Humanoids of the not-so-deep

FBW counter question #1 (Saturday, 12:02) - “Do you have Hud & Le Mans? I'd like to see a couple of Paul Newman films” I hesitate about whether to mention that Le Mans stars Steve McQueen, not Paul Newman, but don't. I wonder if they'll notice.

FBW counter question #2 (Saturday, 12:07) - “Do you have Butch Cassidy?” I ask whether Robert Redford died or something.

FBW counter observation (Saturday, 12:07) – I see a woman come down the steps and drop a DVD – sans case - into the drop box. I go over and get it out of the box, marry it up with its empty DVD case, return it and notice on the account that the customer “often complains about scratched disks”. Shoot me.

FBW counter question #5 (Saturday, 12:20) - “Do you have any Paul Newman Films? They take The Long Hot Summer and The Verdict.

FBW counter question #8 (Saturday, 12:34) - “Do you have Hot Cat on a Tin Roof?” ...a trick question I think... “Yes” is the right answer but do I want to give the movie to someone who obviously doesn't know this William Faulkner classic?

FBW Counter interaction (Saturday 1:05) – “So, Old Blue Eyes kicked it, eh?” Frank Sinatra's dead!?!, I ask.

FBW counter question #22 (Saturday, 1:22) - “Do you have Butch Cassidy?” I ask whether Katherine Ross died or something.

FBW counter question #22 (Saturday, 1:22) - “Do you have Hombre or The Left Handed Gun?”

FBW phone call (Saturday, 1:35) - “Do you have The Towering Inferno or Slapshot?” I imagine Newman's still-warm body twitching in the morgue. You bet, Hombre.

FBW counter thought (Saturday, 2:00pm) – Why hasn't anyone asked for The Hustler yet?

FBW counter question #27 (Saturday, 2:06) - “Do you have The Hustler?”

FBW counter comment (Saturday 2:15) – Did you hear that Paul Newman passed away? No really?

FBW counter comment (Saturday 3:00) – Did you hear that Paul Newman died? No, really?


FBW counter question #489 (Saturday Night 6:45) – Do you have any Paul Newman movies? Sorry, they're all rented I'm afraid. Really? Why's that? He died you know. I have no idea. Weird huh?

FBW counter questions #490 thru #807 (Saturday Night 6:46 to close) – Mostly variations on “Do you have any Paul Newman movies?” I try and upsell Heath Ledger flicks all night but have no takers.

FBW counter question #507 (Saturday, 7:35) - “Do you have Butch Cassidy?” I ask whether Burt Bacharach died or something and get blank stares.

FBW counter question #713 (Saturday, 9:22) - “Do you have any Butch Cassidy?” I advise that we're all outta Butch but have lots of Sundance Kid movies left. They don't get it. I mention that I heard Burt Bacharach died. So did Paul Newman! they respond.

(Saturday Night 10:25pm) – Home, doors locked, safe and sound. I watch the Steve McQueen film Bullitt to honour the dead.

It rocks.

like clockwork...

"do you have cool hand luke the sting butch cassidy and the sundance kid cat on a hot tin roof the hustler sweet bird of youth hud the towering inferno the drowning pool buffalo bill and the indians slapshot the verdict the color of money the hudsucker proxy nobody's fool road to perdition? and can you hold them all for me? i'll be in next week sometime...."

this guy has it dead on...

The Good, The Happening and The Street Kings

I've watched some dreadful films this last week. I bought a cheapo Blu-Ray player and had only one Blu-Ray DVD at home in the order box. As it happens it was the Keanu Reeves stinker Street Kings. Trust me when I tell you that a worse film has yet to be made. I lasted about 20 minutes and then shut it off. Unfocused, unpleasant & unwatchable dreck. Keanu Reeves is perhaps the worst A-list actor working today. His acting style is on par with the 1972-era animatronic theme ride at Disneyland with those stupid moonshine-drinking bears. A piece of unmitigated crap. So is the movie.

I also watched The Happening, an M. Night Shamalamadingdong eco-horror about plants emitting some toxin that makes people kill themselves. In a related story, I recently battled an uncontrollable urge to kill myself while watching the film, The Happening. Coincidence?, possibly. It had moments, but I was again struck by just how awful the acting is these days. Something named Zooey Dechanel starred with Mark (I-should-only-play-supporting-roles) Wahlberg and John Leguizamo and, while they can hardly be blamed for the Grade 4 dialogue M. barfed up, I've seen better summer stock acting from car mechanics and gay high school drama teachers. Avoid at all costs... although this is a masterpiece compared to Street Kings. This Zooey person looks like a Muppet, but with less acting range. For most of the film it looked like she'd just taken a frying pan off the forehead. I honestly wondered if she'd caught some weird form of late-stage Down syndrome. Again though, she's Judy Dench compared to Jamboree Reeves in Street Kings.

These unfortunate films were offset by watching F.F. Coppola's 12th restore/recut of The Godfather Parts 1 & 2. Holy fuckollies these are great movies. I'd forgotten just how good. One of my complaints up until now was the dark interior cinematography in both films. The Blu-Ray copy finally let me see the film fairly close to its original form (I was too young to see it theatrically). What a difference! It opened both films up whole new interpretations and levels of nuance. These films are stunning achievements.

So a little of both this week.



I am far from what one might call a "political" person. In fact, I am the most apolitical person I know (and sometimes feel ashamed of the fact). Anyway, there are a couple of big "political" films coming up that I'm uncharacteristically excited about, mostly because of their directors, of whom, while possessing radically different styles, I remain a rabid fan. Is that sentence grammatically correct? Mrs. McCallister (grade 3), can you let me know? Here are the trailers:

Gus Van Sant's Milk

Oliver Stone's W.

Could W. be the new Downfall? Time will tell. But the trailers, and my heart, have me voting for Milk...


TIFF Midnight Madness 2008

There are those who revel in the star-stalking and media overload of TIFF, and there are those who couldn't care less. I am mostly one of the latter, but must confess I always find myself rubbernecking when cycling past some swanky late-night party at some trendy nightclub with the cameras flashing and a general sense of glitter in the air. Try as I might, it's hard not to get caught up in the excitement of it all - even if the stars themselves are not what causes the excitement, the feeling itself is in the air, and is almost palpable.

Anyway, I rarely go to many TIFF films, in large part because of the prohibitive ticket prices [anyone read that joke of an article (yet strangely spot on) in the Toronto Sun about TIFF being elitist? Amazing...]. However, each year I do make it a point to go to at least a couple Midnight Madness screenings. MM's programmer, Colin Geddes (who is also the creator of the fabulous Popcorn and Sticky Floors blog, to which there is a link on the right), does an absolutely bang-up job of bringing some of the funniest, strangest, coolest, and terrifyingest(?!?) films to the festival, and the mania that grips the crowds is tangible. You want energy and excitement at TIFF? Skip the new Coen bros. flick and hit up a MM selection. A combination of the late hour and the fact that probably 80-85% of the audience is in the grips of some kind of mad caffeine/booze/drug-fuelled craze, makes the screenings more of an event, or experience, akin to attending a rock show. Never do you get the pretentious ramblings of some art-house director, but merely a rag-tag band of like minded genre fans who simply want to either have a good time or be pushed to the limits of filmic extremism.

This year, I picked up a few tickets on a whim for me and Kris to attend, and we got one hit and one miss. The miss was The Burrowers, a horror western with a cool concept and some frightening scenes, but whose ambitious reach exceeded its budgetary grasp. The actors did a commendable job, and their characters were well-written (I especially enjoyed William Mapother's dryly droll Parcher and Carnivale's Clancy Brown), but the film was bogged down by some horribly botched pacing and laughable effects (note to filmmakers: never, ever, do CGI effects look better than practical ones). The cinematography was well-done by Rob Zombie's right-cam man Phil Parmet. Overall, the film wasn't horrible, but not very memorable either - more like something I might give a go on DVD, but it certainly doesn't bear a re-watch. Overall, The Burrowers came off as a kind of low-rent, slower moving bastard child of The Searchers and Tremors (with a touch of The Boogens thrown in for good measure). Unfortunately, the sum of the newest film is nowhere near the equal of its influences ('cept maybe The Boogens...).

The hit - and oh, what a hit - was last night's screening of the latest installment in the French New Wave of Horror canon, Pascal Laugier's Martyrs. There are already reviews up from certain types who blindly and grievously err on the knee-jerk reaction side of the fence, but a film like this is guaranteed to divide audiences, so let's just run with that and get to the film itself, which I will go on record to say that it is one of the more brilliant pieces of filmmaking I have recently seen, not to mention a huge mindfuck, and ultimately, a remarkably humane film.

Anyone who chooses to watch this intense, disturbing, and incredibly brutal film, will come away with an opinion one way or another. For better or worse, this is a film that I cannot stop thinking about. Kris called it beautiful, which shocked me a bit at first, but the more I think about it, the more I realize how dead on he is. And I cannot remember the last time I have played and replayed in my head the final 5 minutes of a film. Incredible.
Martyrs shifts gears violently at the midway point, and the second half is intelligently designed to justify the first half. Apologies if this sounds kind of vague, but to merely discuss the plot is rather superficial, as the movie is more concerned with conceptual ideas, philosophies, and the threshold between pleasure and pain. Kind of like a grown up version of Hellraiser. Yes, there are scenes of mind-numbing degradation and violence, but from the ashes of this rises a true ecstasy, a transendence, both on the part of the film's victim and the thoughtful, willing, and open-minded viewer. And the ending - in which the perpetrators themselves prove to be the victims of the very violence they hath wrought - is absolute brilliance.

Anyway, this certainly ain't a film for everyone, and if you are sickened by the likes of those Sawstel films (not that I would think to compare those to Martyrs), you're best advised to give this film a wide berth. But if you can stomach Salo, and you've got an open mind and can see beyond the surface violence, in Martyrs you'll find quite a profound, and yes, beautiful, film.

Off to see Barbet Schroeder's new film tomorrow, based on an Edogawa Rampo (Japan's biggest fan of Poe - try this, in your best Japanese accent: Edoga Waram Po - get it now?) tale of kinky sex, mystery and murder. While not a Midnight Madness film, it should be a real treat...


Pass the Cheetos....

Speed Racer, the Wachowski Brother's follow up to the Matrix series is nearly impossible to describe. Every critic hated it. It runs to a brain-freeze inducing 135mins. It's based on a 1960's Japanese cartoon that only creepy 40-year-olds still living in their parent's basement could possibly remember. It's 90% CGI, 5% story and 5% credits. It has impossibly ridiculous racing sequences, a membrane-thin plot, some cringe-inducing cheese-acting from adults who should have known better (Susan Sarandan?... Jezus Christos girl, shouldn't you be concentrating on the environment or something?), a ludicrous child actor that looks like Grampa Munster reincarnated ...and a pet chimpanzee. Wow. Sounds like a winner huh?

Yup. It is.

The upside.... and it's huge.... is this. Speed Racer is the stoner movie to end all stoner movies. Don't get me wrong, I'm not advocating you spark up a big spliff here, just that if you did you might want to prepare yourself for the biggest mind-fuck since Kubrick's 2001. The kaleidoscope of colours and imagery saturating every frame of Speed Racer completely boggle the senses. This movie will be the reference DVD in every BluRay player sold this Christmas, I guarantee you.

Notwithstanding the 600 or so fundamental problems with Speed Racer, I enjoyed the hell out of it. It's not as completely awful as the critics say and it's visually unlike anything that has ever been done before. This is the new CGI benchmark for filmmaking. By the way, this is also a film that people will be watching a 100 years from now in the same way Fritz Lang's Metropolis is viewed today. It has cult masterpiece written all over it. People will say.... “It was a bomb in its day, you know?”
....or no one will remember it by early next year. It could go either way.