Elvis Mitchell talks with Brad Bird, director of 'Ratatouille', on The Treatment on KCRW in Santa Monica.
Saturday, June 30, 2007
Friday, June 29, 2007
One thing I like about the Bourne Trilogy -- Jason starts with his back against the wall but manages to turn the tables. In 'Supremacy' Jason calls Pamela Landy (Joan Allen) from the roof across the street from the office where Landy is coordinating the attempt to find him. He talks to Landy using a headset while keeping a bead on her with a sniper's rifle. He demands to meet with his former showrunner Nicky (Julia Stiles). Landy stalls for time asking, "What if I can't find her"? In what turned out to be the trailer's hook that made audiences want to see the movie Bourne answers, "It's easy. She's standing right next to you." Click. Landy and her crew look out the window, suddenly realizing Bourne has been watching them the whole time.
Above clip is from the new extended trailer for "The Bourne Ultimatum" and has a very similar moment. It's a bit more cerebral but it's got the cool factor to draw an audience. Maestro Paul Greengrass has another winner. And, how good does David Strathairn look?
Monday, June 25, 2007
Last year rock group Guyz Nite posted a music video for their song 'Die Hard' on YouTube. Video used clips from the 'Die Hard' series with Bruce Willis. Legal dept. at Fox demands YouTube take down the video. Now, as a promotional stunt, the Fox Marketing guys have paid Guyz Nite to expand their video with footage from 'Live Free or Die Hard'. Song is good, video is good. See it here or hit play above. NYT story here. Yippeekiyay motherfucker.
Sunday, June 24, 2007
The CGI bloated series of shallow situational set-pieces, 'Evan Almighty', will finish the weekend with an anemic $32 million -- and rightfully so. Even watching the trailer I could see this movie was probably going to be an almighty failure at the box office (as I mentioned here).
'Evan' isn't bad, it's just inappropriately cast. Steve Carell, is not the type of actor who can carry a movie like this. Carell is a very funny guy and is now shoulder-to-shoulder with Will Ferrell as a go-to comedy headliner, but his characters face problems that are based in reality. He excels at portraying the Everyman grappling with something ridiculous (but down to Earth), like being a 40 year old guy trying to lose his virginity.
If Carell's role had been played by someone that delivers the over-the-top energy needed for 'Evan', such as, oh, Eddie Murphy, people would have flocked, two by two, to the nearest theater. If anybody can do situational schtick it's Murphy.
I think Carell can carry big-budget movies but not ones that are based on schtick. Since I'm trashing Mr. Carell's movie with the benefit of hindsight, I'll go on record now as predicting that 'Get Smart' (due 2008) will be a huge hit. Okay, I know what you're thinking -- 'Get Smart' isn't based on schtick? Well, yes but it's character-driven schtick, not concept-driven...okay, that would take too much time -- I'll just move on and agree with the conclusion you've probably already come to -- that I can't be held accountable. (However, I'm not asking anybody to spend $200 million on situation-based schtick using a character-actor in the lead).
Back to this weekend's box office: 'Evan Almighty' couldn't compete with the icy character-driven energy of '1408', which took in a whopping $20 million and looks like it will be a huge success for the belabored Weinsteins. (John Cusack is known for bringing life to character-driven stories -- and finds himself at home in room '1408').
In my mind '1408' took the top spot -- it has an average of $7500 on 2678 screens, while 'Evan' scored $8900 on 3604 screens. Considering one is supposed to be a summer blockbuster and the other is a character-driven creepfest, '1408' wins despite coming in second.
You might not agree with my logic but it's clear 'Evan Almighty' failed (for some reason[s]) while '1408' is a hit (for some reason[s]).
Note to Marketing at Universal: If you're going to put Steve Carell in a comedy, make it character-driven. If you need a guide, see '1408' or 'The 40 Year Old Virgin'. PS -- don't spend $200 million on comedies.
Saturday, June 23, 2007
Friday, June 22, 2007
Thursday, June 21, 2007
Angelina Jolie in 'A Mighty Heart', reviewed by Manohla Dargis. A very different sort of movie with a verite, you are there, feel that's hard to get used to because of Jolie's pure glam Hollywood track record. Check out the Anatomy of a Scene (video) with director Michael Winterbottom. The scene selected plays with both the awkwardness of examining the minute details of the crime and the crackling tension of a wife dealing with her husband's kidnapping.
Wednesday, June 20, 2007
Monday, June 18, 2007
That was in 1994. Now, only 13 years later Maisel is head honcho of a movie studio. Now, that's impressive. Who would have thought to write Ovitz a cold-call letter?
Sunday, June 17, 2007
Sometimes the budget of a movie is so high and the entertainment value so low you have to wonder who's running the show in the executive suite. 'Transformers' is a case where the money was well spent. Look at that image. Can you imagine how much it costs to make such a thing -- let alone how much it costs to make such a thing run around a city destroying stuff. /film has a bunch of new images from 'Transformers' that look pretty damn good. Each shot can be clicked for a high-res version. People rip Bay, but the guy knows how to deliver product.
You know the feeling. You're watching a trailer for some new movie and after a few seconds you're thinking 'no way'. That's how I feel about 'Evan Almighty'. This picture looks like too many (desperate) Hollywood chefs have spoiled the broth.
Here, Hollywood is on autopilot -- take a hit and roll out a sequel with the best resources available no matter how much it costs or how inappropriate the blend of stars and story elements is.
'Bruce Almighty' had the right blend of ingredients: The over-the-top style of Jim Carrey balanced with the girl next door energy of Jennifer Aniston, set against the backdrop of a premise that clicked -- 'Man gets the power of God' (complications ensue).
Steve Carell is a funny guy but he has always worked on a smaller canvas than Carrey. Carell is the Everyman trying to make it despite everyday problems. Carrey's characters are loud, pratfalling, purposefully off-putting clowns who strive for dominance -- a perfect choice for 'Bruce Almighty', (and for 'Evan Almighty'). I'm not really a fan of Carrey's work, but 'Evan' could use his energy.
Then, there's the comparison of premise to consider. How does 'A guy is told he must build an ark' compare with 'A guy gets the power of God'. One pegs the meter and the other seems like a series of problems -- where will I get the wood, how will I know how to build an ark, how will I gather the animals, etc. I guess that could be funny but it doesn't have the universal appeal of regular person trying to deal with the problems incumbent with being Chief Administrator of the World.
I like Carell but I think he's mismatched here. He's too...oh...polite for this movie. So, I think the Hollywood marketing guys have their backs against the wall on this one. A movie with a $200 million dollar budget that has a lead who's a natural for smaller movies is going to be tough to explain should 'Evan' fall short at the box office.
Even 'Evan Almighty' director Tom Shadyac acknowledges there's a problem. In an interview he says:
"Spider-Man 3 cost around $300 million. We're $170 million-plus -- (that's) the official figure although even I don't know what it was (for certain). We're one of the cheaper summer movies, yet we're a comedy, so it's unique. But it's also much more than a comedy. We're a biblical epic with an ark and thousands of animals and a flood.
Comparing 'Evan Almighty' to 'Spider-Man 3' and selling the movie as a biblical epic with an ark sort of tips your hand, doesn't it? On the plus side, the always charming and pitch-perfect Morgan Freeman returns as God, and that's not bad.
Wednesday, June 13, 2007
Here is a first look at the trailer for 'No Country For Old Men'. Thanks to Anne Thompson and Variety for making it available. Tommy Lee Jones and Woody Harrelson never looked better or more natural. This is feeling like the best movie yet from the Coen brothers.
Sunday, June 10, 2007
Ben Stiller re-teams with the Farrelly brothers for a very Something About Mary movie, 'The Heartbreak Kid'. Man falls for perfect woman whose personality turns nightmarish after they get married.
Notice anything funny about the above still? That's right -- that's Paul Giamatti and Clive Owen in a Woo/Tarantino-style stand-off from the upcoming crime/action movie 'Shoot 'Em Up'.
I first saw a teaser for this several months ago and knew within a couple seconds this would be one to watch for. FirstShowing.net has snagged another trailer -- this will put Giamatti and Owen in a new class. Giamatti especially will be much more mainstream after this movie comes out.
Movie features some of the most inventive gunplay I've ever seen. Why it's being kept so hush-hush I can't figure -- maybe it's to avoid 'Giamatti as tough-guy with gun' shock... Anyway, due in September.
Arin and Susan have made a movie called 'Four Eyed Monsters'. They have posted it online at YouTube. If you go to Spout.com/foureyedmonsters and join the site, Spout.com will donate one dollar to Arin and Susan to help out with the monster credit card debt they incurred making their movie. If you want to you can post a review of the movie at Spout.
Arin and Susan also have a blog. Check it out. If you would like to watch the movie right now, just click play below:
Ben Kingsley, Tea Leoni, and Luke Wilson star in 'You Kill Me', a comedy about a mob hitman (Kingsley) whose drinking is 'interfering with his work'. With help from his 'family' and the support of AA, he should be able to lick the problem. This setup allows for lines like: 'My name is Frank and I'm an alcoholic. (MEETING ATTENDEES: Hello, Frank). I kill people...for a living'.
This looks like another quiet movie from John Dahl, who delivered the goods in his screenplay for 'Red Rock West' and did a nice job directing the indy hit 'Rounders'. 'You Kill Me' should go well with some popcorn at home.
Saturday, June 09, 2007
According to Mikita Brottman, a horror movie scholar (educated at Oxford no less), the current splatter fests are no different from the ones from yesteryear except they aren't played campy anymore.
Brottman cites a notorious 1980 exploitation flick called Cannibal Holocaust, along with Sola, by the art-house director Pier Paolo Pasolini. And starting back in the 1960s, Brottman says, Herschell Gordon Lewis was cranking out makeshift B pictures like Blood Feast.
"Exactly the same things happen," Brottman says. "People have their legs cut off and tongues pulled out and eyeballs exploding -- but they seem really ridiculous and laughable, whereas the movies now seem really visceral and shocking. But the same things are being done to the body."
I have to agree. In general, movies today have plot elements that are similar to cutting edge horror movies from decades past, but today's movies have become so serious and their depictions so heartless, the fun has been replaced with what seems like nothing more than an implied warning -- 'We live in a world where this could happen to you'...
I'm a big fan of the 'Abominable Dr. Phibes' series which starred a brilliantly wicked Vincent Price as a man seeking revenge for the death of his wife. The Phibes movies featured some of the goriest possible killings but they were carried out with a wink and a nod by a passionate organ-playing Dr. Phibes who wore thick make-up and a flowing cape -- not the kind of movie character you could take too seriously. Price's portrayal was intelligent, hammed-up and a lot of fun for the kids -- it was always clear he was 'play acting'. Phibes may have been abominable, but his movies were not an abomination.
In the sequence from 'Hostel II' (clip available on the same page as the NPR story) a girl (played by Heather Matarazzo) is suspended upside down and naked, with her hands bound behind her back. She has been prepped for torture by two attendants who, after making sure all is just so, leave her to await the arrival of the torturer (a person who has paid a lot of money for the privilege). Before they leave they turn the lights off, which induces screams of terror from the victim. The sequence does not have a dramatic presentation, plays real, is typical for this kind of movie, and makes me wonder what the future holds for the genre.
It's easy to trash the directors who craft such scenes (and a lot bloggers are enthusiastically voicing their disgust with the Splat Pack), but the fact is these movies make huge profits and producers can't be blamed for meeting the demands of the market. It's probably better to question the psychology of the audiences which make these movies so popular. Whatever the societal cause may be, the effect seems clear -- we need increasingly violent and gory movies to immunize ourselves from the very real threats we see in the daily news. These movies mitigate the audience's dread of the real world.
Will anything stop the escalation? Of course, we all know, nothing will. It doesn't seem like entertainment anymore, and there's a good reason for that.
Friday, June 08, 2007
David Edelstein gives 'Ocean's Thirteen' a glowing review. On the same page are links to two very nice looking clips. In 'I'm here to give you a chance' there's some top-drawer acting from Al Pacino, who (at this stage of his career) has technique to burn. 'I'll keep working on it' shows off Soderbergh's cool cool camera and editing, which (in this scene at least) is better than the material the actors are working with.
Thursday, June 07, 2007
Use Exact Change
All I wanted was a cookie. It was late and the nearest store was a 7-11 up the block. I didn't want to go up there. The motel I was staying at was pretty nice--not the Hilton to be sure, but okay. However, the neighborhood wasn't that nice and the idea of walking a couple hundred feet to a convenience store in a strange city in the middle of the night did not appeal to me. So, I went to the vending machine in the hall, dug some change out of my pocket and plunked three quarters into the slot.
I've always disliked vending machines. They have the advantage. They sit there all day and night waiting to exercise their power. You need what they have and they know it. They're supply, you're demand. You have the munchies in the middle of the night and are willing to pay a buck or two for something that would cost fifty cents at a real store (even a 7-11), but because you didn't have the foresight to purchase a box of crackers the last time you were in such a store you must now settle for a preservative-filled snack dispensed in the middle of the night from a soulless machine.
But, anyway. I've always disliked them. They stare at you with their giant plate glass eye and wait for you to decide. They wait--you ponder. Wait--wonder. What's sure, though, is that you won't walk away without making a purchase, and this is souce of the vending machine's smugness. 'Go on. Buy something,' it seems to say to you. 'You're hungry and I'm your best option, your only option. Buy a snack.' I hate dealing with them so I try to make this quick as possible--I settle on the 'Aunt Domima's Chocolate Chip Cookies', put three quarters in, push B, then push 7.
Fucking goddammit! Nothing! Nothing happens! I can't fucking believe it! God damn it! This fucking piece of shit machine has ripped me off! Fucking piece of shit! It just stared at me through that giant plate glass eye and waited. It knew it was going to rip me off and watched while I put my money in. But, I kept my cool. On the inside I was raging, but on the outside I had to stay calm. I knew what it was thinking: 'I can wait. I can wait all night. You're going to freak out. You're going to call me names, punch me, maybe even throw a fire extinguisher through my giant plate glass eye. How about that one over there? Just unhook it off the wall and throw it. You want to. You know you do.'
I wouldn't give it the satisfaction. I pretended to not be bothered. I wore an expression which perfectly said, 'Hmm. That's not usual. My my. Whatever has happened?' Then, calmly, utilizing my one advantage over this vending machine--human intellect--I pushed the button marked 'Coin Return'--and my three quarters fell through the machine's soulless innards and were duly deposited in the 'Coin Return Slot', from whence I retrieved them. Ha! Take that you dumbass machine! But, I was careful not to gloat. To claim victory here was to lose a battle of wits--the machine surely expected that I would have thought that my money was gone forever, and therefore, upon retrieving it, I should be elated. However, I did not give it the satisfaction. I pretended that I had fully expected to get my money back and proceeded as if nothing out of the ordinary had happened. I simply re-deposited my three quarters and, again, selected B and 7. Nothing whatsoever happened. 'You motherfucking piece of shit! You fucking goddam sorry-ass hunk of garbage!' I screamed inside my head. But, on the outside, to the machine, I was careful to present the same 'Hmm, that's funny' expression. And, I'm glad I did. Because this hot babe had come up behind me and she had seen what was going on.
"Machine take your money?" she said.
"Yeah. But it gives it back," I said. "Watch."
I press the 'Coin Return' button and the three quarters drop out just like last time. I scoop them up and show them to the hot babe. "See?" She nods and looks at me--not impatient, but I get the message. "I just want a cookie," I told her, and pointed to Aunt Domima's cookie in space B7. I step out of the way so she can get what she wants.
She nods again and says, "Well, why don't you try again?"
I shrug and put the coins in, this time deliberately--one quarter, two quarters, three quarters. Then, with equal deliberateness, I press B. I press the button firmly (but not hard) making sure to divide the motion into three easily understandable parts: inward press (clearly indicating that this is, in fact, the button I mean to press), hold and pause (for emphasis), followed by a smooth, crisp withdrawal that any vending machine would recognize as meaning 'I'm through making my selection now'. Then I repeat the process for the 7 button--nothing. It doesn't work. Both the hot babe and me are staring at the cookie through the giant plate glass eye, but nothing. Not for one second, then two seconds, three seconds, still nothing. When four seconds had passed I exhaled and felt defeat in my stomach--where my snack should have been by now. The cookie doesn't move. The curly rod doesn't turn. I'm not going to get my cookie.
After five or six seconds it has become an exercise in futility so I turn to the cute girl and say, "See?"
She isn't looking at me. She is studying the machine. After a moment she says, "You need exact change."
I looked and sure enough there was a sign with little digital letters that said 'Use Exact Change'. Motherfucking son of a bitch! You stupid piece of shit! Why wasn't the sign bigger? How come the sign wasn't next to the coin slot? Fucking idiots! Who the fuck designed these fucking pieces of shit machines anyway! Fucking fuck! And, what kind of a price is that! Seventy cents for cookies?! That's stupid! No, not 'stupid', but 'Stupid'. Why ask for seventy cents when seventy-five cents is so much easier? Goddammit! You just put three quarters in and, badabing badaboom, cookies. But, no! They had to make it seventy cents then run out of fucking nickels so that when I paid with three fucking goddam quarters I couldn't get my fucking cookies because the stupid ass machine was out of fucking nickels! Fuck!
Of course, this was all on the inside. On the outside I was super-cool. "Oh, yeah," I said. "I didn't see that. Funny."
She dug two dimes and a nickel from her pocket and gave them to me. After a second I handed her one of my quarters. I didn't figure it would be cool to just take her money. "Thanks," I said looking deep into her beautiful eyes.
"Sure," she said, not looking away.
Feeling pretty strong put two quarters and two dimes into the machine and, glancing at the super-hot babe, I pressed B then 7. Nothing. What? I put in the exact change--like the sign said. I, we, waited a second--still nothing. Maybe the machine needed a few seconds to count the exact change--we didn't breathe. Nothing. B7 wasn't moving. I was too tired to cuss, mentally or otherwise, so I just slumped.
"You know what I like?" the hot babe said.
"What?" I answered.
"Those." She was pointing at Uncle Gar-Gar's Garlicky Assorted Crunchy Snacks. "Those are really good," she said.
"I don't know. I really wanted a cookie." I said.
She shrugged. I got the point. I had to make a decision. It was easy. I pressed 'Coin Return' and got my money back. Gar-Gar's were seventy-five cents so I put the coins in the slot and pressed C and 2. Immediately, the spindle turned and the Crunchy Snacks fell to the bottom of the machine. I smiled and looked at the hot babe and was surprised to see her smiling back. I opened the big door and got my Gar-Gar's.
We smiled at each other for another couple moments, then it got awkward. "Well, thanks," I said. "All I wanted was a cookie, but I guess these will do." I stepped aside so she could buy her snack.
"Sure," she said as she put a dollar into the slot. The machine ate the bill up and she pressed a couple buttons. "You know what goes good with those chips?" Another bag of Gar-Gar's fell. She opened the door and got them then got her change--two dimes and a nickel.
"No, what?" I asked.
"Beer," she said. "I have a couple in my room. Want one?"
Well, I'm not stupid. "Sure," I said.
She smiled and it was pretty nice. She was really beautiful. Her eyes were blue--I really like blue eyes. "I'm up the hall," she said and led the way. I watched her walk away. She made it to her door and looked back before I snapped out of my trance. "Coming?" she said.
'Better get moving,' I told myself and went to her and followed her into her room.I guess, in a way, I got my cookie after all.
Sarah Silverman: Jesus is Magic
DVD review by Alan Green
I first noticed Sarah Silverman when she appeared in "There's Something About Mary", and it was clear even from the few minutes she was on screen she would be a star. She had done a lot of work before TSAM but I had never noticed her in anything except that appearance in "Seinfeld", I think, but it didn't really register at the time.
I don't like comedy. I never have. It's just not funny. "Jesus is Magic", however, is a hybrid of live stage show cut with music videos and short films which is funny in an outrageous way that is impossible to describe, even though her style seems like a tangible thing and makes a writer feel as if they should be able to describe it with words. I'm at a loss. I can say, though, that I couldn't watch "Jesus is Magic" in one sitting because it's too funny. I was laughing too much and had to take a break. I don't think I've ever read anybody say that about a comedy DVD before. This could be the first time. So, even though I can't find the words to describe Silverman's tangible-like comedy, I did need to take a break halfway through her DVD and that says a lot.
Most comedians are afraid. To compensate, they use coarse language for simple gags, but it only comes off embarrassing and superficial. Silverman is crude and endearing, honest and self-deprecating, all the while pointing out society's ridiculous shortcomings. She is razor-sharp and cuddly-cute, and unafraid of any subject matter. She is a cheerleader guiding the audience through a minefield of touchy subjects, and we have two choices; squirm in our seats and sweat, or laugh like fools while we get blown to bits.
She delivers her material as if off the top of her head, and never telegraphs a joke, or tightens up during the delivery, or braces herself in case the joke flops (which never happens, except maybe once, but only for a few seconds). This woman knows she's funny, knows she's good, and doesn't have to try even a little. Silverman wins us over from her very first sentence and doesn't let up for a moment (except maybe once about 45 minutes in, but only for a few seconds).
Like most comedians, Silverman's work is fueled by anger, but in her case the anger is so refined that it imitates intellect, and is somehow transformed into a joyous derision, so that we laugh with her at the most heinous crimes the world has to offer, and love every minute of it, and love her for her brilliant smooth delivery, as in her joke: If God gives you AIDS, make lemonAIDS.
This she sells with fluid smoothness, along with an examination of a bevy of sensitive topics: Rape of children. Religion (including killing Christ again should the opportunity present itself). 9/11. Killing (Ethiopian) babies for jewelry. Sex with children. Being retarded. The rape and murder of grandparents. Childhood drunkenness. Jews (as separate from religion). Anal sex. The Holocaust. Drug use. Blacks, Asians, gays, Nazis, men with small penises. All things hokey. She hits us from all sides with multi-layered jokes with punch lines within zingers within twists, delivered in sections and parts building laugh upon laugh until the audience is helpless.
Silverman's comedy works from the inside out, and will only appeal to people honest enough to admit they're not perfect (but certain the next guy is a schmuck). One doesn't feel distanced watching her act--it's as if she were telling you her innermost secrets over a beer in a bar.
Silverman represents an evolution in comedy. Eddie Murphy is to Don Rickles (or Shecky Green, Buddy Hacket, et al) as Sarah Silverman is to everyone else working today. She is more modern, more relaxed, more offensive, and somehow, charming.
If anything in this review offended you even the slightest bit, do not watch "Jesus is Magic". Sarah Silverman, you've got balls and you're better than any three twats combined. (I'm just saying...is all).
Wednesday, June 06, 2007
The Screenwriter's and Novelist's Guide
to the Correct use of 'Pull', 'Drink', 'Hit', etc.
You would never take a pull off a joint - you hit or huff a joint. If you say, 'Give me a pull off that joint' you're a dork (although no one will be able to remember the next day because you're all getting stoned). You may pull a cigar, but not a pipe or cigarette. You draw a pipe or cigarette. Of course, if you are smoking dope in a pipe the same rules apply - you hit a dope pipe. You only draw a pipe if you are smoking fine flavored (or plain) tobacco.
Rarely, you can pull from a cigarette but you have to alter the usage. You can say 'he pulls hard on his cigarette'. But, here 'cigarette' doesn't fit. Better would be, 'he pulls hard on the butt'. This however requires a qualifier or finish as in: he pulls hard on the butt, then flicks it away.
Now, let's say you're in the desert with your army buddies on a top-secret mission. If you turn to one of them and say, 'hey, give me a drink from your canteen' they won't know what you mean. They'll look at you cross-eyed. Huh? You will have to correct yourself: 'I mean, give me a pull (actually, swig would be best here. But, you could get away with pull) off your canteen'. Notice, the second time he said 'off your canteen' not 'from your canteen'. Here, the speaker has come fully to his senses. You do not drink from a canteen; you take a swig off a canteen.
(You may say 'Give me a drink from your canteen' if you are at risk of dying. If you've been out in the desert for days and are running out of water you do not say anything so cheeky as 'Gimme a swig (or pull) off your canteen'. You stick to basic language and ask for a drink).
The most correct use of 'pull' is when you're among hobos, bums, drunks, or other undesirables, and you're passing a bottle around. You say, 'gimme a pull' and extend your hand to whoever has the bottle. He'll know what you mean and will pass it to you. Another variation of this is if regular people are around a fire at night. Under these conditions, it is allowable to talk as if you were a hobo or chronically unemployed or a minor criminal. If regular nine-to-fivers find themselves camping and are sitting around a fire, they may say 'pull'. They would probably be better off using the more conventional 'hit', though. While pull has an old-world charm, it also carries a vaguely homoerotic quality, and is therefore not used too much today. However, if there is a campfire nearby it tends to nullify any unintended homoeroticism that would otherwise be plain in an office setting. Go figure...there's just something about fire that cancels out that kind of thing. Hobos, however, do not need the presence of fire to ask for a pull. Hobo talk is not homoerotic. Ever. Despite the similarity between the words hobo and homo.
For screenplays, it's best to say hit, drink, gulp, or sip (depending on the type of vessel from which the beverage is being consumed). In novels you may use pull, but only when it really applies, and not more than once per novel.
The Rolling Stones started their first concert in China with 'Start Me Up'. The band played to a packed 8000 seat auditorium. Five songs, "Brown Sugar," "Beast of Burden," "Let's Spend the Night Together," "Honky Tonk Women" and "Rough Justice," were banned by the Chinese government.
The song 'Beast of Burden' does include such raunchy lines as "All I want is you to make love to me", and "Am I hard enough?". Certainly these crude references to the mechanics of sexual intercourse should be banned from the Chinese people. (While the Chinese have made their country the most heavily populated in the world, they certainly do not need to be subjected to the coarseness of a rock band singing about, well, sex).
One wonders, though, why Chinese censors disallowed 'Beast' but allowed 'Start Me Up'. I believe it is because of an over-literal interpretation of the lyrics. 'Start me' cannot be defined by a dictionary as: get me sexually aroused so we can have intercourse, while, 'all I want is you to make love to me' certainly can.
However, while 'you make a dead man come' (from 'Start Me Up') is plain enough to any English-speaking audience, it may not have been to the Chinese censors that allowed the performance of this song. To them, this turn of phrase may simply have meant 'you make an old man (or a dead man) feel young and alive enough to stand up and come over to you'. China has always been known for their tradition of longevity, so this lyric may have been seen by censors to reflect a national philosophy. As such, allowing the Stones to sing this song may have been a subtle way of spreading doctrine. Clever indeed.
Politics may also have played a role. The line 'Ain't I rich enough' from "Beast of Burden" may have done that song in. Capitalism is a new concept in China and censors may have, rightfully, thought this reference should be banned lest the Chinese people get it into their heads to make lots of money.
Still, 'You got me ticking gonna blow my top' and 'If you like it you can slide it up, slide it up' and 'My hands are greasy, she's a mean, mean machine' - all from "Start Me Up" - seem obvious enough to me. If Chinese censors had asked, I would have told them the severe sexual implications of these lyrics and, surely, they would not have allowed this song either. Perhaps I should be a censorship consultant. Of course, all Stones tunes are a bit raunchy, as are most rock songs. Had censors consulted me, this concert would have been reduced to four elderly gentleman on stage reading the paper and sipping tea. Luckily, I was not asked. Chinese censors, apparently, consulted an English/Chinese dictionary when they decided which songs to ban, and based their decisions on the literal definitions given therein.Alas, we may never know what really happened in the smoke filled offices of the Chinese censors.
The Duality Of "The Descent"
Movie review by Alan Green
August 5, 2006
In the poster for the movie "The Descent" (which is based on a photograph by Philippe Halsman in collaboration with Salvador Dali) we see six women whose bodies form a skull. The skull can be interpreted to mean death, so the relationship between these women must also represent the death of something. Here, I think it's honesty, or being true to yourself and others--as when we descend into duplicity. While these women cling to each other for support, this intimacy is the source of their pain because each deceives the others and themselves. All the women, except one, have their heads bowed and face hidden--suggesting shame in who they are. The woman whose face can be seen is screaming, possibly because (although she does turn her face as far away from us and her skullmates as possible) she is still facing us and cannot hide her duplicity and is crying out in shame (or horror of her relationship with the others).
This poster encapsulates the themes of "The Descent"; what we truly are is hidden beneath the surface and, because we are not true to ourselves, our relationship with others is duplicitous and creates a cycle of destruction. This is played out nicely after our six women go down into the cave where they grapple not only with fanged flesh-eating albino freaks called 'Crawlers', but their own true natures, and their betrayals of each other and themselves, when they are forced to make horrific choices as they fight for survival.
While "The Descent" is about the dichotomy of human nature, the movie itself is also split into two distinct halves. In the first half the suspense builds quickly after the women enter the cave and we find ourselves floating along with them in subterranean blackness. The only light comes from the lamps on their helmets, and watching these white spots dance in the dark quickly disorients the audience and we're left unsure how far away objects are or in which direction things are moving--a fine soup for horror-movie creepiness. Character builds quickly as well. Writer-Director Neil Marshall never stops for long expository dialogue, preferring to expose traits by immediately putting the women in danger when one of two known exits from the cave collapses. This would not normally present a problem except, because of a certain lack of full disclosure, the women find they are not where they were told they would be and must now ad lib their way out of an uncharted cave. This sets the stage for an animosity that, as the situation gets worse, builds until it reaches a psychological tautness (and some pretty serious betrayal) not usually found in gory horror flicks.
One of the most suspenseful sequences comes when our spelunkers must cross a ravine. It's necessary for one of them to free climb across a rock ceiling in order to secure a line to the other side so the others can come across. Here are these women, deep underground, in the dark, lost, with limited battery power for their lights and no extra food or water. It was at this point I noted how this story could pretty much stand on its own without the introduction of Crawlers or any other horror movie monsters--it was that good. However, instead of building on this foundation, the bottom drops out and drama and character are replaced with a superficial joltfest that quickly becomes tiresome. The second half of "The Descent", while nicely done and quickly paced, is little more than standard B-movie fare and since there is nothing left for the women to accomplish except survive and get out of the cave, the story has no place to go and the energy cannot be sustained. The Crawlers attack, the women defend. It's at this point that this movie flip-flops from highly suspenseful nail biter with believable characters to shock-shlock horror with over the top cardboard characters--not bad, but an unfortunate change in personality.
Why Marshall made this choice I can't figure. Not only is a compelling psychological drama glossed over in favor of gorefest, the gore itself seems to have been shied away from (perhaps the director's cut DVD will deliver the goods). There are a couple nicely setup situations that could have yielded much more hardcore horror if Marshall had committed to them. Considering how carefully crafted the characters are in the first half of the story, it would seem natural to continue to fully explore their changing relationships and the horror of how they survive or die. Marshall does not abandon this subplot but he doesn't delve into it either, preferring instead to skim its surface while dedicating most of his energy to producing a typical quickcut frightfest in the second half of the story. What we're left with is a horror movie that is afraid of its own shadow. "The Descent" doesn't build upon the characters it establishes, and doesn't fully explore the potential horror of the situations it creates, earning it the status of 'Near Miss'. This doesn't mean "The Descent" is a failure, only that it does not reach its potential. Still, this isn't a bad thing. If the bar weren't set so high by the first half of "The Descent", the second half of the movie wouldn't be so lightweight by comparison. Descent Part 1 is psychologically complex and silky-smooth, Descent Part 2 is unrelenting and paper-thin.
"The Descent" opened in England in 2005 and that version has a different ending than the one which is showing in the United States. The last ten minutes of the British version are available at Youtube. I think it's far better than what's playing in U.S. theaters. I don't know why but Americans need an upbeat ending, so I don't blame Marshall for editing out the British ending before distributing the movie here.
If you're a fan of horror you don't need me to tell you this is a must see. The buzz on the picture is off the chart. Even though it's a near miss, "The Descent" will probably be this year's best horror movie.
Tuesday, June 05, 2007
Monday, June 04, 2007
Film.ick has some very nice hi-res images from 'Ratatouille'. I really like this one. Click the image to see a very lush corner-to-corner shot. From the detail in Remy's fur to the scratches on the pot the quality of this image affirms that Pixar is the shop to beat. Go to Film.ick for 19 more.
Sunday, June 03, 2007
Richard Corliss has some strong commentary re: 'Ocean's 13', including this gem about how Steven Soderburgh photographed his stars:
How come Damon is more handsome and engaging in person than in this movie? When Pitt is first spotted, he looks as though he fell asleep for a year under a sun lamp. Pacino it takes a few seconds to recognize; he too looks weird, and so does Barkin.
Corliss continues with: "The new film is so listless and logy it needed Michael Moore to take it to Cuba for emergency medical treatment." And he tops it all off with, "Soderbergh makes them look like Nick Nolte in that mug shot."
Somehow, comments like these coming from a critic like Corliss seem to be exactly the kind of thing a movie like 'Ocean's 13' needs to be a hit -- or perhaps it's more correct to say they often seem to be the precursor to box office success -- they're just so irrelevant to the targeted audience.
To his credit, Corliss appears more calibrated with the following:
Frank Sinatra was the star behind the original 1960 Ocean's Eleven (original in that it came first) and three ensuing, numerical Rat Pack capers: Sergeants 3, 4 Guns for Texas, Robin and the 7 Hoods. Frank and his pals -- Dean Martin, Sammy Davis Jr., Peter Lawford, Joey Bishop -- weren't trying to commit art, or even make vital entertainment. Really, they had expectations no higher than the Soderbergh-Clooney mob. Both groups were underachievers and proud of it.
On a sunnier note -- just look at those guys. Greg Williams interviews (some) of the stars of 'Ocean's 13'. From left to right, Frank Sinatra, Angie Dickinson, Sammy Davis, Jr., and Dean Martin. Wait...that's not right. Pictured above are George Clooney, Ellen Barkin (how good does she look?), Matt Damon, and Brad Pitt. The interview was done on the terrace of the Hotel du Cap in Cannes (at some film festival, I'm not sure which one).
My favorite exchange:
TIME: So you don't get actorly and defensive if people think, Sure looks like they had a good time making that movie?
BARKIN: I do, because I did a lot of research on my character. [Laughter]
CLOONEY: The idea that every time you do a film you're supposed to be tortured confuses me. I mean, guys who say, "Oh, it's really tough, my character is really suffering"--come on. For us, even in the rotten ones we've had a good time. I don't think you have to suffer. Maybe Matt had to suffer.
DAMON: Yeah, I did. I had to go deep to find Linus.
BARKIN: Was that your character's name?
BARKIN: I'm sorry, I only read my lines.
CLOONEY: We like that Matt's done three different Linuses in three different movies.
DAMON: I have done him kind of different each time.
BARKIN: It's important for him to change it up, while Brad and George have no range, so they just have to keep playing the same parts.
Judging from the above, it's more fun to interview movie stars than it is to review their movies. Not reporting from the terrace of a hotel overlooking the Mediterranean -- Alan Green.
Saturday, June 02, 2007
Judd Apatow is enjoying a lot of good press for 'Knocked Up'. Even the buttoned-down A.O. Scott likes it -- well, really likes it. His write-up fairly glows (but, if you want to see what he really thinks watch the video 'Movie Minutes' about halfway down the page).
Also nestled in the review is audio of a 15 year old Judd Apatow interviewing Jerry Seinfeld for his high school radio show, a video Seth Rogen and Judd Apatow made for NYT Magazine, and a slide show of Apatow's work (including a promo shot of him [in high school] with Harold Ramis).
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