8.30.2011

trailer tuesday

this week's entry is for jiang wen's deft mixture of sly political commentary and enthralling western action, let the bullets fly (2010).

8.27.2011

the view from row q - holy bat day!

110°, a city teetering on the edge, an auditorium filled with super-villains and people who text in the theater. with all hope nearly lost, the paramount theatre puts out the call...

and the man responds! today's matinee at the paramount, where the film also premiered forty-five years ago, was the original batman (1966) with none other than the original caped crusader himself, adam west, in attendance. you want the definition of a fun time at the movies? this was undeniably it. the festivities started out in the street, before you even made it into the theatre. the original batmobile was parked outside, at the ready, in case any of the rogue's gallery of villains decided to make trouble in our fair city. it was a hub of activity, surrounded by good citizens and li'l crimefighters alike.

for the record, that kid was awesome.

in the lobby there was an impressive lego batman statue and a flesh and blood frank miller-era dark knight making sure our gotham was protected. a vendor table at the auditorium entrance was piled high with just about every bat-souvenir you could want and upstairs, the man himself, adam west, holding court and taking photos with all the gold and platinum level film fans (just one more reason you should become one yourself). just before the actual screening, he entertained everyone with a hilarious q & a, beginning by letting us all admire his "superhero physique", and then fielding questions about everything from the rumor he is going to be in the dark knight rises (2012) - nope - to which villain gave him the most trouble - catwoman gave him curious stirrings in his utility belt - to his legacy as the first, and most fun, batman - "you know the dark knight? i'm the bright knight". the guy was a riot, fully embracing his position as a pioneer of camp and crimefighting. he seems to be having a lot of fun with it and made sure all the fans were too.

then the lights went down and it was an hour and a half of candy-colored hilarity, more dutch angles than a geometry class in rotterdam and BIFF! KAPOW! SPLOOSH! if you're at all familiar with the series, you know what i mean. the four major villains - penguin, joker, the riddler and the lee meriwether catwoman - converge on gotham to steal a device, quite clearly a vacuum cleaner painted orange and blue, that can dehydrate humans at the touch of a button. their ineptitude and inability to maintain a unified front of evil makes them easy prey for the dynamic duo. the mugging by this band of evildoers is so gleefully over the top that it makes jim carrey look downright restrained and west's delivery is the stuff of legend. batman himself is so deadly earnest and west is simultaneously so tongue in cheek that it almost gives you whiplash. in retrospect, it's almost revolutionary and it just gets funnier, and more fun, with each passing decade. exhibit A:



if that's not funny then just go ahead and spray me with bat-shark repellent right now, because i do not want to live in your world.

thanks nick, jesse and everyone else at the paramount for another great event. i just have one request if you guys do this again when it's 110° outside...

bring mr. freeze too.

8.26.2011

why, it's a major award!

when i undertook jon merrill's massive list for his installment of queue de grâce he promised me a trophy if i made it all the way through. well, a knock just came at my door...

there, in beautifully etched crystal and lowercase, he has immortalized my achievement. i am speechless.

thank you, jon.

8.24.2011

he's got the look

taylor lautner apparently has about a 20° list to starboard. if he was a boat you'd have to put him in dry dock.

dont' worry, though. he's developed a strategy to combat his problem.

easy there, big fella. bella's got you.

8.23.2011

trailer tuesday

this week's entry is for steve james and alex kotlowitz's important new documentary, the interrupters (2011).



there are more broken hearts woven into the fabric of this story than i can count.

8.21.2011

starlite under the big top

last night we held the last starlite cinema of what is officially summer. i hope the next one looks more like this.

ok, so maybe snow is out of the question, but give us a break. more than two straight months of triple digit temperatures is ridiculous. when the sun sets for movie time and it's still 95 degrees, and it feels like relief, things have gone too far. we forged bravely on, though, keeping it mercifully short this time around. in celebration of alfred hitchcock's birthday, we screened my favorite film of his, rope (1948). i have seen it countless times now and still find something new in it every time. i wish jimmy stewart was allowed to give vent to the darker aspects of his character more often. he never did better work than when hitchcock let him break out of that staid everyman bit and indulge in some minor key business. a good time was had by all and, as always, thanks to everyone who came and to stephen and lauren for the space to make it happen.

next month, we focus on life in the center ring with a program devoted to the circus. our feature presentation will be federico fellini's landmark, la strada (1954).

when i was a fresh-faced undergrad english major at oklahoma state, i took a film as literature class from a professor named leonard leff and it turned out to be a pivotal experience. the very first film i saw under his tutelage was la strada and, twenty-two years down the road, i remember it like it was yesterday. he showed me a vast new horizon, taught me how to read a film and provided me with the tools to dig as deep into the world of cinema as my meager abilities would allow. i owe him an inestimable debt for that. the very least i can do is pass it along and possibly provide that experience for someone else, so, in that spirit, we will be watching this jewel as the centerpiece of our late september program. it is the bridge from fellini's earlier, more neo-realist work to the later, more idiosyncratic and fanciful fables he would indulge in to varying degrees of success. it is the story of a brutish traveling strongman and the womanchild he purchases to act as his assistant as they take their paltry show on the road. it's a grim life, meandering through the barren italian countryside, putting on shows for practically no one, but giulietta masina is an undeniable light in that darkness. she takes the simple joy you find in the expression of the great cinematic clowns like chaplin and imbues it with such radiance that sometimes it is hard to believe. she is one of cinema's greatest faces. even her angelic simplicity is not enough, however, to stave off tragedy. come see the whole beautiful and sad thing unfold with us. there will be a couple of other circus-related visual treats and i have it on good authority that lauren will be working on a themed menu for the occasion as well. it is going to be a great night for children of all ages. here is the facebook event page if you would like to RSVP. hope to see you there.

p.s. while we're on the subject of leonard leff, and still in hitchcock's birthday month, i would be remiss if i didn't mention that, among other great books, my old professor has written the definitive study of hitchcock's complicated relationship with oft-times maniacal titan/producer, david o. selznick. no hitchcock enthusiast's bookshelf is complete without it.

8.16.2011

trailer tuesday

in celebration of the dog days of summer and pennant chases beginning to heat up, this week's entry is for bennett miller's moneyball (2011).



goddamn, i love a good baseball movie. there are no lights like ballpark lights.

8.15.2011

shen done him right

another installment of queue de grâce passes into history. everyone take a moment a bid a fond farewell to our guest programmer for the past week, shen heaton.

she provided me with an excellent list, if i do say so myself. here's what i watched this time around, for posterity's sake:

when the road bends: tales of a gypsy caravan (2006)
gogol bordello non-stop (2008)
everything is illuminated (2005)
north (1994)
gangs of new york (2002)
crazy (2008)
murder by death (1976)
the good, the bad, the weird (2008)
best in show (2000)
cannibal! the musical (1993)
a dirty shame (2004)
oliver! (1968)
the inspector general (1949)
spy kids (2001)
repo! the genetic opera (2008)
sukiyaki western django (2007)
hogfather (2006)
labyrinth (1986)
ponyo (2008)
the passion of joan of arc (1928)

i had a really good time with this one. shen always made sure there was a healthy dose of fun every day in preparation for the perfectly chosen and beautifully difficult finale. i appreciate the international focus a great deal, especially the block of asian films. i have also learned to be highly skeptical of any title incorporating an exclamation point, oliver! notwithstanding. it was a fantastic set to christen my new household with, as it was full of laughter and music. thanks, shen. you did a great job. as always, i can't tell you much i appreciate the willingness of all you guys to put yourselves publicly on the line for this, letting me opine so freely about some of your favorite things. i'm glad you trust me with the movies you love.

in an effort to keep up with the ever-growing list of participants, i will be back in september with a new list curated by the lovely summer anne burton. her prodigious skill in the art of the mixtape leads me to believe that this experiment is going to reach dizzying new heights. join us and see. and if you would like to throw your hat in the ring just let me know and i will make sure you get added to the list. just be prepared to be patient. thanks to everyone for reading and thanks again, shen, for a great experience.

8.14.2011

shen done him wrong: day seven

here we are again, another week of cinematic exploration nearly over. we ring down the curtain on this installment of queue de grâce with a pair of excellent choices that illustrate, each in their own way, the power and magic of the movies. first up, hayao miyazaki's wondrous ponyo (2008).

it is the master japanese animator's most recent full-length feature and the most accessible yet in a long line of ruminations on the capricious nature of humanity and our relationship with the rest of (super)natural world. the film opens with an undersea panorama full of as much light and color as yellow submarine (1968). a rebellious half kewpie doll/half goldfish who wants to see what the world has in store for her makes a break for it, stowing away atop a jellyfish. as she nears the surface, she is caught up by a ship dredging garbage from the harbor and is trapped in a jar. five year-old sōsuke is playing by the seaside and frees her from her predicament. it is the start of a beautiful friendship, as they say. she licks a cut on his finger, magically healing it. he names her ponyo and vows to take care of her. her father seems quite the sinister figure when he appears on land to retrieve ponyo but that's a red herring. hey-o! he marshals the forces of the sea to bring her back to him but she has had too much fun (and human blood) to keep her down on the farm. she escapes and, in a sequence that demonstrates all the fearsome power and rapturous beauty of the ocean, generates a tsunami that she runs gleefully across the top of in search of her friend. she is reunited with sōsuke but so much magic has been released in the wake of her escape that the natural balance of things is in jeopardy of irreparable damage. it is determined that if sōsuke can pass a test of devotion then ponyo can live her life on land as a real girl and the natural order will be restored. sōsuke passes with flying colors, as he is absolutely pure of heart and he loves ponyo, regardless of her form. it is sweet, touching and beautifully drawn. i tend to favor miyazaki's other, darker work but this was superb. it is geared more toward children than some of his previous features and the simplicity of that approach reveals a profundity that you find in all of the world's most durable stories. i love how magic intersects with the everyday world in this film. case in point: after sōsuke identifies the five-year year old girl who just ran across the top of a tsunami as the now-human form of the goldfish he brought home earlier his mother's response is a matter-of-fact "life is mysterious and amazing, but we have work to do now". i love her for that. the universe is full of wonder, so why should a day when your son's tiny goldfish girlfriend sprouts human legs as she runs by you be any different from any other? every day is full of magic in some way or another. i love ponyo because she is a complete lunatic, all unbridled id and appetite for ham. i love sōsuke because he a solid little dude, all noble heart and duty. i love miyazaki because his imagination takes me to all these places. i love this movie.

and, in sharp contrast to all the hyperkinetic, candy-colored fun we've been having all week, we end with carl theodor dreyer's stark and haunting silent masterpiece, the passion of joan of arc (1928).

it is a re-enactment of the last days of her short, turbulent life, picking up with the beginning of her trial and ending with her execution, burned at the stake. no simple synopsis could ever do this justice, though. dreyer, with his majestically austere scandinavianness, is one of my absolute favorite filmmakers, so i am biased, but i don't know if i can think of a more striking and prolonged portrait of agony and ecstasy. shot in almost unrelenting close-ups, you are immediately on intimate terms with both martyr and the hypocritical, blustering swine in charge of her inquisition. flying in the face (appropriately enough) of accepted film practices, dreyer refuses to give you the comfort of a long shot, just lingering and lingering and lingering so tightly on the geography of this parade of faces until you can see in them everything that is beautiful and hateful in all human beings. he also repeatedly and intentionally violates the continuity of sight lines to the point that you can no longer be sure in some cases if joan is looking up at her tormentors or her god, making for a confusion and discomfort in the viewer that leaves you grasping for clarification that does not come. you struggle along with her. and oh, how she struggles. renée maria falconetti, in her only cinematic role, delivers a performance that is among the single greatest ever committed to film. every detail is perfect. there is a moment early on where she raises her hand to her cheek and touches the spot where a rabid cleric just spit on her face that is shattering, but not for the reasons you may think. the offense, the indignity is a given. what moved me was her hand, with its dirty, broken fingernails but slight softness to the skin. it was very much the hand of someone who was a soldier but also a pious nineteen year-old girl from the country and it moved not quickly, but steadily to the spot, responding not with outrage, but a measured acceptance and dismissal. there is an equally heart-rending moment later when, as she is being tied to the stake, the executioner drops the rope and she gently bends down to retrieve it for him. her sincerity and suffering are simply off the scale. it is one of the most beautiful and harrowing things i have ever seen. i know this one is going to be tough sledding for a lot of people, but if there is one film out of everything i have talked about this week that i wish you would see, it is this one. if you care about cinema history it is a necessity, no debate. dreyer's iconoclastic vision is innovative, uncompromising and bold and falconetti puts her very soul on display. a must.

and with that revelatory experience, we complete another program. thank you, shen. that was a very rewarding week.

8.13.2011

the view from row q - el tren fantasma

tonight was a special night at the paramount theatre, probably the first night i circled on the schedule when i received it back in may. they screened one of mexico's most action-packed silent melodramas, gabriel garcía moreno's el tren fantasma (1927).

and, as if that weren't enough, michael ramos, leader of the latin lounge outfit charanga cakewalk, premiered a new score of his specifically composed for the event. these live performances are always a highlight of the summer film schedule and this one certainly did not disappoint. ramos' score was lively and paid homage to the traditional mexican popular forms of the day while seamlessly working in the more modern electronic elements his group usually traffics in. it added a level of enjoyment to the film that was undeniable. ramos and his group ratcheted up the tension during the chases and fights, livened up the dances, underlined the pathos of the more melodramatic passages and, once or twice, added their own playful musical commentary on the action taking place onscreen. a fine performance.

the film itself was fantastic. it was my first exposure to garcía moreno and i am eager to see more. he took what, in other hands, would have been a standard love triangle and made it uncommonly adventurous and nuanced for silent cinema. all the actors did their own stunts, some of which were quite difficult and dangerous, including the romantic lead very obviously jumping from a galloping horse onto a moving steam train. the performers' willingness to put themselves in harm's way results in a heightened level of suspense and deeper sentimental attachment to them. you aren't given the subconscious break that usually comes with obvious stunt doubles and cutaways. every narrow escape or drop from a great height is clearly the character that you have become attached to and whose welfare you are emotionally invested in.

the able physicality of the stars is equally matched by the emotional complexity of the villain of the piece. manuel de los ríos plays paco mendoza, one of the rival suitors of the beautiful daughter of the stationmaster. he is also secretly "el rubí", the leader of a gang of bandits and kidnappers who are responsible for the irregularities that the railroad is having investigated. his love for the stationmaster's daughter leads him to put on illogical displays of bravery and play both ends against the middle with the gang, going to such lengths as standing in for an ailing toreador during a bullfight and orchestrating and staging a fake kidnap and rescue to win her affections. the better angels of his nature eventually win out and, in a last sacrificial act, he throws himself on a bomb intended to sabotage the train our young lovers are on and he comes to a sad, bloody, violent and redemptive end. it's a far cry from the typical, one-dimensional, mustache-twirling bad guy that litters the landscape of melodrama.

the look of the film is also remarkable. the vast majority of it was shot on location in mexico so it offers a window to that world you would only usually find in documentary footage. in addition to being freed of the restrictions of a set-bound production and reaping the benefit of the heightened realism of location shooting, it functions as an anthropological document, a vivid slice of life of 1920's mexico. it is easy to give yourself over to the spirit of the proceedings because it takes place in an absolutely habitable universe, as evidenced by the extras who traversed those streets every day and lived under the rooftops that our hero scampered across in an attempt to save maiden fair. it's full of lived-in spaces and faces that make me wish the camera would just constantly pan back and forth so i could see it all without end. many thanks to the paramount theatre, michael ramos and the folks at cine las americas for putting this together. there may be no greater feeling than walking into a theater not knowing what to expect and having a night like tonight. it makes me fall in love with cinema all over again.

shen done him wrong: day six

day six opens with a second visit to the realm of the spaghetti eastern with takashi miike's sukiyaki western django (2007).

miike, one of world cinema's most provocative and prolific filmmakers, never met a genre he didn't like. in this case, i fear he may like the genre too much. two rival factions have set upon a village in search of lost treasure. a mysterious stranger rides into town and finds himself in the middle of an ever-escalating war. gunfights, swordfights, showdowns and revenge. if it sounds stock that's because it pretty much is. it falters because it fails to commit. it is neither the audacious button-pushing that he is notorious for nor the more mannered traditionalism he employed to such great effect in the excellent 13 assassins (2010). it exists in a limbo that equates to mostly uninspired pastiche, which you are tipped to from the opening bell. it begins with a bizarre and distracting cameo from quentin tarantino, the great motormouthed god of all things slapped together from other things. it is very much like one of his films in that the most fun in it is playing spot-the-reference. it's not that it's poorly made. it is technically accomplished and obviously demonstrates a knowledge of both eastern and western genre films. it's watchable, just not highly entertaining. file it under another instance of a director having previously set the bar too high for himself. it could be that his sensibilities are too grim to generate something that is supposed to be fun. it comes off as alternately camp and smug instead of the thrill ride that we were treated to earlier in the week with the good, the bad, the weird (2008). it just lacks that certain something. he could have ventured a lot farther in either direction and it would have made for a much more satisfying film.

making up for this slight disappointment, i received an early christmas present in the form of vadim jean's hogfather (2006).

this is the bbc adaptation of the twentieth novel in terry pratchett's discworld series and i must say, they nailed it. it's hogswatch on discworld, equivalent to our christmas. the hogfather, equivalent to our santa claus, has gone missing and death has resolved to take his place to ensure that people continue believing in him. in the meantime, death's granddaughter, susan, has gone to investigate the disappearance and uncovers the existence of several new gods and other fantastic beings that have been loosed upon the world because of a surplus of belief, now that the hogfather isn't around to believe in. the plot to assassinate the hogfather is foiled, hogswatch is saved and the sun rises another day. at it's heart, it's a very thoughtful and playful take on the old saw "if there wasn't a god we would have created one". it pokes gentle fun at humanity's need to believe in something other than itself and asks a fair amount of weighty questions, however cleverly disguised they may be, my favorite being death's pivotal observation about human beings - "do you know, that in a universe so full of wonders, they have managed to invent boredom?" it is a ringing indictment delivered in a manner that still allows us to feel good about our inherent silliness. it's a perfect balance of absurdity, philosophy and holiday cheer. thanks to shen, i believe i have found a new tradition for christmas viewing. the presence of michelle dockery's perfect alabaster neck doesn't exactly hurt, either. hog bless us, everyone.

we close the show with a trip through jim henson's labyrinth (1986).

how things have changed since i saw this in 1986. jennifer connelly plays sarah, a girl on the verge of adulthood who unwittingly invokes the goblin king, asking him to take her pesky, wailing infant baby brother away. she soon realizes her mistake and enters into a fantasy realm where she has thirteen hours to solve the goblin king's labyrinth before he turns her brother into a goblin and keeps him forever. i remember liking this a great deal when i originally saw it. in retrospect, i had no idea how italian this was at the time. the bad sound sync, the synthesizers, the budding adolescent sexuality, the owl - it's like jim henson watched nothing michele soavi movies in the time between the dark crystal (1982) and this. translation: i like it now, but for distinctly different reasons, probably reasons henson didn't intend. i think that's probably the case for everyone, though. it has left the world of kid's movies behind. i am honestly surprised it was ever marketed that way at all.

don't act like you don't know what i am talking about. with david bowie's spandex-highlighted wang nudging her gently through his maze and escher-like castle, how could she do anything but come out a woman on the other side. it is so prominently featured that i cannot imagine it was an accident. it should have its own separate credit. goodbye childhood, indeed. when you consider this film as an solitary artifact it is an interesting, if a bit confusing, product of its time. it doesn't make sense very often, as it is prone to re-write its own rules as it goes. when you consider this film as the missing link between the muppet show and suspiria (1977) everything falls into place, that place just happens to be through the looking glass.

this week has flown by. it hardly seems possible, but tomorrow we reach the end of the road.

we're not the only ones.

8.12.2011

shen done him wrong: day five

day five begins with a case of mistaken identity, as shen may have confused me with someone who enjoys danny kaye. up first, henry koster's the inspector general (1949).

danny kaye plays an illiterate gypsy traveling with a medicine show. while wandering a village they are visiting, he is mistaken for a horse thief and thrown in jail. the corrupt city officials then mistake him for the inspector general, rumored to be traveling incognito and ferreting out those that are on the take. they plan to give him the v.i.p. treatment just long enough to figure out how to dispose of him. in the meantime, the real inspector general shows up, realizes that danny kaye is the only right guy in town and makes him mayor of the village. it's all delivered with efficient zest and good cheer, if only i could stomach danny kaye. he is the comic embodiment of just about every personality trait i cannot stand. he is a bundle of unceasing twitches, tics, noises and what, i assume, are supposed to be cutesy-pie faces. he makes charlie callas look as reserved and dignified as alec guinness. add to the constant mugging a barrage of dialect comedy that was already dusty in the vaudeville days and a raft of songs that test his verbal dexterity and my patience and you begin to get the idea. it basically boils down to a personality conflict. in the battle of under the breath versus over the top, there is only one choice for me. the whole time i am watching danny kaye i cannot concentrate on what is happening on screen because i am trying to imagine him in his personal life. i am trying to count how many times people who loved him had to say "can you just stop that for five minutes?!" it's just not in me to reward people who need to be looked at this much. if i can see your eyebrow raise from the back row, i am headed to the lobby. the inspector general is useful, at least, in that it makes me appreciate understatement that much more. it also makes me appreciate that jim carrey does not sing.

next we have robert rodriguez's spy kids (2001).

one of the best things about this experiment has been discovering things i really enjoy that i would have otherwise never seen and, since i have no children, that has happened most often with kid's movies. this was a blast. carmen and juni cortez and the offspring of two super-spies, a fact they are completely unaware of. to them, mom and dad are as boring as any other mom and dad. when mom and dad are kidnapped by an evil cabal set on world domination, carmen and juni are pressed into service as junior super-spies themselves and save the day, learning valuable lessons about not underestimating yourself or your parents in the process. i loved this movie. i imagine kids love this movie. it is a wildly imaginative alternate universe that has all the things you could ever want if you ever thought it would be cool to be a spy. the brother-sister dynamic is right on the money and no one ever talks down to the children. the predicaments the kids find themselves in are never presented in a way that is frightening, just a challenge that any kid could overcome if they put their mind to it. it is also refreshing to see a latino family be the heroes, kicking back against the anglophilic slant that has dominated kid's cinema for so long. it may not seem like much, but think about how often you see a mainstream kid's movie that features non-anglo protagonists that refer to, celebrate and joke about their culture in a healthy way, that actually embrace all aspects of their heritage. there aren't a whole lot. after seeing machete (2010) and this, where the machete character originally came from, in the last few weeks, i wish rodriguez would stick exclusively with kid's movies. he has a real knack for it and his flights of fancy don't feel hastily dashed off, insulting or ridiculous when they are in this framework. this makes me want to see the other entries in the series but i am afraid, as is often the case, they won't hold up to the original. the spirit of this one seems so pure and fun that i fear that would be lost in the cash grab business of sequels. maybe i'll just stick with this one so i can always think of carmen and juni this way.

and then there's this, the one i know some of you jackals have been waiting for all week, darren lynn bousman's repo! the genetic opera (2008).

at least this guy got the benefit of an early exit from the film. i had to stay for the whole thing. if you ever wondered what it would be like if a bunch of stabbing westward videos gangbanged moulin rouge! (2001) here is your answer. this masterpiece is brought to you by the whiz kid who helmed three installments of the saw franchise. usually, when faced with one of his torture devices you at least get the courtesy of finding out why you're being punished. i am left wondering. whatever it was, i am sorry. the story takes place in a dystopian future where a plague of organ failure has swept the land and all exposition and dialogue must be sung. corporate behemoth geneco has instituted a program where you can finance a replacement organ, or even elective surgery, at what i am sure are very reasonable terms. just don't be late putting the check in the mail or they will come and retrieve their property with extreme prejudice. i would tell you more about the plot but it doesn't make one damn bit of difference. my apologies to the goth kids who are responsible for the production and proliferation of this (google "repo army" if you're curious about the extent of this phenomenon). i have a soft spot for you because i know you have it rough but, man, you make some shitty art sometimes. this time you've gone too far. you make me long for the simpler days of angelfire pages devoted to shakespeare's sister. this is just ridiculous, tuneless caterwauling with no purpose and, seemingly, no end. i know i have a lot of nerve saying that about such respected vocalists as paul sorvino, paris hilton and bill moseley, but there it is. i think the thing that irritates me the most (besides the snippet of a song where they were mimicking tom waits) is the feeling that they were consciously trying to manufacture a cult classic, as if every decade or so you can just lazily slap your infantile, tone-deaf modifications onto the chassis of the rocky horror picture show (1975) and that's just going to be alright. sorry, chumps, it doesn't work that way. we already have one of those. your birthright is hot topic and you're just going to have to be satisfied with it.

and enough with the goddamned exclamation points in the titles of musicals, already!

well, the damage that this one did to my auditory functions is at least well timed because i have it on good authority from one of tomorrow's participants that you don't need two ears.

me and you and bowie in tights. see you then.

8.11.2011

shen done him wrong: day four

day four dawns on the colorado territory, for good or ill, with trey parker's cannibal! the musical (1993).

it is parker's musical "comedy" treatment of alfred packer's story. packer led an expedition from utah hoping to find gold in breckenridge, colorado. an inexperienced guide, he got his party lost and snowbound. food ran out and, according to packer, while he was out scouting, one of the party killed the others with a hatchet and began to eat their flesh. packer shot him in self-defense. this movie is just about as funny as that. for connoisseurs of a certain type of film - amateurish, straight-to-video quality, enamored of its own perceived hilarity - this is the gold mine that packer was searching for. for me, not so much. it strikes me the same way as the television show the state - not nearly as funny as you remember it being the first time around when you saw it in your freshman dorm. it's a good thing for parker there will always be freshmen somewhere. don't get me wrong, i like the guy. i think south park is frequently very funny and parker is exceptional at making fun of people who are in dire need of it, including himself. this business is just underdeveloped, a stepping stone. i am sure the very first song elvis costello wrote wasn't exactly radio radio. here we're watching parker's growing pains, so, appropriately, it is somewhat painful. i admire his pluck, at least. it is ambitious for what is basically a home movie that his friends told him was hilarious. interesting side note - stan brakhage, one of our greatest experimental filmmakers is in this thing. i missed that the first time i saw this. i was probably too busy laughing and writing term papers for money.

next up, a lesson in wholesome depravity with john waters' a dirty shame (2004).

set in the whitebread heart of waters' beloved baltimore, it tells the story of the stickles family and their concussions, perversions and repressions. tracey ullman is a first-class neuter, "normal" person, for whom sex is at best, a nuisance, at worst, an abomination. a blow on the head sets her inner sex freak free and, with the help of saintly sex healer johnny knoxville, the quest to discover a new sex act begins. i think i like the idea, the pieces, of this movie better than the movie itself. it is gleefully filthy from beginning to end, reveling in its parade of fetishes in a way quite unlike any other film i have ever seen. it dares to endorse the crrrrazy notion that there is absolutely nothing wrong with anything two (or more) adults do that is safe and consensual. it's an idea that still poses a problem for some, as the nc-17 rating attests to. that seems a bit harsh for a film with no explicit contact, just brief full frontal nudity and a lot of sexual slang and dirty words. apparently, people still have to be protected from adults talking frankly about sex. for years, john waters has been sweetly relating tales of freaks and marginalized underdogs and now it seems like he and the rest of the world have caught up with each other. if nothing else, this movie will help people understand that we are all the freaks, with sexuality as the great equalizer. that thing you like? it's not weird. trust me. trust john waters. because of this, the movie loses some of the transgressive power of waters' earlier films but i would gladly trade a world where divine would have been gawked at for one where no one has to be ashamed of what makes them feel good and like a whole human being. that being said, as a movie it's no great shakes. it's fun to watch sweet, demure tracey ullman racing around, attempting to extinguish her burning bush but the novelty of that only lasts so long. i will never think of the hokey pokey the same way, that's for sure, and that's good for me. i thank john waters for one more transformative experience, however small. ultimately, though, the whole is less than the sum of its parts. too bad. let's go sexin'!

and what's sexier than dickensian orphans? we finish our day with carol reed's oliver! (1968).

i was thoroughly pleased when i saw this on the list. it is my favorite cinematic dickens adaptation, edging out george cukor's david copperfield (1935) by a bowl of gruel. it lies at the exact opposite end of the spectrum from cannibal! the only thing they have in common is an exclamation point. this is the work of a group of consummate professionals, and i mean that in the absolute best way. carol reed is obviously no slouch. he is responsible for some of the greatest films to ever come out of the UK and he brings his considerable talents to bear on this lively and endlessly entertaining adaptation. it looks amazing. i have seen it enough that this time i spent most of the time watching the periphery, looking at dancers' faces and such and there was not one tiny piece of the thing that wasn't perfect. just watch the "consider yourself" production number if you're unsure. it is a staggering achievement. dozens, maybe hundreds, of perfectly choreographed extras in their finest victoriana, the most likable little rascal in the history of film and a song which will not dislodge itself from your brain. you can probably count the number of musicals i truly love on one hand and this one firmly occupies the second spot, right behind oklahoma! (1955). it obviously skims over the squalor and social ills so integral to dickens' work, but reform is not its purpose. leave that to david lean (whose 1948 non-musical version is exceptional as well). the only slightly bum note is oliver himself. mark lester is a nice enough kid and does a good job, but when you're competing with the likes of fagin, the artful dodger, the firebrand nancy and the brutish bill sikes you had better be personality plus, especially if the tale bears your name. he just doesn't quite have what it takes to keep up with his supporting cast. they all overshadow him with talent, style or menace. it's fine, though. once the story is rolling there is seldom a moment when one or more of them isn't around to keep the proceedings moving. they provide something for everyone, kids and adults alike. you don't see films constructed this well anymore. it is a first-rate piece of entertainment. i can't recommend it enough.

well, that saved the day. it gives me a running start at tomorrow's selections.

juni knows the deal. lace 'em up!

8.10.2011

starlite, with a hitch

the starlite cinema series returns to austin on saturday, 8.20.11!

we return from a lovely engagement in virginia just in time to celebrate alfred hitchcock's birthday. in honor of the master of suspense's 112th we are going to be screening what is probably my favorite, and most underrated, of his films, rope (1948).

two school chums, proponents of the nietzschean concept of the superman, decide to make their notion of the moral superiority of a select few into a concrete reality by murdering a friend. their perfect crime is a work of art, their hiding the body in a chest in that sits at the center of a dinner party is their most artistic flourish, their serving dinner from their friend's grave is the grisly signature on their masterpiece. not satisfied with pulling off the perfect crime, they invite the only man they think could understand their particular genius, their former schoolmaster, and engage in a taunting game of wits with him throughout the evening. based on patrick hamilton's play from from 1929, which, in turn, was based on the sensational leopold and loeb murder case in 1924, the film is hitchcock's boldest experiment in both theme and execution. it plays as one long continuous take, with only ten clever cuts in eighty minutes. the soundstage was a massive hive of activity, with the set walls on wheels so that prop department could constantly move them and the furniture around as the camera wove among them and the players to give the illusion of one uninterrupted piece. the backdrop of the manhattan penthouse was a marvel in and of itself - an exact miniature reproduction of 35 miles of skyline containing 8000 incandescent bulbs, 200 neon signs requiring 150 transformers and 26,000 feet of wire all perched among voluminous clouds made of spun glass. as audacious as it was technically, the subject matter was just as brazen. in 1948 you didn't often see, and by that i mean ever, homosexual lovers who had just committed a thrill killing arguing their moral superiority with america's everyman, jimmy stewart, with the corpse sitting ten feet away. i find it fascinating and i hope you will too. we're going to keep this one short and cross our fingers that the next time we convene the temperature will be more in our favor. can't wait for autumn. showtime is at 8:30 p.m. on saturday, 8.20.11. the facebook event page is here if you'd like to rsvp. if that's not an option, just get in touch with me and we'll get you there. as always, these shows are completely free. bring a lawn chair or blanket if you like and feel free to bring friends.

in preparation for september, i was looking back over the list of what we've shown in the past year and a half and was amazed to find no entries from either italy or sweden. that means no fellini, no bergman and on and on. regular starlite goers, or irregular, for that matter, where would you rather visit? feel free to weigh in either here or on the facebook page and i will begin rectifying this next month. see you soon.

shen done him wrong: day three

day three feels like a free day. this may be the most straight fun i've had in any single day in the short, but illustrious, history of queue de grâce. first up, a party that i would have given my right arm to be invited to, robert moore's murder by death (1976).

i can understand if the appeal of this one is a little limited, but if you're a fan of classic detective fiction and its cinematic offspring, it's a riot. it takes agatha christie, dashiell hammett and earl derr biggers' best-known sleuths, puts them on a skewer and serves them up with the assistance of a blind butler and deaf mute cook. the gist: a diabolical millionaire hosts a lavish party with the world's greatest detectives - in this case, nick and nora charles, charlie chan, hercule poirot, miss marple and sam spade - and challenges them to solve an unsolvable murder. the murder just happens to be his own. it somehow manages to satirically cram every conceivable mystery fiction cliche into an hour and a half and never once feels bloated. i swear it feels like it's about forty minutes long. the top-notch talent on hand accounts for that. it was written by neil simon and features some of the greatest comic actors of their era. it doesn't hurt that peter falk, probably my sentimental choice for favorite performer of all time, is leading the pack with a hilarious take on one of my favorite detective characters ever, sam spade. it's a knowing bit of parody but never once takes itself seriously. every fog-shrouded country lane, drawing room gathering and clock striking midnight is a perfect and hilarious inversion of its deadly fictional counterpart. it's the movie that clue (1985) can never be, even with eileen brennan appearing in both. it's broad, without a doubt, but if you know the source material you also know how incisive it is, mercilessly mocking everything from maddening plot holes to ridiculous ethnic stereotypes. it's an old favorite and was a great way to start the day.

things pick up speed a little bit with our second feature, kim ji-woon's the good, the bad, the weird (2008).

this revved up korean homage to the spaghetti western is a damn good time. it opens with a train robbery out in the manchurian desert in which the good, bounty hunter park do-won, is attempting to bring down the bad, bandit and killer park chang-yi, who has instigated the train robbery to steal a map from japanese bank officials but has been, unbeknownst to him, beaten to the punch by the weird, thief yoon tae-goo. map in hand, the weird one beats a hasty retreat to a criminal enclave known as the ghost market, where it doesn't take long before his secret makes the rounds and everyone from petty thieves to the japanese imperial army are hot on his heels. the chase progresses through marketplaces and across deserts until the inevitable standoff ends in a three-way tie for last. genre fans will be pleasantly surprised, i think, at how the familiar tropes are worked in. the old conventions are treated with affection but not so much reverence that they can't be broken down and reassembled on this horse-drawn rocket sled of a film. the camera work is innovative and acrobatic throughout and there is a central gunfight set piece, in particular, that will take your breath away. the desert chase scene finale runs a little too long, but otherwise it's a blast from start to finish. song kang-ho's performance as yoon tae-goo deserves special mention as well. much like tony leung chiu wai, he is one of the most multi-faceted actors working today who deserves international recognition, not just in asian markets. his ability to play drama, action and comedy, and deftly mix the three, is something i hope more people eventually get to see. this is as good a place as any to start. you like fun, right? this one is nothing if not fun.

the good times continue to roll with christopher guest's best in show (2000).

all kinds of things can be faked onscreen. you can pretend to be rich. you can pretend to be in love. you can pretend to be the king of england. an accomplished actor, either through training or instinctive ability, can convince us to suspend our disbelief about a great many things. i believe with all my heart, though, that there is one thing you cannot fake. you cannot fake being a dog person. other dog people will find you out. if you have a non-dog person pretending to love dogs, you will never see a more false note struck on a movie screen. it's worse than lipsyncing music biopic "bands". it's even worse than watching anthony perkins play baseball in fear strikes out (1957). fortunately, christopher guest is, without a doubt, a dog person. so, i was immediately won over by this when i originally saw it a decade ago from the first moment i saw him with that bloodhound. guest and his regular crew of mockumentarians take on the world of top-level dog shows in this outing, charting the fortunes of five entrants in the prestigious mayflower kennel club show. largely improvised, this also boasts a cast of incredibly talented people whose outtakes are probably five times as funny as what makes into the average movie under the guise of comedy. fred willard is a man on a mission this time around. if that mission was to make me cry with laughter then mission accomplished. as the hilariously inappropriate color commentator, buck laughlin, he is an unflappably cheerful machine gun of ignorance and questionable taste. he is a wonder to behold. i think i still like waiting for guffman (1997) a little bit better, but this never fails to make me laugh. plus, i love dogs, so thumbs up all the way around.

now that's more like it. two extremely funny ensemble comedies bookending a slam-bang, rollicking spaghetti eastern/western. does tomorrow stand a chance against today?

why, yes. yes it does.

trailer tuesday

this week's entry is for sam peckinpah's bring me the head of alfredo garcia (1974).



they just don't make 'em like warren oates anymore.

8.09.2011

shen done him wrong: day two

day two was a bit of a mixed bag, with a batch of flawed films with varying degrees of silver lining. we start with the runt of the litter, rob reiner's north (1994).

everyone's favorite goggle-eyed tear factory makes his second appearance this week as the titular prodigy, north. he is a textbook overachiever but he gains no satisfaction from being a renaissance boy, as he feels neglected by his parents. his solution is to hire jon lovitz as his attorney and sue his parents to become a free agent. ok, let's stop right there. this is one of those ideas that i'm sure sounded hilarious when alan zweibel, who wrote both the screenplay and the novel it was based on, was kicking this around the kitchen table. sometimes you need a friend to step in, though, when you start investing this many hours in an idea like this. you need someone to tell you that this is not nearly as funny as you think it is. because this was not funny. north wins his lawsuit and leaves the shire in search of the perfect family. along the way he meets dan ackroyd, who, if you've seen his recent work in the ufology field, was obviously well on his way to nuts by this point, an eskimo kathy bates(!) and the governor of hawaii whose marketing misstep leads to the unfortunate instance of elijah saying "my crack!!" about fifty million times. george and elaine, who were apparently married before they were on seinfeld, eventually videotape a plea for north to return home and bruce willis tries on a number of crazy outfits as north's guardian angel before finally settling on his "return of bruno" character and driving north into the waiting arms of his parents. did i mention that there was a hoot of a subplot that involved a mafioso trying to kill north. he literally chased a child through the park, shooting at him, a real knee-slapper. they also played the ol' "it was all a dream card", stealing from the wizard of oz (1939) (or dallas), as well as alfred hitchcock and orson welles in other places. what a weirdly unappealing kid's movie.

the silver lining: vitagraph favorite, alan arkin as judge buckle. man, i love that guy. i would like to qualify this by saying it seemed like his best lines were ad-libs. i credit zweibel for nothing.

next, martin scorsese's sprawling, brawling gangs of new york (2002).

scorsese tried for almost thirty years to bring this to the screen. it's in his favor that it took long enough that he was able to get daniel day-lewis for the production. it the story of america's birth, in a fashion. that is, it is the story of the stillborn america lying in the fetid mud of the squalid five points slum. hard to imagine that the framers of the constitution were grandfathers to the generation of men and women who fought on these bloodsoaked streets. by the 1840s, this area of new york was one of the most degenerate places on earth. chaotic violence was a way of life and corruption was the coin of the realm. daniel day-lewis plays bill "the butcher" cutting, the leader of "the natives", a gang dedicated to whatever mayhem fills their coffers and eradicates what they consider the blight of immigrants washing up on american shores daily. the film opens with a monumental battle between his gang and the "dead rabbits", mostly immigrant, mostly irish. in the melee, cutting eliminates priest vallon, the leader of the rival faction, making an orphan of his son, a loose end which will come up again, no doubt. the bad news, for me, is that the son grows up to be leonardo dicaprio. i will never understand why scorsese has hitched his wagon so thoroughly to dicaprio's star. he never fails to look like a little boy playing dress-up when he puts on any period costume. he always looks like he has daddy's clothes on, every suit two sizes too big. takes me right out of the picture every time he is on screen. unfortunately, the bulk of the film is split between him working his way into bill's inner circle to get close enough to exact his revenge and him pursuing the equally disbelief-inducing cameron diaz. you need someone that swings a lot more weight for your protagonist in an epic this ambitious, especially when your villain is so overwhelming. the inevitable conclusion is deeply dissatisfying as a result. when bill speaks so eloquently and admirably about leo's father being the only man he killed worth remembering it just serves to underscore how unworthy an instrument of retribution leo is. i feel cheated by leo's survival. this is one of those films that always raises the question with me about judging each film on an individual basis and whether it's fair to hold a director to a previously-established standard. if it wasn't scorsese, would i have been more impressed by this?

the silver lining: there are two that figure prominently. daniel day-lewis is obviously the first one. among his generation, he is without peer. he is terrifying and thoroughly charming. as reprehensible as he is, he is completely magnetic. you cannot take your eyes off of him, and you very well shouldn't. he more than makes up for the other two lightweight points of the triangle. the other one is the incredible production design. the work that went into recreating an inhabitable version of the five points is staggering. remove leo and cameron and you have a completely immersive experience. tammany hall, lower broadway, the east river waterfront - it really is astounding.

rounding out the program we have rick bieber's crazy (2008).

it's a music biopic of hank garland with all the attendant problems of the genre. garland was a hotshot nashville guitarist that rose to prominence in the fifties and eventually recorded with the likes of patsy cline, roy orbison and elvis presley, among many others. the story that unfolds here is pretty much par for the course - rise to stardom, young love, domestic troubles take root when work casts too long a shadow, tragedy strikes (this time in the form of a car accident and subsequent shock therapy), triumph over adversity and a tearful return to the stage years later. 98% of these films will always look, smell and taste like made-for-tv movies. it's inescapable. the same beats, the same editing rhythms, the same color palettes and the same crisp, pedestrian photography. worst of all, the same painful attempts to convince me that these performers are capable of playing the music i "see" them making. they can stop that anytime they like.

the silver lining: it will introduce more people to hank garland. the cat could play. it's nice to see one of these biopics that doesn't focus on a superstar. he may have been an arrogant pain in the ass, obsessive about music and rubbed a lot of people the wrong way but there was a lot about him that was worthwhile. he was an incredible musician, innovative and ahead of his time. he wasn't much for unnecessarily standing on ceremony, a trait i admire a great deal, and the racial divide so prominent in his era and the social circles he traveled in meant little to him. now, if he'd just quit waving that gun around. honorable silver lining mention for ali larter. you know how i am about girls with tired eyes.

ok, so not as captivating as yesterday, overall, but some high points here and there. that's alright. tomorrow looks like it's going to be good.

and bad. and weird.

8.08.2011

shen done him wrong: day one

the fifth installment of queue de grâce kicks off in fine style with a trio of films to appease your gypsy soul. and i mean actual gypsies, not bullshit texas singer-songwriters who refer to themselves as such because they can't hold down a job and sleep on a succession of boyfriends'/girlfriends' couches. i've got news for you clowns: that doesn't make you a gypsy, that makes you a bum. here to teach you periodic dishwashers and vagabonds a lesson are the incredible musicians in jasmine dellal's when the road bends: tales of a gypsy caravan (2006).

the film documents a six week tour by five groups from the four corners of the romani world. historically, the path of these gypsies begins in india and moves through europe from east to west. musically, representatives from india, romania, macedonia and spain illustrate the dissemination of gypsy culture for us in brilliant flashes of color and sound. the music and dancing are astounding. maharaja, fanfare ciocărlia, taraf de haïdouks, esma redžepova and the antonio el pipa flamenco ensemble are all riveting performers, each with a unique take on the gypsy tradition ranging from raga to string ensemble to brass band. intercut with the concert footage are glimpses of each group in their home countries, detailing their trials and small triumphs from lifetimes spent playing music. it is gratifying, through these glimpses of home, to see art making a tangible difference in people's lives. cd sales equate to electricity being brought to villages for the first time, sustenance for entire families and the purchase of music education to perpetuate the cycle. the intangibles are equally touching, with music providing the backdrop for every birth, wedding and funeral in these communities. back in the states, the most beautiful part of the footage from the tour was watching these musicians from such disparate backgrounds grow to understand, and collaborate with, each other based on their shared love of music and the ancient ties of a culture that spawned them all. the scene with the indian musicians good-naturedly clowning the flamenco musicians is a riot and to see them progress from these playful jabs to sharing meals to playing and singing together was wonderful. i've been lucky enough to find kindred spirits in my musical travels and i know the joy of going from strangers to true friends creating art that is unique to that time and place in what seems like the blink of an eye. i can't imagine how profoundly the experience is magnified by building that same experience on centuries of the shared sorrow and joy of a people. it is certainly magnificent and humbling to see. on the down side, there were one or two minor distractions with the film. for example, i didn't particularly enjoy the stage-manager-as-narrator device or johnny depp's celebrity stamp of approval segment and i have a question or two about the veracity of some of esma's claims, as i think she has a diva's tendency for self-aggrandizing, but these are small quibbles. i also feel like breaking it into two films might have served the material better. a straight concert film would have been appreciated, thus doing away with the frustration of the performances getting cut short just as you're becoming wrapped up in them. you could have made an equally engaging feature out of the sections in their home countries as well. there were just so many stories to squeeze into a relatively small space. structural shortcomings aside, it is still well worth your time. the music is exciting and powerful and it has carried the performers' stories quite literally around the world to find you here. take a minute to listen.

we leave the traditional behind as we rocket forward into the twenty-first century, gypsy punk world of margarita jimeno's gogol bordello non-stop (2008).

for the uninitiated, gogol bordello is an eastern european-influenced punk rock band led by the inimitable eugene hütz. the band is a benzedrine circus led by a madman who has the pedal to, possibly through, the floor and it is one of the most glorious things i have had the privilege to see live on more than occasion. this documentary picks up with them just as they are on the cusp of going from cult band to international phenomenon. as a documentary, it's a pretty standard band profile. there won't be many surprises. it's just a good thing they're not a standard band. hütz is one of the most charismatic front men you'll ever see and to hear him relate the story of his youth and immigration from the ukraine provides all the perspective you need to grasp the method to his madness. it's not hard to imagine how the immigrant experience could provide the fuel for his devil-may-care joyride through the twin ghettos of eastern european music and punk rock. fortunately for the rest of us, he has assembled a like-minded band of brigands and their particular brand of melting pot carnage is a gift from the punk rock gods. the film gives you glimpses of it but never manages to fully put across the decadent joy of the live show. it is simply something that i don't think you can capture on film. it's a start, though. for a fan's love letter to the band, see the documentary. if you want the truly revelatory gogol bordello experience, buy a ticket the next time they come to your town. be prepared to get dirty, sweaty and happy. just don't try to get between me and pamela racine. then we're going to have a problem.

speaking of getting between me and pamela racine, the last chump that tried to do that features prominently in our next film, liev schreiber's everything is illuminated (2005).

it's based on jonathan safran foer's semi-autobiographical and semi-precious first novel. i am already at a disadvantage with this one because i am no fan of his particular entitled brand of cleverness. having elijah wood and his eternally tear-brimmed eyes as his cinematic surrogate is strike two. what?! i am already down 0-2 and this thing has just started. who can turn this train around?

eugene hütz again, that's who!

the film follows a slightly fictional foer as he travels from the u.s. to the ukraine to try to find the girl that saved his grandfather's life during the holocaust. he is a collector, an observer, as his slightly magnifying spectacles underline for us. he has been accumulating and bagging the flotsam and jetsam of his family for years and then quirkily mounting those plastic bags on the walls of his home resulting in what looks like a serial killer investigation command center as imagined by wes anderson. he is repressed and fearful, muted and introspective in a way that NPR contributors probably confuse with "having soul". this unappealing starting position at least provides plenty of room for growth, which is, after all, what this sort of journey is about. upon arrival in the ukraine, he meets his translator/guide, alex, alex's grandfather and the grandfather's dog, sammy davis jr. jr. not a typo. two juniors. this quartet crisscrosses the ukrainian countryside in search of some clue as to the whereabouts of his grandfather's village that seems to have disappeared from the face of the earth. all the while, alex and his grandfather provide the bittersweet comic relief. alex's ambitious butchery of the english language (not always successfully) skirts the thin line between being unintentionally accurate and "lovable foreigner". the grandfather's shell of anti-semitism functions as both a protective ruse and fodder for comedy via translation. the first two-thirds of the film didn't move me a great deal. it succeeded in spots, mainly on the strength of hütz's good cheer and charisma playing off the crustiness of his grandfather. once they found the woman they had been looking for, though, the final act taught me a valuable lesson - anyone can be a collector but not everyone can be a caretaker. laryssa lauret invests her small role with such tenderness and gravity that i was momentarily able to forget about the source of the material and focus on the significance of the smallest gesture. she was able to snatch a minor victory from the jaws of irritating self-consciousness and sometimes that is enough. i would be curious to see liev schreiber's next directorial effort. given the right material, i think he could achieve something great.

well, we're off to a roaring start. will tomorrow be as kind? word on the street is that an old pal from installment number four is going to be dropping by.

you're a long way from nakatomi plaza, buddy.

8.03.2011

trailer tuesday

once again, i am a day behind. this intermittent access to the internet business will soon be remedied, though. come next week, all will be right in my e-world. this week's entry is for one of my most hotly anticipated cinematic events of this summer, kaneto shindō's kuroneko (1968)!



this beautiful bit of madness is at the paramount theatre on thursday and friday this week as part of a feline-themed horror double feature, along with jacques tourneur's cat people (1942). show starts at 7 p.m. each evening. see you there!

8.02.2011

once more into the breach

it is almost that time again. the fifth installment of queue de grâce draws near.

if you haven't been around to witness one of these before, here is how it works: for one straight week i turn over complete control of my netflix streaming queue to one of you fine citizens. during that week, except for visits to actual theaters, i exclusively watch content curated by one of you guys and report back daily about my viewing experience. no other movies or television, no other relief from someone else's cinematic proclivities.

our next guest programmer is shen heaton. this shot is from a surveillance camera i planted in her underground lair where she sits, day and night, crafting the blueprint for my cinematic destruction.


a stone cold killer. she is scheduled to take over my feed from 8.8.11 through 8.14.11. i am racing to get my internet connected in my new place in time for that deadline. if i don't make it in time, i will start it as soon as i can after that. i will do everything in my power to make it by sunday for i fear that my list will be doubly punishing if i don't. i am not sure how much the omissions from netflix's streaming list in the wake of their pricing platform change will affect her selections but we will forge ahead, nonetheless. join us and we will all find out together.