Joe Dante

I’m a fan. I’m not sure any of Dante’s movies completely, totally crystallize — they’re almost all burdened with strange mismatches of tone and the constraints of either too small a budget or too much studio interference . . . and yet I think his films are glorious, the kinds of things that managed to tiptoe along the line between the sincerely low-budget exploitational and the smartly self-referentially genre-invigorating. The Howling veers from its first twenty minutes’ feel of tawdry sex-drenched horror, turning a serial killer flick into a werewolf movie, but then it heads into the woods and becomes homage, parody, recreation of classic horror films in a cheesy 1970s world, complete with John Carradine, Slim Pickens, a terrifying transformation scene, and stray jokes about Thomas Wolfe. (John Sayles, who wrote this script and Dante’s prior estimable Jaws rip-off Piranha, plays a morgue attendant.) Continue reading Joe Dante


I’m writing this only because it’s the first film I’ve felt very strongly about in a long time, and because it’s so much better than another much-talked about film to which it can be easily compared.

First off, my love of Terry Gilliam’s films are as deep and abiding as my love of David Lynch’s. Watching their very different, but equally spectacular failures over the past year (Brothers Grimm and Inland Empire) made me sad for many reasons – first that it will decrease their chances to get future films made, and b/c neither works very quickly and they’re not young. It’s just one fewer chance for them to make another truly great film. I have no idea what Lynch will do next. There’s at least little doubt that Laura Dern was great in IE, and it was so purposefully experimental that maybe studios will say it doesn’t count against him. Brothers Grimm on the other hand had 2 A-list stars, and a marketing budget, all of which served to just exponentially build the millions of dollars the film must have lost – and it came right after his failed Depp prodcuction of la Mancha.

So Mr. Gilliam, would you like to re-trench here and just go for an easy Fisher King feel-good re-write? “Fuck You” is his answer. Before I get too deep into Tideland, let me rail against the over-rated, empty Pan’s Labyrinth awhile. Continue reading Tideland

Guy Maddin’s Cowards Bend the Knee

Guy Maddin’s been talked about on the blog here , and michael at least had talked about getting some of his movies over Netflix, which hopefully he has. This one was made the same year as his amputee beer baron with glass legs (and Kids in the Hall) epic Saddest Music in the World. It only recently came out on DVD.

I believe that most of it was part of an art installation Maddin did where parts of the ten chapters were viewed by individuals looking through peepholes. Here, each chapter is silent, black and white, about 6 minutes long, and with a jittery editing that makes it feel like you’re hand-cranking the film along backwards and forwards to re-watch little bits over and over again

It involves hockey, abortion clinics/hair salons/brothels, murderous hand transplants, wax museums, ghosts, the Soviet Union, male and female nudity and a kind of tribute to Kenneth Anger’s Fireworks that really I don’t think anyone expected to see. Continue reading Guy Maddin’s Cowards Bend the Knee

Cowboy sex

Ang Lee’s Brokeback Mountain is a work of art—a lean, spare, unsentimental film suffused with loneliness and longing. That being said, I think the American public will ignore this plaintive love story. Though the Wyoming landscape is gorgeous to look upon (cinematographer Rodrigo Prieto deserves an award from someone), the film’s episodic structure and the lack of big, sweeping emotional moments (i.e. MAINSTREAM) will limit the film’s appeal. Admittedly, I walked away from the screening feeling a bit let down. I guess I wanted the Gay Gone With the Wind everyone’s been hyping. I wanted to feel emotionally drained. Such expectations, however, are not fair. The film is certainly full of big moments and genuine human conflict and there are well-earned laughs throughout. Still, it is far from histrionic and the nature of the story of these two men preclude the kind of fireworks I was expecting. Instead, Brokeback Mountain is a quiet and contemplative film fueled by passive aggression, self-loathing, fear and sadness. I have been haunted by it for the last dozen hours or so—I’m in a melancholy mood today—and such a response is due to the filmmakers deep respect for their source material as well as the story’s contentious subject matter not to mention the heart-wrenching performances of Heath Ledger, Jake Gyllenhaal, Michelle Williams and a memorable supporting turn by “Freaks and Geeks” alum Linda Cardellini.

2005 Thus Far

Thinking about the best films of 2005 (released domestically thus far) and I’m stymied by the sheer mediocrity of most everything I’ve seen. I can think of one film I hope will be on my list at the end of the year: Howl’s Moving Castle. After that I can only come up with four lesser films to fill out the list: Millions, Crash, Mysterious Skin, and The Cinderella Man. How about you? Continue reading 2005 Thus Far

Peckinpah unbound

“Major Dundee” has gotten the “restored” treatment. Fat chance this thing comes to Charleston, so I’ll wait for the DVD. But please, please, somebody on this blog go see this in the theater (is Michael the only person who would be able to go see this?). From what I understand, it will be quite an experience. The most striking thing is not the additional 12 minutes (after all, Peckinpah’s original cut was 2 hours 44 minutes, and the theatrical release was 2 hours and 2 minutes–this “restored” version is only 2 hours 14 minutes), but the completely new soundtrack and the dolby digital sound. Of course, the original aspect ratio will add to the experience (the only way to see Richard Harris is on the big screen–his performances can be measured best by the square foot). I haven’t seen this film in a while…I saw it on VHS years ago. I remember it was pan-and-scan, with the colors all but lost. A bit of a disappointment. Continue reading Peckinpah unbound