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Entries in St. Vincent (6)

Tuesday
Mar072017

Doc Corner: 'Contemporary Color'

Jonathan Demme’s Stop Making Sense is such an extraordinary piece of cinema that it is only natural that it casts a long shadow. That 1984 concert documentary of Talking Heads stuck in my mind a lot while watching Contemporary Color from directors Bill and Turner Ross. Not just because both films feature David Byrne as the primary artistic force behind them, but because they each suffuse music with performance with personality with theatricality. They both strive for an almost heightened sense of spirituality out of the creation of art. It’s just a shame that in the case of the Ross brothers' film, it just comes across as sloppy.

The film documents the performance of a special one-off performance at the Barclay Centre in Brooklyn. Spearheaded by Byrne and his newfound obsession with color guarding – a sort of synchronised swimming, but on land, and with way more prop rifles; Byrne describes them as “sophisticated folk art” – the event finds him inviting ten color guard teams and have them perform for a stadium audience alongside musical guests who wrote original songs as soundtracks. Songs, it must be said, that mostly sound like discarded album tracks and demos lifted out of storage and dusted off like it’s Woody Allen’s Irrational Man screenplay.

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Friday
Apr082016

Posterized: Melissa McCarthy, Unlikely Superstar

Though Melissa McCarthy's star went supernova just five years ago in a role so popular that she won both an Oscar nomination and an Emmy statue (Bridesmaids... oh please, you know the Emmy wasn't actually for Mike and Molly!) she's wasted approximately zero days since in cementing her unlikely place as a box office titan with star vehicles emerging annually since. Right now that means her new capitalist diva comedy The Boss and if it isn't Spy (2015) or The Heat (2013) level funny (sorry... but few things are) it's not bad. It sure as hell runs rings around Identity Thief (2013) and Tammy (2014) so it's firmly middle of the pack, if you ask me. (It's weird that the reviews so far are the worst of any of her solo vehicles.)

We call her place as a truly bankable actress 'unlikely' because it's just that. Guess how long it's been since audiences embraced a hefty actress as a (regular) lead? I can't think of a single one from my lifetime though we occassionally get a one time debut hit (Gabby Sidibe in Precious, Nikki Blonsky in Hairspray - they had to settle for supporting work thereafter) or a frequently employed secondary lead (Rebel Wilson). You might argue for Kathy Bates but she's only headlined a few times.  I think you have to sail back to the early 1930s to the odd case of Marie Dressler who was a true box office sensation and quite awesome (see her Oscar winning Min & Bill; It's a blast!)

Though Bridesmaids entirely changed McCarthy's career her debut was way back in the cult favorite Go (1999) which she soon followed with the role that most people think of as her debut "Sookie" on several seasons of The Gilmore Girls, a role she'll reprise for the upcoming reunion. Hooray!  All the McCarthy movie posters are after the jump. How many have you seen?

  

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Tuesday
Dec232014

Crazy Cat Lady Yearbook

Year in review. Two yummy look backs each day.

People often get my name wrong in the comments. I do not answer to "Nate" or "Nathan". "Nat" or "Nathaniel" will do.  I also answer to "Crazy Cat Lady".

Cats do not get enough screen time if you ask me but they're not pack animals so there's no cat union to promote their representation in the movies. I actually felt a bit betrayed this summer when Toothless, one of my all time favorite screen cats suddenly seemed almost doggish in How To Train Your Dragon 2. If Dreamworks wants to know why they struggled a bit at the box office there I can only point to Toothless. There was  A) Not nearly enough of him in the movie and B) He seemed to have gone to the dog side. 

So herewith the four cats from the film year I couldn't love more...

BEST SCREEN CATS 2014

04 Hairy Baby (Big Hero Six)
If Baymax weren't already off-the-charts adorable, it turns out he's also a cat person robot? (Though he probably shouldn't be petting a happy kitty who might well start kneading him since he's already sprung a leak at this point in the movie. 

03 Ghibli Cat (The Kingdom of Dreams and Madness)
From my review of the Studio Ghibli documentary... 

Particularly wonderful are the many shots of a black and white short tailed cat that wanders freely around Studio Ghibli demanding doors be open for it. This cat, who almost seems like an animated character, strangely never ventures into Miyazaki's workspace as if blocked, staring, by some invisible wall. Still, Miya-san likes him. They share a brief funny moment at a picnic table outside late in the film, the cat sleeping, the filmmaker looking on with envy; Miyazaki has since retired 

02 Felix (St. Vincent)
A veritable cloud of comfort in a sea of smelly clutter, cantankarous moods, and unhappy peoples. Felix is so fluffy, docile, well fed and people-loving that even the most misanthropic or lonely of film characters -- that'd be Bill Murray, natch -- can't remotely pretend to not worship him. (Vulture also couldn't pretend indifference, devoting a whole photo spread to him.)

01 The Cat (Gone Girl)
Every single shot of the orange tabby* in Gone Girl is perfection. He's the perfectly detached observer of all things Mr & Mrs Dunne. Even when he's allowing Nick to be comforted by him, not desperately waiting for food, or staring at the throngs of police and press circling his home, he never seems less than cool and in control. His allegiances also beautifully shift with the opposing chapters. For so long he seems to be Nick's man, until suddenly he's not. Note the way, in the film's best shot (yeah, I couldn't wait) he stares Nick down, a perfect unknowable mirror of Amy, standing just behind him, once they're all back in the kitchen. Is this tabby an "emotional marker" for Gone Girl as some claim or is he something more? An omniscient observer, perhaps? Or David Fincher in feline form, prowling around his own movie preternaturally aware of every shadowy corner, shared space, hiding place, and neutral ground. 

*the cat is never explicitly named in Gone Girl though Nick calls him "Buddy." In the novel I understand his name is "Bleecker".

Saturday
Dec202014

Critical Consensus: Boyhood or Birdman?

Birdman and Boyhood continue to split regional trophies. This round tips in Birdman's favor for a change though. I'm becoming more and more curious to see who SAG selects as "Outstanding Cast". Will they opt for the heartfelt dedication of 4 actors who spent a few weeks each year for over a decade making the same intimate masterpiece, or will they go with a very exciting movie that's about acting to a significant degree with the lively interactions of movie stars pretending to be theater stars who are actually acting together in frame in a way you rarely see in the movies but see all the time in theater where this is no camera and editing to distract you.

It's a tough predictive call though my vote goes to Birdman because there's far more acting with each other (and more consistency in the quality of each performance) something that is pure pleasure if you're a lover of the art of acting as interacting.

Results and commentary from Florida, Las Vegas, Utah and St Louis after the jump...

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Friday
Oct172014

Review: St. Vincent

 Here's Michael's weekend review of St. Vincent, currently expanding to more theaters...

There is a moment in Theodore Melfi’s St. Vincent where it looks like the film might deviate from the relentlessly predictable path it’s been traveling up to that point. Oliver (Jaeden Lieberher) is the runty new kid at school, so of course he immediately picks up a squad of dedicated bullies, and of course they manage to locate him in a parking lot while he waits for the return of his crabby, neglectful babysitter, Vincent (Bill Murray). Movie law dictates that this is the cue for Vincent to swoop in to put a hurting on the bullies, thus revealing a new likeable side to this misanthrope, and sure enough Bill Murray’s seedy guardian shows up on cue. Only instead of intervening, he leans against his broken down old jalopy and lights up a cigarette, with Oliver getting the snot pummeled out of him all the while.

Is Vincent really going to just sit there and do nothing, we wonder? Does he side with the bullies? Does he think this will build character? Or is it that Vincent doesn’t think the eleven dollars an hour Melissa McCarthy’s single mom neighbor is paying him to watch Oliver while she works triple shifts covers rescue operations? Is it possible this guy is a genuine bum and not the cuddly curmudgeon we are expecting? 

More...

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Thursday
Jul032014

Yes No Maybe So⁴: Before The Skeleton Tribe Goes To Sleep at St. Vincent's

Hooray. It's time for our weekly dose of hypocrisy. Less than 24 hours ago I suggested you abstain from trailers, and here's a post with not one... not two... not three... but four trailers for you to binge on. It's all for our communal 'Yes No Maybe So' consideration.

Three-pronged thoughts and the trailers to The Skeleton Twins, St. Vincent, The Tribe and Before I Go To Sleep are after the jump...

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