Cinecast Episode 443 – Cheerfully Sleazy

No katana-wielding turtles and no angry birds knocking down buildings under construction. Sorry, that’s our own integrity as serious journalists simply taking a stand. Across this line, YOU DO NOT… also dude, the indie scene was not looking much better according to the outside reviews. So in preparation for the upcoming documentary, De Palma, we’ve decided this week to take a look back at the very early career of the man, with Hi, Mom!, from 1970. Perhaps more interesting, this is pre-Mean Streets Robert De Niro; and man there is a lot going on in this film. Also as promised, we’ve got an all new top five list celebrating the shorter films of greatness. A small Watch List about robots and the cinematic state of A.I. rounds out this lovely little show.

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

We’re now available on Google Play!

 

 
 

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Bookmarks for Mid August

  • When should a director stop messing with a movie?
    “There are many kinds of re-cuts, created for different reasons, under different circumstances. Whether you consider a second or third or fourth cut valid (or superior) to the first depends on what you liked or disliked about the first cut, and the circumstances that produced that first cut, and what you think was gained or lost in revision.”
  • Lock & Load (Video)
    A video montage-essay on Cinema’s fetish with guns (mostly America, but look for a lot of Johnnie To and John Woo in there too.)
  • Mit Out Sound, Mit Out Solution
    Guy Maddin on Josef von Sternberg: “With this mild mea culpa, von Sternberg was done turning out his pockets. Every interview he did after that, until his death just a few days before Christmas of 1969, was a variation on the theme of “I could tell you the secret of my genius, but upon reflection, I prefer it remain a mystery for the ages.” He’s left it for us to work out, that dumpy, dapper rapscallion, but I can hardly blame him. A mystery as insoluble as this is a gift nearly as great as the films themselves.”
  • ‘Scott Pilgrim’ Versus Itself
    “I don’t want to be the guy arguing that a movie adaptation of a comic book doesn’t do justice to the original comic. I especially don’t want to be the one doing that about Scott Pilgrim Vs. The World, because there have already been dark accusations about it being too fanboyish, and I am most definitely a fanboy for Scott Pilgrim the comic book. But the little things that bug me about the movie all ultimately feed into one big complaint: the wonderful treatment of female characters in the comic book gets lost in the transition to the big screen. It’s what happens when you make a big action-filled summer film. But it’s not good that this requires the female characters and their particular relationships to be swept under the rug. ”
  • Half a Century of Making Cars Into Stars
    “There was KITT, the modified Pontiac Firebird Trans Am that protected and talked to David Hasselhoff in the 1980s television series “Knight Rider.” There was the rebuilt and countrified 1921 jalopy that Jed Clampett drove — with Granny in a rocking chair behind him — from the Ozarks to Hollywood in the 1960s series “The Beverly Hillbillies.” And most notably there was the 1955 Lincoln Futura with the bubble top that Mr. Barris and his crew chopped and stretched into a sinister-looking shiny black-and-red crime fighting machine called the Batmobile “In the hall of fame of car customizers, George Barris is No. 1,””
  • Rene Laloux’s Fantastic Planet on Blu-Ray (U.K)
    “I hesitate to use the word ‘surreal’, because it has become so dulled by overuse as to become almost meaningless, but if there was an animated work that warranted such a label, it is this one. Be warned though – the drug-inspired and often highly sexualised designs complete with images of bare-breasted aliens will probably deter the more Victorian-minded from presenting this to their pre-teens as a Disney substitute. This is definitely one to be filed under the category of “adult art animation”.”

 

You can now take a look at RowThree’s bookmarks at any time of your choosing simply by clicking the “delicious” button in the upper right of the page. It looks remarkably similar to this:

Easy Riders, Raging Bulls: New Hollywood Marathon

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My largest and most glaring gap of cinematic knowledge, at least of American film, is easily the 1970s. I grew up watching the films of the Hollywood studios’ golden era, the 1930s-1950s, and of my own generation, the 1990s-current, but have only sporadically caught the films in between. Given that many of the greatest and most iconoclastic American films of all time come from the 1970s, I have decided that enough is enough, and this year I am going to eliminate my New Hollywood list of shame, which includes: The Godfather Part II, M*A*S*H, The Exorcist, Five Easy Pieces, McCabe and Mrs. Miller, Badlands, Apocalypse Now, Raging Bull, and others.

easy-riders-raging-bulls.jpgBecause my knowledge of the whole era is a little superficial, I’m reading Peter Biskind’s book Easy Riders, Raging Bulls: How the Sex & Drugs & Rock & Roll Generation Saved Hollywood to give myself a background in the history and temperament of the era, and watching the films he discusses while I’m reading. And I figured, might as well share my journey through New Hollywood as I go. The list of films you’ll find after the cut is culled from Biskind’s book and Wikipedia’s entry on New Hollywood, leaving out some that I have already seen.

One thing that has fascinated me as I worked on creating this master list is how varied the films are – drama, comedy, action, satire, war, crime, romance, horror, western, science fiction, concert film and period piece are all among the genres represented. What they have in common: 1) a willingness to push the boundaries of what cinema was allowed to do and to explore themes of sexuality, antiheroism, and isolation that were previously taboo, 2) a sense of brashness and raw vitality brought by the eager young filmmakers wresting the reins from entrenched studios, 3) a tendency to focus on character and script rather than plot, and 4) a knowledge of and appreciation for cinema itself, from the masters of Golden Age Hollywood to the imports coming from Europe and Japan.

This quote from Biskind’s introduction I think sums it up nicely:

[The 1970s were] the last time Hollywood produced a body of risky, high-quality work — work that was character-, rather than plot-driven, that defied traditional narrative conventions, that challenged the tyranny of technical correctness, that broke the taboos of language and behavior, that dared to end unhappily. […] In a culture inured even to the shock of the new, in which today’s news is tomorrow’s history to be forgotten entirely or recycled in some unimaginably debased form, ’70s movies retain their power to unsettle; time has not dulled their edge, and they are as provocative now as they were the day they were released. […] The thirteen years between Bonnie & Clyde in 1967 and Heaven’s Gate in 1980 marked the last time it was really exciting to make movies in Hollywood, the last time people could be consistently proud of the pictures they made, the last time the community as a whole encouraged good work, the last time there was an audience that could sustain it.

And it wasn’t only the landmark movies that made the late ’60s and ’70s unique. This was a time when film culture permeated American life in a way that it never had before and never has since. In the words of Susan Sontag, “It was at this specific moment in the 100-year history of cinema that going to the movies, thinking about movies, talking about movies became a passion among university students and other young people. You fell in love not just with actors but with cinema itself.” Film was no less than a secular religion.

A few Row Three contributors have already shown an interest in writing about some of these as well; if you’d like to watch and share your thoughts about any of them, please do! See also the list at the bottom, which includes several films I’ve already seen and don’t intend to rewatch and write about, but someone else certainly could. If you’re not a R3 contributor and would like to join in, just email me and I’ll post your reviews with credit.

 

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Film on TV: September 28-October 4

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Taxi Driver, playing at 2:00am on September 30th on TCM.

 

A few to highlight this week: Martin Scorsese’s electrifying Taxi Driver is playing late Tuesday/early Wednesday on TCM, the small but highly worthwhile The Station Agent is on Wednesday on IFC, and TCM is showing a Marx Brothers double-feature Friday morning.

Monday, September 28

5:10am – Sundance – That Obscure Object of Desire
Luis Buñuel, ever one to come up with outlandish conceits, here directs two women playing the same role. The result is trippy and mesmerizing.
1977 France/Spain. Director: Luis Buñuel. Starring: Fernandy Rey, Carole Bouquet, Ángela Molina.

6:55am – IFC – Wild Strawberries
On his way to accept an honorary degree, elderly medical doctor Victor Sjöström thinks back and re-evaluates his life while being plagued by nightmares. Sounds kinda depressing, but then again, it is Ingmar Bergman. And he has a way of making depressing seem AWESOME.
1957 Sweden. Director: Ingmar Bergman. Starring: Victor Sjöstroöm, Bibi Andersson, Ingrid Thulin, Gunnar Björnstrand.

9:00am – Fox Movie Channel – The Mark of Zorro
Not perhaps one of the greatest adventure films ever made, but a perfectly servicable one, and quite enjoyable for fans of Zorro. Tyrone Power was Fox’s version of Errol Flynn, and though he doesn’t have quite the panache that Flynn does, he’s still fun.
1940 USA. Director: Rouben Mamoulian. Starring: Tyrone Power, Linda Darnell, Basil Rathbone, Gale Sondergaard, Eugene Pallette.
Newly Featured!

12:00M – IFC – The New World
Terrence Malick may not make many films, but the ones he does make, wow. Superficially the story of John Smith and Pocahontas, The New World is really something that transcends mere narrative – this is poetry on film. Every scene, every shot has a rhythm and an ethereal that belies the familiarity of the story we know. I expected to dislike this film when I saw it, quite honestly. It ended up moving me in ways I didn’t know cinema could.
2005 USA. Director: Terrence Malick. Starring: Colin Farrell, Q’orianka Kilcher, Christian Bale, Christopher Plummer.
Must See
(repeats at 12:45pm on the 29th)

12:00M – Sundance – Man on Wire
I haven’t taken the opportunity to see last year’s highly-acclaimed documentary about high-wire walker Philippe Petit yet, but here it is already on Sundance.
2008 UK/USA. Director: James Marsh. Starring: Philippe Petit, Jean François Heckel, Jean-Louis Blondeau.
(repeats at 12:00M on the 30th/1st)

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Review: Hazard

hazard-dvd [While this weeks episode of the Rowthree Cinecast hasn’t quite been published yet, I am kind of kicking myself for overlooking the Canadian DVD release of Sion Sono’s Hazard. Its release was delayed by due weeks in an unfortunate manufacturing error, just another little bump on this films way to the public. It was one of my favourite little films that I caught on the festival circuit in 2007, even then the film was finished in 2005 and was not shown until mid 2007 for one reason or another. However, Sono’s current 4 hour opus “Love Exposure” is not plagued with such woes, as it is currently on a rampage winning audience awards at festivals (and is one of my most anticipated films for 2009). Going into the archives and pulling out my Fantasia Festival review of Hazard (originally published on Twitch) to celebrate the films release – note the DVD is available from Evokative films.]

Drifting aimlessly through a foreign country is a time honoured tradition for college students in many cultures. In North America, the obligatory and much clichéd trip to Europe generally involves booze, museums, hostels and trains. There is a part of nearly everyone that wants an experience beyond the standard where hazard is often the goal of the trip as it is a thing of which to be wary.

Frustrated with college life and feeling simultaneously ‘sleepy and restless’, Shin rockets off campus, literally screaming, for something away from orderly bookshelves and quiet study. The dream is the crime soaked streets of New York City, prompted by a statistic that it is Americas most dangerous city (the film is set in the late 1990s). He pushes off a couple of perky Japanese tourists upon arriving at the Big Apple despite their blatant advances. Shin does not want to be a tourist. He wants the experience of the mean streets. It should be noted that Shin is played by none other than Joe Odagiri, debuting as a leading star here in this 2005 film, Hazard, but has since made a career out of wandering around cities in cinema, including Tokyo (Adrift in Tokyo) and Sao Paulo (Plastic City)

After being mugged and left hungry and lost, Shin drops into the lap of two Japanese-Americans. Lee, played to the hilt by Japanese-Canadian Jai West, is a blustery and unpredictable ball of energy who somehow manages to rob convenience stores, deal drugs, handle the local (racist) thug cop effortlessly while speaking in his own personal patois of Japanese and Gangsta. Takeda is the shy sidekick in love with a white Maître d’ up the street. Wanting to skip relationship and head straight into marriage and babies, his perfect English evaporates whenever he tries to speak to her. The boyish pair like their Carpe Diem mixed with petty larceny, speed laced ice cream and no shortage of firearms. They give Shin his dream of being apart of a full live-in-the-moment-consequences-be-damned existence all the while teaching him English using Walt Whitman verse.

Japanese director Sion Sono’s grunge fantasy of New York is built up from impressions of the city through early Scorsese pictures makes no bones of its wish-fulfillment intent. It is awash in the red and yellow neon glow of the night and the soggy, trash strewn urban ghetto of the day. It is shot in with long hand-held takes and an improvised feel of perpetual motion. The vérité style—using seat of the pants location shooting, non-actors in the supporting roles—is cleverly subverted to full blown fantasy. The consequences of throwing beer into the face of the law and getting into casual gun-fights with shop proprietors? They feed back into the loop of cool that Sono is intent on running for the audience. Lee’s trip to prison amounts to the observation that he looks good in orange. Late Taxi Driver ambitions offer little in the way of substance. But here, that is kind of the point—the films strength and originality if you will.

Think Thomas Vinterberg’s Dear Wendy without the irony and polemic or Wes Anderson’s Bottle Rocket without the goofy humour. Hazard is determined to be lost in the romance of the foreign crazy-sexy-cool and free of any real depth or truth. So, it sort of ends up being the tourist voyage after all. The infectious performances and the dreamy version of New York captured by Sono still make it worth the trip along with the resolute aim of the film to have fun. The sticky question proposed is whether or not a perceived experience by way of fantasy is a healthy way to make one a better person. Wispy and etherial, Hazard manages to linger despite its own best intentions.

Post O&R Fall-out?

observeSo, have you been following the observing & the reporting on the latest Jody Hill comedy? The internet has been a clamoring about the movie and where it lies in the fabric of modern society (from date rape questions to the ‘comedification’ Taxi Driver). Probably the most interesting thing that I read was from Phil Nugent in the comments section of Daily Greencine’s post on the film.

Anyone who’s read those interviews in which Jody Hill gives props to “Taxi Driver” knows that he thinks he was trying to challenge heroic-vigilante movie stereotypes, and anyone who’s actually seen the thing knows that either Hill’s execution wasn’t up to his concept or that he chickened out in the key violent scenes, where the movie seems to be implicit in the celebration of Rogan’s homicidal viciousness. Because Hill couldn’t figure out a way to make something that looked any different from the average Adam Sandler movie, he would up making a movie whose point seems to be to raise the acceptable level of mayhem for Adam Sandler movies.

One reason why I don’t by the date-rape thing is because the movie is so obviously not of this real world. The mayhem, carnage and destruction of property and law by Rogen’s character (in the most glaring example of this, freely admits in a police station while bringing in a boy to murdering the boys father and five other guys). The movie isn’t aiming for any sort of realism or weight depicted in something like a Todd Solondz or heck, even a Martin Scorsese movie. Yet I do think the movie is doing something right making folks consider how they process a gag-driven studio comedy that in its non-realistic delivery can still ask interesting questions in unique ways. Will there actually be a post-O&R fallout in how a studio comedy is designed and where the bar is actually set at? Is the quote above over-reacting, prophetic or simply irrelevant? I tend to skip nearly all Adam Sandler, The Judd Apatow Collective and Will Farrell comedies (Even the ones directed by Adam McKay) anyway, although occasionally I catch something like Anchorman or The Wedding Singer) or Superbad to see what I’m not missing. The only thing that got me into Observe & Report was the (red band) trailer that did seem to promise something different. (Ditto on Pineapple Express for that matter, although there was the David Gordon Green factor there)

While there is no formal text review of the film around here, Andrew, Matt & Myself talk about some of this in our latest Row Three Cinecast

Other interesting pieces on Observe and Report around the web: IFC Daily, Jay Cheel, Kim Voynar, Ian Pugh, Greencine Daily.

Goodbye Solo Trailer

Goodbye Solo Movie StillRamin Bahrani is on a winning streak. Man Push Cart gained him much attention in 2005 and in 2007 he returned with the excellent Chop Shop. But as that film made the rounds through the cinematheque circuits, Bahrani was hard at work releasing his most recent film.

The story of two men who form an “unlikely” friendship, Bahrani’s Goodbye Solo premiered at Venice in 2008 and has been making the festival rounds to largely positive acclaim. I’ve yet to see Man Push Cart but what I loved mosst about Chop Shop was its reality and the seemingly lack of story as if the film was a condensed glimpse at a young boy’s life. The trailer for Goodbye Solo suggests more of a story but one that many can relate to: the immigrant story and wanting to achieve the “American Dream.”

At this point, I’ll pretty much watch anything Bahrani has to offer but this trailer didn’t do much for me. I’m hopeful that the trailer is hiding a good film.

Goodbye Solo opens on March 27th.

Trailer is tucked under the seat!

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