Wednesday, August 26, 2009

house of the devil poster

I'm so excited about this film. Love the retro poster. It's supposed to come out in the U.S. on Halloween Day. Poster image courtesy of The Film School Rejects. Dinner With Max Jenke calls it 2009's best poster.


Sen. Ted Kennedy passes away. A website has been set up for people to share their thoughts and memories.

Tuesday, August 25, 2009


Bizarre Paul Evans single from 1959 entitled "Seven Little Girls Sitting in the Backseat" with a video featuring creepy puppet dolls.

the wizard of lists

This year marks the 70th Anniversary of The Wizard of Oz. Guy Lodge at In Contention has a great list of Top 10 "Greatest" Lists The Wizard of Oz Deserves to be on.

8 years ago

Aaliyah was a unique artist with a lot of possibility. Her self-titled album, released months before her death, still sounds fresh all these years later. Here are her best videos.

Monday, August 24, 2009

pitchfork tunes

Pitchfork selects their Top 500 Tracks of the 2000s. I pretty much love their choices.

Here's the Top 20.

the killing of sister george

From beginning to end, Beryl Reid storms through this film as June Buckridge, an actress who plays a prim, beloved Sister George on a BBC soap. Based on a play, this 1968 British film explored a lesbian relationship in a pretty open fashion considering the time period. It received an X rating in the US and many scenes were cut. Now restored, the film is terribly dated but an interesting relic, especially for LGBT cinemaphiles. Many at the time objected to the portrayal of June--a hasty, loud and tweedy lesbian. She is so overly commanding, that it seems like the story is to make her pay for being "too overbearing" a woman. The ending is tragic, in a way, but there are no deaths (except for Buckridge's character, who "dies" in an amusing way). In this sense, it's a rare kind of lesbian film of its day.

Much of the film is about her inability to face the fact that scriptwriters want to kill off her character, George. Aging and overweight, June knows that her options as an actress are limited. Meanwhile, her long term live-in relationship with a girlish Alice, whom June nicknames "Childie" (Susannah York) is slowly deteriorating. Once June suspects her boss (Coral Browne) as having an interest in Alice, June is near-meltdown. All of this culminates in a tense (if stagy), darkly-lit scene where June lets everything out and the root of Alice's childish behavior is unmasked.

Watching this, I thought of Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf? which is a similar-in-tone, but much more successful and harrowing stage-to-film project. Unlike that film, which vacillated between various points of view, The Killing of Sister George is firmly set on June, who at times, in all her histrionics, and despite Reid's skill as an actor, is a difficult character to follow.

The word lesbian is uttered once, by Alice, in the film's best lines: "Not all women are raving bloody lesbians, you know." To which June responds, "That is a misfortune I am perfectly well aware of!"

The strengths of this film is what it shows that isn't shown in many films of its day. The best sequence takes place in a divey lesbian bar where June and Alice are dressed as Laurel and Hardy. Unlike some aspects of the film, the patrons of this bar are authentic and fascinating to watch in their style and manner--as if a piece of hidden queer history is being uncovered. ***

barack break

It's about time for Barack to take a well-needed vacay break to rest & re-focus his message. How Martha's Vineyard will change via the Telegraph. The White House says it should be a chill week.

Saturday, August 22, 2009

inglourious is glorious

Perhaps what's refreshing about Quentin Tarantino's latest film, Inglourious Basterds, is that it arrives in a year full of dumbed-down, bombastic CGI-laden fairytales for pubescent boys. A.O. Scott compared this season's hits to an "alarming man-baby, with the braying voice and the 5 o’clock shadow affixed to a pale, flabby, diaper-wrapped trunk." The trailers before Basterds indicated these types of baby food films will continue throughout 2009 with the nonsensical sequel to Rob Zombie's Halloween, a film that has already had ten incarnations, and Robert Zemeckis's Disney remake of A Christmas Carol.

Unlike the marketing campaign for this film, which focused heavily on Brad Pitt's starpower, Tarantino's film is less about the "basterds" and more about the dramatic tensions of two characters: the Nazi Colonel Landa (Christoph Waltz) and the girl who escaped from him, Shosanna (Mélanie Laurent). Waltz's performance is the highlight of the picture. It's unpredictable and mesmerizing. He steals every scene from the get-go. Laurent is reminiscent of Thurman in Kill Bill, another one of Tarantino's noir-ish heroines. A tense reunion scene between Landa and Shosanna in a cafe over strudels, is one of the film's best.

One of the odd criticisms of Tarantino is that he loves the movies "too much." Yet, his constant referencing, through all the elements (soundtrack, scenery, staging, and script) is what gives his work a feverish, kinetic energy. It is true that this film sometimes goes slack--the underwhelming introduction of the "basterds" and a meandering subplot featuring Diane Kruger. Yet, even these moments are peppered with enough allusions and style to keep them lively. A slyly amusing Mike Meyers and The Time Machine's Rod Taylor (unrecognizable as Winston Churchill!) make an oddly paced scene work. And Tarantino thankfully under-uses his friend Eli Roth who isn't good as "The Bear Jew" and Pitt who has some funny lines but isn't a talented enough actor to make his cartoonish character complex.

The visual detail Tarantino achieves with his crew is one of the joys of his works: Robert Richardson's artful camera is again stunning and the sets (with all that red) lovingly embrace the myths of westerns and 40s cinema.

A film that reminded me of this was 1942's To Be or Not to Be with Jack Benny and Carole Lombard. In that film, with its dazzling screenplay, a Polish acting troupe fooled the Nazis. Like other films of its time, including Mrs. Miniver, Hollywood inspired the U.S. war effort. Here, in a thrillingly climatic sequence, Tarantino offers up a violent fantasia where movies literally have the power to end war. With his unique vision, Tarantino again comes close to saving Hollywood itself. ***1/2

dare me

The Pointer Sisters's gender-bending clip for 1985's "Dare Me."

Friday, August 21, 2009

verónica detached

The Headless Woman is a cold, spooky film paced with deliberate slowness by Lucrecia Martel. In an early scene, Verónica (played with conviction by Maria Onetto) runs into something on a dirt road. She turns, and the camera zooms in on a lifeless dog. A rainstorm breaks and soon Verónica is in a hospital getting X-Rays and showing signs of amnesia and shock. What follows is a thin plot but a deep psychological journey for Verónica that doesn't have clear or easy answers. Through a collection of tiny details (a child asleep in a market, the incessant ring of her cell phone--which rang before the accident), Verónica's memory jolts and she admits she believes she hit someone.

Sociological issues loom large through Verónica smallish point of view. In a glowing review Stephen Holden compared Verónica's disorientation to a "mediation of Argentina's historical memory." The film also conjures interesting issues of class, social unease and cultural identity (in a fascinating Vertigo-esque moment, Verónica dyes her hair from blonde to black, her natural color). Because The Headless Woman is so cerebral, complete with the claustrophobia of constant close-up long takes, some of the supporting characters (her husband who attempts to erase the details of the accident behind her back, his cousin with whom she has a brief sexual tryst, and a young lesbian who's in love with her) noticeably lack development. There is no film score, instead ordinary sounds (radio, rain, a soccer match) are made foreboding by the brilliant sound design. Even if the film isn't overly suspenseful, it's a compliment to Martel's skill as a filmmaker that she's able to stay so vividly within the confines of emotional disembodiment. ***