Saturday, February 27, 2010

Love: The Crazies

Writing "Love" and "The Crazies" above was a bit hard for me to do. It's not that it's a bad movie, as it is excellently performed and put together, but it's not over the top enough to be something you can detach yourself easily from. This is not a zombie movie, nor is it really a horror movie, much closer kin to an apocalypse film, but without the funky science or aliens; more The Road than Knowing. And that's not a bad thing.

Sheriff David Dutton (Timothy Olyphant) leads a quiet small town life with his pregnant wife (Radha Mitchell) who also happens to be the town's only doctor. Life changes unexpectedly, when he is forced to gun down a neighbor in the middle of a high school baseball game, setting off a chain of horrifying events. That's about all I can tell you, without giving anything away.

I can tell you that the acting is surprisingly spot on. I've always liked Olyphant and Mitchell, but both never seem to escape from B-movie, television purgatory and get the recognition they deserve. Here, along with Brit Joe Anderson, they elevate the film beyond the typical and the forgettable. While Olyphant is great at playing the strong lawman type that any gal would be lucky to marry (Deadwood anyone?), watching Mitchell cry out in fear or disgust never feels corny or over the top. It's all achingly real, and when shit goes down, its damn effective. You get sad, you get angry and scared, and root for the little guy, hoping that maybe they will get a happy ending despite all the madness.

The cinematography in the film is particularly noteworthy and adds to that realism. Few horror films make use of film as a medium without making it stylized. Crazies, does the exact opposite, playing up the serene beauty of small town rural Iowa to heighten the injustice of the violence. It's visceral photography at its best, the darkness of an empty barn or the spot under the stairs uncontrived and frightening. When the wind rolls across the fields at night, you feel it across your own skin. That little bit of Terrence Malick is enough to get me excited, and the gore, while present, isn't you're typical over the top gross-out, making it effective when it does occur.

But the film shows its cards too soon. It's not exactly predictable, but starts to develop an annoying habit of breaking up the drama to show a faux google map, a poorly done caption that (especially at the end) feels like Director Breck Eisner suddenly remembered he was supposed to be making a B-movie remake of Romero and makes things disjointed.

While the majority of the film has its ideas in the right place, and the acting and cinematography rise above, Crazies just can't decide if it wants to be a B-movie or something brighter and better. While it usually straddles this line with ease, the few times it slips prevent it from digging its way out and into more memorable territory.

Drew Barrymore on Whip It, Directing, and the "Hollywood Bow"

This is why Drew Barrymore is one of my major girl crushes, and why Whip It was so totally awesome. 

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Shameless Plug: L&S Gets Fans on Lists of Bests

 

Lists of Bests is a fun way to lose hours to the internet. You can follow all sorts of lists created by various people, on various subjects from books to movies to cities, or create your own. Wilde.Dash innocently logged on to the site today, only to find that someone had posted our very own Love & Squalor list of the most influential films of the last decade and that it had made the front page! Thanks to our readers for spreading the word and good luck checking each film off your list!

Sunday, February 21, 2010

Love: Shutter Island

Watching a film by Martin Scorsese is a special experience, a reminder of what perfectly executed film looks and feels like. Shutter Island, his newest suspense thriller starring muse Leonardo DiCaprio, is as exquisitely hand crafted as his other great films, with an old Hollywood aura it that makes feel instantly magical, despite the flailing actor at its helm.


U.S. Marshals Teddy Daniels (DiCaprio) and his new partner Chuck (Mark Ruffalo) have been assigned the mysterious disappearance of a patient at the mental asylum for the criminally insane on Shutter Island, a dubious looking place that is as alive with evil and portent as the forests in a Nathaniel Hawthorne story. With little help from head psychologists Dr. Cawley (Ben Kingsley) and Dr.  Naehring (Max von Sydow), the Marshals begin to uncover more sinister intentions and plots. As the events begin to unravel while a hurricane batters the island, the line between reality and paranoia begins to blur for the new comers.

Weaving a suspense thriller is tricky business, as the very nature of the story arc leaves any problems or holes in it open to exposure and pacing issues, and once again Scorsese demonstrates his uncanny ability to perfect the art of storytelling. The editing in particular is tight as a drum, the driving force of the drama in the film as it builds to a steady climax with not a frame of film wasted. The cinematography and art production are lush and haunting in a rare way that is neither unbelievable or surreal, simply a heightening of the senses.


But despite all this beautiful, intricate attention to detail, like his recent films this one has a bit of a disjoint in Scorcese's choice of stars. Kingsley and von Sydow are relaxed and excellent as usual, and Michelle Williams in the role of Daniels' wife delivers a stunningly affecting performance in the few scenes she gets. But DiCaprio and his Scorcese Boston accent stand out like a bull in a china shop, busting up the best parts of the film. I still can't quite put my problem with DiCaprio into words; it's not like he's ever that horrible in anything he's in. But in Scorcese's worlds (which he's frequented far too often), he feels like a kid trying on his dad's suit and playing make believe. It's not that his face seems immortally young, but that he never quite manages to disappear into a role, forever playing DiCaprio playing someone else, not the actual character. Although he manages to occasionally push beyond his boundaries, he never makes it real. Here he could easily have been Romeo, Howard Hughes, or Billy Costigan.  I couldn't help but think throughout the film how much I wished the roles were reversed and Mark Ruffalo's excellent, subdued, and secretive performance was as the lead and not the sidekick.


It is this star power problem that perhaps makes the ending unsatisfying. The entire film is building up to something big, something shocking (even if it is predictable to some), and in the hands of DiCaprio, the big reveal feels like a bit of cheat, almost a joke next to the presence of the other actors. I won't reveal any spoilers, but without the ability to make the audience believe, to balance out the subtle emotions of such a role, DiCaprio can't make it work, can't make it worth the previous two hours.

Maybe someday Scorcese will get over his bromance crush and stop putting the weight of his films entirely on DiCaprio's weak shoulders and get back to perfecting the art of cinema, as on this genre pic he's only about half a percent away from a perfect 10. Regardless, while Shutter Island is not exceedingly innovative, it is the modern epitome of the 50's crime film that in the hands of Scorcese is nothing if not beautiful to experience.

Under 250: Bright Star


I really try to love Jane Campion. Her films are exquisitely beautiful and pastoral, their photographic landscape like paintings in a large airy museum. But Bright Star, like some of her other work (excluding the masterful Piano) it is too reliant on the images, the characters held at arms length, the ideas only partially formed. Romantic poet John Keats' (Ben Whishaw) love for Fanny Brawne (Abby Cornish) is a legendary one, mostly because of the film’s namesake, the sonnet “Bright Star.” One would expect that when retelling that story, when drawing out a live passion from the facts, that Campion would have fostered and built up that romantic tension, especially in a film about a Romantic giant. I'm not asking for Nicholas Sparks here, but at least a bit of outright attraction. This distance isn't cerebral, but simply detached.

Keats and Brawne never seem that connected, leaving the audience wondering where all that big poetic inspiration was coming from and why Keats was so smitten in the first place. Many pro-Bright Star critics will say that this film is a great feminist portrayal of a strong woman beside a famed man, deeply psychological and stirring, and Campion certainly tries to tell us that Fanny is just as creative, an innovative dressmaker and a strong personality. But she easily leaves that and any other defining things about Fanny behind, never fleshing out or communicating that strength beyond a few quips.

Campion also throws her characters to the audience with no context, the beginning a confusing mess of people and animosity that leaves the film on wobbly footing, especially for those unaware of the story of Keat’s life. Cornish and Whishaw do a fine acting job with what their given, but it’s not enough to overcome the pacing issues and the lack of strong connection between their characters as they were written in the screenplay. Unfortunately, Bright Star is all beauty and no bite, great to have in the background or for its poetic images, but best left on mute.

Friday, February 19, 2010

Criterion on Hulu!

 

One of my magnificent obsessions (that's right, it's 9 AM and I'm dropping Douglas Sirk references) has long been the seemingly endless stream of remastered classic & arthouse releases from the Criterion Collection. In my mind that company is doing a great service to the world, and therefore I don't care if they want to rake me over the coals for a Godard DVD. I may whine about it (a little), I may hold out, but eventually they will get my money and I will shelve my lovely new addition in alphabetical order and stare at my film library lovingly.

Where am I going with this?  I love the Criterion Collection.  And lately, they're starting to give back something in return.  Awhile back they started offering up a few free films in a "monthly" (though it's updated with little consistancy) via the Auteurs.  Just a couple months back, many of their prints of their most beloved titles were added to the streaming on-demand content for Netflix.  Now they've gone one step further and have opened up a Hulu channel currently featuring the first 6 films in the Zatoichi: The Blind Swordsman series. I can't say that I have time to watch the Zatoichi series online.  But...I can tell you that I'm totally psyched to see what happens next (though I suspect that my hounding of local libraries to invest in things like Sweet Movie will be something that I'll never stop doing.  Is it so wrong, library, to invest in weird transgressive shit that only I will watch?  Is it?  No.  Archive it and save it for the rainy day that I come around).  Subtitled samurai action! Now free on Hulu! 

Reel Round-Up: More Not Really News On Batman 3

Batman 3 "details" have leaked, and yes, they sound both plausible and awesome, especially since Nolan has signed on to oversee a Superman reboot (whatever that means). But where's my Catwoman?

Your favorite stars like you've never seen them before. 

In case you weren't sure about James Cameron's ego, you can watch him on Charlie Rose talking about how Kathryn Bigelow can have his Oscars since he has too many.

Kathryn Grayson, the star of many of Hollywood's most beloved musicals including Showboat and Kiss Me Kate, died at the age of 88

Ebert follows up on his Esquire profile.

Novelist Walter Kirn, who wrote Up In the Air, has not been invited to the Oscars, and is pretty angry about it.  

Diesel and Riddick officially return for a third installment of the cult sci-fi hit.

io9 explores the best ways to reboot the Terminator Franchise.

Lucas denies issues with upcoming WWII release.

Disney takes one step further away from benevolent dictator status.

Kurt Cobain gets screen time once again.

Thursday, February 18, 2010

Required Reading



In all likelihood, you have already been told to read Esquire's epic essay on Roger Ebert.  If you have not yet taken that advice, do so.  It's a beautiful, perhaps prematurely elegiac piece on a great man who has truly left a huge impact in his life so far.  Really wonderful and filled with insight.

"When I am writing my problems become invisible and I am the same person I always was. All is well. I am as I should be."

[Source]
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Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Yes, Really with Wilde.Dash #3: The Iron Giant

Believe it or not, for someone totally obsessed with movies, I do a lot of selective editing, snubbing, and ignoring. That is to say: there are a whole lot of well-known movies I've actually never bothered to watch. I've spent a lot of time hunting down obscurities and not quite as much time seeing the movies you've probably been watching since you were 10 years old (for example: I just decided maybe I should watch Saving Private Ryan like last winter). Because of this, in conversation I frequently have this interaction. Me: "I've never actually seen that movie" You: "What? I've seen a movie you haven't?" Me: "Yes" You: "How have you not seen that movie?" Me: "I never wanted to" You: "Really?" Me: "Yes, really." Thus: Yes, Really with Wilde.Dash a weekly (I'm going to try, I swear...) feature in which I fill in my pop culture education, watch all the boring basics, and let you know whether or not I decided they were worth my time. Get it? Got it? Good.


The Iron Giant was released in 1999 and since then I've run into it time after time on lists of the most underrated films of the 90's (and maybe even a few 'of all time').  I was admittedly dubious.  Maybe it was because the last bit of feature length animation to shoot out of Warner Bros. studios was the tepid Quest for Camelot, and at that point I was too bewitched by Princess Mononoke to stoop to a questionable level. Let's face it, Warner Brothers, past the Looney Tunes and a bygone early 90's era of Spielberg-driven Saturday morning fare, isn't really recognized as a source for fully developed cinematic paint & ink.  Past that, I could keep going with the reasons for my dismissal of the film. Maybe it was because on paper The Iron Giant reads as a film too specifically catered towards a split parent/child audience for me to think it would be anything other than sweet and boring.  Maybe it was because Jennifer Aniston was the actress associated with the film, I don't know.  There are a million excuses I could use to outline why I didn't watch The Iron Giant, but none of them are good reasons. Really. I'm an animation lover! I don't fight this shit!  I watch it!  I even watched Disney's drecky cow fiasco Home on the Range!  Yet, I ignored this film for nearly eleven years. 


It's time to make good.  Here's the most important thing I have to say about The Iron Giant.  It really is that underrated. It has to be acknowledged. It's also, almost hand's down, maybe the best project involving Jennifer Aniston probably ever. 

At the time of its release, Hollywood produced animation was at the brink of a sea change.  2D animated films were on their way out of vogue.  Pixar was slowly building momentum, Disney was moving into a slump of some of their most forgettable films. When a traditional cartoon did show up it was spoiled by a lack of sophistication, irritating song-and-dance numbers, and comedic cheap shots.  Things weren't looking so good.  The Iron Giant was the WB's worthwhile attempt at smarter family films.  Had they marketed it better, we could have been looking at a very different Hollywood landscape.  As it stands, they dropped the ball, the film was a flop, and the company decided to make Osmosis Jones.  Quelle domage.

Now may be a good time for a re-release.  A steady diet of Disney/Pixar has primed the masses and reminded them that the best children's movies are the ones that don't play down to a lower intelligence.  Directed by Brad Bird (who went on to write and direct the much praised The Incredibles and Ratatouille), The Iron Giant is a slick piece of work revolving around a simple premise: giant alien robot lands on Earth, boy (his name is Hogarth) meets robot, boy befriends robot, boy and robot are faced with tremendous obstacles.  It's a bit like E.T., that is, E.T. had been a built as a weapon and if Elliott had been mouthier, snarkier, and a hell of a lot more street smart. 
Set in 1957, the story slowly builds into a politicized story that offers up a heaping helping of Cold War/Red Scare/Space Race context for the adults while giving the kids a remarkable fantasy about the power of friendship.  This is, of course, one of Bird's specialties.  The Incredibles, to a child, is a very straightforward piece that takes their cartoon heroes and gives them a dysfunctional family.  To the informed, slightly older viewer, however, it's another story entirely, a brilliant homage that tackles and inverts an entire comic book genre in the same manner as The Watchmen while lovingly serving up reference after reference within a quirky framework of marital disputes and midlife crises.  Same goes for Ratatouille.  You there for the talking rat or the gently crafted foodie Francophilia?  The Iron Giant is a prelude to this sort of Pixar produced magic.  It's a cartoon that moves through the American pastoral of the 50's with such a smart script and so much believable detail (right down to the Forbidden Planet poster on Hogarth's wall) that it's sometimes difficult to remember that you're watching little more than a series of drawings.  Yet, Bird never lets it drift too far towards nostalgia.  The Iron Giant feels fresh and has an attitude all its own. You become invested in these characters, in the need to keep the Giant hidden and for him to overcome his mechanized nature.  The villain (a gung-ho, self-serving military man) is truly dispicable, and you hate him the way you (probably) hate Hans Landa.  The humor is wistful and clever, rarely resorting to slapstick to get its point across.  The pieces all add up to something that's truly surprisingly deft in its execution and that never compromises.  Hogarth is quite a hero.  He does it his way, he gives all types a fair shake, he sticks it to the man, his best friend is basically the autobot you always wanted on your team.    
   All in all, I really feel like someone needs to take the blame for not actually forcing me to watch this movie sooner.  Friends and family? That's it. I can't trust anyone anymore.  No one took up the responsibility, looked me in the eye and said "You. You like cartoons.  You like sci-fi.  You appreciate inanimate objects with faces.  You need to watch The Iron Giant."  Nobody did that.  Seriously people, what's wrong with you?

Under 250: Cold Souls

I'm gonna go ahead and say that I personally think that metaphysical, existential comedies are too few and far between. Forget all of this 'relationship' garbage, life itself is where the humor is at. The folly of living, human nature, all that philosophical psycho-babble isn't mined nearly as often as it should be. With Cold Souls writer/director Sophie Barthes (no word on whether she's related to Roland) takes the pieces of a Charlie Kaufman movie and mixes them up with a smidge more accessibility and the impressively used Paul Giamatti. Giamatti plays a version of himself. He's staring in a play but can't quite access the role the way the director wants. He reads a piece in the New Yorker about a place that specializes in the extraction of the human soul to put into cold storage. He goes. The side effects, we learn, are unpredictable. Some souls carry more weight than others. With the removal of 95% you could have levity, callousness, or merely an out of body experience. The premise is amusing, and the results are delivered through a dark lens. Admittedly, the film hovers at a precarious point of being too posed to be laugh out loud funny, but even as it maneuvered through small tragedies I was entertained and able to see the slight absurdities inherent within the story. Barthes tries hard and produces a worthy effort, but Cold Souls feels a bit confused. Mixed into the Giamatti storyline is a subplot of Russian black market trafficking and, in particular, a soul mule (Dina Korzun) whose consciousness seems thrown into turmoil by the essences she's carried. While intriguing on several levels, the Russians felt a tad imposed, as if Barthes realized the simplicity of Giamatti's neurotic one man show and decided to try and tack on some depth and emotional weight for good measure. While I could have done with some commitment one way or another, the film (even as a mixed bag) is a twisty breath of fresh air for anyone exhausted by the big budget repetition of the Hollywood comedy.


Under 250: The House of the Devil

If you don't believe that there can be something comforting about a horror film, you might not be the target audience for director Ti West's low-budget nostalgia piece The House of the Devil.  If you love the satisfaction that comes with old school slasher suspense, however, watching this film feels like being visited by a ghoulish old friend.  The premise is one that feels familiar: fresh-faced college girl Sam (Jocelin Donahue) takes a baby-sitting job to earn enough rent money to get out of dodge.  It's the night of a lunar eclipse and she finds herself in a creepy old house with some responsibilities that aren't quite what she signed up for.  What follows is a game in which West puts all the right pieces down.  Sam has time enough to explore, wander eerie hallways, make dead-end phone calls, slowly climb the shrieking stairs.  The film is pitch perfect.  Everything one needs for an affectionately rendered homage is present from the music, the costumes and the acting all the way to the opening credit sequence and grade of cinematography.  Yet, while it plays the role of  homage to the B-cinema of yore, it also surpasses the bulk of its influences to become a gem in its own right.  While I'd hesitate to call it frightening (I'll admit, though, that I'm not one easily perturbed), it is an entrancing, involving horror film with few disappointments and a just slightly-camp-enough appeal that makes it enjoyable to genre fans and casual watchers alike.   


Saturday, February 13, 2010

Love: The Wolfman

It's a damn shame that director Joe Johnston's The Wolfman, like the fate of its main character, has been misunderstood and beaten down by critics unwilling to see the film for what it really is. In a way, I can't blame them for shaking their cynical little heads and wondering at this mix of the retro, the classic, and the gothic. Movie-goers, studios, and critics alike have been trained by the success of The Dark Knight into thinking that any film fantasy is only worth something if it's gritty and realistic. The Wolfman is not this movie, but rather the antithesis. It is the epitome and perhaps the best example of the beauty, subtle terror, and magic of the old Hollywood monster movies.


Estranged son Lawrence Talbot (Benicio Del Toro),  returns home to England to investigate the death of his brother Ben at the request of Ben's fiance Gwen (Emily Blunt). When monstrous and mysterious causes are overturned, as is Lawrence's devastating relationship with his emotionally scarred father (Anthony Hopkins), the monsters within each man are unleashed upon the village and the city of London at large.

Nearly every part of this film is pitch perfect, picking up the best pieces from the classic 1941 Lon Chaney film and modernizing it in all the right, effective ways without losing its soul. The atmosphere relies on the long lost art of real film production, all mist, fog, moonlight, and haunted, ancient places that creak in the night. The art production is lush and pops off the screen, the forest as dark and threatening as the inner rooms of the Talbot estate and the minds of its inhabitants. Combined with the scenes of torture in an insane asylum, each setting hits all the right Gothic, Victorian, and Romantic notes that may be nothing new, but are certainly perfected and a treat to watch here.


Del Toro in the role of said Wolfman is nearly a set piece himself (and not in a bad way), his face the only conceivable one in Hollywood that could bring the spirit of Chaney's characteristic brooding, animal charm to the role. While his English is sometimes a bit stinted, as if he was trying a little too hard, it's easily over looked. Blunt is surprisingly engaging in the role of empowered damsel in distress, while Hopkins borders on the boring and usual, but is saved by the progression of the story which gives him a few lines and reasons for his "who cares?" attitude.


The CGI, which reportedly went through many reshoots and redos, is absolutely impressive, the best man to werewolf transition ever on screen (the wolves in New Moon are excellently done, but they aren't changing in the same way, so no! They don't count since they end up as actual wolves). But there in lies the one problem in this otherwise great reincarnation of the old Universal Pictures.

Once our hairy friend has gone through his transformation, the incredible CGI work leaves us with a Wolfman that looks exactly like the 1941 version, mullety hair, clearly false teeth and all. The full on image is schlocky and leaves the film a bit disjointed, as the rest of the atmosphere was built up so perfectly and minus most of the cheese. If they had left him the way he is in the picture below, it would have been totally cool. But I'm not all that bothered either. While it's not perfect, it's understandable in this well executed beautiful homage, the direct rip of the old Wolfman style perhaps even intentional. And let's face it, it's just really really hard to do a real looking werewolf without coping out and just making him a giant wolf (quite frankly, some things are just better left to the imagination at this point, and one of those things is bipedal half wolf dudes).


So if you like watching gorgeous, haunting cinematography, are in love with all the awesome yet admittedly cliches of the Victorian era on screen (guilty as charged), and like a heart felt examination of love and the beast within, get thee to a theater this Valentine's Weekend (or a DVD store next Halloween). And for godssakes have fun! That is, after all, what it's all about.


Friday, February 12, 2010

Love: Percy Jackson and the Olympians: The Lightening Thief

Modernizing tales of the Greek gods is never a very good idea (Wonder Woman, I'm looking at you). But Percy Jackson and his incredibly long title makes the cheese and predictability work to its advantage with a big tongue-and-cheek smile that never tries to be anything more than fluff, and in the process, makes something fun, creative, and action packed despite the lame leadership of Chris Columbus.


Percy Jackson (our new Spiderman Logan Lerman) is your average high school loser suffering from a few learning disorders that make school a chore and a misogynistic stepfather that makes home life infuriating. Like all heroes of his age and good looks, he knows that things are about to change and soon discovers that like his namesake Perseus, he is also a demigod. Poseidon (Kevin McKidd) is his father (who met his mother (Catherine Keener) on the Jersey Shore) which explains his ability to remain underwater for long periods of time, his crippling ADD (impulsive battle instincts) and dyslexia (turns out, he's "hardwired for ancient Greek"). When Zeus (Sean Bean) marks him for death and the world for war, he teams up with love interest Annabeth (Alexandra Daddario) and Satyr friend Grover (Brandon T. Jackson) on the typical hero quest to save his mother, clear his name, and restore peace to the gods and the earth.


While this story sounds like every predictable hero arc you've ever heard (and it is), it's the creativity of the journey that makes this one stand out. In Percy's world, the entrance to Olympus is the at the top of the Empire State Building, the path to Hell is under the Hollywood sign, and the lair of Medusa is a garden statuary, her stone cold gaze defeated with the shiny back of an ipod touch. Hades, played by the perfectly cast Steve Coogan, is a Sammy Haggar clone surrounded by electric guitars and burning souls, while the Lair of the Lotus Eaters is a casino in Vegas where the Ke$ha and Lady Gaga are set to repeat. Each scene is like an inside joke to anyone interested in Greek mythology, and half the fun is figuring out just who Percy is going to encounter next. The film packs enough comedy between excellent CGI effects and exciting action to back itself up and keep things interesting.


And while the acting is perfectly pitched for this sort of PG fun, director Chris Columbus doesn't really deserve the credit for all the good. Rick Riodan's source novels are rich and offer up a complete world much like that of J.K. Rowling's Harry Potter and like the first two Harry Potter films, Columbus doesn't really do anything that interesting with Percy Jackson, the cinematography, or anything else, but plays the story straight and mainstream. While this was a disappointment with the Harry Potter films, Columbus is lucky that at least in this first installment, Percy's story lacks the same undercurrent of dread that made the execution of Harry Potter feel lacking, but might not work in later films if Percy takes a darker turn. Columbus and the actors included don't take themselves too seriously, which allows you to over look some of the problems with pacing that drag down the first half before Percy gets to the more action oriented scenes as his quest progresses.

There are few movies that are honest to god kid fluff in a nice enough package, and Percy Jackson accomplishes a good time for all. In the hands of a director with more vision and artistry it could have had all the makings of a classic (and maybe in future installments we might get that), but for now, Columbus' popcorn fair manages to at least communicate the excellence of its source material. 
 





Friday, February 5, 2010

Yes, Really with Wilde.Dash #2: Misery

Believe it or not, for someone totally obsessed with movies, I do a lot of selective editing, snubbing, and ignoring. That is to say: there are a whole lot of well-known movies I've actually never bothered to watch. I've spent a lot of time hunting down obscurities and not quite as much time seeing the movies you've probably been watching since you were 10 years old (for example: I just decided maybe I should watch Saving Private Ryan like last winter). Because of this, in conversation I frequently have this interaction. Me: "I've never actually seen that movie" You: "What? I've seen a movie you haven't?" Me: "Yes" You: "How have you not seen that movie?" Me: "I never wanted to" You: "Really?" Me: "Yes, really." Thus: Yes, Really with Wilde.Dash a weekly (I'm going to try, I swear...) feature in which I fill in my pop culture education, watch all the boring basics, and let you know whether or not I decided they were worth my time. Get it? Got it? Good.

There have been many occasions upon which I have basically pretended to have seen Misery. Well, maybe I didn't pretend, but I did smile and nod and not acknowledge that, in fact, I had never seen the film. I felt like I had seen it. I'd seen enough clips and knew enough about the movie to put the pieces together and come up with an accurate synopsis. Watching Misery now was really just like filling in the gaps with heaping lumps of Kathy Bates-brand crazy glue. Excuse the phrasing, but over the course of my life I have only been aware of Kathy Bates as she experiences middle age. She has literally always been middle aged to me. When I became conscious of her, she was near the age bracket of my parents, aunts, and uncles and seemed like someone who could feasibly be invited over from just up the road for a cup of coffee. To add to that, she reminds me a bit of a teacher that I had in middle school, and I suppose that when I try to conjure up an idea of Kathy Bates I conjure her as the Hollywood variation on that woman. Basically, I have ascribed the characteristics of my middle school teacher onto Kathy Bates and thus believe that Kathy Bates should be clever, kind, a bit wry, and insanely good at algebra. That is to say that when I see Kathy Bates as sociopath ex-nurse Annie Wilkes I'm forced to wonder if any of the authors on our required reading list were ever locked up in my 8th grade lit teacher's guest room. I also have to repress the sudden, conflicted bubbles of rage that arise while listening to Annie's cheery jibber jabber and suspect that had I seen Misery prior to entering junior high my fond memories of this upstanding educator would be shaded by nightmarish visions of her white-knuckling a sledgehammer. Alright. Not seriously. But I'm really not comfortable with Annie Wilkes.
Annie Wilkes reminds me that (in spite of my daydreamed delusions of grandeur) I probably don't want to be famous. I mean, I get creeped out when people I've known for years know more about me than I thought they did, if some deranged woman in a jumper popped out of a bush and told me all about my favorite colors and superstitions, I'd call the cops. I would literally be so insanely paranoid that I would become Howard Hughes overnight. If I were famous, there's a high probability that in my fledgling moments of recognition I would place more 911 emergency phone calls in a week than the NYPD receives in a year.
"Police, this man is looking at me funny" "This isn't a prank call, there's a teenager with a camera stalking me" "Gah! Strangers are sending me personal mail!" "MTV is sending someone called 'Snooki' to interview me and I'm afraid". I feel Paul Sheldon's (James Caan) pain. Here he is, a dude trapped writing what must be the lamest series of books ever. He finally kills off his character and writes something he can be proud of and a crazy bitch douses it with kerosene and throws it on the grill because, well, the profanity! After a "people do talk like that" argument of epic proportions, Annie Wilkes demands something catered specifically to her tastes and sets up our ailing author in front of typewriter. What have I concluded from this? That Misery is actually Stephen King's horrific dramatization of the elitist world of the academic fiction workshop. Yep. Enter the institution, get both legs broken, a decreased sense of your own self-worth and a keen knowledge of how best to work within the elasticized box of "things that will get you hired" (except, you know, that box is filled with so-called literary fiction and not Victorian bodice-rippers with characters named Misery Chastain). This is the part where I yell without grace "YA BURNT" and queue up the song "Little Boxes".

Then, of course, I remember that I'm actually not bitter about academia. I love it. I'm just, well, self-aware. I have to wonder, though, if Stephen King was holding a little bit of a grudge here or there because let's face it, the similarities are sort of uncanny. I mean, hardly a day goes by without the writer being workshopped attempting to drug the critic's paper coffee cup as the critic swings a sideways insult that questions the writer's sophistication. James Caan, in this case, gets built up and brought down with each passing day. You're great! I'm your number one fan! It's fantastic! By the way...if I'm going down I'm draggin' you down with me...here's some sedatives, I suggest you give in.

Here's what I don't get, though (spoilers ahead, matey). This guy is a writer. He may write romances and not mystery, but with all that time stuck in bed, he's got an endless string of moments to pin down a plot. How is it that someone with all that time to hatch a plan actually succumbs to the tried and true 'never turn your back on the villain' routine? I mean, seriously! If you knock her down, horror movie logic dictates that she is not yet dead! Check for a pulse. Get her weapon. Throw that typewriter down once more for good measure. It's not like someone with two broken legs is going to get far unless their captor is entirely, 100% dead or incapacitated. Don't leave it up to chance. That doesn't even make sense. Note to fictional horror victims: if there is only one villain, said villain is not supernatural, and said villain is properly disposed of, there will no longer be any need to rush and mess things up. Your getaway will be smoother if nothing is going to wake up and chase you. Keep that in mind. A typewriter to the head may guarantee a concussion, but it does not guarantee that you will make it out of the building alive. Food for thought, Paul Sheldon. Food for thought. Typewriter.  Once, twice, three times for good measure.

Thursday, February 4, 2010

Late Night Trailers: The Last Airbender

The super bowl trailer for The Last Airbender has leaked early and it's making me all torn up inside. I really, really want to believe you M. Knight. I want to. This looks really good, it looks like you did the original series justice. But, I've said that before.

Late Night Trailers: Heartless

This awesome looking horror/thriller from Philip Ridley has my interest peaked. 

Tuesday, February 2, 2010

Oscar Nominations

Nominees for the 82nd Academy Awards were announced this morning and, well, frankly I am not pleased. I always hope they'll have more vision, they almost never did. District 9 snuck into the Best Picture category, which is surprising and sort of fair, but so did that pesky The Blind Side. Academy...are you serious? Really? Did you want to shake things up? Was A Single Man not good enough for you? Also, I have to ask, how have they managed to snub Watchmen from every single technical award category? Grumble grumble grumble. The Oscars are March 7 and will take place with a surplus of Sandra Bullock and a startling lack of most of what was interesting in film this past year. Oh well, at least Nine didn't sneak into a Best Picture slot.
Best Picture

* “Avatar” James Cameron and Jon Landau, Producers
* “The Blind Side” Nominees to be determined
* “District 9” Peter Jackson and Carolynne Cunningham, Producers
* “An Education” Finola Dwyer and Amanda Posey, Producers
* “The Hurt Locker” Nominees to be determined
* “Inglourious Basterds” Lawrence Bender, Producer
* “Precious: Based on the Novel ‘Push’ by Sapphire” Lee Daniels, Sarah Siegel-Magness and Gary Magness, Producers
* “A Serious Man” Joel Coen and Ethan Coen, Producers
* “Up” Jonas Rivera, Producer
* “Up in the Air” Daniel Dubiecki, Ivan Reitman and Jason Reitman, Producers

Actor in a Leading Role

* Jeff Bridges in “Crazy Heart”
* George Clooney in “Up in the Air”
* Colin Firth in “A Single Man”
* Morgan Freeman in “Invictus”
* Jeremy Renner in “The Hurt Locker”

Actor in a Supporting Role

* Matt Damon in “Invictus”
* Woody Harrelson in “The Messenger”
* Christopher Plummer in “The Last Station”
* Stanley Tucci in “The Lovely Bones”
* Christoph Waltz in “Inglourious Basterds”

Actress in a Leading Role

* Sandra Bullock in “The Blind Side”
* Helen Mirren in “The Last Station”
* Carey Mulligan in “An Education”
* Gabourey Sidibe in “Precious: Based on the Novel ‘Push’ by Sapphire”
* Meryl Streep in “Julie & Julia”

Actress in a Supporting Role

* Penélope Cruz in “Nine”
* Vera Farmiga in “Up in the Air”
* Maggie Gyllenhaal in “Crazy Heart”
* Anna Kendrick in “Up in the Air”
* Mo’Nique in “Precious: Based on the Novel ‘Push’ by Sapphire”

Animated Feature Film

* “Coraline” Henry Selick
* “Fantastic Mr. Fox” Wes Anderson
* “The Princess and the Frog” John Musker and Ron Clements
* “The Secret of Kells” Tomm Moore
* “Up” Pete Docter

Art Direction

* “Avatar” Art Direction: Rick Carter and Robert Stromberg; Set Decoration: Kim Sinclair
* “The Imaginarium of Doctor Parnassus” Art Direction: Dave Warren and Anastasia Masaro; Set Decoration: Caroline Smith
* “Nine” Art Direction: John Myhre; Set Decoration: Gordon Sim
* “Sherlock Holmes” Art Direction: Sarah Greenwood; Set Decoration: Katie Spencer
* “The Young Victoria” Art Direction: Patrice Vermette; Set Decoration: Maggie Gray

Cinematography

* “Avatar” Mauro Fiore
* “Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince” Bruno Delbonnel
* “The Hurt Locker” Barry Ackroyd
* “Inglourious Basterds” Robert Richardson
* “The White Ribbon” Christian Berger

Costume Design

* “Bright Star” Janet Patterson
* “Coco before Chanel” Catherine Leterrier
* “The Imaginarium of Doctor Parnassus” Monique Prudhomme
* “Nine” Colleen Atwood
* “The Young Victoria” Sandy Powell

Directing

* “Avatar” James Cameron
* “The Hurt Locker” Kathryn Bigelow
* “Inglourious Basterds” Quentin Tarantino
* “Precious: Based on the Novel ‘Push’ by Sapphire” Lee Daniels
* “Up in the Air” Jason Reitman

Documentary (Feature)

* “Burma VJ” Anders Østergaard and Lise Lense-Møller
* “The Cove” Nominees to be determined
* “Food, Inc.” Robert Kenner and Elise Pearlstein
* “The Most Dangerous Man in America: Daniel Ellsberg and the Pentagon Papers” Judith Ehrlich and Rick Goldsmith
* “Which Way Home” Rebecca Cammisa

Documentary (Short Subject)

* “China’s Unnatural Disaster: The Tears of Sichuan Province” Jon Alpert and Matthew O’Neill
* “The Last Campaign of Governor Booth Gardner” Daniel Junge and Henry Ansbacher
* “The Last Truck: Closing of a GM Plant” Steven Bognar and Julia Reichert
* “Music by Prudence” Roger Ross Williams and Elinor Burkett
* “Rabbit à la Berlin” Bartek Konopka and Anna Wydra

Film Editing

* “Avatar” Stephen Rivkin, John Refoua and James Cameron
* “District 9” Julian Clarke
* “The Hurt Locker” Bob Murawski and Chris Innis
* “Inglourious Basterds” Sally Menke
* “Precious: Based on the Novel ‘Push’ by Sapphire” Joe Klotz

Foreign Language Film

* “Ajami” Israel
* “El Secreto de Sus Ojos” Argentina
* “The Milk of Sorrow” Peru
* “Un Prophète” France
* “The White Ribbon” Germany

Makeup

* “Il Divo” Aldo Signoretti and Vittorio Sodano
* “Star Trek” Barney Burman, Mindy Hall and Joel Harlow
* “The Young Victoria” Jon Henry Gordon and Jenny Shircore

Music (Original Score)

* “Avatar” James Horner
* “Fantastic Mr. Fox” Alexandre Desplat
* “The Hurt Locker” Marco Beltrami and Buck Sanders
* “Sherlock Holmes” Hans Zimmer
* “Up” Michael Giacchino

Music (Original Song)

* “Almost There” from “The Princess and the Frog” Music and Lyric by Randy Newman
* “Down in New Orleans” from “The Princess and the Frog” Music and Lyric by Randy Newman
* “Loin de Paname” from “Paris 36” Music by Reinhardt Wagner Lyric by Frank Thomas
* “Take It All” from “Nine” Music and Lyric by Maury Yeston
* “The Weary Kind (Theme from Crazy Heart)” from “Crazy Heart” Music and Lyric by Ryan Bingham and T Bone Burnett

Short Film (Animated)

* “French Roast” Fabrice O. Joubert
* “Granny O’Grimm’s Sleeping Beauty” Nicky Phelan and Darragh O’Connell
* “The Lady and the Reaper (La Dama y la Muerte)” Javier Recio Gracia
* “Logorama” Nicolas Schmerkin
* “A Matter of Loaf and Death” Nick Park

Short Film (Live Action)

* “The Door” Juanita Wilson and James Flynn
* “Instead of Abracadabra” Patrik Eklund and Mathias Fjellström
* “Kavi” Gregg Helvey
* “Miracle Fish” Luke Doolan and Drew Bailey
* “The New Tenants” Joachim Back and Tivi Magnusson

Sound Editing

* “Avatar” Christopher Boyes and Gwendolyn Yates Whittle
* “The Hurt Locker” Paul N.J. Ottosson
* “Inglourious Basterds” Wylie Stateman
* “Star Trek” Mark Stoeckinger and Alan Rankin
* “Up” Michael Silvers and Tom Myers

Sound Mixing

* “Avatar” Christopher Boyes, Gary Summers, Andy Nelson and Tony Johnson
* “The Hurt Locker” Paul N.J. Ottosson and Ray Beckett
* “Inglourious Basterds” Michael Minkler, Tony Lamberti and Mark Ulano
* “Star Trek” Anna Behlmer, Andy Nelson and Peter J. Devlin
* “Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen” Greg P. Russell, Gary Summers and Geoffrey Patterson

Visual Effects

* “Avatar” Joe Letteri, Stephen Rosenbaum, Richard Baneham and Andrew R. Jones
* “District 9” Dan Kaufman, Peter Muyzers, Robert Habros and Matt Aitken
* “Star Trek” Roger Guyett, Russell Earl, Paul Kavanagh and Burt Dalton

Writing (Adapted Screenplay)

* “District 9” Written by Neill Blomkamp and Terri Tatchell
* “An Education” Screenplay by Nick Hornby
* “In the Loop” Screenplay by Jesse Armstrong, Simon Blackwell, Armando Iannucci, Tony Roche
* “Precious: Based on the Novel ‘Push’ by Sapphire” Screenplay by Geoffrey Fletcher
* “Up in the Air” Screenplay by Jason Reitman and Sheldon Turner

Writing (Original Screenplay)

* “The Hurt Locker” Written by Mark Boal
* “Inglourious Basterds” Written by Quentin Tarantino
* “The Messenger” Written by Alessandro Camon & Oren Moverman
* “A Serious Man” Written by Joel Coen & Ethan Coen
* “Up” Screenplay by Bob Peterson, Pete Docter, Story by Pete Docter, Bob Peterson, Tom McCarthy
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