Sunday, August 28, 2005


Gearing up for the Toronto International Film Festival, which starts the week after next. I'm going to try and post as much as I can from out there. But the phrase "headless chicken" is pretty likely to apply.

Fairly mouth-watering, and I'm hoping there are going to be some real leftfield finds this year, as well as big-name films that actually live up to expectations.

For instance: will Michael Winterbottom's Tristram Shandy-inspired A Cock and Bull Story get him back on track after the cock-and-bull-fest that already was 9 Songs? Will Laurent Cantet's Haiti-set, Charlotte Rampling-starring Vers le sud equal or indeed surpass the quiet brilliance of his L'emploi du temps? Will Everything is Illuminated be as, well, unilluminating as it looks?

For answers to these and plenty of other questions you didn't even think to ask, regardez cette espace!

Wednesday, August 24, 2005

The Dubious Acquaintances of Marky Mark

A hilarious news item on today's IMDb caught my attention. Here it is in full:

Rapper-turned-actor Mark Wahlberg often has a tough time getting his friends to enjoy his movies, because many of them only appreciate his work when it includes violence and nude women. Wahlberg, who admits a number of his friends are former convicts, is frustrated his pals ignore his tamer movies like I Heart Huckabees. He says, "Imagine all my friends watching I Heart Huckabees. They're like, 'It's pretty cool when you punch that guy in the face, but the rest of it, who gives a f**k?' How am I going to explain an existential comedy to my buddy who just got out of jail? He wants to see t*ts and a*s and some heads being busted."

What better opportunity for a critical reappraisal of the Wahlberg oeuvre, as offered by his pals?

Fear (1996): "Dude, you have got to get that chick in line. She's calling you a psycho!"

Boogie Nights (1998): "Nice schlong and all, but what's with the faggy scene in the car?"

The Corruptor (1999): "So you're telling me the fat Asian guy was actually on the same side as you? No way!"

Three Kings (1999): "This is rockin'. You should do a sequel!"

The Yards (2000): "Well boo. Hoo. Why is it so fucking dark? And couldn't you have, like, pulled some strings so Charlize could at least get her titties out?"

The Perfect Storm (2000): "Bummer."

Planet of the Apes (2001): "More like Planet of my ass."

Rock Star (2001): "Man, are you lame."

The Truth About Charlie (2002): "Fag fag fag fag faggoty fag."

The Italian Job (2003): "Charlize is looking hot. And you sock it to that sissy from Fight Club. It's all good."

Four Brothers (2005): "We thought WE were your brothers! Man, are you some kind fucking sell-out traitor. And after everything we've done for you. Jeez..."

Thursday, August 18, 2005

Sympathy/No Sympathy

Why are American critics coming down so hard on Park Chan-wook's Sympathy for Mr Vengeance? It seems like it's feeling the pain of an Oldboy backlash, which is a little unfair, since it was made beforehand, and I think it's in many mays the better movie anyway. US reviewers just don't seem to have the stomach for this Korean director's brand of ghoulish hardboiled pulp, and you can be sure those slavering "fanboys" (is this us?) get blamed in every negative review for "predictably" going ga-ga over Park's grisly stylings. I'm hoping the estimable Walter Chaw at Film Freak Central, whose 4-star Oldboy review was one of the few to acknowledge Park's obvious debt to Greek tragedy - Aeschylus, he thinks, though I'd say Euripides - will right the balance. Yes, the movies are exercises in stylish torture, up to a point. But they deal in archetypes, they take care to build emotional resonance in every scene, and for anyone looking they culminate in astonishingly poignant ways. The whole point of the aptly titled Sympathy for Mr Vengeance is that it invites just that.
: A-
Sympathy for Mr Vengeance
: A-
Sin City (for the record, fanboys): B-

Wednesday, August 17, 2005

Crash Tests Dummies

Apologies to anyone actually reading out there for such a slow start to this blog. I blame connection problems this end, and the fact that I still haven't quite figured out what it's supposed to be yet. Anyway, for the time being I'm favouring random observations on random topics. Today's: Crash, everyone's favourite didactic tract about race prejudice. Peter Bradshaw's witty review in the Guardian was pretty much bang on for my money - the movie, like a slightly better Million Dollar Baby, is dramatically a sucker-punch and ideologically a bit of a waste of space. As a friend pointed out, it's a miracle that the words "Why can't we all just... get along!" somehow managed to avoid actually tumbling into Paul Haggis's overwrought script. (Or maybe they did, and he just craftily separated them out with other words.) Anyway, the cast is what elevates it. I only wish more print was being spilled on what's, for me, the standout performance, and one of my favourite in an American film so far this year. I'm talking about Michael Peña (pictured), who plays the Hispanic locksmith.

This terrific actor had small parts in M$B, the abysmal United States of Leland, and a little-seen Orlando Bloom vehicle called The Calcium Kid, but he gets easily his best opportunities to date here - the bedside scene with the daughter is just lovely, and it's to him Haggis has the nous to go for the most powerfully anguished close-up in the whole movie. (You'll know it when you see it.) Looks like Peña's signed up to play Nicolas Cage's police partner in the in-development Oliver Stone 9/11 film, a piece of news to which my reaction is both "yay!" and "uh-oh". But I digress. Crash's biggest heresy: thou shalt not structure thy movie so it has to end with a Stereophonics song. Let's set that one in stone please people. Crash: B—

Monday, August 08, 2005

Perfect Blue and Mulholland Dr

Saw Satoshi Kon's Perfect Blue for the first time the other night, and it's tremendous. The thing that struck me most strongly is what a terrific double bill it would make with Mulholland Dr: they're both about the tragic yearnings of ingénue wannabes who start tripping on their own fear of failure. Just as Naomi Watts' Diane/Betty splits herself in two, acting out a version of her own celebrity that's separated by an abyss from the fetid truth, Satoshi's heroine Mima begins to doubt her own identity and her very name, both of which are wrested away from her by a industry smacking its lips over the prospect of her humiliation. In both films, the starlets' insecurities about being chewed up and spat out by the image factory are manifested as malicious wraiths chasing them away from their own sanity. Acting as prostitution, filmmaking as rape. Lynch's has the stronger ending, but both spiral dizzyingly down.
Perfect Blue: A-
Mulholland Dr: A

Sunday, August 07, 2005

getting started here