Monday, May 31, 2010

Glorious 39 *

Director: Stephen Poliakoff
Cast: Romola Garai, Bill Nighy, Julie Christie
Eddie Redmayne, Juno Temple, David Tennant, Charlie Cox
Jeremy Northam, Hugh Bonneville, Jenny Agutter
Christopher Lee, Corin Redgrave

If you liked Atonement but wished it had been a bit more like Whatever Happened to Baby Jane, then Glorious 39 might just be the movie for you.
Set in England during the summer of 1939, it recounts the dramatic story of Anne Keyes (Garai) a wealthy film actress who discovers her family might be involved in a political plot to stop WWII.
That might not sound like a bad thing, but it is! Setting the bizarre mood for a movie that rarely knows where it's going and much less how to get there.
You see, the pro-appeasement movement in pre-Churchill England was not merely used to avoid combat but also would help maintain the status quo among the upper classes who promoted it.
Of course writer/director Poliakoff doesn't seem to care about this and instead of using these ambiguities to make a comment on the way money shapes history, simply chose to throw it all away in favor of a plot that has everyone, except Garai's character, act like Stepford wives.
This is especially sad for the older actors, especially Christie and Lee, who has to endure a scene so terrible in the end that you wonder how much they paid him to go through with it.
Surprisingly Garai survives the movie with the least harm. The camera is obviously in love with her and despite Poliakoff's intentions to turn her into someone else (look it's Keira Knightley! No wait it's Cate Blanchett!) Garai's uncommon beauty helps her deliver a performance that's magnetic and well intentioned. She tries to be Ingrid Bergman in Notorious and obviously fails, but her spirit overcomes the tragedy that is the rest of the movie.
Therefore, an amazing ensemble is utterly wasted, used to bring to life a plot that confuses with its erratic tonal shifts.
The thing with Glorious 39 is that it doesn't know if it wants to be an homage to classic films (sometimes it feels like a "count the Hitchcock references" game), a Gothic horror movie, a surrealistic psychological portrait or a parody.
It moves so aimlessly among genres and styles that you never know for sure which one to pay attention to.
But beyond genres it fails to make any sense of who the characters are, which seems impossible to understand given the actors playing them.
Even the fact that the heroine is an actress (point which is brought up by mockers and skeptics throughout) teases us with an actual intention on the director's part.
Can he be trying to mention something about history's need for drama or about the roles we play unexpectedly? Can he be drawing parallels between the work of a spy and the work of an actress?
To formulate those kinds of questions would be too kind an offering for a movie that shows us a burning pile of cats and dogs, confuses randomness with intrigue and would make G.K. Chesterton roll in his grave.

Sunday, May 30, 2010

A Woman's Right to Shoes.

Given the strain under which fashion culture has been placed lately I couldn't help but wonder if people have always been so critical of clothes and accessories.

My first thought took me to one of my favorite films, for what is The Wizard of Oz if not a feminist stance on a woman's right to shoes?

When we first meet Dorothy Gale (Judy Garland) she's a preadolescent living in a sepia Kansas. Her clothing is limited to a simple jumper and white puffy shirt, complete with inconsequential Mary janes.
Threatened by the lack of meaning in her dull life and the menace of her evil neighbor Mrs. Gulch (Margaret Hamilton) she dreams of going to a place over the rainbow, where problems not only melt like lemon drops but she can actually enjoy the color of said fruits.

As we all know, a tornado takes her to the far away land of Oz where she encounters a fierce enemy in the Wicked Witch of the West and the endless possibilities of a Technicolor palette.
The minute she arrives, her view of life is transformed because she has achieved color. Her simple jumper now in pale blue becomes a symbol of serenity and achievement.
Did you know that the color blue is meant to symbolize high ideals?
With this simple color choice we determine that the filmmakers are placing an importance in the way Dorothy looks, in her expression through what she wears.

It's also interesting to point out the fact that for the film, the slippers were changed as well. In the book they are made out of silver but once they are tinted in red for the movie they acquire the properties of what some call the color of life.
Red is supposed to increase energy levels in those who see it while also representing confidence to chase your dreams and protection from fear.

What has lacked in most commentaries on Oz is the notion that Dorothy's struggles also represent a woman's self discovery through fashion.

When Dorothy's house lands on the Wicked Witch of the East, her death doesn't become reality until she's ridden of her powerful ruby slippers.
Notice how her socks shrink only until the good witch Glinda (Billie Burke) magically removes her shoes. Before that moment for all we know she could still lift the house with a magical spell.
With this, the movie isn't validating her life expressly through her footwear but makes a remarkable commentary on the ability of a thing as simple as a shoe to give women means of liberation.

Once I read an article on Vogue in which a woman who hated high heels takes on the enterprise of trying them out to see what she's missing. After an experimental phase she decides heels are still just not the thing for her.
Her views are changed however once she meets a woman who confesses that like her, she could do without the pain of heels but she uses them to reach the same height of her male co-workers at the office.

Judy Garland was quite short and given Dorothy's age, one would also expect her to be lacking in height. But once she puts the slippers on she is on par with her eventual, all male, travel companions.
She may not tower over them but she's practically their equal and instead of being seen as a meek figure, it's Dorothy herself who becomes their protector.

And that's without even mentioning the fact that the slippers have magical powers.

Then again, what is magic if not the ability to transform the ordinary into the extraordinary?
A woman's shoes may not have the power to transport her to other worlds or grant her wicked witch exterminating skills but they are much more than means of protecting your feet.

I'm sure when Dorothy woke up back in Kansas, she grabbed the first bus to the city and made her way to a department store to get her first pair of heels.

This post is part of the musical blog-a-thon hosted by the awesome Andrew of Encore's World of Film & TV.

Friday, May 28, 2010

Soul Kitchen **1/2

Director: Fatih Akin
Cast: Adam Bousdoukos, Moritz Bleibtreu, Birol Ünel
Anna Bederke, Pheline Roggan, Lukas Gregorowicz, Dorka Gryllus
Wotan Wilke Möhring, Demir Gökgöl

Less preoccupied with the threats of racial and cultural differences (as he was in The Edge of Heaven) Fatih Akin returns to the screen with a delightful comedy that celebrates the fact that none of us are alike.
Soul Kitchen stars Bousdoukos (who co-wrote the screenplay with Akin) as Zinos Kazantsakis, a Greek restaurant owner trying to make a decent living while the whole universe seems to conspire against him.
His girlfriend Nadine (Roggan) is moving to Shanghai and putting pressure on him to leave with her, his recently out of jail brother Illias (Bleibtreu) is using the restaurant as a front to continue his criminal life. There's also a vicious real estate man (Möhring) trying to take over the restaurant at any price, insane chef Shayn (Üne), greedy tax collectors and a boat building idiosyncratic old man named Sokrates (Gökgöl) who lives in the restaurant but refuses to pay rent.
It's obvious that this time Akin isn't grounded in realism and all the stock characters give the film a farcical, whimsy mood that makes the lack of an actual backstory feel almost irrelevant.
The lines come out of the characters' mouths with irreverent gusto and the performers achieve the kind of synergy most comedies only dream of having.
Bousdoukos is particularly good as a Job of sorts who has all these bad things occur to him but keeps walking forward, even after a hilarious back problem leaves him limping throughout most of the movie.
Bleibtreu does a great job evoking gangster clichés and Üne is just fantastic! His presence gives the movie a straight faced zaniness that it misses when he's not around.
Of course once you actually begin to try and make sense of everything that's going on, it's impossible not to see how unwritten the actual screenplay is, it seems as if these characters were created for the exclusive purpose of existing within the movie's running time and many interesting stories are left out in favor of high paced comedy.
Soul Kitchen is like the dishes we see Zinos preparing out of frozen goods and fatty comfort; they sure make you feel good while you're consuming them but they don't really fill you up, despite the remnant cravings.

Birthday Girl.

The lovely Carey Mulligan turns 25 today.
Here she is in all her idiosyncratic glory wearing a stunning Azzaro creation at the Cannes Film Festival (her look is straight out of a 1930's movie! I love it!).
Carey has two big profile movies coming later this year, do you think her star making turn in An Education was a one hit wonder or will she prove her worth in years to come?

Thursday, May 27, 2010

Defending Your Sex!

At first I thought I was being paranoid about how people are hating everything Sex but with a few hours left before the US premiere of the sequel, it's more than obvious that people have something against this movie.

For every lovely article with interesting, playful information like:

"20 Things You Didn't Know About SATC" at Sky Movies

"SATC2 Celebrity Interview Unscripted" at Moviefone

there's a distasteful, almost gratuitous attack like:

"Sex and the City 2 EW Cover: More Photoshopped Than the Poster?" at The Huffington Post (OMG do they REALLY Photoshop people in posters nowadays? *gasp*)
This one's especially hypocritical coming from a medium that highlights the Kardashian's almost naked bodies and Gwyneth Paltrow's curves in their entertainment section, yet chides the media's need to make actresses look beautiful.

Of course they also feature this in their website...

Now to breathe, there's this quite good, accurate article by someone who actually knows the show...
"In Defense of Sex and the City" at My Dog Ate My Blog

My biggest pet peeve though comes from the critical community, especially from Roger Ebert who seems to have made a mission out of trashing anything Sex.
Some of his Twitter posts read as follows:

  • 271 comments under the REEDIT link to my SATC2 review, and a lot of them are really good, by women.
  • RT @I_AM_OZMA There is not a single thing that happens to the people on Sex & The City that I would ever want to happen to me. Those people are awful.
  • SATC "still offers the best insight into the complications of modern womanhood" says writer on Yes,
And just in case he didn't make clear on Twitter how much he hates it, he reminds us at his website by placing not one, but two links to his one star review of the movie.

Coming from someone who pretty much hated the first yet awards four stars to almost anything else, this has a lot to say about how he barely has mentioned he also gave bad reviews to the other big weekend releases.

Earlier yesterday Vanity Fair also retweeted an old article where their writer compares SATC fans to extremist terrorists.

A Brazilian critic I read, expressed his distaste for the movie as he tweeted during the screening. Not what I would call "professional behavior" for someone being paid to write about movies he watches, not semi-watches because he's busy tweeting how much he hates them.

Curiously most of the dissenters clarify the fact that they're not sexist or genre biased. I wonder then, whatever happens to their condemnations of extremely violent action movies? Or their love for male bonding over female disrespect in films like The Hangover?
Is it really more offensive for mature women to indulge in luxury, sex and friendship than to see a big muscled guy kill twenty nameless terrorists without a second thought?

For all I know, a shoe has done much less harm in the world than a gun.

Monday, May 24, 2010

Palme Closet Case.

It's normal to hear film snobs utter complete disdain for the Academy Awards and gloat about how the latest Palm d'Or winner is the greatest thing since bread came sliced.
But with the recent edition of the Cannes film festival, and its winners, I wondered just how different these two awards truly are.
Sure, the cinema awarded in Cannes is usually more avant garde, innovative even, compared to the array of biopics, family dramas and bloated epics Oscar favors, but the principle behind how these awards are selected might not be as far from Hollywood as the Croisette likes to think.

Each year when we hear both the Oscar nominations and Cannes festival lineup, we realize that it's the same names being called over and over.
Oscar is infatuated with Clint Eastwood, Meryl Streep, Steven Spielberg and Ron Howard. Cannes favors Ken Loach, Wong Kar Wai, Pedro Almodóvar, Emir Kusturica and yes Clint Eastwood.
This year alone Loach's new film was extraordinarily included in the official selection a mere days before the festival began.

This begs us to wonder who exactly is choosing these movies. Supposedly submitting a film into the festival is an equal opportunity for everyone (if not why to suggest it with an easy to access link in the official site?) but how will the latest film from John Doe in Mexico fare against the latest work from festival darling Andrea Arnold (Cannes' Stephen Daldry perhaps with all her films winning something)?
Sure, it can be said that Carlos Reygadas' career, for example, was built entire upon festival submissions but once he became an established member of the auteur class, is his "newbie" spot available for someone to take?

To examine this further, let's take a look at the last five Palm d'Or winners.

2010-Uncle Boonmee Who Can Recall His Past Lives
2009-The White Ribbon
2008-The Class
2007-4 Months, 3 Weeks and 2 Days
2006-The Wind That Shakes the Barkey

Out of these five, three could very well be compared to Oscar rewarding A Beautiful Mind, Million Dollar Baby and The Departed during the last decade.
As in how two of these were the eventual coronation of someone who had this award coming all along and one was the first big win for someone who was denied the top prize out of random reasons.

Apichatpong Weerasethakul's Palm d'Or triumph wasn't in the least surprising, not only because the reviews were quite good but also because since his first entry with Blissfully Yours in 2002, the young director has been escalating towards the big award.
He had movies in the official competition in 02, 04 and was a jury member in 2008. His presence in the festival is the equivalent of Tom Hanks' position within AMPAS (although it's obvious who has more artistic merits in world cinema).

When Michael Haneke finally won the Palm d'Or in 2009, it could be said that he had finally hit all the right buttons for the festival stars to align in his favor.
His first festival entry was in 1997 with the controversial Funny Games, after which came Code Unknown in 2000 (Ecumenical Prize of the jury), La Pianiste in 2001 (Grand Prize and acting awards), Caché in 2005 (Best Director award) all finally culminating with the big win four years later.
Don't get me wrong, I love Haneke (I named The White Ribbon best film of 09 as well) but the point I'm trying to make is that it might not be that necessary to nominate or award him for everything he does.

Same happened to Ken Loach who won the Palm in 2006 after having a dozen films in competition from 1981 to 2010. Can he then be the Scorsese of the Croisette?

Sure, 2008 and 2007 would prove my theories wrong, considering how both were practically surprise winners coming from literal unknowns, but you need not but take a look at those individual year's lineups to see that they were comprised of the same people.
2007 alone had films by previous winners Fatih Akin, Quentin Tarantino, Gus van Sant, Emir Kusturica and Carlos Reygadas.

Of course this also invites us to explore the relationship that exists within both events which are arguably considered the most important film awards in the world. In 2007 for example, No Country for Old Men by Cannes' darlings Joel and Ethan Coen left the festival without a single award but only because people knew it didn't need an extra hand to earn a load of awards later (same with Mike Leigh this year?).

And this is concentrating merely in the top prizes (matters like box office and distribution would require a piece of their own). This year alone we saw films by previous Best Director winner Alejandro González Iñarritu (2006 for Babel) and Palm d'Or winner Abbas Kiarostami, receive acting awards.
Is Cannes showing signs of nepotism?

When you take into consideration the fact that jury members change every year and festival history might not have a lot to do with how they decide to vote each year, everything I said might prove to be a moot point.
But can there be that much coincidence?

I would agree too that watching the new Audiard go head to head with the new Almodóvar might be much more appealing than yet another Clint vs. Marty showdown, but isn't traditionalism, whether avant garde or commercial, quite boring in essence?

Is Cannes just Oscar with a classier outfit?

Sunday, May 23, 2010

Jury Couture.

Now that the Cannes Film Festival is over, it's time to concentrate on what's really important*: how the jury members looked.

*I say this only because films out of Cannes are distributed by Satan who makes sure most of us never get to see them.

This time let's focus on the fabulous Kate Beckinsale, whose inclusion in the jury left me scratching my head. Other than her beauty has she really made a big contribution to cinema?
I mean she was excellent in Nothing But the Truth (in my mind she boycotted Naomi Watt's chances of getting an acting award for Fair Game because she essentially played the same part a mere two years ago) but other than that her filmography is quite lacking to say the least.

What she knows how to do though is wear a dress.

Let's take a look at her Cannes outfits.

She was stunning in Gucci Premiere with a color that did wonders for her.
Considering that the line debuted at the festival and everyone wore the dresses, it's pretty safe to say that Kate did it best.

She continued a current trend by wearing an Armani Privé from the moon inspired collection (I honestly haven't seen a bad dress in this collection).
The sculptural gown showed her figure beautifully and the sparkly shoulder appliqués (plus that risqué shoulder pad) are magnificent.

Some people found this Balmain to be quite unappealing for the red carpet.
But I think that considering how outrageous Cannes fashion usually is, this unorthodox color and style made a statement that recalled Rita Hayworth.

For the festival's opening night, Beckinsale chose a pale Marchesa that literally made her look heavenly.
The severe, yet playful, Pompadour gave the look a delicious old continent flavor.

In an eggplant and lavender Dior dress, the lovely jury member paved her way among the paparazzi.
Notice how she's technically wearing the same Pompadour as before but gives it an altogether different feeling with the lack of accessories.

Beckinsale was luscious in a Greek inspired Temperley London design which gave the Chopard gala a sweet, but elegant, mood.
Letting her hair down she's a walking invitation for a barefoot champagne party at the beach later.

How do you think Beckinsale fared at jury duty?

Cannes Palmares 2010.

The winners are:

Palme d'Or
Uncle Boonmee Who Can Recall His Past Lives directed by Apichatpong Weerasethakul

Grand Prix
Of Gods and Men directed by Xavier Beauvois

Best Director
Mathieu Amalric for Tournée

Best Screenplay
Lee Chang-dong for Poetry

Best Actress
Juliette Binoche for Copie Conforme

Best Actor (tie)
Javier Bardem for Biutiful

Elio Germano for La Nostra Vita

Jury Prize
A Screaming Man directed by Mahamat-Saleh Haroun

Black and White: Naomi Watts.

The lovely Ms. Watts rocked the Cannes red carpet in two quite polar looks.
First in white for the premiere of Fair Game in what I'm assuming is Armani Privé.

Next for a film screening in simple black (designer to be found) for the premiere of Biutiful.

Which do you prefer?

Saturday, May 22, 2010

The Human Centipede (First Sequence) ***1/2

Director: Tom Six
Cast: Dieter Laser
Akihiro Kitamura, Ashley C. Williams, Ashlynn Yennie

We have become so used to cheap thrills and sudden scares that the feat achieved by The Human Centipede (First Sequence) is nothing if not remarkable: it will keep you horrified during its entire running time.
Combining B movie elements, a deranged Cronenberg-ian style and unfiltered exploitation techniques, it crafts a story so sick and inhuman that you can't help but wonder how would someone come up with it (it's actually easy to find out and Google might help you find the answer in a second).
The film opens on a German highway where we first meet Dr. Heiter (Laser) as he sits in his luxurious car waiting for something.
Then he spots a truck driver looking for a place to release himself, the doctor smirks, grabs a shot gun and moves towards the unsuspecting man. The scene ends.
From its initial shot the movie sets a Lynchian atmosphere that always keeps us wondering what road it will take and unless you have read the plot synopsis beforehand you really won't know until you see it.
Moments later we see Lindsay (Williams) and Jenny (Yennie), two American tourists, preparing for a night out during in the middle of their European road trip.
They drive through their rental car in the middle of nowhere and of course they get a flat tire, of course they're wearing high heels and don't know how to change a tire and obviously they think that their best way out is to immerse themselves into the forest in the middle of a storm and look for help.
They end up running into Dr. Heiter's house. Once there they find themselves in the middle of a perverse experiment where the sadistic doctor performs surgery on them and a Japanese man named Katsuro (Kitamura) to create something not even Dr. Frankenstein would've imagined.
What follows is an endurance test for the characters and the audience who at every second find themselves trapped into a tragedy of which they too are responsible.
The Human Centipede is an exercise on how far can genre boundaries be pushed and the director makes sure to bend them to his extreme will every time.
Laser gives what's sure to become an iconic performance as the doctor whose Nazi beliefs are as evident as the director's disdain for political correctness.
The way the actor gives into the character is creepy and to a degree admirable as he indulges in all sorts of grossness without the selfconsciousness of usual horror movie villains.
In the extreme lunacy of Dr. Heiter, Laser taps into a horror so primal that not even nightmares can start to explain.
But what remains more horrifying about the film is its lack of obviousness. Most movies of its kind have an agenda of their own; whether to condemn capitalism, media violence or try to understand the dark depths of the human psyche, they all use the genre to make comments about broader subjects.
Therefore, in its use of science, multiculturalism and torture, The Human Centipede has to mean something right?
The truth is that while watching it you might want to see some sort of commentary on WWII, foreign policies, gender inequity and the duality of scientific experimentation, yet the director makes every moment so harrowing that no simple explanation allows us to contextualize and humanize the actions onscreen.
You will leave The Human Centipede trying hard to grasp some sort of justification, to reassure yourself that evil of its kind is only a fantasy, before what you just have seen plagues your darkest nightmares.

A Roll in the Hay.

Friday, May 21, 2010

Agora **

Director: Alejandro Amenábar
Cast: Rachel Weisz
Max Minghella, Oscar Isaac, Sami Samir, Rupert Evans
Michael Lonsdale, Ashraf Barhom

Agora is a highly ambitious, if not entirely effective, parable that uses the life of Hypatia of Alexandria to deliver its views on modern times.
The famous philosopher is played by Rachel Weisz who with her timeless, ethereal beauty does justice to the crush the director has on the character.
His Hypatia is a strong willed woman who becomes the center of men's lives and ignites passion, fear and admiration within them.
One of them is her slave Davus (Minghella) who secretly becomes a Christian to see if this god will grant his wish of making Hypatia fall for him. Another is her pupil Orestes (Isaac) who declares his love for her in song form.
But she remains indifferent to their feelings and dedicates her time to the study of the universe, particularly what is its center and how gravity, stars, circles, orbs and planets all interfere with one another.
Because we know that most of the topics she's obsessed with, became concepts until centuries later (and the film never really makes her discoveries exciting enough), Amenábar has an easy way to get rid of her emotional depth and turn her into a selfish character whose obsession with knowledge isn't as prominent as her detachment from humanity.
When in the film's centerpiece (a remarkable scene that teases us of the epic possibilities the film loses), the Christians destroy the Library of Alexandria, Hypatia sobs at the loss of books and not at the destruction of life around her.
Her dedication to the written word and science at least distract her from the conflicts between Christians, Pagans and Jews.
Christians being the new religion and all try to impose their views on everyone and seek to exterminate those who disagree. We all know how this went but instead of rubbing in our faces how misled our conception of religion has been, the film really turns the Christians into outlandish movie villains.
Fully dressed in black they wreak havoc across Alexandria, screaming "hallelujah" and looking like Satan's minions.
While it's true that Christianism (especially Roman Catholicism) has proven in the last decades to be plagued with immorality and corruption, what does the film achieve by reinforcing viciousness?
What can we make of the film's discourse when it only explores motives on the surface? The director seemingly wants to say something about the way intolerance has shaped history but mostly ends up revealing his own shortsightedness.
It's quite clear that he's on the side of "reason", seeing how he tries to glorify Hypatia in every scene and Weisz does a convincing job playing someone who's both muse and heroine.
"I feel that what you say can be refuted but now I don't know how" she says at one point and Weisz provides her for a second with a warmth that reassures us that she will find how before she's skinned alive by Christians in the end.
Agora's biggest setback is its inability to see its limitations. When it becomes clear that the screenplay (written by Amenábar and Mateo Gil) doesn't know how to create characters, the director should've worked with their flaws instead of perpetuating them.
Seeing how Davus, Orestes and Hypatia all have secret, perhaps unjustified, motivations, why not use them as metaphors of selfcenteredness and its relation to eternal intolerance?
It's clear to the audience at least that because all the characters are living exclusively for themselves they're unable to perceive the world around them.
In the same way the movie, in its effort to rediscover the center of the universe, ended up losing its own.

Thursday, May 20, 2010

Don't Forget!

The season finale of 30 Rock tonight! With guest star Matt Damon!!!!!
No, NBC doesn't pay me.

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

When Maggie MET Louis.

I know the Met Costume Gala this year was held more than two weeks ago, but bear with me, I've rarely had time to blog this month and this being my second favorite fashion event of the year and all, I thought you all could indulge me and help me pretend as if the looks from the ball were completely fresh in your eyes.

Maggie Gyllenhaal, bless her soul, isn't the smartest dresser out there.
Sure she's not quite common as an actress and she might want to bring her quirk to her looks but she rarely makes it work.
This Gothic Louis Vuitton gown was probably great in theory but her lack of makeup and lazy hairdo steal the dramatic edge the dress needed to stun.

Kirsten Dunst looks fabulous from the head all the way up to the hideous country boots she's wearing.
The lacey Rodarte dress looks beautiful with her fresh face but ugh the shoes...why does she always try so hard to boycott herself in red carpets?

The lovely Carey Mulligan is straight out of the 60's in a lavender Miu Miu minidress.
The pockets are adorable but notice the delicate work in the embroidery and you'll understand why she pulls off this look like no one else could.

Demi Moore is a vision in all her Jessica Rabbit glory. I loved the dramatic effect the silver gave her femme fatale look.
My surprise was to realize that this wasn't Versace but Lanvin!

Anne Hathaway looks like a 50's princess in a flesh toned Valentino.
She reminded me of Grace Kelly and Judy Garland and to think that she got the simple hair and makeup so damn right by keeping it so simple is a wonder.
Her smile is as usual her best accessory oh yes and that's Kate Bosworth next to her...

Always the icon, Sarah Jessica Parker pulled off a stunner in her Halston Heritage gown.
This year the Costume Institute celebrated the American woman and she's straight out of the disco era (the flower!) in a subdued design by one of the country's most brilliant couturiers.

If Marion Cotillard is suggesting she'll become a legend she couldn't have done better than in this sparkly Dior inspired by Marlene Dietrich.
I'm not sure if I like the altogether look (it's a bit too matronly for the young actress) but the intention is delicious and in such a night reminds us that glamor came from the old continent.

Another who's never afraid to experiment, January Jones pulled all the runway tricks and wears this YSL minidress like a pro. The makeup and opera gloves might be a bit too much and perhaps would've been more appropriate for last year's gala.

I love Charlotte Gainsbourg and I adore Nicolas Ghesquiere and I love that they love each other.
But sometimes I think a little time apart wouldn't harm them as she keeps inspiring the same ideas in him and he keeps providing her with print minis and strange shoes.
They look amazing but seeing other people might not harm them.

Quite the Greek vision Christina Hendricks is straight out of a theater B.C. the L'Wrenn Scott dress is a beauty but her makeup is a bit too kabuki.

J. Lo is gorgeous but a bit safe in this Zuhair Murad gown.
Is it me or did Marchesa make something just like it a few years ago and Beyoncé wore it?

If I had Blake Lively's legs I probably would prance around in short dresses showing them off as well.
But I'd love to see her in something with more fabric for once. Can you imagine the effect of this Marchesa if it had a huge, puffy skirt to go with it?

Melissa George evokes film noir in this simple J Mendel.
The color is magnificent and the draping is to die for but the real beauty is how her hair and makeup go so perfect with the whole thing.
Times like these make me wish she was a huge movie star.

Renee Zellweger is wearing a gorgeous Carolina Herrera, as usual.
But what the hell is going on with her Kathy Geiss hairdo?

Did you pay any attention to the Met gala?
If so, did I miss any of your favorite looks?

Happy 40 Tina!

The sexiest woman in entertainment turns 40 today.
Go watch 30 Rock to celebrate or write something witty, just don't vote for Sarah Palin.

Crush of the Week.

Monday, May 17, 2010

A Nightmare on Elm Street *

Director: Samuel Bayer
Cast: Jackie Earle Haley
Kyle Gallner, Rooney Mara, Katie Cassidy, Thomas Dekker
Kellan Lutz, Clancy Brown, Connie Britton, Lia Mortensen

Anyone who's been alive for the past three decades knows who Freddy Krueger is. Heck, he might've even be the cause for them falling asleep at school during the day or the reason why they would never look at red and black stripes in the same way.
Truth is you don't even need to be a die hard fan of the original movies to know what Freddy represents.
This remake, carrying the tragic Michael Bay seal of quality, takes everything about the character and reduces it to a version of 902010 with blood and, more, screaming.
The setup is still pretty much the same: a bunch of kids begin to die mysteriously during their sleep, the only thing they have in common is that all of their dreams feature a man called Freddy Krueger.
The man wears a knifed glove and most of his skin is burnt. He also has a thing for torturing and brutally murdering the teenagers in their dreams while they sleep.
Because the characters and situations are so inconsequential, the thing that's left to judge about the movie is its ability to frighten us, which it never does.
One of the plot twists has to do with the fact that, after an extended period of time, insomniacs might enter a limbo where dreams and reality are impossible to separate. This nod to the power of dreams could've given the film its most terrifying theme but the Freddy scenes are done with such lack of nuance that the audience always knows when it's a dream and when it's not.
The unimaginative cinematography and score do little to set the mood and there is a scene with visual effects out of Scary Movie.
The most important effect of course should be Freddy himself and while Haley's performance tries to amp up on the creep, it never comes even close to conveying the macabre gusto with which Robert Englund dug his claws into the meat, pun intended.
With all its supposed dismay, attempts at conveying a dark back story with all sorts of perversions and traumas; the truth is that the film's use of facile, ridiculous Freudian techniques to explain the whys of Freddy might be the only thing worth a nightmare.

Sunday, May 16, 2010

Robin Hood *1/2

Director: Ridley Scott
Cast: Russell Crowe, Cate Blanchett
Mark Strong, William Hurt, Matthew Macfadyen, Oscar Isaac
Danny Huston, Mark Addy, Kevin Durand, Scott Grimes
Eileen Atkins, Max von Sydow

What do you get when you combine Batman Begins, Gladiator and Lord of the Rings but take away anything that was good about them? The answer is Robin Hood.
Ridley Scott's retelling of the English folk tale is a conflicted attempt at updating the basic story for modern audiences and keeping faithful to its roots.
It's the 12th century and rebellious soldier Robin Longstride (Crowe) decides he's had enough of the Crusades. He's been fighting along Richard the Lionheart (Huston) for a decade and his patience just runs out one day.
After learning the king has died (which he obviously hasn't as anyone with the slightest inkling of world history would know) Robin and his, not so, Merry Men (Addy, Grimes and Durand) run into an ambush planned by the wicked sir Godfrey (Strong).
Godfrey plans to steal the crown, create civil war in England and help the French invade the country but Robin botches his plan and inadvertently ends setting the way for a farce which has him travel to England and pretend to be the deceased sir Robert Loxley (Douglas Hodge) who before dying made him promise he'd deliver his sword to his estranged father sir Walter (von Sydow).
Before Robin even leaves France we have ourselves the possibility to make at least four different movies but Scott and screenwriter Brian Helgeland seem to think that more is more and keep on stuffing the plot.
Back in British territory, the spoiled Prince John (Isaac) is wreaking havoc, bedding French women and making his mom (Atkins) quite pissed. Like a villain out of Shrek the young man simply succumbs to his whims and jeopardizes his kingdom and the movie's attempt at being coherent.
He's convinced by Godfrey to tax the hell out of his people, while he's secretly plotting to create a distraction for the French to take over the country, and paves the way for Robin to earn his hood.
Robin meanwhile is on his way to Nottingham where the evil Sheriff (MacFadyen) is executing the crown's orders with mean delight. There he meets sir Walter and Marion Loxley (Blanchett), no longer a maiden but a widow. Walter immediately takes a liking to Robin and requests that he pretend to be his son officially and stay living with them.
He obliges and soon is robbing grain from the Church, traveling at the speed of light to be in war councils, plowing the fields, saving England from the French invasion, creating the Magna Carta, solving daddy issues and courting the reluctant Marion.
There is so much going on in Robin Hood that it makes total sense how it's only when the film ends that we learn that "so the legend begins". Precisely, how would this man have time to become the Robin we know about, when Scott forces him to be so many things?
The hero's lack of identity determines the disunity that characterizes the entire film which amounts to little more than a wasted opportunity.
With that cast, which is rather impressive, one would at least expect the movie to deliver moments that evoked The Lion in Winter, instead the performances range from the hammy (Strong) to the confusing (Hurt).
Crowe, varies his accent from scene to scene and really shows no commitment to the role he's playing. This is obviously not his fault, entirely, given how the screenplay shows no regard whatsoever for any dramatic background.
In a way it's strange that Robin Hood in a way repeats the Gladiator formula yet fails so miserably.
As in the previous film, Crowe plays a troubles soldier adopted by a great actor, who changes the course of history. But while Gladiator had an almost Shakesparean aspect to it, Robin Hood is more unintentional Monty Python.
The film's major issue is probably the lack of clarity about what it wants to be exactly. Scott is known for his gritty realism and wondrously crafted action sequences but he also can do stupendous fantasy.
Here though he tries to do both at the same time without any cohesion, therefore we have Robin being all "Robin" and seducing the tough Marion (who honestly never seems to be into him) and a few minutes later he's behaving like an actual historical figure delivering grandiose speeches.
The story sometimes moves by inertia (it's never explained why the Merry Men actually follow Robin and the sudden "I love you" he says to Marion is ludicrous), then stalls, then throws in a random action sequence.
We never know for sure if we're meant to take anything about the movie seriously, is it trying to demythify the character? Is it trying to mythify history? What about the political undertones? Is it actually saying something about socialism and human rights?
It's ironic to say so but this is one Robin with no aim.

Friday, May 14, 2010


I was trying to come up with some "serious" reason to detour from movie talk and bring up what's been my obsession for more than a week: Kylie Minogue's new single All the Lovers.
I thought about making a short dissertation on how this is shaping into the year of mythology (seriously what's up with all the Greek references in pop culture this year?).
However I decided any attempt to intellectualize the song would rob it of its anthem-like nature.
If you haven't listened to it go here.
I know Kylie's not everyone's cup of tea (last year people in NYC had no idea who she even was) but All the Lovers has crossover appeal.
It helps that the song reaches almost cinematic levels (it's more epic than Clash of the Titans, Agora and Percy Jackson combined!) especially when it arrives to an instrumental bridge that simply takes over you.
It's also more romantic, angsty and heartbreaking than any movie released this year so far, if Valentine's Day and Dear John had reached even 0.001% of the love rush this song does, they'd be amazing movies.
So OK go listen to it and join me on the dancefloor.

Thursday, May 13, 2010

Katalin Varga ***1/2

Director: Peter Strickland
Cast: Hilda Péter, Norbert Tankó, László Mátray
Roberto Giacomello, Tibor Pálffy, Fatma Mohamed

The best cinema usually sneaks up behind you while you least expect it; such is the case in Katalin Varga, a seemingly simple revenge tale that will haunt you with its poetic brutality.
The film takes place in Transylvania and begins when the title character (Péter) realizes her husband (Mátray) discovered he's not the biological father of their son Orbán (Tankó).
Without much ceremony he asks her to leave the village with her bastard, whom he refuses to see.
Katalin and her son leave with nothing but a horse drawn cart. She tells the child they're off to visit her sick mother but actually means to seek and take revenge on the men who raped her eleven years before.
In an efficient running time of 85 minutes, debut director, Peter Strickland, creates a vast portrait of womanhood, folklore and justice as Katalin represents the tensions created between the preservation of history and the fast moving times.
Péter gives a brilliant naturalistic performance and takes over the screen in unsuspected ways. With an enigmatic look, that recalls Tilda Swinton, the actress makes Katalin her own; a mysterious combination of raw sensuality, maternal instinct and avenging angel.
At the beginning of the film we wonder if she isn't acting out of selfishness given how easily she lies to have her way, then it becomes clear that she's on a mission that goes beyond her own will.
She mentions how she speaks to the forest that witnessed her rape and instead of taking her for some sort of lunatic, the words coming out of her mouth sound ethereal.
Péter does a fantastic job maintaining a balance between Katalin the woman and the concept. Given how much the director tends to manipulate the mood and suggest that we might be in the presence of supernatural forces, her performance is brilliant.
Strickland too is a mystery upon himself; a British director shooting a film in Hungarian set in the Carpathians isn't something you see every day and perhaps this is the reason why the movie is so good.
The idea that this foreigner comes to a strange land refreshes the whole concept of what we'd have expected if the film had been made by a local.
In Katalin Varga Strickland tries to grasp the prevalence of mythical elements amidst our society. This is why the film is set in a remote village where people live under common rules that would be immediately disregarded in our societies.
Yet when Katalin pulls out her cellphone to call her estranges husband, we're reminded that this film doesn't take place during the Middle Ages.
The beautifully subdued score and the haunting work of cinematography (there's a scene in a river that seems like a memory you never had) compliment a film that might very well be called a folk thriller.
When the film reaches its unexpected climax we realize that despite what we think is our better knowledge, Strickland gave his heroine the only fate she could've had, in the process reminding us that despite the technological advancements, nothing beats the power of good storytelling.

Monday, May 10, 2010

Chloe ***

Director: Atom Egoyan
Cast: Julianne Moore, Liam Neeson, Amanda Seyfried
Max Thierot, R.H. Thomson, Nina Dobrev, Mishu Vellani

Why do prostitutes always have unusual names? Are they pseudonyms they take on to embody their profession or is their career choice in a way determined by the way they're called?
This is one of the many enigmas embodied by the monosyllabic title character (played by Seyfried) whose main concern is giving her clients total satisfaction.
As part of her work, as an upscale prostitute, she makes it her job to find out what people want before they do and find ways to fulfill their every fantasy.
When she's approached by gynecologist Catherine Stewart (Moore) and after stating she doesn't work with single women, she encounters a strange request: Catherine wants Chloe to seduce her husband David (Neeson) and find out if he's cheating or if he's willing to do it. Catherine however and not her husband will be the client.
Always the professional, Chloe takes on the assignment and then meets with Catherine who attentively listens to how her husband acts with the young woman.
Seduced by the idea of learning more about her distant husband, Catherine establishes an unorthodox relationship with Chloe which soon proves to be more than either bargained for.
With Chloe Atom Egoyan once again explores sexuality and the way it affects the way we shape out life stories but perhaps because it's not his own screenplay (it was written by Erin Cressida Wilson and based on a French film) he doesn't always succeed in making the plot entirely his own.
The film is divided by two clashing ideologies; a dichotomy of sorts that's fascinating and complex in theory but feels unfinished in execution.
With Chloe and Catherine we have two women who are both extreme opposites and simultaneously compliment each other. They both built careers that depend on genitals, they both lack something in their lives and they are both fascinated by seduction.
But while Chloe relies on the dreams to rule her life and work, Catherine firmly establishes to one of her patients that "an orgasm is simply a series of muscle contractions" and there's "no mystery" to them.
What should we perceive from the fact that in a way Catherine is lying to her patient as she obsesses about the fact that her husband has stopped making love to her. Why doesn't she take this matter to her own hands in a literal way?
The fact that Chloe seems to be more in tune with who she is, should result remarkable until the movie turns her into a version of the character Rebecca de Mornay played in The Hand that Rocks the Cradle and seems to pass judgment on her.
Conversely we might also begin to wonder what's going on in Catherine's mind, the way her emotions lead her to act irrationally makes us see her behavior as a self sabotaged attempt at female emancipation.
Can she be creating a diversion to justify her own dissatisfaction with her marriage? While she thinks she's taking her destiny on her own hands in a way she is also relinquishing her happiness to her husband. Is blaming him the only way she can find to become free? In the process isn't she also becoming like him?
The notions of perception and the unknown are wonderfully executed by the two lead actresses, Moore as brilliant as ever, lingers dangerously between paranoia and despair. As she explores the fear of aging she also delivers one of her sexiest performances.
Amanda Seyfried is revelatory and has us guessing her motivations until the very end and in a way it's her performance that elevates the movie from a sloppy sexual thriller to a complex character study.
When Chloe reaches its climax, instead of complaining about the unsurprising road it takes we are left wondering if in the insane turn she takes in the end she wasn't in fact just satisfying Catherine's need for a little drama to make her feel alive?
After all she was the client.

Sunday, May 9, 2010

Stay Away From This Film Today!

"I figure that everyone is entitled to just so much happiness in life. Some get it in the beginning and some in the middle and others at the end.
And then there are those who have it spread thin all through the years."
- Ma Cooper (Beulah Bondi) to her husband (Victor Moore) in Make Way for Tomorrow

And if you don't, go and give your mom the biggest hug you can!