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Thursday
Dec082011

Yes, No, Maybe So: "The Three Stooges"

Andreas here. After over a decade in development, the Farrelly Brothers' tribute to their slapstick idols became its own sad punchline, swapping out the bizarro dream team of Sean Penn, Benicio Del Toro, and Jim Carrey for a more conventional, less A-listy trio. Revivals of decades-old franchises always make me nervous, especially when those franchises relied on specific performers with very specific talents. But let's give the trailer a look, shall we?

YES...

 
  • I've been a Stooges fan since early childhood. I'm pleasantly surprised to see that the Farrellys seem to get their style of comedy... by which I mean nonstop, mean-spirited violence augmented by cartoonish sound effects. They're clearly not afraid to go as lowbrow as possible to replicate it.
  • The actors subbing in for the long-dead Stooges do some pretty accurate impersonations, especially Mad TV veteran Will Sasso as the blithely animalistic Curly...

"No"s "Maybe So"s and the trailer after the jump.

Click to read more ...

Thursday
Dec082011

Distant Relatives: The Apartment and Sideways

Robert here w/ Distant Relatives, exploring the connections between one classic and one contemporary film.
Nice Guys Who Don't Finish At All
Consider the Romantic Comedy as made for men. In this day and age, the genre is so associated with being poor in quality and aiming only for a female demographic, you could easily forget that they used to make 'em good and with male protagonists. Of course, Hollywood making movies by men for men shouldn't be a surprise. And even today, most romantic comedies made to appeal to women are made by men (which is one small part of why they're so bad). That said, the male hero of a Romantic Comedy is quite different from the male hero of any other kind of movie. "Nebbish" is the word that comes to mind. Possibly also "schmuck." Both 1960's The Apartment and 2004's Sideways subscribe to this setup. Both Jack Lemmon's C.C. Baxter and Paul Giamatti's Miles are serious sad sacks, and both films play hard with the "nice guy finishes last" dilemma painting our heroes as upstanding men smeared merely by the actions of their peers, those cads who would seek to give all men a bad name. But the reality in both cases isn't as simple, and these films know it.
 
As The Apartment opens, C.C. Baxter is one of many nameless office clerks. But what sets him apart is a sly deal he's cut for himself. By lending out his apartment for the affairs and liaisons of his superiors, he's set himself up to ascend the corporate ladder with ease. The rub comes when he discovers that Miss Kubelik (Shirley MacLaine) the adorable lift operator for whom he pines has been regularly visiting his apartment with his boss, cad of cads, Mr. Sheldrake. In Sideways, Miles too is one of the nameless lonely who trips through life toward increasingly vanishing dreams. He's a writer but not quite fit for success. He's a wine connosieur but not quite enough to be a pro. When his friend Jack suggests he open a wine store, he scoffs. When Jack compliments his writing, he shrugs it off. By comparison, Jack isn't particularly talented in anything other than picking up women which he does... lots. Jack and Miles head for California wine country on a two-man Bachelor Party for Jack where Jack anticipates and finds plenty of tail. Miles, not anticipating it, finds Maya (Virginia Madsen), perhaps his perfect woman.
Turning a Blind Eye to the Not-So-Nice Guy
So what happens to our nice guys? Does C.C. Baxter steal Miss Kubelik away from Sheldrake? Does Miles woo Maya without complications from Jack? First they must overcome a truth of themselves that the women in their lives are sure to discover, and that we the audience slowly come to realize after their charming patheticness wears off. These two nice guys aren't all that nice, not really. Oh they're not terrible people or anything. Theirs are sins of omission. Heck, theirs are lives of omission. Miles and Baxter don't do anything bad because they don't do anything, period. If they seem like nice guys it's often only by comparison. Under the looming shadow of Jack and Sheldrake, Miles and Baxter seem perfectly gentlemanly, but they are really enablers of the behaviors of the men whose lives they seem to eye with jealousy. Not that they want to lie to and betray women. They'd just prefer to not finish last. But they've given up the race, conceded victory to the cheaters and stopped caring about who gets used up on the way to the finish line.
 
With both of these films ending on an ambiguous note, it can't definitively be said that these are stories of the guys who get the girl. More accurately perhaps, these are stories of guys who, with the help of the women they want, come to understand and overcome their own timid failings. They realize that their inaction is in fact approval of all the action being gotten around them. In what may be a telling difference of expectations after forty-four years of cinema, Baxter is asked by his film to make major alterations to his life and abandon his sly apartment deal. Miles isn't expected to overtly reject Jack or any element of his life, just to understand, and to make a choice. Whether the choices these men make eventually finish them ahead (or at least not last) in the race of life is unknown. But at least they come to learn the difference between being a good person who fails and being an ambivalent person who fails to try.
 
Other Cinematic Relatives: Cyrano de Bergerac (1950/1990), The Graduate (1968), Broadcast News (1987), The 40-Year-Old Virgin (2005)
Wednesday
Dec072011

7 Things Viggo Mortensen Should Be Chewing On That Aren't His Shirt

Have you seen the new cover of NY Time's Style Magazine starring "grungy antihero" Viggo Mortensen? Viggo is one of my all time favorite actors as I was just recently saying to David Cronenberg so I'm always happy to see him but this photo -- I seriously thought it was an old magazine cover from when he was like 25 until I remembered that he wasn't famous till he was like 37.

Seven Things Viggo Mortensen Should Be Chewing On That Aren't His Shirt

 

  1. More roles as good as Sigmund Freud in A Dangerous Method
  2. The ear of the person who photoshopped this. Viggo makes 50something hot so don't take that away from the 50somethings of the world!
  3. The scenery in more prestige movies; get that Oscar role, wherever it is.
  4. Diane Lane's everything in a screen reunion. They were so nsfw hot together.
  5. His own decisions about who he'll vote for as Actor and Actress on his own Oscar ballot... I mean who to vote for besides Fassy & Keira. 
  6. His paintbrushes. Paintbrushes should always have teethmarks in them. Have you seen his art
  7. Maria Bello's vajayjay in A History of Violence. Time to watch the cheerleader scene again! 

Click to read more ...

Wednesday
Dec072011

Vamp Glenn, Crook Michael, and Killer Viola!

If The Film Experience were its own media empire the first thing we would do is some sort of annual gallery of celebrities a la Vanity Fair or the New York Times. For this year's New York Times video gallery ["Vamps, Crooks and Killers" (photos) "Touch of Evil" (video)] the Times has famous actors playing famous film baddies or villainous archetypes. We've mentioned we love this actors as actors business muchly before. It always thrills. 

Here's Glenn Close as Theda Bara the vamp and Viola Davis as Nurse Ratched (One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest) for appetizers.


The Close image reminds us that Glenn has always been thisclose to being a cartoon character who just happens to be made of flesh and blood. That's how most iconic film stars and characters come across... at least after decades in the pop cultural air, though it didn't take Close that long to achieve it.

Doesn't the Nurse Viola Davis Ratched immediately make you want to see her in a villainous role? It hadn't even occurred to me before but it'd be super scary to watch her soulfulness curdle in some choice role. I bet she'd be great. On her performance in this video she says...

I tried to channel all the parts of myself that are probably not pretty. That are not necessarily nice."

Rooney Mara, Michael Shannon, Kirsten Dunst, Brad Pitt and Mia Wasikowska, after the jump...

Click to read more ...

Wednesday
Dec072011

Michelle Talking Nonsense

To rework an old and enormously stupid cliché, I could see a movie wherein Michelle Pfeiffer reads aloud from the pfone book for two hours and still feel the ticket price was justified. (Though I'd probably complain if she didn't read some of the names with icy contempt, some with 'girlfriend wha?' mall mom familiarity, and others with erotic surrender just to get the pfull range of Pfeifferisms in there). So even when she's spouting utter nonsense like in this video chat with MTV, I love to watch her.

She's talking about Tim Burton and Dark Shadows and in the first screengrab she's saying:

I hope it's successful so we can do a bunch of them!"

In the second she's saying...

That's what we love about Tim's movies. They're not run of the mill. They don't easily fit into one genre. It always is this 'wait and see' kind of thing. 

In both cases: utter nonsense! A) she never does sequels and it took her 19 years to make her second Tim Burton picture so don't get your hopes up for several Dark Shadows follow ups. and B) Tim Burton movies don't fit into a genre because they're their own. If any director has a BRAND it's Burton. There is no waiting to see; we know exactly what we're going to get each time. Whether or not that's still a good thing is the subject of debate.

Video is after the jump if you're interested.

Click to read more ...

Wednesday
Dec072011

The Tree of Link

Nicks Flick Picks looks at the cinematography of Todd Haynes masterwork Safe (1995).
Scene Stealers chooses the ten best cinematography jobs of the past decade, with The Tree of Life the only current film to place.
In Contention on Fox News freakout over The Muppets liberal agenda. 
Paper Mag has an enjoyable profile of Kristen Wiig and her superstar-making year 
Karine Vanasse ...will we see her again after Pan Am flies away? I find TV news difficult to follow so I'll admit total confusion when shows randomly show up on my DVR or move networks or whatnot but apparently this charming French Canadian actress says Pan Am has been cancelled and the network says it's just on hiatus? My point is that I watch the show and am totally in l'amour with her.

The Hollywood Reporter worries that the AMPAS demographic (which skews very male) may hurt The Help. Of course this argument supposes that only women would like The Help.
The Wrap though it's a rather unusual decision, given its history, this year's Vanguard Award at the Santa Barbara Film Festival is not going to a well known acting legend but to the two stars of The Artist Bérénice Bejo and Jean Dujardin. That's a major get for the Weinstein Co moving into the Oscars.
Forbes did one of those "return on investment" things to rank actors. Kristen Stewart is named the best deal with $55.83 earned for every $1 spent on her. Anne Hathaway comes in at #2 with $45.67 for every $1. Most of the list is composed of people in franchises so the numbers are quite skewed; Harry Potter is the star of Harry Potter and Twilight is the star of Twilight if you get me. Meryl Streep, who isn't exactly known for franchise appears, does make the list though with $13.54 earned for every $1 she's paid.

on embargos, social media and film critics in general
Carpet Bagger David Fincher on embargo breaking. He doesn't want any advance screenings and thinks the best film critics are moviegoers who text their friends (oy! the self-serving pomposity of some people. And I love Fincher)
AV Club Sign of the Apocalypse. Twitter-friendly seats in theaters as trend? Thousands of little glowing screens to distract you from the big one. Ugh.
Telegraph Kevin Spacey isn't having any of it. This is our favorite Kevin Spacey anything in like 12 years.

Top Ten o' the Day -David Denby
Speaking of embargos and film critics... Fast on the heels of the Dragon Tattoo ruckus, we have Denby's top ten list on which it does not appear. It's a mixture of lazy fandom (J Edgar? Ugh... seriously. I'm going to have to assume that critics who label this a top ten'er only saw 30 or 40 movies this year and even then, you'll have to make concessions.) and the highbrow like Certified Copy and the Tree of Life about which he begins, affectionately, this way...

Yes, I know, Terrence Malick’s movie is unbearably high-minded and humorless. But still! 

All in all an interesting list and suggests that for Denby, two types of entertainments are generally favored: intellectual puzzlers and popcorn entertainment for the masses (Source Code, Contagion and Rise of the Planet of the Apes all appear). 

 

Tuesday
Dec062011

Oscar Chart Updates. Our Guesswork As Of Now.

How many best pictures will we have this year? Care to take a guess in the comments?

I've updated the Oscar charts though War Horse and Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close are still question marks. Yes, I've seen the former but it's difficult to guess at how well it's old fashioned pastiche and one might say nearly parodic schmaltziness will play with adults and how well its length (it's long) will play with children. I talked to about 6 people at length about it after the premiere (including 2 Academy members)  and I got 6 completely different opinions. So in short: consensus was nowhere to be found. It could be a massive nomination player or something that wins a couple perfunctory "you're pretty" nods.

PICTURE Hugo rockets into the top five and if it keeps up this week's pace, it could be a threat to win. We wouldn't have imagined that directly after that NYFF screening which went very well but Oscar Winner for Best Picture well?  Beginners and The Tree of Life make modest gains, too.
DIRECTOR - The three living directors with the most nominations (Scorsese, Spielberg, Allen each have six nominations in this category) all could place again this year which would certainly make this statistically one of the 'most previously nominated' directorial fields ever. But this week at least, I'm guessing that Spielberg is the one who comes up short on nomination morning.
ACTOR -With Leo falling -- and he is, isn't he? -- who will benefit? Whoever keeps the heat on, that's who! Shannon, Harrelson andOldman need to keep working for it.
ACTRESS -Glenn Close is looking vulnerable for Albert Nobbs but we still think she'll pull through by way of persistence for dream project congratulatory votes. (See also: Bette Midler in For the Boys, Salma Hayek in Frida and so on... this Oscar angle has rich ancestry)

SUPP ACTOR -Plummer & Brooks continue to solidify their showbiz legend leads. Otherwise, who knows? It seems like spots 3 through 5 could get crazy if someone's campaign further down the chart finds the right hook or pockets of voter mood.
SUPP ACTRESS - Is this really Vanessa Redgrave vs. Octavia Spencer for the win? Given that Jessica Chastain has already been awarded for three different films, she probably needs to pick one right quick to get behind if she wants to find herself in the shortlist.

Another tribute for Plummer -- it's an epidemic -- was held at the New York Stage and Film 2011 Gala at The Plaza Hotel this weekend. Here's a bit from the red carpet. 


FOREIGN FILM -A Separation has emerged as the real leader. But this category usually tosses aside the genius films for something easier to digest.
SCREENPLAY -Gains this week for Margin Call and Beginners.
VISUAL CATEGORIES - Hugo continues to rise. I'm now guessing it'll be the nomination leader, give or take The Artist.
AURAL CATEGORIES -Help meeeeeeeeeeeeee I'm drowning in charts must end this post now.