28 February 2009


Le Chat qui fume, a French distribution company of experimental cinema and erotica, are releasing their first DVD in the US through Music Video Distributions. Angélique Bosio's Llik Your Idols, a documentary about underground and transgressive cinema, will be released on 15 May. Llik Your Idols features interviews from Richard Kern, Nick Zedd, Lydia Lunch, Bruce LaBruce, Richard Hell, Sonic Youth's Thurston Moore, author Jack Sargeant and artist Joe Coleman. Also featured on the disc is Nick Zedd's War Is Menstrual Envy, which was previously only available through his website; only a clip of the film, which stars Zedd, Annie Sprinkle and Kembra Pfahler, shows up on the Abnormal: The Sinema of Nick Zedd disc. Zedd's short Police State is also on the disc.

César Winners 2009

Séraphine appears to have been the big winner at yesterday's César Awards, taking home the Best Picture, Actress, Original Screenplay and Cinematography, as well as for Art Direction (Décors) and Costume Design (Costumes). Séraphine depicts the life of painter Séraphine de Senlis, played by Yolande Moreau. Music Box Films will release the film within the coming months. Both Mesrine, a two-part biopic on gangster Jacques Mesrine, and Le premier jour du reste de ta vie, a family drama starring Jacques Gamblin and Zabou Breitman, went home with two awards apiece. According to the IMDb, Mesrine will be released in the US by a company called Senator, and though Le premier jour du reste de ta vie is without US distribution, the DVD was released on Region 1 in Canada from Séville Pictures on 3 February. Waltz with Bashir took home the Best Foreign Film prize, a category often dominated by American films; previous winners include Little Miss Sunshine, Million Dollar Baby, Mystic River, Lost in Translation, Bowling for Columbine and Mulholland Drive, as well as non-American films The Lives of Others and In the Mood for Love. Agnès Varda was awarded with the César for Best Documentary for Les plages d'Agnès, which will be released by Cinema Guild in the US sometime this year. Like all award shows, the Césars have their strengths and weaknesses. Awarding a director for their first feature film adds a nice touch, even if their choice this year (Il y a longtemps que je t'aime) was pretty awful; previous winners in that category have included Persepolis, Quand la mer monte... [When the Sea Rises...], Depuis qu'Otar est parti... [Since Otar Left...], Darwin's Nightmare, No Man's Land and Ressources humaines [Human Resources]. However, the usual gray area arises in their "newcomer" category, of which I couldn't find any set regulations. Doesn't it kind of defeat the purpose when this year's winner, Déborah François, has already been nominated in that category twice before (for L'enfant and La tourneuse de pages [The Page Turner])? I've reposted all the nominees below with the winner in bold.

Meilleur film français [Best French Film]

Entre les murs [The Class] - dir. Laurent Cantet
Il y a longtemps que je t'aime [I've Loved You So Long] - dir. Philippe Claudel
Mesrine (Mesrine: L'instinct de mort; Mesrine: L'ennemi public n° 1) - dir. Jean-François Richet
Paris - dir. Cédric Klapisch
Le premier jour du reste de ta vie [The First Day of the Rest of Your Life] - dir. Rémi Bezançon
Séraphine - dir. Martin Provost
Un conte de Noël [A Christmas Tale] - dir. Arnaud Desplechin

Meilleur réalisateur [Best Director]

Rémi Bezançon - Mesrine
Laurent Cantet - Entre les murs
Arnaud Desplechin - Un conte de Noël
Martin Provost - Séraphine
Jean-François Richet - Mesrine

Meilleur acteur [Best Actor]

Vincent Cassel - Mesrine
François-Xavier Demaison - Coluche, l'histoire d'un mec
Guillaume Depardieu - Versailles
Albert Dupontel - Deux jours à tuer
Jacques Gamblin - Le premier jour du reste de ta vie

Meilleure actrice [Best Actress]

Catherine Frot - Le crime est notre affaire
Yolande Moreau - Séraphine
Kristin Scott Thomas - Il y a longtemps que je t'aime
Tilda Swinton - Julia
Sylvia Testud - Sagan

Meilleur acteur dans un second rôle [Supporting Actor]

Benjamin Biolay - Stella
Claude Rich - Aide-toi, le ciel t'aidera
Jean-Paul Roussillon - Un conte de Noël
Pierre Vaneck - Deux jours à tuer
Roschdy Zem - La fille de Monaco

Meilleure actrice dans un second rôle [Supporting Actress]

Jeanne Balibar - Sagan
Anne Consigny - Un conte de Noël
Edith Scob - L'heure d'été
Karin Viard - Paris
Elsa Zylberstein - Il y a longtemps que je t'aime

Meilleur premier film [Best First Film]

Home - dir. Ursula Meier
Il y a longtemps que je t'aime - dir. Philippe Claudel
Mascarades - dir. Lyes Salem
Pour elle - dir. Fred Cavayé
Versailles - dir. Pierre Schoeller

Meilleur scénario original [Original Screenplay]

Séraphine - Marc Abdelnour, Martin Provost
Le premier jour du reste de ta vie - Rémi Bezançon
Bienvenue chez les Ch'tis [Welcome to the Sticks] - Dany Boon, Alexandre Charlot, Franck Magnier
Il y a longtemps que je t'aime - Philippe Claudel
Un conte de Noël - Arnaud Desplechin, Emmanuel Bourdieu

Meilleur scénario adaptation [Adapted Screenplay]

Deux jours à tuer - Eric Assous, Jérôme Beaujour, Jean Becker, François d'Épenoux
Le crime est notre affaire - François Caviglioli, Pascal Thomas
Entre les murs - François Bégaudeau, Robin Campillo, Laurent Cantet
Mesrine - Abdel Raouf Dafri, Jean-François Richet
La belle personne - Christophe Honoré, Gilles Taurand

Meilleure photographie [Best Cinematography]

Séraphine - Laurent Brunet
Mesrine - Robert Gantz
Un conte de Noël - Eric Gautier
Home - Agnès Godard
Faubourg 36 [Paris 36] - Tom Stern

Meilleur film étranger [Best Foreign Film]

Eldorado - dir. Bouli Lanners - Belgium
Gomorra [Gomorrah] - dir. Matteo Garrone - Italy
Into the Wild - dir. Sean Penn - USA
Le silence de Lorna [Lorna's Silence] - dir. Jean-Pierre Dardenne, Luc Dardenne - Belgium
There Will Be Blood - dir. Paul Thomas Anderson - USA
Two Lovers - dir. James Gray - USA
Valse avec Bashir [Waltz with Bashir] - dir. Ari Folman - Israel

Meilleur film documentaire [Best Documentary]

Elle s'appelle Sabine [Her Name Is Sabine] - dir. Sandrine Bonnaire
J'irai dormir à Hollywood [Hollywood, I'll Sleep over Tonight] - dir. Antoine de Maximy
Les plages d'Agnès [The Beaches of Agnès] - dir. Agnès Varda
Tabarly - dir. Pierre Marcel
La vie moderne [Modern Life] - dir. Raymond Depardon

Meilleur espoir masculin [Best Male Newcomer]

Ralph Amoussou - Aide-toi, le ciel t’aidera
Laurent Capelluto - Un conte de Noël
Marc-André Grondin - Le premier jour du reste de ta vie
Grégoire Leprince-Ringuet - La belle personne
Pio Marmai - Le premier jour du reste de ta vie

Meilleur espoir féminin [Best Female Newcomer]

Marilou Berry - Vilaine
Louise Bourgoin - La fille de Monaco
Anaïs Demoustier - Les grandes personnes
Déborah François - Le premier jour du reste de ta vie
Léa Seydoux - La belle personne

Meilleur court métrage [Best Short Film]

Les miettes - dir. Pierre Pinaud
Les paradis perdus - dir. Hélier Cisterne
Skhizein - dir. Jérémy Clapin
Taxi Wala - dir. Lola Frederich
Une leçon particulière - dir. Raphaël Chevènement

27 February 2009

Suzuki, Lang, an untalented actress' cans can't justify a theatrical release and some talking dinosaurs for good measure...

Apologies for not updating the blog sooner, but my Internet connection has been a hot mess all week. Hopefully yesterday's schizophrenic day will be the last of those woes. Also, I must have written a DVD release update blog in one of my dreams, because I seem to recall mentioning some of these releases on here before... but a quick search provided those thoughts false. So whoops... or maybe I forgot to publish that particular blog. Alas... here are some DVD updates.

Two Seijun Suzuki will make their U.S. DVD debuts in the coming months. The first, Detective Bureau 2-3: Go to Hell Bastards, will be released through Kino on 19 February. The second, A Tale of Sorrow (also translated as Story of Sorrow and Sadness or A Tale of Sorrow and Sadness), will be out from Cinema Epoch on 2 June. Also upcoming from Kino is Tan Ida's action flick 3 Seconds Before Explosion on 19 May, as well as the critically acclaimed Momma's Man from director Azazel Jacobs, on 5 May. Jacobs' previous feature The GoodTimesKid is slated to be Benten Films' next release sometime this summer.

Kimstim, who released DVDs through Kino, are boxing together their four Alain Resnais films for a 28 April release. The titles are Life Is a Bed of Roses [La vie est un roman], Love unto Death [L'amour à mort], Mélo and I Want to Go Home [Je veux rentrer à la maison]. I would doubt any new material has been added to the discs for this release. Image Entertainment are bringing Woody Allen's first directing foray What's Up Tiger Lily? out from the vaults on 16 June (helpful suggestion: sell your old copy now, as it goes for about $40 used on Amazon.com). Fritz Lang's Man Hunt will make its DVD premiere from 20th Century Fox on 19 February as well. Magnolia is putting their two recent Wayne Wang films out on 26 May. They are A Thousand Yeard of Good Prayers and The Princess of Nebraska and will be available together or separate. Magnolia also moved the date for James Gray's Two Lovers to 30 June.

MGM has announced a handful of action/western/war flicks for 12 May. The choice pick of the five titles (though I haven't seen any of them) is Frank Perry's Doc, the much-disliked western with Faye Dunaway and Stacy Keach. The other four are: Raoul Walsh's The King and Four Queens with Clark Gable, J. Lee Thompson's North West Frontier with Herbert Lom and Lauren Bacall, Karl Malden's Time Limit with Richard Widmark, Rip Torn, Richard Basehart and June Lockhart (nice cast, eh?) and Burt Kennedy's Young Billy Young with Robert Mitchum, Angie Dickinson and David Carradine. Also look for a 50th Anniversary Edition of Pillow Talk from Universal on 14 April.

There's also a good number of films you've likely never heard of starring people you have lined up. Morgan Spurlock's distribution company, formerly Arts Alliance America and now Virgil Films, set a 12 May date for M. Blash's Lying, starring Chloë Sevigny, Jena Malone, Leelee Sobieski and Meryl Streep's son Henry Grummer. Also on tap from Virgil is Richard Ledes' The Caller, with Frank Langella, Elliott Gould and Laura Harring, on 7 April. Kim Basinger and Lukas Haas star in While She Was Out, a thriller produced by Guillermo del Toro, from Anchor Bay on 28 April. Michelle Pfeiffer should pray that her performance in Stephen Frears' Chéri is as good as everyone was claiming it would be last year, because another film of hers is heading straight-to-video. Personal Effects, which also stars Kathy Bates and Ashton Kutcher, will hit shelves on 12 May from Screen Media Films (who have a tendency to release 'doomed' films with big stars like Smother with Diane Keaton and Battle in Seattle with Charlize Theron).

Brittany Murphy is an American in Tokyo in The Ramen Girl, a romantic comedy from director Robert Allan Ackerman that will be out through Image on 26 May. The film also stars Sohee Park (Big Bang Love). Daniel Barnz's directorial debut Phoebe in Wonderland, which premiered at last year's Sundance Film Festival, will be out from ThinkFilm/Image on 23 June. Felicity Huffman, Patricia Clarkson, Elle Fanning, Campbell Scott and Bill Pullman star. Image will release yet another star-studded (but apparently ill-fated) film, Powder Blue on 9 June. The film, which will be better known as the film a couple of straight dudes mentioned to me last year where Jessica Biel takes her top off, also stars Kris Kristofferson, Lisa Kudrow, Ray Liotta, Eddie Redmayne, Forest Whitaker and two Swayzes (Patrick and brother Don)! Those guys forgot to mention whether any of the other actors were doing the same.

Howard Hawks' El Dorado and John Ford's The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance (one of my personal faves) will be the two latest releases in Paramount's Centennial Collection. Anchor Bay will release Elie Chouraqui's almost-unwatchable O Jerusalem, which laughably chronicles the religious struggle for Israel and stars Saïd Taghmaoui, JJ Feild, Patrick Bruel and a hammy Ian Holm, on 12 May. The week prior to that, Anchor Bay will release Adam Rifkin's Look with Giuseppe Andrews. Miramax is releasing their first catalogue title in over three years with Mike Newell's Enchanted April, which stars Joan Plowright, Miranda Richardson, Polly Walker, Jim Broadbent and Alfred Molina. Let's hope they don't wait as long to get their other films out there. Menemsha Films are releasing Sam Garbarski's (Irina Palm) Rashevski's Tango [Le tango des Rashevski], starring Hippolyte Girardot and Jonathan Zaccaï on 28 April.

I was unaware (and likely unwilling to notice) that the Steven Spielberg-produced animated film We're Back! A Dinosaur's Story won't make its official DVD debut until 26 May. Funny story about that film... When I was about 10 or 11, my parents signed me up for some lame, populist cartoon animation after-school class. The teacher was a total dolt who looked like Dom DeLuise. His talents at teaching and "drawing" were limited, so he was basically an overpaid babysitter. Among the fellow "students" was the classic brown-noser, a portly mouth-breather who'd taken at least three other classes with Dom. Thanks to both of those morons' love for John Goodman, we got to spend our entire class session "drawing" while being visually "inspired" by watching We're Back! A Dinosaur's Story. It was the continuation of the John Goodman lovefest that had begun earlier with that hideous live-action Flintstones movie, which I remember Dom had rented from Blockbuster the day it was released on VHS. The fucking movie hadn't been on home video for more than twenty-four hours and that parasitic brown-noser had memorized at least three-fourths of the entire movie! I remember him being particularly amused by something about John Goodman's toes during a bowling scene. I also strangely remember a barefooted Elizabeth Taylor being a terrifying sight. Anyway, I don't plan to relive that experience by picking up We're Back when it makes its overdue(?) premiere to DVD, but hey, if John Goodman isn't enough for you, the vocal talents of Rhea Perlman, Jay Leno, Julia Child (!), Walter Cronkite, Yeardley Smith and Martin Short are also on display!

I digress... rounding up this DVD update are three titles unavailable in the US coming on Region 2. Jack Smight's action/comedy Kaleidoscope starring Susannah York and Warren Beatty comes on 20 April from Digital Classics. They're also putting out Mel Ferrer's Green Mansions, which stars Audrey Hepburn and Anthony Perkins, on 6 April. Mary Lambert's Siesta is its European DVD premiere in Germany from Concorde 16 April. I actually haven't seen it, but I remember thinking the word siesta meant something really slutty after walking past the box at Blockbuster nearly every time I rented a video. After looking at the cast, it appears to matter even less whether it's good or not. How could I say no a film with Ellen Barkin, Julian Sands, Isabella Rossellini, Gabriel Byrne, Grace Jones, Martin Sheen and Jodie Foster? That's all for now.

23 February 2009

2009 Notebook: Vol 7

I promise a full round-up tomorrow night! I'm on a Woody Allen/Pedro Almodóvar kick at the moment, and it's treating me well. I couldn't resist watching Isabelle Adjani in all her carnal glory in Possession, which is the first film I've viewed twice in 2009. I didn't count Zack and Miri Make a Porno as it was the most inspid ten minutes I've endured in a long time before ejecting it from my DVD player. I know plenty of people whose opinions I respect that "didn't mind it," so perhaps it improves, but I can no longer tolerate the nauseating mix of fourth-grade boy potty humor and earnest romance.

The New Favorites

In the City of Sylvia [En la ciudad de Sylvia] - dir. José Luis Guerín - 2007 - Spain - N/A - with Xavier Lafitte, Pilar López de Ayala

Revisited: The Old Favorites

All About My Mother [Todo sobre mi madre] - dir. Pedro Almodóvar - 1999 - Spain - Sony Pictures Classics - with Cecilia Roth, Marisa Paredes, Penélope Cruz, Antonia San Juan, Rosa María Sardá, Candela Peña, Toni Cantó, Eloy Azorín

Deconstructing Harry - dir. Woody Allen - 1997 - USA - Fine Line Features - with Woody Allen, Hazelle Goodman, Judy Davis, Bob Balaban, Elisabeth Shue, Billy Crystal, Kirstie Alley, Eric Lloyd, Robin Williams, Demi Moore, Julia Louis-Dreyfus, Stanley Tucci, Richard Benjamin, Mariel Hemingway, Caroline Aaron, Amy Irving, Julie Kavner, Tobey Maguire, Stephanie Roth

Fat Girl [À ma soeur!] - dir. Catherine Breillat - 2001 - France/Italy - Criterion - with Anaïs Reboux, Roxane Mesquida, Libero De Rienzo, Arsinée Khanjian, Romain Goupil, Laura Betti

Possession - dir. Andrzej Żuławski - France/West Germany - 1981 - Blue Underground - with Isabelle Adjani, Sam Neill, Heinz Bennett, Margit Carstensen, Michael Hogben, Johanna Hofer

Talk to Her [Hable con ella] - dir. Pedro Almodóvar - 2002 - Spain - Sony Pictures Classics - with Darío Grandinetti, Javier Cámara, Lenor Watling, Rosario Flores, Mariola Fuentes, Gerladine Chaplin, Lola Dueñas, Chus Lampreave, Paz Vega, Fele Martínez, Elena Anaya

Revisited: Les Autres

Basic Instinct - dir. Paul Verhoeven - 1992 - USA/France - Tri-Star - with Michael Douglas, Sharon Stone, George Dzundza, Jeanne Tripplehorn, Dennis Arndt, Leilani Sarelle

The Heart Is Deceitful Above All Things - dir. Asia Argento - 2004 - USA/UK/France/Japan - with Asia Argento, Dylan Sprouse, Cole Sprouse, Jimmy Bennett, Jeremy Renner, Marilyn Manson, Peter Fonda, Ornella Muti, Kip Pardue, John Robinson, Ben Foster, Lydia Lunch, Jeremy Sisto, Michael Pitt

Mighty Aphrodite - dir. Woody Allen - 1995 - USA - Miramax - with Woody Allen, Mira Sorvino, Helena Bonham Carter, F. Murray Abraham, Peter Weller, Michael Rapaport, Olympia Dukakis

Wild at Heart - dir. David Lynch - 1990 - USA - MGM - with Laura Dern, Nicolas Cage, Diane Ladd, Willem Dafoe, J.E. Freeman, Harry Dean Stanton, Isabella Rossellini, Grace Zabriskie, Calvin Lockhart, David Patrick Kelly, Sherilyn Fenn, Crispin Glover, Freddie Jones, John Lurie, Jack Nance, Sheryl Lee

But where will their library go?

Oh no! New Yorker bids farewell. What's going to happen to Céline et Julie??


Why I bother reading user comments about the Oscar show is an issue that I should address with my analyst, but as I did again this year, hearing people bitch and moan about Hollywood's "liberal agenda" being thrown out in acceptance speeches just annoys me to no end. "I want escapism," I heard one person say... well, fine, go see Taken again. The Oscars are, and have always been, self-congratulatory, so unless that's your idea of "escapism," I'd suggest going elsewhere (although Slumdog Millionaire being named the Best Picture of the year does suggest that the commenter isn't alone in his thoughts). However, what people fail to mention is how the Academy Awards are the perfect platform for such "liberal agenda." Sean Penn isn't wrong in calling Hollywood a bunch of "homo-lovin', commie bastards," but emphasis should be on homo-lovin', not actually "homo." As much as I reject earnestness in most of its forms, Dustin Lance Black's acceptance speech actually struck a chord with this cynic. People fail to recongize that for a young homo, there's really no one to look up to. Sure, they've got plenty of support, with GLAAD commercials with Rachel Griffiths and celebrities like Ricki Lake, Rose McGowan and Drew Barrymore marching for their equal rights, but who do they have to look up to? Hollywood's still so gay shy that outside of Ian McKellan, who can they even look up to? I'm not saying that having support from the heterosexual community isn't sufficent enough, but when you've got your pick of Boy George, Rupert Everett, Clay Aiken and some guy on Gray's Anatomy, it's still a pretty sad state of affairs. The Oscars, thus, form the perfect media outlet to spread Hollywood's "liberal agenda." I suppose things are heading in the right direction (albeit slowly), but I'll take that "liberal agenda" any day of the week. PS: Can Tina Fey and Steve Martin host the Oscars next year? And yeah, I can never resist posting photos of Tilda Swinton.

Why doesn't this happen any more?

I know people bitch that we don't have Hollywood stars like we used to, but if only a moment like Marlon Brando's refusal to accept the Oscar for Best Actor for The Godfather had happened last night... then we might actually have something to talk about the following day. Hell, I didn't even hear anyone boo when Jerry Lewis got on stage.

22 February 2009

Well, it's over now...

You can jazz the Oscars up and put Beyoncé in as many red outfits as you want, but the sad fact will still remain: the Oscars are still a bore and another unmemorable film has been declared the best by the Academy. Kate Winslet has finally won her deserved Oscar for easily the worst of her six nominated performances, and the night's only surprise win came in a category where I didn't want to be surprised: foreign film. (Keep in mind, I haven't seen Departures). Congratulations to Penélope Cruz and Sean Penn.

21 February 2009

Strand in May

Strand has announced two DVDs for the month of May, most excitingly Claire Denis' Nénette & Boni, which stars Grégoire Colin, Valeria Bruni Tedeschi, Vincent Gallo, Jacques Nolot and Alex Descas, for the 16th. The other is Terence Davies' Of Time and the City on the 12th. Hopefully 2009 will be the year of Claire Denis!

Oscar Pixxx

I'm not posting this to aid anyone in their own office pools or whatever, but as Mike from Heteroerotica and I have our own friendly bets going, I thought I'd follow his lead and post my ill-informed, half-assed Oscar predictions on the blog. I posted who I thought deserved to win earlier, so here is who I think will probably take the Gold. These are probably the expected choices, but who knows... maybe this year the Academy will throw us some exciting winners, as the nominees were anything but.

Best Picture: Slumdog Millionaire [or Milk]
Director: Danny Boyle [or David Fincher]
Actor: Sean Penn [or Mickey Rourke]
Actress: Kate Winslet [or Anne Hathaway]
Supporting Actor: Heath Ledger [or Robert Downey, Jr.]
Supporting Actress: Penélope Cruz [or Amy Adams]
Original Screenplay: Milk [or WALL·E]
Adapted Screenplay: Slumdog Millionaire [or The Reader]
Foreign Film: The Class [or Waltz with Bashir]
Animated Feature: WALL·E [or Kung Fu Panda]
Documentary Feature: Man on Wire [or Encounters at the End of the World]
Cinematography: Slumdog Millionaire [or The Curious Case of Benjamin Button]
Editing: Slumdog Millionaire [or Milk, which really should win]
Art Direction: The Curious Case of Benjamin Button [or The Duchess]
Costume Design: The Duchess [or Revolutionary Road]
Make-up: The Curious Case of Benjamin Button [or Hellboy 2]
Original Score: Slumdog Millionaire [or Defiance]
Original Song: Slumdog Millionaire, "Jai Ho" [or Slumdog Millionaire, "O Saya"]
Sound: The Dark Knight [or Slumdog Millionaire]
Sound Editing: The Dark Knight [or Iron Man]
Visual Effects: The Curious Case of Benjamin Button [or The Dark Knight]

As for the short subjects, I didn't see any of the nominees, so I'll decide haphazardly the night of the show. I'll be watching the Independent Spirit Awards tomorrow afternoon...

19 February 2009

Yum-Yum for Best Actress!

A few links to pass the time:

PopMatters is counting down a list (don't you love 'em) of 100 Essential Female Film Performances this week. They've already covered a number of my personal favorites (Isabelle Adjani in Possession, Isabelle Huppert in The Piano Teacher, Harriett Andersson in Cries & Whispers, Thelma Ritter in Pickup on South Street, Ingrid Thulin in Winter Light, Faye Dunaway in Mommie Dearest, Ashley Judd in Bug, Jeanne Moreau in Mademoiselle, etc). They're pretty spot-on with the choices they've made thusfar, with notable exception for Judi Dench in Notes on a Scandal and Kim Novak in Vertigo.

Slant Magazine has the best rundown of Oscar predictions you'll find on the web. They've even convinced me that it's okay for Kate Winslet to win Best Actress if only to prove the hilarious irony that Ricky Gervais was right on Extras.

If you're sick of reading about Oscar predictions, check out ReverseShot's Oscar preview. Yum-Yum for Best Actress!

Aaron Hillis addresses some issues I've been long tossing through my head at GreenCine Daily.

18 February 2009

Contemplating/Fearing/Desiring Viewer Interactivity

Oh, my darling Death Proof. Watching you again, in your extended home video cut without your âme soeur Planet Terror, just confuses me. Exhilarating as you always were, do you really need to exist the way you do? Upon four viewings (two in the theatre, two at home), I'm still not sure where you belong. While I wholly understand the business aspect of the Weinstein Company's decision to divide up Grindhouse for the video market, especially after it performed dismally at the domestic box office, but where exactly should I find Death Proof? Should it always follow a machine-gun legged Rose McGowan destroying zombies, or is it okay that I skip that hour and a half and dive head-first into Quentin Tarantino's love song to Dirty Mary Crazy Larry and Vanshing Point?

I think the answer to that question is simple. It's perfectly acceptable to jump ahead, as (especially on repeat viewings) Death Proof always has more to offer than Robert Rodriguez's half of Grindhouse. However, with this "extended" version, the question of finite viewing and definitive editions (when announced by the filmmaker, not the studio) comes into play. While I smile endlessly on my sofa seeing Vanessa Ferlito perform her lap dance for Kurt Russell, I saw myself reaching for the fast-forward button once the black-and-white introduction to our second troupe of vixens begun after it was thankfully absent from the theatrical version. So what am I to do? As the theatrical is available streaming on Netflix (still not on DVD), do I settle for a lap dance-free version? Or do I chose to endure the tedious middle-segment that brings GrindhouseDeath Proof to a screeching hault? I could say the same about the entire French plantation sequence (and all of the fully-lit shots of Brando) in Apocalypse Now Redux.

There's no easy answer to this question, but the reason I bring it up is to address this growing issue with no real solution. Where is home video viewing headed? I recall my viewing of the woefully messy but not without its charm Nick & Norah's Infinite Playlist about a week and a half ago. Riddled with bad editing decisions, particularly in its awkward use of music (not exactly its use of awkward music, as director Peter Sollett appears ill-at-ease to place the music cohesively within the film's diegesis), could I, someone who never successfully made a film over fifteen minutes long, re-shape Nick & Norah into a much better film? If given the power to sort through the raw material, I firmly believe that I could have salvaged a more suitable film out of Nick & Norah. I would have ended the film at that final, lovely kiss down the escalator instead of dollying the camera out of the train station to close the film on a shot of a New York City morning skyline. I might have omitted the silly missed connections when Nick (Michael Cera), Norah (Kat Dennings) and gay company lose drunkard Caroline (Ari Graynor, who does provide some of the film's few genuine laughs). I probably would have cut most of Alexis Dziena's character from the whole thing and likely reworked the soundtrack completely, although I suppose it was consistently harmless; there wouldn't be a "cameo" from Bishop Allen in my version. Nick & Norah also seems to exist in some fairytale New York City where high schoolers, even those not with the big record producer's kin, get into bars and wander the streets at all hours with little danger. It all sort of makes sense when you realize the big goal of the entire evening is to see a mythical band that was made up for the book/film. However, doesn't this contrived fairytale make you long for the sort of fantasies of the 90s independent scene in which Ethan Hawke could find a pretty, charming French girl who not only spoke perfect English but was also willing to spend an entire night with his lame ass?

Flash-in-the-pan musical acts are staples of studio soundtracks, particularly those geared at the iPod teen set, and I don't doubt that you could find Vampire Weekend and Band of Horses in more than just a handful of high schoolers' mp3 libraries, but aren't you secretly judging both Nick and Norah on their musical tastes as much as their peers would? So then, wouldn't you be rooting for their inevitable love to blossom if you knew they listened to really awesome music? Yes, had Norah been a die-hard PJ Harvey fan and Nick obsessed with Marc Bolan, I probably would have cared a lot more. Aside from a mention of The Cure and The Rolling Stones at brief moments, very few "real bands" leave the characters' lips. Nick & Norah's Infinite Playlist is begging for some sort of "Remix Edition" where viewers can upload their own playlist to bring the protagonists even closer to their hearts.

How long will it be before we can make our own versions of films on home video? I'm sure fanboys would jump at the chance to remove Jar Jar Binks and Hayden Christensen and Natalie Portman's forced romance out of their beloved Star Wars, just as much as I would love to say goodbye to that weepy, cheap ending to Andrea Arnold's otherwise-astounding Red Road. Does a final version even exist in the world of home video any more? Do I really want to have these interactive thoughts rolling around in my head?

17 February 2009

DVD Updates

Just a few DVD release updates for you. Sony has lined up dates for both of their foreign language Oscar hopefuls, Laurent Cantet's The Class [Entre les murs] and Ari Folman's Waltz with Bashir, for 14 April and 28 April, respectively. As Rachel Getting Married, I've Loved You So Long and Seven Pounds have shown us, the dates will likely change by a week or two. Miramax also announced their Oscar hopeful Doubt for 14 April.

The most exciting news I have to offer comes from Facets, as they have a number of great stuff lined up for May. Firstly, they've announced a two-disc edition of Hans-Jürgen Syberberg's Ludwig, Requiem for a Virgin King [Ludwig - Requiem für einen jungfräulichen König], which makes for a fine comparison/companion piece to Visconti's Ludwig, which was released by Koch Lorber last year. Harry Baer stars as Ludwig II, alongside Ingrid Caven as Lola Montez. Facets will also be releasing Martin Meissonnier's documentary The Real Joan of Arc [Vraie Jeanne, fausse Jeanne], which explores the history and mythology of Jeanne d'Arc, Helma Sanders-Brahms' Earthquake in Chile [Erdbeben in Chili], Stanislav Stanojevic's Subversion, Jerzy Kawalerowicz's Quo Vadis?, which co-stars Boguslaw Linda, Ning Ying's On the Beat and the documentary Inquiring Nuns, in which a pair of Chicago-based nuns ask people on the street if they're happy. All street on 26 May.

Synkronized USA will be releasing two recent French films on 5 May: Antoine Santana's A Song of Innocence [La ravisseuse] and Cheyenne Carron's Twisted Souls [Écorchés]. A Song of Innocence stars Isild Le Besco (who also starred in Santana's Un moment de bonheur), Émilie Dequenne, Grégoire Colin and Anémone; Twisted Souls features Vincent Martinez and Sagamore Stévenin (Romance). Synkronizes titles are usually delayed, so keep that in mind. Lifesize Home Entertainment will also be releasing another film starring Émilie Dequenne, entitled Écoute le temps (also known as Fissures). Mathieu Demy also stars.

Kelly Reichardt's Wendy and Lucy, starring Michelle Williams, will be released by Oscilloscope on 5 May, along with Koch Lorber's release of Ole Bornedal's Just Another Love Story [Kærlighed på film]. Magnolia has set 2 June for James Gray's Two Lovers, and finally, Lionsgate is releasing the second season of Mad Men on 7 July. That's all for now.

15 February 2009

Winners at Berlin

Despite all the bad press the Berlinale received this year (check out IndieWire to see the bulk of it), it looks as if Tilda Swinton and jury made the right decision in awarding Claudia Llosa's The Milk of Sorrow [La teta asustada] the Golden Bear, the fest's highest prize. Adrián Biniez's Gigante and Maren Ade's Alle Anderen [Everybody Else] shared the Silver Bear. David Husdon has the list of winners over at The Daily at IFC.com.

2009 Notebook: Vol 5

Expect an expanded version of the 2009 Notebook later this week! Who'd have guessed... three films with Rose McGowan and two with Traci Lords?

The New Favorites

Salomè - dir. Carmelo Bene - 1972 - Italy - N/A - with Carmelo Bene, Donyale Luna, Lydia Mancinelli, Alfiero Vincenti, Veruschka

The Good

Frozen River - dir. Courtney Hunt - 2008 - USA - Sony Pictures Classics - with Melissa Leo, Misty Upham, Charlie McDermott, Michael O'Keefe, Mark Boone Junior

Middle of the Road (though perhaps better than expected)

Nick & Norah's Infinite Playlist - dir. Peter Sollett - 2008 - USA - Sony Pictures - with Michael Cera, Kat Dennings, Ari Graynor, Aaron Yoo, Rafi Gavron, Alexis Dziena, Jonathan B. Wright, Jay Baruchel, John Cho, Zahcary Booth, Bishop Allen


The Reader - dir. Stephen Daldry - 2008 - USA/Germany - Weinstein Company - with Kate Winslett, David Kross, Ralph Fiennes, Bruno Ganz, Lena Olin, Susanne Lothar, Alexandra Maria Lara

Revisited: The Old Favorites

Death Proof - dir. Quentin Tarantino - 2007 - USA - Weinstein Company - with Kurt Russell, Zoë Bell, Rosario Dawson, Vanessa Ferlito, Tracie Thoms, Sydney Poitier, Jordan Ladd, Rose McGowan, Mary Elizabeth Winstead, Quentin Tarantino, Eli Roth, Marcy Harriell, Omar Doom

The Devils - dir. Ken Russell - 1971 - UK - Warner - with Vanessa Redgrave, Oliver Reed, Dudley Sutton, Max Adrian, Gemma Jones, Michael Gothard, Murray Melvin, Georgina Hale, Christopher Logue, Graham Armitage

The Doom Generation - dir. Gregg Araki - 1995 - France/USA - Lionsgate - with Rose McGowan, James Duval, Johnathon Schaech, Nicky Katt, Parker Posey, Margaret Cho, Perry Farrell, Heidi Fleiss, Dewey Weber, Amanda Bearse, Skinny Puppy, Dustin Nguyen, Lauren Tewes, Johanna Went

Nowhere - dir. Gregg Araki - 1997 - France/USA - Fine Line Features - with James Duval, Rachel True, Nathan Bexton, Kathleen Robertson, Christina Applegate, Jordan Ladd, Scott Caan, Guillermo Diaz, Jeremy Jordan, Sarah Lassez, Ryan Phillippe, Heather Graham, Joshua Gibran Mayweather, Alan Boyce, Debi Mazar, Chiara Mastroianni, Mena Suvari, Jaason Simmons, Thyme Lewis, Beverly D'Angelo, John Ritter, Charlotte Rae, Traci Lords, Rose McGowan, Shannen Doherty, Denise Richards, Teresa Hill, Kevin Light, Christopher Knight, Eve Plumb, Lauren Tewes, David Leisure, Gibby Haynes

Rosemary's Baby - dir. Roman Polanski - 1968 - USA - Paramount - with Mia Farrow, John Cassavetes, Ruth Gordon, Sidney Blackmer

Revisited: Les Autres

Serial Mom - dir. John Waters - 1994 - USA - Savoy/Focus Features - with Kathleen Turner, Sam Waterson, Ricki Lake, Matthew Lillard, Scott Morgan, Patricia Dunnock, Justin Whalin, Mink Stole, Mary Jo Catlett, Walt MacPherson, Traci Lords, Suzanne Somers

13 February 2009

Wait, last year where...?

Again, Criterion has teased me with that Last Year at Marienbad release only to not follow through again for the month of May. Instead, I can already cross off Wise Blood from my 28 M.I.A. on DVD list I made earlier this week (everyone knew it was coming sooner or later). In addition to Wise Blood, they'll have Peter Yates' The Friends of Eddie Coyle, with Robert Mitchum and Peter Boyle, and a box of three films from Shohei Imamura: The Insect Woman, Pigs and Battleships and Intentions of Murder. No Eclipse. Another mildly disappointing month from Criterion.

Update: Nevermind about the no Eclipse. Four films from Alexander Korda.

Sixth (?) Time's a Charm!

So, maybe, just maybe, New Yorker will be releasing Danièle Huillet and Jean-Marie Straub's Moses & Aaron on 3 March. This has been another in at least four date changes with the title (I didn't start paying attention until it was pushed again from January). This date will be timed perfectly with New Yorker's release of the directors' Class Relations [Klassenverhältnisse] which is set (always tentatively) for 17 March.