Sunday, September 30, 2007

More me on YouTube

This actually is the first movie review segment I taped for the Houston Community College cable TV channel. But I delayed posting it until now because, well, it's not that good. Or, to be more accurate, I'm not that good. The student production crew performed far beyond the call of duty, but I'm a real stiff here, wearing a coat that appears two or three sizes too large -- trust me, it looks somewhat better when I'm standing up -- and holding a microphone like I'm ready to launch into a medley of my greatest hits. ("Therrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrre'll be no white flag aboooooooove my door.... And I know that my heart will go oooooooooooooooooooooooon....") But what the hell, at least I get to say some more nice things about The Bourne Ultimatum.

Tony Kaye + Johnny Cash + God = Great video

Caught this last spring at the Nashville Film Festival, and should have posted it then. Better late than never, I guess. Director Tony Kaye worked some magic here with Johnny Cash and several of The Man in Black's admirers. And while it's not the best music video ever to showcase Cash, it's mighty damn close.

Darth Vader plays the blues

Another tip of the hat to New Orleans-based pop-culturalist John Guidry for locating yet another mondo-bizzaro video. And let's face it: This is how we really wanted Return of the Jedi to end.

Friday, September 28, 2007

Brain-eating amoeba on the loose

I know this is a seriously tragic story -- but, I'm sorry, I can't help thinking: If Uwe Boll hears about it, we're in for another lousy movie.

At long last: Toronto wrap

Three of my favorite movies at my very favourite film festival.

Solving the mystery of Kiss Me Deadly

Glenn Erickson has sleuthed out the story behind the story of the apparent apocalypse at the end of Kiss Me Deadly, Robert Aldrich's 1955 film noir classic (which influenced, among many other movies, Repo Man and Pulp Fiction).

Thursday, September 27, 2007

Bloggus Interruptus

Sorry about the recent lack of postings. The motherboard of my PC went to live with Jesus last Sunday, causing a crash that has left me playing catch-up ever since. Hope to resume regular posts this weekend.

Friday, September 21, 2007

Across the Universe bestrides a generation gap?

I'll be curious to see if there's a generational divide in the critical and audience reaction to Across the Universe as it progresses along its post-Toronto Film Festival platform release. That is: If, like me, you're old enough to have bought Beatles albums when they were first released, while you still were in your teens, will you respond to the film more passionately, more approvingly, than twenty- and thirtysomethings? If you’re not among those of us with a living memory of that music as, quite literally, the soundtrack of what was going on in the world during the turbulent 1960s -- will you love the movie as much as I do, and Roger Ebert does? As Stephen Holden does?

Director Julie Taymor – who, at 54, is scarcely four months younger than I am -- does a magical mystery tour through the Beatles catalogue to fashion an impressionistic musical fantasy about wild times, civil unrest, tradition challenging, envelope pushing and political radicalization at time when Americans were polarized by disparate attitudes about race, sex, drugs and the Vietnam War. And while tight-assed naysayers might be turned off by the very notion of a musical using Fab Four songs to underscore and illuminate both the giddy exuberance and angry discordance of the ‘60s, Taymor, to her credit, is sufficiently smart and serious to give epochal events their full weight, even while offering an audaciously stylized and optimistically celebratory extravaganza that leaves you joyous and grateful. To be sure, some critics are spot-on when they complain that some of Taymor’s matching of music and imagery is literal-minded at best, heavy-handed at worst. Ultimately, however, Across the Universe commands the same response as The Borg: Resistance is futile. It’s a happening, baby, and you should allow it to happen to you.

Sunday, September 16, 2007

Westerns rope Emmys

Maybe Westerns really are back in fashion. On the same weekend that 3:10 to Yuma managed to sustain its opening weekend momentum at the theatrical box-office, Broken Trail lassoed a passel of prizes, including the award for Best Miniseries, during the Emmy Awards extravaganza. Robert Duvall was honored as Best Actor in a miniseries, and Thomas Haden Church received the Best Supporting Actor prize. But wait, there's more: Bury My Heart at Wounded Knee -- the HBO adaptation of the Dee Brown best-seller -- was honored as Best Made-for-Television Movie.

Thursday, September 13, 2007

Life imitates art?

From Variety: Gone Baby Gone -- Ben Affleck's directorial debut, based on the novel by Mystic River author Dennis Lehane -- is gone, gone, gone from the line-up of next month's London Film Festival, due to some unfortunate similarities between the movie's fictional plot and the ongoing case of missing British youngster Madeleine McCann, who disappeared from her Portuguese holiday apartment in early May. It doesn't help much that Madeline O'Brien, the actress cast as the kidnap victim in Affleck's movie, bears a physical resemblance to her British namesake.

Of T.O. and Tommy Lee

I just flew back from the Toronto Film Festival, and boy, are my arms tired...

But seriously: While working the fest for three different publications, finishing a feature story I should have completed before leaving Houston, and reconnecting with old friends in the Great White North, I have been lax in my posting. Sorry about that. Hope to get back into the blogging groove over the next few days. In the meantime: Kudos to Anthony Breznican of USA for taking on one of the toughest interview subjects in showbiz -- Tommy Lee Jones -- and getting some blunt talk from the Oscar-winning actor about In the Valley of Elah, one of the very best films I saw at Toronto. The money quote: "There are many questions raised by the movie, but they all boil down to one big question, and that's the big question in front of everybody in the country... It's inescapable. It makes no sense to talk around it or avoid talking about it …

"That question is: To what extent are you engaged in a fraudulent war, you as an American citizen?"

Thursday, September 06, 2007

Taking Toronto

I've already had my first feast of wings at The Foxes Den, so I'm ready to take on the Toronto Film Festival. Trouble is, I've already had to face my first in-the-field crisis -- I forgot to bring along the electrical cord to connect my CPAP machine -- and I'm exhausted after a night of fitful sleeping. But I press on. Will report more developments as they occur.

Tuesday, September 04, 2007

Arthouse fare lost in summer shuffle

Unfortunately, the above headline for this Variety report says it all.

Talking pictures with Norman Jewison

Mark Sept. 13 on your calendar, and/or program your TiVo today: Director Norman Jewison (whose formidable list of credits ranges from In the Heat of the Night to A Soldier's Story) will be the subject of the next Private Screenings interview with Robert Osborne on Turner Classic Movies.

And speaking of Jewison: Rumor has it that, later this year, he'll be honored at a major film festival where he'll take part in a Q&A session with an obscure but impassioned fan. More news to come as further developments occur.

Sunday, September 02, 2007

Radio active

I'll be interviewed by New Orleans radio host David DuBos tomorrow -- Labor Day -- during the 5 pm hour on N.O. station WGSO (which is streamed on-line here). DuBos -- who usually hosts the station's Movie Talk show on Saturdays -- wants to chat about the renaissance of the Western, so you can expect we'll be focusing on 3:10 to Yuma and The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford.

Jesse James: Original gangsta?

While promoting The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford this weekend at the Venice Film Festival, star Brad Pitt (left, opposite Casey Affleck as Ford) said he saw the upcoming Warner Bros. release as more of a gangster movie than a Western. "I saw it ... as a guy who sensed impending doom, the inevitable end, who had been trapped in a facade and living an alias for so long and didn't know a way around it," Pitt told a news conference after a press screening.

Once again: Money-making, not record-breaking

David Germain of the Associated Press once again warns: A $4-billion summer is good news, but not great news, for the film industry.

Update, 11:50 p.m.: And now some film industry bigwigs are downplaying that $4-billion gross. But is that just a pre-strike negotiating tactic?

Under the influence

Woody Allen insists his work has not influenced other filmmakers. No, really. At the Venice Film Festival, he told reporters: "I don't mean that to sound like false modesty, but I could always feel the influence of my contemporaries — Martin Scorsese, Francis Ford Coppola, Robert Altman, Steven Spielberg — but I have never seen my influence on anyone."

Two questions immediately come to mind. First: Which Woody Allen most obviously reflects a Spielbergian influence? Second: Has Woody Allen ever seen... well, gee, I almost don't know where to begin. David Frankel's Miami Rhapsody? Julie Delpy's 2 Days in Paris? Anand Tucker's (and Steve Martin's) Shopgirl? Noah Baumbach's Mr. Jealousy? Ed Burns' Sidewalks of New York? Any freakin' movie ever made by Whit Stillman?