Friday, December 28, 2007


This is a year-old notion perpetrated by a clever so-and-so over at Ironic Sans. The conceit: Build a skyscraper in the shape of Godzilla in the heart of Tokyo! For your pleasure, the entire entry is reprinted below:
Idea: A building shaped like Godzilla

The people of Tokyo should construct a giant building shaped like Godzilla. Imagine what it would do to the city’s skyline, and to the tourism industry. People would come from all over to take pictures. His eyes could flash red so airplanes don’t hit him. There could be an observatory in his mouth so people could look out over Tokyo. One of his arms could house a bar, and the other arm a restaurant. They could serve drinks called Mothra Martinis and dishes like Grilled Gamera Steaks, with a side of Mashed Potatoes.

Conversations could take place like this one (translated from Japanese):

“Hey, I just got a new job!”

“Oh, really? Where do you work?”

“You know the Godzilla Building? I’m just a couple blocks South of there.”

Or maybe it could be partially residential. And then people could talk about that famous artist who used to live in the Godzilla Building in the apartment right above Godzilla’s left nipple. And then they could argue over whether or not Godzilla even has nipples.

Monster Movie conventions could be held in the building’s grand ballroom. A concert hall could be built between his legs. The Tokyo Philharmonic could call it their home. Season Ticket holders could get discounts at the Godzilla Gift Shop. There could even be a park at the bottom of the building, with Godzilla’s tail circling around it. They would call it Godzilla Park, naturally. And it could have a fountain in the shape of his footprint.

There are so many good and/or goofy ideas tied into this that I find it priceless.

Thursday, December 27, 2007

The Little Movie That Could?

Every couple years, a little movie comes along that warms the hearts of filmgoers and critics alike, and becomes the big surprise. This year, that honor was bestowed upon Once, the tale of a busker (that's a street musician to you) and the immigrant girl who rekindles his passion for life. Sadly, for my part, it just didn't connect with me.

I really expected to like the film, and - truth be told - I didn't hate it. I simply kinda shrugged at the end. I'm not too sure what I wanted out of it. Perhaps a different ending, something more "traditional" - which is odd, coming from me. I'm normally quick to champion any picture that can thumb its nose at expectations - particularly at the end. However, for some reason, this time it just didn't do it for me. Also, as the film centers around musicians, there is a plentiful amount of music throughout. Again, typically not a problem for me. Yet, Once is roughly 60% composed of scenes with the Guy (who's never named) singing his songs. They're good songs, and I might even listen to them on their own. But, they simply did not connect with me - there's that phrase again - in a way that propelled the story and/or allowed me to empathize with the character(s).

I caught up with this on DVD and, despite my feelings about the film, opted to watch the short "making of" included therein. Though plenty of details increased my respect for the film and those involved - shot on digital video for just over $100k, good musicians who could kinda act over good actors who could kinda play music - I still came away with a shrug and a slight bewilderment at all the attention and praise. But, hey, as with all things herein, that's just me.

"He's Not a Terrorist, He's Just an Idiot."

Ah, more straight-up fun for 2008. I haven't looked forward to a year of forthcoming films this much in quite some time. And, happily, I think that most everything I'm waiting on qualifies - to most - as "popcorn flicks". Nothing heady, no three-hour war epics. Just good times. Here, now - for your enjoyment - the first full trailer for Harold and Kumar Escape from Guantanamo Bay. Yes, you read that right.

To: Me, From: Aaron Sorkin

I am an Aaron Sorkin fan. This should come as no surprise to anyone who's paid attention to this blog for a while. I felt his Studio 60 on the Sunset Strip was one of the finest programs to come on TV in many a year. He is a master of dialogue; his characters may be quicker and wittier than we mortals are in day-to-day life, but we can't help but feel a kinship there, as if remembering the times when we ourselves caught the conversational rhythm and hit all our cues. I could listen to his characters forever.

Hello, Charlie Wilson's War. The film is a pretty good fit for Sorkin, dealing as it does with political intricacies (Sorkin created The West Wing) and touching upon the military (he also wrote A Few Good Men). Here we have sharp dialogue in abundance, delivered with appropriate relish by Tom Hanks, as titular congressman Wilson, and Philip Seymour Hoffman, as the CIA operative who helps him ramp up the end of the Cold War. Hoffman is excellent as ever, and Hanks gives his best performance since Road to Perdition, which I didn't really care for, truth be told. Julia Roberts appears as a socialite who shares his cause. She also turns in some fine work, disappearing behind bleach blonde locks and a palpable sense of disassociation from the working class.

For me, the movie only falters in two spots. We get a pair of scenes where Wilson gets all teary-eyed - once over the plight of the Afghanis, again over the recent marriage of Roberts' character - that are simply unnecessary; they actually pulled me out of the film. We, the audience, could have been sold on his feelings in both cases without resorting to cheap waterworks. The only other stumbling block in Charlie Wilson's War concerns - oddly enough - the depictions of war itself. Here, director Mike Nichols oscillates between grainy news/stock footage and low quality Hollywood-ized combat sequences, the latter divided between attack helicopters firing what almost look like laser blasts(!) and "Afghani freedom fighters", clad in fake beards and the newest garb from wardrobe. Mercifully, this last bit is only on screen for a few seconds.

Ah, don't focus on the negative, for it is so minor in comparison to the rest of the flick. Surprisingly, the movie only clocks in at just over 90 minutes, something that appeals to many a movie-goer these days, myself included. However, when I was about fifteen minutes into this latest world from Aaron Sorkin, I found not only that I really didn't want it to end, but also that I hoped there would actually be an "Extended Edition" when it comes to DVD. Hey, I can dream.

Saturday, December 22, 2007

"It All Started With a Chair...."

After suffering (seriously!) through Youth Without Youth, boy was I pleased that Juno turned out to be everything I expected. I had been looking forward to this film for a few months, and while it's not the only movie to actually live up to my expectations/hopes this year (see Michael Clayton and No Country for Old Men - SEE THEM!), it was certainly the most uplifting.

Someone on IMDB describes the film as Superbad for girls, which isn't too far off the mark. Both movies feature witty characters who are never at a loss for words, who might have an elevated vocabulary, but who are written as less-than-perfect teens. And this is why both Juno and Superbad connect. So very few of us had perfect developmental years. Juno's sixteen-year-old title character finds out in the first five minutes that she's pregnant. It's how she and others react to this news that shapes the film. To say much more would give away too much.

But, then, it really wouldn't. You see, Juno isn't filled with a bunch of shocks and surprises. There's no big twist ending. What makes this a quality movie is the emotion and character of the piece. Major praise must be directed to star Ellen Page, who has already picked up a few relatively minor awards for the part, along with a Golden Globe nomination for Best Actress. She is of that rare breed of performer who can convey so much with just the slightest hint of expression; I look forward to more from her. Big kudos also to writer Diablo Cody. She writes fantastic dialogue for all of her characters - not just the clever teens - and creates a story that is at once tender and intelligent, without getting anywhere near After School Special territory.

So, does this make my Top Ten for '07? Does it?

One will have to wait and see....

Thursday, December 20, 2007

The Dark Knight

Yeah, I'm a couple days late with this trailer. I'm sure most of you who have any interest have already seen it - and in HD, too. Well, I got Hellboy II within hours of release (see below), so sue me.

Based on this trailer, Ledger's Joker makes it seem almost like a horror film - which is not a bad thing!

Hellboy II: The Golden Army

Love me my Hellboy. The first film is just plain fun. That said, I was shocked and pleased that the studio opted for a sequel. Again, I say 2008 is shaping up to have a lot of cinematic potential. Feast....

Monday, December 17, 2007

R.I.P. Dan Fogelberg

As a kid in the '70's, Dan Fogelberg epitomized what would come to be known as soft rock. While his songs and style would become a source of mockery for many in the anti-'70's years that followed, there remained a sense of honestly and soulfulness in his work, the likes of which seem to have faded in the last few decades.

If the name - or his Greatest Hits album cover - doesn't ring a bell, and if songs called "Same Auld Lang Syne", "Leader of the Band", and "Longer" mean nothing to you, I can virtually guarantee you've heard his music at one time or another. For, while his heyday might have been some thirty years gone, his songs have survived, withstanding the advents of rap, grunge, "alternative" - you name it.

In my case, the man holds two significant spots in my memory.... I remember hearing his songs many a time while sitting in the back seat as my parents drove us everywhere. At the time, I was too young to know that all his many tunes were actually performed by the same person. It would not be until years later, when a group of friends who had grown up in the same period would put on their parents' copy of Dan Fogelberg's Greatest Hits. Eventually, someone got the cassette. Later, someone bought the CD. It wasn't something we listened to religiously or anything. It was just something we'd break out once in a while, for a song or two, to take us all back to a time when we were really young, and music was just something that came out of a car radio, with no concerns about who sang what, let alone their place on the charts.

It's been a while since I've listened to Dan Fogelberg. That said, I can hear him right now.

Tuesday, December 11, 2007

Ragin' Rudolph

I first saw this years ago and still get quite a kick out of it. The premise: Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer as re-envisioned by Martin Scorsese. Fair warning: If you don't like his films, you won't like this. Conversely, Scorsese fans should enjoy.

Monday, December 10, 2007

Twas the Dark Knight Before Christmas

Friend of the blog Dan Wilson shot this my way. It's not Rankin & Bass, but it still brings a smile....

Sunday, December 2, 2007

"May You Be In Heaven Half an Hour..."

I'm working on getting caught up on some of the "Awards Season" films that are out there now. Today, I caught Sidney Lumet's Before the Devil Knows You're Dead. The picture has received some very complimentary reviews and high scores by the sites and industries that track such things. However - and not entirely surprising - people are not rushing out in droves to see it. My lack of surprise has nothing to do with the quality of the film - it is indeed quite good. My point is that - for whatever reason - film-goers are just not in the mood for movies for grown ups. Don't believe me? Have you seen Michael Clayton yet? I rest my case.

Like the George Clooney film, Before the Devil Knows You're Dead hearkens back to cinema from the '70's, a decade lauded in recent years as one of American filmmaking's best. However, such nostalgia does not fill seats. Perhaps if the marketing department capitalized on Marisa Tomei's copious nude scenes.... But I digress all over the place.... Sidney Lumet directed some of the benchmarks for '70's cinema - Serpico, Network, Dog Day Afternoon - and he's clearly aiming to mine that vibe here.

This is a heist-gone-wrong picture. I'm not giving anything away with that; we learn it within the first ten minutes. The film takes two big American values - family and money - and sets them on a collision course. Lumet has the clout to attract some fine acting talent and put them through the ringer, each one on a downward spiral. Philip Seymour Hoffman, Ethan Hawke, Albert Finney. Each one offers standout work. Hoffman gets the juiciest character of the three and has the opportunity to run the gamut of emotions. However, Hawke is allowed to perfect the man-child role he's been previously cast in time and again; as the "baby", he needs to grow up fast, but doesn't quite make it. Honestly, the biggest acting kudos I can dole out go to Tomei. I've never been a fan of her work, perhaps my favorite being her supporting role in Slums of Beverly Hills. Yet in this picture, she takes what could easily have been the throwaway girlfriend/wife part and imbues it with such subtlety and nuance; as an actress, she knows the value of a glance, of a sudden change in vocal timbre. I'd say she merits an Oscar nod, but as she already won one for My Cousin Vinny, I'm more inclined to say that this performance justifies that prior accolade.

So, what about the film itself? Is it any good? Yes, it is. Will it make my personal top ten? I dunno.... It's very much an actor's movie - which is just fine. However, it's nothing eye-opening or jaw-dropping. Should you see it? Yes - for two reasons. One, well, to see a good, solid film. Two, to support the few people still making decisions in Hollywood that allow for movies for grown-ups. Don't get me wrong; I very much dig my action films, my sci-fi, etc. But, I still get such a kick out of seeing something that was distinctly not made with the 12-17 age-range in mind.

Sunday, November 25, 2007

How to Survive Those Pesky Zombies!

I just discovered this on youtube. It's a solid mimic of the old Civil Defense films from the 1950's - "Duck and Cover", etc. - focusing on how to handle a zombie attack. It was made by a film student in Melbourne, Australia, as a final project, and I must say that he did an excellent job. Decide for yourself....

"...and we all know that girls can't defend themselves." Ha!

Monday, November 19, 2007

Ron Moore, the Writers' Strike, and Galactica

If you've kept up with this blog, then you know I'm an admirer of Ron Moore, showrunner of Battlestar Galactica, writer of many of the best episodes in the Star Trek line. He's a talented, friendly, and generous guy. The following comes from his blog, and concerns the impact of the on-going writers' strike on what many have called the best show on television:
Production wrapped on episode 4.13 late last night, and there’s no certain date to resume shooting. No more scripts exist. My office staff has been laid off. My cast has been suspended, without pay.

I refuse to believe that we won’t finish, that we won’t be back to film our final stories, but I know and accept there is that possibility. The strike will be a seminal event for many of us in this business as it’s put literally everything we care about in the balance (if only for a short time so far) for something we all believe is important.

Writers talk a lot about the strike, about the reasons we’re out on the picket lines and our feelings and experiences in the business. It’s been an interesting three weeks. I’ve connected with more scribes in the last few weeks than in many months before and I come away from it to date with a sense of optimism about the solidarity of the membership and admiration for my peers.

Galactica’s coming back, I frakking promise you that. But I am ready to put the rest of the story on the table and take the risk that I’ll never be able to tell it, in support of this strike.

Like Adama says, you make your choices and then you live with them.


A helluva gamble.

Amazing Trailers:
Marie Antoinette

I really looked forward to this movie. I had loved Lost in Translation, and thus had every faith in Sophia Coppola. However, I didn't like it. I won't say that I hated it, but it was a real let down - especially after waiting a YEAR from when the studio released this trailer. The big hook for me: The bold combination of costume drama images with '80's new wave. I'd never seen the like. So, here you go. A feast for the eyes and ears.

The New Daily Show

Writers of the Daily Show take it to the streets:

Sunday, November 11, 2007

"It's been traveling twenty-two years to get here."

Sometimes I've felt like it's been that long since I've seen an honest-to-goodness Coen Brothers' film. Truth be told, they're fairly productive - twelve films in just over two decades. But, honestly, their last few contributions to cinema have felt... well.... Let's just say that I - and who the hell am I, really? - that I didn't really care for their last three features. After marvelling at everything from Blood Simple and Raising Arizona to Miller's Crossing and The Big Lebowski, the trifecta of The Man Who Wasn't There, Intolerable Cruelty, and The Ladykillers felt like one helluva let down, filmically speaking. And - cards on the table, here - I really only enjoy half of O Brother, Where Art Thou? It kinda falls apart for me right near the end. There, I said it. However, I cannot be more thrilled to write this entry in praise of the Brothers' lastest - No Country for Old Men.

I'm not going to offer up any kind of synopsis. Suffice to say this is truly a return to form for the filmmakers. And, what form would that be? Well, this is where it gets interesting.... If you want a simple, surface comparison, then it is definitely a sibling of Blood Simple and Fargo, in everything from tone to story style to plot elements. This is not the happy-go-lucky quirkiness of O Brother or Intolerable Cruelty. And while there is humor to be had, the vast majority of it is rather dark. But, trust me, you'll be glad it's there. Anyway, like I said, we're just talking about the surface here. For you real Coen Brothers' aficionados, once you dig a little deeper, well that's when things get a might interestin'.

In many ways, this might be construed as the ultimate Coen Brothers' film - particularly for those who know their oeuvre in detail. Again, the story and tone are very close to Blood Simple and Fargo. You'll see plenty of elements from both, especially the latter. But, Raising Arizona? Yep. "Good guy" Llewelyn Moss (Josh Brolin) and his wife live in a trailer that is a dead ringer for the one occupied by Nicolas Cage's H.I. McDunnough. After we see this place for the first time and my initial shock and giggles die down, we're treated to a shot of Moss in bed - shot in an identical style from the '87 film. (Okay, yes, that's pure movie geek. But, that's what I'm talking about right now.) Oh, there's plenty more - motel rooms and hallways that mirror Barton Fink, a Texas drawl voiceover opening like The Big Lebowski and Blood Simple. All of which brings us to Anton Chigurh.

In his portrayal of Chigurh, Javier Bardem creates the most menacing sociopath to hit the movie screen since... well, I guess I can say Tony Hopkins' Lecter, although that role got pound into self-parody. Chigurh is cold, precise, driven, and follows a very distinct code that frequently confounds the other characters in the film. He is a clear-cut cousin to Fargo's Gaear Grimsrud, he who finished off Steve Buscemi in the wood chipper. But, this guy.... Let's just say I walked out of the theatre hoping and praying that I didn't dream about this guy. Happily, I didn't.

Performances are all top notch. If Oscar looks to honor anyone here with a nomination, it will likely go to Tommy Lee Jones for his downhome Texas sheriff. Bardem and Brolin deserve nods as well, but the Academy rarely looks favorably on sociopaths or film noir misfortunates. Are there any women in this picture? Yep. Tess Harper gets a couple scenes as Jones' wife, but it's Kelly Macdonald who scores real points as Brolin's spouse. She turns what could easily have been a throw-away role into a scene-stealing performance.

All right. Enough of this writing. I've got a coin to flip....

Tuesday, October 30, 2007

Star Trek on the Big Screen... in November!

This news is a little old, but - despite my lack of suitable blog access for a couple weeks there - I still feel it merits a post....

To promote the insanely overpriced release of the first season of the original Star Trek, Paramount will screen the two-part episode The Menagerie in theatres around the country on November 13 and 15. (How one of these theatres is not in San Francisco boggles my mind. I'll be going to nearby Emeryville.) To see if you're anywhere near one of these theatres and to buy tickets if you are, click here. If you're only a casual fan of the series and would like to know what all the hubbub is about, click here.

Honestly, this is a bit of a geek thrill. It'll be very interesting to see classic moments from an episode I and others originally watched 30-40 years ago on the big screen - and with an audience of like-minded folk. Seems an opportunity unlikely to pass this way again any time in the near future.

Until, of course, Paramount sees fit to release season two....

Monday, October 29, 2007

"Do You Have to Use So Many Cuss Words?"

A follow-up the the Lebowski book post, this here is something a very diligent fan cobbled together. Yep, it's apparently 281(!) uses of the so-called f-bomb from The Big Lebowski. Good for a chuckle or two. Definitely not for those with sensitive ears and certainly NSFW. Enjoy!

Sunday, October 21, 2007

Do the Old Ones Know About This?

I must confess that I have not seen this documentary. I only learned of it in the course of reading an article on aintitcoolnews. However, the simple notion of this film - all 45 minutes of it - intrigues me no end. Excuse me while I ALT-TAB over to Netflix....

Ack! Much to my surprise and sorrow, The Strange Case of Howard Phillips Lovecraft is not available on Netflix. Not even an option to Save it for future release. Hmm.... I'll have to look into recommending it.

Oh, and if you have no idea who this Lovecraft fellow was, then please click here.

"Your name's Lebowski, Lebowski."

Internet crisis finally averted, this blog shall now resume....

I honestly can't tell you the last time I picked up a book at full price from a retail chain. I tend to order online or buy from the local likes of Green Apple. However, a few days ago I found myself in a store, and came face-to-cover with I'm a Lebowski, You're a Lebowski. In short, it's a fantastic fan's companion for the neo-classic Coen Brothers film The Big Lebowski. If you've seen the flick, you know what I'm talking about. If not, what's wrong with you, man?

Written by the four founding members of the annual Lebowski Fest - where fans congregate in costume to bowl, to quote, and to drink White Russians - the book contains interviews with nearly the entire cast (even the Ralph's check-out girl!), the real-life inspirations for the characters, and famous fans. There's also tons of trivia, a reference guide (sort of a written commentary track for use when watching the DVD), and an introduction by Jeff Bridges, who cites the Dude as his favorite role. Oh, and there's lots of little tidbits hidden away. For example, apparently the Coen Brothers have discussed writing and directing a sequel. No, not to Lebowski. To Barton Fink! The title? Old Fink. I kid you not.

If you love this film, pick up the book - even if you're going to pay full price, it's still worth it.

Oh, and if you're looking for a new religion.... Check out becoming a Dudeist!

Friday, October 5, 2007

Thank You For the Days....

I've just learned that French actress Solveig Dommartin passed away back in January. This saddens me greatly. Most American audiences - and I'm including myself here - know her from her collaborations with director Wim Wenders. She's an angel's object of Earthly desire in Wings of Desire, and a complex adventuress in the epic Until the End of the World. If you've seen either or both of these movies, I suspect you'll share this sense of loss. If you haven't seen either, you owe it to yourself to do so. The former is a well-acknowledged classic, and while the latter is a bit challenging owing to its length, it is well worth the time investment, one of the few films that truly feels like a novel.

Here's her obit as it appeared in Variety:
French thesp Solveig Dommartin, who made an indelible screen debut as Marion the lonely trapeze artist in Wim Wenders' "Wings of Desire," died Jan. 11 of a heart attack. Although most official accounts claim she was born in 1958, her mother told reporters her daughter was born in May 1961, making her 45 at the time of her death.

The Paris-born Dommartin acted with the Compagnie Timothee Laine and Theater Labor Warschau legit troupes and worked as an assistant to iconoclastic French helmer Jacques Rozier. In 1987, she dazzled audiences as an ethereal aerialist who tempts the lovesick angel played by Bruno Ganz to trade his wings for mortality.

Dommartin, who was romantically linked with Wenders for many years, co-wrote his ambitious 270-minute globe-trotting road movie "Until the End of the World" (1991) in which she acted opposite William Hurt.

Thesp also reprised her role as Marion in Wenders' "Faraway, So Close!" in 1993.

Although Dommartin occasionally appeared on Gallic TV series throughout the 1990s, her bigscreen work was sparse. She acted in two Claire Denis films, "No Fear, No Die" (1990) and "I Can't Sleep" (1994), in addition to 1990's "The Prisoner of St. Petersburg."

Dommartin edited Wenders' "Tokyo-Ga" (1985) and directed her own short film, "If There Were a Bridge" in 1998.
I found this on youtube. If you have not seen Wings of Desire, you might consider skipping this, as it is basically the climax of the film.

In memoriam, let me just say, "I can't see you, but I know you're there...."

Michael Clayton

All too infrequently these days do I get to see a piece of what I consider to be masterful filmmaking. I'm not speaking here of simply direction or cinematography or writing or acting. I'm talking the whole package. 2006 was such a banal year at the movies that I remember lightning shooting through me after merely the first ten minutes of The Departed last Fall. This year's been a tad better, but I think Michael Clayton is the first film of '07 that has electrified me in that special way.

This is a drama/thriller cast very much from the '70's mold. There's a lot of Network here, and plenty more from Warren Beatty's finest decade - I'm thinking Parallax View. If you don't already know, George Clooney plays the titular character, a law firm's "fixer", who gets in way over his head when he tries to help his friend, a fellow attorney who's gone off his meds, jeopardizing a multi-billion dollar case. And that's just for starters. The drama is good and solid. The acting is top-notch; I can easily see nominations for Clooney, Tom Wilkinson (as the friend in need), and Tilda Swinton (to tell you more about her character is to give away too much of the plot). Big honors go to first-time director Tony Gilroy, most noted as the screenwriter for all three Jason Bourne flicks; he wrote the script for this as well. While not a slam-bang actioner like that trilogy, Michael Clayton shines with just as much energy and smarts, and - like Bourne - Clayton spends much of the movie trying to discover just who he is. (And, no, I did not just give away a major plot point. I'm speaking metaphorically, friends.)

These days, I tend to go into movies with low-to-no expectations. This way, I've found that I can enjoy pictures that a year ago I would have felt were - ahem - beneath me. With the pedigree - and positive reviews - associated with Michael Clayton, I couldn't bring myself to be prepared for mediocrity. I expected excellence. For a change, that's what I got.

(P.S. I really like the poster, too.)

Wednesday, September 26, 2007

Amazing Trailers:
The Royal Tenenbaums

I've met very few people who don't see the charm and beauty of the films by Wes Anderson. Most everyone has a favorite. Mine varies, but frequently comes back to The Royal Tenenbaums. I remember seeing this trailer in the theatre and being so charged by the unique look and feel, something that - for a change - couldn't be altered by someone in an editing room somewhere, looking to cut a preview that might deceive an audience and/or give away the whole show. In hindsight, this trailer might not truly qualify as "Amazing", but the emotion it stirred in me then certainly was.

And - as I came across this while on youtube - here's a little bonus....

Monday, September 24, 2007

Not Exactly a Broken Promise, But...

Eastern Promises is truly a difficult film for me to critique. On the one hand, I found the story a bit sloppy, some of the dialogue too on-the-nose, and even some scenes and actions totally unjustified in the context of the characters. Half way through the picture, I knew this was nowhere near on par with director David Cronenberg's last film, A History of Violence. And, in the end, I was more than a bit let down. However, I still recommend this movie. Why? Let me try to explain....

Viggo Mortensen. I could be very simplistic and just say those two words - and it wouldn't be far from the truth. He is amazing in this film - subtle, charismatic, menacing, cool, thoughtful, cypher. Typically, all at once. Beyond his performance, his character's storyline makes this picture. All of the best parts center around his mysterious Russian "driver" - so much so that it sometimes feels like a different movie entirely! The "A" story - that which sets events in motion and carries through the plot - centers on nurse Naomi Watts, and her search for the truth about the death of a teenage girl. This might have been compelling - while watching the film, I even thought of more than a few ways to make it so - but it comes off as just ho-hum, and occasionally even movie-of-the-week, when compared with the tales of the Russian mob. And, I'm not just talking about the story. The nuances, the dialogue, the subtle clues that add up to something big - all are in top form when we're with the Russians, and Mortensen in particular. As soon as we swing back to Watts and her quest, all is blah.

But, I digress a little. See this movie. You can wait for DVD if you like, but it's definitely worth your time, at the very least for Mortensen's performance.

Wednesday, September 12, 2007

On the Road....

You folks know that this blog does not traffic in dirty laundry controversies. There's never been a post about Britney or Paris or any of that. This one is about as close as we're likely to get - but only because it turns one of the latest trends on its ear.

By now, everyone knows what has been going on with Owen Wilson. I just wanted to lavish some praise upon him for not announcing that he's jumping on the "I'm-Going-to-Rehab!" bandwagon. Apparently, he is buddying up with a sober sponsor, sneaking out of LA, and hitting the road. Kudos for doing something that - in these days when every celeb goes to rehab for the most outlandish behavior - seems like an honest attempt at personal change. I wish him the best.

Friday, August 31, 2007

First, Michael Myers was Born, and Then He Killed Some People, and Then....

Whatever happened to the days when movies - or, more importantly, the people who make them - didn't feel compelled to explain everything to the viewer? While this is rampant in most Hollywood cinema - it's over the top in comedies - one genre that shows this off really well is horror.

This brings me to Rob Zombie's Halloween. First of all, do not confuse this with John Carpenter's Halloween. Ostensibly, that was part of the goal. Zombie and the studio bigwigs were eager for one of those "reinventions" or "reimaginings" that are so popular this century. Aside from some trace elements - butcher's knife, character names, classic theme music, Shatner mask - there's little to relate the two. It's really more like a bad high school play version of the original.

Now, I'm not one of those who wants to complain about how Zombie wasn't loyal to Carpenter's vision, or any of that nonsense. I'm here to pick a bone with the fact that Zombie felt compelled to tell virtually the entire life story of crazy little Michael Myers. We get the entire day that he butchered his family. I'm serious - the entire day. This is nearly the first half of the film! Zombie apparently felt that we needed to see just how messed up Michael's childhood really was. Is this done to generate empathy of some kind? Is it there to show us just how much of a stone-cold-psycho the kid was way-back-when? As if we don't get that drummed into us throughout the second two-thirds of the film by his doctor. Zombie seems to want to convey very clearly - so there can be no doubt - that this guy was a fucked up little kid who grew into a fucked up grown-up. Or, perhaps more to the point, fucked up little kids stay little kids, even after they've past the legal drinking age. Is this a cautionary tale, then? Hardly. It's just a pristine example of wrapping up a story so nice and neat that you can hear the rustle of the bow.

Now, the whole notion of explaining "why" someone - or something - kills a bunch of people (frequently, horny teens) in one of these movies is nothing new. Psycho classically wraps up with the ultimate explain-o-rama denouement. Even the original Halloween and Friday the 13th lay down some backstory for the audience. But, is it really necessary? Isn't it far more terrifying to not know the reasons why? I know it's far more comforting to have explanations, particularly when one hears of real-life atrocities and crimes. It gives us closure. But - and listen closely here - movies are not real life. Hollywood-folk, if you really want to scare the buh-jesus out of theatre-goers and get some solid word-of-mouth, put out a film like this and don't give the audience closure. Thoughout the last third of Zombie's film, many of his victims ask "Why?" and/or "Who are you?" Well, we the audience already know the answer to those questions. What if we didn't? Wouldn't it just freak you out to watch a movie these days where some guy in a lame Halloween mask just started stalking and hacking-up people for no apparent reason? And, I'm not talking about showing him suiting up, picking out a cleaver, and heading door-to-door. I'm talking about just unleashing him on an established, tranquil setting. That way, when the horny teens are looking for answers, we're right there with 'em.

Two more things and then I'm done.

One, the cinematography in this film just plain sucks. Virtually everything is an extreme close-up of someone's face. And you can forget about establishing shots. By the end of the film, those are so long gone that the interior of every house looks the same. The coup de grace is the climactic stalk/fight. I don't know where they were or how they got there. I deduced it was Michael's boyhood home, but c'mon Zombie, throw me a bone!

Two, and this is actually a moment of praise. Yes, I said "praise" for Zombie and his piece-of-shit film. The man has no qualms about showing topless women in a horror picture. Now, I'm not talking about gratuitous, "oh, I forgot to wash my bra today, better do it now" nudity. I'm referring to the fact that when teens get together to screw around, clothes actually come off. This has been royally shunned over the course of the last decade - particularly in horror films, where being so completely vulnerable is part and parcel to the cause. There's no secret as to why this has been going on: PG-13 makes more $$$ than R. Cannot be argued. Somehow, someone, somewhere said that Zombie's picture could be R, and there you have it. Will this reverse the trend? Will we start seeing more skin in at least our scary movies? Based on this turd of a film, no way in hell.

Sunday, August 26, 2007

Amazing Trailers:
Elizabeth: The Golden Age

I never saw Elizabeth. No good reason. Just never got around to it. When I heard they were making a sequel, I was rather ho-hum. Then, I saw the trailer for Elizabeth: The Golden Age. Wow. Breathtaking. Costumes, sets, cinematography - all look fantastic. The music in the trailer seems great, too; though I am uncertain if this is actually part of the score, or just some temp music put up with the trailer - a not-too-uncommon practice. Clive Owen as Walter Raleigh is inspired casting. Ships and sea battles that look unique and as un-Pirates of the Caribbean as you can get. And Cate Blanchett in a suit of armor!

Well, suffice to say they've got me. So, here's the first preview to make Amazing Trailers whose film absolutely none of us has seen yet.

Friday, August 24, 2007

Wally Wood's
22 Panels That Always Work

Wally Wood was a comic artist and writer (Mad, EC Comics, Marvel) of immense talent, but perhaps his greatest legacy will be his "22 Panels That Always Work". The conceit here is that - if a comic artist is ever stuck and unsure what to draw in a particular panel - he/she could refer to this cheat sheet without fail. While a potentially useful resource for such artists, its also fun and intriguing for the layman.

Click here to check it out in its entirety.

Wednesday, August 22, 2007

Mmmm.... Social Bookmarking

Where the last post was really directed to one person, this one is more, well, social.

Social bookmarking sites have been around for a while, but I only started using one a little over six months ago. My weapon of choice is For the uninitiated, the site allows you to save bookmarks on its website, thus making them accessible from any computer. This is certainly ideal if you find yourself regularly switching between more than one computer (i.e., work, home, friends, etc.) Oh, and you can tag each of your bookmarks as you see fit, enabling quality sorting and searching under your own terms. As with many great aspects of Web 2.0, use of is free.

Monday, August 20, 2007

Anybody for More White Castle?

This is actually a special post for my friend Dave. That said, the rest of you can look, too. I'm sure he won't mind.

Amazing Trailers:
Lost in Translation

Many months before this film was released, became a sensation, and then suffered some serious backlash, I saw this trailer at the Clay theatre in San Francisco. While it looked plenty promising from the get-go, the sight of Bill Murray performing karaoke Elvis Costello knocked it out of the park. I couldn't wait!

Friday, August 17, 2007

Aguirre, the Wrath of God

After years of missed opportunities, I finally caught this film at the Castro Theatre the other day. What a marvel. The spare story concerns the historical figure Lope de Aguirre, as he leads a group of conquistadors down the Orinoco River in South America in search of the fabled El Dorado. Now that I set myself here to write about the picture, I find myself at a loss for words.

What little I can say.... The film was shot in 1972, but its truly remote location and period costumes make it timeless. Honestly, if I didn't know better, I wouldn't have been surprised if it was made only a year ago.... Also, the picture has a raw immediacy - I was frequently aware of the genuine dangers faced by cast and crew as they careened down rapids on log rafts or hiked along mountainous trails less than two feet wide. How no one died during the production amazes me.

One cannot write about Aguirre... without mentioning the volatile relationship between director Werner Herzog and star Klaus Kinski. From our good friends at Wikipedia:
From the beginning of the production, Herzog and Kinski argued about the proper manner to portray Aguirre. Kinski wanted to play a "wild, ranting madman", but Herzog wanted something "quieter, more menacing". In order to get the performance he desired, before each shot Herzog would deliberately infuriate Kinski. After waiting for the volatile actor's inevitable tantrum to "burn itself out", Herzog would then roll the camera.

On one occasion, irritated by the noise from a hut where cast and crew were playing cards, the explosive Kinski fired three shots at it, blowing the top joint off one extra's finger. Subsequently, Kinski started leaving the jungle location (over Herzog's refusal to fire a sound assistant), only changing his mind after Herzog threatened to shoot first Kinski and then himself. The latter incident has given rise to the legend that Herzog made Kinski act for him at gunpoint. However, Herzog has repeatedly debunked the claim during interviews, explaining he only verbally threatened Kinski in the heat of the moment, in a desperate attempt to keep him from leaving the set.
In truth, the film is closer to a poem than a story. It has clearly influenced such films as Apocalypse Now, The Thin Red Line, and The New World. If you find yourself a fan of any of these pictures, I highly recommend Aguirre, the Wrath of God.

Tuesday, August 14, 2007

Go On... Open the Box!

While I know plenty of you are likely acquainted with Pandora Radio, I feel I would be remiss if I didn't pass it on to the one reader who's still in the dark. So, for you, lone ignorant reader, here's the long and short of it (courtesy of wikipedia)....
Pandora is an automated music recommendation and internet radio service created by The Music Genome Project. Users enter a song or artist that they enjoy, and the service responds by playing selections that are musically similar. Users provide feedback on the individual song choices — approval or disapproval — which Pandora takes into account for future selections.
Starting an account is free and very simple. While you create only one account, you can make up to something like fifty(!) different channels. I have never received any spam from them - or even a single email for that matter. There's nothing to download. Your station exists online, so you can listen anywhere that you have access to broadband.

You want an example? I'm listening to my "The Police" channel right now. The last few songs have included R.E.M., the Beatles, Queen, the Who, and - duh - the Police.

Now, get to it!

Friday, August 10, 2007

Amazing Trailers: Garden State

In the technical vernacular, this isn't the Garden State trailer, it's the teaser, but I won't hold that against it. In fact, this really caught my eye the first time I saw it back in 2004. With the longer trailer, you get more of the idea of the story, whereas this is mostly raw images - a knight in a doorway, a flaming arrow, a girl in a pool, a guy blending in with wallpaper. This is a fantastic example of letting the surreal imagery of a film sell it to an audience. When I saw this, I knew I'd plunk down the money to see the whole thing. (Ironically, my girlfriend and I ultimately got to see a preview screening for free and meet Zach Braff.)

Wednesday, August 8, 2007

Mama, Don't Take My Kodachrome Away

Far be it for me to stand in the way of progress. I waited for the day when most everyone in this country had at least one home computer. I remember telling my mom some twenty-five years ago that one day people would pay for everything with a card that would access their bank account. That said, will future generations have hard evidence to sift through that tells them of their family history?

After my father died last December, I took some time to look through shoe boxes full of old family photos, stretching back to the '20's. Many contained people I didn't know. Some pictures identified the folks on the back, some did not. My dad wasn't one to save personal correspondence; there may have been a letter or two, or a postcard. But, at least there was something physical.

All right. So, what does this soul-baring have to do with Mediacopia? Well, the media we use for photography and writing to one another has changed over the last decade or so. As you know, everything's gone digital. Where one might have once stored unsorted photos in a shoe box in a closet, now pictures are saved to flash drives. Where correspondence was once something to be saved and cherished - because someone else took the time to write and mail it - now it's something we dash out several times a day, with the recipient typically reading and sending it to a virtual trash.

What will people sort through in the decades to come? When I think of the combined nature of our use-and-delete culture and the relatively short life-spans of computer hardware, I can't seriously believe that the pictures taken and the emails sent today will be around in ten years. Sure, some will. Some folks will be steadfast and dedicated to preserving such things. But, I suspect they will be in the minority.

I'm not trying to bring you down. I suppose I just want folks to think about this. Hard copies. Not of everything. Just of some of the things that matter to us, so that someone somewhere down the line will be able to hold it, to look at it, to read it, and touch that piece of the past.

Tuesday, August 7, 2007

Music Videos: The Next Generation?

This is actually something that has puzzled me for a while now. You know, back in the dusty, warehouse regions of my noggin. With the insane proliferation of Hollywood remakes on the big screen year round, why not music video remakes?

I'm not talking about up-and-coming bands covering songs and videos from yesteryear. I mean, just the videos themselves. It just seems like such an obvious thing to do that I can't believe it hasn't happened yet. And I'm not talking about parodies, either. "Weird Al" locked that up over two decades ago.

For example, imagine a shot-for-shot remake of Duran Duran's epic "Hungry Like the Wolf", but featuring Linkin Park and one of their songs. Or perhaps Fergie or Kelly Clarkson in Madonna's "Borderline". Or even a redux of Peter Gabriel's "Shock the Monkey", featuring Justin Timberlake.

Now, I'm certainly not endorsing this course of action. Honestly, I think that if I even caught wind of any of the above examples coming to light I might have to take drastic measures. I'm simply pointing out that - in a society chock full o' movie remakes and cover songs - how anybody missed this is beyond me. (And, yes, I am aware that 95% of hip-hop music videos are remakes of each other. They don't count.)

Sunday, August 5, 2007

Amazing Trailers: The Fountain

This teaser trailer came out long before the film was released. I was so enraptured by it and still am today. For me, it actually works as a short film in and of itself. I'd go so far as to say this trailer is actually better than the majority of movies released in the last few years. That said, I felt the actual film of The Fountain was a major disappointment. Perhaps my expectations were incredibly high after living with this glorious trailer for so long. Or, perhaps, I quickly grew weary of close-ups of people crying and a convoluted plot that didn't match up with what this teaser seemed to suggest. Again, one of the biggest threats of a trailer - good or bad - is that one might be deceived - intentionally or otherwise. Nevertheless, I remain a huge fan of this:

Thursday, August 2, 2007

Amazing Trailers:
The Usual Suspects

I am a major fan of quality movie trailers. And by quality I mean that they set a mood, hint at a good story, and tease me with just enough. I do not consider the bulk of the trailers issued today to be of this quality. Far too many tell you the whole story and/or show you all the big set pieces, leaving you with no surprises when the time comes to see the whole picture. I'm even a fan of those excellent trailers whose actual movie turns out to be a dud. (Again, I'm looking at you Fountain.)

So, today I am inaugurating an ongoing series here at Mediacopia 2.0 that will focus on these trailers of note. I decided to launch us with the trailer for The Usual Suspects because back when it was released - the trailer, not the film - no one had any idea what it was about, no one knew it would be such a hit, and no one had heard of Kaiser Soze. I remember seeing this in the theatre and thinking it might actually be a heist film with a religious/supernatural element. I was hooked. I suppose that would be the subtitle for this series: Films that really hooked me with their trailers.

Tuesday, July 31, 2007

Batman: Arkham Asylum
The Fan Film

Apparently this has been around for a couple months, but this is the first I've heard of it. This is a fan-made, three minute tribute to Batman: Arkham Asylum, a gritty graphic novel by Grant Morrison and Dave McKean that was released back in 1989. In an interesting twist, this film is actually in Spanish. (Fear not, gentle Norte Americanos, the creator has indeed supplied subtitles.) Filmmaker Miguel Mesas does an excellent job recreating the ethereal mood of the book; his Batman is perhaps the most haunting ever put on film or video. Stylistically, his visuals recall Guillermo del Toro's Pan's Labyrinth and The Devil's Backbone. Don't take my word for it. Watch it now!

Michelangelo Antonioni: 1912-2007

Yesterday, I was saddened at the loss of Ingmar Bergman. Today, when I read of the passage of Michelangelo Antonioni - I was pissed. Not because I preferred him over Bergman - I'd say that I hold them in equal esteem - but because they both died within hours of each other. While I'm sure plenty of people had heard of Ingmar Bergman without ever actually watching one of his films, I'm fairly certain that your average person - or even self-proclaimed movie buff - has never even heard of Michelangelo Antonioni, despite the considerable honors and accolades he received in his lifetime.

As with my entry on Bergman yesterday, I'll let IMDB handle the obituary in a moment. I would just like to speak to one aspect of Antonioni's visual style.... To him, everything was character, most notably settings. Frequently, in his shot compositions he would seemingly spend just as much time making sure that a building or a tree was given just the right amount of prominence. While some critics complained that this distracted from the performances of his actors or substituted for a threadbare plot, the truth of the matter lies in the fact that his films acknowledged a totality of existence; human beings are not simply surrounded by things, they coexist in a sometimes uneasy world.

I'm hard-pressed to choose a favorite Antonioni film. My gut response is to name L'Avventura, the 1960 piece that starts out as a missing person mystery and transforms into an existentialist romance. This is the movie that put Antonioni on the map, and along with his following two films - La Notte (The Night) and L'Eclisse (The Eclipse) - form his "trilogy of emotional alienation". That's a shot from the film just above.

My second choice would likely be the much maligned Zabriskie Point. This movie should be considered one of the great accomplishments of late-'60's anti-establishment/ radical/"hippy" cinema as it follows a young couple from their LA lives - he's a student, she's a secretary - to the remote regions of Death Valley (that's Antonioni on location above) and ultimately culminates in an orchestra of explosions of corporate products. (In this last bit, the film can be viewed as a precursor to Fight Club.) Oh, and much of the score is composed and performed by this little band called Pink Floyd. No, I'd never heard of him either.

For the details, I turn now to my co-anchor, I-Yem Deeby:
Michelangelo Antonioni, the Italian film director whose modernist style created such haunting, enigmatic films as L'Avventura and Blow Up, died Monday at his home in Italy; he was 94. Antonioni had suffered a debilitating stroke in 1985 which gave him limited speech capabilities and curtailed his directing abilities, though he continued to work, most notably on 1995's Beyond the Clouds, after his stroke. Born in Ferrara, Italy, Antonioni graduated from the University of Bologna with a degree in economics but went to work for a local newspaper as a film writer and critic. Moving to Rome during World War II, he collaborated with Roberto Rossellini on A Pilot Returns and began making short documentaries. His first full-length film, Story of a Love Affair, was released in 1950, and he found his breakthrough with 1957's The Outcry, where he met actress Monica Vitti, who would go on to star in his famed film trilogy of emotional alienation: L'Avventura, La Notte, and L'Eclisse, released from 1960-1962. With these austere black-and-white films, seductive and amazing to some and puzzling and mysterious to others (L'Avventura and L'Eclisse both won the Jury prizes at Cannes), Antonioni established himself as one of the premier international filmmakers of the time, alongside fellow countryman Federico Fellini and other emerging directors of the 60s such as Roman Polanski and Ingmar Bergman; he was considered such a fixture of the time that he was even mentioned in lyrics (alongside Fellini and Polanski) in the seminal musical of the 60s, Hair.

In 1966, Antonioni found box office as well as critical success with Blow Up, the story of a London photographer (David Hemmings) who believes he may have accidentally captured a murder on film. The quintessential portait of the swinging 60s, the film featured a luminous Vanessa Redgrave and, most notoriously, an imaginary, silent tennis game played between two sets of white-faced mimes. While some shrugged, others continued to celebrate his success, and Antonioni received two Academy Award nominations for writing and directing Blow Up. That film was followed by the notorious flop Zabriskie Point, an existentialist rumination in Death Valley featuring amateur actors, but Antonioni then rebounded with The Passenger, starring Jack Nicholson as a journalist researching a documentary in the Sahara, now considered one of his best films. Antonioni made only a handful of films following The Passenger, and worked only in a limited fashion after his stroke, though he surprised critics and audiences with 1995's Beyond the Clouds, which producers would only back with the stipulation that director Wim Wenders follow the filming in case Antonioni faltered. Though he was only able to speak a few words, the director was able to communicate effectively with his crew and actors; the same year Beyond the Clouds was released, he received an honorary Academy Award for lifetime achievement. Antonioni is survived by his wife, Enrica, whom he married in 1986.

Monday, July 30, 2007

Ingmar Bergman: 1918-2007

I learned this morning that Ingmar Bergman passed away at the age of 89. What you'll find below is the obit posted originally on IMDB, but a couple words from your humble blogger first....

Initially, I discovered Bergman through Woody Allen, who cited him as a major influence. A short time later as a high school student, I sat in on a couple community college classes that taught film appreciation, wherein I was exposed to full-fledged Bergman for the first time. I can't recall which was my first - The Silence? Wild Strawberries? Regardless, I was hooked. While many found - and find - Bergman's films difficult and bleak (at best!), I discovered a sense of brutal honesty from a man seemingly unafraid of looking in the darkest, most feared places of the human psyche and soul.

In all honesty, I have moved away from regular viewing of such films in recent years. Do I now find these pictures as bleak as so many critics? To a degree, yes, some of them. If you ask me to name my top ten favorite films, I assure you that you will find at least one of Bergman's listed - though precisely which one(s) might depend on my mood. That said, while The Silence and Persona are brilliant, beautiful, stirring works of art, I don't want to watch them all the time. I truly feel it is important and necessary for each person to look into and challenge their own abyss - just don't do it everyday, or no one will be your friend.

Ingmar Bergman was my friend. We never met, and he had no notion of my own existence. But, he spoke to me, inspired me, and moved me just as much as anyone I've ever known.

Now, as promised, here's that pesky, "official" obituary....
Ingmar Bergman, the Swedish director considered one of the most influential and acclaimed filmmakers of modern cinema, died at his home in Faro, Sweden, on Monday; he was 89. The death was announced by the Swedish news agency TT and confirmed by Bergman's daughter, Eva, and Astrid Soderbergh Widding, president of The Ingmar Bergman Foundation, though an official cause of death was not yet given. Nominated for nine Academy Awards throughout his career and honored with the Irving G. Thalberg award in 1971, Bergman was cited as one of the greatest filmmakers of all time, with his bleak, unsparing yet highly emotional explorations of the human psyche and its relation to life, sex, and death, in both highly symbolic and intensely personal films; he most notably influenced Woody Allen, who considered him the greatest of filmmakers. His images ranged from the stark black-and-white of films like The Seventh Seal to those awash in dreadful reds such as Cries and Whispers and the holiday warmth of Fanny and Alexander, his last film for the cinema. Born in Uppsala, Sweden in 1918, Bergman was the son of a Lutheran minister, and religious imagery as well as the tumultuous relationship between his parents would pervade his work. Though growing up in an extremely strict and devout family, Bergman lost his faith at an early age and grappled with the concept of the existence of God in many of his early films. Bergman discovered the magic of imagery at the age of nine with a magic lantern, for which he would create his own characters and scenery, and this love of light and images brought him to the theater world after a brief stint at the University of Stockholm. Bergman worked in both theater and film throughout the 1940s, as part of the script department of Svensk Filmindustri and as a director and producer for numerous small theater companies. His first script to be produced was the 1944 film Torment, and began as a director with small movies that allowed him to hone his craft; among his notable earlier works were Prison, Summer Interlude, and Sawdust and Tinsel.

Bergman came to the fore of the international cinematic community with the 1955 film Smiles of a Summer Night, his classic melancholy comedy about the romantic entanglements of three 19th century couples during a weekend at a country estate. The film propelled him to stardom and won him a a Cannes Film Festival award for "Best Poetic Humor" (it was also later adapted by Stephen Sondheim into the musical A Little Night Music). He established his legacy and reputation with his next two films: The Seventh Seal, featuring the now-iconic imagery of Death playing chess with a tortured medieval knight (Max Von Sydow), and Wild Strawberries, the study of an aged professor (played by Victor Sjostrom) revisiting his youth and his darkest fears as he drives through the Swedish countryside. Both films were phenomenal critical and box office successes, with Wild Strawberries earning Bergman his first Oscar nomination, for Best Screenplay. Bergman's The Virgin Spring, the grim fable about two parents exacting revenge on their daughter's murderers, won the Best Foreign Language film Oscar in 1961. He followed up that film with a trilogy of films -- Through a Glass Darkly (another Foreign Language Film Oscar winner), Winter Light and The Silence -- in which he grappled most powerfully with his lack of faith and belief in the power of love.

Making as many failures as he did successes, Bergman found favor with a number of films throughout the 1960s and 1970s, including the now-famous Persona, Hour of the Wolf, The Passion of Anna, Cries and Whispers (a nominee for Best Picture), Scenes from a Marriage, The Magic Flute, and Autumn Sonata. Throughout his films he used an ensemble of actors, most notably Max von Sydow, Gunnar Bjornstrand, Ingrid Thulin, Bibi Andersson, Harriet Andersson, Erland Josephson and Liv Ullman, with whom he had a personal relationship and a child. He also almost always worked with the legendary cinematographer Sven Nykvist, who won two Oscars for Cries and Whispers and 1982's Fanny and Alexander. It was that latter film that Bergman declared to be his final cinematic work, an intimate portrait of brother and sister set in early 20th century Sweden that was originally conceived as a four part TV film, and was released in the US at a truncated 188 minutes. It won four Oscars, including Best Foreign Language Film. Though he officially "retired" from the film industry after Fanny and Alexander, Bergman made films for Swedish television, continued to direct theatrically (including a version of Hamlet in Swedish that traveled to the US) and wrote screenplays that were filmed by other directors, including Bille August, Bergman's son Daniel, and actress and former lover Liv Ullman. His last work as director was Saraband, a revisitation of the two lead characters (Ullman and Jospehson) from Scenes from a Marriage. Bergman was married five times, and his fifth wife, Ingrid von Rosen, passed away in 1995. He is survived by nine children from his past marriages and relationships. At press time, a funeral date had not yet been set.

Thursday, July 26, 2007

Marion Ravenwood!

Okay. Having a big geek moment right now. Just found out that Karen Allen is indeed reprising her Raiders of the Lost Ark role as Marion Ravenwood in the currently shooting Indy 4. Honestly, got a little choked up. She looks fantastic, and I look forward to her and Harrison Ford recapturing at least some of the magic and chemistry they shared back in 1981. (FYI, pics were taken by an audience member at Comic Con. Hence, what some of you may deem "weird angles".)

Also of note.... George Lucas himself announced that the teaser trailer will be released around Thanksgiving. The film is slated for May 22, 2008.

Wednesday, July 25, 2007

Back to Basics

Discovered this on A how-to guide for turning your back on "civilization" and re-forging a purer society....

Tuesday, July 24, 2007


This is an amazing piece of stop motion animation. It's a short Spanish film - don't worry, there's no dialogue so no subtitles, you sissies! - featuring the Minotaur, Pablo Picasso, and various Picasso "creatures". It was made back in 2004 and was justly nominated for both the European and Spanish equivalents of the Oscar. Enjoy!

Oh, and if you do read Spanish, click here for the official site.

Monday, July 23, 2007

Lazlo Kovacs 1933-2007

Just learned that Lazlo Kovacs passed away early Sunday morning. If you don't know the name, you've surely seen plenty of the films for which he was director of photography or "simply" a cameraman. A sampling of titles: Easy Rider, Paper Moon, Shampoo, Ghostbusters, Say Anything....

Reuters revealed an amazing aspect of his early years as a college student in Hungary:
Kovacs was born and raised on a farm in Hungary when that country was isolated from the Western world, first by the Nazi occupation and later during the Cold War. Kovacs was in his final year of school in Budapest when a revolt against the Communist regime started on the city streets.

He and his lifelong friend Vilmos Zsigmond made the daring decision to document the event for its historic significance. To do this, they borrowed film and a camera from their school, hid the camera in a paper bag with a hole for the lens and recorded the conflict.

The pair then embarked on a dangerous journey during which they carried 30,000 feet of documentary film across the border into Austria. They entered the U.S. as political refugees in 1957.

Their historic film was featured in a CBS documentary narrated by Walter Cronkite.

Against the odds, Kovacs and Zsigmond went on to become two of Hollywood's most influential directors of photography.
What a story! You will be missed, sir.

Saturday, July 21, 2007

Get Along, Wes Anderson

Found this today while searching for info on Wes Anderson's forthcoming film, The Darjeeling Limited. Perfect black humor from two guys who mined the genre years ago. The original can be found here. Yes, this is rather long, but I felt it merited a complete reproduction, so there you go. (P.S.: To those who can, please don't sue over this reproduction. Please.)

From: W. Becker and D. Fagen [AKA Steely Dan© ]

To: Wes Anderson


As you may know, we are the founders of the celebrated rock band "Steely Dan"©. If for some reason you don't know our work, check with Owen and Luke Wilson - they're both big fans. Here's something you may not know about us: when not distracted by our “day job” – composing, recording, touring and so forth – we like to head downstairs into the paneled basement of our minds and assume the roles we were born to play - you may have already guessed it by now – the roles of Obsessive Fans of World Cinema.

That's right. Eisenstein, Renoir, Rene Clair, Bunuel, Kurosawa, Fellini, Godard, Tarkovsky, Ophuls the Elder, Blake Edwards, Ophuls the Younger, you name it. Sat there, dug it.

Maestro, we give to you this Message: there was a time when Giants walked among us. And, damn, if you, Wes Anderson, might not be the one to restore their racial dominance on this, our planet, this Terra, this... Earth.

You may have heard that we have recently made it our personal project and goal to deliver a certain actor of no small importance to your past and present work from a downward spiral of moral turpitude from which it seemed there might be no escape. We are delighted to report that, with the news of Mr. ________'s participation in your new film (which we understand to be entitled, indeed, charmingly, “Darjeeling Limited”), our efforts have been repaid, and How.

This unqualified victory has inspired us to address a more serious matter. Let's put our cards on the table - surely, we are not the first to tell you that your career is suffering from a malaise. Fortunately, inasmuch as it is a malaise distinctly different than that of Mr.______ , and to the extent that you have not become so completely alienated from the intellectual and moral wellsprings of your own creativity, we are hoping that we - yours truly, Donald and Walter - may successfully "intervene" at this point in time and be of some use to you in your latest, and, potentially, greatest, endeavor.

Again, an artist of your stripe could never be guilty of the same sort of willing harlotry that befalls so many bright young men who take their aspirations to Hollywood and their talent for granted. You have failed or threatened to fail in a far more interesting and morally uncompromised way (assuming for a moment that self-imitation and a modality dangerously close to mawkishness are not moral failings, but rather symptoms of a profound sickness of the soul.)

Let's begin with a quick review of your career so far, as it is known to us and your fans and wellwishers in general.

You began, spectacularly enough, with the excellent "Bottle Rocket", a film we consider to be your finest work to date. No doubt others would agree that the striking originality of your premise and vision was most effective in this seminal work. Subsequent films - "Rushmore", "The Royal Tenenbaums", "The Life Aquatic" - have been good fun but somewhat disappointing - perhaps increasingly so. These follow-ups have all concerned themselves with the theme we like to call "the enervated family of origin"©, from which springs diverse subplots also largely concerned with the failure to fulfill early promise. Again, each film increasingly relies on eccentric visual detail, period wardrobe, idiosyncratic and overwrought set design, and music supervision that leans heavily on somewhat obscure 60's "British Invasion" tracks a-jangle with twelve-string guitars, harpsichords and mandolins. The company of players, while excellent, retains pretty much the same tone and function from film to film. Indeed, you must be aware that your career as an auteur is mirrored in the lives of your beloved characters as they struggle in vain to duplicate early glories.

But, look, Mr. Anderson, we're not trying to be critical – dammit - we just want to help.

Enter the Faboriginals©, Donald Fagen and Walter Becker of Steely Dan©. The muse is a fickle mistress at best, and to leave her high and dry, with just a "lick and a promise" of the greatness of which one is capable - well, sir, it's just plain wrong. It is an Art Crime© of the first magnitude and a great sin against your talent and your Self. We just don't want to see it go down that way.

So the question, Mr. Anderson, remains: what is to be done? As we have done with previous clients, we have taken the liberty of creating two alternative strategies that we believe will insure success - in this case, success for you and your little company of players. Each of us – Donald and Walter - has composed a TITLE SONG which could serve as a powerful organizing element and a rallying cry for you and Owen and Jason and the others, lest you lose your way and fall into the same old traps.



Donald believes that you are at a crossroads and that you must do what none of your characters has been able to do - namely, let go of the past: leave it as it lies with no concern for the wreckage, and move boldly forward towards new challenges and goals. To this end he has composed a fresh, exciting title song for your new film, "Darjeeling Limited". It's rousing, it's hip, by turns, funny and sad, and then funny again. Although the music is not entirely out of line with the chic “retro” pop you seem to favor, it's been fire-mopped© clean of every last trace of irony and then re-ironized at a whole new level – “post-post-post-modern” if you will. The lyrics are as follows:

Darjeeling Limited©
That's the train I wanna get kissed on
Darjeeling Limited©
But I'll be lucky if I don’t get pissed on

This is a country of starving millions
We've got to get 'em their tea on time
I know romance should be on the back burner
But girl I just can't get you off my mind
Cause baby every single time I'm with you
I'd like to have as many arms as Vishnu
(Arms as Vishnu)

Darjeeling Limited©
That's the train I wanna get kissed on
Darjeeling Limited©
But I'll be lucky if I don’t get pissed on

You told me you'd be mine forever
That we'd get married in the Taj Mahal
The minute I'm done baggin' this tea, babe
Then I'll be makin' you my Bollywood doll
Forget the Super Chief, the China Star now
Give me the choo-choo with the Chutney Bar now
(Chutney Bar now)

Darjeeling Limited©
That's the train I wanna get kissed on
Darjeeling Limited©
But I'll be lucky if I don’t get pissed on


Walter believes that the best strategy for you now would be to return to the point in your career when it was all good, when all was working as it should, when there was magic in every song you sung, so to speak. Youthful idealism, jouissance©, original spirit - these will be your watchwords. "Birth is residual if it is not symbolically revisited through initiation" - it's an old French proverb. In other words, your new film will be called "Bottle Rocket Two©" and will be the logical continuation of the first film which was so well loved. ("Bottle Rocket" was our fave among your movies, did we mention that?) You pick up where you left off and find a new continuation that takes you elsewhere than to ruin. The eponymous title song would reframe the important existential questions which are at the core of your artistic vision and would go something like this:

Bottlerocket Two©

Any resemblance
Real or imagined
People or places
Living or dead

Any resemblance
As-if or actual
Characters or circumstance
It's all in your head

Flying out to India
Trying to get into you
Old Bombay
It's a very long way
To chase a "bottlerocket" to©

Precise simulations
Possible parallels
Never intended

Persons and places
Present or otherwise
Comrades in comedy
Brothers in crime

Hiding out in India
Babycakes they're watching you
This is our latest -
It may be our greatest -
It's called "bottlerocket" too©!

Who pitched the story?
Who built the scenery?
Who raised the money?
Whose movie is it,

[Guitar Solo ]


Come to think about it, these songs are both so fucking strong that you may wish to consider a hybrid approach that uses both of them - after all, they're both set in India, which is where your company is setting up shop now. You could go with some kind of "film within a film" or even a "film within a film within a film" or some such pomo horseshit, just like Godard's “King Lear” or whatever. That's your call, you're the director.

Please note that all these lyrics and titles have been heavily copywritten, trademarked, registered, patented, etc., etc., so anybody using them will have to negotiate the rights from the legitimate Faboriginal© owners, which is us. We are currently represented by Michael “Mickey” Shaheen, Esq., of Howard Beach, Queens County, New York NY.

The other change that we would have to make would concern Mark Mothersbaugh. Everyone in Hollywood knows that he is a first class professional musical supervisor. Obviously you and he have a lot of great history together and we can imagine there is a certain rapport both professional and personal. But we certainly can't work with him, anymore than he would consent to work with us. Same thing for the mandolins and the twelve-string stuff and the harpsichord, they're out. You yourself may be partial to those particular instruments. We're not. Remember, we saw “Tom Jones” in its original theatrical release when we were still in high school, we had to listen to “Walk Away Renee” all through college and we fucking opened for Roger McGuinn in the seventies, so all that "jingle-jangle morning" shit is no big thrill for us, OK?

Argh!...goddammit...sorry, guy! We kinda lost it for a minute there. Look - Mark is probably a swell guy. But you, Wes Anderson, must remember that Mark and his music are part of the old way of doing things, the old way of being, the old way that has brought you to the precipice. Mr. Anderson, you must be fearless in defense of your creations and your genius, absolutely fearless, and not give in to sentimental considerations.

So - let's get going, shall we? Send the check for US$400,000 (advance on licensing fees) out by Fedex to Mickey by tomorrow and we'll talk a little later in the day about merch, percentages, backend, soundtrack, ASCAP, etc. Mickey himself doesn't need any kind of an advance but he'll probably take a couple of points on your net career action. It's a little expensive - and Mickey certainly doesn't need the bread - but just pay the points, okay? It's a lot better than the alternative.

We remain your abject servants,

W. Becker and D. Fagen AKA Steely Dan©