26 March 2010

At the movies: Greenberg.

Greenberg is the titular subject of Noah Baumbach’s new film, played by Ben Stiller in a way that aims to reaffirm how great he can be as an actor when he wants to be. But Greenberg is also a state of mind; a quasi-narcissistic, neurotic life paralyzed by not only the process of aging but by the way that language, expectations, and alienation have cut us all off from one another.

Stiller’s Greenberg, specifically, is a carpenter who once was an almost-rock star, recently released from a mental institution. He’s come to L.A. to keep an eye on his hotel developer brother’s palatial house while their family takes a several week excursion to Vietnam. He’s not completely on his own, though. He has his brother’s assistant, Florence (the magnificent Greta Gerwig), to rely on, and from this springs an awkward and deeply resonant kind of relationship.

Baumbach builds on the foundations he’s been trafficking in since 1995’s Kicking and Screaming, following the masterful one-two punch of The Squid and The Whale and Margot at the Wedding, and with the input of his wife Jennifer Jason Leigh, who produced and helped develop the story, he’s been able to distill something amazing onscreen.

Nothing I’ve seen all year rings truer than an altered Greenberg talking to a bunch of twentysomethings about the meanness that drives their interactions; “The Chauffeur” in the background, party favors all about, and one man facing the void of modern courtesy.

It will haunt you, even as Stiller gives his best performance in ages and Gerwig shines like a supernova in her first big film. You take joy where you can, but that’s not what drives you. It’s the regret, and the confusion, and yes, the hope.

25 March 2010

At the movies: Chloe.

So the new Atom Egoyan film is kind of a mess, but still interesting (as is often the case with his lesser films). I went on at a medium length about it in The Scene this week, and I feel I should share it with you.

At the movies: Two-Lane Blacktop.

I love writing about the classics, and Monte Hellman's 1971 road epic is very much one of them. Nashvillians are in luck this weekend, as the Belcourt presents a 35mm print as part of its Weekend Classics program. Don't miss it.

And if you're not in the Nastyville area, well then- road trip...

18 March 2010

What's New in the World of NSFW Movie Trailers?

First and foremost, nothing in this post is appropriate for viewing by anyone with any sense of decency or a well-adjusted moral compass.

As a critic and media prophet, it's my job to be aware of what's coming your way in the world of transgressive cinema. It's also something that I- well, let's not say enjoy, but it's something that I'm more than willing to do.

I don't endorse violence and degradation in real life.

Movies are not real, but they can express aspects of the human condition just as any art form does.

And now that we have that out of the way (and seriously, this is your last chance warning; if you don't regularly discuss contemporary art cinema, please skip this piece and move on to the photography and the section where I talk about Tyler Perry), here we go...


This film's director Marc Vorlander is apparently battling it out with Rena Riffel (you know, Penny/Hope from the original) for dueling Showgirl movies.

I say "please, y'all, may I have some more." Everyone should make a Showgirl movie. Quentin Tarantino, Claire Denis, Philippe Grandrieux, and Gaspar Noe should all make Showgirl movies. Because I have no idea what to think of this. It's just under five minutes, and has been trimmed from the unending ten minute monstrosity at the film's official website. And the music feels like a riff on John Carpenter's Halloween music over the beat from Schooly D's "PSK (What Does it Mean?)."

Notable fan of timeless American values and human decency Erik S pointed out, quite accurately, that this totally looks like a Fantom Kiler movie.
Also, just for comparison's sake, here's Rena Riffel's trailer for her own Showgirls sequel.

"How bad do you want it? Bad..."

ENTER THE VOID ("Soudain Le Vide")

Gaspar Noe is kind of awesome. A few years back, he hosted a night at the IFC Center in NYC where he showed 35mm prints of Seul Contre Tous and Salo, and in between the two I got to talk to him for a couple of minutes about his work, Kubrickian motifs, and Bruno Dumont's Flanders; he even signed my ticket, so full props to him.

He's made two beautiful misanthropic masterpieces (the aforementioned Seul Contre Tous and the staggering Irreversible), and now here comes his third feature, with an inordinate amount of sex and drugs and pinballing through the streets of Tokyo. Music by Thomas Bangalter from Daft Punk, no less. Here's the Japanese trailer.

The colors... I've actually talked to people who have seen this, and I am super-pumped, especially since (unlike every other film discussed on this page) it actually has U.S. distribution from the lovable freaks at IFC Films. And seriously, how can you not love one of the most twisted characters in the world cinema game who confesses to crying when they killed HomeTree in Avatar?

KINATAY (which, for some reason has been given the English language title of "The Execution of P")

This film, like Enter The Void, premiered at Cannes '09, where its director Brillante Mendoza (who made the porny, atmospheric Serbis a couple of years ago) won the Best Director Award and Roger Ebert lost his mind about it. It's about corruption, Catholicism, misogyny, dehumanization, and the darkest parts of physical space and the human heart.

There's no English-friendly trailer yet, but this French-subtitled one gets the point across (though I actually think it soft-pedals the film's brutality and experimental quality- this could easily be an American trailer for a foreign film, the way it focuses on aspects of family and moral choice).

The actual translation of the title is "Butchered" or "Slaughter." You probably guessed that, though.

and that brings us to the big nasty.

This film hit Texas this week with the force of several hundred dropped jaws, countless buckets of tears and vomit, and dozens of spontaneous religious awakenings. I'm talking, of course, about...

A SERBIAN FILM ("Srpski Film")

If even an eighth of what has been said about this film is true, I fear it may cause crops to wither, pregnant ladies to explode, and sex to stop happening across the board. Explicitly political and super-upsetting, this is currently the most scandalous film in the world.

Now my question is this- what is the song used in the latter half of the trailer? Y'all know I love squelchy synth drones as a counterpoint to shock and horror.

So, that brings us to the end of this compendium of What's New in the World of NSFW Movie Trailers. Many thanks are due the lovable freaks at Twitch Film and Zack H for bringing some of these to my attention, and big ups to you for making it this far.

04 March 2010

Ave Madea.

So, for anyone who'd like to know my thoughts on Madea's Big Happy Family, you can do so here.

I'm glad to be expanding my critical voice.

At the movies: The Crazies.

The truly great thing about this film is that it will unsettle you regardless of whatever political or social perspective you may be living with.

There isn’t a single fear that isn’t skillfully exploited by this film (and, truthfully, its superior 1973 incarnation), and it so often goes the less conventional route in its pursuit of making you jump at least one and a half times every reel, that by the end of it your nerves are a wreck. As always, it seems, there’s some dodgy CGI and an emphasis on traditional family that marks it as a product of the early twenty-first century, but you can tell that a decent amount of care went into crafting this film.

A military plane has crashed in a small Iowa town, and from it has come Trixie, an experimental virus that eats away at inhibitions and the superego, leaving the id in charge and nothing standing between our most depraved violent thoughts and society at large. Neither a zombie film nor a slasher movie, The Crazies is a film to get deep into your brain, playing horrifying games with your sense of self and of society. With the best unconventional use of a car wash since Cronenberg’s Crash and some remarkably tense and cruel sequences. More than worth your time.

You can also check out the original at Nashville's Belcourt on April 2nd and 3rd.