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ollie’s showbiz question of the week: delusion and the deluxe treatment

Posted by rollinsloane on 9 December 2007

A message to the owners and operators of cine-palaces nationwide: yes, there is such a thing as too much service. The new wave of deluxe theaters geared towards turning movie-going into an ‘entertainment experience’ is preposterously out of touch with the isolationist appeal of actual movie-going. Last time I checked, people go to movies to avoid interaction.

And I’m not just talking about the un-optional reserved seating business going on in LA’s upscale ArcLight and Landmark theaters. That’s annoying enough — at 11:15 on a weekday morning, does anyone really think the eleven people filing in to see Margot at the Wedding actually need some teenage usher to show them to their seat? I’m parking my keister wherever I damn well please, thanks much, because I’ve got 800 chairs to choose from. Save the reserved seating for crowd control on an opening weekend.

But the Landmark remains hellbent on making every movie an occasion and every customer a VIP. Yesterday, at the Landmark’s Westside Pavilion location, I experienced a rare first in my 20 years of rigorous movie-going. At an early screening of Atonement, one usher stepped to the front of theater and made the sort of welcome-to-this-establishment intro you resent enough on an airplane. “If you have any concerns about the theater, or you just want to talk, don’t hesitate to come see any of us,” he offered cheerily. One elderly patron immediately took him up on the offer and demanded a little more heat; the rest of the theater promptly booed. Therein lies the problem of touchy-feely VIP treatment — movie-goers are a mob, not individuals, and democracy rules.

So, yeah, I have a concern. Shut the hell up and roll film already.



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marcie’s idiot pick of the week: across the universe

Posted by rollinsloane on 7 November 2007

Go ahead and get comfortable, kids, ‘cause this is a long one, perhaps the first of several posts. Oh, boy, where to even begin on Across the Universe, the Beatles musical not by Cirque de Soleil. Being an unrepentant huge fan (italics hers) of such soapy musical/’love-is-awesome’ classics as Moulin Rouge and RENT, my brain-dead roommate Marcie just knew this was up her goddamn alley and hell if she wasn’t going to drag somebody along (down) with her. Want to hear a bunch of saccharine pop covers of some of the greatest non-saccharine pop songs of all time? Yeah, me neither.

Obviously inspired by the soundtrack to I Am Sam and the social analysis of Forrest Gump (history has fun costumes!), screenwriting team Dick Clement and Ian Le Frenais (Flushed Away, if you care) fashioned a Beatles musical/spiritual ode to the pill-poppin, free-lovin, times-are-a-changin 60s. Director and obvious musical fan Julie Taymor took it from there, delivering social commentary by way of nostalgia with the subtly of a sledgehammer. Does a girl come in through a bathroom window? You bet.

But definitely E for Effort. The artistic team pulled out all the stops – albeit logic included – to deliver a bright palette of ‘fun’ popcorn eye candy, and no movie’s a failure that prompts so much personal reaction. Why just fail when you can go down in flames?

[Beware, there are plenty of spoilers below. But don’t worry. I’m just sparing you the $11 you would have wasted (Marcie, I am going to kill you) to sit through the damn thing.]

Welcome to the New York City high-rise of a bunch of young-uns with some familiar names livin la vie boheme. There’s Jude (relative newcomer Jim Sturgess, certainly cast for his Ewan McGregor impression), a Liverpool-ian dock-worker come to America for a great adventure; Lucy (Evan Rachel Wood, Thirteen), a sweet-hearted Mama’s girl whose varsity-jacket boyfriend goes off to play dutiful soldier; Max, Lucy’s rule-hating Princeton drop-out of a brother; Prudence (T.V. Carpio – yep, a girl named TV), a small-town lesbian turned general hippie; Sadie (Dana Fuchs), a boho-chic (and yes, sexy) Janis Joplin-styled singer; Jojo (Martin Luther), Sadie’s Hendrix-type guitarist and a NY fugitive of the Detroit riots. I’m actually surprised they resisted turning Max into Dylan.

Only a few people acquit themselves comfortably. Prudence delivers a rather sweet version of “I Want to Hold Your Hand” from a stand of empty high school bleachers, and Bono, as Dr. “I Am the Walrus” John actually lets loose an unprecedented display of charisma. Frida star Salma Hayek contributes a cameo as, what else, an insanely hot nurse. Fuchs and Luther add some much needed grit to the action (btw, did they really get a man named Martin Luther to play the only black character in a movie ostensibly about social unrest? Really?).

But the only performer who looks vaguely aware of the shitshow he’s involved in is British comedian Eddie Izzard, having a ball as the ringleader of some circus-themed drug trip. His crisply dry version of “For the Benefit of Mr. Kite” is, dare I say it, more entertaining than the original.

eddie izzard ringmaster across the universe

Alright, I’ll admit it – Julie Taymor’s the woman who successfully put The Lion King on Broadway, for christ’s sake. Obviously she knows a thing or two about visuals. Even her creative version of Shakespeare’s Titus demonstrates her thorough comfort with bright cartoony colors and Terry Gilliam-style animation. In Universe, she and cinematographer Bruno Delbonnel (A Very Long Engagement, Infamous) pull off some stunners:

– Prudence swooning over her fellow cheerleader as a team of football players dance a tunnel of slow-motion tackles around her.

– A joyful bowling alley sequence to “I’ve Just Seen a Face,” everyone pastel-colored and sliding along the greased-up alleyways just like you always wanted to

– Uncle Sam (singing “I Want You (So Bad)”) reaching off a recruitment poster to basically eat Max alive. The rest of that sequence was pretty damn innovative, too, featuring square-jawed army recruiters packaging draftees like factory cogs and ending with the bombastic picture of new soldiers, still in their white inspection boxers, carting a giant Statue of Liberty on their backs to the lyrics of “she’s so heavyyyyyyy….” I mean, hell, I laughed.

– A group of women falling backwards into a wide expanse of ocean, their hair long and black and their bodies naked and painted white in visual allusion to the famous Vietnam War photograph of the crying little girl, arms outstretched (although I’ll admit, when I saw the trailer, I thought they were Yokos).

– A “Strawberry Fields” number that represents the Vietnam dead as bleeding-heart strawberries on a white canvas.

strawberries canvas across the universe

But it was Taymor’s strange love affair with computer-generated collage effects that downgraded 2002s Frida from a decently moving biopic to a high-schooler’s tacky screensaver. The loony fantasy effects here (meant to indicate drug use or just the extreme giddiness of PG-13 romance?) looked like an experimental 90s video game. Perhaps Taymor simply has a tendency for narrative heavy-handedness:

– An opening credit sequence of Evan Rachel Wood’s face pasted over a montage of civil rights race riots pasted over a horizon of crashing waves to the tune of “Helter Skelter”? Three visual layers that neither make narrative sense nor look good together crammed like a Photoshop mistake in the movie’s first two minutes. Get this director back to the stage.

– Several “Vietnam battles” that came straight out of Rushmore’s high-school play re-enactment.

– Several woeful song sequences, namely Lucy’s too-high, too-slow “If I Fell” (and yes, she falls); Jude’s “Something,” crooned to a naked, sleeping Lucy, supposedly tenderly, but there’s really something cheesy about a grubby artist beside a wall dedicated to erotic sketches of his girlfriend; and “Come Together,” which threw together the most cartoony mix of pimps, hos and chorus-line dancing businessmen this side of Roger Rabbit.

– The concluding performance of ‘All You Need is Love” on a Persian-carpet rooftop, an obvious visual tip of the hat to collaborator Bono’s penchant for singing on rugs. A little music video-ish, no?


“There is no formula for this movie,” claimed Taymor in an interview. Um, wrong. Didn’t I just give her the formula? Moulin Rouge + RENT + ½ Forrest Gump – non-Beatles songs X Terry Gilliam = Across the Universe. And scene.

Posted in filmdom, riddle me this, the latest | Tagged: , , , , | 3 Comments »

it’s all the same oat-bag, fellas

Posted by rollinsloane on 6 November 2007

In the third race of today’s Melbourne Cup, a 2800m event, the second-place horse fell along the final stretch, taking down the horse just behind. The crowd sort of gasped, but it was the home stretch after all, and so everyone went ahead and stayed focused on the remaining fifteen seconds of their hopeful bets. And then, with that strange group movement of a some-thousands crowd, the realization set in that there were two horses struggling panic-struck to their feet and presumably a couple of crushed jockeys somewhere too. Wranglers came over the track barriers like worker ants to get the situation under control.

They didn’t get to one of the horses in time. It came stumbling down the track towards the finish line like a wounded drunk, unable to stand up straight and trying with greater force and greater desperation every time. When standing failed, it started hopping, which was far worse, as it made abundantly clear why it couldn’t stand. The creature’s hind leg dangled from its body like a piece of rubber, irreparably broken.

Have you even seen a horse’s leg dangle from its body like a piece of rubber?

The thing balked to and fro, increasingly alarmed. It was almost a dance — the perfect motions of ignorant, terrified agony. This horse must have been in unbelievable pain. Petrified, eye-rolling pain. The amazing thing — the terrible thing — was how far it managed to draw out this final leaping swan song. It yelped and struggled and wrenched itself halfway to the finish line before the wranglers caught up to it. They somehow got control, ran out a makeshift curtain to hide its struggles behind, and let the horrified audience remove its hands from its eyes.

At least, I could finally remove my hands from my eyes. My jaw was still agape. The reaction of my fellow race-goers, meanwhile, was rather mystifyingly indifferent. The track crew spent a decent 20-some minutes with the horse behind that curtain, certainly putting it down, if not with the real stuff then at least with preparatory sedatives. And the scoreboard didn’t acknowledge it. The scoreboard didn’t post the horse’s name. The information booth couldn’t tell me the fallen horse’s name. No one in the seats around us was even discussing the horror of that horse’s last display. Everyone went on with business as usual. I couldn’t tell if it was a traditional group consensus to not discuss such unsavories during this carnival of sheer frivolity, or if they all really just didn’t care.

It wasn’t until I went home and checked this good old information godsend that I learned the horse was Bay Shore, the well-slated pick I’d been barracking for in honor of his US breeding. Well, Bay Shore, this one’s for you, I suppose, because some tribute is warranted for any end so grisly, so public and so coldly sad. Here’s Jerry Seinfeld’s classic bit on horses.

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our dim future; a comment board revelation

Posted by rollinsloane on 27 October 2007

Maybe my previous post on the obvious senility of Roger Ebert was a little harsh. After all, I suppose it’s relevant to keep in mind who his film-review-reading audience is — perhaps the fine folks commenting on The Fast and the Furious: Tokyo Drift‘s metacritic comment board. Here, the film critic of the future, inspired by Ebert’s lowered standards and forced into democratic judgment by the job’s shrinking population, responds.

Ashley F. gave it 2: Tokyo Drift did NOT have the potential of “The Fast and the furious” or “2 Fast, 2 Furious. ” In my opinion this movie could have been done much better. This movie bored me to tears, it’s really a disappointment. The first two movies kept me on the edge of my seat, and kept me talking all week. Tokyo Drift is a let down and a fake. For example there are hardly ANY races in which the prize is the car, this movie makes me sick and I want to vomit all over the TV when its on.

OMG Ashley I was totally talking all week about the others too. I dont ever want to actually vomit on my TV (gross! lol) but your totally right, there are never any races in which the prize is the car, for example they win a girlfriend instead.

Justin gave it a 2: This movie isnt that good. I dont know why they had to change the main character of Paul Walker. They were doing such a good job with Paul and once they chagned it to the new guy, it totally messed up the whole thing they had with Paul.

They are so annoying when they change stuff aren’t they Justin? Changing the actor does totally mess up the vibe they had with the first actor but contract negotiations are such a bummer, lol!

salman k. gave it 9: The movie was deinitely better than the 2nd one.the new environment in form of tokyo was brilliant.thankgod the lead hero was changed.the storyline was stronger than the 2nd movie too and the surprise vin diesel intro was just priceless. the drifting technique was a great change and the whole drag racing fiasco was put to an end.good job guys.

hey Salman u might want to talk to my friend Justin because he totaly thought Paul Walker was a better lead hero so maybe you guys can race over it, lol. the drifting thing was definetly a cool addition but not as awesum as vin diesel!

Pedro M. gave it 9: I think this movie is the best of “The Fast And The Furious” trilogy. It was a great idea to get a main actor with a texan language accent, for example. I also think it’s great the way this movie crushes some “movie clichés”. The cast is great, having the gorgeous Keiko Kitagawa included. Also, the American Muscle cars are something that makes worth to watch this fantastic movie.

hi Pedro what was your favorite ‘movie cliche’ they crushed? that all the japanese people could speak english language great?, because that definetly was cool for me. or maybe that the texan hero gets the girl in the end and makes peace with his father and decides not run away from his probelms (so not cool), or that there’s a funny cameo? or maybe that literally all the girls were smookin hot, which was awesom too. what’s a cliche?

dale l. gave it 10: Briliant film couldn’t of made it more rialistic. The story line was better than all other fast and furious. killing the seans friend was bad and it sort of made the story line go a bit down hill. well done to the makers succesfull film.

your totealy awesum two, dale!

[I saw the best minds of my generation destroyed by spell check.]

Posted in filmdom, long hard look, riddle me this | Tagged: , , | 6 Comments »

today’s puzzle – modern dance

Posted by rollinsloane on 26 October 2007

Welcome to our informally declared Modern Dance Day here at TORO!, thanks to last night’s Merce Cunningham Dance performance at the Melbourne International Arts Festival. I hate to declare my ignorance from the very outset, but really, somebody out there, explain to me the parameters of ‘genius’ for this art form.

I know why I keep going. I know why whenever I see a flyer for a visiting troupe I race to reserve a seat. Just check out the accompanying photo — the raw athleticism of dancers is breath-catching every time. They’re mobile sculpture, physically unrestrained by the stiff flab of us mere mortals, churning and twisting with each leap into a form you never imagined the human body could take.


But sometimes modern dance catches on its own abstraction and ends up a flat study of minutiae. Cunningham’s program last night featured one of his early pieces from the 50s, Suite for Five, which grouped a rainbow series of monochrome dancers (whose full-body suits were, apparently, designed by pop master Robert Rauschenberg, although single-color leotards hardly seem like an artistic feat) in various combos and awkward movements with little-to-no order or narrative sense. The program naturally declared the work to be one of his “landmark dances,” although my seatmate’s off-hand comment that the dancers “all looked like mental patients” was in fact much more apt.

Admittedly, I’m more drawn to film and novels and plays, pieces of dramatic narrative with story arcs and external meaning. But Cunningham’s work seemed even to lack internal sense. His dancers frequently went through pattern-less series of individual movements in their own corners of the stage, unrelated to either the rest of the piece or even each other — motion in a void, with no way for the audience to orient themselves. Frankly, I was bored. And the rest of the baffled looked none too enthusiastic either.

I’m always willing to entertain the possibility that I’m simply blind to an artist’s intention or historical context. The rest of the program presented a few moments of visual punch, particularly in the final piece, BIPED, which layered abstract animation sequences over the dancers for a shadowy, vaguely screen-saver effect — a true multimedia innovation. But not even shiny spectacle couldn’t obscure the work’s lack of guiding narrative. The projection was there, but not played with. If it was meant to be a supplement instead of a component, then where else were we to find the point, the heart, of the piece?

[On an entirely irrelevant note, let me also confess that those full-body leotards reminded me of why my grandmother had rushed out to see Baryshnikov when he came to on his one-man tour several years ago — let’s face it, the hind quarters of those dudes are sheathed so tight they’re basically just painted. Does anyone else find effect of the close fit to be strangely equine?]

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why, dylan, why?

Posted by rollinsloane on 25 October 2007

Bob Dylan has already copped his fair share of shit for ‘selling out,’ particularly in 2004, when he physically appeared between flashes of wings and panties in a Victoria’s Secret commercial and launched a thousand snarky references to ‘Lay, Lady, Lay.’ For a longtime counter-culture symbol, that was travesty enough.

Dylan’s latest commercial foray, however, makes chain-brand ladies’ underwear seem downright noble. Cadillac’s new ad campaign sends Dylan mumbling through the desert behind the wheel of perhaps the trashiest faux-luxury status symbol — a gas-guzzling Escalade SUV.


A 2004 article by Slate’s Seth Stevenson commenting on the panty rage noted that we shouldn’t “totally discount the idea that he’s playing a sly, decades-in-the-making practical joke. Newspaper reports have noted that in 1965, when asked what might tempt him to sell out, Dylan said, ‘Ladies undergarments.'”

Fine. Lingerie is certainly worth a giggle. But a decades-long plot to shill the most loathsome piece of capitalistic excess? Mmmm…not so much. Modern times, indeed.

Courtesy: adfreak

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