Saturday, October 31, 2009
Judith Anderson lookalikes.
Mirrors in the middle of the night.
Classic movie stars gone mad.
Fellinian circus freaks...
"Dead of Night" featured all of these and yet was massively underwhelming. The ending rocked though.
Friday, October 30, 2009
Thursday, October 29, 2009
Director: Kenny Ortega
When Michael Jackson died unexpectedly at the age of 50, while preparing for his much awaited "comeback", the entertainment world lost one of its most unique personalities.
The artist had been preparing a tour called "This Is It" which was to run for a marathonic 50 dates before he retired from the stages.
He made sure that the rehearsals were captured on film, not for posterity, but for his own personal use (?). After his death and the, economic, void left by the cancellation of his tour, artistic director Kenny Ortega created a film out of the material in order to pay tribute to what we can assume would've been one of the greatest concert tours of all time.
We can witness the unenduring commitment with which Michael Jackson dedicated himself to his music, he doesn't appear like the diva who sits while he waits for others to do his job.
He is shown as a perfectionist who was involved in absolutely every little detail of the tour (some scenes suggest Ortega merely thought he was a director, but it's clear who's in command).
And while the film may lack in establishing its cinematic boundaries; is it a concert film, a documentary or the most expensive DVD bonus material in history?
Whatever the answer, it's impossible to watch this movie and not ask two questions.
First, will it appeal to non-Michael Jackson fans?
There exists the notion that even people who don't worship the artist, at least like him or are familiar with his music (if not just with his tabloid scandals).
And based on familiarity alone, "This Is It" has some moments which can't be called anything other than electrifying.
Watching ten superb dancers multiply into an army of thousands during "They Don't Care About Us" is epic and the nostalgic execution of "The Way You Make Me Feel", with a background of sweaty construction workers who take time off to admire a girl, is the famous Charles C. Ebbets photograph come to urgent life.
Moments like "Thriller" which obviously includes ghouls and corpses are superb and force us to wonder if every song he performed was to include a micro movie of its own.
Speaking of movies, "Smooth Criminal" has Jackson dressed like a gangster sharing the scene with Bogie, Edward G. Robinson and Rita Hayworth and few things in pop music history are as majestic as the intro to "Beat It".
So based on the content of the music alone, it's easy to imagine anyone would be entertained.
The next, inevitable, question would be how this movie would be perceived if Jackson hadn't died.
Perhaps it would've never even existed for that matter and if it had it would've been a different version, one trying to include the millions of fans not lucky enough to attend the London set of concerts.
To analyze the film under that mindset takes away from the actual experience of enjoying it, but to remain indifferent to that also would be to deny the essentially voyeuristic, if a bit morbid, motive behind the entire film.
Some say that art should be judged and valued by its final state and not by the events that sparked its creation.
Truth is that Michael Jackson was a legend, he meant to do these concerts and died before the premiere.
This is it.
This is all we get.
And it's undeniable that this movie achieves to do something unthinkable: it's able to capture pure, raw genius.
My favorite couple on Earth is profiled by "The New York Times", only to remind me I'm perhaps one of the only persons left on the planet who hasn't seen "Broken Embraces".
When the hell are they planning to release it down here?
Click on the picture to go to the article.
Tuesday, October 27, 2009
Director: Quentin Tarantino
Cast: Brad Pitt, Christoph Waltz, Eli Roth
Diane Kruger, Michael Fassbender, Mélanie Laurent, Daniel Brühl
Til Schweiger, Mike Myers, Julie Dreyfus
B.J. Novak, Gedeon Burkhard
Some believe that art has the ability to influence history and change its course. Quentin Tarantino takes this belief to the extreme by making a movie that literally changes the way history occurred.
"Inglourious Basterds" is a revenge fantasia that selfconsciously acknowledges its deep love for film while questioning the very notions of its existence.
Set in Nazi occupied France, the movie opens when SS Colonel Hans Landa (Waltz) arrives to the house of farmer Perrier LaPadite (Denis Menochet who in one scene gives the most haunting performance in the movie) searching for hidden Jews.
"The Jew Hunter" as Landa is known sits with Perrier as an ongrowing menace fills the air. We discover that the farmer is indeed housing Jews and after delivering a monstrous metaphor (only more monstrous because it makes Nazism "comprehensible") his team shoots the hidden family.
But he lets one of them escape, Shosanna Dreyfus (Laurent), who grows to become a theater owner in Paris still harboring a desire for revenge towards the Nazis.
Her opportunity comes when German soldier-turned movie star Fredrick Zoller (Brühl) is smitten by her and decides that he wants his movie premiere (a piece of propaganda called "Pride of the Nation") to be held in her theater.
With the assured presence of Propaganda Minister Joseph Goebbels (Sylvester Groth) and the rumor that Adolf Hitler (Martin Wuttke) himself will attend the premier, Shosanna begins to plot a macabre plan that would finally settle differences between her and the SS.
But she ignores that there are more people with their sight set on her theater.
A special OSS army force known as the "Basterds", who specialize in killing Nazis, come up with a mission of their own to end the war in Shosanna's theater by blowing everyone up.
Led by Lt. Aldo Raine (Pitt) the Basterds are comprised of Jewish Americans and Germans for whom Nazi killing is personal (Raine is of Native American descent, he's also known as "Aldo the Apache").
Among its most prominent members are, second in command, Donny "the Bear Jew" Donowitz (Roth who embodies raw macho qualities and mythical deity hatred) and Hugo Stiglitz (a fantastic Schweiger) a sociopath German officer who turned against the Nazis before being recruited by the Basterds.
Other allies include British Lt. Archie Hilcox (a scene stealing Fassbender, you end up wishing he was in the movie much more), a film critic turned soldier who goes undercover to France and German screen siren Bridget von Hammersmark (a luminous Kruger) performing Mata Hari duties for the Allies.
Tarantino frames both missions with surprising efficiency, establishing their differences without making them too episodic.
As usual he indulges his characters in overlong talks (the man lives for words) and complimentary flashbacks that provide more quirk to already eccentric characters (one vignette explaining the combustible qualities of nitrate film is a delightful piece of trivia).
However his maturity shows in the fact that this time more than ever his characters seem driven by something that exists outside the iconoclastic director.
With Shosanna for instance he goes beyond making her a "Quentin Tarantino creation" and more of an actual human being; the farfetchedness of her revenge plan makes sense with her.
Laurent of course helps make Shosanna so memorable, her performance is magnificent and moving. When she dresses for the night of the premiere, the combination of femme fatale glamor and hatred she channels like tribal cannibalism is especially powerful.
She shines in her scenes with Waltz who turns in a villain with instantly iconic characteristics. He plays him like a maniacal Mephistopheles who enunciates with contemptuous diplomacy.
His kind of sadism is the one that can make you be on the edge of your seat for ten minutes, only to have him leave without a single act of violence.
You understand why he is so feared by the people he hunts down. Waltz fills him with so much life that he literally jumps out of the screen.
And as for Tarantino-esque cameos, few things are as delightful as Rod Taylor and Samuel L. Jackson in blink and you'll miss them performances.
With them he reminds us, again, of his vast knowledge of cinema. In the opening scene he pays homage to Sergio Leone, Stanley Kramer and "The Searchers" within ten minutes and the rest of the film throws more B movie, macaroni combat and classic Hollywood movie references than you can even count.
What makes this movie different is that this time he's not in it merely for the geeky show-off-ness. He knows occult movies, we get it, but why should we care about it? With "Inglourious Basterds" he actually has something to say using this meta language.
For the first time he actually questions his points of view using the medium he knows the best.
In a scene where Zoller watches his movie he turns around to see how everyone is loving the way he inhumanly shoots other human beings following army orders.
As the others cheer his actions, he seems to become disgusted by this glorification of violence and we know he is being stirred by something unexpected.
For him it's perhaps his realization that the Nazis have imposed an agenda of hatred upon him and only now does he see beyond his political loyalties.
But as an audience member take a look around the room and see how other viewers are also relishing in hos the Basterds torture and murder Nazis.
Is "Pride of the Nation" self criticism with a wink?
Tarantino lets us know that he understands a line must be drawn between art and the artist's beliefs, even Shosanna acknowledges the genius of Leni Riefenstahl, but what compromise can be reached when mind and heart battle at the same time?
"Inglourious Basterds" only achieves brilliance when Tarantino, who has so far thrived in his B movie violence, wonders if he in fact has the last word on WWII.
Is his ending better than history's? Tarantino from the 90's would probably have made every possible attempt to justify his vision, this more mature filmmaker abstains from chewing the ideas for us and forces us to leave the movies with a dilemma: as pleasing as his resolution is, does it offer any actual redemption?
Sunday, October 25, 2009
Friday, October 23, 2009
Director: Lone Scherfig
Cast: Carey Mulligan, Peter Sarsgaard, Alfred Molina
Dominic Cooper, Rosamund Pike, Cara Seymour
Olivia Williams, Emma Thompson, Sally Hawkins
"Coming of age" in films has become synonymous with cliché, unoriginality and by the numbers storytelling.
Therefore it's a mystery how Lone Scherfig is able to make "An Education" so damn refreshing.
The story, based on journalist Lynn Barber's memoirs turned into a wonderful screenplay by Nick Hornby, takes place in 1961 London, where 16-year-old Jenny (Mulligan) finds herself involved in a romantic affair with David (Sarsgaard) a man twice her age.
They meet one inconspicuous rainy afternoon when David offers Jenny's cello, and not its owner, a ride. She walks next to the car surprised and more than charmed by David's odd behavior and before soon she's accepting an invitation to go with him to a concert.
But Jenny lives with her parents (Molina and Seymour both simply extraordinary) and before she can go to a concert with David, he must seduce them.
Jenny's parents have planned her life ahead for her, therefore she is enrolled in an exclusive girls' school, which along with proficient extra curricular activities will pave her way to Oxford, where she will find a husband and live peacefully.
The notion of happiness isn't questioned or perhaps remains implicit upon achieving economic and social tranquility.
In such a way Jenny's parents show no objection to David taking their daughter out. Her dad just points out he's "a Jew", but they allow their relationship to flourish.
Can it be that they just see the potential husband material in him despite the obvious incongruences this has with everything they have done for their daughter.
It does help that Sarsgaard is so charming playing this part.
He works around his type, and a forced British accent, by playing it cool and honest. We know that he wants to get into Jenny's pants, but he's never the menacing pedophile lurking around the playground.
His interest in Jenny in fact seems to be real, "isn't it wonderful to find a young person who wants to know things?" he asks finding himself self appointed guide in Jenny's unofficial education.
In every scene they are together he's also getting something out of Jenny that goes beyond the sexual. Sarsgaard conveys the "too good to be true" traits we can't help but fear as well as a sense that he's learning from Jenny too.
As with every character in the film, there is in him a sense of subversion. The possibility that David is taking revenge on the system by proving he can romance a girl who is in every way in a different class, is quite possible.
Same goes to his friends Danny (Cooper) and his girlfriend Helen (Pike) who bewitch Jenny with pure style and glamor. Little does she stop to see how they sustain this lifestyle with methods she might never agree with.
At first Jenny says she wants "to talk to people who know lots about lots", but in their company she is more seduced by the constant array of activities-concerts, trips to Paris, parties, pre-Raphaelite art auctions-than the actual knowledge she gets from any of it.
The problem is actually that Jenny only sees this and the flashes of humanity we get from the characters are merely nuances.
Therefore the bittersweet affection and repressed rage of Danny is brought to life beautifully by Cooper in unexpected small moments.
While Pike is brilliant as the trophy girlfriend who plays the blond card to avoid being compromised by morality and ethical issues.
Jenny, like most teenagers fails to see past their facades and impressed by their glitz becomes rebellious to the other side of the equation: her teachers.
Her English teacher (a moving Williams) asks her to contemplate her future more carefully, but Jenny assumes she's just trying to live vicariously through her, while the Headmistress (Thompson who obviously steals all her scenes) sternly reminds her the rules of society in the face of such upheavals.
But as long as she's learning more than school has to offer and imposing her newfound adulthood over her childlike classmates, Jenny remains in a world of her own.
This world is a beautiful creation at the hands of Carey Mulligan who inhabits Jenny from the moment the movie begins.
Even if we know she's a poser of sorts, who speaks French out of the blue as if it was the most natural thing in the world, there is a lovable quality to her.
She's trapped in the limbo between childhood and adulthood, trying to take too much in at once and learning the hard way.
But watch Mulligan's eyes, as they convey a lustful thirst for the unknown juxtaposed with utter innocence and you will be transfixed.
When she experiences sex she sighs before she wonders why "all that poetry about something that lasts no time at all", her life so far has been made up of what she read in books and heard in French music.
Her life after the events in the film is something made for books and music.
Director: Jane Campion
Cast: Abbie Cornish, Ben Whishaw
Paul Schneider, Kerry Fox, Edie Martin, Thomas Sangster
While literature has always been an essential inspiration for cinema, its influence has mostly been limited to prose; for, how do you make a film about poetry?
Jane Campion solves the problem in "Bright Star", her ethereal depiction of the short lived romance between English poet John Keats (Whishaw) and Fanny Brawne (Cornish).
When the film begins, it's 1818 and Keats is living in Hampstead under the wing of his best friend Charles Armitage Brown (Schneider).
He has just published his first book of poetry which hasn't brought any money and has to look after his dying brother. In Hampstead he first meets Fanny, a strong willed young woman devoted to fashion. She lives with her mother (Fox) and siblings (Sangster and Martin).
At first Fanny is indifferent to Keats, but after discovering his sensitive nature she falls in love with him and they begin a secret affair that would last until his premature death at the age of 25 and remain unconsummated.
Campion treats the romance in a unique way, abstaining from stereotypical displays of affection or obviousness. Instead of recurring to corny dialogues she puts her ideas at the service of images and as seen through the lens of cinematographer Craig Fraser they become otherworldly.
Therefore "Bright Star" features scenes that bristle with aching beauty; a scene where Fanny fills her room with butterflies is gloriously fascinating instead of bizarre, while a simple moment where she lies in bed while her room's drapes are stirred by the wind achieves a kind of simple beauty that's both erotic and breathtaking.
During the film one of the characters says that poetry is about the senses-as opposed to intellect-and in such way Campion's ensemble brings raw emotions to their respective characters.
Whishaw's Keats is terribly moving and bittersweet. His tousled hair, sweet voice and meek eyes evoke the yearning of someone who knows he's not meant to last long in the mortal world. You believe someone like Whishaw could come up with some of the most beloved poems in English literature and as a romantic lead he may not be Laurence Olivier, but nobody watching the film will avoid feeling envious of the kisses he gives Fanny.
When he tells her "we've created a world of our own, attached to this world, but of our own invention" it's impossible not to sigh.
Cornish's Fanny is glorious, she isn't the typical Jane Campion female character and while the director tries to give Fanny some of the feminist qualities she has imprinted in her most famous creations, first and foremost Abbie Cornish makes Fanny someone who simply is.
A dedicated seamstress who seeks to shock society with her sartorial innovations, Cornish imprints in her qualities that surpass mere shock value, the way she wears her gowns and hats is her own rebellion.
Her interaction with Armitage (Schneider is brilliant!), with whom she has a love/hate relationship, is delicious. They bicker and insult each other and surprisingly nobody asks Fanny to tone down. Could this be a slip on the director's part or yet another example of how Fanny went against social paradigms?
With that said it's also essential to note how Cornish doesn't make Brawne a modern figure by way of anachronism. Fanny is still a nineteenth century girl trying to cope with change and her place in a society that didn't understand her or her love.
Cornish looks radiant in scenes with Whishaw and even if she often goes for the subtle, silently sarcastic side, when she has an eventual outpour of emotion she will break your heart.
With Fanny, Campion introduces the intellectual theme at the center of "Bright Star" which is nothing else than creating poetry through images and a story.
Fanny herself admits that poetry is a "strain to workout" and asks John to help her understand. But what of those who don't give a damn about poetry or understanding it?
"Bright Star" works exactly like a poem. Those who aren't interested will find it cryptic, uninteresting and impossible to understand. They might be dazzled by the imagery but will be left unmoved.
Those into poetry will relish in the way Campion juxtaposes imagery, music and dialogue. They will not need prosaic methods to evoke feeling.
Whichever side you find yourself on, the way you experience "Bright Star" will be completely unique and unforgettable.
Monday, October 19, 2009
Tuesday, October 13, 2009
Saturday, October 10, 2009
Director: Dominic Sena
Cast: Kate Beckinsale, Gabriel Macht
Alex O'Loughlin, Shawn Doyle, Columbus Short, Tom Skerritt
US Marshal Carrie Stetko (Beckinsale), who is just three days away from resigning-of course-begins to investigate the mysterious death of a geologist.
Soon she's involved in a Cold War era conspiracy, while sorting out who she can trust in the middle of nowhere.
Enter the usual suspects: attractive, but too good to be true therefore mysterious UN operative Robert Pryce (Macht), father figure with a tendency for enigma (Skerritt), a pilot (Short) who's too nice and willing and Aussie bad boy who can't help but be interesting (O'Loughlin).
To say that nothing happens in this movie would be an understatement, the "action" sequences are one part "Scream" (minus the fun), two parts "Frosty the Snowman" as in the fact that you can't really see what's going on.
It's as if the filmmakers knew they had nothing interesting to show and tried to hide it with a snow curtain.
Of course they give us a gratuitous scene of Beckinsale in the shower and try to give her character deep psychological background.
She did something awful that's been haunting her forever and every new thing she sees reminds her of it. The grainy, ominous flashbacks are appropriately tinted for the place: orange for Florida, blue for Antarctica.
The best thing that can be said about "Whiteout" is that it had one of the most effective trailers in years. Why? Because the trailer for one doesn't give up the entire plot of the movie, in fact it makes it look as if it was an episode of "Lost" in the snow, what with mysterious nature references, bodies falling from the sky and explosions.
Sadly, the movie takes its cue from another television program and becomes "CSI:Antarctica".
Wednesday, October 7, 2009
Director: R.J. Cutler
"There is something about fashion that can make people very nervous" says Vogue Editor-in-Chief Anna Wintour.
Taken out of context that something she talks about could perfectly describe her. Known for her headstrong, "Ice Queen" approach she has been head of the magazine for two decades during which: she's provoked controversy by wearing fur, endorsed celebrity worshiping, created and destroyed trends, created and destroyed people and was played by Meryl Streep in "The Devil Wears Prada" (well, a version of herself at least).
Wintour had Cutler's crew follow her around for six months in 2007 while they prepared the September issue of the magazine.
"September is the January in fashion" says one of the editors before we learn that the staff are trying to make the biggest issue of the magazine in history.
They have Sienna Miller on the cover, spreads by Mario Testino and more ads than you can shake a stick at. All things which at one time or another have to go under Wintour's fierce eye.
There's two things that immediately come to mind watching this movie.
First is how much is Wintour using the film as a PR strategy to convince the world she's not Satan.
Her trademark bob (which we learn she's used since she was very young) and sunglasses, she uses to meet with top designers and figures, give her an armor of sorts that makes her not only impenetrable, but fascinating.
"She's not accessible to people she doesn't need to be accessible to..." says one of her employees defending the view most people have of her after the "Prada" book and movie.
One has to wonder how much is Anna paying homage to Meryl, because she does give a performance in the movie (even one of the film's first sequences evokes the movie).
She knows she can't lash out at her employees like we're expecting her to do and that she must wait until the cameras are turned off to go all Anjelica Huston in "The Witches".
The curious thing is that even if we see she doesn't act like that in front of the camera, it's easy to assume she's holding back and even if she's not and is actually opening up-in her own way-she only becomes more fascinating.
The film establishes dramatic conflict by showing the relationship between Wintour and Grace Coddington-a former model turned style editor- who's every bit as romantic and idealistic (Wintour calls her a genius) as her boss is goal driven and stoic.
When Coddington goes all the way for a flapper inspired photo shoot, Wintour takes a few minutes to single out what she thinks was a waste of time.
When Coddington insists that a man's protruding stomach shouldn't be retouched, Anna gasps at the sight of "fat" in Vogue.
Coddington usually does "all the things [Wintour] doesn't like" and knows it, with each of this micro dramas being put to great use by the movie which always remains brisk and fun.
But the second and perhaps most important question to ask about the movie is: will it result interesting to people who hate, fear, ignore or are indifferent towards fashion?
The answer might be not, but the movie like Wintour makes an ambiguous stand in its own defense by pointing out Vogue's longevity.
"The September Issue" like its real counterpart might just be fluff disguised as depth. It doesn't say much, but boy do you have a need to buy it.
Tuesday, October 6, 2009
Monday, October 5, 2009
Director: Neill Blomkamp
Cast: Sharlto Copley, Jason Cope, David James
Eugene Khumbanyiwa, William Allen Young, Vanessa Haywood
It's "E.T." meets "The Defiant Ones" in Neill Blomkamp's debut feature film "District 9".
A thinly disguised allegory about the infamous District 6 in South Africa during the apartheid; only the plot exchanges racial segregation for out-of-the-planet-species' discrimination.
In 1982 a large alien space craft stops above Johannesburg, South Africa ("why not New York?" the movie asks without thinking the audience will obviously get its anti-Hollywood establishment theories, along with its location limited budget and African similes).
The malnourished, mistreated aliens (from planet who knows, all in the sake of some political correctness) are taken out of the ship and transported to District 9, a slum in the middle of the city where they live for more than twenty years.
Why the aliens aren't deported, despite the protests of locals, is never explained, until in the year 2010 private military contractors MNU (Multinational United, an obvious critique of U.N. neutrality/privatization eventuality) are hired by the government to transport 1.8 million aliens, or "prawns" as they're derogatorily referred to, into District 10, a refugee/concentration camp where the unwanted visitors won't obstacle typical Johannesburg life.
MNU agent Wikus van der Merwe (breakthrough actor Copley who is a true revelation) in charge of the relocation enters District 9 to deliver eviction notices to the aliens (we never learn how they got to understand each other's languages), until an unexpected event turns the tables around for him, forcing him to empathize with the aliens.
After this it becomes a "we are all the same" fable in which Bomkamp confuses populism with auterism.
He uses every technique in the movie making guidebook: from CGI/live action interaction (the effects are superb), to basic Hollywood thriller sequences, all framed by a mockumentary aesthetic.
The film begins wonderfully, with the characters appearing to be real people and the alien footage as harrowing as anything we'd see in the news, but the director seemingly wanted to please everyone and he disregards the original technique to explore the ones mentioned before.
This turns the movie into a joke of sorts, because the audience will have a hard time deciding what to take seriously.
Those who go to the cerebral snobbish side will see the Spileberg-ian sequences as an insult to the relevance the docudrama approach would've given it.
While others who relish with explosions and clever one-liners, will be completely bored by the interviews and news footage.
As if this wasn't enough Blomkamp, who co-wrote the script with Terri Tatchell, also tries to include every issue that has plagued the African continent in the last century.
Not only are there apartheid mentions, but there are also plotlines involving the creation of slums, the obvious socioeconomical inequity, uncontrolled population growth and even weapon trafficking (blood diamonds are the only thing the aliens aren't involved in, at least onscreen).
This last issue gives the film another dilemma, as it's revealed that its Nigerians who not only traffic weapons with the aliens, but also exchange drugs, contraband products, are involved in prostitution and even practice cannibalism with the otherworldly creatures (under the supervision of a rightful witch doctor of course).
If there is an inside joke in the way Nigerians are mentioned in the movie, it will be lost in translation for international viewers who might see this as nothing else than racism.
If they took the time to exchange a whole race for creatures from another planet, was it so hard to find a way to treat Nigerians in the same way?
"District 9" isn't real or fake enough to do its job well. The lazy third act is a showcase for by-the-numbers writing and directing, with James playing a blood thirsty soldier (think "The Fugitive" without redemption) on the hunt for aliens and anything that gets in his way.
The main problem with the movie is that it remains in a safe ideological limbo; if they had made a movie about the actual apartheid, they would've been under more scrutiny, controversy and would've had to pay dues to real people and events.
But by taking the allegory road (particularly when everyone knows it's mean to represent something else) they haven't achieved the timeless relevance they wanted, but by making it a genre flick, they come off as cowardly exploitative.
Proof of that is the fact that we never learn a single thing about the aliens, like the people who take stands on issues just to seem interesting, the filmmakers don't reveal anything about their culture, their planet, their traditions or their needs.
The movie takes a traditionalist, almost reactionary position (a la racial issue films in the 1960s) and watches them through the eyes of humans who are obviously biased.
Blomkamp cares as much about the aliens as the companies who use them as experiments.
They were put there just so the white man, err human, could learn a lesson.
Sunday, October 4, 2009
Is anyone else watching "FlashForward" on ABC? If so, were you as thrilled as I was on last Thursday's ep?
As John Cho's character walks through a parking lot, his phone rings.
It's a woman with important information for his case, then we hear her and it's that voice...
May Shoreh Agdashloo be on every phone call from now on...
Saturday, October 3, 2009
Currently receiving heaps of awards buzz for her performance in "An Education", British actress Carey Mulligan must have a really good PR team and stylist.
Wearing a discrete, flowered pattern, strapless dress for the Los Angeles premiere of her movie to go with her stunningly elegant short haircut she immediately recalls someone else...
...and see what short hair, flowers and shoulder got for Audrey!
Whoever told Carey to go naivete and ingenue by following the legendary fashion icon might just have struck gold!
Friday, October 2, 2009
Director: Sam Raimi
Cast: Alison Lohman, Justin Long, Lorna Raver
Dileep Rao, David Paymer, Adriana Barraza, Reggie Lee
Kevin Foster, Bojana Novakovic
There is a very fine line between horror and comedy. Most times this line is blurred when the horror gives path to unintentional comedy; so what then would you make of a movie that has the purpose of making you laugh after leaving you gasping for air?
That is exactly what Sam Raimi's brilliant "Drag Me to Hell" achieves; it's a combination of dark, gross humor balanced with scream-and-cover-your-eyes frights.
Alison Lohman stars as Christine Brown, a loan officer who aspires to be promoted to assistant manager over her sneaky co-worker Stu (Lee).
When her boss (Paymer) suggests that she might get the job if she can make tough choices she gets a heaven sent opportunity when Sylvia Ganush (a very, very creepy Raver) appears at her desk.
She's an elderly woman seeking a third extension on her mortgage without any real backups; when typical Christine would've seen in her a chance for good Samaritan work, career-oriented Christine however detects an opportunity to show her boss she has real guts.
She denies Sylvia the extension and gets the Lamia curse instead. Ganush who happens to be a gypsy invokes a goat demon that will haunt Christine for three days before coming to take her straight to hell.
The premise won't only make you feel guilty for wishing inhuman evil upon bank employees who screw you in the name of bureaucracy, it also comes as a time appropriate morality tale for such harsh economic times when the value of money has relegated basic human values.
But Raimi has no intentions whatsoever of becoming preachy, instead he takes you on a fair ride of sorts where every thrill has been carefully planned to elicit a specific reaction.
Therefore the film brims with cheap special effects (some of them straight out of the ACME handbook), insanely disgusting moments and a certain vibe that makes you feel you're both in and out of the joke.
Lohman is fantastic as Christine. For one she knows how to scream, run and be thrown around by poltergeist, she also brings to her character a sense of naivete. She's often referred to as a "farm girl", particularly by her boyfriend Clay's (Long who splendidly and subtly supports the leading lady) mother, who sees in her everything she wanted her son to stay away from (the whole thing might as well be a subconscious manifestation of momma, which wouldn't come as a surprise given the Freud references and the fact that the producing studio was home to Hitchcock near the end).
Lohman brings a sense of ambiguity to Christine, since you can't really judge her for trying to have a better life, even when some of her choices are just plain wrong and Marion Crane worthy (a scene with a kitchen knife and a cute little animal will, somehow, make you cringe and burst into uncontrollable laughter).
The young actress completely owns the film; her comedic sense only overshadowed by her scream queen qualities.
"Drag Me To Hell" is also an obvious exercise in film cross-referencing, from the opening credits which evoke William Friedkin's "The Exorcist" while using a vintage studio logo, to the three day curse plot line straight out of "Night of the Demon" Raimi has a blast winking at some of his role models.
This obviously means that some people will be more prone to "getting" the film more than others. Call it double feature snobbery if you like, because the joke is in the fact that the films Raimi pays homage to aren't standarized classics, but cult and camp extravaganzas that probably would only end up playing in drive-ins and will never see the light of DVD.
To see how Raimi revels in the B-movie-ness of "Drag Me to Hell" is enough of a joy. That you willingly go along with him and play his game fully aware of the tricks up his sleeve, is perversely delicious.
Thursday, October 1, 2009
"We're postponed for three days. The giraffe stepped on his cock."
-Herbert Ross being asked on why he wasn't working on "Doctor Dolittle".
(excerpt from Mark Harris' exceptional "Pictures at a Revolution", read it now!)