June 28, 2003
When It Comes To Love, Sometimes She Just Can’t Think Straight — KISSING JESSICAL STEIN
Archive for June, 2003
June 28, 2003
When It Comes To Love, Sometimes She Just Can’t Think Straight — KISSING JESSICAL STEIN
June 28, 2003
All The Fun Of College, None Of The Education — OLD SCHOOL
June 25, 2003
A princess on an official visit to Rome slips away incognito and falls in love with a newspaperman.
June 26, 2003
At the turn of the century a gambling gunfighter comes to a Northwest mining town and uses his money to set up lavish brothels.
June 25, 2003
A lawyer in a small Southern town defends a black man accused of rape.
(AND YOUR MOTHER TOO)
June 23, 2003
Two Mexican youths learn about life and love from an older woman while on a road trip to find the perfect beach.
What I noticed this time was the way that class permeated everything the two boys did. The rich kid sort of brushed by the poor kid on many occasions. When they needed service in that small restaurant, the rich kid went back to the kitchen to find someone. A homeless guy asks for change, the poor kid doesn’t make a move, because he knows the rich kid will make the move.
I also noticed just how obnoxious and teenage the two boys were. And how scared they seemed. Still good and powerful and I’m glad I saw it again. The sex seemed much more humorous this time around.
Maybe the most honestly sexual film I’ve ever seen. All of the characters act in a way that is exactly how they’d act in real life. This film is getting the kind of accolades that it can’t possibly measure up to. It is full of sex and not movie-sex, but actual sex. Sex is clumsy and funny and done naked without saxophone accompaniment. I’ve been discussing with friends whether or not the film would have been as good without any nudity. The nudity is so honest and common that it sets the tone of the whole picture. Since people actually take showers without clothes on, we see the two boys taking showers without clothes on. Since this is so real, we give the benefit of the doubt to the filmmaker for all the other stuff. We believe the characters and what they do.
Two boys are enjoying their summer after high school. They get high and drink and go to parties and try to hook up with girls. Just like most boys just out of high school. At a fancy wedding they meet one of the boys’ cousin who is an extremely sexy woman of about 30. They flirt with her as well while feeling a buzz. They invite her to a beautiful Mexican beach, the name of which they make up on the spot, but she politely declines. She is married to a hotheaded businessman. On the morning of their trip, the boys are surprised to get a call from her asking to come along.
The road trip begins.
There are images of a sexual nature that we don’t see from American films. So leave your shockability at home.
I’m not going to give anything away, but everything that happens from the slow dance on is exactly what would happen in real life.
I see a lot of movies and it takes a lot for me to be surprised. When I am, it really resonates. I find myself actually verbally saying “nice!” or “perfect” under my breath. When you see a lot of movies, there is rarely anything new to experience. But there is a scene right after the slow dance towards the end that was honest and perfect and would never in a million years be included in an American film. I was happy to be surprised and can’t wait to see this one again.
By the end of the film, everyone’s motivation became clear and was understandable.
This is a sexy film to be sure. In fact, this makes a great heterosexual bookend to Mulholland Drive’s lesbian encounter.
The two actors were extremely brave to take on these parts.
~~Best Original Screenplay — Academy Award Nomination, British Academy Award Nomination, Venice Film Festival Winner
June 22, 2003
Some time has gone by since I watched this and it gets more diminished every day. The story is pretty unique in that a 40ish female bi-sexual rock n roller wonders if she should get out of the business before she becomes a joke. She barely makes enough money at gigs to pay for her makeup. Gina Gershon was the perfect choice to play the lead. She is lusted after by men and women alike. She is great to watch and has a surprisingly good singing voice which she recorded live during filming. Lori Petty is believable as the guitarist and Drea De Matteo had me convinced throughout that she really can play bass. The drummer, however, was the weak link. Rock N Roll films are always hard to do because of the sheer difficulty in playing to a recorded track. It can be faked on some instruments, but not on the drums. If we hear a hi-hat or ride cymbal, she better be hitting it onscreen. If the drums get louder, we better see her hit them harder. This didn’t happen. A minor set-back in the grand scheme of the film.
Some more good things: The songs themselves were pretty catchy. One was about rape called “every six minutes” which was raw and emotional. My favorite was “punk rock girl” which could have been performed by Green Day with one word change. The acting was good throughout. The dialogue was extremely honest and truthful. They called each other “dude”. They said “don’t be a dick”. They acted as if they’d been in the same band for years. I liked that part quite a bit.
Here’s the bad stuff: While the women were relatively fully-drawn characters, there were exactly three onscreen men, each of which played the specific role they were supposed to. The manager is a doofus, Englishman, who wears shirts which are too tight and fancies himself a mover and shaker. We know from the moment we see him that he’s a doofus and nothing changes our opinion. De Matteo’s character’s boyfriend appears onscreen being rude and getting high. We know from that point forward, which is ten minutes in, that he is no good and will be trouble the rest of the film. There is no surprise if a character stays the same. We don’t see a redeeming value to him, we wonder why the girlfriend does, we know that he is dangerous, etc.
The drummer’s brother shows up at their house one day covered in prison tattoos but having a face that is way too cute and well-put-together to be believable as an ex-con. Even his tattoos, which are one color, are way too elaborate to have been applied in prison. He is polite, offering to shake hands, he is attractive, he has a twinkle in his eye. We know he’s been in prison for ten years, but we don’t know why. As an audience, we know from this point on that whatever he did, it wasn’t bad and he will be a hero/love interest. There is just no debate about it. When we find out what he did, it is almost laughable because he seems to have committed the only crime on earth that everyone can agree made him a better person rather than a felon. So we have one boyfriend who abuses substances, steals money, and is rude. We know he’s gonna be bad. And we have guy just out of prison, with perfect teeth, using proper grammar, and committing an excusable murder. He’ll be our hero.
The theme of sexual abuse comes up quite a bit. This topic is nothing to make light of. Another topic, which seemed a bit out of place, is the “rape fantasy” discussions. This film makes it seem that no woman on earth has ever had what we now call a “rape fantasy”. I direct you to Nancy Friday’s groundbreaking collection of women’s fantasies called MY SECRET GARDEN. Having a fantasy does not mean you want it acted out. Or that you ever want to discuss it with anyone. Or that you could imagine it happening. It just means that once in awhile, the thought crosses your mind. I felt that there was a bit too much self-disclosure on this point, that maybe was true for one person, but not universal.
The bigger problem is this. The drummer is a lesbian. Her stepfather raped her as a child. The guitarist is a lesbian. We don’t know about her upbringing. The bass player is straight, she has a trust fund. Gershon’s character is bi-sexual and also the product of some form of sexual abuse. Sexual abuse happens way more than we’d like to admit. I’m blown away time after time by the sheer number of stories from many of my friends about the things that happened when they were growing up. We need laws, support, counseling, etc. But of all my lesbian friends, none of them have every told me that they became gay due to a sexual assault. People are born gay, they’re born straight, they’re born in between. There doesn’t have to be a reason for someone liking a particular gender.
This film made it seem that way to me.
June 20, 2003
–>Written and Directed…..Farhad Yawari
I swear I have to watch this every year or so just to remember what can be done with sound and images. This film fills me up with happiness. Still touching and beautiful.
Surely the greatest 40 minute film in history. No dialogue. Beautiful music. Spectacular cinematography. This is not a nature film, but the story of a young woman in a mental institution who can only feel free when she dreams of swimming with dolphins. It is pure magic from start to finish. It is never slow. This was my fourth time watching and it effects me the same way each time. The colors are fabulous, the young woman (Julia Brendler) an absolute doll, and the feelings this film expresses do not require any character to speak. It’s on a Film Fest DVD which is well worth the price for this short alone.
June 18, 2003
One Young Girl Dared To Confront The Past, Change The Present And Determine The Future — WHALE RIDER.
Crowd-pleasing (read: unchallenging) story of girl-power in Maori society. A mother dies giving birth to twins, of which only the girl survives. This causes grandpa unbelievable grief as there is no male to pass down the tribal secrets to. When I say unbelievable grief, I am speaking literally. The girl is charming and smart and sweet and cute as a button and loves her family, but this is still not enough for the gruff man she calls Pucker. Pai’s grandmother is one of those sass-talking women who comforts Pai after each grandfatherly outburst, saying things like “he thinks he’s the boss of me, but he’s not, I just let him believe it.” She stands by when he belittles her and then is there to pick up the pieces. Pai’s father is away in Europe trying his hand at a career in sculpture. Her life is filled with swimming and playing with other kids and keeping tribal traditions alive.
Her grandpa forbids her from taking part in any male-related learning. This gives us scene after scene of bumbling boy messing up a stick fight while behind the wall, our heroine, Pai masters these same skills in minutes. The boys can’t swim as well as she, they can’t remember the tribal chants like she can, they aren’t as mature, etc.
There is no doubt in our minds, as well as the minds of any halfway aware character in the story, that Pai is The One. She spends 90 minutes proving that she is, but her grandpa won’t see it. When we see some whales, and we see Pai interact with them, even the grandpa comes around. I was half-expecting the whales to begin doing Shamu-like tricks where they’d spell out something like “Hey grandpa, you’re an idiot, look at how much we like Pai” or something.
Good underwater photography of whales, but terrible creature work that made me long for the obvious fakeness of FREE WILLY.
There is some good here. The girl who plays Pai, Keisha Castle-Hughes is supernaturally cute. And when she cries in her best scene, I dare you not to choke up. She could carry any film on her back. The character of her out-of-favor uncle is also well-done. I wished I could have seen a bit more tribal stuff included. We are never given a sense why a boy is so important and what it means that the bloodline ended with Pai. The coastline of New Zealand looks just as spectacular as it is in your mind. Sunsets, wind, rocky islands. The photography is terrific. The inherent mysticism in whales and ancient tribal stories is well done.
If I had a daughter, I would take her to this, but first I’d take her to BEND IT LIKE BECKHAM, which has an identical message, but aims lower and therefore hits its target more easily.
This film won the audience award at the Toronto, Sundance, San Francisco, and Rotterdam film festivals.
(COLOR OF PARADISE)
June 17, 2003
A widower wishes to marry again, but is embarrassed by his young, blind son, whom he sends away to become a carpenter.
Same director as the last one, but boy has he made strides in his filmmaking skill. He also did BARAN, which was an interesting study in Afghanistan’s workforce and gender issues.
In this one, a blind boy is the subject of incredible scorn by his timid father. Everyone else he comes into contact with, after the initial feeling out period, comes to see him as a smart, happy kid. This is not a disabled-overcoming-adversity film. It is just the story of a coal-mining father and the pressures he and his family have trying to raise a blind boy in the countryside. The kid is amazing. He is obviously really blind. During the wrenching scene where he cries because no one loves him, he is crying to another blind actor and you can see how hard it must have hit them both. The kid is fascinated by chirping birds, when we hear one, the rest of the soundtrack goes quiet and we only hear the birds. There is an early scene where he hears a baby bird fall from a nest and he spends the next several hours feeling on the ground for the bird, putting it in his pocket, and then climbing a tree to put it back in its nest. It was a long, wordless scene, and it set the stage for the rest of the great film. The story is basically the coming to terms with an incomplete son. But the way its filmed, with sound design and slow motion and quiet takes is surpringly good. Kiarostami may be the Iranian Scorsese, but Majid Majidi is Iran’s Speilberg. He finds the emotion and easy-to-follow plots, and uses his directing skill to bring the story alive. I’m haunted by scenes where the father looks at his son on the banks of a raging river and you can somehow see him think about throwing him in. Very well done. I liked it better than Children of Heaven.
(CHILDREN OF HEAVEN)
June 17, 2003
A Little Secret…Their Biggest Adventure. — CHILDREN OF HEAVEN.
I agree with the critic who said that this should be the first subtitled film that you watch with children. They would be able to follow the plot pretty easily and the story has nothing offensive to worry about.
A boy picks up his little sister’s shoes at the repair shop and somehow loses them on the way home. She is sad, but he promises he’ll find them and in the meantime, they can share his ratty pair of formerly white sneakers. This means that after her morning classes, she must sprint down back alleys and meet him where he quickly puts them on and then sprints to his school barely making the late bell. His father is angry and behind on rent. His mother is ill and caring for a third child. The two children set out to find and recover her shoes. That’s basically the plot.
The little girl is cute as a button and the boy has these huge brown eyes that fill with tears at a moment’s notice. They are good kids that don’t want to bother their hard-working parents. The ending is a bit too much CHARIOTS OF FIRE, but it was enjoyable enough.
June 15, 2003
An internet millionaire and a stripper spend a dirty weekend in Las Vegas.
Shot on digital, it looks murky, which probably helps the subject matter. One of the millions of men whose only connection with the outside world is through their modem, makes an effort to talk with the cute girl he’s seen at his coffeeshop each morning. He finds out she’s a stripper and offers her a wacky, yet somehow believable idea. Go to Las Vegas with him, for three nights, for $10,000. He has the money, she needs it. She looks to be a pretty successful stripper, can play the game well. To be sure, she’s one of those movie strippers who is much smarter than the ones you’re likely to encounter at your local club. They hammer out an arrangement which includes typical hooker stuff like no kissing, no feelings discussed, no penetration. Indeed she can do what she wants except during the hours of 10 p.m. and 2 a.m. when she must “perform” for him. This word “perform” is never really defined.
Interesting in what it’s trying to address, rather than its execution. In the high tech world, thousands of men made thousands of dollars working hard, but being completely ill-equiped to find connections of an either social or romantic nature. The guy offering money to a stranger, basically turning her into a hooker, is not something he feels ashamed of. He has money, he wants to go to an exciting place with a woman he finds attractive. He has no idea how this is done. His apartment is shown in flashback: he plays a first person shooter on one screen, watches a Sorority house porn site on another, and follows his portfolio on a third. All the information a person could need is sent into his house, but none of the human contact he desires.
He is clearly smart, but sort of lucked into his fortune. She sees the goodness in him, but must remember that he hired her as an escort, and maybe he doesn’t really think of her as anything more.
Not sexy as such, though there is plenty of skin and Molly Parker was daring to do this role. It shows just how cold many of us have become. Intimacy is e-mail now.
Quick cameo by Seymore Butts’ fave Alisha Klass in a pretty explicit stripping scene early on.
(WHAT TIME IS IT THERE?)
June 15, 2003
This is the slow, deliberate story of three Taiwanese people. A young man sells watches at the train station, his mother mourns the death of her husband, and a young woman goes on vacation in Paris. The woman buys a watch from the man because it tells dual time. She can keep track of both Paris and Taiwan time. The man, remembering the woman and the quick connection they made, begins changing his watches and indeed most clocks he comes into contact with to Paris time. His mother, seeing a malfunctioning clock in her kitchen, takes it as a sign that the ghost of her husband has come back and prefers this new time. She sets out to prepare his dinner just past midnight, to please his soul.
The plot, as described above, really doesn’t do the film justice. The movie is filled with long takes, often with a stationary camera. We see a woman drinking coffee in a French cafe. Nothing much happens while we watch, except we can see that she is a stranger. She is the only asian woman there, the men look at her as an attractive oddity, she slowly drinks her espresso and then leaves. Without any words, we see how she feels different from those around her. She knows rudimentary English, but no French. Imagine her relief when she strikes up a conversation with a woman from Hong Kong.
The man’s obsession with the time in France is never fully explained. He has a quick interaction with the woman but nothing more. He simply cannot pass by a clock that has Taiwan time, he must change it. This provides humorous scenes where he resets every clock in a store.
The widow is desperately trying to bring her husband back. She covers the windows and changes her every schedule around to make him more comfortable. Her son thinks she’s gone bonkers, but this is the only way she can deal with her grief.
The boy in The 400 Blows makes an appearance on video and then in person during another slow, lengthy scene in a cemetary.
This film creates an emotion. It is definitely not plot-driven.
June 12, 2003
A tough cop, who leaves the force to look after his dying wife and the family of a dead colleague, turns to crime to get the money he needs.
What was terrific about this probably-overrated Japanese film, was not the Wooish bloodshed and slow motion gunfights. It was everything that was happening that wasn’t violent. It is confusing at first trying to figure out who is who and what happened when, but once you realize that a shootout has resulted in one man dead, and another paralyzed and alone, while our hero is suffering through his wife’s last few days of life, it becomes pretty riveting. Beat Takeshi plays the cop who recently retired to care for his wife. He also wrote and directed. He has a scarred appearance and wide-eyes, sort of Peter Falkish. He doesn’t have the handsome smoothness of Chow Yun Fat, although they dress alike.
Where he kicks the Hong Kong actioners’ asses is in the touching, emotional acting portions. This is something that Woo and Fat have tried, but I’ve never taken seriously. We are supposed to read in Fat’s eyes his loyalty and honor and love for his partners or whatever, but it is never there–we wait for the next double-fisted shootout. Takeshi seems to ooze sadness. When he meets the young widow of a fellow cop, we see that he can barely stand to be alive, while others die. People constantly tell him “it’s not your fault, he died in the line of duty”.
Most touching by far, are the scenes with his wife. They have settled into the rhythm of a married couple–she takes his dessert, he confiscates her cigarettes, he humors her during card games. There are few words spoken, in fact, I’m not sure that she says anything besides “thank you”. He is not much more talkative, but we know what he’s thinking in some way.
The paralyzed man tries his hand at painting and we feel his pain at his lost family and lost use of his legs as he sets out to reinvent himself.
It wasn’t the greatest movie ever, but in spite of yourself, you’ll find yourself really rooting for Takeshi’s character because he seems so good inside.
Other films with Takeshi: Sonatine, which I saw a long time ago, but still remember a beach house where a gang hideout and a young man was trying to break his way into the gang. Tokyo Eyes where a teenager puts on a disguise and pulls guns on bullies.
(THE MAN ON THE TRAIN
June 11, 2003
A Poet. A Thief. Two Strangers With Nothing In Common Are About To Trade Their Lives For A Chance To Cheat Their Destinies. — THE MAN ON THE TRAIN.
Patrice Leconte is some kind of director. He directed THE WIDOW OF ST. PIERRE, THE GIRL ON THE BRIDGE, RIDICULE, and one of my top ten little-knowns, MONSIER HIRE. No one captures the feeling of isolation, the idea that a person is existing within his or her own space, like he does. The characters don’t need words. The world is full of outcasts, we just don’t often see them in the movies.
In this one, which is slow moving, and basically involves only two people, a drifter stays with a retired teacher in the large home he inherited. The drifter doesn’t speak much, the older man never shuts up. They begin to wish that they had led a different life, more like the other one. The teacher is tired of being afraid and staying quiet around bullies. The thief would like nothing than to read the hundreds of books in the teacher’s study while wearing slippers.
This could easily have fallen into one of those opposites getting their feet wet in new lives types of comedies. But we can see the feelings of regret behind their eyes. They can both offer the other some good growth. Which they do.
I saw this in an artsy theater with loud popcorn crunching alone back row guy, snoring asian guy who didn’t seem to speak english, tall guy trying to impress girlfriend with cinema knowledge, and an entire group of people who may have inhaled laughing gas before entering the theater. This is usually a recipe for a non-stop rant to friends, but this film sort of overpowered the terrible audience. Plus, even voracious talkers can’t talk while reading subtitles. Quiet, please.
June 10, 2003
Documentary about tribal tatooing in Samoa, New Zealand, and Hawaii. The culture and religion and history. And yikes, the pain. Watching the resulting perfection after seeing a guy use a stick and turtle shell dipped in ink is pretty amazing.
June 10, 2003
Get In. Get Out. Get Even. — THE ITALIAN JOB.
The suspension of disbelief isn’t overwhelming in this one. It is enjoyable as a caper film or a revenge flick. Plus Charlize Theron is not entirely hard to look at. The gang has a leader, Marky Mark, a demolition guy, a driver, a computer geek (Seth Green), and a safecracker, Theron. Putting aside usual film problems, like how the entire group keeps an open cell connection as they careen around town in Mini Coopers when you can’t continue a conversation with your girlfriend for ten minutes on the way home from work. The locations are good, the capers are creative. Not entirely mindless fun.
June 8, 2003
In 1959 a lot of people were killing time. Kit and Holly were killing people — BADLANDS.
A teenage girl and a young garbage collector wander across America leaving a trail of murder behind them.
Martin Sheen. Sissey Spacek. Directed by Terrence Malick.
This is one of those films they teach in film school. It couldn’t possibly live up to that kind of hype. I was a huge fan of THE THIN RED LINE which Malick put out just in time to be trounced at the box office by SAVING PRIVATE RYAN, even though Malick’s is the better of the two. Sheen is impossibly young and James Deanish as he wears boots and a denim jacket, even while collecting garbage. It’s nice to see that he puts on his tailored suit jacket on THE WEST WING exactly like he puts on his dimestore denim in this film. Spacek does her best Lolita impression in white short-shorts. Remember the Springsteen lyrics: “I saw her standin’ on her front lawn just twirlin’ her baton/Me and her went for a ride sir and ten innocent people died.” She is attracted to his rebel looks and very good manners. He ‘could have any girl he wants in this town’. He sees something innocent in her 15-year-old soul that provides hope even though he can’t keep a job and the town thinks he’s a bad seed. They make a unique couple.
Her voiceovers spell out the fickleness of a teenage girl and the lofty romantic notions of love. “We fell deeper and deeper into love”. “After awhile I thought of shoving him into the river”. The killing starts sort of accidentally with no big musical crescendo or haunting blood. It is so matter-of-fact that it seems inevitable that it will continue. She is not bothered nearly enough and joins him on the lam.
I think if I had seen it when it first came out I would be singing its praises more loudly. It is still good and pre-dates a lot of the crime-spree-for-fame’s-sake that we see all the time now in films such as NATURAL BORN KILLERS and BANDITS.
The photography by a team of three cinematographers is very very good. The plains are shown golden and beautiful, but also desolate and dry.
Impressive hyper performance by Sheen and sedated one by Spacek.
June 5, 2003
This is not the Tobey Maguire/Chris Cooper film due this fall. This was a documentary about the horse that captured a nation during the depression. I didn’t want to be sucked in, but I was. He was just a horse, not a symbol of America’s workingman. Or was he?
June 5, 2003
A documentary about Ultimate Fighting Champion Mark Kerr and his sport. The sport is brutal, but popular. I had never seen any matches and had no idea of its global reach. Kerr is a mountain of a man. He is well-spoken, Syracuse educated, but he tries to beat the shit out of other men as a profession. We see a struggle with hard drugs and an unhealthy relationship with a hot, but troubled girlfriend. Much more interesting on a non-visceral level than I was expecting. Part of the fantastic America Undercover doc series on HBO.
May 29, 2003
Documentary about just how monumental and pioneering the research was into the female birth control pill. The Catholic Church was against it and the head scientist had to get the backing of an eccentric heiress to do his research. It took a Catholic doctor, with a clean record, to help it get widespread acceptance.
May 28, 2003
Incredible photography where you’d swear you’re flying along with the flock makes up for there not being any story. Birds fly south, then they fly north. That’s all it’s about. I’m not a big fan of the bird, but I was pretty enthralled. Not many facts are explained, except for migration routes and mileage. I often didn’t know what kind of bird I was looking at. Still good and soothing.