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 Gemini, Cinephile, Actressexual. Also loves cats. All material herein is written and copyrighted by him, unless otherwise noted. twitter | facebook | pinterest | tumblr | letterboxd

 

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Monday
Oct242011

Oscar Horrors: Redressing Dracula

HERE LIES … Eiko Ishioka’s costume work for Bram Stoker’s Dracula (1992), which smothered the rest of the nominees with reams upon reams of flamboyant fabric to slither away with the statue that year. And it damn well deserved it, too.

JA from MNPP here. In the fall of 1992 I was fifteen years old and had found myself in the first blushes of cinemania, and as a budding horror enthusiast I was obsessed with Francis Ford Coppola’s film before it had even come out. It was more difficult way back then before the internet so we relied on things called “magazines” to keep us in the know, but I went one step further where this movie was concerned – I bought the “pictorial moviebook,” as it calls itself on the cover, and I studied it like the bible. And with its heavy focus on Ishioko’s work it was the first time I’d ever given much thought to a film’s costuming.

As Coppola had said, he wanted the costumes to be the set…

And are they ever. Ishioka was a visual artist and had done some memorable work for the stage version of M. Butterfly and Paul Schrader’s 1985 film Mishima: A Life in Four Chapters before this, and she brought with her an eccentric batch of influences, to put it mildly. From the human musculature that influenced Dracula’s armor in the opening scenes…

Visual splendor and bizarre influences after the jump...

Click to read more ...

Monday
Oct242011

Steve McQueen's Oscar Loss and Workout Win

Each year come awards season we see hundreds of frozen grins and hear hundreds of ever so slight variations on that autopilot soundbyte "I'm just so honored to be  ______." But how do the losing stars and snubbees really feel? One of my favorite things about celebrity biographies is that they have to dig a little deeper when it comes to the discussion of The Oscars; you can't fill whole books with soundbytes.

I was recently flipping through the new biography "Steve McQueen" by Marc Eliot and came across this passage on the Oscars. McQueen thought his sole nomination (The Sand Pebbles, 1966) was long overdue and eagerly participated in press events. He bought himself a burgundy Ferrari to reward himself for the nomination.

Yet on Oscar night, Paul Scofield won Best Actor...

The audience erupted in applause, even though Scofield was one of the many who did not show up. His co-star Wendy Hiller, accepted for him. She stepped to the microphone and said, "There is something very special in being recognized in a country other than one's own!"

And for Steve, there was something very unspecial about not being recognized in his own. After the ceremonies, Neile told a reporter that she was happy her husband had lost. "If he'd won, he'd have been impossible to live with," she chirped. "Not because of a big head but because he'd be worrying how to top himself next. I prayed he wouldn't win."

Steve McQueen in "The Sand Pebbles"

Steve said nothing to anybody that night. Several years later he was still bitter about the loss of the only Oscar nomination he would ever receive and took a jab at Marlon Brando, who won an Oscar in 1973 for his role in The Godfather; who not only didn't show up but had warned the Academy he wouldn't accept the award if he won it... Not long after Steve told Hollywood columnist Sidney Skolsky, "Perhaps if I had announced that I wouldn't accept the Oscar, I might have won."

Following Oscar night, still having trouble finding his Sand Pebbles follow-up, he spent his nights drinking and womanizing and his days on an extended workout regimen.

pictorial evidence of his workout success after the jump...

Click to read more ...

Monday
Oct242011

Next To No Ado About Something... Whedon's Shakespeare?

I woke to some potentially thrilling news this morning. It seems that somewhere before during and/or after The Avengers production Joss Whedon brushed up on his Shakespeare. He's completed principle photography on a movie no one even knew was coming.

Here's the announcement in pictorial form.


I can't make out which actor that is in the photo given the black and white and the goggles and the snorkel but the cast is like manna from Whedonverse heaven.

From Buffy The Vampire Slayer / Angel : Tom Lenk, Alexis Denisof, Amy Acker and Riki Lindhome (well she was only in one episode of Buffy but still...); From Serenity / Firefly: Sean Maher and Captain Tight Pants himself Nathan Fillion (Love); From Dollhouse : Reed Diamond (YES!) and Ashley Johnson ; From The Avengers : Clark Gregg ; From The Cabin in the Woods : Fran Kranz ; And the newbies: Spencer Treat Clark (little Lucius from Gladiator all grown up), Brian McElhaney, Nick Kocher, Emma Bates, Romy Rosemont (from Glee), Paul M Meston, Joshua Zar and Jillian Morgese

"Hey nonny nonny"The ad rather cheekily ends with "based on a play" LOL. If it's the play than Joss has gone and made his own modern Shakespeare, following in the footsteps of... well everybody. But Kenneth Branagh in particular.

The last time Much Ado About Nothing hit the silver screen the year was 1993. The movie opened with a particularly ripe Emma Thompson eating grapes and dreamily reciting "hey nonny" before the film erupted into an uproarious everybody-get-naked! bathing credit sequence because Kenneth Branagh was directing on uppers. We're guessing. That movie is so fun. How will Joss's compare? Good luck to whoever has to follow in Emma's lighter than air but somehow still earthy footsteps (I'm guessing its Amy Acker and Alexis Denisof as Beatrice and Benedick given their placement on the advertisement). If you ask me Much Ado is Emma's second best big screen performance ever. Given the consistent quality of her work, you'll understand that that's extraordinarily high praise.

But what this really means is that 2012 is shaping up to be the year in which Joss Whedon basically takes over the entire world: The Avengers, which he wrote and directed, hopes to dominate the summer box office; the long delayed 3D horror flick Cabin in the Woods, which he wrote, will finally arrive; he's announced plans to return to the web with an (unrelated) followup to Dr. Horrible; and now this surprise film!

Sigh no more, lady! I've learned to live with the constant regurgitation of Shakespeare but I can't say I wouldn't be blissed out if artists everywhere decided as one great collective mass that they wanted to give the old Bard a rest for a decade whilst they investigated the collected works of Tennessee Williams or Anton Chekhov instead.

Sunday
Oct232011

Naked Gold Man... Now With Golden Globes

Late last week I went out for a drinks with an old friend of mine who introduced me to a friend of his I'd never met. They had just seen Jesse Eisenberg's new play and were arguing about how much to tell me about ("spoiler alerts!" and all) though they both highly recommend it.

Once we sat down for drinks and dinner, the topic turned to Oscar. You know I felt immediate kinship when this new insta-friend told me a hilarious story of his teenage self absolutely freaking out on the night of March 29th, 1989 when Jodie Foster's name was read out and his beloved Glenn Close was shunned again. Inconsolable he was!

Let's just say his breakdown was less composed than the Merquise de Merteuil's when she met her ignoble end in Dangerous Liaisons.

After the story, he requested an article on Golden Globe predictions. "You haven't written about that," he says. He's right. So, let's ditch the sword and pick up the globes.

Let's focus on Comedy/Musical ...AFTER THE JUMP

Click to read more ...

Sunday
Oct232011

Box Office: Familiar Spectrals

Proving once again that Paranormal Activity is the new Saw (i.e. the same movie over and over again as Halloween ritual) the third outing did better than anyone expected. I saw and sort-of enjoyed the first but figured that was enough since faux found-footage / surveillance type of movies tend to wear out their welcome (for me at least) by the end of the movie, let alone for sequel after sequel!  I recently saw Trollhunter, the Norwegian "documentary" about, well, troll hunting. And it was clever, well made and definitely fun... but even then I was like 'Please End!' 

Still, I would pay lots of money to see a Paranormal Activity 4: The Haunting of The Haunts in which famous ghosts from the movies are scared to undeath in their own homes by other famous ghosts from the movies! 

Then at least it would be believable that the residents don't leave once the shit starts going down; they can't!

Box Office (U.S.) Top Ten -Estimates
01 PARANORMAL ACTIVITY 3 newish $54 
02 REAL STEEL $11.3  (cum. $67.2)
03 FOOTLOOSE $10.8  (cum. $30.8)
04 THE THREE MUSKETEERS newish $8.8 
05 IDES OF MARCH [capsule] $4.9 (cum. $29.1)
06 DOLPHIN TALE  $4.2 (cum. $64.3)
07 MONEYBALL [review] $4.0 (cum $63.7)
08 JOHNNY ENGLISH REBORN newish  $3.8 
09 THE THING  $3.1 (cum. $14.1)
10 50/50 [review]  $2.8 (cum $28.8)

Talking Points
• It says quite a lot about the viability of The Three Musketeers 3D! that i hear more talk about Milla Jovovich's complaints about the lack of studio promotion than I did about the movie itself.

• In limited release world -- or what we call "major markets" -- spooky Martha Marcy May Marlene was the top draw. Next weekend it expands to 10 more cities so go see it. Fantastic movie. The other high profile limited release, the financial thriller Margin Call also fared well.

What did you see this weekend?
I meant to opt for a whole day of movie-going but checked the box beside "pathetic shut-in" instead. Good times.

Sunday
Oct232011

Oscar Horrors: A Two Faced Oscar Win

Oscar Horrors Continues

Here lies... Fredric March’s charming Dr Jekyll face, devoured by the monstrosity that is Mr. Hyde. Though his Hyde face didn’t manage to scare all the other nominees away – March tied for the Best Actor award that year, and in a field of only three nominees – when you stop to think about it, his win was still quite a feat. 

Hollywood’s idea of what constitutes a good performance has changed over the years so it’s almost inconceivable for a performance of such exaggerated expressionism in a horror film to stand a chance of winning today. (Although, give this to Robert and I’m sure he’ll prove me wrong by drawing parallels between March and Natalie Portman’s Nina.) Oscar-y or not, however, the performance is a marvel; perhaps the only thing that remains so fresh about the film 80 years on.

Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde (1931) is a horror film, but to the desensitized eyes of my generation – for whom horror means gore and brutality and 12 people sewn together ass-to-mouth – it plays more like a campy horror comedy. What keeps the film grounded (and serious-minded) is its sensitively realized performances, particularly that of March, who gets every note right.

The Jekyll to Hyde transition, with no CGI!

As Jekyll, March is handsome and charismatic; as Hyde he’s hideous and violent. The two characters are purposely the opposite sides of the coin. They share nothing in common and March plays both of them really well, but the real reason the performance is so great is the way he connects the two. It’s key to the narrative, as it is in the original book, to imply that these two wildly different characters can exist within the same person. As Dr. Jekyll announces in the opening:

My analysis of the human psyche leads me to believe that man is not truly one, but truly two ...the good self... and the bad self.

March manages to capture that in his performance. As Hyde, he shows an aggression that can be reflected in his self-distrust as Jekyll. All of Hyde’s uncontrollable cruelty can be traced back in Jekyll’s internal conflict. And the duality can be seen in his eyes the whole time.

Hyde with his favoured prostitute. Sexuality is a major element in this pre-Code film.

Rumour has it, when the 1941 remake was released and universally panned, Spencer Tracy, who played the leading role, received a telegram from March. In it, March apparently thanked him for the biggest boost of his career. Tracy’s portrayal paled in comparison. I haven’t seen the remake, but I wouldn’t be surprised if I agree with the consensus. March’s performance is one for the ages.

 

Other Oscar ACTING Horrors...
Rosemary's Baby - Best Supporting Actress

Whatever Happened to Baby Jane -Best Actress in a Leading Role
The Exorcist -Best Actress in a Supporting Role 
Carrie - Best Actress in a Leading Role

Sunday
Oct232011

The Unbearable Linkness of Being

The Hollywood Reporter Dianne Wiest to headline The Corrections. I know this will be old news to some but I can't believe I haven't mentioned it. A lead role for Our Miss Wiest, only one of the greatest living actresses in the world.
Tom Shone grades the movies. I love when critics explain their grading systems as it's always such a personal and inexact science. Only six "A+" ever.
Film Studies For Free looks back briefly at Brokeback Mountain, which happens to be one of Mr. Shone's six "A+" films.


Salon offers up a library of film criticism essentials
They Live by Night great piece on the super complicated editing challenges of The Tree of Life.

We had folders for Earth, Sky, Water, Animals, Miscellaneous, and then within those, bins that were more specific."

Guardian on Amélie's (2001) cultural endurance. The whimsical worldwide hit is now ten years old.
Laughing Squid "Teenage Mutant Ninja Noses"
Felix in Hollywood "can someone please explain this picture to me?"Tallulah Bankhead lol.
Awards Daily They aren't reading the Best Picture nominees in alphabetical order this year. Nor will the board show us how many titles will be announced. Suspense! 

Kaufman on the set of Quills (2000) with Kate WinsletFinally, a very happy 75th birthday to the writer/director Philip Kaufman, who people unfortunately rarely talk about these days. Why this is is surely a combo of his infrequency of working (only 12 features in a 47 year career), his lack of masterpieces, and his films being soundly of the adult persuasion in an era when the movies have become increasingly 'you know... for kids.' (I mean, even Scorsese is making family pictures now.)  My favorites from Kaufman's oeuvre are three: The Right Stuff (1983) which was nominated for 8 Oscars though Kaufman was oddly not one of them - they had to make room for Ingmar Bergman in Best Director which we shan't ever complain about but it's strange that the competition that wasn't dropped came mostly from what one might call "actor's films" which are usually the first to go when the lone wolf directorial nod comes-a-calling; The Unbearable Lightness of Being (1988, Kaufman's sole nomination - Best Adapted Screenplay); and the NC-17 scandal that was Henry and June (1990). This trinity of "bests" is not-so-coincidentally composed of consecutive projects. When artists are on a roll, they're on a roll. It always seems to come in waves, doesn't it?

He's finally made another movie. His thirteenth film is Hemingway and Gelhorn (2012) which stars Nicole Kidman and Clive Owen. 

Have you seen any Philip Kaufman pictures?