Thursday, June 29, 2006

Gettin' bonafide!



Won't be around these parts for a bit. In the meantime, the top ten moviegoing experiences with Jess.

1. Almost Famous, Regal Cinemas Manchester 9, October 2000
2. War of the Worlds, Regal Cinemas Berkshire Mall 10, June 2005
3. Badlands/Days of Heaven, Brattle Theatre, May 2006
4. Lost Souls, Apple Tree Mall Cinema 12, October 2000
5. The Rocky Horror Picture Show, Images Cinema, April 2006
6. Kill Bill vol. 1, Regal Cinemas Berkshire Mall 10, October 2003
7. Popeye, Brattle Theatre, August 2002
8. Amelie, Hollywood Hits, December 2001
9. Raiders of the Lost Ark, AMC Fenway, February 2005
10. Antitrust, Loews Methuen 20, January 2001

Wednesday, June 28, 2006

Truth, justice, all that stuff.

Wow.

It's no accident that, if we are to assume that Superman Returns is set in the present, the titular hero has been absent from Earth since the summer of 2001. This is not to say that Bryan Singer has exploited 9/11 for hamhanded stabs at thematic significance; rather, this Superman is a mature, nuanced reboot of the Man of Steel mythos that finds Kal-El returning to a planet more in need of a hero than ever. And, most importantly, it's incredibly fun; an early flashback shows young Clark discovering the extent of his powers, and the entire film gets off on the sheer zippy thrill of wondering what it's like to be Superman. It's a perfect marriage of "pop" and "culture," and when I wasn't frozen in awe or rapt attention, I was grinning from ear to ear.

In a sequence that evokes the suburban wonder of 70's-era Spielberg, we witness through the eyes of Martha Kent (Eva Marie Saint) the return of her adopted son Clark (Brandon Routh) after his long journey searching for the remains of Krypton. Soon we're back in Metropolis, at the Daily Planet, where Clark is reunited with his unrequited love, Lois Lane (Kate Bosworth). Lois is engaged to Richard White (James Marsden), an all-around good guy who, alas, isn't Superman. Not only must Clark figure out whether he has a chance (Lois recently won a Pulitzer for an editorial slamming her ex), he also has to deal with the question of her son, Jason (Tristan Lake Leabu), who is about five years old (and, in the process, settle the Mallrats debate once and for all). This all could have been horribly soapy, but Singer and the leads pull of an impressive tightrope act: the relationships aren't "realistic," but they ring true. Bosworth, in particular, has to carry much of the emotional weight of the film, and while I miss Margot Kidder's off-kilter energy, she does a fine job portraying Lois as torn between Earth and the stars (chalk the negative internet response up to dorks' typical fear of women).

Then there's Lex Luthor - I'm happy to report that this is Kevin Spacey's best performance since American Beauty. We meet Luthor, recently out of prison, as he reclaims his fortune in the sleaziest way possible, and Spacey never falters, giving Lex just the right mix of opportunistic smarm and cold-blooded megalomania. I wouldn't dream of spoiling Luthor's plan here - it's just too cool. Suffice to say that it leads to a heartwrenching final reel, as this is a Superman with more on its mind than stringing together action sequences. Don't get me wrong, Singer delivers on the front of sheer kinetic thrills. And it's witty, too, populated with characters like cynical editor Perry White (Frank Langella), boy photographer Jimmy Olsen (Sam Huntington) and Luthor's token "hooker" Kitty Kowalski (Parker Posey). But its heart lies in moments like Kal-El hovering over Earth, listening to our prayers.

I'm pleased to report that Brandon Routh does more than a Christopher Reeve impression; he honors Reeve with a performance that contains the same kind of wit and earnest heroism. He's a perfect fit for Superman Returns, which does more than just reference earlier comic and film incarnations; it's crammed with details (hooray for laser-blue titles!) that playfully illustrate the ways that our myths reverberate through the generations. Using the new Genesis HD camera, Singer and DP Newton Thomas Sigel have opened digital cinematography up to a new realm of possibilities - Superman Returns doesn't look like film, but it's magnificent and painterly. Blue has never looked so blue. There's little dialogue in the film, but screenwriters Dan Harris and Michael Dougherty have a near pitch-perfect job of breathing life into these characters, supporting a remarkably pure visual cinematic experience.

The reviews seem hung up on plot points; I think we're too close to Superman Returns right now to see what a staggering achievement it truly is. It's a film with a lot on its mind about fathers and sons, the ways in which we create and then tear apart our heroes (particularly the ones we love) and our fundamental need to find something, anything to believe in. It earns the word "inspiring." I can't wait to see it in IMAX; I can't wait to see it about a hundred more times; I can't wait to show it to my kids someday.

Monday, June 26, 2006

Liquor she said, and lick her I did, and I don't work there anymore.


Robert Altman is a cinematic pointillist. He weaves together snippets of overlapping dialogue and action to create broad, sweeping portraits. In an Altman film, one brief moment can bring the entire narrative into focus - think of Henry Gibson exclaiming "This isn't Dallas, this is Nashville!", or the birthing method in 3 Women, or Jennifer Jason Leigh's explanation of virtual reality in Short Cuts. So the director is a perfect fit for A Prairie Home Companion, the fictionalized adaptation of the long-running radio variety show created by Garrison Keillor. Not every moment holds up to close scrutiny here, but when the film works, it cooks.

A Prairie Home Companion takes place during the final broadcast of the program after a 30-year run. The show's home, the Fitzgerald theatre, has been bought by a corporate axeman (Tommy Lee Jones) and is soon to be turned into a parking lot (as beloved cultural institutions always are in films - I appreciated David Cross' character in Curious George remarking that museums are fleeting, but parking lots are forever). The performers include Yolanda and Rhonda Johnson (Meryl Streep and Lily Tomlin), the remaining members of the Johnson Family band; raunchy cowboy singers Dusty and Lefty (Woody Harrelson and John C. Reilly), and veteran crooner Chuck Akers (L.Q. Jones, wonderful as always). Behind the scenes, the show's security guard, the Marlowe-esque gumshoe Guy Noir (Kevin Kline), tries to save the show and discover the identity of a mysterious woman (Virginia Madsen) waiting in the wings. Keillor plays a version of himself - the host of the program, he's reluctant to openly acknowledge the show's end. When asked if he wants to be remembered, he responds that "I don't want them to be told to remember me." He's at the heart of the film, which is a bittersweet rumination on how all things must come to an end.

I recently heard an NPR review of the film; it would seem that NPR listeners would be the target audience for the film, but the reviewer complained that the emphasis on death put a morbid damper on the fun. It's true that this is a sadder film than I expected, but it's also a very rewarding one. The film opens with a starry sky and the distant sound of radio signals travelling through space; we're reminded upfront of the power of storytelling and performance to cut through the weight of silence. As is often the case with Altman, it can be almost too painful to bear; a scene where a woman discovers her deceased husband tapped directly into my deepest fears. And yet, he's also a compassionate director - he doesn't lie to us, but he gives us hope as the woman is reminded to celebrate her husband's life. A Prairie Home Companion is ultimately a celebration - of life, of song, of family, and of the ways that we rage against the dying of the light.

As always, Altman gives his actors plenty of room to breathe and explore, and the results are often wonderful. Streep and Tomlin have a sweetly daffy interplay onstage and in the dressing room; they convincingly share the easy affection that only sisters can have. Reilly and Harrelson have a blast telling the worst of jokes with gusto (and they share the best fart joke in recent memory). The contrivance of placing a forties archetype like Guy Noir is a bit of a stretch, but Kline does his funniest work in years, so it's hard to complain too much. Madsen has my favorite performance in the film - she takes an almost impossible-to-play character and invests her with many layers of humanity and melancholy insight. I'm relieved to report Lohan, as Yolanda's death-obsessed daughter Lola, carries her own and has a great show-stopping number near the end; I hope that she soon graduates from tween swill, because she has that kind of guilelessness that you can't fake. And how cool is it that Garrison Keillor has a leading role in a major motion picture? Pay close attention to a scene when he's informed that he is not, as he suspected, about to die; he responds to this news with deadpan brilliance, the smallest gesture of his hangdog face telling us more than a thousand words. I hope he parlays A Prairie Home Companion into an acting career; I'd love to see him pop up here and there as the wacky professor, say, or the grizzled sea captain.

A Prairie Home Companion does take one unfortunate misstep in the final third (it involves Madsen and Jones' characters). Not only does it serve no narrative purpose, but it seems to exist at odds with the rest of the film; it's bitter and shallow. However, it's possible that, as with much of Altman's work, it will become clearer with future viewings - it's a very good film now, but it could be a great one after I've seen it five times. As it stands now, it's more fun than anything else playing right now.

Sidenote: I've found the publicity for the film, which focuses on the theme of death, very distasteful. First, because the 81-year-old Altman has been asked repeatedly, in various ways, "So, what's it like knowing you're gonna die soon?" And second, because everyone knows that Altman will last two hundred years.

Sunday, June 25, 2006

The Trim Bin #28


And so it goes.

- Composer Gyorgy Ligeti died on June 12 at the age of 83. His avant-garde compositions were used to stunning effect by Stanley Kubrick in The Shining, Eyes Wide Shut, and especially 2001, where Ligeti's Atmospheres helps make the "Jupiter and Beyond the Infinite" sequence one of the most awe-inspiring moments in cinema history. A quote from a lecture Ligeti delivered at the New England Conservatory in 1993 (hooray for wikiquote):

"Now there is no taboo; everything is allowed. But one cannot simply go back to tonality, it's not the way. We must find a way of neither going back nor continuing the avant-garde. I am in a prison: one wall is the avant-garde, the other is the past, and I want to escape."

- I finished my short, Chrissie, this week. I suspect it may be the first in a series. It's wonderful to have as much time as I need to think over the smallest details without the pressure of a deadline - it allows for a more meditative approach. This, of course, is why I've always carefully avoided success.

- Question raised while watching David Lynch's magnificent The Straight Story: how much should the knowledge of a director's other work play into the reading of a particular film? Should such cross-referencing be limited to over references, or should it extend to perceived implied correlations? I guess this is my way of calling out the auteurists among us.

Films watched this week:

Unforgiven 10
The Proposition
10
A Prairie Home Companion
8
The Unbearable Lightness of Being
10
Jackie Brown
10
Cast Away
8
Day of the Dead
9
The Parallax View
7
One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest
10
The Straight Story
10
Gremlins 2
8

Wednesday, June 21, 2006

Does she cook a good rabbit stew?


I once had a lively debate with a professor who argued that Sam Shepard's True West was intended as a commentary on the essential emptiness of the western genre. My feeling was that Shepard used the formulaic western screenplay that the two brothers were writing to demonstrate how even the most banal stories can still carry a great deal of meaning. The debate ultimately hinged on whether or not westerns are, in fact, any good, and while the professor was willing to consider a few anti-Western examples like McCabe and Mrs. Miller, she remained otherwise unmoved. I hope that she sees The Proposition, a film that takes a story ripped from a thousand paperbacks and creates pure poetry.

The Proposition opens with the piercing sound of bullets ripping through a tin shack, plunging us directly into the chaos of another time and place. The film takes place in rural Australia in the 1880s, where settlers like Captain Stanley (Ray Winstone) are determined to create a "civilized" society. Stanley has captured Charlie Burns (Guy Pearce) and his brother Mike (Richard Wilson), two thirds of a band of vicious outlaws wanted for murdering an entire family (including an unborn child). Stanley offers Charlie about nine days ("until Christmas") to find and kill Arthur Burns (Danny Huston), the eldest brother and the leader of the gang. If Charlie succeeds, he and his brother will be pardoned; if not, Mike will hang. In other words, the plot is as simple as any episode of Rawhide. But The Proposition's greatness lies in the details - in brief exchanges between characters, in the tense pauses between words, and in the sight of one man dwarfed against a vast landscape.

The screenplay is by Australian singer/songwriter Nick Cave (and not British, and dead, singer/songwriter Nick Drake, as I mistakenly stated before), and his influence can be felt not just in the sparse, evocative dialogue, but in the film's searing images. Director John Hillcoat depicts the Outback as a place of rough, hard surfaces, blinding sunlight, and cold blue nights where even hardened like Arthur sit quietly before the moon. The film is populated by hard-hearted characters; during a brutal flogging, we observe the indifferent faces of the townspeople, covered in flies, as though they were already dead. The leads look ragged, Charlie caked in blood and dirt, Arthur's face covered in matted hair, and bounty hunter Jellon Lamb (John Hurt, stealing the film) cackling dreadfully, his face like a canvas of ragged leather. Only two characters could look at home in Victorian England: the snide British officer Eden Fletcher (David Wenham) and Stanley's wife Martha (Emily Watson), who trembles at the hint of unknown horrors and recounts a dream about the deceased child as though she might break into a million pieces at any moment.

The Proposition proceeds inevitably, as westerns often do, to a grim showdown between lawmen and outlaws. But while Charlie is our reluctant hero, and Pearce invests him with the quiet stoicism required of a western hero, our loyalties are not so much reversed as completely subverted. This is a film where the sacred rides hand in hand with the profane, where a cold-blooded killer like Arthur can speak about the joys of love and family (and thanks to Huston's revelatory performance, we hang on his every word). The aborigines are always at the periphery of the film, yet they're important; The Proposition is concerned with how we define "savages," and what is truly savage. In the end, we're left with two brothers side by side, as one asks the other what comes next. It's as good a question now as it ever was.

Sunday, June 18, 2006

The Trim Bin #27



- I find that in choosing which films to write about, a great deal falls through the cracks. This is often because I can find little to say about a film that hasn't been said or, in some cases, that the prospect of tackling a film can be extremely daunting (I'm still working my way up to United 93 and the work of Terrence Malick, for instance). So remembered when I was just learning to write, when it was simply enough to make lists of the movies I'd watch. Each Sunday, you can find a list here of the films I've watched during the previous week, along with a rating on a scale of 0-10. Feel free to share your own cinemagoing exploits, and if you wish for me to elaborate upon or justify a particular rating, that might me just the thing to get my tuchus in gear.

- The new issue of Samurai Dreams is out, and it's a pleasure. Its writers sometimes tread into misguided cynicism, such as perceived correlation between popularity and marketability - isn't it possible that E.T. was more successful than Nukie because it's just plain better?. But then, these rough edges are what make Samurai Dreams so valuable; that it provokes such strong responses speaks to its sharp wit and enthusiasm, all too rare qualities in contemporary film writing. Along with a probing write-up on Slacker by Max Clark, Greg's persuasive four-star take on Brainscan, the snazzy new design, and the work of James (aka Joly), who elevates reviews of films like Malone to pure poetry, this one is well worth seeking out.

- Ebert's "Great Movies" review of The Shining is a pleasant surprise - I'd only ever found passing mentions of the film in his other reviews before, and they generally seemed dismissive. The Rog offers a refreshing take on the film, bringing it one step closer to general recognition as the masterpiece it is. It almost makes up for this.

- The Brattle's summer schedule contains gems like a zombie weekend (July 21-24), a "Hitchcock and Friends" weekend (28-31), and The Goonies (August 2). Along with Terminator 2 in South Hadley, my wedding, and Jaws in Shelburne Falls, it looks to be one fine July.

Movies watched this week:

Wonder Boys 10
Kiss Kiss Bang Bang 8
Dazed and Confused 10
Dellamorte Dellamore (Cemetery Man) 8
The Notorious Bettie Page 6
Batman Begins 9
The Devil's Rejects 9
After Hours 10
Nashville 10
The Terminator 10
Alien 3 9
Rebel Without a Cause 10
Three Kings 9
The Proposition 10

Saturday, June 17, 2006

Let me tell you what Melba Toast is packin' right here.


Midway through Dazed and Confused, brainy redhead Cynthia (Marisa Ribisi) remarks that "I'd like to stop thinking of the present, like right now, as some minor insignificant preamble to something else." Richard Linklater's second film affirms this sentiment. The film is about those unfortunate souls who had to undergo the interminable "preparatory" experience of high school during that brief moment in the mid-1970's when cultural turmoil gave way to nondescript, "What comes next?" ennui. It's true that the film's structure resembles American Graffiti, but it's deeper and better than the earlier film. Lucas' main aim was to speak to his audience's sense of nostalgia. But Linklater sidesteps nostalgia and That 70's Show-type cliches to emerge with a funny, perceptive look at the in-between years.

Dazed and Confused takes places over the first day and night of summer in a small Texas town in 1976. The film earnes the much-abused moniker "Altmanesque" as it follows stoners, jocks, nerds, freshmen, and cheerleaders through the evening's exploits. But one of the best things about Dazed and Confused is that its characters are not segregated by the simplest terms or the most convenient definitions (thank you, Anthony Michael Hall). In fact, this provides the central conflict of the film, as babyfaced quarterback Randall "Pink" Floyd (Jason London) must decide whether to sign a form pledging to abstain from drugs or illegal activity, turn his back on his more free-spirited buddies, and commit to his team. The conflict serves as a subtly effective metaphor for the sociopolitical climate of the time; for Pink, to sign the form would be to take part in the hypocritical, empty values system of mainstream culture, one based on competition and aggression. Linklater takes sly jabs at the system later, with both small touches (the little leaguers chanting "Good game") to broader ones like the freshman hazing rituals, where otherwise nonviolent seniors hurt and degrade the underclassman simply because it's tradition. A sociopathic lunkhead like O'Bannion (Ben Affleck) may just be a logical byproduct of such conventions, which is why his eventual comeuppance feels so liberating.

But I'm starting to sound like Mike (Adam Goldberg) and Tony (Anthony Rapp), Cynthia's two best friends, who spend most of the night spouting conspiracy theories and overanalyzing the behavior of their peers. Because Dazed and Confused is, first and foremost, a movie that coasts on the high of pure experience. Witness Wooderson (Matthew McConaughey) strutting like a king across a pool hall in slow motion, set to Dylan's "Hurricane" - it's one of those awe-inspiring moments where we witness the power of cinema to fully capture not only the images but the total experience of an instant in time. Dazed and Confused is filled with such moments, as though they were being filmed straight through the eyes of characters like wide-eyed freshmen Mitch (Wiley Wiggins) and Sabrina (Christin Hinojosa) or Slater (Rory Cochrane), the goofily likeable pothead who spouts an elaborate conspiracy theory involving marajuana, aliens, and George and Martha Washington. Think about it, man.

It'd be a huge mistake to dismiss Dazed and Confused as simple teen fodder, filled as it is with so many priceless moments that reflect the experience of coming of age in the middle of nowhere. It's the rare comedy that can demonstrate so much love for its characters without becoming soft and patronizing. Even Wooderson, the creepy guy in his twenties who has a thing for high school girls, is given enough humanity to deliver the film's mantra - "Just keep livin', man. L-I-V-I-N." It's an attitude that pulses through every frame of Dazed and Confused. The film opens with a car coasting along to Aerosmith's "Sweet Emotion" and closes with Pink and his buddies, driving along to Foghat's immortal "Slow Ride." We don't know where they've been in the beginning, and we don't know where they're headed in the end (well, to get Aerosmith tickets, actually, but you know, after that). In any case, what's important is that they enjoy the ride.

Sidenote: when I watched this film with my mom in middle school, she informed me that "You just can't get pot like that anymore." Truth or nostalgia? You decide.

Thursday, June 15, 2006

Tuesday, June 13, 2006

Top 10: Poetry


In the most recent edition of Answer Man, one reader asks for examples of poetry in cinema. Ebert gives both literal and figurative answers, citing moments from films like McCabe and Mrs. Miller and Cocteau's Beauty and the Beast as examples of purely cinematic poetry. The question helped me to contextualize my own recent thoughts about cinema. I've gradually come to the conclusion that a film should not be evaluated as we would prose, but rather for the marriage of its visual and auditory elements to create a sensory experience. We've become too literal-minded about cinema; we need to feel it in our bones. But in trying to articulate this to people, I've overlooked the obvious - I'm talking about poetry.

The following moments are not necessarily the "most poetic" - that would be self-contradictory. They are simply moments that resonate deeply for me as examples of the use of imagery, rhythm and metaphor to create meaning. They touch that unnamed place where the "me" of me resides; they speak of ecstatic truths with a language of images. They get the job done.

1. The birth of the star child (2001).
2. The return of the robin (Blue Velvet).
3. The dance of death and his followers, hand in hand (The Seventh Seal).
4. The dancing rooster machine (Stroszek).
5. The bleeding elevators (The Shining).
6. Merrick's dream (The Elephant Man).
7. Scottie's dream (Vertigo).
8. Rebekah del Rio singing "Llorando" (Mulholland Drive).
9. The car crash and the harmonium (Punch-Drunk Love).
10. Chauncey walking on water (Being There).

Thursday, June 08, 2006

Monday, June 05, 2006

Fuck you, Grandma.



You were my little baby girl,
And I shared all your fears.
Such joy to hold you in my arms
and kiss away your tears.
But now you're gone, there's only pain
and nothing I can do.
And I don't want to live this life,
If I can't live for you.
To my beautiful baby girl.
Our love will never die...

- A poem for Nancy Spungeon by Sid Vicious


Sid and Nancy opens the morning after the death of Nancy Spungeon from a stab wound likely inflicted by her lover, ex-Sex Pistols bassist Sid Vicious. Sid (Gary Oldman) stares vacantly as cops try in vain to get answers. This device frames most of the film as a flashback, a story rolling ahead to an inevitably downbeat conclusion. It mirrors the fatalistic, self-destructive spirits of its leads, and it's bloody romantic. While the film is unsparing in its depiction of Sid and Nancy's drug-fueled downward spiral, it also has a heart as big as a dumpster.

John Lydon referred to Sid and Nancy as "mere fantasy...the Peter Pan version" (of course, it's important to note that Lydon is by all appearances an insufferable prick). But it'd be hard to accuse Cox of sanitizing his young lovers; Sid first endears himself to Nancy (Chloe Webb) by throwing himself headfirst into a brickwall, and the pair's romance defies terms like "abuse" and "sadism," existing on its own distinctly chaotic wavelength. These characters are losers by all conventional standards; Sid can hardly play his bass, and Nancy repeatedly calls him "John" in the first reel. Yet as we follow their wild eighteen-month romance through the breakup of the Pistols to Vicious' stab at a solo career to collapse, we come to acknowledge these two as soulmates, for better or worse. Scenes like the one where the couple trashes Sid's house while his mom (an interesting character herself, ignored her) is away veer wildly between manic affection and pure bile. And the ugliness of the lovers is the key to the film's enduring power. When we're asked to believe that Billy Crystal and Meg Ryan could fall in love, both leads are so generically appealing that we assume attraction follows naturally. But when bruised Nancy and bloodied Sid fall into bed together, we know it must be true love. If you're the type of person who defends the wildly implausible emotional instability of Romeo and Juliet as precisely the point, than Sid and Nancy is likely to be one of your favorite films.

The leads deliver two of the all-time great performances in cinema. Gary Oldman's genius is so reliable that it seems to be taken for granted by now; here, in one of his earliest film roles, he not only perfectly embodies the Vicious persona but lends the character layers of depth and sensitivity. He's equally believable quietly asking Nancy for a kiss as he is thrashing the life out of a rock critic. Chloe Webb is revelatory - I haven't seen her in much else (she played Danny De Vito's girlfriend in Twins and has a brief role in Ghostbusters 2), and on the basis of the evidence here, she's criminally underused. Webb achieves the almost impossible feat of a violently unrestrained performance that never quite goes over the top. While Nancy's piercing shreaks ("SIIIID!!!") become a familiar refrain, and her behavior grows steadily worse, she remains utterly endearing. There scenes together have both undiluted passion and razor-sharp precision. While the film gets in some pointed jabs at Malcolm McLaren and the artifice of the punk movement, it's really just backdrop to the love story. Cox creates a playground of alleys, rooftops, and hotel rooms for Sid and Nancy to roam violently through, firing toy pistols and stumbling through glass doors, and the results are magical.

By the time Sid and Nancy reaches the Hotel Chelsea, we've become totally immersed in these two kids, and Cox's unflinching look at their heroin-fueled downfall is almost unbearable to watch. The film's version of Nancy's death is, of course, speculative, but in the context of the film, it's the only believable outcome. The film neither glamorizes nor moralizes their drug use, but depicts with clarity how the drug becomes a logical method of spiritual self-immolation for Sid and Nancy. An earlier scene where Nancy's grandparents politely kick them out of the house prepares us for the end; when Sid asks why they rejected her, Nancy responds, "Because they know me." These characters are who they are, yet the film's ethereal final scene invites not despair but exhilaration. When Titanic ended similarly, it was unsatisfying, as we were asked to believe that Kate Winslet's character shrugged off her husband and kids to get back on that ship with that guy she barely knew. Here, we believe it wholeheartedly. And for whatever reason, though Sid and Nancy is unremittingly grim, it's also incredibly life-affirming; I always finish it with a smile on my face.

Sidenote:

Jess, my girlfriend, called me yesterday during the final minutes of the film and asked what I was doing. "Nancy Spungeon's about to die," I responded.

"I still can't believe you compared me to Nancy. I hate Nancy."

"Yeah, well, she hated herself."

"That's true."

"Anyway, I meant it as a compliment."

"But she's so shrill and annoying!"

"I think she's alright...I feel like we're always one bad decision away from complete self-destruction."

"Awww...I love you too!"

Sunday, June 04, 2006

The Trim Bin #26


- Friday night's screening of Back to the Future at the Cinemark was packed with a rowdy, appreciative audience. The movie is the perfect crowd-pleaser; even though most of the audience had seen the film before, there was spontaneous applause in several spots. July brings Terminator 2 and hopefully another fun collective experience of the kind that we film geeks live for.

- Rob Zombie is directing the next installment in the Halloween series. I'm not much of a Bond fan, but I think I understand the 007 crowd's anxiety over Casino Royale, because I'd love to see the film meet the highs of the original. Or part II. Or at least part 4. Anyway, I wonder if Sid Haig will play Donald Pleasance.

- The screenwriting process carries on at a snail's pace. It's like Whack-a-Mole: when one problem has been successfully clobbered, another rears its ugly, toothy little head. The story is more or less in place; now all I have to do is figure out what the characters, you know, say. There also remains the persistent question of tone; the choice of whether to push the story in a funnier, or scarier, or more reflective direction opens up opportunities at the same time as it closes others. And what I believe to be every filmmaker's nightmare has already happened; a sequence I'd imagined as a cornerstone of the film has turned out to be strikingly similar to another work (in this case, Charles Burns' brilliant Black Hole). My choices are to defend the similarities as unintentional (as Terry Gilliam did with Brazil and 1984), push them further in the direction of homage, or start from scratch. I really just want to get behind a camera.

- Re-watching Sid and Nancy today, I found myself reflecting on the fact that Alex Cox desperately needs to make another movie that lives up to the one-two punch of Repo Man and this. I mean, it's been twenty years. Which auteur are you rooting for to make a comeback?

Thursday, June 01, 2006

Play the game (6/1/06)

Last week: The Dark Crystal