Wednesday, December 26, 2007
2) Tuesday Weld or Mia Farrow?
"WHAT HAVE YOU DONE TO HIS EYES?!"
3) Name a comedy you’re embarrassed to admit made you laugh
Around the tenth time I watched Heavyweights, I realized with horror that my laughter wasn't ironic.
4) Best Movie of 1947
5) Burt Reynolds was the Bandit. Jerry Reed was the Snowman. Paul LeMat was Spider. Candy Clark was Electra. What’s your movie handle?
6) Robert Vaughn or David McCallum?
Both have strong jaws, but only one ambushed Superman with carcinogenic Kryptonite.
7) Most exotic/unusual place/location in which you've seen a movie
My wife and I saw The Darjeeling Limited at the Majestic in North Conway, NH. The theatre was in a cafe - we bought our tickets from a waitress, got snacks at the bar and discovered a 50-seat auditorium at the end of a long, winding red corridor.
8) Favorite Errol Morris movie
Gates of Heaven, because it's haunting and funny, and because without it, my answer to #17 wouldn't exist. But I must admit some difficulty embracing Morris since his petulant Oscar speech.
9) Best Movie of 1967
Bonnie and Clyde
10) Describe a profoundly (or not-so-profoundly) disturbing moment you’ve had courtesy of the movies
During the trailers before Juno, the entire audience laughed at and mocked the premise of the border-crossing drama Under the Same Moon. Ah, those wacky Mexicans - when will they learn?
11) Anne Francis or Julie Newmar?
Don't feel strongly one way or the other, but Forbidden Planet is pretty great.
12) Describe your favorite one sheet (include a link if possible)
The Alien one-sheet is so simple and suggestive, but even when I was a small child and knew nothing about the film, it (and the tagline) were genuinely unsettling.
13) Best Movie of 1987
Wings of Desire
14) Favorite movie about obsession
Looking at my 100 list, there are a startling amount of movies about obsession. But yeah, Vertigo is almost inarguably the ultimate statement on the subject.
15) Your ideal Christmas movie triple feature
Gremlins, Eyes Wide Shut and Black Christmas (the original - duh).
16) Montgomery Clift or James Dean?
James Dean, but they both kick Ryan Gosling's ass.
17) Favorite Les Blank Movie
Werner Herzog Eats His Shoe
18) This past summer food critic Anton Ego made the following statement: “In many ways, the work of a critic is easy. We risk very little yet enjoy a position over those who offer up their work and their selves to our judgment. We thrive on negative criticism, which is fun to write and to read. But the bitter truth we critics must face is that, in the grand scheme of things, the average piece of junk is more meaningful than our criticism designating it so. But there are times when a critic truly risks something, and that is in the discovery and defense of the new. Last night, I experienced something new, an extraordinary meal from a singularly unexpected source. To say that both the meal and its maker have challenged my preconceptions is a gross understatement. They have rocked me to my core. In the past, I have made no secret of my disdain for Chef Gusteau's famous motto: Anyone can cook. But I realize that only now do I truly understand what he meant. Not everyone can become a great artist, but a great artist can come from anywhere.” Your thoughts?
I can't wait to show Ratatouille to my daughter.
19) The last movie you watched on DVD? In a theater?
On DVD, Two-Lane Blacktop, a movie I've been dying to see for a while that lived up to its reputation. The latter is Margot at the Wedding, a movie I liked a good deal more than most (I dig Harris Savides, and I'm sort of mean).
20) Best Movie of 2007
I have yet to see at least one film that I suspect will be high on this list (I'm referring, of course, to The Bucket List). As of now, it's The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford.
21) Worst Movie of 2007
The Number 23 is the worst movie Joel Schumacher's ever made. Really think about that.
22) Describe the stages of your cinephilia
3-10 - Pure, unqualified adoration. Anything horror or sci-fi. Lots of Spielberg, Tim Burton, Terry Gilliam. Anything muppet. A complete lack of critical discernment (2001 is awesome, so is Hook).
10-12 - Onanism. Anxiety. Self-loathing. Movies that validate my pubescent existential crisis (Brazil, Apocalypse Now, Taxi Driver, Vertigo). Anything with boobs. Pulp Fiction is a potent gateway drug to a new way of looking at cinema.
13-15 - Loss of religion dovetails with the concept of cinema as transgression. Boogie Nights. A Clockwork Orange. Blue Velvet. The Rocky Horror Picture Show. Anything with weiners. Anything that would piss off dad.
15-18 - Intro to world cinema - Herzog, Truffaut, Bergman, Argento. Expressionism. Anything with brains. A soft spot for earnest, overwrought emotionalism (American Beauty and Magnolia).
18-22 - College. Forgetting how to just watch a movie. Lots of posturing and one-upmanship. "Hey, you know what would be an awesome way to watch Tron?" Lynch, Altman, De Palma, Malick. I'm starting to get the hang of this.
Now - The blog. Liking what I like. "Hey, you know what would be an awesome way to watch Barry Lyndon?" Roeg, Bertolucci and Malle all touch a nerve. Romanticism. Uncertainty. Watching my daughter freak out with delight whenever Superman, Willy Wonka or robots are onscreen.
23) What is the one film you’ve had more difficulty than any other in convincing people to see or appreciate?
Right now, pretty much anything. My generation is bombarded by hype and infotainment into complete indifference. If my friends would rather see Smoking Aces than The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford, it's because the latter is an unknowable challenge while the former is reassuringly familiar. The movies become comfort food, a sensory snack with the same value as a video game or a viral video played on a cell phone. In such a climate, how can I convince anyone that cinema has the ability to be beautiful, even transcendent?
24) Gene Tierney or Rita Hayworth?
25) The Japanese word wabi denotes simplicity and quietude, but it can also mean an accidental or happenstance element (or perhaps even a small flaw) which gives elegance and uniqueness to the whole. What film or moment from a film best represents wabi to you?
The dog crossing the path in the opening shot of Birth, unknowingly violating the images' symmetry and creating a pleasurable dissonance.
26) Favorite Documentary
Gates of Heaven again.
27) Favorite opening credit sequence
While I love elaborate, Saul Bass-style opening collages, I've always admired the plain yellow titles of McCabe and Mrs. Miller silently, craftily snaking in and out of the gloomy landscape like McCabe himself.
28) Is there a film that has influenced your lifestyle in a significant or notable way? If so, what was it and how did it do so?
Eyes Wide Shut not only changed the way I thought about film, it challenged my 15-year-old assumptions about relationships, fidelity and even identity. I think it had a strong effect on my friend Tara as well (happy birthday, Tara!), as she took a classmate to see it again the next night and was shocked when the girl complained of boredom. Truly a case of "Did you see the same movie I did?"
29) Glenn Ford or Dana Andrews?
30) Make a single prediction, cynical or hopeful, regarding the upcoming Academy Awards
In honor of No Country for Old Men, a Chuck Workman-edited montage of the greatest head shots in film history.
31) Best Actor of 2007
Viggo Mortensen, Eastern Promises
32) Best Actress of 2007
Carice van Houten, Black Book
33) Best Director of 2007
34) Best Screenplay of 2007
No Country for Old Men
35) Favorite single movie moment of 2007
Jason Schwartzman showing Natalie Portman the view from his suite in the Hotel Chevalier. It touched a nerve more deeply than any moment this year.
36) What’s your wish/hope for the movies in 2008?
For the happy surprises. The other day I saw Sweeney Todd, a movie I wasn't really dying to see, and I loved it - there's no better feeling than that. 2007 was a year of one movie after another exceeding my expectations; let's hope it's the start of something.
Friday, December 21, 2007
- Speaking of blockbusters, Vol. 1, No. 3 of the International Journal of Zizek Studies, titled "Zizek and Cinema," focuses on the Slovenian philosopher's film writing. It's must-read stuff, particuarly if this is your introduction to Zizek.
- I thought I was the only one!
- An interesting discussion is forming over at SLIFR with the debut of Andrew Blackwood's short film Slap, a film that has invited both praise and scorn. Alex Jackson hated it so much that he posted his own film over at the Film Freak Central blog, though Hieronymous Bosch's HECK shares more spiritual DNA with Slap than Mr. Jackson would probably care to admit. But as for the question "Who's more pretentious?," the answer is me.
- Happy holidays!
Tuesday, December 18, 2007
Tuesday, December 11, 2007
A poster of The Thing visible early on in the studio of poster artist David Drayton (Thomas Jane) indicates the film's biggest influence. Like Carpenter's film, The Mist is a Hawksian narrative that traps a cross-section of residents of a small Maine town in a grocery store enveloped in the titular weather activity. Darabont succeeds in mounting tension both with the threat of mysterious, Lovecraftian creatures hiding in the mist, waiting to attack and in the conflicts between people in the store over real and perceived class and cultural differences. This is familiar genre territory, but the cast, largely made up of veteran character actors, succeeds in creating a fresh variation on old themes. A particular standout is Marcia Gay Harden as Mrs. Carmody, a zealous evangelical Christian who uses the crowd's fear to preach her apocalyptic message. King is fond of these broad portraits of the devout, and a less skilled actor could have easily reduced Mrs. Carmody to a hammy, one-dimensional caricature. But Harden delivers her doomsaying prophecies with quiet certainty, making the characte more human, more recognizable and more disturbing (especially if you've met women like her).
Thursday, December 06, 2007
4. The Neverending Story Revisiting this as an adult, I was shocked at how dark it really is. The villian is nothingness, the conflict a race against the death of imagination in the face of childhood's end. It's a must-see for any kid who'd prefer to hide in a book than put away childish things. Fantasia, the film's imaginary world, retains its immersive beauty even as the effects date, demonstrating that photorealism is not nearly as important as artistry. Plus, Falcor is soooo cool.
5. The Princess Bride A satire of sorts, but one that retains an affection for the stories (and movies) it pokes fun at. Plus, no list of sword-and-sorcery movies is complete without one of the very best swordfights in cinema (isn't it weird that Mandy Patinkin was once briefly cool?)
6. Conan the Barbarian An unapologetic display of pure phallic might directed by the inspiration for John Goodman's character in The Big Lebowski (indeed, I imagine that Walter Sobchak's wet dreams are something like this). The Terminator is the better movie, but Arnold was never more Arnold than he is here. The tits are ripe, the decapitations are plentiful, Thulsa Doom is present and accounted for - few films make total idiocy feel so good. Also, Ron Cobb rules!
7. Labyrinth A little more kid-oriented than The Dark Crystal. But The Dark Crystal didn't have a spandex-clad, Goblin-ruling David Bowie (thus began my latency period).
8. Legend Strictly the Jerry Goldsmith-scored director's cut, not the choppy, incoherent theatrical version (though that Tangerine Dream score is pretty boss). Ridley Scott creates another world as fully realized as Blade Runner's future. It's embarassingly earnest at points, but is ultimately unforgettable thanks to Tim Curry's terrifying, sexy performance as Darkness (aided by Rob Bottin's excellent makeup work).
9. Dragonslayer The most direct ancestor of Beowulf, one that more enthusiastically embraces its unapologetic paganism. Made during Disney's attempt to change its kiddie-movie image, it's at points shockingly dark and gory - the baby dragons munching on a virgin is not only nightmare territory for youngsters, it also raises the stakes of the young hero's quest immeasurably. Deeply derivative of Star Wars, but in a good way.
10. Fire and Ice Frank Frazetta is the ultimate geek, and his jaw-droppingly insane illustrations come to life thanks to Ralph Bakshi's rotoscoping (a predecessor of mo-cap). And while the hand-drawn animation is often crude, particuarly compared to its 2007 incarnation, it has one thing that Zemeckis' film doesn't: balls.