Mar 15, 2006

Annie get your gun

And do us a favor, shoot yourself in the mouth.
The peeps from Brokeback Mountain: what a bunch of sore losers! I'm referring actually only to Ang "Sourface"Lee, who forgets to thank the cast and then kvetches about being dissapointed and now, and much worse, Annie Proulx, who wrote the original story. She writes a disgraceful, badly written rant in the Guardian, whining about being "robbed" of an Oscar. How undignified. How low. Crash is not a good movie, but most of the Best Picture Oscar winners ever are, so stop having a zirotsky.
Ungracious losers like that don't deserve to win anyway. It's not like Night on Gay Mountain, or, I love the title they gave it in Mexico: "Secreto en la Montaña" -- Secret on the Mountain (oooooh....) is such a masterpiece either. Pipe down, losers.
Question: has the movie gotten any audiences in Mexico? Men are so paranoid of being considered gay down there (despite the fact that many of them are) that I wonder if they are even seen driving anywhere close to where the movie is showing, God forbid someone may think they are maricones.

Mar 14, 2006

Box Office Poop

More creepy entertainment news:

• Want to get completely depressed? Take a look at the weekend's box office results.
The movies did great. But boy, these are the movies America is watching. What a bummer.

• Even more disturbing: Americans watch over 50 hours of TV a week and only 15% of the channels they have (which is not surprising, since only like 2% are actually worth watching).
According to Imdb's Studio Briefing:
The average American household received 96.4 channels in 2005 but watched 15.4 of them, according to a survey by Nielsen Research and reported by MediaPost's online MediaDailyNews on Monday. The study also found that the average household watched TV 57 hours and 17 minutes per week, up from 56 hours and seven minutes during 2004. Reporting on the survey, the publication observed that it indicated that "given an unlimited number of media options, the average person will still opt to use a relatively small number."
57 hours! That's way more than the freaking work week! When do they watch?
How many hours do they spend reading?
No wonder we're so dumb.

He Gives Me The Willis

On the other hand, not all celebrities can be counted to use the two neurons attached to their brains. Witness professional asshole Bruce Willis' comments about the US invading Colombia to stop the cocaine trade. The Colombians were very upset when they should have been laughing in his face. Really, when a hasbeen opens his yap and says some idiot thing, it dignifies him too much to have a response both from Colombia's Ambassador to the US and its President. But they did have a point. The drug problem is one of supply and demand. Being that here in America we have an overpowering hankering for drugs, our Colombian suppliers are just happy to oblige.
The Colombian President went on to say that Willis is arrogant and ignorant, which pretty much describes the guy. It also describes our own President, but that's another story.
Instead of invading Colombia in such a gung ho spirit, (it'll be just like Iraq: we're not even there yet but hey, mission accomplished) perhaps we should be legalizing drugs, so that our evil Colombian suppliers have less incentive to keep us loaded with blow.

Mar 13, 2006

Clooney Tunes

George and I are bloggers. Isn't that divine? I am a liberal too, George. And proud of it.
George, besides being extremely handsome, is also quite smart and I appreciate the fact that he is not afraid to speak out because it so happens that he is right. I'm glad he holds the Democrats accountable for their cowardice and ineptitude. I've been saying the same thing for years, but who listens to me? I'm not George Clooney.
George, honey, we have so much in common, let's do lunch.

Mar 9, 2006

Or: Not a date movie

Or (my treasure), an amazing film from Israel, is one of the most brutal, depressing, heartbreaking films I've seen. Or belongs to the kind of bleak films like Lilya 4-ever, or Morvern Callar, that document sordidness and squalor in the lives of women. These films never hail from the United States, by the way. Call it box office poison. In any case, of the ones I've seen, including the overrated Turkish-German film, Head-On, Or is the most intelligent. It is a truly hard, unsentimental film about a teenager, Or (which means "light" in Hebrew), whose mother is an incurable prostitute. They live in a shabby apartment and they have no money. Or's mother is a bottom of the barrel prostitute. She behaves like a spoiled, irresponsible child, as if she's entitled to all the indulgence in the world because of her suffering. Her daughter goes to school and then works her ass off. She washes dishes in a restaurant, collects empty plastic bottles for recycling and mops the stairway of the apartment building where they live. She brings food home, she buys her mother's medicine, she locks her mother in to prevent her from going back to the streets. But the mother has succumbed so deeply to her victim's mentality, she is virtually incapable of taking care of herself. She chooses to be oblivious to the sacrifices her daughter makes for her and to the very fact that their roles are inverted. This is not a proud whore, this is not the absurd fantasy that the world entertains that whores are a happy lifestyle choice. This is a broken woman, broken beyond repair. She is a bundle of needs, a monster of unconscious selfishness, and quite stubborn in her helplessness. Or finds her a job cleaning a house and she looks down on it, can't hold on to it. But Or is devoted to her and is obssessed with saving her. Then as the film unfolds slowly, painfully, too intimately, it dawns on Or that there is no hope for her either. No matter how hard she tries to change things, her mother has given her a stigma she cannot escape. This is a harsh, quietly devastating film. It doesn't preach, there are no morally exalted speeches or terrible villains and heavenly saints. Not much happens except the daily grind of survival. The neighbors help until they stop helping. Some of them help by taking advantage of the situation, others by halfheartedly lending a hand, then taking it cruelly away. It seems that if you are a whore, everybody can feel superior and look down on you even as they help you. Or learns that no matter what she does or how she feels or who she is, she is an outcast, tainted, and cannot escape the abyss of degradation.
The bluntness of this movie made my stomach churn. At the end, I felt like taking a shower and having two alka-seltzers. No barrel of laughs here. But it is a great example of the kind of stories a film can tell, not with the intention of sermonizing, just of showing what a cruel, unfair place the world can be.

It's Duck Season!

I'm ecstatic to hear that Mexican director Alfonso Cuarón (Y tu mamá también) has helped find distribution for Duck Season, a lovely Mexican film that had none some months ago, when it was shown to great acclaim at the New Directors/New Films at MoMa. Its young director, Fernando Eimbcke and his producer, explained that they were finding it hard to sell the film in the US because of two reasons: it was in black and white and it was not in English.
Have you noticed how, when you see foreign film previews in artsy fartsy cinemas (because that's the only place they show them), they usually have no dialogue? The reason is that Americans are too lazy to read subtitles. Subtitles put American audiences off. Sad but true. And how do you suppose that most of the world watches the crap that Hollywood exports? In many cases movies are dubbed, but most of the time they are subtitled.
It would have been truly sad if Cuarón had not come to the rescue, for Duck Season is a lovely, lovely film. It's been compared to the films of Ozu and Jim Jarmusch. I found it much more breezy and entertaining than Ozu and much less calculatedly hip than Jarmusch, so Eimbecke has made good use of his influences. Duck Season is fun and touching and fresh and charming, and surprisingly bold cinematically. In this day of easy cheesy digital effects, crazy color correction, smoke and mirrors, Eimbcke shot the film in long takes with a camera locked in place and yet it never feels slow or boring or contrived. I strongly recommend this movie. It's going to be showing at the Angelika soon.

Mar 8, 2006

Eat My Shorts

I saw the live action Academy Award nominees for Best Short.
The winner, playwright Martin McDonagh's Six Shooter, is way better than the rest and deserves to win. It is superbly written, a pitch black comedy with extraordinary dialogue and acting. I can't get it out of my head. I won't attempt to try to explain it to you, except to say that it starts out with an extremely dramatic moment and continues escalating until one doesn't think it's possible to do so anymore. The premise is almost ludicrous. Four strangers meet on a train; they've all had a very recent death in the family. From there all hell breaks loose, thanks to a funny psycopath who chooses to engage his fellow travelers in conversation.
This short is a master class in condensed dramatic writing. Every person who wants to direct or write a short should consider watching this one homework. Maybe it's unfair for the other nominees to have to compete against a major living playwright (and boy, does it make a difference). Still, it's his first film.
The other shorts kind of pale by comparison, so it's a good thing that Six Shooter is screened last. The first one, Our Time is Up, is a frivolous, mildly amusing short from the U.S., about a bored shrink who is suddenly told he only has 6 months to live and, as expected, starts telling off his patients. It's conventional and predictable, and nobody in it is a real human being.
The Last Farm, hailing from a Scandinavian country (I couldn't tell which and there were no end credits) is about an old guy who lives in a remote farm with his old wife, who's just died. He buries her and himself in a little plot next to the house. The piece is beautifully shot, but I didn't buy it. Death is the worst cliche in the movies and the worst lie. In real life, dead people start leaking and stinking after like five minutes, about twelve if you live in cold weather. They do not retain the beatific composure they show you in the movies. Their faces become distorted, unrecognizable, all their expression is sucked out of them. It is an ugly affair. And so, the fact that this old guy lays down to sleep next to his very dead wife, who's been dead for at least a day, seems to me bogus. It's a powerful short, morbid and humorless, and the second best of the lot, but I didn't like it.
Cash Back, from England, is a very amusing, if rambling story about a slightly smarmy art student who works the late shift at a supermarket. It is quite funny, but tonally all over the place, veering between philosophical musings about art and beauty and sheer slapstick (I was much entertained by the slapstick, less thrilled with the musings). The short has an advertisingy feel to it, relying on Matrix-like fx, the sort that are routinely abused in car commercials. Also, this artist kid expostulates about the beauty of women yet all the naked women they show are leggy models in poses that remind you more of Axe ads than of the concept of female beauty in art (you know, unshaved armpits, tubbiness). They are too perfect, too thin, too tall, too creamy. Ergo: bogus.
Ausreisser, from Germany, is a whimsical story about a child that appears at a guy's doorstep, a sort of annunciation. It's well done, but I don't like sugary whimsy.
So then Six Shooter, the most outrageous, over the top of the shorts, seems the most human to me. And it's all in the writing. Sharp, complex, funny, vicious, real.

Mar 6, 2006

Oscars 2006: Crash and Burn

Darlings: Today I spent all morning writing my recap of the spectacle known as Oscars, only to have lost all my brilliant thoughts in a moment of technological blunder. I am still fuming, particularly as it was yours truly who neglected to save said info, blindly trusting this stupid Firefox browser.
In any case, I'm glad to report that we survived the evening due to important quantities of beer, good food and Jon Stewart, who was classy, funny and appropriate and I would have liked to see more of him.
The big upset of the night was no upset at all, of course. In the end, the Academy could not bring itself to vote for the more controversial choice and to make the more courageous statement. They just gazed at their glamorous navels and congratulated themselves for living in a town that thrives on racist fenderbenders. They knew that in good conscience they couldn't be as cynical as to anoint the gay tolerance message when Hollywood won't easily employ homosexual stars, with a few brave (Ellen de Generes) or obvious (Alan Cumming) exceptions. So they went for the toothless choice. I'm sorry, but racism in the Oscars is so yesterday, so In The Heat of the Night, plus Crash is a crappy, bogus, fake, ridiculous movie whose only saving grace is its exceptional ensemble cast. But for some reason, the Academy likes Paul Higgis' heavyhanded scripts a lot (either that or I wonder who he's blowing). Just witness his script for last year's winner, the AWFUL Million Dollar Baby.
Now, for my very smart and astute readers this may be stale news, but yesterday I confirmed what I have always suspected: it is an utter lie that the producers of the show don't know what's on the envelopes. In fact, you can guess many of the outcomes within a 100% degree of accuracy to judge from whoever presents the category. For instance: Salma Hayek, wearing a dress twelve sizes smaller than her bazoombas, presented the musical score nominees. There were two Latins in the group so it stands to reason one of them would win. Sure enough, Gustavo Santaolalla of Brokeback won, quite deservedly. Then the amazing Queen Latifah presents the nominees for best song. You could bet your sweet ass that it wasn't going to go to Dolly Parton or the other white chick. Sure enough, it went to the rap group, who lost what little street cred they had with that unfortunate musical number that looked like it was staged for a Sunday afternoon at Epcot Center. When I saw that Jack Nicholson was presenting the best picture nominees, I immediately knew it was going to Crash: the LA connection. So why keep pretending that those two nerds from Price Waterhouse Coopers have anything other than peanut butter and jelly sandwiches in those briefcases? It's very annoying.
I knew Brokeback was in trouble when Michelle Williams didn't win for best supporting actress, just as Clooney knew he wasn't going to win best director after getting his Oscar for acting. We're glad for Phillip Seymour Hoffman, not surprised by Reese, the golden girl, who almost made an ass of herself as seems to be traditional in the best actress category, trying to make a feminist statement about women, but she corrected course and managed to thank her grumpy co-star Joaquin Phoenix and her long suffering husband Ryan Phillippe.
The worst faux pas of the night, however, belonged to the sour Ang Lee, who thanked Annie Proulx and the writers of the script for bringing to life characters who didn't exist and never mentioned the two great guys who actually did it onscreen, flesh and blood and tongue kissing included. It was horrible, and unforgiveable; compounded by the fact, that as he spoke, the camera froze in on Heath Ledger and Jake Gyllenhaal, whose stony faces were growing ashier every second this putz neglected to thank them. He should blow them from here to eternity for that one. Loser.
We knew it was going to be the Penguins for best documentary and anything but Paradise Now for best foreign film. It's not that good a movie, but it was some kind of statement from the Jewish Liberal Media Conspiracy. Nice, halfhearted try. The winner was Tsotsi, probably another treacly spectacle, but again it's a safe choice not to pit nazis vs suicide bombers. Also, it is refreshing not to have a Holocaust topic get the prize, even if the German movie is supposed to be actually quite good.
The day the show's producers kill the musical numbers, we shall finally witness a miracle.
I loved the obits, which are one of my favorite parts. Can't believe Shelley Winters is no longer with us. Bummer! I liked the montages too, but I couldn't understand how they related to the proceedings. I loved the woman who thanked the Academy for sitting her next to George Clooney at the nominees' luncheon. I hear you, sister! I loved Meryl Streep and Lily Tomlin doing a graceful Altmanesque riff as they presented Robert Altman with his kiss of death statuette. Also, Dustin Hoffman ad libbing and giving a hand to the losers. He's funny.
All in all, it was actually better than last year, perhaps because the movies were slightly less awful. I can't believe nobody in the rest of America has seen these films. What the hell do they watch? It's a rhetorical question, people, I know what they watch. The caca that Hollywood feeds them. Have you ever seen what they play at the multiplexes in suburbialand? It is freaking scary. But then the President of the Academy has the gall to chastize people about how they should not watch movies on DVD. The chutzpah! Hey, pal, perhaps if you didn't charge almost 12 bucks a ticket, we'd go to the movies more often. Perhaps if you didn't lobotomize people with dreck like Cheaper by the Dozen IV, more people would watch the movies that do deserve awards. And perhaps if you hadn't overlooked King Kong, or other good movies (like The 40 Year-Old Virgin) that are not insufferably high-minded, you'd have more people watching the Oscars.
Best Dress:
Uma Thurman. It is a testament to that dress and how she wore it that she made a roomful of women gasp in amazement as she sashayed towards the mike.
Runners up: Reese, Rachel Weisz, Michelle Williams, Jennifer Garner, Keira Knightley, Meryl Streep.
Worst Dress:
Multiple tie: Helena Bonham Carter, who also wins for worst hair, worst shoes and ugliest husband.
Diana Ossana, with a dress from the sales rack at Loehmann's.
Poor Felicity Huffman, who seems like a really nice person, looking as if a bunch of satin draperies had fallen on top of her.
Charlize Theron looked like a giant box of chocolates.
Naomi Watts looked like she tried to shred her way out of that dress, like a desperate mummy.
J.Lo looked like a giant, humorless cactus. Hair pulled back to such a degree, it's considered plastic surgery.
Men Looking Good:
Clooney, Terrence Howard, Jake Gyllenhaal, Morgan Freeman, David Strathairn, Sam Jackson, Steve Carell.

Mar 3, 2006

Creepy Entertainment News

My dear readers, you will excuse me. It's the end of Fried Day and I'm almost brain dead. Here's the latest news from Uglywood:

How retarded can these people be?

A Christian high school in San Diego, California is trying to distance itself from dangerous menace to society Michelle Williams because she participated in the Gay Cowboy Movie, in which she kicks major acting butt. To her misfortune, she attended said institution when she was younger:
Jim Hopson (the principal) has branded the Oscar nominee a poor role model, and hopes his education establishment won't be linked to the film's themes. He tells the San Diego Union Tribune, "We don't want to have anything to do with her in relation to that movie. Michelle doesn't represent the values of this institution.
Here's hoping that you don't represent her values either, you selfrighteous moron. I hope she gets the Oscar just to spite you.

Department of Too Much Information

This is one of those things you wish never ever entered your consciousness. It appears that Jane Fonda has a penchant for husbands with triangular proclivities, who like to record their disgusting shenanigans for posterity.

Memo to Bennett Miller:
Being within two feet from Courtney Love before the Oscars or at any other point in time:
NOT a good career move.
All she wants is to show up at the Oscars avec toi and pretend, with the help of a borrowed gown, that she's not a scary, deranged psychopath. AS IF.

Contagious illnesses of the Rich and Famous
Who on Earth gets chicken pox in this day and age? Apparently Jason Lee.
I always suspected something creepy lurking behind those sideburns.
Not only does he name his son Pilot Inspektor, he gives him the chicken pox too. Child abuser.

Lil' Kim "Terrified" of Breast LeakGrande Enchilada Terrified of Lil Kim.
She looks like a female version of Chucky "El Muñeco Diabólico".

Film Club

I attend a movie club on Sunday evenings. As you may have fathomed, it's like a book club but with movies, and therefore less intellectually taxing. We did Oscar night last year, and we're doing it this year, goddamit, even if some disgruntled members are threatening to boycott the proceedings. I say there's a lot to learn from this Hollywood extravaganza, provided you equip yourself with plenty of booze. Also, I want to see the dresses. The dresses are key.
In any case, here's a list of recent movies I've watched on DVD at the movie club and on my own. Movies in red are from the very discerning movie club, where there are more exacting standards. Movies in blue are from my own guilty pleasures.
  • Peeping Tom by Michael Powell. Fabulously creepy, over the top, amazing film from 1960.
  • Red Eye by Wes Craven. Wants to be all of the above and isn't. But it is sort of fun. The filmmakers talk about it as if it was a Bergman film, when it is an action movie with some snappy dialogue. Cillian Murphy is very good in it.
  • Cul de Sac by Roman Polanski. A black humor masterpiece. Delightful.
  • Repulsion, by Roman Polanski. Catherine Deneuve loses her marbles. A gem.
  • Knife in the Water. Polanski's first feature. Amazing. (We had a Polanski love fest)
  • Caligula. I had to rent it. It is stomach-churningly awful. It is scary to watch Peter O'Toole, Malcolm McDowell, Helen Mirren and John Gielgud participate in this epic exercise in porn kitsch.
  • 3-Iron by Ki Duk Kim. A strange Korean movie that grabbed me at the beginning and then exasperated me to no end.
  • Big Deal on Madonna St. A delightful, super-well written Italian comedy by Mario Monicelli which stars both Marcello Mastroianni and Vittorio Gasman, which is all anybody ever dreamed of in a film. Woody Allen ripped it off completely and without even mentioning the source in his mediocre Small Time Crooks.
  • Enron: The smartest guys in the room. This film gave me nightmares.
  • Darling by John Schlessinger. It looks great and it stars the great Julie Christie and Dirk Bogarde, but it is a leaden, unfunny social satire.
  • Francois Truffaut's Day for Night. We saw a version dubbed in English. Terrible job. The movie is a sweet love letter to the process of making a film. Very moving.