November 12, 2007

The Trench

So – fighting a flu that’s had me tits up for about six full days now. Get your flu shot. My productivity took one right in the pants.

Got in trouble a little with the local publicists this week over our posting of an I’m Not There review before its limited (?) release on the 21st. A quick check revealed that the embargo I was breaking had already been broken by Variety, The Hollywood Reporter, Ebert’s website, Time, The New York Observer, Movie City News, the Brussats, Rich Cline and so on – making me wonder, specifically, what the fucking point of it all is and what was being threatened exactly. I half expect to receive a screener of it in the next day or two, making me wonder even more fervently who’s penalizing whom and for what.

In other news, the Denver International Film Festival is running this week and we’re not covering it. It’s not pique, it’s sort of a general lack of interest. The kind of lack of interest that’ll kick me in the balls if the DIFF ever gets stuff I’m really interested in down the road, but with the centerpiece guest being Norman Jewison (Norman Jewison) well, I just couldn’t bring myself to manufacture ten capsules – especially with deadlines looming left and right on our new Annual. Opening night is The Savages; closing is, gulp, Robin Williams’ August Fire. In between? Juno I think, Jason Reitman’s newest. Good luck to the DIFF and all – hope we hook up again somewhere down the road.

No hiding the fact that 2007 is shaping up in my mind as a watershed year in pictures. Still a few more, There Will Be Blood high amongst them, before it’s all in the can – but I’m chuffed, man, it’s been great.

RIP Norman Mailer.

Did anyone see Lions for Lambs or Bee Movie or, better yet, Martian Child?

Watched Being John Malkovich again for the first time since seeing it multiple times in the theater and, man, it’s fucking amazing. I’d forgotten more than I’d remembered. Kaufman is like this amazing alien intelligence. Good festivals could be made of his stuff; Ashley Judd’s, and Wes Anderson’s too. It’s given me an idea of a new book of critical essays. Think I’ll run it by Bill.

Anyone have a lead on the theatrical cut of Blood Simple on DVD?

Been watching a lot of Disney classics lately what with a four-year-old needing “good night shows” and all and have come to the conclusion that most of them are psychotic when they’re not just garden-variety homicidal – they are almost to a one not useful in any significant way in dealing with conflict, preaching the idea that the best way to deflate The Shadow is to stick it with a knife. Tie in the racism and general misogyny and marvel no longer that Michael Bay’s flicks make bazillions. To suggest that there’s not a tie-in here to what we consent to as a society with what’s wrong with us as a society is blinkered and moronic. I hate Cinderella with its cat/mouse filler and I despise Peter Pan with its “they’re not as smart as us, but they’re cunning” – but I do like The Fox and the Hound and The Jungle Book for their social intelligence and native nihilism. I love the second Finding Nemo, The Incredibles, and Toy Story and of course Ratatouille - can’t wait to screen The Iron Giant for them. Brad Bird’s a fucking genius.

Reading Proust nowadays – along with Lee Server’s biography of Ava Gardner. Weird how it jibes.

Looking forward in a sick-to-my stomach way to I Am Legend - missed, to my dismay, a screening of The Mist. One of the last long-form stories I’ve liked from Stephen King. The ending, I remember, is especially bleak. King at his best for me captured a sort of winsome melancholy – like that story “The Reach” that’s all about remembrances of things past – and of course “The Last Rung on the Ladder” and “The Woman in the Room”.

Here’s a lunchtime quiz: best Stephen King stories not yet translated to film.

46 comments:

Benaiah said...

It has been an amazing year at the movies and there is still plenty on the horizon that I haven't gotten to yet (The Assassination of Jesse James, Into the Wild, Margot at the Wedding, I'm Not There and eventually There Will be Blood). I can't keep up and seemingly will have to see some of them on DVD.

Dave G said...

Agree that "The Mist" is one of King's best. (A great closing line too...)Given that it's so inherently cinematic, I'm really surprised it took this long to get made. Not sure if Darabont is really a good fit for this material; though I guess he's the go-to guy for SK adaptations set in confined locales---and he does have an unusual facility with SK's cornball dialog-just as long as Morgan Freeman isn't doing cameo VO ("I tell ya, that Mist made one helluva mess...") for me, "The Mist" has always screamed George Romero or Tobe Hooper.

The "Onion AV Club" called this one out first--but, I'll go with "The Long Walk"-- for a worthy, unadapted SK story. Nifty, bleak SF premise that could be done easily on the cheap. Can't remember if "The Monkey" was ever adapted, but that's a goodie too, just plain nasty and twilight-zoney (i.e. did I mention, the monkey WAS FROM HELL) before SK became a national treasure.

Ashley Judd--underrated. A reminder to all to see "Normal Life" and "Eye of the Beholder" if y'all are just thinking of the Family Guy joke.

Jared said...

I'm not exactly on the Ashley Judd bus here but I did like "Bug" quite a bit...more due to Michael Shannon convincing me he really is a self-mutilating schizophrenic nutcase than anything else.

Do we really need to pick on the straw man that is Disney when the #1 movie at the box office is about a relationship between a cartoon bee and Renee Zellwegger with beastiality undertones (God knows no humans want anything to do with that...now there's a family guy gag, where she's portrayed as an anteater) and The Darjeeling Limited doesn't even make a fraction of its budget back. Oh well, at least I was one of the few who had faith and got out for the best filmgoing experience all year.

Hoping that The Mist has the verve that's been lacking from all of Darabont's post-Shawshank stuff. The languid pacing of The Majestic and The Green Mile sure exposed them as dreck, Shawshank is well edited enough to hide its shortcomings.

Trailer for Juno does look pretty good. Is there gonna be a full release when it comes out wide?

markus r said...

Yes, good year so far. Seen less, liked more. My top 10 is presentable already.

Seen Atonement yesterday, and I couldn't stop thinking about Walter's "shot by the guy who paints the covers of romance novels" quip from his Elizabeth review. All you really need to know is that Joe Wright, after the lovely Pride & Prejudice has gone overboard with his directorial hubris and made a War Romance. I also don't understand the praise for Keira Knightley here, she's hardly in the movie.

Next up is Beowulf in 2D. And it still looks like an ADD videogame.

And best Stpehen King book not yet translated to the screen - On Writing. (Sorry.)

Sean said...

Speaking of Michael Bay, I finally worked up the cojones to sit through Transformers.

The gist of it seems to be, "Hey kid, join the army. Fight robots! Fight WITH robots! Fuck a hot chick!" Am I missing anything? Didn't think so. And the fact that it was aimed at boys aged 13 - 17 only makes it feel more insidious.

My apologies for being late to the "Transformers sucks" party.

Alex Jackson said...

Yes, great year and all. I didn't think I would see a film better than Grindhouse all year and then I saw The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford and then I saw The Darjeeling Limited. Yowza!

My reaction to Transformers was somewhat more positive than most, simply because I enjoy looking at hot chicks. I don't know when filling your movie with hot chicks became a bad thing.

It's not a good film, mind you, I don't get how people could actually purchase it on DVD (they really want to see it again?), but as far as Shia LeBeouf films targeted toward 13-17 year old boys I enjoyed myself more than I did at Disturbia.

Jefferson said...

Non-adapted King:

"The Ballad of the Flexible Bullet" from Skeleton Crew, with the famous "fornit some fornus" line. It's like a pre-Misery, in that it's King's first attempt that I recall to grapple with the act of writing: "What makes me a writer besides all the drugs and booze? Where does the truth of the art lie?" It might not be filmable in that it's one part epistolary, one part flashback and entirely dependent on an unreliable narrator -- or maybe that's what would make it a worthy film.

I like it so much, I can even forgive the thinly-veiled appropriation of the concept of the fnord.

jacksommersby said...

We can all sigh with relief, though, that King's worst book, "Insomnia", hasn't been adapted.

Rick said...

The Regulators would make for a great film, as indicated by the dedication to Sam Peckinpah.

Did anyone see Lions for Lambs or Bee Movie or, better yet, Martian Child?

I believe that Roeper liked the first two, and actually said that Bee Movie's animation was beautiful.

Roeper also recommended Wristcutters: A Love Story. Has anyone seen this? I had my hopes up with the loaded premise, but does anything in this film convey an understanding of any kind of psychological or philosophical concepts? The film just sputters around for an hour and a half with nothing to say.

Ha, in the background I just heard the greatest House line ever: "See, I became a doctor because of the movie Patch Adams."

Sean said...

I'm already hearing that King's ending of "The Mist" has been changed to something a bit more of a cop-out. Oh well. Can't say I'm surprised.

Watched Welles' "The Trial" for about the 10th time. It's still my favorite treatment of any Kafka material. Can anybody think of any other Kafka adaptations? I feel like there aren't many.

Also, when the hell is The Trial going to come out on a halfway decent DVD? The one I have looks like it was mastered in shit and vomit.

dennis said...

I used to have a movie adaptation of The Long Walk visualized in my head. Every shot, every musical cue... it was a beautiful thing.

Alex Jackson said...

Also, when the hell is The Trial going to come out on a halfway decent DVD? The one I have looks like it was mastered in shit and vomit.

I kind of wonder how the film would look if it was given some tender loving care. I routinely praise The Trial as one of the top ten films ever made, but the shoddy condition, particularly of the soundtrack, has always been part of the appeal for me. Makes it more hallucinatory and detatched.

Patrick Pricken said...

I just came back from Beowulf. I liked it well enough despite (because?) the story changes and some obvious made-for–3D moments. It was nothing special, but I enjoyed most of it.

The visuals, however, distracted a lot. Why do you render real-life beings into the computer if all you do then is try to make the rendering as real as possible? I guess it helps when making beheading, tearing apart and being run through with a spear as bloodless as Britney Spears's official deflowering, even though both come with squishy noises.

There was a moment in the film where I could swear they put in Angelina Jolie's real face – in the next shot, she was CGIed, and it looked so awful in comparison. Wow. It was her first facial appearance, if you want to look for it.

Shrug said...

The general animation quality of Beowulf seems all over the place for all of the characters though, in general, it seems to get a bit better as the film progresses.

Or maybe I just got used to it.

One thing that remained consistently terrible was the animation of galloping horses.

Some of the more over-the-top gore moments reminded me of the videogame God of War, of all things. Even so, I think I kind of liked it. I regard it with fewer reservation than Beowulf & Grendel, though that might be largely because of Beowulf's slickness as entertainment.

etc.

Berandor said...

Yeah, the horses sucked.

By the by, I found out that our theatre has a VIP room where you pay more for your ticket (don't know how much), but you get to sit in leather seats with a light at your side and service people nearby so you can order food and drinks.

Here are two pics

I like the idea of better seats. But why would I go to the movies to sit in a well-lit room with waiters and waitresses walking around in front of me and people ordering food while somewhere, the film is playing?

Berandor said...

Oh – Berandor is me. I forgot to log my name and blogger used my centuries-old username.

Patrick Pricken

Dave G said...

Ugggh...don't get me started on VIP rooms. We have them at the Varsity in TO. Smaller screens, higher prices, same lousy popcorn--plus you get to watch with a bunch of nightclub wankers pretending they're "high-rollers".

Good seats though. The most peverse reality of "movie lovin'" (sic) Toronto is that quite often, the best flicks are shown in the worst theatres.

Anonymous said...

As far as Stephen King...what the hell...why not Rose Madder? And I say...sign Del Toro up to do it as a little sequel to Pan's Labyrinth.

As for Bee Movie...see it! It's facinating how bad it is, how creepy, etc. It's actually rare that you go to an animated film that's not merely manipulative and middle-brow, but presents whole stretches of the movie like a standup routine. The film stays right on the screen. I couldn't regard it as a film. It was just Seinfeld, who, judging by the most recent articles on him is a real arrogant dickhead, being channeled through a cartoon.

It was like last year's Dreamgirls. To me that wasn't an experience, either (except for the scene in which Eddie silently says "fuck it, Imma shoot me some heroin")but a string of blinking Christmas lights.

Anonymous said...

sean,

I bought The Trial for 25 cents in some grocery store bin o shit. Bought some Lloyd Bridges flick called Tattered Web, too, for a quart. DVD package was so cheap Bridges' first name was spelled Llyod.

Ian Pugh said...

Arrogant dickhead, perhaps, but to me Bee Movie more speaks to his outright insanity. I mean, the complete abandonment of the concerns surrounding "thinking bee" in favor of what amounts to the final chapter of Nineteen Eighty-Four is just a tad disturbing to me. (However, I admit that I adored Ray Liotta's cameo.) Is there some kind of virus traveling through the cast of "Seinfeld"? Between Michael Richards at the Laugh Factory and Bee Movie, I'm waiting for Jason Alexander to knock over a 7-Eleven, or something.

Can't wait to see I'm Not There, even though I was always more of a Donovan fan. Anyone hear that he and David Lynch have teamed up to spread the word on transcendental meditation? They're even opening a university of sorts for it.

Jefferson said...

Donovan, Lynch to open meditation university

I always thought it was funny that David Lynch is a big practitioner of TM, which involves a lot of steady deep breathing, when he smokes like a tire yard on fire.

Seattle Jeff said...

Seinfeld is an arrogant dickhead?

With all due respect Ian, so what? You say it like it's a bad thing.

Haven't seen Bee Movie, but I'd say his biggest crime was having children.

Anonymous said...

My reaction to Transformers was somewhat more positive than most, simply because I enjoy looking at hot chicks. I don't know when filling your movie with hot chicks became a bad thing.

I bow down to your argument, your hipness.

Anonymous said...

Also, belated apologies for the limp peices of meat we call dicks. On slow nights, me and my dick have conversations and I ask my dick, "Pray tell, you flaccid disappointment, why doesn't a smokin' chic saying all kindsa technical humdiggry in that brit twang to a fat nigger stuffing his face with donuts make you want to give a standing ovation?" My dick answers feeling rather down, "Because I'm not AmeriCAN".

-- HMSM

Anonymous said...

I haven't seen any of Kim Ki-duk's movies since the incandescent 3-Iron, but I finally rented Time, and it was a disappointment. His approach to the material was too flat and obvious. I think it may have actually been more effective if he had made it more of a horror movie, which he continually hints at but never goes the full distance in realizing.

Kurt Halfyard said...

Don't know if it has been mentioned yet, but I'd love to see an adaptation of THE LONG WALK (King writing as Bachman). Frank Darabont has had the rights for some time, but what the hey, I'd love to see Gus Van Sant or Neil La Bute do the film version of this thing.

Bill C said...

Stop the presses: I actually enjoyed a Lindsay Lohan movie. It would have to be I Know Who Killed Me, the one that was universally eviscerated, but from the title on down it's a pretty effective quasi-giallo, and I firmly believe that all the laughs to be had in it--and oh, are there laughs aplenty--are mostly of the intentional variety. And in a weird way, despite the fact that Lohan plays a one-legged, one-armed exotic dancer who does her centrepiece striptease with a blood-covered pole, it's not half as skeezy as Georgia Rule or Just My Luck.

Sorry for the tangent, I just wanted to unload while I still had a bit of a buzz going from it.

Alex Jackson said...

Stop the presses: I actually enjoyed a Lindsay Lohan movie. It would have to be I Know Who Killed Me, the one that was universally eviscerated, but from the title on down it's a pretty effective quasi-giallo, and I firmly believe that all the laughs to be had in it--and oh, are there laughs aplenty--are mostly of the intentional variety. And in a weird way, despite the fact that Lohan plays a one-legged, one-armed exotic dancer who does her centrepiece striptease with a blood-covered pole, it's not half as skeezy as Georgia Rule or Just My Luck.

Sorry for the tangent, I just wanted to unload while I still had a bit of a buzz going from it.


Agreed.

I saw it under at the drive-in, second billed with Halloween, right when the summer was ending. Ideal circumstances as it kind of has a bittersweet flavour to it and it's a lot better than its reputation suggests so that's the perfect environment for a surprise. The opening sequence is kind of wonderful.

jacksommersby said...

Bill,

Fret not, for I was one of the few who thought "Confessions of a Teenage Drama Queen" by far the best of Lohan's multiple films back then. (Man, was "Mean Girls" such torture to get through.)

Alex,

A drive-in that's still in business? Sheesh, the last one I attended was the 183 drive-in in Dallas -- the same one Randall Adams attended with that sociopath in the landmark documentary [i]The Thin Blue Line[/i]. It's always baffled why drive-ins have become near-extinct. I mean, you can drink beer, smoke pot, and talk as much as you want to within the confines of your car. And you can crank the audio in your car to your likening. Plus, you're getting a frigging double-feature out of it. Last film I saw at a drive-in was the awesome "Hard Target"

Rick said...

There are two drive-ins in Albany county, so I guess I am lucky. Though I am not an advocate of smoking pot while watching film. The greatest anti-drug campaign could have been when two of my friends were smoking and laughing hysterically while watching the 2000 version of Bedazzled.

Alex Jackson said...

Yeah, we have two nearby. One even has a vintage pre-film announcement, a la Quentin Tarantino's Grindhouse, encouraging you to keep an eye on your kids and to go buy soda and popcorn. There are still many around. Los Angeles resident Dennis Cozzalio of Sergio Leone and the Infield Rule attends them reguarly. And the one in Denver shows triple features.

I probably go too much. I remember attending a double feature of Catwoman and A Cinderella Story simply because we had seen everything else that was playing there. I don't think we saw a really good film the last two years we went.

But yes, drink beer, smoke pot, bring in a whole pizza, take off your pants. All things you usually can't do in a movie theater. Spring is always the happiest time of my life, fall is always the saddest.

Jefferson said...

Our drive-in is run by penny-hoarding turd merchants who hold the local theater monopoly (surprisingly, a locally owned corporation, not a chain) and therefore never feel compelled to spring for any extras. In their indoor theaters, the Dolby/THX sound-test openeing reels always sound like fuzz, and there's no seat in the house that doesnt introduce a chairspring to your lumbar. The drive-in boasts no special deals, no festival showings, no revivals, and the men's lavatory is basically a poorly-grouted tile floor with a drain in the middle. I wish it were otherwise; there is so much rich heritage in the drive-in culture, and so much wasted potential here.

Seattle Jeff said...

We have a drive-in here in the wonderful metropolis of Auburn, WA.

It's not so bad, but it's a bit frustrating when you want to take your kids. They have a habit of pairing a kiddie flick with a Rated R movie.

When my kids noticed that, they were all like "What the fuck, daddy?"

Bill C said...

That's why God invented chloroform, Jeff.

Benaiah said...

Just saw Before the Devil Knows You're Dead and I was really impressed. It would make a nice double feature with Gone Baby, Gone or No Country for Old Men, or maybe you would just want to kill yourself. Its plot is so tightly written that the characters final destinations feel as inevitable as water circling the drain. Thematically it is almost Marxist in the way it demonstrates the corruption of money, but maybe it is more Hobbsian (nasty, brutish and short).

If all that hoity toity bullshit doesn't do it for you, then you also get to see Marissa Tomei in all her glory.

Seattle Jeff said...

Just saw No Country For Old Men...liked it a lot, but the ending (and the book's as well)leaves me a bit flat...

The movie trailers before the film gave me the following algebraic impressions:

Rashomon + Friends = Vantage Point

The Departed + nothing - Scorsese = Pride and Glory

Grumpy Old Men + The Shawshank Redemption - prison rape (I'm guessing there) = The Bucket List

Colin Farrell + Colin Farrell's eyebrows + a murdered priest = wackiness!

Upton Sinclair + Daniel Day-Lewis = me ejaculating

Peter Nellhaus said...

I was surprised that Walter wasn't invited to the panel on film bloggers. I knew that the DIFF would not invite me, even though I helped out the first few years of the festival, and recently was considered worthy of programming films at the Miami Beach Cinematheque. I did review a few films but I feel like the 30th edition was a lot less interesting than it could have been.

jacksommersby said...

Bill,

On a totally unrelated note, your fabulous DVD review of my favorite comedy of all time, "Used Cars", isn't in the External Reviews section at imdb.com.

I just got through re-watching it for the first time in a year, and I immediately went over to the ER section to savor your flattering words of it. Just thought I'd let you know.

(By the way, who do I have to fuck to get a Carpenter/Russell commentary for "Escape From L.A."? It's the only feature film of theirs not possessing one.)

Bill C said...

Thanks for the heads-up, Jack. To be honest, not that happy with that review m'self; lot of my early work feels insubstantial to me, so maybe the IMDb's doing me a favour. Glad you liked it, though, and indeed: what a film. Gimme Used Cars over Beowulf any day!

Paramount's long been rumoured to have an L.A. SE on the docket, btw, so maybe we'll get another track out of those two yet. On that note, what a missed opportunity the Death Proof DVD is.

othin said...

Beowulf is much worse than what the Chaw review would imply. Much worse. Easily worse than say, the determinedly mediocre and lol-who-cares mishmash of naturalism/method acting that was We Own the Night, imo, and far clunkier. Zemeckis = worthless hack. Tired of him.

BradBird a genius? I'll consider it if The Iron Giant is being trumpeted as the reason. But The Incredibles? ...... nonononono. It sucks. Ratatouille, too.

Time's......okay. At least it floated some ideas on the woe-is-me perverseness of photogenic young love around, if it could have done it better (re: more oomph). 2006 wasn't all that great for Korean films, seriously; Woman on the Beach was bad, and The Host isn't really much of a movie inevitably, only decent at best when compared to Hollywood spectacle that is so often crappy assembly-line failure (ugh, Fast and Furious no. whatever, Transformers, War of the Worlds, et cetera).

Bill C said...

The Mist: I should qualify this, but man, what a letdown.

Rick said...

Bill, was it just the ending of The Mist that was a letdown? It sounds like the majority of the film was strong.

Also, I finally saw Taxidermia, and it was amazing. Best "beauty in the grotesque" content in film I have seen in a while, mainly due to the inspired directing.

Bill C said...

Actually I liked the ending (though it's kind of comical in retrospect). What I didn't like was all the "Shield" horseshit camerawork, the sluggish pacing (that book is *fleet*, man), the creatures (they were so 'dry,' I felt), and the belaboured Bush II subtext. I almost think the only person miscast was Frank Darabont.

brandon curtis said...

Personally I think "The Mist" only made it to theaters because it had Frank Darabont's name attached to it. Everything from the way the film is shot to the acting to the creatures screams TV movie to me.

The scene where Mrs. Carmody talks about the creatures not coming back for the night screams end of Part 1 to me. Funny, too considering this movie already feels that long. On a side note I thought "Dreamcatcher" would have made a better mini-series than a feature. Both films are cases where someone's love for King is outmatched by their ability to handle his work.

The ending is also pretty laughable. One of my friends pointed out that we should feel Thomas Jane's anguish but because of the way he performs the scene all we can say is "did he really just cry like that?"

Bill, it's not so much a let-down as a sudden steep drop into a pit of festering garbage.

Never read the book, I can only imagine it's better by miles.

Chris said...

For what it's worth, everyone should be looking forward to In Bruges with baited breath.

jacksommersby said...

Walter,

First, I'm so glad you took the space to give our finest cinematographer, Vilmos Zsigmond, his due in your wonderfully astute "Deliverance" review. I just got through rewatching "Winter Kills" and made no qualms over bragging about Zsigmond's work there to a friend.

Second, regarding the screenshot of "Deliverance", it reads:

-- 2.39:1 DVD capture: The Graduate --

Shouldn't that be:

-- 2.39:1 DVD capture: Deliverence --

Just thought I'd let you know.