Monday, October 01, 2012

September movies

September was all about Paul Thomas Anderson's The Master in 70mm at Cinerama Dome. I'm kind of torn on it. While it is incredibly conceived and executed, it is also so completely isolated and stand-offish, that it is quite difficult to form a connection to it. I really admire it though. It is so completely outside the realm of the endless onslaught of mainstream American cinema these days [you know, ridiculous films about super heroes, sequels and other assorted CGI laden attempts at blockbusters]. The Master flies in the face of every single one of those conventions and its ambition should be applauded and rewarded. I am going to see it a second time before it leaves the theatres to give it some more thought.

Men at Work---2006---iran   **1/2
Bansai---2011---chile   ***1/2
L'Iceberg---2005---france   ****
The Imposter---2012---england   ***1/2
Robot and Frank---2012---usa   ****
The Fairy---2011---france   ***1/2
Hey, Boo---2011---usa   ***
The Soloist---2009---usa   **
Contagion---2011---usa   ***
Bottle Shock---2008---usa   ***
The Outsider: James Toback---2003---usa   **
The Amazing Spider-Man---2012---usa   **
Darling Companion---2012---usa   **
The Master---2012---usa    ****
We Bought A Zoo---2011---usa   **1/2
Sweet Revenge---1998---england   ***
Alps---2012---Greece   ***1/2
Little Miss Marker---1980---usa   *1/2

Wednesday, September 26, 2012


***If you are reading this post via e-mail, the imbedded video in this post might not work with your particular e-mail account. Click on the post title and you will be taken directly to CineRobot to view this wonderfully curated clip.***

Sunday, September 23, 2012

I Heart Powers Boothe

On a recent post I mentioned watching in 1980 the TV movie Guyana Tragedy that starred Powers Boothe as Jim Jones, leader of the People's Temple. While looking at Boothe's film career, I realized just how much I have loved watching this intense actor over the years. Here's some thoughts on Boothe on my favorite roles of his, including a few clips so you can get just a reminder of the man's on-screen charisma.

Some actors can be described by the simple phrase to describe their acting style: bad-ass. Make no mistake about it, Boothe is a bonafide American bad-ass on the screen. When you see the name Powers Boothe in the opening credits, you know you are about to get a role delivered with no-holds barred conviction and it's going to be heavy, tense and full of so much testosterone that you'll want to leave the theatre, eat a rare steak, throw down shots of illegal moonshine and then punch the first person you see in the face. You'll be tempted to repeatedly kick them whilst they are on the ground until your foot is covered in blood and bone, these are the kinds of thoughts that might go through your mind if you watch too many Powers Boothe movies in a, be careful when delving into the world of Boothe!

The first time I saw Boothe was the aforementioned Guyana Tragedy and he unleashes an absolutely chilling portrayal of the cult leader that led 913 people [including 271 children] to the grave in 1978. Boothe won an Emmy for lead performance that year and it's much deserved. When I watched this in April of 1980, I sat riveted in our house as I watched Jones darkly come to life in front of my eyes. Boothe was mesmerizing in this role and here's a clip of him urging his followers to give up their lives for their movement.

A little over a year later, in the fall of 1981, my dad took me to see the R-rated action/thriller Southern Comfort and I quickly realized, "Hey, there's that guy who played Jim Jones last year." I loved Southern Comfort as a twelve year old [and still do, here's a link to a post I did back in 2008] as it is the story about a group of National Guardsman trying to survive being killed by Cajuns in unfriendly swampland. For a twelve year old in 1981--pure awesomeness. Southern Comfort helped create a love of the director Walter Hill and also fellow cast members Fred Ward and Keith Carradine. I've written "I Heart" posts about both of those guys, go here and here to read them. To this day, I get excited about anything those three people are involved in. Southern Comfort is just a full-on fun movie with violence, suspense, a taught-as-a-wire script and tough characters trying to make it out of this situation alive.

Other films Boothe was in during the 1980s that I liked were Red Dawn [1984], The Emerald Forest [1985] and Extreme Prejudice, another Hill directed picture from 1987. The 1990s were a little spotty as Boothe did more character work, but there was Tombstone [1993], Nixon [1995] and U Turn [1997] to keep me happy. The highlight for the 2000s was his three season stint on HBO's Deadwood playing, what else, a tough guy scheming to control the economic and social machinations of the 19th century frontier town. Although I've yet to see it, I'm excited to see Boothe in the recently aired feuding epic Hatfields & McCoys, where he featured a massive beard as one of the Hatfield clan.

Unfortunately, there's not a lot of clips of Boothe on You Tube and I couldn't find the scenes I was hoping to post, but here is one from Tombstone that shows just how economical Boothe is as an actor. He's not going to wow you with flashy, over-the-top acting, but he will nail the reserved, brooding, quietly maniacal all day long. Look what he does in this scene with just two words. Two words. An actor who eat up scenes would have to work extra-hard to top Boothe in how he controls this scene with those couple of words. His career is littered with these kinds of moments, unfortunately not preserved on You Tube evidently.

Here's Boothe in John Milius' mid-80s Cold War propaganda action film Red Dawn [which I love by the way] telling the "Wolverines" about how they found themselves living in the mountains of Colorado as freedom fighters against the Russkies. Speaking of Red Dawn, please don't go see the horrific remake that is soon to be released. Giving Hollywood your money for these shams against original filmmaking only encourages them. Plus, it doesn't have Powers Boothe in it, so why in the world would you want to waste your time when there's already a Red Dawn with him in it?

Friday, September 21, 2012

More on film v digital

I've written a few times on CineRobot about the troubling era we are living in regarding the future of film. Here's a link to a debate between the two chief film critics [will that have to change when there is no more film? What will we call people who review cinema related material? Movie critic just doesn't have the same ring to it as film critic.] of the New York Times, A.O. Scott and Manohla Dargis regarding the issue. I have to say, which is no surprise to regular readers, I side with Dargis on the issue. Go here to read their exchange.

The best thing about the article is that I learned that Paul Thomas Anderson's The Master was filmed in 70mm. Now, that's how to make a movie. Screw all this hand-held, edited on a laptop movie making!

Tuesday, September 18, 2012


A few nights ago I watched a very unique and quirky romantic comedy from Belgium/France called L'Iceberg. I was completely charmed and captivated by this sweet-hearted little film and feel the need to spread the gospel since it's one that I don't think a lot of people of heard of or had the chance to see. I watched it Netflix streamer, so it's available there if you get that. Back to the film.

What's kind of different about this film is that it was made by a trio of people. I've heard of directing duos, brothers directing and spouses teaming up to make a film, but I've never heard of three separate people writing, directing AND acting in multiple films together. Yet, that is what we have here as Dominique Abel, Fiona Gordon and Bruno Romy share those duties. L'Iceberg [2005] is the first film the trio have made together [Rumba, 2008; The Fairy, 2011] and I'm very eager to watch the other two as soon as I can as they appear just as relentlessly enchanting as L'Iceberg based on the trailers I've watched online.

In L'Iceberg, Gordon plays a woman who runs a fast food restaurant who is accidentally locked into the walk-in freezer one night and it changes her life. All of a sudden, she wants to shed the shackles of her married life of routine normalcy, the husband, the two kids. She craves anything cold. She finds herself hiding out in the walk-in freezer, sticking her head in her refrigerator and finally, abandoning the family to seek relief on a quest to make it to an actual iceberg to hang out on the ultimate cold object she can find.

One thing that makes L'Iceberg so different is there is very little dialogue. It's practically a silent movie. Evidently, this is a common pattern for Abel, Gordon and Romy, as all their films appear to be free of conversation. When there is talking, it's usually clipped, odd, humorous and stresses the blank-faced confusion of most of the characters as they stumble through life. There is also a level of physicality and awareness in human movement that also ties the film to the silent genre. Throughout the film, the lead characters engage in subtle and not-so-subtle bits of business with their bodies that is a direct connection to the by-gone era of silent filmmaking.

As I said at the start, I found L'Iceberg enchanting. It's not for everyone due to the lack of dialogue, but if you enjoy off-kilter comedies, you may want to check one [or all three!] of these films out by Abel, Gordon and Romy. I know I'm watching more of them soon as I may have just found a new group of filmmakers to discover and follow in the future. Not much in the way of trailers online, but check out the non-subtitled one below for a snippet of L'Iceberg's charms.

***If you are reading this post via e-mail, the imbedded video in this post might not work with your particular e-mail account. Click on the post title and you will be taken directly to CineRobot to view this wonderfully curated clip.***

Saturday, September 15, 2012

Split Image and my love of doomsday cults

Recently I wrote about about Poltergeist, a film I saw in 1982 that had a great affect on me. Split Image is also from 1982 but it did not have the same kind of subconscious impact on me after I watched it. In fact, I'd sort of forgotten I'd even seen this when I went to a late night screening of it at Cinefamily a few weeks ago. I was lured to the theatre by a couple of things: film about joining a cult, the fetching Karen Allen in the cast and a young, mustached James Woods as a de-programmer. When the film began, I suddenly realized that I'd seen the film sometime in 1983 on our satellite dish and that I not only remembered it, I also had really liked it when I saw it as a 14 year old.

Guess what? Nearly thirty years later and I still love Split Image! It's one of the films that the 1970s/1980s are notorious for and why those two decades are a treasure trove for lovers of cult cinema. Directed by the eclectic Ted Kotcheff [this man directed First Blood AND Weekend at Bernie's!] and starring Michael O'Keefe as an impressionable kid named "Danny" who gets sucked into a cult by a girl [since it's Karen Allen, I can't really blame him, I might be tempted into a cult by her and those freckles] and then gets completely brainwashed by Peter Fonda [now that's easy casting]. Soon after he hangs out a few hours at the compound, he's cut off his hair, has a new name ["Joshua", nice cult name], rejecting his parents and out scrounging for money and/or new members around town. Boy, was he an easy mark. Naturally Mom and Dad [Brian Dennehy/Elizabeth Ashley] aren't too keen on "Danny" [err, "Joshua"] giving up the suburban life so they hire a de-programmer [Woods] to get their son back.

Can I tell you how awesome Split Image is? Just watch the trailer above for 30 seconds that hint at the greatness. It's got everything you'd want in an early 1980s film about joining a cult: vague new-agey sermons, blissfully happy youths full of energy and positivity as they live on their compound, cultish ceremonies, mind control, an angry de-programmer played by an actor who is chewing scenery like its nobody's business [Woods, of course], kidnappings, intense scenes of breaking down the cult's grip on "Danny," a star-crossed romance between young people who are unfortunately in a cult, gymnastics. Yes, don't forget the gymnastics.  Split Image is as much pure 100% fun a serious drama about kids joining cults and then getting out of them could be.

James Woods in this era was becoming known for over-the-top, go-for-broke performances and that's the case for him in Split Image. For example, one year later Woods would star in David Cronenberg's Videodrome. He's so wired in this it's like he's either channeling a wild animal or so loaded on cocaine that the coil is too tight and I'm not sure where the acting begins and ends. Virtually every line that Woods utters in this is pure gold. Here's two video clips of Woods from Split Image that will give you a taste of what he was going for. Note in the first clip the unusual choice by Woods to take his sock off and fan his sweaty foot while engaging in a strange conversation about the greedy aspirations of youths. Second clip has Woods unleashing an infamous line about some of the food the cult members are forced to eat. Enjoy and thank me in the comments section.

When I saw Split Image in 1983, I'd already become kind of interested in cults thanks to growing up the cult hotbed decade that was the 1970s. I was already aware of the Unification Church [known as "Mooneys" to me], the Manson Family and the big one for me, the People's Temple. In 1978 when the People's Temple leader Jim Jones unleashed a mass-suicide [or forced suicide and/or full-on murder rampage] in the jungles of Jonestown, Guyana, 913 people died, including 270 children. This was obviously a big story and it was on every news station, paper and I remember sermons about it at my Southern Baptist church that I frequented. Then in 1980 I saw the CBS TV movie called Guyana Tragedy and watched transfixed as Powers Boothe delivered an epic performance as Jim Jones. 

My life long interest in cults was cemented on this night in April 1980 and it has not wavered since. Heaven's Gate, Branch Dividians, Scientologists, Raelism, Aum Shinrikyo, Solar Temple, Chen Tao, Children of God and on and on. I'm particularly interested in doomsday cults for whatever reason--give me something about a doomsday cult and I get a little bit giddy. I shouldn't confess this on a film blog but in 1993 I was kind of rooting for the Branch Davidians to hold-out agains the ATF during the deadly siege. I'm just weird like that for cults. 

Split Image doesn't have a doomsday element, but it is a mainstream Hollywood film about a young guy joining a cult and then getting de-programmed and in 1983, in the era before the internet, before we had information at our fingertips with stories and video, seeing something like this was not only very powerful, it was extremely entertaining. Nearly thirty years later, Split Image is still entertaining if not quite as powerful. How could it not be with James Woods chewing up dialogue, the lovely Karen Allen as a cult member and gymnastics. Yes, gymnastics. 

***If you are reading this post via e-mail, the imbedded videos in this post might not work with your particular e-mail account. Click on the post title and you will be taken directly to CineRobot to view these wonderfully curated clips!***

Thursday, September 13, 2012

The Master in 70mm!

Los Angeles has its good traits and its bad ones, but one of the positives is connected to movies. No surprise there. I don't want to brag but I already have my tickets bought for a weekend screening of the most anticipated film I will go to in 2012: The Master. Paul Thomas Anderson can do no wrong in my book. There Will Be Blood. Boogie Nights. Magnolia. Punch-Drunk Love. Hard Eight. In fact, I'd say he's the best American filmmaker alive. Scratch that. He's the best filmmaker in the world and his new movie looks flat-out amazing as it tells the story of a cult leader [Philip Seymour Hoffman] who preys on an angry GI [Joaquin Phoenix] post WW2. The Master's PR department is playing down the Scientology connection, but come on, we all know that this is a nod to L. Ron Hubbard and the early days of Scientology.

The best thing about seeing it this weekend before the movie goes to the rest of the country on the 14th? I will get to see it in glorious 70mm! It seems that Anderson shunned 35mm or digital and went old-school in the most epic format possible. Trust me, 70mm is the only way to watch a movie. Better yet, I am seeing it at a Cinerama Dome. I'm all goose pimply in anticipation and hope that any readers not getting the chance to see it in 70mm won't hate me too much.

Here's a snippet from the film to give you a taste of what to expect with The Master.

***If you are reading this post via e-mail, the imbedded video in this post might not work with your particular e-mail account. Click on the post title and you will be taken directly to CineRobot to view this wonderfully curated clip.***

Tuesday, September 11, 2012


Here's a clip of director Allison Anders [Gas Food Lodging, Grace of My Heart] talking about Lisztomania and why she likes it. I watched it at Cinefamily and Anders also talked before the screening and said much of what she says in the clip below. You can tell by the footage just how over the top this Ken Russell film is.

***If you are reading this post via e-mail, the imbedded video in this post might not work with your particular e-mail account. Click on the post title and you will be taken directly to CineRobot to view this wonderfully curated clip.***

Saturday, September 08, 2012


When you watch a film that you've seen many times, sometimes the memories come flooding back regarding when and where it was seen first. Such was the case a few weeks ago as I re-watched one of my favorite films from my childhood in the ghost-horror film Poltergeist. I've seen it numerous times, but this was the first time in a theatre since I saw it with my cousin Andi when it came out at a multiplex in Muskogee, Oklahoma. In 1982,  I was 13, she was 14 and many times during the film I felt the grip of her hand clawing into my arm as she was terrified at what was happening on the screen. While I wasn't hanging on for dear life, the movie unleashed a torrent of inner fear that I would hold to for years.

For example, there's no way I would ever stand for a television to be on and full of the static that plays a key role in the picture. Every time I was faced with such a situation, I could swear that I heard the disembodied voices of the lost souls that wandered around in a vortex of the unknown, waiting to come out of the vessel of mass communication the television set provided. Misplaced souls were not welcome where ever I was and its been that way since 1982.

It's been a few years since I've seen it, but I was struck by just how creepy this film still is. Some of the early CGI '82 effects are a little unfortunate, but the actual scenes that are designed to produce chills are marvelously effective thirty years after its release. On multiple occasions I felt goosebumps on my flesh during Poltergeist. Directed by Tobe Hooper [texas Chainsaw Massacre] and co-written by Steven Spielberg, it has his fingerprints all over it with its tale of suburban dread, humor, kids in peril and mainstream pop-culture references. There is a terrific balance between family, humor, paranoia and the scary bits that just flow nicely from one scene to the next throughout the film.

The ensemble cast, led by  Craig T. Nelson and JoBeth Williams, are all up to the task but the film is stolen by diminutive, the high-pitched voice of Zelda Rubenstein as the house's spiritual "cleaner". Rubenstein is funny, strong-willed and extremely believable as this person and adds to the level of creepiness due to her voice and personality. If you haven't seen Poltergeist in a while, check out the clip below with a four minute sequence dedicated to Rubenstein's performance. If you haven't seen the film, I would stop it at the 90 second mark so you don't have spoilers for what comes next. Rubenstein is gold in the movie and she's so wonderful, I would have liked a spin-off film of just her going around ghostbusting houses!

***If you are reading this post via e-mail, the imbedded video in this post might not work with your particular e-mail account. Click on the post title and you will be taken directly to CineRobot to view this wonderfully curated clip.***

Wednesday, September 05, 2012

Rise and Fall of the Clash + My Career as a Jerk

On back to back nights I recently watched two documentaries about punk rock bands--one from London and one from Los Angeles. While both were worth watching for fans of the bands or the style of music, both were kind of raw, low-budget and catered for the fans and will likely not be of interest outside of people who love documentaries about the many styles of rock music that exists. That's me. I will watch any documentary related to music, especially rock related material. I'm not particularly into hardcore punk rock, but I still find it interesting. Here's a couple of short reviews of docs about The Clash and Circle Jerks.

The Rise and Fall of the Clash. Between the two films, this was the more polished as it concentrates mostly on the "fall" of the iconic English band The Clash. There's a little bit about their rise to fame, but this is mostly about the in-band issues that fractured them and led to a series of highly embarrassing public debacles by what was left of the group when the album "Cut the Crap" came out in 1985. This album's reputation is summed up by one of the words in the title, you can guess which one. By that point in time, there was no Mick Jones as he'd been sacked by Joe Strummer and svengali manager Bernie Rhodes. Not a wise decision as Jones seems to be the only person with any taste in the group. Between the two leaders of the band and how they are portrayed in the film: Jones comes off very good in this, Strummer does not. Unfortunately, Strummer's no longer around to defend his actions but he comes off like a puppet doing whatever Rhodes tells him to do, while also making some disastrous creative decisions. The documentary actually has a sneaky sense of humor as the people who had been hired to replace Jones and drummer Topper Headon were outlandish or provided great soundbites [Nick Sheppard was at the screening and helped deliver a nice post-screening Q and A]. These people realized they were hired guns [at 150 pounds a week while Strummer and Rhodes became millionaires] and 25+ years later get to come clean about their brief roles in the group.

Circle Jerks: My Career as a Jerk. The best thing about the low-budget story of the Los Angeles hardcore band Circle Jerks is the treasure trove of footage of live shows of the band at various locations across the city. The concert footage documents a time, place and musical movement more than any of the band members can. And with Circle Jerks, there have been a lot of band members through the years! There's been singer Keith Morris [Black Flag's first singer] and guitarist Greg Hetson [who has also been in Bad Religion since the mid-80s] but other than that has been a rotating group of drummers and bassists since the band first started causing a ruckus in 1979. The film takes a straight ahead approach documenting every single line-up change that included folks such as Lucky Lehrer, Earl Liberty, Chuck Biscuits, Flea and Zander Schloss over the years. Even more so than The Clash doc, My Career as a Jerk is directed for the fans, as it comes off kind of repetitive and is full of long live performances that are raw, angry and blistering. Say what you want about Circle Jerks, some of their early gigs are intense and raging testosterone and the often times grainy, VHS-esque quality of the footage perfectly captures the era. One piece of advice I have for singer Morris and his crazy long dreadlocks: cut them off! You are too old and much too white to have hair like that.

A side element to this screening was the foul behavior of two older audience members with shaved heads who seemed to be channeling their obnoxious early 1980s teenage personalities by loudly talking, yelling "Oi" over and over, hollering song lyrics and making comments to the people talking in the film as if they were in the room with them and not a crowded theatre. Finally, after about 20 minutes of this and a couple of warnings, they were asked to exit the theatre and they left to the same amount of noise they'd provided the entire screening. As they were led out, the majority of the theatre applauded.

Here's a clip of Circle Jerks doing "Wild in the Streets" at a club in Los Angeles in the early 1980s to give you a sense of the kind of punk rock music they played in their early days.

***If you are reading this post via e-mail, the imbedded videos in this post might not work with your particular e-mail account. Click on the post title and you will be taken directly to CineRobot to view these wonderfully curated clips.***

Sunday, September 02, 2012

August movies

I've been really, really lazy. And busy. Hence long layoff. I'll try to post some stuff in September to get back on the horse. I've added a new element to the monthly recaps--listed guest speakers who were at the screening. These are usually the director, actor or others connected to the film or who are fans of the movie and lead the Q and A. Los Angeles is a goldmine for guest speaker screenings!

My documentary binge continued with nine of the nineteen films I saw being documentaries. One reason for that is the sheer amount of "streamers" offered on Netflix. While I'm not completely sold on Netflix streamers due to lack of selection, they do have a lot of documentaries on offer.

Celeste and Jesse Forever---2012---usa   ***
Kumare---2012---usa   ***  [Vikram Gandhi, actor/director]
Searching for Sugar Man---2012---usa   ****
The Campaign---2012---usa   ***1/2
Split Image---1982---usa   ***1/2
In the Mood for Love---2000---hong kong   ****
Star Trek II: Wrath of Khan---1982---usa   *****! [Nicholas Meyer, director; Peyton Reed, director]
The Story of Wrestlemania---2011---usa   **
Lisztomania---1975---england   ***1/2 [Allison Anders, director]
I Am Legend---2007---usa   **
Night of the Living Dead---1968---usa   ****
Chasing Ghosts: Beyond the Arcade---2007---usa   **1/2
Poltergeist---1982---usa   ****1/2
William Burroughs: A Man Within---2010---usa   **1/2
Special When Lit: A Pinball Story---2009---usa   ***
Rise and Fall of the Clash--2012--england  *** [Nick Sheppard; Pearl Harbor, musicians]
Circle Jerks: My Career as a Jerk--2012--usa  **1/2 [Dave Markey, director; Lucky Lehrer, Greg Hetson, Earl Liberty--all musicians]
The Ambassador--2012--denmark  ***1/2    [Mads Brugger, actor/director]
Slovenian Girl---2009---slovenia   ***

Friday, August 03, 2012

July movies

The documentary binge continues with [eleven] titles in July. There's so many available for streaming via Netflix that it's hard to keep up with the choices. Highlight of the month had to be the Breaking Away screening at Cinefamily with Dennis Christopher talking before and after. I'd forgotten just how much I love that movie!

Goon--2011--canada   ***1/2
Herb and Dorothy--2008--usa   ****
Beasts of the Southern Wild--2012--usa   ****
I Ain't Scared of You--2010--usa   ***
Make Believe--2010--usa   ****
Chronicle--2011--usa   ***
The Pruitt-Igoe Myth---2011---usa   ****
Raising Arizona--1987--usa   *****!
Tabloid--2011--usa   ***1/2
Damsels in Distress--2012--usa   ***
Martha Marcy May Marlene--2011--usa   ***1/2
Sheba, Baby--1975--usa   **1/2
Gran Torino--2008--usa   ***1/2
The Do-Deco-Pentathlon--2012--usa   ***1/2
Zidane: A Twenty-First Century Portrait--2011--england   **
Bombay Beach--2011--usa  ***1/2
Marina Abromovic: The Artist is Present--2011--usa   ***1/2
Shut Up & Play the Hits--2012--usa   ***
Breaking Away--1979--usa   *****!
A Sunday in Hell--1976--denmark   ***
The Inventions of Dr. Nikomats--2011--denmark   ***1/2
Tuesday, After Christmas--2011--romania   ***1/2
Ruby Sparks--2012--usa ***
The Big Year--2011--usa  *

Sunday, July 29, 2012

The Del Mar

Here's a couple of photos of the lovely blue marquee of the Del Mar. Opened in 1939, it seated around 600 fine Los Angelinos before being shuttered as a movie theatre in the 1980s. It was vacant, used as a church, vacant, used as a photography studio and is currently a working recording studio. Don't hope for movies to return here, at some point the seats were taken out and concrete was poured in to level the flooring. Progress!

The Del Mar's marquee remains though and since it is pretty close to where I live, I'll likely be taking more photos of it--I didn't really like the way the light was reflecting off the marquee on the day I stopped to shoot it.

Friday, July 27, 2012

The Big Year

Tuesday, July 24, 2012

Make Believe

Sunday, July 22, 2012

Damsels In Distress

Friday, July 20, 2012


Wednesday, July 18, 2012

Sheba, Baby

Monday, July 16, 2012

The Do-Deca-Pentathlon

Thursday, July 12, 2012

Phase IV and its original ending

A few weeks ago I saw the 1974 Saul Bass science-fiction film Phase IV at Cinefamily. I love science-fiction and didn't think I had seen this movie about ants turning into a collective mass of killers, but early on I realized that I had seen this as a young kid and it had really freaked me out. I forgot the title, but I hadn't forgot a few of the scenes that were seared onto my delicate childhood imagination. I would have enjoyed just watching this lost movie from my youthful subconscious, but somehow the folks at Cinefamily found a long-rumored, barely seen ending of the movie that the studio had forced out of Saul Bass' sole directorial effort. Evidently, this sequence's existence has just been a rumor for a long time, but on this night, rumor became reality. 

So, after we watched the movie and took a break, we watched the intended ending and it was an absolute mindblower of a montage. It is a three or four minute sequence that is full-on 1970s tripped out weirdness that is proof of how criminally wrong the nitwits at Paramount were to not include as the ending of the movie. Maybe it wouldn't have been a flop had they included this ending? It is so good that Cinefamily immediately re-threaded the film print and the bulk of the audience watched it in silent reverence a second time! I wrote a short typewriter review of Phase IV after I saw it, but felt I should say a little more about it--hence this paragraph + the review below. News of this unearthing spread like wildfire to film geeks on the internet--google "original ending phase iv" for more articles about the screening. 

Tuesday, July 10, 2012

SJ reviews Beasts of the Southern Wild

SJ and I saw the new American film Beasts of the Southern Wild on July 4th and she liked it so much she wanted to write a typewriter review of it. It's been sweeping awards at various film festivals--Golden Camera at Cannes as well as winning best film at Los Angeles, Seattle and Sundance film festivals--and director Benh Zeitlin's imaginative and ambitious film is going to be much talked about throughout the awards season. Here's the poster and SJ's typewriter review of Beasts of the Southern Wild

Sunday, July 08, 2012

Herb & Dorothy

[didn't get to finish my typewriter review--here's the rest of what I wanted to write]...their devotion to the art and artists they supported is incredibly loyal and genuine.

Friday, July 06, 2012

Your Sister's Sister

Wednesday, July 04, 2012

June movies

June was a good month for movies. I started out in Seattle for eight films at SIFF which I wrote about in a post a few weeks ago. The rest of the month saw me really watching a lot of documentaries--ten for the month in total. SJ and I saw four films at the Los Angeles Film Festival [post soon with details on that] and I saw a group of good new releases [Killer Joe, Safety Not Guaranteed, Your Sister's Sister] and one disappointing new film [Prometheus]. Seeing Tootsie with a full house at the Orpheum with Dabney Coleman killing the pre-screening Q and A was another highlight of the month. Here's the full list:

Best Intentions---2011---romania   **
Coteau Rouge---2011---canada   ***
Earthbound---2011---ireland   ***
We Are Legion: The Story of the Hackivists---2012---usa   ****
Kryptonite!---2011---italy   ***1/2
The Mexican Suitcase---2012---usa   ***1/2
Romancing Into Thin Air---2011---hong kong   ***
Rent-A-Cat---2011---japan    ****
Tootsie---1982---usa    *****!
Big---1988---usa    ****
Prometheus---2012---usa   ***
Into the Wind---2010---usa   ***1/2
Risky Business---1983---usa   ***1/2
Page One: A Year Inside the New York Times---2011---usa   ***1/2
Killer Joe---2012---usa   ***1/2
A Band Called Death---2012---usa   ***1/2
The Iran Job---2012---usa   ***1/2
Safety Not Guaranteed---2012---usa   ****
Beauty Is Embarrassing---2012---usa   ****
Your Sister's Sister---2012---usa   ***1/2
Phase IV---1974---usa   ***1/2
I Knew It Was You---2009---usa   ***1/2
Card Subject to Change---2011---usa   **1/2
The People Vs. George Lucas---2010---usa   ***

Monday, June 25, 2012

Los Angeles

Downtown Los Angeles is a dreamland for movie palace lovers. There's the Million Dollar Theatre, the Palace, the Orpheum, the Los Angeles and the United Artists just to name a few. Rarely are films shown at them, but every summer the Los Angeles Conservancy schedules screenings. Thanks to the screenings, the theatres can be experienced for the reason they were created: watching movies. I'd been inside the Million Dollar Theatre and the Orpheum, but the Los Angeles I'd only admired from the street as I looked up lovingly at its bright red marquee.

Recently, SJ and I got to go inside the theatre [with over a thousand others] to see the 1973 film Paper Moon. What a jewell! I was kind of awestruck by this ornate, painfully beautiful structure. If you even attempt to tell me we've progressed as a culture regarding the way we watch movies since the Los Angeles was built in 1931, I might be tempted to slap you across the face and tell you never to talk to me again! Now we have multiplexes or boxed rooms that are indistinguishable from one another, then they had places like the Los Angeles. The Los Angeles has all the bells and whistles for the era, including an actual ball room below the theatre! Check out the images below and make yourself sad that you are forced to watch movies in the sterile confines movie theatres have devolved into.

Friday, June 22, 2012

Seattle International Film Festival

A few weeks ago I flew up to Seattle to spend four days watching movies, seeing friends, eating at favorite restaurants and getting away from Los Angeles. I hadn't left Los Angeles county since moving here last October and I was more than ready for that dreary Pacific Northwest weather. I am already a bit sick of the uninterrupted bright sunlight that penetrates the hazy Los Angeles cityscape day after day. Seattle was a perfect four day respite for that. Don't believe the photo on the left with blue skies and clouds, that was an brief patch of blue during my visit. Here's a rundown of the films I saw--eight of them.

Day One. I started off with a dud in the 2011 Romanian drama Best Intentions. I love seeing films from this part of the world and there's been kind of a surge in great films from young directors coming out of Romania, but this confused movie isn't one of them. Shot with a gimmicky P.O.V. style that comes and goes throughout the film which I loathed, Best Intentions had little to it that makes it worth recommending. My second and third films, while kind of flawed and not world beaters, were at least pleasantly entertaining compared to Best Intentions. Coteau Rouge, a Canadian film set in a Montreal suburb, is uneven but has enough festival styled charm to warrant a viewing. These kinds of low-reaching comedy/dramas from another country seem all over the schedule every time I've gone to SIFF over the years. Last on the schedule was Earthbound, an Irish sci-fi romantic comedy that veered close to being too cute for its own good. The nice ensemble cast, led by an adorable Jenn Murray, saves the day for this one.

Day Two. I love anything to do with computer hackers, so when I saw We Are Legion on the schedule, I snapped up a ticket as fast as my fingers could type on the keyboard. Telling the story of the mostly leaderless Anonymous hacker community, We Are Legion is an entertaining documentary romp through the world of hackers fighting for good and evil [some might say illegal]. Or, they are just getting their lulz. I love reading or watching this kind of techno-mayhem, so this one was right in the sweet-spot. Kryptonite!, an Italian comedy/drama, had an absolutely knock-it-out-of-the-park first 15 minutes, but it couldn't maintain that level. It's still a fun look at Naples in the 1970s as a young boy comes of age surrounded by a family of eccentrics. I ended the day with another documentary, The Mexican Suitcase is about the Spanish Civil War and the discovery of a lost suitcase in Mexico City that contained thousands of negatives from the war by famed photographers Robert Capa, Gerda Taro and David "Chim" Seymour. I actually saw an exhibit with these images at International Center of Photography when I was last in New York, so I found this documentary fascinating. It's not only about the civil war, but the dangerous war photography that these three photographers helped break ground regarding the art form.

Day Three. Johnny To is a veteran Hong Kong filmmaker who specializes in tightly plotted crime films and shoot-em-ups, Romancing in Thin Air is a sort of spotty departure for him that has him taking on the romantic drama genre. Full of all the usual emotional over-the-top shenanigans you expect in a Hong Kong film, there's no way you'd ever guess the man behind the lens of this one is bad-ass Johnny To. Glad to see him branch out, but I prefer To's crime films to this one. My last film of the festival was also my favorite, the oddball and wonderfully titled Rent-A-Cat. This Japanese film is a cat lover's dream movie that had the audience eliciting multiple "ahs" of cuteness on the screen when there was some sort of cute feline action. Sleepy cats in baskets? I'm more of a dog person, but even I had multiple goofy grins on my face at some of the cat-related shots. The story involves a lonely single woman who has a lot of cats. She rents them out to emotionally needy people to help them in various ways and then we follow her relationship with these cat-renters. Rent-A-Cat is a quirky charmer, written and directed by Naoki Ogigami, and I'm hoping to catch some of her other films.

Sunday, June 17, 2012

Safety Not Guaranteed

Tuesday, June 12, 2012

May movies

Saw more films this month, although there were a bunch of films I'm not listing due to Slumber Party 4 secrecy issues. I'm sure there was a CineRobot first in May--three scores of five in a row when I saw The Lady Eve, West Side Story [in 70mm!] and The Straight Story [also on film in a theatre] back-to-back-to-back. I also got to see Paper Moon at the ornate and beautiful Los Angeles in downtown [there's a ballroom below the theatre!] and was charmed and entertained by the raconteur Peter Bogdanovich for a blissful thirty minutes.

Roadie---2011---usa   **1/2
The Sound of My Voice---2012---usa   **1/2
Monsieur Lazhar---2012---canada   ***1/2
Vigilante---1983---usa   ***
Submarine---2011---england   ***1/2
Urbanized---2011---usa   ***1/2
Bernie---2012---usa   ***1/2
Identity Card---2011---czech republic   ***1/2
Matchmaking Mayor---2011---czech republic   ***1/2
Long Live the Family---2011---czech republic   ***
Moonrise Kingdom---2012---usa    ****
The Lady Eve---1941---usa    *****!
West Side Story---1961---usa   *****!
The Straight Story---1999---usa    *****!
Friday Foster---1975---usa   ***
Damn! Is the Price of Fame too Damn High?---2011---usa   **1/2
The Dictator---2012---usa   ***
Paper Moon---1973---usa   ****

Sunday, June 10, 2012

Moonrise on Wes Anderson by Stephanie Huettner

Believe it or not, it’s been sixteen years since Wes Anderson released his first theatrical film. Bottle Rocket announced him to a limited indie audience as a new voice in cinema and won him the Best New Filmmaker award at the MTV Movie Awards. As silly as a distinction from the network that is currently airing “Jersey Shore” may sound now, MTV used to be pretty good at predicting new filmmaking talent. Fellow winners of this award include Christopher Nolan, Spike Jonze, and Sofia Coppola. His most recent film, Moonrise Kingdom recently premiered as the Opening Night Film at the 2012 Cannes Film Festival.

The main criticism I hear of Anderson’s work is that it is repetitive, mostly in style. This critique is, to me, actually a compliment of sorts. A young writer/director who has his own self-possessed style immediately out of the gate is the something that makes every wannabe director in film school seethe with envy. The lingering static shots, the almost universal asocial behavior of characters, the picture-perfect set pieces; it just wouldn’t be a Wes Anderson movie without these things. In truth, the actual content of the films differs wildly from one to the next; a buddy road movie, a tale of teen angst, a family drama, a deep sea diving adventure, an international travelog with estranged brothers, a groundbreaking animated children’s film, and now, a coming-of-age story about first love. Throughout all of these can be found a menagerie of strange but endearing social misfits.

Moonrise Kingdom, for whatever reason, has thus far been universally successful with both critics and audiences, receiving rave reviews and breaking box office records for limited release films. The reasons for this upsurge in popularity for Anderson are a mystery to me. Perhaps there’s a successful Twitter campaign that I’ve been missing. In any case, it’s possible that Anderson will have his most financially successful film since his third effort, The Royal Tenenbaums. This isn’t to say that I didn’t like Moonrise Kingdom, which I most definitely did. However, I’ve liked all of his films and that hasn’t made everyone go see them. Perhaps it’s the sheer cuteness of Moonrise Kingdom’s plot that has theater-goers flocking to it. Two young kids in love, surrounded by a troupe of wilderness scouts, and Edward Norton uttering lines like “Jiminy Crickets.” Yes, cute it most certainly is. Don’t think old Wes has gone soft, though. There’s still the same dry wit and pregnant comedic pauses which fall flat with some and send others into torrents of giggles. I experienced this firsthand when my mom, brother, cousin, aunt, and I went to see The Life Aquatic with Steve Zissou. My brother, cousin, and I were in fits of laughter the whole time, while our parents insisted that it had some mildly amusing moments at best. Their lackluster response didn’t faze us one bit. We got it, and that’s all that mattered.

One thing none of Anderson’s films has failed to is delight me upon repeated viewings. Zissou has gotten better and better in my personal esteem, I once watched Rushmore several times on a loop in one day, and The Royal Tenenbaums went from my favorite movie of that year to one of my favorite movies of the decade. “His movies are so full. They aren’t just made with two turnarounds to get us to act 2 and act 3. He gives us fully rewatchable stories where no matter how many times you watch them you can still be surprised.” This came from my I Luv Video coworker, Steve Quinlan, while we watched our third Anderson film in a row at work. Steve and I see pretty much eye-to-eye where comedies are concerned, and the above reasoning is why. Most comedies are compiled of Big Funny Moments, often built around otherwise pedestrian dialogue and halfway developed characters. Even comedies that I enjoy immensely upon first or second viewing rarely pull many satisfying laughs from me after that. Anderson’s comedies, I think of them all as comedies among other things, are built instead upon hundreds of Little Funny Moments with no dead space in between.

What truly sets all of Anderson’s work apart from the hordes of people trying to master the art of twee is an unshakable emotional core. There are many who think the opposite is true, finding his work to be all about the surface image. While the visuals certainly play a huge role in all of the movies, as mentioned before, I’ve never left one without feeling moved in some way. For all of his bastardly behavior, Royal Tenenbaum loves the hell out of his family. In spite of his aloofness, Steve Zissou is deeply affected by everything going on around him. And, if nothing else, I find the drowning scene in The Darjeeling Limited unfailingly stirring every time. Really, folks, if you can sit through the end of Life Aquatic with the sweet strains of Sigur Ros playing over visions of a jaguar shark swimming over a miniature yellow  Zissou submersible without feeling the slightest swelling of emotion, well then we are just wired differently.

I don’t know if I’ll ever be able to change anyone’s mind about Anderson who doesn’t like him, but I suppose that’s never really mattered to me. I get it, and that’s all that matters.

Sunday, June 03, 2012


Friday, June 01, 2012

Moonrise Kingdom