March 14, 2008

SXSW Round Up on Metromix

opening night at the Paramount
Originally uploaded by karencinecultist
Who knew watching a bunch of movies in a small Texas town could tucker out the Cinecultist like it did? It's finally Friday, we've been back in New York since Monday night, and still need to post a few thoughts on the couple of other films we caught after our Alamo Ritz double debacle. In the meantime, you can read a wrap up of the festival CC wrote for the national Metromix feed.

Cinecultist is glad to see our reference to breakfast tacos, an only in Austin oddity we found particularly fascinating during our trip, ended up in the final piece. Although it should be noted that a round up of the festival which only features five movies barely scratches the surface of what was on offer at SXSW this year. Just in case that wasn't clear from our Lindsay Lohan level exhaustion references.

March 9, 2008

Twarted, a Theme at SXSW

a massive waiting line
Originally uploaded by karencinecultist
Twice now the Alamo Ritz has disappointed the Cinecultist. On Saturday evening we stood on line for the Harmony Korine movie but didn't end up getting in and then tonight, we were also denied entrance to the Duplass brothers' movie Baghead. That line stretched around the block and down the alley! Who knew getting to a theater a half hour before the screening with badge in tow would be such a recipe for disaster. Guess that's one of those newbie mistakes you only make once. Or in Cinecultist's case at this SXSW, twice.
Posted by karen at 8:39 PM | SXSW Film Festival | Comments (0)

March 8, 2008

Day 2 at South by South West

Nothing makes one feel like a bonafide blogger than free WiFi. Cinecultist is currently in the Ikea lounge area of the Austin Convention Center after a screening, getting caught up on emails and checking in. All around us are earnest, badge wearing interactive and film folks tapping away on lap tops, drinking coffees, chatting and planning their next move navigating this massive festival. It's kind of awesome, the creative hub bub here at SXSW.

Last night CC watched the locally made, fiction film, Goliath, about a middle aged white collar worker dealing with his bourgeois rage and the loss of his beloved cat, and then today we caught the documentary We Are Wizards, about Harry Potter fans. So far we've been sticking with our initial navigation plan of seeking out off-the-beaten path movies, not films that are coming to New York in the next week or so. Both movies were worth seeing for their zany, home-grown qualities.

Goliath is a film directed and written by David Zellner, and produced and edited by his brother Nathan, with both brothers acting in the movie as well as other indie fixtures like Wiley Wiggins and Andrew Bujalski. It has an Office Space vibe, only with even more depressed, hopeless characters who endure soul crushing humiliations. Moments like the bureaucratic signing of divorce papers or the inane chatter in a break room full of imbecile dudes are played out unblinkingly and the resulting laughter is appreciative if also slightly embarrassed. The Zellner brothers are interested in fixating on situations we've all been in, and frankly it's slightly uncomfortable.

After the Zellners, We Are Wizards was a more buoyant and celebratory selection, delving into the world of Wizard Rock—bands devoted to performing original songs about Hogwarts characters—HP fan sites and other creative expression centering on The Boy Who Lived. After attending a few Union Square midnight extravaganzas for Rowling's books and movies, it was really intriguing to see folks from all over the country using post-modern expression to explore their love of Harry. A stand-out character in Josh Koury's documentary is Brad Neely, a geeky cartoonist for Super Delux who recorded his own audio interpretation/commentary for the first film. There's something about this wizarding universe and it's characters which he says allowed him to make his most resonant work. He tells Koury's camera, he still thinks about it all the time. Intriguing that in our pop culture saturated world, it's appropriation that can lead to truly satisfying creativity.

Just now, we saw film writer Dennis Lim walking past and chatted with him about his experience so far. This is Dennis's first SXSW too, and because he's serving as a documentary judge, he's parked here in the Convention Center for the day watching all eight of the competitors. We recommended that when he gets a break from movie watching to eat a meal at the South Congress Cafe. Cinecultist had a delightful brunch there this morning, complete with mimosas and cornbread muffins. Yum. We also ate an equally scrumptious cupcake from the Hey Cupcake airstream truck parked across the street. Oh Austin, you're so quirky.

Tonight, we have plans to hit The Toe Tactic premiere party and check out the advertised performance by Yo La Tengo. But before that we'll have to swing by the drugstore for some decongestant, Cinecultist is battling a bit of a cold or maybe allergies.

March 7, 2008

Waiting for my first screening to begin

Waiting for my first screening to begin
Originally uploaded by karencinecultist
As the crowd files into the convention center theater, cinecultist plays with her mobile blog functions. SXSW baby!

March 6, 2008

Austin Bound!

Picture%203.pngIn a few short hours, Cinecultist will be winging our way from Newark, New Jersey to Austin, Texas, the site of the South by Southwest Film Festival. We could only take a couple of days off for the trip, and as we filled up our interactive film festival calendar yesterday with interesting screenings and panels, we realized it's shaping up to be a jam packed long weekend. Especially since we've heard such good things about Austin's bbq, tacos and margaritas from past festival attendees. Perhaps pulled pork will become our new go-to movie snack after this weekend.

Looking over the festival line up, Matt Dentler and his team have put together a great mix of mainstream new releases like the opening night feature 21 and Harold and Kumar Escape from Guantanamo, with documentaries and small indies. On our list so far are two docs we'd heard good thing about at Sundance, Gonzo and American Teen. But Cinecultist also hopes to make some introductions to new filmmakers, so we definitely want to check out some of the short subjects, Emerging Visions and Lone Star States collections. Plus, we're hoping to do some film party schmoozing and film panel attending, so as we said, busy, busy, busy!

CC has packed the digital camera and the laptop, so we'll be filing dispatches all weekend long. If you'll also be in town for the fest or have some bbq/taco consuming suggestions, drop us a line.

Posted by karen at 1:24 PM | SXSW Film Festival | Comments (0)

February 18, 2008

Gettin' Outta Town

the charles river, originally uploaded by karencinecultist.

Cinecultist quit the Eee Vee for the long weekend to see the sights in Boston. It was a mighty good time. Historic Irish pubs, tasty burgers, gamboling seals, navigating the T, and schooling Harvard Square geeks in trivia were all involved. Here is one of our favorite views from the trip, of the river from a top the Prudential building in their lovely lounge. They know how to have a civilized cocktail in Bean Town.

Posted by karen at 10:16 PM | photography | Comments (0)

September 16, 2007

Tacos! Tacos! Tacos!

Don't these juices from a stand at the Red Hook Ballfields look utterly luscious? If you're based in the New York area but haven't been out to sample some pupupas, tacos, ceviche and tamales in Brooklyn make a plan for next weekend. Tasty goodness folks, and a perfect capper to a sweet summer.

In other Brooklyn news, Cinecultist says get thee to the new Williamsburg bar The Gutter asap for an evening of good beers and bowling. You can even do your best Jesus Quintanta impression. [Check out some pretty photos of the space from Gothamist.]

Posted by karen at 6:02 PM | food, New York events | Comments (0)

July 16, 2007

Looking For Coffee in Seattle?

This post isn't movie related but rather concerns another Cinecultist obsession: good coffee, or more specifically good coffee in Seattle. A photo we had posted on Flickr from a trip to Seattle a few years ago has been licensed by a new cool travel website called Schmap. On the entry for one of our favorite places on Capitol Hill, Bauhaus, you can see the image above that CC took from inside. It's part of a customizable map of a destination, complete with nodes indicating restaurants, boutiques, and other points of interest for residents as well as visitors. Considering Cinecultist thinks of ourselves as a kind of walking schmap (go on, quiz us! we can't be stumped!), we're tickled to be a small part of this project. Check out the site and let us know what you think. There's a New York version too that we'll be having fun poking around.

Posted by karen at 9:00 AM | coffee, internets, Seattle | Comments (0)

June 29, 2007

On The To Do & To See List

Isn't there something terribly festive about a weekend just before a mid-week holiday? It's not like this weekend is anything special but next week is so abbreviated it makes you want to sing with joy. Also, the humidity broke in New York, so that's another reason today is happy day. Here's the Cinecultist's big no-holiday weekend plans:

- Watch the Netflixed DVD of Little Dieter Needs to Fly. CC saw Rescue Dawn recently which we thought was very disturbing and fucked-up-but-in-a-good-way. Now we need to know what Werner Herzog thought was the deal with Dieter before he learned the real deal about Dieter and made it into a movie with Christian Bale.

- Eat take-out and Tasti D-Lite. Summer makes us a little lazy on the cooking front and obsessed with low cal frozen treats that taste like fake mud pie.

- Relax by going to yoga class and getting a hot salt scrub at Bliss. Dry scaly skin begone thanks to lovely birthday gift certificates.

- Go to another New York Asian Film Festival screening. This one is of Getting Home which is from China and about peasants, if we recall correctly.

- Think about going to a screening of one of the Kino films at Lincoln Center which we recommended on Gothamist today.

- Potential Mitzvah: wander around in front of a theater playing Evening and try to persuade patrons not to spend their $11.75 on a ticket. Gawd, that movie blows and sucks, as Manohla Dargis more eloquently put it in her NYT review. Avoid, avoid, avoid!

- Maybe go to the Richard Serra exhibit. Maybe do a little shopping. Maybe take a nap. The possibilities are endless!

June 26, 2007

"The Vending Machine Says Hi"

The New York Asian Film Festival began this past weekend, and on Sunday night amidst the residual brouhaha of Pride weekend in the West Village, Cinecultist caught a screening of I'm A Cyborg But That's Okay at the IFC Center. We've been anticipating Park Chan-wook's newest as well as the sixth annual fest from the folks at Subway Cinema and for the most part neither parties disappointed. Complex visuals and kooky characters from Park? Check. High energy programmer Grady Hendrix acting delightfully spastic as he introduces the film and gives away free stuff? Double check.

Unfortunately I'm A Cyborg, while containing a lot of great moments (including the part where one of the characters utters that bizarre and hilarious line we used for the headline), isn't uniformly as compelling as some of Park's previous work. Set in a mental institution, the two main characters are Young-goon (Su-jeong Lim, who played one of the sisters from A Tale of Two Sisters) and Il-Sun (Rain, a HUGE Asian pop star), who fall for each other while trying to cope with their mental instability. Il-Sun believes he has the ability to steal people's character traits as well as their prized possessions while Young-goon thinks herself a cyborg and chats with inanimate objects in the hospital like the fluorescent lights and the aforementioned vending machine. Of course because she's animatronic, Young-goon believes she needs to be recharged with electricity rather than refueled with conventional food, a theory at odds with the standard practices of a hospital.

Like in his previous films, Park's movies really take off when he enters his characters' warped perspectives. The sequence where Young-goon becomes the cyborg and takes out all of the evil "white 'uns" holding her hostage with her automatic rifle fingers is spectacular. It's just that some of the internal logic of the crazy people was tough to parse. Psychosis isn't really the most light topic, nor the stuff of obvious romantic comedy, so there are times where the craziness seems tacked on and solvable. There seems to be something disingenuous about creating characters with debilitating phobias and then implying they could just "make themselves better" if they really wanted. While we'd never try to expect a Park Chan-wook to be "realistic," it's usually at least believable and consistently compelling. In that respect, I'm a Cyborg isn't as powerful as you'd hope.

The rest of our screening schedule for the fest: on Thursday Takashi Miike's Big Bang Love, Juvenile A which stars jail-bait handsome Ryuhei Matsuda and includes a Mayan pyramid, a Chinese movie (tangentially) recommended by Grady, Getting Home next Sunday, and then Hula Girls, which is always a crowd favorite according to our friend William, the following Monday.

We've also been toying with the idea of finally buying a DVD copy of The Taste of Tea, which CC saw at NYAFF a few years ago. However our poor, belabored credit card isn't quite buying our rationale about the importance of supporting good Asian cinema with our American dollars.

June 12, 2007

Seattle International Film Festival Haikus

Poor Seattle Maggie. She's been so busy with her exciting Seattle life that she's barely had any time for movies at this year's Seattle International Film Festival, an event Cinecultist heartily enjoyed attending with her when we both resided in that rainy city. However, SM did catch a few things of note, mostly chosen by how little they anticipated they'd have to endure "standing in line and crowds and running to get seats," and she haiku reviewed them. Here's some of her syllable-counting brilliance.

Manufactured Landscapes
China is quite big
Destruction can be pretty
Sleepy but gorgeous

The King of Kong
Monkey named Donkey?
Battles with machine and man
Wide grins in the dark

The Last Winter
Nature bares her teeth
Don’t turn your back on that corpse!
Ron Perlman is hot

Big Rig
Truckers have hard lives
Asphalt string wraps the country
Doug Pray signed our stub

May 3, 2007

Some Serious Tribeca Fatigue

Holy moly, the Cinecultist is exhausted. Today was the first day in nearly a week and a half when we weren't running off to a screening for the Tribeca Film Festival. It's been a fun few weeks, especially when we were actually hanging out down in Tribeca, but now CC's ready for a break from the movies, the parties and remembering to bring our festival pass when we leave the apartment.

Here's what we saw, and a brief review:

  • Planet B-Boy - A doc about the annual break dancing competition in Germany, it's fun to see the acrobatic boogying, though it's not a strong on the history of hip hop as say Style Wars is.
  • Napoleon and Me - Is it just CC or could you also watch Monica Bellucci recite entries from the phonebook on screen? This Italian period comedy about Napoleon's exile to Elba with Daniel Auteuil as the aging dictator was cute but no revelation.
  • West 32nd - One of our favorite films from the festival, CC accosted its star John Cho at a Tribeca party to tell him so and he nicely offered to introduce us to the equally chill and friendly director Michael Kang. We interviewed him for Gothamist today and recommended the movie last week in a roundup of New York themed flicks at the fest. Hopefully it'll get picked up for distribution soon.
  • Lost in Beijing - Starring the other Tony Leung (Ka Fai, not the more famous in the US/Infernal Affairs Tony Leung Chiu Wai), this character study reminded us of a French film, but maybe because it has nudity, marital ennui, partner swapping, class divide and adultery in it.
  • Still Life - We're not (too) embarrassed to admit that CC fell asleep for about a half hour during the middle of Chinese director Jia Zhang-ke's newest. Mostly because when we woke up, CC could still follow the plot. Yeah, it moved that slowly. The cinematography of the demolished Three Gorges Dam area is totally gorgeous and the movie reminded us of Michelangelo Antonioni's Eclipse. Depending on your feelings about Antonioni, you'll see that as a recommendation or a diss.
  • Blue State - Hear our solemn vow: we will never ever ever see anything with Breckin Meyer in it again. That guy just sucks, there's no two ways about it. Cute concept (liberal guy moves to Canada after 2004 election) but Anna Paquin could do much better than slumming with the Breck.
  • The Gates - Christo and Jean-Claude are too adorable for words. While parts of this doc about the making of the 2005 art piece in Central Park does drag, the footage from the late '70s and early '80s when they first pitched the idea to the city is totally fascinating. It's so cool that the Mayles brothers have been capturing Christo and Jean-Claude's career for so long that they'd have that historical continuity. A very fitting close to the fest.
  • Purple Violets - We've long given up that Ed Burns will make an original, interesting movie but was curious to see how Selma Blair would do in a more conventional romantic comedy. We still love her, but this is not her best role, despite acting opposite the always hunky and thoughtful Patrick Wilson. One might say Burns has a rare gift for making even these two actors look bad.

It's a weird mix of movies to see we know, and bear in mind timing kept us from some screenings we intended to catch. However, Tribeca is sort of an odd, hodge podge kind of festival, so maybe our selections were fitting for the spirit of the thing.

March 29, 2007

Even Movie Lovers Have To Eat

View up Second Ave

For ages, whenever Cinecultist walked down Houston Ave past Bowery, we'd look longingly at the "Coming Soon...Whole Foods" signs. But today on the way to a morning press screening at Film Forum, we did a little happy dance on the corner because our anticipation is finally over--the Whole Foods Bowery is now open for business! Later in the day CC and our friend (and fellow Eee Vee foodie) Adriane returned for a tour. Dear god, did you know they have a whole chilled room devoted to cheese? It's called the Fromagerie, no joke. Plus, the piles of beautiful produce, the local artisanal snacks, the counter filled with sausages and a counter of pomme frites complete with a sauces menu had CC salivating and planning summer menus galore. We're talkin' about some good eatin'. After ooh-ing and ahh-ing over the ground floor, we took a break with a coffee and CC took the above camera phone shot of the view up Second Avenue from the second floor cafe. We expect to be doing quite a bit of remote blogging from that spot.

sushi on a conveyor belt!

They also have a sushi bar in that second floor cafe, which features an adorable conveyor belt. CC may try to go next week for lunch and pretend like we're Kirsten Dunst eating with Paul Bettany in Wimbledon. Silly we know, but it is a pretty awesome space that begs for romantic movie hyperbole. CC should also probably just start automatically setting aside a sizable chunk of our meager income to WF. It ain't cheap to shop there but boy, they have a great looking selection of products.

In slightly more movie related news, if you're a fellow NY movie goer, think about donating some time as a volunteer to this year's Tribeca Film Festival. You can still sign up via their website. Friends of CC who've done it in past years say it's a blast plus it's a great way to meet other local film fans while helping out the downtown fest.

March 8, 2007

Ken Loach, Can CC Adopt You?

Ken Loach at MoMALast night at the Museum of Modern Art, Cinecultist attended a special preview screening of Ken Loach's The Wind That Shakes the Barley, a new movie about the Irish "troubles" which won the Palm D'Or at Cannes this year. Loach was in the house to introduce the movie and answer questions following (as pictured with a MoMA staff member), as well as cast members Cillian Murphy, Padraic Delaney and Mairtin de Cogain. It was unassuming English and Irishmen all around, with one more self-effacing than the next. Loach in particular is totally adorable, like a sweet grandpa you want to take home for a cup of tea and then debate the history of Western philosophy.

One thing all four panelists were incredibly passionate about though was this project, which Loach described as coming together quite naturally. The struggles for Irish independence was a topic he and writer Paul Laverty had discussed for many years off and on before deciding to develop it into a screenplay about two fictional brothers caught up in the fighting. Each brother represents a point of view and as the conflicts get more heated, their impulses to do "the right thing" gets harder and harder in the face of the horrible circumstances.

Like in Loach's previous films that CC's enjoyed Bread and Roses and Sweet Sixteen, he does an amazing job of illiciting nuanced and naturalistic performances from his actors. Cillian Murphy has had good roles before, but he's particularly wonderful here as a young doctor compelled to fight for his country despite his gentle conscience. Also, CC was pleased to note that in person Murphy's modest personality doesn't contain any traces of his creepy characters from Batman Begins or Red Eye. Apparently, Cillian is a nice guy who's just a really good actor. Go fig.

The Wind That Shakes the Barley hits US theaters a week from Friday.

February 13, 2007

Art House Mad House


On Sunday afternoon, Cinecultist went to see a screening of Factory Girl and based on the crowds in the lobby you would've thought Edie Sedgwick herself had descended on the Angelika. The Angelika has such an odd set up with their over-priced cafe on the ground floor and then the concession stands, restrooms and theaters on the floor below. When it's not too crowded these two areas don't matter too much, and actually the cafe is nice to sit in if you're early to your movie like CC was on Wednesday. We'd gotten coffee up at Think with just this plan in mind and sat reading, observing the packed lobby scene for about an hour.

Angelika has a pretty good line up right now, some Oscar nominated movies like The Queen or Notes on a Scandal that people perhaps haven't seen yet, plus some newer, much buzzed about movies like Factory Girl and The Lives of Others. Consequently, the Angelika staff had the moviegoers lining up, either to the left of the entrance or to the right, in these velvet roped areas. However, they held the lines there until about 5 minutes before the movies started and with all the people, plus the proximity of the start times to each other, there got to be quite a bottleneck. Also, certain people get antsy/cranky when they're not in their movie seats a good 15 minutes or so before the movie starts. It's confusing to be still waiting upstairs as the start time nears, they want to be on time and situated. The woman in line in front of CC even turned around to ask if she was in the right place because of it. This is after the staff has been announcing over the PA system where everyone should be every 10 minutes or so. Perhaps she thought the movie might start without her? Poor lady, she should've pretended she was an Edie Sedgwick, confident that the party couldn't start until she had arrived.

It's a popular New York movie obsessive past time to complain about the Angelika, and CC does it too, mostly because that subway rumbling from the 6 train is seriously distracting during the movies. The Angelika has a tricky situation on their hands; they're showing movies worth seeing right now and they're trying to handle the crowds but it doesn't seem to be working all that well. People cut in the line, there's a general sense of crankiness and it seemed to CC like a lot less people were going to the concession stand downstairs as they rushed into their designated theater. This can't be good for Angelika business cutting down on those popcorn sales.

By the way, how was Factory Girl, you may be wondering? Pretty good actually, considering that Weinstein Co. intended to release it before the end of 2006 but held it for legal reasons. Sienna Miller is just as lovely as you'd imagine she would be, and does come across as a compelling artist's muse. Though we were surprised that Bob Dylan's people objected to the "folk singer" character played by Hayden Christensen which is an obvious homage to Dylan. If anyone is culpable for Edie's demise in the movie, it's not Dylan but Andy. He basically turns his back on her because she deigns to fall in love with the heterosexual hunk played by Hayden. The film depicts Andy as rejecting anyone who doesn't remain in his orbit, treating him as the most important person in the world. For someone seemingly so self-hating, he's awfully narcissistic.

After seeing this movie, CC still thinks the most interesting woman at the factory was Brigid Berlin. She wasn't a waify lovely inspiring fashion trends like Edie, but at least she kept making art even after sublimating herself to Andy's creative dominance. Rent Pie In The Sky: The Brigid Berlin Story and you'll see what we mean.

January 25, 2007

Clap Your Hands Say Exhausted

It's a fact. Cinecultist is just getting too darn old to be staying up until 1:30 in the morning to see (not so) super secret shows at Mercury Lounge. Of course, buying a $10 ticket to see Clap Your Hands Say Yeah play a tiny show to promote their new album was a total no brainer, but we're still pretty tired this morning. Our music blogger friends the 'gum and the 'vegan have some nice pictures up today. Heck, while we're at it with the music posting, Cinecultist would comment in response to the inevitable conversation about how this ranked on the scale of CYHSY shows, it was better than New Year's '05 into '06 but not as good as at Warsaw in '05. Sometimes, we have the lingering feeling that Alec doesn't actually sing all of the lyrics because he's sort of bored by his own songs. Regardless though, CC could be seen boogieing up 1st Ave last night around 3 am singing the chorus of "Satan Said Dance" not so quietly to ourselves.

In more movie-ish news, David Pogue reviews Netflix's new movie streaming service in the New York Times today. Brilliant development from the 'flix to offer real time streaming of some of their movies with your paid subscription, just get the Mac plug in set up a tout de suite!

December 19, 2006

Where've You Been, Cinecultist?

Sorry kids, this is one of those lame blog posts where said blogger apologizes for being AWOL from their online perch. Blah blah blah, freelance writing for money takes up so much time, blah blah blah, holiday season, blah blah blah. You get the picture. Besides, if even freakin' David Bordwell* is entering the blogosphere, maybe the Cinecultist is now passe.


Promises, promises: More postings soon, including an end of the year top 10 that's been churning around in our film obsessive noggin.

*True Story: CC bought Bordwell and Thompson's Film Art book a total of three times during our cinema studies days, each time completing the course which required it, gleefully selling it back to the bookstore and then cursing his name when it showed up on the syllabus yet again.

Posted by karen at 3:27 PM |

October 14, 2006

The Cinecultist Is In Italy


Sorry folks for the awol behavior this week, the Cinecultist is out of the country. We are currently in Italy visiting our family for the next week or so. We shall return on the 24th but in the meantime, postings will be intermittent. Check out our Flickr link for a few European photos, including 4 fun filled hours in the Amsterdam airport on a layover. Wheee!

One movie point of note from our trip thus far: The Devil Wears Prada as seen on a tiny screen from the back of an airplane seat is still as entertaining as on the big screen. In fact, it may be taylor made for such a low-fi exhibition.

Pictured above: The walkway from my parents' house down to the center of town.

Posted by karen at 4:52 AM |

September 11, 2006

Today's Not An Easy Day To Be A New Yorker


But we love living here anyhow. It's just sad to look back. The month of September marks five years since Cinecultist moved to New York to study film, just as today is the fifth year anniversary of an incredibly tragic day for this city.

A picture Cinecultist took from the top of the Empire State building.

Posted by karen at 9:57 AM |

June 13, 2006

You Can't Take the Art House Out of Cinecultist

With the Cinecultist in full summer blockbuster movie binge mode, loyal readers who dig our art house coverage may be worried that our Pavlovian response to the flashy opening weekends may have rotted our brain. Not to worry, CC's still making time for the indie, the foreign and the academic strands of our movie fandom. Case in point the following three recent flicks:

- Funny Ha Ha (DVD rental). We can't quite recall why this ended up in the Netflix queue but needless to say we liked it's low fi, rom com charm. Starring Kate Dollenmayer as Marnie, it's about a slightly disaffected 24-year-old who's graduated from college but is feeling a little lost. She drinks too much, has a dumb temp job and has a thing for her friend Alex (Christian Rudder) who may or may not be single. Jeez, that sounds all to familiar to CC from our own salad days. This is one of those movies where very little happens, yet the smallest gesture or look between these very "real" characters communicates so much about their experience. Andrew Bujalski, we await the rest of your career with eager anticipation.

- Peacock (closing film at Brooklyn International Film Festival). Programmed by those crazy kids at Subway Cinema to close out BiFF and as an entry in their own festival (screening June 22 at 8:30 pm), it's a 2 plus hour movie about a family struggling through the Cultural Revolution. This may sound like snooze city but CC found ourselves quite engaged by this elegantly shot film which reminded us a bit of Bergman's Fanny and Alexander, though without the jokes. While we're still a bit baffled by what the appearance in the final scene of the titular peacock actually represents, we enjoyed the vignettes about each of the three siblings.

- Dead Birds (MoMA's To Save And Protect Festival). A few weekends ago, our friend Adriane shot us an email asking if we'd like to see a documentary at MoMA later that day. Only thing was, it was a 1964 ethnographic film about the Papuans in West New Guinea by Robert Gardner. Sometimes it's a good idea to just say yes to such a strange movie request, without any preconceived notions or expectations and this time was no different. Somehow Gardner was able to capture this ancient and seemingly untouched society on film, as the subjects deal with the continuing warfare between tribes and the customs associated with community and religion. Seeing a movie like this that's about a world so remote from our own makes us rethink all of our cultural assumptions of normality. If an anthropologist looked in our our lives from a different world would our beliefs and rituals seem as alien? While the god-like voice of Gardner's narration is a bit too omniscient for comfort at points, the fact that he's able to get that close to real fighting with spears is beyond impressive.

Posted by karen at 11:30 PM |

May 21, 2006

The Pheasants In Our Head

The birthday festivities are done and thanks to all who wished CC a happy happy. Especially those who helped us greet the dawn over a game of caps. We're a little bit hung over today, but we'll recover soon. Pictured above is our birthday cupcake (flavor: lemon) from Sugar Sweet Sunshine, official dessert provider for this year's celebrations, taken with our new toy, the Treo 650 on Tuesday. Yay for new toys, cupcakes and great friends!

P.S. CC's Dad pointed out to us a really, really, really depressing birthday movie: Pelle - The Conqueror (1987). Max Von Sydow (Lasse) and Pelle Hvenegaard (Pelle) "'The end of the 19th century. A boat filled with Swedish emigrants comes to the Danish island of Bornholm. Among them are Lasse and his son Pelle who move to Denmark to find work. They find employment at a large farm, but are treated as the lowest form of life. Pelle starts to speak Danish but is still harassed as a foreigner. But none of them wants to give up their dream of finding a better life than the life they left in Sweden.' This is an unrelentingly depressing film. At one point Lasse and his son are toiling away in the bitter cold in the fields and Pelle says to his father, today is my birthday. Lasse, who is a very loving father, though he looks to be the grandfather, says 'Well congratulations to you, this is your day.'"

Leave it to Scandinavian cinema to put it all in perspective. Thanks Dad!

Posted by karen at 11:16 AM |

April 4, 2006

Cinecultist Has A Good Day

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

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

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

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

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

Posted by karen at 11:45 AM |

March 9, 2006

Overheard in the Eee Vee

There's a Chinese restaurant in our neighborhood called the Bamboo House and it's the cheesiest looking place ever, with dank looking interiors and sad, faded pictures of greasy looking dishes you could order posted in the windows. Cinecultist has lived in our apartment for nearly three years and we've never once thought about eating there. But apparently the cheesiness works to its advantage as the TV show Rescue Me shot there last night -- bad decor equals great television ambience.

CC kind of loves it when TV or movies shoot in the nabe, there's something so festive about a giant cherry picker parked on the street with orange cones blocking off the surrounding parking spaces. Also, one of these days we're totally going to help ourselves to some of that Kraft service they leave lying around. A box of fancy cereal or a pre-wrapped biscotti in the pocket would hardly be noticed, right?

The other aspect of walking past streets sets is the covert neck strain trying to see if you recognize anyone in the cast. Though this is made significantly easier if the cast is broadcasting their filmography to passersby. "Did you see Crash? I'm in Crash. Yeah, Crash." This guy yelled loudly as we passed on the way home last night. Dude, hate to break it to you but the cast for Crash is huge! Everyone and their mama is in Crash. Hell, even CC could say we're in Crash and some people would be none the wiser. However still chuckling about this overheard exchange, this morning we looked him up on trusty Imdb and it was trusty character actor Jack McGee, of course. Looks like he's been in nearly every procedural show possible on television plus some other random stuff like Basic Instinct, Scrooged and Showgirls. Ah, working actors -- god love 'em.

Posted by karen at 6:13 PM |

February 22, 2006

Two Views From Our Vacation

danger zone.JPG

As the helicopter piloted out of the Waikaloa heliport this morning at 7:30 pm, the song "Danger Zone" by Kenny Loggins from the Top Gun soundtrack blared in our padded ear phones.


This guy at the Laua fish market probably gutted our dinner.

More images on CC's flickr page.

Posted by karen at 5:20 PM |

February 20, 2006

Cinecultist Goes Hawaiian

Gidget Goes HawaiianFor those who visit this blog as a way not so much to read about film viewing and cinema news but to keep up on the life of one Karen the Cinecultist, you'll be happy to know CC is now on the Big Island of Hawaii enjoying a much needed week long vacation. Escaping the lingering Manhattan slush and stresses of the Day Job, flying over both land mass and ocean expanse, CC finally touched down in Kona yesterday morning -- though this was after delays cross country and an unexpected six hour overnight stay in Waikiki. The weather is a balmy 80 degrees, the sun is shining and we can see the ocean from the backyard of the house where CC is staying with the fam. Very good stuff.

Cinecultist might find some time this week to blog here in between walks on the beach, hours spent devouring novels and meals of fresh fish. Or we might not. We're letting it all flow just like the Hawaiians, kids. Until then Aloha and Mahalo. (That's "so long and thank you" to those of you still on the mainland.)

BTW, the vintage poster above from Gidget Goes Hawaiian is in honor of CC's plan to take a surfing lesson. Don't worry, we'll make sure there is digital proof via Flickr for your amusement next week.

Posted by karen at 4:39 PM |

October 31, 2005

Happy Halloween -- We'll Be Hiding Behind The Chair

punky power!In honor of sometime CC contributor Lisa's awesome costume at her party last night on the Upper East Side, we bring you the Punky Brewster picture at right. God, we loved that little plucky, color-blind orphan and her golden retriever puppy, Brandon. Cinecultist did not dress up after all, however we did carve two mini pumpkins, eat a cupcake decorated to look like a spider and went home with the jar of candy that we correctly guessed the number of pieces inside.

When most people think of Halloween, they don't think '80s TV though, they think horror movies. By popular demand, aka from our friend Michael who lurves horror movies, for Halloween we meditated a bit on the horror movies that kept us from the genre for many years.

This may sound like cinema sacrelige but it's only recently that we've watched things like the Shining or Psycho. And this was in an academic setting, though we still watched the scary bits with our eyes covered. Basically, CC comes from a long line of movie scaredy cats. Our Dad tells about how as a kid he hid under the chair during Bambi and there's many movies our siblings weren't allowed to see because we didn't want them to have nightmares. This is the prevalent philosophy in our household: that too many scary movies will disrupt delicate sleep patterns and that would be really bad.

At various sleep over parties, other six grade girls tried to get us to watch memorably schlock like Poltergeist III or Children of the Corn and mostly we spent the movie hiding behind an overstuffed chair. Perhaps we'd heard too many times that we didn't like scary movies that we never had the chance to decide for ourselves? Kind of like our dislike of nuts in cookies, a persnickety habit inherited from family members taste. For some reason, gore we're okay watching (like in our growing taste for Takashi Miike movies) but suspense is still something that brings out the skittish 12 year old in us. Oozing wounds? Fine. Something jumping out from the bushes? No. Thank. You.

Posted by karen at 8:58 AM |

October 7, 2005

Bon Soir From Montreal

Cinecultist comes to you ce soir from the scenic city of Montreal, where we've flown for the weekend avec our maman. Please excuse our incorrect French usage, our three years of high school francais is coming back in spurts and fits in this francophile town (also, we can't figure out any of the accent keys on this borrowed hotel PC, pardon!).

It's been raining all day here, and with the pervasive damp what else would there be to do but go to le cinema, bien sur? The concierge at our hotel, the Auberge de Vieux-Port (shout out for Rue la Commune!) recommended we go to the Pepsi Forum, a theater they converted from a hockey stadium into a movie cineplex. After a brief cab ride with our nice but mostly French speaking cab driver ("Forum? Rue St. Catherine? Le Cinema?" we tried to explain), we arrived at the converted mall. Everything in Montreal is mall-ish, what with the weather and all but as a New Yorker we're vaguely skeptical of anything so indoorsy. But the complex was fine, all in all. The movie tickets cost $10 Canadian and since we haven't really nailed down the conversion rate in our head, we're going to just say that's slightly less than in Manhattan. Though popcorn is still exorbident, regardless of the country, you'll be happy to know.

Seeing as our movie partner was our Mom, we picked a safe little chick flick to watch, In Her Shoes, the new Cameron Diaz/Toni Collette movie directed by Curtis Hanson. We can't recall if we ever read the Jennifer Weiner book the film is based on, though we think at some point we've read something of hers. Or maybe all of these plot lines about nice Jewish girls who are a little plain but love shoes and have complicated relationships with their family members all seem to blend together. Irregardless of the source material, this is a moderately amusing little picture. The performances by Diaz and Collette as well as the iconic Shirley MacLaine as their estranged grandmother in Florida, are all quite good. Hanson keeps the pacing relatively brisk and the final poetry reading voice over scene between the two sisters had us tearing up actually.

We think perhaps this is the only movie we've ever seen Diaz in where she actually appears to be acting, as opposed to just being cute or wiggling her butt around. She's not half bad at that, even in a movie that's really about girls who covet shoes and the boys who fall for them. Oh and self-esteem, the movie's also about that. So, we'll just throw in a "you go girl" for good measure and call it a night. That five course French dinner which ended in profiteroles and included the better part of a bottle of off-license red wine is beginning to corrode our critical thinking skills.

Bon soir, mes amis!

Au revoir, le Cinecultist.

Posted by karen at 10:18 PM |

September 23, 2005

Back To The Emerald City

After a long week, Cinecultist is looking forward to a few much needed days off. Especially since those days will be spent in our former home, Seattle. It's going to be three days of really good coffee coffee, eating, sleeping and hanging with the Seattle Maggie. Apparently, SM already purchased us tickets for a screening at the Northwest Film Forum of Raiders of the Lost Ark: An Adaptation, a DIY remake of the Spielberg classic that was hugely popular the last time it played in town. Sounds intriguing, no?

So enjoy your weekend and we'll be back on Tuesday cinecultists, bearing pictures and surely all hopped up on high quality caffeine.

Posted by karen at 12:36 PM |

September 17, 2005

Don't look now

As the Toronto Film Festival begins to wind down -- it ends today, Sat -- CC Toronto Correspondent has walked out on a film for the first time in the entire festival. The guilty flick? HOSTEL by Eli Roth. That it was tagged as a work-in-progress was the least of its problems. The cliches were offensive, the characters absolutely unlikeable and it was completely devoid of any humor. CC walked out before the one-hour mark -- and before the gross-out torture scenes began. The film left a very bitter aftertaste that proved to be quite toxic. It almost spoiled the day for CC if not for the very wonderful and delightful WALLACE AND GROMIT=CURSE OF THE WERE-RABBIT. It was a jolly good ride, and it heartens CC to know that there are still many filmmakers serious about their craft and giving the audience a good time. Who really needs more junk in this world?

That is all from CC from Toronto this year. See you again in 2006!

Posted by william at 11:31 AM |

September 15, 2005

Margaret spills and thrills

CC Toronto Correspondent has found one guilty pleasure at the Toronto Film Festival -- the riotous BAM BAM AND CELESTE starring Margaret Cho! CC has to admit to some degree of trepidation before going into the theatre. As some friends and fellow festival-goers wisely observed, the comedy could be a hit-or-miss affair, ie, it could turn out to be one painful dud. But, much to general relief -- and after some extensive jaw exercise -- CC is pleased to report that BAM BAM AND CELESTE is one outrageous ride of fun. Margaret Cho is Celeste, an overweight, goth punk fag hag who, together with her gay best friend Bam Bam (Bruce Daniels), are stuck in a small town in Illinois. They have been bullied and treated as freaks since high school. Salvation finally comes in the form of a reality show, Trading Faces, an inane makeover show. They make their way to New York, searching for their destiny. Fans of Margaret Cho will find familiar terrain in the film: She has worked materials from her stand-up comedy into the whole narrative (but seriously, who's watching it for a coherent story?). Her fag-hag status, racial discrimination, homophobia, even her beloved Korean mum (played by Cho as well) -- all receive a seriously uproarious workout. Of course, by the end of the film, the audience is supposed to embrace the uplifting message of accepting who you are and chasing your dream. But with a ride this much fun, who would not want to hop on it?

CC went to catch Matthew Barney's DRAWING RESTRAINT 9, which also happens to star his partner and muse Bjork. Bjork wrote the soundtrack for the film. CC had to leave after one hour -- not because it was bad -- but to rush to another screening. If you liked the CREMASTER series, then you would enjoy Barney's latest.

The film CC had to rush to was the Chinese musical, THE WILD, WILD ROSE. It was made in 1960 by Cathay Studio and starred the legendary singer-actress Grace Chang. The film was picked by Tsai Ming-liang as part of the festival's Dialogues: Talking with Pictures series. Tsai was also on hand to introduce the film. As was typical of the films from that period, THE WILD, WILD ROSE was melodramatic, overwrought and unintentionally funny at times. Some of the songs in the film went on to become classics in Asia. This was probably one of the films that inspired Tsai to make his "musicals."

Posted by william at 4:05 PM |

September 14, 2005

CC goes to Toronto

CC Toronto Correspondent apologizes for a really tardy update on the ongoing Toronto Film Festival. CC has been here since 9/11, and has been busy playing catch-up. It's daunting to try to catch all 335 films showing at the festival, not least impossible. But this is definitely a film-loving city. Just look at all the people who turn out for the screenings, which can start as early at 9am! CC also wants to stress how impressively the whole festival is run, and how ultra-friendly the festival staff is. No matter how harried or hassled the staff may be, they ALWAYS respond with a smile. CC is even wont to believe that they truly care for the well-being of the festival-goers. CC has the mandate to catch Asian films here, but managed to slip in a few other films as well. These are CC's favorites so far:

-- EVERLASTING REGRET (dir Stanley Kwan). The latest from the director of ROUGE and CENTRESTAGE. It's adapted from a best-selling Chinese novel of the same name, and stars Cantopop megastar Sammi Cheng and Tony Leung Kar-fai. It seems that every time Kwan goes back in time -- in particular old Shanghai -- he comes up with a gem. EVERLASTING REGRET is absolutely beautiful and exquisite. It covers 40 years in the life of a woman as she weathers one lover after and another, and as Shanghai goes through momentous changes. Though many may say otherwise, CC thinks Sammi's idiosyncratic performance seems to gel well with the style of the film. CC was entranced by the film from the first reel to the last.

-- THREE TIMES (dir Hou Hsiao-hsien). Another masterful work from HHH. The film is broken up into three parts, each set in a different era. The film seems to have some self-referential points to previous films in HHH's oeuvre, and is held together by the gorgeous pair of Shu Qi and Zhang Zhen. It's coming to the New York Film Festival. Not to be missed.

-- SYMPATHY FOR LADY VENGEANCE (dir Park Chan-wook). The highly-anticipated last part in Park's vengeance trilogy. Anyone expecting a KILL BILL kind of film will be disappointed -- and surprised. As slickly made as his previous films but considerably less gory and violent, LADY VENGEANCE made for a very satisfying conclusion. Coming to NY too.

-- WALK THE LINE (dir James Mangold). CC walked into the screening by mistake (was supposed to catch Iranian film IRON ISLAND), but it was by no means time wasted. Watch for a strong Oscar push for this film, especially for Joachim Phoenix and Reese Witherspoon. They delivered strong performances, and they did all their own vocals! CC was absolutely floored by their singing.

Another round of films today!

Posted by william at 2:21 AM |

August 29, 2005

More Relaxation, Less Movies

sixteen candles

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

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

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

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

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

Posted by karen at 11:35 PM |

July 18, 2005

Love It, Love It So Much!

On a Monday morning in mid-July, there's a few things that fall under that squeaky, shrieky headline for the Cinecultist.

1) We're happy to report we're up to page 422 in the new Harry Potter and though it might be tempting to take a sicky, CC's acting like an adult by going into work today. As per usual, it takes good ol' J.K. about 200 pages to get the story cooking with gas but once she does, she doesn't disapoint. We had a blast hanging out with all the other Potter crazies at the Union Square Barnes and Noble on Friday night. We got an optic light pen (patent pending), some H.P. stickers, AND a lightening bolt temporary tattoo. Big shout out to the older gentleman in the Dumbledore costume and on the Segway -- we think you were dressed up for yourself and for that we say, "Dude, you rule!"

2) Johnny Depp in Charlie and the Chocolate Factory. A fuller review to come but so far we've been raving the most about the inspired Johnny Depp. One of his most brilliant characterizations ever. Can anyone else do it like him? No, they just can't and they don't even try. He's amazing in this with his grey-tinged skin, perfect teeth, nervous giggle and border-line anti-social behavior. Ahh, love it.

3) Sufjan Stevens. Okay, so this one's not even movie adjascent, but still this guy is so freakin' brill we can't keep it in. Love him, love him so much. So feelin' the Illonoise. So psyched for his show at the Bowery next month. Speaking of the indie rock, good times out at Coney Island on Saturday for the Siren Festival this year. We weren't totally obsessing about one of the bands in the line-up particularly though we did enjoy being there, sweating our ass off and soaking up the atmosphere. The Brooklyn Vegan (who we interupted mid-picture of some freaky girl's outfit, haha ambience) has some lovely pictures.

4) Reports from various sources regarding Maggie Cheung events. Our one friend talked to her briefly in the Walter Reade bathroom (awesome!) and the other one loved Clean despite her extreme hatred of all things Assayas after being subjected to demonlover. Apparently, she's even graceful during dumbass Q&A. Now that's a movie star for you. Woot for the Asian American International Film Festival for bringing her to town and selling out their opening night event in like nearly 2 seconds flat.

It feels good to feel this enthused.

Posted by karen at 8:53 AM |

July 7, 2005

A Few Thoughts From Calif

Cinecultist really is a Northern California girl. Summer days that are overcast and require a light weight jacket seems like the best idea ever after struggling through our New York humid city the last month or so. Our vaca has been lovely but it's winding down now and as of tomorrow we'll be back in the gotham of our heart, ready to pound the downtown pavement, shoving innocent bystanders out of our way.

B00000IQBE.01.LZZZZZZZ.jpgOne of the things we did with our vacation was to finally watch Jean-Jacques Annaud's The Bear which we'd rented from Netflix about a month ago and put off because did we really want to watch a "nature" movie? Turns out we did. Beautiful photography and really excellent acting performances from those bears (god, that was a fun sentence to write). The movie does a wonderful job of making the orphaned cub and his buddy, the giant bachelor Kodiak bear both adorable and yet still very much "wild animals." Not suitable for turning into collectable teddy bears. Especially with the crazy bears out on the town sequences, amusing to see a little bear-one-night-stand action and then bear-experiments-with-psychotropic-drug action. Blissed out bears, good stuff.

Thanks by the way to our lovely Nor Cal friends (Cara & Alex, Greg, Shalini, Aliya & Andy) who traveled into the city to see us while we were in town and who tells us they're devoted remote readers. Lovely to see you all, let's do it again very soon.

And in conclusion, if you can swing a spa day at the Fairmont Sonoma Mission Inn like we did on the holiday Monday we highly recommend it. Sitting around in robes by the pool and then having various scented oils rubbed into our face, it is "so choice" as Ferris Bueller would say. Can't you just feel the much needed relaxation oozing from this blog?

Posted by karen at 1:06 PM |

July 3, 2005

For $6.95 You Too Can Blog From Newark International!

The Cinecultist was supposed to be on a 12:50 pm flight from Newark airport to San Francisco for some vacation time in Nor Cal. However, little did we know that the trusty New Jersey transit only runs once an hour past the airport station. Breathless and annoyed we arrived at the terminal just as our flight was leaving. So now we wait, and try not to beat ourselves up too much for not getting our butt in gear faster this morning.

However, it is possible to purchase 24 hours worth of internet usage for less than $10 and we do have all of last week's New Yorker plus our birthday gift of the Granta new writing journal which features Atom Egoyan and Akira Kurosawa, so we should stay relatively entertained. When circumstance forces one to reconsider "the plan" it helps to contemplate the little things that you can enjoy.

Like great movies from last year that are now looping through HBO. Earlier this weekend we caught both Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind and Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban, and where reminded how simply enjoyable both of these movies are. Vivid characters, a strong visual style and intense, believable emotions make it easy to get caught up in their very different stories, carried along to their satisfying conclusions. The great thing too about re-watching movies on television is that even if you do remember essentially what happens, it's been long enough that you're not anticipating every word or gesture. Plus, now there's time to notice new details (like the Clementine and Joel potato heads in his apartment) or further savor bits you liked the first time (the brilliant Alan Rickman/David Thewlis/Garry Oldman showdown in the Shrieking Shack).

Speaking of the obsession de Harry P.: 12 days until the new book comes out and CC's starting to get pretty darn excited. Our office is just up the street from the Scholastic store and they have a huge window display with a countdown clock and Harry Potter music piped into the street to titilate the SoHo mobs. We know it sounds supremely dorky but it makes us a little tingly everytime we pass it enroute to our lunchtime deli salad. Do you think it will seem to suspicious if we call in "sick" on the 15th to stay home to read all day? Our ideal plan would include a late night viewing of Charlie and the Chocolate Factory and a stop at the Barnes for the tome.

All righty then, CC's out to go find an outlet in the terminal to rejuice the laptop for at least one DVD on the flight itself. Good thing we had the fore sight to rent Palm Beach Story from Netflix. We need some Preston Sturges to turn around our still vaguely frustrated mood. Have a happy Fourth dear cinecultists and we'll try to find some time to report from humidity free San Francisco.

Posted by karen at 2:44 PM |

June 29, 2005

Humbled By Their Artistic Acuity

On Sunday, in the ridiculous humidity, Cinecultist headed out to Billyburg for the Renegade Crafts Fair at McCarren Park with Janelle. Even though we felt like we were melting into our flip flops, it wasn't hard to appreciate the talent of all of the artists involved. CC has been known to be crafty in our day (we took sewing lessons and had both decoupage and beading periods) but this was some serious stuff on display.

One of our favorite tables held work by Stella Im Hultberg, where we purchased the print below called "Nobody Knows."


At the time we were struck by the use of coloring and the irreverant touch of the plant saying something in Japanese, but only when we got home did we realize it was actually an image from the film by Hirokazu Kore-eda which we saw earlier this year about the children abandoned in suburban Tokyo. Funny isn't it that just when we think we're just purchasing art for it's own sake, it's really all about our movie love instead. We're very happy to add it to our growing collection of movie posters including a Roman Holiday print from Rome and a poster from The Apartment from the Museum of the Moving Image. Thanks Stella!

Speaking of awesome artist types who we admire, our friend Hisham Bharoocha is the subject of the quarterly magazine Me this issue. He paints, he sings, he drums and plays the guitar, he interviews people for hip art magazines and poses for snapshots with celebs. A-mazing. The issue is on sale on line and at various too cool for school retail establishments like Other Music and St. Mark's Books so be sure to check it out.

Posted by karen at 9:13 AM |

June 9, 2005

Better SIFF Than Never: A Snooze, Murky Truths, & Hilarity Ensues

charminggirl2.jpg Well, we apologize Seattle Maggie totally dropped the ball last week on our SIFF coverage. It could be that between the demands of The Man and our jealous Mistress Theatre, we had nary a moment to spare. Or, more likely, it could be that two Sundays ago we were stumped into confused silence by This Charming Girl, a movie in which nothing happens. It was considered one of the top Korean films from last year, which was probably why we had to wade through a packed house at the Harvard Exit. There was a feeling of excited expectancy that comes with such a crowd, which only served to baffle us further when we settled down to 99 minutes of nothing much in particular.

Jeong-hae, a quiet young postal worker, suffers from insomnia and sleepwalks through her monotonous days. She adopts a pet kittenand then she doesnt. She gets marriedand then she doesnt. She invites a cute writer on a datethat doesnt happen. She finally confronts her uncle, who brutally raped her as a child, thus causing her current state of suspended animation. They sit together on a bench in silence for many long moments, and then (Warning: Spoiler!)...nothing happens. Yes, we realize that we are glossing over all of the emotional subtleties of the film; as a matter of fact, we did find it interesting in a dry, abstract sort of way, but it did nothing to engage us personally in the story. While the tedious extended shots of people staring off inscrutably at nothing intoned deep and meaningful at us, all we really wanted was for something, anything, to happen. Afterwards, we met up with Boyfriend Todd at the charmingly twee Joe Bar and found that our perch on the dollhouse balcony above the cash register made for excellent eavesdropping on our fellow SIFF patrons. Well, I fell asleep, one lady said to her companion. Then I woke up, but it looked the same. So I fell asleep again.
Me too! her companion said, making us think that maybe we should just pat ourselves on the back for making it through without losing consciousness, and be done with it.

long twilight.jpg Luckily, staying awake was not a problem last Saturday afternoon during Long Twilight, a Hungarian take on the Shirley Jackson story The Bus. Even Boyfriend Todd, who we dragged along with us, seemed remarkably alert and lucid. An elderly lady archaeologist boards a strange bus in the countryside of her youth and has a series of increasingly odd and familiar dreams. Her childhood home appears on the side of the road as a seedy hotel, the same bizarre duo of truckers keep driving by, and a mysterious locket hides an unseen secret. Director Attila Janisch, looking somewhat hunky in a George-of-the-Jungle-turned-Gap-model kind of way, gamely fielded questions after the film. Among other things, he admitted to reading Jacksons story in his youth and throwing the book against a wall in frustration before learning to embrace the vague mystery for what it was, rather than looking for a specific, concrete answer. Which, coincidentally, describes the best way to approach this enjoyably eerie film.

circus.jpg On Sunday evening, we wrapped up the weekend with The Circus, with our friends Alysha and the Unflappable Mr. Barnes. As we stood in line in the alley behind the Neptune, we realized that we had somehow never seen a Charlie Chaplin picture. Sure, we learned our ABCs with Maria doing her passable Little Tramp impression on Sesame Street and grew up to swoon over Johnny Depp's droll take on the Gold Rush's rolls-on-forks dance in Benny & Joon. We even sat through Robert Downey Jr.s sadly misunderstood version in Chaplin and Eddie Izzards vaguely creepy version in The Cats Meow. But Seattle Maggie will tell you now, with authority we didnt know what we were missing with the real deal. The very picture of doleful gravity, Chaplins Tramp literally stumbles upon a job at a failing circus with hilarious results. As the Tramp woos a sad-eyed ballerina horse rider, he falls into one comical situation after another, including a chase through a funhouse mirror maze, a sleepy lion, a botched clown audition, and a magicians hat gone disastrously awry. We know we arent the first to say it and we wont be the last, but Chaplins prowess at physical comedy is simply incredible. With only the polite cock of his battered hat and the dignified angle of his rickety cane, Chaplin inspires the kind of helpless belly-laughs that most people never indulge in public. And as the Tramp ended up on the high wire act, covered with monkeys and his pants puddled around his ankles, the theater resounded with a cacophony of snorts, cackles, and howls of laughter; we were tickled to find that some of it was coming out of us.

Well, all good things must come to an end - SIFF is wrapping up this weekend. Tune in next week for our final report!

Posted by seattle maggie at 4:41 AM |

June 7, 2005

Many Happy Returns To The Seattle Maggie!

seattle maggie is our prater girlToday is Seattle Maggie's birthday, and someone pointed out to Cinecultist that it might be nice to wish her happy happy on this here internet. So.

Happy B-Day Prater Girl!

However, it seems that our Left Coast correspondent is also having some turning-28-related-angst, so please leave some love for her in the comments reminding her that a) 28 is not mid-life unless she plans on only being 56, in which case our scheme to take over the senior center movie night is shot and b) she can still totally write that novel of hers. She's still full of the piss and vinegar, despite no longer being newly post-grad.

Come on'. Leave her some good wishes below, we already know you love her more than the CC.

Posted by karen at 11:37 PM | | Comments (1)

May 26, 2005

A Whiff of SIFF: Asian Gore Galore!

At one point last weekend, as we watched a madman merrily whacking off a concert pianists fingers with a hatchet, each blow punctuated by a jangle of piano keys, Seattle Maggie wondered exactly how we got into these types of films. There was a more innocent time when we have gone for a bit of Freddy Prinze Jr. fluff or maybe even some Disney ballads. It is probably our own fault for booking a double header of the latest and greatest Asian horror goodies that SIFF has to offer; after we purchased our tickets, we plaintively asked ourselves, "How the heck did we become such sickos?"

dumpling.jpg Starting on Saturday night, we caught Three...Extremes, a collection of short horror films: Dumplings by Fruit Chan, Cut by Park Chan-wook, and Box by Takashi Miike. Of the three, Dumplings proved to be the best offering. A middle-aged TV actress turns to extreme measures to regain her youth - all we can say is, you wont be having a hankering for dim sum anytime soon. With the sinuously sexy Bai Ling as dumpling dealer Mei, Dumplings will shock you even if youve already guessed the horrible secret ingredient. Master cinematographer Christopher Doyle once again flexes his keen eye to capture the thin line between the grotesque and the painfully gorgeous: the quivering translucent gleam of the dumpling skins, the careless porcelain smudge of flour across the delicate base of a womans throat, the restrained rage of a boiling pot of water, the tiny trickle of blood that whispers of the final descent into madness. Kudos to the sound engineers for capturing the perfect squishy crunch of the hideous dumplings, an indescribably awful sound that is enough to make your skin want to crawl away and hide under the covers.

In Cut, Park Chan-wook once again exercises his familiar brand of poetic brutality. A famous director is kidnapped by a disgruntled extra and forced to make an agonizing choice: murder an innocent child or watch as his wifes fingers are cut off, one by one. While the tension does run high in a What Would Jesus Do? sort of way, it seemed a little too staged and unlikely for our tastes (dont they have security guards in that studio? And where did he find the time to string up all that elaborate piano wire?) Also, the plot is slammed with a random twist at the end that left us feeling more annoyed than anything else. However, Cut successfully manages to weave in some very black humor with its gore, and we giggled even though we felt kind of dirty about it.

As a horse of a different color, Takashi Miikes Box is a slow meditation on a more personal horror. A withdrawn writer suffers from suffocating guilt over the unwitting part she played in her sisters death as a child, when they were both acrobats in a rustic circus. A mysterious invitation calls her back to face her past, and her nightmares, once and for all. After making it through Miikes shocker Audition, we were surprised by the quiet beauty of this film. Many of the scenes were shot in the silent snow, leading to an effective use of sound; noises felt more startling and insistent after the muffled serenity of the swirling white flakes and frozen meadows. Unfortunately, even though we could appreciate the beauty of Box, we found ourselves puzzled by the increasingly inscrutable plot, perplexing characters, and bizarre conclusion. In the end, it seemed safest to declare, It was all a dream! and not ask too many questions.

joanallen.jpg The next evening, Seattle Maggie came across two of the perilous pitfalls of film festival screenings: a 45-minute delay and being trapped in line behind an especially flatulent film enthusiast. We should have known what to expect when the tall fellow in front of us announced to his buddies, "Man, I've been burping up chili all day!" Unfortunately for us, that was not the only escape route that the chili was employing. The minutes ticked on, interminable and stinky; it seemed a screening of Joan Allen's new movie Yes was running over schedule. Suddenly, a chauffeured car pulled up out of nowhere and hovered expectantly in the street. Imagine our surprise when the side door of the Egyptian opened and Ms. Allen herself magically appeared, radiant and impossibly tiny, clutching a mournful little dog. She swept into the waiting car and was driven away before we knew what hit us. We silently cursed our missed opportunity to act like celebrity-crazed fans, perhaps bursting into hysterical tears or rubbing our bodies against the tinted car windows, screaming, "Joan! We love you! But why did you hold up our movie?!"

Once inside, seated far, far away from our chili-loving friend, we were treated to The Ten Steps, a surprisingly effective little horror short from Ireland. We still get a delicious shiver up our spine thinking about the truly eerie climax, as a young girl counts the ten long steps into the darkened cellar. Simple, but still a damn good scare.

marebito.jpg This was followed by the feature Marebito, a film that Seattle Maggie shamelessly admits being seduced into seeing by the word "Lovecraftian" in the festival summary. While we are sadly aware that most movies labeled Lovecraftian usually just throw in some tentacles, a passing Necronomicon reference, and call it a day, Marebito does not fail our Cthulhuian sense of a good time. Directed by Takashi Shimizu of The Grudge cycle, the film uses digital video has a diary device, much as Lovecrafts protagonists would use a journal or a series of letters. Masuoka is a cameraman obsessed with recording every aspect of life. One day, after recording a horrific suicide in a subway station, he decides to investigate the ultimate terror he captures in the dying mans face. This leads him on a fantastical underground journey to the Mountains of Madness (nuff said) deep below the Tokyo city streets, where he discovers a strange young girl shackled to a cave wall. He takes her back to the surface, and things start to get really peculiar as he becomes consumed by his quest for the ultimate terror. The creeping, oppressive, obsessive, elusive horror is classic Lovecraft, and we found this film to be a refreshing change from the usual Scary-Hair-Girl Japanese fright fest. Instead of being helplessly chased around by mysterious evil forces, Masuoka walks into it with both eyes open and camera at the ready. He becomes a victim to terror by choice and eventually becomes comes to embrace it, in both a literal and metaphorical sense. While the somewhat slow pacing, jittery camera, and occasional hokey voiceover may not be for everyone, we applaud Marebito for truly embracing the Lovecraftian spirit. Although some of our questions remain unanswered, the terror remains very real were pretty sure old Howard Phillips would have approved.

Meet us back here again next week for more updates from SIFF!

Posted by seattle maggie at 6:41 AM |

May 21, 2005

Revenge of the SIFF

No, we haven't developed a charming girlish lisp. Whilst moviegoers all around the country, swigging Darth Dew out of their Yoda-head Slurpee mugs**, will be queuing up this weekend with their handcrafted Wookiee suits and telescoping plastic light sabers to either bury or praise George Lucas's missing link, Seattle Maggie is happy to report that the Seattle International Film Festival has officially opened. We're looking forward to 25 days, 347 films of all sizes, and 2 toilet stalls in the Ladies Room at the Harvard Exit (although we hear they've recently added a few more). From our own experiences of the past few years, SIFF has always had a great mix of films: international, domestic, documentary, shorts, mainstream, and living-above-the garage independent. The Opening Gala on Thursday night featured a screening of the aforementioned Me and You and Everyone We Know with director Miranda July in attendance, as well as whatever film celebrities happened to be lurking around downtown. Seattle Maggie fondly remembers lingering over pricey cocktails with our own dear CC at the W Hotel a few years ago, and catching a glimpse of the ever-suave Hector Elizondo, as well as the back of what we were told was Raquel Welch's head. We still get a thrill just thinking about it.
While the long lines in drizzly, pee-stinky alleys and the occasional dull or incomprehensible movie are both inevitable and regrettable, we still always find our spirits to be lifted by the coming of SIFF. There's something about all of these films being given a chance to be seen that makes the world seem like a brighter, more interesting place, and we always come away having seen at least one or two really great movies that we never would known existed.
By the way, Seattle natives, a great way to see movies for free at SIFF is to volunteer. The last email newsletter we got implied they were still looking for ushers. Alas, our cramped schedule does not allow us to lend our time in the coming weeks. To be totally honest, we also must admit that our pride is still stinging somewhat from the fact that we were apparently not cool enough to make the cut for their Volunteer Proofreading Party. Yeah, whatever - Seattle Maggie is going to throw our OWN Proofreading Party. And, we're going to be Prom Queen. Yeah.
Keep it tuned here for more updates from SIFF, Cinecultists!

**By the way, we aren't knocking the Darth Dew - we've tried it, and it tastes sugary and cold, the way a good Slurpee should. It's the Yoda heads that we find so unnerving. Chilled monkey brains from Temple of Doom, anyone? Ew.

Posted by seattle maggie at 3:35 AM |

April 7, 2005

Springtime = Filming In Our Nabe Time

photo_047.jpgLast week it was the odd sight of a crowd outside the dive-y Irish pub on 2nd Ave Dempsey's. This morning it was the enormous Craft Services truck, complete with table loaded with sugary cereals which gave Cinecultist the rubber neck reflex. That's right kids, spring time in New York means film crews invading our neighborhood.

Last year we contemplated stealing ketchup from the Alfie set, but with Chris Columbus's Rent taking over our Eee Vee, CC thinks we might be entitled to at least some pocketed snacks from the loosely guarded cart. Actually, we're not entirely sure it is Rent taking over our streets but this almost certainly hackneyed production feels worthy of our bile, so we'll just assume it is. As you can barely see in our grainy camera phone pic above, we tried to check out the stars' trailers on our way home but the cryptic hand written signs outside the metal doors made it tough to be conclusive. A lackey of some sort came out just as we passed and CC attempted to subtly peer in but sadly, no Taye Diggs or Rosario Dawson sighting.

But really, when it's still 55 degrees or so out as we stroll home from work, bopping along to Bloc Party on the iPod, a little missed Taye sighting isn't enough to dampen our spirits. [But confidential confirmation of the name of the film in our nabe from our sources at the Mayor's office wouldn't hurt either.]

Update! The shooting must have been from this episode of Law and Order: Criminal Intent we watched last night. While it gladdens Cinecultist that Vincent "Creepy" D'Onofrio was stalking about our 'hood, it does say something doesn't it about Dempsey's that it was the fictional site of a meeting for a murderer with gruesome chemicals and her victim?

Posted by karen at 10:06 PM |

April 1, 2005

Early Sturges Screenplays At Film Forum

"In between the release of Sullivan's Travels and The Palm Beach Story, Preston Sturges compiled 11 rules for the box office. Like some of Sturges's dialogue, the faster the list is read, the funnier it is:"

1. A pretty girl is better than an ugly one.
2. A leg is better than an arm.
3. A bedroom is better than a living room.
4. An arrival is better than a departure.
5. A birth is better than a death.
6. A chase is better than a chat.
7. A dog is better than a landscape.
8. A kitten is better than a dog.
9. A baby is better than a kitten.
10. A kiss is better than a baby.
11. A pratfall is better than anything.

[Via Mahnola Dargis's article in the Times today about the Preston Sturges series running at the Film Forum starting this weekend. ]

Posted by karen at 6:38 PM |

March 18, 2005

"Shorts" Attention Span

Even though the Oscars are so yesterday's news, Seattle Maggie decided it might be fun to prolong the magic and catch a screening of some of the Academy Award-Nominated Animated and Live Action Shorts at the Northwest Film Forum. We cannot help but feel a little bad for these films, which most of the general public will never see; not to mention that they did not even get the usual 5-second snippet that is usually offered on Oscar night, as these awards were presented via the dreaded Aisle Cam. On a bright note, however, the Live Action Short nominees did get to be within drooling distance of the intellectually sexy Jeremy Irons. While we don't want to be baggin' on CC's boy Jakie, the deliciously seasoned Mr. Irons lights our fire in a way that a young whippersnapper never could. He reminds us of the hypothetical English professor with whom we never had a torrid affair, and in whose non-existent ivy-cloaked office, amidst imagined tumbled tomes of Keats and Kerouac, we became both a writer AND a woman...ah, but we digress.
Wasp.jpg In a completely unrelated story: Seattle Maggie recently went to see the new baby sea otter at the Seattle Aquarium. As we watched the snoozing wee otter clinging to its mother's belly, we felt the tiny bud of maternal instincts hidden deep in our cold, child-fearing heart begin to unfurl its fragile petals. Oscar-winning Live Action Short Wasp managed to wipe out all that like a late April blizzard. A screaming testament to the merits of birth control, the film made us squirm in our seats as the working-class single mum neglects putting pants on her kids, feeds them sugar out of a bag, and then stashes them in a pub parking lot so she can relive her glory days as a fresh young thing. While we can sympathize with the feeling of wanting to escape her sordid existence for just one night, we have to ask: did she have to have four freaking kids? We can imagine having one or two, say, by accident, but four? Overwhelmed by sticky toddler limbs and ear-gouging baby wails, we give writer/director Andrea Arnold credit for bringing the story so vividly to life, but you couldn't pay us enough money to sit through it again. We did, however, heartily enjoy the surreal 7:35 in the Morning from Spain, which managed to be both disturbing and oddly touching at the same time. It was so original and weird, we consider it a true shame that only a handful of people will ever get to see it.
ryan.jpg The Animated Shorts included Gopher Broke, in which an industrious gopher uses his digging prowess to steal snacks from passing trucks. While the plot was more than a little silly, we did have a good chuckle as the tubby rodent ecstatically jetd through a miraculous rain of gleaming produce. The Oscar-winning Ryan was both visually and conceptually interesting; as a loose biography of Canadian animator-turned-panhandler Ryan Larkin, director Chris Landreth combines real interviews with what he calls "psycho-realism", in which a character's self image is reflected in their actual image. A face might be nibbled away to a twisted remnant by alcoholism, or violently colored bands of light might tighten around the body in strangling loops to represent doubt. Larkin himself made for an intriguing subject, enough for us to want to give him a Google afterwards.
And while we are on the subject of animated shorts, you New Yorkers are lucky enough to be able to catch a screening of The Animation Show 2005, playing now at Cinema Village, no longer playing at the Varsity. This yearly traveling circus of animated shorts, presented by Mike Judge and Don Hertzfeldt, has an excellent selection as usual, sampling nearly every form of animation possible. Some of our favorites included When The Day Breaks, a sweetly nostalgic look at life and death with anthropomorphized barnyard animals; Guard Dog, an afternoon walk from the perspective of an over-protective pet by animation giant Bill Plympton (also nominated for an Oscar); and Pan With Us, a fascinating multi-media interpretation of Robert Frost by Seattle's own David Russo. www[1] by glenn watson.jpg Top honors, however, must go to Ward 13, an Australian stop-motion thrill ride in a nightmare hospital. Seattle Maggie has a special fondness for stop-motion magic, and we loved the campy, faux-horror humor. Wheelchair chases, exploding green monster heads, and a friendly dog with two rear ends - we can't understand why the Academy overlooked this little gem. Well, there's always next year.

Posted by seattle maggie at 2:02 AM |

February 23, 2005

Pop A Pill At Pianos

Lindsay Robertson's Ritalin Reading Series continues tonight at Piano's on the Lower East Side, and damn it, Cinecultist is finally going to attend. It's bloggers, it's short bits read aloud, it's free -- how could we not have gone down there before? Crazy.

Anyhow, some of the most notorious online literary voices will be on stage this evening including Will Leitch, Jessica Coen, Alex Balk and our blog crush du jour, aka Bob of My Blog Is Poop. The Lionel Ritchie post? And then Scott Stereogum's pictorial response? Classique. We're going to sit real close and act like a blogging groupie. Maybe we'll even ask for a body part to be autographed. [via]

UPDATE: Three and a half glasses of wine plus listening to JP heckle various readers does not equal a very thoughtful, socially astute Cinecultist. Just in case you were wondering.

Posted by karen at 8:13 AM |

February 22, 2005

Short Student Film in Williamsburg

Sunday afternoon, post-brunch, post-Barney's Warehouse Sale Cinecultist and our buddy William ducked out of the freezing wind into the L train for Williamsburg. William in Williamsburg? Coincidence, honest.

At Galapagos on North Sixth Street, we drink a beer and cranberry seltzer respectively, while we wait for the screening to begin. Folding chairs, little glass cups filled with goldfish crackers and projected video art fill the backroom along with the cast, crew and friends of. A packed house for this premiere screening of Lutkoski Fishsticks, a short film by former NYU student Matt Lambert. The crowd whoops it up for him, as the budding auteur takes to the stage. There really is nothing like an audience filled with people pre-disposed to love your work because they're your friends or relatives.

With the sensibility of David Lynch's Eraserhead mating with Jean-Pierre's Delicatessen, Lutkoski Fishsticks tells a sweet sci-fi tinged tale of a fishsticks factory inhabited by its motley workers and an unwelcome midnight snacker. Lambert's work has a higher production value than you'd expect from a low budget short and an obvious attention to detail lends a stylized flare to the whole project. A quick google search lead to mp3s of the soundtrack by Nico Muhly (no relation to the Velvet Underground, or so we could tell).

After a beer at 5 pm, of course CC is going to be well disposed towards a fresh faced film and its enthusiastic filmmaking team. It was easy to overlook the poor quality of the digital projection and to find the non-sync sound used (ie. no real dialogue, just pantomime and a non-diegetic soundtrack) sweet. To compare Lambert's work to Jeunet and Lynch may sound like we're saying we saw a potential new genius behind the lens, and for that it is surely much too soon to judge. However, there was something there. Must we expect more from a first go and a Sunday afternoon in a hipster-y art space? Viva la short films!

A Few Short Film Venues of Note: Ocularis on Sundays at Galapagos, Nami & Johnny K's Superfilm Tuesday nights at DEKK in Tribeca and Pioneer Theater on Avenue A.

Posted by karen at 10:56 PM |

February 13, 2005

NYC Has 'Gates' Fever

the gates, east side

Like everyone else in New York, Cinecultist has fallen for Christo and Jeanne-Claude, just in time for Valentine's Day. We <3 The Gates. As an art piece, it's such a beautiful expression of the love these two have for their adopted city. Walking through Central Park today, with seemingly every other person in town, our heart was full too. Amazing how just a little saffron fabric and weighted iron can transform our usual winter landscape into something spectacular. Unfortunately, our digital camera decided to up and die after only three pictures (the other two after the jump) which we guess means we have to go back another day too. Lucky us.

Our friend Adriane filled us up with Christo and Jeanne-Claude trivia over smoothies on Saturday. Just a few things we learned the couple is exactly the same age, 69 and they were born on the same day! Christo in France and Jeanne-Claude in Bulgaria. Their projects are completely self funded, they pay for their construction with the proceeds from original drawings, photographs and collages derived from the projects. Everyone is paid who participates in the project, and they have their own type of groupies who travel the world to be a part of the work. As we mentioned on Friday over at Gothamist, the MoMA is showing all of the Christo and Jeanne-Claude documentaries over the next few weeks but they're also all available for rent at Kim's Video. Adriane recommends seeing the one about the wrapping of the Reichstag, a major project in the 70s.

Keith Plocek wrote about the cult of Christo last week on the Black Table. The full coverage in the New York Times. Janelle saw a few other orange things in the Park last week pre-unfurling, and Jake has some nice shots as well. Enjoy the loving and obsessive coverage via Gothamist.



Posted by karen at 11:09 PM |

January 31, 2005

Things A Brewin' At Sundance

Everyone at CC's place of business is abuzz with the Sundance Film Festival. Read A.O. Scott's bitch slapping from Sunday or check out Mindy Bond's coverage via Gothamist. We like Mindy's take because it's New York centric and mostly about attending parties.

Yay for Noah Baumbach by the way, who won for his screenwriting and direction of The Squid and the Whale. We knew our oggling of his writerly self at the Life Aquatic press junket wasn't mere objectification. No trailer up as of yet, but a few images here of Anna Paquin and our Eee Vee neighbor* Jesse Eisenberg.

* We don't know where Jesse lives exactly, but we've seen him a bunch of times around the nabe with his little girlfriend, particularly near the 2nd Ave F train stop so we think we can call him a neighbor with confidence.

Posted by karen at 11:15 AM |

January 17, 2005

Tonight! Cinecultist @ Reel Roundtable

What better way is there to spend a snowy MLK Day evening than watching an Irish romantic comedy in the East Village? This is Cinecultist's way of saying this is what you should be doing tonight heading down to the Millenium Theater (66 E. 4th St. between Bowery and Second Ave) for an evening with the Reel Roundtable, where CC was invited to screen a film and participate in a Q&A with Elizabeth Carmody about movie blogs.

We'll be watching When Brendan Met Trudy, a favorite of our from 2000, about a young school teacher and film fanatic, Brendan who meets a mysterious girl, Trudy in a pub one night after choir practice. Filled with film references visually and in conversations between the characters, WBMT is a great jumping off point for talking about movie love. There's a little wine reception starting at 7:30 pm, the movie starts at 8 with the Q&A to follow. Tickets cost $5 and can be bought on the premise from Elizabeth's high tech cash box.

There's some really fabulous film blogging happening lately on the web, as evidenced in our sidebar at left, which will hopefully make for a lively discussion tonight. If you haven't already been lingering over at the Conversation, you really should be. A group blog between some of the most stellar cinema voices on the web, Out of Focus, the cinetrix, Filmbrain, David Hudson of GreenCine Daily and Liz Penn, they've been dialoguing on the Golden Globes and other end of the year topics. We suggest clicking over asap, so you don't end up like CC, caught like a rabbit in headlights during an IM convo with your buddy Aaron, completely unaware of his faboo new project. Bad CC, bad!

Posted by karen at 9:12 AM |

January 4, 2005

Every Day is Wookiee Life Day!

Fighting off the post-holiday blues? Seattle Maggie hears ya. While we admit that we like to scoff publicly about petty commercialism, we always feel a pang of sadness once the whole thing is over. All the pretty lights go dark and festive sweets cease to be an everyday occurrence; all we have to look forward to is cold January drizzle and the sinking feeling that another year has begun and we still have no clue as to what our ultimate purpose in the universe is.
Do not despair, my friends! Seattle Maggie has just the thing to help you shake off that lingering scent of desiccating Christmas trees and stale gingerbread. From a long time ago (well, 1978 actually), in a galaxy far, far away, we submit the Star Wars Holiday Special. Our good friend Spygirl had told us about it back at Thanksgiving, and slipped us a bootleg copy while we were home for Christmas with the following warning Its bad. Not even funny bad, just head-explodingly bad. We never were one to crumble in the face of fear. Armed only with our new popcorn air popper, we slipped in the tape (cheerfully labeled Im Sorry. Im So Sorry) and pressed Play.
Some Cinecultists may have heard about this special, or may remember seeing it in their youth. We were particularly intrigued with the rumor that George Lucas personally destroys any copies that he comes across, and we could soon see why. Its Wookiee Life Day, and Chewbacca is heading home to spend this diplomatically non-denominational holiday with his family: hulking wife Malla, scrappy son Lumpy and slightly pervy dad Itchy. We wish we were making this up. Chewy is running a little late; in the meantime, the Wookiee family frets, whips up some yummy Bantha stew, shops online for presents, and gets a visit from those pesky Imperial troopers amazingly similar to our own holiday experiences.
There are guest appearances from Bea Arthur, Art Carney and Jefferson Starship, a Boba Fett animated short, and endless scenes spoken only in Wookiee (and NO subtitles however, youll be pleasantly surprised at how easily Nrrragh! Nwah! Mwah! translates to I told you to take trash out, dammit!). Also, we are treated to all of our favorite Star Wars characters, including a freakishly fey Luke Skywalker, a grumpy yet huggable Han Solo, Droids a-plenty, and a glazed-over Princess Leia, who proceeded to sing the Life Day anthem, even as we clutched our heads and begged her not to. The special concludes with an inspiring Chewbacca How I Spent My Year montage.
Perhaps the best part about the whole experience was the cool 1978 commercials, especially the hilarious newsbite in which the perfectly serious anchorman says, Fighting the Frizzies, at Eleven!* Remember the days when all we had to worry about was fighting the frizzies? Were not sure that we were old enough to have actual hair in 1978, but we can still appreciate that simpler time and snicker at all the funny pantyhose commercials.
It was bad. It was weird. It was badly weird. But somehow, it was a fitting end to our year. If you ever come across a copy, Seattle Maggie suggests you approach it with care, and the dregs of a good, stiff eggnog. May the Force be with you in 2005, Cinecultists!

*Spygirl informs us that this newsbite also shows up in the "Mr. Hankey's Christmas Classics" episode of South Park, which is an obscure bit of hip trivia to whip out at dull parties.

Posted by seattle maggie at 6:39 AM |

December 14, 2004

Damn The Man, Save The Vertigo!

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

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

Posted by seattle maggie at 4:20 AM |

December 13, 2004

Look! CC's A Legitimate Entertainment Journalist

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

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

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



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

Posted by karen at 10:02 PM |

December 8, 2004

Happy Hannukkah!

ev hannukkah

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

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

Posted by karen at 10:20 AM |

December 3, 2004

An Ethan Hawke For The 21st Century

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

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

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

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

Posted by karen at 8:34 AM |

November 29, 2004

Your In Flight Movie Today...

Like Seattle Maggie, Cinecultist also headed to the Cali for the holiday but our travels brought us to Southern California rather than Northern. Sadly, there were less movies to be had in Palm Desert than there were golf courses, gated communities and desert jack rabbits. Oh, and don't forget the palm trees. There were loads and loads of palm trees.

However, we did have the fascinating social experiment that is the in flight movie to observe and that always amuses CC. On the way to California were two movies we'd seen before, and on the way back two we hadn't. In flight does everything possible to butcher the film viewing experience -- terrible sound quality through the split headphone jacks, grainy picture either projected with a four color projector or on those miniscule screens in the back of your chair, pan and scan to fit the screen plus editing for content. With quality like this, CC often thinks its better just to read a book or listen to the iPod or stare at the back of someone's head instead.

Westbound was the Manchurian Candidate, something we liked well enough in the theater but didn't think we could bear the creepy Meryl Streep on Liav Schreiber action again. We did however, enjoy rewatching the Bourne Supremacy with Matt's steely jaw. The small screen did well with the purposeful crappy color correction and grainy industrial settings. Eastbound was I, Robot and Anchorman which were both perfectly craptacular and thus fine for the bad picture and even worse sound. Will Smith and Will Ferrell, it's sort of a fittingly incongruous bookend, no? It certainly wasn't CC thought this first but isn't it fun to see things which don't belong together back to back? Plus, with the flood of wonderful things in the theaters right now, literally one top tenner after another, its sort of nice to revel in a little cinematic mediocrity as a respite.

Posted by karen at 12:14 PM |

November 12, 2004

Don't Worry, CC's Not Dead

Sorry about the lightness of the postings this week cinecultists, we've had family in town and various projects in the works that have kept up too busy. More exciting and fun Cinecultist-related news soon, we're not just being coy. Promise. We'll be back with more next week, but for now a few thoughts CC has expressed to our Gothamist Arts + Events readers lately

* This weekend Bridget Jones: The Edge of Reason hits theaters, and we'll probably be going to see it despite the fact that it looks pretty bad.

* If it were still Thursday, you could go see the 25th Annual Asbury Shorts of New York. (Since time travel is still a thing of sci fi fantasy, you might just wait until it hits the 92nd Street Y, another NYC screening venue in the works.)

* On Monday, we recapped our Movie Binge with Matty. Speaking of which, the Cinema Ahh*some blog, an online presence for our bi-weekly movie group, is live over on Capn' Design. If you've seen the movie we watched, or even if you haven't, feel free to throw out some inflammatory commentary. Mix it up. We like that 'round these parts.

* One more Gothamist plug be sure to snap up a ticket for Movable Hype, the Gothamist sponsored rock show at the Knitting Factory next Thursday. The proceeds go to a good cause (NYC public school kids and their musical aspirations), there'll be good booze, good music and lots of good people, including CC there. Come on down!

Posted by karen at 11:56 PM |

October 29, 2004

Cinecultist Goes To The SoHo House's Black Room

Despite our reputation to the contrary with the Eee Vee residency and the hipster tastes in music and shoes, Cinecultist really gets most of our New York City It Places news from reruns of Sex and the City on TBS. That's how we heard about this member's only, with a rooftop pool Soho House place in the Meatpacking District, so when we were invited to a screening of an unknown political documentary in their screening space last night, known as the Black Room, we leapt at the opportunity.

Here's a conundrum kids, for the young girls in the smart set: one wears the pointy shoes with the heels in the evening out in the Meatpacking District so as to blend with the crowd. Yet! Every time one's heel's gets caught in those damned cobblestones, even just crossing the impossibly wide 9th Avenue, one can't help but wince, knowing how much they cost and how they'll have to go to the shoe repair all too soon. What's one to do?

Anyhow, Soho House. Like walking into the lobby of a boutique hotel, it's all dimmed lighting and dark stained wood. There are a number of staff people at a tiny front desk, and though we've rsvped to the e-mail on the press release, there is no real list. We don't have to give a name or an affiliation of any kind. CC steps onto the tiny elevator with an elderly gentleman, a couple who look sort of European and a kid, about 10 years old in shorts and no shoes. We all ride to the Fourth Floor. On this floor is the Black Room, aka the screening room, and the White Room, a lounge area next door with furry throw rugs and modish furniture. No one is in the screening room, but a DVD is queued up for the screening we're attending. People mill about in the White Room, though when the bartender asks what film we're here to see, it's not the one who's throwing the party in the White Room. Oops. CC drinks our cold green bottled imported beer anyhow.

A half hour or so after it's supposed to begin, the director and producer introduce their film. Which is actually a digital video, if you want to get technical, and only 33 minutes long. It's dreadful. Thus our reticence to mention the title of the film, because while CC can't in good conscious recommend it by any means, we're loathe to be thought of as playa haters. We did after all get free drinks at the Soho House, plus the Black Room has this lovely new car smell with their enormous leather recliners. Then, you have the damask carpet and the individual metal ice buckets between each chair perfect for chilling your own bottle of Cristal. All in all, it's a pretty sweet space. If another director/producer team invited us there for a screening of their film, no matter how inane and pointless, we'd probably go. Those chairs are perfect for napping in too, though with only 40 or so seats in the place, the filmmakers are pretty certain to see you catching a disco nap during their movie.

[Memo to the editor, director and producer of this mystery project: If you're going to announce to the audience you didn't know much about the topic before you were hired, we're going to kind of wonder why you're the director of this movie. And inexplicably in it, filmed walking through doorways and talking on your cell phone, in between the shots of geeky talking heads. Also, that computerized voice wasn't cool or "accessible to young people" even when Radiohead used it on OK Computer, let alone as your transition theme. Just a word to the wise.]

Posted by karen at 8:03 AM |

October 17, 2004

Shall We Dance? We'd Rather Not

Cinecultist has been working hard to resist the J.Lo chip in our brain, and our No To J.Lo support group suggested the best way to do this, would be to avoid Shall We Dance. However, this is the very fare that our three readers visit to read reviews of and that's why CC turned to our Mom, based in San Francisco where she caught an advance screening last week, for her expert opinion.

This is a moviegoer who took the impressionable, 11 year old Cinecultist to see Cocktail in the theaters, plus she's a fan of the Japanese original and in the older chick demographic which offers a strong opening weekend for a Richard Gere movie. But even that wasn't enough to persuade CC's Mom to recommend it to our readers.

I looked forward to seeing the film, actually dragging along Danny, who went as the patient boyfriend to see it. As you know, I am a huge fan of any type of dance and spending the evening looking at Richard Gere is always a treat. However, I was totally disappointed. The subtleness of the Japanese version was lost in this film. I cared nothing about the male character trying to find meaning in mid life, and to top if off, the dancing was minimal and mediocre...certainly no John Travolta moment. Jennifer Lopez who is a great dancer was captured on screen very little. They seemed to be trying to promote her acting ability....what a waste. So, the whole thing was a bust and now I have to sit through some car chase movie because Danny gets the next pick.
Posted by karen at 10:52 PM |

September 21, 2004

Too Hot To Handle: Dynamite Update, Kimchi Shorts & Bebop Rumors

We begin with suprising news that Napoleon Dynamite was ranked #8 in the US box office last weekend. This is pretty incredible, seeing as the tiny offbeat comedy has been out for FIFTEEN WEEKS. Even more astounding is the fact that it is actually up in ranking from last week, where it was nestled at #10. While this little indie has made significantly less revenue in total than, say, #49's Garfield the Movie, Seattle Maggie is tickled pink to see the cinematic underdog hanging in there. Check it out at your local theater and see if Tina the Llama renders you speechless with laughter, as evidenced here by Boyfriend Todd.

longlifehappinessandprosperity.jpg Next week, we look forward to sampling some fine films at the 2004 Northwest Asian American Film Festival, which is being held right here in Seattle's International District, Sept. 30th to Oct. 3rd. In particular, we are yearning to catch our darling Sandra Oh in Long Life, Happiness & Prosperity, marking her second collaboration with Double Happiness director Mina Shum, who is scheduled to attend the event. Also perking our interest is the collection of short films Focus On: Food, which will feature such varied topics as Sour Death Ball facial contortions, Asian doughnut shop owners in Texas and a how-to on the fine art of kimchee creation (Smell-O-Vision not included). We will be the ones in the front row, popping the Tums.

Spike.jpg Finally, we end on a totally random and unfounded rumor that nonetheless had us squirming with excitement: that John Cusack was considering being in a live-action movie version of the excellent series Cowboy Bebop. While Seattle Maggie generally agrees with all die-hard anime fans that truly good anime should be left alone, we can't help but be a little drooly over the completely perfect casting choice of Mr. Cusack as the ironic, laconic and sardonic intergalactic bounty hunter Spike Spiegel. Picture it as a sort of Grosse Pointe Blank in space. Yes, we know we are completely and pathetically ridiculous. Catch episodes of Cowboy Bebop on Cartoon Network's Adult Swim on Saturday nights and see if you don't agree with us in theory, if not in practice.

Posted by seattle maggie at 10:26 PM |

September 8, 2004

Cinematic Snackables

Seattle Maggie would like to apologize for dropping off the face of the planet for a few weeks - although, embraced in the chilly darkness of Carlsbad Caverns some 750 feet below the New Mexican surface, watching with a mixture of amusement and horror as a bored kid tried to climb his mom out of sheer brattiness, it seems we literally had. This is not a comment on the state of the caverns, which can only be described by the mumbled phrase that kept coming to our lips, something like "wowlookitthatwow!" We don't blame the kid for being bored, but we do blame him very much for attempting to scale his exhausted parent in public. Mom, Dad, if your dear little one ever gets that gleam in his eye and starts fingering his grappling gear, it's time to call it a day. Take our word for it.

In movie news, we did not actually get any cinematic screen time in with all the road tripping around the great state of New Mexico. However, the plane ride did give us the opportunity to catch up on our magazines, and we are please to tell everyone to run out and get yourself a copy of the September issue of Gourmet. The theme for this month's issue is Food & Movies, two of our favorite subjects, and we happily immersed ourselves in pretty pictures of elaborate foodstuffs to block out the fact that our plane was jittering like a college student high on a four shot espresso buzz.

Some highlights of the issue include an interesting article on set catering, a fancy sloppy-joe movie night meal (is that an oxymoron?) and some recipes inspired by movies - we particularly craved the recipe for timballo, which is a slightly less grand version of the drool-inducing timpano from Big Night - at 30,000 feet, we even considered attempting this one ourselves before realizing that anything that required being cooked in a water bath could probably spell doom for our mailbox-sized oven. Ah well. cupcake.bmp
Also amusing (but less movie-related) was the Letters page, in which a healthy debate still rages about the controversial "Cupcake Cake" that was featured on the cover back in January - we think it looks both fun and tasty, but apparently many readers took offense to the fact that it was not "gourmet" enough to be featured on the cover on a magazine professing to be just that. An opposing party immediately raised its collective hackles and told them to lighten up.

If this keeps up, a major offensive will certainly whip up over this month's recipe for a movie snack entitled "Salami Crisps" which is...well...salami baked in an oven until crispy. Seattle Maggie is not sure how "gourmet" it is, but it does sound like something you could use to reward your pet for relieving itself in the appropriate square of newspaper. At any rate, choose your side wisely, for it may come down to a final battle of ganache versus devil's food any day now. Whip up some of the easy crunchable snacks from the back page, sit back and watch the fireworks - or a favorite DVD will do. By the way, who knew there were so many different tools for the sole purpose of slicing off the tops of eggs?

Something to consider during a quiet moment in your day: It takes 72 years to form a stalactite the size of the tip of your pinkie. That's all the time you get - a tiny nub no bigger than a marshmallow in your breakfast cereal. Seattle Maggie thinks we all deserve an extra helping of dessert tonight.

Posted by seattle maggie at 9:21 PM |

September 1, 2004

Cinecultist Takes Albuquerque

We're back kids from our Albuquerque adventure and rest assured, Cinecultist felt no need to pick up any souvenirs of the turquoise, Native American chic or hammered silver varieties. We are a Manhattanite, and thus snear at such things. Something we learned: if it says "Old Town" on the map, it actually means "Tchatchke Town." FYI.

guild.JPGSeeing that we are the Cinecultist as well as an adopted New Yawker, and since we had an extra day of just hanging out in ABQ after the wedding on Saturday, we thought we'd go to the movies. But looking for a movie theater when you haven't rented a car proved trickier than you'd think. Sample conversation: CC: "So is there a movie theater in downtown?" Local w/Mullet & High-waisted jeans [seriously]: "Downtown? You don't want to go downtown." Apparently, downtown ABQ is scarier than all of the greater New York area and we were advised to avoid it. Instead, we took the hotel shuttle down to the Nob Hill area, which is around the university and has little shops and such.

Therein we found the Guild theater which was screening Godzilla this week. Coming up to the ticket window, the man behind the counter yelled, "Are you hear to see Gaud-zee-ya?" Thinking he was mispronouncing Takashi Miike's movie Gozu that the Guild also had a poster up for, we shook our squemish head. Turns out, he was just mimicing the Japanese pronounciation of Godzilla. And he did this schtick with every single ticket window patron. It was adorable. Also, we have to admit that paying $5 for a matinee is such a refreshing thing. Indie screening spaces make CC feel all sunny inside and there's something even more wonderful about them in the sticks. That's real cinecultists at work, fighting the good fight, making 1950s anti-atomic war monster movies available for their community. As we walked out, another guy, perhaps the owner, asked each viewer if they enjoyed the show in the most boisterous voice. Asking CC how we'd heard about the movie, we said we'd were in from out of town and was looking for a movie. "Wow, the marquee hard at work!" He exclaimed, delighted we'd stopped by.

alphaville.JPG Across Central Avenue from the Guild sits the Alphaville Video, an indie video store Cinecultist browsed in while digesting the chicken salad from the Flying Star Cafe before the movie started. Going into indie video stores as good as the Alphaville makes CC think we should get into this racket, if only to sit around watching good movies all afternoon for pay. A real collector's selection with an amazing array of foreign language and Gay & Lesbian films, Alphaville also seems to be hard at work bringing le cinema to ABQ. The clerk behind the counter had on Werner Hertzog's My Best Fiend. Is that too deliciously geeky for words, or what? We were actually sorry we couldn't sign up for a membership right then and there, as CC saw quite a few things we thought we might borrow.

All in all, it was a lovely, relaxing day. It may seem a bit odd to fly thousands of miles to do the very thing we might do if we were at home with a day off (lunch, shop browsing, movie, coffee) but we feel that there's hope for the hinterlands if Cinecultist can do this so easily outside of the Eee Vee. We're a snob, if you hadn't noticed, and though we made it a priority to try New Mexico's green and red chile while there, Cinecultist still needs to go to the movies while on vacation.

By the by, Film Forum is doing a Gaud-zee-ya series, "They Came From Toho: Godzilla and the Kaiju Eiga" right now, running through September 9. Gawd, it's so self-indulgent but here's more pictures from the trip.

Posted by karen at 9:21 PM |

July 12, 2004

Miscellaneous: McSegway, Marathoners & More Bad News For South Dakota

Ronald_small.jpgWhile wandering the crowded streets of the Chinatown/International District Summer Festival yesterday, Seattle Maggie witnessed a surreal sight - Ronald McDonald cruising serenely through a sea of Asian folks on a Segway. Given the rave reception that Super Size Me has gotten, especially in health-conscious Seattle, we would have expected Mr. McDonald to have to peel out of there in haste, pelted by mobs armed with granola and spiky lychee nuts. Instead, he was followed by a Pied Piper-esque throng of small Asian kids, all clamoring for Grimace headbands. Sorry, Morgan Spurlock, it looks like America is still a little slow on the uptake.

In other news, today marks the first day of the annual Badwater Ultramarathon, in which participants make the 135 mile trek between Death Valley's lowest to highest points in 60 hours or less. Obstacles include dehydration, exhaustion, an 8080 foot elevation climb, temperatures cresting to 130 degrees and blisters the size of...well...feet. And did we mention no prize money? Anyone looking to learn more about this event can check out the documentary Running On the Sun, where even those of us who save running for catching the bus can experience the journey firsthand. The spirit and stamina of these runners is amazing to say the least, but props must also go out to the faithful road crews who feed, hydrate and cheer them on every step of the way. Doubly amazing is the ability of runner Gabriel Flores to simultaneously run, talk, and puke without breaking stride, as well as the guy who removed his toenails in order to be a better runner. Yikes.

In other other news, Seattle Maggie swears on her honor that she heard the lady on the Weather Channel tell the nation that South Dakota should expect "Nipple-Sized Hail" today. In order to link this to movies, let us say SM is badly torn on going to see Anchorman - 75% says yes, 20% says we should stay home and read some Proust and a rogue 5% says it just wants a milkshake and a nice, long nap.

Posted by seattle maggie at 3:40 PM |

June 28, 2004

What We Really Need: Governator Swag

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

Posted by karen at 7:58 AM |

June 16, 2004

SIFF V: Seattle Maggie Lives!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Posted by karen at 8:04 AM |

June 15, 2004

SIFF: Resurrection

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Posted by karen at 7:59 AM |

June 14, 2004

Some Awfully Strange Fiction

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

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

Posted by karen at 8:09 AM |

June 8, 2004

Back To The SIFF

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

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

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

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

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

Posted by karen at 11:28 PM |

May 28, 2004

SIFF Strikes Back!

Cinecultist has tried in the past to warn Seattle Maggie, our new correspondent from the Emerald City, that seeing movies based only on the title can be a bad idea. She should really stick to seeing movies based solely on the fact that Brendan Fraser or Russell Crowe are in them (true story!). However, she did not take our advice to heart as is evidence in her second dispatch from the front lines of this year's Seattle International Film Festival.

On Monday evening, I took in a screening of The Tesseract written and directed by Oxide Pang of the Pang brothers. Having seen and enjoyed the Pang brothers' very creepy The Eye at last year's SIFF, I went into this movie expecting something along the same genre - dread Asian horror, perhaps tinged with a taste of sci-fi (so sue me, I fell for the Wrinkle in Time connotation). Alas, I had stepped into that most nefarious pitfall of film festival goers - making assumptions without research, aka the Movie That Makes An Ass of U and Me.

The Tesseract proved to be nothing I was expecting, and was in fact only bound to its title by the sheerest, most gossamer of threads. At the Heaven Hotel in Thailand, the fates of two feuding drug lords, a sweaty drug-running Englishman, a mortally wounded Thai hit woman and a painfully naive British psychologist are inextricably entwined.

Wit, the orphaned Thai houseboy who runs errands around the hotel, ties many of the stories together with his coming and goings. The movie is presented in what I can only describe as Memento-style storytelling (I know, that phrase is getting old) with some of the events happening out of sequence or being retold from a different perspective. From what I can tell, the tesseract that the title refers to this method of revealing the story to the viewer, although I much prefer the Madeleine L'Engle version myself. First, the good news: the cinematography is exciting and gorgeous, although almost to the point of distraction. There is a certain dreamlike quality that is echoed in the slowed special effects and the misty lenses. The movie's use of color is also quite good, especially using red to punctuate certain scenes and sepia tones to evoke nostalgia.

Next, the bad news: this movie sucks rocks. The characters are so frustratingly one-dimensional that we have no reason to care about them - the drug lords are pissed off, the Englishman is sweaty, the hit woman is stoic and the psychologist is so ridiculously sentimental that one longs for death by theater-lobby hot dog rather than put up with her rambling speeches about how time is a circle and the beginning is the end and how her life is like a bejeweled carriage (don't ask). And worst of all is the character of Wit, who manages to lie, steal and thoughtlessly cause random deaths throughout the movie without a second thought. While it is pressed upon the viewer that the kid has had a hard life and knows no other alternative, can't he have at least one endearing characteristic? He loves dogs? Opens doors for old ladies? Something? Some streak of good nature that makes us root for him? No, nothing. Wit's main drive in life is greed, greed and more greed.

Maybe we can mark it down to my admittedly curmudgeonly attitude toward children in general, but the biggest disappointment in a disappointing movie was the fact that this kid was still breathing by the time the credits were rolling. The Tesseract gets 1 out of 5 Golden Space Needles, and we humbly beg the Pang siblings to go back to making horror pictures. Until next time, this is Seattle Maggie signing off!

Posted by karen at 8:21 AM |

May 25, 2004

Live From SIFF

Sorry about that whole dropping off the face of the earth there loyal cinecultists. Just when you think you've paid up on the year's expenses in terms of hosting and registration fees, turns out no. You haven't. And we're cutting off your web service until you pay up. So there. Argh. Anyhow, all is well now for Cinecultist and "Obsessing Over Movies In the Eee Vee since 2003," and in the meantime we bring you the first report from our new Seattle Correspondent, the ever pithy Maggie, who attended some ass-kicking asian fare at this year's Seattle International Film Festival.

This year, I kicked off my SIFF experience with a midnight screening of Azumi at the Egyptian theater on Saturday night. Nothing says SIFF like waiting in line in a dark, muddy alley for half an hour whilst faux drag-queen club girls mince by you into into Neighbors on ridiculous platform heels. Luckily, I had the foresight to bring cookies, so the time passed swiftly.

At any rate, the movie itself was worth the wait. Azumi tells the story of a young woman who, orphaned at an early age, joins a band of likewise orphaned children led by the mysterious Master. Tucked away on a remote mountain, he teaches them to be assassins in pursuit of an equally mysterious Mission. Once they reach adulthood, they are unleashed upon feudal Japan and much slashing ensues.

While this movie has many of the over-the-top touches that one expects from the this type of movie - pressurized blood geysers erupting from wounds, flashy costumes and big hair (especially on the men), gravity-defying leaps and somersaults - it also includes some moments of seriousness. Azumi and her fellow assassins contemplate the single-mindedness of their mission and indeed the question of their entire existence, as they are instructed to stand by while an entire village is slaughtered by bandits. As one of their party falls ill, the rest are pushed to abandon him to certain death rather than delay their journey. As assassins, they are not allowed to question their path; a target is presented, and they must kill without thought or emotion.

This is emphasized in the most memorable scene in the movie, which happens just as the young assassins are about to set forth on their journey. Their Master separates them into pairs based on who they care for most, and then sets them the task of killing their partner to prove that they can indeed kill without question. The young assassins, who moments before have been playfully romping like puppies, are suddenly transformed into killers. Azumi is paired with the man that she loves, and the look they exchange before their battle is almost more heartrending than the inevitable conclusion. That being said, the main reason for seeing this movie would still have to be the elaborate fight sequences.

When Azumi stops an arrow in mid-flight with her sword by splitting it down the middle, we couldn't care less about the moral tribulations of an assassin. We just want to see her kicking some more samurai butt. And enough butt is kicked during this film for me to give Azumi 4 out of 5 Golden Space Needles. Until next time, this is Seattle Maggie signing off!

Posted by karen at 4:24 PM |

April 12, 2004

When The Critic Becomes The Extra

You know its Spring in New York City when you can't walk down the street without stumbling over power-cords leading to 10 foot spot lights. The film crews have returned to the shores of fair Manhattan, although we're still quite overcast and chilly here. We've noticed more so this year because Cinecultist kinda took MUG's essay last week on criticism to heart. Though Charlie mostly leveled his commentary at theater and restaurant critics, who can willy nilly make or break an establishment or event, we thought this part following applicable to film critics as well.

"...[Walter] Kerr wrote about the National Critics Institute (now the O'Neill Critics Institute) in Connecticut which was formed essentially to help playwrights and critics understand each better. "It is no doubt good for a critic, now and again, to become involved in the making off a play; it is surely good for the playwright to deal, however temporarily, with a reviewer who is not so much fiend as friend." He writes of one such session: "Prowling through the big red barn on the premises, I was cheered to see Edith Oliver of The New Yorker sitting most casually on the floor alongside her assigned author, checking the manuscript with him while keeping an eye both generous and sharp on the players who were giving life to his lines."

Thus, Cinecultist found ourselves righteously emboldened to head up to Josh Cultivated Stupidity's student film shoot in Yorkville on Saturday morning. We'd agreed to be an extra in one of the school yard scenes, and had even taken the clothing recommendations wearing a white t-shirt, flat black shoes, a coat to keep warm between takes and pants we could slip off under a skirt. White knee high socks were to be provided. Yes, that's right nice Jewish girl Cinecultist had agreed for the love of friendship and good film criticism to dress up like a Catholic school girl. However, when CC arrived at the corner of who-lives-this-far-north Josh was still shooting some of the principals so we headed to the Craft Services table. Even NYU student films have Craft Services and of course Josh's Craft Services had Krispy Kreme donuts so this entertained us for awhile. Then we read a pop culture magazine for a bit. Then everyone too a break while they set up the zoom lens. "This participating in the making of what we critique, Cinecultist can totally do this!" we thought to ourselves in third person.

After being on set for nearly an hour, Josh told us we could go with the costume girl to the van and get our plaid skirt and white button down top on. But those skirts would not have been forgiving on the CC derriere and it is at this point, we realized we really had to get going. Critics are critics for a reason, we don't want to be in front of the camera in knee-high socks. But to see our little Joshie yelling action like an actual director, giving the actresses pep talks and making decisions, it warmed the cockles of our Cinecultist heart. And we can't wait to offer our informed critic/muse/quasi-participant opinion of the completed project.

Posted by karen at 10:32 AM |

March 12, 2004

Best of Intentions

All week, Cinecultist had been looking forward to seeing a movie at the tiny West Village coffee shop, Jack's Stir Brewed Coffee with our WV friend, Ilana. Tuesday nights, they feature live music in the West 10th St. space and Thursdays are devoted to movies, with last night's screening of Frankenstein. That's what we intended to do, honest.

We got as far as walking past a bit after 8 pm, when the film was set to start, but the smallness of the place, the potentially uncomfortable hardness of those wood benches set up in front of the sheet tacked to the front window, and the age of the crowd made us move on. It was a nice night for walking around and talking and eating a vanilla cupcake from Magnolia Bakery, since we were right near there.

The moral of the story? Even the Cinecultist needs to take an evening off every now and again to enjoy the non-movie related company of a good friend and a cupcake. Happy weekend cinecultists, we'll be back next week with more movie-related obsessing.

Posted by karen at 8:17 AM |

September 2, 2003

2-Lane Wha?

Another foray into the wonderful world of 70mm film last night as Walter Reade Theater wraps up its series of Widescreen Films, with Two-Lane Blacktop, perhaps the oddest little movie Cinecultist has seen in a long time. Starring James Taylor and "the cute one" from the Beach Boys, Dennis Wilson, Two-Lane is the ultimate surreal road movie as Taylor, billed as The Driver, crosses country in his souped up hot rod racing people and generally being a nomad.

Taylor's not much of an actor, he's seen fire and rain but has some difficulty calling a fellow racer a "motherfucker," but he does have this intriguing intensity that started to get to Cinecultist by the end. Although, is it just CC or do people in existential movies not speak nearly enough? There's a lot of staring, some random kissing and no real chatter. We live for chatter, so CC doesn't really get this. Warren Oates, who plays their pathological liar racing nemisis in a GTO, has huge teeth. Distractingly huge teeth. CC doesn't recommend this movie but we do thank Jose for dragging us to it, it really makes our life so ordinary but in a good way, filled with chatter we can understand.

Posted by karen at 8:01 AM |

August 31, 2003

To Print or To DVD, That's The Question.

Cinecultist loves His Girl Friday, the Howard Hawks interpretation of the ultimate fast-talking journalist couple (Cary Grant and Rosalind Russell) apart and then back together again over the ultimate scoop. In fact, the laptop on which most of this blog is written is called Hildy, the character Russell plays who thinks she wants a "real" life with insurance salesman Ralph Bellamy but the excitement of the chase brings her back to her true place as a writer and married to Grant.

The MoMA Gramercy Theatre screened one of their prints of this film over the weekend as part of their Summer Reperatory series and though it's always wonderful to rewatch a movie that CC holds dear to her heart, the state of the print sort of detracted from the experience. The first reel had obvious sprocket hole damange over the titles, as well as a terribly scratched soundtrack and the second reel suffered from serious fading, so that the black and the white parts of the image seem to be blending together. It was a sad state of affairs for this raggedy 16mm print. As we walked out of the theater, CC commented to her friend William, who worked on curating this series with MoMA and knows all too well about the scattershot state of their extensive print collection, that her DVD at home would've been more clear than this print.

This brings us to a much debated point among our cinephilic friends and collegues how important is it to see a film print? Is a good DVD, one taken from a remastered print for instance, a trade off? As a former projectionist, CC knows that viewing a good print can make a movie watching experience exponentially better. But when the option is a faded scratched 16mm, is it just better to stay home? Some people we know would say yes, for sure, but CC's can't say it is so cut and dry. Don't hate us for bringing up these important issues and then not answering them in a simple rule, but it really is quite the conundrum for the true cinecultist. It's important to see as many films on film as possible, but it's painful to watch a good movie on a bad print. Do with that prescription from a film lover what you will.

Posted by karen at 11:21 PM |

August 23, 2003

Press Screening Observations

Occasionally, Cinecultist likes to use our quasi-insider view of the New York film scene to bring you observations of the industry's wheels in motion. This past week, CC attended two press screenings -- our first New York ones -- so rather than offering reviews of Demonlover and Lost in Translation (yet), we bring you reviews of the reviewing process.

Both of the screenings organized by the film's public relations firm (Palm Pictures and Focus Features, respectively) were in high rise office buildings in midtown on Broadway, a block from each other. This is a distinct prestige advancement from the odd places CC previously attended press screenings in Davis, California, where the *slightly* smaller film scene results in passes to radio station promotional screenings, 10 am viewings in sketchy downtown Sacramento theaters or isolated suburban cineplexes. Each of the NY press screening theaters were small, seating about 30-45 and in perhaps the most comfortable chairs possible, short of our own individual barcalounger. We're talking soft velvet coverings, cushy seats and wide arm rests. Also, no sticky floors -- a serious improvement on any Davis area screening space.

Unfortunately, unlike the time CC saw Orgazmo with a crowd of mullet-sporting, flannel-wearing hard rock fans, it was a bit harder to gauge the other viewer's reactions to these movies. Probably because these people are critics. Don't want to tip their hand or something. The elevator ride down afterwards is uncomfortably and unnaturally quiet, provoking us to want to say things like "boy, wasn't THAT a weird movie?" appropos of nothing, just to break the silence. Especially when we rode in the elevator with Elvis Mitchell, a critic for the New York Times. CC will admit, we were a bit star struck with those dreadlocks but a few feet from us. Not because he's our favorite critic ever, but just that he's sort of famous for doing this writer thing.

Reviews of both movies to come closer to their respective release dates, but if this is any indication of the potential reception -- at Demonlover, someone stalked out slamming the screening door 20 minutes before the end and at Lost in Translation, a few people clapped as the credits began to roll. In-teresting. [Ed. -- Thanks to Reverse Shot and Michael for the hook up!]

Posted by karen at 11:11 PM |

August 15, 2003

We Interupt This Blog...

Because we had no freaking power for over 24 hours! Argh, no electricity means no movies. Cinecultist took to the streets with her digital camera and brings you the following images. This space shall return to its regularly scheduled cinema obsessions as soon as possible. Thanks for your patience.


Dancing and drumming on Stanton Street in the Lower East Side.

Watching and waiting. Stanton Street.

The traffic is brutal out there. Lower East Side.

What can you buy in this town tonight? Melting ice cream and luke warm beer. Yum.

Posted by karen at 10:31 PM |

August 14, 2003

Outdoor Cinema In Queens

DSCN0266.JPGCinecultist traveled to darkest Queens (with our only friend who could get us to venture this far into the boroughs, W) Wednesday night for a little summer outdoor movie watching. Socrates Sculpture Park and American Museum of the Moving Image have been doing this Wednesday night series, On The Waterfront: Celebrating The Cultural Diversity of Queens and tonight's movie was Mira Nair's Monsoon Wedding.

An Indian funk band played as the sun set, and a local Indian restaurant provided tasty vegetarian dishes to put the audience in the culinary mood. Projecting a pretty nice 16mm print spooled onto one enormous reel to allow the projectionist the luxury of no dual projector change-overs (although there were a few minor soundtrack splice issues), the only draw back to the picturesque setting were the aggressive East River mosquitos. CC's seen Monsoon Wedding a few times now and this delightful family picture still completely engages. We particularly love Vijay Raaz as wedding planner P.K. Dubey, who has a penchant for munching on marigolds and who's romance of Alice is so very charming.

Next week's (Aug. 20) film will be Black Cat, White Cat by Emir Kurturica and begins at 8 pm. Well worth the trek out there on the N or W train and the 20 minute walk to the park from the train. Promise.

Posted by karen at 3:30 PM |

July 25, 2003

Watch Out For the Dolly

Question: How can you tell it's summer in New York? Answer: You can barely walk down the street without treading through a film shoot.

In the neighborhood, CC has seen two different sets in less than 24 hours with their craft services tables, lights, cameras and loads of people milling around. Though in both instances, the people who seem to be getting the most attention, aka the actors, didn't appear to be anyone CC recognized. Leading us to believe not that we've lost the gawker stalker touch but that they're low budget indies, or take up shots or tv or something. We did stumble upon a few of the Sex and the City crews earlier this spring, including the shot from last week where Carrie takes her new boyfriend, played by Ron Livingston to Prada. CC's seen SJP so many times now, we're almost beginning to think that one can wear a dress over pants, or other such ridiculousness in fashion. Mostly the CC policy on seeing a crew filming on the street is to just walk past, bemused but not tarrying, because we know those film people are just trying to do their job. NBD (no big deal).

Our most exciting shooting sighting was sort of an after the fact realization. When CC lived in Seattle, they shot Highway in town, a road trip movie with Jared Leto set during 1994 that entailed reconstructing the inpromptu memorial for Kurt Cobain at the Seattle Center. After a city-wide open call, all the jaded Seattle kids turned up in their cast-off flannels to be extras for the day, which amused CC to no end, the thought of the hipsters doing grunge again. But we never heard anything about the movie being released in theaters. Then, last summer, on our Jake Gyllenhaal bender wherein we watched his entire filmography (oh the shame of renting Bubble Boy) we discovered he was in Highway, along with Selma Blair. Just think, we could have bumped into a pre-itboy Jake in Vivace coffee or something and never even known it. CC could have saved him from his certain (eventual) heartbreak with one wannabe cheerleader, former vampire blonde starlet. *Sigh* Woulda, coulda, shoulda.

For more NYC set stalking, check out the Mayor's Office of Film, TV & Broadcasting.

Posted by karen at 12:46 PM |

July 2, 2003

Girl Flies Thru Window -- In Cantonese!

Tonight Cinecultist took the long train with the sweaty rush hour hordes up to Lincoln Center's Walter Reede Theater to meet the darling W for one of the Heroic Grace movies. CC loves to watch girls kicking ass and she trusts the choices usually made by W, who's taste includes hotness like Tony Leung. Except, W forgot to mention that tonight's feature, The Six Fingered Lord of the Lute Part 1, had no English subtitles. Seeing that CC speaks no Cantonese, it was slightly difficult to follow even with a handy synopsis by Berenice Reynaud provided by the Film Society.

You know it's not going to be simple when the historian describes part of the plot as "a McGuffin" (a technique employed often by Hitchcock to throw the audience off the story). She also writes, "The protagonists are endlessly traveling, fighting their foes at crossroads, spending the night in sinisters inns, arriving uninvited at the mansion of other evil clans, jumping in the air or through windows, are ambushed, drugged, challenged to duels, and even killed." Yeah, all that good stuff is in there, in between long stretches of arguing and exposition. In Cantonese. Damn my lack of Asian languages! I did like the scene where two girls fight on a tower's overhangs, jumping through windows and attacking each other with a long chain. Ouch.

CC's set to see another film in the series, Wong Kar-Wai's Ashes of Time on Friday. This time with subtitles, hopefully, and a little Tony, Maggie Cheung and Brigitte Lin goodness. Will report back.

As a slightly related aside, if CC was so inclined to actually make movies with girls flying through windows instead of just critiquing them, we could use the handy DIY special effects step by step supplied by this month's the Independent. Friend to CC and small furry animals, Greg Gilpatrick breaks it down and though we still don't think we could do it but it's nice to know it's possible. Cool.

Posted by karen at 10:59 PM |

June 26, 2003

More Outdoor Cinema

Every Friday through September, Rooftop Films will be screening a variety of short and long features on top of a roof in Brooklyn. This is the sort of grassroots screening space that Cinecultist loves to hear about because it's real cinephiles taking to the streets (or roofs) and showing what they want to show, mainstream cinema be damned. Fight the power, and all that. They even have a manifesto. The entrance donation is $6 but they also have a subscription program, and it seems that their programming is quite diverse with evenings devoted to African cinema, movies from Texas and even an anti-American festival on July 4th. Atop the OfficeOps building on 57 Thames Street in Brooklyn sounds like a good place to be during one of these New York summer nights. [via DailyCandy]

Posted by karen at 12:30 PM |

June 24, 2003

Non Movie Distractions

What with the new Harry Potter book, the Order of the Phoenix, and obsessively searching for childhood acquaintences on Friendster, Cinecultist has been having difficulty staying focused on the cinema.

But we're going to see the Hulk tonight with K & A and have plans to rewatch both the Heroic Trio and Irma Vep (Maggie Cheung goodness!) on DVD, so your regularly scheduled tirades shall return shortly. Please bear with us through this patch of "technical difficulties."

Posted by karen at 4:33 PM |

June 21, 2003

Outside A Theater in My Neighborhood


Spring, Cinecultist hardly knew ye. (Yes, that's right it is 13 out of 16 weeks now of rainy weekends in New York. Fortunately for cinecultists everywhere, rainy days are good for staying in and watching movies. Or reading the entire Times arts section and listening to movie soundtracks.) [Inspired by the beautiful rain photography on More Than Donuts]

Posted by karen at 4:09 PM |

June 20, 2003

Bloggers On The Town

Just a note of thanks to Aaron at 601am and Jen and Jake at Gothamist, Cinecultist and correspondents headed out to Smithfield last night to meet other NYC bloggers. Boy, are they good people. And serious drinkers to boot. We're already looking forward to the next one. Also, there are pictures (oh the infamy).

Posted by karen at 11:38 AM |

June 17, 2003

Film People-ster

Cinecultist decided to head over to Film Forum tonight to check out one of the Touch of Lubitsch double features. They're still playing Trouble in Paradise, but only during the day, at night they are showing two movies back to back for the price of one admission starting with the silent features.

After purchasing a ticket, CC went to stand in the line outside and ran into co-worker J. This man knows some serious trivia about old films, is obsessed with the Criterion collection DVDs and a really nice person to boot. He was waiting with another man, who he said he knew "from the movies." After waiting a bit more, we were joined by a third friend, an independent filmmaker, who said they expected to see another friend who was already inside watching the earlier screening. All of these film people J seemed to know only from the film viewing circuit here in New York. It made CC realize she's now plugged into this hub of pretentious film people who attend these festivals and screenings, wait in line with a film book, or run into someone they know who likes to discuss Kubrick or Ozu or Hitchcock. It's like a non-internet Pretentious Film Friendster.

By the way, CC really loved the silent feature, the Oyster Princess. Spoiled brat heiress (she's so happy she wrecks the house!) meets penniless Prince Nucki (pronounced "Nookie") but only after various silly machinations. At one point, a musician plays an unusual instrument -- a fat man that he repeatedly slaps, until the fat man strikes back. Priceless! So, I guess CC will be spending some considerable time at Film Forum in the next few weeks. Maybe we'll see you there.

Posted by karen at 11:07 PM |

June 4, 2003

Ethan Hawke: Boy Needs a Baked Potato

On a rainy Tuesday night, Cinecultist pulled out her trusty little black dress and headed down to the Lincoln Center for the Young Friends of Film tribute to Ethan Hawke after party. Here's a few things that we saw:

Some celebs -- Ethan obviously (in tux, looking a little gaunt with his Auschwitz-chic hair do), Vincent D'Onofrio (sexy/creepy as ever, story is he arrived 20 minutes early, then insisted upon waiting downstairs in his car labeled "Law and Order" until more celebs arrived), Steve Zahn (adorable, the hit of the tribute), director Richard Linklater (nice goatee, almost asked him to "hook a girl up with Willy Wiggins' digits. But didn't.), Robert Sean Leonard (three first names - no waiting, wearing a weird jean jacket with the title of his current play on the back, geeky-chic?).

Notably absent -- Uma. What couldn't find a babysitter? Shooting a film? Not a fan of your husband's early work like Mystery Date?

Mostly, CC stood around inhailing the free food (here's how you know you're an adult: will put things in your mouth without really knowing the ingredients) and drink while chatting with some good people from Film Comment. By the way, CC likes Tanqueray, they must have co-sponsored the event along with Guess because by the end of the evening the gin and tonics were more gin than tonic.

To cap off the evening, CC took home one of the goody bags which included --
A catalog of Guess clothing (mostly arty pictures of slutty looking girls), copy of Film Comment featuring Renee Zellweger on the cover, copy of Ethan's book, Ash Wednesday, copy of NFT: Not For Tourist's Guide to New York City, a free yoga class at Practice Yoga on W. 83rd, 25% off my next Guess purchase, a Guess pocket calendar, discount at Solo Fitness, $100 off my next purchase of $350 at Michael C. Fina on Fifth Ave, the Wall Street Journal Online 60 day site subscription and a tin of Guess mints flavor cinnamon. Item we'll probably use the most -- those cinnamon mints.

Posted by karen at 11:10 AM |