Film Archive for February, 2009

Fun with 3-D Trailers

Last night, I went to the midnight screening of Jonas Brothers: The 3-D Concert Experience, which you can read all about over here, if you’re so inclined. What was almost more interesting to me than the movie — forgive me, experience — itself, though, was the spate of 3-D previews that preceded the film. It was kind of like an extended animated warm-up act for the Big Show, and some of the previews were more interesting than others.
Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince, due for release now in July, looks promisingly dark and scary, as it should, given the nature of the storyline. I unabashedly love the Harry Potter books and have read the entire series multiple times. Half-Blood Prince is directed by David Yates, who did a solid job with the previous film, Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix, and is set to direct the two-part series finale, Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, Parts I and II. The trailer looks great, and with every film I’m struck by how much the three young leads — Daniel Radcliffe in particular — have grown through the series, not just physically, which of course one would expect, but in their range of acting skills. Can’t wait for July 17, and you can bet I’ll be at the midnight early screening with my daughter for that one.
There was a trailer for Monsters Vs. Aliens, which my pack of kids are eager to see, and also a trailer for G-Force, which, on the surface, sounds pretty banal — a squad of super-intelligent, special forces … guinea pigs (and a fly) try to save the world from an evil rich guy. And yet, my interest was piqued when I saw that Terry Rossio and Ted Elliot are listed in the “screenplay” credits, along with Tim Firth (who penned the smart Calendar Girls and Kinky Boots before tackling Confessions of a Shopaholic). Marianne and Cormac Wibberly, the screenwriting husband-and-wife team responsible for the scripts for both National Treasure Films and the 2006 remake of The Shaggy Dog are also credited, which would be concerning, but the presence of Rossio, Elliot and Firth does give one hope that it won’t completely suck.
There’s an all-star cast voicing the admittedly cute super-guinea pigs, including Nic Cage, Penelope Cruz, Sam Rockwell, Bill Nighy, Steve Buscemi and more, and the animation looks pretty spiffy, so hopefully it will end up being better than it looks based on the pitch. Not that you can (or should) judge a film just by its trailer, anymore than you can judge a film by it’s script, but this one might be cute.

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MoMA to Showcase Ramin Bahrani's Films

If you live in New York City and you’ve not had a chance to see Ramin Bahrani’s films, now’s your chance. Bahrani won the Spirit Awards’ Someone to Watch Award last year, and this year Chop Shop was nominated for Spirit Awards for both direction and cinematography; Roger Ebert featured Man Push Cart in his 2006 Overlooked Film Festival (also known as Ebertfest), and Chop Shop will play at Ebertfest 2009, coming up in April.
Bahrani’s newest film, Goodbye Solo, which won the FIPRESCI Prize at the Venice Film Festival before playing the Toronto International Film Festival last September, is opening March 27 in New York City at the Angelika (roll-out to other cities to follow).
Leading up to the opening, the Museum of Modern Art is screening all Bahrani’s films. Here are the screening times, so you can mark your calendars:
Wednesday, March 4th: MAN PUSH CART 615pm & CHOP SHOP 8:15pm
Thursday, March 5th: GOODBYE SOLO 7pm (Bahrani will attend for intro and Q&A)
Friday, March 6th: CHOP SHOP 6pm
Saturday, March 7th: MAN PUSH CART 6pm
If you’re not in NYC, but you are going to SXSW, Goodbye Solo is playing at the fest on March 16th and 19th.
I’ve written before about how much I love this filmmaker’s work, and I want to take the opportunity now to talk about all these films. Bahrani, in his first three films, has worked with themes of immigrants, poverty, outsiders, and surviving on the fringes of society, and each of the films explores these themes through unique, interesting characters, symbolism and a vaguely open-ended conclusion that leaves it to the viewer to project what arc the characters will continue to take off the screen.

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Mr. Hollywood and the Women

Sex sells, as evidenced week after week by the box office charts, in which movies that feature scantily clad or nude women, or women as objects of sexual pursuit, consistently bring in the bank.
Is it the fault of the male-dominated studio system for continually churning out films in which women are relegated to subordinate roles within a patriarchal framework? Or is it the fault of the men and women in the viewing audience, who shell out the cash to support such movies at the box office to the tune of millions of dollars in gross, that such films continue to be made? Put more broadly, do movies help determine and perpetuate gender roles, or are they merely reflecting the reality of the world in which they exist?

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Mr. Misogyny

While naked-celeb site Mr. Skin pisses me off on a regular basis by dint of its mere existence, their annual Anatomy Awards take the cake for objectifying women in the movie business. Boy, this site is really raising the bar on intellectual discussion of cinema, what with their awards categories like “Breast Picture,” “Best Oscar-Nominated Nudity” (that one, by the way, includes Changeling for its insane asylum shower scene, so I have to add as a side note: If you are watching Changeling to get off on this scene, you need serious help), “Best Boobs,” “Best Butt” and more.
I suppose if you’re a guy living in his mother’s basement on a diet of milkshakes, burgers and pork rinds who doesn’t have relationships with real women and, therefore, completely lacks the opportunity to have sex with any woman you don’t have to inflate first and clean up with bleach water after, there’s a certain value in a site like Mr. Skin that tells you exactly when in a given movie you’re going to get to see a naked actress. Or if you’re a 12-year-old boy coming to terms with his hormones for the first time, and therefore watch movies like The Wrestler or The Reader solely because they have nekkid women in them.
I can’t imagine why kind of man with any degree of maturity or intellect would actually frequent a site like Mr. Skin, but if you happen to be a Mr. Skin member and consider yourself otherwise to be an intelligent person, and you’d like to offer a reasoned defense of the site and what it represents in the comments, go for it.
(Note to perverts, imbeciles and general trolls: “Tits and ass OWN!!!!” doesn’t count as either reasoned or intelligent.)

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Two Lovers

Amidst all the hoopla over Joaquin Phoenix’s bizarre Letterman appearance, I’d like to take a moment to talk about something nicer: the movie Phoenix is ostensibly doing interviews to promote, James Gray’s Two Lovers. I saw Two Lovers back at Cannes, and it was one of my favorites of the fest.
It’s a beautiful, thoughtful film, well acted by Phoenix and the two women he has to choose from: Gwyneth Paltrow as the blonde, lovely shikseh to Leonard’s neurotic Jew and Vinessa Shaw as the plainer, nice Jewish girl whose father wants to broker a business deal with Leonard’s dad. Isabella Rosellini has a heart-wrending turn as Leonard’s mom, the one person who both understands her son and encourages him to pursue the path that will make him happy.
Phoenix is at his best as the tormented Leonard, who has to make a choice between two lovers and the two paths each choice would lead him down while Gray deftly manuveurs the ups and downs of Leonard’s manic-depressive personality as he pursues relationships with both Sandra and Michelle.
Two Lovers is a great Valentine’s date film, especially if you and your mate or date are sick of romantic comedies. Grey’s film is insightful and smar. Michelle (Paltrow) is edgy and fun, and when he’s with her, Leonard lets lose his inner wild side in a way we never see in any other aspect of his life; his moments with Michelle he’s living life in technicolor, and the rest of his life is shades of grey. Sandra (Shaw)reflects the pull Leonard feels to live an ordinary life, in particular, to live a life where he’s not teetering on the edge of falling apart.
And Leonard is falling apart, following the loss of the woman he loved and was engaged to marry, when they both tested positive for the gene that causes Tay Sachs syndrome. He’s a fractured man, and the two women who come into his life, the choices he makes, and the experiences he has with each of them, ultimately shape the path he goes down.
Phoenix’s performance is so good, it makes you feel both sad and intrigued about whatever the hell path he’s on right now, be it performance art, or an elaborate hoax, or a tragic unraveling of a talented actor. I loved him in this film. If everyone who’s watched the Letterman thing on YouTube would go out and see Phoenix in Two Lovers this weekend, the film would make some serious bank.

Wonderland

It’s a frustrating aspect of seeing a lot of films on the fest circuit that you very often find a film you really love, only to have it languish in the netherworld of distribution forever. It happened with 2007 Sundance fave Son of Rambow, which took forever to get released due to rights issues over its use of footage from Rambo, and with Teeth, another 2007 Sundance entry, which finally got a limited release a year later before going to DVD.
The excellent 2007 Sundance entry Four Sheets to the Wind, directed by Sterlin Harjo, won the Best Actress award at the fest that year for lead actress Tamara Podemski (shared with Teeth lead actress Jess Weixler), but the film never got distribution and disappeared completely. Sweet Mud, which won the Crystal Bear at Berlin and the Grand Jury Prize at Sundance, was never seen in the US off the fest circuit.

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Quote Unquotesee all »

“I always thought that once I had lived in Chicago for a while, it would be interesting to do a portrait of the city – but to do it at a significant time. Figuring out when would be the ideal time to do that was the trick. So when this election came around, coupled with the Laquan McDonald trial, it seemed like the ideal time to do the story. Having lived in Chicagoland for thirty-five-plus years and done a number of films here, I’ve always been struck by the vibrancy of the city and its toughness. Its tenderness too. I’ve always been interested in the people at the center of all the stories. This is a different film in that regard, because we’re not following a couple of individuals over the course of the project in the way that a lot of the films I’ve done have, but I still feel like people’s voices and aspirations and hopes are at the center of this series.

It wasn’t easy. We started back in July 2018, it was actually on the Fourth of July – that was our first shoot. It’s like most documentaries in that the further you go along the more involved and obsessed you get, and you just start shooting more and more and more. We threw ourselves into this crazy year in Chicago. We got up every day and tried to figure out if we should be out shooting or not, and what it is we should shoot. We were trying to balance following this massive political story of the mayor’s race and these significant moments like the Laquan McDonald trial with taking the pulse of people in the city that we encounter along the way and getting a sense of their lives and what it means to live here. By election day, Zak Piper, our producer, had something like six cameras out in the field. You could double-check that, it might have been seven. We had this organized team effort to hit all the candidates as they were voting, if they hadn’t already voted. We hit tons of polling places, were at the Board of Elections and then were at the parties for the candidates that we had been able to follow closely. Then of course, we were trying to make sure we were at the parties of the candidates who made it to the runoff. So, yeah, it was kind of a monster.”
~ Steve James On City So Real

“I really want to see The Irishman. I’ve heard it’s big brother Martin Scorsese’s masterpiece. But I really can’t find the time. The promotion schedule is so tight, there’s no opportunity to see a three and a half-hour movie. But I really want to see it. In 2017, right before Okja’s New York premiere, I had the chance to go to Scorsese’s office, which is in the DGA building. There’s a lovely screening room there, too, with film prints that he’s collected. I talked to him for about an hour. There’s no movie he hasn’t seen, even Korean films. We talked about what he’s seen and his past work. It was a glorious day. I’ve loved his work since I was in college. Who doesn’t? Anyone involved with movies must feel the same way.”
~ Bong Joon-ho