Thursday, November 30, 2006

The Scarface phenomenon

by Professor Wagstaff

About a decade ago, I got my first chance to watch Brian De Palma’s ‘Scarface’ when it appeared on TV. I’d heard a bit about it that it was considered a disappointment in its day but was worth watching, especially for Al Pacino’s performance as gangster Tony Montana.

So I watched it and overall enjoyed it, although it was overwrought and excessive (what else could one expect with De Palma as director and Oliver Stone as scriptwriter?). For various reasons (not least its unpleasant tone) it wasn’t a film I particularly didn’t want to watch again and thought, it would be remembered in years to come (if at all) as a campy curio. How wrong I was.

In the last few years, it seems that ‘Scarface’ isn’t just becoming a cult film, it’s become a mass phenomenon. There have been multiple movie books about the 1980s I’ve seen with Al ‘Tony Montana’ Pacino on the front cover, as if to imply that it was the film of that era. But it’s also grown as a pop culture icon. From Wikipedia on the film:

Scarface is also notable for its extensive popularity with many hip-hop artists and fans, in particular those affiliated with gangsta rap. A number of rappers single out Tony Montana as a role model for his transition from poverty to wealth.

Recently, I saw a car driving down the streets of Melbourne with the Scarface logo and Al Pacino as Tony Montana painted on the side doors. And the film is now rated by the general public as the top 250 films (224) of all time on the IMDB site. And just the other day I saw a poster for a video game about the ‘Scarface’ that’s due to be launched.

There have been certain films (and film personalities) who’ve grown in popularity long after they were made, but it would be hard to top the explosion on popularity of ‘Scarface’.

There are reasons one could pinpoint as to why it has grown so much in popularity (e.g. the public’s increasing fascination with gangsters) but overall, how an enjoyable but trashy and throwaway film has become so massively popular and significant has got me baffled.

Monday, November 27, 2006

It's Getting to Be That Time of Year...

by Jackrabbit Slim
for Oscar talk! I know some of you don't give a shit, and it seems that every sentient being has their own Oscar prediction web site, but what the hell, here's my early pics (I refuse to join the circle jerk of those who predict the day after the previous ceremony). Just about everything has been seen by some critics. This will no doubt be revised after critics awards and Golden Globe noms come out.


The Departed
Little Miss Sunshine
The Queen


Pedro Almodovar, Volver
Bill Condon, Dreamgirls
Stephen Frears, The Queen
Alejando Gonzalez Innaritu, Babel
Martin Scorsese, The Departed


Leonardo DiCaprio, The Departed
Ryan Gosling, Half-Nelson
Peter O'Toole, Venus
Will Smith, Pursuit of Happyness
Forest Whitaker, The Last King of Scotland


Penelope Cruz, Volver
Judi Dench, Notes on a Scandal
Helen Mirren, The Queen
Meryl Streep, The Devil Wears Prada
Kate Winslet, Little Children


Alan Arkin, Little Miss Sunshine
Eddie Murphy, Dreamgirls
Jack Nicholson, The Departed
Brad Pitt, Babel
Michael Sheen, The Queen


Cate Blanchett, Notes on a Scandal
Abigail Breslin, Little Miss Sunshine
Jennifer Hudson, Dreamgirls
Rinko Kikuchi, Babel
Emma Thompson, Stranger Than Fiction

Note these are not my personal choices, just one man's inconsequential prognostication. Discuss or ignore to your heart's content!

Friday, November 24, 2006

My Greatest Movie Year

by jaydro
Brian's talk of seeing 128 movies so far this year reminded me of my peak moviegoing year, when I probably maybe got up to 100 or so in the theater, and I am including any repertory shows, because they should count, dammit (and I didn't see any of them for free!). I wasn't certain exactly which year that was, but I looked up two movies that I knew were prime candidates for that year, and indeed, they were both from 1994: China Moon and No Escape.

I remember those two because they were both pretty bad, actually, and that is what made me back off from then on. China Moon I ended up liking when I saw it because it was trying to be like Body Heat and other great film noir, and pretty much failing miserably, but it was at least trying, and that's something you come to appreciate when you see a lot of movies. And No Escape was just an average flick that nowadays I can't imagine bothering to go see in a theater, let alone sneaking out from work to catch a weekday matinee. I guess that's how bad my addiction was then.

Seeing that many movies gave me a new appreciation for film critics. Sometimes a reliable critic would enthuse over some movie I would then go see, only to find that it was pretty average, but maybe it was different--and that comes to mean a lot when you're seeing way too many movies that all begin to seem too much alike, etc. Being a film critic may seem like a cool job, until you start to realize how many bad movies you're going to be seeing. As a non-critic it might just be easier to sustain a high moviegoing rate now without getting too jaded, because of the rise of independent cinema. But I'm not sure.

I may have approached 100 or so in some other years in the '80's (1982/83 springs to mind because I managed to see Still of the Night, ugh), but that was in some of the glory years of repertory cinema before home video pretty much killed it. I discovered Cary Grant movies not on TV, but in local theaters in the 1980's.

Just in the past year my moviegoing has dropped off precipitously, and I'll probably be lucky to see 10 movies in a theater this year. But I'm actually watching far more movies than ever, thanks to TiVo and channels that show movies uncut and letterboxed etc., plus DVDs.

Anyway, I entitled this My Greatest Movie Year, but 1994 was also probably my Worst Movie Year in terms of the number of bad movies I saw. I had also gotten enough feeling of entitlement that I had no qualms about bursting into the projection booth at a local arthouse theater to berate the projectionist for using the wrong lens (at least three times during that period, I think) or to tell him he'd damn well better flick on the Dolby Stereo for Lawrence of Arabia because it's been restored, dammit, even though I know they didn't have Dolby Stereo in 1962....

Brian's mention of seeing so many movies just got me musing--I imagine there are probably others out there who have seen even more movies in a year (probably because they were working at a movie theater?).

Tuesday, November 21, 2006

Opening in Dallas, Weekend of 11/24

by Brian
The Fountain (trailer): I want to see this so bad I can hardly wait until tomorrow night. All praise and glory be to The Fountain!

Deja Vu (trailer): I hope this doesn’t suck. Tony Scott’s Domino was one of the worst movies that I saw last year, and two sucks in a row would be a very bad sign for a guy who’s not all that great to begin with.

Bobby (trailer): I know I should see it, and I certainly will, but everything I’ve seen and read about it leads me to believe that I’ll hate it.

Tenacious D: The Pick of Destiny (trailer): Noted without comment, because I honestly don’t know what to say.

Unknown (trailer): Rule #1 of independent movies: Beware the movie with a large, well-known cast, that appears out of nowhere and without advance buzz.

Deck the Halls (trailer): I don’t know if I’ve ever formalized the Matthew Broderick Rule, so here goes: There’s only 2 reasons that Matthew Broderick appears in movies. Either it’s because other, better actors said no, or it’s because the filmmakers actually wanted Matthew Broderick in their movie. Both reasons are a giant, red blinking warning light. With accompanying siren. And a man on a megaphone yelling, “Stay away! Stay away, for the love of your souls!”

Robert Altman Dead

by Nick
The New York Times are reporting that Robert Altman died Monday night. Bummer.

Sunday, November 19, 2006

After the Wedding (Efter Brylluppet)

by Nick
I really liked Susanne Bier's Brothers, and I really wanted to love this her latest and most ambitious, and say that Wells was wrong on this one, but there are weaknesses in this film.

Mads Mikkelsen (Casino Royale) plays Jacob, the owner of an orphanage in Bombay who is forced by rich, loudmouthed, charity donator Jörgen - played excellently by Swedish Rolf Lassgård - to come to Denmark for Jörgen's daughter's wedding. As the title implies, something is revealed after the wedding that unravels the lives of all those involved.

The problem with the film is the secret is revealed early on, and the mystery of Jacob's and Jörgen's motives not that shocking or even original. While there are certainly some powerful scenes, and some great performances - Lassgård and this little Indian kid Pramod (Neeral Mulchandani) stick out in my mind - I found the plot somewhat rote, and nothing we really haven't seen before.

While it's still a good film about losing control, or realizing that there are certain things in life beyond control, the weakness in the plotting still brings the film down a notch.

Friday, November 17, 2006

Opening in Dallas, 11/17

by Brian
Casino Royale (trailer): I always look forward to a new Bond movie, and I’m actually impressed by the strong reviews so far. On that score, however, the last two were so completely terrible that the temptation to admire the effort this time around, must be pretty strong. See Star Wars: Episode III for a good example of what I mean.

For Your Consideration trailer): I guess I’m looking forward to this, too, even if “diminishing returns” were the first words to mind after I saw the trailer. A lot of easy targets there (agents, producers, marketing people, etc.).

Fur: An Imaginary Portrait of Diane Arbus (trailer): A lot of tough reviews out there for this one. For myself, I wish I hadn’t missed Secretary, director Steven Shainberg’s previous film.

Happy Feet (trailer): It might be a bit of a stretch to say that I want to see this, but I’m more willing to see it than any of the other non-Pixars that have come out over the last two years or so.

Come Early Morning (trailer): Ashley Judd returns to a 3.6 IMDb user rating - ouch. 64 from Metacritic, however.

Fast Food Nation (trailer): Follows Super-Size Me in its groundbreaking “fast food is bad for you” message. Who knew? Richard Linklater was on Colbert last night, and I actually fell asleep halfway through the segment.

Wrestling with Angels: Playwright Tony Kushner trailer): Nothing against Tony Kushner, but I don’t really feel like watching what appears to be a strictly by-the-numbers documentary about him.

Let’s Go to Prison (trailer): Because what the world needs is an hour and a half of dropping-the-soap-in-the-shower gags.

Thursday, November 16, 2006

Fincher's Zodiac trailer is out

by Nick

Lost, 11/15 Moment

by jaydro
I was going to post this as sort of a joke, as if we would rabidly discuss the little bits of upcoming Lost that ABC is going to be parceling out each week during Daybreak. But I'd also heard they would be posting it online for those who didn't want to bother wading through Daybreak--and all I can find is some AMEX-cardholder-only promo that is showing the "Lost Moments." Ugh. So I can't really post the link to the "moment" here as I intended. Thanks, ABC--now your website is just as fucked-up as NBC's, IMHO. Thank God for BitTorrent....

P.S. I did watch Daybreak and last night's Lost Moment, FWIW. Daybreak was good so far, but not great. People call it a mash-up of Groundhog Day with The Fugitive, but what I liked most was the undercurrent of paranoid vibe in it that surprisingly reminded me of David Lynch's Lost Highway.

P.P.S. I even resorted to searching YouTube (which I never do) to see if someone put up the video, but I don't see it.

Tuesday, November 14, 2006

Playlist Fall 2006

by Nick
So what y'all been listening to the last couple of months?

Sure Feels Like the Fifties

by Nick
Five points if you can guess the film this opening script line comes from. (Ten minus points if you haven't seen the film.)

Answers over at Ray Prides blog Movie City Indie.

Monday, November 13, 2006

The Real (Raw) Spiderman 3 Trailer

by Nick
A cooler trailer than the latest teaser. Finally get to see Venom, but I'm guessing it's spoiling about 2/3 of the story. Whether or not the leak was unintented by the studio (come on, it "leaked" on AICN), perhaps due to lacklustre response to the other one, this is still going to make mountains of money.

But I have to ask; how high is the budget for this sequel, if the previous one cost over $210 million?

Saturday, November 11, 2006

Opening in Dallas, 11/10

by Brian
Even later this week…

Copying Beethoven (trailer): Kind of flying under the radar - MGM doesn’t even mention it on their website - but it looks like an interesting role for Ed Harris, who really needs an interesting role.

Stranger Than Fiction (trailer): I’ve seen this trailer so many times, and it’s so irritating that it’s damn near turned me off the movie altogether. Seriously, I can’t stress enough how much I hate this trailer.

A Good Year (trailer): Not as irritating of a trailer, but I’ve still seen it too much.

The Bridesmaid (trailer at First Run site): From French mystery director Claude Chabrol, who it seems I should be familiar with. I’m not sure if I’m supposed to be embarrassed that I’ve never heard of him, or what. Premiered at Venice way back in 2004.

Harsh Times (trailer): Christian Bale has been on a role lately, and now plays a soldier of the apocalypse. It’s really hard to put a line like that in the trailer and not have the movie look silly.

Shut Up & Sing (trailer): Poor Dixie Chicks.

Color of the Cross (trailer): Movie about a black Jesus. The movie’s website helpfully gives the date A.D. That’s a nice feature - I know I often find myself confused on that score.

The Return (trailer): The return of what? Who, or what, is returning? Or is the question, where are they returning to? I don’t get it!

Thursday, November 09, 2006

Lost, 11/8 Episode

by Jackrabbit Slim
Discuss in comments. No more talk about this until February!

Wednesday, November 08, 2006

Sands of Iwo Jima

by jaydro

Whatever your opinion on Flags of Our Fathers, I think you will agree that the post-Iwo Jima story of the surviving flag-raisers is interesting. I found myself looking for more information on them, particularly Ira Hayes. I was surprised to find that they appeared in the John Wayne film Sands of Iwo Jima, which might have made for an interesting scene in Flags (and for all I know was shot and not used).

My curiosity piqued, I watched Sands (actually I cheated and first watched the last fifteen minutes, but then went back and watched the whole thing), and it's getting harder to watch this sort of film, with its combat death scenes that play more like Chinese opera. I'm not sure if I saw this film on "Dialing for Dollars" as a kid, but I did not remember the ending, so perhaps I did not, though I have seen a lot like it over the years. If you're a John Wayne fan you'll probably like it.

There's a clumsy reenactment of the flag-raising, with the participants freezing at the appropriate moment so as to provide an easy cutaway to reaction shot closeups, and I fault the editor for not cutting away at just the right moment so as to hide the freeze. Then it was soon over and I was asking, was that it? You couldn't even tell those were the real guys or anything, so why even put them in the credits? I had to go to the IMDB trivia page for the film to discover that they do appear in one shot with Wayne, and when I went back I found myself watching that shot over and over. In just that brief appearance the real surviving flag-raisers seem to perfectly embody their characters as portrayed in Flags. From left to right there's:
  • Gagnon seemingly barely able to suppress a big grin, as if he's thinking "Wow, I'm in a John Wayne movie!"
  • Bradley appearing appropriately respectful
  • Hayes looking down at the ground as if he wishes he were somewhere else
There's a publicity still of them with Wayne, but it doesn't capture the same moment as in the film, which I've submitted here through a crude screen capture technique.

Sands was shown Monday on Turner Classic Movies, and last night they aired a restored version of the Peter Bogdanovich documentary Directed by John Ford. I plan to watch it, but having seen a promo for it with Martin Scorsese waxing enthusiastic over Ford's The Wings of Eagles, I found myself also recording that and They Were Expendable to boot. So looks like I'm going to go through a John Wayne phase....

Tuesday, November 07, 2006

Janus DVD Collection

by Jackrabbit Slim
For the art-house cinema lover in your life, how about a collection of 50 Janus Films on DVD? To see the list of films, go here. The retail price is $850, but you can get it for $650 at this site.

Election Day

by Brian
No use getting overexcited about it, but I thought I'd at least mark the occasion. Maybe some small good will come of it.

Sunday, November 05, 2006

Marie Antoinette

by Brian
I saw Marie Antoinette almost two weeks ago now, and I'm still sure what to think about it. I do know that the default criticism of it, that it's too shallow, seems misguided to me; this is not a Rob Marshall or Joel Schumacher dress up party.

Of course, the movie is not about French politics of the time, which may be what the "shallow" criticism is all about. I guess that if you make a movie about Marie Antoinette, people expect an explicit condemnation of royal decadence, culminating in her beheading so that everyone understands that the silly little idiot got what was coming to her.

Anyway, while it's easy to say what the movie isn't, it's more challenging to say what exactly it is. There are moments where it plays like a satire of royal protocol. There are moments where it plays like a critique of tabloid culture. And there are moments where it plays like a simple story about a lonely little girl.

But because the movie is all of these things, it somehow manages to be none of these things. It's filled with subtle changes of tone, some intentional, like the oft-discussed montages set to modern music, but some not. Lost in Translation was a masterpiece of tone and mood, but Marie Antoinette doesn't quite feel fully formed.

That said, I certainly wouldn't say it's bad. Quite a few scenes show a wicked wit, not unlike Coppola's kidding-but-not-really sendup of Cameron Diaz in Translation. A montage set to New Order's "Ceremony" is really quite beautiful, the song being so perfectly chosen that it doesn't even really feel anachronistic (although the use of "I Want Candy", by contrast, feels heavy-handed and obvious). And I really don't have anything bad to say about the performances; Danny Huston and Judy Davis are especially good.

So, long story short, I guess I come down strongly on the side of "mixed bag". I can certainly appreciate a lot of what Coppola is trying to do, but it's at least a half-failure. Still, it's an interesting half-failure, the kind that hack filmmakers don't make.

Friday, November 03, 2006

Opening in Dallas, 11/03

by Brian
I’m so late this week!

Babel (trailer): Already been reviewed by Nick. Not sure what to expect myself; I admired 21 Grams more than I liked it, and I’ve embarrassingly never seen Amores Perros, a situation I meant to rectify before this came out, but failed.

Borat: Cultural Learnings of America for Make Benefit Glorious Nation of Kazakhstan (trailer): Mildly apprehensive if looking forward to it all the same. Saw Borat on “The Daily Show” last night and was only mildly amused; the bit doesn’t seem to work if he doesn’t have a sucker to play off of.

Flushed Away (trailer): From Aardman, but unlike the previous (great) Aardman features, this one’s not directed by Nick Park. So I assume it’s same old, same old from Dreamworks Animation until convinced otherwise.

American Hardcore (trailer): No, not porn, but hardcore punk in the early ‘80s. Features Henry Rollins talking about how awesome he is.

Paradise, Texas (trailer at official site): I’ll take “Ironic Titles” for $500, Alex.

The Great Warming: This is a shortened version of a 2003 Canadian TV special about global warming, narrated by Keanu Reeves and Alanis Morissette. I know, I know, every element of that previous sentence sounds made up, but I swear, it’s all true.

The Santa Clause 3: The Escape Clause (trailer): Also sounds made-up, especially when you hear that Martin Short plays Jack Frost, thereby sure to strip the franchise of whatever charm it may have once had. One would think that this would join stuff like Land Before Time XCVII and American Pie: Stifler’s Eighth Cousin Goes to College on the direct-to-DVD shelves, but I guess not.

Flags of Our Fathers

by jaydro

Flags of Our Fathers is a great film. I saw it last night, and it still has me thinking about what happened, what it means, and reading wikipedia entries on the real people. I'll probably end up reading the book, too.

Unforgiven marked Clint Eastwood's move into a new phase of his career, one in which he seems to be reassessing both his own films, what we've come to accept in all films, and what we think we know about our culture and the world we live in. Just as Unforgiven could be seen as examining the consequences of the violence in Eastwood's earlier spaghetti westerns and the Dirty Harry films, as well as questioning our need to create myths that leave unexamined the dark side of reality, so does Flags of Our Fathers make one give pause when thinking about Heartbreak Ridge and numerous other war movies.

Like pretty much everyone, I'm familiar with the famous photo of the flag-raising on Iwo Jima. I've seen the bigger-than-life statue in Arlington Cemetery. My father, a World War II veteran, had told me the story of the flag, how it was actually the second one raised, but he didn't think that took anything away from it. He knew someone who had been on Iwo Jima, someone who never talked about it.

I've probably seen at least one documentary about the battle for Iwo Jima, and I don't think the story told in Eastwood's film could have been better told in a documentary. I can see that some people may have expected a more straighforward retelling of the events of the battle, perhaps followed by the post-battle tour of the flag-raisers, and those people may be disappointed.

When Brian wrote in his releases rundown that he didn't know what this film was supposed to be about, I was tempted to post then, but I decided to wait until I had seen the film. I had seen the EPK making-of film that aired on HBO, and in it Eastwood hinted at the film examining the corrupting power of celebrity, both on the celebrity and those who make the celebrity, but the film is more complex than that, and I think it clearly states in its finale what it is about: there are no heroes; there are those who do heroic deeds, but heroes are something we create to serve our own purposes, often to the detriment of those we make heroes.

Ira Hayes's story even reminded me of another famous photograph, that of Buzz Aldrin on the moon during Apollo 11, and how he descended into self-destructive alcoholism while the astronauts did a very lengthy worldwide publicity tour in which he was constantly reminded that he wasn't the first man on the moon and most people misidentified the photograph of him as being of Neil Armstrong (there actually isn't a good still photograph of Neil Armstrong on the moon).

The structure of the film didn't bother me at all, except that the whatever-happened-to-them segment seemed a bit awkward, though necessary, and it was rescued by a good finale. The non-linearity in the flashbacks I thought made the film more compelling. If the month-long grind of Iwo Jima was told more linearly, then we'd probably have something that ends up like Hamburger Hill, and that can exhaust a viewer rather than keeping us on our toes. In PR material the actors mention that Eastwood didn't exactly rehearse with them what was going to happen in the battle scenes and that he emphasized first takes to get their honest surprised reactions to explosions and mayhem--perhaps the structure of the film was a way of doing the same thing to viewers. But I didn't have any problem following what was going on.

Jackrabbit Slim wrote: "There are some of the guys who were in the flag picture who aren't really identified until we see them getting killed." I'm not sure I understand this as a criticism. There are three guys in the photo who were killed; that they were in the photo and then died on Iwo Jima is pretty much it. Would you have liked to see their deaths depicted before we see the bond tour, or before others mention their names repeatedly? I'm not sure how that is more satisfying, and I think that by doing it the way it is in the film further highlights the continued misidentification of one of the dead flag-raisers. Everyone keeps saying that the real heroes are those who died, but then they're too afraid to admit to a mistake in the IDs on the photo because then the mistake will become the story rather than the heroes.

And I don't agree with Brian's comments about Severance and "bad storytelling." I understand what Brian is saying, but to me it was pretty much a non-issue. Having some minor character provide narration over someone else's flashback is something I've seen done in at least a few fiction films--when is that something to complain about, especially if they may have been quoting a real person who actually said it as depicted in the film? I had a problem with the much more cynically manipulative flashback cheat in the intro to Saving Private Ryan, and I got over that the second time I saw it.

Speaking of Saving Private Ryan, I'm so glad that this film didn't use the high shutter speed cameras for its combat scenes, which have been over-compared to those in Ryan due to Spielberg's producer credit and his presumed involvement (but I think he's named only because he abandoned the project to Eastwood). Ryan used the effect to mimic some documentary footage, but it has become so cliched now as a way to artificially intensify action scenes (even Feast did it!).

I enjoyed the reference to The Searchers when the corpsman stands in the open doorway of the bunker and is warned of the gruesomeness of the scene inside, which we don't see.

I'm looking forward to Letters from Iwo Jima, and I also think I will like Flags of Our Fathers even more the second time I see it.

Thursday, November 02, 2006

Feast sucks

by jaydro
Despite my enthusiasm after having been enthralled by last year's Project Greenlight series, I should have known there are sometimes valid reasons why a film doesn't get released despite that much built-in publicity and what sounded like a marketable premise. As promised I got the Feast DVD and watched it for Hallowe'en, then later watched all the extras and commentary. The film had its moments and numerous quirky touches, but in the end it just didn't work. It tries for that great combination of comedy and horror, but it wasn't funny enough or scary enough (Tremors would be a good example of what they seemed to be shooting for and not reaching). The freeze-frame intros of the characters promise something good, but that turns out to be the most fully-realized part of the film. The extras don't add much, and the commentary (with the director, two screenwriters, and two main producers) is pretty forgettable, though they do point out some of the shortcomings forced on them (a lot of comedy bits were cut to keep the film short and on budget) and remind me that parts of it really don't make sense--a complaint from the test screening was that at a crucial point the audience is confused about what was going on, which is echoed by one of the producers in the commentary, and I never understood quite what was going on with the big plan for escape at one point. I can recommend it as a rental for those who enjoyed the Greenlight TV show and for those who enjoy sitting through horror films. What I'm saying is: the TV series about making the movie was better than the film. I do look forward to seeing more from director John Gulager. One further example of how producer credits in Hollywood are totally broken: seemingly the entire Maloof family (six--count 'em!--six) are credited as executive producers just for ponying up some cash, while Dimension executive Andrew Rona, who we actually saw have some involvement with the film in the Greenlight series, gets no credit (though perhaps by choice).

Also for Hallowe'en I watched the original The Phantom of the Opera. I hadn't seen the complete movie since maybe high school, and I had never seen the full Brownlow restoration of the 1925 print that Turner Classic Movies airs. It really is one of the great films of the silent era. We think of Lon Chaney, Sr. as the Phantom and in his title role in The Hunchback of Notre Dame, but he really was the Alec Guinness of his day--known for his acting as well as his wearing of makeup.

And: Freaks (1932), which I'd somehow never seen before, is pretty much as I expected, though I was not aware of the full variety of sideshow performers appearing in the film. I'm sure it will all provide fodder for nightmares eventually.

Also: Beast From Haunted Cave (1959), a pretty badly-made C-movie, with actors' dialogue sound level changing as they turn their heads, mismatched lighting, and other amateurish problems, but then comes the truly chilling finale in the cave with the victims of the spider-like monster struggling in their cocoons. Someone at IMDB thought it a clear inspiration for a bit of Alien, and I agree. Also nice to see Michael Forest starring in something other than his many TV guest appearances (like Apollo on Star Trek). I picked this up last year on an el-cheapo two-fer DVD at Target for something like 50 cents (marked down from a dollar). I got five different ones, and I've actually been surprised at the overall quality of the DVDs, though you have to lower your expectations when you know you're dealing with public-domain prints.

And I caught a bit of Doctor X (1932) on TCM--and now I really want to see this film. I don't quite know what the setup was, but seeing a Technicolor version of a lab set that outdoes Frankenstein's, with a mad doctor in appropriate lab coat performing some kind of diabolical experiment to catch a serial murderer by reenacting a murder while he and other suspects sit handcuffed to bolted-down chairs--okay, maybe it doesn't sound like much, but you have to see it.

Lost, 11/1 episode

by Jackrabbit Slim
As usual, discuss in comments.

Wednesday, November 01, 2006


by Nick
Summer, two years ago, I was standing in the guest apartments of the Stockholm Royal Palace, doing my job as a guard, when I see this guy coming over to my side with a kid on his shoulders. This is against regulations, and I'll have to tell him to drop the boy - we had a kid get her head enmeshed in one of the chandeliers once. I hate doing it, but it's my job. I see the guy coming closer, and I think, of course, it's Alejandro González Iñárritu.

I loved Amores Perros, it's still one of my favorite films, and I'd seen 21 grams the month before that. I want to go over to the guy, thank him, tell him what a huge fan I am, tell the boy in the little Spanish I still know that his dad is a truly awesome guy, already one of my favorite directors, and that he should be proud.

But I also think, the guy is on vacation, he wants a break, be himself, no pressure, just enjoy his stay here. So I walk over to him and say,

"I'm sorry, sir, but you're not allowed to have children on your shoulders here. There have been accidents."

He looks at me, goes "Yeah, man, sure. Sorry." and lifts the boy off, who's around five, and is looking at me with these big sulking eyes. His father is giving him a look of 'it's not me, it's that guy.' I can just look on impassively.

Then they walked away. Needless to say, doubt I'll ever see them again.

What does this have to do with the film? Not much, maybe it's the point of the film. And also because I felt a little sympathy with the border patrol of the film.

I can talk all you want about the qualities of the film, the raw human performances of all involved, the great sequences, powerful scenes, Prietos cinematography, etc. But what really determines whether you'll like the film or not is whether you believe, or want to believe, that a boy in Marocco has anything to do with a teenaged girl in Japan. Arriaga and Iñarritu demand a lot from the viewer, and what you get from the film depends on how many threads you pick up, or whether you see any threads at all.

I found the film powerful, with many individual parts standing out, but also loose. I really respect them for trying to make a contemporary drama that fits in and tries to say something about the current era of globalisation. But what do they say in the end except very vague, albeit universal, things? Maybe I was in the wrong mood.

But I'd love to see it again.

What's with the Grin?

by Nick
Add this to the too-clean-to-be-true record, the apparent media savvy (carefully 'showing interest' on Oprah!), a couple of grey hairs, but not too many, together with the healthy dose of core Christian belief. Is there like a school they go to get like this?