4.26.2011

trailer tuesday

this week's entry is for león ichaso's paraíso (2009), the final installment of his loosely spaced trilogy examining the lives of post-castro cubans and their experiences in the united states.



this screens tonight as part of the cine las americas film festival, one of the largest festivals featuring the work of latin american and indigenous filmmakers. you can see this for free at 9 p.m. tonight at the emma s. barrientos mexican american cultural center. there are only a couple of days left for the festival but there are still plenty of screenings and master class workshops, a number of them free. follow that link to consult the schedule for times and venues.

4.25.2011

sweet caroline

well, we're done with another riveting installment of queue de grâce. again, many thanks to my guest curator, miss caroline ruggles. everyone take one last, long look at her, pictured here last week searching her shelves for what to select for me.

you surely didn't think i wasn't going to have my revenge for what she did to me this week, did you?

for posterity's sake, here's watched i watched this week, at her behest:

tales of the rat fink (2006)
temple grandin (2010)
penelope (2006)
the last mimzy (2007)
who are the debolts? and where did they get nineteen kids? (1977)
nanny mcphee (2005)
diary of a wimpy kid (2010)
mists of avalon (2001)
empire records (1995)
ATL (2006)
daddy and them (2001)
cowboy del amor (2005)
my big fat greek wedding (2002)
don't be a menace to south central while drinking your juice in the hood (1996)
saved! (2004)
avatar (2009)
plagues and pleasures on the salton sea (2004)
paperback dreams (2008)
my super ex-girlfriend (2006)

i have never had the 2000s so well represented in any block of movies i have watched at once. ever. i won't lie to you, at times this week was awfully difficult. i know it provides fodder for snarky fun, but i am genuinely disheartened by this week's experience in a number of ways. i don't watch a lot of these types of things, so i have always been able to regard them from a distance, only theoretically disturbed by box office numbers and the implications of their popularity. actually having to dig into them and finding almost nothing redeeming in the films that the largest numbers of people go to see leaves me sad. in a way, this is good for me, yes. it's always good to step outside of yourself and it has reduced my ignorance, but in a much bigger way it's bad for all of us. the jekyll and hyde nature of caroline's list made me think a lot about how we spend our creative resources and how people use movies. i just don't think i use them like most people. i knew this already but it feels different after spending so much time this week seeing how the other half lives. the moviegoing experience for the average american doesn't seem like much of an experience at all. i'm glad she was gracious enough to throw in things she knew i would enjoy, in between torturing me. i'm also glad i don't review films for a living. i'm glad that, most of the time, we can get together here and talk about things that merit our attention, rather than having a new release schedule dictate the action. most of all, i'm glad you guys keep reading and contributing to the discussion. i appreciate it.

queue de grâce will be back in june with jon merrill pulling the strings. if you would like to be added to the list of guest curators (or confirm that you're on it already) just drop me a line and we will make sure it gets taken care of. i look forward to it.

4.24.2011

oh. my. gosh. caroline: day seven

well, here we are again. it's day seven. join me as i limp to the finish line.

the great and powerful caroline had mercy upon me to start the day. up first was chris metzler and jeff springer's interesting and endearing documentary, plagues and pleasures on the salton sea (2004).

i've always been sort of fascinated with the salton sea. in 1905, what was then the salton basin, after a number of poorly thought-out engineering decisions, basically became the new terminal point for the colorado river after a season of particularly heavy rainfall and snowmelt. at 227 feet below sea level - one of the lowest points on earth - once the water was in the basin it had nowhere to go. as a result, where a number of towns once stood there was now an enormous inland sea standing on top of what was, essentially, a salt mine. in the early part of the twentieth century, developers attempted to turn the salton sea into a resort destination, "the california riviera", based upon its climate, fishing and water recreation. that worked for a while until significant floods in the fifties and sixties did such damage that most people abandoned the area. the environmental degradation has continued unabated to this day. since agricultural irrigation runoff is the only source of water aside from rain, the saline levels have increased to a level that is saltier than seawater and the resulting environment is incredibly toxic. millions of fish die off at a time and the botulism epidemics that follow amongst the avian population are always a danger. the area resembles a salt encrusted, post-apocalyptic wasteland, routinely covered in dead fish and fowl, populated with only a few stubborn stragglers, eccentrics and people who can't really afford to live anywhere else. this documentary tells their story. a peculiar and catastrophic corner of american history, fortunes rising and falling, an isolated last outpost where misfits raise their fists against fate - i was already in, hook, line and sinker and then i discovered john waters was the narrator. they couldn't have made a better choice. his voice conveys just the right tone of amazement that anyone continues to try what is generously called "living" on the salton sea without ever being condescending or pitying. his genuine love of the type of lunatics you find here is hard-won and absolutely sincere. in 73 short minutes he takes you on a guided tour of this puzzle of a place and introduces you to a number of the natives. it really is an odd and compelling story. the place is simultaneously an environmental disaster area and one of the most important wetlands in the united states. it's a place where some come to be free and some come knowing full well they are coming there to die. its unholy waters both spawn and kill outrageous numbers of fish with unnatural speed and regularity. it is truly like no other place on earth. i recommend seeing this and taking a look around the place while you still can before everything is covered in salt and rots away. it's a fascinating story, well told.

we stick with the documentaries for a story that is near and dear to my heart (and a lot of yours), alex beckstead's paperback dreams (2008).

this isn't actually from the film. this is a picture of our store, which i love. i work with great people that i love doing a job i was born to do. i am fortunate beyond words. i put the picture here because, in a way, the movie is about us and how important it is to support your local bookseller. it tells the story of two landmark independent bookstores, cody's and kepler's, and their radically divergent fortunes as they enter the age of big box competitors and monolithic online retailers. the story actually picks up at the genesis of the two stores, which happened to coincide with the paperback publishing boom in the sixties. with the introduction of affordable paperbacks, a wealth of information, literature and progressive ideas were suddenly available to everyone. these things were no longer the province of academics or people who could afford the princely sum it previously took to build an enviable library. the paperback put ideas in the hands of the people and cody's and kepler's were in the vanguard of disseminating the stuff, in the thick of the action. they were integral to their community, providing a place for people to meet, think, talk and read. they were hubs of thought and activism. flash forward to present day and they are struggling to keep up with a culture that can get it cheaper online and that no longer seems to have the patience to read. i am biased here, i know, but i loved it. i recommend it if you love books, bookstores, mom and pop places and you like david more than goliath. in fact, here it is. you can watch the whole thing here for free, if you are so inclined.


but, if you've been paying attention you had to know that caroline wouldn't let me go out like that. in keeping with the dispiriting events of the past week i give you ivan reitman's my super ex-girlfriend (2006).

the more i see of luke wilson, the more i am convinced he doesn't know where he is about half the time. this movie takes the crazy ex-girlfriend premise and completely turns it on its head by giving her super powers! hoo boy! i'll bet she is going to wreak super-havoc on his life. he probably has it super-coming to him, though. am i super-right, ladies? it super-sucked. i am so goddamned sick and tired this week of putting on a movie and sitting and watching people just cashing checks for an hour and a half. the only thing notable about this exercise in somnambulism is rainn wilson, and not for a good reason. i may have never seen a more concentrated, distilled and vile version of an archetype that i despise maybe more than any other in cinema - the romantic comedy best friend. he couldn't have been less subtle or appealing if he was a 6'2" CG animation penis with glasses (i think i saw one of those in yesterday's film which shall not be named). i really don't think people like this exist. at least, fortunately, i've never known one. if they do exist, i blame movies like this. it has to be a case of life imitating art. if anyone out there has a best friend like this - constantly talking about sex, constantly pursuing sex, constantly dispensing advice about love, which to them is sex, all probably without ever really having any sex - i'd be grateful if you would introduce me to this person so i can see one in the wild. for me, it would be akin to seeing unicorn or a leprechaun - a shitty, annoying, misogynist, probably impotent leprechaun. oh, and eddie izzard does that funny thing where he rolls his eyes a couple of times.

well, much like boyz II men, we have reached the end of the road. as always, thanks for following along and thanks to caroline for being my guest programmer for a week and for some wicked peaks and valleys. see you next time. i'm off to watch the least romantic and comic thing i can find.

4.23.2011

oh. my. gosh. caroline: day six

if you're going through hell, keep going - winston churchill

that's the thought that sustains me here on day six as i RSVP to joel zwick's my big fat greek wedding (2002).

now, before you start your internal monologue - cole just doesn't like romance, cole just doesn't like fun, et cetera - i want to establish a couple of things. in cinema, the list of truly romantic things i enjoy is long and varied. i love the look of bemused devotion that lived in irene dunne's beautiful face, i appreciate the enormity of the things unspoken when butch and etta place are walking through that pasture and i am always heartbroken that mrs. miller couldn't save mccabe. most importantly, in my life i have been lucky enough to know that "me and her against the world" feeling with my best friend. and i love to have fun, i just happen to not have bought into the myth that thinking and fun are mutually exclusive. if you think i don't like this movie because i don't like those things, you're wrong. i love those things. those things, with their infinite complexities and satisfactions, just happen to not have anything at all to do with this movie. it has all the complexity and depth of a mr. turtle pool. out of curiosity, i dug around a little bit to see what zwick had directed before and it all became clear. here are some highlights from his CV:

yes, one man was behind the camera for all of those - joel zwick. he is a purveyor of vapid, intellectually insulting dreck that people apparently can't get enough of from way back. in short, he was a perfect fit. it's just a shame he couldn't bring his laugh track. the source material didn't help, either. there is no phrase that fills theatre-goers with more trepidation, that has more potential for the longest night of your life, than "one man/woman show". nia vardolas put this on stage before she put it on the screen in what must have been a real hoot for los angelenos in search of probing and insightful theatre. i wonder how many times the phrase "broad strokes here, people" was uttered on the set. maybe it was just understood. together they have invented a new subgenre - the remedial romantic comedy. as if it wasn't insulting enough in general, at least i am not greek. only one other wedding scene i can recall is such a subtle, nuanced and affectionate tribute to a culture as a whole...

i can't believe someone tried to pass this off as a valentine to their greek heritage. greeks are loud, like to eat and have greek babies? that's it? greece gave us cartography, the thermometer, central heat and is the birthplace of democracy, just to name a few things, and this is how they get to be remembered by the american moviegoing public? congratulations, greeks, you're a cartoon. it is supposed to be affectionate but i know what's really going on here. no one that loves their culture could do this to it. i know a textbook self-loather when i see one. the subtext here (that everyone who made the film is completely unaware of) is the only mildly interesting thing about it. who else but someone filled with self-loathing would make something so rife with caricature that ends with her marrying outside of her culture thereby setting in motion an endless treadmill of internal and external conflict? the only greek word that papa portokalos should be lecturing anyone about in this movie is hamartia. and it's a good thing the uptight WASP mom character comes complete with a string of june cleaver pearls or i might have thought she was just an unpaid extra. there is a word you hear people use to describe movies like this - cute. it's sold as a set with mom jeans. you used to hear it all the time in video stores (when those still roamed the earth) on sunday afternoons. when you find yourself using it to describe things you enjoy on a regular basis or, even worse, as the shorthand you use to communicate your recommendation of something, just lie down where you are. you're finished.

oh, and i had a go at the commentary track on this one, on the chance that maybe i was missing something. on it, nia vardalos explains that the part of greek wedding ceremonies where the bride and groom walk around the table three times, taking their first steps together as man and wife is symbolic of...taking their first steps together as man and wife. it is uniformly this insightful. in fact, that may have been the high point.

don't you get sick of being handed this stuff? do you want your world stalled at a sixth grade comprehension level? and somehow i'm the asshole because i don't know how to "lighten up and have fun"? why aren't these people the assholes for taking your money and giving you this in return? this has been a supremely frustrating day. i'm sure i will revisit this theme before we reach the end of this entry.

next was paris barclay's don't be a menace to south central while drinking your juice in the hood (1996).

it's an occasionally-funny parody of the spate of "growing up in the hood" films that flooded the market from the mid-eighties to mid-nineties. taking broad, and i do mean broad, aim at a genre that seemed to spring into existence already thoroughly codified, it picks apart all the conventions that those films are built out of. the main problem is that it rarely sustains its cleverness. for example, the opening camera move is brilliant. a crane shot that starts above tree level, slowly moving down onto the average south central neighborhood street. right away, that's funny. it's a camera move that is in nearly every one of the movies it is making fun of and it demonstrates an eye for detail that had me thinking that i might actually be in for satire rather than just parody. alas, it was not to be. the screen soon becomes overpopulated with characters saying and doing a lot of things that aren't particularly funny and it only hits that sort of stride again in a handful of moments that the filmmakers probably considered the throwaway bits. bernie mac is funny as the self-hating cop on loan from boyz in the hood (1991), talking about how he hates the back of forest whitaker's neck, but that's just on the strength of the man being naturally funny. he's almost always better than the material he's given and i would be willing to bet he came up with that oddball bit on his own. on the other hand, that whole "message!" running gag quickly became the unwelcome comedic equivalent of its dramatic counterpart scenes. those movies were definitely ripe for deflating but i have seen a number of other films do this sort of thing better. just more run of the mill, middle of the road. it is interesting to re-examine it at this point in the wayans' careers, though. back then, with just one or two things like this or i'm gonna git you sucka (1988) under their belts, you could look at each work individually and feel like they were poking gentle but critical fun at stereotypes of a cultural phenomenon they were really familiar with, be it coming of age hood films or blaxploitation. when you look at the entire body of work, though, you see that it doesn't take long before cultural parody gives way to self-parody and we end up with projects that are full-on embarrassing like little man (2006), with the sort of mugging and buffoonery that leaves only martin lawrence as a buffer between them and stepin fetchit. in the end, they have become worse than the things they started out making fun of. it's kind of sad because there's obvious talent there. all that said, i'd still rather watch this than anything by john singleton any day of the week.

next we get saved! (2004).

it's a better than average teen comedy from brian dannelly that tries to examine the thorny intersection of the religious and the secular at that impressionable age. jena malone is our central character, mary. she is a student at the fundamentalist american eagle christian high school, sort of a bob jones university farm team. she is a member of the christian jewels, the campus' favorite girl band, and she is the right hand of the most popular girl in school™. on the cusp of her senior year, her boyfriend tells her that he's gay and she sets about to save him from damnation, interpreting various signs as meaning jesus gives her the ok to have sex with him if it will bring him back from the brink of homosexuality. they do and she conceives a child but his "cure" doesn't take and his parents pack him off to a place called mercy house for "degayification". as the rest of the year unfolds, mary's life sort of unravels. she tires of her friends' sanctimony and throws in with the outcasts who help to keep her pregnancy a secret for the majority of the year. things come to a head on prom night, of course, and in the fallout everyone lands where they need to be, happy but unsteady, moving forward together but unsure of what comes next. as teen comedies go, i will at least give this one credit for being unique. the first third of the film is pretty acerbic at times in its indictment of the church and the type of people you frequently encounter at the heart of fundamentalist organizations - the blue eye shadowed future hausfrau, the painfully unhip "hip" pastor, et cetera. its message ultimately mellows, though, into a much more christlike one of tolerance, ironically enough. the most interesting thing i noticed was that while they were hitting those easy targets they skipped over the notion that the problem at the heart of religion is how people so often use it toward their own ends. i don't mean in the obvious and cruel ways found here. i mean in the little everyday ways, in ways that cause great distress when you try to apply them to a scope beyond the individual. i guess, though, that the fact that when you ask six million people of faith to tell you what they think god's will is you get six million different answers, most all of them related exclusively to the person speaking at the time, is a bit much for a teen comedy to take on. i just wish they would have addressed it a bit more, as it is what every single one of the characters was doing. i do have to dock it a few points for the "outcasts get revenge" ending and for the swinging at the easiest pitches. it could have used a whole lot more gray instead of so much black and white. still, it's not every teen comedy that takes on homosexuality, teen pregnancy and disabilities all at once, not to mention the christian church. at least it was thought provoking, compared to most teen comedies, and it was interesting to see crises of faith supplant crises of the cafeteria once in a while, even if it was somewhat ineffective. .

and now, ladies and gentlemen, one movie i thought i would never see, james cameron's avatar (2009).

by far, my favorite scene in the film.

i am waaaaay late to this party, i know. i just assumed i would never see it and be spared having to talk or think about it. that was a year before i hatched this brilliant idea, though. since i am the only one so far behind the conversation, i am sure you guys are well aware of what it's all about, all of it being cribbed from ferngully (1992) and dances with wolves (1990). two years removed from theaters, james cameron's paean to living in harmony with nature now comes packaged in a sleeve in a book in a slipcase inside another slipcase and looks better than ever on blu-ray. this is good, as it's the only thing it has going for it. i was aware from reviews about how the story was stolen outright from previous films. what i was surprised to see was how much cameron was cannibalizing himself:

i thought that looked familiar.

this guy is this guy.

this guy is this guy.

this woman is LITERALLY this woman.

and i don't even know where to start with james cameron's whole "mannish latinas in government issue undershirts with great big guns" thing.

look, avatar was bad. we all know it so i am not going to spend a whole lot of time on it. stock characters. poor storytelling. you want to see some of the worst exposition ever? just watch the scene where sigourney weaver's character meets sam worthington's for the first time. paint by numbers script that had been done to death way before 2009. i can't even say it was visually arresting. if you like video games a whole lot, maybe. i found myself thinking during the battle scenes that if i was watching actual actors i might have at least been a little bit interested. i certainly wasn't thinking about the scene, never a good sign. the best thing i can say about it is that its form followed its function in that cameron's recycling of other movies, including his own, on such an epic scale was in line with the eco agenda of the film. waving goodbye to pandora, i leave you with this thought: the budget of avatar could have paid for 116 million school lunches.

well, we're in the home stretch now. one day left. it looks like i am coasting in with a couple of really interesting documentaries and...wait, what's that? look, up in the sky! it's a bird. it's a plane. no, it's...

i think you know what it is.

4.22.2011

oh. my. gosh. caroline: day five

if our pattern holds true, today should be an improvement over yesterday. let's open her up and take a look.

first out of the chute today is chris robinson's ATL (2006).

it follows a group of four friends who are facing the variety of life-changing possibilities that we are all presented with as our high school careers come to an end. they struggle with learning the difference between what's valuable and real in life and love and what's not, working out their frustrations from the workweek/schoolweek on sundays at the rollerskating rink. i was really prepared to not like this movie based upon the fact that i have an extremely low opinion of T.I., who plays the lead here, and his litany of real-life weapons/drug charges and his dubious "charm". it didn't turn out that way, though. at worst, it was just cliched and amateurish. a number of the participants, both in front of and behind the camera, were making their first feature and it really shows. robinson's previous directorial accomplishments were in the world of music videos and that couldn't be more obvious. as a result, the rollerskating sequences are edited in the same sort of jumpy way that most dance/drum/et cetera battles are. it always seems the filmmakers that do these pictures are under the impression that this is the only way to make it exciting. they fail to realize that longer takes that actually demonstrate prowess and give you more of a chance to appreciate a performer's skill are far more impressive and exhilarating (and build more tension than a series of frenetic cuts). the screenplay contains no surprises. it plays like a particularly bold after school special, with its rote lessons about the lure of ill-gotten gains, the value of education and the benefits of being true to yourself. the performances are forced a lot of the time, as you might imagine from a group of first-timers without an experienced hand to guide them. T.I. doing voiceover narration throughout the film is probably what i would say qualifies as the worst creative decision they made. if your narrator's primary consideration is maintaining an air of cool detachment then you are already at a major disadvantage. if the person telling the story sounds like he doesn't care about telling it, why should i care enough to listen? in its favor, though, the film always maintains a good heart. for a bunch of kids that are essentially raising themselves, most of them still adhere to the values of family and community. the self-reliance their experience has spawned in them is almost always of the type that includes lifting others up with you rather than an "every man for himself" ethos that it seems would be easy to fall into without an ever-present parent or mentor. they still are overwhelmingly concerned with status, but i guess that's just an adolescent thing that people relate to? at least, in this case, it's channeled into creative expression via the rollerskating, rather than something destructive or mere idleness. lauren london is another particularly bright spot as T.I.'s love interest. she has a natural, easy presence, a great deal of charisma and shows a great capacity for communicating a lot with a single look. i wouldn't say you should necessarily go out of your way to see it, but it had redeeming qualities.

what's next? billy bob thornton's daddy and them (2001).

thornton returns to the dysfunctional, rustic territory of his debut sling blade (1996), albeit with a darkly comic approach this time. he and laura dern are husband and wife, as embattled as they are enamored of one another. a family emergency - the incarceration of an uncle on attempted murder charges - and their return to the homestead for the resulting legal proceedings provide what little plot there is here. it's really more of a character study than anything else. a caterwauling, boozy character study. i am completely convinced that caroline put this movie in the queue for no other reason than to make me watch the sainted andy griffith say "cornholed". all those memories from my childhood of the first time i saw the episode of the andy griffith show where andy is sitting on the front porch after work, playing guitar and SMOKING A CIGARETTE came flooding back. i was never the same. i have seen a lot of things in the ensuing years. i am made of sterner stuff these days but this still knocked me back a step. i soldiered on, though, undeterred. as for the rest of it, it seemed split down the middle. my favorite scene illustrates what is best and worst about the film, simultaneously. early on in the film, there is a scene where billy bob finally makes it to his folks' house after a blow-up earlier in the day caused he and dern to make separate traveling arrangements. it's late and she is the only one still up, fresh out of the shower and painting her toenails. she talks quietly with him for just a minute about how she likes the feeling of being the only one up and how nice it feels to be clean. it's honest and, even more important, simple. it demonstrates very clearly that thornton, as both screenwriter and director, has a firm grasp of the importance of simple. good simple, guthrie simple, sandburg simple. unfortunately, the scene also inadvertently underscores the fact that the majority of the first half of the film he ignores simple in favor of the simpleminded. the last act cuts back on the screeching and dipsomania considerably and simple becomes the preferred approach. it helps, but not enough to make this more than just decent. definitely not enough to take away the mild twinge of disappointment of knowing what the film could have been if it was consistently as good as its high points. it was an improvement upon the first film but still resides squarely in don't go out of your way to see it-ville.

i just realized i have never watched this many films from the twenty-first century in one go ever before. feels a little weird. not entirely encouraging.

caroline's dvd collection apparently consists mainly of three categories - movies made for broadcast by her best friend television, kid's movies of the magical variety and the category that our third entry today belongs to, the heartwarming documentary. ladies and gentlemen, let's saddle up and ride with michèle ohayon's cowboy del amor (2005).

trick! it's not so much heartwarming as skincrawling. ivan thompson is a sixty year-old "matchmaker" (read: pimp) that specializes in setting up lonely american men with mexican wives. for three thousand dollars apiece, ivan has been taking men who find american women "too demanding" across the border to find more "suitable" (read: docile, subservient) brides for sixteen years now. ivan is a particular brand of west texas good ol' boy that i am sure a lot of you are familiar with - skinny as a rail, ruddy face with veins popped in his cheeks, glasses so old the lenses have yellowed. the type can usually be found working at a stockyard or running a one-man real estate agency out of a dingy, badly lit office. if you grew up in a town like i did, one of these guys was on your school board. his office, hair tonic and attitude all smell strongly of 1958. he's a "modern guy" but as soon as the coast is clear the first thing he will do is tell racist jokes. if you're a woman, get used to being referred to as "little missy". you know him, he is utterly repellent. loneliness makes people do crazy things, though, like pay this relic three grand to introduce them to women. ivan is eminently qualified for this job, as he was a rancher his whole life and it's apparently just a short step to the side to be in, as he puts it, "the women business". the women, for their part, are in search of an opportunity for a better life. they're often in dire economic straits or dangerous domestic situations and are looking for escape. they all seem to be under the impression that life in north america will be better because the men don't use women the way mexican men do, they treat them as equals. it's a recipe for disaster that they are being set up with men who are expressly looking for doormats via this walking liver spot who sees them as nothing but commodities. ivan was his own best customer, too, as it turns out. he took a mexican bride as a younger man and it was all going swimmingly until she went and got "americanized". you know, wanted to learn english, drive a car and make friends. one of his customers, a disabled veteran far more advanced in years than his new wife, has a plan to avoid that. he isn't going to learn spanish and she isn't going to learn english. you can't fight that way! har har har, ding dang ol' communication barrier! one couple actually seems like they might make it work. they at least had their needs equally met. his loneliness was alleviated and she got the opportunity to build a new life and it seems like there is at least a slim chance that what they have might grow into love and a true partnership. overall, though, nothing has made me feel this bad this week. my heart feels sick and gray after this.

i would say that there's always a chance that something to restore my faith in love is right around the corner, but i've already looked around the corner.

it just isn't fair.

4.21.2011

oh. my. gosh. caroline: day four

caroline ought to open an amusement park. with the roller coaster ride she has provided me this week she could make millions. hello, and welcome to day four!

undoing all the goodwill for kid's movies generated yesterday, we start the day with thor freudenthal's diary of a wimpy kid (2010). on behalf of wimpy kids everywhere who are suffering by association with this movie, i hereby petition that they officially change the name of this franchise to diary of a self-serving little jerk. in a nutshell:

this kid is a jackass. smug, myopic, prone to self-martyrdom.

this kid is the heart and soul of the movie. if there were any justice in the world, the entire movie would be about him and the protagonist we are unfortunately saddled with would be reduced to the impotent villain of the piece whose only function is to stick around long enough to get his comeuppance.

and this kid is a goddamned hero, a national treasure. he is operating on an entirely different plane.

adapted from jeff kinney's monstrously (and now that i have seen this, i mean that in the most disturbing sense) popular series of kid's books, this thing gnaws at me. i haven't been this bothered by the implications of a kid's movie and what its popularity says about the culture at large in a long time. actually, considering that i don't see many kid's movies, maybe ever. the protagonist, greg heffley, is entering his first day of middle school. for 94 minutes we watch as he embarks on an all-consuming quest to be popular, every other concern be damned. he's like the tiniest reality television whore you've ever seen. he talks his sidekick into always doing the shitty/dangerous jobs, once breaking the kid's arm. when he realizes the broken arm means popularity and girls signing your cast, he gets angry that he is not getting credit for injuring his friend. he lies, cheats, steals, endangers smaller children, abandoning them in a rain-drenched construction site to save his own neck, sells out his best friend and constantly obsesses over making it into the yearbook. his self-interest obliterates all other considerations. he is constantly scheming to turn every little thing to his advantage even while demonstrating no appreciable skills or talents, relying on the triumphs of others who actually have it together for achieve a sort of secondhand glow. it's like eat pray love (2010) had a baby with jerry seinfeld or ben stiller. he does get his "redemptive moment" in the final reel but it's a complete sham, as he's less interested in saving his best friend from embarrassment and ruin than grandstanding. it's obvious he is remorseless and in the end all he's done is con his best friend into forgiving him. too little, too late, chump. i hope you parents who have children that enjoy these books are reading them also and discussing them with your kids. if this adaptation is accurate at all, they are getting some bad information. i know the older/smarter kids may pick up on the fact that he's a mini-douchebag, but younger, more impressionable kids may just think he's funny and cool. he's not. as if that's not enough, the movie's just not very good. i imagine it is wildly popular among kids who are going to grow up to watch a lot of sitcoms and be good consumers. avoid this one.

what's that? do i detect the stench of another tv movie wafting in on the breeze? i believe i do. it is hidden somewhere there in the mists of avalon (2001).

uli edel adapted marion zimmer bradley's novel for TNT, which nearly bankrupted ted turner when the bill for the fog machines came due. it is a recasting of the arthurian legends, delivering the story from the point of the view of the female characters. it's a brilliant idea, as we've heard the same old takes on this tale time and time again. the maternal politics involved are rife with dramatic possibilities. i have not read the source novel for this and, unfortunately, now i have no desire to. as i scanned the credits, trying to pinpoint who to blame for that, i noticed one glaring omission. i feel quite sure there was a special consultant called in whose name was not even mentioned. this is a crime, a travesty really, for you can see this man's influence all over this thing:

how do you get to avalon? there are two routes. the main one, apparently, is to go over the top. king arthur and the knights of the overwrought table. i haven't seen this much wailing, gnashing of teeth and rending of garments since the old testament. almost every single line is delivered like it is the last one that actor is ever going to utter. the other way to get there seems to involve a lot of standing up in boats, in which the characters sail from one shoddy set to the next, as the filmmakers are about as familiar with production values as they are with restraint. drench all of it in fog, ladle a hearty serving of stonehenge-y music over the top and half-bake for over three hours and voila! i also give it a demerit for the most ineffectual arthur this side of dudley moore. i assume the casting decision was made so that he wouldn't overwhelm the story, as the focus was on the women of the legends, but king arthur needs to have gravitas. he should have a powerful and regal bearing, not the air (and wig) of a refugee from a third rate passion play. just bad all the way around. the next time i see the letters TNT i hope it's on whatever is being used to blow up large quantities of this dvd.

we close the show with allan moyle's empire records (1995).

i got next!

in case you haven't seen it (i hadn't), it's about that time the breakfast club (1985) worked at a record store that was in danger of being taken over by a corporate chain. i didn't necessarily dislike this movie as much as i simply don't respect it. it obviously wants to be a musical. it just doesn't have the balls to commit to that notion completely - the hyperactive choreography, the utter lack of anything moving the story forward except through musical interludes, the magical universe where you never have to stock a single cassette (!). come on, you gutless wonder! go all the way! i want a chorus line. i want gold lamé top hats and fishnet stockings. i want you to save the store by putting on a real show, not by having renée squintweger squeak at me while not knowing what to do with her hands from on top of your marquee. and oh, those quirky characters! what do you think lucas does when he isn't cultivating hidden depths? aren't the girls the most 90s version of demeter, persephone and hecate ever? how does mark get to work on time with so many shiny things between here and there? here's what happened in 1995: kids everywhere saw the coolest movie ever and for the next two weeks (in some cases a lot longer) started acting like their favorite empire records character. lots of mini-skirts and turtlenecks were purchased. there was some talk about going to art school in boston. some cryptic brooding was introduced to the mix. turbosluts everywhere realized there was an awesome name for what they were. and they all got jobs in record stores only to find it was nothing like that. you don't have confirm it. i know it. just tell me which one you were. oh, and when someone puts this on broadway, and they most certainly will, tell them they owe me a check.

what a day. it's never a good sign when you have to start things off with a no-account punk. tomorrow is another day.

or maybe it isn't.

4.20.2011

oh. my. gosh. caroline: day three

today caroline grants me a reprieve, well earned after yesterday's debacle. our program is a trio of family films. the first was good for a warm-up, but not much more as it was the least impressive of the bunch. we begin with bob shaye's the last mimzy (2007).

it is a bit of an uneven eco-fable/family science fiction story. a team of scientists in the future whose world is facing elimination via ecological disaster sends a series of instruments disguised as children's toys back in time to avert their impending doom. noah and emma, brother and sister, find the toys and emma develops an attachment to one of them, a stuffed rabbit named mimzy. it's a telepathic attachment, as a matter of fact, and via their mindlink mimzy hips emma to the dire predicament the world faces. mimzy tells her that they must build a time bridge and find a way to send mimzy back with uncorrupted dna to repair the damage that has been done to their own. all sorts of distracting and unnecessary displays of superhuman abilities take place, a subplot with noah's science teacher and his metaphysically bent girlfriend comes into play and a terrorism scare hits seattle as a result of the kids' activities. eventually, emma is able to send mimzy back, carrying her dna transmitted through a teardrop, and future generations have her to thank for their clean air, bright sunshine and the superhuman abilities she has passed to them. there's a scene in the marx brothers' animal crackers (1930) that best sums up the feeling the movie left me with. zeppo, groucho's secretary, is taking dictation, composing a letter. when asked to read it back, he crystallized my thoughts about mimzy:

"now, uh, you said a lot of things here that i didn't think were important so i just omitted them."

this movie could have been about twenty minutes long and gotten its point across just as well, better, in fact. if it was twenty minutes long then there would be less of a chance to be bored, which i was almost the entire time. it is well-meaning but muddled, meandering on, repeating scenes with slight variations, losing focus over and over again. there are one or two lovely shots in the opening/closing sequence of the future that emma saved and it's a nice change of pace to see a girl save the day but overall it was dreadfully obtuse. and not so much so because they sacrifice story in favor of the green agenda, as so often happens in films like this. they wander away from that frequently enough that it's never sustained preaching. it tries to do too much without doing any of it particularly well. it's probably confusing as hell for most kids and it's just dull for dull's sake. welcome to the dullhouse. beyond the valley of the dulls.

the next choice, however, was anything but. we follow that with john korty's touching documentary, who are the debolts? and where did they get nineteen kids? (1977).

this academy award-winning documentary is a look at the life of bob and dorothy debolt and their immense family. in addition to their six biological children from previous marriages, they have also adopted a number of children. some of them are severely disabled, some are war orphans from far-flung places, some are both, and this film allows us a brief glimpse at some of their trials and triumphs. immediately, i am struck by the sheer scope of the task they have taken on. almost as immediately, i am struck by how incredibly they manage it. it would be easy to question the motivation of people who would do such a thing. i know i certainly did, initially, but it only took scant minutes for that feeling to be dispelled as well. i may have been taken in, but there is no trace of doubt in my heart that these are living, breathing saints. the honesty with which they describe the struggles of raising so many children of such differing backgrounds and states of health is our first clue that they are genuine. the philosophy that they espouse is as sane and grounded an ethos as you could have for people who would do something as nuts as having nineteen kids. there is nothing lofty in their speech or manner and they would be the same people whether or not the camera was there. they are not putting us on, they simply don't have the time for that. they are not wealthy, they just are willing to share everything they have. i think what truly won me over, even more so than the some of the children's struggle with disabilities, was bob's pragmatism and humanity. the fact that we get to see him frustrated about rocks in the vacuum cleaner and freely admitting that sometimes these rotten kids can drive you nuts is what sells me on the rest of it. he's a real dad, through and through, and every gray hair it's given him is worth it to him. the daily pressures of nineteen children spread a parent incredibly thin but when he talks about making sure you give everything of yourself to a kid for whatever small amount of time you might have to spend with them in a given day, you know it's a belief he puts into practice. it really is one of the most beautiful and inspiring stories i have ever seen. i highly recommend it, and after that, if you would like to catch up with what the kids are doing now that they're grown or learn more about special needs adoption, you can visit them here.

we scale down the size of the family a bit for the next one, kirk jones' nanny mcphee (2005).

i loved this. it eliminates almost all the things that ruin most kid's movies - underestimating children's intelligence, mixed messages, staid moralizing - without sacrificing what makes them fun and engaging. the story: widower cedric brown and his seven children live a large country house with a frazzled cook who has it in writing that they are not allowed in the kitchen and a lovely scullery maid who loves them and tends to them, as they have terrorized a succession of seventeen nannies into fleeing the post, each one more quickly than the last. nanny mcphee arrives via mysterious means shortly thereafter and begins put things in order. she helps the children navigate the moral dilemmas of childhood while cedric struggles with the sacrifice of marrying a repulsive woman he does not love to maintain financial solvency for their household. with nanny mcphee's help everyone eventually makes the right decisions and lives happily ever after. yes, i know it doesn't sound all that unique, but in this case it's the way the story is told that sets it apart. the opening scene sets the tone right away. the seventeenth nanny is sent fleeing in terror because she has been tricked into thinking the other children have roasted and are eating the baby. it lets you know right up front it is willing to be wicked, and wickedly funny. the children aren't your typical interchangeable moppets either. each one has a distinct personality and is vital to makeup of the family without being a "type". already, we're way ahead of the game. i love the fact that the children do everything as a unit, even the baby. i love the fact that every lesson that's taught is grounded in respect, both for yourself and your regard for others, without being finger-wagging. emma thompson's bearing is perfect for this, mixing preternatural serenity and seemingly omniscient eye for detail with a sly, subtle humor. she is willing to meet the children on their own terms. when they are introduced while they are wreaking havoc upon the kitchen, she doesn't opt for the usual disciplinary measures that you've seen an army of julie andrews clones deploy. she sees their anarchy and raises it. i love the self-reflexive relationship it has with kid's story tropes, stating flat out things like stepmothers are evil - we know because all the stories adults have ever given us say so - and the fact that nanny mcphee will, without a doubt, be leaving when her job is done. i love that the pivotal lesson is actually the one that the father learns and in the process we get to see that he trusts his children's ability to reason and feel. occasionally, it veers dangerously close to the old "the kids are smarter than the adults" bit, but it does so many other things right that it overcomes that. the art direction is fantastic, taking recognizable victorian trappings but doing away with the drab and bleak ways they've come to be presented in the post-tim burton world of kid's films. everything is just bright and exaggerated enough to remind you that this is a fairy tale. it's imaginative, a little subversive and it knows you don't have to be dumb to be fun, cake fight included. as hard as it can be to find quality films for adults, it's even harder to find them for kids. here's one more to go on that very short list.

that was a pretty good day. can't let myself get lulled into a false sense of security. caroline might be trying the old rope-a-dope.

aw, damn it. WHO LET CHELSEA IN HERE?!

4.19.2011

oh. my. gosh. caroline: day two

it's a veritable zoo around here today. we have a barnyard full of revolutionaries, camels galore and one immense wild bore. hey-o!

day two begins with john stephenson's animal farm (1999).

caroline betrays her abiding love of television, giving me my second tv movie in four selections. at this rate, come sunday we'll be talking about lucy & desi: before the laughter (1991).

pray it doesn't come to that.

when i looked at the case for animal farm and saw the hallmark logo, i suspected i might be in for some difficulty. i was right. i won't go to the trouble of rehashing the plot here. you read the book in sixth grade. the problems with doing a hallmark adaptation of this are myriad. the tone they are attempting to strike is all wrong for the material. this is a bleak story, full of betrayal and violence, yet the filmmakers can't resist the compulsion to make with the cutesy once in a while. hey, we've got talking animals! what else are we supposed to do with them? the inherent problem in making this palatable for "family" viewing is that it sells everyone short. it underestimates the kids who might be watching it, assuming they aren't able to deal with ideas like corruption and the dangers of indifference without dollops of ill-conceived whimsy which actually only serve to undercut the power of the message. it certainly doesn't serve the source novella well. the dystopian nightmare of stalinist russia with its accompanying horrors is seldom anywhere to be found. by far, though, the most egregious of all these sins is the tacked-on happy ending. simply shameful. it contradicts everything orwell was trying to say. his warning against tyranny and the ability of power to corrupt is somehow transformed into "we don't mind dictatorship as long as it's benevolent" with an undercurrent of endorsement for a particularly american brand of imperialism. completely ridiculous. the animatronics were occasionally impressive and the roster of voice talent was first class but that doesn't excuse what a mess they made of the story. old major wasn't the only thing that got butchered in this ninety minutes. in fact, he got off easy.

next, we go from the barnyard to the desert for byambasuren davaa and luigi falorni's narrative documentary the story of the weeping camel (2003).

this film chronicles an episode in the lives of a group of nomadic mongolian shepherds in which one of their camels gives birth to an albino calf which it then rejects. they try everything they know how, from gentle persistence to rituals and prayers, to instill a maternal connection but all to no avail. they finally call upon a morin khuur player to help them with a ritual of music and chants. the mother camel begins to visibly weep and harmony is restored between her and her calf. the lineage of the film stretches back as far as the very first feature length documentary, robert flaherty's nanook of the north (1922), and it shares that film's focus on indigenous people and its mixture of documentary and narrative elements. the most fascinating thing about the film is simply watching this group of people whose lives move according to such ancient rhythms. they brush up against the twenty-first century, particularly obvious when they send their sons to the aimak center, with all its modern conveniences, to retrieve the musician, but it never threatens to overwhelm the way of life that has been in place for generations. they rely wholly on that way of life for their continued existence and it serves to underscore why the life of one calf is so crucial. the nomadic existence is a difficult one. they don't have the luxury of being able to waste a single resource. it is fitting that they employ ancient methods to ensure the calf's, and therefore their own, survival. while the mystical element of the rituals has no appeal to me, i find it pleasing and somewhat comforting to be reminded that life stubbornly goes on in countless corners of the globe, at its own glacial pace sometimes, regardless of what product apple is unveiling this week.

and then there's this.

eat pray love (2010) is ryan murphy's adaptation of elizabeth gilbert's memoir of the same name in which, in the wake of a divorce, she participates in the titular activities in rome, india and bali, respectively. now, i know i say a lot of things in the course of these for comic effect but i want you to look at me now so you know i am serious.

i have never seen a more privileged, entitled, self-indulgent piece of garbage in my entire life.

never in the history of film have more resources/budget been marshalled in the service of white girl problems (click it, it's worth it). in case, like me, you were unaware of the central lesson of this work, let me outline it for you: the cosmos, as it turns out, is really just a giant mirror. that mirror's main function is to reflect elizabeth gilbert back at elizabeth gilbert. she kicks things off by relating her story to that of refugees who have suffered "genocide, rape, torture, starvation". no, i am not kidding. that happens in the first three minutes. at one pivotal point, she finds a way to turn a fellow pilgrim's heartwrenching story of losing his family to his alcoholism to her advantage, using it as a springboard to forgiving herself for abandoning her husband. at another point, she uses a teen girl in the midst of a terrifying arranged marriage as a conduit for connection with the guru she has co-opted from the manchild ex-boyfriend. she prefaces the bold step of voicing mild disagreement with the guru's teachings by announcing "i'm going to take a risk here". how brave. she then goes on to criticize someone else's writing as self-indulgent, tedious and overlong. fancy that. in addition to all this whining and wondering how on earth she is going to decorate her meditation room, there are also the same lazy and telegraphed gender moves you always see in these things. the women do the same "don't compliment me, i'm fat and exhausted, let's have some girl talk while we look through baby things" business and the men hold babies at arm's length like foreign objects while joking about about feeding them nachos and beer. har har har. and don't forget the dressing room/trying on pants montage, girlfriend! you traveled halfway around the world to do a shopping montage? i guess people are really all the same. it's funny because it's true. makes you think, don't it?

makes me think about gouging my eyes out.

just when i was ready to end it all, javier bardem comes along and saves the day. don't credit the film, though. it's easy to stand out when you're apparently the only real person in a world full of two-dimensional figures. it's even easier when you possess the charisma and skill of javier bardem. i have no idea why he took the job, but i am glad he did. otherwise, i might have had to end it all. this is the worst thing i have had to endure in the queue de grâce experiment so far. i can't imagine it could get much worse. god, i hope not. caroline, i will make certain you regret this.

the adults had their chance, they blew it. tomorrow is all about the kids.

now that's a party. that makes me feel better already. see you tomorrow. and screw you, eat pray love.

trailer tuesday

this week's entry is for freddie francis' mumsy, nanny, sonny and girly (1969).



known simply as girly when it was released in the states, this is an overlooked gem of oddball black comedy. vanessa howard is so creepily sexy that it leaves me feeling conflicted. were i in the movie, it would probably get me killed.

4.18.2011

oh. my. gosh. caroline: day one

it's queue de grâce time again! i received a dossier and mysterious parcel packed with dvds this time around. i have been assured that i will be taken on a journey this week. we shall see...

caroline is apparently taking it easy on me to start with. first up, we have ron mann's documentary tales of the rat fink (2006).

it recounts the life of ed "big daddy" roth, whose influence on american custom car culture can in no way be overstated. i became aware of roth way back when via his connection to underground comics. his anti-mickey mouse character, rat fink, is as well known in those circles as robert crumb's mr. natural or bill griffith's zippy the pinhead. not being a car guy, that's the space he has always occupied in my brain, as the progenitor of an artistic style that fused the more anti-social tendencies of mad magazine with the grotesque remnants of a childhood spent watching universal monster movies and it thumbed its disgusting green nose directly at the sanitized and prim eisenhower era. the cars, however, were his true art, and in this documentary we literally get to meet a few. for someone like roth, the standard talking head format of most documentaries would seem a little stale so mann's answer to this is to replace them with talking grills. a number of roth's most famous custom rods are given celebrity voices and they narrate their own stories, illuminating bits of roth's history along the way. the good news - on one or two occasions it really works. in particular, i am thinking of the vignette that recounts the day that roth discovered fiberglass. it was a pivotal moment in his career, freeing him from the limitations of simply making alterations to what detroit was giving him. fiberglass was light enough, flexible enough and cheap enough for him to experiment to his heart's content. the enthusiastic quality of the narration in this section is appropriate to a revelatory moment like this. an artist finds his true medium once in his lifetime. it made all things possible for him and the designs he came up with in the wake of this discovery are still fantastic in the truest sense of the word. the bad news - most of the rest of the time, the idea can come across as a little bit silly and the amount of information actually imparted leaves me feeling shortchanged. it gets things revved up a couple of times but it's more of a tease than anything because long before the end you realize it's more of a love letter than an historical document. it seems kind of a shame to waste a shot at chronicling such an interesting guy. he let an entire generation know that it was ok to be a weirdo. that's no mean feat, especially for that generation. to be fair, roth died just before the film could be made, so i am sure that radically changed the direction of the film. i would just gladly trade a lot of tribute for a little more insight. still, i learned a few things about someone whose work i admire. that's never a bad way to start.

we stick with the biographical material for our next selection, mick jackson's temple grandin (2010).

by now, you may be familiar with this much ballyhooed HBO biopic. temple grandin's story is a pretty extraordinary one. diagnosed with autism at age three, she overcame a lifetime of obstacles to obtain her doctorate in animal science and went on to develop new, more humane systems for handling cattle on ranches and in slaughterhouses that revolutionized the industry. a visionary in more than one sense of the word, her autism caused her to "think in pictures" and her unique perspective allowed her to see solutions to problems that went unobserved by others. she is an ingenious woman and her work as an autism advocate is notable, as well. in her case, her autism offered as many gifts as handicaps, it would seem. the danger in telling a story like this is obvious. it would be simple to slip into maudlin, treacly sentimentality. for the most part, though, it avoids this pitfall. claire danes is excellent in the lead and thoroughly inhabits a role that would have been reduced to a collection of tricks and tics in lesser hands. she never sacrifices the dignity of the character, even when at her most helpless. catherine o'hara is superb in a supporting role as her aunt, as well. watching the two of them interact was probably the highlight of the film for me. their relationship was so natural that it was easy to forget that autism was even part of the equation. in those moments, it was just two women, laughing, talking, at ease with one another, being family. when the film was least effective was when it resorted to standard tv movie tricks. julia ormond, as her long-suffering mother, is saddled with the thankless task of keeping the hallmark movie tendencies in her character at bay. i could have done without the lazy montage-type exposition and i definitely could have done without how badly those scenes were scored. at times, it was just this side of the type of thing you would hear in episodes of the dukes of hazzard or the a-team. i am so sick of this type of cinematic/televisual shorthand i could scream. sheer laziness. to be fair, the cinematography looked great and the visualization of grandin's thought processes was presented with a flair that was ambitious for a tv movie. overall though, if it wasn't for how notable the subject was, it would have been pretty average. it reminded me of a ron howard picture - competent, pleasant, dependent on the charisma of its performers for its power, no surprises. ultimately, it's a remarkable movie only because she's a remarkable woman.

we keep with the theme of overcoming obstacles as we tackle the modern fairy tale that is mark palansky's penelope (2006).

christina ricci is penelope, whose ancestor's dalliance with a servant girl, and her resulting suicide, resulted in a curse being placed upon the family: the next daughter born to family would have the nose of a pig. for five generations they dodged that porcine bullet but now it has come home to root. the only way the curse can be lifted is if one of her own learns to love her. as a result, the search for a suitor who can see past her nose is never-ending. look, let's just cut to the chase. once again, the confusion being heaped upon the core audience for this thing, presumably mostly young women, is astounding. right off the bat, we're told she's hideous. nope. she's christina ricci. she's adorable and just happens to have a pig nose. she is willful, smart, creative and funny and has come to grips with her situation...when she's not telling her mother she just wants to be like everyone else. finally, and most abhorrently, when she declares that she likes herself (actually, the implication is that she loves herself, since that is the only thing that can break the curse) the curse is lifted. for those of you too busy awwwwwwing at the happily ever after-ness of it all to see what i mean, let me explain. the movie just spent ninety-odd minutes telling adolescent girls with body issues that it's what inside that counts, that what's important is who you are, not what you look like, only to sell them out completely in the final reel. it goes as far as to have the character in question be so truly accepting of herself, regardless of physical appearance, that she actually loves who she is, to hell with what anyone else thinks. and your reward for becoming this healthy and well-adjusted and happy? you finally get to be pretty. you know, pretty according to conventional standards. all this crap we fed you about "pretty on the inside"? that's just something we tell people who can't actually be pretty on the outside. since you stuck it out and actually demonstrated character and wisdom, you get to have fairy tale plastic surgery. congratulations, what was unique about you is gone. you get to be like everyone else. just once, i wish one of these goddamned "modern fairy tales" would end like this:

POOF!

"wait, what happened? i didn't change."

"no, you didn't. you're still as gawky and awkward and plain as you ever were. and you're awesome that way. that POOF was everybody else wising up. later, a kind of cute in his own way, awkward, dorky guy will be dropping by to listen to records and make thai food. don't blow it."

"so no prince charming?"

"are you listening to yourself? don't be an asshole."

...and scene.

so day one is in the books. could be better, could be worse. i am glad i saw the first two, even if they didn't knock me completely out. the third makes me doubt the existence of happily ever after.

tomorrow may finish that job.

4.16.2011

a year's worth of starlite

next month will mark a year that we have been recapturing that drive-in feeling by turning backyards in austin into outdoor theaters once a month for our starlite cinema series.

we tested out the idea back in may of last year with the fine folks of the annie street arts collective and did a number of shows there before moving to our new home at the smith residence, newly re-christened as the crestland arcadium. with every screening, things just seem to get better. for instance:

that's right. for our screening of a taxing woman (1987) tonight there was grilled sweet corn and lauren spent all day baking some incredible challah bread. this is the kind of thing you miss out on when you skip starlite cinema. you have also missed a lot of fine film. here's a rundown of what we have shown this past year:

forbidden passage (1941)
a gun in his hand (1945)
detour (1945)
off the charts: the song-poem story (2003)
monster road (2004)
alma (2009)
simon of the desert (1965)
spirit of the beehive (1973)
the amazing screw-on head (2006)
the mysterious geographic explorations of jasper morello (2005)
journey to the center of the earth (1959)
swing you sinners! (1930)
the legend of hell house (1973)
troll 2 (1990)
a charlie brown thanksgiving (1973)
big night (1996)
sherlock jr. (1924)
metropolis (1927)
the lost thing (2010)
madagascar, a journey diary (2010)
logorama (2009)
mst3k: what to do on a date (1950)
gregory's girl (1981)
beauty and the beast (1946)
master of the flying guillotine (1977)
iron monkey (1993)
a taxing woman (1987)

and due to time constraints we twice had to cut films this year. my apologies to misterios de ultratumba (1959) and the adventures of robin hood (1938).

so in the span of a year we have visited spain, australia, the UK, germany, africa, france, china and japan. we have seen some silent classics, old favorites, perplexing documentaries, badass kung fu, dark proto-noir and groundbreaking animation. in the year to come, we look forward to bringing you more variety and hope to introduce you to exciting, challenging and fun films, both new and old. we are kicking our second year off in epic fashion with akira kurosawa's landmark, seven samurai (1954)!

we are devoting the entire evening to the emperor's masterpiece so make sure you clear your calendar on saturday, 5.28.11 and join us at 8 p.m. for kurosawa and starlite birthday cake. here is the event page for those of you that are on the facebook. the rest of you can get in touch with me if you would like further details. let's get year two off to a great start. hope to see you there.

4.14.2011

my cinematic alphabet

this little exercise originated over at citizenrobot and i have enjoyed looking around at everyone else's so i thought i would try my hand at it. the general idea is to choose your favorite film for each letter of the alphabet. here we go.

a is for aguirre, the wrath of god (1972).

b is for the bank dick (1940).

c is for the conversation (1974).

d is for dead of night (1945).

e is for the elephant man (1980).

f is for f for fake (1975).

g is for gaslight (1944).

h is for halloween (1978).

i is for the in-laws (1979).

j is for juliet of the spirits (1965).

k is for king kong (1933).

l is for the long goodbye (1973).

m is for the maltese falcon (1941).

n is for naked (1993).

o is for the old dark house (1932).

p is for picnic at hanging rock (1975).

q is for quai des orfèvres (1947).

r is for rosencrantz and guildenstern are dead (1990).

s is for sherlock jr. (1924).

t is for the testament of dr. mabuse (1933).

u is for ugetsu (1953).

v is for valerie and her week of wonders (1970).

w is for a woman under the influence (1974).

x is for x: the man with the x-ray eyes (1963).

y is for yojimbo (1961).

z is for zelig (1983).

mine actually turned out to be a fairly accurate representation of my cinematic proclivities. how about yours?