit too much play in the blogosphere. We're expecting the backlash to begin any day now. But for the record, CC thought it was a lovely little picture that had to have some very serious biographical resonance for Ms. Coppola. She admits as much in the following paragraph from her Nostaligia piece in this month's Vogue, which we've excerpted because Vogue doesn't reproduce all of its content online (though is the IMDB equivalent for fashion info).

"I spent my 20s trying to figure out what I wanted to do. I tried everything and was frusterated because I couldn't really find the one thing I wanted to focus on. I went to art school and studied painting, and then got more into photography and doing a little clothing line and designing some more costumes just trying different things until I made my first short film and really enjoyed it. Making movies combines so many different areas that I like, and it's always really challenging. I enjoy the visual aspect, working with the cinematographer and the costume designer. I get involved in all those details."

OMG, we love Sofia. We even own a t-shirt from that clothing line she designed, Milk Fed, which when we wear it gets all kind of comments. lostsoundtrack.jpgAlso, CC suggests picking up the soundtrack, online or at your local record store, it's lovely. We just bought it the other day and it's a good compliment to the movie viewing experience. And as a bonus, on the end of the Jesus and Mary Chain track "Just Like Honey," you can hear Bill Murray kaoroking "More Than This," a highlight of the film. Now then, we're done with talking about Lost. Consider discussion of it pass

Posted by karen at 3:50 PM |

September 27, 2003

Shana Tova

In honor of Rosh Hashanah the Jewish New Year, Cinecultist thought we'd mention the extensive contribution of Jews to the movie industry. Though we missed the exhibition at the Jewish Museum that closed a week or so ago, Entertaining American: Jews, Movies and Broadcasting curated by the Village Voice critic J. Hoberman and Jeffrey Shandler, we've flipped through the accompanying catalogue which is a trove of information. A few little factoids:

The Jazz Singer, the first synched sound film which followed an immigrant Jewish performer, Al Jolsen, wherein he sings in blackface, had its world premiere a day before Yom Kippur at the Warners' Theatre in New York, running there for twenty-three weeks.

The originator of the Vamp character, an "implacable seductress," Theda Bara was born Theodesia Goodman and after she retired in 1926, she described herself in a newspaper interview as "just a nice Jewish girl."

In the 1990s, Jewish characters crowded the television airwaves, with the most famous being the NBC hit, Seinfeld. "Although of the four main characters only Jerry Seinfeld was identified as a Jew, all the characters have been understood at least by many Jewish viewers as crypto-Jews deliberately, playfully, and transparently disguised."

For more J. Ho writing on Jews in the movie industry, check out his earlier book on Yiddish film, Bridge of Light: Yiddish Film Between Two Worlds. Though it's still early in the season, the lyrics to Adam Sandler's Hannukkah song detail many more famous performing Jews. Visit the Barbra Streisand Museum in San Francisco, though now closed they still have a website for the Funny Girl's fans.

Posted by karen at 2:31 PM |

September 26, 2003

What Is Culture Anyway?

J. Hoberman poses this question at the end of his review of The School of Rock, Richard Linklater's new movie about Jack Black as a school teacher teaching 5th graders how to appreciate rock n' roll. But why does it all have to be high or low? Why should writers be refering to Linklater's past as an art/independent director who now is offering us a mainstream picture? Is all of this so easily defineable into binary categories? Cinecultist likes to see these cultural impulses all mixed up. CC also likes to see Black making his "devil rocking out" face. It's cute.

Posted by karen at 8:03 AM |

September 21, 2003

Journalism We Can Use

Despite Cinecultist's embrace of all things Internet and gadgetry related, we do like getting the physical newspaper on our humble East Village doorstep on the weekend. We especially like it when there's something in there we actually want to read. Hence, we bring you the following links -- sacrificing newsprint fingers and potential paper cuts to bring you a few jems of recent journalism.

Part of what makes Sofia Coppola's new movie Lost in Translation so delightful is the way that the non-Japanese speaking audience also feels adrift in translation issues as Bill Murray and Scarlett Johansson try to navigate Tokyo. An article in today's Times offers a crib sheet for the hilarious scene where Murray tries to communicate with his director with a translator who's less than effective.

jake.jpgExcuse CC while we wipe up the drool, the Times magazine publishes some delectable pictures of Jake Gyllenhaal in various outfits from Marc Jacobs and Polo for their Men's Fashion of the Times issue. Ehem, our hard copy is otherwise engaged, so we direct you to the link. Isn't he so fetching and devil-may-care leaning against that 2003 BMW Z4? Note to Jakey, we like the beard. Keep the beard after finishing Proof.

And the final link is not really movie related but a wonderful article nonetheless, as a reporter in the Bay Area plays Radiohead songs for a classroom of 5th graders. Then the kids drew pictures inspired by Thom Yorke's music. [link via The Modern Age] Fascinating and creative journalism.

Posted by karen at 12:35 PM |

September 17, 2003

Everyone's A Critic

At least, those film fans who have access to the internet would like to call themselves such. This month's Cineaste features an editorial on the state of "Film Criticism in Cyberspace," along with a list of links to other sites for criticism of note. They mention a few sites which started out as webzines but have risen in esteem by the film criticism community, such as Senses of Cinema out of Australia that covers Asian cinemas particularly well and Otrocampo, an Argentinean 'zine which provides comprehensive coverage of Latin American cinema and reprints of seminal articles by critics such as Truffaut, Godard, Pasolini, and Serge Daney. All of that is good news for those of us toiling away on the fringes here, not interested in getting PhD.s in cinema studies but wishing to engage in more complex criticism. And Cineaste's editors are generous to their non-establishment brethern noting in conclusion that, "it seems clear that the Internet will probably not supersede or replace conventional film journals but will continue to supplement, critique and sometimes prod those of us committed to a more old-fashioned mode of publication."

Note to Cineaste though, on their newly redesigned site (they ask for feedback via e-mail in the ed.): we like a flashy front page as much as the next web surfer, but please put more content on your site. More than two articles per issue would be great, thanks. This stingyness on the part of print publications is the bane of all bloggers who like to direct attention to well-done print articles.

Other websites mentioned that are worth a look: Rouge, Mobius Home Video Forum, Frameworks, A Film By and Film-Philosophy.

Posted by karen at 3:31 PM |

September 2, 2003

The Next Nora Ephron Crack...

Cinecultist deflects away from her person and in the general direction of one Aaron Bailey, Mr. 601am. And to think that some people complain about our taste! See, normal people like Ephron rom coms too.

Posted by karen at 6:41 PM |

Motherbaugh's Musical Muse

Cinecultist has to sort of hate people who can express themselves in more than one medium, but that rule must be suspended for Mark Mothersbaugh, the amazing composer of Wes Anderson's movie soundtracks (more mood inhancers really than pop mix soundtrack) who also creates fine art (shown recently in the East Village's Fuse Gallery). Aaron Zimmerman interviews him in two parts [I, II] in this month's New York Arts Magazine wherein he tells a hilarious story about doing angel dust with Andy Warhol and Michael Jackson at Studio 54 as well as some of his impressions of working with Anderson.

Posted by karen at 7:50 AM |

August 27, 2003

Might We Go See...

My Boss's Daughter? "Say it ain't so Cinecultist, say it ain't so!!!" Is the resounding cry we can hear across cyberspace into our comments box. But tell us the following quote from Ed Park's review of the movie in the Village Voice doesn't sound intriguing.

"Restricted largely to a single evening and place, Daughter is an accident corridor, a pleasurably intense burst of anarchy with no moral in sight, thank God, though we do learn that there's absolutely nothing funny about a leaky head wound, unless several cheese puffs happen to be attached to it."

Let's just hope that's only good criticism at work. Although you know we do love the Ashton here at CC...

Posted by karen at 2:39 PM |

More Musings on Mel

A thoughtful essay by Tobias Seamon in the Morning News today on the growing maelstrom surrounding Mel Gibson's film The Passion and its implications in regards to the recent rise in worldwide anti-Semitism.

Our previous posting on the fawning quotes from folks who've seen a rough cut.

Posted by karen at 2:20 PM |

August 26, 2003

Banish Colin Farrell, Children & Motown Music

A wonderfully snarky list of 50 suggestions to the movie industry from two cranky Canadian critics who think Toronto should get its due (#48 Give credit where it's due. As in "And Also Starring Toronto as Cleveland.").

Some particularly good ideas:
#8 Now that gay marriage is legal and all, have Frodo marry his adoring sidekick Sam atop Mt. Doom, in the final instalment of The Lord Of The Rings trilogy. All this heavy breathing is driving us crazy.
#36 Change the locks on Jerry Bruckheimer's office. Drop the keys in the Grand Canyon.
#47 All sequels should be called "Again." As in Spider-Man Again. Then Spider-Man Again And Again. Then Spider-Man Again And Again And Again. And so on.
[via Gothamist]

Posted by karen at 5:30 PM |

August 8, 2003

C3 didn't know that Mr. Spielbergo had helmed a re-make of a film by a veddy, veddy talented director. And he took such liberties, too!

Sorry, we'll stop now.

Posted by josh at 11:31 AM |

August 6, 2003

Greg Lindsay at Black Table talks with Mike "Cut Up the Frame" Figgis about issues of DV and current film distribution trends. He does not discuss why anyone would want to make a film based on the Duchess of Malfi (a 16th Century play that's the metatext inside his 2001 movie, Hotel) or why he cast David Schwimmer in it.

Posted by karen at 2:02 PM |

August 5, 2003

Preachin' To The Choir

Reviews panning Gigli? Shocking. Gawker rounds up a few of the choice quotes but just remember that you read a trashing (citing Godard no less) here first. Cinecultist goes to the bat for you, our readers, doing the leg work, watching the really crap movie in the theaters, so you can have your own snarky opinions to share 'round the water cooler. You're welcome.

Posted by karen at 12:53 PM |

August 1, 2003

On the Road

Want to get the hell out of town, but the eminent downpour this weekend seeming like it will keep you confined to the couch? Solve this quandry the cinecultist way, as an armchair traveler via the road movie. Nerve's staff offers a few suggestions, and CC thinks their sexiest pick has to be not Y Tu Mama Tambien but the Muppet Movie (wherein we learn that Fozzie learned to drive via correspondence school).

Your favorite movies from the road? Tell us in the comments.

Posted by karen at 11:20 AM | | Comments (1)

July 31, 2003

Dentists, War and Other Things

In preparation for the weekend's releases, may Cinecultist point you to an intriguing review of Alan Rudolph's new movie The Secret Lives of Dentists, which is being touted as his best movie since the Moderns. (Huh? The Moderns? We weren't aware this was such the cinematic masterwork but whatever.) J. Hoberman reviews it and the Magdalene Sisters, a movie that got tremendous buzz at last year's NY Film Fest and much enjoyed by PCC, if we remember correctly.

Also worth a read and now online, Reverse Shot's July/August symposium issue on War films. The issue includes an essay on one of the few war films CC really likes, Three Kings (although it seems we like it much more than the writer of this piece), as well as one we find super troubling, Starship Troopers. Bugs and Barbie (aka Denise Richards), the picture gives us the creeps every time we watch it. Although, maybe that's what the director Paul Verhoeven wants.

And to balance out the thoughtful criticism with a little bold face gossip and good ol' fashion web ranting, has some Gigli buzz (also to be released this weekend). Basically, the short story -- being touted as the worst movie ever. Yipee! It really does look terrible but some evil alien experiment implanted a chip in our brain forcing CC to see J.Lo films, so that even the hilarious Onion article probably will not stop us from attending. Remember, blame the J.Lo-loving aliens for our addition to the weekend grosses.

Posted by karen at 5:22 PM |

July 29, 2003

They're Called 'Grosses' For A Reason

Opening weekend brouhaha and the industry buzz around tracking returns can be traced to a little picture from the summer of 1975 about a hungry fish in a coastal town. The New Yorker's James Surowiecki does a little analysis of the way this summer's blockbusters have been blowing up and then whimpering out of the theaters scant weeks later. In the shouldn't-they-alert-the-studio-heads department, the following:
"'Jaws' may have opened big because Universal marketed it well and released it widely, but it stayed big because people liked it. And controlling what people like is something that even the most clever marketer can't do."

Posted by karen at 10:21 PM |

July 14, 2003

Copyright Don't Make a Wrong

Using as a jumping off point the recent boom in comic book character movies (how many has CC seen? That's right. All of them.), The Morning News's Matthew Baldwin takes a look at the weird wacky world of copyright law. A good read and very relevant for understanding the swirlings of public domain in movie rights.

Posted by karen at 10:52 AM |

July 5, 2003

CC HEARTS Celeb Quotes

Bwah-haha. We love bitchy links about celebrities here at Cinecultist. A few good ones this week:

Choire Sicha points us to this Arnold Schwarzenegger classic.

"I play terminator, but you guys are the true terminators," Arnold told the troops on Independence Day.

Is this actually Jenny Lo's bod on the cover of the most recent Esquire? The folks at Gothamist and their readers weigh in.

Gawker reads Liz Smith for us, so we don't have to. Liz on her "Feed the Celebrites campaign" (a worthy cause that Cinecultist also works for) "Unless he is dieting for a role as a prisoner of war, or a hospital patient in bad shape, somebody - please feed Bruce Willis! He's thinner than we've ever seen him. Down to sinew and bone."

Now back to our regularly scheduled gossip-free little lives.

Posted by karen at 11:00 PM |

June 27, 2003

New Joe Bob Briggs Book

Just a few lines to mention an interesting interview with John Bloom, aka Joe Bob Briggs Drive In Movie critic, on mediabistro. Apparently, Joe Bob has a new book out, Profoundly Disturbing: Shocking Movies that Changed History which CC will peruse soon and get back to you on. (We love Joe Bob here, we used to read his columns in syndication as a wee film critic-in-training. He's a writer who influenced CC from a young age along with Pauline Kael and Dorothy Parker.) In the meantime, check out his site as well, it's a hoot.

Posted by karen at 7:02 PM |

June 23, 2003

Shocking Example of Plagerism

Things get a little too close for comfort in the plot summary department when it comes to this Hulk write-up in the Post. Looks like other journalists besides Jayson Blair, even those writing about film, know how to creatively cut-n-paste. [via Gawker, via]

Posted by karen at 2:56 PM |

June 17, 2003

Theater Versus Film Criticism

Often the interests and styles of theater critics and film critics overlap, but in a good way, so that practitioners of both disciplines can learn from each other. Cinecultist grew up, like many current critics, reading Pauline Kael in the New Yorker but also voraciously consumed the theater reviews by Dorothy Parker. Catty and witty queens can be appreciated all around for their ability to entertain and persuade whether they're writing about the stage or screen.

In this interview on mediabistro today, the Times's chief theater critic Ben Brantley touches on the intersection between film and theater writing. He has particular experience in this, having written about film for Elle (yes, fashion mags also can have good critics on their staffs) before writing for the New Yorker and then the Times. Bentley makes an interesting comment about the way that people lament the loss of a "golden age" of an art form, but really we remember things selectively. Arts industries usually put out crud and genius at the same time. It is all business as usual. This is equally true of filmmaking and theater productions. (But that still doesn't mean that CC has any plans to go see Hairspray.)

"Broadway of late has certainly pandered out of a sense of desperation more than it used to, but if you look back to the theater reviews of the turn of the 20th century, you'll find a lot of the complaints made about Broadway then that are also being made todaythat the shows we see are basically circuses or mere displays of technology. The so-called golden era of Broadway was actually pretty short-lived. We are always lamenting its decline and saying it is no good now, but I don't necessarily think that is anything new. Theater in general is certainly less glamorous than when I first came to New York as a kid, but I am also looking at it through adult eyes. I sit through some bad stuff, but when I get to sit through some of the good stuff, it is still rewarding like nothing else."

Posted by karen at 12:35 PM |

June 16, 2003

Koch on Cinema

Just to show that not everyone can be a film critic, former New York city mayor, Ed Koch has a reviews column in The Villager. Last week, Koch told New York to see L'Auberge Espagnole (which CC liked too but not for it's "surreal quality") and The Italian Job ("far better than 85% of the films released during the last three weeks") but not A Woman Is A Woman. Are you kidding me? By pass one of Godard's classics? Has he no sense of humor? Has he no sense of cinema history? CC is flabergasted. [via 601am]

Posted by karen at 3:09 PM |

June 4, 2003

The New Cahiers?

For sad souls like CC, a new film journal is cause for rejoicing. 'Specially when we know people who write for it. And when we've been asked to contribute.

Check out the site for Reverse Shot, said new bi-monthly journal, its a nice looking little site. They've been distributing their wares at the Tribeca Film Festival and rumor has it that next issue's contributors include Kent Jones from Film Comment and fabu French critic, Michel Chion. Sweet. The current issue covers director Steven Speilberg -- controversial Hollywood-mainstream auteur.

Posted by karen at 1:39 PM |

May 30, 2003

New Yorker Meets Mr. Ringu

Tad Friend (aka Mr. Amanda Hesser) writes this week in the New Yorker about Hollywood producer, Roy Lee, the shylock responsible for the influx of Asian remakes to grace American screens. And when CC calls Lee a shylock, she's actually being kinder and more direct than the way Friend depicts him. Not that CC condones this sort of cultural poaching that Lee seems to be infamous for. Basically, Friend reports that Lee convinces the Asian producers that their films won't have an audience in the states because "Americans don't like to read subtitles" and they should sell their stories as remakes which Hollywood producers then slick up and reshoot for big American grosses.

Interestingly though to CC, which Friend doesn't really touch upon as he details the machinations of a Hollywood production deal with Sam Raimi, the remake of the Ring seemed to create an audience, among cinephiles at least, for the originals. Maybe this is just among the Kim's-frequenting freaks CC associates with, but most people CC knows who like horror went out of their way to see at least Ringu if not the prequel and sequel on DVD. As much as CC liked to see Naomi Watts get some good press, the really good think would be for more international market where all kinds of films get distribution. But honestly, when's that going to happen? Not while guys like Roy Lee rise to the top of the industry. Sigh.

Posted by karen at 9:22 AM |

May 27, 2003

Claws Out at Film Comment

This year the Pulitzer organization awarded a prize to a film critic, Stephen Hunter of the Washington Post. First off this made Cinecultist very happy. When CC was a little kid, she wanted to win a Noble Prize, but when she realized you needed to be discovering a cure for cancer or brokering peace accords to get that, she gave up. But to know that she could continue with this film critic thing and maybe someday be a Pulitzer Prizer winner? That just rocks.

Okay, so granted, CC had never heard of this Stephen Hunter but whatever. Then, this bit appeared in the May/June issue of Film Comment in the front of the book, unsigned. They call Hunter a bad reviewer, a hack and a pompous read, all in three paragraphs. Yeouch. The last paragraph just reads like sour grapes to CC.

"That he won the Pulitzer Prize, alas, reveals the prizes for what they are, which no one without a printing press can say: a brokered agreement among a few principal news corporations to divvy up awards amongst themselves without regard to merit or professional standing. Hell, the Oscars do better than thatthey let members vote."

Posted by karen at 7:11 PM |

May 25, 2003

More News from Cannes

J.Ho's article this week in the Voice features his report from the festival in France.

Here's why I love Jim, (as a critic) and think that his writing is always worth reading, whether I agree with him or not: He uses a reference to The Matrix: Reloaded (a big premier, it sounds like, at Cannes this year) to contextualize an Afghan film that he really liked. In other words, to really get his meaning, the reader needs to be versed in the mainstream to understand his assessment of the obscure. Wonderful.

Also worth reading, is the tail end of the review when he describes Dogville. Damn, psyched to see that, especially as he says the feature has similiarities to Breaking the Waves Lars van Trier's breakout film with Emily Watson. Nicole Kidman has been doing no wrong lately with her choices in roles, she seems to understand that its most important to work with these serious directors since she wants to be considered a serious actor. I think someone needs to set up a coffee date for Nicole and Gwyneth, where the hell has she gone lately? Oscar award does not give one carte blanche to punish their viewers with View from the Top. ANYHOO, Dogville = psyched.

CC is thinking of J. Hoberman lately because his summer class at NYU begins next week and CC told him she would be attending a few lectures as an auditer again this summer. Will report back soon on the screening list for "Dawn of the Digital" (the title of this year's course).

Posted by karen at 3:58 PM |