Guess what, kiddies. Ol' Vladimir Putin likes Francis Ford Coppola's movies. [And this is different from gangbangers valorizing Scarface how?]
Russian President Vladimir Putin praised the works of director Francis Ford Coppola as the two met for tea at the Kremlin before Coppola received a film award.
"In Russia your works are well known and highly valued," Putin told Coppola during a televised portion of the meeting Saturday. He said he was not just referring to "The Godfather" -- which is extremely popular in Russia -- but also to films "that so accurately tell of the horrors of war."
You get the feeling that this may be one of those meet and greets the filmmaker may later live to regret? Me, too.
Makes you wonder which Coppola character Putin most identifies with, though. Leave your best guess in the comments. Remember, Stalin liked John Wayne.
From Fluxblog, an email exchange:
I'm still not sure how to describe this stuff. It's like imaginary music or something - the kind of hypothetical music that writers dream up but never actually exists. It has that strange "lost classic" sound to it, as though it was just unearthed from a time capsule from 1991.
Ah yes, very true. Like the made-up band on the pop radio station in Wes Anderson's version of Grand Theft Auto. (i.e., Grand Theft Auto: TWEE CITY).
Can you imagine? God, everyone would ride around on Vespas or hail gypsy cabs, picking off frail, bespectacled souls too sensitive for this world by wielding their deadpan drollery or snapping their handknit scarves. Instead of maps, you would consult intricate, hand-drawn cross-section sketches.
I wonder, would you have to earn Eli Cash's fringed cowboy jacket or his art collection? And at which level do you get to stage Serpico or steer the submersible?
[As for Sofia Coppola's oeuvre, I got three words: Dance Dance Revolution.]
One of the afflictions of being a cinetrix is that invariably, even my light, impulse reading trends toward the filmic. Case in point: last week I'm at the library to pick up two books. With some time to kill, I find myself drifting over to the new arrivals shelves. You know, just to check the PN 1994-1996 stuff for anything interesting. Moments later, I'm leaving with twice as many books as I came for.
One of those Tic Tac impulse borrows was the Glenn Kenny-edited collection, A Galaxy Not So Far Away: Writers and Artists on Twenty-Five Years of Star Wars. Apparently, when bright boy authors* aren't waxing nostalgic about comic books, you can get them going on the role the Force has played in their lives. I'm not exaggerating: Contributors include Jonathan Lethem, Neal Pollack, Harry Allen, Tom Bissell, Joe Queenan--even the greatest living American writer Neal Pollack, who weighs in with a Catcher in the Rye take on Episode IV: A New Goddamn Hope. There's a piece on Boba Fett, and one on the infamous Star Wars Holiday Special. Some of the chapters read like testimonials [resembling entries in Continuum's 3 1/3 series on individual albums]: Star Wars saved my life, got me to study martial arts, helped me stand up to a bully, let me forgive my father/mother/myself. It's a pretty good read, one that bears up under the strain of appearing in the immediate wake of 9/11 [in fact, several contributors bowed out after the attacks, no longer able to find the heart to write about a galaxy far far away].
Of course, no such collection would be complete without an entry from filmdom's biggest fanboy, Kevin Smith. The cinetrix will give it to the guy, he's pretty self-aware for a man who got married at Skywalker Ranch.
...the very French journo I was sitting across from... seemed as though he was prepared to charge me as a charlatan and spend the next few minutes lecturing me on the visual language of film and dressing me down in Franglais for shittng all over that language with the potty-mouthed antics of our convenience-store confection [Clerks].
After staring at me for a long beat, this is what he said:
"The foul-mouth boy an' ze fat man outside ze shop... are zey the Artoo De-too an' See-Threepio of zis strange universe you 'ave created?"
"I hadn't... really thought of them as such," I said, though it was probably far less well worded at the time. "But... I guess they could be constructed as Artoo and Threepio, yeah."
"No one has said zis to you yet?" he inquired, kinda pleased with himself.
"No one who's not a friend has talked to me about Star Wars since 1983," I volunteered.
And thus began the start of a half hour conversation with this very excited boulangerie regular not just about the parallels between Clerks and Star Wars, but about how great the Star Wars saga was in general, including our favorite moments and characters....
The lead of Elvis Mitchell's essay, "Works Every Time," about--who else?--Lando Calrissian, reminds the cinetrix how much she misses his free-associations in the Times:
When The Empire Strikes Back was rereleased in its Special Edition in 1997, Lando Calrissian's first line to Princess Leia, "What have we here?"--delivered with a cooled-out, I'll-see-you-in-my-room-for-a-Romulan-Rum-and-Coke assurance--got the same reaction as the piece of dialogue received during the picture's initial release in 1980: the standing ovation due the first interstellar Mack ever spotted on-screen. And Billy Dee Williams's ridiculously suave rogue-trader is given a lavish entrance, striding across the screen in his full swerve-on, 47-degree-angle walk, trailed by a cape and an entourage; all that was missing was James Brown's manager snatching the cloak off Lando's shoulders and proclaiming the brother The Hardest Working Man in Space Business.
And a few throw-aways for the secret Jedis in the crowd, who may be on the fence about outing themselves [given the awfulness of the last two flicks] by seeking out this title:
"I wouldn't be surprised to learn that somewhere there exists a rigorous calculus for determining the number of Wookies that can dance on the head of a pin--cavoting that is undoubtedly choreographed to 'The Life Day Song'."--Webster Younce on The Star Wars Holiday Special
"In his Star Wars/music business matrix, 'the Stormtroopers would be the A&Rs, the CEOs would be the higher-ranked officers, and, at this point, there's too many Darth Vaders. Me, being well trained in the ways of hip-hop by the masters, such as [hip-hop founder] Afrika Bambaataa and [b-boy legend] Crazy Legs--who I would look at as Obi-Wan Kenobi and Yoda--I just gotta keep on going up against these evil industry people and mving with the rebellion.'"--Q-Unique, quoted by Harry Allen on Star Wars and hip-hop
And this one's for the ladies:
"I had a whole new layer added to this early Princess Leia fantasy-imprint in my early twenties, when I learned that, in real life, in 1977 Carrie Fisher was a nineteen-year-old hard-partying Hollywood Wild Child who, when told by Lucas she had to tape her breasts down to keep them from jiggling too much on the set, rebelled by starting a tradition, at the end of each shooting day, of letting a different guy from the crew rip the tape off--hoo-mama, help me.--Todd Hanson on struggling to cope with The Phantom Menace
The cinetrix, reading so you don't have to.
*To be fair, there are some lady contributors, too.
Last night, the 'Fesser and the cinetrix patronized our favorite dollar theatre, objective: Lemony Snicket's A Series of Unfortunate Events. Hey, for a couple of bucks, even the cinetrix can afford to be indiscriminate.
I gotta say, having read only the first book several years ago, the cinetrix was happily ignorant of any liberties that may have been taken. So I was able to channel that energy ordinarily given over to indignation into generating a fairly serviceable Carrey-proof forcefield. I jumped appropriately at various surprises and enjoyed the chorus of deeply satisfied belly laughs from the intended demographic in the audience, who were less afraid of Count Olaf than I was [and too young to have seen In Living Color]. Of course, the 'Fesser and I both crushed out hard on young Violet Baudelaire, who looks like the unholy offspring of Angelina Jolie and Karen O.
But the best part of the whole movie was the animated end credits. No, really. And I say this loving Billy Connelly's Uncle Monty.
As you can imagine there were a lot of people involved in bringing this bauble to life. And so, for the 10 minutes it takes to crawl each and every last name across the screen, you are treated to an excellent, clattery, propulsive little instrumental that sounds scavenged from Tom Waits's utensil drawer and these wonderful, Indonesian shadow-puppet-style animations of the three Baudelaire orphans being chased by Count Olaf. It's like the beginning of Mystery scored to a zither [which gives way to a tuba-heavy klezmer band for a stretch].
Don't believe me? You can see the end credits for yourself here. Or consider the 'Fesser's capsule review:
Carrey + Tween in Corset / Streep = Box Office Silver.
For completists only: video of A.O. Scott in a parka from Park City, UT.
Finally, congratulations to fellow film blogger Vince for his laudable showing on IFC's "Ultimate Film Fanatic," a film-geek game show I had vowed never to watch. Scary stuff. Remember those Variety film critics I mentioned a while back? Well, let's just say the contestants on last night's program looked much the same. Fun fact: celebrity judge Henry Rollins had an usher gig in D.C. cleaning up after screenings of Caligula. Hott.
OK, the cinetrix is gonna quit right now. The post already reads as a gigantic geeky cry for help as it is.
I'm so ronery....
The Times' own Lili von Shtupp, Stephen Holden, owns up to Oscar-season ennui, owing in no small part to the tedious trend toward sabermetrics and attendant handicapping opportunities that accompanies an ever-spiraling-outward array of preliminary plaudits.
...the Academy Awards are becoming as overrun with statistical calculation as baseball.
The glaring problem facing the Oscars is that when you have too many contests, one on top of the other, they begin to cancel each other out. The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences, which hands out the statues, has tried to ease the problem by shortening the season in the last couple of years, moving its ceremony to late February from a customary slot in late March. But relentless campaigning still yields grueling political elections without much surprise. A collective yawn has begun to rise.
Yo, Steve, man. I feel ya. Be strong.
Here I stand, the goddess of desire / Set men on fire / I have this power. /
Morning, noon, and night, it's dwink and dancing / Some quick womancing / And then a shower. /
Stage door Johnnies constantly suwwound me / They always hound me, with one wequest. /
Who can satisfy their lustful habits? / I'm not a wabbit. / I need some west.
Amen to that.
Over at the Telegraph, David Gritten pins a "Class of '99" article onto a "success of Sideways" hook. You know, these folks:
They range in age from 33 to 45 (Payne is 43), and often make character-driven movies about Americans past the first flush of youth who have somehow lost their way.
Too bad the article, like the movies its subjects direct, seems somewhat slight.
Speaking of losing one's way, the cinetrix has nothing for you nice people today. Apparently some nominations were announced?
Oh, OK. Here's an idea. Try and figure out whether any of the nominated thespians match the following descriptions, all drawn from Manohla Dargis's recent, coy "Guess who? Don't sue" piece about the effect of plastic surgery on the movies.
- a legendary European beauty... fresh surgical scars alongside her ear
- the character actor with misaligned ears
- the actress who looks permanently stuck in a wind tunnel
- beautiful actress - again, someone I can't name - who when filmed in close-up barely seems able to move her face. Her forehead and cheeks are lustrously polished, almost glazed, like a pebble smoothed by centuries of pounding surf. When she cries on camera sound pours from her mouth - and yet something is missing, a crinkle of pain around the eyes, a furrow of worry grooved between her manicured eyebrows. She looks like an exotic aristocrat, a porcelain figurine, a creature from another planet (think Hollywood)
- not in possession of classic good looks
- had the guts to let the camera come in for an intimate appraisal, lines and all
- wins awards with a face crosshatched with lines
Name your poison in the comments, please.
It's not that the cinetrix doesn't agree with Dargis's assertion: "What is undeniable and increasingly unavoidable is that plastic surgery is altering one of the greatest landscapes in cinema: the human face." Oh, she does [even if she is disappointed that Dargis failed to mention the "bravery" of the luminous Julie Delpy and the lupine Ethan Hawke "courageously" playing against their younger selves. Or work in a timely allusion to the unsettling visage of ol' Sundance on the mountain top]. Think of all the marvelous faces we'll never see the likes of again.
Fellow moviegoers: Why worry about George Lucas's army of CGI actors taking over Hollywood when the flesh-and-blood ones are busily embracing their own obsolescence, one shot at a time?
*Do be sure to read one-month-younger-than-the-cinetrix Lisa at The Broad View's take on Dargis, which has the advantage over anything I might write on the subject, thanks to that anecdote about a well-meaning someone once offering to botox her forehead, at cost.
Buried many layers underneath the various Sundance updates flooding the cinetrix's email [to which she must've subscribed while drunk--there's no other explanation], she uncovered this tiny feature, in which Richard Linklater talks about which five films inspire him most. Snowbound readers may want to take this time to update their Netflix and GreenCine queues accordingly.
(1966, dir: Jean-Luc Godard; starring: Jean-Pierre Léaud, Chantal Goya)'
Masculin, Féminin is just these people sitting in cafés talking.... To me, that's the heart and soul of Godard, just two characters talking. I think that's what life is: communicating, talking. Most of us aren't living in action movies or thrillers or any kind of hyperbolic state. It's just you communicating with other people. At any moment, we have the choice to blow it off and not go very deep in our thinking or to be honest and reveal more of ourselves. I admire people who cut through the layers of social niceties and get right to something real....
The Band Wagon
(1953, dir: Vincente Minnelli; starring: Fred Astaire, Cyd Charisse)
...I've always enjoyed all genres and styles of movies, but what I can do is kind of limited. In a parallel universe, I imagine myself like a Hollywood director of the '40s and '50s, like Vincente Minnelli or Howard Hawks or Michael Curtiz or Victor Fleming or any of these guys who could jump from genre to genre, film to film and handle all kinds of material. In a way, that's my model, even though we're living in much more independent freelance times....
O Lucky Man!
(1973, dir: Lindsay Anderson; starring: Malcolm McDowell, Helen Mirren)
...Sequels can really be anything. Primarily, they're rather quick on the heels of the original, giving the audience more of what they thought was big about the first one.... I like the idea of revisiting characters, and cinema's very powerful that way. It can explore that dynamic in a very physical way: You see them younger, you see them older. You sense a dialogue between their older and younger selves that's pretty interesting.
2001: A Space Odyssey
(1968; dir: Stanley Kubrick; starring: Kier Dullea, Gary Lockwood)
I think one of the most influential films I ever saw was 2001: A Space Odyssey. I saw that when I was in first grade. That was during the space age, and they hadn't even put a man on the moon yet, but I was just kind of mystified.... Paranoia plus a generation becomes the reality.
(1950; dir: Luis Buñuel; starring: Alfonso Mejía, Estela Inda)
I remember seeing Over the Edge brilliantly curated with Los Olvidados, so it was like the two ultimate teenage wasteland films. One's a barrio in Mexico City, and the other is New Grenada, a planned subdivision in Southern California, but they each have equally devastating results in different ways. Over the Edge was a totally underappreciated teen movie.... When you're in the genre, you're often working against it. What's motivating you isn't the great films of the genre, but the sappy bad ones that don't seem real at all. It just makes you say, "I'm going to make something that seems truer to my own life that I can relate to." That's what I've always tried to do with whatever I was doing.
Sigh, teen delinquent Matt Dillon in his first role.... Don't get me wrong, the others movies are good, too [OK, haven't seen O Lucky Man! yet], but in Edge, Dillon is even more oleaginous than he was in Little Darlings. Too bad both are available only on VHS at present.
So the cinetrix is innocently paging through the latest Entertainment Weekly when she comes across an ad for the DVD release of Cellular bearing perhaps the worst and most misleading legend ever:
SUSPENSE IS ON THE LINE
This announcement appears to be shooting out of the head of Kim Basinger, who is pictured crouched over a [corded, beige] telephone to the far left of the half-page ad.
Now, the cinetrix will cheerfully admit that somehow her limited entertainment dollar failed to fill Cellular's coffers during its theatrical release, but she does feel she has a pretty firm grasp on the movie's plot. Basinger, a science teacher abducted by baddies, uses her know-how to place an outgoing call from a landline phone she discovers in the attic where she's being held. The guy who answers her call is on a mobile phone. All suspense thenceforth is generated by the vagaries, battery power, and shitty reception of the titular phone. [It ain't about microbiology, people.]
So riddle me this, how the fuck can suspense be on the line? The old, analog, wireline technology is not the problem, right? The phone still "on the line" works. In fact, the whole movie--its "suspense," if you will--hinges on the guy with the CORDLESS, DIGITAL PHONE trying to find a signal in a canyon on low power [or some such Hollywood exec-familiar plight]. No lines, just assy, fake-tree cell towers.
The cinetrix thinks too much. If you need her, she'll be letting her fingers do the walking.