Thursday, February 28, 2008
Monday, February 25, 2008
Saturday, February 23, 2008
Mr Untouchable (Levin)
This excellent documentary by Marc Levin director of the wild Protocols of Zion (2005) tells the true story of 70’s drug king pin Nicky Barnes. He is the creep that Cuba Gooding plays in American Gangster. This has a much different take on the characters in Ridley Scott’s forgettable flick.
Speaking of which, I may American Gangster another look because I wanted to dig it, but it did nothing for me in the theater. And the other day, the LA Times had an fascinating review of the DVD.
Crossing The Line (Gordon)
A great documentary about the strange US soldier James Dresnok who defected into and is still currently living in North Korea. Daniel Gordon previously made the wonderful doc A State of Mind (2004) about the young North Korean gymnasts.
My Kid Could Paint That (Amir Bar-Lev) On DVD March 4 2008
A four year old NY state child-prodigy becomes the darling of the art world, fetching hundreds-of-thousands of bucks for her Jackson Pollack-like abstract paintings. It slowly leeks out that maybe her would be artist father is the actual painter. This is a blast. It doesn’t take a stand or try to prove the parents are shams. It seemed obvious though. What it really makes a point of is the over hype of the art world. Asking, so a beautiful painting is worth more to a collector if it’s painted by a child instead of some stiff? A terrific flick.
Oswald’s Ghost (Robert Stone)
This doc appears to be about the impact the JFK murder had on culture, but maybe it needed to be longer, because it only skims the many ideas it presents. And frankly it's skewed in the wrong direction. It goes out of it's way to present attorney Jim Garrison as a kook. It washes over the Warren Commission's lies (no matter what you think, one gunman or two, The Warren Commission did a lot of covering-up). It has many goofy unsupported claims, towards the end in explaining why some Americans would be crazy enough to suspect a conspiracy, some 'historian' claims "Americans are historically paranoid". Not sure what he bases that on? it seems to me, if anything Americans have historically been chumps and easily brainwashed. And then it ends on Norman Mailer giving a long and powerful view of Oswald (the lone nut theory), which sways the casual observer, in possibly the wrong direction.
I’m a big fan of Stone’s earlier flick Guerrilla: The Taking of Patty Hearst. And though once this film takes a side, It lost me politically, it still is incredibly well made, entertaining and it has a lot of great footage never seen before, including clips of Mark Lane (author of "Rush To Judgment") debating the Warren Commission's young hack Arlen Spector. Watch and enjoy, but with a grain of salt.
Great subject matter, film producer Lewton and his collaboration with director Jacques Tourneur on his noiry horror flicks (Cat People, etc). But I found this doc a little dull. I much more enjoyed the little 53 minute doc Shadows in the Dark: The Val Lewton Legacy (Nasr) that came as part of the The Val Lewton Horror Collection DVD box set in 2005
Casting About (Hershey)
Czech Dream (Klusák & Remunda)
A number of people expressed dismay with the brilliant comedy Borat, finding the duping of racist and ugly Americans cruel. As a guy who abhors many of those folks, I'm glad they got what, I think they deserve. However, I don’t have anything against the poor everyday idiots of the Czech Republic. So seeing these suckers fall for a new mega-superstore’s ridiculous advertisements and then showing up to shop at what was only a giant facade of a structure, was a little cringe worthy. Still it’s an entertaining look at the power of advertising and the struggles of a country trying to enter the 21st century and the politics of the European Union. It reminded me a little of the hilarious flick The Yes Men (2003).
Terror's Advocate (Schroeder)
What begins as almost a sequel to The Battle Of Algiers (if you haven’t seen Pontecorvo 1966 Academy Award winning masterpiece, stop reading & go rent it). French expatriate lawyer Jacques Vergès tells his story. He gained controversial fame defending many of the Algerian Freedom Fighters. He saved the Algerian bomber-babe /poster girl Djamila Bouhired from deathrow and then married her briefly. After defending Palestine Hijackers and other “terrorists” he disapeared into twelve years of self exile and reemerged hanging and representing an all star cast of 20th-Century boogeyman, including Cambodian psychopath Pol Pot and hitman Carlos the Jackal and Nazi war criminal Klaus Barbie.
Previously directing docs about Ida Amin and Koko the talking gorilla, Barbet Schroeder (Reversal of Fortune) adds another fascinating subject to his body of work. This challenging epic is one of the best films of recent years.
Friday, February 22, 2008
After giving my favorite performance of the year in The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford, pee-wee Casey Affleck teams with Michelle Monaghan as a pair of small time private detectives in working-class Boston, hired by a couple to find their high profile missing baby niece in Gone Baby Gone. At first the pair of private dicks seemed to young and good looking for me to take serious with this weighty flick. And then actors Morgan Freeman and Ed Harris seemed to recognizable in supporting roles to blend with the otherwise impressive authentic feeling cast. But they all grew on me as the movie went along and I got drawn in. Though I assumed that the two veteran thespian roles would eventually give them some moments to do some ‘big acting’ which might of hurt the ‘mysteries’ of the story for me. No, the one thing that bothered me was that the young would-be Encyclopedia Brown & Nancy Drew would be allowed to tag along with the lead detectives and eventually taken so seriously by the cops. We are told what a media-event the missing girl case has become, yet only about three actual cops appear to be working it.
What's the deal with him and Criterion though? There are a staggering number of his movies with Criterion editions (and by "staggering" I do mean more than zero). Seriously, I know I just got finished saying the guy's not all bad, but Criterion quality? REALLY? Surely there was some sort of Faustian deal involved?
I get asked a lot at Rocket, "what does Criterion mean?" and my response is usually something along the lines of, "It's a company that puts out special editions of important films. Oh, and Armageddon too." ugh...
Wednesday, February 20, 2008
I was saddened to realized... I don’t like most retards in movies.
Bear in mind, I may be using the word incorrectly (I’m not a doctor, well just a doctor of love, but these uppity collages don’t offer a degree in that). I tend to lump crazies, mutes, autismees and slow-folks all together, let’s just call ‘em SPECIAL.
As a kid I was into special people, I recall crying my eyes out reading Of Mice And Men and while I was watching the TV Movie version with Randy Quad as the dimwitted Lenny (also starring Italian food connoisseur Robert Blake as George). I was also devastated by a pair of sweet mutes, Alan Arkin in The Heart Is A Lonely Hunter (recently released on DVD for the first time) and Jackie Gleason in the 1962 flick Gigot directed by Gene Kelly (and never released on DVD or VHS).
But most heart-tuggers annoy me.
Have you ever seen the horrid feel-good lightweight goo I Am Sam (2001) with Sean Penn and the that freaky moppet Dakota Fanning? Not since Peter Frampton and The Bee Gees in Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band (1978) has a movie made the wonderful tunes of The Beatles more excruciating.
Hey Penn got an Oscar nomination for it! As did Arkin and so did Leonardo Da Caprio for What's Eating Gilbert Grape? (1993). Many actors have even won those Oscar things for doing the ‘dah-role’, Dustin Hoffman for Rainman (1988), Tom Hanks for Forrest Gump (1994), Geoffrey Rush for Shine (1996) and Cliff Robertson for Charley (1968).
DEEP BACKGROUND: Before Charley got the operation that sent him from being a lovable idiot
to a snotty MENSA member, I played one of his mean co-workers who picked on him in the
Theatrical play (of the same book) Flowers For Algernon, back at Cass Tech High School in Detroit.
Also nominated for an Oscar one of my favorite ‘special people’ was Billy Bob Thornton as the country-fried killer Carl in Slingblade (1996). I like it when the ‘special person’ is also scary or unlikeable or complicated.
Or when a ‘special person’ just pops in for a supporting turn and isn’t explained to made enduring for the audience like the banjo kid in Deliverance (1972) or the goony Beeno lumbering around the third-act of Mad Max (or the bottom half of the Master Blaster in the third Mad Max).
Speaking of religious a-holes, (though Apocalypto is a masterpiece) the same year he first played Mad Max, Mad Mel Gibson played a hunky ‘special person’ in the boring Australian weepy Tim. I bet ol’ Tim would hit it off with jock-babe Elisabeth Shue’s lovable Molly in the aptly titled Molly (1999).
Molly is one of those ‘special people’ movies that reeks of ‘Lifetime Channel’ like the so-so A Dangerous Woman (1993) with Debra Winger. And of course the retardo-riffic camp-classic, The Other Sister, with real-life retard Juliette Lewis and ‘retard looking’ Giovanni Ribisi (similar to Adam Sandler all Ribisi’s characters seem to have at least a touch of possible retardation in them).
Oh but aren't they adorable? Like the ch-ch-ch-charming Cuba Gooding in Radio (2003) or that kid Bruce Willis has to protect in Mercury Rising (1989) or Tom Hulce in Dominick And Eugene (1988), they make the freaks in Gummo (1997) or poor slow, horny David Warner in Straw Dogs (1971) look like the creepy fiends.
On TV, I’ll take South Parks’s Timmy over the more celebrated Gomer Pyle or Corky Corky (of Life Goes On) any day.
The tube also brought us Mickey Rooney old n’ special in Bill (1981) and a retarded dude who comes back seeking revenge disguised as Ray Bolger in the 1981 TV movie Dark Night of the Scarecrow.
Some times people pretend to be ‘special’ like Nicholson does briefly in One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest (1975) before the doctors really make him 'special’. But when it’s revealed in Something About Mary that the crippled guy is faking it, the comedy of that flick was ruined for me. If you like ‘fakers’ you may dig Lars von Trier’s bizarre The Idiots (1993) where a group of ‘actors’ run around pretending to be ‘dense’ then return home for all out orgies.
Sex is the last thing on my man Chance Gardner's mind in Being There (1979), maybe that’s what draws us to ‘special’ people, life would be easier if all we wanted was to watch TV.
WAIT that sounds like most of us! Are we all special?