Inside Llewyn Davis
"Inside Llewyn Davis" is the most satisfyingly diabolical cinematic structure that the Coens have ever contrived, and that's just one reason that I suspect it…
* 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.
Ten of the oddest baseball movies ever, just in time for the playoffs.
Scott Jordan Harris muses on the awful pleasures of the lowest-grossing film of 2012.
Distribution company Olive Films has released two obscurities by Jean-Luc Godard, 1976's "Comment Ca Va" and 1987's "Soigne ta Droite" (known in the U.S. as "Keep Your Right Up") and while these films may not have the immediate impact of his better-known works, they both reveal a filmmaker who has spent his career challenging himself, his viewers and the very medium of cinema itself in ways that are oftentimes fascinating and frustrating in equal measure.
Jerry Lewis returns to Cannes in a starring role in Daniel Noah's "Max Rose," which proves once again — as "The King of Comedy" did — that Lewis can deliver a nuanced serious performance.
I love Jerry Lewis. I love Jerry Lewis so much that I have a friend who, whenever I mention Lewis online, sends me the simple two word message "Rupert Pupkin". That, of course, is the name of Robert De Niro's deranged wannabe in Martin Scorcese's "The King of Comedy". Pupkin is so obsessed with Jerry Langford, the comedian played by Jerry Lewis, that he kidnaps him and takes his place on his talk show.
Marie writes: "let's see what happens if I tickle him with my stick..."(Photo by Daniel Botelho. Click image to enlarge.)
Some of the fiercest and most useful satire on the web right now is being written by a man who signs himself Smart Ass Cripple. Using his wheelchair as a podium, he ridicules government restrictions, cuts through hypocrisy, ignores the PC firewalls surrounding his disability, and is usually very funny. Because he has been disabled since birth, he uses that as a license to write things that others may think but do not dare say.
Or: Do comic-book movie blog posts display traffic superpowers?
New York Times film critics A.O. Scott and Manohla Dargis held a discussion of comic-book movies and that subset known as "superhero movies" in advance of the Marvel re-boot, "The Amazing Spider-Man," which opens Tuesday, July 3. (The article will appear in the paper July 1, but is now online.) This, I think, goes to the heart of the matter:
SCOTT:What the defensive [superhero] fans fail or refuse to grasp is that they have won the argument. Far from being an underdog genre defended by a scrappy band of cultural renegades, the superhero spectacle represents a staggering concentration of commercial, corporate power. The ideology supporting this power is a familiar kind of disingenuous populism. The studios are just giving the people what they want! Foolproof evidence can be found in the box office returns: a billion dollars! Who can argue with that? Nobody really does. Superhero movies are taken seriously, reviewed respectfully and enjoyed by plenty of Edmund Wilson types.
I've made some of these arguments many times before, but the one that really stands out for me here is the seriousness with which mainstream critics and intellectuals now approach comic books and comic-book movies. That's unprecedented. Distinctions between popular culture and high culture aren't nearly as rigid as they used to be. Movies that would once have been treated as nothing more than commercial entertainment products are now given serious consideration as artistic achievements. Because they can be both at the same time.
Marie writes: some of you may recall reading about the Capilano Suspension Bridge in North Vancouver, British Columbia Canada. (Click to enlarge.)
"Lives Worth Living" premieres on the PBS series "Independent Lens" on October 27th at 10:00 p.m. (ET/PT). For more information, visit the film's PBS website and filmmaker Eric Neudel's website.
by Jeff Shannon
To be disabled in America, in 2011, is to occupy the midpoint of a metaphorical highway, some stretches smooth and evenly paved, others rocky and difficult to navigate. When you look back at the road behind, you feel proud and satisfied that people with disabilities (PWD) have made significant progress since the days when we had no voice, no place in society, no civil rights whatsoever. Looking ahead, you see fewer physical obstacles but other remaining barriers, in terms of backward attitudes and ongoing exclusion, that society is still stubbornly reluctant to remove.
Like those of us with disabilities, Eric Neudel's documentary "Lives Worth Living" is situated at that halfway point on the rocky road of progress. In just 54 inspiring and informative minutes, Neudel's exceptional film (airing Oct. 27th at 10pm on the PBS series "Independent Lens") provides a concise primer on the history of the disability rights movement in America. The film culminates with the passage of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), which was signed into law by President George H.W. Bush on July 26th, 1990.
And yet, it's only half the story. In a perfect world, PBS would immediately finance a sequel so Neudel (who has devoted his career to documenting political and civil rights struggles) could chronicle the first 20 years of the ADA. That history is still unfolding, and the struggle to enforce and fully implement the ADA is just as compelling as the struggle for disability rights throughout the 1960s, '70s and '80s.
(I'll go a step further and say that the subject is worthy of a multi-part Ken Burns approach, echoing the sentiment of veteran disability-rights advocate Lex Frieden, who observes in "Lives Worth Living" that "If you have a good story to tell, it's not hard to get people to watch or listen to it." And the tale of pre- and post-ADA disability in America is a very good story indeed, as packed with human drama as any other fight for equality in all of American history.)
A few days ago, I was one of many critics who panned the film SUCKER PUNCH. Though I hadn't written my own, I advocated several reviews that I felt reflected my sentiments.
Though I agreed in their disapproval, two words kept on reappearing with each negative review I read: "video game." To say that the film draws greatly upon video game aspects is accurate. But with each citation, my fellow critics continue to beat the dead horse of an argument that video games are a meaningless form of mindless entertainment.
I grew up on movies and on video games, and love and respect what they bring to the table. Though I enjoy them on different levels, they both have given me moments of wonder and serious reflection. As an avid gamer and film lover, I find it a shame to see how one medium has gained artistic acceptance while the other continues to be derided by the mainstream. There are many reasons why they are looked down upon, but if you give them a shot, you just might conclude that video games should be considered art.
This week, in a review of the film represented by the still above, I got to mention Buddy Hackett. Perhaps you will see why. Also, I found the opportunity to work in references to Don Knotts, Franklin Pangborn, Jerry Lewis, M. Emmet Walsh, Roman Polanski's "Fearless Vampire Killers, or Pardon Me But Your Teeth Are in My Neck" (aka "Dance of the Vampires"), the Three Stooges and "No Country for Old Men."
What is this movie, you say? Well, take a look here.
"Once I had a secret love..." -- Doris Day, "Secret Love" (1953)
"Everywhere people stare Each and every day I can see them laugh at me And I hear them say Hey, you've got to hide your love away" -- John Lennon, "You've Got to Hide Your Love Away" (1965)
"Girls like me Have to hide our hearts away..." -- Kelly Porter, a fictionalized character based on Lesley Gore in "Grace of My Heart" (1996), singing the song "My Secret Love," co-written by Gore, Larry Klein and David Baerwald
From "Romeo and Juliet" to "Avatar," few romantic myths are as compelling as the Secret Love -- the love that dare not speak its name because society, or families, or the lovers themselves just aren't ready to face it yet. A lot of perfectly ordinary relationships go through this phase, too, for all sorts of reasons. I know a pair of high school seniors who've been seeing each other surreptitiously because his socially conservative South Asian Subcontinental parents don't want him dating while he's in school. But it's really no big deal for either of them.
So, I don't quite get why the French "Come As You Are" McDonald's commercial about the dad, the gay teenager and the secret boyfriend is such a matter of consternation for Bill O'Reilly. Other than, of course, that he is Bill O'Reilly, so it's kind of his job to say things that make him appear ridiculous. The ad employs a perfectly familiar formula -- only this "secret love" story isn't the traditional tale of tortured melodrama; it's a sweet little comedy, an unobtrusive private exchange played out in a bustling public place.
Click above to REALLY enlarge...
UPDATED 01/28/10: 2:25 p.m. PST -- COMPLETED!: Thanks for all the detective work -- and special thanks to Christopher Stangl and Srikanth Srinivasan himself for their comprehensive efforts at filling the last few holes! Now I have to go read about who some of these experimental filmmakers are. I did find some Craig Baldwin movies on Netflix, actually...
Srikanth Srinivasan of Bangalore writes one of the most impressive movie blogs on the web: The Seventh Art. I don't remember how I happened upon it last week, but wow am I glad I did. Dig into his exploration of connections between Quentin Tarantino's "Inglourious Basterds" and Jean-Luc Godard's "History of Cinema." Or check out his piece on James Benning's 1986 "Landscape Suicide." There's a lot to look through, divided into sections for Hollywood and World Cinema.
In the section called "The Cinemaniac... I found the above collage (mosaic?) of mostly-famous faces belonging to film directors, which Srikanth says he assembled from thumbnails at Senses of Cinema. Many of them looked quite familiar to me, and if I'm not mistaken they were among the biographical portraits we used in the multimedia CD-ROM movie encyclopedia Microsoft Cinemania, which I edited from 1994 to 1998, first on disc, then also on the web. (Anybody with a copy of Cinemania able to confirm that? My Mac copy of Cinemania97 won't run on Snow Leopard.)
Without making a big deal of it, New York Times critic A.O. Scott slyly slips several sharp observations about the role of movie critics into this paragraph from his review of "The Fantastic Mr. Fox":
Is it is a movie for children? This inevitable question depends on the assumption that children have uniform tastes and expectations. How can that be? And besides, the point of everything [director Wes] Anderson has ever done is that truth and beauty reside in the odd, the mismatched, the idiosyncratic. He makes that point in ways that are sometimes touching, sometimes annoying, but usually worth arguing about. Not everyone will like "Fantastic Mr. Fox"; and if everyone did it, would not be nearly as interesting as it is. There are some children -- some people -- who will embrace it with a special, strange intensity, as if it had been made for them alone.
O'Rourke's was our stage, and we displayed our personas there nightly. It was a shabby street-corner tavern on a dicey stretch of North Avenue, a block after Chicago's Old Town stopped being a tourist haven. In its early days it was heated by a wood-burning pot-bellied stove, and ice formed on the insides of the windows. One night a kid from the street barged in, whacked a customer in the front booth with a baseball bat, and ran out again. When a roomer who lived upstairs died, his body was discovered when maggots started to drop through the ceiling. A man nobody knew was shot dead one night out in back. From the day it opened on December 30, 1966 until the day I stopped drinking in 1979, I drank there more or less every night when I was in town. So did a lot of people.
Jay Kovar and Jeanette Sullivan behind the bar
The slumdog didn’t stop at winning a million, but zoomed straight on up to Oscar gold Sunday night: “Slumdog Millionaire,” perhaps the most literal rags-to-riches story ever told, swept the night, winning the Academy Award as the best picture of 2008, and seven more Oscars.
The only additional Oscar prediction I'm prepared to make this year is that Hugh Jackman will be a delightful host for the evening. Famous for playing Wolverine in the X-Men movies, he may not strike you as the life of the party, but I base my prediction on two factors: He's Australian, and he's the youngest of five. Therefore, he's funny, born and bred.
What, no love for 'What happens in Vegas'?
In a startling upset, "The Dark Knight" failed to make the cut in the Best Picture category Thursday, as this year's Academy Awards nominees were announced. The Batman drama, second top-grossing film of all time after "Titanic," was also a critical favorite and looked to many like a shoo-in.
Fair warning: I begin with a parable, continue with vast generalizations, finally get around to an argument with Entertainment Weekly, and move on to Greek gods, "I Love Lucy" and a house on fire.
The parable, The lodestars of John Doe's life are his wife, his children, his boss, his mistress, and his pastor. There are more, but these will do. He expects his wife to be grateful for his loyalty. His children to accept him as a mentor. His boss to value him as a worker. His mistress to praise him as a sex machine. His pastor to note his devotion. These are the roles he has assigned them, and for the most part they play them.
In their own lives, his wife feels he has been over-rewarded for his loyalty, since she has done all the heavy lifting. His children don't understand why there are so many stupid rules. His boss considers John Doe as downsizable, and fears he may also get the axe. His mistress asks herself why she doesn't dump this creep and find an availableman. His pastor has a pretty good idea what goes on during the other six days of the week.
Eternal sun shines on the Malkovich mind
View image Looming large.
I believe it was Gordon Gecko who proclaimed: "Ham is good!"
The "Wall Street" supervillain (superhero?) was not advocating violation of any dietary laws, of course, but simply stating a fact: Sometimes Big Acting can be quite enjoyable. Other times, of course, it can be cringe-worthy, irritating, risible, embarrassing. Only you can decide which is which. For you.
Take for example the story of Faye Dunaway as Joan Crawford in "Mommie Dearest" -- she of "No wire hangers!" and "Eat your meat!" (both precursors of "I drink your milkshake!"). Pre-release publicity reports claimed that Dunaway was giving a serious dramatic performance. But from the very first screenings it was painfully (yet fasciatingly) clear that somebody was going off her rocker -- but which actress was it: Crawford or Dunaway?
Performances pitched at the balcony, or the moon, always take the risk of falling somewhere between "tour-de-force" and "trying way too hard," virtuosity and showboating. And opinions may very about where they come down. (See "A Journey to the End of Taste," below.) You may wince at the Method nakedness displayed by Marlon Brando or James Dean in some of their most intense emotional moments ("You're tearing me apart!"). Or you may rejoice at even the most outré dramatic and/or comedic efforts of Daniel Day-Lewis, Sean Penn, Johnny Depp, Bette Davis, Jack Nicholson, Klaus Kinski, Will Ferrell, Robert De Niro, Christopher Walken, Kevin Spacey, Whoopi Goldberg, Al Pacino, Robin Williams, Dustin Hoffman, Barbra Streisand, Nicolas Cage, Ben Stiller, Tyler Perry, Owen Wilson, Gene Wilder... while others find them excruciating, overwrought or unintentionally campy.
The bigger the performance, the bigger the risks. Or maybe not. Just look over the history of Oscar nominations for acting.
Q: If Cate Blanchett were to win the Oscar for her portrayal of Elizabeth I at next year's Oscars, would Helen Mirren as Elizabeth II give her the Oscar? And do you think the actual Queen Elizabeth will be watching the Oscars just to see such an event?
View image "Zabriskie Point" -- an Antonioni movie on the cover of LOOK magazine in 1969: "Had he violated the Mann Act when he staged a nude love-in in a national park? Does the film show an "anti-American" bias? As a member of the movie Establishment, is he distorting the aims of the young people's 'revolution'?"
Watching Ingmar Bergman's "Shame" (1968) over the weekend (which I was pleased to find that I had not seen before -- after 20 or 30 years, I sometimes forget), I recalled something that happened around 1982. Through the University of Washington Cinema Studies program, we brought the now-famous (then not-so-) story structure guru Robert McKee to campus to conduct a weekend screenwriting seminar. McKee, played by Brian Cox in Spike Jonze's and Charlie Kaufman's "Adapation." as the ultimate authority on how to write a salable screenplay, has probably been the single-most dominant influence in American screenwriting -- "Hollywood" and "independent" -- over the last two decades. Many would say "pernicious influence." (Syd Field is another.)
It's not necessarily McKee's fault that so many aspiring screenwriters and studio development executives have chosen to emphasize a cogent, three-act structure over all other aspects of the script, including things like character, ideas, and even coherent narrative. Structure, after all, is supposed to be merely the backbone of storytelling, not the be-all, end-all of screenwriting. But people focus on the things that are easiest to fix, that make something feel like a movie, moving from beat to beat, even if the finished product is just a waste of time.
The film McKee chose to illustrate the principles of a well-structured story that time was Ingmar Bergman's "The Virgin Spring."
"Shame" is another reminder that Bergman's movies weren't solely aimed at "art" -- they were made to appeal to an audience. Right up to its bleak ending, "Shame" is a rip-roaring story, with plenty of action, plot-twists, big emotional scenes for actors to play, gorgeously meticulous cinematography, explosive special effects and flat-out absurdist comedy. I don't know how "arty" it seemed in 1968, but it plays almost like classical mainstream moviemaking today. (And remember: Downbeat, nihilistic or inconclusive finales were very fashionable and popular in mainstream cinema in the late 1960's: "Bonnie and Clyde," "Blow-Up," "Easy Rider," "Dirty Mary, Crazy Larry"...),
It's important to remember that Bergman and his fellow Euro-titan Michelangelo Antonioni, who both died on the same day last week, were big-name commercial directors -- who also helped moviegoers worldwide see the relatively young, originally low-brow, populist medium in a new light: as a (potential) art form. (The Beatles, who in 1964-'65 were the most popular youth phenomenon on the planet, even wanted Antonioni to direct their second feature, after "A Hard Day's Night"!) And if they hadn't been so popular and famous, they would not have been so influential. These guys won plenty of high-falutin' awards at film festivals, but they were also nominated for Oscars in glitzy Hollywood.
The New Beverly Cinema. Where else would "The Tenant" receive top billing over "Rosemary's Baby"? (Photo by Dennis Cozzalio)
Sherman Torgan, 63, the owner and operator of my old neighborhood repertory movie house, the New Beverly Cinema, died of a heart attack while bike riding in Santa Monica. The New Beverly, on Beverly Blvd. between Formosa and Detroit, was the source of many happy movie memories for me, especially during the late 1980s and early 1990s when I lived nearby, at Oakwood and Sierra Bonita.
According to the New Beverly's own site, the place was a vaudeville theater and then the original location of Slapsie Maxie's nightclub, where Dean Martin and Jerry Lewis made their West Coast debut. For nine years it was an adult movie theater (The Eros), until Torgan took it over and turned it into a movie-lover's rep house in 1978.
Torgan's son Michael posted a message on the theater's site today that reads, in part: Due to the sudden and completely unexpected passing of my dear beloved father Sherman, the New Beverly's programming will be cancelled until further notice.
Sherman was my father and my best friend, and his passing has left me and my family completely devastated. He was the main force behind the New Beverly from May 5, 1978 until the present. I simply do not know when I will be able to fill his shoes. My pain and sorrow are truly too much to bear right now. He was still so young and full of life, and was doing what he loved so much, riding his bike on the Santa Monica bike path, when he died. My mom and I are in utter shock. For background and updates, please visit Dennis Cozzalio's Sergio Leone and the Infield Fly Rule.