Monday, November 30, 2009

lips of a murderer

For some reason the eyes and mouth of Chad Lowe make your proprietor suspect that he's secretly a serial killer.

quiet here, yes

Your proprietor was dismayed to hear over the weekend that porn auteur David Aaron Clark had died. Though I'd never met him, we had a few friends in common, and he was a mainstay in certain pervy art circles in San Francisco through the late 90s. Since moving to Los Angeles he'd become an award-winning director of erotic films, most recently PURE, a heavily fetishized, L.A.-transplanted take on the story of Sada Abe.

He was the kind of person you assumed would always be around, making his distinctive work. His passing leaves a void.

(photo by Michael Manning.)

Monday, November 23, 2009


Never saw the remake, never will. But this promo image amuses the HELL out of your proprietor.

Sunday, November 22, 2009


Your proprietor loves this fucking movie, and doesn't care who knows it. Go ahead and tell your buddy Joss I said so. Here are ten reasons why.

--Each of the films in the series has its own identity: A:R is just as solid an arthouse fantasia as ALIEN was a horror film, ALIENS an action film, and ALIEN3 an AIDS allegory.

--A murky and violent sexuality runs through the whole series - maybe it took a French director (Jean-Pierre Jeunet) to inject a level of knowing kink, in a story in which the aliens' nemesis finally matches their predatory sexuality.

--Speaking of which, the sheer physicality Sigourney Weaver brings to the cloned, aliened-up Ripley is simply awesome. Too few actors get the chance to be as all-out HOT as Weaver is in just the basketball scene.

--Brad Dourif gives great mad scientist.

--A dream team of actors give their all as the crew of the Betty, including captain Michael Wincott, staff lunkhead Ron Perlman (not someone with whom you want to fuck, but you have to love his grammar), and engineer Dominique Pinon. Winona Ryder does what the script calls for her to do as well, so leave her alone.

--The aliens have NEVER looked better, nor has any photographer lingered on them as seductively as Darius Khondji. If Helmut Newton teamed with HR Giger to make an Aliens movie, I doubt it would have looked much different.

--The scene where Pinon quietly, patiently builds a shotgun from his wheelchair as certain death draws near.

--The nightmarish underwater chase scene - Weaver was terrified of doing it, and claims that she let Ripley take over to get the job done.

--The gooey and spectacular revenge the guy gets even as an alien is bursting from his chest. Magnificent.

--The heartbreaking look on the hybrid's face when it realizes that Mommy has betrayed it.

Perhaps in response to the austerity of the previous film (which has its own rewards), ALIEN: RESURRECTION is filled with quirky moments (and many more creatures). The ALIEN series offers a strong model of franchise filmmaking, allowing gifted filmmakers to offer their own unique slant on the conflict between one woman and a rapacious race of predators, and if one gets beyond a need to place one entry over the others, there's plenty within ALIEN: RESURRECTION that allows it to stand confidently among the films that preceded it.

Thursday, November 19, 2009


In 1976, a suburban Virginia couple in somewhat dire financial crisis are given an apparatus by a mysterious and mutilated stranger. If they push the button on the apparatus, they will be given one million dollars, and someone unknown to them will die.

Your proprietor was skeptical about this, a two-hour adaptation of a short story by Richard Matheson, courtesy DONNIE DARKO/SOUTHLAND TALES director Richard Kelly. Though it is a minor film, it's a solid yarn, pleasantly (and, given the Matheson connection, perhaps unsurprisingly) TWILIGHT ZONE-ish in tone. Kelly has filled out the feature's final two-thirds with an escalating, fantastic plot and many mysterious incidents, but each one is explained effectively (unlike the sprawling SOUTHLAND TALES mythology, the story's well-contained here). Cameron Diaz is solid as the suburban wife/mother/teacher, and one imagines that her involvement helped get the thing made, but the movie belongs to Frank Langella, who brings gravitas and vulnerability to the crucial role of Steward. I'm not sure there's as evocative and ultimately moving a character on screen these days.

As your proprietor is not in the business of spoiler-dealing (and there's plenty to give away here), I do encourage you to see this thing for yourself. For all of the conspiratorial metaphysics, there's an old-school morality tale being told in THE BOX, delivered in a style and with a grace that Shyamalan's few remaining fans would appreciate.

Sunday, November 15, 2009


A fanciful animated documentary (possibly the first anime documentary, though your proprietor hesitates to presume), MUSASHI: THE DREAM OF THE LAST SAMURAI offers an animated recreation of some of the key battles in the history of Musashi Miyamoto, one of Japan's most renowned and influential swordsmen.

Though directed by Mizuho Nishibuko, the auteur to whom this film is being credited is writer Mamoru Oshii, writer/director of the GHOST IN THE SHELL films and various other anime and live-action projects. Though Oshii had said that he wanted this film to be unlike any other, it's limited by some of his choices. Musashi's various accomplishments are given strong context within military and Japanese history, but the cute on-screen narrators (an SD historian and his clumsy but well-meaning female assistant) often distract from the material at hand (an interesting choice, given the excision of the comic relief from Oshii's GHOST IN THE SHELL adaptation).

Throughout the film I was put in mind of Peter Greenaway's REMBRANDT'S J'ACCUSE, a visually-loaded documentary outlining various clues to the criminal conspiracy captured in Rembrandt's famous painting The Nightwatch. Oshii's film traverses its terrain in ways very similar to Greenaway's: both filmmakers use similar strong visual tactics and effective dramatization to explore their subjects. It's curious that the tone of Greenaway's film is more strident than Oshii's, considering the patriotic agenda of the latter. Both films are open-ended, but Oshii's film stops practically in mid-sentence - it reminds us that Musashi's swordsmanship was a deciding factor in a 20th century battle, but offers no detail on which battle.

MUSASHI does offer some intriguing historical analysis of its subject. Better still, unsurprisingly, are its powerfully-depicted action scenes, including Musashi's storied battle with Sasaki Kojiro on Ganryu Island. I'd be intrigued to see Oshii launch another anime documentary - perhaps it will finish the job that this film, alas, only starts.

Saturday, November 7, 2009


Eleven love stories shot in New York, each by a different filmmaker and none following the same arc. The intersection of different lives, of souls on their way to their respective destinies, feels absolutely true to the spirit of New York, and every connection (be it brief or lifelong) feels like a miracle. Just as miraculous is some of the talent and artistry on display, with foreign filmmakers working effectively in non-native English and Hollywood artists riding the challenge to new heights (I never thought I'd love something directed by Brett Ratner, but his prom night segment is a warm and sexy gem; similarly, Shia LeBoeuf is downright luminous as a gentle valet seeing to the needs of a retired diva).

The film is a vast improvement over the more varied but less consistent PARIS, JE T'AIME. Though clear favorites emerged in that film, the individual episodes of NEW YORK, I LOVE YOU are best experienced in one another's contexts. I found something wonderful in every segment, and I wish I could share the movie with all of you. I can hardly wait for SHANGHAI, I LOVE YOU.


You've heard about it by now (if you haven't seen it), the much-hyped, $15000, one-set, four-character horror movie that rolled out from a modest number of midnight college screenings to become a grassroots (supported by Paramount) success. I haven't heard the backlash, but I know it's coming. And anyone who goes all nuts for this film is likely to be looked at as a tool of the marketing of the thing, which is what happens when a studio throws its support on a movie. Not behind it, but on it. And I can see that point, but I'm going to go past it and suggest that whether or not the movie lives up to the hype is immaterial. Because nothing does.

What I will say is this: This movie fucking scared me.

Monday, November 2, 2009

humbug, indeed.

So a couple of weeks ago your proprietor, having arrived early for a movie at a multiplex, found himself in front of one of those pre-show Hollywood commercial blocks offering a look behind the scenes of forthcoming movies. So it was with some dread that I got a gander at some of the footage from Robert Zemeckis' forthcoming CGI realization of Dickens' A CHRISTMAS CAROL. The footage included Jim Carrey (in the gosh-darned-nice mode that I don't think we've seen him in since he was plugging THE MAJESTIC a few years back) talking about playing all of the lead roles, and how this lushly-achieved production was going to give life to an ultimate vision of the Dickens tale, how it would be exactly the story that Dickens wrote.

Now I'm not against smart retellings of classics, and even understand and laud the deployment of a multifaceted talent as Carrey as Scrooge and the various ghosts. But I have to say that my immediate thought was that Dickens would probably be startled to see that he had written Scrooge getting hit in the groin. Just a throwaway notion that I let go...

...until I saw an actual trailer for the movie in which, sure enough, Scrooge is flown all over London, and finds himself sliding crotch-first through a rack of icicles.

Though I'm normally averse to seeing the word Disney over the title of whatever property they've assimilated, I laud them for the truth in advertising in calling the film DISNEY'S A CHRISTMAS CAROL. Because clearly it sure as hell ain't Dickens'.

No links or pics in this post because I don't want to promote the film. Frankly, come Friday, it'll be damn near unavoidable anyway.