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Beauty vs. Beast


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Entries in Isabella Rosselini (7)


Beauty vs Beast: Legend In Blue Jeans

Jason from MNPP here, eyeing the white-out weather outside the window of my office as I write this to you from New York City - everybody stay safe on the East Coast over the next couple of days! It's apparantly gonna be a biggun, this storm. I know, here, I'll give you something to keep you warm - Paul Newman!

It's the 90th anniversary of Paul Newman's birth today. A few years back I'd have wagered he'd still be around to celebrate this one with us - he retained his youthful glimmer right up til the end - but it wasn't to be. His death was one that hit me hard -- he was "The Legend" of my youth, still going strong, still beautiful and affecting. But hey his lifetime love the great Joanne Woodward is still around, so let's all send our happy movie memory vibes her way. And so today's "Beauty vs Beast" is for Paul, and my favorite performance of his...



Paul Newman is totally a beast in this movie - drunken, boorish, and an attempted rapist to boot - but all that said it's still a major struggle slapping him with anything but "Beauty. Beauty. BEAUTY." Ya know? Ya know. (See the episode of TFE's "Hit Me With Your Best Shot" series devoted to this movie right here.)

PREVIOUSLY Last week we got lost in the picket-fence nightmare of David Lynch's Blue Velvet, pitting Dennis Hopper's PBR lover against Isabella Rossellini's dewy-lipped songstress - well turns out y'all love the sultry way Dorothy suffers, as she sauntered away with 70% of the vote. Said Mike in Canada:

"Team Dorothy all the way. I'm always looking for her in my closet."


Beauty vs Beast: Blue Beauty On Velvet Beast

Jason from MNPP here wishing everyone a blue blue Blue Monday. When I tell you that it feels as if I've been having an awfully Lynchian series of months, I'm sure your first reaction is to 1) shudder and 2) to call the police on my behalf. But this is not a cry for help, don't worry - I haven't turned into a door-knob or anything.  It's just been a random confluence of events - I saw David Lynch speak at BAM a few months ago; then I read Lynch on Lynch (a terrific book of interviews with the director); then there was the news about the Twin Peaks revival; then I met Laura Dern at a party and told her she needs to get herself into the Twin Peaks revivial; then I went to Philadelphia and saw an exhibit of his paintings. It's been Lynch up the wazoo, basically.

And since tomorrow is Mr. Lynch's 69th birthday it seems a heck of a good time to give him the "Beauty vs Beast" treatment. I mean, what other director works in such extremes of dreamy beauties and nightmare beasts after all? Laura Palmer and the BOB at the end of her bed, for instance. And when the beauty & beast meet, watch out - you could argue that Laura Dern's become the perfect muse for him since she can so effortlessly stretch her sunny beauty out out out way too far for comfort. Those examples aside, it was pretty clear where we needed to mine this week's competition from...


Treat yourself to some cherry pie, climb inside a stranger's closet, do whatever it takes, and then hit the comments to tell us whose disease you want put inside of you in the next seven days, and why and how. And here's to your...


Twins: Isabella & Isotta Ingrid

We're celebrating twins while we're in Gemini

Did you know that Isabella Rossellini had a twin sister? They aren't identical but she does. The legendary screen goddess Ingrid Bergman had four children, the first Pia arrived with her first marriage to Peter Lindstrom. After her scandalous affair with Italian director Roberto Rossellini (which sank her career in the US for a good long while -- her third Oscar was seen, to some extent, as Hollywood's forgiveness) she moved to Italy, and had son Roberto Rossellini folllowed by daughters Isabella and Isotta Ingrid.

The Rossellini kids in 1959: Isabella, Roberto and Isotta Ingrid

Do you think Isotta Ingrid is as fascinated by animal sex* (Green Porno forever!) as her sister Isabella? Well, Isotta is in Academia, so... maybe.  

a more recent picture of the twins and more after the jump.

Click to read more ...


Oscar Horrors: The Death-Defying Effects of 'Death Becomes Her'

Oscar Horrors continues...

Here lies...the 1992 Oscar for Visual Effects – err, here he would be lying, lamenting his fate as a reward to the f/x folks behind Batman Returns or Alien 3, had he not been bewitched by Isabella Rossellini's youth potion. Now, he stands immortal on a mantle shared by Ken Ralston, Doug Chiang, Tom Woodruff Jr. and Douglas Smythe, who brought you the butt-tightening, head-twisting, belly-blasting cinemagic of Robert Zemeckis's Death Becomes Her.

Kurt here. I LOVE this movie – or should I say, I'm "Mad as Hel" for it. Regardless of what it might say about me, it's a major film of my youth. Prepping for this post, I planned to just skip around and watch the expensive effects scenes, but by the time a grossly overweight and psychotically vengeful Goldie Hawn was twisting her hankie and growling through gritted teeth, "I want to talk about Madeline Ashton," I was hooked yet again and watched the entire thing. Flaws be damned, Death Becomes Her is so funny and so cleanly paced. There's hardly a wasted moment. It's packed with great sequences (such as the tongue-in-cheek imagined plot in which Hawn's Helen Sharp tells Bruce Willis's Ernest Menville how they're going to drug and kill Meryl Streep's Madeline), but what it's most remembered for are its nifty visual tricks, which support the crimes-against-nature moral by serving up the comic mutilation of two A-List actresses' undead bodies.

The film's centerpiece scene is one that sees all secrets revealed. After being pushed down a marble staircase by Ernest, an incident that twists her into a pretzel and makes a periscope of her head and neck, a pulseless Madeline takes her rage out on Helen, whose gut she blows a hole in with a double-barrel shotgun. When Helen stands up, it's clear both women have drunk the neon pink Kool-Aid, which gives eternal life, for better or worse. What follows is a shovel duel that, for me, is quite iconic, beginning with the immortal line, "On guard – bitch!"

In general, I'm no more easily surprised than the next seasoned moviegoer, but when it comes to visual effects, I do tend to be a "how'd they do that?" kind of person. For example, even looking back at a film from nearly 20 years ago (wow), I'm not sure how that Oscar-crowned quartet was able to seamlessly present Hawn with a dinner-plate-sized hole in her mid-section, through which you can clearly see the rest of the scenery. At one point during the duel, Helen sits down on a couch that's been speared with a broken shovel handle, and she lets the handle poke through her new orifice. There's a flash where you can see the handle nudge the edge of the hole. Streep's rubbery neck is one thing, but how'd they do that?

If you ask me, the true visual effects of Death Becomes Her are Hawn and Streep themselves, which sounds like a gooey cliché, but never, ever have these two ladies looked more breathtaking than they do in this movie. Streep was 43, Hawn was 45, and both looked utterly flawless, like they'd never passed age 32. The irony, of course, is that watching this movie now gives you a sting that validates Rossellini's rants about "life's cruel curse," and reminds of how even stunning actresses are slave to the ticking clock. Which is certainly not to say that time hasn't been kind to both ladies (it has), but you can't help but wonder if, when they revisit Death Becomes Her, they wish they had just a couple drops of that pink stuff.

"Do you remember where you parked the car?"

Related Posts
Oscar Horrors - Poltergeist, The Birds, The Exorcist, Rosemary's Baby and more...
She's "Mad" at "Hel" and She's Not Going To Streep It Anymore - Nathaniel on Meryl Streep's sudden swerve towards comedy in the 90s and the many joys of Death Becomes Her.
Great Moments In Screen Bitchery #701 - 'I can see right through you!' 


Peeking through the "Keyhole"

Andreas from Pussy Goes Grrr here, with some good news for cinephiles! Guy Maddin, the Wizard of Winnipeg, will be premiering his new movie Keyhole at TIFF. It's been four years since My Winnipeg, and for one of the greatest living directors, that's clearly four years too many. Here's the official synopsis for Keyhole via The Playlist:

A gangster and deadbeat father, Ulysses Pick (Jason Patric), returns home after a long absence. He is toting two teenagers: a drowned girl, Denny, who has mysteriously returned to life; and a bound-and-gagged hostage, who is actually his own teenage son, Manners. Confused Ulysses doesn’t recognize his own son, but he feels with increasing conviction he must make an indoor odyssey from the back door of his home all the way up, one room at a time, to the marriage bedroom where his wife Hyacinth (Isabella Rossellini) awaits.

All of Maddin's usual tropes are here: amnesia, psychosexual tension, overwrought family melodrama, and voyeurism (it's right there in the title). This time around, it looks like he's mixing in some noirish atmosphere and hints of the supernatural. Furthermore, he's stacked the deck by casting his favorite actress Isabella Rossellini along with Lars von Trier's lucky charm, Udo Kier. All in all, this sounds like about the most characteristically Maddin-esque movie that Guy Maddin's ever made.

Does that mean he's repeating himself, though? I doubt it. Over the past two decades, Maddin's proven himself extraordinarily inventive and versatile, jump freely between war dramas, musicals, and autobiographical "docu-fantasias." According to Rossellini, Keyhole is "crazier than a Turin horse." I can't wait to see it so I can figure out what the hell that means.

Udo Kier and X-Ray via Guy Maddin

Are you a fan of Canada's weirdest son? Which of his snowy dreamscapes have you visited?

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Take Three: Isabella Rossellini

Craig here with Take Three. Today: Isabella Rossellini

Take One: Blue Velvet (1986)
“She... Wore... Bluuuuuue Vel-vet.”
Indeed she did: bluer than velvet was the night. Ladies and gentlemen, Rossellini was the Blue Lady, Miss Dorothy Vallens, in David Lynch’s mid-eighties masterpiece Blue Velvet. Vallens was a tortured torch singer, a gas-guzzling freakopath Frank Booth’s (Dennis Hopper) late-night inviter and pervy amateur detective Jeffrey Beaumont’s (Kyle MacLachlan) sexual initiation vixen. And yet, behind it all, lay a fretful wife and mother. Rossellini’s introductory scene in the film showed her as a midnight siren, a depressed blue dahlia who, once done with her sad, strange rendition of Bobby Vinton’s titular song, seems to dematerialise into a pair of Lynch’s signature red curtains.

 After she finds snooping Jeffrey in her closet she’s both defender of her home and explorer of her own dark thoughts. She’s furious, but as excited by the imminent enveloping mystery as he is; you can just make out the glimmer of utter thrill creep across Rossellini’s face as she jabs his cheek with a breadknife. Here's to Rossellini for nearly making Dorothy as kinky as her male lead. She doesn’t so much break the fourth wall as demolish it, with an infuriated stare and exclamation to camera (“Grand Central Station!”) when more than one guest visits her gloomy apartment at once.

More of the sublime Saddest Music within Blue Velvet, plus the ageless silliness of Death Becomes Her after the jump.

Click to read more ...


Berlinale Closes Pt. 1: Jury Prizes, Teddys, and More

We haven't mentioned the Berlinale at all in the heat of Oscar week. So let's do that, shall we? Better late than never. The festival closes tomorrow but the awards were handed out over the past two days.

"Nader and Simin: A Separation" GOLDEN BEAR

Asghar Fahradi, who got a lot of Oscar buzz a couple years back (though no nomination) for ABOUT ELLY, won this year's Golden Bear for Nader & Simin: A Separation (2011). The Hollywood Reporter explains the film like so.

Farhadi's drama traces the breakup of a Iranian family set against the political tensions in Tehran. While not overtly political, Nader and Simin is starkly critical of conditions in Iran, notably the country's huge class divide. It was widely tipped to win Berlin's top prize, not least because of the current upheaval in the Middle East.

Fahradi dedicated his prize to jailed filmmaker Jafar Panihi who was also supposed to be serving on this very jury. Isabella Rossellini's jury was one short as a result. Rather than replacing him they held a symbolic open seat for him. Some articles are already suggesting that Nader & Simin could be submitted for next year's Foreign Language Film Oscar. But given the open criticisms and the dedication to a jailed filmmaker I wouldn't place your bets just yet; it can be tough to read Oscar submission politics when filmmakers and governments clash.

Competition Jury
Golden Bear: Jodaeiye Nader Az Simin (Nader and Simin, A Separation) by Asghar Farhadi
Silver Bear The Jury Grand Prize
: A Torinoi Lo (The Turin Horse) by Bela Tarr
Silver Bear Best Director
: Ulrich Kohler for Schlafkrankheit (Sleeping Sickness)
Silver Bear Best Actress
: the female ensemble in Nader & Simin
Silver Bear Best Actor
: the male ensemble in Nader & Simin
Silver Bear Best Screenplay:
The Forgiveness of Blood written by Joshua Marston and Andamion Murataj.

Isabella and her jury liked Nader & Simin so much they gave it ALL the acting prizes, too. This wasn't good news for Coriolanus, the Shakespearean adaptation from Ralph Fiennes that won Vanessa Redgrave in particular Oscar friendly reviews. Regarding the Screenplay prize: If Marston's name looks familiar think Maria Full of Grace. We were wondering when he was going to be back to the cinema.

Silver Bear Artistic Contribution: Wojciech Staron, Cinematography, and Barbara Enriquez, Production Design, for El Premio
Alfred Bauer Prize: If Not Us Who (Wer Wenn Nicht Wir) by Andres Velel
First Feature Award: On the Ice by Andrew Okpeaha MacLean
Special Mention: The Guard by John Michael McDonagh
Special Mention: Die Vaterlosen by Marie Kreutzer

Crystal Bear
These prizes are for family films. Separate jury.

Best Kplus Feature Film: Keeper’n til Liverpool (The Liverpool Goalie) by Arild Andresen [Norway]
Special Mention: Mabul by Guy Nattiv [Israel/Canada/Germany/France]
Short Film: Lily by Kasimir Burgess [Australia]
Special Mention:  Minnie Loves Junior by Andy Mullins and Matthew Mullins [Australia]
Best 14plus Feature FilmOn the Ice  by Andrew Okpeaha MacLean [U.S.]
Special Mention: Apflickorna by Lisa Aschan [Sweden]
Best 14plus Short FilmManurewa by Sam Peacocke [New Zealand]
Special MentionGet Real! by Evert de Beijer [Netherlands]

Scandinavia is always winning prizes for family and kids films. It's a niche. Here's the trailer to the winning film. You can tell the "family friendly" categories aren't judged by US prudes. This won the Kplus award, and within seconds of the trailer starting there's jokes about people being well hung and there's shower nudity. Different worlds!

Audience Prizes
Audience Award, Fiction Film
También la lluvia (Even The Rain) by Icíar Bollaín [Spain/France/Mexico]
This was one of the finalists for BEST FOREIGN FILM but did not make it to the nomination shortlist. It's currently open in select US theaters.
Second PlaceMedianeras by Gustavo Taretto [Argentina/Germany/Spain]
Third Place Life in a Day by Kevin Macdonald [Great Britain]
Audience Award, Documentary FilmIn Heaven Underground - The Weissensee Jewish Cemetery (Im Himmel, Unter der Erde. Der Jüdische Friedhof Weißensee) by Britta Wauer
Second PlaceMama Africa by Mika Kaurismäki
Third Place We Were Here by David Weissman (USA)

Teddy Awards
Berlinale's Teddy Award, which is separate from the main fest and judged by LGBT film festival programmers, is one of the oldest annually bestowed Queer Cinema awards. It was first handed out in 1987 to Pedro Almodóvar's Law of Desire. What a kick off, eh?  Perusing the list of past Teddy Award winners is actually a great way to catch up on LGBT films you may have missed. Gay cinema is increasingly not what it used to be. With assimilation into mainstream culture, queer cinema definitely lost its edge and brain-power if not its sex drive. These days we don't seem to get new Gregg Arakis, Gus Van Sants or Todd Haynes and their like but people whose names we never learn directing straight to DVD sex comedies. (sigh)

Last year's Teddy prizes were unusually Hollywood friendly with James Franco's first short film The Feast of Stephen [clip. NSFW] winning Best Short Film and Lisa Cholodenko's eventual Best Picture nominee The Kids Are All Right winning the top prize.

Jake Yuzna's "Open" (2010). Marie Losier's "Ballad of Genesis and Lady Jaye" (2011)

Jake Yuzma's far more experimental pansexual drama Open won the Jury Prize. I had the pleasure of attending the premiere here in NYC. Artist Genesis Breyer P-Orridge  spoke to the audience afterwards. She and her late partner, Lady Jaye, who famously had repeated operations and plastic surgery procedures to look more and more like one another, were the inspiration for the fictional film. So I was surprised to hear that Berlin honored the very same topic again this year. Their Best Documentary prize went to The Ballad of Genesis and Lady Jaye by Marie Losier.

The Teddy, the main prize went to Argentina's Ausente, Marco Berger's follow up to Plan B which did the festival circuit last year and is now available on DVD.

Ausente is about teenager who falls in love with his swimming teacher, finding all sorts of excuses to spend time with him.

The Teddys in full
Best Feature Film: Ausente by Marco Berger
Best Documentary: The Ballad of Genesis and Lady Jaye by Marie Losier
Best Short Film: (two winners) Generations by Barbara Hammer and Gina Carducci and Maya Deren’s Sink by Barbara Hammer
Jury Prize: Tomboy by Celine Sciamma
Special Teddy Awards:  HIV/AIDS activist Pieter-Dirk Uys from South Africa and New German Cinema director Werner Schroeter (RIP).

Here's the trailer to Ausente which means "absent"