Cinecast Episode 298 – An Unorthodox Fishing Method

 
Watch List! Watch List! Watch List! Andrew, Kurt & Matt get together to talk a wide gamut of film watching: John Dies at the End, The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari, The Life and Death of Colonel Blimp, Breakfast at Tiffany’s, The Proposition, Dazed & Confused, Happy People: A Year in the Taiga, and several more. The show has long tangents on the career of Don Coscarelli, Stephen Baldwin’s sordid resume and the Justice system from Damien Echols to Jeffrey MacDonald to Matt’s Uncle.

As always, please join the conversation by leaving your own thoughts in the comment section below and again, thanks for listening!


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Trailer: Hugo (Cabret)

 

With its very high profile cast, and Martin Scorsese’s first foray into 3D terrain, the film adaptation of The Invention of Hugo Cabret, first shortened to Hugo Cabret, now apparently just Hugo (maybe by release time, this Thanksgiving, it will simply be called “H”) is as much an interest to cinephiles as it may be to family audiences. I’ve not read the novel, but it is loosely based on the life and obsessions of trailblazing magician, inventor and filmmaker Georges Méliès (Le Voyage Dans La Lune) as seen through the eyes of a child. We’ll see if it can break out in a crowded Christmas market – I might even break my 3D embargo to see how Scorcese handles/balances the 3D technology, the storytelling, the history and the fantasy.

There is a high profile cast in supporting roles: Christopher Lee, Ben Kingsley, Sacha Baron Cohen, Chloë Grace Moretz, Michael Stuhlbarg, Ray Winstone, Emily Mortimer, Jude Law and Johnny Depp.

Hugo Cabret is an orphan boy living a secret life in the walls of a Paris train station in the early 1900s. When Hugo encounters a broken automaton, an eccentric girl, and the cold, reserved man who runs the toy shop, he is caught up in a fantastic adventure that could put all of his secrets in jeopardy.

The new trailer is tucked under the seat.

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Cinecast Episode 157 – Whoop-de-doo

 
This has got to be a record for one of the shortest shows we have ever done. But hey, when you have got these sort of “nothing but what is on the surface” types of films, that is often all you can do with the conversation. We do not even head into spoiler territory for the two films, Cop Out and 44 Inch Chest we review and discuss. There are, however, more than a few great DVDs (and Blu Rays) coming out this week and on the horizon: The Independent Spirit Awards, the Oscars, the new Tim Burton kajillion dollar Alice In Wonderland, and Roman Polanski’s latest, The Ghost Writer. Enjoy the brevity folks, because it is not going to last.

 
 
 
 
 

As always, feel free to leave your own thoughts in the comment section below and again, thanks for listening!


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Sexy Beast writer and cast reunion: It is the 44 Inch Chest trailer!

44InchChest

Well, lookie here, a sort of sequel to Jonathan Glazer’s wonderful Sexy Beast. A sequel insofar as the same writers (Louis Mellis and David Scinto) and much of the same cast are involved (the directorial change is to Malcolm Venville). Ian McShane (pre-Deadwood, post-Lovejoy) showed in Sexy Beast that he can do intense and intimidating, and Ray Winstone, and actor who has been doing character work in a plethora of Hollywood blockbusters for the past since Sexy Beast are back, and joined by Tom Wilkinson and John Hurt (two actors who have also been doing character work for years in the Hollywood mainstream and also the land of indie). That makes this one instantly worth a lot.

A low-key crime drama/thriller 44 Inch Chest, according to those who have seen it, brings profanity to a some sort of new level. According to the IMDb: “A jealous husband and his friends plot the kidnapping of his wife’s lover with the intention of restoring his wounded ego.

Trailer (and links to character promos) are tucked under the seat.

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A Martin Scorsese Marathon

Basically, you make another movie, and another, and hopefully you feel good about every picture you make. And you say, ‘My name is on that. I did that. It’s OK’. But don’t get me wrong, I still get excited by it all. That, I hope, will never disappear.” – Martin Scorsese

For the better part of the last three decades, I have been a fan of Martin Scorsese. My admiration first took bloom in the summer of 1985, and happened to coincide with what I consider to be the discovery of my young adult life; set off the main drag of the town I grew up in, I found a small video store. Now, this in itself was no great revelation; in the years before Blockbuster came barreling into my area, forcing all the smaller video chains out of business, there were at least half a dozen such stores within a 3-mile radius. But the moment I walked into this particular video palace, I knew it was special. Where most were lining their shelves with numerous copies of the ‘hot new releases’, this one had titles like Midnight Cowboy, 2001: A Space Odyssey, One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest, Straw Dogs, A Clockwork Orange, films that the others simply didn’t offer. For me, this store was a treasure trove, and I returned there often, sometimes 3-4 times a week, uncovering classic after classic, films that, to this day, I consider some of the finest ever made.

And it was here that I first found Mean Streets.

Tough and unflinching, Mean Streets was like a punch to the head for a 15-year-old from the suburbs; a marriage of images and rock music, violence and pain the likes of which I had never seen before, offering a glimpse into a lifestyle that I found all too real, and a little bit frightening. I must have rented it at least six times that summer, and as a result, Mean Streets fast became my favorite movie. More than this, it was my jumping-off point into the career of Martin Scorsese. After Mean Streets, I moved on to Taxi Driver and Raging Bull, two more shots to the head. Through these three films, I realized just how deep, just how down-and-dirty, and just how moving the cinema could be. They marked a turning point in my development as a film fan. Movies were no longer limited to the land of make believe; they would also be a window overlooking the real world.

Now, almost 24 years after I first walked into that video store, I’ve decided to take my admiration to the next, perhaps the ultimate, level. Over the course of the last several weeks, I sat down with everything that home video has to offer of Martin Scorsese’s work behind the camera, 26 films in all, and what I uncovered on this love-fest of mine proved to be just as enlightening as that first viewing of Mean Streets all those years ago.

As I sat watching one Scorsese movie after the other, I found myself asking, “What exactly is it that constitutes a Martin Scorsese film”? It was a question I had to pose, because I quickly realized that most of my initial beliefs, the pre-conceptions I had built up about the man and his career, only told part of the story.

For one, there was my presumption that the recurring trait in every Scorsese film was a down-to-earth quality, where the genuine, the realistic, would be favored above all else. Well, this is certainly true in some of Scorsese’s finest films, especially those where actual events served as a foundation (Raging Bull, Goodfellas, Casino, The Aviator). However, it was wrong of me to discount the role that fantasy played in Scorsese’s work. The opening scene of Alice Doesn’t Live Here Anymore looks as if it was lifted right out of Gone With the Wind, and the musical numbers of New York, New York were obvious nods to the Hollywood big-budget spectaculars of the 40’s and 50’s. There is the dreamy romance of The Age of Innocence, and the hilarious bad luck of Paul Hackett in After Hours; in short, films that have little or no basis in reality whatsoever, proving that the fantastic plays just as important a role in the great director’s work as reality does.
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Spotlight on: Ray Winstone

Having recently seen The Proposition for the first time, I was impressed enough with Ray Winstone’s performance to delve a little deeper into his work. As it turns out, he’s had a very interesting, not to mention impressive, career thus far. I’m not sure exactly how regular a posting this Spotlight On series will become, but I can say that, if it does blossom into a regular offering, it will owe its inspiration to Ray Winstone.

Having achieved a respectable level of fame in the new millennium, the truth of the matter is that Ray Winstone has been around for a while. His breakthrough performance came in Alan Clarke’s Scum, an overlooked gem that started life as a 1977 BBC television drama before being given a theatrical release in 1979. Winstone played Carlin, a young hoodlum locked away in a juvenile detention center, and was excellent in what would prove to be a very demanding role. He was also one of the best things about 1981’s Ladies and Gentlemen, The Fabulous Stains, playing the lead singer of a British punk rock group touring America.

Having done mostly television throughout the 80’s and early 90’s, Winstone returned to feature films in 1997 with Nil by Mouth, the directorial debut of friend and fellow actor, Gary Oldman. Two years later, he was again cast in a film by an actor-turned-director, this time Tim Roth. The title of that movie was The War Zone, and Winstone turned in a stellar performance as a father who’s sexually abusing his teenage daughter.

Ray Winstone has kept himself busy over the last 11 years, appearing in 29 feature films (while also managing to mix in a few television stints along the way). He’s appeared in everything from Big-budget Hollywood productions (he was solid as Jack Nicholson’s second-in-command in Scorsese’s The Departed) to lesser-known independent features (Face was a sturdy, if somewhat forgettable crime drama). His best performance to date, however, can be found in Jonathan Glazer’s Sexy Beast, where Winstone plays Gal Dove, a retired thief whose utopian life in the south of Spain is thrown into chaos by the arrival of a venomous old associate.

As busy as Ray Winstone’s been over the last decade or so, it doesn’t appear to be tiring him out; he has seven films slated for release in 2009 and 2010.

To catch a glimpse of Ray Winstone at his absolute best, watch the video clips hidden under the “more” link below. If you like the clips, then I strongly recommend checking out the films (links to the DVDs on Amazon can be followed by clicking on the title above each clip)

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Hidden Treasures – Week of July 20th

Now, the latest installment of Hidden Treasures.

The Man With the Golden Arm (1955)
Otto Preminger’s The Man with the Golden Arm, a film that deals candidly with the subject of drug addiction, was denied the Production Code’s Seal of Approval upon its initial release. The year was 1955, and the Code still viewed drug addiction as a taboo subject for a feature film. Quite surprisingly, the Production Code stood alone on this one; even the Catholic Church’s Legion of Decency gave The Man with the Golden Arm a passing grade. Bolstered by the Legion’s support, the producers decided to go ahead and distribute the film, marking the first time a major studio production was released nationally without the Production Code’s Seal of Approval.

Based on the novel by Nelson Algren, The Man with the Golden Arm tells the story of Frankie Machine (Frank Sinatra), a former heroin addict who’s just returned home from a stint at rehab. Having beaten his addiction, Frankie is determined to start his life over again, hoping to finally realize his lifelong dream of becoming a jazz drummer. But the pressure Frankie feels from those around him, including his wheelchair-bound wife, Zosch (Eleanor Parker), threaten to drive him back to his old ways. Only Molly (Kim Novak), a former sweetheart, supports Frankie through this troubling time, and works hard to keep him from drifting back to his addictions.

I’ve always been a fan of Frank Sinatra as an actor. He was not only excellent in films like From Here to Eternity and The Manchurian Candidate, but also managed to shine brightly in a handful of smaller movies, such as 1954’s Suddenly. What struck me most while watching Sinatra in The Man with the Golden Arm was that he never rushed his performance. Frankie’s fall happens very methodically, so much so that it’s initially quite difficult to even spot a difference in his behavior. Ultimately, the only way to tell that he’s back on ‘the fix’ is the look in his eyes. Several times, director Preminger focuses his camera right on Sinatra’s eyes, giving us a first-hand account of the effect that the drugs were having on Frankie. Once the drugs start up again, however, it doesn’t take long for Frankie to get completely hooked. All at once, he transforms from a former addict who felt he could control the occasional fix into a junkie who loses total control of himself.

Due in part to their experience with The Man with the Golden Arm, the Production Code updated their strict regulations the following year, approving changes that would allow the sensible depiction of, among other things, drug addiction and prostitution. As the Production Code was forced to realize, Post-War America was facing a bitter struggle with its own identity, and a multitude of social problems were finding their way into the public consciousness. Times were tough, and it was high time for films to reflect this reality. With The Man with the Golden Arm as a starting point, Hollywood would never be quite the same again.

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Lenny (1974)
British author Horace Walpole once said, “The world is a tragedy to those who feel, and a comedy to those who think”. For comedian Lenny Bruce, whose career was plagued by censorship, legal battles and drug addictions, there was no differentiating between the two. In him, comedy and tragedy existed as one.

Based on Julian Barry’s Broadway play, Bob Fosse’s Lenny is the story of Lenny Bruce (Dustin Hoffman), perhaps the single most influential stand-up comedian of his, or any other, generation. Employing humor that was considered too controversial for early 1960’s America, Bruce was arrested numerous times for lewdness and obscenity, occasionally being led off stage in handcuffs before his act was even finished. Yet Lenny gives us not only Bruce’s legal struggles, but his personal skirmishes as well, many of which stemmed from his turbulent marriage to Honey (Valerie Perrine). Both would play a part in Bruce’s eventual downfall, culminating in his death by drug overdose in 1966.

In Lenny (which sets a perfect tone with its black and white photography), we’re given both sides of Lenny Bruce: the sharp, observant comic who challenged the status quo every chance he got, and the sad, depressed man who became a victim of his own excesses. We witness his brilliance on-stage, with observations that were as funny as they were poignant. One of his favorite subjects to explore was society’s uptight reaction to certain words, which would culminate with the legal battles he faced as a result of his words. For Lenny, words were precious; they were the tools he used to shake up the world, and the more explosive his words were, the more people sat up and took notice. Unfortunately, the law noticed as well, leading to numerous arrests in cities such as San Francisco and Chicago. Before long, Lenny Bruce was defending his words in open court, and using as many of them as he could to plead his case.

This story alone would make a great film, but what makes Lenny all the more insightful is that it goes beyond the drama of stage and courtroom to the tragedy playing out behind closed doors. In so doing, we see another side of Lenny Bruce, whose private life was just as volatile as his professional one. Bruce meets future wife Honey while working as a comic in a Baltimore strip club, where she herself is the main attraction. Eventually, the couple moves to California, where they begin experimenting with a variety of drugs, resulting in long-term addictions for both of them. Years later, Honey, looking back on her days with Lenny, tried to sum up her husband’s actions with one word: Insecurity. “He had to prove himself”, Honey says, and in defining his behavior, Honey also managed to sum up his entire life. Whether on stage or off, Lenny Bruce always had something to prove.

Yet it was Lenny Bruce himself who provided the perfect epitaph for his life, saying his entire act owed its very essence to “the existence of segregation, violence, despair, disease and injustice”. By attacking such issues at a time when nobody else was doing so, and in a way nobody else dared, Lenny Bruce captured the attention of the entire world. In the end, it proved more than he could handle.

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Sexy Beast (2000)
Gal (Ray Winstone) is a retired thief. Having done his time in London’s criminal underbelly, which included serving a nine-year prison term, he has now retired to a villa on the Spanish coast, where he spends his days in the company of the love of his life, former porn star DeeDee (Amanda Redmon). Despite the fact that a runaway boulder has just damaged his swimming pool, Gal really can’t complain. For him, life is pretty damn good.

While out to dinner one night with good friends Aitch (Cavan Kendall) and Jackie (Julianne White), Gal is given some disturbing news: an old acquaintance from his days in London has just called Jackie, and is coming to Spain to ask for Gal’s help with a new heist. No worries, Gal tells them. He’s retired now, and has no plans to return to his former life of crime. But that’s not the problem. The real concern arises from who it was who called, and who it is whose coming to Spain the next day. With terror in her eyes, Jackie tells Gal that the call came from Don Logan (Sir Ben Kingsley). All at once, the table grows silent. Gal tries to shrug the news off by ordering a plate of calamari, but he is visibly nervous. Don Logan is coming to Spain to see him.

Shit. Don Logan.

This is a great scene from director Jonathan Glazer’s Sexy Beast, and it works to perfection. At this point, we the audience have no idea who this Don Logan is, yet judging from the faces of Gal and his companions, he’s obviously someone you don’t want to mess with. Still, what’s the big deal? After all, how bad can Don Logan really be? The next morning, he flies in. We meet him. We watch him interact with Gal and the others. After three minutes, our question of “how bad can it be” is answered.

Pretty damn bad!

Don Logan is like no film character I’ve ever seen. This is a man with no fear. None. He is arrogant, angry, sharp-tongued and violent. To borrow a quote from Denzel Washington in Training Day, King Kong ain’t got shit on Don Logan.

Sir Ben Kingsley is a tremendous actor, one who’s played some of the cinema’s most sympathetic characters. He was wonderful as Itzhak Stern, the man who helped Oskar Schindler save over a thousand Jews from the Nazi ovens in Steven Spielberg’s Schindler’s List. In fact, Kingsley’s first major film role was the title character in Richard Attenborough’s award-winning epic, Gandhi, a man who abhorred violence. Well, with Don Logan, it seems the great actor is equally at-home playing pricks as he is at playing saints. Kingsley completely disappears behind the wild, volatile eyes of Don Logan, building his character by way of sneers and insults. It’s an incredible performance.

When I think back on all of the movie villains I’ve hated in my life, I’m reminded of characters like Lee Marvin’s Liberty Valance in a film of the same name, Stephen Boyd’s Messala in Ben-Hur, and Ralph Fiennes’ Amon Goeth in Schindler’s List. These were detestable characters, to be sure, and now I can add Don Logan to that list. A vile, despicable man with no redeeming qualities, I dare you to like anything about Don Logan.