Caterina in the Big City

I recommend this film, co-written and directed by Paolo Virzi. It’s a believable, and often moving story–albeit a familiar (and maybe for some, tiresome) one. A doll-faced hick moves to the big city with her family. As she struggle to fit in, to make friends and adjust, there are big disappointments and small triumphs, blah blah blah. Such a familiar tale is bound to be tedious unless we truly care about the characters. And in this film, we do–or I did, anyway. I cared not only about Caterina, but her father. And, in a way, the film could also be titled Caterina’s Father in the Big City, or Giancarlo in the Big City. Continue reading Caterina in the Big City

Music for the eyes

I have this probably false memory of seeing Peter Bogdanovich’s Nickolodeon as an ABC movie of the week, the film’s excesses–and there are a good number, usually to the film’s detriment–exacerbated by the noisy bombast of the intertitle ABC movie-of-the-week theme as we went to commercial, and the bullshit bombast of the slew of ads interrupting the film. Whether I saw it in that particular venue, the tone of that memory aligns with my more specific recollections of the film: many scenes of cluttered brouhaha, a tendency toward din rather than wit, lots of falling down. Burt Reynolds.

But while there are too many people falling down, a “comic” fight scene that is as long but about one-third as interesting as the alley brawl in They Live, an occasional bid toward wacky that makes one wince, and the leaden balloon that is Burt Reynolds playing wacky* [see below]…. the new director’s cut of Nickolodeon (which was I believe actually shortened from the theatrical release, but most pertinently transferred into a lovely black-and-white from the too-golden sugar-dust look of the color print) …. well, it’s lovely. It’s funny, just melancholic enough to be sweet and not saccharine, full of the trademark Bogdanovich eye for compositional perfection, replete with many bits of slapstick and screwball dialogue that work like gangbusters (the occasionally-great W.D. Richter co-wrote the film), and a genuinely moving sense of the silly wonder of moviemaking. I really enjoyed it. Continue reading Music for the eyes

Face Down, Ass Up

Hey! I know you’ve been missing me terribly here, but the last movie we saw was The International. I have nothing interesting to say about it.

I thought this would be the best place to pose this question because I don’t have an e-mail address for Mauer, and I know Arnab and Reynolds at least will be able to help too. It’s a weird request that is guaranteed to bring down the tone of the blog. But it’s cultural if not related to film.

My dad has asked me to create a CD of “butt songs.” Continue reading Face Down, Ass Up

The Amazing Dr. Clitterhouse

I just liked the title of that film. Not enough to rent, but I’d probably enjoy it more than the disappointing Ricky Gervais stand-up special. One neat bit, but mostly it seemed a little too planned and imitative. (I read an interview recently where he talked about his admiration for Louis C.K. I’d say grab some of LCK’s stuff.)

But the mash-up western horror The Burrowers is a helluva good little b-movie — atmospheric, carefully attentive to its standing in both genres, and with a smart, sly cast (and generally strong, if very lo-fi direction). It runs some very nice riffs on the captivity narrative, on the racism of the Western, but I don’t want to oversell–it’s mostly concerned with creepy, clever, carefully-paced fun. Two or three plot shifts caught me offguard, and it was well- and (for a great change) under-written. I suppose noting that it’s about creatures climbing out of the ground to grab humans will throw most of y’all off the scent, but it is well worth a gamble (and not too gory/scary).

I’ve Loved You So Long (Il y a longtemps que je t’aime)

I can’t find a reference to this movie on the blog, but it is the kind of title that the search function does not easily find. So apologies if there is already a thread. The plot is pretty straightforward: Juliette (Kristen Scott Thomas) is released from prison having served fifteen years for the murder of her six-year old son. She goes to live with her younger sister (who was barely a teenager when she was imprisoned), the sister’s husband and their two adopted Vietnamese children. At first, Juliette is practically catatonic, affectless most of the time, but ready to snap at people who tiptoe around her situation or use polite euphemisms (“‘Inside’? It’s called prison.”). The great bulk of the movie traces the slow thaw and return to normality of Juliette, as people come to terms with her, and she finds herself once again able to love: her nieces, her sister, a man. Continue reading I’ve Loved You So Long (Il y a longtemps que je t’aime)

Meet Me at the Santa Monica Pier?

The Society for Cinema and Media Studies will be holding their 2010 conference in Los Angeles. The conference theme is as follows: “SCMS at 50/LA: Archiving the Future/Mobilizing the Past.” I’m not really sure what that means, but I never really do. A close look at the conference program for 2008 suggests a fairly broad array of topics and approaches. Wouldn’t it be fun to put together a panel? I’m sure we could find some way to unite our interests. I delivered a paper at their 2003 Minneapolis conference, but I am not an active member. Anybody know more? Anybody interested?


i don’t see anyone having posted on this (did i miss it? i don’t think so), and since it’s replete with Themes that Interest Me, i’ll give it a couple of lines. simon and i agreed it wasn’t a good movie, mostly because it was the development of a thesis, not a movie. but the thesis is interesting, and the topic in general is interesting, and philip seymour hoffman is genuinely great. i think the playwright wanted to address the sex abuse scandal in a dramatic/theological light, bringing both psychological and Continue reading doubt

Art of the puzzle

Nacho Vigalondo’s Timecrimes has great patience in setting up its jigsawed genre workout: we watch a bald, schlumpy, bulbous-nosed, non-hero-type fellow return to a vacation home, noodle about trying to nap, catch a passing glimpse through his binoculars of a naked woman, and wander into a loopy, neatly-closed loop of a time-travel plot. The dreamlike quality of the first thirty minutes had me enthralled: each crazy event led to the next, and our hero Hector never stops to think through what X and Y means–he just sees X, and assumes that therefore Y must follow. (If we ever stop to think too substantively about the choices most characters are making, I think the whole thing fizzles. But, like a dream, if you just keep wandering along, it makes perfect sense.)

Quite enjoyable. I think Primer was nuttier and neater, but also far knottier, and Timecrimes is remarkably lucid if utterly improbable in its plotting. But I urge you to rent it so that you can pull up from the extras a short film by Vigalondo called “7:35 in the Morning,” which works a small miracle on the improbability of song-and-dance numbers. A woman wanders into a cafe for breakfast, where the regulars fail to respond to her greeting and seem strangely quiet…. and then a man bursts from behind a pillar singing the title song, to which everyone in the joint joins. The reason for such behavior neatly reframes our engagement with the musical number, teases out the creepy and uncanny tone underlying most musical numbers — and it’s funny, smart, and well-shot. Great little short.