Thursday, September 30, 2010

An Underrated Master.

May he too rest in peace.

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Sunday, September 26, 2010

Style Sunday.

Carey Mulligan came out of nowhere to fill film screens with delight and red carpets with the kind of sartorial magic, actresses twice her age only wish they would achieve.
She's simply stunning in this simple Nina Ricci ensemble. She's classy, sexy and timeless without looking old. It's unbelievable to think she's my age! I'm filled with joy thinking all the future fashiongasms I'll get from her.

From the newbie to the master, only Sarah Jessica Parker could pair leather, lace and pink and make it look utterly fabulous.
Her leather jacket and ruffly lace skirt from Burberry are incredible but what gives this ensemble the killer touch is its use of Alexander McQueen accessories. This is how you do clothes people!

Kate Winslet is one hot momma! Her Gucci minidress proves not only that the black little dress is essential and timeless but that Winslet has found the secret to looking better as she gets older.
Her Louboutin peep toe pumps are perfect!

Remember how I was complaining about my beloved Julia last week?
She did me good this time around by dressing like a mature lady without looking ancient. This simple pantsuit does wonders for her.
Notice the light pink shirt and how it lights up her gorgeous face. She doesn't even need to smile to look like a princess!

Who's your fave of these beautiful ladies?

Saturday, September 25, 2010

Sheet-y Saturday.

Where we take a look at posters for upcoming features.

The upper half of this poster is a thing of beauty. Simple illustrations to make a powerful point.
The lower half is a mess though. Not only is it a total ripoff of things that have been done better before but the images and credits are so conflicting.
For starters the movie is called Company Men, emphasis in "men", yet we have the awesome Maria Bello right in the middle of that testosterone party looking all lost and confused.
What's weird isn't that the lack of her name among the credits makes this seem like some misogynist Neil Labute experiment but that once you realize she's the only one in that group who doesn't have an Oscar (or a goddamn nomination for starters!) makes it all seem more unfair and just plain bad.

This movie is honestly making me think of this too much.
But just how cute was Matt Damon in the 30 Rock season premiere?

Interested in either of these movies?
Also I just realized this edition of Sheet-y Saturday paired Ben and Matt, I promise it was totally unintentional.

Friday, September 24, 2010

Going the Distance ***

Director: Nanette Burstein
Cast: Drew Barrymore, Justin Long
Charlie Day, Jason Sudeikis, Ron Livingston, Natalie Morales
Jim Gaffigan, Christina Applegate

There is something about Going the Distance that probably makes it the kind of movie you either really like or just completely despise. Something about how ordinary it is makes it feasible for you to be swept off your feet or offended by its brand of comedy.
It's a basic story about boy meets girl, boy loses girl, boy tries to get back girl but it does so in a way that seems unique if only because it's so lacking in the kind of cynicism that rules the genre nowadays.
By no means the savior of the romantic comedy, at least it's refreshing because it buys its own clichés so much that you can't really accuse it of being too smart for its own good or too naive.
It tells the story of Erin (Barrymore) and Garrett (Long), she's interning at an NYC newspaper, he works for a music studio. They meet on a random night after an incident involving a Centipede machine and a few scenes later we see Erin trying to sneak out of Garrett's room after what seems like another one night stand.
But Garrett has the clever idea of asking Erin to join him for breakfast and pretty soon they realize they might wanna see each other again. They make things clear from the start though: he's just gotten out of a relationship (with Gossip Girl Leighton Meester who has a hilarious cameo) and she's due back in San Francisco to attend grad school after the summer is done.
Despite their best knowledge they end up falling in love and then must endure the long distance relationship mentioned in the title.
What follows is a series of hilarious moments in which we see them Skyping, texting, phone sexing and paying each other the random visit in order to see if they can make this last.
The movie isn't about long distance relationships as much as it is about people holding on desperately to whatever humanity they can find in these times.
That statement might make it sound like a profound study of love but the truth is that the movie perhaps would never even dare think of itself that way.
It's interesting to see the way in which the director gives the film a natural flow; the characters don't talk like smartasses and even their vulgarity seems part of who they are, as opposed to being profane for the sake of shocking, like most "adult" comedies do (you will love hearing Drew Barrymore say "fuck" and "dick" without blushing).
The way in which it deals with sex is refreshing (it's not an issue but it's not vapid either) and while it might not be the greatest romantic comedy ever, its approach to how people act nowadays feels groundbreaking.
Something about the characters' seeming immaturity gives Going the Distance enough punch to make you laugh your ass off while providing it with the sort of melancholy that springs from laughing to keep from crying.
In its apparent craziness and nothingness, the film taps onto the terrifying fact that even if dating has changed and sex is no longer taboo, even the most skeptical find themselves yearning for "the one".
It might not be The Way We Were but except from an overdone scene featuring Applegate (who otherwise is a true scene stealer) this movie might just steal your heart.

Thursday, September 23, 2010

Two Things I Didn't Know About Harry Shum, Jr.

First of all yowza. No wonder the girl dumped the guy for him.
I mean I sorta saw this one coming but I was willing to give one of the bigger guys the benefit of having the perfect body.

Second of all, did you guys know Harry was born right here in Costa Rica? Down where I live? Maybe not cool but some of us can never get enough useless trivia huh?
Speaking of which just how crappy was that season premiere? It was like deja vu from season one all over again...any of you liked it?

Sunday, September 19, 2010

Style Sunday.

This Dolce & Gabbana dress with lace appliques is nothing short of stunning but Julia makes it look so matronly. Or perhaps the dress is already too severe for her? I keep imagining Sophia Loren owning this big time. This time not even Julia's smile can save her from the utter lack of oomph.

Cate Blanchett on the other hand is pure sartorial perfection.
This look is just so wow. Words aren't enough to encompass just how mind blowing this is. Is Cate trying to make up for Robin Hood by looking so glorious?
This vintage Christian Lacroix is already gorgeous (the detail in the embroidery!) and Cate's porcelain skin gives the intense burgundy a great contrast.
What makes this even more perfect is the simple bob she went for. I don't think we'll see a better look in any celebrity this year. This is just too much.
Hats off to Cate.

What do you think of these two? Remember when Cate dropped out of Closer and Julia got the part? I know this has nothing to do with anything but watching that Lacroix is making me delirious...

Saturday, September 18, 2010

Sheet-y Saturday.

Where we take a look at posters for upcoming movies.

Now we all know I probably won't be attending Jackass 3D although the idea of feeling like I can touch Johnny Knoxville might tempt me for a while (let me be, we're all entitled to our gross little crushes).
This poster caught my attention because it's exceptionally made. The idea is simple, straightforward and the execution is marvelous. Watch how a little piece of the picture outside the frame gives the rest of the composition real depth and perspective.
One simple detail like this can spark so much curiosity from the audience who will probably want a larger, and nastier, than life experience when they attend this movie.
We could've done without the too-big 3D title, perhaps just the trademark skull would've sufficed? But the rest is poster perfection.

Salt **

Director: Phillip Noyce
Cast: Angelina Jolie, Liev Schreiber, Chiwetel Ejiofor
Daniel Olbrychski, August Diehl, Olek Krupa, Hunt Block, Corey Stoll

For about one third of its running time Salt is a damn good, almost spectacular, thriller. Then it's not.
Angelina Jolie plays Evelyn Salt, a CIA agent accused by a Russian defector (Olbrychski) of being a KGB sleeper agent sent decades before to accomplish a top secret mission ominously called "Day X" (i.e. complete world destruction).
Since this happens within the first minutes of the movie, the next hour and a half has Salt on the run, while agents played by Schrieber and Ejiofor pursue her. She goes all MacGyver and builds explosives with cleaning supplies, infiltrates top secret bunkers and thinks of her German arachnologist husband Mike (Diehl) while wearing fabulous ushankas.
The energy contained in the first part of the film is akin to J.J. Abrams superb spy series Alias, in how it builds a strong female character, hints at some heavy emotional background and provides her with badass qualities without ever reducing her to a mere male fantasy.
What goes wrong here is that director Noyce doesn't seem able to juggle every aspect of this character. He tries to make three different movies with her, one where Evelyn is a wrongfully accused woman trying to clear her name and save her husband (which gives Salt its only chance of having a heart), another where she is a fembot wreaking havoc wherever she struts. Plus another movie where she's an excuse to resurrect the Russians as America-hating villains often bordering on the ridiculous.
It's this movie that's the most troubling because its flirting with parody makes the others seem completely preposterous and incoherent.
Of course, nothing about Salt is supposed to make much sense and Jolie seems to be having a ball in the part. Besides making most of her amazing stunts her exotic beauty doesn't interfere with the insanity of the plot and we somehow still believe that someone like her would end up married to a complete nerd.
What the film fails to do is give Salt a soul and as Jolie travels seamlessly from genre to genre she does so with all the professionalism of an actor but none of the je ne sais quoi of a movie star.
For a star vehicle, this one's on automatic mode for way too long.

Thursday, September 16, 2010

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Beware of the Bob.

I am always surprised when I remember that back in 1929, the character of Lulu from Pandora's Box was a bit like the Bridget Jones of our times.
Not in the out there sexuality and femme fatale-ness mind you (although arguments could be made for both cases) but in how German audiences were appalled when American actress Louise Brooks was cast to play one of their most iconic characters.
Brooks, it seems, had a hard time adjusting to the hostility she received at hands of the cast and crew. They weren't only against her because of her nationality but because they thought she had no talent and was pretty much a temptress who had put director G.W. Pabst under her spell.
Now if that doesn't sound like the perfect embodiment of who the character of Lulu was, then nothing else does.
You either hate or fall for Lulu and given how the 22 year old Brooks created that sort of extreme thinking amongst people behind the camera makes a great case for what a genius Pabst was in choosing her (Marlene Dietrich was second choice).

This polarizing nature is best captured in my favorite shot in the movie.

In it, Lulu has just received her former employer Schigolch (Carl Goetz) in her apartment. We can assume there is more than meets the eye by the way in which Schigolch demands things of her. Most surely he was her pimp too.
She sits on his lap and smiles in the sweetest of ways. He asks her if she still knows how to dance. One of the philosophy that "actions speak louder than words" Lulu stands up and proceeds to show him she's still got the moves.
As she approaches her stage, we see a painting hanging on the wall behind her.
Something in the setting feels slightly disturbing.
It hits us. She's the woman in the painting!
This masterful work of framing pretty much encompasses the entire film's spirit. We have two Lulus.
There's the one men want to possess-in the form of the painting- and the irrepressible force of nature she actually is. Then it does make sense that people feel so strongly towards her. It's not her fault she can't become the fixed artwork they all want to contemplate and behold.
But it's not their fault that her exuberance makes them want to do just that to her.

As she dances for Schigolch she covers the painting behind her revealing her true nature. At least who she is to herself.

But things make even more sense when we realize that the apartment where she lives is the one where she's kept by her lover, the great newspaperman Dr. Ludwig Schön (Fritz Kortner) who also comes to visit her and demand his rights.

Surprised by his visit, she hides Schigolch in the balcony and tries to distract her lover.
Once again the painting obtains prominence as Lulu takes lies in a similar position on the couch.
Notice though how Pabst places them in opposing directions. The two Lulus make a ying-yang of sorts.

As she seduces her lover we get the antithesis of the moment when she was dancing, for here it's Schön who covers the flesh and blood Lulu as we see more of the painting (the Lulu Schön desires).

For the rest of the running time we are left wondering who this woman actually is. Sinner or victim, Pabst makes sure the only thing we know about her, is how much of an enigma she actually is.

This post is part of the Hit Me With Your Best Shot series hosted by the fabulous Nat of The Film Experience.

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Betty Crocker.

I'm sorry. I just couldn't help myself.

J'adore Blair Waldorf.

"Blair, come and meet Lou Doillon"

"Maybe you can ask Lou Doi-LLON to be your new best friend, because I'm done."

Why the hell is the brilliant work of Leighton Meester in Gossip Girl snubbed for all awards?

Sunday, September 12, 2010

The Ghost Writer ***1/2

Director: Roman Polanski
Cast: Ewan McGregor, Pierce Brosnan, Olivia Williams, Kim Cattrall
Timothy Hutton, Tom Wilkinson, James Belushi, Robert Pugh
Jon Bernthal, Eli Wallach

Few living directors can muster the same kind of public attention that Roman Polanski attracts. More than countless other filmmakers, his life has always been marked by scandal and tragedy, making it a "public right" of sorts to try and decipher his latest work by way of what the audience knows about him.
Upon the release of The Ghost Writer in early 2010, Polanski was once again facing extradition charges and literally finished working on the film in prison.
It should come as no surprise that after watching this marvelously exciting political thriller, you wonder, even for a second, if Polanski didn't plan all that was happening to him.
After all, this film is proof that few filmmakers have mastered the delicate art of suspense in the way Polanski can. Every twist, line and move in The Ghost Writer feels perfect. He's an apt sorcerer and sets a mood from the opening shot of the film in which we see a ferry unloading its cargo.
Only one car is left behind, it belongs to Mike McAra, who turns up a few days later, drowned on the shore in Martha's Vineyard, Massachusetts.
McAra was working as ghostwriter for Adam Lang (Brosnan), a former British Prime Minister, compiling his memoirs. His death forces the publishing company to find a replacement, they go with Ewan McGregor's nameless character (known as "the ghost" throughout the film), who currently has no familiar attachments and is practically a man without a past. This noir-ish detail sets the tone of what's to come.
The ghost is flown over to Massachusetts to work next to Lang who is staying there while the manuscript is completed. There the ghost meets the charismatic former PM (played by the debonair Brosnan), his unsatisfied wife Ruth (Williams) and his faithful assistant Amelia (the luscious Cattrall) who might be his mistress too.
On the day of the ghost's arrival, a former British minister accuses Lang of having ties with illegal extractions and torture of suspected terrorists. This puts the spotlight on them as the International Criminal Court begins investigating and the worldwide media becomes insane.
Immersing himself in the manuscript, the ghost begins to discover that perhaps Lang might not be as innocent as he seems and there might be something that could incriminate him in his book. So where should he go from that premise? Is he supposed to do the "right thing" and try to help authorities bring Lang to justice, should he help him clear his name, should he quit?
As the possible turns the story could take begin to rack up, so does the questioning that Polanski and co-writer Robert Harris (who also wrote the original novel) ignite.
The film at no moment tries to hide the fact that Lang is a version of Tony Blair and the events around him remind us of George W. Bush's administration, Cheri Blair's persona and Benazir Bhutto assassination among many other contemporary political events.
What differentiates The Ghost Writer from recent attempts of making political thrillers is that Polanski never forgets that a thriller must in fact thrill!
And everything in this movie seems to be conspiring against the ghost and his investigation. Most of the movie takes place in the midst of terrible weather but Polanski is too sly to have it represent the characters' darkness, in his movie the clouds terrify us because we never know what's behind them.
This is essentially why the film works in such unexpected ways; even if everything seems familiar and the plot isn't entirely groundbreaking, the mood more than makes up for it. There's a pervading sense of menace in every frame (and what frames does DP Pawel Edelman come up with!), in every cut, in Alexandre Desplat's mischievously macabre score and in the dialogues.
We are always waiting for something to happen and in this sense the film recalls some of Alfred Hitchcock's best work (think Rebecca by way of North by Northwest) but it also has a lot to say about art and history.
Particularly the way in which said art shapes history, for what is the ghost doing if not rewriting Lang's history? And what is Lang's issue if not his impossibility to be faithful to his own history?
But there is more than meets the eye and this is perhaps where preconceptions about Polanski enter the conversation.
As male driven as The Ghost Writer is, there is a sense that we're also being reminded of the women working behind the curtain. Watch how in several scenes, women are expertly framed in specific shots as if they are being puppet masters to the male actions closer to the camera.
Is Polanski winking at the conspiracy theories involving Barbara Bush and Hillary Clinton or is he paying homage to the way the women in his own life designed his own history?
What's true is that no other director could've made this movie and turn it into such a personal genre flick. Why? Because no other director could inspire the kind of debates he does. Stylistically this film is an upgrade of his own The Ninth Gate but thematically it approaches something darker in the vein of Chinatown. What would The Ghost Writer be without Polanski's own tragedies?
Ironically and perversely this movie reminds us that most of the time truth is more incredible than fiction.

Style Sunday.

This week playing "The Doppelgangers Strike a Pose".

Look it's Kate Beckinsale playing Ava Gardner in The Aviator!
Wait a minute...
It's Rebecca Hall at the Venice Film Festival red carpet! A vision out of Golden Age Hollywood, Hall is all kinds of magnificent in a teal design by the house of Vionnet that shows us how to do sexy and classy.
Everything about the look is perfection! The bracelets, the shoes (you can't wear black shoes with anything and she sure knows when they work to accentuate something), the clutch (the color!) and the hair!
Someone get her in a period movie ASAP!

Look it's Carey Mulligan!
No it's's none other than Michelle Williams looking fantastic in a pixie cut and pale, almost nude, color Jason Wu (that resembles the Azzaro Carey wore a few months ago to a Cannes red carpet).

What do you think about these looks?

Saturday, September 11, 2010

While Watching the "Country Strong" Trailer...

...a few things caught my eye. Here they are in chronological order.

Yay the first trademark Gwyn "ugh followed by eye roll" I'd seen in ages!

This whole moment featuring Garrett Hedlund (yowza by the way) and Tim McGraw was very Brokeback Mountain and for the first time I found anything that reminds me of that movie to be slightly sexy.

OMG it's Blair!

OMG it's Serena!
OK it's not but isn't Gwynnie doing her best Blake Lively impression here? Or wait, is Blake doing Gwyn all the time?

Also this...

Totally reminds me of this...

I was slightly worried that even if this movie is an obvious awards bait (already being touted as the female Crazy Heart) we didn't get the "Academy Award winner" title before Paltrow's name...
Usually movies aiming for Oscar, squeeze every AMPAS reference they can get out of their whole cast and crew. This movie therefore should have more of a "if you liked the two time Oscar winning Crazy Heart and Jeff Bridges Oscar winning performance you are going to love Oscar winner Gwyneth Paltrow doing something similar and singing soon-to-be Oscar nominated songs!" vibe, instead of just plain mentioning who stars in it.
For that matter I'm already dreaming of Gwyn performing at the Oscars, it never will happen obviously but wouldn't it be amazing if she did a number with her husband?

The hair is glorious by the way!

Watching Gwyn and Tim gave me a very dark thought...
Unconsciously I wished that Tim became a good luck charm for actresses to win an Oscar. Which means that for a second or two I was OK with Sandra Bullock's win!
What's wrong with me?

Finally "that's how it's done."

I'm incredibly excited about this movie even if country music doesn't really do a thing for me (I love the Dixie Chicks but country connoisseurs say they don't count...).
What are your thoughts? Is Gwyn back? Doesn't Leighton look magnificent? Where the hell did this Garrett man come from? Are you singing the title song already?

Sheet-y Saturday.

Where we take a look at posters for upcoming features.

Anne Hathaway is getting all sorts of awards buzz for a performance people haven't even seen but with each passing day Love and Other Drugs looks more promising.
If not just take a look at this delightful poster that puts any recent rom-com sheet to shame. The color palette is delicious and even it makes no secret of the fact people are dying to see this because Jake Gyllenhaal and Annie are rumored to be naked all the freaking time.
There is absolutely nothing wrong with sex and it's refreshing to see a studio sell a movie based on purely carnal desires.
Some might complain we aren't seeing too much and the poster could've been somewhat bolder but anything featuring Annie's million dollar smile makes me a happy camper and did you see the size of Gyllenhaal's foot?

Apparently our previous complaints were heard and someone went and fixed the Fair Game poster. The results are not entirely better but at least this time Sean Penn seems to know what movie he's in.

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

While Watching "Now, Voyager"...

...I couldn't help but wonder if a movie like this could be made in our times. Hell if it would've been made a few years after it was made.
The first part of the movie now would be turned into a satire or a parody a la Ugly Betty while the second part, which is unarguably fucked up would have been a perfect vehicle for Glenn Close in the 80's.
Why is it then that given its historical context and despite the fact that we don't need to try hard to see beyond its sentimentalism and lush manipulation, it works such wonders?
Now excuse me while I go wipe my tears.

Monday, September 6, 2010

Something to Be Thankful For.

Not having Gene Tierney as my swimming instructor. That workout today just killed me...

Sunday, September 5, 2010

While Watching "Greenberg"... was sad to realize how little use Hollywood makes of Ben Stiller's actual talent. As funny as he is in the Fockers' movies and such, he's much better at evoking a melancholic asshole-ness that pisses you off and makes you go "aww", like he does in this movie.
It helps that Noah Baumbach is a great writer (although some bits were too "look at how indie I am") but the show does belong to Stiller.
He's less Margot and more what Frank Berkman (from The Squid and the Whale) would've grown up to be like.

Style Sunday.

Natalie Portman is exquisite in custom made Rodarte for the premiere of her movie Black Swan in Venice last week.
They say never to wear red for a red carpet but the Swarovski crystal appliques and asymmetrical top make this look a stunner.

Few female directors, or directors period, are as good dressers as Sofia Coppola. She's a perfect embodiment of la dolce vita in this simple Louis Vuitton resort dress.
For those who think the little black dress is dead, see how Sofia reinvents its use.

Saturday, September 4, 2010

Sheet-y Saturday.

Where we take a look at posters for upcoming features.

Today we have two examples of how to do the poster for an adult thriller. One of them's bad, the other's simply outstanding.
First up is the lazy, lazy Fair Game design. I'm really interested in this movie but the marketing team seems to want to make me look elsewhere. First up was that by-the-numbers trailer that made the plot seem like a Lifetime drama and not the actual, too amazing to be real, spy story it is. Now there's this lackluster poster that seems to have been made by the kind of person who had trouble staying inside the line when coloring as a child (those titles couldn't be less symmetrical if they tried! It's impossible to read what this poster has to say with words everywhere!).
Then there's the fact that the actors seem to be in completely different movies. Naomi Watts seems to be auditioning to play Matt Damon in a Bourne poster (not coincidentally Doug Liman directed this and the first Bourne installment) and Sean Penn seems to be still playing Harvey Milk.

Next we have this incredible design for, wait for it, the new Paul Haggis movie.
That was enough of a surprise for me before digging into the richness of the poster and how it plays with the "movie star floating head" in an unexpected way. Reminds me of that poster form Premonition with Sandra Bullock's face made out of branches.
Excellent all over.

Seen anything interesting in your theater lobby?