Team Experience from the Tribeca Film Festival - here's Jason on "Rebirth" and "Fear Inc."
It's weird that I brought up the 2006 film Severance last week when reviewing director Christopher Smiths' latest, because as soon as I sat down to watch Rebirth, writer-director Karl Mueller's new film about a suburban office drone sucked into a nightmare spiritual retreat, Severance was on my mind once again. Rebirth is never half as nasty as that film but the dots are there to be connected. This, too, is a satire most black about the search for that something greater than the proverbial pushing of pencils.
Kyle (Fran Kranz, Whedonite staple) starts the movie with a life that's tossed off in one of those meaningfully repetitive montages straight out of Fight Club. You know the type: coffee, car, cubicle, coffee, car, cubicle, and on and on to a not-early-enough grave...
Anne Marie is tracking Judy Garland's career through musical numbers...
In 1942, Judy Garland met a man who would come to be one of her biggest onscreen costars and supporters at MGM. When he was cast in For Me and My Gal opposite Garland, Gene Kelly was as upstart Broadway star, hot off Pal Joey and trying to make the transition to Hollywood stardom. According to Kelly, Judy Garland eased that transition; she was gracious, she was giving, and she was a consummate professional. Gene Kelly, stage dancer, learned how to perform for the camera by watching Judy Garland.
The Movie: For Me And My Gal (1942)
The Songwriters: Edgar Leslie & E. Ray Goetz (lyrics) and George W. Meyer (music)
The Players: Judy Garland, Gene Kelly, George Murphy directed by Busby Berkeley
The Story: The title number of For Me And My Gal shows off the unique partnership Garland and Kelly shared. The two costars sing at the piano, a staging familiar to Garland fans who'd watched her share a similar scene with Mickey Rooney many times in the past. But Kelly is no Rooney. Where Mickey would mug, Gene floats. Where Mickey would riff, Gene croons. This isn't to say that Kelly can't be funny, but his relationship to Garland is different. Mickey and Judy were a couple of firecracker kids; he gave her zing and she gave him class. Judy and Gene are two contrasting talents; his dancing complements her songs. Each provides where the other is weak, creating a harmonious musical union. It's no wonder than Judy and Gene would go on to share another three movies together.
After realizing that we'd never featured an Akira Kurosawa on Hit Me With Your Best Shot, we obviously had to. Ran (1985) was tempting but it gets a lot of attention already. So we opted to watch his other Shakespeare inspired masterpiece, Throne of Blood (1957) which is still the best Macbeth movie even if its more Macbeth-inspired than traditionally adapted.
If you've never seen it, give it a shot. It's gorgeous and haunting and unlike most Shakespeare films grippingly compact at only 110 minutes.
Hit Me With Your Best Shot(s)
Throne of Blood (1957)
Director: Akira Kurosawa; Cinematographer: Asakazu Nakai
Click on any of the 11 images to be taken to its accompanying article
Throne of Blood teaches us how to watch it.
-Antagony & Ecstasy
The minute we see Isuzu Yamada as Lady Asaji in this cold spare room, we know exactly where things will go...
-Scopophiliac at the Cinema
One of my favorite ideas in these Japanese stories is that the living and dead (or the supernatural) could live together, without a hereafter.
What Shakespeare does with language, Kurosawa and Noh do with movement.
-Dancin Dan on Film
Kurosawa injects into the tragedy of Macbeth an incredible sensorial expressiveness of poetic dimensions by placing it in mystic version of feudal japan.
Fujimaki's own splatter-painting.
-The Film Experience
The staging of the two actors is just brilliant...
The camera becomes like a piece of stagecraft
-Film Mix Tape
the vast space and the wealth that implies, as well as the ample room for Washizu and his wife to contemplate their guilt
The movie builds with precision, early shots foreshadowing what is to come
My favorite scene in Macbeth and they do it very well here
NEXT TUESDAY NIGHT WARNING: "NOW a warning?" It's Death Becomes Her (1992), rereleased in a collectors edition. Please join us for what will surely be a fun group of screengrabs
The first time I saw a Jackson Pollock in the flesh, I had to sit down, dumbfounded, in my attempt to take it in. I was staring at just one painting (and there were several) for a good 15-20 minutes before I had to force myself to move on. While the artist's famous splatter paintings seem random there's such an intricate hypnotic depth to them once you're in their presence, like it's possible to slip right inside them and get lost. Each flick of paint, every solid drop, on top of another streak and another spill gives the impression that the painting goes on for years underneath no matter which detail pulls your eye in.
I kept thinking of that Pollock painting - bear with me through this unexpected reference point - while watching Throne of Blood (1957)...
Team Experience from the Tribeca Film Festival - here's Jason on "Wolves."
After walking out of the screening a good friend asked me incredulously what on Earth drew me, me of all people, to go see the basketball slash gambling coming-of-age drama Wolves - I'm not exactly the choice audience for sports stories. But my answer was quick and easy: Michael Shannon and Carla Gugino, of course! And as such, Wolves is worth seeing. Those two play the parents of Anthony (a solid Taylor John Smith) and if you've ever dug watching them work, here they work! Overtime!
What they have to work with is a bit, as they say, well-worn: Shannon's father figure is a gambling addict and Gugino's mama bear has been putting up with that for too long. The film (written and directed by Bart Freundlich aka Mr Julianne Moore) leans hard on those tropes, but it also stares down with honesty and heart (mostly) and the performers are excellent enough to overcome, and carve their initials on them. It all leads pretty much where you think it will, down the court on the ever counting clock, but the circuitous route's (mostly) worth traveling.
One big exception -- there's an older basketball playing gentleman called (sigh) Socrates that fits the so-called "Magical Negro" mold so rigidly it's like an unironic Mammy suddenly stumbled out of the bushes. Socrates has no reason whatsoever to go out of his way to teach this dopey kid, much less follow him around and dispense wisdom like an automaton, yet there he always is at just the right moment with no life or interests of his own save aiding Saint Anthony. Can we move past this please? Socrates' got his own shit, son.
For our impromptu Actors Month, members of Team Experience were free to choose any actor they wanted to discuss. Here's Daniel Crooke on Willem Dafoe.
Willem Dafoe is a Greek god, in the most ceramic of ways. Rather than present himself as a blank canvas, Dafoe’s vessel is a malleable lump of clay that he shapes on the kiln as the character sees fit. His fire-burnt expressions, calcified in psychic scars, detail their histories in an unrelenting mask of past, present, and future. The man is drama. But his tragic side so often overtakes the comic in the cultural consciousness that his nimble lightness often sneaks under the radar. As his performances play out in the frame, he tactfully tears at their rigid façades to reveal the far more complicated, often contradictory stories within; He’s always got a secret.
The severity for which his performances are known is only half the story. Just as his luminescent Sgt. Elias in Oliver Stone’s Platoon offsets the pitch-blackness of Tom Berenger’s sadistic Sgt, Barnes, Dafoe has an uncanny ability to hide his radiant purity behind a stalwartly strict face. For God’s sake, he defined the model of a conflicted Christ in Scorsese’s Last Temptation; doing the impossible, he reconfigured the Messiah’s pop cultural characterization as a man with a pulse, who sinned and lived off the cross. He is a duplicitous study, ready to convince you that he’s a treacherous monster until he reveals on his deathbed – over a ceremonial sip of Bean’s delicious cider – that he was a misunderstood sideliner all along.