Friday, September 25, 2009

SUPPORTING THE SUPPORTERS: THE HAMSTER CELEBRATES ONE OF THE OVERLOOKED AND UNDERAPPRECIATED

today is september 25, 2009. it is the birthday of several noteable people in the arts, plenty of artists that each deserve their own postings today. just a few who will celebrate births today include:

- Mark Hamil
- Christopher Reeve
- Shel Siverstein
- Will Smith
- Catherine Zeta-Jones
- Santigold

a rich list indeed.

however, i would like to take this opportunity to celebrate one of the most overlooked actresses in hollywood today. a young lady i first encountered fleeing from alien teachers in the hallways of her high school. a young lady who usually plays the outcast, the loser, the quiet sufferer who never achieves a climatic triumph. she never plays the lead. she never wins the day or the dude. she is the constantly defeated, the consummate victim. and regardless of her past cinematic accelades, she may never land the breakthrough role that will allow her to shine.

even when you look through her IMDB filmography, you will probably not recognize or realize she was in half the films you have seen on her list. she was the other girl. the supporting actress. the one who made the lead look that much better. and just like jennifer grey was "oh yeah, you meant that girl with the nose" before she became patrick swayze's "baby," this young lady is "oh yeah, you mean the girl with the jaw."

ladies and gentlemen, today i would like to celebrate the september 25 birth of a name i am always excited to see in the opening credits to a film: miss clea duvall

and to celebrate miss duvall's birthday, i am linking a video from the film that introduced me to clea duvall, The Faculty. if you have not seen The Faculty, shame on you. kick it to the top of your que. it's ridiculously hip and Hilfiger, but it easily deserves 4 just-add-water-sea-monkeys out of 5. total blast.




happy birthday, clea duvall. may you land you much deserved lead this year.

Thursday, September 24, 2009

DYING ON SCREEN

Obit magazine has a peculiar little story on the top ten deaths on celluloid. You can read it here.

Thoughts on what they missed? My immediate thought was that they missed Willem Defoe's death in Platoon, which still haunts me. I watched Million Dollar Baby for the first time last night, and agree with the writer that it belongs on this list.

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

ANNIE HALL DEPOSES THE LAST EMPEROR

As promised, this review will encompass two never-before-attempted tasks on this site: 1) two disparate movies under one umbrella, and 2) a timed writing done before going to see UP at the dollar theater. The wife gets off work in 25 minutes, so let's get cracking!

***
It's easy enough to say that loss comprises a good deal of human existence. This morning, I awoke to find myself minus a left arm, completely numbed from laying on top of it for who knows how many hours. As I mulled over the implications of being the next Dave Mustaine, the next artist having to retrain his limb from having slept on it wrong, I realized that if indeed this arm was gone for good, leaving me with a phantom for a left appendage, I'd be up a creek. Sure, I'm right-handed, but really--I thrive on speed. I thrive on being able to get thoughts down in one shot, and not having to do second-takes in my writing. As the blood resurged to my arm, leaving me pins shoved under my nails, joy returned, and the feelings of loss ebbed.




But faithful readers, this post has little to do with loss of feeling, and more about the loss of pretty much everything else non-appendage. Loss is a downer, and we all know what it's like, so why dwell on the fact that yes, Woody Allen's probably going to do something massively stupid to mess it up with Diane Keaton (looking even more splendid than her turn as Mrs. Godfather--for the record, Diane Keaton is a good-looking older woman; I'm throwing that out there for consideration). History is written, and we're marginally sure that, yes, Manchuria is going to get its touchey kicked from opium field to opium field by the Japanese. So, what's to say about these films together? How can we speak of them?

We speak of these two good films BY PITTING THEM AGAINST ONE ANOTHER IN THE ULTIMATE GRUDGEMATCH OF SORROW! Embrace their message and medium, I say!

***


Point: Diane Keaton and Woody Allen share sweet intimate, powerless moments, culminating in one of greatest analogies of a terminal relationship: the dead shark. I loved it.

Counterpoint: little babies getting put in places of power is totally tragic. They cry and pout and poop their pants, and come off looking completely weak on the world stage.

SCORE: HALL 0, EMPEROR 1

***
Point: Diane Keaton looks like New York bohemian for the majority of the film, spotted with moments of New York hip. This is juxtaposed to Woody Allen's generally schleppiness.

Counterpoint: the emperor constantly looks constipated, wrapped up in way too many layers of yellow chiffon and sashes.

I have to give it Diane on this one. Woody just brings her attitude down splendidly.

SCORE: HALL 1, EMPEROR 1

***
Point: Woody Allen's neuroses are truly tragic. Normally, I find them overwrought and banal. But in this flick, the fact that he falls for an activist moments after he breaks it off with Annie Hall is too much. You find yourself rooting for him to just be found out and get some professional help.

Counterpoint: the emperor gets deposed by the Chinese army while playing tennis in white trousers, AFTER LABOR DAY. The ultimate combination of bad style and ironic juxtaposition of brute force and refined out-of-touchness.

Point to the emperor on style sense. SCORE: HALL 1, EMPEROR 2

**
Point: Annie Hall and Woody Allen truly love each other, making their interactions that much more heartwrenching. Their neuroses subconciously seek each other out at a subatomic level, and make truly beautiful, Freudian music together. I gave this one 5 dead sharks out of 5.

Counterpoint: the emperor is a truly selfish individual, turning his country into an opium den for the Japanese and selling out the ones who ever cared for him. I would have shoved him in the Forbidden City with a tube of toothpaste and a bamboo salad and told him good luck long before the final credits. Cinematography: 6 rising suns out of 5; overall film: 4 cheating mistresses out of 5.

FINAL SCORE: HALL 2, EMPEROR 2
**

In the final tally, you can't compare sadness or spoils. The philosopher Marilyn McCord has this brilliant book called CHRIST AND THE HORRORS in which she makes this point: that some tragedies defy our categorization of them, and need to not be explained, but rather outlived.

With that in mind, I'm still hoping that sometime in the near future, Woody Allen calls Diane up, having ditched his adopted daughter/lover, and tries to resurrect in reality what on the screen was truly neurotic and flickering beauty. Point, set, match: ANNIE HALL.

Monday, September 21, 2009

AWESOME WITH THE PROMISE OF TOTALLY STELLAR



i've been shocked recently to learn how many people have never heard of this book. i remember CLOUDY WITH A CHANCE OF MEATBALLS being a classic at westwoods elementary school in eldorado, arkansas. and eldorado was never known for being ahead of the times when it came to the arts. (we were a bit more steeped in heavy metal occultism and pine woods ghostily urban legends, to be quite honest.) still, CLOUDY was famous in our library. i remember drooling over the illustrations when mrs. beene read this to us in second grade, and i remember later at recess bryan stevenson and i had a competition to see who could draw the best portrayal of pancakes smashing our school. (his picture was better than mine.) i heard this book read at every grade level except fourth, and that's only because mrs. dorsey believed we were too old for story time. (pshaw!) we loved this book. we loved it as much as we loved WHERE THE SIDEWALK ENDS and almost as much as SCARY STORIES TO TELL IN THE DARK.

sadly, meatballs falling on a fishing town didn't resonate to south arkansans quite like dead people driving tattered cars through the woods. heavy metal occultism nabbed us at an early age in eldorado.

still, a fond flavored nostalgia of the book led me to scoop up a few extra bucks so the wife and i could see CLOUDY WITH A CHANCE OF MEATBALLS yesterday in 3D. and it was fantastically more fun than either of us expected.

CLOUDY takes the cake as one of the most visually vibrant films i've ever seen. raining cheeseburgers, castles made of jell-o, a spaghetti twister, a STAR WARS style sarlacc pit made of peanut brittle, a kung-fu army of grilled cornish hens, and an avalanche rushing and rumbling an all you can eat buffet through the streets whirl together to make this film an optically glorious feast. toss in a sappy father-son story and the triumph of the anti-hero, and you've got an everyman's saga that may explain why our theatre was packed exclusively with adults instead of children.

besides the animation, i appreciated CLOUDY's lightheartedness. this past week in my classes we've discussed the various genres of film and literature in order to explore how genres build expectations in us as participants. every single class mentioned disney's insistence to explore heavy issues in animated films, issues like the death of a parent, the loss of civilization, the sadistic nature of the neighbor kid towards combat carl. and while this is surely great, sometimes i've thought that kid's films are a bit deep for kids. i've even noticed friends screening kid's films, trying to determine which issues they will need to introduce or discuss (or which scenes to skip altogether) before viewing the film as a family. CLOUDY, although featuring a few touching moments, never felt heavy. even as it explored issues of self-efficacy and greed, CLOUDY remained lighthearted, to the point, and far more dedicated to the visual topography of its initial storyline than with getting bogged down in morality boosters or animation therapy. it was nice to make it all the way through a kid's flick without getting choked up for once.

(not that such things matter to other people, but i nearly lost it watching BOLT in the theatre, and i hate all that burning throat swallowing you have to do to not cry in public. plus, sometimes it makes my nose run a wild gusher. i didn't pay to be this uncomfortable!)

for all these reasons, i glady give CLOUDY WITH A CHANCE OF MEATBALLS 5 baby brent booty-shots out of 5. if you love a good larger than life animated explosion of nostalgia and feel goodiness, do NOT wait for this to hit video. like mama cora's famous mac-n-cheese at thanksgiving, CLOUDY should not be experienced in small-portioned leftovers on the home dvd system; CLOUDY was made for the big screen in every dimension possible.

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

I am Really Interested in Most Phases of Data Processing


I have no comment for this. It's not a film review. It's just wonderful.

GUEST TRIBUTE: TIFFANI RIGGERS REMEMBERS PATRICK SWAYZE

Dirty Dancing came out when I was in 8th grade. I don't remember what I thought or felt when I first saw it, but I remember this - I loved Patrick Swayze from that moment forward. I loved that he played this wounded, complex character in a movie that so easily could have been bubble gum. I loved that he wore very little clothes for most of it. And I loved that he sang a (lets face it) cheesy song on the soundtrack. That soundtrack and movie would accompany me for the next twenty+ years. And when I think of epic, heroic movie lines, my favorite won't ever be, "I won't let go" from Titanic, or "You had me at hello" from Jerry McGuire or even "What if he admitted he was a daft prick and begged you on his knees to reconsider if you would in fact, reconsider?" from Notting Hill... but will live on forever as: "Nobody puts baby in a corner." When Johnny stood up for Baby, I fell in love. I still want someone to make a dramatic gesture like that for me...perhaps that's why I'm still unmarried. That notwithstanding, there is not a single Swayze movie I've seen that I did not enjoy thoroughly: Ghost - funny, romantic, and exciting movie with a great love scene and great ending; Point Break - no one, not even Johnny Depp - could make me want to root for a bad guy more than Swayze (who also made me want to learn to surf); North and South - Classic actor in a classic story; The Outsiders? How could I forget the Outsiders - that movie made me weep and I was in elementary school! Patrick Swayze will be missed; but thankfully I have the collectors edition of Dirty Dancing on DVD, so he will never be forgotten.

- Tiffani Riggers

ROMERO REMAKE?

I've been neck-deep in the new semester, and yes, I've got a killer review I'm thinking up about ANNIE HALL and THE LAST EMPEROR, but let this tide you over...

A George Romero remake?

Sunday, September 13, 2009

PETER WAS DROWNING IN THE WATER AND THEN NOAH CAME BY IN THE SAINT LOUIS ARCH


tyler perry is the most predictable film-maker this side of quentin tarantino. anyone familiar with tyler perry's films knows to expect the same conventions everytime:

- overly exaggerated stereotypes of black families, churches, and relationships;

- cranky old black men and women, all played by tyler perry himself;

- a hearty dose of family values and self-efficacy sermons;

- personal redemption stories marked by a rebirth into healthy relationships;

- juxtaposed images of broken and redeemed men and women;

- the healing of deeply ceded and long-silent scars; 

- a nearly Broadway-style focus on gospel, soul, and R&B tunes used as voices in the sermonizing efforts; 

- the triumph of forgiveness over vengeance, innocence over perversion, peace over turmoil, sobriety over addiction, confession over silence, and blessings over curses; 

- the foreknowledge that, even though we know exactly what we are getting into with tyler perry, we will gladly jump in again and again and again.

even while featuring these same old tyler perry conventions, and even while tackling similar issues from previous films (drug addiction, adultery, child molestation, the plight of the orphan, the healing power of divine and human love), and even with Madea's same old curtly abusive language ("Girl, I was in prison, and I will shank you!"), even after all this, two out of two stills agree that I CAN DO BAD ALL BY MYSELF is tyler perry's best film to date. it's a rare occasion for me to walk out of a movie theatre uplifted and inspired, seeing as how i usually look to brutally depraved films that call for a shower and a confession booth. but my wife doesn't appreciate the depravity, and she reminded me today that i have always enjoyed tyler perry's cinematically simple, yet personally profound, redemption stories. heck, i think i even got choked up a few times in there today. 

don't tell anybody.

regardless of perry's normal happily, sappily good-vibrations, I CAN DO BAD's biggest selling point, for me, was the musical cameos by mary j. blige. it's a little known hamsterian fact that mary j. blige's album THE BREAKTHROUGH was in my top 5 of 2007. i love mary j. blige. in fact, she might be my all time favorite R&B diva. the woman is freaking lethal. she's beautiful. she's a powerhouse. and, in this movie, mary j. turns a tiny little platform stage into a wild geyser of "oh, hell no!" the only disadvantage of seeing this film in the theatre was the inability to rewind and watch the mary j. bits on repeat. praise be these things hit video sooner than later.

tyler perry's I CAN DO BAD ALL BY MYSELF gets 4 radios in the bathtub out of 5. sure, mary j. singlehandedly added an entire point, but i still really liked this film. although predictable, slightly cheesy, and redundantly repetitive, tyler perry still knows how to jump on the altar and testify to mercies that never grow old. and to that hope and that conviction in an artist, i can only offer one reply every single time:

keep that same story of goodness coming, bro, cause we obviously cannot hear it enough.