Monday, August 30, 2010

watch this: CATFISH

friday was a bit poor in terms of my scheduling.  i'm in the midst of writing a story about exercise boot camps and have been putting off attending a particularly grueling 'boxing bootcamp' for weeks now.  friday was the big day, but after kiss the criterion conquistador goodbye and then lying in bed, dreading said bootcamp for four hours, i managed to sleep right through my 5:15 wake-up call.  

after waking up, i stumbled across town to one screening, which i arrived at punctually and with enough time to scan my book while i waited.  afterwards i had an hour to get down the street to see my second screening of the day. on bike i decided that i'd pop by a popular coffee shop and grab a cup before the film started to fight off the sleep that was nagging at my eyes.  sadly, the line for said popular coffee shop was so long and so slowly attended to, that even with a solid forty minutes between films, i was unable to get a cup of coffee.  now under-caffeinated and starving i had to settle for an apple and a bag of pretzels purchased from the 7-11 (that didn't have any change in any of the registers) as my screening snack.  perturbed but feeling better, i sauntered in to the screening of indie-documentary catfish, only to find that the film had started at 1:30 and i was already a half an hour late.

it's disconcerting to stumble in to a film late.  at home it doesn't make a difference, you just ask a bunch of questions to those watching and hope you didn't miss the juicy stuff.  in a theater though you have to push past a bunch of completely involved viewers and then quietly open your bag of pretzels and stare at the screen completely bewildered by what the fuck is going on.  to say the least my purchase of an apple and a bag of pretzels was predicated on the idea that i could eat one and open the other prior to the film, thus there wouldn't be bag crinkling and apple slurping.  poor choice.

with all of this falling around my shoulders though, the last hour or so of henry joost and ariel schulman's catfish totally floored me.  it's a documentary about a man who falls for a lady through facebook and, well, that's pretty much all i want to say.  the story that unravels within this picture says so much about the social media-soaked world we live in.  it's really a searing look at the idea of what it is to meet someone without ever having actually seeing them, and about the sort of pain we as human beings going through to combat loneliness and the abject dread of life failure.  

it's really all i can say without giving away too much.  but please, if you have the opportunity, you really need to get out there and see this film.

i, grouchy and hungry, loved the shit out of it, and i imagine if you're lucky enough to see the first half an hour it will only increase your love.

Thursday, August 26, 2010

a little unfair

i saw a single man on tuesday night.  i thought it was a visually stunning film anchored by an impressive, unfolding performance by colin firth, an actor i often times overlook.  stylistically the film kills and you can see tom ford's obsessive need for all things beautiful blazed across it.  at times, especially near the end, the film falters with stiff performances and dialogue that can't ascend that, but in general it is a great film, original and challenging and one everyone should see.

and of course, everyone cannot.  the film, about gay man who months after the death of his life partner still fails to move past this love, is touching, beautiful, truly expressing in many scenes, what love is and what it must be like to no longer have that love in ones life.  there are hints, touches of sexuality, the glimpse of naked man (his genitalia artfully covered by shadow and pose) and of course the film, a scandalous occurrence in our modern times, is about a relationship between two men.

thus, the mpaa gives the film an r, limiting its release and applying a massive scarlet letter across it that reads 'this film is unfit for your children to see, possibly too disturbing even for you who might be weak of heart.'

i saw flipped this week as well.  rob reiner's new film about the budding romance between two eleven year olds set in the 1950s.  it's not a terrible film by any means, it adeptly shoots for a series of predictable plot points and with a few flourishes manages to hit them.  it is so predictable it borders on the provincial, barely attempting to push the status quo even for a moment.

and of course, everyone can see it. the film, again about a heterosexual relationship set in the 1950s was awarded a pg by the mpaa, opening its bland white-bread doors wide open for the entire world to feast their eyes upon.

i saw centurion this week as well (it's been a big week for films), the new film by genre-film master neill marshall.  the film follows a group of roman soldiers on the run behind enemy lines from a hunting party of dangerous pagans.  it is beyond gory.  there beheadings and impalings and throat-cuttings and spearings and all other forms of horrible blood-letting through out.  there is just as much skin of the man shown in this film as in a single man but all of this is buffered by some of the most entertaining bloodshed i've seen in a while.  it's a great gory picture, entirely unsuited for most children.

and of course, not everyone can see it.  the mpaa gave the film, quite accurately i believe, a hard-r for violence and thematics and child-murder.

a single man a touching, beautiful story about the grief of losing the love of your life gets an r.  flipped a low-key, period piece about meeting the love of your life gets a pg.  centurion a brutally violent tale of war and revenge gets an r.

seems a tad unfair if you ask me.  for the film and for those who won't have the opportunity to watch the film because it challenges conventional norms.

just saying.

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

happy 90th ray harryhausen!

who might you ask is ray harryhausen? just the most innovative stop-motion animator of all time.  the man who single-handedly helped to plant the love of the fantastical deep in to my mind.  the man behind jason and the argonauts' skeletal rampage, the man behind the one eyed-centaur battling a griffin to a punch-frenzy death, the man who made it possible to bring fantasy to life on the silver screen.

this god of the film world jumped the fence in to the pastures of nonagenerianism this past weekend and hopefully you, and your friends and family, got a chance to dive in to the smattering of retrospectives of his work that popped up across the country. i for one eschewed the societal trappings of friendship for five hours and, in the lovely castro theater, feasted on jason and the argonauts and the surprisingly entertaining golden voyage of sinbad.  i can't say that the directors the bookended the work of harryhausen's clay-genius always brought the most amazing films to bear, but i can certainly say that even fifteen, twenty years after seeing it, the arrival of titan talos in jason and the argonauts still had my glossy-eyed and slack-jawed.

harryhausen, may you live another 90.

Thursday, August 19, 2010

what's in the theaters this weekend?

i used to write a column for another website that basically gave me the opportunity to predict which films i thought were going to smash at the box office and which films i thought were going to spew radioactive waste on time the lifeless forms of the viewers. i always thought it entertaining, but started to feel awkward because i wasn't actually seeing any of these films, i was just sort of guessing if they were going to be good or bad.  i wasn't offering the audience any sort true fact, just a series of educated guesses on what i thought might be the best film for them to actually spend their hard earned money on.

after being subjected to the wide world of reviewing, to seeing nearly every shitty film that exists on the planet that has plopped on to the silver screen, i've decided that, whether or not i've seen everything, i'm going to return to this educated guess system of critiquing.  hell, i'm seeing a lot of films that i usually wouldn't, and i'm buffering those with even more films, thus i think i can spend at least a small portion of time each week making sure you, my sensitive readers, don't mire yourself in some shit storm of a film because the advertising tricks you in to thinking it is an intelligent bit of comedy.  or on the other side of the spectrum, perhaps lead you towards a film that looks terrible, but is actually a glowing diamond in the rough.

the films

nanny mcphee returns, d. susanna white
cast: emma thompson, maggie gyllenhaal, ralph fiennes

what is it?: the sequel to the first film about nanny mcphee, a beloved though hideously warted english nanny whom takes a trio of children on a magical ride ... or something

prediction: you know, from the cast present, you'd think this film would be some sort of stuffy british period piece involving a comedy of manners and perhaps a few big, flowery hats.  ralph fiennes and maggie gyllenhaal joining a cast that already features emma thompson?  i mean on a certain count it just smells like a bunch of actors watching the ink dry on a couple of six or seven digit paychecks, but maybe, just maybe this is one of this under-the-radar children's flicks that actually has some merit, and when you're forced by your bawling four and five year olds to pay three hundred dollars to attend this flick, you won't actually have the unstoppable urge to end the lives of your entire family.

or it could just be another shit-show sequel aimed to cut holes in your money tree and change your whining blobs in to even more testaments the youtube generation.  

will i see it?:  was offered, and kindly rejected. 


piranha 3d, d. alexandre aja
cast: elisabeth shue, jerry o'connell, ving rhames, richard dreyfuss

what is it?: a film about mutant radioactive piranha's ... in 3d

prediction:  i worry about this film, not because of its premise, but more so because of the studios decision not to screen it for critics.  usually when a film has this dump of a concept, the studios throw it out to the critics hoping they'll either lambast it so badly it'll draw people's attention like a freeway accident or that it'll actually be entertaining enough that they'll give it a "gee shucks, pretty good" review.  with out a screening though, it might just be bland horror crap.  though alexandre aja's the hills have eyes and haute tension are both absolute gore-fests that worked on almost every level.  though the ending of haute tension is a total bust.  

will i see it?:  my weekend is pretty open, and i know one particular roomie who might just be game for a beach-centric gore-splosion rife with cheesy dialogue and the slim possibility of nudity.

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

i've been accused, for as long as i can remember as being someone who 'falls asleep during every movie.' 

this is quite true.  

david thomson, san francisco resident and hugely prolific film critic seemingly faces a similarly ironic dilemma.  his thoughts on the matter:

'it is the just reward for insomnia that i sleep most easily at the movies. why not? i always suspected they were dreams.'

from the brilliant compilation of tiny film reviews entitled have you seen ... a monster of a tome that i'm still working through.

watch: japanese department store ad from the 1970s

faye dunaway, hard-edged femme fatale of bonnie and clyde.

faye dunaway, lover of eggs and pitch black rooms.

Wednesday, August 11, 2010


i've been waiting for this for too long.  i feared perhaps because the film was the a lesser work in the amazing oeuvre of wes anderson that perhaps the huge fans at the criterion collection would spite this cheeky tail of brothers gone to india.  wes anderson and the criterion collection have always had a brilliant relationship, the good folk behind the collection always seeming to translate anderson's coy visual style in to brilliant little bits of packaging and extra features.  there's no better way to watch a wes anderson film (aside from sprawled big across the silver screen) then through a perfect transfer by these film fanatics.

i'm just glad my fears were unrealized.

this, again, is the beautiful new art for the upcoming release of the darjeeling limited (540). i will hover strangely near the door of the local DVD store awaiting its release.


criterion counsel: might be time for another break from this.  life is busy right now and kurosawa is barely a glimmer in my eye. 

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

what i'm watching tonight: scott pilgrim, d. edgar wright

i'm not the bryan o'malley super-geek that's buffeting the internet in absolute panicky, cold-sweaty excitement you see so many of trolling the internet right now.  what i am though is a huge fan of the film ethic and prior work of director edgar wright (shaun of the dead and hot fuzz), a man who deftly weaves his immense knowledge of film in to films that openly acknowledge that, well, knowledge while craftily weaving their own impressively original stories.  in the past wright, and co-conspirator nick frost, have chopped their own ideas from the ether, and i'm more than curious to see what edgar wright and company are going to do with the sort of bizarre, manga-influenced love/fight story of scott pilgrim and his lovelorn battle for the beautiful ramona.

from everything i'm hearing and everything i'm seeing (and let me tell you, i've watched the various trailers more than enough times in the last few hours) this movie looks to be melding comic books and film in a way barely done before.  yes, ang lee and his much-maligned hulk adaptation tried to blur the line, but lee fell on the side of artsy, not nerdy, and the brace-faced crowd turned quickly and angrily against him.

edgar wright is one of that crowd, and it seems he's bringing his full onslaught or nerd-knowledge to the plate.  this, after inception, is my most anticipated of the summer season, so here's sitting with fingers crossed.


criterion counsel: nothing.  take that judgement from your face.

Monday, August 9, 2010

what i'm watching tonight: The Expendables d. Sylvester Stallone

for some reason, i'm still mulling it over in my head, i signed up for the screening of the 80s action-hero testosterone festival of lights that is sylvester stallone's the expendables.  i don't know if you've been outside of your home or flipped on a boob-tube in the last three months, but if so you've certainly seen the line of formerly famous stars that make up the poster for this blood-n-guts shoot-out.  

honestly, i think, especially if stallone continues his unlikely streak of enjoyable action flicks, this could be a fun movie.  it could exploit the star powers that these washed-up duds once emitted and could abort the idea of a logical story in favor of explosions and bloodshed and be so ridiculously dumb that it, on some basic level, works. or, and i worry deeply this might be the case, it could try to take itself too seriously or too farcically and just be an absolute bit of trash.  the kind of low-rent action thriller i used to stay up past my bedtime just so i could watch the sex scenes through the grainy static of my downstairs television.

why am i going though?  i don't know, some sort of distant nostalgic thread connected to my love of bruce willis and the actioneers of my past perhaps.  or maybe just the need to dive back in to the theatrical film experience after three weeks of literature and road-trip.  

i have no clue.  this could be ugly.


criterion counsel: sigh, don't even know where i put that film ...

Friday, August 6, 2010

watch this: terry zwigoff's CRUMB (533) trailer

terry zwigoff is a stocky, bald-headed son of a bitch who once locked himself in to his trailer during a shoot with a gun threatening to kill himself. i saw him speak once and though he seemed tart, the percolating anger just didn't seem to be present. this film, his greatest if you ask me, is acerbic and odd in the way only zwigoff can nail, but the majority of this caustic behavior stems from its subject, the erstwhile famous fellow 60s comic icon robert crumb. if a film produced by david lynch and filmed by zwigoff doesn't tempt you enough, just know there's a character in the film (another crumb brother who incidentally i'm privy to his sf whereabouts) who swallows a string and allows it to cleanse his digestion bits for nearly 12 days.

brilliant pic, just released from my savior the criterion collection.


criterion counsel: just got back, but a big screen is floating in my future, so chances are looking good for mr. kurosawa's film.

Thursday, August 5, 2010

a return and thoughts

i'm back from a road trip of epic proportions with the criterion conquistador by my side and the whole of upper-northern america streaming past us.  there was a yellow lab, a few cramped nights in tents, the broad foreheads of america's presidents sprawled out before us, a laser show with booming quotations splayed across the sprouting features of crazy horse, there were steaming geysers, battles with rapids, a whole lot of hot dogs and so much more i'm unable to jot it all down.

i do, on the occasion of returning from such a cross-continental journey, a few thoughts:

1.  the midwest is sort of like the perpetual eighth grader of the united states. the coasts are a cooler older sibling that keeps there eye on the newest fashions, the sizzling new musical acts, the changes in hairdos.  the south is an estranged cousin living on the edge of the compound who people think about fondly sometimes but still wonder why that sum'bitch shot a beebee in to the neighbor's cat.  texas is like a crotchety grandfather who smokes a corn cob pipe and is damned sure that what they're doing is right on the nose, but hasn't looked around in twenty-five years.  the midwest though is certainly the awkward pre-adolescent, sometimes churning with pubescent energy, sometimes still yearning to fall back in to their parents arms, most often friendly to a fault, unperturbed by the need to stand out.  i say this in the most positive of ways as i found the people and the culture of the midwest (though flat in inflection and lacking in the love of spice) to be wonderful and welcoming, but there's a certain feeling that the midwest is still, and always will be, waiting for the hairs on their chest and pits to sprout.

2.  for nine dollars on the cc and i's final day we purchased these things: two hot dogs (chicago style with tomatoes and celery salt and relish and onions and spicy peppers and pickles), a small coke (in the midwest this is a bladder-filling beverage) and a 'pizza puff' (a deep-fried pizza pocket, more delicious than you might think).  for nine dollars.  less than a ten dollar bill.  in san francisco for nine dollars you would get a napkin, a sardonic smile and perhaps the sneaky opportunity to steal a couple packets of ketchup.  we stayed on the couch of strangers who's sprawling apartment was enough to fit eleven bikes, the dank odor of rotting wood, and a two of my sf apartments, and i nearly lost myself when they said their rent was just under six hundred dollars.  my rent is just under six hundred dollars and that's for a spacious room i share with a very lovely conquistador.   to say the least, the midwest, gawky as it might be, is a cheap, delicious place.

3.  after driving for nine days, near eight hours each cycle of the sun, and then to my deep consternation sitting through two, sigh, two flights over the course of two days, i'm here to say that driving is the way to see this world.  flying, at least in our recession sucker-punched economy is no longer the luxury adventure it once was.  oh yeah sure, say goodbye to blankets (they cost eight dollars now), food (also unreasonably priced), and anything else once considered a good natured compensation, that's been spoken about.  but toss in a bevy of unfriendly flight attendants who will bark angrily at you when you attempt to use the bathroom while it's being 'serviced', screaming children, a selection of movies better suited to a colony of ingrates, uncomfortable seats, and a general sense of panicky malaise and i would prefer to be squished underneath a greyhound bus for sixteen hours than to step foot on an aircraft.

4.  america is amazing.  i saw a hotel called americinn.  i shot a six shot revolver.  i heard a chinless man talk about taking a bullet for his gun shop.  i saw big hair and the badlands, big people and the big horn national forest.  we slept on the couches of people we'd never even heard of.  my painted toenails were ridiculed, i swam in rivers and lakes and quarries and swimming holes.  i ate at the oldest bar in madison.   i ate bison and venison and chorizo stuffed figs and pork shoulder swimming in its own broth.  i drove across the flat, empty expanse of south dakota and let my mind wander.  i stopped and i started and suddenly realized why the great road trip has become such a rite of inspiration for the writing world.  i don't know what you do, but whatever it is, you should stop it for a moment and find away to travel across the country, stopping as you may, a destination just creeping up on the horizon.