Archive for the “2007” Category

2007

July 10, 2009
Netflix DVD
USA / Canada / Netherlands
English
84 Minutes — July 13, 2007
Drama
Steve Buscemi [Trees Lounge; Homicide: Life On The Street; Oz; The Sopranos; 30 Rock; Nurse Jackie]

Buscemi is a journalist who feels he’s slumming by being assigned to interview starlet Sienna Miller instead of attending some kind of important press conference in Washington DC. Miller would like any interviewer to at least have a cursory knowledge of her career. He’s stubborn and cocky. She’s bratty and conceited. She’s also beautiful and “always on”, even in the restaurant where the interview begins. Within minutes she storms out of the eatery to face the photogs while he gets a cab back home. A plot device keeps them together for the next 80 minutes. We learn about both of them and whether or not they are really speaking to each other or “acting” like they are.

Miller is someone I’ve never seen before and I know nothing of her background. She impressed me by being both brash and self-assured, but then frail. She is sexy, then despicable. Buscemi is someone we all know can do this kind of role in his sleep, but in this case there is something from his own life that keeps intruding into his interaction with Miller.

The film is basically the two of them talking to each other. The film claims that one of them has to “win” the conversation by exposing less of themselves while learning the most about the other one. I’m not sure we learn about either of them. But I wasn’t bored at any point and Miller’s loft is one of those dream places everyone wishes they had.

I feel like this story will evaporate from my mind any minute.

6.4 Metacritic
6.9 IMDB

Interview @ Amazon

INTERVIEW

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2007

June 26, 2009
Sundance Channel
English
85 Minutes
Documentary
Ian Connacher

Documentary about how human’s love and use of plastic, the world’s most versatile substance, is choking the planet. I thought it might make me feel bad about my water bottles, but it goes much deeper. The difficulty of recycling bottles which have different kinds of plastic used for their body and the cap. We look at pristine beaches that are clean, then the next day, covered in washed up plastic. The filmmaker head out to one of the earth’s five swirling ocean sights where plastic congregates due to the currents–something I’ve always wanted to see. It was a four day boat ride, and once they got there, they began collecting items. The actual area of trash is huge–about the size of Alaska, so the pieces were still one-at-a-time and not a huge pile like I may have been expecting. They do take a huge net and drag it behind the boat where it collects tiny pellets of plastic which fish mistaken for eggs. As one of the Greenpeace people say, the ocean looks crystal clear, but is completely full of plastic pellets that animals eat. We go to India where villagers make new items out of old plastic bags. There is a Himalayan village where plastic bags have been outlawed by a forward-thinking panel of elders.

There is some cause for optimism. A guy somewhere in America takes all kinds of trash, even the grossest stuff, and makes it into railroad ties, which last longer than wooden ones. These ties are the exact same size in every country on earth. Another man shreds stuff down into such tiny pieces that it becomes a mulch that plants can thrive in. Two men are shown “eating” a plastic they devised by using plant cells.

Much like the guys in KING CORN tested their own lives and bodies to learn the influence of corn in their lives, the filmmaker in this case gives us a tour of his small apartment and labels all the things made from plastic. I dare you to do it in your own homes. Yikes.

Link to film info is here.

Addicted to Plastic @ Amazon

ADDICTED TO PLASTIC

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2007

June 9, 2009
PBS — P.O.V.
USA
English
84 Minutes
Documentary
Katy Chevigny

7.1 IMDB

Election Day @ Amazon

ELECTION DAY

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2007

May 29, 2009
PBS — American Masters
USA
English
90 Minutes
Documentary
Arthur Dong [Family Fundamentals]

Informative documentary about the history of Chinese-Americans in Hollywood films. Unlike the Jewish film community or the Black “Race Films” of the early 20th century, Chinese-Americans had few, if any, people who looked like them represented on movie screens. Great old footage and interviews with the pioneers of Chinese-American filmmaking are included. Also included are the examples of white actors pretending to be Asian. I suppose if you lived in the 1940s in Iowa, perhaps you didn’t realize that Charlie Chan didn’t look Asian at all. A nice eye-opener.

8.4 IMDB

HOLLYWOOD CHINESE

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2007

May 13, 2009
DVD — Thanks Nazhat S.
USA
English
97 Minutes — February 22, 2008
Comedy / Drama
Jon Poll

Popularity Is A State Of Mind

5.4 Metacritic
7.2 IMDB

Charlie Bartlett @ Amazon

CHARLIE BARTLETT

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2007

May 4, 2009
Netflix DVD
USA
English
97 Minutes
Comedy / Drama
Mike White [Star Maps; Chuck & Buck; The Good Girl; School Of Rock; The Amazing Race]

Has The World Left You A Stray?

7.0 Metacritic
6.2 IMDB

Year of the Dog @ Amazon

YEAR OF THE DOG

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2007

May 1, 2009
Showtime
USA
English
80 Minutes
Documentary / Comedy
Michael Addis

6.3 IMDB

Heckler @ Amazon

HECKLER

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2007

March 8, 2009
Cinequest 19
Canada
English
88 Minutes
Documentary
Mike McKeown

Documentary about the World Rock Paper Scissors Society and how they took a child’s game, began to take it seriously as a joke, and how it took over the lives of the brothers who started the society. In the spirit of Spellbound and Wordplay and Helvetica, this is one of those “are these guys serious” type of documentary. Try not to laugh as players lament the loss of the integrity of the game. It takes compelling characters for a documentary to soar and this one has at least half a dozen.

ROCK PAPER SCISSORS

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2007

March 7, 2009
Cinequest 19
Indonesia / France / Netherlands / Sweden / Switzerland
Indonesian
98 Minutes
Drama
Nan Triveni Achnas

An actress named “Shanty” plays Dita–a supernaturally beautiful girl raises a rather pedestrian story higher than it probably deserves. Dita has a child back in the village with her grandmother. She pretends to work in a factory but is really a karaoke singer and occasional prostitute/companion. Losing her place to live, she rents the attic above a photographer’s studio. He believes he is dying and begins looking for an apprentice. Dita cleans up after him, cooks for him, and assists him with the running of the studio. Why she can’t simply take over is explained by her gender. Add in an evil pimp (is there any other kind?) and we have drama. No surprises, except how the man lost his wife and son. He goes to the train tracks each day to leave and offering and pray. Shows us a part of the world not often seen in western movie theaters.

7.1 IMDB (73 Votes)

THE PHOTOGRAPH

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CAMILA JAM
2007

March 6, 2009
Cinequest 19
Brazil
Portuguese
120 Minutes
Drama
Murilo Salles

Notes:
Takes place in July of 2001 which is a way of explaining the dial-up modem Camila uses. Girl is more angsty and more naked because it takes place in Brazil. Her blog is called CAMILA JAM. The official TMI film of all time. Camila is hot, lives internally, and is unlucky in love–every interlude, every man she fancies becomes some life-long love affair which no other human being has ever experienced. The men, it goes without saying, don’t see it that way. But her internal life, which is published on her blog, CAMILA JAM, writes a much better story than her real life recognizes.
The tone is set early in the film when a man angrily packs up his girlfriend’s stuff in boxes while she sits naked on a chair crying. We then get a rather physical fight as she makes no attempt to cover herself up–we’re not in an American multiplex anymore. As the film progresses, we will see every inch of Camila, she’ll vomit after a night of drinking, she’ll bleed, she’ll fall down some stairs (quite scary actually), we see every tattoo and every bruise, and she wants us to see inside her soul, which is easier said than done, especially in a movie. There are only so many ways to show a character typing on a keyboard–the clickety clack of the keys on a screen, voice over while she sits in front of a monitor. We see a combination of every way a filmmaker has tried to show computer work before and somehow it isn’t boring. Especially because Camila is just moments away from doing something ridiculous or dangerous or, worst case, she’ll continue writing in the nude, and who isn’t in favor of that?
Had this been a moderately attractive indie-girl from the US, there would have been no reason to watch. Chloe Sevigny or Zoe Deschanel, etc. It’s in a foreign language, the people look exotic, Brazil has a certain moral looseness, so we hang with it as if atching the natural habitat of an exotic creature we’ll never have the money to visit.

7.5 IMDB (58 Votes)

CAMILA JAM

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2007

March 1, 2009
Cinequest 19
Costa Rica
Spanish
90 Minutes
Drama
Ishtar Yasin Gutierrez

Girl and boy leave abusive Grandpa and their life of picking over trash in a dump in order to hop the Nicaraguan border into Costa Rica. They are in search of their mother. Out of the frying pan and into the fire. Symbolism all over the place. Two guys find a table at the huge Nicaraguan dump and we see them in the background carrying the thing along the same trail that the girl and boy use to cross illegally into Costa Rica. As the group is led by their coyote, one guy calmly walks back towards Nicaragua carrying a bottle or jar of some kind. The boy, who is mute, stumbles into a posh home where a woman is swearing at an empty rocking chair as if yelling at her invisible husband. We leave the home and there is no further explanation. There are butterflies pinned to walls which obviously mean that the pretty girl we’ve been following has few, if any, choices she can make for survival. She is constantly reminded that men will pay for girls of her age. She’ll be given nice dresses, but it’s not a life to be envied.

7.3 IMDB (49 Votes)

EL CAMINO

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NIGHT TRAIN
2007

February 27, 2009
Cinequest 19
China / France
Mandarin
94 Minutes
Drama
Yi’nan Diao

Washed out colors. Darkness. Executions. Abusive relationship. I was exhausted. I dozed. I was told later it was great.

6.5 IMDB (126 votes)

NIGHT TRAIN

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2007

December 24, 2008
HBO
USA
English / Dari / Arabic / Russian
102 Minutes — December 21, 2007
Biography / Drama
Screenplay by Aaron Sorkin [A Few Good Men; Malice; The American President; Sports Night; The West Wing; Studio 60 On The Sunset Strip]
Mike Nichols [The Graduate; Catch-22; Silkwood; Biloxi Blues; Working Girl; Postcards From The Edge; Regarding Henry; Wolf; The Birdcage; Primary Colors; Wit; Angels In America; Closer]

Story of the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan in the early 1980s. A trifecta of acting royalty play the main parts. Tom Hanks is Charlie Wilson, a real-life congressman from Texas. Julia Roberts plays a weathly socialite, also from Texas. Phillip Seymour Hoffman plays a CIA guy who lacks a single diplomatic bone in his body. He is barely hanging on to his job. Wilson is in position to pass almost any funding through his several House committees. Because he deals in covert operations, his committee never has to tell the rest of the House what they’re voting on. That means that as the amounts get higher, the votes continue to pass.

Wilson is a playboy, coke user, drunkard Congressman who sees a report by Dan Rather (while in a hot tub with a bevy of naked beauties) on the Soviet invasion. The cold war is in full effect and Wilson is inspired by the goat herders who are providing quite a fight to the mighty Soviet army. He is encouraged by Roberts to visit a refugee camp which causes him to take up the fight on behalf of the Afghanis in ernest.

This all sounds pretty boring and politically wonky, but due to the screenplay, written by uber dialogue king Aaron Sorkin, the story never wavers. I’m sure they’ve made the story a bit more positive than real life, but it sure seemed like fun to covertly kick Russian ass. I’ve done some research and it is pretty true-to-life. Wilson’s office is staffed by a collection of assistants and secretaries who wouldn’t be out of place in a 1970s soft-porn movie. But he is impossible not to like.

He charms Israeli Jews and Egyptian Muslims with equal aplomb, sometimes using the charms of a “non-traditional” belly dancer to encourage the two enemies to join together against the evil communists.

It is impossible to watch this without thinking about modern-day Afghanistan. Much like the US cut-and-run first gulf war where we kicked Iraq out of Kuwait but then didn’t support the Iraqis who wanted to overthrow Saddam, we helped kick the Soviets out of Afghanistan, but then left a power vacuum that a man named Osama bin Laden took advantage of.

The scenes between Hoffman and Hanks rival the best give-and-take conversations that Sports Night or The West Wing had. I was smiling in amazement and recognition of Sorkin’s hand.

If there’s a major problem with the film, it’s that the story is so simplified–it seems so easy for an inspired congressman to change history–that it doesn’t ring particularly true. Like West Wing depicted a Washington DC where people were mostly good, this film shows everyone working together in service to beat the Russians. Which happened, but it must have been messier.

ON: Supporting Actor Philip Seymour Hoffman

6.9 Metacritic
7.4 IMDB

Charlie Wilson’s War @ Amazon

CHARLIE WILSON’S WAR

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2007

September 14, 2008
Netflix
South Korea / USA
Korean / English
90 Minutes — April 11, 2008
Drama
Gina Kim

5.7 IMDB

NEVER FOREVER

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THE LAST MISTRESS
2007

July 31, 2008
San Jose CA — Camera 12
France / Italy
French
104 Minutes — June 27, 2008
Drama
Catherine Breillat [Last Tango In Paris; Romance; Fat Girl]

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THE LAST MISTRESS is the subject of Cinebanter Podcast Number 57. After you’ve seen the movie, listen to the spoiler-filled review by Tassoula and I by clicking the play button right here:

Audio clip: Adobe Flash Player (version 9 or above) is required to play this audio clip. Download the latest version here. You also need to have JavaScript enabled in your browser.

Show Description:
• 00:00 Intro
• 00:30 THE LAST MISTRESS Discussion
• Break
• 14:35 To Sum It Up
• Break
• 15:20 PINEAPPLE EXPRESS Discussion
• Break
• 34:35 To Sum It Up
• Break
• 35:15 The Last Five®
• Break
• 1:01:10 Show Notes/Credits and Outtakes

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Asia Argento [Queen Margot; Last Days; Marie Antoinette]

8.0 Metacritic
6.6 IMDB

THE LAST MISTRESS

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2007

July 24, 2008
PBS — Independent Lens
USA
English
88 Minutes
Documentary
Aaron Woolf

You Are What You Eat.

7.0 Metacritic
7.0 IMDB

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2007

July 19, 2008
PBS — P.O.V.
USA
Spanish / English
90 Minutes
Documentary
Kieran Fitzgerald

9.2 IMDB

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2007

July 12, 2008
Netflix DVD
Romania
Romanian
113 Minutes — January 25, 2008
Drama
Cristian Mungiu

9.7 Metacritic
8.0 IMDB

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2007

July 9, 2008
Campbell CA — Camera 7
Germany / Kazakhstan / Russia
Mongolian
126 Minutes — June 6, 2008
Biography / Drama / History / Romance
Sergei Bodrov

Greatness Comes To Those Who Take It

AAN: Foreign Language

7.4 Metacritic
7.5 IMDB

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2007

June 17, 2008
Netflix DVD
USA
English / Arabic
85 Minutes
Documentary
Ricki Stern and Anne Sundberg

A Witness To Evil. A Force For Peace. An Unbelievable True Story.

7.8 Metacritic
7.7 IMDB

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2007

Netflix Streaming
USA
English
86 Minutes
Documentary
David Stenn [Hill Street Blues]

Compelling untold story about a chorus girl who was sent to what she thought was a casting call with hundreds of other girls and ends up being raped by an MGM executive in town for the hedonistic convention in 1937. The studio owned the property, the doctor who examined her, the newspapers, and even the one eyewitness who was parking cars that day. She was 16 years old and a virgin. She never recovered. We see her now very old having lost none of her anger towards what happened to her.

Unfortunately, this great 45-minute story is padded with some of the worst documentary filmmaking I’ve ever seen. The filmmaker films himself waiting for a meeting with the woman in question, Patricia Douglas, in a hotel room in Las Vegas. He films her daughter and incredibly gay grandson. He films himself going to the grave of the MGM executive. He interviews a Fox News legal analyst and a Hollywood District attorney about what went wrong with the prosecution.

It could have been a shorter PBS-level film. It shouldn’t have been stretched out to nearly 90 minutes. It was unsuccessful in its attempt to explain the morals of the 1930s in Hollywood.

6.3 IMDB

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Written by Michael W. Cummins