Tsai Ming-Liang's first feature in five years is a mysterious and alienating series of tableaus about the fragility of flesh and the smallness of humanity.
* This filmography is not intended to be a comprehensive list of this artist’s work. Instead it reflects the films this person has been involved with that have been reviewed on this site.
The History Channel tries to bring Harry Houdini back to life with a two-night mini-series. They fail.
Why we still need video stores; composer Hans Zimmer speaks; Sweden's feminist movie ratings system; the gold standard for thank-you notes; free movie streaming through libraries.
Marie writes: Intrepid club member Sandy Kahn came upon the following recipe and wisely showed it to me, so that I might share it in turn with all of you. Behold the morning chocolate cookie - a healthy breakfast treat loaded with good stuff; like fiber and imported French chocolate.
The 65th Cannes Film Festival's eleven days of prediction, wild speculation and gossip, some of it centering on the notoriously cranky personality of this year's jury president Nanni Moretti, came to an end Sunday evening in festival's business-like awards ceremony (or Soiree de Palmares, as the French call it) that traditionally lacks the extended let's-put-on-a-show aspect of the Oscars. The jury was seated onstage in a solemn group, and the awards given with a modest amount of fancy-dress formality, a bit of unrehearsed fumbling, and acceptance speeches that were short, dignified and to the point.
The foul weather that has marred the usually sunny festival continued to the end, and elite guests and movie stars alike walked a red carpet tented by a plastic roof as the rain fell on the multi-colored umbrellas of the surrounding crowds. Festival director Thierry Fremoux personally held an umbrella for Audrey Tautou, star of Claude Miller's closing night film, "Therese Desqueyroux," as she headed up the famous steps in a calf-length ivory lace gown with a bodice heavily embroidered in gold.
Actress Berenice Bejo, an international sensation since her starring role and subsequent Oscar nomination for "The Artist," performed mistress of ceremonies duties in a white, bridal-looking strapless sheath with long train, her only jewel an enormous heart-shaped emerald ring. Just about the only prediction this year that turned out to be accurate was the one that advised that all was unpredictable under the jurisdiction of the pensive and often-scowling Moretti.
Marie writes: Recently, a fellow artist and friend sent me the following photos featuring amazing glass mosaics. She didn't know who the artists were however - and which set me off on a journey to find out! I confess, the stairs currently continue to thwart me and thus remain a mystery, but I did uncover who created the "glass bottle doorway" and was surprised to learn both its location and the inspiration behind it. (click image.)
Yes, but is it Art? Marcell Duchamp's famous "Fountain" aka urinal
Marie writes: As you know, I tend to avoid filling the Newsletter with cute animal photos - but that's only because a little goes a long way and it's easy to overdose. Indeed; many an otherwise healthy mind has been wiped clean of any trace of dark humor after staring too long at puppies and kittens. That said, every now and again I think it's safe to look at adorable images like this...
(click to enlarge)
Marie writes: Okay, this is just plain cool. This is clearly someone using their brain, in combination with "what the hell, let's just go ahead and try it..."
Dr Julius Neubronner's Miniature Pigeon CameraIn 1903, Dr Julius Neubronner patented a miniature pigeon camera activated by a timing mechanism. The invention brought him international notability after he presented it at international expositions in Dresden, Frankfurt and Paris in 1909-1911. Spectators in Dresden could watch the arrival of the camera-equipped carrier pigeons, whereupon the photos were immediately developed and turned into postcards which could be purchased. (click images to enlarge.) - from The Public Domain Review. Visit the site to see even more photos.
Arriving in Cannes by bus from the Nice airport provides a thumbnail tour of the town, from the more seedy homes on the outskirts to the swanky hotels on the waterfront. The palms lining the Croisette, the festival's de facto main drag, may be the ubiquitous symbol of city, but a few blocks away the plane trees, cypresses, and the prolific climbing roses of Provence are a more common sight. Walk a short distance from the Festival Palais and there are conspicuously un-chic restaurants where local cops congregate for dinner in the back room and retired couples hang out for a smoke and an evening beer, more often than not, with a fluffy mutt under the table.
In a way, my first reminders yesterday of everyday life in everyday France were a bracing counterpoint to this morning's press screening of Woody Allen's romantic fantasy "Midnight in Paris." The festival's opening night film is a colorful valentine to Paris, indulging and gorgeously illustrating the director's every memory and cherished illusion of the city. I've never been a big Woody Allen fan, but "Midnight in Paris" is loads of fun.
The film opens with a morning-to-night sequence of views of the city's most iconic sights: Montmartre and the Moulin Rouge, the Seine, the Arc de Triomphe and the Champs-Elysees, the narrow streets of the Left Bank, and the Eiffel Tower. That opening alone is a tourist board's dream. At the press conference later, a journalist asked Allen, who mentioned that he thought of the title long before he had a story, whether these postcard-worthy views were his own impressions of Paris, or were meant to represent the point of view of his characters. Perhaps the French questioner was hoping for the latter, but Allen replied, "I learned about Paris the way all Americans do--from the movies. I wanted to show the city emotionally, not realistically, but through my eyes.
As the opening night of the Cannes International Film Festival approaches, a host of Riviera amenities and services hope to lure my business via solicitous e-mails. Would Madame perhaps like to hire a helicopter for the journey from the Nice airport to the Festival Palais? Rent a limousine with a multilingual driver? Charter a yacht or rent a fully staffed villa with swimming pool (photos handily attached)?
Me, I'm just in the market to rent a no-frills mobile phone with a European SIM card, and I'll be taking an inter-city bus from the airport, but you get the picture. The sparkling goodies of this playground of millionaires are dangled before the thousands of accredited journalists, theater programmers, film buyers, and filmmakers soon to be heading for the legendary festival. Most of us will be pinching the Euros until they scream, but nonetheless enjoying the nonstop spectacle provided by those who get to ride around in helicopters.
The festival opens the night of Wednesday, May 11 with Woody Allen's "Midnight in Paris." "Monsieur Woodee," as the French are wont to call him, made his first visit ever to Cannes in 2002, when his "Hollywood Endings" opened the festival. Although the film was disappointingly lackluster, it certainly made no difference to his French fans, who hailed him like an emperor. I watched Allen on that occasion from a seat among the hyper-excited audience, marveling at his frail stature, almost inaudible voice, and the shrinking body language that made him seem an incongruous god of cinema.
"Of few deaths can it be said that they end an era, but hers does. No other actress commanded more attention for longer, for her work, her beauty, her private life, and a series of health problems that brought her near death more than once." - Roger, from Elizabeth Taylor, a star in her own category
Marie writes: Having recently seen a stage play, I was reminded again of how much I enjoy them. And the buildings they're often performed in. Which sent me off looking for old ones and hopefully Theatres you never hear about - as then it's like stumbling upon a secret known only to a lucky few. And thus how I found "Minack Theatre Portcurno Cornwall" with a view over-looking the Cornish sea...
A quality of the light. The play of a shadow. The movement of a hand, a lip, an eye, a branch, a cloud, a field of grass. The tone of a word, a sigh, a groan. The organic geometry of a composition across time and space. These are things that distinguish the extraordinary from the mundane in life and movies. And for the umpteenth year (I've been counting) Richard T. Jameson and Kathleen Murphy have taken notice of them, curated and cataloged them, recapitulated them in haiku-like prose. They call it Moments Out of Time, and the 2010 montage is here, at MSN Movies.
Feel free to contribute your own in comments.
A few snippets:
- The wall that is, and isn't, there: "The Ghost Writer"...
- In the hills at night, car lights on a distant curve of road--"The American" and "Let Me In"...
- "You'd do that for me?"--a line spoken to, and later by, Mark Zuckerberg (Jesse Eisenberg) in "The Social Network"; the addressee not getting it in either case...
- "I don't think of them as breasts--just tubes of potential danger"; Rebecca (Rebecca Hall), provider of mammograms in "Please Give"...
Marie writes: Club member and noted blog contributor Tom Dark took this astonishing photograph near his home in Abiqui, New Mexico. The "unknown entity" appeared without warning and after a failed attempt to communicate, fled the scene. Tom stopped short of saying "alien" to describe the encounter, but I think it's safe to say that whatever he saw, it was pretty damned freaky. It sure can't be mistaken for anything terrestrial; like a horse pressing its nose up to the camera and the lens causing foreshortening. As it totally does not look like that at all. (click to enlarge.)
"Splice" has the DNA of a really great philosophical horror/science-fiction movie, but in the less-than-fully formed thing that was delivered to theaters, some of its most promising traits remain recessive, under-developed.
You may notice the first sign of this gestational glitch in the otherwise wonderfully gooey in vitro credits sequence, where the title and the names of the lead actors are spelled out in mutant organic forms, like veins bulging beneath the surface of fetal skin. The credits read: "Screenplay by Vincenzo Natali & Antoinette Terry Bryant and Doug Taylor" -- which indicates that director Natali worked on it with Bryant, and Taylor was probably either the original writer or did enough of a re-write to merit a screen credit. Someone -- or something -- almost certainly re-formed the last half-hour of the movie, when it suddenly dies and comes back as the predictable horror clone into which it had successfully avoided mutating up until that point.
You can almost feel the splice at which the erratically paced, action-packed ending to another, lesser scary movie has been grafted onto the genetic horror of this one. It happens right around the time Sarah Polley says something like "What's happening?" and Adrien Brody (off-screen, looped dialogue?) says, "I don't know. But she's dying." Thank you, Dr. Exposition.
I made a mistake this week. I followed a link from a discussion among reputable movie critics to a showbiz gossip blog that I usually find too sleazy to visit. There I once again found all manner of bilious items that creeped me out and reminded me why I shouldn't go there. One of them insulted a late, internationally renowned film critic for choosing, on his deathbed, a Howard Hawks western as his favorite movie over another title the gossip prefers. (No doubt the latter feels entitled to express an opinion about what your last meal should be, too.) Another post included the observation that Vince Vaughn "needs to lose 30 pounds. He appeared to be at the tipping point during the 'Couples Retreat' press junket."
"You may think you know what you're dealing with, but believe me, you don't." -- Noah Cross, "Chinatown"
Roman Polanski gets under people's skin. Not just his movies, but there's something about him that dredges up deep, dark, disturbing feelings. I hope you've seen Marina Zenovich's 2008 documentary "Roman Polanski: Wanted and Desired" (trailer below), the biographical film that recounts the sex charges brought against Polanski in 1977, the resulting media melee, his guilty plea to a lesser charge of unlawful sexual intercourse with a minor, and his escape to France before sentencing. Watching the film, you may find yourself feeling a little like Rosemary Woodhouse, disoriented by the bleeding together of dreams, paranoia, irrationality, ambition, drugs, sex... and movies. ("This is really happening!") The tagline for the doc was "The truth couldn't fit in the headlines" -- and that's the case now, too.
It seems appropriate that the first screening I attended for the 2008 Toronto International Film Festival should be a movie about stories and con games: "The Brothers Bloom," written and directed by Rian Johnson, maker of "Brick," one of my favorite movies of 2005.
Now look back at that sentence and you'll notice it's a setup for another story. (And con?)
I mean, of course it's going to make sense to me that the first movie I see in Toronto is going to be about storytelling as con artistry, in which stories themselves are the biggest cons of all -- because, then, seeing the movie becomes part of my story, and the lead (or "lede," if you prefer) for the story you're reading now, about my first TIFF 2008 screening. That's the way stories work, and the way we work stories.
View image Mila Kunis and Jason Segel in "Forgetting Sarah Marshall."
"Forgetting Sarah Marshall," starring and written by Jason Segel ("Freaks and Geeks," "Undelcared," "Knocked Up") opens April 18. Last month, after an early screening, Jeffrey Wells at Hollwyood Elsewhere revealed that the idea of "marginally unattractive guys -- witty stoners, clever fatties, doughy-bodied dorks, thoughtful-sensitive dweebs and bearish oversize guys in their 20s and 30s" playing "romantic leads" just doesn't wash with him ("Eclipse of the Hunk?").
"Question is, what if this starts to manifest in realms outside Apatow World?" he frets. God forbid. Upon seeing Segel's upper torso at the beginning of "Forgetting Sarah Marshall" (this is before all the rest of him is bared to the world in a painfully funny break-up scene), Wells says: I immediately went, "Oh, sh-t...I'm stuck with this dude for the whole film." Segel is an obviously bright guy with moderately appealing features, but he also has a chunky, blemished ass and little white man-boobs, and he could definitely use a little treadmill and stairmaster time and a serious cutback program regarding pasta, Frito scoop chips, Ben & Jerry's and Fatburger takeout. I don't relate to this sh-t at all, I was muttering to myself.
Latest Contrarian Week News:
In his New York Observer year-end wrap-up (and ten-best list), Andrew Sarris attempts to steal the thunder of one of his New York "alternative weekly" rivals.
Sarris writes: Fortunately, modern technology makes it almost impossible for a good movie to get “lost” because of end-of-the-year mental exhaustion. So, with the proviso that I still have a great deal of catching up to do, here are my considered choices for the various 10-best categories, and one of my patented 10-worst lists under the provocative heading of “Movies Other People Liked and I Didn’t.” I am not at all deterred in dishing out my annual supply of negativity by the correspondent who informed me last year that he preferred all the films on my 10-worst list to all the films on my 10-best list. I have long ago become resigned to my fate as a reviled revisionist ever since my first column in The Village Voice in 1960 hailed Alfred Hitchcock as a major artist for "Psycho," and inspired more hate mail than any Voice column had received up to that time. That clinched my job at the ever-contrarian Voice, and I have simply gone on from there.So, how contrarian is the "reviled revisionist" 46 years later? Let's see:
"The Departed" as best film of the year. (Only in New York!)
"Blood Diamond" as #5.
Best Supporting Actresses: 1) Jennifer Connelly, "Blood Diamond" 2) Gong Li, "Miami Vice" 3) Maggie Gyllenhaal, "World Trade Center"
And then there's this: Other striking male performances were provided by: Leonardo DiCaprio, Matt Damon, Mark Wahlberg, Martin Sheen, Ray Winstone, Alec Baldwin and Anthony Anderson in The Departed; Edward Norton, Liev Schreiber and Toby Jones in The Painted Veil; Wim Willaert in When the Sea Rises; Leslie Phillips and Richard Griffiths in Venus; Clive Owen, Denzel Washington, Christopher Plummer, Willem Dafoe, and Chiwetel Ejiofor in Inside Man; Ken Watanabe, Kazunari Ninomiya, Tsuyoshi Ihara, Ryo Kase and Shido Nakamura in Letters from Iwo Jima; Greg Kinnear, Steve Carell, Alan Arkin and Paul Dano in Little Miss Sunshine; Edward Norton, Paul Giamatti and Rufus Sewell in The Illusionist; Patrick Wilson, Jackie Earle Haley, Noah Emmerich, Gregg Edelman and Ty Simpkins in Little Children; Keanu Reeves, Christopher Plummer and Dylan Walsh in The Lake House; Nicolas Cage, Michael Pena and Stephen Dorff in World Trade Center; Tim Blake Nelson, Pat Corley, Jeffrey Donovan, Stacy Keach and Scott Wilson in Come Early Morning; Ryan Gosling and Anthony Mackie in Half Nelson; Jason Schwartzman, Rip Torn, and Danny Huston in Marie Antoinette; Matt Damon, Michael Gambon, Alec Baldwin, William Hurt, Billy Crudup, Robert De Niro, Keir Dullea, Timothy Hutton, Eddie Redmayne, Mark Ivanir and Joe Pesci in The Good Shepherd; Hugh Jackman, Patrick Stewart, Ian McKellen, Kelsey Grammer, James Marsden, Shawn Ashmore, Aaron Stanford, Vinnie Jones and Ben Foster in X-Men: The Last Stand; Mads Mikkelsen, Jeffrey Wright, Giancarlo Giannini, Simon Abkarian, Sebastien Foucan, Jesper Christensen and Tobias Menzies in Casino Royale; Ebru Ceylan and Mehmet Eryilmaz in Climates; Adrien Brody, Ben Affleck and Bob Hoskins in Hollywoodland; Jamie Foxx, Danny Glover, Keith Robinson and Hinton Battle in Dreamgirls; Brian O’Halloran, Jeff Anderson, Jason Mewes, Trevor Fehrman, Kevin Smith and Jason Lee in Clerks II; Justin Kirk and Jamie Harrold in Flannel Pajamas; Stanley Tucci, Simon Baker and Adrian Grenier in The Devil Wears Prada; Will Ferrell, Dustin Hoffman and Tom Hulce in Stranger Than Fiction; Samuel L. Jackson, Curtis Jackson, Chad Michael Murray, Sam Jones III and Brian Presley in Home of the Brave; Harris Yulin, Ty Burrell and Boris McGiver in Fur: An Imaginary Portrait of Diane Arbus; Max Minghella, John Malkovich, Jim Broadbent, Matt Keeslar, Ethan Suplee, Joel David Moore and Nick Swardson in Art School Confidential; Joseph Cross, Brian Cox, Joseph Fiennes and Alec Baldwin in Running with Scissors; Jamie Foxx, Colin Farrell, Ciarán Hinds, Justin Theroux, Barry Shabaka Henley, Luis Tosar and John Ortiz in Miami Vice; Michael Sheen, James Cromwell, Alex Jennings, Roger Allam and Tim McMullan in The Queen; Samuel L. Jackson, Ron Eldard, William Forsythe, Anthony Mackie, Marlon Sherman and Clarke Peters in Freedomland; Vin Diesel, Peter Dinklage, Linus Roache, Alex Rocco, Ron Silver and Raul Esparza in Find Me Guilty; Josh Hartnett, Bruce Willis, Stanley Tucci, Morgan Freeman and Ben Kingsley in Lucky Number Slevin; Hugh Grant, Dennis Quaid, Chris Klein, Shohreh Aghdashloo, John Cho, Tony Yalda, Sam Golzari and Willem Dafoe in American Dreamz; Keanu Reeves, Robert Downey Jr., Woody Harrelson and Rory Cochrane in A Scanner Darkly; Adam Beach, Ryan A. Phillippe, Jesse Bradford, John Benjamin Hickey, Jon Slattery, Barry Pepper, Jamie Bell, Paul Walker and Robert Patrick in Flags of Our Fathers; Chow Yun-Fat in Curse of the Golden Flower; Sergi López, Doug Jones, Álex Angulo and Federico Luppi in Pan’s Labyrinth; Bill Nighy in Notes on a Scandal.Take that, A----- W----!
"The Aviator" leads with 11 nominations. Jamie Foxx was nominated in two categories. A little film named "Sideways" won five nominations, but one of them was not for its star, Paul Giamatti. "Finding Neverland" was the dark horse, in a tie with "Million Dollar Baby" with seven nominations apiece.
Nothing that has happened since the Academy Awards nominations were announced has swayed me from my immediate conviction that "Chicago" will be the big winner on Oscar night. I know that "The Pianist" was named best film by the British Academy. I know "The Hours" was honored for its screenplay at the Writers Guild Awards. But, hey, I also know the Directors Guild honored Rob Marshall for "Chicago" over Martin Scorsese--and when a rookie can outpoll a living national treasure in a vote of directors, there's a bandwagon on the way."Chicago" is not the best of the nominated films. That would be "Gangs of New York." But you have to understand that the academy doesn't vote for the best film. It votes for the best headline. This year, it sees big type that shouts "The Musical Comes Back!" Having failed to honor "Moulin Rouge!" last year, the academy will vote this year the way it thinks it should have voted the year before. (Example: The 2001 Oscar for best actor went to Russell Crowe, who more reasonably should have won a year earlier for "The Insider.") Here are the major categories and my predictions:
"Chicago" waited 27 years to make the transition from stage to screen, but finished strong, winning 13 nominations Tuesday as the 75th annual Academy Awards nominations were revealed. After last year's best-picture nod for "Moulin Rouge," the movie's front-runner status signals a rebirth of the movie musical.
David Berkowitz, the Son of Sam killer, sits repentant in his cell and says he wishes that Spike Lee would just let him alone. He does not approve of Lee's new film, "Summer Of Sam," which opens nationally on Friday. Berkowitz, who has not seen the film, no doubt assumes it is about him and his crimes. He may be surprised to discover he is a supporting character with just a couple of walk-ons, and a brief dialog scene in which a dog does most of the talking.