Saturday, January 31, 2009

What Price Bollywood?

My review of the surprisingly sharp and savvy Luck by Chance is live.

If it's playing at a theater near you, I suggest checking it out: It's pretty damned entertaining even if you don't get all the in jokes.

Friday, January 30, 2009

New Reviews: January 30, 2009

My reviews of Taken, the Filipino sex-drama Serbis and documentary Blessed is the Match: The Life and Death of Hannah Senesh are live. Tell me what you think...

And please come back tomorrow for my take on the behind-the-scenes Bollywood puicture Luck by Chance!

Thursday, January 29, 2009

Scumdog smear campaign...

Whoa... flashback! Just as Oscar voters receive their final ballots, someone's talking trash about the critically acclaimed Slumdog Millionaire, this year's Cinderella story.

Once upon a time, not so very long ago (like, a few years), everyone — by which I mean a relatively small group of people actively engaged in making or writing about movies — was in a tizzy over smear campaigns.

For years, studios and a handful of individuals campaigned hard to influence members of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences when it came to nominating and voting for film. Full page ads in Variety were only the tip of the iceberg: There were parties, there was swag and there was the notorious smear campaign, the deliberate anonymous spreading of rumors meant to tarnish the lustre of a particular film and, by extension, everyone involved, thus diminishing its chances.

In 2002, an unprecedented three African-American actors went home with Oscars (Halle Berry for Monster's Ball, Denzel Washington for Training Day and Sidney Poitier for Lifetime Achievement), onetime host Whoopie Goldberg felt compelled to observe that "So much mud has been thrown this year, all the nominees look black." In fact, the bulk of it was lobbed at Ron Howard's A Beautiful Mind, which was nominated for eight awards and won four.

Now, I'm not so sure I'd call it smearing to point out that a fact-based film plays extremely fast and loose with the facts. But there was a mean spirit in the air, and two years later AMPAS laid down some tough new rules about Oscar campaigns intended to force everyone to play nice or risk been booted out of the academy or having their films removed from consideration in certain categories.

Flashforward to now: Disparaging words about Scumdog Millionaire, the little movie that's suddenly a front-runner with ten nominations, including best picture, best director and best adapted screenplay, are flying thick and fast.

First came the sniping that it was a white man's fantasy about Indian social problems. True, director Danny Boyle and screenwriter Simon Beaufoy are white Englishmen. But Loveleen Tandan, credited onscreen as "co-director India" at Boyle's insistance, is Indian, as is Vikas Swarup, who wrote the novel on which Beaufoy's screenplay is based.

Then came the ugly stuff: Allegations that the filmmakers exploited child actors Rubina Ali and Azharuddin Mohammed Ismail, who play two of the three main characters as small children. The rumor would be nasty enough for any film, but it's especially bad for Slumdog, which cast most of the kids' roles with non-professionals who really live in Mumbai's fetid shantytowns.

In another life, I was a publicist (for New York City Ballet) and I would have advised the filmmakers to do exactly what they've done: Calmly and thoroughly refute the accusations without being combative. No speculation about where they came from, no defensive bluster and no sly counter-rumor mongering.

I love Slumdog Millionaire, and now I'm rooting for it harder than ever.

For detailed coverage, go to Variety's story.

Wednesday, January 28, 2009

It's official: I'm pale

I don't quite get this site, but apparently I'm on it by virtue of my Irish-English pallor.

Hey... as Oscar Wilde said, the only thing worse than being talked about is not being talked about.

Go, Oscar.

Tuesday, January 27, 2009

...and more horror: Neil Gaiman gets children's book award

Make no mistake, I'm thrilled for him: The John Newbery Medal for children's literature is an A-list award. I loved Coraline — look for my review of the animated film version on February 6th — and I adored Stardust, though I thought the movie was pretty terrible.

But I want him to get back to adult stuff... pretty please with bugs on top.

Thriller on Broadway.... the horror, the horror!

I'm still processing the idea that James L. Nederlander, of the powerful Nederlander Producing Group of America, has bought the rights to make a Broadway musical out of Michael Jackson's "Thriller." Or more to the point, I suspect, to build a Broadway musical around John Landis' nine-minute zombie-dance video (Landis, by the way, just filed suit against Jackson, so that could be sticky).

Nederlander seems to envision the overarching plot as a variation on "boy meets girl, boy loses girl, boy gets girl," except that here it would be "girl meets boy, they fall in love, boy has big secret, now what?"

Now what, indeed. Is his big secret that he's a werewolf, as the video implies (via Jackson's now sublimely creepy line, "I'm not like other boys"), or a zombie?

Maybe they could get some kind of work release deal for these Filipino prison inmates.

Sunday, January 25, 2009

SAG Awards winners!

And the winners include...

Slumdog Millionaire for best ensemble, Sean Penn for Milk, Meryl Streep for Doubt and Heath Ledger for The Dark Knight.

For complete coverage, go here.

Brains, balls and zzzzzzzzzs...

This is all over the web, generally titled "Why Women Can't Sleep." But I saw it for the first time today and have to say, it's as good a visualization as any of the perpetual motion machine in my head that keeps me up at night.

Points to my husband for being man enough to forward it.


The caption:

Every one of those little blue balls is a thought about something that needs to be done, a decision or a problem that needs to be solved.

A man has only two balls and they take up all his thoughts.

Yeah, that's about the size of it... or, um, them.

Made me laugh until my eyes started to droop, being as I'm so tired all the time.

Saturday, January 24, 2009

Thursday, January 22, 2009

All about Oscar!

So, the Academy Awards nominations have been announced, and now we can begin the countdown to February 22.

I would have posted this earlier, but an old friend was due to drop by this afternoon and I spent much of the morning tidying up... I mean, you don't want your friends — even the ones you've known forever — to think you're living in Collyer Brothers squalor, right?

And as fate and the confluence of interests that made us friends in the first place would have it, we spent most of the day talking about the Academy Awards nominations.

So, first off: I am so thrilled that Richard Jenkins got a best actor nomination for The Visitor, as was my friend, who just worked with him on the Lasse Halstrom film Dear John. Jenkins has been making movies since 1985 and works regularly, which is more than a lot of actors can say — in 2008 alone, he was in Burn Without Reading and the Will Ferrell/John C. Reilly comedy Stepbrothers as well as The Visitor. But he's spent his career in supporting roles, which makes The Visitor is a real breakthrough for him: it's a great movie, he's great in it and he's the lead. Odds are he's going to lose best actor to comeback kid Mickey Rourke (The Wrestler), but if ever the nomination was its own reward, here it is.

Second, I'm surprised but not upset by how under-represented Revolutionary Road is: The only major nomination it scored was Michael Shannon in the supporting actor category; its other nominations are for art direction and costume design. For my money, Revolutionary Road is the most over-rated film of the year. It's not a bad movie: It's well acted, sensitively directected and carefully adapted from Richard Yates' novel. But to me it's a waxwork diorama: The themes are relevent, but they're preserved in amber, exquisite but lifeless.

I'm delighted that Slumdog Millionaire has garnered ten nominations (including best picture, best director for Danny Boyle and best adapted screenplay for Simon Beaufoy, as well as three for Bollywood legend A. R. Rahman, two for best song and one for best score), and that Melissa Leo scored a best actress nomination for Frozen River. I doubt that she'll win, but the nomination puts her on a map she should have been on years ago.

I think Heath Ledger is the best thing to a lock for best supporting actor for The Dark Knight, because this is the last chance to recognize him for years of good, difficult and unpredictable work. And I'm sorry Michael Sheen didn't get a best supporting actor nomination for Frost/Nixon, because it's his chemistry with Frank Langella that makes the movie crackle.

But that's life, right? Scroll down for the full nominations:

The Curious Case of Benjamin Button
The Reader
Slumdog Millionaire

Anne Hathaway, Rachel Getting Married
Angelina Jolie, Changeling
Melissa Leo, Frozen River
Meryl Streep, Doubt
Kate Winslet, The Reader

Frank Langella, Frost/Nixon
Sean Penn, Milk
Brad Pitt, The Curious Case of Benjamin Button
Mickey Rourke, The Wrestler
Richard Jenkins, The Visitor

Amy Adams, Doubt
Penelope Cruz, Vicky Cristina Barcelona
Viola Davis, Doubt
Taraji P. Henson, The Curious Case of Benjamin Button
Marisa Tomei, The Wrestler

Josh Brolin, Milk
Robert Downey Jr., Tropic Thunder
Philip Seymour Hoffman, Doubt
Heath Ledger, The Dark Knight
Michael Shannon, Revolutionary Road

Danny Boyle, Slumdog Millionaire
Stephen Daldry, The Reader
David Fincher, The Curious Case of Benjamin Button
Ron Howard, Frost/Nixon
Gus Van Sant, Milk

Dustin Lance Black, Milk
Courtney Hunt, Frozen River
Mike Leigh, Happy-Go-Lucky
Marttin McDonagh, In Bruges
Andrew Stanton, Jim Reardon, WALL-E

Simon Beaufoy, Slumdog Millionaire
David Hare, The Reader
Peter Morgan, Frost/Nixon
John Patrick Shanley, Doubt
Eric Roth, Robin Swicord, The Curious Case of Benjamin Button

The Baader-Meinhof Complex (Germany)
The Class (France)
Departures (Japan)
Revanche (Austria)
Waltz with Bashir (Israel)

Kung Fu Panda

The Curious Case Of Benjamin Button
Dark Knight
The Duchess
Revolutionary Road

Changeling , Tom Stern
Slumdog Millionaire, Anthony Dod Mantle
The Reader, Chris Menges
The Curious Case Of Benjamin Button, Claudio Miranda
The Dark Knight, Wally Pfister,

The Curious Case of Benjamin Button, Kirk Baxter, Angus Wall
The Dark Knight, Lee Smith
Frost/Nixon, Daniel P. Hanley, Mike Hill
Milk, Elliot Graham
Slumdog Millionaire, Chris Dickens

Australia, Catherine Martin
The Curious Case Of Benjamin Button, Jacqueline West
The Duchess, Michael O'Conner
Milk, Danny Glicker
Revolutionary Road, Albert Wolsky

The Betrayal (Nerakhoon)
Encounters at the End of the World
The Garden
Man on Wire
Trouble the Water


Slumdog Millionaire, "Jai Ho," A.R. Rahman
Slumdog Millionaire, "O Saya," A.R. Rahman & M.I.A.
Wall-E, "Down To Earth," Peter Gabriel & Thomas Newman

The Curious Case Of Benjamin Button, Alexandre Desplat
Defiance, James Newton Howard
Milk, Danny Elfman
Slumdog Millionaire, A.R. Rahman
WALL-E, Thomas Newman

The Curious Case of Benjamin Button, Colleen Callaghan, Fionagh Cush
The Dark Knight, Peter Robb-King, John Caglione Jr.
Hellboy II: The Golden Army, Mike Elizalde, Thom Floutz

The Dark Knight, Richard King
Iron Man, Frank Eulner, Christopher Boyes
Slumdog Millionaire, Tom Sayers
Wall-E, Ben Burtt, Matthew Wood
Wanted, Wylie Stateman

The Curious Case of Benjamin Button, Mark Weingarten, David Parker, Michael Semanick, Ren Klyce
The Dark Knight, Ed Novick, Lora Hirschberg, Gary Rizzo
Slumdog Millionaire, Ian Tapp, Richard Pryke and Resul Pookutty
Wall-E, Ben Burtt, Tom Myers, Michael Semanick
Wanted, Chris Jenkins, Frank A. Montaño and Petr Forejt

The Curious Case of Benjamin Button, Eric Barba
The Dark Knight, Chris Corbould, Nick Davis, Paul Franklin, Tim Webber
Iron Man, John Nelson

Auf der Strecke (On the Line)
Manon on the Asphalt
New Boy
The Pig
Spielzeugland (Toyland)

La Maison en Petits Cubes
Lavatory — Lovestory
This Way Up

The Conscience of Nhem En
The Final Inch
Smile Pinki
The Witness - From the Balcony of Room 306

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

Hear me on WGN radio Thursday night...

I'll be talking about the Oscar nominations, and you don't have to be in the Chicago area — WGN's market &mdash to listen. Just tune in online at 12:30AM Eastern time/11:30PM Central time: I'll be there, trading snide remarks with host Brian Noonan about who was and wasn't nominated, who's favored to win and why, and all the Oscar gossip that will dominate entertainment journalism from now until February 22, unless someone uncovers a terrorist conspiracy to assassinate the 100 most powerful people in show business. Hey, that would make a great movie...

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

And you thought we have it bad: Depression era movies at New York's Film Forum

Fiction films aren't documentaries, but they can nonetheless be a powerful window onto the past.

Case in point: Breadlines & Champagne, Film Forum's February 6mdash;March 5 line up of movies made during the Great Depression. The series is peppered with newsreels and timely cartoons, but what's really amazing is the mainstream Hollywood features. It's a cliche that Hollywood responded to the misery and deprivation of the Depression by churning out frothy entertainments that, for a couple of hours at least, took ordinary people's minds off the fact that they were unemployed, broke and had little reason to believe that things were going to get better any time soon. And like most cliches, it didn't get to be one without being at least partly true.

But let me tell you, there are some pretty stunning surprises lurking in the most unexpected places. The lavish Gold Diggers of 1933, a parade of Busby Berkley musical numbers, ends with a sequence in which desperate, impoverished women (including streetwalker Joan Blondell and African-American housewife Etta Moten, who's got a voice that won't quit and isn't played as any of the stereotypes common at the time), sing about the men who were used up and thrown away by a society that only cared how hard they could work or fight, not what happened to them (or their wives, girlfriends and mothers) after they'd done their duty.

The first half of this clip may strike you as a little slow, but stick it out for the expressionistic WWI scenes, followed by some flat-out Berkely spectacle built around soldiers and homeless men rather than leggy chorines. The chorus, "Remember my forgotten man," alludes to a 1932 campagn speech in which Franklin Delano Roosevelt spoke of "the forgotten man at the bottom of the economic pyramid."

First Lady Eleanor Roosevelt later asked Moton to sing "Forgotten Man" at FDR's birthday party in 1934, making her the first black woman to sing in the White House.

Gold Diggers is showing on March 1, on a double bill with Footlight Parade.

The series also includes Frank Borzage's Man's Castle (1933), in which footloose tramp Bill (Spencer Tracy) invites destitute Trina (Loretta Young) to share his Hooverville shack in Central Park (for those unfamilair with the term, a Hooverville was a shanty town and yes, there was one in Central Park), warns her that he's a ramblin' man and gets her pregnant anyway. Yes, it's a romantic fairy tale, but it's a fairy tale shot through with painful reality. Just as My Man Godfrey (1936) is a screwball comedy. But it's a comedy in which which madcap heiress Irene Bullock (Carole Lombard), playing scavenger hunt with her obscenely rich friends, impulsively hires the homeless hobo (William Powell) she finds in an East River garbage dump to be her dysfunctional family's butler. Can you say, "the unfortunate make great accessories?"

Sure, bum "Godfrey Smith" is really a wealthy Bostonian financier who went to pieces after a failed love affair and found redemption among homeless men who somehow maintained their dignity and human decency in the face of poverty and societal indifference. And yes, he eventually rescues the socialite's clueless family from financial ruin, hires his out-of-work friends to staff the glitzy riverside night club he names "The Dump" and marries the fundamentally decent, if flighty, Irene. But let me tell you, the scene in which "Godfrey" takes his old friend Tommy Gray to the squalid "village of forgotten men" and tells him that "the only difference between a derelict and a man is a job" packs an emotional punch.

Man's Castle will be shown on February 7th, 8th and 9th, while Godfrey is scheduled for February 14th, Valentine's Day, on a double bill with Mitchell Leisen's Easy Living.

The complete schedule will be posted on Film Forum's site soon.

Monday, January 19, 2009

All robots go to heaven...

Stuntman and actor Bob May, the man inside the robot that regularly stole scenes from every member of the cast of TV's Lost in Space, died yesterday, January 18, 2009, at the age of 69.

May wasn't the voice of Robot B9, who warned "Danger, Will Robinson!" That was announcer Dick Tufeld. And the story is that May was cast because he happened to be on the lot one day and producer Irwin Allen told him that if the robot suit fit, he had a gig. But kids loved the robot, and when they grew up they loved May, who made regular appearances at memorabilia shows and sci-fi/autograph conventions. May's website, Robot is here.

Robot B9 is sometimes referred to as "Robby," though May's suit wasn't the same design as the Robby the Robot from the classic sci-fi movie Forbidden Planet (1956). But the confusion is understandable: Both Robby and B9 were designed by veteran art director/producrtion designer Robert Kinoshita, and they look like cousins. Not Identical cousins, but cousins nonetheless; Robby even appeared on the Lost in Space episodes War of the Robots and Condemned of Space. Freaky, man!

Bob May's grandfather was vaudevillian Chic Johnson, of the Swedish-American comedy team Olsen and Johnson — their anarchic comedy Crazy House (1943) is a favorite of Quentin Taratino's. As a small child, May appeared in their comedy revue "Hellzapoppin," which was made into a film in 1941, its total unavailability on commercial video or DVD is a matter of ongoing dismay to many readers who wrote me during the years I did my Ask FlickChick (scroll past the first item) column for

May went on to appear in movies, cabaret and TV, apparently impressing everyone with whom he worked as a lovely man. He will be missed.

Sunday, January 18, 2009

Watchmen set free!

Warner Brothers and 20th-Centur Fox have come to terms over Watchmen, which means that Zack Snyder's eagerly awaited adaptaion of the Alan Moore-Dave Gibbons graphic novel will open on March 9th, as announced.

The alwsuit that put the film's release in jeopardy hinged on rights ownership, with Fox claiming that it had had the right to distribute the film because it had purchased rights to the graphic novel back in 1986, and that producer Larry Gordon had obligations to Fox when he took Watchman to Warners, even though he was unable to get the film made at Fox (and, subsequently, Universal and Paramount).

As is so often the case in Hollywood, money fixed everything — a lot of money. See the Variety story for details.

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

Farewell, Prisoner Patrick McGoohan...

Actor Patrick McGoohan died yesterday at the age of 80. Call me perverse: I like The Prisoner, but I love Secret Agent/Danger Man.

I know, I know: The Prisoner was a thinking man's fantasy series, so far ahead of the curve that it looped back on itself like a moebius strip. And it was totally cool.

But I was hooked by McGoohan's John Drake in the B&W Secret Agent (1960-'61, 1964-'67). I was too young to have followed either version of the series when it was new, but I caught up with Secret Agent in syndication in the late 1970s (around the same time I discovered the magnificently pessimistic The Fugitive), and I couldn't get enough of its vision of a principled espionage agent trying to navigate in an increasingly amoral world. Secret Agent had a touch of The Avengers' pop surreality, but its primary appeal was as a corrective to the boys' own adventure excesses of the James Bond novels and films.

Born in Astoria, Queens, on March 19, 1928, McGoohan's family moved back to Ireland shortly after he was born. He began acting in the early 1950s, starting on stage and segueing into UK television in 1954. He knocked around in supporting TV and movie roles for several years, including one of my favorite films as a child, 1964's The Three Lives of Tomasina, about the travails of a plucky puss cat. Secret Agent's original incarnation, Danger Man, didn't last long. But version 2.0, Secret Agent, made McGoohan an international star.
And I can't help but feel that show's appeal was due at least in part to Johnny Rivers' amazing version of Steve Barri and P.F. Sloan's title song. I can't tell you how many times I heard it covered in the 1970s and '80s — I especially like the version by a long forgotten NYC band called Crayola — and I even own a 45 single. And it sounds as good today as it did 40 years ago -- one of my co-workers at used it as his ring tone and it was awesome.

McGoohan's The Prisoner was a stroke of genius, the surreal story of what happened when a secret agent who bore a remarkable resembleance to John Drake decided to leave the spy game. Everytime I read that Hollywood filmmaker wants to remake it, I die a little inside.

McGoohan had a fine post-Secret Agent/Prisoner career, but for me — and, I suspect, many others — he's always be some version of John Drake.

Monday, January 12, 2009

Slumdog sweeps Golden Globes and more...

Let's get this out of the way first: The Golden Globe Awards are nutty and people take them way too seriously. Whatever your issues with the Academy Awards, they at least represent the collective opinion of close to 6000 filmmakers &mdash writers, actors, directors, cinematographers, editors, production designers et al.

The Hollywood Foreign Press Association is made up of fewer than 100 people who cover the American movie scene for non-US publications. Most aren't even critics and again, whatever you think of movie critics in general, they write about movies. Not industry news, not celebrities, not gossip. Movies.

That said, HFPA does a great awards show, mostly because rather than trap the nominees,presenters and guests in theater seats for three hours, they have them at tables where they can eat and drink until they get their moment in the spotlight. Especially drink. Liquoring people up and then giving them the floor can make for some great TV. Do you really think Darren Aronofsky would have playfully given Mickey Rourke the finger when Rthe actor called him "one tough son of a bitch" if they'd been at the Dorothy Chandler Pavillion. Nuh-uh.

And now, some thoughts:

Go Slumdog Millionaire: The Dickensian fable took four major awards — best drama, director for Danny Boyle, screenplay for Simon Beaufoy and score for Bollywood legend A.R. Rahman — more than any other film.

Given that HFPA is the foreign press association, why are their foreign-language film picks so relentlessly middle of the road. You'd think that if any group might recognize underappreciated foreign films like Jar City and Let the Right One In, it would be this one.

Ditto the animated film nominees: French filmmaker Michel Ocelot's Azur and Asmar, anyone? It wouldn't have stood a chance of winning against Wall-E, but a nomination might have raised its profile a little.

Great night for Kate Winslet, who walked away with both the best actress/drama and the best supporting actress awards. Thank goodness one was for Revolutionary Road, directed by her husband, Sam Mendes. If she'd won an award for The Reader and Revolutionary Road had wound up completely unrecognized (it was nominated in several categories, but Winslet's was the only win) things might have been a little chilly on the homefront.

The HFPA doeswn't have seperate categories for original and adapted screenplays; curiously, every one of this years nominees was an adaptation. Coincidence, or a sign of the grim way in which Hollywood business practices make it much harder to produce an original screenplay than one that comes with some kind of pre-sell, whether its the nostalgic appeal of an old TV show or the imprimateur of an acclaimed novel or play?

You could make a solid argument that Sean Penn should have won best actor/drama for Milk, but I was really glad to see the award go to Mickey Rourke for The Wrestler. Penn has always gotten his critical due, and Rourke hasn't; he may be a legendary pain in the ass (as is Penn, come to think of it), but he's a hugely talented actor and he did some of the best work of his career in The Wrestler, even if much of it was just exposing his ruined face to the camera's merciless eye.

Vicky Cristina Barcelona was a comedy? Kudos to Colin Farrell for his best actor/comedy or musical win for In Bruges , and not just because it was directed by one Martin McDonagh. To the best of my knowledge, we're not related, though "McDonagh" is the least common spelling of a relatively unusual name. Christopher Nolan, really lovely acceptance speech on behalf of the late Heath Ledger for The Dark Knight.

Complete Golden Globe Nominees and Winners in Film Categories:

The Curious Case of Benjamin Button
The Reader
Revolutionary Road

*Slumdog Millionaire

Burn After Reading
In Bruges
Mamma Mia!

*Vicky Cristina Barcelona

David Fincher, The Curious Case of Benjamin Button
Ron Howard, Frost/Nixon
Stephen Daldry, The Reader
Sam Mendes, Revolutionary Road
*Danny Boyle, Slumdog Millionaire

The Curious Case of Benjamin Button, Eric Roth
Doubt, John Patrick Shanley
Frost/Nixon, Peter Morgan
The Reader, David Hare
*Slumdog Millionaire, Simon Beaufoy

The Baader Meinhof Complex, Germany
Everlasting Moments, Sweden/Denmark
Gomorrah, Italy
I've Loved You for so Long, France
*Waltz with Bashir, Israel

Kung Fu Panda

Anne Hathaway, Rachel Getting Married
Angelina Jolie, Changeling
Meryl Streep, Doubt
Kristin Scott Thomas, I've Loved You So Long
*Kate Winslet, Revolutionary Road

Rebecca Hall, Vicky Cristina Barcelona
*Sally Hawkins, Happy-Go-Lucky
Frances McDormand, Burn After Reading
Meryl Streep, Mamma Mia!
Emma Thompson, Last Chance Harvey

Leonardo DiCaprio, Revolutionary Road
Frank Langella, Frost/Nixon
Sean Penn, Milk
Brad Pitt, The Curious Case of Benjamin Button
*Mickey Rourke, The Wrestler

Javier Bardem, Vicky Cristina Barcelona
*Colin Farrell, In Bruges
James Franco, Pineapple Express
Brendan Gleeson, In Bruges
Dustin Hoffman, Last Chance Harvey

Amy Adams, Doubt
Penélope Cruz, Vicky Cristina Barcelona
Viola Davis, Doubt
Marisa Tomei, The Wrestler
*Kate Winslet, The Reader

Tom Cruise, Tropic Thunder
Robert Downey Jr., Tropic Thunder
Ralph Fiennes, The Duchess
Philip Seymour Hoffman, Doubt
Heath Ledger, The Dark Knight

The Curious Case of Benjamin Button

*Slumdog Millionaire

"Down to Earth," WALL-E
"Gran Torino," Gran Torino
"I Thought I Lost You," Bolt
"Once in a Lifetime," Cadillac Records
*"The Wrestler," The Wrestler

Sunday, January 11, 2009

What the hell is Halloween: The Beginning?

That's what I wanted to know when I read an interview with Italian master of horror Dario Argento in which he expresses his general dislike of classic horror film remakes, including Halloween: The Beginning.

A little web reserach cleared up the matter — Halloween: The Beginning was the Italian release title for Rob Zombie's Halloween. I guess Texas Chainsaw Massacre: The Beginning must have cleaned up over there.

But I ran across this Italian trailer for Halloween, which I found seriously entertaining. I couldn't even tell you why... I just did.

Friday, January 9, 2009

New Reviews: The Unborn, Not Easily Broken and Revolutionary Road...

Sorry I've been AWOL for a couple of days... technical difficulties.

I hope everyone had a fabulous New Year's Eve, and that 2009 is helaty, happy and prosperous for all... I can dream, can't I?

I've just added new reviews for the horror picture The Unborn, inspirational drama Not Easily Broken and, belatedly, critics' darling Revolutionary Road, by which I was somewhat underwhelmed.

I'd love to hear what you think.

Look for reviews of Defiance and the Bollywood/martial arts hybrid Chandni Chowk to China soon. And in the meantime, check out the trailer for CC2C. It's mind boggling:

A note to the dirty minded: That potato does not have a johnson. It's the face of Hindu deity Lord Ganesh, who has the head of an elephant. You know, with a trunk.

Monday, January 5, 2009

It's a great day for the Irish…

So, you can wait until St. Patrick's Day to enjoy the spectacle of drunken Irishmen running amok, or you can get on a plane headed to Cuba with a well-lubricated pack of them now and see the melee up close and personal.

As an aside, I especially like the account that referred to the fighting Irish as "hooligans," because I couldn't help but wonder whether the author was making an especially subtle joke at the expense of the sons of Eire. It's generally accepted that the etymology of "hooligan" lies in the long-standing perception that the Irish are a trouble-making lot, whether it's a corruption of the surname "Houlihan" or an allusion to a real-life family of rowdies named Hooligan.

And don't get me started on "paddy wagon."

Sunday, January 4, 2009

Farewell, grindhouse stalwart Edmund Purdom...

Let's raise a glass to actor Edmond Purdom, who died New Year's Day 2009…

Short of dying on Christmas Day, like the larger- and sultrier-than-life Eartha Kitt, b-movie stalwart Purdom could hardly have chosen a more memorable day to say his last farewell.

I will always associate the British-born Purdom, whose career encompassed Hollywood epics and cult stardom in European exploitation films, with the holidays by way of 1984's Don't Open 'Til Christmas, in which he starred and on which he served, albeit briefly, as director. Purdom plays a Scotland Yard detective on the trail of a serial killer who has a thing about drunks, perverts and hopheads who cynically don Santa suits during the holiday season in hopes of scoring a few bucks and has made it his business to tech them some kind of lesson by murdering them under the most sordid possible circumstances. Say, Santa at a low-rent peep show, ogling some bored skank before the killer paints the plexiglass seasonal red.

A confirmed holiday hater like me could hardly ask for more, except perhaps to have seen it as I did, in the crumbling Empire theater near Times Square, where there was a massive leak in the ceiling and the entire place stank of mold.

Purdom, who was 84, died in Rome, where he had lived since the 1960s; his survivors include his daughter, French TV personality Lilan Purdom. Purdom was born in Hertfordshire, England, on December 19, 1924, and began acting on stage when he was 21, just as WWII was ending.

The handsome, dark-haired actor had some success in Hollywood costume dramas like The Egyptian (1954) and The Prodigal (1955), but a couple of years later he had relocated to Europe and spent the rest of his career making Italian and Spanish exploitation movies. Purdom was married four times — his third wife, Linda Christian, was Errol Flynn' ex — and made more than 80 films, several of which I encountered in my grind house.

What would they have been without him?

I'ts a wonderful life... or it might have been...

I suppose this is a bit cheeky of me, but I think this is an apt time of year to share a video I first saw shortly after I was hired by the earliest precursor of this might be as far back as the MCI-NewsCorporation Joint Internet Venture (you can see why that name didn't stick).

It was on video, of course (this was, after all, the better part of 15 years ago), and was considered so incendiary (and watching it so potentially insubordinate) that a handpicked few of us huddled in a locked office and turned the sound down low, lest anyone else hear it. I should perhaps mention that a certain Rupert owned TV Guide at the time and was given to paying surprise visits to the office, scaring the hell out of everyone and prompting jokes about sulfurous footprints burned into the carpeting.

And it still makes me laugh.

Yes, that's Hugh Laurie of House (affecting yet another accent not his own) and Stephen Fry, who's appeared in several Harry Potter films and was nominated for a Golden Globe for his starring role in Wilde (1999).