29 April 2010

At the movies: Notorious.

Thank to the folks at the Nashville Scene, here's my pick for this week's Belcourt screening of 1946's Notorious. Which for some reason is illustrated with a photo from the Notorious B.I.G. biopic. Which is kind of funny.

A Trip down Elm Street (before).

Louisville gets the Original, uncontaminated by the remake.
Elm Street 1.0

23 April 2010

Why You should come to Midnight Movies at the Belcourt.

So I mentioned the proposal that happened at a midnight screening of The Room a little while back, and there's video. I pop up around 2 minutes in, the proposal happens at 2:55.

Never a dull moment, and that's how it should be.

11 April 2010

In memoriam: Dixie Carter.

I just found out that Dixie Carter had died, and it hit me very hard. For my entire adult life and most of my childhood, she has been the personification of wit and great lines, because of Designing Women, yes, to a certain extent, but mostly because of Filthy Rich, a sitcom that ran on CBS from 1982-1983.

Carter's character, Carlotta Beck, was scheming and conniving and willing to do anything to get at the fortune left by her deceased father-in-law Big Guy Beck. But along the way, she had some of the great lines of television history, and next to no one knows about this show. So as a tribute to the memory of the late, great Dixie Carter, here are my seventeen favorite lines she ever delivered on this underseen gem.

You may recognize some of these, if only because I've been quoting them for the past twenty-five years.

"I became confused and forced it out of a small child's hand."

"You want to know what happened to me, I'll tell you what happened to me. I fell into the Mississippi River."

"We do not serve- gristle."

"If you refuse to pay servants, you leave us no choice but to adopt small, pliant children from underprivileged countries."

"This should be put on wheels and taken around to people everywhere to show that it could happen in your home too."

"How I hate it when she pummels us with clever repartee..."

"Yes, I want you hurt."

"If I looked in the mirror I would see someone demented, and frothing, and looking for just the right size axe."

"Kathleen, dear, I suggest you stay out of this or I will verbally annihilate you. I will cut you off at the knees. I will take that two-cent accent and perfectly coiffed hairdo and stuff it down your demurely concealed, but nevertheless dimestore cleavage!"

"We prefer not to seriously consider the opinion of a woman whose dog wears hot pants."

"Bootsie Weschester's taste in men ranges from King Kong to Lil' Abner and unfortunately, you do not fall into that category."

"It must be all that fresh morning air you get on those long taxi rides home."

"Marshall- thunder!"

"Our only regret is that we did not have time to purchase an appropriate gift. Perhaps a silver platter with rabbits on it."

"You've been meditating again... your pupils are dilated."

"Don't tell us! Random House has decided to publish your autobiography, I Was an Elementary School Virgin."

"Nouveau white trash."

09 April 2010

At the movies: The Runaways.

I'm superspsyched- my corporate overlords have started to run some of my stuff in The Tennessean as well as Metromix, and you know me- I love attention.

So you can get all of that right here. Yay.

08 April 2010

In memoriam: Malcolm McLaren.

I know next to nothing about the Sex Pistols or the New York Dolls. But here are a few pieces of music Mr. McLaren had his dirty fingers in somehow or another, and they're all spectacular. He was a brilliant bastard of a businessman, and I think the world will be a little less sleazy-interesting without him.


Ah, the rave years. With a melody that sounds like both the Phantasm theme, "Right in the Night" by Jam & Spoon, and "Spanish Caravan" by The Doors.


Samples from Paris is Burning, and this bad boy predates Madonna's "Vogue" by quite some time.

MALCOLM McLAREN and FRANCOISE HARDY: Revenge of the Flowers

From MMcL's jazz-pop "Paris" project. Love it.


A global mush of everything, and one of the most enduring leftfield tracks of the early 80s.

MALCOLM McLAREN and ALISON LIMERICK: Magic's Back (The Ghosts of Oxford Street)
McLaren meets Stock and Waterman, with the voice of Alison Limerick (not Double You). Apologies for the wonky quality and the lack of embeddability.

06 April 2010

At the movies: Hot Tub Time Machine.

After a longtime friend (Rob Corddry, from The Daily Show) tries to kill himself (to a Mötley Crüe song, no less), his buddies (John Cusack, Craig Robinson) and a hanger-on nephew (Clark Duke) decide to head off to the mountains and revisit the ski town where they had some of their most defining moments back in the day. But add an illegal Russian energy drink into the mix, and the four soon find themselves hurled by Jacuzzi through time itself. Now, their time is short before they find themselves trapped in 1986 forever.

Blessed with a title that lays out everything you could need to know, Hot Tub Time Machine has been building on its can’t-miss premise as well as star Cusack’s own 80s nascent stardom as a way to pull in the nostalgia crowd as well as modern youngsters who don’t get why New Order or The English Beat are awesome.

Robinson has long been the secret comedic weapon of recent subversive cinema, and he gets several moments here that no one else could have pulled off. Likewise, Corddry goes for the gusto in every scene, and the two together are pure gold. Cusack underplays, which allows him to get to a much weirder place than he usually allows himself, and Duke (whose work I was unfamiliar with) is amiable and awkward in exactly the necessary proportions.

If it weren’t for a slack reel in the middle and some gratuitous homophobia (and by that I mean the duelling sports bet BJ sequence and a few F-fords), Hot Tub Time Machine would be a classic. As it is, it’s still generally an utter delight; unafraid of going to the darker side (the Greenberg-ier side?) of human despair (and laying some well-deserved blame on friends who don’t return their friends’ phone calls) or getting weird with the tyrannies of love and memory.

The 80s material seems slapdash, but the soundtrack choices are rightfully awesome; if Hot Tub Time Machine is a little off as an 80s film, it’s a superb time travel movie and well worth your time.

My only Class A-complaint is that of all the songs recorded and performed between 1986 and 2010, a character determined to wow an audience chooses "Let's Get it Started" by Black-Eyed Peas. I'm sorry, what?

Hats off to Crispin Glover and whoever did the music supervision.

At the movies: Clash of the Titans.

Who can save the city of Argos from the wrath of the (some would say justifiably) slighted gods and the business end of a monstrous Kraken? Why, it’s Perseus (Sam Worthington), one of head deity Zeus’ scores of illegitimate children and the only man capable of tackling the biggest, strangest critters Ancient Greece can throw at him. There’s a princess to be saved, computer-generated battles to be fought, semi-divine heritage to shun (again and again and again), and a black winged horse to help with aerial shots.

But it's still not really enough.

Simultaneously a high-profile remake of a semi-beloved 1981 cult favorite and the litmus test for whether post-process 3D can work on a large scale, this Clash has been getting a lot of attention. The cast is stacked with great actors (Pete Postlethwaite in genre cinema is always a good sign, and there's a remarkable supporting cast hidden somewhere in this mess of a film), and the original’s flashy camp is well-preserved in the scenes set on Mount Olympus (it’s like some bizarre fusion of The Legion of Doom headquarters and Showgirls).

But will audiences be willing to pay the exorbitant 3D prices for a film which was hastily converted after the fact? The truth is, they shouldn't. 2D is perfectly fine. The only scene which at all benefits from the after-conversion is the opening prologue, telling the story of the Olympian revolt against the Titans across the stars themselves. It's a magical sequence, filled with color and imagination, qualities which sadly vacate the premises once the action starts.

There are three big problems with this film.

1) It’s a film dealing with ancient Greek society and its issues and belief structures, yet is firmly made in the mindset of the modern-day audience (see also 300). This dates a film badly and also creates a central incongruity that can be insurmountable. For an example of a film that does not make this mistake but that most people seem to hate- Oliver Stone's Alexander.

2) Sam Worthington, just as in Avatar, is a blank slate; there’s no presence there, and he just sort of blends in with the pixels on display. He's brawny, he's capable of being forceful (though it comes off more as petulant), but he's got no presence at all.

3) The 3D is weak. Like Alice in Wonderland, this post-processed 3D is neither immersive nor consistent. If a film wasn’t crafted to be in 3D, it shouldn’t be shown that way.

The monsters are fun (big ups on any films with giant scorpions- and this one has at least eight or nine, and the new-concept Medusa is iffily effective even if her lair is the one staggering achievement of the production), Director Louis LeTerrier (Transporter 2) has an exemplary sense of kinesis, and there are moments when it captures the hokey majesty of bringing Greek myth to life. But I'll take the dated techniques and I, Claudius supporting cast of Olympians of the original over this any day of the week.

At the movies: Mother.

The developmentally disabled Yoon Do-joon (Bin Won) finds himself locked away after police decide he’s the most likely person to have killed a young woman. Do-joon isn’t capable of mounting a defense of his own, and he seems doomed to fade away in the depths of the prison system- except for his devoted mother (Kim Hye-ja, in a performance that will leave you breathless). And when the authorities won’t continue their investigation into the tragic murder, only Mother can step up and dig deeper into the muck that surrounds the whole town.

An herbalist, freelance acupuncturist, and full-time guard for Do-joon, Mother has an understanding of people and an effortless guile when it comes to delving into what happened on that fateful night…

Writer/Director Bong Joon-ho (who made The Host, South Korea’s highest-grossing film of all time and a surprise hit here in the U.S.) has a remarkable ability to snag an audience early on and never let go. Following its U.S. bow at last year’s New York Film Festival, Mother has gone on to win rapturous acclaim from critics and audiences nationwide, and it isn’t hard to see why; family is universal. The unprecedented success of Shutter Island has proven that intelligent thrillers made for adult sensibilities can find traction in today’s multiplexes, and Mother is as fine an engine of suspense as world cinema has produced in years.

Kim Hye-ja’s titular performance is something of majesty, the kind of work that stays in the subconscious long after the film has ended. Bong’s construction of the film around her never drops the ball or becomes too clever for its own good, rather letting its labyrinthine twists and turns grow organically from the central question of the film: ‘What wouldn’t a mother do?’

Built like a novel, streamlined like a racehorse, and as visceral as your news of choice, this is the kind of film you just have to step back in awe from; if nothing else, Mother has the best, most expressive, overwhelmingly beautiful final shot of any film since 2002’s Morvern Callar. Bowled over by euphoria and tragedy, nothing else in theatres even comes close.

So you're going to the 2010 Nashville Film Festival...

Well, it’s that time of the year again. The Nashville Film Festival is looming around the corner, and I’ve had a few folks say “Hey, what should I try and check out?” So, here we go.

Section I: Stuff I have seen and proclaim to be awesome.

BLUEBEARD. Fri. 16 @ 515pm, Sat. 17 @730pm
One of my favorites from the 2009 New York Film Festival. One of Breillat’s best (though it does contain a graphic depiction of medieval cooking).

“The Inner Workings of Outer Space” screening in TENNESSEE FILM NIGHT I. Th, 15@7, Sun. 18 @830pm
One of the best Watkins student films I’ve ever seen.

DOGTOOTH. Wed. 21 @530pm, Thur. 22 @1215pm
Disturbing and provocative Greek psychodrama.

“Love Child” screening in GROW UP ALREADY. Sat. 17 @1145am, Tue. 20 @945pm
One of the best shorts of the year. I saw it at the NYFF, and it made local cineaste and philanthropist Scott Manzler laugh harder than I’ve ever seen anything make Scott Manzler laugh.

HOOP DREAMS. Mon. 19 @3pm
Granted, I haven’t seen it since 1994, but as I recall, it was pretty amazing. I’ve had people that I trust who say that it doesn’t hold up, but I’m angling to give it a re-viewing.

FILM WITHOUT BORDERS. Mon. 19 @7pm, Wed. 21 @5pm
As last year, I programmed the experimental film section, and I think it’s a spectacular array of films. I stand by all of them.

Section II: Stuff I haven’t seen, but people whom I trust have and proclaimed it worthwhile.

NOWHERE BOY. Thur. 15 @8pm, Fri. 16 @1pm
Sam Taylor-Wood made last year’s exceptional short Love You More, three amazing dance records with the Pet Shop Boys, and a series of artworks that continue to captivate me. I’ve heard great things about this, her feature debut.

APPLAUSE. Fri. 16 @315pm, Sun. 18 @915pm
Danish actress Paprika Steen (My 1998 Best Actress choice for The Celebration) goes full-on Opening Night.

HIPSTERS. Sat. 17 @715pm, Tue. 20@noon
I have a complicated series of feelings regarding Jonathan Rosenbaum, but in his most recent column in Cinema Scope magazine, he recommends the film highly enough to advise his readers to snag an unsubtitled Russian disc of the film from Amazon. That in and of itself makes me superintrigued.

FOR ONCE IN MY LIFE. Fri. 16 @730pm, Sat. 17 @215pm
This film melts even the coldest of hearts, apparently.

THE COMPLETE JAMIE TRAVIS. Sat. 17 @5pm, Sun. 18 @245
Intriguing fantasiae that have been wowing the world for some time.

LOURDES. Sun. 18 @3pm, Tue. 20 @1230pm
The magnificent Sylvie Testud (Murderous Maids) in a serious story about faith and what it means to be divinely healed. I’m supremely stoked for this.

CYRUS. Thur. 22 @7pm
John C. Reilly, Jonah Hill, and the Duplass Brothers. Sold.

Section III: Stuff I haven’t seen, but that has some kind of hook that resonates.

I AM LOVE. Wed. 21 @740pm, Thur. 22 @1245pm
You had me at Tilda Swinton.

THE GOOD HEART. Wed. 21 @noon, Thur. 22 @530pm
I trust Brian Cox as an actor completely.

“Horndog” screening in SENSATIONAL ANIMATION. Sat. 17 @715pm, Mon. 19 @445pm
Bill Plympton is always worth a look, especially his ongoing Dog series.

SOUTHERN BELLE. Sat. 17 @445pm, Sun. 18 @2pm
Any time a documentary deals with southern issues of any sort, you can expect some fireworks. There’s a quote from the inimitable Flannery O’Connor which I can never exactly remember, but which goes something like “those not from the south would view certain things as grotesque, while those from the South would view them as realistic.” Anyway, apologies to the great FO’C, but you get my drift…

CROPSEY. Fri. 16 @715pm, Wed. 21@1pm
Tonally, this seems intriguing. I’ve heard it described as both terrifying and socially irresponsible, so there you go. I’ll be there.

SOUND OF INSECTS. Sun. 18 @345pm, Wed. 21 @245pm
This sounds completely devastating. I’m so there.

ARTHOUSE. Fri. 16 @930pm, Sat. 17 @10am
Greta Gerwig in a comedy about art school. Sold.

THE COLONEL’S BRIDE. Mon. 19 @ 9pm, Wed. 21 @510pm
Local talent and I’ve heard some good things about it.

Section IV: Stuff I haven’t seen but that has an intriguing synopsis and that I feel worthy of taking a chance on.

OMG WTF shorts block (though that’s a terrible name)

So there you have it. Feel free to say hey if you're attending this year's Nashville Film Festival, and always remember, it's okay to have a genuine experience even if you were initially trying to have an ironic one.