Monday, November 30, 2009

Bruno (2009)

There's a lot that I really like about Sacha Baron Cohen. I like that fact that he is a fearless, satirist. One that won't break character even when he is getting arrested. I think "Bruno" is generally underrated. It was released to a mostly lukewarm critical reception-but I think it actually made some money. Part of the issue is, I think, people thought it was too much like "Borat", perhaps going to the well one too many times. It doesn't all look work, but in fits and starts as satire about some people's unrelenting search to become famous (or for their kid's to become famous) and it puts the spotlight to a lot of people's attitudes, in general, towards homosexuality. Now, it could probably be argued that Cohen goes after some easy targets (UFC fight fans in the South, for instance-but I have to admit, and I know it happens, it was fairly eye opening to see just how disgusted and angry people get when two men kiss. Granted they do get the rug pulled out from under them, but still..). But the way Cohen brings people's own attitudes to the forefront is truly remarkable to me-no matter how easy it might seem. And in some ways, it is pretty brave in it's audacity: going to the Middle East and talking to actual terrorists, getting tied up in bondage gear to his lover and walking through a Fred Phelps' march. It is hit and miss, and you might spend too much time trying to figure out whats real and what's fake-but when it hits its mark it really hits its mark. So while the small scene with Ron Paul didn't work, the scene where Bruno interviews parents about what they would let their kids do in a photoshoot (Would you let your baby get tied to a crucifix?) is amazing in showcasing just how far people would go for themselves or their kids to "make it big".

Here's a great story from Cohen when he was promoting "Bruno", about how he went about getting that interview with a terrorist organization in Bruno:

Sunday, November 22, 2009

The Forgotten Murray

I was watching "Caddyshack" today, and I started thinking about Brian Doyle-Murray. There are a bunch of kids in the Murray family, so a lot of them could be considered "lost," but in my estimation, Brian Doyle-Murray is the Murray sibling who might be the second most recognizable outside of his brother, Bill.

Brian is actually older than Bill and started to hit it big (bigger?) in the 70's when he was a writer and sometime performer on "Saturday Night Live". But then Bill blew onto that show one day and overshadowed Brian. He has made a good career out of being a character actor, ending up in many small parts in movies where Bill has the starring role. In the 00’s he did some work in bleak sitcoms such as “The Bill Engvall Show” and “The Middle," and voiceover work which, frankly, he was born to do. Also, his brother Joel was on “Mad Men” for a couple of seasons which had an episode that revolved around his character.

Here are my favorite movies that feature Brian Doyle-Murray in some capacity, some of which are glorified cameos. Catchy title, huh? (And furthermore, because of that, I couldn't find pictures of him in the role - which sort of defeats the purpose but I've gotten this far, right?):

1) Caddyshack (1980) - Lou Loomis

He actually cowrote this with Harold Ramis.
"I'm going to put it right on the line. There's been a lot of complaints already. Fooling around on the course, bad language, smoking grass, poor caddying. If you guys want to get fired. If you want to be replaced by golf carts, just keep it up."

2) Sixteen Candles (1984) -The Reverend

I couldn't find an actual picture of poor, Brian Doyle-Murray here. Which is okay, because, unless I am mistaken he doesn't have any actual lines. They don't even show him doing the vows. He just has to react to Rudy, and later Rudy's Mom kissing him and leaving a big lipstick mark on his face, and Rudy's Dad giving him a bunch of money. The best line involving him is actually Rudy's (John Kapelos'), "I guess the guys who thought we had to get married feel pretty stupid right about now, ed padre?"

3) Vacation (1984) - Kamp Komfort Clerk

Moving on up here, but still in the John Hughes-niverse, he has a couple lines in a brief appearance as the manager of the rustic Kamp Komfort.
"That thirty-five dollars goes for the pool and wildlife fun."
Thats not an exact quote but its close. I know-journalism!

4) Scrooged (1988) - Earl Cross

Playing his own brother's (here playing Frank Cross) father, Earl Cross. (John and Joel Murray are also in there somewhere).
"All day long I listen to people give me excuses why they can't work. My legs hurt. My back aches. I'm only four. The sooner he learns life isn't handed to him on a silver platter, the better."

5) Christmas Vacation (1989) - Mr. Frank Shirley

Almost a co-starring role. Kind of-playing Clark Griswold's boss, his entering Clark in the jelly-of-the-month club instead of giving him an actual Christmas bonus is the, lets say, driving force behind the climax of the movie.
"Get me somebody. Anybody. And get me somebody while I'm waiting. '

6) JFK (1991) - Jack Ruby

A dramatic turn as the owner of the local go-go club who shot Lee Harvey Oswald. A smaller part, one could say, of a much bigger conspiracy. (And a huge cast.)
"My life is in danger! If you request that I go back to Washington with you- that is if you want to hear further testimony from me... Can you do that? Can you take me with you? "

7) Wayne's World (1992) - Noah Vanderhoff

Thinking about this one, and seeing the first 10 minutes of "Waynes World 2" this weekend reminded me, besides nostalgia, how badly most of Mike Myers' output in the 90's really stand up today. But this is about Brian Doyle-Murray-playing the clueless owner of "Noah's Arcade" who wanted to sponsor Wayne's show and make Wayne and Garth concerned about selling out and what not. Kind of grizzled and clueless are two of Doyle-Murray's trademarks and he brings them all to the table here.
"Come bust a move where the games are played, it's chill, it's fresh, it's Noah's Arcade. "

8) Groundhog Day (1993) - Buster Green

Here playing one of the main luminaries not only of Punxsatawny, but also the Groundhog Day celebration.
"If you gotta shoot, aim high. I don't wanna hit the groundhog."

9) Cabin Boy(1994) - Skunk

Frankly, this, as far is this list goes, is one of the lesser entries. I probably put here to have a nice, round ten entries. But it is wacky, and intermittently funny. He plays one of the crew members of the ship Chris Elliot blunders onto, The Filthy Whore.
"We're just here to catch fish and stink."

10) Waiting For Guffman (1996)-Red Savage

Another small part to end things on, he plays the father of Johnny Savage who is suspicious that something just might be up with Corky. and his "lifestyle".

"Seinfeld"-"The Bubble Boy" (1992) - Mel Sanger

This episode was on again this past week, and it has to be one of my favorites. It comes fairly early on in the run of the show. Brian Doyle-Murray plays the father of the titular Bubble Boy, who gets Jerry to agree to stop by and see him on the way up to George's girlfriend's family's cabin. Hilarity, of course, ensues.
"MEL: My name's Sanger, mel Sanger. I drive that truck out there.

JERRY: Oh, the Yoo Hoo? I love Yoo Hoo.

MEL: It's a fine product. Anyway I saw you on the Tonight Show a couple of weeks ago. I was watching

the show with my son Donald. He's got this rare immune deficiency in his blood. Damnedest thing.

Doctors say he has to live in a plastic bubble. Can you imagine that? A bubble."

but, of course, George gets the real gem:


GEORGE: All right BB. Let's just play... Who invaded Spain in the 8th century?


GEORGE: Oh, Noooo, I'm so sorry. It's the MOOPS. The correct answer is, The MOOPS.


GEORGE: I'm sorry the card says MOOPS.


Saturday, November 21, 2009

From the Roku: L.I.E. (2001)

Before I say anything about "L.I.E.", I have to sing the praises, quickly of the Roku. I had no idea what one was until a friend bought me one for my birthday this year. Basically, the Roku is a device that allows you watch movies from Netflix (and Amazon-but those cost extra) on your television. You even create your own queue on there as you add an remove movies. They have TV shows too. Now, not everything is available this way, obviously, but, suffice to say, its pretty great. So there has been a whole host of things sitting on my Roku queue off and on for a while.

I realized last night that I had only watched half of "L.I.E." before going out and seeing "An Education" and "A Serious Man". The fact that I forgot that fact until last night shows how into the movie I actually was. I'm not sure if this particularly film is to blame, but it belongs to that thoroughly played out subset genre of indie the evil-underneath-the-facade-of-suburbia movies. Maybe if I had seen this in 2001 it would have seemed fresher-but somehow I doubt it. And, yes, there is a pedophile in it. It resolves itself differently, which I suppose is a surprise, but even the ending seemed like more of an act of desperation than anything else. I honestly think Paul Dano is one of the best young actors out there today-and this was essentially his first film role, he looked so young. He and a creepy, yet always reliable Brian Cox were both good. But its all been done before, really. Or it has been rehashed since.

Thursday, November 19, 2009

Army Of Darkness

The New Cult Canon is one of the best features on one of my favorite pop culture sites, The AV Club. In this edition, Scott Tobias focuses on "Army of Darkness."

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

From My Netflix Queue: Hard Boiled (1992)

I'm no Asian action movie scholar. Before I had watched "Hard Boiled," my only exposure to Asian action movies were John Woo's American output, so I might not understand the traditional tropes of Asian action cinema, least of all Woo's.

What I like is how he uses familiar, old tropes, such as the rogue cop who doesn't play by the rules and the chief who wants to stop him, and from there ups the ante. People always talk about how amazing the end hospital battle is, particularly the two and a half minute shot which follows two cops through two floors, fighting on an elevator. To summarize the end, Woo spends half an hour in a slow build inside the hospital until the final release which ends with Chow Yun Fat fighting off bad guys all the while holding an infant. The whole "rescuing the babies" bit is another example of Woo upping the ante from an old trope. Although they abandoned it, I also like how Chow Yun Fat was named Tequila and played clarinet at a jazz club, which was run by an uncredited John Woo.

A good time, and I can certainly see why Chow Yun Fat was such a huge action star.

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Happy Birthday, Martin Scorsese

If I were making a list of my top ten favorite directors, Martin Scorsese would be high up there. It's actually pretty amazing how much he has done throughout his 40-year career. I mean, he has had his ups and downs and fits and starts, but you can't deny his vision, his innovation, his bravery, how much he loves working in movies and his love of movies in general. To listen to him talk is pretty infectious.

Scorsese and Tarantino should get together and interview each other, kind of like a modern day François Truffaut-Alfred Hitchcock interview. It would be amazing.

So here are my top ten favorite Scorsese movies in chronological order:

1) Mean Streets (1973)

Scorsese not only showcasing people from his old neighborhood but also attempting to work through his issues with his Italian-Catholic upbringing. One thing he and Tarantino can discuss in my mind's hypothetical conversation is how he came up with the idea to pair a violent scene with a pop song. Check out that poolhall fight. His use of music would spawn a million imitators; only one is worthwhile.

2) Taxi Driver (1976)

I saw this for the first time in high school at the height of my De Niro obsession with a side of a Scorsese complex. I re-watched this recently around Halloween time. It is almost like a horror movie as De Niro, as Travis Bickle, descends into his own personal hell set in what can only be described as a hellish landscape of 1970's New York. What a nightmare that place was! Check out this location scout who does a comparison of New York in "Taxi Driver" and how it looks now. Pretty awesome.

Interesting too, some people have a theory that the very last part of the movie is actually a fantasy sequence in which Travis dreams he is dying after the hallway shootout. Weird.

3) Raging Bull (1980)

Speaking of innovation, this movie is not only brutal but kind of oddly beautiful to look at. Scorsese obviously likes focusing on severely flawed human beings, and you might not find someone who fits that description better than De Niro's Jake LaMotta. From the black and white cinematography to the way the fights were staged, it is just amazing. I know it's an old argument that doesn't need to be rehashed, but it was most definitely robbed at the Oscars. Without a doubt one of the best of the eighties.

4) The King Of Comedy (1982)

I don't know the whole story, but it seems like Scorsese needed some carthasis after delving into something as heavy as "Raging Bull." A funny, sad, kind of creepy movie about the obsession for fame. Probably the last time anyone felt bad for Jerry Lewis, too.

5) After Hours (1985)

"After Hours" showcases Scorsese's other favorite subject: New York City. It's as much about New York as being a stranger in a strange land - even if you are just coming from uptown. Griffin Dunne goes to the Village with Patricia Arquette, where things go horribly awry.

6) The Last Temptation of Christ (1988)

Here's the one that consigned Scorsese to Hell in the minds of so many Christians. It makes me angry how some people tried to keep this away from other people when, in fact, they have never seen it. It contains questions, sure, but it is a thousand times more honest than "The Passion of the Christ." Frankly, the crucifixion scene is way better, as it delves into questions of faith, humanity, and how Jesus himself would feel being both God and Man. Scorsese even said in the beginning that the story didn't follow the Gospels, which still wasn't good enough for people. And like Roger Ebert said at the time, maybe if it wasn't explicitly said in some text, why wouldn't Satan try to tempt Jesus at his exact weakest moment?

Being brought up Catholic, this was an interesting case for me.

And having rewatched it fairly recently, it bumped "Alice Doesn't Live Here Anymore" off the Top 10 list. I would like to get the Criterion Collection edition to hear what Scorsese himself has to say on the commentary track.

7) Goodfellas (1990)

Next to "Casino," this is probably Scorsese's most popular movie. And one that also got robbed at the Oscars. "Dances With Wolves" my ass.

Anyhow, it was an innovative look at crime throughout the 70's and 80's that offers more narrative than "Oh hey, everyone's doing coke!"

Again, love his use of music in the "Sunshine of Your Love" scene as De Niro contemplates the murder of Morrie. There is a reason why that scene is so popular; it's yet another example of how many imitators were spawned.

8) The Age of Innocence (1993)

It must have given people whiplash back in the early 90's for Scorsese to go from "Goodfellas" and the "Cape Fear" remake to this subtle drama of 19th Century high society in New York with great turns by Michelle Pfeiffer (she was kind of on fire at this time) and Daniel Day-Lewis. The ending still frustrates me which, I think, speaks to its power in general.

9) Casino (1995)

Yeah, yeah, I know. Sort of a "Goodfellas" retread and another insane Joe Pesci performance. But there is something kind of awe-inspiring about the scope and operatic quality he gives to a bunch of thugs and bookies trying to run a casio and life in general. It's a different sort of tragedy writ larger than "Goodfellas," although both are about men who were given things that they ultimately couldn't handle. It might as well be high Greek tragedy. With more bats to the head.

10) The Departed (2006)

Like I said, it was tough to pick just ten, so "The Aviator" missed out, which I enjoyed it quite a bit. But I like (and apparently the Academy liked) Scorsese delving into more pulpy territory with his remake of the Japanese "Infernal Affairs." I saw the original at the Brattle, and let met say, the remake is better. It's the second best movie made in and around and about Boston, second only . Despite a few bad Boston accents, a mediocre actress, and that ridiculous last shot on the balcony, it is still an enjoyable movie. I still would like to hear the explanation for that last scene because, yeah, Marty, we get it, a rat.

I can't wait to see more of his pulpy tendencies in "Shutter Island." I am really curious to see what he does with that. Should be interesting to say the least.

My Favorite Trilogies

Last Friday, I was watching AMC and, for some reason, possibly just because they could, because of the premiere of "The Prisoner" on Sunday they were running the "Mad Max" and "The Matrix" trilogies. The connection to "The Matrix" was pretty easy to see-man discovers that the world he lives in is really a manufactured reality and thus fights against the, uh, manufacturer of said reality to free all the humans in the world from their grip. I get that, and, I didn't watch "The Prisoner", but it seems similar on a much smaller scale-man wakes up in a prison, of sorts, discovers his life isn't what it seems. The connection to "Mad Max" trilogy is tenuous at best-as the series moves on, Max increasingly helps out the the helpless-the first one is more of a revenge tale-but I guess "helping others" is a good enough excuse to show the whole trilogy. Honestly, its neither here nor there, since I still watched most of it Friday-into early Saturday morning. It made me think of my favorite trilogies. And there's not too many to choose from-when I started thinking of them I hadd to lop off a couple because they had been, mostly, unwisely, made into quadrilogies (if that's even an actual word-I am looking at you "Indiana Jones" and "Die Hard"-I had even repressed the memory of "Crystal Skull" so much that I almost included Indiana Jones on the list.) Then there were a bunch that should have stopped after two but they just kept going-"Aliens", "Terminator", Lethal Weapon-could have stopped after one, really, but the second was pretty awesome, The Godfather, obviously-I could go on. At least the Alien Quadrilogy, like the Mad Max, trilogy had a different sensibility in each outing-but that was all it had going for it really. On its own, I don't mind "Alien 3", I think Fincher did a good job with what he was given, and he churned out an interesting monster movie with a heavy dose of meditation on death-which I think audiences were blindsided at the time. But beginning the movie with the death of Lt. Hicks and Newt, after "Aliens" was just a terrible idea, completely undoing what they had gone through in the previous film...but, I digress.

Anyhow, this brings me back to my original point. Favorite trilogies. Most really start to fall a part at some point, and even the ones I have chosen might only be trilogies in the loosest sense of the term. And I hear there is a "Mad Max 4" on the horizon-without Mel Gibson-so I should get this down as soon as I can:

The Original Star Wars Trilogy
Even the relative crappiness of the prequel trilogy, try as they might, can't take the luster off the original trilogy. They tried,but, and this might be an age thing, you go back and watch the originals and you can force (ha!) yourself to forget about the prequels because the originals, to my mind, hold up so well. Yeah sure, people might hem and haw about "Jedi", and perhaps that is the "weakest" of the bunch, but it still wraps things up in an exciting way-like a third film should. We have 26 years of hindsight at the time-but think back to when we first saw Jabba The Hutt, to the triple battles taking place in the end, Yoda dying, Darth Vader turning good AND taking off his mask. Awesome. And what else was neat was Lucas and his team advancing the special effects they had created in the first movie. Even George Lucas' famous hubris can't spoil the originals. (And frankly, while not a staunch defender, can find things I enjoy in the prequels.)
Favorite Movie: "The Empire Strikes Back", of course (also in my personal top ten movies)

The Mad Max Trilogy
Like I mentioned above, it hit me (again, I guess) how good the Mad Max Trilogy really is when I was watching them back to back on AMC. Every movie, while similar obviously, is actually pretty different. The first being an origin story that doesn't know it was going to be an origin story-a tale about revenge more than anything else. And is it just me-or is it the fact that it was made in the seventies-but there is some seriously eerie/off-putting stuff in there. The part when Jessie is running from the beach, through the woods, and their are bikers all around her-its filmed like a horror movie and it works really well. Then in "The Road Warrior" (They've actually started calling it "Mad Max 2" again) they take, what I think is great leap forward in concept and design, borrow a bit from westerns and Kurosawa, and you have Max, reluctantly, at first, helping a group of people get out of the Wasteland. It also has an amazing framing device-and a nice, sort-of, twist or surprise ending. (I also like the fact that until the third one, the first two Mad Max movies were set a time not after a nuclear war, but society had just finally collapsed in on itself) Lastly, there is "Mad Max" Beyond Thunderdome"-I am sure it is the most derided, but I think it is pretty great. Again, its different than the first two, especially in tone- a lighter tone, maybe? There is definitely more actual talk-in "The Road Warrior" Max maybe says 200 words or so. Thunderdome they find a nice balance and end up with a fitting end to the modern day "Man With No Name" they have created-by making Max's sacrifice into a sort of religion based around him. I dunno, it works for me.
Best Movie: "The Road Warrior"

The Man With No Name/Dollars Trilogy
I have heard it referred to as both. Now this is the weird, sort-of loose trilogy I mentioned. Sergio Leone didn't mean for them to be a trilogy really. The one thread through them all is Clint Eastwood playing a mysterious stranger (Finally, given the moniker "Blondie" by Tuco in "The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly". The first, "A Fistful Of Dollars" is actually an unofficial remake of Kurosawa's "Yojimbo". It is an odd one, I have heard that "The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly" is actually considered a prequel as Eastwood's character gains all the clothes he wears in the other two movies. And Lee Van Cleef shows up in a different role in"For A Few Dollars More" and actually plays a confederate veteran. In fact he wasn't the only actor to show up in different roles, which makes things slightly confusing. (Much like Bruce Spence in "Road Warrior" and "Thunderdome") Leone, to me, is still the king of the Spaghetti Western and his work with Eastwood is definitely top of the heap. (Yes, I love "Once Upon A Time in the West" too) Amazing Stuff.
Favorite Movie: "The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly"

Three Colors Trilogy
Now for something a little quieter, shall we say. This trilogy, or collection perhaps, of three movies by Krzysztof Kieślowski, representing different issues arising in contemporary French life, or three political ideals might be a more accurate way of saying it-loosely based on the ideals of the French Republic: liberty, equality, and fraternity.. The names of the movies were taken from the colors of the French flag: Blue, White, and Red. All three are beautifully done and understated, and, frankly can be pretty raw. Partiucularly the first one, "Blue", starring Juliette Binoche, about a woman dealing with with the loss of her husband and child is pretty amazing-and amazingly sad. Its really an interesting idea, and probably Kieslowski's most well known set of films outside of France. Pretty amazing stuff.
Favorite Movie: Its actually probably "Red"-with the old Judge who enjoys spying on people, and the young model, Valentine, who discovers this, and ends up in a secretive relationship, of sorts with him. Its an interesting look at human relationships in general.

The Evil Dead Trilogy
Ah, here we go, more blood.
This is an odd one too, sort of. But I think it still qualifies. At least the same main character exists through all three movies. Even though, I guess, "Evil Dead 2" is a quasi-remake of the original "Evil Dead", just upping the ante of blood and Three Stooges-esque slapstick humor, and hand losing, and chainsaw get the picture. I think I like "Army of Darkness" because it retains that same sort of sensibility from the second film, but sends Ash in a whole new adventure. Bruce Campbell is still awesome, and the movie is great in fits and starts. It definitely showed that Sam Raimi could work well in the framework of a PG-13 movie and make something worthwhile-or at least entertaining. I also like the fact that, like "Star Wars" i represented that more quaint time when special effects would have to be accomplished "for real", in a sense, and not done with CGI. In that sense, they were a real labor of love.
Favorite Movie: has to be "Evil Dead 2".

The Bourne Trilogy
Best trilogy of the 00's (thus far). Thats right I said it. These were amazing not only for how it turned Matt Damon into a viable action star-but taking the idea of a trilogy with similar threads running through it, and having a definite ending. (I hope they don't go through with a fourth. I mean I would see it-but c'mon, can't we just let good things alone?) Bourne comes off as a grittier (well at least until "Casino Royale") thinking, man's Bond, with amazing setpieces (check out that motorcycle chase/fight in "Ultimatum") that are dressing for compelling stories/drama. Also they had amazing supporting help: Chris Cooper, Clive Owen, Franka Potente, Joan Allen, Brian Cox, Paddy Considine, etc. All around amazing, Liman set the groundwork, and Greengrass hit the ground running.
Favorite movie: This is a hard one, they are all pretty great, really, but I guess I would have to go with "The Bourne Supremacy".

One last thing,

To some, "The Lord of the Rings" might be a glaring omission. I get it. I understand the love for it. And, technically, I can't deny that it is a pretty amazing achievement. But I just can't get into them-to me they are mostly a slog, punctuated by some, admittedly good setpieces. But then again, I was never a big fan of Tolkien to begin with. It was quite obviously a labor of love for Peter Jackson, but I still think his best movie is "Heavenly Creatures". I mean, they weren't "bad" I guess, just not my cup of tea. Just a lot of walking around. And then monsters. And also, Jackson needs to hire a new editor. Or an editor period: that hour of hobbits smiling at eachother in "Return" was just...just end it.

Monday, November 16, 2009

R.I.P. Edward Woodward

Edward Woodward, British actor, died today at 79 from a prolonged illness. Most recently he had been on the big British show, "The Eastenders" and was also in "Hot Fuzz" (And apparently did the voice of The Sultan in "Aladdin", hmmm strange)

I am going to go out on a limb and say that Woodward would probably be remembered most for a couple of things, at least on these shores. When I see him, I immediately think of "The Equalizer", which ran for 4 seasons in the U.S. Its interesting because the plot was actually a more "sophisticated" (it WAS the 80's) urbane take on "The A-Team" formula. He played Robert McCall who worked from shadowy C.I.A-like organization called "The Company", and did some bad stuff there and was trying atone for the things he had done by renting himself out (in newspaper ads!) and righting wrongs and correcting things for the average citizen. You know, making things "equal". And it probably won't have worked in the same manner without Woodward.

Here is the one that might have put him on the map, if it didn't take so long because of ownership and rights issues to get "The Wicker Man" released to a wider audience. And it took even longer to get the full, original cut of the movie released because of the same sorts of issues. A lot of people put this on their "Best of...." horror lists- and while I found it eerie, somewhat unsettling, and pretty weird (it WAS the 70's) I wouldn't have said that it was scary-scary. My problem was reading about the "twist" ending beforehand. But the movie is just odd-check out that Britt Eklund dance-but a good, creepy mystery nonetheless. And it wouldn't have held together without Woodward as the staunch, devout, Christian policeman. And you have to work pretty hard with crazy Eklund and Christopher Lee menacingly chewing up the scenery. But Woodward is the glue that holds the movie together, and it would not have worked as well (how well it works-well your mileage might vary) without him as Sgt. Howie. (Great name for the character too, by the way) For evidence of that see Nicholas Cage's/Neil Labutes insane (for different reasons) remake and see how it stands up.

I wasn't aware of this until just now but he was also on a british spy series called "Callan" which apparently takes a sort-of bleak, "Spy Who Came In From The Cold" style look at Woodward working for, I believe, the S.I.S. It started in '67 and sounds pretty cool, so I might have to look it up.

Saturday, November 14, 2009

The Visitor (2008)

I couldn't figure out when exactly this movie was released: IMDB says 2007, but Richard Jenkins was nominated for the lead acting oscar for the 2008 oscars. Not that it really matters. Richard Jenkins is the real story here, first of all. In, as far as I can tell,his first starring role he hits it out of the park as a man who has basically removed himself and shut himself out of life after the death of his wife. This could easily have been a movie where a man whose life is transformed by music and by the people of different cultures in the sort of way that could easily been mishandled and has been before. This definitely doesn't go for the easy answers in that way-and I think it surprises with how quiet it actually is. You see the joy of meeting new people and gaining new experience after keeping people at arm's way, but you also see people caught up in global systems that they feel absolutely helpless in being able to change anything about the situation of people they have grown to care about. Its the way that Jenkins' Professor Vale after initial confusion, finding people in his NYC apartment, through his interest in music, slowly allows people into his life, and then the pain of having them taken by forces far beyond any of them. Its a tough movie in the end, and it doesn't offer any easy answers certainly, but its good throughout. I enjoyed the little things about it, how Jenkins Professor even when he was becoming comfortable around people finally would still stumble and lash out before realizing what he did. My favorite parts were of the Professor learning how to play drums from Tarek, and the moment when he slowly made his way over to the drumcircle and played outside for the first time. In the end, he seems to end up alone again, but he has still gained that confidence to play outside, and one can only hope that that can sustain him.

Interesting sidenote: Thomas McCarthy who wrote and directed this, and also "The Station Agent", played the journalist in the fifth season of "The Wire" (strange how that keeps coming up) who fabricates the story about the murder of the homeless people. He seems to have also had a hand in writing "Up" as well.

Another weird thing that seems to happen sometimes, RIchard Kind shows up again very briefly in this film. Just two days after I saw him in "A Serious Man".

Friday, November 13, 2009

The 100 Best Quotes From "The Wire"

Here's a coincidence, I just finish writing about television, sort of, and "The Wire" and here I find someone put together a little homage with the 100 Greates Quotes from said series. it’s a pretty great reminder of how many amazing moments this show had. There are so many moments, in fact, that there’s a chance your personal favorite might not have made the cut.

My Top 25 Television Shows of the 00's

Hey look, my first non-film post, already! Recently the Onion AV Club started doing their massive "Best of the 00's (aughts?)" series, beginning this week with their focus on television So taking a cue from their playbook I thought I would share what I thought were my 25 favorite shows of the 00's. Throughout the week the AV Club broke down their picks sometimes into different categories (mini series, late night/variety type show) that sort of thing- I didn't they are all mixed up in there, mini-series, reality shows, sketch shows, British shows etc. Oh, and also these are in no particular order, I am terrible about that sort of thing, just take it as my personal top 25 (they did thirty):

1) Scrubs

2) Undeclared

3) Top Chef

4) The Office (US)

5) The Office (UK)

6) Six Feet Under

7) Project Runway

8) Party Down

9) Modern Family

10) Lost

11) Curb Your Enthusiasm

12) Its Always Sunny In Philadelphia

13) Wonder Showzen

14) Freaks and Geeks

15) Foyle's War

16) Flight of the Conchords

17) Extras

18) Eastbound and Down

19) Mad Men

20) Chappelle's Show

21) Band Of Brothers

22) Arrested Development

23) The Mighty Boosh

24) 30 Rock

25) The Wire

This was a pretty amazing decade for television. What speaks to that is not only the quality stuff I have seen and enjoyed, but the huge amount of stuff I have missed that people have told me or I have read are supposed to be really good, but for whatever reason fell by the wayside for me. There are also some shows that just started this year that didn't make the cut, that might say in the next decade (like Community, Parks and Recreation, and The League for example) Modern Family really just got on because, well, I do like it a lot, it shows a lot of promise, and, frankly, I needed one more to make a nice, round 25, so theres that.

Shows I Missed and need and/ or want to catch up on:
  • Breaking Bad
  • Deadwood
  • The Shield
  • Battlestar Galactica
  • Veronica Mars
  • Friday Night Lights
  • Tim and Eric Awesome Show, Great Job!
  • Dexter
  • The Venture Brothers
So I guess The AV Club also reminded me of what I missed, but there you go. And, if pressed, I would have to say that my two favorite shows of the aughts (I know some people hate that) are most likely "The Wire" and "30 Rock". There you go, the more you know.