Love and scandal are the best sweeteners of tea. —Henry Fielding

31 March 2006

Love Is the Drug

Tonight I saw my friend Linda Bisesti in a movie. It's called Love Is the Drug and it's basically Fatal Attraction with high-schoolers. The film has a lot of problems (mostly script and casting problems) but there are some good performances and Linda is VERY good in the movie. It doesn't have a distributor yet, but it should be able to get one seeing as how it's a mainstream, junk-food sort of thing for the thinking high school set.

30 March 2006

Boys' Life Detes

I've been accused of being conspicuously mum about my new show Boys' Life on my blog: so without further ado, I give you the specifics.

The play is Boys' Life by Howard Korder. It opened in 1988 in New York and it was published a year later by Grove Weidenfeld. (The book is now out of print—yikes!)

It's a comedy about late twenty-somethings in the late 1980s coming to grips with growing old and trying to make real, honest connections; mostly it's about boys—how we grow up, if we grow up, and what we have to leave behind in order to do so.

Our production of Boys' Life will be at the Ultimate Improv Theatre in Westwood, located at 954 Gayley and very close to UCLA. It will star Justin Abarca, Danny Lampson and Darren Lanning and feature performances by Rebecca Vigil, Elizabeth Triplett, Ashley Opstad, Wahima Lino, Amanda Pyle and Kevin Brian.

Performances will be Thursdays, Fridays and Saturdays, May 4th through May 13th at 7:00p.

So... you should come...

28 March 2006

Rehearsal Update

Gosh. I'm exhausted. I'll be glad when I can rehearse for three hours a day without having to work for eight hours doing accounting beforehand. I'm so tired.

Boys' Life is progressing nicely: now that I've figured out a schedule that works. It looks like it is going to be quite funny.

Off to bed. Good night, all.

27 March 2006

List for 2006

1. Sophie Scholl: the Final Days
2. Tsotsi
3. Don't Tell
4. Joyeux Noël

Le Fils

I don't want to say too much about Jean-Pierre & Luc Dardenne's Le Fils (The Son), because I wouldn't want to spoil any of it for those who haven't seen it, but I will say that this film is brilliant. It centers around a man (Olivier Gourmet) who teaches carpentry at a center for—what we call in this country—"at risk youth." A teenage boy comes to the center and wishes to be taken on as an apprentice to the carpenter, and though the carpenter refuses (he has too many pupils as it is) he immediately becomes obsessed with the boy and begins to follow him. The Son is a fascinating character study about a complex, confusing man and I found the movie to be absolutely riveting from start to finish. The Dardenne brothers wind the tension up exquisitely and when it breaks (as it must) the audience has no idea what will happen next.

I saw this film in preparation for the Dardenne Brothers' L'Enfant (The Child), which is playing at a theatre near my house, and if L'Enfant is anything like Le Fils, I know I'm going to love it.

26 March 2006

Mamet, These Days

I've been reading so much Albee, and then today I picked up one of Mamet's most recent plays: Boston Marriage. And it might as well have been written by Albee. It is identical in style to an Albee play and just as hysterical (I mean the word literally, not euphemistically.) It's quite a surprising comedy. Marriage is more ridiculous than Albee is and the subject matter isn't quite up his alley, but the resemblance is really uncanny.

Albee would've had more characters, but, then, he tends toward the grandiose and Mamet toward the simple.

I'm liking Mamet these days. I recently saw his Romance, which I found quite good, if a little empty, and I read his Three Uses of the Knife a month or so ago and found it an encouraging and insightful treatise on dramatic performance. Boston Marriage makes me like him even more. And for those who say he can't write women, well... they're still right, but Mamet's visions of womanhood might be just as intriguing as ones with more resemblance to the real thing. I would say the same thing about his visions of gay men: they're not accurate, but they do fascinate.

La Bestia nel Cuore / Metropolitan

Cristina Comencini's film (based on her own novel) Don't Tell is a sincere, earnest drama about the secrecy and stigma of sexual abuse. The title in Italian is La Bestia nel Cuore, which, you can probably deduce, doesn't have anything to do with telling anything to anybody. Personally, I like the title "The Beast in the Heart" way better than "Don't Tell" but what do I know about marketing a film? The film really isn't much to talk about, so I won't go into it too much. It's sort of standard fare for movies about repressed sexual abuse. It stars the gorgeous Giovanna Mezzogiorno, who I loved in The Last Kiss (a really good film) and Alessio Boni and Luigi Lo Cascio (both from The Best of Youth, which I still haven't seen. Don't Tell has more problems than its re-tread of overly familiar territory; it's also burdened with far too many main characters (five), and an untenable length. The movie stars are pretty and the issue is important, but Don't Tell has nothing much new to say.

Whit Stillman's 1990 film Metropolitan, on the other hand, has loads to say. It hasn't been available on DVD and I've been wanting to see Metropolitan for years, but the new Criterion Collection DVD is really lovely and worth the wait. Metropolitan is mostly about talk. It's a gentle satire of a group of young New York socialites in the late 1980's: they cristen themselves UHB's—the urban haute bourgeoisie—to which one of them says, "Is our language really so inadequate that we are forced to mine the French language for adequate acronyms to describe ourselves?" The film follows the group around as they try to connect and grow up (but mostly just talk). It's about finding honesty in a group of people and how difficult that can be and acting out and doing the right thing when given a chance. Metropolitan has charm to spare. It doesn't make any sense to me, but writer/director Whit Stillman only ever made three films and then stopped after 1998's The Last Days of Disco (also excellent.) Like Disco, Metropolitan stars, as its cynical center, Christopher Eigeman, who I find wickedly charismatic and very funny in his deadpan way. The screenplay is a work of startling brilliance, full of clever discussions, fascinating non sequitors and quietly tragic situations. Highly recommended. I'm going to rent his second film, Barcelona, very soon.

25 March 2006

Leave Her to Heaven

The title of this 1945 melodrama is not really apparent until the end of the film (it's rather a bad title, in fact) but, then, there isn't much that makes sense in Leave Her to Heaven. It stars Gene Tierney, Cornel Wilde, Jeanne Crain and Vincent Price and was directed John M. Stahl.

Centering around a romance between a novelist and a socialite, Leave Her to Heaven is really a sort of psychological thriller about the nutso female half of the relationship. Gene Tierney always played cold, difficult women (see the film noir Laura or epic romance The Razor's Edge if you have any doubt), but her role in Leave Her to Heaven is an über-bitch, doing things at which many of the great bitches of cinema would have balked. But the film doesn't really get into her (truly psychotic) machinations as much as it focuses on the harm she causes.

It's also burdened with a lot of really ludicrous situations and some ridiculous filmmaking. Tierney, at one point, wakes up in full makeup even though the setting is a fishing lodge and though the woman is obviously psychotic, no one bothers to tell Cornel Wilde that he ought to be careful of her. The directing is occasionally silly, too. I mean, do I really need a title card telling me I'm in Warm Springs, Georgia if the next shot I'm going to see is a sign saying "Welcome to Georgia's Warm Springs"?

I think the main problem, though, is that director Stahl doesn't much like Tierney's wicked Ellen Berendt. The plot is rather weak, anyway, but for me the saving grace is Tierney herself. She's never quite likable—that's not really the intended appeal—but she is a force to be reckoned with and her performance in this film is high diva stuff. Leave Her to Heaven won her her only Oscar nomination and though the film, as I say, isn't really much more than a soapy, socialite melodrama (in color, no less), her performance is really excellent.

22 March 2006

Visconti

I didn't like The Leopard. God forgive me. I watched it last night and I know, I know, I know, I was supposed to love it, but I... well, I just didn't love it. In fact, I disliked it more than I liked it. I gave it two stars on freaking Netflix.

It's pretty. No, it's absolutely stunningly gorgeous. Seriously. Visconti's color is beautiful (maybe even spectacular) and the Criterion Collection DVD makes everything just sparkle and look fabulous. The costume designer (the awesome Piero Tosi) even got an Academy Award nomination for the film. The costumes are ravishing and he probably should even have won (scratch that: Cleopatra won that year and deservedly so).

For those of you who don't know about The Leopard, it's by Luchino Visconti and it's often touted as one of the finest films ever made, la la la. I read reviews on the internet that wax poetic about the film like you wouldn't believe. But the original Italian version is a dubbed Italian version because the lead actor in the film is American film star Burt Lancaster (clearly speaking English, though Italian was coming out of my speakers) and the second-billed male is French hearthrob Alain Delon (also speaking Italian out of my speakers). Visconti was forced by his financiers to cast a big American star and so enter Lancaster. The thing is, the Burt Lancaster issue didn't bug me. In actual fact, I don't usually like him, but The Leopard is probably the best performance I've seen him give and I've seen him in a boatload of movies. (He's even in my favorite film noir: The Killers. Have you rented it yet?) So if that's not the problem, why was I so BORED?

I start doubt myself? Am I not a true film-lover? And then I realize that, no, I (like everyone else) love Aguirre: the Wrath of God and The Thin Red Line and Pather Panchali and other much-touted "best films ever." It's this film with which I find fault.

But I'm wondering if I just don't like Luchino Visconti. Maybe it's his penchant for allegories. I've only seen one of his other films: 1972's Death in Venice. And though I really liked Death in Venice, I wasn't particularly enamored with Visconti's ability to tell a story. I think the subject matter in Death is fascinating, and I loved all of that Gustav Mahler music, and there is that brilliant Dirk Bogarde performance anchoring the thing. But I guess I'm wondering if without those things, Visconti just isn't much.
Obviously, I need to try this theory, so I'll rent The Damned soon. Or should I rent something else? Suggestions welcome.
(And feel free to fight with me about The Leopard if you've seen it and loved it and all of that jazz. I'm game.)

< whine > This Post < / whine >

It's sort of official that I'm selling my condominium. My little brother thinks we should put in on the market, like, ASAP. I think he's a little worried that we won't be able to sell it... or that it won't quite fetch the price that I will be wanting.

The thing is: I'm in denial about this sale. I don't want to sell my house. I don't even want to clean my house, much less pack up all of my junk and haul it off to wherever I'm going to store it until I move away to school.

Plus, I sort of offended one of my actors last night: mostly by being insensitive (something I usually am not). I felt like sort of a dick afterward. I guess when I direct I make assumptions which I ought not, namely that all of my actors know that I have no desire to inflate my own ego and feel no benefit from criticizing my performers. In fact, all I want is for them to succeed and do well and I bend all of my efforts toward making that happen. So, I apoogize for making you feel uncomfortable. I've been thinking about you all day and I'm sorry. (See, I'm sensitive too.)

I'm whining. I had a shitty day at work and I'm tired and my sink is clogged and I can't seem to fix it. I'd go to the movies, but if I went to the movies I couldn't pout and I'm very busy pouting thank you very much.

19 March 2006

Miscellania

Rehearsals for Boys' Life started today and I'm getting all excited about the show! So excited I even hunkered down and scheduled my next three weeks of rehearsal out: call times and all.

Of course, I'm up way too late for a work night and I didn't do any of the reading I'd planned to do, but you can't win 'em all, can you?

New resolution: I'm going to try to write about every movie I see. Sometimes it may just be a little something, but I'm going to try to write at least a little bit about everything I see. If you're on the main page right now, you will see a new section to the right called "Recently Viewed." You should be able to click on each of the movies to the right and they will link you to my thoughts on the film. This may not work, so let me know how it goes.

I should also advertise for my friend Wahima's show. It's called For Colored Girls Who Have Considered Suicide When the Rainbow Is Enuf and it will be at the Stella Adler Theatre every weekend in April. Go see it! Check out her LJ for details.

Jeanne Crain Is a Black Woman

Elia Kazan made Gentleman's Agreement, which won Best Picture in 1948. It's a sort of overwrought melodrama about prejudice against Jewish people in upper class society. It stars Gregory Peck and Dorothy McGuire. The gist, if I remember correctly, is that Peck pretends to be Jewish for a period of some months as an experiment just to see how differently he's treated by the people he knows and works with. Things all turn out right in the end, after many complications from his fiancée and job, etc, etc.

Pinky, which Kazan made two years later has the same sort of conceit. An extremely light-skinned black woman (the very white Jeanne Crain) returns to her home in the rural South to her grandmother (Ethel Waters) after her white boyfriend proposes to her. This film is sort of about racism, but actually doesn't delve into issues of passing for white too much. It's more about... well actually I'm not too sure what it is about. More than anything, it's a middle-sized Southern melodrama about being who you really are and not pretending to be something you are not. Much wit and wisdom is dispensed by former plantation-owner Ethel Barrymore, who is Ethel Waters' best friend in the film. The racism and prejudice of white people in the South are taken for granted and are part of the film's backdrop, but Pinky isn't really a drama about race. It's the importance of values like honesty, family, duty and responsibility that are stressed.

I found it extremely hard to believe Jeanne Crain as a black woman, but her performance is really quite good and never offensive (at least to me). I've never much liked Jeanne Crain (neither did Joseph L. Mankiewicz, I'm told) but I rather liked her in this. She plays a rather off-putting character for most of the film and she never underplays it so that the audience will like her more. It's good work and she was nominated for an Oscar for her performance. The Academy didn't care for Pinky quite as much as it cared for Gentleman's Agreement, though. Agreement nabbed 8 nominations and 3 wins. Pinky wound up with only 3 nominations and it didn't win a thing.

18 March 2006

My New Hero

I've been reading Edward Albee, like, religiously for the last three or four weeks. I have the complete works (the first two at least: volume three isn't published until later this month) and I've just been reading the plays in order. Some, of course, I've already read: Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf? and The Goat or Who is Sylvia? Most people have seen the former and the latter was in Los Angeles last year. Albee was very popular in the 1960s with plays like The Zoo Story and The Death of Bessie Smith and he sort of went out of vogue in the mid-seventies. His plays received a lot of mixed reviews, etc. But he came back into prominence in the mid-1990s with three plays which did very well: Three Tall Women (which I think won a Pulitzer), The Play About the Baby and The—aforementioned—Goat.

I have to say, though, reading his complete works, I feel like every single one of them deserves to be seen. I think I'd like to direct most of these plays. There are only, really, two out of the fifteen or sixteen I've read so far that I haven't liked. He wrote this adaptation of Carson McCrullers' Ballad of the Sad Café that is wonderful and his play Seascape is just fabulous. He also has this weird play called Quotations from Chairman Mao Tse Tung where an old woman tells a really long story on the deck of a ship while Chairman Mao (on the same ship deck, but never acknowledging the woman) talks about American Imperialism and the importance of war and violence in the struggle against oppression. It's fascinating stuff! There are also several really good drawing room plays, each exploring facets of humanity that feel split open by his work: as though no one had ever talked about them before he did. The man really is brilliant. He might soon be my favorite playwright.

I while back I went on a similar binge with Thornton Wilder. It ended amicably. I directed a few of his short plays and they were received fairly but unemotionally. Thornton Wilder can't really inspire devotion the way I think Albee could.

Irish Car Bombs and Atheism

I went out with my close friends last night and I was telling them about the bit of learning I did on Monday and they basically told me that I'm an atheist "for the time being" and that "you never know what you will think in a few years."

OK, that's true, but I think becoming an atheist is more like learning something you never knew before: like that the world is round or how babies are made. You never go back to thinking that storks deliver babies like they do in Dumbo. And you only—every once in a while—pull out that ancient map of a flat world for a lark.

Quick Reviews I Haven't Posted Yet

I'm behind on telling y'all what I've been seeing lately. All of a sudden I have things to do and projects to work on and friends who want to spend time with me. So here we go

Theatre:

Swan Lake, in a fabulous, completely thrilling production by Matthew Bourne returned to Los Angeles and is at the Ahmanson now (or will be until Sunday night). I saw it in the highest seats in the theatre and in a packed house last Thursday night. I totally loved it. Matthew Bourne is a genius, if a bit self-conscious, and the production is superb. This show is awesome and not to be missed. Thankfully, you can all get it on DVD since the show is almost ten years old.

Mother Courage and Her Children at Cal Poly Pomona's Theatre Department (my alma mater and on-again-off-again employer) was dreadful. It's a shame, too. Many of my former students were in the show and there is a lot of talent in the department: it just needs to be trained and tapped in the right ways. Letting the actors loose with little to no direction and giving them Brecht to speak is no way to teach a group of young actors anything, unfortunately, and that is just what happened with this production. It's closed, now, thankfully, so let's all start putting it behind us and move on to something more closely resembling good theatre.

Old Movies:

Terrence Malick's Badlands, his first feature film, is a really good film about disaffected youths (there are so many of these). I saw this movie after seeing Malick's other three (later) features, so I can only really watch it through the lens of Days of Heaven, The Thin Red Line and The New World. So to me, Badlands is a fascinating piece about the loss of innocence and our ability to be controlled by forces around us; led, if you will, by those who are stronger than us. I don't necessarily mean forced or raped or anything like that, but just influenced, by will perhaps, by those we love and those who wish to affect us (and maybe even those who don't want anything from us.)

Carol Reed's film noir piece The Third Man is widely considered one of the best in the genre. It stars Joseph Cotten mostly with Orson Welles appearing eventually. Most everyone has seen this movie and I know I'm sort of late to the game on this one. I liked it, and it's rather good film noir, but not quite black and white enough for my taste (too much happens during the day). I kept wishing someone slightly stronger than Cotten was leading me around that the script was a little more hard-boiled. It's written by Graham Greene, so I should've expected it to lean toward the Romantic, and perhaps that's placing an unwanted requirement on the film. I don't know; once you've seen Robert Siodmak's The Killers, I don't think there's anywhere to go but down. Still, Welles is great, there are some really cool lighting moments and the chase scene at the end is awesome.

Movies from 2005:

Zhangke Jia's The World is a slow-paced Chinese movie that reminded me a lot of Tsai Ming-Liang's Goodbye Dragon Inn. The World is not quite as slow as that, but it sure takes it's time. It follows several people around a theme park in Beijing that (get this) has replicas of monuments and buildings from all over the world. The main character performs in these huge extravaganza shows that are not like anything so much as those enormous dance shows staged by Lorenz Ziegfeld in the early part of the Twentieth century. It's mostly about consumer culture and how Capitalism is ruining China, but it's often touching and powerful. The end is awful and a huge letdown, but I liked it more than I disliked it. #63 out of 85 films.

And this morning I finally got to see Hayao Miyazaki's Howl's Moving Castle, which everyone should go see. It's easily the best animated film that came out last year and should undoubtedly have won the Best Animated Feature at the Academy Awards (but then, they didn't hand out Best Picture correctly, either, did they?) I loved this movie. It's absolutely bursting with awesome vistas and new-fangled magic. It's powerful and moving and it had stolen my heart after the first twenty minutes. It also features the voices of Jean Simmons, Lauren Bacall, Christian Bale and (!) Billy Crystal. Rent this one for sure. Miyazaki is the mastermind behind Spirited Away and I think I may like Howl's Moving Castle even better than that film and that's saying a ton.

Movies from 2006:

Christian Carion's Joyeux Noël (Merry Christmas), which was France's entry for Best Foreign Language Feature last year, totally sucks and it shouldn't have even been nominated. It's a cheese-ball pile of silliness with few redeeming qualities. It will probably be one of the worst movies on my list for 2006. Joyeux Noël is full of hokey laugh-out-loud sequences that require all suspension of disbelief but ask to be taken with complete seriousness. More than once I said "Give me a break!" out loud in the theatre and had to be shushed by strangers. This film is allegedly based on true events, but I didn't believe a bit of it.

Thankfully, I followed up Joyeux Noël by going to see last year's winner of the Oscar for Foreign Language Film: Gavin Hood's Tsotsi. And let me tell you, this movie deserved its award. It connects to the audience immediately and never looks back. I couldn't help but love the anti-hero at the center of the film and I wanted him to succeed more than anything. Presley Chweneyagae, who plays the main character is mesmerizing and compelling. There is no way to watch this movie and not fall totally in love with him. Go see it.

15 March 2006

Libertine

Laurence Dunmore's film of The Libertine is terrible. Truly awful and I'm not kidding. The script was by Stephen Jeffreys (I recently directed his adaptation of Hard Times) and adapted from his play of the same name. The main trouble is that though the play is funny—very funny even—the movie is very rarely, if ever, funny. I found it frustrating to even stay tuned in. From the very first scene, I realized that what I was hearing was comedy, except that its delivery and direction differed so far from comedy that no one in the audience was laughing at all.

I don't fault Mr. Jeffreys: his play is mostly intact and the lines are still funny. I fault director Laurence Dunmore, who absolutely botches this material. His direction and all the performances are played as thought they were the most serious thing in the whole world, and no one seems to realize that this is a comedy.

The film stars Johnny Depp (who is fairly good), Rosamund Pike (who I liked a lot), Tom Hollander (excellent as always), Samantha Morton (whatever) and John Malkovich (whatever). The music (and I had guessed this after five minutes of listening to the score) is by Michael Nyman, and (once again) it's all wrong for the film. It's slow, plodding and insistent to the point of being annoying. And the lighting: the whole thing is shot like some kind of Horror B-picture with a lighting budget of $50.00. I know it's period lighting and "candles were the only light they had back then" and all of that rot, but if I can't see what's going on, what is the point of being at the movies?

All of the questions The Libertine asks (chiefly, what is an artist's—a genius's—debt to society and himself? What does he owe us?) are interesting, but Laurence Dunmore doesn't know why he's asking and he can't bother to make any of his propositions even the least bit intriguing.

Avoid this picture at all costs.

13 March 2006

Yoga

I did yoga this morning for the first time in... I don't even know how long it's been, but I'll tell you right now it's been fucking ages.
Lately I feel as though I'm missing something. It's not society or culture: I think I'm doing pretty well getting my quota of those things, but I feel like something else is missing. (I'm tiptoeing around the word "spiritual" right now because we all know I'm an athiest and I want nothing to do with talk of god and stuff. But I think it is some kind of spirituality that I am missing: perhaps I mean that I am not paying enough attention to my spirit.) Maybe it is as simple as not paying enough attention to my body. Eating well is one thing, but living in my body—breathing deeply, resting on my bones, using my musculature—is something else altogether. And perhaps I have not been spending enough time dwelling on my body, feeling alive in my body.

At any rate, it felt great. And I made a discovery. It's something I was taught in 2002 when I was studying with Judith Koltai and something I should've learned a long time ago, but it dropped in this morning for the first time.

In yoga, we're taught always to choose a point on the floor or on the wall (or sometimes the tip of a finger). We focus on this point to allow everything else to slip away and clear the mind. What Judith taught me (though I didn't learn it until this morning) is that the point on which we focus is not outside us but inside us. Like everything else that is spiritual, the goal is not external but internal. The focal point in yoga is a point outside the body, but that point of focus and my body are one and the same. I bring that point inside of me by focusing on it.

PLUS, the focal point is not just a physical place toward which I am reaching, but a personal goal as well: a metaphor, yes, but the focus is where I'm headed and where I'm headed today in my yoga practice and where I'm headed in my life can be the same place. They are, in fact, the same place, because both goals are a better version of me.

12 March 2006

Why Am I Doing This?

Number of songs: 1997

Sort by song
First Song: '97 Bonnie and Clyde - Tori Amos
Last Song: Yumeji's Theme - from In the Mood for Love

Sort by time
Shortest song: Back at Work - from the Thoroughly Modern Mille Original Broadway Cast 00:25
Longest Song: Rite of Spring - Igor Stravinsky 34:45

Sort by artist
First Artist: ABBA
Last Artist: Yundi Li

Sort by album
First Album: 11.11 - Regina Spektor
Last Album: Zoolander Soundtrack

Do you rate your songs? No.

Do you make up your own genres? No.

What artist do you have the most songs by?
Tori Amos: 679
Rufus Wainwright: 54
Rilo Kiley: 36
John Mayer: 32

What was the last song you added? Avner's Theme - from Munich

Search the key word and see how many songs appear:

"Sex": 5
"Death": 1
"Love": 98
"You": 174
"Me": 335
"Drugs": 0 (I guess I don't have Wilco's "Handshake Drugs" on here.)
"Hate": 4

Search for your own name, how many? 0

Do The Shuffle!
Shuffle your library and list the first five songs. No padding your playlist you hipster, you. Be honest!!

1. Deeper Than Love - Antony and the Johnsons
2. Dreams Medley - from Dreamgirls
3. Till There Was You - from The Music Man
4. Cheers Darlin' - Damien Rice
5. In Ohio on Some Steps - The Limbeck Band

Wow. Musicals and Indie Rock. It's all over the place!

09 March 2006

Sophie Scholl: the Final Days

Tonight I (finally) started my moviegoing for 2006. I know some of you have already been to the movies this year, but I just haven't felt like it recently, though I'm not really sure why.

Anyway, I saw Sophie Scholl: the Final Days and let me tell you, I'm feeling really good about 2006 now. I heard about this film because Sophie Scholl was nominated for the Best Foreign Language Film Academy Award this year (it was beat out by Gavin Hood's Tsotsi). Sophie Scholl was directed by Marc Rothemund, who doesn't have any film credits I recognize, but this movie is really great.
The film is mostly Sophie herself in an interrogation room with her main accuser, an inspector for the Nazi government police. Sophie and her brother Hans were caught, basically red-handed, distributing flyers promoting an anti-Hitler movement in Nazi Germany in 1943. (Finally, a film about German youth who aren't disaffected and bored but who want to change something and make a difference! After The Edukators and Love in Thoughts, I was getting worried.) Sophie is basically being tried for speaking out against Hitler under a totalitarian regime that wants no voices of dissent to be heard. But Sophie never looks like a victim. She's cool under pressure and denies everything outright. She argues and discusses her political point of view with her accusers and makes everyone in the room look like raving lunatics next to her calm, collected veneer. It's really quite impressive. The film is powerful, exciting and resonant (the misplaced patriotism of the German people in Nazi Germany reminds me a lot of the United States these days) and the end packs an emotional, unflinching wallop. Really an excellent film.

06 March 2006

Head-On

I've got to write my review of this before I forget all about it. Head-On, which in German is called Gegen die Wand or Against the Wall is a film about two ethnic Turks living in Germany who perform a phony marriage for various reasons and then gradually fall in love. It's a fairly cool, fast-paced movie with some very sexy love scenes. The star is Sibel Kekilli whose previous credits are all straight-to-video adult films: I know, I know, but this woman is an actress. She's stunningly, almost achingly beautiful and her performance is assured and powerful yet vulnerable.

Head-On, though, is really nothing more than a new version of a melodrama we've all seen before about disaffected criminal-types/drug addicts who actually begin to feel something for one another but cannot be saved by their love for one another because their love of violence/drugs/sex is to great. In the case of Head-On, the filmmaker really has something going on. Fatih Akın's scenarios are often shocking and also new and clever in their exploration of the boundaries of human pain. The main male character at one point, bleeding profusely, dances on a stage in the middle of a rock concert after breaking a glass with his hands. No one seems to notice that his arms are actually covered in blood. Like I said, cool visuals, but any audience member with half a brain will see where this one is going a mile off.

Oscar Rundown

For my thoughts on Crash winning Best Picture last night, you should read Nathaniel R over at The Film Experience. I love his blog and his essay sums up my feelings pretty accurately. There was also an excellent article in The Los Angeles Times this morning by Kenneth Turan that you can read at The Envelope.

My favorite movie of the year was The New World, which was nominated for only one Oscar, but a Brokeback Mountain would have meant so much to me... I'm not even sure that I know exactly why. But I do know now that gay people love the Oscars but Oscar doesn't love us back. That's how I feel today.

At any rate, I threw a rather kick-ass Oscar party. The usual problems were present (why don't I have enough chairs for everyone and why are those people in the back so quiet?), my friends were in fine form (you know who you are: you were hilarious), and I had some awesome food (this year was stuffed mushrooms, asparagus with prosciutto, egg salad, chicken salad, brownies, blondies, and a cheese platter of which I was very proud.)

As usual, I was a basket case before the party started. I forget how long things take when you do them by yourself. I was arranging furniture and grating cheese and toasting baguettes while people were still arriving! I was unprepared for how early I told people to get there. I really ought to have asked for help earlier in the week, but as usual I thought I could just handle it. Not so!

Things turned out okay though and almost everyone I asked made an appearance. It's a shame the show was such a downer, but then, it is the Oscar nominations that I love the best. The winners invariably disappoint. And then the whole point of having an annual award ceremony is to get us all talking about movies and what makes them good and what makes them bad in the first place. There were a lot of interesting discussions last night at my condo and so I guess, in a lot of ways, the Academy is doing its job, even though I think they're utter fools for not voting for Brokeback Mountain.

To everyone who showed at the party, thanks for coming! I had a great time.

03 March 2006

Because Danny Made Me







Guilt
What is yours?
Explain yourself
Culinary: Italian sausage Take this any way you like. I'm addicted to these things: the spicier the better.
Literary: Out Magazine This magazine sucks. Everytime I read it I feel like an idiot.
Audiovisual: The Food Network Why am I addicted to this?
Musical: Vanessa Williams I have no explanation worth stating. It's utterly shameful.
Celebrity: Jessica Alba SO FUCKING HOT.




to complete this same Quiz, Its HERE.

02 March 2006

Oscar Nominees: Part Three


JUNEBUG

1 Nomination: Best Supporting Actress
A Really great film, buoyed by excellent performances all around. The script is really great, too. I wish this film had gotten more recognition, but I suppose I should just be happy Amy Adams nabbed a nomination.
Will Win: Nothing
Could Win: Supporting Actress (I hope I hope I hope)
My Rating: #8 out of 82 films



MATCH POINT

1 Nomination: Best Original Screenplay
Woody Allen's return to greatness? Pretty much... or so it appears. I have loved Woody Allen for years and it's nice to see him get another Oscar nomination. The last one was eight years ago for Deconstructing Harry.
Will Win: Nothing
Could Win: Nothing
My Rating: #13 out of 82 films



THE SQUID AND THE WHALE

1 Nomination: Best Original Screenplay
Clever little film with truly odious characters. This movie was critically acclaimed and truly deserves its nomination, but it hasn't a prayer to win... and I don't really think it ought to, either. My reasoning for this is chiefly based on the horrible, horrible outfits Laura Linney wore throughout.
Will Win: Nothing
Could Win: Nothing
My Rating: #55 out of 82 films



THE NEW WORLD

1 Nomination: Best Cinematography
My favorite film of the year and the most maligned by the Academy of all the films nominated. It probably suffered from its extremely late release date. But it is a truly gorgeous film and Emmanuel Lubeski very much deserves his nomination.
Will Win: Nothing
Could Win: Nothing
My Rating: #1 out of 82 films



BATMAN BEGINS

1 Nomination: Best Cinematography
The best comic book movie that's come out in a long time. Christopher Nolan did great work with the Batman mythology and everyone in Hollywood was pleased. I expected it, frankly, to perform better on nomination morning, but a B-picture is a B-picture, and action films aren't usually the stuff of Oscars. A shame, because the costume design and art direction for this film were excellent, and the score (disqualified by the Academy—too many composers) had people talking as well.
Will Win: Nothing
Could Win: Nothing
My Rating: #29 out of 82 films



CHARLIE AND THE CHOCOLATE FACTORY

1 Nomination: Best Costume Design
Tim Burton! Hi! I'm Tim Burton! Look at how weird I am! I'm being mean. I actually really liked this movie, but I guess I'm one of very few. Everyone else seemed to really dislike it. It's box office was pretty good, but critics panned it and none of my friends liked it either.
Will Win: Nothing
Could Win: Nothing
My Rating: #34 out of 82 films



HARRY POTTER AND THE GOBLET OF FIRE

1 Nomination: Best Art Direction
How this missed for Visual Effects I just don't know. Ah well. Harry Potter has all the money in the world. He doesn't need a bunch of Oscar nominations to boot.
Will Win: Nothing
Could Win: Nothing
My Rating: #26 out of 82 films



STAR WARS - EPISODE III: REVENGE OF THE SITH

1 Nomination: Best Makeup
No comment. Why did I see this movie again?
Will Win: Jack Shit Nothing
Could Win: Visual Effects
My Rating: #82 out of 82 films