Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Oscar journal

It's that time of the year when I force myself to watch the entire Oscar telecast and then complain while being irritated for most of the three hour + running time. I just re-read last year's telecast and I couldn't stop harping on the woeful hosting job by Anne "I'm Perky!" Hathaway and James "This Sucks" Franco. While I'm nowhere close to being excited in a re-treaded Billy Crystal as host, at least it isn't those two nitwits. Go here for the recap if you'd like to read it again. And now, here's the 2012 Oscar journal.

5.30pm [western time zone]: If you would have told me as I watched the Oscar telecast in 2011 that I'd be living a few miles from where the awards take place, I would have said you were insane. Yet, here I am in Los Angeles.

5.36: He might get older, producers may change, but the omnipresent Billy Crystal opening with himself being placed into a bunch of films will never, ever change. Way to keep it predictable Billy.

5.41: Please stop singing Billy. Nine ditties that had a success to failure ratio of 1-8 [Hugo being the lone good one].

5.44: Cinematography is the first award? Followed by art direction? That ought to get folks tweeting up a storm in excitement. Two awards, two wins for Hugo, my top film in 2011 by the way.

6.01: Dang, that was a dull first 30 minutes. Lifeless.

6.08: A Separation wins for best foreign language film. Confession: I slept off and on all the way through it when I saw it in London. I did have jet lag to blame since I got off the plane only a few hours earlier. Never go see a talk-heavy film from Iran as soon as you fly halfway across the world and haven't slept in 24 hours.

6.22: Focus group best thing of the night, but I'm always a sucker for Christopher Guest and company. Do they have a new film coming out?

6.40: Cirque du Soleil--pretty freaking amazing sayeth SJ.

6.48: Man I wish Chris Rock was the host and/or handing out EVERY single award!

6.56: Emma Stone: adorable. Is it just me?

7.05: Christopher Plummer: adorable too.

7.29: Best adapted screenplay to The Descendants? What a joke! Sorry, but turning Moneyball or Hugo into a screenplay was thousands times harder, and better. First time I'm ticked off all night.

8.15: Angry at the best adapted screenplay award, I realize I haven't written anything down in over 45 minutes. Oops.

8.31: Over and done. Ho-hum telecast to say the least. At least we didn't see either of that dastardly duo from last year, but I was sick of Crystal when he'd hosted five times. This was his ninth. I'm hoping he doesn't reach double digits.

Sunday, February 26, 2012

800th post!

Hard to believe it but this is the 800th post I've done on CineRobot! I started the blog in June of 2005 with a post about Brooke Adams and my cinematic crush that I was developing for her [and her eyebrows]. It's kind of amazing the amount of content that can accumulate on something like this. I have enough material to publish in book form if I were slightly more ambitious. After my short post on Adams, my second post was about how I loved to see wheat on the movie screen and two films with great wheat action [yes, it can happen]. Since I've got a lot of new and different readers now vs 2005, I'm going to re-post a few of my favorite posts from the early days of CineRobot to spread them out to the world once again. Even if you've read it, these are worth seeing again. It's kind of lazy of me, I know, but the early days of any blog is kind of wandering around in the internet wilderness on your own and I just hate the idea that my thoughts on wheat not getting enough readers. That's kind of a joke.

As I re-read this post there were lots of little things I'd like to add or change, but I'm going to resist that urge to preserve the original as I wrote it nearly seven years ago. I might add a trailer or image here and there to liven up the post though since I didn't do a lot of that in the early months.

The Beauty of Wheat On the Screen [June 22, 2005]

In my first post ever on CineRobot I mentioned the film Days of Heaven [1978] regarding my newfound appreciation of the b-film actress Brooke Adams. When I watched that film for the first time one of the first things that jumps out to me is just how beautiful director Terrence Malick made wheat look on screen. I have never seen wheat look so captivating before as the way Malick made it look. Honestly, the parts of it shimmying in the wind, all green against the flat terrain of the film is some of the most breathtaking moments in cinema history for me. Why do I find the wheat so beautiful to look at?

Maybe it's me tapping into some kind of primal, early film appreciation as the wheat in Days of Heaven reminds me a little of something that early film pioneers the Lumiere Brothers might have filmed and released. The early "hits" in penny or nickel houses were not stories but real life events: trains moving, trees swaying in the breeze, panning shots of a cityscapes or rural horizons.

When Malick lets his camera stay on the wheat for long periods of time I am reminded of these short films in the early days of cinema. I could watch the wheat move for hours. A few years ago I was lucky to see a restored 35 mm print of Days of Heaven [after having to watch it on tv the previous times I'd seen it] and I was blown away by its meditation on nature and love [and how Malick lingers over wheat like he's lusting after it!].

I thought I'd never see Malick's wheat topped but a few months ago I saw a great little film from Italy called I'm Not Scared [2003]. I'm Not Scared is worth seeing as an interesting coming of age thriller and character study as a young boy discovers something about the people close to him that changes him forever.

But, the first thing that stood out to me regarding I'm Not Scared is the unbelievably gorgeous use of wheat by director Gabriele Salvatores. It's the closest I've seen to matching the wheat in Days of Heaven. Salvatores uses the wheat just as Malick does [it's clear he's seen Days of Heaven] as a way to create isolation and lushness in the film's setting at the same time. Wheat can present this duality of meaning when it's filmed in such a concentrated way and connected to the film's story.

In these two films, the wheat is a character in the story and you can't help but notice it, admire it, and if you are like me, wish that you were standing in the field itself. Check out these two films to see wheat filmed the way it dreams of being filmed.

***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 the video.***

Friday, February 24, 2012

Dead Cinema: Airline Drive-In

In 2011 and 2012, I had two shows that exhibited some of my photographs of dilapidated movie theatres across the state of Oklahoma. I had so many images that didn't make the shows, I thought I'd post some from time to time, just so anyone into that project could see some alternatives that didn't make the show for whatever reason. And, for people who never got to see it--you'll get to see some of the images for the first time. First up are three from one of the favorite places I took photos of: Ponca City's Airline Drive-In.

One interesting story about when I found this drive-in--I had to crawl through a bunch of dead brush and in between a barbed-wire fence just to make it inside. When I got in and saw the hay stacked in row upon row, I knew I had hit gold. For some of the theatres I came across, I would only take a few images of them before loading up the hasselblad and moving on. Not at the Airline. Since I'd crawled through a thicket to get to it, I took a lot of photos when I was in. I took shots of signs, the projection booth, abstract images of the screen and lots and lots of images with hay in them. I couldn't believe my good fortune of stumbling across the hay. Here are three of the outtakes.

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

2002 statistics!

In 2002 I moved cross-country from New York City to Seattle, Washington. It would be my second stint in Seattle as I lived there in the mid-to-late 1990s. Seattle is a great movie town with lots of theatres [although a couple of my favorites, The Neptune and The Uptown recently shut down sadly] and the bestest video store in all the land with Scarecrow Video. 2002 was a good year for movies.

Total: 200

By Decade

1910-19: 1
1940-49: 5
1950-59: 2
1960-69: 6
1970-79: 10
1980-89: 14
1990-99: 24
2000+: 139

Where I Saw 'Em

145--Seattle, Washington
32--Pryor Creek, Oklahoma
15--Tulsa, Oklahoma
2--Broken Arrow, Oklahoma; Dallas, texas
1--Hollywood, California; Los Feliz, California; McCook, Nebraska

Who I Saw 'Em With

128--Loner style
26--Nancy Churillo
19--Lillian Blevins
10--Sveta Mendyuk
7--Phil Hollins
6--Shane Davis
5--Sherrill Davis; Leah Vu
2--Michael Aycock; Michael Ninburg
1--R. Steven Bird; Scott Booker; Migee Han; Kelly Healy; Emily Hennigs; Joshua McNichols; Robert Schrader; Lily Yuan

By Country

124--US and A!
6--South Korea; Spain
2--China; Hong Kong; Sweden; Taiwan
1--Argentina; Austria; Canada; Czech Republic; Iran; Israel; Kyrgyzstan; Mexico; Norway; Yugoslavia

Monday, February 20, 2012

Los Angeles Cinema: Minnie and Moskowitz

Film: Minnie and Moskowitz
Where: Los Angeles at Cinefamily
Who with: Loner style
In attendance: Seymour Cassel
Rating: ***1/2
Rating for Cassel's mustache: *****!

I'm quite fond of actors who make a brave choice with audacious facial hair, be it an unruly beard or untrimmed mustache. Seymour Cassel sports one of cinema's great mustaches in the 1971 John Cassavetes comedy Minnie and Moskowitz. It's not only full, it droops such a great distance southward, he could have been dubbed "Catfish" or "Walrus" had he been a professional ballplayer. Check out the poster and the trailer below to get a dose of Cassel's impressive trucker style 'stache.

I know the following statement is going to seem like blasphemy to some film fans, but I've never been the biggest lover of Cassavetes' films. I have found them to be emotionally exhausting and sort of tedious watching his characters live out their overwrought relationships on the screen. Watch him put his wife, the nearly always amazing Gena Rowlands, through the wringer in films such as Faces, Husbands, A Woman Under the Influence and The Killing of A Chinese Bookie [well, she's not in that one] and you might admit to liking their intense raw quality, but you won't claim you had a good time. Minnie and Moskowitz on the other hand, while delivering the classic Cassavetes amounts of couples screaming, quasi-verbal and outright physical abuse, it has a level of quirky comedy running through it that makes it one of Cassavetes' more "enjoyable" movies.

Cassel plays "Seymour," an oddball New Yorker who moves to Los Angeles and resumes his career of parking cars for restaurants while hanging out at dives that serve hot dogs. Naturally, Pink's makes an appearance. I should be keeping track of these "Los Angeles Cinema" posts that include films with scenes at Pink's as this is at least the third one to feature the La Brea Avenue institution that is less than a mile from my apartment and people still line-up for at all hours of the day and night. Lots of good Los Angeles neon in this too, as "Seymour" drives around the city making u-turns whenever and wherever he wants. Defending the honor of "Minnie" [Rowlands, donning oversize sunglasses for too much of the film for some inexplicable reason that was beyond frustrating. I wanted to see Rowlands' face!] with a parking lot dust-up, the pair begin a tumultuous courtship [this is a Cassevetes film after all] that packs all kinds of ups and downs in a few days.

Minnie and Moskowitz has the manic Cassevetes-isms, but has a current of comedy and damaged sweetness to it that makes it my second favorite of his movies [Gloria from 1980 would actually be at the top even though I haven't seen it since I was eleven and didn't even know who John Cassevetes was when I saw it]. Rowlands taps into her aching, inner heart, where she's a woman worn down by the idea of love, romance and men. I wish to goodness she wouldn't have worn the oversized sunglasses throughout the film. For some inexplicable reason, she donned these glasses inside and out for  too many scenes. It was frustrating as I just wanted to see her expressive, beautiful face! Cassel just goes for it in his performance and has a twinkle in his eye throughout the film.

I'd seen Minnie and Moskowitz before, but wanted to attend the screening to hear Cassel talk about it and his career. The pre and post-screening Q & A really wasn't a Q & A, but an opportunity for Cassel to deliver stream of conscious memories of working on the film, Cassevetes and the film industry [best quote: I have loved working in this business except for when I have to work for an a*shole, and there are a lot of a*sholes in Hollywood]. I wanted to ask about the thought process and consideration that was given for that magnificent mustache, but there weren't many questions from the crowd as Cassel just talked on his own about whatever popped into his head.

***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 the video.***

Saturday, February 18, 2012

Thursday, February 16, 2012

Valentine's Day Hangover by Stephanie Huettner

Stephanie Huettner has been a popular contributor to CineRobot's tops lists the past few years [and in the comment fields under the name Rumblefish], but starting today she's going to have a monthly column for whatever cinematic subject she wants to discuss. I'm excited to see what she will write about in the future months. First up--Valentine's Day. 

We can all breathe easy, for another Valentine’s Day has passed. I’ve never been a fan of this parade of gooey emotions, often going out of my way to dodge Cupid’s arrow. I’m just not in to that kind of rose petal romance. As such, I’ve very rarely been inclined to swoon for traditional romance films. I like movies that take a good, hard, honest look at love and all of its pitfalls. Here are a few of my favorite unromantic love stories.

Great Expectations (1946, 1998)
Like many of Dickens’s famous tales, this one has undergone numerous cinematic treatments. The two that jump out most notably to me are David Lean’s 1946 version and Alfonso Cuaron’s 1998 modern-day take. There are multiple love stories gone bad within this world. The one which has become shorthand for unrequited love in modern culture is Ms. Havisham, the bride left at the altar. She lives, literally, in the ruins of her wedding day (Dickens wasn’t known for his subtlety) laid out in a decaying old mansion. She brings the young hero, Pip, to her mansion to play with her beautiful young ward, Estella. Havisham grooms Estella from an early age to lure men in to love her, but to feel nothing herself. In this way, she thinks, will she be avenged for being scorned on her wedding day. Lean’s version is traditional, but oh so very dark. It’s creepy, ominous lighting and haunting visuals earned it the Academy Award for Best Cinematography. Cuaron’s version, set in Florida in the late 1990s, isn’t without its flaws, but does have the great Anne Bancroft playing the role of Havisham. She takes it all the way to crazy town and then some. The film also possesses a magical romanticism in the early scenes between Finn (instead of Pip) and Estella, which makes it all the more tragic when this beautiful facade comes crashing down around them. As our modern-day Havisham croaks ruefully when her callous plot has come to fruition: “Ain’t love grand.”

The Piano Teacher (2002)
Isabelle Huppert gave a breakthrough performance as Erika, the titular character, in this dark drama about the sexual fantasies of a repressed woman and one of her students (Benoit Magimel). Those familiar with the work of Michael Haneke (The White Ribbon, both versions of Funny Games) will know to mentally prepare for what is to come. And yet, no matter how many of his movies you’ve seen, they never get any easier to deal with. While Erika’s advances are actually returned by the student, this doesn’t lead to any personal breakthroughs or triumphs. In fact, it has the opposite effect. This was the first movie I ever borrowed from David Nofire (known as Vern Snackwell on CineRobot). When I returned it to him, I had taped a review snippet on the front of the box which read “A great date movie!” This is true only if you want that date to be your last.

Audition (1999)
Takashi Miike’s infamous film is about a widower who is trying to move on with his life as he prepares for the departure of his only child. The man is convinced by a film producer friend to hold a fake audition for a film in order to meet a potential new wife. He is fascinated by one woman in particular, and the two begin dating. What follows is over an hour of sweet romance, followed by one of the most disturbing blood baths in modern cinema.

What’s Love Got to Do With It (1993)
This film tells the true story of Ike and Tina Turner, whose long-term personal and professional relationship was anything but a fairy tale romance. This is probably one of the most notorious show business “love stories” of the 20th century. Ike and Tina rose to fame together, both extraordinarily talented and charismatic. Unfortunately, their personal life was shattered by Ike’s inability to control his temper or his fists. They eventually separated, and Tina was able to maintain a solo career. Angela Bassett should have picked up an Oscar (she was nominated) for her stellar performance as Tina, and Laurence Fishburne (also Oscar-nominated) is a fair match as Ike. What to take away from this film but the idea that we are better off not depending on another person to make our dreams come true. What’s love got to do with it? What’s love, but a second-hand emotion?

He Loves Me, He Loves Me Not
This delightfully twisted tale of love and obsession came out just after actress Audrey Tautou hit the international scene in Amelie, winning the hearts of film lovers the world over as the Parisian pixie. It was thus brilliantly marketed as a quirky romantic comedy with Tautou once more as its charming lead. The film opens with shots of pretty roses of all hues, Tautou emerging out of them, face aglow. She is wildly in love with a doctor (Samuel Le Bihan) and is sending him a rose to commemorate the first anniversary of their meeting. What it looks like and actually is are two very different things. It gradually becomes clear that the loving relationship she thinks they have may be something entirely different. Even if you predict some of the twists and turns that He Loves Me, He Loves Me Not takes, it’s still a pretty sweet ride.

Well, sweethearts, I hope these cinematic treats aren’t too hard to swallow. As Liz Lemon likes to say: “Happy Valentine’s Day, no one!”

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Happy [naughty] Valentine's Day at Cinefamily

Normally, I avoid any public activities connected to Valentine's Day, a complete scam of a "holiday" concocted by the powerful flower, chocolate and card lobbies to give them a sales boost near the beginning of the year. I haven't participated in any way since I was forced to send out random cards to people in elementary school [the indoctrination in this bogus affirmation of love begins extremely early for some]. This year I'm breaking that tradition as SJ and I are going to spend late night at Cinefamily watching something they've dubbed "100 Most Outrageous F*cks." The title says it all, they've assembled clips of 100 outlandish, over-the-top or dirty sex scenes and will play them back-to-back for the sold-out audience. Their inventive trailer is below but it might not be safe for work if you work at someplace offended by footage of Jeremy Irons and Juliette Binoche going at it with extreme, sightless glee. Happy naughty Valentine's Day everybody!

100 Most Outrageous Fucks (encore trailer) from Cinefamily on Vimeo.

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Sunday, February 12, 2012

Movie tickets #29

Thursday, February 09, 2012

Ready Player One, WarGames and the joy of 1980s nostalgia

When I was in London in the summer of 2011, I picked up a copy of Ernest Cline's Ready Player One novel in the Forbidden Planet's basement book area. I could not resist the amazing English cover! I left the book on my shelf for months before picking it up a few weeks ago. It took about three pages before I was hooked and gorging myself on a full-on frontal assault of geeky 1980s nostalgia. While I could nitpick a few faults with Ready Player One, I haven't had as much fun reading a book in years. It's one of those books that I like so much, I force myself to slow down to delay the inevitable ending that is coming with each turn of the page.

I am a child of the 1980s. I remember the first time I played Pong at my Aunt DoDo's house in Loving, Oklahoma.  I remember the first time I saw Space Invaders in the Pryor Creek Wal-Mart. I didn't think it could ever get better than that--then I played Asteroids. I didn't think it could every get better than that--then I played Tron. I am a creature of the single button, single joystick generation of 8 bit video game nerds. I owned an Atari 2600. I listened to Saga extremely loud in my bedroom in 1982 as I battled for a new hi-score at Zaxxon on my brand new Colecovision. I played Dungeons and Dragons, but much preferred to play the lesser known role-playing game Boot Hill. It had all the same dice, but was set in dusty, tumbleweed western settlements and instead of elves, demons and orcs, was full of outlaws, gunslingers, posses, firearms and horses.

There were lots of books and lots of music, but this is a blog about movies, so you aren't going to read about my obsession with music made by synthesizers and machines that started in 1983 and is still going strong nearly thirty years later. Back to the movies. I spent my largely unmonitored pre-teen and early teenage years drowning in everything I could get my eyeballs on. I was lucky enough to watch these films in a theatre in my pre-teen and early teenage years: Blade Runner, Raiders of the Lost Ark, The Road Warrior, Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan, Conan the Barbarian, The Evil Dead, Friday the 13th, Halloween II, The Shining, Return of the Jedi, Aliens, Fast Times at Ridgemont High, Revenge of the Nerds, Risky Business, The Karate Kid, The Terminator, 48 Hours, Airplane, The Blues Brothers, An American Werewolf in London, Flash Gordon, Ghostbusters, Max Dugan Returns, Mr. Mom, Nine to Five, Porky's, The Last American Virgin, The Thing, Poltergeist, Raging Bull, Red Dawn, Repo Man, The Outsiders, Sixteen Candles, Stripes, This is Spinal Tap, Tron, Trading Places, Time Bandits and on and on and on and on. Oh, here's a few more: A Clockwork Orange, Halloween or Close Encounters of the Third Kind and many, many others.

I feel kind of sorry for kids growing up today and the choices they have for what they get to go watch [or listen to, but as I said earlier, that's another rant entirely]. They get a bunch of pre-packaged, market-tested out the yin-yang formulaic sequels, overblown CGI comic book adaptations or re-treads of films that were done DURING the 1980s. The problem for this generation is when it comes to cult cinema remakes, they are getting a soulless, watered down version of a film that was more fun and more entertaining when it originally came out. It's sad really to think that the whole notion of "cult" films has pretty much disappeared under the laser beam brightness that is The Internet. It's all out there waiting, just a clickety-clack of keyboard stroke away. You want immediate gratification, you've got immediate gratification. In the 1970s and 1980s, low-budgeted movies spread by word of mouth and by battered VHS tape [all hail the king!] or pay channels on cable that created a complete ground swell celebrating cult cinema. At my house, it was illegally procured technology that made it possible to get every single movie channel through our gigantic satellite dish in the back yard. When you saw something your friends hadn't seen, you lorded it over them until they got their a*ses in gear and watched it too. I doubt there will be a swooning nostalgia for the culture in this current decade, as so much of popular culture now is just a regurgitation of something that has already happened. If that makes me seem like a carmudgeonly old fogey, so be it. The truth hurts sometimes.

What does any of this rant have to do with Ready Player One? Everything. Ready Player One is a celebration of every bit of early 1980s popular culture that is hard-wired to my being as if wrapped around my spine with magnetic VHS tape used in a Quasar VCR circa late 1970s. The book exists as a tribute to this era, as a sci-fi adventure and as an excuse for Cline to get as many geeky references into a book as humanly possible as it tells the story of a group of gamers in 2044 who go on a virtual reality quest with the winner getting billions of dollars. Ready Player One joins two other virtual reality kings of science fiction, Neuromancer and Snow Crash and holds its own. While not as edgy or groundbreaking as those two, it's hands-down more fun and I had to force myself to slow down as I read it. There was also WarGames when I was fourteen, I didn't mention it in the list above. WarGames plays a significant role in Ready Player One and guess what--a remake of the film is currently in the works! Like I said earlier, it's really just kind of sad. My heart kind of goes out to the young people that will see the new crappy version of the film without ever knowing there was a better, more fun, more entertaining version that came out in 1983.

After finishing the book, I re-watched WarGames for the first time in over a decade. I still love it. When it was released, I watched it over and over on the satellite. Matthew Broderick was a computer nerd hero, taking on the military and wooing the adorable Ally Sheedy. What made WarGames work in 1983 is that it's set in a cold-war world where nuclear annihilation was still a topic of conversation. In the early 1980s, we still had nuclear blast drills at my school in rural Oklahoma. I couldn't figure out how getting in the hall or getting under the desk was going to save any of us. I'd been traumatized in the same year by The Day After on ABC, I knew better than to believe what the silly teachers in Pryor Creek were telling us. Lies. Nuclear armageddon paranoia was everywhere. Computers and video games were fairly new to the masses, so they had an power to them no matter how dated the computers in WarGames appear to us twenty-eight years later. It works in 1983, but the same idea, transferred to 2011? Come on. It's just going to be another cash grab by producers/writers/directors who can't pull an original idea out of the sky even if it was floating a few inches in front of them.

Read Ready Player One. Watch WarGames. Celebrate the originals rather than the awful remakes. Here's a clip of the only WarGames that will ever be worth watching to leave you with a dose of 1980s nostalgia.

***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 the video.***

Tuesday, February 07, 2012

Welcome back Nick Nolte

A few days ago I wrote about the 2011 film Warrior and how surprised I was I enjoyed this emotional powder keg of a movie. Well, one of the reasons was the broken down paternal character played by Nick Nolte. He was just nominated for best supporting actor for his performance in Warrior. It's been years since Nolte has been in a high-profile film and then delivered the goods, but Warrior was a jolting reminder that when he wants, he can play tortured anguish like nobody's business. Don't believe me? Watch Nolte's Oscar nominated turn for best actor in 1997's Affliction, one of the bleakest American films ever made.

Unfortunately, Nolte has been lost in the haze of sub-par films and crazy antics involving booze, pills and his overall oddball nature. Warrior is just the start of his comeback 2011 and 2012 for the seventy year old actor. He's wrapped the big-budget crime film The Gangster Squad and he's among the cast for HBO's sweeping new horse racing drama Luck [co-stars are Dustin Hoffman, Dennis Farina and it's produced by David Milch with Michael Mann helming the pilot]. Nolte is in fine form based on the one episode I've watched, playing guess what, an aging trainer trying to stay relevant in this world. It's a perfect sort of role for Nolte and plays to all his strengths as an actor. He's gruff, kind of wise in a no nonsense way, dangerous and sort of broken. Nolte has been cashing paychecks for decades for this kind of role and frankly, it's the sort of stuff I love to see him in.

When looking for interesting things on youtube to possibly use for this post, I came across a Nolte centered documentary from 2009 called No Exit that I'd never heard of. Evidently, Nolte interviews himself in this film about him. There are a couple of my favorite all-time actors talking about Nolte in this--James Gammon and Powers Boothe. That's reason enough for me to try to see this soon. Welcome back Nick Nolte!

***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 the video.***

Sunday, February 05, 2012

Upcoming posts that may or may not show up on CineRobot

One of my favorite apps I've ever gotten on my iPhone is one that replicates manual typewriters. Called, Type-Writer, it looks and sounds just like the manuals that I have collected over the years. I always hated the notes app that comes with the phone and never found something else I liked to keep track of all the little things I come across that I want to read, watch, eat, listen to when I don't have pen/jotter handy. Type-Writer is perfect! You can't even fix your mistakes, just like it should be. And it sounds wonderful with the metallic clang of keystroke every letter that hits the "page". Here is a list I've recently done regarding posts that may or may not see the light of day on CineRobot [one of which already has in the recent Mad Max double feature post].

Friday, February 03, 2012


Film: Warrior
Where I saw it: LA at home on blu-ray
With with: Loner style
Rating: ****

Well, it didn't take long for me to watch a film from 2011 that I wish I could put on my "tops" list I just published. A few days after my gigantic list of favorite films, writers, actors, directors and whatnot, I see one that I wish I could have put on there in a couple of categories. The fact that the film is Warrior, a testosterone fueled MMA [mixed martial arts] based film is the reason I didn't see it in a theatre. Now, I'm kicking myself for skipping it when it was playing to good reviews as it's surprisingly kind of awesome. Maybe MMA, which is exploding in popularity, will produce more good films based on the primal act of mano y mano combat, as this is the second really good MMA film in the past few years [David Mamet's Red Belt in 2008] that I enjoyed.

The inevitable comparisons to Rocky [or how about Tough Enough from 1983?]are so obvious, let's get that right out of the way early and be done with it. The story centers around a couple of unknowns, who enter a winner-take-all of 5 million dollar purse, sixteen man tournament. Here's the kicker: two of the men are brothers! Director [and one of the film's three writers] Gavin O'Connor lays on the emotional powder keg even thicker though by tossing in the fact the pair survived an extremely dysfunctional upbringing with raging alcoholic father [Nick Nolte is back and he has an Oscar nod for best supporting actor to prove it]. There's more. They haven't seen one another in fourteen years, since younger brother [Tom Hardy] left with Mom to escape while big brother [Joel Edgerton] stayed with dad to get married, have kids and become a high school teacher.

What are these two guys fighting for? O'Connor's got that covered too to pull you into to committing to the winner. One brother is fighting to save his house from foreclosure, the other is fighting in memory of a fallen Marine when he was serving in Iraq. This sounds like quite a bit of heavy handed overkill when I write it down, but it plays with more direct simplicity on the screen. My antenna is always on alert when it comes to manipulative filmmaking, but I never felt that with Warrior. Is it melodrama with fists, blood, kicks and MMA? Yes. But, it works way more than I thought it would and I found myself enjoying the set-up and the bouts as we drew to the final match that will see brother against brother.

Warrior, despite my description above regarding the melodramatic storyline, mostly has a simple restraint to it. The three main male actors are either likable [Edgerton], taut with anger [Hardy] or paralyzed by regret [Nolte]. All three actors give lean performances that make the film more credible. O'Connor films the MMA fighting with a level of realness too that makes the action in the ring believable. Hardy looks like he could step into the octagon right now and take someone out with his hulking, raging intensity. Warrior is one of those films that reward you with your low expectations as you watch it. With every new scene, you start to get more involved in the story and by the its end, you wish you'd put it into your top fifteen films of 2011 list. At least, that was the case for me.

Wednesday, February 01, 2012

January movies

I didn't see a lot this month [sixteen films]. I started a new full-time job in the middle of the month with the Palos Verdes Library District and working [plus the commute] cuts into the movie watching time a little bit. I did see some cool things this month--The Road Warrior was by far my favorite screening in a theatre. As I said in a recent post--I love that movie so much. I also saw one of my favorite documentaries that I've seen in a long time in the 2007 Abel Raises Cain. You want entertainment that's right up my alley, it's this look into the life's work of media prankster Alan Abel, as he goes from one bit of media tricking shenanigan to the next. Abel calls himself the greatest hoaxer ever and I have to hand it to the guy, he really has pulled some doozies on gullible media through the decades. Before you get to the list of films, check out the trailer of the Abel Raises Cain and then get it through Netflix. If you are a fan of Andy Kaufman, or even Sacha Baren Cohen, Abel is the grandfather of the public hoax and watching all his antics shouldn't be missed.

The Muppets---2011---usa   ****
Orgasm, Inc.---2009---usa   ***
The Postman---1997---usa   *
The Marinovich Project---2010---usa   **1/2
Gram Parsons: Fallen Angel---2006---usa   ***
Abel Raises Cain---2007---usa   ****1/2
White Men Can't Jump---1992---usa   ***1/2
Green Card---1990---usa   ***
Another Year---2010---england   ***1/2
Mad Max---1979---australia    ***1/2
The Road Warrior [aka Mad Max 2]---1981---australia   ****1/2
WarGames---1983---usa   ****
Warrior---2011---usa   ****
12:08 East of Bucharest---2006---romania    ***1/2
The Spectacular Legacy of the AWA---2006---usa   ***
Ghostbusters---1984---usa   ****

Oh, I also saw a black fedora wearing James Spader talking on a cell phone in front of Langer's Deli in downtown Los Angeles. Probably my favorite random celebrity spotting yet.