The Magnificent Seven
Rarely have so many charismatic actors been used in a film that feels quite as soulless as Antoine Fuqua’s update of The Magnificent Seven.
* 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.
An FFC on recent comments by Michael Eisner.
Barbara Scharres has a few choice words for François Ozon's "Young & Beautiful" and Sofia Coppola's "The Bling Ring," but finds a gem in Ryan Coogler's "Fruitvale Station."
Marie writes: Intrepid club member Sandy Khan has sent us the following awesome find, courtesy of a pal in Belgium who'd first shared it with her. "Got Muck?" was filmed by diver Khaled Sultani (Emirates Diving Association's (EDA) in the Lembeh Strait, off the island coast of Sulawesi in Indonesia. Camera: Sony Cx550 using Light & Motion housing and sola lights. Song: "man with the movie camera" by cinematic orchestra.
Marie writes: At long last, after two years of mediocre weather compounded by bad timing, the planets managed to align themselves again in my favor and I was finally able to return to Pender Island and where my tale begins....
HAPPY BELATED BIRTHDAY TO THE EBERT CLUB!
Yes, but is it Art? Marcell Duchamp's famous "Fountain" aka urinal
Marie writes: I can't prove it but I'm convinced they're related.
Marie writes: If you're like me, you enjoy the convenience of email while lamenting the lost romance of ink and pen on paper. For while it's possible to attach a drawing, it's not the same thing as receiving hand-drawn artwork in the mail. Especially when it's from Edward Gorey..."Edward Gorey and Peter Neumeyer met in the summer of 1968. Gorey had been contracted by Addison-Wesley to illustrate "Donald and the...", a children's story written by Neumeyer. On their first encounter, Neumeyer managed to dislocate Gorey's shoulder when he grabbed his arm to keep him from falling into the ocean. In a hospital waiting room, they pored over Gorey's drawings for the first time together, and Gorey infused the situation with much hilarity. This was the beginning of an invigorating friendship, fueled by a wealth of letters and postcards that sped between the two men through the fall of 1969."
Marie writes: It occurred to me that I've never actually told members about the Old Vic Tunnels. Instead, I've shared news of various exhibits held inside them, like the recent Minotaur. So I'm going to fix that and take you on a tour! (click image to enlarge.)
The Grand Poobah shared the following recently and which struck me as just the thing to put in here - for it amounts to someone inventing a moving still akin to those seen on the front page of Harry Potter's famous newspaper."You know how people sometimes say that jazz is the only truly American art form? Animated GIFs are like the jazz of the internet: they could only exist, and be created and appreciated, online. That said, PopTart Cat is not exactly on par with Thelonious Monk. But photographer Jamie Beck and motion graphics artist Kevin Burg may have finally found a way to elevate the animated GIF to a level approaching fine art, with their "cinemagraphs" -- elegant, subtly animated creations that are "something more than a photo but less than a video." - fastcodesignAnd sadly, they won't work in here; Movable Type doesn't like animated gifs. It's easily solved however, just visit Far Better Than 3-D: Animated GIFs That Savor A Passing Moment to see an assortment in play!
From the Grand Poobah: Netflix is great, but they don't have everything and seem to be weak on silent films. Here's a pay site streaming a large and useful selection of high-quality films, world-wide....
Marie writes: when Roger told me about this place, I signed-up to see if I could watch one their free movies? Yup! I can stream MUBI in Canada; though content will vary depending on where you live (that's also case with Netflix Canada) and so nothing new there. And after looking through their current catalog, I can report that they do indeed have some rare movies - stuff I've never found anywhere else. I even read that Martin Scorcese is a member.
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.)
If there is a King of Comedy right now in Hollywood, that would be Judd Apatow. I have a list here of a dozen comedies he has produced and/or directed just in the last five years, and I left out the titles I didn't like. He has been writing since he was a kid, producing since he was 23, and then he directed "The 40-Year-Old Virgin" (2005) and "Knocked Up" (2007) himself. He is only 41. I think he's hitting his stride.
Q. A few minutes ago I read Stephen Hunter’s 2001 review of “2001: A Space Odyssey” and almost vomited. Here’s an excerpt: “Now, seen in the actual 2001, it’s less a visionary masterpiece than a crackpot Looney Tune, pretentious, abysmally slow, amateurishly acted and, above all, wrong." A crackpot Looney Tune? Amateurishly acted? Wrong? What does that even mean, "wrong?" Wrong about what? Is this guy seriously criticizing this 1968 film for not exactly predicting all of the inventions of the new millennium? How could a Pulitzer-prize winning critic miss the point so badly? (Robert Ford, Coquitlam, BC)
View image Those plucky, sympathetic teens of yesteryear.
You know what? "Sex and the City" was for girls! Yes, it's true. First it was for (and about) gay boys, but eventually it revolved around a certain brand of perfume-insert, fashion-magazine womankind: rich, white, co-dependent, status-obsessed, desperate for a man to complete her.
Know what else? Judd Apatow makes movies about guys -- and heterosexual relationships with women, but mainly about what used to be known as "male bonding." (The fashionable term now is "bro-mance," which is cuter and invoked largely by what used to be called "metrosexuals.") The Apatow guy tends to be underemployed, white, Jewish (or Canadian), slobby, geeky, smelly, childish (not just "childlike") and more or less happy, unaware that he's desperate for a woman to complete him. Then, once he becomes aware, he's not entirely sure that's possible, or desirable.
This, I submit, is a minor breakthrough in romantic comedy. OK, perhaps I am single and bitter, but I'm also right.
In the New York Sun (also known as "the conservative New York Sun"), Steve Dollar mentions that Catherine Keener's character in "The 40-Year-Old Virgin" "pretty much takes the blame for making the poor guy sell all his collectible model toys (but whose side is Apatow on?), and spends much of her screen time mothering her infantile boyfriend."
Is that what happens? Even if so, whose side is Mr. Dollar on? (And who said it was necessary to divine and choose "sides"?)
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.
View image And the Exploding Head goes to... Seth Rogen and Paul Rudd in "Knocked Up"?
I'll publish my annotated "best of" list next week, but while thinking back over the year's movies I recalled some things that seemed to me "beyond category." Or the usual categories, anyway. One way or another, they made my head feel that it might explode. So, while everybody's preoccupied with all those other awards, here are the 2007 Exploding Heads for Achievement in Movies:
Best endings: • "The Sopranos" (final episode): blackout • "No Country for Old Men": "Then I woke up." • "I'm Not There": Dylan's harmonica on "Mr. Tambourine Man" • "Superbad": Baby-steps toward adulthood, separating at the mall escalator • "Zodiac": Stare-down
Most electrifying moment: A dog. A river. "No Country for Old Men."
Best grandma: "Persepolis"
Best surrogate grandpa: Hal Holbrook, "Into the Wild"
"Arrested Development" Award for Best Throwaway Lines: • "Keep it in the oven..." -- Jason Bateman, "Juno" • "... Terrorism..." -- Michael Cera, "Superbad" (actually, Cera has so many astonishingly brilliant under-his-breath moments in "Superbad" and "Juno" it's uncanny)
Best performance by an inanimate object: (tie) The cloud (and its shadow), the candy wrapper, the blown lock housing in the motel room door, "No Country for Old Men"
Most cringe-worthy lines: • "My cooperation with the Nazis is only symbolic." -- "Youth Without Youth" • "That ain't no Etch-a-Sketch. This is one doodle that can't be undid, home skillet." -- "Juno" (the cutesy moment at the beginning when I nearly ran screaming for an exit; cutting this entire unnecessary scene would improve "Juno" immensely)
Funniest double-edged observation: "He's playing fetch... with my kids... he's treating my kids like they're dogs." -- Debbie (Leslie Mann) in "Knocked Up," watching Ben (Seth Rogen) play with her daughter, who is loving it. That's her point of view, and she's right, but she says it like it's a bad thing.
View image Ain't nothin' but the real thing, baby: Brian Dierker and Catherine Keener in "Into the Wild."
The Real Thing: "Non-actor" Brian Dierker, rubber tramp, "Into the Wild" (and, of course, his "old lady" Catherine Keener, actor extraordinaire)
Best film about the way The Industry really works since "The Big Picture": Jake Kasdan's "The TV Set." The moment I knew it was going to be exceptional (sharp, precise and, therefore, extraordinarily funny) was when the writer's choice for the lead role gives an audition that's just... underwhelming. He isn't good. He isn't terrible. He just isn't enough. Which then allows the network execs to push for the "broader" alternative ("To me, the broad is the funny"). And even he proves himself capable of being not-awful -- in rehearsal, at least...
Best political film: (tie) "12:08 East of Bucharest" and "Persepolis" -- a pair of smart, funny movies about the effects of political revolutions on individuals in (respectively) Romania and Iran.
Deadliest stare: (tie) Anton Chigurh (Javier Bardem), "No Country for Old Men"; Briony Tallis (Saoirse Ronan), "Atonement"
Young comedy whippersnapper stars of the year: Michael Cera (19), Ellen Page (20), Seth Rogen (25), Jonah Hill (24), Christopher Mintz-Plasse (18)
Game savers: J.K. Simmons and Allison Janney, who come to the rescue of "Juno" not a moment too soon
Best torture porn: The excruciatingly funny baptism scene with Paul Dano and Daniel Day Lewis (both of 'em overactin' up a storm -- but in a fun way), "There Will Be Blood"
Most worthless critical label: "Independent." A movie should not be viewed through its budget, financing or distribution. And in these days of studio "dependents" (Miramax, Focus Features, Paramount Vantage, Fox Searchlight, etc.), the term "indie" is frequently misleading at the very least.
Best bureaucrat: Dr. Fischer (Alberta Watson), "Away From Her"
Best negotiations: • Chigurh and the gas station owner, "No Country for Old Men" • Chigurh and the trailer park lady, "No Country for Old Men" • Chigurh and Carla Jean, "No Country for Old Men" • "4 months, 3 weeks, 2 days": The painfully protracted, ever-shifting moral balance (and exhausting power-struggle) in the hotel room, between the friend and the abortionist -- while the pregnant woman herself passive-aggressively bows out of any responsibilities for what has happened, or will happen.
"Perfume" Award for Best Portrayal of Synesthesia: "Ratatouille"
Best Supporting Crotch: Sacha Baron Cohen, "Sweeney Todd." An squirm-inducing scene-stealer that makes you long for a change of angle: Please give us an above-the-waist shot! (Did they have spandex in mid-19th century London?)
At whom is this ad campaign aimed?
Judd Apatow's "Knocked Up" ought to be the most-discussed (and argument-generating) movie of the year so far -- which means it's uncommonly smart and subversive and disturbing (and funny), especially for a summer sex comedy. I happen to think Paul Rudd and Leslie Mann, as Pete and Debbie, the bitter and resentful married couple with kids (Mann is Apatow's wife, and the kids in the movie are theirs) are the funniest characters/actors in the picture (and Kristen Wiig: amazing), mainly because their material, and their performances, are so painfully true that it's not funny. Which is what makes it so funny. It helps that all three are top-flight actors with a gift for uncanny understatement. Sometimes you don't even know if the scene is funny or not (like Debbie's suburban ambush of Pete) -- and those are inevitably the most revealing and rewarding kinds of laughs, when you surprise yourself by laughing at how awful and truthful the characters are behaving.
Anyway, I've found that some women don't like the movie, for sex-specific reasons I hope to discuss at length in the near future. Let me offer a few examples now from reviews that I think "get" "Knocked Up" -- and not from my usual suspects, either.
Anthony Lane, The New Yorker:
One night, Ben [Seth Rogen] goes to a bar, picks up a girl, and goes to bed with her. Both are drunk at the time, and both, in consequence, throw up: Ben the next morning (“I just yakked,” he says winningly over breakfast), and the girl—who is no girl but a young woman named Alison (Katherine Heigl), with a growing career on television—some weeks later, into a trash can at work. Here comes the bit that will divide Apatow’s audience and (he hopes) get them arguing over the movie: Alison decides to inform the father and, little by little, to enfold him and his oafish, froggy grin in the gentle business of parenting. Call it the taming of the Shrek. Most women, I imagine, will scoff with incredulity: this is neither a last hurrah (Alison is still in her twenties) nor the ideal time (she has a good job), and Ben is the last slob on earth she would have chosen. Most men, meanwhile, will be too busy watching through their fingers. To them, this is “The Omen.” What's interesting about this paragraph is that it's slightly wrong. We go to the bar with the women, not the men. The gals are swept inside (even though Mann's character is really too old to be there), while we catch a glimpse of Ben and his geek buddies near the front of the line. They've probably been standing out there for hours. (This doorman scene will pay off later -- though I think it's the weakest in the movie.)
My first reaction to the Ben-Alison match was that she would never want to see him again after their one-night stand. But, like so many women, Alison is someone who falls in love with a guy for who she wants him to be, not for who he really is. (She doesn't even know who he is -- and vice-versa.) At the point where she (improbably) lets him back into her life, it's because she now views him as "the father of her child" (which, in her view though not our society's, gives him some marginal rights) and as Pete and Debbie indicate cynically at the breakfast table in front of the kids, men and women who are in love get married and have babies. Or men and women who have babies get married and fall in love. Or something like that. Alison wants to be in love with the father of her child (their child, she insists), so she is determined to make herself believe that's the case, even when it isn't, because that's the way it should be. And maybe she can even make him believe it.