Cinecast Episode 174 – Spinning the Wheel(s)

In a marathon shoot-the-bull show, it may only be Kurt and Andrew, but they nearly bust the 4 hour podcast barrier. The Lost Chronicles wraps up with *SPOILER* talk on the final season and the overall effect of the show that compares watching it over a 6 year period (Andrew) or a 4 week period (Kurt). Andrew has things to say about a pair of new releases: The second film in the Swedish Millennium Trilogy, The Girl Who Played With Fire as well as Michael Winterbottom’s controversial The Killer Inside Me. Talk goes further astray with some pontificating on Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs before comparing and contrasting Herzog’s Rescue Dawn with McTiernan’s Predator. A smidgen of Polanski, a dash of Clooney, and sprinkling of Big Trouble in Little China add some extra seasoning to the conversation. Then it is the annual Fantasia round-up of what Kurt caught in Montreal – an effervescent blast of interesting genre films including Serbian madness, homosexual Korean riffs on Shakespeare, Chilean James Bond, Hong Kong slapstick, French meditations of cinema by way of a psychokinetic sentient Rubber Tire, a Danish re-envisioning of Romancing The Stone, rape as multiplex entertainment in the I Spit on Your Grave remake, and offbeat British Gangsters and their familial anxieties and loquacious monologue-ing.

Prepare to strap yourself in because it is going to be a chatty sewing circle of filmishness!

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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Full show notes are under the seats…
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Easy Riders, Raging Bulls: Woodstock (1970)

“But above that, the important thing that you’ve proven to the world is that half a million kids can get together and have three days of fun and music and have nothing BUT fun and music, and I God bless you for it!”

Woodstock exists in cultural memory as the quintessential music festival – the festival that brought together the greatest musical acts of the late 1960s with the counter-cultural generation. Every musical festival since aspires to be Woodstock-like (though sadly, most achieve the comparison only by being doused in rain and becoming mudpits as Woodstock famously did). As a current music-lover and festival-goer who is admittedly under-informed about a lot of the history of rock music and its place in culture at that time, I feel very grateful to Michael Wadleigh and others for preserving the event so well on film.

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Easy Riders, Raging Bulls: New Hollywood Marathon



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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Review: Taking Woodstock

Director: Ang Lee (Crouching Tiger Hidden Dragon, Brokeback Mountain, Hulk, Lust Caution)
Story: Elliot Tiber, Tom Monte
Screenplay: James Schamus
Producers: Ang Lee, James Schamus
Starring: Henry Goodman, Imelda Staunton, Demetri Martin, Emille Hirsch, Jonathan Groff, Liev Schreiber
MPAA Rating: R
Running time: 100 min.

Peculiar that a director as high profile as Ang Lee is getting such an “under the radar” release as Taking Woodstock. Perhaps the subject matter is a little old hat as in “been there, done that” or maybe the mainstream movie goers are still in the throes of summer blockbuster season and a little event biography just isn’t quite the excitement they’re looking for. Or it may simply be that the film isn’t being marketed… at all. Whatever it is, it’s really too bad, because Taking Woodstock is a fine film with heart, warmth, comedy and full of good vibes.

“Sorry everyone in town hates you now.”
“Are you kidding me? I’ve heard more please and thank you’s from these kids in the last three days than in the past twenty years from those schmucks.”

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Cinecast Episode 137 – Wall to Wall Pubic Hair

Episode 137:
Jumping in to give us the female perspective about the latest batch of horror films is short film maker and writer for Killer Film, Miss Serena Whitney. We also get a TIFF-preview with Lars Von Trier’s latest, Antichrist. Strange things are afoot at The Bloor Cinema in Toronto when Udo Kier comes to town. Plus a bitch session about 3D technology, short reviews of Paul Giamatti in Cold Souls and Emille Hirsch in Taking Woodstock.

Thanks for listening!

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Cinecast Episode 135 – I Want a Korean Taco

Episode 135:
Almost a full hour on Neil Blomkamp’s District Nine **SPOILERS ABOUND** We do not completely disagree about the overall film but we certainly disagree about the ins and outs and the what-have-yous of various aspects on the film. It certainly gets rather spirited as Gamble (of High and Low Brow podcast) defends the film with what could be described as angry passion. Then it is on to lesser talked about films as of recent including The Time Traveler’s Wife, Taking Woodstock, Ponyo, a bit of a tease with Inglourious Basterds, and all the goods from Toronto After Dark 2009. DVD picks are at the end. Thanks for checking out the show.

Listen. Enjoy. (and apologies about some of the strange bumps on the audio, we are working on the problem!)

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The Taking Woodstock Poster Just Blinded Me

Either I didn’t take enough drugs this morning or the poster designer took too many before opening Photoshop and working on this poster for Ang Lee’s Taking Woodstock. I understand you’re trying to channel the 60s but is the tie-die mess really necessary? The design itself isn’t so bad (reminiscent of the cool concert posters that now sell for thousands on e-Bay plus I like the folded look) but the colours…it’s a little too psychedelic for me. Add in the fact that I wasn’t particularly impressed by the trailer and you’ve got a movie that I’m going to to forget until the day before it opens. I will say one thing for it, at least it looks like the designer was proficient in Photoshop unlike the dude that designed Richard Kelly’s The Box poster; I could have done better with one eye closed.

You may want to cloud the room with a little smoke before looking at this thing that Kurt found via Rolling Stone.

Taking Woodstock One Sheet

Ang Lee’s Taking Woodstock Trailer

Taking Woodstock StillAcademy Award winning director Ang Lee believes in keeping his options open, something which is evident by a filmography that ranges to include everything from period dramas to comic book films. It didn’t come as too much of a surprise when the director signed on to direct Taking Woodstock, a film based on Elliot Tiber’s book of the same name, but regardless, a few folks were surprised to see that the film sounded like it could have fair bit of comedy something which, from my incomplete viewing of his catalogue, he hasn’t done in the past.

The film tells Tiber’s story, the young man who essentially saved Woodstock by providing a venue for the troubled concert, and stars Demetri Martin in the lead role but it’s the supporting cast that excites me: Imelda Staunton, Liev Schreiber, Eugene Levy, Jeffrey Dean Morgan, Dan Fogler, Paul Dano and the great Emile Hirsch playing a Vietnam veteran.

The trailer is cute, particularly the introduction by Martin, but the rest of it is flat. Highlights include the music (if the music didn’t stand out I think we’d really have a problem) and Hirsch and sadly, it seems to me that he’s only a small part of the film. I’m hopeful that the film offers more than the trailer because as it stands now, this is only a minor blip on the radar. Still, it could be fun and it’s been a while since I visited the 60s.

Taking Woodstock opens on August 14th.

Thanks to Geek Tyrant, trailer is tucked under the seat!

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Ang Lee’s Woodstock Takes Shape

Taking Woodstock Book CoverAng Lee is slowly making his way through the various eras of American History. He’s already done the 70’s and it looks like now he’ll be doing the 60’s.

It was recently announced that Lee would direct Taking Woodstock, an adaptation of the memoir of Elliot Tiber, the man largely responsible for Woodstock ’69. Demetri Martin had previously been cast in the roll of Tiber but the new additions to the cast are enough to make your head spin. Emile Hirsch, Imelda Staunton, Liev Schreiber, Jeffrey Dean Morgan, Eugene Levy, Paul Dano, Zoe Kazan, Dan Fogler, Mamie Gummer, Henry Goodman, and Jonathan Groff.

Variety has the breakdown of the roles and it reads like fairly complicated stuff though I’m sure Lee will make it all slot in together nicely:

Staunton and Henry Goodman will play Tiber’s parents, and Jonathan Groff (currently starring in the Shakespeare in the Park production of “Hair” in Gotham) will play Woodstock organizer Michael Lang; Hirsch will play a recently returned Vietnam vet, Eugene Levy will play Yasgur, and Schreiber is in talks to play a transvestite named Vilma.

Jeffrey Dean Morgan is set as a closeted married man having an affair with Tiber, while Paul Dano and Zoe Kazan play a hippie couple attending the concert. Dan Fogler will play a local theater troupe head, and Mamie Gummer will play Lang’s assistant.

I read it twice to try to figure it all out but it’s hopeless.

It hasn’t been announced yet but I know what’s upcoming for Lee: a film adaptation of the short lived That 80’s Show. He’ll roll up that entire crappy series into one fantastic film!

Ang Lee Visits Woodstock

WoodstockMaybe this is old news, but in preparation for this week’s Movie Club pocast focussing on Ang Lee’s The Ice Storm, I happened across this little story on Lee’s next project: Taking Woodstock.

Apparently quite a popular novel, “Taking Woodstock: a True Story of a Riot, a Concert, and a Life” is the memoir of author Elliot Tiber; a closet gay man who works as a hotel manager/interior designer and his role of inadvertently setting in motion events that causes the greatest musical festival of all time to come to fruition.

I’m not a huge Ang Lee fan. I like this and I like that, but then there’re a few clunkers in the filmography as well. A “hit or miss” director for me. Despite what I may think of any one of his particular films, I respect the man greatly for trying different things and crossing genre lines – something not many directors are willing to do. I like directors (and actors or all artists) who take chances and challenge themselves. Retelling the Woodstock story would certainly qualify as something new for Ang Lee.

According to IMDb, this is still in pre-production, but we can look forward to this sometime in 2009.