Thursday, May 20, 2010


A movie that begins with a couple not having sex, and ends with another couple not having sex, so what's in between? People who learn to talk to each other by talking to themselves, that's what. And a brief bit of sex, which is cut short when they start talking about it and realize they misunderstand each other.

Good to see Island Video getting some cameo love, but really...was it just too obvious to casually mention the greatest video store in the world?


You've seen the parodies ... or ... have you? If not, time to do some catching up. One of my favorites is when Hitler finds out his so-called "friends" aren't going to Burning Man after all.

But have you seen ... the movie? There are about 150 other minutes of film you could catch up on.

I saw the DVD on the rack as I scoped out the one-last-dying-breath Hollywood Video, and yes, I found it hard to watch the fateful scene of hubris personified without cracking up and thinking of poor Hitler being banned from XBox Live.

You probably read about it in the papers already, so I'm not spoiling anything (and hopefully prepping you and the kids) by pointing out that nearly everyone in the Third Reich's inner circle ends up being shot, killed and murdered onscreen ... except for Hitler. He is given respectful privacy when he reaches the end. Kinda ironic, wouldn't you say?

Tuesday, May 18, 2010


This one is a Japanese-language inappropriate workplace behavior tale (cf. Secretary), but this time the workplace is a semitruck out on the road. Whoa.

She has issues: Check. She's afraid: Double check. He's ... uh... WTF is his story again?? Triple check!!!

Unlike Secretary, there is no safe haven for her trust, so no intimacy develops.

Sometimes that happens in real life. Sometimes it gets translated to film in a way that isn't quite gentle or endearing, but the soft edges of self-discovery are what we remember most.

Sometimes we find those films at the library for free.

Friday, May 14, 2010

A Night At The Opera

Some elaborate set pieces from the slapstick kings:

A stateroom the size of a coat closet is stuffed with a shipful of stowaways, and staff, and all their accoutrements.

"Is it my imagination, or is it getting crowded in here?"

The backstage ropes of an opera house become a jungle gym.

For a change-up, a musical interlude features Harpo playing (guess what) harp and piano.

The opera? Oh yeah, that. It's Il Trovatore. What, you thought this movie was about an opera?!?!

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

When You're Strange

The PBS "Independent Lens" series brought to my living room this first-ever Doors documentary, with all the bad words bleeped and naughty bits blocked out. I could tell, despite Congress' best efforts, that those were the best parts.

It's a straight-up, here's-what-happened-next story, without any current "no-here's-what-I-remember" statements to compare/contrast. The wealth of concert and studio footage is what makes it worthwhile. Robbie Krieger shoots a perturbed look while he's trying to work; Ray Manzarek takes a deep drag and gives it a try; John Densmore is a friggin' hero; Jim sure looks cute and deranged. Then someone takes some still photos that end up in a courtroom, and they didn't even show the best parts, and PBS couldn't show them if they wanted to.

One good thing about this uneven but revelatory film: It will reset your Doors queue, so you can restart with the familiar or check back with something you've taken for granted. Like "Spanish Caravan," or "Crystal Ship," ... or "Light My Fire"...

There were some pseudo-Jim scenes created with backstory in mind -- really, when's the last time you saw someone dressed like that, in a car like that, pulling up to a gas pump that looked like that, and handing cash to someone dressed like that? I give that a big ten-four, good buddy.

But those scenes were a sideshow, not the main attraction.

Big up to the producers for getting Jim Ladd on board as the voice of Jim Ladd on the radio. I remember during Roger Waters' "Radio KAOS" tour, going up to the DJ booth on the floor to see Jim Ladd in action. Great voice to guide you through, like always.

Saturday, May 8, 2010

In The Bedroom

What I like about the DVDs I've seen of films directed by Todd Field (other than the direction, pacing, acting, story, etc) is that there are no commentaries. No "Making Of" documentaries, no interviews ... nada. I'm a big fan of all the extras, but those still lead back to seeing a film.

When you go to a movie theater, you don't get any of those extras. You get a movie, and you figure it out for yourself after the lights go up and you leave the room. If seeing the DVD and figuring it out for yourself isn't enough, he's not going to spend the better part of an hour jabbering about it. That's what bars and caf├ęs next to movie theaters are for.

Field is a disciple of Stanley Kubrick (and was cast as the overly gabby piano player in Kubrick's "Eyes Wide Shut"), and Kubrick made some of the most enigmatic blockbuster films that you couldn't explain if you tried, which makes you want to watch it again.

So check out a Todd Field film next chance you get, and if the studio made someone sit for an interview or record a commentary, do yourself - an honest hard-working film nut - a favor and skip it.

Friday, May 7, 2010


"Thank Heaven For Little Girls" is a tune I remember (for some reason) from my childhood, and seeing this movie for the first time made me realize Maurice Chevalier certainly was a dirty old man, wasn't he? In a charming, French sort of 1950's way.

Words and music by Lerner and Loewe, directed by Vincente Minnelli, no wonder it won 9 Oscars:

Best Picture
Adapted Screenplay
Art Direction
Costume Design
Film Editing
Scoring of a Musical Picture
Original Song (no, not "Thank Heaven..." Not even for "I Remember It Well." It was for (doy) "Gigi." I don't remember that one from my childhood at all.

Hmmm, no acting awards ... not even for Maurice Chevalier! Guess he wasn't all that.

Thursday, May 6, 2010

Capitalism: A Love Story

Yeah, Michael Moore is a demagogue.

He also has a pretty good point.

Tuesday, May 4, 2010


The story of one man's journey from Ethiopian idealist to exile and back, and the third of three films in my day at the Columbia City Cinema.

"Teza" isn't quite an epic but over a couple-plus hours it covers a LOT of ground. The Fascists (note to Tea Partiers: here be real Fascists). Haile Selassie. Gangsters, Communists, butchers, and exile in Germany. In Germany, FFS!

And taboot, when's the last time you heard of a historical-political personal journey drama coming out of Ethiopia? That alone makes it worth your time.

I walked out of the Columbia City Cinema after having spent most of the day inside it, and the streetlights perfectly illuminated the drizzle on Rainier Avenue, a quietly theatrical ending to a day spent at the movies.

Date Night

The second film in my all-day Columbia City Cinema Fest, and a charming comedy relief between two Very. Serious. Films.

It doesn't really make it as an action film -- I don't think anyone expected it to -- but plenty of little moments are there for the taking. The reason we're pulling for Phil and Claire is not necessarily because we identify with them, but because we see how they identify with each other, which is much more important. We see Phil come home and slouch into himself without acknowledging his wife, but we also see them entertaining each other at a restaurant when Claire, at Phil's request, makes up outlandish imaginary conversations between nearby strangers.

The idiosyncrasies and personal flaws of others, which we sometimes carry as boredom or annoyance, are also the very key to our connections with each other, and as demonstrated here, a source of comfort when the rest of the world is going to hell.

Plus, I would crawl over melted, Ebola-infected shards of glass atop an undersea oil gusher, just to see Tina Fey deliver lines like this:

"If we're gonna pay this much for crab it better sing and dance and introduce us to the Little Mermaid!"

The Ghost Writer

Roman Polanski is a confessed child rapist who should just own up to the punishment he ran away from three decades ago. Whew, I put off writing about this film for almost two months because I wasn't sure how to begin. Now that THAT'S out of the way...

Roman Polanski is also a brilliant filmmmaker, and "The Ghost Writer" is suspenseful and loaded with terrific acting, pacing and mood. Germany had to stand in for Martha's Vineyard because ... well, you know ... and Germany was up to the task.

Jim Belushi, Timothy Hutton, Eli Wallach and the always amazing Tom Wilkinson surrounded Ewan McGregor's unnamed "Ghost" with all the depth needed to keep the story moving. A story, it should be noted, of an accused criminal in hiding, the unnamed protagonist hired to tell his story, and the politico-media frenzy which surrounds them. The accused criminal in question is a Prime Minister dealing with issues of terrorism, war and national security. And hardly anyone, it seems, gave *him* a free pass....

Unlike some of Polanski's supporters in the film industry, I don't believe that making great films lets him off the hook for his personal life. I also don't think his personal life should disqualify me from seeing what he does with film.

This was the first of Three In A Row, an entire day spent at the Columbia City Cinema doing some catching up.

Sunday, May 2, 2010


A good old-fashioned mental health breakdown / inappropriate workplace behavior / BDSM love story, made completely charming because of the freakishly adorable Maggie Gyllenhaal as first-time job seeker Lee Holloway.

She presents, to put it politely, some major issues. But so does Mr. Grey (James Spader), who needs someone to get his coffee, and to type every word correctly, and to spank.

Spader chews some scenery (but only after the job interview, a treasure trove of ill-appropriate questions in a tightly measured manner). It's Gyllenhaal's fractured attempts at connection and disconnection that carry it. And the physical comedy: her dumpster-dive is pure comedy gold.

Lee Holloway already knows pain. She has all-too-willingly inflicted it upon herself in attempt to feel something. Mr. Grey only knows what makes his own self tock, and doesn't really think about how to please Miss Holloway, or anyone for that matter. He's like this all the time.

Surprisingly, the heroine and anti-hero are the ones who develop a true intimacy. Discuss:

There's a conventional rom-com love story here, but the conventional love story is not what's handed to us, because she wants to feel hurt but also to know it's normal to feel that.

When she's folding laundry with her conventional love story boyfriend (the one you would think you're supposed to root for because he's not an evil clown of a boss), she can't even bring herself to say the names of body parts without embarrassment. And to no one's surprise, they develop no intimacy.

After they have sex, he asks meekly, "Did I hurt you?" When she pauses and sighs, "nooo...," her disappointment fills the screen.

Back at work, she is given strict orders, disobeys to push the boundaries, tests her own limits ... and is accepted and loved for who she truly is.

And we witness true intimacy.

And also, Maggie Gyllenhaal's naughty bits. Happy Shiny Couples, beware.