Film on TV: June 13-19

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The Man with the Golden Arm, playing on TCM on Friday.

Though I included a number of newly featured ones this week, there are two I’d point out especially. First, Otto Preminger’s The Man with the Golden Arm on TCM on Friday, which has an unusually direct depiction of drug addiction for the 1950s, a great role for Frank Sinatra, and a great Elmer Bernstein jazz score. Second, Victor Erice’s highly imaginative Spirit of the Beehive on TCM late Sunday/early Monday, which is followed immediately by the original 1931 Frankenstein, a perfect double feature, since the latter plays such a large role in the former.

Monday, June 13

8:30am – IFC – My Life as a Dog
Lasse Hallstrom gives us this simple but effective coming-of-age story, focusing on the every day life of a young boy as he’s sent to live in a provincial village after acting out at home.
1985 Sweden. Director: Lasse Hallstrom. Starring: Anton Glanzelius, Tomas von Brömssen, Anki Lidén, Melinda Kinnaman.
(repeats at 3:45pm)

10:45am – IFC – Away from Her
A very strong directing debut film from actress Sarah Polley, about an older woman (Julie Christie) suffering from Alzheimer’s and her husband’s difficulty in dealing with essentially the loss of his wife as she has more and more difficulty remembering their life together. It’s a lovely, heartbreaking film, bolstered by great understated performances.
2006 Canada. Director: Sarah Polley. Starring: Julie Christie, Gordon Pinsent, Olympia Dukakis, Stacey LaBerge.

11:35am – MGM – The Long Goodbye
Robert Altman’s brilliant take on Raymond Chandler’s quintessential gumshoe Philip Marlowe complicates the hard-boiled detective genre with an apathetic and often ineffectual lead, while still bearing nostalgia for a time when the genre could be taken seriously. Works as homage, satire, elegy, and straight genre piece, which is something very hard to pull off.
1973 USA. Director: Robert Altman. Starring: Elliott Gould, Sterling Hayden, Nina Van Pallandt.
Must See
(repeats at 2:00am on the 19th)

1:30pm – TCM – Sherlock Holmes films
Basil Rathbone made umpteen films as Sherlock Holmes in one of the longest running and most popular serial film series of all time, and TCM is playing four of the better-known ones today, including The Woman in Green and Terror by Night.
1942-1946 USA. Starring: Basil Rathbone, Nigel Bruce.
Newly Featured!

12:05am – IFC – Carrie
There aren’t that many movies that you can say are equally loved by horror fans and feminist academics, but Carrie is one of them – Carrie’s physical coming-of-age sparks telekinetic abilities, allowing her to take bloody revenge on the schoolkids who mistreated her. And who can’t relate to that, really?
1976 USA. Director: Brian DePalma. Starring: Sissy Spacek, Piper Laurie, Amy Irving.

12:15am (14th) – TCM – Captains Courageous
Spencer Tracy won an Oscar for this film, based on Rudyard Kipling’s adventure story about a spoiled rich kid who falls off a steamship and ends up having to work on a fishing vessel to get home. A young Mickey Rooney plays the ship captain’s rough-and-tumble son.
1937 USA. Director: Victor Fleming. Starring: Spencer Tracy, Freddie Bartholomew, Lionel Barrymore, Melvyn Douglas, Mickey Rooney.

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Review: Super 8

 

*Mild Spoilers*

One thing is perfectly clear about JJ Abram’s Super 8. Elle Fanning is destined to become both a top shelf actress and a major star. Not since Drew Barrymore in E.T. (or Jenna Malone in Contact) has a young actress knocked a role out of the park. I know Fanning has been around a while (she was one of the kids in Babel, Benjamin Button and Reservation Road – prestige pics all) she is a marvel in Sophia Coppola’s Somewhere, perhaps the first picture in which she comes out from the shadow of her more callow older sister Dakota (a veteran of several Spielbergian pictures herself, although more relegated to screaming and looking cute, and less to actually acting.) Fanning’s Alice Dainard encapsulates the budding fascination of boys for girls, and impressing them by making zombie films it seems, that when director JJ Abrams yanks her abruptly out of the picture to become damsel in distress, it signals the point from when the film goes from firing on all cylinders, as a Goonies style endless summer, to being a slave to its inane and nonsensical plotting. This however, does not stop the film from being a wonderful piece of throwback filmmaking for fans of the old Amblin Entertainment imprint – the Spielberg production house which produced films about suburban kids taking/dealing with adventure, danger, and often adult issues in the form of problems, think E.T., The Goonies, Young Sherlock Holmes and Gremlins – but Abrams’ desire to amp up the scares and the body count (beyond all Amblin titles except Poltergeist) seems to peg the film more at thirty-something film nerds than the target audience of 12 year old boys. Am I being cynical about this? Maybe I should be thankful that the film is not a franchise entry, sequel or reboot, but when a film comes this close to being a great summer movie, you tend to be a bit harder on it, a bit more critical of its flaws that prevent it from getting there.

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Footloose is Actually Starting to Excite Me

The remake of Footloose has started to pique my interest. Got word today that the musical artist of the past decade, Jack White and his stripes, is headlining in some of the music in the OST. As well as rap recording artist, David Banner. Just throwing in a White Stripes song isn’t really what excites me – although that helps. What excites me is the fact that it’s Craig Brewer directing the film and if there’s anything he seems to pull heart out of for his movies, it’s his musical selections.

Now me personally, I can’t stand rap. I’ve tried to listen to so many varieties, artists and sub genres and I can never seem to grasp what the flavor is (except for The Beastie Boys). That changed in 2005 with Brewer’s Hustle and Flow and took the heart and soul of rap and exposed it nobody less than the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Science, who bestowed upon it an Oscar for best song in a motion picture. Next up for Brewer was one my favorite soundtracks of 2007 in the fabulously gritty Black Snake Moan. The sweaty blues and healthy doses of soul pulled you into that world so effortlessly it gives me goosebumps.

Footloose was the first soundtrack I ever purchased and if memory serves, it was only the second cassette tape I ever bought for myself with my own money (after MJ’s “Thriller” of course). Footloose just about lives and dies by it’s soundtrack and its “angry dance” sequence. It was an HBO/Showtime favorite for pretty much everyone back in the 80’s. Hearing that it would be remade gave me kind of a “meh” attitude. But now with all this great music being poured into it, and with Craig Brewer really knowing how to get soul from his movie through the music and his interesting eye for everything Southern States culture, I’m really looking forward to this film and also to see what other musical tricks may be coming down the pipe. Can you see Kevin Bacon finishing off the film dancing to The White Stripes’ “Catch Hell Blues?” Me either. But it won’t be Kevin Bacon Dancing and this won’t be your papa’s Footloose. This will be Craig Brewer’s Footloose and sweat will fly.

Hot Docs 2011 – Capsule Reviews #3


 

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One final burst of short reviews from this year’s Hot Docs Film Festival:

 
 

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Recessionize For Fun And Profit! (2010 – Jamie Kastner) – The secondary title of Kastner’s film states “15 Simple Steps!” and refers to the 15 sections into which his 60 minute Michael Moore-esque jaunt of a doc is broken. And “broken” is a pretty apt description. It’s supposed to be a tongue-in-cheek look at the various ways people retool their businesses during tough times to continue to make money (from German hookers offering “green” discounts to classes teaching young children the joys of capitalism), but it comes across as condescending, smug and quite lacking in anything to say. At least it’s not dull, though, since it does feature some occasionally interesting people and ideas (some good and some so very not good) and switches gears and stories every 3 to 4 minutes. Unfortunately, Kastner inserts himself into the movie and though he tries, he doesn’t even have Moore’s sense of humour (which admittedly isn’t exactly finely tuned). I’ve tired of Moore by this point and find him just as bad as the far Right fear-mongers he targets, but at least I get his points (whether I agree or not). Kastner just comes across as thinking he is better than essentially everyone else in the film without showing any just cause.

 

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Bury The Hatchet (2011 – Aaron Walker) – I’ve been to New Orleans twice (though not since Katrina) and love their approach towards ensuring their mix of cultures is less of a bland “melting pot” and more a tasty gumbo. One such example is the Indian Big Chief during Mardi Gras – a tribute to the Native Americans who helped runaway slaves. Over several years, Walker’s film follows several tribe leaders through their annual preparations for the big day (mostly via the creation and donning of their wondrous costumes of brilliant coloured feathers and sparkles), their tussles with local police, other leaders and tribes and, of course, Katrina. Even with an Interstate running right over their old parade route, the chiefs maintain their traditions and ensure they get passed down through to the next generation. As the chiefs strut their stuff in these huge costumes, you can’t help but be reminded of a peacock proudly displaying its tail. They may seem boastful as they talk of their costume designing, sewing, singing and songwriting skills, but the pride comes from a deep respect of their heritage. If you’ve ever wondered what a flagboy is, they will be glad to tell you and provide even further education on their living breathing culture. And the music is fantastic.

 

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Matt Brown Talks SUPER 8 and SPIELBERG

 

Mamo!’s Matt Brown is over at The Substream (god bless ’em!) and up to his usual shenanigans. That is to say, wonderful and personal commentary on a movie currently in wide release. This time Brown tackles Steven Spielberg, JJ Abrams, Super 8, and his own childhood.

We will embed the high-resolution video when it pops up on Youtube, but for now (unless you use an iPhone/Pod/Pad), you can watch it in flash over at The Substream:

Preview: LA Film Festival 2011

The LA Film Festival is headed our way June 17-26, and I’ve watched the press releases with lineup info with great interest – this year I get to go to as much of the festival as I want, rather than the few films I could manage last year, so I’m setting myself up with a monster of a schedule. And it’s going to be a good one, I think; there are a lot of films on the list from notable directors and actors, several that have been hits on earlier festival stops, and of course, this being Los Angeles, a few obligatory big studio crowdpleasers in addition to the indie and world cinema offerings. The full lineup info is here.

The big gala presentations range from upcoming comic book geekery with Green Lantern to Nicholas Winding Refn’s thriller Drive (fresh off rave reviews from Cannes) to the premiere of Richard Linklater’s latest Bernie, with stops along the way for indie dramas (A Better Life), British genre films (Attack the Block), action thrillers (The Devil’s Double), and Guillermo Del Toro-produced scary fun (Don’t Be Afraid of the Dark). Even without delving past the galas, there’s something here for everyone. Bernie and Don’t Be Afraid of the Dark are the Opening and Closing Night films, respectively, so they’re reserved for passholders, but no fear – they’ll both be in theatres soon enough.

Beyond the galas, though, there are a lot of eye-catching films in the lineup. Here are some of the ones I’m hoping to see, followed by some other notable titles that I don’t think I’m going to be able to fit into my schedule. Feel free to try to change my mind, though, if you’ve seen any of these on earlier festival stops.

On my tentative schedule:

Drive (USA) – Okay, this is a gala, and I mentioned it already, but it is the only gala I’m planning to see, so I’ll toss it in again. The “trailer” for this so far is really just a clip of Ryan Gosling driving a group of thugs away from a crime, but even that is as compelling as all get-out, so I can’t wait to see the rest of it.

Winnie the Pooh (USA) – The Festival is sneaking in Disney’s retro animated feature under the “Summer Showcase” sidebar rather than as a gala, which is an intriguing choice. I worry about what that says about Disney’s hopes for the film, but it may make it easier for me to watch at the fest if I choose to do so.

The Future (USA) – The new film from Miranda July (You and Me and Everyone We Know) is making its debut at the festival, promising a meditative crisis of perceived mortality.

The Innkeepers (USA) – Ti West’s follow-up to Row Three favorite House of the Devil, which looks to be another old-fashioned horror offering.

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Review: Midnight In Paris

 

*Mild Spoilers*

At the beginning of Bernardo Bertolucci’s The Sheltering Sky, John Malkovich, Debra Winger and Campbell Scott have a fascinating conversation about the nuance between being a tourist and being a traveler. The working definition given to us is that a tourist is thinking about going home the minute they arrive, where as the traveler might never return home. Owen Wilson in Midnight In Paris, is the traveler of the film, albeit he wants not only to stay in Paris, but in the 1920s era of the European city (the film is set in 2011), when American writers careened from cocktail party to wine-bar as fuel for their own creative (and lusty) output. His fiance is most definitely the tourist, berating her husband-to-be’s notion of romanticizing the city, and wanting to go back to their consumerist lifestyle back in Malibu. The director, Woody Allen is caught somewhere in the middle. He has the eye of a tourist, in terms of the opening montage that goes perhaps a scene or two too long offering glimpses of cafes and fountains and the Eiffel Tower, but then shifts into a rumination on the nature and dangers of nostalgia that offers an interesting take on his own lengthy career. When you have made 45 or so films spanning 5 decades, I am certainly inclined to listen to what you have to say. But by the halfway mark, I believe Allen has said what he will, and is most inclined to stay in safe, crowd-pleasing kitsch territory that panders to the filmmakers base as much as it exhausts his argument and artistry. I pine for honest surprise of Allen’s breaking of the fourth wall by (literally) dragging Marshall McLuhan into the frame, rather than his facile two dimensional artist cameos on display here. But I am getting ahead of myself.

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Screen Shot Quiz #258

The goal of the screen shot quiz it not to just guess what the movie is that the screen shot is from but to encourage discussion on the film. Feel free to shout out in the comments what the movie is and then provide an opinion or some thoughts on the movie. Oh and the first person who gets the movie right wins our respect.