Tuesday, October 31, 2006

Another list...

The Independent has a list of the best movie quotes. I don't agree with all of their choices, and will defend to the death some they list as clunkers, but they have some great categories, and they are indisputably right about this:

There are two monologues in cinema history that tower over all others, and you know what they are. That's right: Brando's despairing "I coulda been a contender, I could been somebody," speech as Terry Malloy in On the Waterfront (1954); and Orson Welles' "cuckoo clock" speech in diabolical justification of his crimes as Harry Lime in The Third Man (1949).

And these may be clunkers, but they are fun:
How about Andie McDowell as Carrie, resembling nothing so much as a drowned rat, to the sodden Hugh Grant in the downpour that marks the end of Four Weddings and a Funeral (1993): "Is it raining? I hadn't noticed." Or Sean Connery in Goldfinger (1964), cracking a crime ring and keeping straight-faced long enough to deliver the line: "At least they won't be using heroin-flavoured bananas to finance revolutions."

You could fill a phone book with atrocious lines from sci-fi and horror movies, but we'll content ourselves with two examples. Here's Roddy Piper in John Carpenter's They Live (1988) as Nada: "I have come here to chew bubblegum and kick ass. And I'm all out of bubblegum." And, from Flash Gordon (1986): "I love you, Flash, but we only have 14 hours to save the Earth."

Sunday, October 29, 2006


The movie plot generator is a work of demonic genius. Three different sections allow for 27,000 different combinations. The top row picks the character(s) -- a cop who doesn't play by the rules, a nerdy computer geek, Hitler. The second row sets the scene -- befriends the creatures of the forest, fights crime, becomes nanny to a bunch of suburban children. The third row tells us where it's all going -- in this heartwarming animated adventure, in the feel-good comedy of the year, and, my personal favorite, and discovers the true meaning of Christmas.

Think about it: "The Pacifier," "She's the Man," every buddy-cop movie ever made. This explains so much.

Saturday, October 28, 2006

Movie gadgets (another list)

Cinematical has a great list of the movie gadgets we'd most like to have. Showing admirable restraint, there's only one (all-purpose) Bond toy on the list. The "Men in Black" memory eraser-thingy, R2D2, "Blade Runnder's" photo enhancer, "Sleeper's" Orgasmatron -- all great choices. The commenters have some good additions, like "Back to the Future's" Delorean and shoelace-tie-er.

Friday, October 27, 2006

My dad tells Barack Obama it's time

Remember what Lloyd Bentsen said to Dan Quayle? "Senator, I served with Jack Kennedy, I knew Jack Kennedy, Jack Kennedy was a friend of mine. Senator, you are no Jack Kennedy...You are the one that was making the comparison, Senator — and I'm one who knew him well. And frankly I think you are so far apart in the objectives you choose for your country that I did not think the comparison was well-taken."

In this op-ed, my dad says he knew Jack Kennedy, and Barack Obama, two years older than Kennedy was when he became President, is ready to take on the job.

Quotes of the Week -- round-up

This week's release of "Conversations with God" inspired several critics, though not perhaps the way it intended:

LA Weekly's Tim Grierson:

Beyond a lack of enthralling characters or convincing plotting, though, what’s most glaringly missing in this self-promotional marketing tool is, of all things, God, who gets only a bit role as Walsch’s muse in a few scenes. He really oughta fire His agent.

St. Paul's Pioneer Press' Chris Hewitt:
"Conversations With God" is not a movie; it's a brand extension.

The Washington Post's Ann Hornaday:
If (director) Simon's desire to feed the better angels of our nature is admirable, it would be nice if he could do it with better movies.

Thursday, October 26, 2006

Corporate Crooks

For a glimpse of my non-movie life, take a look at my appearance on the Lehrer Newshour this week.

I Defy Anyone Not to Click on these

Pajiba's list of the most memorable TV theme songs includes "The A-Team," "The Twilight Zone," and, of course, "Gilligan's Island," "Cheers," and "The Simpsons." A little bit too 80's-focused for me, but all of the choices are superbly evocative (even "The Care Bears") and the special bonuses are tremendous, like a "Seinfeld" clip with George's answering machine message a parody of the theme song from "The Great American Hero." I pity the fool who tries to get through this list without having at least 15 minutes to waste on it.

P.S. My husband would never forgive me if I did not post his favorite.

Tuesday, October 24, 2006

Is "I Want Candy" the new "I Feel Good?"

"I Want Candy" has been covered by Bow Wow Wow, Aaron Carter, and Good Charlotte and is included on the soundtracks of quirky comedy "Napoleon Dynamite," quirky historical drama "Marie Antoinette," and not-so-quirky animated "Over the Hedge." Does anyone remember who released the original version? I think it's The Strangeloves, sampling (before anyone used that term) a riff from Bo Diddley. It's a great song, so let's not let it jump the shark and become the new "I Feel Good" (or, for more serious films, Carmina Burana).

Friday, October 20, 2006

Why I Love "Why We Love"

Okay, it's a shameless attempt to sell DVDs, but Amazon's Why We Love is irresistible, a vivid and engaging tribute to movies' unsung heroes the actors who take the character parts, who perform in quirky, heartfelt, and decidedly unglamorous independent films. Amazon says:

There are some actors whose talent and body of work gets us all excited. They're not the biggest movie stars, and their name may not ring a bell, but you'll know their face. And after you say, "Oh! I knew he/she looked familiar," you'll thank us for bringing her to your attention.

Wonderful tributes to impeccably chosen performers so far:

Alfred Molina
David Strathairn
Harold Perrineau
Hugh Laurie
Ian McShane
Jeffrey Wright
Jeremy Piven
Joaquin Phoenix
John C. Reilly
Paul Giamatti
Peter Sarsgaard
Philip Seymour Hoffman
Terrence Howard
Tony Shalhoub
Victor Garber

Catherine Keener
Ellen Pompeo
Julianna Margulies
Maggie Gyllenhaal
Maria Bello
Mary-Louise Parker
Rachel McAdams
Sandra Oh
Toni Collette

Quote of the Week -- Dana Stevens

Slate's Dana Stevens is one of my very favorite critics:

Sofia Coppola is the Veruca Salt of American filmmakers. She's the privileged little girl in Charlie and the Chocolate Factory whose father, a nut tycoon, makes sure his daughter wins a golden ticket to the Willie Wonka factory by buying up countless Wonka bars, which his workers methodically unwrap till they find the prize. If Coppola's 2004 Academy Award for best original screenplay for Lost in Translation was her golden ticket to big-budget filmmaking, Marie Antoinette is her prize, a $40 million tour through the lush and hallucinatory candy land of 18th-century France...

There's no question that making movies is, at least in part, always a matter of shopping. A director must select, and find a way to pay for, the right cast, the right music, the right cinematographer. And, as this recent piece in the Times travel section shows, Sofia Coppola is a peerless shopper. The movie's signature set piece is a montage of Louis-heeled Manolo Blahnik shoes in Easter-egg colors, filmed in fetishistic close-up to the strains of Bow Wow Wow singing "I Want Candy." It's exhilarating in the style of a high-end television commercial or magazine fashion spread. But, by linking the excesses of the French court of the 1780s with the pop culture of the 1980s, does Coppola intend to suggest that we're overdue for another revolution? Or just that, then as now, les filles just want to have fun?

Thursday, October 19, 2006

The Pain of Fame

Is it me or do both of this week's big releases based on true stories seem to be a little whiny on the subject of celebrity? "Flags of our Fathers" focuses on the conflicting feelings and struggles of the three surviving men from the iconic photograph of the flag-raising at Iwo Jima and "Marie Antoinette" is the story of the girl who at age 14 left her home in Austria forever to become the wife of a man she did not know, the future king of France. Both are very sympathetic portrayals. But it seems to me both go just a little overboard on the subject of how dreary and oppresive it is to be famous in a way that suggests that the celebrities who made the movies may be addressing their own issues instead of the challenges faced by their characters.

The Best Film Composer of All Time

Slate's Jan Swofford writes so engagingly about movie soundtracks that it hardly matters that he falls into the all-but-inevitable formula for such pieces by posing the usual suspects (Bernard Hermann, Max Steiner), inserting a charming anecdote (when asked how he liked writing for film, including the Oscar-winning score for "The Heiress," Aaron Copeland said, "It pays really well,") then concluding with an out-of-left-field esoteric choice for the all-time best. I'm allergic to making lists of my own, but will say I have a special fondness for Erich Wolfgang Korngold and Danny Elfman.

Monday, October 16, 2006

Sucker for Sorkin

I admit it. Put some fast-walking, fast-talking braniacs in front of me and I'm a happy girl. I adored "Sports Night" and liked "West Wing" very much (during the Aaron Sorkin era), and am now enjoying "60 Rock." They're all pretty much the same show -- it's striking how he can create the same sense of world-shaking urgency over a late-night skit or a cricket match on the other side of the world as a national security breach -- and they all have three things we don't see much of on television:

1. The characters speak in witty dialogue that assumes some intelligence from the audience as well as a familiarity with esoteric arcana that is all, somehow, of equal interest and value, whether relating to pop culture or Pericles.

2. The characters are messy and complicated and -- here is something you almost never see on television -- they are kind. Isaac's speech to Jeremy about having found a home at "Sports Night" is one of my favorite television or movie moments ever.*

3. The stories are messy and complicated, too. Sorkin doesn't feel like he has to explain everything. He leaves some of it up to us to figure out or imagine.

Oh, and add in a understated guest bit in this week's episode from Lauren ("Gilmore Girls") Graham and Sting singing "Fields of Gold" and you might just hear me purr.


Not fitting in is how qualified people lose jobs.


Yeah, but a lot of time it's how people end up working here. You had an obligation to tell us how you felt. Partly because I don't like getting a phone call saying I've put one of my people in the hospital. But mostly because when you feel that strongly about something you have a responsibility to try and change my mind. Jeremy, did you think I was gonna fire you 'cause you made a convincing argument? It's taken me a lot of years but I've come around to this: If you're dumb, surround yourself with smart people. If you're smart, surround yourself with smart people who disagree with you. I'm an awfully smart man and Mark Sabath is an idiot. He had you and he blew it. You've gotta trust us. Fit in on your own time, when you come to
work for me you show up to play.

Sunday, October 15, 2006

We love NY

Everything you always wanted to know about New York City movie locations -- be sure to check out the interactive map.

Friday, October 13, 2006

Quote of the Week

Peter Canavese of Groucho Reviews on "The Grudge:"

It's back to the showers, literally, with the tropes of modern Asian horror: short-skirted schoolgirls, fetal positions, static, and traumatic paralyzations. Whatever meaning you want to ascribe to Shimizu's recurrent images, like eyes peering through ripped paper, is as good as any other. If only they were scary or inventive, instead of more suddenly boring glimpses of the caterwauling boy and the goth chick with the thread-like hair. If Shimizu's aging idea of rage-made wraiths were true, caterwauling critics would be crawling all over the multiplex right about now.

Thursday, October 12, 2006

Political ad remix/mash-up

I like Slate's new re-mixes of political ads is kind of like a cross between Mystery Science 3000 and Pop-up Videos. I like this one with Tom Reynold's "apology" for his involvement in the Foley situation.

Saturday, October 07, 2006

John Cameron Mitchell takes the "Shortbus"

Without Hedwig's "wig in a box" and miniskirt, John Cameron Mitchell is a soft-spoken, gentle man who takes out a pocketknife to help a fumbling blogger get the microphone stand set up. "If you do independent films," he says, "you have to be able to do a little bit of everything." Mitchell's second film is a departure from the theatricality of the first, Hedwig and the Angry Inch, based on his wildly successful off-Broadway musical. "Shortbus" is a more naturalistic, almost documentary-style exploration of the intersecting lives of several New Yorkers who are struggling with love and intimacy issues. Oh, and the actors have real sex onscreen.

On a warm, sunny fall afternoon, Mitchell answered questions from three journalists, as we sat outside the Georgetown Ritz hotel in Washington DC. He told us that he invited those interested in auditioning for the movie to submit videos of themselves describing a very emotional sexual experience. Then everyone who tried out gathered and they all watched all of the videos together. "They were all vulnerable at the same time. They felt less afraid. They were all in it together. Then we had to figure out who was attracted to who."

At the center of the movie, both in concept and in plot, is a gathering place called "Shortbus," named for the smaller bus taken by the kids who are different. This place is a sort of salon, "more organic than a bar, church, or AA meeting because it touches all parts of you -- life, sex, art, eating, drinking, politics, really a civilized way of getting together, and more utopian than any place I have ever been to."

Mitchell told us that America is still influenced by the "Puritans and missionaries who rampaged across the landscape with the sword and the gun, making sex and violence as American as apple pie." But America has always had its "others," its idea of itself as "a land of outcasts." The Statue of Liberty is the first image in the film, and Mitchell considers it "very patriotic in that way," with New York the ultimate example of different kinds of people living together. "The liberty, the multi-culturalism, the ingenuity of New York -- the movie is a valentine to New York as the best of America."

Interview with (another) mermaid

I had a wonderful talk with Jodi Benson, who provided the voice for Ariel the mermaid in one of my all-time favorite Disney movies, The Little Mermaid.   Posted by Picasa

Monday, October 02, 2006

Audney Hepburn Gap Ad

Even in that new tricked-up Gap ad, Audrey Hepburn is still enchanting. A nice reminder to watch the real thing,
Funny Face. And while you're at it, since Netflix is having a special, take a look at Charade, and then watch it again to hear one of the rare commentary tracks that is worth the time. Director Stanley Donen and screenwriter Peter Stone are witty and their anecdotes are delcious (I especially love the one about Cary Grant's haircut) but my favorite part is when there is a close-up of Hepburn's face and they fall silent for a moment, and then just sigh, "Isn't she lovely?" Yes, she is.