28 March 2006

Don't Lie to Me

Rant of the Day: Where the Truth Lies - dir. Atom Egoyan - 2005 - Canada/UK/USA

Though the title doesn't pose a question, the truth, unfortunately, lies within the narrative. Atom Egoyan's other films have always been mysteries, but never concretely. Instead, it isn't until after you watch the film, that you realize an unposed question has been answered. Where the Truth Lies, his latest, makes the mistake of letting us know what we're looking for (quite literally the explanation of a woman's death). Young journalist Karen O'Connor (Alison Lohman) is writing a story about the woman's death, her body found in the bathtub of two television icons (Kevin Bacon, Colin Firth). The question is posed, the answer is found... and yet this leads us to none of the human, emotional conclusions we came to with The Sweet Hereafter, The Adjuster, or Exotica. This, too, may be the fault of our lead actress who makes our investigation unfulfilling and uninvolving. Egoyan has used young actors to varying degrees in the past: radiantly (Sarah Polley in The Sweet Hereafter) and simply just effectively (Mia Kirshner in Exotica, David Alpay in Ararat). But here, he goes dead wrong. But it's probably too easy to blame the starlet for what's truly wrong with Where the Truth Lies. Perhaps all Egoyan wanted to do was make a good ol' Hollywood murder mystery (though its structure is far more Citizen Kane than Agatha Christie), but this doesn't make the disappointment in the film's climax nor the uncompelling lead excusable. And how dare he bring back three of his regulars (Arsinée Khanjian, Don McKellar, and Gabrielle Rose) in a single scene as publishing execs, only to remind us of the wonder and awe that he once created... and may never create again.

DVD of the Week: Six Feet Under: Season 5

In case you couldn't guess, the final season of Six Feet Under is the DVD of the week. What, did you think I was going to pick Memoirs of a Geisha?

27 March 2006

Ghost of Love

So it's been a while, hasn't it? I know this blog is dedicated to film criticism, but I'm making an exception here, as I just finished the final episode of Six Feet Under, HBO's critical darling that finished its five-year run this past summer. Six Feet Under emerged alongside The Sopranos and Sex and the City, legitimizing HBO and making its credibility soar above the Matthew McConaughey movies, sex specials, and the occasional stand-up hour they were previously known for. In a sense, HBO was taking a chance, something Hollywood hasn’t done in a long time. Out of the three HBO darlings, Six Feet Under was the riskiest: an entire show about death? Alan Ball, an Oscar winner for American Beauty, apparently created the series after the death of his sister and created something far more poignant and beautiful than his beloved Oscar winner.

Television? Film purists scoff at the suggestion that television might have produced something even remotely meaningful. Television brought about the death of cinema. As I believe Godard said, television removed the audience’s ability to “look.” Of course I believe this to be true, though I’ve never known life without television. Come fourteen, I unplugged reception on my TV and allowed it to be only used for film-viewing (aside from the Twin Peaks obsession I had… but, I allowed myself that indulgence because David Lynch was a filmmaker… he wasn’t Ray Ramano or Ted Danson). Somehow, though, thanks to HBO’s risk-taking, television has finally become something to truly rival the cinema. What TV has that film doesn’t is the advantage of time. Though most television shows have a structure to their episodes (Six Feet Under always begins with a death that essentially shapes the rest of the episode, Law & Order solves the crime by the end credits), there’s a serious investment one can make in the characters that film doesn’t have. Do you not feel closer to a character after spending thirteen hours with them, as opposed to ninety minutes? This, too, is what makes it harder for me to talk about Six Feet Under than a film I just watched. I’ve spent over sixty hours watching this family, their secrets, their pains, their joys… and it’s gotten to the point where I know them nearly as well as I know some of my close friends. But despite all these distracting emotions, Six Feet Under, as a whole, stands as one of the most powerful artistic explorations of the human condition.

The show itself is a helluva a lot better than you are. You may hate a particular character (I know plenty of people who can do without the emotionally-unstable Brenda (Rachel Griffiths, who was probably the only known actor prior to the show's premiere)) or character's action, but the camera, nor the show, never does. Probably the greatest strength of Six Feet Under is its ability to allow the characters to unfold, fuck up, cry, reflect without ever throwing a blanket of judgement over them. This is not to say characters don't pay for their actions, but the show allows for the other characters to pass out the judgements. A character's infidelity, lie, or mistake adds to their own complexity and our own understanding of this complexity. Why would David, at the time perfectly happy in a relationship, accept a blowjob from a stranger? Why does Claire fall back into a relationship with a man she knows will never work for her? I could site examples for a long time, but what I'm trying to get it the way Six Feet Under shows us the inhabitants of its world. Actions don't always have their simple cause and effect. Point A doesn't have to lead to Point B.

As for Season 5... (I'm going to get emotional)
The show closes its book perfectly. It's almost hard for me to separate myself from my feelings here. I can't even fathom taking its series finale and looking at it objectively. I know these people too well (this bond may be even more strong than the bond I discussed in my blog about The Virgin Spring). The culmination of five seasons with the Fisher family became something far more stirring, rich, painful, beautiful than perhaps anything I'd seen in the cinema in the past year or so. I'm sort of hating myself right now for not even knowing the words to express how I feel/felt. I may have to post more when I can separate myself better from this. Sorry it seemed as if I had a lot to say.

14 March 2006

Nobody Gonna Sleep Here Tonight

Blogger isn't uploading my pictures today... so fuck them. Anyway, I shall be out of town until next week -- so don't expect any posts, not that I've really posted anything of quality lately.

11 March 2006

What are YOU excited about?

Actually, I don't care to know the answer to the above question. I just wanted to let you know what I'm excited about: cinema-wise, that is. Not that I'm ever excited about anything else, really. I've been working on a couple of posts, but my self-esteem has been murdered in the past forty-eight hours in regards to film criticism. Don't worry, I'll take some Prozac and get back to ripping apart Crash again soon. Until then, get excited with me.

Volver - dir. Pedro Almodóvar - 2006 - Spain
Ol' Pedro has reteamed with Carmen Maura (so wonderful in
Women on the Verge of a Nervous Breakdown), after a reported falling out during the filming of Kika. And, less excitingly, with Penélope Cruz, whose only watchable films (All About My Mother, Live Flesh) happen to have been directed by him. Maura's ghost returns to solve the problems she couldn't while she was living. I hope it's as good as Just Like Heaven. Or... maybe a little better. Sounds to me like it's going to be another of his "serious" films, but I'll go and enjoy it nonetheless. Coming in June from Sony.

Drawing Restraint 9 - dir. Matthew Barney - 2005 - USA/Japan
I actually can't say I'm excited about this one, but I'm sure I'll drag my ass to the theatre to see it, even though supporting Matthew Barney's self-indulgence isn't really a joyous pasttime of mine. This time around, he's got his baby's mama Björk parading around in geisha-attire. Like his
Cremaster cycle, it's bound to be visually astounding, and, unlike Cremaster 3, this one only runs just a little over two hours. IFC Films will have this one out soon.

Mary - dir. Abel Ferrara - 2005 - France/Italy/USA
Now here's one that's got me ecstatic. A new Abel Ferrara film! Initial rumors suggested that Vincent Gallo was going to star alongside Sarah Polley. These rumors proved false; instead we've got Matthew Modine as Jesus and Juliette Binoche as Mary Magdalene. Fuck
The Da Vinci Code; I'm sure this one'll piss of Christians even more (that is, if they even hear about it). The IMDb says it's coming in June, but I haven't found a studio for it. Keep your rosary out.

Le Temps qui reste - dir. François Ozon - 2005 - France
5 x 2 was a bit of a disappointment, sure. But Le Temps qui reste is supposed to be the second installment of a trilogy Ozon began with his marvelous Under the Sand (Sous le sable). Strand should have this one out at the beginning of June.

L'Ivresse du pouvoir - dir. Claude Chabrol - 2006 - France
Or literally,
The Intoxication of the Power (expect the title to change before making it stateside). I'm not saying Isabelle Huppert is necessary for Chabrol to make a good film -- but it helps. And in the past ten years, his only memorable films (La Cérémonie, Merci pour le chocolat) have featured Madame Huppert, so this looks to be a safer bet than his prior Flower of Evil (La Fleur du mal). Plus, the guy's pushing 80; he's not going to have many more chances. No word on a US distributor.

Inland Empire - dir. David Lynch - 2006 - France/USA
Laura Dern's in trouble! That's all that's known about Lynch's new feature, which will probably be making its debut around May at the Cannes Film Festival. Plus, Lynch got a bunch of his regulars back: Angelo Badalamenti doing the score (would it be a Lynch film without?) and Harry Dean Stanton, Dern, Justin Theroux, and Kyle (My Special Agent) Maclachlan in front of the camera. It's also his first digital feature... so we'll see how that goes. Can't wait for this one? Check out his short
Rabbits, with Naomi Watts, here.

L'Enfant - dir. Jean-Pierre Dardenne, Luc Dardenne - 2005 - Belgium/France
Looks like US audiences
will get to see the 2005 Palme d'Or winner in time for the 2006 festival in May. A young couple decide to exploit their baby for money. The Dardenne brothers have always been odd favorites at Cannes. This is their second Palme d'Or win (after Rosetta in 1999)... I'd hardly say they fit the image of a Cannes darling (the Coens, Lynch, Von Trier, Haneke, or Wong Kar-wai are among others), but maybe it's because they don't fit that the French hold them in such high regard. Expect a slow, sparce drama here. Sony releases it later this month.

Don't Come Knocking - dir. Wim Wenders - 2005 - USA/Germany
Still fascinated by the desolate American South after
Paris, Texas, Sony's dishing out Wenders' latest. Bradford mentioned to me that you can only have one favorite of the short-list of New German filmmakers: Fassbinder, Herzog, Wenders, Schlöndorff. Fassbinder died; Herzog and Wenders now work in the US; Schlöndorff now makes boring Holocaust films. This one had better be good enough that I forget about Million Dollar Hotel.

The Heart Is Deceitful Above All Things - dir. Asia Argento - 2004 - USA
I know I've talked about this before on here, and I know you know I hated the book. But my weird crush on Asia Argento just won't die. And this new poster is pretty rad. GreenCine Daily linked an interview with Argento on SuicideGirls.com, where she reveals how much she loves Roman Polanski, that her best friend is Gaspar Noé
(Irréversible), that she was unaware (and doesn't really give a fuck) that J.T. LeRoy didn't exist.

And I apologize, but I had to turn the "word verification" on for posting comments. I was getting too many porn links to ass-fuckin she-males with big titties.

10 March 2006

Grizzly Gardens

Double Feature Time!
Grizzly Man - dir. Werner Herzog - 2005 - USA
Grey Gardens - dir. Albert Maysles, David Maysles, Ellen Hovde, Muffie Meyer - 1975 - USA

Is Grizzly Man the new Grey Gardens?? Though the alliteration in titles is cute, I think the both of these docs have a lot more in common than I initially thought... and I don't think I ever could have realized this until seeing Grizzly Man in a packed theatre as I did tonight. It's always nice to see a film with a big crowded audience after everyone had already gotten their chance to catch the DVD or its initial theatrical run. The sense of familiarity provides a comfortable atmosphere with people who are there for the same reason you are... which, as I found out tonight, is to laugh at Timothy Treadwell. The purpose and creation of these films differ greatly. Grey Gardens always feels like a horribly uncomfortable accident to me. Did the Maysles brothers really know what they were getting into when they decided to make a film about Big and Little Edie? It's been said they decided to make this film instead of one about Jackie Kennedy's sister (the Edies are distant relatives of Jackie Kennedy)... but every time I see the film, I can't help but picture their wide-eyed, crooked-eyebrowed faces as Little Edie rants about... I have no idea what. Herzog knew what he was getting into. He chose the footage himself, let alone choosing to direct this project. While the films show startling moments of intimate insanity, I think the audience has taken both films out of the director's hands. Herzog's commentary on man and nature is beautiful and startling. Little Edie's breakdown at the end of Grey Gardens is both terrifying and heart-breaking. Yet, is that why we're watching these films? Some could argue for that. But how can we ignore the built-in camp, moments so bizarre the only thing we can do is laugh? Though both Little Edie and Timothy are figures deservant of sympathy, they're both fucking nut-cases... and they reveal their insanity for the camera. Thankfully, too, Grey Gardens and Grizzly Man are films we can enjoy on intellectual terms as well as on a hilarious popcorn movie level. But, really, who gives a fuck about intellectually looking at a movie? I just wanna see Little Edie dance!

08 March 2006


I'm sure if you've read any of my previous blogs, you know exactly how I felt about this past Sunday's Academy Awards. Hollywood's homophobic, Reese Witherspoon is adorable, montages blow. You get the picture. I will update as soon as my god-damn finals terminate.