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cloverfield: um, where was everyone else?

Posted by rollinsloane on 21 January 2008

No matter how scary the monster or how efficient the military, there’s absolutely no way even in CGI-ville that the entirety of Manhattan could successfully clear out in about two hours.  There’s no way.  None.  Period.  When Cloverfield‘s nubile 20-somethings scurry through the streets and subways and apartment buildings of one New York City without coming across so much as one other fleeing or cowering urbanite, the movie gives up the appealing cinema verite gimmick established by its handheld camcorder and pretty much goes into action movie-mode.  Its early setting touches worked beautifully — electronic store burglary, zombie-like dust-covered crowds, a Central Park carriage horse wandering without a rider.  Why not play a little more with the city and its famously hardened denizens and have the protags stumble across a pack of homeless in the subway (already armed with canned food and blankets), or an emptying club (mini-skirted girls clinging to frightened bouncers), or a gaggle of awed, camera-toting tourists?  If you must attack New York, for God’s sake, at least have fun with it.

–Ollie

And why attack New York at all?  Vulture has a list of other cities that could use a good monster thrashing.  My vote’s for Vegas.

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why juno’s best screenplay accolades are rather off-the-mark

Posted by rollinsloane on 21 January 2008

Sure, Juno‘s a cute movie, solid the whole way around and with characters so compelling you wish it ran more than 96 minutes.  But Best Screenplay?  Considering it’s about teenage pregnancy, Juno does incredibly little ruminating on either being a pregnant teenager or pregnant in general.  Obviously screenwriter Diablo Cody has never herself been preggers, or we might have been treated to Juno’s caustic take on swollen feet, constant bloat or seven-odd months of scandalized stares and awkward pauses.  Juno remains sweet, simple and audience-friendly because it never treads into that uncomfortable territory.  How else could Juno be so plucky all the time?

It’s a cute movie, yes, but not a fully written one.  Cody makes the first-screenplay mistake of being utterly linear and entirely relevant to the plot at hand, rather than expanding the story out into other directions.  Don’t get me wrong — Juno is terrific, and deserves its praise.  But shouldn’t Best Screenplay awards be reserved for a piece of work that challenges the form?   When a script’s innovations are just a handful of out-there lines like “Your eggo is preggo,” hailing it as Oscar bait is ludicrous.

— Sloane 

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hey, TV critics — David Simon has internet, too

Posted by rollinsloane on 8 January 2008

Yes, we faceless vocal chords of the blogosphere can huzzah and critique and demean pop culture in all degrees, but those shadowy creators behind the small and silver screens have Google access of their own. And one man is not about to take potshots lying down.

First of all, David Simon is The Man (and in the good way), because this is the guy who not only cooked up HBO’s hypersweet The Wire but keeps it well-written and running. Critics love The Wire like Lucas fans love Jedis, and the vast majority of comment on the show is unabashedly rapturous. Sunday’s season premiere, however, proved somewhat underwhelming, and the quizzical critical press dutifully blogged its official doubt.

Slate‘s David Plotz confessed a little trepidation at this season’s new Baltimore Sun newsroom storyline. Simon is an ex-employee of the Sun, and by all accounts has an ax to grind at the deterioration of the paper’s journalism ethics.

I’ve had two brief conversations with David Simon—he’s a friend of a friend—and my wife has had two long ones. In all four of those exchanges, Simon demonstrated an obsession with the Sun that bordered on monomania. There Hanna and I were, slobbering to him about Omar, and Simon kept changing the subject to stories that his editors had screwed up 19 years ago. I’m praying that his fury at the Sun won’t overwhelm his genius for storytelling.

Like a true gentleman, Simon took a moment to straightforwardly address that concern.

I was a newspaperman from my high school paper until I left the Sun at age 35. It was a delight to me. It informs my work in myriad ways. At some point, it went bad. And the fact is, you’ll not find me speaking openly against the fellows who made it go bad for long after my departure. I held my tongue pretty well despite my low regard for those fellows. But in 2000, five years after I left The Sun, those cats finally made clear that they had dragged The Sun into a journalistic fraud through the same myopia and indifference that later cost [Howell] Raines and Gerald Boyd their careers, except they did so despite private warnings about the reporter who was the problem. Why yes, at that point—which you describe as 19 years ago, though it is in fact, seven—I got angry and vocal and direct.

So, yeah, Mr. Plotz, take that — he is angry, and he’s not veiling it. But he will explain it. Cheers to Simon for not slow-burning in world-hating private; he explains himself. (This is also why I love the internet. Not only because it facilitates such quick, direct, even personal exchanges, but because I, an official, anonymous Nobody, get to be privy to it.)

Even smaller charges caught his attention. When those irreverent culture gossips over at New York‘s Vulture took issue with one absurdly minor detail from the season premiere (when a news editor at the paper informs a reporter writing about a fire that you can’t “evacuate” people from a building), David Simon again stepped up to the plate to defend and clarify himself.

At the Baltimore Sun in my day, I was chastised by the great Jay Spry, rewrite man to the world, for evacuating people in my report of a downtown gas leak. I plead guilty to an anachronism if indeed that is what it now is. However, I would argue that since the evacuation of people can in fact mean giving them enemas, the use of such a phrase should be discouraged by editors, given that the alternate phrase in which a given locale is evacuated is better and unequivocal. When a word has two meanings, find another word.

Huzzah. Take that, you snarks! David Simon, when this season wraps, please take on college admissions, infomerical producers, Apple product pricers, entertainment business job searching and all other industries of scam and scandal. (But do have some mercy. Leave us two-bit bloggers alone.)

– Sloane

Add: more incidents of Simon’s respondage.

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film art: dismal failure 2007

Posted by rollinsloane on 4 January 2008

Why, Photoshop, why? ‘Nough said.

georgia rule poster

Ollie

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film art: poster runner-ups 2007

Posted by rollinsloane on 4 January 2008

Not every movie poster can reinvent the color wheel like last year’s best did. These efforts deserve points for their safer forays into visual innovation.

American Gangster

I like a poster that can conservatively reference its film’s thematic battle. Race politics, much? All I’m saying — Denzel’s wearing black. Still, it’s a classy effort, sprinkled with just enough grit to suit its 70s drug scene plot.american gangster movie poster

The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford/Margot at the Wedding

Yeah, these two make for an unlikely pair, but they employ the same winning visual schematic to perfection. Skewed arrangement of figures, lots of distant dead space, low target, quirky hats, rich use of color (love that pink). Elegant displays for very well-crafted films.

assassination of jesse james movie poster

margot at the wedding movie poster

The Darjeeling Limited

We all know Wes Anderson has his own signature aesthetic, but it is an eye-pleasing one. Regardless of stars or dour facial expressions, it is the backdrop of this poster that makes it, and that layered green brings a fresh twist to Anderson’s usual East Coast style.

darjeeling limited movie poster

Knocked Up

How fitting that such an unusual comedy would put its own spin on the white background/red lettering scheme of so many failed comedy poster efforts. His and her poses, side-skewed lettering. Really, though, their expressions make this more than priceless.

knocked up movie poster

— Ollie

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film art: best posters 2007

Posted by rollinsloane on 4 January 2008

The film critics’ end-of-year bonanza in on at full tilt, but all involved seem to be forgetting the movies’ true visual impact on the widespread public — their posters. 2007 saw some slam-bang images at a bus stop near you. Here are the best (also: runner’s up and worst).

Black Snake Moan

What. The. Fuck. This dime store paperback-cum-deep fried circus poster just seethes with all the sex and violence the movie totally failed to deliver.

black snake moan

The Host

Did you see this movie? No? WHY NOT? Get thee to a Blockbuster and feast your eyes on the best CGI monster this side of Cloverfield. If this sweet sweet poster doesn’t sell you on the lusty terror of a terrific monster movie, then you don’t deserve it anyway.

the host movie poster

Grindhouse: Planet Terror

Yeah, the Grindhouse duo was an undercooked clunker. But these teasers for Robert Rodriguez’s Planet Terror got me in the theater anyway. Gruesome goodness: bold colors, thick outlines, and one lady-machine gun silhouette that’s downright iconic.

planet terror rose mcgowan
planet terror marley shelton

I’m Not There

For some reason the Weinstein Company went with Cate Blanchett’s wire-haired silhouette to promote Todd Haynes’s Bob Dylan dreamscape I’m Not There instead of this far more descriptive 60s-style montage. Audiences deserve a little visual warning before the cacophony of that movie, and this pictorial gives a better glimpse.i’m not there movie poster

Ollie

Also: here are the best poster lists of /film (dude, Across the Universe?  are you kidding?) and firstshowing.net (with the excellent addition of what-movie-was-that? King of California).  Mine, for the record, still rules.

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man enough to let it all hang out

Posted by rollinsloane on 31 December 2007

So I’m sitting in the dark theater glow of I’m Not There watching a varied lot of Bob Dylans jockey elbows for screen time when all of sudden Heath Ledger exits a shower with his junk on proud display. I realize I’m a bit alone on this one — how many countless ventured to Beowulf just for a peek at Angelina’s 3D-animated nudity? — but honestly, truly, I hate big-name nudity in movies. Hint at sex all you want, but the moment an unnecessary set of nipples dips into view I’m watching Nicole Kidman get hot and bothered rather than Cold Mountain rurualites finally consummate their long-distance romance.

Even if my own sensitivity to such visuals is excessively Puritan, it can’t be argued that there’s been a definite growth in the Hollywood male full frontal of late. While women have long stripped down for the camera, cinema usually professes a decided discomfort with the male set of equipment, and that taboo is increasingly being ignored or, in the case of Walk Hard, blatantly mocked. The following list of recent examples isn’t meant as a list for pervs (please — I think we all know Mr. Skin is a far more enticing resource for cinematic nudity), but as an earnest accounting of a growing trend. That said, pervs, get your pencils ready:

Into the Wild — Emile Hirsch floats down a river under a bird’s eye camera shot

Last King of Scotland — James McAvoy strips down at the command of craaaaaazy Forest Whitaker (and looking quite bashful while he’s at it)

Eastern Promises — Viggo Mortinson (in one hell of a bathhouse fight scene)

Starting Out in the Evening — 69-year-old Frank Langella, getting out of a bathtub. I didn’t say these were all sexy. I’m just pointing out that they’re there.

Walk Hard — Some dude.

A piece in USA Today cited the brief nudity in Kinsey (Peter Sarsgaard), Sideways (Thomas Haden Church) and Alexander (Colin Farrell) as indicative of a growing trend back in 2004. MSNBC then noted The Dreamers as well, further listing Quills (Geoffrey Rush) and Wild Things (Kevin Bacon). There are a few serial streakers: Richard Gere (American Gigolo, Breathless), Harvey Keital (Bad Lieutenant, The Piano) and Ewan McGregor (Trainspotting, Velvet Goldmine)

Perhaps, in the all together, this is pretty much irrelevant anyway. After all, a survey of actresses who’ve gone topless and/or bottomless is basically endless.

Ollie

For a fuller re-cap of the year in dick, check out Vulture’s salute to the Year of the Wang.

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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.

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finally, some decent campaign coverage

Posted by rollinsloane on 28 October 2007

colbert

Amid the muck that is presidential campaign coverage, it’s nice to see one candidate get a thorough analysis. Megan Garber over at CJR has turned in an excellent piece on new Republican/Democrat hopeful Stephen Colbert:”

“As far as Campaigniness ‘08 goes, it’ll be interesting to see how far Colbert takes the “run”—and how far the media will go in running along with him. Thus far, he seems to be going out of his way to make clear that it’s a joke. (At a book-signing event in New York this week, Colbert responded to the crowd’s cheering of his dual-ticket run: “I hope you all enjoy losing twice,” he said.) Still, as Colbert writes in I Am America (And So Can You!), “It is time to impregnate this country with my mind.” With the media’s help, he seems to be doing just that.”

Garber insightfully comments on the brilliance of Colbert’s political move and the bizarre swooning of the media he mocks. My only question: who’s his running mate?

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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.

Why?

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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