Archive for 2005

Lord of War

Sunday, September 18th, 2005

Here’s a great idea for a movie: a comedy about gun running. A movie that asks what kind of a soul-less, inhuman bastard gets rich supplying weapons to warlords and “freedom fighters” they damn well know are gonna use them to massacre innocent people. A movie that is not shy about pointing out the US government’s participation in this horrible industry. But remember I said a comedy, not some depressing documentary or self righteous oscar bait picture. A dark satire with serious bite, so it gets to you, but you don’t feel like you’re drinking castor oil. It’s more like Flinstones vitamins.

Great idea, but not a great movie. And maybe I’m losing my touch, but like THE BROTHERS GRIMM, this is one where I couldn’t always put my finger on what exactly wasn’t working. It’s much more involving than BROTHERS GRIMM and doesn’t feel as muddled or sloppy. But it was another one that didn’t quite connect with me. It seemed like it should work, but it didn’t. (read the rest of this shit…)

Me and You and Everyone We Know

Thursday, September 15th, 2005

Here on earth there are certain individuals blessed or cursed with a special knack for observing shit, noticing shit and looking at shit in different ways than you or I would. Picking up on things other people don’t or explaining things in ways nobody else would’ve thought of. This skill, this Gift, this power, can come in many forms and be used for many different things. You could become a philosopher or a great leader, like Jesus or Martin Luther King, Jr. Alot of people, if they had it real strong, would become an artist. Andy Warhol is the obvious best example. Unfortunately, most people born with The Gift use their power for evil: standup comedy mostly. Also some of them become characters in Richard Linklater’s non-studio movies.

Miranda July, who wrote and directed and starred in this picture, apparently uses The Gift for performance art. Or video installations. Or something like that, I guess. But also for this movie. It’s one of those movies where you can tell she had a journal full of random ideas and then figured out how to string them all together. Alot of times a movie like that can be really good, because it feels so packed full of inspiration. AMELIE was a movie like that, where a million little Jeunet ideas were glued all over the top of a love story. In this one the ideas are less integrated, it’s more like a list of the ideas in movie form. (read the rest of this shit…)

Tell Them Who You Are

Wednesday, September 14th, 2005

This is a documentary about the legendary cinematographer Haskell Wexler, only it’s directed by his son Mark, so instead of being about Wexler’s career and genius, it’s more about daddy doesn’t love me enough. The son rebelling against the father and then trying to make up before he kicks it (he’s in his ’80s).

The opening scene won me over right off the bat. Haskell is in a big store room in front of all kinds of camera equipment, talking about what he does. From behind the camera, Mark asks him to tell where he is.

Now, we the audience aren’t retards. We know he’s in some sort of room where he keeps his camera equipment, because he’s standing in front of a bunch of camera equipment. Mark is a grown man and has directed documentaries before, but he clearly doesn’t know about “cinema verite,” also known as “direct cinema” or “good documentaries.” Haskell tries to explain that he shouldn’t have to say where he is, the audience will know where he is by watching what he’s talking about, seeing his surroundings, watching what happens. But Mark isn’t having it. He keeps asking Haskell where he is, and Haskell flips out. Immediately I knew I liked the guy. (read the rest of this shit…)

Memories of the 2005 MTV Video Music Awards haunt me as Hurricane Katrina destroys New Orleans

Thursday, September 1st, 2005

(It’s not as bad as it sounds. I’m pretty proud of this one actually. I should submit it to TV Guide.)

Last Sunday in Miami, having dodged potential catastrophe from a tropical storm quickly growing into a hurricane, MTV staged some kind of ridiculous awards ceremony. This is not a review. This is an attempt to understand. I don’t know why I turned it on or why I kept watching but I do know it has continued to haunt me in the days since. I think I am writing this for closure, really. It is an exorcism.

THE MTV VIDEO MUSIC AWARDS 2005, or VMAs as they want you to call them, are not really an awards show. As far as I could tell, there weren’t many awards and the ones they had didn’t mean anything. The show is a spectacle, a sort of exaggerated opera putting on display everything that is so wrong with the corporate entertainment culture today. I think I seen parts of this show before and it’s always been pretty ridiculous but this one went the extra ten miles. (read the rest of this shit…)

Red Eye

Tuesday, August 30th, 2005

Under normal circumstances Wes Craven’s new picture RED EYE would be nothing special. But his last one was that horrible werewolf travesty called CURSED so this is sort of an event. Wes Craven made a movie and it’s kind of good.

I believe this is a first for Wes Craven: not a horror movie, and yet not about a white lady teaching inner city kids to play violin. What it is is a suspense thriller type deal that takes place on a plane. It is the first in the slew of plane-fear-sploitation movies that I guess are inevitable both in the aftermath of 9-11 and in the leadup to SNAKES ON A PLANE. (read the rest of this shit…)

Brothers Grimm

Friday, August 26th, 2005

Ever since that documentary LOST IN LA MANCHA, Terry Gilliam has a reputation as the bad luck director who can’t finish a movie without the Lord dropping down on him like a bag of cinder blocks. I heard he writes his shooting schedules under a ladder on the 13th day of the month. It’s been what, six years since FEAR AND LOATHING IN LAS VEGAS, he’s been trying to make movies since then but this is the first one to make it to the screen. People figure it’s a miracle if he can shoot a scene that is not interupted by an act of God, let alone finish a whole movie and have it released in theaters. So in that sense, THE BROTHERS GRIMM is a miracle. Because it is a finished movie with credits and everything. They even made a poster I think.

As far as actual entertainment value though it’s maybe a little less miraculous, in my opinion. The main problem: the first hour. A man of my knowledge and insights, I oughta be able to put my finger on it more than that, but all I can say is I was bored as shit for the first half of this movie. Nothing really painfully lame or anything but it’s just not involving and not in the usual Terry Gilliam way where he overwhelms and disorients you with his powerful imagination rays. It looks like a Terry Gilliam movie, it seems like an okay premise for a Terry Gilliam movie, but it just doesn’t click. It’s not funny. It’s not that clever. And takes for fucking ever to get going. (read the rest of this shit…)

Lipstick and Dynamite

Thursday, August 25th, 2005

Well I should get this out of the way upfront, there is no actual dynamite in this movie, or explosions of any literal kind. What this is is another wrestling documentary. It is not nearly as good as BEYOND THE MAT or my favorite, HITMAN HART: WRESTLING WITH SHADOWS, because it’s done mostly in that tv special kind of way with talking head interviews and Ken Burns style photo montages. (There is not all that much footage of the era they focus on.) But it’s a different and interesting angle on the wrestling topic. This one is all about lady wrestlers, told through interviews with a group of elderly women that used to do the deed back in the golden age.

Most of these women looked like b movie stars when they were young, but they were tough ladies with names like Gladys “Killem” Gillem, and as we know from the other wrestling documentaries, even if it’s fake, it’s a dangerous sport/artform/opera that destroys the body of pretty much anybody who does it long enough to be successful. (read the rest of this shit…)

Z Channel: A Magnificent Obsession

Thursday, August 25th, 2005

This is a documentary about something I never heard of before, one of the first pay cable channels, one for movie buffs. This was in Los Angeles of course and started in the ’70s, before home video. The movie focuses on the obsession and tragic life of Jerry Harvey, who was the programmer for most of the time the channel existed.

This guy starts out watching the channel at home, writing a letter to complain about their programming choices and how he thinks they should do it. They end up liking his ideas and hiring him, and he becomes a force, one of those ones that you have to reckon at or whatever. He starts playing foreign films, forgotten masterpieces, movies he loves that he thinks were unfairly panned. He makes friends with Sam Peckinpah, Robert Altman, Michael Cimino (they don’t mention Thunderbolt and Lightfoot though) and guys like that, using his connections to get movies nobody else knew were out there. He creates an event out of the director’s cut of the Wild Bunch. The director’s cut of The Leopard. Which it turns out is not about a leopard, but some kind of prince or somebody. The way the movie tells it, this guy singlehandedly turned around the reputation of Heaven’s Gate by showing the director’s cut. Same thing with Once Upon A Time In America. They interview James Woods and he says how the critic Sheila Benson called the theatrical release one of the worst movies of the year, then after seeing the director’s cut called it one of the best of the decade. (I’ve only seen the bastardized version and I thought it was great – can’t wait til I have 4 hours free.) (read the rest of this shit…)

Four Brothers

Sunday, August 21st, 2005

A saintly old white lady gets killed during a liquor store robbery in Detroit. She has four adopted sons that return to town for her funeral – Mark Wahlberg from Boogie Nights, Andre Benjamin from Be Cool, Tyrese from Baby Boy, and… some kid in a leather jacket. See, this dead lady was some kind of pillar of the community, bein a grandma to all the disadvantaged kids in the neighborhood, bringing people free turkeys on thanksgiving, teaching important moral lessons and what not. But these four kids, these were the worst motherfuckers anybody ever saw… out of all the kids she helped, these were the only little shits she couldn’t get anybody to adopt, because they were too bad. The dirty dozen of juvenile delinquents. Except there’s only four of them, I think I mentioned that already but I don’t want anybody to get confused. The dirty four brothers.

So now Motown’s Most Infamous are back in the neighborhood like blaxploitation stars, and somebody out there killed their mom, and they aren’t quite as forgiving as she is so holy shit is somebody gonna have all hell brought down on them, in my opinion. (read the rest of this shit…)

The Aristocrats

Sunday, August 21st, 2005

This is a whole documentary about one single joke, so let me tell you what the joke is. I am not a good joke teller but this is the joke.

Some guy walks into a talent agency, says look mister can I please have a moment of your time, I got an act here and I think you will agree it’s gonna knock your fuckin socks right off of your ass. It’s a family act, I got my wife and my kids involved and what not, real fancy, etc. So the talent guy says okay, you know I got a couple minutes before I have to meet somebody, you got two minutes to give me your pitch there asswipe.

So the guy says well you know we come out, my wife is playing piano real soft, we got these matching uniforms – I got some glossies in my billfold here if you want to see em, they got sequins and everything. And I come out and I balance on one toe on top of the piano while she’s playing, right? And she’s real good, kind of a ragtime style but she puts her own spin on it you know? Then my kids come out, they’re teenagers but they’re wearing diapers right, and this homeless guy has them on a leash, and they’re carrying magazines in their mouths, like Motor Trend, The Economist, stuff like that. (read the rest of this shit…)