Sunday, December 30, 2007

2007 Top Ten: Matt Hauske

(Lotta people say I look a lot like him.)

Alberto, I admire and applaud your restraint, a quality I sorely lack, as you are well aware.

R. Emmet, I'm glad you wrote "punish myself" rather than "abuse myself." I don't think my mind-grapes could handle that.

Of the 134 movies I saw this year, only 25 of them were released this year. That makes for an easy top ten list. I suspect it would have been even easier if I had had a chance to see There Will Be Blood, or if I could include personal revelations like Otto Preminger's Bonjour tristesse, Ebrahim Golestan's The Brick and the Mirror, Altman's California Split, Svankmajer's Faust, Raoul Walsh's Manpower (maybe my most highly recommended film of the year--a bizarre must-see), Irving Lerner's Murder By Contract, Anand Tucker's Shopgirl, and a bunch of stuff by Preminger, Tati, and Kurosawa. But since I can't include them, best not to even mention them. They're gone.

I also shouldn't bring up several of the films my list tells me I saw but that I have little to no recollection of seeing, including but not limited to: Wimbledon, Space Cowboys (yes, this belongs in a category with Wimbledon), The Mascot (Wladyslaw Starewicz, France, 1934)(???), The Long Gray Line (John Ford, 1955), It (Clarence Badger, 1927), Donnie Brasco (apparently for the second time), and Bananas. I don't want to be rude by saying I don't remember seeing them, so I won't even mention I saw them.

While I'm not being rude, I'd better also not mention the absolute dreck I saw. You know, films like 28 Weeks Later, Brand Upon the Brain!(!!!), House (Steve Miner, 1986, a movie up Singer's alley), I Think I Love My Wife, I Want Someone to Eat Cheese With, Lions for Lambs (Robert Redford's soooo [about to have a broken] hip!), and the not-glorious mess that is Preminger's Skidoo. It's hard enough to make a movie without some snot-nosed PhD student telling you your movie sucks. Especially when you used to be cool and now you're just an old douchebag. (Thanks for drawing our attention to these important issues, "Bob.")

So I won't bring up those shitty, awful wastes of celluloid and time. It would be tasteless and rude. And no one likes that.

Speaking of tastelessness, here's my Top Ten List of movies that made me want to exuberantly drive a car backwards off a parking garage.

The Bourne Ultimatum (Paul Greengrass)
Diving Bell and the Butterfly (Julian Shnabel)
Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street (Tim Burton)
Darjeeling Limited (Wes Anderson)
Juno (Jason Reitman)
King of Kong: A Fistful of Quarters (Seth Gordon)
Black Book (Paul Verhoven)
Zodiac (David Fincher)
Eastern Promises (David Cronenberg)
Any pie Judd Apatow had his fingers in (e.g. Blades of Glory, Knocked Up, Walk Hard, Superbad, Funny Or Die clips, etc.)


2007 Top Ten: Alberto Zambenedetti

Delivered in haste, but after a whole year of musing, this is my top-ten. Ok, there are eleven movies on it. But at least I did not torture you with honorable mentions, movies I really wanted to see, runner-ups, best-of-the-rest, films I heard were good, stuff that did not make the cut, and other lame excuses to squeeze more titles in. So why eleven? Why not a clean, dry, good old top TEN? Because I have commitment issues. Deal with it. And have a Happy New Year, folks.

The Diving Bell and the Butterfly
Eastern Promises
Hotel Chevalier & The Darjeeling Limited
No Country for Old Men
Grindhouse (Planet Terror & Death Proof)
L’Amico di Famiglia
The Lives of Others

Alberto Zambenedetti is a Ph.D. Candidate in Italian Studies at NYU


2007 Top Ten: R. Emmet Sweeney

As I punish myself by watching the final Bills game of the year, it's good to remind myself of some actual pleasures I experienced in 2007 - of the cinematic variety. I've already worked my listmaking muscles for the Indiewire poll, but that one is restricted to films released in the U.S. in 2007. The list below is of films I viewed in any venue, whether it be a festival or general release screening. It was a good year, although my favorites aren't really consensus choices - I enjoyed No Country and There Will Be Blood, but greatly preferred the titles below. I dedicate my idiosyncratic list to Jonathan Rosenbaum, who, as Matt pointed out to me, is retiring on his 65th birthday, February 27th. Along with Termite Art's patron saint, Manny Farber, Rosenbaum has been the critic most responsible for shaping my interest in film, in expanding my horizons beyond America's borders, and for constantly questioning critical consensus, even when warranted. Skepticism keeps a mind fresh. Thanks Mr. Rosenbaum.

1. Flight of the Red Balloon, directed by Hou Hsiao-hsien (Release Date: 4/2/2008)
2. Still Life, directed by Jia Zhangke (Release Date: 1/18/2008, IFC Center)
3. Two Wrenching Departures, directed by Ken Jacobs
4. Opera Jawa, directed by Garin Nugroho (no distributor)
5. Private Fears in Public Places, directed by Alain Resnais
6. Offside, directed by Jafar Panahi
7. Exiled, directed by Johnnie To
8. Useless, directed by Jia Zhangke (no distributor)
9. 12:08 East of Bucharest, directed by Corneliu Porumboiu
10. Zodiac, directed by David Fincher

Other movies I valued: The Romance of Astree and Celadon, Alexandra, Belle Toujours, Brand Upon the Brain!, There Will Be Blood, The Darjeeling Limited, Blades of Glory, Nancy Drew, Away From Her, Southland Tales, Eastern Promises, I Think I Love My Wife, Black Book, Syndromes And A Century, Before the Devil Knows You're Dead, Live Free or Die Hard, Walk Hard

I also want to single out an actor. Anna Faris' slackjawed stoner in Smiley Face is as committed a performance as Daniel Day Lewis' in There Will Be Blood. While Lewis chews off his lines, Faris loops them out like she's pulling taffy. It's a brilliant comic turn in which she commands the frame in every shot - she moves as if underwater, in a dreamy, rolling over in bed kind of way. Flashing her dewy saucers, swearing with aplomb, and mangling the Communinst Manifesto, it's the co-performance of the year.

As always, check our compatriots at Tativille, Scarlett Cinema, and Fourteen Seconds for a veritable flood of informed opinion on the celluloid year that was. And don't forget Spinster Aunt's 12 Delightful Things! It's delightful!


2007 Top Ten: Matt Singer

(Links take you to my review where available)

1. No Country For Old Men
2. The Diving Bell & The Butterfly
3. The King of Kong: A Fistful of Quarters
4. Zodiac
5. The Host
6. Hot Fuzz
7. Syndromes and a Century
8. There Will Be Blood
9. Into the Wild
10. Black Book

Honorable Mention (In Order of Preference):
Gone Baby Gone
Lake of Fire
The Bourne Ultimatum
We Own the Night
The Namesake
Rescue Dawn

Like last year, my full comments on my top ten (and a brief piece on the year in general) are already available for your consumption on And, like last year, I've probably yammered on about most of these movies enough already. So instead I thought I'd augment my contribution to the annual collective of top ten lists by my associates at Tativille, Fourteen Seconds, Scarlett Cinema and more by providing what I'm calling "A Salute to the Pleasure Principle" — my list of the five most underrated simple pleasures from the OmniCorp that is the Hollywood movie machine. Ranked roughly in order of the pleasantness of the surprise they provided:

5. Walk Hard
Though I enjoyed this more than any of the other four films on this list it's number five simply because I expected it to rock — and, verily, it doth. So why, America, have you forsaken your favorite comedic son, Judd Apatow, and his favorite collaborator, Jake Kasdan? This is a screamingly funny movie and the best spoof since probably Naked Gun 33 1/3: The Final Insult. And it has an incredible cast. And some awesome dick jokes. The fact that no one's going upsets me deeply. This is like if the Beatles got back together and nobody went. Come to think of it, the Beatles do get back together in Walk Hard (in the form of an awesome group cameo by Jack Black, Justin Long, Paul Rudd, and Jason Schwartzman).

4. Bee Movie
Certainly not on par with the likes of Pixar, but nevertheless a fine animated film from a guy (Jerry Seinfeld) who clearly hadn't invested any more thought in the undertaking than "Hey, y'know I think it'd be fun to make an animated movie." One could argue that the film lacked the grounded vitality of prime-run Seinfeld (and more closely resembled the fanciful and wholly uneven season nine era Seinfeld) but, c'mon, it's a movie about a talking bee who sues all of humanity for crissakes. Look elsewhere for grounded. The movie looked way better than it had any right to too.

3. Live Free or Die Hard
John McClane 4, Newtonian Physics 0.

2. Dan in Real Life
Drawn by the promise of a film shot and set in my fiance's hometown and little else, I was deeply impressed by a warm film with a lots of humor and even more sensitivity. Steve Carell got a lot of praise for his work in Little Miss Sunshine but I think he's far better here, as a single dad who spends his life giving others advice while remaining deeply out-of-touch with his own emotional needs. Watch his sincerity in the scene where he plays "Let My Love Open the Door" on the guitar in front of his enormous extended family and his would-be girlfriend. It's only Carell's beautiful, barely contained emotions that keep the scene from a potential maudlin meltdown. The plot gets a little contrived towards the end — and Juliette Binoche is horribly miscast as Carell and Dane Cook's (!) love interest — but mostly this is a very entertaining movie about real families and the very mundane (and therefore utterly life-or-death) problems they face. By the way, I've been to the Alley Katz bowling alley. It's in Westerly, Rhode Island. Nice place.

1. Music and Lyrics
There is a reason people continue to flock to romantic comedies and that reason is the promise of a film like Music and Lyrics. Light, fun, sweet, romantic, sexy, charming, and utterly formulaic it is a Hollywood product so perfect Warner Brothers should turn the screenplay into a Mad Lib and make it over and over again with different stars and situations (Isn't that how they make most of these movies anyway?). Stars Hugh Grant and Drew Barrymore are the perfect opposites attract onscreen couple; he all sardonic rejoiners and gloom and she all sunshine and bubbles. The songs are great too; in a world without Once this would have been the must-own soundtrack of the year (even still, it kind of is). Mark my words, though not enough people saw this in theaters, it will become a favorite on basic cable and video.


Saturday, December 22, 2007


It's that time of year again - when wanna-be artists organize film productions into a rather random list of ten. Mr. Singer and I provided a few to the Indiewire poll (where There Will Be Blood eked out a victory over Zodiac), and you can find an annotated version of Matt's at IFC. But all of that is just foreplay for the forthcoming orgy of lists to be provided by Termite Artisans and friends over at Tativille, Scarlett Cinema, Fourteen Seconds, and by other unaffiliated smart folks we know. And we're not bound by such silly things as films having to have distribution in the U.S. - so mine will be markedly different from the one I submitted to Indiewire.


Thursday, December 20, 2007

One Night Only: Cox in New York City

(WARNING: This post contains foul language and far too many puns on the name "Cox." Read at your own risk)

Like a tiger in heat, he prowled the stage, with an raw animal sexuality that could impregnate a dead elephant from a hundred yards. Beneath a shimmering purple light his great mane of hair (too messy not to be real, so let's put all those ludicrous hairpiece rumors to rest) flowed like the mighty Mississippi. As the music accelerated, he swayed and bowed his head, and then began to rock his hips like a boat in a storm. When the song quieted a man from near the front corner of the room shouted:


The great man — a god made flesh, really — paused, and then shot the audience an incredulous look. The titan speaks:

"Did a guy just say he wants Cox?"

The audience responds with gails of laughter. A grin parts our hero's lips. Then another beat. Should he say it? Absolutely.

"I would fuck a man to please you, New York!" he says.

The crowd roars with approval. His five piece, The Hard Walkers, launch into the next song. And for one night only, Dewey Cox lives and breaths again.

Yes, as part of what might be the coolest shameless promotional campaign ever, John C. Reilly donned a mariachi outfit, strapped on a six-string and assumed the role of Dewey Cox, hero of the new bioparody Walk Hard: The Dewey Cox Story (My review's up on The Reeler). In just under an hour, Reilly and his band (which included Mike Viola of the Candy Butchers) hit all the Cox classics from the fiery "Guilty as Charged" to the hella dirty "Let's Duet" (with co-star Kristen Wiig), as well as some choice covers, including Amy Winehouse's "Rehab," J.J. Cale's "Cocaine" (recast as a badass, high-speed countrified stomp after Cox did a line on stage), and, incredibly, The Beastie Boys' "Sabotage."

The songs are good, and much better live and in full length than in the movie, where a lot of the jokes get drowned out or omitted completely. But the best bits were all just Reilly as Cox, relishing every bit of his hard rocking persona. He told stories about Jimi Hendrix and Bob Dylan (or "Robert" as he called him). He stripped down little by little, song by song, until he was rocking out topless, drenched in water, sweat and who knows what else. And he talked about his last gig at the Knitting Factory, back in 1969 when it was still a real knitting factory ("I don't want to call it a sweatshop, because they weren't sweating," he laughed, "But it was fucked up!").

Plus I walked away with a sweet "Cox Across America" Tour t-shirt. Truly a night to remember. And hey, here's one of the other shows on the tour on YouTube:

Wednesday, December 19, 2007

Blonde Crazy (1931)

There are only a few things that would distract me from fondling my Ford at Fox box set - one of them being a Joan Blondell retrospective. And MoMA has to go and foist one upon me at a most inopportune time. But go I must. So I did. Tonight was the 1931 Warner cheapie Blonde Crazy, directed by Roy Del Ruth. A lean 80 minutes of slapping-as-flirtation, weird welcomes ("Come in, rest your face and hands"), and lecherous industrialists. The unstoppable Cagney-Blondell duo hook up as con artists and travel the great country of ours swindling other swindlers out of dough from the largest hotel in the midwest to the largest hotel in the largest city. Blondell's a little reluctant, but Cagney pops his eyebrows up, bats his eyelashes, spouts some nasal nonsense, and she's charmed.

Anyway, forget the plot. This movie is about eyes - Blondell's glinty saucers and Cagney's squinty daggers. There's also some eyebrow action, as mentioned - but it's mainly in the eyes as Cagney flirts his way into double-crosses and disaster. But Joan B., with her acid putdowns and loving eyes, always plucks him back from the precipice - and one expects them to slap and insult each other all the way to their deathbead.

And what a dastardly villain Joe Reynolds (Ray Milland) is - he has the gall to buy our moll a volume of Robert Browning's poetry - and then send Cagney into the hoosegow! That sonuvabitch is dead to me. Screw you Joe Reynolds!


Monday, December 17, 2007

Coming Soon: IFC News @ The 2008 Spirit Award Nominations

Like last year, we shot a half hour special about the nominees for Film Independent's Spirit Awards. This time around, we've got interviews with Zach Braff, Lisa Kudrow, Superman, and a tour of memorable indie film locations in a kooky V.W. bus. Seriously. Here's the first batch of scheduled airings:

Monday, January 7th at 8 PM
Monday, January 7th at 10:45 PM
Tuesday, January 8th at 1:20 PM
Wednesday, January 9th at 12:45 PM
Friday, January 11th at 04:30 AM
Friday, January 11th at 12:05 PM
Saturday, January 12th at 01:35 AM
Sunday, January 13th at 07:15 PM

Here's a little sneak preview: an extended cut of my interview with Zach Braff.

2008 Spirit Awards Interview With Zach Braff

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Saturday, December 15, 2007

Ford at Fox: Just Pals (1920)

I have it! (thanks Spinster Aunt!) A handsome set of 24 films John Ford made at Fox, plus a newly produced documentary directed by Nick Redman. In addition, there is a beautiful coffee table book with a valuable introduction by Ford biographer Joseph McBride, and reproductions of the original press notes for The Iron Horse and Four Sons. As I gleefully wade through the set (which will likely take up the better part of '08), I hope to post a few notes about each film.

The earliest film in the set is Just Pals, a short and sweet slice of Americana. It's a charming, minor work centered around the figure of Bim (Buck Jones - a young Western star), a good-natured layabout in love with the local schoolmarm, and who becomes a father figure to a young runaway who tumbles out of a train. The figure of Bim is one who will pop up later in Ford's films, a principled outcast who feels more at home in the wild than in civilization. Just Pals touches the countours of this conflicted figure who would reach full expression in later works like My Darling Clementine. But on its own merits, the film stands just fine - with some gentle satire of small-town paranoia, a likeable turn by Buck, and plenty of knockabout humor. An auspicious start!

In other news, I saw There Will Be Blood, which is technically astonishing but emotionally inert. Ed Gonzalez's review at Slant reflects my reaction pretty accurately.

Also check out Dave Kehr's dissenting opinion on No Country For Old Men, by far the most overrated film of the year.

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Thursday, December 13, 2007

Notes on the Mitchell Report

I'm just starting to wade into this beast. But here's a few passages that jumped out at me:

-Though Kirk Radomski, the former New York Mets clubhouse attendant (Let's Go Mets!!) who provided a great deal of the information in the report, was a distributor of steroids and other performance enhancing substances, the report says that he "did not, however, observe or participate in the use of performance enhancing substances by any player named in this report, with one exception..." pg. 146 which essentially means that despite whatever evidence he has about selling drugs to players he has almost no evidence of their use. So we can expect plenty of players falling back on that as a defense.

-One guy who will have trouble with that is Roger Clemens. A guy named Brian McNamee told Mitchell that he, "inject[ed] him with Winstrol, which Clemens supplied. McNamee knew the substance was Winstrol because the vials Clemens gave him were so labeled. McNamee injected Clemens approximately four times in the buttocks over a several-week period with needles that Clemens provided. Each incident took place in Clemens’s apartment at the SkyDome." pg. 169 A little further the report says "According to McNamee, from the time that McNamee injected Clemens with Winstrol through the end of the 1998 season, Clemens’s performance showed remarkable improvement. During this period of improved performance, Clemens told McNamee that the steroids “had a pretty good effect” on him. McNamee said that Clemens also was training harder and dieting better during this time." pg. 170 McNamee has a similar story about working with Andy Pettitte.

-"For human growth hormone, Radomski approached patients as they were leaving pharmacies and offered to purchase a portion of their just-filled prescriptions... As word spread that bodybuilders were interested in human growth hormone, individuals who had just filled their prescriptions for the substance went to gyms looking to sell the excess portions of their prescriptions." pg. 144

-As Radomski was a Mets employee you'd expect quite a few of the Amazin's. And they're in there, including Lenny Dykstra, David Segui, Todd Hundley, Matt Franco (who claimed he did not know Radomski or ever purchased steroids from him in an interview with Mitchell), Todd Pratt, Mo Vaughn, Mike Stanton, and current or recently current Mets Scott Schoeneweis and Paul Lo Duca.

-Regarding Hundley, one of my favorites as a kid, the report states: "Radomski has known Hundley since 1988, when Radomski worked for the Mets and Hundley played in the Mets’ minor league system.380 Radomski stated that, beginning in 1996, he sold Deca-Durabolin and testosterone to Hundley on three or four occasions. At the beginning of that year, Radomski told Hundley that if he used steroids, he would hit 40 home runs. Hundley hit 41 home runs in 1996, having never hit more than 16 in any prior year. After the season, Radomski said, Hundley took him out to dinner." pg. 163. This shocks me; I've read several books on steroids, including Game of Shadows, and I've always assumed that the main reason to take steroids is to build muscles and to maintain your health and recovery time over the course of a long season. Guys like Bonds and others would always say that steroids can't help you hit a baseball, let alone a home run. But what to make of a season like Hundley's in 1996, the year in which Hundley broke the single season record for home runs by a catcher and also the single season team record for the Mets? If he was indeed on steroids, then they did certainly help maintain his fitness over a long season — he played 153 games, the most Hundley would play in any season, and a lot for any catcher, given the particular wear the position takes on the human body — but they surely must have given him some sort of additional edge. For those who also believe steroid use can also contribute to the risk of debilitating injury will find circumstantial evidence in Hundley's case as well; just two seasons after his breakthrough, Hundley became a regular visitor to the disabled list with elbow problems.

-I wouldn't say I was pleasantly surprised to see the name "John Rocker" on this list. But I also wouldn't say I was disappointed about it either.

Wednesday, December 12, 2007

The Dark Knight Returns: A Second Look at Batman: The Animated Series

For those who remember the Batman cartoon from the 1990s as an entertaining childhood diversion, it is time to look again. Batman: The Animated Series airs nightly on ToonDisney (at 7:30 PM, check your local listings) and I can promise if you have any affection at all for the character or for good television you won't be disappointed.

I've caught around 30 episodes the past couple weeks and would classify just two of the bunch as "bad" or not worth watching. The rest vary from diverting (as in the jaunty "Prophecy of Doom" about a phony baloney prophet who cons Bruce Wayne's rich friends) to poetic ("Appointment in Crime Alley" about Batman's annual remembrance of his fallen parents) to the flat-out brilliant ("The Cape and Cowl Conspiracy," a beautiful little thriller about a criminal trying to steal Batman's cape and cowl, has a devilishly clever denouement). Nearly all the episodes I've watched — even some of the more uneven ones — are way better than the vast majority of Batman comics I've ever read (excluding a couple of classics, like these). I think that's reflected in the fact that in the wake of the show's critical, commercial, and artistic success the DC comics were reshaped to reflect the reality of the series (such as adding characters like Harley Quinn, the Joker's deranged girlfriend and sidekick, who was invented specifically for television and then transplated in nearly-identical form to the printed page).

There's a lot of cultural origins to this work, and the stuff that comes from comic books often seems more indebted more to EC horror than the Dark Knight; like "The Clock King" which transforms the origin of a silly old villain whose gimmick stems from his love of time pieces (on the other Batman TV show, Walter Slezak played him with much personal panache but little menace) into a miniature morality tale. Temple Fugate (approximately the Latin phrase 'time flies') is a efficient businessman obsessed with punctuality, convinced by a stranger he meets on a train to relax a little bit. So Fugate does, and promptly muffs a court case and loses everything. A few years later, he swears revenge on the stranger who he blames for all his troubles; in the interim the man's become the mayor of Gotham City and Fugate uses his knowledge of schedules to sabotage his reelection campaign.

Batman: The Animated Series is well-respected for its strikingly atmospheric visuals and gritty action sequences, both unique to an animated cartoon supposedly geared toward children. And though the series operates from a uniform style, it's easy to spot flourishes and personal touches from the Batman's signature directors, particularly in wide variety of representations of old Bats himself. Frank Paur's Batman, with his even-squarer-than-usual jaw and a flurry of low angles, looks like something dreamed up by Alex Toth. Kevin Altieri's looks more like a ninja; he wears his cape as a cloak draped over his shoulders, helping him to blend in with the shadows of the city. Some of the directors even have clear thematic specialties: Boyd Kirkland's episodes almost always involve some sort of obsession with the past, from "Beware the Gray Ghost" about a team-up between Batman and Bruce Wayne's childhood idol to "It's Never Too Late" about a crime boss wracked by the guilt of a bad decision from decades before, to "Nothing to Fear," which introduces the Scarecrow to the show and gives us Batman confronting his greatest fear, disappointing his dead father. Even better Batman responds to his vengeful dad's accusations by howling "No! I am vengeance! I am the night! I...AM...BATMAN!" Hell yeah you are dude.

My one gripe: freaking Toon Disney stopped airing episodes in order after the three dozen shows I saw and went back and started showing the same ones over again, even there's some sixty episodes left in the full run. Guess I'd better turn to Netflix, or set my DVR for Superman: The Animates Series, also airing nightly on ToonDisney and from many of the same very talented creators.

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Tuesday, December 11, 2007

Buffalo: Home of the First Movie Theater?

The above photo is of the Ellicott Square Building in Buffalo, New York, circa 1896. If one was looking for a cosmopolitan night on the town, you could enter the Edisonia Phonograph Parlor, head downstairs, and walk into Vitagraph Hall - one of the earliest, and possibly THE earliest, movie theater in the U.S., having opened in October, 1896. All the details are in this article in the Buffalo News. According to the president of the Theatre Historical Society, "We have no evidence of any earlier movie theater." Regardless of whether it's actually the first, it's assuredly among the first, making this an incredible discovery, adding just another reason for Buffalo to restore some of the old theaters that are still standing around town. The city's great strength is its architecture - and whatever budget is available should be flooded into restoration. And aside from its newfound historical import, the Ellicott Square building is pretty. Enjoy:


Saturday, December 08, 2007

Moonlighting (1982)

Jerzy Skolimowski, the Polish director and actor, most recently seen in Eastern Promises as the combative and vulgar Uncle Stepan, is the subject of a retro at Anthology Film Archives, and upon the not-so-subtle urgings of a co-worker, went to see his first English language film, Moonlighting (1982). It's a suffocating little drama starring Jeremy Irons as Nowak, a Polish electrical engineer sent to London to refurbish the apartment of his boss. He sneaks in three other workers - but Nowak is the only one who can speak English. The boss is saving thousands by avoiding paying union wages. The operation is entirely illegal, and the film begins with Nowak's sweaty customs interrogation. Skolimowski positions a throbbing spotlight behind a pasty inspections worker picking through their spades and hammers - this is a London of constant menace and antagonism, or at least that is what Nowak experiences. Skolimowski focalizes the film through him, employing an almost constant use of voice-over from Irons - emphasizing his isolation and growing paranoia. He's a stranger in strange land.

The crux of the film surrounds the 1981 military coup in Poland, which staunched the increasing agitations of the Solidarity trade union - an anti-communist organization led by Lech Walesa. Nowak hears the news - and decides to hide the information from the workers, and bears down even harder on them to finish the project. Nowak loses contact with his boss in Poland, and quickly runs out of money. Skolimowski's mise-en-scene uses subtle ruptures in realism to reflect Nowak's deteriorating state of mind - wooden boards tip over, animals growl, a pedestrian he bumps in passing chases after him. His fear and longing for his girlfriend at home erupts in a TV screen hallucination, the one he used to get updates on the homeland. The style is resolutely documentary realism, but these bursts of the absurd place us squarely in Nowak's psyche. In voice-over he claims that he can understand what Londerners say, but not what they mean. Every phrase seems loaded with evil undertones, but he can never understand why. Everything is alien.

To stay alive, he becomes a shoplifter, nervously smiling at cashiers asks for refunds on stolen goods. Dave Kehr says that Irons' jittering performance is "worthy of Chaplin", and I won't argue with him. His character expresses everything through the body - every imagined slight or threat demands a recoil - which eventually morphs into a barely contained rage.

I hope to see Jerzy's Deep End sometime this week.

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Thursday, December 06, 2007

Michael Cera Gets Fired From Knocked Up

Sweeney's on to something with this Funny or Die stuff. This one has some foul language btw.

Recent Beyond the Multiplexes

I've been forgetting to post these lately...




Monday, December 03, 2007

Green Team!