Saturday, October 20, 2007

Things We Lost in the Fire

Steve and I were debating what movie to go to last night, and decided on Rendition, with possible second choices of Gone Baby Gone and Michael Clayton. As we were waiting in line, every movie sold out. We settled on Things We Lost in the Fire, and I suspect everyone else in the theater was there because their first choice was sold out, too.
This film was actually a good example of a successful Hollywood melodrama. For a movie directed by a foreigner, it adhered pretty strictly to Hollywood norms. It was more artful, and there were some elliptical moments that made it worth watching. Also, you should watch it to support Agent Mulder… er, I mean David Duchovny’s career.

Plus, how great is Benicio del Toro? I’ll love him forever for being Dr. Gonzo, but his face is so interesting. It has more character than 2,000 L.A. pretty boys.

Tuesday, October 16, 2007

Movies & Malcolm

The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford

I enjoyed this film very much, in spite of its overlong running time and my less-than-ideal viewing circumstances. The theater was crowded, and I was sitting right by the craziest person I’ve ever been trapped next to in a movie. He was smacking his lips and making grunting noises throughout the film. He would also occasionally make sounds that sounded as if he was about to vomit, and then would put his head down on the seat in front of him for extended periods of time, then stretch his arms out, sit back, and start smacking his lips again. He spent quite a large chunk of the movie not even looking at the screen. It was alarming to say the least. Ryan was sitting to my left, and I was scooted so far over to his side that I was practically in his lap. Aside from that, I’m impressed that such an artsy Western managed to get a wide release (I guess anything with Brad Pitt in it is guaranteed a release). I can’t really imagine that this movie has very broad appeal, yet moviegoers all over the country will be force-fed something very atypical just because they want to look at Brad Pitt. I would like to see this movie again without a raving lunatic sitting next to me. The music was excellent (composed by Nick Cave, who also has a cameo appearance), and everything just fit together well. There’s also a sequence leading up to a train robbery which is one of the most beautifully composed setpieces I’ve seen in recent memory.

The Darjeeling Limited

This was a pretty minor movie, but still entertaining and easy to watch. It did make me think about how most Hollywood movies are about independently wealthy people, and no one is ever strapped for cash. That’s probably the most annoying thing about Wes Anderson films – his movies are about the emotional problems of insanely rich people, and therefore his characters are less accessible. I saw this movie with my friend D, who also started a conversation about how dubious it is for rich people to travel to the third world to find themselves, and how it’s a form of reverse colonialism. Aside from all that, the movie is enjoyable, and the settings are spectacular, of course. One of the only scenes that actually hits hard is a scene involving Owen Wilson and his injuries. Other than that, all of the issues in the movie seem surfacey and slight. I’d still say it’s worth watching, especially for people interested in traveling to India (you know who you are).

Never Apologize!

This screening was awesome, and also shocking. The awesome part: It was a documentary about Lindsay Anderson, who is one of the most fascinating directors working during the British New Wave movement, and also a somewhat obscure figure due to the fact that he only made five movies and died quite awhile ago. I finally found out more about him – the film was basically Malcolm McDowell telling stories about the filming of If…. and O Lucky Man, and anecdotes about other actors and directors, etc. McDowell somehow carried the entire running time without ever centering on himself or seeming the slightest bit pretentious or conceited. The film was riotously funny (OK, I’m a little bit of a film snob, and a lot of people maybe wouldn’t think it was funny)… Regardless, McDowell’s bit about John Gielgud walking by a set during the filming of Caligula and exclaiming “I’ve never seen more cock in my life!” was so funny I was practically choking on my tongue.
Anyway, the shocking part: Malcolm McDowell was there, and was scheduled to be there the whole time, and the film was shown in one of the smaller theaters, and it was STILL not sold out! Seriously, Malcolm McDowell! He’s fucking Alex from A Clockwork Orange! He’s one of the greatest living legendary actors of our time! He’s even in Heroes, if you care about that stupid TV shit…. And there were seriously not even 150 people there to see him live, answering questions and discussing his work. My friend Craig accompanied me, and wondered what kind of corner we’ve turned, where Malcolm F’in McDowell can’t even sell out a smallish theater in Chicago… Seriously, what the hell?
But I’m pleased that I saw him, and he was more articulate and hilarious and charming than I could have ever hoped for. He helped shape my entire life when I saw A Clockwork Orange at an inappropriate age, and I’ll always love him for that.

Saturday, October 13, 2007


I saw some more movies:

Maldeamores, i.e. Lovesickness

I didn’t have high hopes for this movie because it’s Puerto Rican, and I admittedly have a somewhat skewed view of people from PR. As far as I know, there is no film industry in PR. But maybe there should be! This followed a pretty traditional storytelling scheme, where several different stories are told with a loose connecting theme (heartbreak). It was cute and funny without being too cloying or manipulative. Nothing groundbreaking, but the portrayal of some of the characters (especially an elderly lady enjoying the attention of two suitors) was quite enjoyable. If this gets any sort of release I’d recommend it.

Matsugane Potshot Affair
This was ostensibly a black comedy, but I was less than pleased with it. I actually thought about leaving several times, but figured that since I was paying for parking, I might as well suffer through the whole thing (don’t ask me, it made sense at the time). Once upon a time, I used to be a fan of Japanese cinema, and went out of my way to see Japanese films. There are still a few Japanese directors I will support, such as Miike. But I have to announce that my fascination with Japanese cinema is officially over. I suffered through two hours of a slow-paced story about a small town, and I swear there were no identifiable traces of humanity or emotion in the entire film. Plus, for some reason, there’s always a creepy sexually degrading plotline involving women in every Japanese film. Enough! I am officially kicking off my Mexican/Latin American film craze, and closing the door on the Japanese one.

Doubleteamed by Mathieu Amalric
I was planning on seeing The Diving Bell and the Butterfly last night, and my friend also wanted to see Heartbeat Detector. I thought I recognized Mathieu Amalric from a tiny, blurry still from Heartbeat Detector, but I looked him up on imdb and didn’t see the movie listed. I bought tickets anyway, and guess what, it was him after all! The original French name of the film was vastly different, and that’s why I didn’t realize it was the same movie. A entire night spent with Mathieu Amalric – it was really enjoyable. The second movie was not as good, but I still got to gaze into his lovely dark eyes for two hours. Is he the hardest-working man in French independent cinema?


This movie made me ill, because I wanted to bawl like a big fat baby through the entire thing, but held it in. There were two many people around to cry like I wanted to. Aside from the emotional sledgehammer aspect of it, it’s one of the most artful movies I’ve ever seen, and the way the director (Julian Schnabel) worked with point of view was really perfect. The sound design and music was perfect too… Everything about this movie was perfect, and I’d say it’s a serious contender for best picture of the year. If you don’t know the story, it’s about the French editor of Elle magazine, who suffered a massive stroke and was completely paralyzed, except for his right eye. Everyone I know must see this movie, no questions asked.


This film’s premise was that fitting into the corporate world is another form of Nazism. It’s an interesting one, to be sure, but the movie was overlong and had too many tangential scenes. It suffered from the common French film mishap of being overly intellectual. Worse things have happened, and I still enjoyed the movie (mainly due to the presence of Mr. Amalric). I had terrible shoulder pain and a headache from the last movie though, which ruined my ability to concentrate. After the movie was over I looked Mathieu up on imdb again – he was in seven films in 2007! I have to say I appreciate the way he’s trying to make himself accessible to me.

Saturday, October 06, 2007

More Movies, Etc.


I actually enjoyed this film quite a bit. The basic structure is a B-movie, full of impossible coincidences and quite a bit of audience manipulation. I think it was elevated by strong performances all around, and some interesting cinematography (including really fascinating opening credits composed of aerial shots of Mexico City). I read some reviews that seemed upset to see such a pulpy treatment of a serious issue (people being bought and sold as sex slaves). I agree with that somewhat, but still liked the movie. It’s a nail-biter, and will make you depressed. You can also learn how to avoid being sold on the black market as a sex slave by learning from the characters’ mistakes.


I went to see this movie mainly because Greg Kinnear is in it, and also because it was filmed in Portland. It sounded like a quirky, non-Hollywood style film about relationships. Wrong! This movie was gay, and not in the good way. While in the bathroom after the film, I heard two girls complaining about it, and I think I agree with their assessment: The movie jumped from dramatic moment to dramatic moment, and skipped all the development, so it basically felt like an empty series of people breaking up and dying and stuff. Greg Kinnear’s character was too heartbroken and needy for me to find him attractive, so it wasn’t even fun that way. Eh, whatever.

I’m not sure how many movies I’ll be able to catch at the festival. I’m hoping for at least 10, because that’s how many passes I bought. Last night I saw two movies:

Please Don’t Go, a French drama about a couple’s relationship and the various manipulations that occur when the woman starts cheating on her husband with one of his psychiatric patients. It was enjoyable, but nothing outstanding.

Bad Habits, a Mexican movie about eating disorders. The film follows several different characters and goes into pretty good depth with their various neuroses, relying on lots of heavy Catholic imagery. It reminded me of how crazy Latin American women are about weight issues – even crazier than American women, if that’s possible. There were a lot of interesting ideas, but the movie did feel a bit overlong. It’s Simon Bross’s first feature film though, so I think he’s someone to keep an eye on.

Monday, October 01, 2007

This one's for Oprah

Book #13 - To Kill a Mockingbird, by Harper Lee

I guess my middle school English teachers were asleep on the job, because somehow I never read this book until now. I started it back in July, I think, and I trudged along a couple pages at a time, until I finally got into it at page 80. So I loved 2/3 of the book and was bored by the first third. That's a conundrum.

I suppose, now that I know and love the characters, I would be engaged from the start upon re-reading. But where do you draw the line on these books? I'm starting to think that maybe I should make a rule about this. Maybe, when I start a new book, I should take it to a quiet place and force myself to read 20% of it in one sitting. If I'm still not engaged at that point, I give myself permission to abandon it altogether. What do you think? Have you read any books that took more than 100 pages to get into, but you still feel were worth the wait?