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Friday, September 19, 2008

This Weekend at the Movies

posted by on September 19 at 5:20 PM

Hey lords & ladies.
There's a whole bunchload of stuff playing this week, some good, some bad. Plus, the weather is totally shitty! Go see a movie! Go see three! (Not these three.)

Opening today:


Regarding Ghost Town, a movie about a grumpy dentist (Ricky Gervais) forced to help ghosts transition from somethingness into nothingness, Charles Mudede wonders: "Why do the dead want to really die? What's wrong with being a ghost? You have died, you are still around—you can haunt this street, that home, those shops. This order seems sensible enough: To be alive is the best, to be a ghost is not the worst, and to be nothing is unimaginable. Why, then, do ghosts want the unimaginable? Why?"

On Lakeview Terrace, Andrew Wright chronicles the de-fanging of Neil LaBute: "Only once, during a housewarming-party chat gone wrong, do LaBute's old habits come to the fore and threaten to pin the audience's ears back. Otherwise, chalk it up as a potentially decent B-picture stymied by the director's newfound tendency to stay within the lines. We need him mean, or not at all."

The esteemed A. Birch Steen has some constructive criticism for Battle in Seattle:"One day, the true story of the brave officers who fended off the masses of drooling, illiterate, antiestablishment troglodytes will be told—hopefully in a film starring good, conservative Americans like Tom Selleck, Wilford Brimley, and Bruce Willis."

Sean Nelson "suggests the living fuck" out of Mister Foe: "He does these things because he misses his dead mother, who drowned in the lake behind the stately home he lives in with his stately father and Verity (!!!), his much younger superfox of a stepmother. He obsessively believes that Verity murdered his mom and made it look like suicide. This does not stop him from desiring her sexually, which makes for a complicated home life."

PLUS: David Schmader on Stealing America: Vote by Vote ("Why am I recommending you spend 90 minutes of your life watching a boringly thorough movie that makes you murderously furious? For the primary reason anyone watches any documentary: To see amazing real-life shit that you can't fucking believe you're watching"); Mudede on A Thousand Years of Good Prayers ("How wonderful it is to see Wayne Wang in his element: the Chinese-American experience"); I find Alan Ball's Towelhead to be just okay ("Towelhead wants you to know that IT IS NOT AFRAID TO MAKE YOU UNCOMFORTABLE"); and Megan Seling is delighted by Igor ("It's funny to try to kill yourself over and over again so long as you're an immortal bunny").

And in Limited Runs:

Creepy Dr. Seuss "Technicolor freakout" The 5,000 Fingers of Dr. T plays at SIFF Cinema. Also at SIFF Cinema, Devil Music Ensemble Presents Red Heroine and The Human Condition Part Three: A Soldier's Prayer. Don't miss the final few days of Momma's Man at Northwest Film Forum. Do go ahead and miss Outsourced at Central Cinema (Annie Wagner: "It's exactly like every other movie in the world, and I don't know why anyone would bother watching it"). Film critic Robert Horton talks about Napoleon this Sunday at the Frye. Over at the Grand Illusion, see Ten Nights of Dreams (featuring "lots of blood, barf, and a beautiful pig-woman in a kimono who assaults her enemies with a special 'fart attack'"). Both late nights are good this weekend: The Grand Illusion has Viva, which Paul Constant luuuvs. And at the Egyptian it's the Gump-tastic Return to Oz. Tonight you can join fellow concerned citizens at Keystone Church for USA Vs. Al-Arian; OR stay at home and completely avoid the weak documentary The Universe of Keith Haring at NWFF.

Ta-daaah! That's about it.

As always, visit our complete movie times and listings HERE.

And don't forget that you can comment on articles now everywhere on The Stranger's website. Did you see Bangkok Dangerous and love it? Am I a complete asshole? Tell us how much we suck! Exclamation points!

Thursday, September 18, 2008

I Have No Hope for This Movie

posted by on September 18 at 3:00 PM

Diane English, who directed The Women, is setting her sights on a film adaptation of Erica Jong's Fear of Flying. This cannot be a good idea. English is going to handle the period-piece 1970s thing in her own, classy way:

English revealed that her version of the film will take place in modern times, with an older character utilized as a framing device to tell a flashback story.

Maybe English will let Diane Keaton star in this one as the older Isadora Wing; it'd almost be worth the price of admission just to hear her talk sentimentally about her 'zipless fuck days.'

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

I Was Born For This

posted by on September 17 at 2:35 PM

Netflix is hosting a contest to see if anyone can break the world record for continuous movie-watching. The current record is 120 hours and 23 minutes.

There will apparently be "medical professionals" on hand to determine if contestants "are truly 'watching' or are simply staring blankly at the screen." I've got to say, sometimes staring blankly at the screen is the best way to watch a movie. For example: Last night, I tried to watch Redbelt. Phew.

The Concerned Women of America Don't Want You to Watch Dakota Fanning Pretend to Be Raped

posted by on September 17 at 1:08 PM


From the CWA of North Carolina press release:

Concerned Women for America (CWA) of North Carolina is calling all citizens to take action to stop the distribution of Hounddog, a film depicting child rape. Hounddog features child actress Dakota Fanning, who portrays a nine-year-old that is raped by a man in his late teens, after he tricks her into dancing naked to get Elvis Presley concert tickets.

It's not just fake child rape that's got CWA all knotted up—it's state-funded fake child rape:

CWA of North Carolina created the "No More Child Porn" campaign in July after learning that the North Carolina Department of Commerce gave $387,000 in taxpayer money to producers to shoot the film in North Carolina. On the original release date of July 18, 2008, CWA of North Carolina called for an investigation by the North Carolina General Assembly to determine why the North Carolina Film Office approved the making of the film and whether law officials were consulted.

For what it's worth, Hounddog's screenwriter specified in the script that "there is no nudity or explicit violence in this scene. All nudity and violence is implied." But the CWA of North Carolina seem more concerned about how how their state became the fake-child-rape capital of the world:

[The CWA of NC] requested that the Assembly "provide information from the North Carolina Department of Commerce (which oversees the North Carolina Film office) as to how three movies dealing with the subject of adults having sexual encounters with minors (Hounddog, Bastard Out of Carolina, and Lolita) were filmed in North Carolina.

Stay tuned, or don't.

Friday, September 12, 2008

This Weekend at the Movies

posted by on September 12 at 5:53 PM

Plenty to see! Plenty to do! Plenty to not see! Plenty of air conditioned theaters available!

Opening this week:


The new Coen brothers' comedy Burn After Reading, a movie I like more and more the longer I think about it: "Burn After Reading is sillier and less thematically cohesive than Fargo or Raising Arizona, but it takes a turn exactly one hour in that reminds you just how fucked-up and brilliant the Coens can be. Brad Pitt is involved."

Paul Constant very much enjoyed Momma's Man at Northwest Film Forum: "It sounds like an underbaked Will Ferrell bomb, but Momma's Man actually more closely resembles 2006's Old Joy—it certainly shares that film's patient pacing and oblique sentimentality—or the funny, pathetic sadness of a Chris Ware cartoon."

Paul Constant very much didn't enjoy Cthulhu: "Waggish critics will probably comment that Tori Spelling puts in the best performance of the movie, but that's a lazy zinger: Her acting is exactly as bad as everyone else's."

Or Trumbo: "Aspiring documentarians should watch Trumbo as an example of what not to do: The film tells us how charming the man is, but they don't show us much of anything. Instead, it's just a bunch of famous people talking at you for an hour and a half about the First Amendment. This isn't a testament to an underappreciated talent, it's a boring-ass middle-school civics class."

And finally, as has been mentioned before, special guest reviewer Diane Keaton is none too pleased about having been left out of The Women: "Hey, Hollywood. Write this down. Next time you make a two-hour vaginal suppository that hasn't met a feminine cliché it didn't dip in chocolate and shove down America's gullet (smoking, shopping, cheating, faked orgasms, diets, supermodels, bubble baths, hunger, water breaking, Botox), maybe you should do your job and fucking call Diane Keaton. Bitches."


In Concessions this week, I attend the Sprocket Society's Secret Sunday Matinee, where I am irreversibly traumatized by Betty Boop: "When Boop throws a party, it is not humans who come to dine."


And in Limited Runs:

Paul Constant fucking luuuved Viva: "It’s been a long time since I’ve seen an homage film as note-perfect and entertaining as Viva. It’s a callback to early '70s sexploitation films, where busty blondes refer to whiskey and a copy of Playboy as 'coffee and the morning paper,' where orgies are the Greatest Thing Ever, and women are expected to cook and clean in transparent lingerie."

Charles Mudede wrote this really, really funny sentence about Audition aka Competition: "The pleasures of this documentary (or at least I think it’s a documentary) can only accessed by that extraordinary type of human being whose life is utterly meaningless when it’s not directed toward the painfully slow activity of accumulating more and more knowledge about very rare Czech films."

And these extremely satisfying ones about Alain Robbe-Grillet: "Why did Alain Robbe-Grillet make movies? Because he was the one who put a bullet into the old head of the novel."

Donnie Darko at the Egyptian!
This Is Spinal Tap at the Grand Illusion!
And a whole bunch of other stuff!!!

AND FINALLY, I just noticed that I totally fucked up and left some ancient information for Soul Nite! in the print edition. Soul Nite! at the NWFF is not, in fact, "Thurs July 31 at 8 pm." It was actually last night, September 11, at 8 pm. My apologies to anyone patiently waiting for next July to roll around.

Cthulhu: The Kinda-Like-It-or-Totally-Hate-It Local Film Begins Its Hometown Run Tonight

posted by on September 12 at 10:49 AM


In case you hadn't heard, Cthulhu—the H.P. Lovecraft-inspired, quasi-gay-horror flick directed by Seattle's Dan Gildark and written by former Seattle City Council candidate/monorail advocate/Stranger contributor Grant Cogswell—kicks off a week-long run at Metro Cinemas today.

Stranger reviewer Paul Constant hated it:

Cthulhu has been trumpeted in the pages of The Stranger for years now, so it is not without a certain amount of institutional shame that I admit Cthulhu is a poorly made film with almost no merits. The "almost" here refers to the cinematography by Sean Kirby, which is, at times, beautiful. But everything else is shit. The pacing is awkward, the costumes are embarrassing, and the dialogue is wooden and just plain dumb.The worst part is that the filmmakers are trying so hard to artfully transcend the apocalyptic horror genre—to comment, through little parodies and self-aware digs, that they're making a "real" movie with "real" themes—that they wound up producing a horror movie that's not in the least bit frightening. Cthulhu is possibly the worst in a long line of shoddy H. P. Lovecraft film adaptations. It's a goddamned shame, is what it is.

Paul's not alone is his hatred of Cthulhu—I've heard from a lot of people who also thought it was shit. However, I saw Cthulhu at SIFF a couple years back and I did not hate it. The unequivocal repulsion experienced by many of my peers challenged me to clarify in my mind what it was about the film I liked. Grant's a friend, and I hated to think that was the basis for my appreciation. (This would also be unlike me—my friends count on my compulsive, almost-Tourette'sish aesthetic honesty, and I have the list of ex-friends to prove it.)

But this review from the Willamette Week gets at what I think Cthulhu has to offer:

Gildark and screenwriter Grant Cogswell’s nervy work is a reminder of the timidity of most independent filmmaking—even when Cthulhu fails, it fails with panache...Even Gildark’s most obvious gimmick—gay love story meets otherworldly horror—has emotional weight. Cthulhu is basically the tale of a religious-fundamentalist family willing to take extreme measures to cure their son of his sexual orientation. And it takes a certain daring to repurpose The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe as an allegory for a gay idyll. The movie, like most bold pieces of art, flirts with unintentional comedy, but it pushes right past that threat, even as its plausibility crumbles. The movie falls apart—the center does not hold—but its anarchy is a blast to watch.

It's as a "gay movie" that Cthulhu has the most to offer, I think—the film captures the creepiness and barely subsumed antagonism of small-town life like no other film I've seen. Still, appreciating a film by a friend through the prism of a cinematic sub-genre is what Josh Feit would've called "a double-reverse back-flip" of a recommendation, and there's a good chance you'll hate it. You can find out this week at Metro Cinemas.

Hari Puttar!

posted by on September 12 at 9:46 AM



A court in India has postponed the release of a film entitled Hari Puttar, after complaints from the makers of the blockbuster Harry Potter films.
The Indian film tells the story of a 10-year-old boy who moves to England with his family and becomes involved in a plan to save the world.

Here's the trailer:

And the soundtrack apparently includes a song titled "Hari Puttar Is a Dude," sung by Sameer and Aishwariya.

Lindy? Can we get a copy of this today?

Thursday, September 11, 2008

Mistaken Identity

posted by on September 11 at 3:32 PM

Well, it seems the blogosphere is all abuzz about The Stranger's newest contributor, Diane Keaton!

Yesterday I slogged about Keaton's review of The Women, a film in which she clearly should have played every role and yet, confusingly, doesn't appear at all. I saw the movie at a preview a few weeks ago, and I've been consistently and inadvertently referring to Annette Bening as Diane Keaton ever since! SERIOUSLY, IT IS IMPOSSIBLE TO REMEMBER. Much to my delight, commenter Pi linked to this Entertainment Weekly review, which misidentifies Annette Bening as Diane Keaton! In words! On a page!

EW has since fixed the mistake, but I got a screen grab:


Can I Buy Tickets For This Right Now?

posted by on September 11 at 1:00 PM


Variety says:

Steven Soderbergh is in the early stages of developing a biopic about Liberace for Warner Bros., which he will direct.

The filmmaker said he has drafted his "Traffic" star Michael Douglas to play the flamboyant pianist.

And Matt Damon might play Liberace's lover, Scott Thorson. Will this be the best movie ever? Yes.

When Shitty Movie Reviewers Attack!

posted by on September 11 at 12:42 PM

At a screening of Danny Boyle's new movie Slumdog Millionaire, New York Post critic Lou Lumenick apparently beat the beloved and ailing Roger Ebert about the face and head with a plastic binder.

From the New York Daily News:

Soon after the lights went down, a source tells us, "a man in the audience started yelling, 'Don't touch me!' People looked around and shrugged. Ten minutes later, the voice yells again, 'I said don't touch me!'"

Again, people shrugged off the disturbance. But a few minutes later, says our source, "the guy stands up in the darkness and thwacks the guy behind him with a big festival binder. He hit him so hard everybody could hear it. Everyone freaked out and turned around."

After battling thyroid and salivary gland cancer for years, Ebert, 66, can no longer speak.

"Apparently, Roger was just trying to tap Lumenick on the shoulder to signal him that he couldn't see the movie," surmises our source. "He was trying to ask him to move over a bit."

Though Lumenick seemed surprised to see whom he had struck, he offered no apology, according to another source.

Thanks to PopTart for the tip. And to Lou Lumenick: fuck off.

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

"What's Up, Bitches?"

posted by on September 10 at 3:45 PM

I'm proud to say that the film section scored a major coup this week: a guest review written by none other than legendary leading lady Diane Keaton.

Keaton shares her feisty, irrepressible lady-thoughts on The Women, a dramedy (opening this Friday) in which she does not star. And let's just say she's less than enthused:

What's up, bitches? Diane Keaton here. I just got back from seeing The Women and, um, I couldn't help but notice something: I AM NOT IN THIS MOVIE. Where the fuck am I? I am the queen bee of this shit... Hey, Hollywood. Write this down. Next time you make a two-hour vaginal suppository that hasn't met a feminine cliché it didn't dip in chocolate and shove down America's gullet (smoking, shopping, cheating, faked orgasms, diets, supermodels, bubble baths, hunger, water breaking, Botox), maybe you should do your job and fucking call Diane Keaton. Bitches.

You go, Keaton! It's truly an honor.

Tuesday, September 9, 2008

Dept. of Bad Ideas, Poetry Edition

posted by on September 9 at 5:15 PM

There will be a film version of Allen Ginsberg's "Howl," focusing on the obscenity trial against Ginsberg's publisher.

David Strathairn, Alan Alda, Jeff Daniels, Mary-Louise Parker and Paul Rudd will join the cast of the film "Howl," according to today's Hollywood Reporter. Actor James Franco has already signed on to portray poet Allen Ginsberg.


Friday, September 5, 2008

This Weekend at the Movies

posted by on September 5 at 6:45 PM

Hello my darlings.

It’s Friday again. It’s supposed to be beautiful outside this weekend. The sun will shine. But if you feel like spending some special times indoors (and there are many good things to see), here’s what’s opening this week:


Over at Northwest Film Forum, it’s La France, a craaazy war story/fairy tale/jangly musical. I liked it: "Anyone who knows me knows that World War I is obviously my favorite war. The trenches, the tactical fuckups, the mud, the arbitrariness of the whole thing—it's a sublimely affecting disaster. It's also, as it turns out, the ideal context for a gloomy fairy tale. What villain's home turf is scarier than the skeletal trees and sucking mud on the front? Um, Baba Yaga's chicken hut? Fuckin' Mordor? Please."

Brendan Kiley positively adored I Served the King Of England: "A coarse, gallows-humor picaresque about a wise simpleton who gets battered by the forces of Czech history—provincial narrow-mindedness, then the Nazis, then the Communists, and finally, provincial narrow-mindedness again."

And special guest eyeball contributor Forest Whitaker(!) lends some spiritual insights into his new movie The Ripple Effect: "What do you fear? Can there be joy without pain? Let me tell you a parable, my friend. When the brick maker ran out of bricks, he asked the heron, 'Do we create our own realities? Are our realities created by us? Is the universe created from inside us?' And the heron said 'CAAAW!' and—God, I wish people would stop casting me in this vapid, pseudospiritual crap."

There are lots of worthy options (and some dumb ones) in Limited Runs:

Charles Mudede on Trans-Europe Express, part of the Film Forum’s Robbe-Grillet series:

Trans-Europe Express, directed by Alain Robbe-Grillet—a French novelist who was at the center of a literary movement, Nouveau Roman, that had its moment in the ‘50s and ‘60s—is a movie that is not conditioned by the stuff of cinema. It’s not even conditioned by the literary (or the mode of literature). What, then, is the substance—or value—of this fine movie, which was released in 1967 (near the end of Nouveau Roman moment) and stars the star of the Nouveau Roman moment, Robbe-Grillet? If one wants to see the value of Trans-Europe Express, one must look at it not as a work of art but as a historical record. In essence, Trans-Europe Express has the value of a document. What it represents to us, the lovers of Robbe-Grillet’s severe (almost Borgesian) novels, is the body of the famous author. We get to see Robbe-Grillet’s size (not fat or thin), his face (not handsome or ugly), his hair (not too long or short), his posture (not strict or lazy), and his voice (not manic or flat). As for the document’s story (or meta-story—it’s film about making a film), it does not matter one bit. What matters is, first, seeing Robbe-Grillet, and, second, seeing his almost criminal obsession with the female body. The author both hated and worshiped the fantastic form of a youthful woman.

Eli Sanders did not care for A Jihad for Love:

You have to admire someone who travels, at great personal peril, to twelve Muslims countries in order to make a documentary about the way those countries treat their homosexuals. But that doesn’t mean you have to like the resulting film. A Jihad for Love fails to engage in large part because it fails to tell us anything we don’t already know. It’s hard to be gay in the Muslim world; things are changing, but not quickly enough; etc. The documentary also wastes our time (and the filmmaker’s) by engaging in crazy-making debates with radical Muslim theologians—as if there were anything rational about their opposition to homosexuality. The radical theologian is not to be reasoned with, and the audience’s time is not to be wasted on such nonsense.

Also at NWFF, The Dead Science: Leviathan Blood, part of their "Villainaire Festival of Culture”; The Sprocket Society’s Secret Sunday Matinee, which is a SECRET; and another by Robbe-Grillet, The Immortal Woman. Central Cinema has Bull Durham (Costner!) and The Sensation of Sight (Strathairn!). The Egyptian midnight show is Camp, which is about camp (the summer kind). Grand Illusion has Destry Rides Again and Hollywood High. At SIFF Cinema it's The Human Condition Part One: No Greater Love; and The Secret of Roan Inish for the children. The Fremont Outdoor movie is Fireball XL5. Environmentally conscious folks can see Kilowatt Ours courtesy of Wallingford Meaningful Movies; and daredevil types who like jumping off snowy cliffs can be delighted by Ready at the King Cat Theatre. Seattle Asian Art Museum is screening The Thief of Bagdad. Oh, and there's Devil's Island, an Icelandic film about abandoned postwar bunkers and the people who live in them, at the Nordic Heritage Museum. Did I miss anything? Probably.

As always, check our Movie Times page for complete listings.

I Will (Not) Eventually Watch These Movies

posted by on September 5 at 5:54 PM

Slate has an interesting study of Netflix movies that people have not watched, and for how long. The most common movie is Hotel Rwanda, with Schindler's List close behind. One woman conceived and delivered a child while not watching the Netflixed copy of Fracture in her home.

I totally understand this compulsion. It was really difficult to get me to go see Hotel Rwanda—I finally went because I had two friends who were leaving town and wanted to go to dinner and a movie and they picked the movie. I liked it a lot, but "movie about genocide" is never my first entertainment option. I don't think I'll ever see The Diving Bell and the Butterfly, even though I'm 100% positive that it's a great film, because the idea of watching a paralyzed man blink to communicate for two hours is way too unpleasant.

Tuesday, September 2, 2008

King of the Sea

posted by on September 2 at 4:19 PM

The sad death of Movie Trailer Master Don LaFontaine has me in a bit of a reflective mood today, resulting in me spending my day off going through my DVD collection in an attempt to find something that he didn’t do. ( Bloodsport? Yep. Did that one, too.) Dude was everywhere, managing to class up even those previews that featured “Who Let The Dogs Out?”. What more can be said, really?

As the deserved tributes pile up, though, allow me a moment to pay homage to the great Percy Rodriguez, who died last year at the age of 89. Although the Afro-Portuguese actor worked steadily on Broadway and television (including, apparently, some show about a Star Trek type deal, as one “Commodore Stone”), his crowning glory may be his voice-over work for the Jaws series, which raised the bar to a level that not even the great LaFontaine could ever quite match. I mean, dig that voice: rich, rolling, and, above all, genuinely amused at the prospect of scaring the living whiz out of moviegoers. Check it out:

Now that’s a set of pipes.

Big! Sprawling! Saga!

posted by on September 2 at 1:31 PM

Because not even the great Don LaFontaine could cover everything...

Bonus Points: Approximately how stoned was Harrison Ford during this recording session? Show your work.

Two Sequels to Surprisingly Good Movies

posted by on September 2 at 1:00 PM

The, um, geniuses who brought us Crank are currently making Crank 2. I have to say, I really appreciated Crank, in which Jason Statham had to do all kinds of stupid things to keep his adrenaline running, or he would die. It was stupid and funny and, you know, an action movie. But the ending was, how do you say, not entirely conducive to a sequel. Still: if they title this movie Crank 2: Stupider! and make it about 48 minutes long, I will totally buy a ticket on opening weekend.

And in more depressing news, someone—not the original director—is making The Descent 2. The Descent was the scariest movie I've ever seen in a movie theater. I hear that it doesn't hold up on DVD—there was something special about watching a horror movie about spelunking in a cool, cavernous dark theater—but a sequel is a horrible idea. At least it's not a remake, I guess.

In a World...

posted by on September 2 at 12:02 PM

The voice of every movie trailer ever, Don LaFontaine, has died at age 68. Bummer. RIP, man.

Thanks to Matt Hickey for the heads-up.

Wednesday, August 27, 2008

I Knew Nicolas Cage Wouldn't Lie to Me!

posted by on August 27 at 12:04 PM


We just got a press release that informs us the Library of Congress has teamed with Disney to create a display of the Book of Secrets from National Treasure: Book of Secrets.


Shortly following the release of “National Treasure: Book of Secrets,” millions of moviegoers might have left theaters around the world believing that the Library of Congress, the world’s largest library, was home to a book that holds all of the U.S. presidents’ secrets from alien autopsies to the truth about the JFK assassination, as well as the location of buried treasure. That was fiction, but the real story and the “reel” story merge a little when the “Book of Secrets” movie prop and a bonus feature about the Library and its formidable collections went on display this summer in the South Orientation Gallery on the first floor of the Thomas Jefferson Building. Visitors to the Jefferson will have an opportunity to see the display through Sept. 27.

Joining the “Book of Secrets” in the display case is another prop from the movie, John Wilkes Booth’s diary. However, unlike the “Book of Secrets,” a Booth diary actually existed.


The full press release, if you're interested, is after the jump. I think this is kind of sad, but I also understand these sorts of movies do pull in the tourists. I know somebody back in Maine who went to Philadelphia just because he loved National Treasure so much. (Semi-unrelated: This was the same guy who once told me that he heard "If you walk around Boston after midnight and you're white, you'll get shot," and so I often wonder how his trip to Philadelphia went. He must've been terrified the whole time.)

Continue reading "I Knew Nicolas Cage Wouldn't Lie to Me!" »

Tuesday, August 26, 2008

Movie Night at Havana: The Warriors

posted by on August 26 at 6:40 PM

So the last few Tuesday Movie Nights at Havana have been moved or cancelled do to the total Crapfest that replaced our August. It would be blasphemy, though, to let a few luminous clouds scare off a viewing of The Warriors. As such, the thing goes down tonight, as scheduled, whenever the sun goes down (Your guess is as good as mine). So buck up, bring a blanket, and do The Warriors proud. C'mon, would they be scared?

Free to Be Sexy and Borderline Retarded

posted by on August 26 at 6:35 PM

For my column in the upcoming issue, I tackle The House Bunny, which is quite obviously the worst movie ever AND I REALLY SERIOUSLY MEAN IT THIS TIME, YOU GUYS*.


You can read a bunch of words in all-caps about how it chafes my lady parts (and by lady parts I mean FEMINISM) tomorrow when the paper comes out, but for now, here are two things I didn't have the space to include:

1. The House Bunny marks the big-screen acting debuts of singing wig stand Katharine McPhee AND If They Mated poster child Rumer Willis. Um, why is it my responsibility to sit through the acting debuts of people who are famous for other things that aren't acting (i.e. televised karaoke, celebrity chins)? Can't they debut their acting somewhere in private? GOD.

2. The House Bunny was directed by one Fred Wolf (his second feature, after Strange Wilderness) who was previously best known as the animator of beloved 1970s morality tales The Point! and Free to Be You and Me**. SAY, FRED WOLF! Didn't you learn anything in the '70s? Didn't you learn that boys can play with dolls, and girls can run fast and be construction workers, and it's all right to cry because crying gets the sad out of you, and that mommies are PEOPLE (people with children)!? Because I couldn't help but notice that The House Bunny, which you directed in 2008, is the most backward, sexist sack of shit in the history of hot pink.

How would Marlo Thomas feel about this? My money's on sad, grumpy, and down-in-the-dumpy.

*Wait - no I don't.

**And because it came up during the writing of this post, and I am amused by its existence, here is a picture of an Alan Alda Impersonator.

UPDATE: Fuck!/Thank God! My friend Tom writes, "But Lindy, Isn't the House Bunny director Fred Wolf different from the '60s and '70s animator Fred Wolf?" Well Tom, the Wikipedia page for House Bunny links to the Wikipedia page for Fred Wolf, animator, which is what got me all confused. But the imdb page for Fred Wolf (II), director of House Bunny, bears no mention of '60s and '70s animation. My guess is that there are, indeed, TWO Fred Wolfs (three if you count theoretical physicist Fred Alan Wolf), and only one of them totally sucks. Which means this post is totally irrelevant now, but fuck it! I'm not taking that Rosey Grier video down for anything. Carry on!

Dear God, Please Let the Sunshine Continue Through This Evening...

posted by on August 26 at 12:16 PM I can go see The Warriors tonight at Havana's outdoor cinema series.

Here's the Suggest for the event that would've run in the paper if I hadn't written it for the wrong issue (working on a weekly paper can really complicate calendar comprehension...):

The Warriors (MOVIE) Havana’s outdoor movie series continues with Walter Hill’s 1979 cult classic, in which a crew of New York street toughs are framed for a gangland murder and must trek from the Bronx to Coney Island without being murdered by their 10,0000 sworn enemies. The Warriors is where urban bad-assery meets macho camp—a perfect fit for Havana, where audience members sit on low-slung lawn chairs and the drink service never stops. (Havana, 1010 E Pike St. Gates at 8:30 pm, movie at 9:30 pm. $3. 21+.)

See you there, weather permitting...

Friday, August 22, 2008

This Weekend at the Movies

posted by on August 22 at 4:37 PM

Hello, friends and foes!

Opening this week:


I, for some reason, fail to hate sweaty Rainn Wilson vehicle The Rocker: "Like most films devoted to the absurd kickassedness of rock, it's hopelessly derivative, but I've sat through worse moviegoing experiences than a secondhand Spinal Tap."

Andrew Wright mega-hearts Steve Coogan, but only kind of hearts Hamlet 2: "Even if the film's level of invention sputters here and there, its star is really something to see, creating a gurning, fearless portrayal of Americanus idiotus that even Chris Elliott might envy. (I can think of no higher praise.)"

The love lives of Mongolian shepherds in Tuya's Marriage delight Annie Wagner to no end: "For Tuya (Yu Nan), the difficulty of eking out a living in Inner Mongolia is a given; it's the institution of marriage that has to be stretched and massaged until it conforms to the circumstances of her life. Politics hum in the background, in the forces that are pushing her family away from a nomadic lifestyle and in a squabble over water rights, but the central conflicts of the plot are on a human scale."

Continue reading "This Weekend at the Movies" »

Another Reason to Watch 'Frozen River' This Weekend

posted by on August 22 at 2:29 PM

Besides the movie's goodness: You may remember Misty Upham from stages in Seattle, where she grew up.


(Thanks, Jim!)

Convention Prep

posted by on August 22 at 1:52 PM

As you've heard, Eli Sanders, Charles Mudede and I will be flying to Denver this weekend to cover the Democratic National Convention. Part of Charles's beat will be to cover the protests, organized by the hilariously self-monikered Recreate '68 group. But why would you bother to recreate '68 when you can experience the real thing on film? (Kidding. Sort of.)

One of my favorite movies ever, despite its hokey Appalachian flashbacks and low-grade, persistent sexism, is Medium Cool, cinematographer Haskell Wexler's enormously enjoyable treatise on the difficulty of journalistic objectivity. There's a sun-bathed baptism in green mountains. There's a Chicago slum. There are rock doves. There's a deeply sympathetic child.


But more excitingly for our purposes, there's actual footage of the protests at the 1968 Democratic National Convention, which resulted in some famous police riots. The fictional narrative is woven into the documentary footage, sometimes literally, as when a fictional character in a bright yellow shirtdress passes in and out of a stream of actual protesters and police, searching for her son.

You should come. Eli and I are going to be at the 7 o'clock show tonight, but it plays at 7 and 9:15 through Sunday. (A contemporary documentary about the crazy summer leading up to the convention plays Sat-Sun only.)

Look out, Haskell, it's real!

Thursday, August 21, 2008

Frost/Nixon Right Now

posted by on August 21 at 3:28 PM

There is a trailer for this winter's film adaptation of the play Frost/Nixon over here. (It'll probably get pulled soon, so hurry if you're interested.) It looks like Christian Bale's gravel-gargling Batman won't win the Stupidest Voice Oscar this year: Frank Langella's Nixon sounds kind of like a cross between Sam the Eagle and a bear getting a root canal. We'll see how all this pans out in December, when the movie is released.

I Don't Know if I Agree...

posted by on August 21 at 3:00 PM

...but I admire the gusto of the folks over at This Recording. After watching a 24-hour marathon of recent summer movies, they've written a kind of manifesto against actors like Christian Bale, Heath Ledger, and Johnny Depp.

Bale and Ledger are part of a tradition of polite actors. They may trash a hotel room or brawl with their moms or model girlfriends; but at worst they’ll destroy their metabolisms with reckless Method-y dieting.

The aggression and contradictions never make it onscreen, even when their parts are supposed to be disruptive. If these guys are guilty of the prototypical movie star flaw—if every role is a version of himself—their filmographies are a testament to blandness.

I've said it before, but those guys at This Recording sure do know how to put a blog together.

I Just Saved Your Relationship, Boys

posted by on August 21 at 11:55 AM

mammastill.jpgLast night, I went to The Big Picture for the first time. I was there to see Mamma Mia! As much as I enjoy Lindy West's review of Mamma Mia!:

Mamma Mia! is pure entertainment. Sparkling and earnest, hammy beyond all acceptable boundaries of ham, full of slow-motion leaping and young love—it's the movie equivalent of, well, ABBA. The cast rules: Meryl Streep is adorable; Pierce Brosnan sings (TERRIBLY) and stands on a cliff looking windswept in front of an Aegean sunset. Mamma Mia! entertained the shit out of me.

I do have to say that she neglected to mention something: If you are a heterosexual man, you will find the movie embarrassing to watch. And I say this as a heterosexual man who unabashedly loves movie musicals. Luckily, here's where the Big Picture, with its lush bar lined with bottles of welcoming booze, comes in to save the day.

At the beginning of the movie, I was wincing every half-minute or so, as every single character, regardless of age or gender, seemed to be channeling a 13-year-old Japanese girl on speed. The middle-aged women in the audience ate it up, a-hootin' and a-hollerin' every time somebody's hips swiveled—the movie might as well have been directed by a pint of pure estrogen.

But by the time I got to my second beer, I had stopped wincing. It was enjoyable. And the third beer made the whole thing a hee-larious laugh riot. For a moment, when I drank too much too fast, I actually thought that Pierce Brosnan was a decent singer. I expect that if I was drinking a comparable amount of whiskey instead of beer, I probably would have wept at the sheer glory of love and life and song. People who are allergic to this kind of giddy overacting, but who have significant others who desperately want to see the movie, should totally see Mamma Mia! at the Big Picture, preferably under the influence of a liter of some sort of brown liquid, possibly on ice.

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

Two Bits of Unrelated Comic-book Business

posted by on August 19 at 2:00 PM


First, The Beat reports that some idiot publisher is reprinting every single Stan's Soapbox column that was published between 1967 and 1980. If you don't know what Stan's Soapbox is, it's a monthly column by Stan Lee extolling the greatness of Marvel Comics. They were written in an exasperatingly breathless and alliterative style, like this sample below, taken from Matt Shepherd's blog:


So basically, for $14.95, fanboys will be able to purchase a book of advertisements for books that were published forty years ago. This is kind of genius, even moreso since the cover is so atrocious.

Second, the Watchmen movie might not come out on time next year, because Warner Brothers maybe didn't have the right to make a Watchmen movie at all:

Earlier this year, Twentieth Century Fox filed a lawsuit against Warner Bros. seeking to stop Watchmen’s release (scheduled for March 6, 2009), claiming that it, not Warner Bros., held the distribution rights to any motion picture made from the material. Today, a judge declined Warner Bros.’ request to dismiss the lawsuit, setting the stage for a possibly ugly legal tussle.

For comics nerds, it was the best of times, it was the worst of times.

Monday, August 18, 2008

In Case You Didn't See This Over the Weekend

posted by on August 18 at 12:48 PM

The trailer for An American Carol has been all over the Internet, but I don't believe that it's officially made Slog yet, so I thought I'd give you all something to help settle your lunch-heavy stomachs. It's a conservative-leaning spoof movie about a Michael Moore-type left-wing documentarian named Michael Malone (Chris Farley's little brother) who is visited by three right-wing spirits (including Kelsey Grammer as General Patton). Apparently, the movie is about how war can be useful and America is THE GREATEST COUNTRY IN THE WORLD MOTHERFUCKERS.

This is the money shot "joke" that's already being discussed (and is not in the trailer) from The Weekly Standard:

Zucker is plainly not worried about offending anyone. David Alan Grier plays a slave in a scene designed to show Malone what might have happened if the United States had not fought the Civil War. As Patton explains to a dumbfounded Malone that the plantation they are visiting is his own, Grier thanks the documentarian for being such a humane owner. As they leave, another slave, played by Gary Coleman, finishes polishing a car and yells "Hey, Barack!" before tossing the sponge to someone off-camera.

The movie will be out in October.

Friday, August 15, 2008

This Weekend at the Movies

posted by on August 15 at 3:51 PM

I don't believe we've hit the very nadir of summer movie season—I think that's next week, with The Rocker and Death Race and House Bunny in wide release and even Northwest Film Forum resorting to some movie about climbing mountains—but this week is pretty damn depressing.

So take this opportunity to remain immobile indoors with an electric fan and watch 2008 Stranger Genius Lynn Shelton's My Effortless Brilliance on IFC's hoity-toity new pay-per-view service, IFC Festival Direct.

(Highlight of the official trailer: "HIS EGO IS OUT OF CONTROL.") And no, we did not give Shelton a Genius award because she cast a former Stranger film editor in the lead role. And, uh... I promise we didn't give it to because her new movie was about HUMP, The Stranger's porn festival. I hate HUMP. God, this is awkward.

Opening this week:

Andrew Wright reviews Tropic Thunder. It may mock retarded people, but Wright remains heroically tepid: "Tropic Thunder... may ultimately feel a bit toothless—it's difficult to cut too deeply when your satirical take on studio blockbusters and crazy actors is produced by a major studio with Tom Cruise in a supporting role—but offers a number of genuine laughs between the self-congratulatory waves. It's just good enough to make you wish it were better." (Technically opened Wednesday.)

Lindy West watches Star Wars: The Clone Wars so you don't have to: "'AAAAHH! EE WONKO KOKA OO CHOBEE!' says Jabba. 'BABA LOOGAAH JEDI GLEE GLAAH JABBABABA! CHODA GLAH GLAH BABABABABABABA LOOGAH!' And the Jedis are all, 'Sure, Jabba, we'll get your stinky baby back!' Then there's lots of sarcastic swordplay banter ('I'm impressed.' 'Now you die.' 'Shall we continue?' 'My pleasure'), stuff blows up, we meet Jabba's Southern gay uncle, Meshach Taylor the Hutt, and everything turns out just fine."

Canceled press screening or no canceled press screening, Andrew Wright quite likes Mirrors: The movie "distinguishes itself from the glut via an unusually suggestive premise (reflecting goblins wreak havoc on haunted security guard Kiefer Sutherland), a genuinely creepy burned-out department store backdrop, and a number of hard-R, unreservedly gooshy shocks."

Frozen River

Jen Graves writes up Frozen River: "Frozen River was shot in subzero weather on Lake Champlain in northern New York, and it renders starkly the cracking lives of two women, Ray (the mother, played by the truly great Melissa Leo, whose face you'll recognize from a hundred nuanced supporting roles), and Lila (Misty Upham)."

I review the new Woody Allen movie, Vicky Cristina Barcelona: "I do hope that this is the last time Woody Allen will cast Scarlett Johansson in anything, because in Vicky Cristina Barcelona, she's approaching pure trollop. As Cristina, an anything-goes sexpot who entertains artistic pretensions, Johansson could be Brigitte Bardot dubbed with a flat American accent. If you entertain the idea that she might be parodying herself, it's almost an interesting performance." The Spaniards don't come off any better.

And I all but gag on Henry Poole Is Here: "Henry Poole Is Here is condescending toward believers, contemptuous toward disbelievers, and has the worst soundtrack in the entire history of cinema."

Midnight Meat Train is, sadly, departed from theaters, but Lindy West will catch you up to speed.

She also throws herself in front of the Fly Me to the Moon bus. Thanks, Lindy.

Never fear, though, there are multiple jackpots in this week's Limited Runs. Where to begin?

Band of Outsiders

SIFF Cinema has all of Jean-Luc Godard's '60s hits (save Vivre Sa Vie, which plays next week): Two or Three Things I Know About Her tonight, Weekend tomorrow, A Woman Is a Woman Sunday, Band of Outsiders (my personal favorite) Monday, Masculine, Feminine Tuesday, Pierrot le Fou Wednesday, and Breathless Thursday. If you missed it at SIFF, go immediately to see Fatih Akin's The Edge of Heaven at the Varsity (Tuesday evening shows are bargain priced!). At Northwest Film Forum, don't miss Being There, the climax and finale of the Hal Ashby series, or the in-person appearance of Bay Area filmmaker Craig Baldwin (Tribulation 99) and screening of his newest found-footage collage, Mock Upon Mu, which is about Scientology, in part. NWFF also has Orson Welles's Isak Dinesen adaptation The Immortal Story and an extra-special edition of its quarterly filmmakers' challenge: Every movie in the Tubs Film Challenge program was filmed at the abandoned Tubs. Grand Illusion has the comics adaptation Happily Ever After. Looking for something to do tonight? At 7 pm at Vermillion Gallery, they're projecting two Japanese monster movies, Monster from a Prehistoric Planet and Godzilla vs. Megalon, in 16 mm—good job with the old-school, guys. If you get sick of monsters, head over to Cal Anderson Park for Three Dollar Bill's screening of The Gang's All Here. Totally incompatible with either of those excellent choices is Jean Renoir's excellent The Golden Coach at SAM, also tonight. And looking ahead to next Wednesday, I heart Powell and Pressburger's Black Narcissus.

As if that weren't enough to keep you occupied: Here's our complete movie times search. Enjoy!

Friday, August 8, 2008

This Weekend at the Movies, Addendum

posted by on August 8 at 5:29 PM


Uh. Apparently Snoop Dogg is making his Bollywood debut this weekend:

Wearing a tradition Indian turban and a tunic, Dogg and Akshay Kumar were filmed for the song in Chicago.

In the track, Dogg sings: "This is Snoop Dogg/Singh is the king/This is the thing."

The words in the song are a combination of English, Hindi and Punjabi language lyrics and rap.

The rapper's introduction to the song gives an indication.

He says: "Yo, what up. This Big Snoop Dogg. Represent the Punjabi. Aye ya, hit em with this."

But don't think you have to fly to Mumbai to catch these amazing lyrics. Singh Is Kinng (only 135 minutes!) is playing at Kirkland's Totem Lake Cinemas tonight through Thursday. Fo' shizzle. (Sorry, couldn't resist.)

These Little Games Make Me Laugh

posted by on August 8 at 4:38 PM

It was pretty clear 20th Century Fox did not have much confidence that Mirrors—set to be released next Friday—would impress critics.


They had scheduled the press screening for Thursday at 8 pm, the kind of timing that effectively discourages reviews in weekly papers and puts daily critics under a no-thinking-allowed deadline. But it takes a very special kind of movie to get a studio to do this:

Dear Member of the Press: The screening of Mirrors, to which you were invited, has been cancelled per 20th Century Fox directives. A letter confirming this will be mailed shortly. We apologize for any inconvenience this may have caused. Thank you.

Damn! It's really bad! Now I want to see it even more.

747 to Hell in ’76 (1977)

posted by on August 8 at 3:59 PM

The Parallel Universe Film Guide is at once incredibly funny and dizzying in its depth and scope.

There are film titles, descriptions, quotes and trivia about hundreds of movies that don't exist, set up in a Wikipedia-style format. Most impressively, you can follow the fictional careers of the fictional actors and directors who made these fictional movies. Scott Salomon, for instance, directed three films in the late eighties/early nineties, including Commander in Chief...of Love.

Here's a list of movie titles randomly pulled from the Ns. Each of these titles links to a full movie page.

Nazis, Schmazis (1961)

Need Faded Actresses for Gothic Hijinks (1962)

Needle Dick (1932)

Needle Dick, You Motherfucking Fuck (1983)

Negro 'n' Nuns...Awww (1963)

Neurotic Sisters a' Plenty (1986)

News at Six, Ethical Dilemma at Eleven (1987) (updated!)

New York Gritty (1971)

Next of Mannequin (1929)

And further down the list are my favorites:

Nobody Doesn't Like ESP (1976)

No Ifs, Ands, or Robots (1973)

No Legs, No Problem (1950)

I can already tell that I'm going to spend hours on this fucking website.

Not That I Endorse Movie-Watching While at Work...

posted by on August 8 at 1:11 PM

...but The Taking of Pelham One Two Three is available for viewing over at Hulu. I just saw it for the first time a few months ago, and it's a really fine thriller that makes most of the heist movies made in the last few years—with their nanosecond-perfect timing and high-tech gadgetry—look stupid. Walter Matthau is great as the frumpy hand of the law, and the ending is one of my all-time favorite movie endings.


Unfortunately, Pelham is currently being remade by Tony Scott (boo!) Denzel Washington (yay!) and John Travolta (boo! unless he's inexplicably wearing the fat lady suit he wore in Hairspray, in which case double-yay!). I fully expect it to be one of those annoying modern heist movies described above. I do think that Denzel Washington is one of the few prettyboy mega-actors who could conceivably fill Matthau's shoes, though.

This Weekend at the Movies

posted by on August 8 at 12:21 PM

These movies have been open for days:

Sorry, I neglected to do This Wednesday at the Movies, but here are the movies your cool friends have already seen:

Pineapple Express

Pineapple Express. Andrew Wright: "Aping the feel of '80s action-comedies, Seth Rogen and Even Goldberg's script follows an amiable process server (Rogen) and his pot dealer (James Franco), who are on the bleary-eyed run after witnessing a murder. Director David Gordon Green captures the appropriate air of bong ennui, but proves far less capable of accommodating the shifts to action." I interviewed Green earlier this year for Snow Angels, which isn't the best movie ever, though it does costar Olivia Thirlby. Have you guys seen George Washington, though? That is a fantastic film.

Speaking of fantastic films (kidding!), Wednesday also saw the release of The Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants 2. Me: "The plot of this movie remains a fantasy whipped up for the sole and express pleasure of 16-year-old girls. If the audible weeping and gasps of the preview audience I watched it with are any indication, the filmmakers have their demographic down."

And then there's Bottle Shock, the gagworthy closing night movie at SIFF this year. I still can't stand it: "Never mind the 'true story' that inspired it: Bottle Shock is a jingoistic light drama, so crude and clueless it flirts with outright racism."

Opening tonight:

Did you know that Zhang Yimou (Raise the Red Lantern, Hero) is directing the opening and closing night ceremonies for the Beijing Olympics? The New York Times has a front-page story about his transition from censor-ducking provocateur to state-endorsed director of nostalgic martial arts epics. The ceremony will be broadcast (delayed, obviously) on NBC starting at 7:30 pm tonight--or you can try to chase down one of the YouTube clips that are constantly being posted and taken down.

Man on Wire

If you're looking for a slightly less ethically complicated emotional high, the best movie opening this week is Man on Wire, a riveting account of a tightrope walk between the Twin Towers. Me: "In August of 1974, a redheaded Frenchman with the perfectly precious nom de cirque Philippe Petit (along with a crew of coconspirators) sneaked into the newly erected World Trade Center, smuggled cables and equipment up to the unoccupied top floors, strung a tightrope from the roof of one tower to its twin in the dead of night, and then walked and knelt and saluted and lay supine between them for the better part of a morning hour. The feat sounds impressive on paper, but until you see this documentary, you won't realize how hushed and beautiful the performance was, how completely it dazzled passersby and police."

Or is the best movie Boy A? Brendan and I will have to fight it out. Brendan Kiley: "Boy A has an exquisitely melancholy mood, a dark brooding and a bruised sweetness. If it sounds like a drag, that's because it is—but it's a pleasant, aching drag."

Also worth your time: Baghead, from Jay and Mark Duplass. Andrew Wright: "The combination of horror and emo-speak may sound precious, but it works like a champion here, with each element somehow diffusing and enriching the other: After the first few genuine scares, whenever the handheld camera drunkenly moves towards a window during the middle of a fumbling conversation it's difficult not to shudder, on levels both ironic and otherwise. Those expecting a gorefest will most likely walk away perplexed, but viewers able to latch onto its wobbly wavelength will have a blast."

Probably not worth your time: Elegy, an adaptation of Philip Roth's The Dying Animal. Me: "In contrast to the book, which is told in the first person and explicitly concerns the impact of the sexual revolution on an essentially conservative man born in 1930, the film does very little to get inside the head of its protagonist. We're left to wonder, uncomfortably, whether Consuela is indeed as one-dimensional as she seems, or if the professor is pressing her flat with the iron of his enormous ego. There's no point dwelling on the problem. Between the ugly digital photography, the repellent characters, and the free-floating misogyny, Elegy is an unpleasant film." I have a lot more to say about it in this Slog post, below.

And definitely not worth your time: Hell Ride. Paul Constant: "As Pistolero fights the villainous 666 motorcycle gang in an incomprehensible plot that involves—oh, God, no—a peyote trip, he and his gang drop wince-inducing puns and rhymes and alliteration with all the self-importance of a drunken poetry slam. It's painful to watch the vanity and brain-dead 'artistic' flourishes." Dennis Hopper is, if you haven't noticed, in a frightening number of movies out in theaters this week: Swing Vote, Elegy, and this. Enough already.

As if that weren't enough to keep you busy, I've got a bunch of littler releases to tell you about, too. There's the unoriginal but juicy body-image doc America the Beautiful at the Uptown; a clumsy but fascinating Full Battle Rattle, about training Iraq war soldiers in the Mojave Desert at Northwest Film Forum; a lovely documentary about Tintin at NWFF next Thursday; and the live-action RPG doc Monster Camp and the homeless soccer league doc Kicking It at Grand Illusion. In repertory options: A Jean Renoir series kicks off with Boudu Saved from Drowning at Seattle Art Museum; a Jean-Luc Godard series at SIFF Cinema begins with a week of Contempt; Orson Welles's celebration of all plots Falstaff (with Falstaff played, naturally, by Welles himself), Chimes at Midnight, is at NWFF through Sunday; the lovely 1993 adapation The Secret Garden is the kid's movie at SIFF Cinema tomorrow; and Akira Kurosawa's Ikiru is the Metro Classic (category: Axis) next Wednesday. Plus: Last week's Varsity calendar show Chris & Don is extending through this week.

Use us for all your movie times needs.

Thursday, August 7, 2008

"Elegy" & the Female Film Critic

posted by on August 7 at 4:17 PM

It shouldn't come as a surprise that there are many, many more male film critics than there are female film critics. Pauline Kael aside, film criticism has always been dominated by men, perhaps in part because amateur film criticism—standing around after a movie and yakking about it—usually descends into a foolish exercise in oneupsmanship in which blowhards compete to see who's committed how much trivia to memory. (Once, in an example of this behavior I find particularly ripe, I found myself arguing with three other critics and programmers about who loved Claire Denis the most. Gross.)

Variety blogger Anne Thompson frequently expresses concern that the underrepresentation of women in film sections of major newspapers might translate into unsympathetic reviews of films aimed at women audiences. She cites 27 Dresses and Mamma Mia!—both reviewed, as it happens, by female critics here at The Stranger, though I'm not certain these reviews were any more sympathetic to what Thompson calls "the female POV" as they would have been otherwise. Actually, though, the fact that I assigned one to myself and another to Lindy West would seem to indicate otherwise.


The movies that really demand a "female POV" are not, in my opinion, romantic comedies. They are movies like Isabel Coixet's Elegy—an adaptation, by a male screenwriter and female (Catalan, as it happens) director, of a Philip Roth novella with a unrepentantly misogynistic narrator whose point of view is nonetheless thoroughly contextualized. I scanned the reviews of the film collected by GreenCine Daily yesterday (where it is, hilariously, paired with Woody Allen's Vicky Cristina Barcelona, another movie that demands at least cursory discussion of gender, as well as national stereotypes), and I was dismayed to see that the critics—up to that point—were all men: David Edelstein, David Denby, Ed Gonzalez, Glenn Kelly, and Alonso Duralde. The reviews are largely positive, and none makes much effort to deal with the gender issues that pervade the film and its source material. I crossed my fingers that Manohla Dargis would be reviewing it for the New York Times. My wish was granted, and she did a bang-up job:

The problem with “Elegy” has nothing to do with faithfulness and everything to do with interpretation. The film is an overly polite take on a spiky, claustrophobic, insistently impolite novel, but this wouldn’t be such an issue if [director Isabel] Coixet had the cinematic language that could withstand, equal, obliterate or transcend the book’s blunt force, its beautiful sentences, flashes of genius and spleen. Ms. Coixet has a fine eye and she has created a visual scheme — an attractively dark palette, discreetly hovering camera movements and smooth edits — that makes everything look very nice indeed (especially the radiant if miscast Ms. Cruz). There’s not a hair out of place here or an emotion. It’s as if Ms. Coixet had tried to quiet the howls of a dying animal.

It’s a wonder that filmmakers continue to adapt Mr. Roth’s work to the screen, which is largely inhospitable to tough, prickly and unappetizing ideas and characters, especially in America. It seems instructive that no great director has tackled this great writer, whether out of fear or shrewdness. Certainly it’s understandable that a female filmmaker would have a go at Mr. Roth, though “The Dying Animal,” with its unloving encounters, maddening woman troubles and occasional gynecological descriptions, really cries out for a reckless voluptuary like Catherine Breillat, who wouldn’t go all soft. She could smack all that male contempt around, but also give it its honest due. She would keep the novel’s furious bite.

Thank god. My review is here. I warn you: I complain about the absence of menstrual blood. This was my clumsy way of getting at exactly what Dargis describes above. Catherine Breillat, fuck yeah: She would do the menstrual blood. After all, she's already made tampon tea.

Other female film critics who have reviewed or will review Elegy include Ella Taylor and Moira McDonald.

Update, Fri am: McDonald saw Elegy with me, but it looks like the review went to John Hartl instead. I wouldn't say Hartl is the most myopic of male critics, but he doesn't address the protagonist's hostility toward women at all. Worse still is William Arnold at the PI, who breezes past the misogyny and then comes out with this wonder of a paragraph:

As we watch this lothario spurned, transformed into a jealous stalker and put on the road to a personal epiphany, the miracle of the movie is Kingsley's performance, which manages to find David's humanity and actually makes us identify with and root for him. It's quite a feat.

I'm sorry, I just don't think you're supposed to "root for" David Kepesh. And that personal epiphany? (Minor spoiler.) It comes when David realizes he can really truly love a woman with only one boob. Another way of seeing it is that the perfect body he worships has to be damaged—infected, cut up, maimed—before he can relate to the person. It isn't a pretty moment. (And it doesn't exist as such in the novella, which is more open-ended.) I have a hard time endorsing this notion that Ben Kingsley deserves an Oscar for a performance in which he buries all the noxious things about his character and makes us "root for him." That's whitewashing, not a tour de force.

Letter of the Day

posted by on August 7 at 11:04 AM

Oh, we get letters. This is going to be a long one, so get your scrolling fingers ready and prepare your bitchy comments about why I didn't put this after the jump. Everything below is (sic), but emphasis is mine:

Thursday, August 7, 2008 Dear Ms Wagner/Mr. Savage:

We read with great interest this recent film nutice in your aptly named publication The Stranger, insofar as The Stranger is a greater degree of The Strange. We define "nutice" as a message alerting us to any nuts possibly being involved in a given event, either by its content or its drafting:

THE REFLECTING POOL A group of 9/11 conspiracy nuts presents this "investigative drama" about a reporter. It' s heartening to see 9/11 "Truth" movement (sic) is finally giving up on the inconveniently truth-oriented documentary format. Screened with A Tribute to Fresh Kills, a seven-minute "poetry video" about 9/11. Trinity United Methodist Church Gymnasium, Fri. August 8 at 7 PM.

Although we are not amused that you even posted this nutice, we are presently acting as hiring consultants for the Bush White House and Hannity & Combs, as well as The O'Reilly Report on Faux News.

We are looking for hotshot twenty- and thirty-somethings with advanced degrees and/or experience in the new field of jeernalism, which reflects the new unprofessional standards which we in thecorporate community heartily applaud, and from which we manifestoly benefit. We define jeernalism as the current corporate media practice of substituting the reporting of boring information with ill-informed opinion repeatedly, crudely and incivilly expressed without proper investigation or proofreading, of which the above-cited nutice is a nutable example.

We would therefore appreciate your providing us with contact information of the above-cited author and editor, so that we might cite them as well. We would like to thank you in advance for this unprofessional courtesy.

We would also like to point out in a hopefully helpful way that, with the above-cited nutice, you have left yourself open not only to lawsuits for slander, but worse, to someone pointing out the obvious: that just as you have urged the 9/11 Truth movement to revert to just portraying fiction, you as an alleged alternative newspaper might be urged to revert to just reporting fact.

Yours all too truly,

Prisis Wright-CEO

I don't have much to offer by way of analysis except to say that I gave 9/11 Truth groups more of a chance to impress me than just about anybody in the mainstream media. After the piece came out (and was reprinted in the UTNE Reader), people bashed me left and right for being too easy on Truth groups, but I felt that the point in my article—that they developed a huge political organization out of virtually nothing in just a few years—was pertinent. They could have been a major force in the 2008 election, and instead they put all their money toward buying a fucking blimp for Ron Paul.

I'm fucking done with 9/11 Truth groups and their stupid misspelled e-mails and their dumb "confrontation" videos. I've read your books and seen your movies and you have fuck-all. Hundreds of people have written rational, compassionate arguments against your stupid theories (hell, get Jonathan Golob drunk and ask him about Building 7 and he'll go on a tear that's alternately hilarious and enlightening) and you don't buy any of it because you're not about reason, you're about being the heroes of the stupid fucking conspiracy movies in your fucking heads. Talk to me when you come back to reality and we can get some shit done. I won't hold my breath waiting for that to happen.

Tuesday, August 5, 2008

Swingset Vote

posted by on August 5 at 3:45 PM


I just got this email from someone who hated Swing Vote because its fictional Child Protective Services didn't do the right thing, and Dan Savage is on my case because he wants to rip Kevin Costner's head off...

So I'm curious. Sure, Roger Ebert and Manohla Dargis endorse it (I agree with Ebert on the sacrificed scoop thing; I strongly disagree with Dargis about the mom scene, assuming that was an objection), but did any of you Slog readers—political party cynics that you are—kinda sorta appreciate Swing Vote? Aren't the New Mexico locations nice? Isn't the acting surprisingly decent?

Or am I just a total sucker for a movie about doing your civic duty?

Swing Vote

In other vague and possibly pointless questions, what was that '30s movie that was at the Grand Illusion a few years ago where all the curmudgeonly frontiersmen sing "America the Beautiful"—or some other patriotic song?—in a... schoolhouse or something? (Josh Feit? Did you see that with me?) It's been driving completely me nuts because I—clearly—can't remember a thing about it.

Monday, August 4, 2008

Faith New to The X-Files?

posted by on August 4 at 5:10 PM

I just want to attempt to shut down this half-baked theory right now. The X-Files has always highly concerned with faith, specifically Catholicism. The Irish-Catholic Scully wore a cross in the very first episode—just a little visual tweak to the formula of Mulder as believer and Scully as skeptic. (Which is itself a reversal of the formula of men as rational and women as intuitive.) Nearly every time thereafter that Scully believed some freakish thing and Mulder (presumably a secular Jew) held back, religion or the notion of life after death was involved. I'm thinking of Beyond the Sea, Revelations, Elegy, All Souls (just look at those titles!). Meanwhile, Pentecostal and evangelical Christianity (Miracle Man, Signs and Wonders) and pseudo-Mormonism (Roadrunners, which is set in Utah) are treated with extreme suspicion. Judaism got off OK, as I recall (Kaddish). But any time some random character was supposed to be religious but not fanatical, the writers made him or her Catholic.


So it wasn't exactly a surprise that the new movie puts Scully in a Catholic hospital or uses a scary priest as the source of dubious leads. The show did that sort of thing all the time.

(Via Andrew Sullivan.)