“I hope that when they grow up, these babies will watch this film and will see it just as an ancient video game that has nothing to do with reality.” Ari Folman used that line in more than one Awards acceptance speech this season but didn’t get a chance to use it at the Oscars as his film lost to DEPARTURES last Sunday. Still, it’s quite an achievement for his film to be the first animated film to receive a nomination for an Academy Award or a Golden Globe Award for Best Foreign Language Film.
Utilizing flash animation with old school drawings and 3D technologies, not the rotoscoping that formed recent works such as Richard Linklater’s A SCANNER DARKLY and Brett Morgan’s CHICAGO 10, Folman tells the complex nightmarish story of his experience as a soldier in the 1982 Lebanon War.
Later, as a stoical Isreali film maker, he consults with former army friends about reoccurring visions of a massacre he faced while having intense difficulty remembering what really went down. Half documentary; half surreal drama, it was often tough sitting through as the animation is often stiff and the pace is glacial but the textures and imagery linger in an astoundingly affecting manner.
Honestly, I was not as moved as I would’ve liked while viewing a late night screening after a long day with the bleak battered terrain stretching endlessly and the sickly looking characters’ detachment battling my compassion. However, the next morning after a night of processing these elements, so dry and unpleasant at first, now have force and urgency that requires deeper inspection. There are many dead bodies and much blood on display and it’s hard to separate from likewise videogame aesthetics, like Folman wishes they could be forever restricted to, yet a preserving passion encloses it all. As fluidity challenged as it is, WALTZ WITH BASHIR has a penetrating soul to it even if I would be hard pressed to call it entertainment. What I would call it is one of the most challenging cartoons that you’re ever likely to meet.
* Or reboot or re-imaging or whatever rationale they’re using.
This is not one of those “Hollywood has completely run out of ideas” posts – though the amount of remakes coming down the line is staggeringly depressing. No, this is about when a new version of a beloved cinematic staple is announced and it’s obviously threatening to the original actors who won’t be included. Inspired by Faye Dunaway’s response to the absurd casting of a proposed BONNIE AND CLYDE remake (see #4), this list is what I believe are the funniest and most pointed reactions to redundant rehashes: 1. “I am Snake Plissken!” - Kurt Russell on an upcoming ESCAPE FROM NEW YORK redux. He elaborates in an interview with Entertainment Weekly: “I didn’t play Snake Plissken, I created him! Goldie [Hawn] and I were talking the other day about this, and I said, ‘Man, this is weird, isn’t it?’ And she said, “When they were going to do a remake of Private Benjamin, I thought, ‘I didn’t play Private Benjamin, I created that role!’” Russell may not have to worry, with the state of the economy the movie is likely to be axed. Well, with hope that is.
2.“Nobody ever offered me a part.” - William Shatner on the new J.J. Abrams STAR TREK prequel. This is actually not so ridiculous a complaint – if Leonard Nimoy as Spock (in an odd time warp way I guess) can be included, why can’t the original James T. Kirk? Shatner even made a youtube video response to clarify things. Watch it here 3. “They didn’t even ask me!” - Adam West on being left out of the first BATMAN reboot starring Michael Keaton in 1989. David Letterman made this into a comic catchphrase and on a Saturday Night Live sketch, Michael McKean did a dead on impression of West declaring: “I wanted to play - Uncle Batman. He - he would be an older, distinguished gentleman -- much like yourself, Commissioner Gordon....(addressing Weekend Update anchor Norm McDonald) and he would help Batman fight crime!” Needless to say that didn’t happen. As Robin (David Duchovny – that’s right) on that skit said: “Holy Not-Taking-Your-Medication, Batman!”
4. “Couldn't they have at least gotten a real actress?” - Faye Dunaway on the casting of Hillary Duff in the BONNIE AND CLYDE remake. Duff responded “I think that my fans that are going to go see the movie don't even know who she is. I think it (what she said) was a little unnecessary, but I might be mad if I looked like that now too.” Jeez, show some respect little Miss 15 minutes of fame gone into obnoxious overtime! This is another should be axed project with only this cat fight left standing. 5. “These comedy remakes are horrible!” - Tom Selleck on the possible George Clooney * movie redo of Magnum, P.I. He elaborated: “I tell you what worries me - because I love Magnum and we have loyal fans - is they take these TV show titles, and they buy them and they spend $100 million on special effects, and then they make fun of them and trivialize it. Then they try and get the actor who used to be in it to do some ridiculous cameo to prove to the audience that it's OK. And I will not do that.” Sounds like a not so subtle jab at the Ben Stiller/Owen Wilson STARSKY AND HUTCHbut a lot of other TV to movie adaptations fit the bill.* Now it looks like Matthew McConaughney is on as Magnum. Sigh. 6.“Pointless”- Gene Wilder on the Tim Burton/Johnny Depp CHARLIE AND THE CHOCOLATE FACTORY (The Wilder original was entitled WILLY WONKA AND THE CHOCOLATE FACTORY). Wilder went on: “It’s all about money. It’s just some people sitting around thinking ‘how can we make some more money?’ Why else would you remake Willy Wonka? I don't see the point of going back and doing it all over again. I like Johnny Depp, and I appreciate that he has said on record that my shoes will be hard to fill. But I don't know how it will all turn out.” Well, it turned out pretty bad. Depp’s Wonka was creepy not charming like Wilder’s and the movie misfired on many other levels. “Pointless” actually is an understatement.
7. “I’m furious” - Jack Nicholson on Heath Ledger getting the role of The Joker in THE DARK KNIGHT. From an interview in 2006: MTV: What do you think of another actor, Heath Ledger, playing the Joker in next summer's "The Dark Knight"? Nicholson: “Let me be the way I’m not in interviews. I’m furious. I’m furious. [He laughs.] They never asked me about a sequel with the Joker. I know how to do that! Nobody ever asked me.”
Nicholson, right after Ledger’s death, told reporters in London “I warned him.” What? Nicholson warned him about playing the Joker? “It’ll kill you!” Is that what Jack advised? Or was it a threat/curse? Anyway as much as I love Nicholson (and readers of this blog should know this well), his Joker was a joke while Ledger’s was the real deal. I know Jack as a 3 time Oscar winner knows this well by now. 8. “Fletch is me!” - Chevy Chase on the proposed (but stillborn) FLETCH re-whatever it is. Chase continues, “If I played any part in the Fletch remake, think about it: as soon as I appeared on the screen people would say, “Hey… There’s Fletch, man!” Silly idea. Keep me out of it.” Chase pissed off Kevin Smith (read Smith’s blog to find out how) who had a “Son Of Fletch” pitch, then FLETCH WON was on as a prequel with possible Chevy providing an older Fletch voice-over perspective with Jason Lee, Ben Affleck, Zach Braff, and Joshua Jackson (?) being tossed around for the role. This is more and more looking like another ‘not gonna happen’ projects. Unless they put it on the Underhill’s bill...
9. “When he had to do fart jokes, he lost me.” - Jerry Lewis on Eddie Murphy’s THE NUTTY PROFESSOR. Despite that Lewis was an executive producer on this and its sequel NUTTY PROFESSOR II: THE KLUMPS he told Entertainment Weekly just last year: “I have such respect for Eddie, but I shouldn’t have done it. What I did was perfect the first time around and all you're going to do is diminish that perfection by letting someone else do it..” On Sunday however, at the Oscars Murphy presented Lewis (“from one Nutty Professor to another” he said) with the Jean Hersholt Humanitarian Award and bygones were nowhere to be seen.
10. “Give me a break”- Joey Bishop on the “re-imagining” of OCEAN’S 11: Not exactly a reaction to his role because Danny Ocean (Frank Sinatra’s original part) is the only name used from the 1961 original in the George Clooney/Brad Pitt/Everybody in Hollywood remake but Bishop’s response is priceless nevertheless: “There will only ever be one Rat Pack. It’s a joke. All they are doing in the remake is a cheap impersonation of the original Rat Pack. People knew about Frank and his broads and Dean and his drinking. They knew that we partied together. With the new version, you've got five or six people who never had any association with each other off screen.” They can’t sing either, right Joey? Right? Oh, sorry Mr. Bishop passed away in 2007. Maybe the success of OCEAN’S 11 and its 2 sequels was too much for him.
Okay! Another patented Film Babble Blog list down. Anybody’s amusing response that you think should have made the list? Please let me know. More later…
I did considerably better this time with my Oscar picks than the several years. I got 18 out of 24. Instead of listing all the categories like last year (and of course because they are listed on my last post as well as everywhere else online), I decided to just look at the ones I got wrong:
BEST ACTOR: My pick:Mickey Rourke for THE WRESTLER. Who won: Sean Penn for MILK. I can’t say I was completely taken aback – I knew it was a tight race and I knew Penn had a slight edge. Still, I loved the underdog comeback story of both the movie and Rourke’s real life back story so I can’t say I’m not disappointed either. Penn did however acknowledge Rourke nicely in his acceptance speech: “Mickey Rourke rises again...and he is my brother.”
DOCUMENTARY SHORT: My pick:THE CONSCIENCE OF NHEM EN. What won:SMILE PINKE. I really was just shooting in the dark here - I haven’t seen any of the nominees so I was going by internet research. I feel like even if I had seen them I’d still be taking a wild guess.
FOREIGN LANGUAGE FILM: My pick: VALS IM BASHIR (English title: WALTZ FOR BASHIR. What won:OKURIBITO (English title: DEPARTURES). This was because I heard more buzz for BASHIR and neglected to really look into the others. I’ll rectify that by checking them all out in the very near future.
As for the 81st Academy Awards broadcast itself I enjoyed host Hugh Jackman though I thought his song and dance numbers went on too long as did the show itself but that, of course, is a given. The “In Memorium” segment was poorly done (give everybody the big screen treatment next time!) and the one presenter presents multiple awards deal seemed to even throw Will Smith when he had to step up to the task: “Yes, they still have me up here... I think Hugh is napping.” My favorite bit of the show was presenter Ben Stiller in fake beard and sunglasses in an obvious parody of Joaquin Phoenix’s now infamous Letterman appearance of a few weeks back.
To his awkard antics (or non-antics) and his declaration: “I just want to retire from being the funny guy”, co-presenter Natalie Portman remarked: “You look like you work at a Hasidic meth lab.”
Ah, another Oscars over. Now back to the daily grind.
With 2 days to go I thought it was time to finalize my Oscar picks for this year. Like I’ve said before I’m going in with a certain percentage of guts, wild guessing, and a bit of internet research. The last few years I’ve gotten the same score - 13 out of 24 so don’t think I’m talking like I’m any expert. Far from it but here goes anyway:
3. BEST ACTOR: Mickey Rourke - I believe this will happen but it’s a personal choice as well. His acceptance speech is sure to be a tearjerker. I’ll probably be all cried out from his interview with Barbara Walters earlier in the evening by then though.
4. BEST ACTRESS: Kate Winslet
5. BEST SUPPORTING ACTOR: Heath Ledger - It will indeed be extremely shocking if this doesn’t happen. Seems like even if not for his incredibly untimely demise, Ledger would still pick the winning card.
6. BEST SUPPORTING ACTRESS: Penelope Cruz - feels like there may be a major surprise in this category but I’m going with Cruz, again for personal reasons.
2008 was definitely not as strong a year in film as 2007 as it had many more clunkers and mediocre movies that crammed theaters weekend after weekend. I mean this was a year in which respected icons Al Pacino and Robert De Niro (together again for the very first time!) appeared in a movie nobody cared about while Mike Myers and Adam Sandler competed over who could make the least appealing former SNL player vehicle ever (THE LOVE GURU and YOU DON'T MESS WITH THE ZOHAN respectively). I avoided those movies but I saw more than my share of absolutely awful films. Here’s the worst of the worst: 1. WANTED (Dir. Timur Bekmambetov) This ginormous train wreck of a movie actually featured a ginormous train wreck in a central sequence that was certainly its most memorable moment. That, for way obvious reasons, is fitting because the awful premise that attempts to flesh out a FIGHT CLUB-ish dis-satisfied working cog scenerio into a Swartzennegerian high octane comic book extravaganza just ends up a CGI suckfest. I felt sorry for James McAvoy and Angelina Jolie (who make one of the most unconvincing screen couple action duos ever) along with Morgan Freeman, Terrance Stamp, and even the damn fake train for having to take part in this high octane tripe. I literally got sick seeing this last Summer, that may have been the food at the Raleighwood Cinema Grill, but this sure didn’t help! 2. AN AMERICAN CAROL(Dir. David Zucker)
Michael Moore responded to a question from Time Magazine’s Richard Corliss about this movie that mocks him with “[Cyber-silence].” Not dignifying it with an answer was beautiful on Moore’s part because a film that treats Bill O’Reilly like he’s a hero and treats the audience like idiots ready to lap up faux patriotism presented as cheap shots at a popular liberal documentarian should be (and was) roundly ignored. Chris Farley’s brother Kevin was in the lead role as the ersatz Michael Moore. Enough said
Infamous John Lennon murderer Mark David Chapman is no deranged Travis Bickle poetically stalking the mean streets, and this is no TAXI DRIVER. Jared Leto gained weight but no cred for this disgusting nothing. Fun fact: Lindsay Lohan’s only screen appearance of 2008 was in this as a Beatle groupie named Jude. Oh, actually that’s not really much of a fun fact. Nothing about this is. Read my review of the detested DVD here.
The most aptly titled film on the list by far. Ben Stein used to be likable despite being a former Nixon speechwriter because he was like ironic, you know, as the game show host on Comedy Central’s Win Ben Stein’s Money and that classic cameo in FERRIS BUELLER’S DAY OFF (“Bueller? Bueller?”). Now he’s destroying that charming ironic image by trying to debunk the theory of evolution and equate those scientists who supposedely repress the study of Intelligent Design to Nazis.
This poorly made, poorly written, and just plain poor non doc is even stupider than it sounds. I was too appalled to write a review when I watched the DVD a few months back but I highly recommend Roger Ebert’s blog-piece (not an official review mind you but still brilliant) “Win Ben Stein's Mind” (Dec. 3rd, 2008).
The only thing that happened here was we were given the undeniable sign that Shyamalan should be stopped at all costs. Donnie Wahlberg, so good in THE DEPARTED, regressed into a placid persona that will be SNL impression fodder forever. It wasn’t his fault though, some actors are only as good as their material and he was given a formless piece of high concept crap in which to run around aimlessly in. How can we stop this hack Shyamalan from offending again? Any ideas?
In Britain this was renamed NEWS MOVIE which makes it appear to be in the series of putrid non satires including EPIC MOVIE, DISASTER MOVIE, MEET THE SPARTANS, etc. and though that’s not really accurate it’s still right as rain to add it to that bunch of bullshit. Read how I believe it killed off the tiny sub genre – the sketch comedy film – here. 7.QUANTUM OF SOLACE(Dir. Marc Forster)
A while back I wrote about how much I craved a new good John Cusack film, but while he did make a close to decent film this last year (GRACE IS GONE) he took a huge step backwards with this quasi sequel to GROSS POINT BLANK which is just grossly unwatchable. Glib with not a plausible frame or laughable line, WAR INC. wastes not just Cusack but Dan Aykroyd, Marisa Tomei, Ben Kingsley, and even the voice of Montel Williams (that’s right) as well in this toothless political parody. Even John’s usually reliable sister Joan comes off as unbearably obnoxious. I never wrote a review of it but the Onion A.V. Club’s Nathan Rabin’s hilarious appraisal (“No Blood For Oil Stridently Political Case File #129: War, Inc.”) in which he labels it a “Fiasco” is well worth checking out.
Way to kill off a possible franchise, Mr. Carter! Make a movie that contains none of the original supernatural charm of the seminal series or the previous film and make it excruciatingly dull too, why doncha? Read more of my bitching here.
Hey, the Woodman has a film on both my Best Of and Worst Of 2008 lists! The luscious VICKY CRISTINA BARCELONA luckily erased memories of Ewan Macgregor and Colin Farrell as brothers who scheme to…uh, like I said I don’t remember. I just remember being bored and wondering if Woody would ever make a good movie again. Thankfully he did.
Read more about my darkness before the dawn (I know –sounds appealing doesn’t it?) here.
Despite its reputation as an art theater, the Varsity Theater in Chapel Hill, N.C. where I work part-time, has often shown big commercial movies. BATMAN BEGINS, WAR OF THE WORLDS, and even Will Farrell fare like TALLADEGA NIGHTS and SEMI-PRO have shown up on our screens among the indie and foreign films that usually dominate the roster.
However it was still surprising that the owner decided to run the new FRIDAY THE 13TH remake alongside SLUMDOG MILLIONAIRE, which has been pulling audiences in since late last year.
I worked a short shift this afternoon and it went something like this:
2:18 P.M. Both films are well underway. There are only 8 people in the theater to see FRIDAY THE 13TH as opposed to the 62 that are here to see SLUMDOG MILLIONAIRE. Ouch!
Of course our theater is not exactly representative of how well the film may actually be doing. It is playing at 2 multiplexes in the area and many who would go to a horror film wouldn’t usually go until after dark. After cleaning up a little I tell my co-workers I’m going to check out some of FRIDAY THE 13TH but I’ll probably be back really soon. I enter the theater…
2:36 P.M. I’m back in the lobby. When I walked in I saw one of the classic horror movie clichés – a group of teenagers sitting around a campfire telling scary stories. Well, only one story actually about a camp counselor named Jason whose mother infamously murdered many folks in these very woods back in the day. Within 5 minutes, a girl is topless and a geeky guy (I’m not going to credit any of these actors – I seriously doubt any of them will come up again) is brutally killed while looking for weed in the woods. Mama’s boy Jason is fiercely protective of the Crystal Lake marijuana crop, you understand? His first appearance to my eyes wasn’t scary or even startling and I left when he had the before mentioned topless girl tied up in a sleeping bag dangling from a rope above the now raging camp fire. I shrugged as I walked out wondering why more couples didn’t come to celebrate Valentine’s Day with Jason Voorhees.
2:51 P.M. For some reason I decide I can stomach some more so I go back in...
3:06 P.M. I caught a bit that takes place in daylight. More partying teenagers are living it up at Crystal Lake campgrounds. After making machete meat of some really rednecky guy (how rednecky? We see literally licking a page from Hustler magazine) in an old dusty antique filled attic, Jason finds a beat up hockey mask. He dons it, checks himself out in the mirror (presumably thinking “hmm, I like it!”) and I was in awe of this historic detail of his origin story - uh, that is if you replace ‘in awe’ with ‘in complete indifference’. From there we go to a topless water-skiing sequence that ends in tragedy. Don’t they all?
3:16 P.M. Okay, only because I’m bored I go in for what I hope is my final round with the FRIDAY THE 13TH, uh, well it’s not really a remake so is it a re-boot? A re-imagining? Whatever it is I go on in again…
3:48 P.M. Whew! I actually watched the entire last act! The kids were in some house with the power cut off and Jason was offing them one by one (he seems to particularly enjoy impaling young scantily clad bodies on whatever's handy - axes, deer antlers, long spikes and hooks, etc.). I loved when they called the police, only one car showed with only one cop and it seemed like less than a minute before he was impaled on something (most be some unwritten rule of horror movies - only send one cop). It was all exactly what I expected. Not one surprise or moment of original invention especially not the so non thriller ending. But then it makes no claims to be anything but an onslaught of breasts and blood so what I’m I complaining about? Okay I’m complaining about how what I saw was bone dry boring and bad by even schlocky slasher movie standards.
4:54 P.M. My shift is over. As I leave the theater I ask how many tickets sold for the 4:20 FRIDAY THE 13TH. One ticket sold. SLUMDOG MILLIONAIRE sold roughly the same as its earlier show (about 60 something). Obviously there’s little love for the new Jason incarnation but at least I figured out that it’s not a remake, reboot, or re-imagining. It’s a rehash rip-off.
The rest of my Valentine’s day has got to be better than this.
As a film geek/blogger it’s probably not surprising that one of my favorite pastimes is to see old movies, whether for the first time or hundredth, on the big screen. A 35 mm print, new or old, of a particular cult or could be cult movie really is most certainly my cup of tea. As I’ve blogged before, The Colony Theater in North Raleigh has been showing a regular round of what they call “Cool Classics.”
Last Saturday night was right for a midnight show of arguably Quentin Tarantino’s best flick. Since my girlfriend and I have attended such previous pop culture staples as ERASERHEAD, PURPLE RAIN and most recently enjoyed re-seeing CITY OF LOST CHILDREN we were game to revisit:
It was hugely fitting that the night before this late show, The Museum Of Art in Raleigh screened THE TAKING OF PELHAM ONE TWO THREE. Why you ask? Because Mr. Too Cool For Film School Tarantino lovingly lifted the use of colors as code names from that classic 70’s heist film - i.e. Mr. Blond, Mr. Brown, Mr. Blue etc. Of course he snarkily threw in Mr. Pink just so Steve Buscemi could have something to hilariously complain about: “Yeah, Mr. Pink sounds like Mr. Pussy. Tell you what, let me be Mr. Purple.” He lifted lots more from other films here too but whether you consider it a rip-off or a homage, RESERVOIR DOGS, 17 years later, is still colossal cinema and one of the most daring breakthrough debuts of a director ever.
This was before independent films were the rage and award nominee regulars. Many notable auteurs had offered up dark crafty fare before but while filmmakers like Jim Jarmusch and Steven Soderbergh made cool indie films, Tarantino made indie films ultra cool. With RESERVOIR DOGS and its overwhelmingly influential follow-up PULP FICTION, the former video store clerk created a world of wise guys in suits with thin black ties, vintage cars with blood splashed interiors, 50’s styled diners, f-bombs and n-words dropped in nearly every line, endless pop culture reference riffing, and soundtracks full of 70’s funk/pop deep cuts. The opening credits slow motion shuffle to George Baker’s “Little Green bag” alone defines Tarantino’s savvy assured style.
Most of the action in RESERVOIR DOGS (nobody really knows what the title means – Tarantino himself won’t say) deals with a never seen heist gone wrong and takes place in a mostly empty warehouse. It has been said that for budgetary reasons most directors first films are essentially ‘filmed plays’. That said, seeing this film on the big screen for the first time enhanced the spare staging scenarios for me to an edgier level than I expected. The iconic shot, used on many posters and the go-to promotional picture, of Harvey Keitel with gun pointed at an on the floor Steve Buscemi is 10 times more effective here than on any TV viewing when it pulls back to reveal Mr. Blonde (Michael Madsen) coolly watching them in an over the shoulder viewpoint.
Likewise the shot from the P.O.V. of the cop (Kirk Baltz) tied up in Mr. Blonde’s car trunk – I mean it’s obvious to say but it’s so nice to see this film like this how it was truly meant to be seen.
One flaw of many film folks’ first films is that the actors all talk like the writer/director (see Richard Linklater’s SLACKER). This is actually something that works well in Tarantino’s favor here despite all odds. I can practically hear Tarantino coaching Buscemi, Keitel, producer turned actor Lawrence Tierney,Tim Roth et al. through all of their lines but somehow that’s actually a plus in these punchy proceedings. Tarantino wisely kills off his own character (Mr. Brown) after his opening “Like A Virgin” breakdown speech presumably because he was aware his acting wasn’t up to the caliber of his co-stars - too bad he didn’t make the same decision in future films (especially PULP FICTION and DEATH PROOF).
In the low budget framing but the high formula re-thinking that defines Tarantino’s cut and paste career, RESERVOIR DOGS deserves future wave after wave of big screen audiences. Even if you own a special edition DVD or Blu-ray, consider seeing it on the big screen if a print comes to your area. Every detail from Steven Wright’s voice-over on the radio (“K-Billy’s Super Sounds of the Seventies” to be exact) to the sadly late Chris Penn’s scene steals as Nice Guy Eddie just screams for larger projection.
One great moment – in a pivotal scene, Madsen spoke just as somebody in the audience made a distracting noise by dropping their drink. Keitel responded “excuse me?” as if he didn’t hear because of the offending interruption. Madsen had to repeat himself louder. Many at the Colony theater late show laughed – a communal sensation that can’t be recreated at home. Maybe that’s a disclaimer that should be on this film as well, especially the brutal cop’s ear slicing sequence: “These are trained professionals – don’t try this at home.”
Post note: I realize after re-reading this that I was addressing folks who’ve already seen this movie. If you haven’t seen it – by all means, screw waiting for a big screen opportunity, just rent the damn thing and complete the indie initiation of your film education – why doncha?