Friday, November 30, 2007
What the bleep. I just posted literally five minutes ago about a couple of things that brightened up my day today and then clicked onto Popjustice and came across this.
Oh. My. Doctor.
I thought my eyes were decieving me. But no. Oh no. A Doctor Who/Kylie themed single that's based off a Goldfrapp song, featuring Tardis noises with a Killers sample, and a title that seems to reference "Song 4 Mutya". ARGH! Isn't that just amazing?
Well, on one level it's awful. It's cheesy and pun-filled. It's by something called The Fast Ood Rockers. It's designed to hit the Christmas Number One spot.
But on the other hand...
Listen to it!
Picture the scene. It's a dark, windy evening in Dublin city centre, with rain splashing around my hood and my bag uncomfortably heavy with textbooks. I'm not in altogether the best of moods, the bus into town was crowded and smelt of hot, damp bodies and I now have to go to Irish classes for an hour and a half. On my way, I decided to take a tiny detour and nip into the IFI to check if their new brochure is out. Within seconds, my mood has changed, there's a lightness in my step and glee rising in my throat; I'm Not There is opening on 21st December. It's the first I've heard of an Irish release date for the Tod Hayne's Dylan biopic, which I've been patiently waiting for for quite some time. I'm by no means a Dylan buff, or even much of a fan - I like some of his songs, but not enough to ever purchase any - and I know next to nothing about his life (to give you an idea of the lack of depth in my Dylan knowledge base, I'll confess that for years I thought he was singing Tango Lovin' Blues, which I still think is a superior title). Yet, everything I read about I'm Not There appeals to me. The initial premise, the cast, the cinematography, the director, Tobias Funkee as Ginsberg - I honestly think it's one of the most novel, interesting and downright exciting ideas of 2007.
The soundtrack disc seems tailored to my tastes, too.* Have a look (I've bolded the ones that interest me the most)
1. Eddie Vedder and the Million Dollar Bashers: "All Along the Watchtower"
2. Sonic Youth: "I'm Not There"
3. Jim James and Calexico: "Goin' to Acapulco"
4. Richie Havens: "Tombstone Blues"
5. Stephen Malkmus and the Million Dollar Bashers: "Ballad of a Thin Man"
6. Cat Power: "Stuck Inside of Mobile With the Memphis Blues Again"
7. John Doe: "Pressing On"
8. Yo La Tengo: "Fourth Time Around"
9. Iron and Wine and Calexico: "Dark Eyes"
10. Karen O and the Million Dollar Bashers: "Highway 61 Revisited"
11. Roger McGuinn and Calexico: "One More Cup of Coffee"
12. Mason Jennings: "The Lonesome Death of Hattie Carroll"
13. Los Lobos: "Billy"
14. Jeff Tweedy: "Simple Twist of Fate"
15. Mark Lanegan: "The Man in the Long Black Coat"
16. Willie Nelson and Calexico: "Señor (Tales of Yankee Power)"
1. Mira Billotte: "As I Went Out One Morning"
2. Stephen Malkmus and Lee Ranaldo: "Can't Leave Her Behind"
3. Sufjan Stevens: "Ring Them Bells"
4. Charlotte Gainsbourg and Calexico: "Just Like a Woman"
5. Jack Johnson: "Mama You've Been on My Mind"
6. Yo La Tengo: "I Wanna Be Your Lover"
7. Glen Hansard and Marketa Irglova: "You Ain't Goin' Nowhere"
8. The Hold Steady: "Can You Please Crawl Out Your Window"
9. Ramblin' Jack Elliott: "Just Like Tom Thumb's Blues"
10. The Black Keys: "Wicked Messenger"
11. Tom Verlaine and the Million Dollar Bashers: "Cold Irons Bound"
12. Mason Jennings: "The Times They Are a-Changin'"
13. Stephen Malkmus and the Million Dollar Bashers: "Maggie's Farm"
14. Marcus Carl Franklin: "When the Ship Comes In"
15. Bob Forrest: "Moonshiner"
16. John Doe: "I Dreamed I Saw St. Augustine"
17. Antony and the Johnsons: "Knockin' on Heaven's Door"
18. Bob Dylan: "I'm Not There"
But that wasn't the best film news I got all day. Oh, dear me no. That honour would go to the rereleasing of All About Eve! A brand new 35mm print, no less. It's showing for three days after Christmas. Just thinking about watching it on a large screen, in the sensory depravation zone of a cinema, with a bevy of other Eve-fans, makes me feel all tingly inside.
*If you trawl over to the film's MySpace (I find it slightly disconcerting that films have social networking sights, but whatever), you can listen to a selection of the cover songs, including Sufjan Stevens and Cat Power.
Sunday, November 25, 2007
To make a glimmering Australian landscape look beautiful is easy, but to extract the poetry from everyday life is more difficult. There were a number of standout things about the Ian Curtis biopic (and many that fell flat) but the photography was impeccable. Crisp, streamlined and fluid, the b&w lent Curtis' life a kinetic beauty filled with gravitas.
and beautiful scenes I've watched this year.
Question - can animated features be nominated for Cinematography accolades?
Saturday, November 24, 2007
Best Picture: Zodiac
Best Director: Ray Lawrence, Jindabyne
Best Actor in a Leading Role: Chris Cooper, Breach
Best Actress in a Leading Role: Laura Linney, Jindabyne
This is the category that inspires the most torment on my part. Linney's quiet portrayal of a woman struggling against an inpeneratable problem was the first performance that blew me away this year, yet the film itself didn't make a splash. Jindabyne was released in a very Linney-ish year, with The Savages looking to actually garner her a nomination (something I'd be very pleased with, Linney is one of my favourite actors working today and the clip of The Savages I've seen looks great). Yet the field is strong, with Julie Christie's devilish Alzhemier's victim, Marion Cotillard's spirited Edith Piaf and the nobility that Angelina Jolie brought to A Mighty Heart. There were other good female leads this year of course, but these four were my favourite, appealing on different levels. I watched Away From Her last night and so Julie Christie is freshly imprinted on my brain and thus I am inclinced towards giving her my number one spot, but I know Linney will stay with me for longer.
Best Actor in a Supporting Role: David Strathairn, The Bourne Ultimatum
Best Supporting Actress: Samantha Morton, Control
I'll eventually get around to looking at the other categories. I have strong favourites for music, cinematography, screenplay etc. I still haven't seen many of the big hitters this year, so in a month or so I'm guessing these picks will look outdated and poorly thought out. But for the moment, I'm sticking by them.
Sunday, November 18, 2007
RIPPLE EFFECTS OF THE WRITERS' STRIKE.
- - - -
Lack of scripts means pilots are unable to perform "welcome from the cabin" announcements, which are customarily lengthy, loquacious, and infuriatingly drawn out. Having dedicated their careers to the complex task of operating commercial aircraft, pilots reveal themselves to be woefully inept at extemporaneous speaking, as their attempts ("We're in air. High up. Weather. No crash. Temperature!") prove disastrous. Filled with self-loathing, pilots refuse to leave their homes and eventually die. All air travel ends.
Grocery-store produce managers
Unable to skillfully phrase sales like "Grapes—$1.99/lb.," retailers panic and choose instead to throw fruits and vegetables at customers while screaming, "MONEY NOW!" Frightened by the prospect of facing a grocery store full of wild-eyed produce managers clutching rotten bananas while cloaked in ersatz-broccoli cloaks (fashioned after long bouts of existential madness), customers stay away. Consumer economy collapses.
When you think about it, it's a bit too much to expect someone with an exceptionally profound sense of spirituality to also be a gifted crafter of prose. I mean, what are the odds, right? But since the strike means no new sermons written, the clergy must simply read from sacred texts and then stare forward, blinking. Attendance at religious services plummets, churches are boarded up, and, perhaps most importantly, God just says, "You know what? Screw all of you," and walks out.
Brides and grooms
Roadside direction signs like "Johnson-Turpin Wedding—Turn Left" are no longer possible and are replaced by feeble nonunion attempts such as "Girl! Ring! Left! I am Turpin! Turpjohn! Dress! Ah!" With would-be attendees unable to find events, weddings cease. Then love ends.
Shouting the classic written line "Play 'Free Bird'!" has historically been a quick way to convey to fellow concertgoers the message "I am aware that I am watching a concert by a band that would be highly unlikely to ever play a Lynyrd Skynyrd classic, but by shouting out such a request, I demonstrate that I am a student of popular culture, that I am intellectually superior to Skynyrd fans, and that I have mastered irony." But with no one to write such lines, fans soon forget about shouting "Play 'Free Bird'!" The result: the whole world starts going to more concerts, live music thrives, the human condition is elevated, beauty proliferates, and fewer douchebags get themselves stabbed at shows.
Without the assistance of professional writers, such droll puns as "purrfect pets" prove impossible, leaving shopkeepers to describe their offerings as "perfect pets." This results in unrealistic expectations being placed on the pets. Eventually, an acrimonious pet/owner dynamic emerges that proves impossible to overcome. After a surprisingly short period of time, cats say, you know, fuck this shit and they leave. The human/cat arrangement, which, to be honest, has been on thin ice for centuries, finally collapses and the domestication of the cat ends.
With their natural predators, the screenwriters, out of the literary ecosystem, poet herds thrive and proliferate, soon overrunning their native habitats and exhausting their food supply. Before long, having any unlocked windows in one's house becomes an invitation to poets to bust in, which they unfailingly do, spouting some goofy-ass nonsense while grabbing whatever is in the fridge. All are shot on sight, of course, creating an unwelcome sanitation problem. Heartened, God gives us one more chance.
Taken from McSweeney's
Friday, November 16, 2007
Jake's older sister turns the big 3-0 today. I've always thought she's one of the most interesting and versatile actresses working today. Which other starlet could you imagine doing Secretary? Or lending their voice to an animated film that's not Pixar or part of the Shrek franchise (Monster House)? Or babbling away in French in this years Paris, Je t'aime? She has an adorable baby with Peter Sarsgaard and her favourite actress is Gena Rowlands, so I can forgive her even that dreadful boiler suit she once sported.
"I've realised that the only way to make movies that you're proud of, that don't fall into the sentimental bullshit that so many movies fall into, is to fight. You have to fight. So many people are willing to sleepwalk through things and fall into the not human, not interesting choice".
Favourite Maggie Gyllenhaal performances:
5. Adaptation/Monster House (both small roles, but quirky and memorable)
4. Mona Lisa Smile
3. Donnie Darko
I'm not afraid of Nichol's Park
I ride the train and I ride it after dark
I'm not afraid to get it right
I turn around and I give it one more try
I said things that I meant to say
The bandstand chairs and the Dewey Day parade
I go out to the golden age
The spirit is right and the spirit doesn't changeSufjan Stevens, "Jacksonville"
Sunday, November 11, 2007
The band recently had a party of sorts over at Radiohead.tv in which they messed about in front of the camera and played some songs, including this Smiths cover. This is the single best thing they've done in ages, I swear to God. I never thought I'd hear one of my top three favourite bands ever covering one of the others. Thom looks energetic, sprightly, even *gasp* happy. This bodes extremely well for their eventual world tour (and let me say this now, I mightn't be over the moon about In Rainbows but when they tour, I AM SO THERE).
If we care (which I do), here's a grainy video of the original Smiths version:
January: Great Expectations, by Charles Dickens (since Estella is our namesake)
February: The Bluest Eye, by Toni Morrison (African American)
March: Cat's Eye, by Margaret Atwood (Atwood for Atwood's sake)
April: Transformations, by Anne Sexton (Poetry)
May: Other Voices, Other Rooms, by Truman Capote (Southern)
June: Lolita, by Vladimir Nabokov (Russian)
July: The Chocolate War, by Robert Cormier (adolescent)
August: Maus I and II, by Art Spiegelman (Graphic Novel, Pulitzer winner)
September: The Secret Lives of People in Love, by Simon Van Booy (Independent)
October: The Human Stain, by Philip Roth (Contemporary/Jewish)
November: A Month of Classic Short Stories, Various - watch for a list
December: The Grapes of Wrath, by John Steinbeck (Dusty)
Secondly, make up your own list of 12 books. You're also free to mix 'n match, which is the path I'll be taking. I've already read most of Atwood's ouevre (including Cat's Eye), Maus (thanks Ann Marie!) and Lolita (which, to be honest, isn't really a Russian novel per se). Reading any of those three again would be a pleasure, so I'm going to have to strike them off my list. Instead, I'm going to make the following subsitutions:
March: Tender is the Night, by F. Scott Fitzgerald
June: Down and Out In Paris & London, by George Orwell
August: A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man, by James Joyce
I can't count the number of times I've begun the Fitzgerald and given up after a few pages. I enjoy it's premise, but the book itself has never grabbed me. June is a bit of a cheat, as I've always wanted to read Down and Out, but I've never tried any Orwel except for the obvious two and anyway, June is my Leaving Cert and I don't want anything too long or difficult. Finally, I've had a copy of Portrait lying around my bedroom for months. Bout time I actually picked the thing up, no?
I'm between two minds with the rest of the list. January, in particular, scares me. I have never imagined myself to be a Dickens kind of girl and the thought of reading Great Expectations isn't a pleasant one. But that's what this sort of thing is all about!
Saturday, November 10, 2007
These people aren't demanding mega-bucks. They just want to be treated fairly and given their due. Currently, a writer recieves nothing anytime a show is streamed or downloaded online while the studios make money regardless. The fact that some executive sitting in an office somewhere is getting richer while the guy or gal who created the product, who put time and effort into making something, gets a big fat zero is discomforting. Those creative types are the key component in the tv programmes we love and watch regularly. I firmly believe that words, no matter whether it's a great work of literature or the script of Ugly Betty, have the power to change the world and all those who devote their lives to the craft of shaping them should be honoured.
One positive aspect of the strike is the communal spirit that has emerged. Screenwriters and actors, as well as guild members, have joined the picket line or signed their names to petitions. A startling fact is that many film writers have also downed their tools in solidarity - meaning a lot of next years blockbusters are left hanging. Most tv shows have only a few episodes left to run before they're forced to go on indefinite hiatus. The Big Bosses better wake up soon.
Show your support by signing the online peition.
Thursday, November 8, 2007
Jim Jarmusch's next project, tentatively called The Limits of Control, has been acquired by Focus Features for worldwide distribution. Jarmusch will start shooting the feature this February in Spain. It looks like Focus was happy with the reception of Jarmusch's last feature, Broken Flowers, so they're hoping for a similar success this time out. It's good news for Jarmusch, whose films have sometimes had a difficult time finding distribution, or at least advertised distribution, in the past.
Broken Flowers didn't impress me. It was alright to sit through but afterwards all I was left with was a feeling of unbearable boredom. Bill Murray is severely overrated and that film did nothing for him and it's impressive roster of actresses (Swinton, Lange, Delpy, Stone) However, I adore Coffee & Cigarettes, Night on Earth and Down By Law. Jarmusch can swing between incredible tedium and greatness - often depending on his actors. Look at those involved in those three films; Tom Waits, Gena Rowlands, Winona Ryder, Roberto Benigni, Iggy Pop, Cate Blanchett (her short vignette in C&C in which she plays herself and her cousin, is in my mind, her best performance), Alfred Molina, RZA. A veritable who's who of cool in the film and music worlds.
Focus' CEO James Schamus remarked in a statement, "Jim Jarmusch defines what it means to be an independent filmmaker for audiences all over the world, and we're delighted to rejoin with him following our success together with Broken Flowers." That's only partially PR speak, since Jarmusch probably did as much for the creation of contemporary independent film as John Cassavetes.
According to the film's press release, The Limits of Control is "the story of a mysterious loner, a stronger, whose activities remain meticulously outside of the law." Which makes him sound like nearly every other Jarmusch protagonist, but that's probably a good thing. He's played by Isaach De Bankolé (Raymond in Ghost Dog), and is completing an unexplained job that causes him to travel across Spain. The eminent Christopher Doyle (In the Mood for Love, Hero) will be working as cinematographer while Eugenio Caballero (Pan's Labyrinth) is production designer.
Nothing else is known about the film. All we can say here at Paste is that it's about time.
That reminds me of another Jarmusch-related oddity, the pair of films called Smoke and Blue in the Face. Their director was Wayne Wang, but Jarmusch appears in Blue in the Face and their inimitable feel of shambling NY cool is definitely part of his ethos. Never has a piece of entertainment seemed so engineered to my taste, gape at the ensemble of actors, musicians and writers that collaborated on them: Jarmusch, Harvey Keitel. Michael J. Fox, Lou Reed, Lily Tomlin, Stockard Channing, David Byrne and Paul "Godlike Genius" Auster. Wow, that's some impressive networking going on there. Smoke is the more conventional narrative film (as if anything penned by Auster could be called conventional) and Blue In The Face is a basically a collection of extras, leftovers, jokes and singalong.
Oops, sort of got off the point there. I did have a point though, it being that part of the thing I loved so much about those films was their looseness, their humour and their sense of community. Broken Flowers left me cold. Here's hoping Jim'll revert to the old Jarmuschian charm.
Saturday, November 3, 2007
Vivian: Do you always think you can handle people like, uh, trained seals?
Philip Marlowe: Uh-huh. I usually get away with it too.
Vivian: How nice for you
Damn they don't make 'em like this anymore
I ask, cause I'm not sure
Do anybody make real shit anymore?
Yep, those are Kanye West lyrics. I like Kanye, his aggressive self-promotion can be almost endearing in it's ferocity, but I want to utilise his words in a rather different context. That is, in respect to the era of Classic Hollywood. I'm no great subscriber to false nostalgia - I wasn't alive in the 1940s and 50s and therefore am not qualified to make assumptions about whether films were better back then. I firmly believe that the craft of film is as thriving and vital as it was in the Hollywood heyday and that classics-of-the-future are being released every year. Yet, I'm itching to mutter "Damn, they don't make 'em like this anymore!" everytime I watch a film like The Big Sleep. Tonight I treated myself to a break from studying and study-related guilt by watching a two-header; Strictly Come Dancing on the BBC which has got me truly hooked this series and then Howard Hawks' 1946 classic film noir staple. Adapted from Raymond Chandler's novel by a triad of writers including William Faulkner and pairing up real life lovers Humphrey Bogart and Lauren Bacall with auteur Hawks at the helm, The Big Sleep is a team-up to rival The Philadelphia Story. Even on my second viewing, the plot makes little sense to me, perhaps even less so than the first time I watched it. On my primary viewing I really attempted to get my head around the double crossings and murders, this time I gave up and enjoyed the sexual tension, the dialogue and the cinematography.
"How can a man so ugly be so handsome?" Marta Toren famously wondered in Sirocco, and she had a point. Bogie is not a typical Hollywood leading man, he has neither the effortless charm of Grant nor the bumbling sweetess of Stewart. He was short and gruff, with a leathery face - but his shortcomings make him. In the film, his weathered demeanour and calm delivery contain a subtle charm, his little gestures taking centre-stage over any big setpieces. I look especially fondly on the childish habit of fidgeting with his ear during moments of pondering. He's a closet romantic, and he fizzles joyously with every woman he comes across, all of whom appear to fall in love with his Marlowe. The universe of The Big Sleep is one peppered with coy women who hold their own with him, trading quips laden with innuendo, from his leading lady Bacall and her sister (in a great performance from Martha Vickers) stretching to the bookstore clerk played by Dorothy Malone and even Joy Barlow's fleeting taxi-driver. It's a world so unlike the real, drab everyday one in which we inhabit that it's tempting to imagine that this is how people actually spoke back then. The rapport between Humphrey and everybody he encounters is a delight to listen to. It's genuinely funny, "She tried to sit on my lap when I was sitting down" and the actors really sell it. The famous "horse racing" scene was reshot and added in to heighten the chemistry between the leads and it's a treat. The innuendo is ladled on so strongly that it's hard to believe they got away with it at the time, and yet Bogie and Bacall run with it, their faces masks of innocence. Seeing Bogie and Bacall verbally sparring is a sight to behold. Yet the horse-racing scene is not my favourite scene between the pair. My choice is surprisingly dialogue free. Marlowe enters a casino, looking for information. He wanders around, spying in on various gambling rooms until he espies what appears to be a sort of living room with a small gathering of people, a piano and a familiar voice. Vivian Rutledge is singing "And Her Tears Flowed Like Wine" in a bawdy, humerous way and Bogie leans against the doorframe to watch her. She slowly becomes aware that he's watching her and turns to look straight at him. Most of their time spent onscreen is spent either bickering or kissing, but here she gives him a shy smile and a small salute, all the while continuing to sing. Bogie, in turn, returns her smile and salute. It's a sweet moment, touching in it's quietness. The lovers aren't zipping off zingers, they're just enjoying each other's gaze. Bacall doesn't have a half-bad voice either.
Part of The Big Sleep's allure is that it's not a genre picture. Sure, it's film noir. Yet there's a lot more going on than a simple private detective story (okay, maybe 'simple' is the wrong word to use). It's a romantic picture, thanks to the obvious chemistry between the leads. Indeed, the plot is so convoluted it's best viewed as a romance; instead of wondering how the hell Owen Taylor died, you'd be best wondering when exactly the pair are going to get it on. It's also a succesful comedy - the sometimes heavy subject matter is given a lightness and deftness of touch by Hawks and the characters are never too put upon or endangered to engage in some jokes. Going back to my initial point about not making 'em like they used to, it is difficult to imagine what The Big Sleep would look like nowadays. There may be an actor who could match Bogart's cool, but could they rival his ugliness and beaten-down weatheredness? Would the innuendo translate to a modern setting, treading the fine line between ridiculous and dirty? I can't see any studio greenlighting a script as unpenetratable and confusing as this nowadays. Even the cinematography, sumptous black and white, creeping shadows and silhouettes, couldn't transfer to 2007.
The Big Sleep is riddled with more charm than Eddie Mars' corpse is with bullets.