Icon's Crystal Reed issue featured on Just Jared Jr.

Past issues of Icon Magazine have popped up on various blogs, but seeing the autumn 2011 Crystal Reed cover on the popular Just Jared Jr. is most triumphant.

Along with again acting as copy editor, I wrote five of the issue's articles, including intriguing Q&As with award-winning Broadway dancer and "Drop Dead Diva" star Kate Levering and photographer/ex-Playboy Playmate/Paris Hilton BFF Jennifer Rovero, the photographer and fashion designer spotlights on Emily Soto and Kenneth Barlis, respectively, and the cover piece on lovely, bubbly "Teen Wolf" star Crystal Reed, who can be also be seen in "Crazy, Stupid, Love.".

Though I feel most of the pieces are good and it's difficult to select favorites, I particularly recommend the Levering interview as we were able to delve in to the moral base of "Drop Dead Diva" in an interesting way and even discuss a cause the actress is striving to assist in Uganda, and the Kenneth Barlis piece as Barlis is a true up-and-comer - a burgeoning designer with a bridal/evening wear collection available even though he's still in school - and his story from a childhood in the Philippines to unprecedented opportunities in California makes for what I probably consider my best work for Icon yet.

In the Rovero interview, the photographer also known as Camraface discusses the motivation behind her curiously sexy guerrilla style, why her iPhone has become her preferred camera and what titillating subjects she may soon conquer. Emily Soto proves there is no single "correct" path to a dream by describing an unorthodox career shift along with her penchant for outdoor photography. And, of course, if you're a "Teen Wolf" fan or an appreciator of fine young actresses in general, the where'd-she-come-from, where's-she-going Crystal Reed bio will clue you in to the fresh and captivating talent's road to Hollywood (a road that involves "The Dark Knight" in a way you might not see coming), what it's like being a rising star and how things are changing for Allison Argent in the newly-ordered second season of "Wolf".

Other articles include a Karl Lagerfeld retrospective, a k.hendrix showroom highlight, an interview with musician Mark Russell, Alex Taylor's first whack at the Male Perspective column, and DJ Memphis on Air's return to the art of dropping jaws and popping eyeballs with a follow-up to last issue's turn-offs list - "Top Ten Turn-Ons for Men"!

So, yeah, with my involvement in Icon's production having reached a new high, it's pretty darn exciting to see the new issue's cover on a noted gossip blog.

Icon Magazine's first anniversarial autumn 2011 issue will be available - for free, naturally - within the week. As per usual, teasers for articles I was involved with will appear here with links to their full forms on theiconmag.com.


My Week in Movies: August 27, '11

Kan door huid heen (Can Go Through Skin)
Esther Rots, 2009
Maybe it's because I've known many wonderfully free-spirited Eastern Europeans that I, through fond reminiscence, connect so easily with Rivka Lodeizen's protagonist Marieke. "Can Go Through Skin" (the title of which I imagine refers to invasion and physical abuse's deep emotional affects, though it could have several meanings) takes place in the Netherlands - downtown Amsterdam and a Zeeland peninsula, specifically - but the unfettered attitudes, humble diction and casual manner of dress are remarkably redolent of the Slovakian, Czech and Polish people I've been lucky enough to befriend along my way. Or maybe the connection is rooted more through Esther Rots' portrait of Marieke, so instantly intimate we almost feel as though we are in her often wontedly nude skin. We dwell on and relate to private idiosyncrasies such as treading o'er thinly iced puddles, braiding tall grass and - with a bit more direct relevance to the focal characterization - finding nooks about a thoroughly symbolic ramshackle manor and, perhaps even more symbolically, hiding from nothing within them. We closely follow Marieke post-trauma as she determines how to carry forth while cautiously learning to trust again. This involving strain of life stems down two paths - one restorative, one deleterious; both under a rehabilitative guise. Where do we go? Screenshots after the jump.

Code inconnu: Récit incomplet de divers voyages (Code Unknown: Incomplete Tales of Several Journeys)
Michael Haneke, 2000
I believe most fans of film would readily attest to adoring long takes, be they still or mobile. The spectacle of an uncut performance combined with flowing camerawork and meticulous plotting is truly something to behold and revere. If Haneke has one signature I've recognized across his work I've thus far experienced, it's his penchant for finding one still composition or mobile blocking arrangement that accommodates an entire scene or sequence and in this regard the almost "Slacker"-esque "Code Unknown" is a treat for any self-professed cinephile - a series of long takes, several of which are particularly enrapturing, all of which are fascinating to dissect both technically and narratively. And of that narrative? Well, it simply - or, not so simply, really - goes to illustrate the importance of title. Without the banner alerting us to the indeed intentionally incomplete nature of the stories within, "Code" may frustrate viewers before its fractured style nestles, distracting from the flux of cinematographic feats. Listen to further thoughts on Episode 18 of Reel Time.

Olivier Megaton, 2011
As anticipated, "Colombiana" takes few risks, though in spite of containing a couple of perhaps the year's most numb-skulled scenes yet (outside the likes of "Transformers", that is) it is suitably entertaining with an emotional core driven by the gravity of familia. As desired, it is "The Zoë Saldaña Show" through and through (with a shorter, preceding presence from her character's younger portrayer, the already-impressive Amandla Stenberg). With clear assistance from Luc Besson's signatures, Megaton has significantly improved since his last outing with the merely passable "Transporter 3", his brightest moments being whirls of claustrophobic action not seen this cohesively since "The Bourne Identity" and insert shots highlighting Saldaña's visage in close-up. As per standard, however, these moments are given maybe a quarter second of screen time a piece. How come we are so rarely allowed to dwell, at least a little longer, on a film's more calculated compositions? One day I may rent "Colombiana" and go through, taking stills of each lovely yet suffocated bit. I'd be able to paper four walls with the resulting Zoë-fest. I realize I'm nitpicking quite a bit over a film I enjoyed, but one more admittedly tangential quibble, if I may, which concerns an issue heard in several films of late: come on Foley artists, must you add a schluck to every on-screen beverage sip? Not only are the glasses always full, in most cases the character performing the action is ostensibly too graceful to be so boorish.

The Monster that Challenged the World
Arnold Laven, 1957
The world, sure... or, more accurately, just a little Californian naval research facility. If you've seen any standard 1950s sci-fi you probably have a good idea of what to expect from "The Monster that Challenged the World", and I'm happy to report this particular "Monster" is above average amongst its peers! A military male protagonist whom we regard as handsome because his female co-star swoons upon his entering a room (and maybe he is handsome, in that husky John Wayne kinda way) investigates the disappearances of several sailors and local youngsters, spending most of his time in offices and labs trying to escape quirkily arrogative comic relievers more unintentionally funny than properly so (the over-friendly coroner keeps minced ham on rye in the morgue cold chambers? Ha-yuk!). Our mutated mollusk of a culprit initially remains shrouded 'neath dark waves, an eerie side effect of the film's gaunt "B" status (though, as a technicality at that point, "B" no longer strictly stood for an implicatively low "budget"). When we do glimpse our well-accomplished beastie it does not disappoint, being equal parts daunting and hokey. You can practically feel the youthful bliss of an afternoon at the nickelodeon as you revel in this paradigmatic creature feature!

Further first-time viewings:

Vierges et vampires (Virgins & Vampires) - Jean Rollin, 1973
AKA "Requiem for a Vampire"; AKA "Caged Virgins". Rollin's vampire erotica goes dialogue-light to good end in this wholly entertaining and often quite eerie romp rife with nibbling fangs and nubile flesh that may well top the sole other Rollin I've seen thus far, "Shiver of the Vampires".

Octaman - Harry Essex, 1971
Oh, man. So awfully awesome. Bottom of the barrel studio moviemaking at its uproariously bad best. Plus Kerwin effin' Matthews, man. And Pier Angeli fatally overdosed on barbiturates during production? After a life of failed romances with the incomparable Kirk Douglas, the legendary James Dean and the well also totally super-awesome Armando Trovaioli I guess it just took an "Octaman" (curiously taglined "Man or Reptile?") to push her over the edge.

Giant from the Unknown - Richard E. Cunha, 1958
Gloriously pulpy. I mean, pretty terrible, but in such an enjoyable way.

La pianiste - Michael Haneke, 2001
AKA "The Piano Teacher". Where Haneke's signatures may be in possibly their purest form in "Code Unknown", here they feel hidden (caché, if you will). "La Pianiste" is as cold as its cruelly elitist and mercenarily selfish protagonist, even in its various depraved depictions of repressed sexuality and even after said protagonist is cut down to size in revolting manner by a vicious case of anxious blue balls. The subject could be provocative, but with this handling I could have attained a similar reaction surfing for dungeon fetish pornography. The emptily brutal "Funny Games", which was designed as this may also have been to expose audiences to their own savage lusts, carries more sensitivity. At least now I know I have indeed been pronouncing "Schubert" properly all this time. Take that, straight from the Huppert's mouth, you countless numbers who have tried to correct me! Listen to further thoughts on Episode 18 of Reel Time.

Tangled - Nathan Greno & Byron Howard, 2010
Okay Disney, am I supposed to be giggling at your self-parodical quips or reveling in the hackneyed majesty of overblown pastoral romance? Because the way you're trying to juggle both just isn't gelling. "Tangled" is relatively modest in the scope of modern animation spectacles, and though its majority is basic in appearance it is not without a gleeful color scheme nor the occasionally impressive composition. As for everything else, so what? Maybe if Matt LeBlanc had voiced the male lead...

Boarding Gate - Olivier Assayas, 2007
Assayas' "Eurotrash" never quite stems over its economical roots nor reaches a significance greater than that of your everyday crime picture. I took three sittings to get through it without nodding off entirely and even then it bored me out of my mind, living up to the reasons I had been passing it over since its DVD release.

Total: 10

Rewatches (1): Gothika (Kassovitz, 2003)
- In the realm of 2000s horror, I love "Gothika". Kassovitz' keen tension-building methods and unusual scares are so fresh, to put it simply, added to the easy fact that Halle Berry is a modern screen goddess.


My Week in Movies: August 20, '11

L'heure d'été (Summer Hours)
Olivier Assayas, 2008
What is the importance of art when compared to the significance of sentimentality? Does choosing a pragmatic path over favored impracticality alter the emptiness sustained after a matriarch departs, or does it simply make that grave void more tangible? Assayas' consummately lovely and affecting weave is instantly warm, familiar and so naturally progressive we needn't be bothered by much hard narrative. "Summer Hours" joins the small handful of films (a handful led, incidentally, by "Once") I've put on in repose with hopes of being lulled to sleep only to be promptly riveted, blissfully unable to nod off until the credits.

I Love You Phillip Morris
Glenn Ficarra & John Requa - 2009
If "Catch Me If You Can" was a romantic comedy? "I Love You Phillip Morris" falls back on some peevishly standard elements such as a pedestrian score, and the constant bait-and-switches brush on oversaturation, but these never once beleaguer it. There's something special about Ficarra and Requa's rascally and just-rebellious-enough approach here that just... works. It's hilarious, heartwarming and heart-shattering all at once. Thorough, and thoroughly enjoyable. Pack a tissue or five.

James Gunn, 2010
Wow, someone could teach a whole psychology course on this richly absurd showcase of twisted and re-twisted morals and utter perversion that debases the past decade of superhero culture and way beyond. And not only does this mark the first time I've genuinely liked Ellen Page, in the year of "...and Kevin Bacon" it may feature the Baconator's best recent performance. Oh, and... William Katt! Screenshots after the jump.

35 Rhums (35 Shots of Rum)
Claire Denis, 2008
Once settled in, one discovers something indescribably catching about "35 Rhums". Where at a glance it appears little more than another oft-shaky angst-fest and I can't peg but one story thread with much resonance or realize any cultural relevance, I find driftingly pleasant the silent meditations on how we create significance within our lives. And the colors! Those purples! Listen to further thoughts on Episode 17 of Reel Time.

Further first-time viewings:

Il mio nome è Nessuno (My Name is Nobody) - Tonino Valerii, 1973
Leone's direct influence is oft apparent and, more importantly, I still adore me some Terence Hill, but not much of interest comes from this deconstructive spaghetti carnival apart from a few good chuckles, and the again bean-mongering Hill's voice - one of my favorite male performer voices, up there with Robert Evans' and Udo Kier's - has been dubbed over by another actor! Heinous Hill dubbing is why I haven't managed to complete "Ace High" yet. I should watch "They Call Me Renegade" again.

Conan the Barbarian - Marcus Nispel, 2011
This new millennium barbarian is so laughably bad you can't help but enjoy yourself in his monosyllabic presence. It's all much more Nispel's "Pathfinder" than his "Friday the 13th" (and that's not quite as self-evident a statement as it may seem; if you've seen "Pathfinder" you understand) and shares more in common with mid-to-late-'80s direct-to-video swords-and-sorcery ventures that only wished they were the nigh incomparably testosterone-fueled 1982 "Conan" than Conan itself. And Conan itself? Well, if ever Robert E. Howard's eloquent pulp is to be matched in film, we will need a much closer resemblance to the source and either a complete dashing or greater embracing of story than in this bruiser with skulls as fragile as those of "Final Destination" and arteries as explosive as in "Freddy vs. Jason" (I'm not even sure this version gets all the pronunciation correct, let alone the principal aura). As of now, Arnold's got an easy lock on the notorious glutton over the green and contemporarily straight-laced Momoa, who at least looks the part, if anything, but please have at it if you're game for some so-bad-it's-good fare with effects inconsistent enough that as soon as you think, "Wow, that sand dude actually looks pretty swell" you'll have to follow up with, "Oh, I think his prosthetic teeth are about to fall out."

Road to Nowhere - Monte Hellman, 2010
Is this the duller "Southland Tales" of movies about making movies? I guess, thinking thematically, abiding by recent cliché and calling it the "Inception" of such movies would be slightly more accurate, but here the layers are accomplished with 170% less racking exposition. If anything, I enjoy the filmmaker perspective - the simultaneous stress and thrill of an intimate shoot and the unique appreciation of and obsession over, as character (and apparent Monte Hellman intermediary) Mitchell Haven puts it, "other peoples' dreams", and how deep one will blindly go to realize them. Good opening and closing tunes, too. And Dominique Swain looks like a Tennessee Sharon Horgan. Weird.

Final Destination 5 - Steven Quale, 2011
AKA "5nal Destination". What's more excruciating, the extrapolation of common fears surrounding methods by which everyday practices could go horribly awry, or the boredom? Though piecing toward a cute twist ending (that has little to do with the ultimately underutilized "kill someone, get their life" development you've seen in the trailers) and featuring hints of morbid cunning along the way, the frail fifth in this exaggeratively splattery franchise goes through the motions, taking what had been decent fun for two movies and rendering it tiresomely less imaginative in the process. The cringe factor remains to a meager extent, but the tension dissipates without any basis beyond an excuse to watch people meet death in various degrees of computer generated viscera clouds. While Tony "Candyman" Todd may show face here and there, the series' key gimmick has always been the shameless cutting out of the middle man - a tangible killer a la Jason Voorhees (one of whose more memorable kills from "Friday the 13th: Part 3" seems to get a shout-out here) to steal our sympathies and provide purpose atop mere bloodlust - death's connecting pieces have done that job effectively until now (this is the part where I attest to having skipped the tosh-looking third and fourth "Destinations", the latter of which apparently winks, fittingly, at the whole go-to-the-race-to-see-the-crashes thing). This time, without a believable story to make us care (or at least with one glaringly lost and futile in its failed avoidance of been-there-done-that territory), it's about on the level of a more glorified, dramatized "Faces of Death" video. As for the 3D, that this film has been critically touted as one of the medium's best recent executions proves audiences are stuck on the idea of 3D being all about "things flying out at you", which doesn't even happen all that often here outside an actually rather groovy opening credits sequence that harkens to its predecessors' more memorable dismemberments through an '80s-tastic sequence of glass shattering in slow motion. And... well, we know Miles Fisher looks like Tom Cruise... but my, does he ever emote just like the Cruiser as well!

Tears of the Sun - Antoine Fuqua, 2003
I dislike disliking a Fuqua, as since the worthy "Training Day" the director has had considerable hits with me in "King Arthur" and "Brooklyn's Finest". Then, he's also had "Shooter". If you want to take an  obvious look at the stark difference between manufactured American mainstream and international independent arthouse, just watch this and Denis' "White Material" in the same day, like I coincidentally now have. Here obligatorily pretty paleskins with heroic intentions are out to rescue those deprived Uncle Sam's comforts in dryly procedural manners; the more insert shots of semi-automatic weaponry the better. "White Material" provides an ostensibly less filtered display of white naïveté amidst an African unrest unaided by foreign superpowers. Now, "Material" may not be the greatest of greats in my eyes, but within this example it accomplishes its purpose far more effectively than the drudgingly marketable "Tears of the Sun" accomplishes its own.

Drive Angry - Patrick Lussier, 2011
What gives? Cage sleepwalked through this one! Lame. Worth watching for William Fichtner's cooly funny showing, though, added to a latent kitsch value, but on top of the shockingly somnolent showing from the lead none of the promise Lussier showed with the pure fun of his "My Bloody Valentine" remake is evident.

Total: 10

Rewatches (3): Summer Hours (Assayas, 2008), Psycho (Hitchcock, 1960), White Material (Denis, 2009)
- "My mother isn't quite herself, today." And "Psycho" isn't quite the best Anthony Perkins film I've watched this month - that would be Orson Welles' "The Trial" by a longshot - but it was neat to finally be able to see a vintage film on the big screen again. Prior to this, the only classic films I'd seen the way they were originally intended were the more recent "Star Wars" and "Pink Floyd's The Wall" (as part of a High Times tour in which I, probably the only non-smoker in attendance, won a raffle for a free subscription). In some cases it's astounding what a difference the aspect of size makes, but here I'd say of greater importance is the opportunity to fully appreciate the artwork free of disruption (audience allowing, of course, and in this case my audience was not allowing... but so it goes, more and more, these days). I hadn't seen "Psycho" in so long that much of it felt fresh, particularly the very good opening half featuring Janet Leigh. After perhaps the film's best sequence, the "clean up", it becomes dully procedural, but I suppose one must consider its seminality and give it a pass regardless.
- "White Material" prospered considerably with a second chance. Subjectively it's not on par with "35 Rhums" and knowing the obvious outcome from the get-go makes for a slogging runtime, but seeing and liking "Rhums" primed me for a better appreciation of Denis' work here, which previously I had criticized as being amateurish. I stand by that criticism to an extent, but at least I'm sort of coming around, right? Maybe. Listen to further thoughts on Episode 17 of Reel Time.


My Week in Movies: August 13, '11

Na srebrnym globie (On the Silver Globe)
Andrzej Żuławski, 1987
Much of the enkindlingly ingenuitive "On the Silver Globe" is why the concise expression "brilliant" cannot sum up true brilliance. Like "Stalker", it dwells in existential angst akin to that of, at best, Shakespeare, at worst, our university diaries. Where Tarkovsky's chilly post-apocalypse has not impressed me in this regard, however (in fairness, a rewatch is due), "Globe" ponders matters with the spirit of many an artist's dream - a world begun from scratch, emblematic of raw humanity's quandaries, potentials and delusions (for recent comparison, think, to an extent, parts III-V of Refn's "Valhalla Rising"). This is greatly complimented with breathing compositions representatively simultaneous in their transference of both the disorientation of and assimilation to a new planet as resourcefully depicted through the stern Baltic, the gravid Caucasus and the august Gobi. Most of the exhilaratingly pulchritudinous picture is so alive and directly first-person the camera becomes - literally, at times - its own character within the narrative, made harrowing in part through jump cuts so slight they're often closer to dropped frames. Though remaining engaging throughout, when the story's haphazardly conceived society educes into something resembling a cerebrally intimate rendering of the Eloi/Morlock conflict from Wells' "The Time Machine" it does lose the perpetuity of its mesmerizing aesthetic, becoming more an intermittent tableau through to its imagining of otherworldly post-Soviet war fed by passionate abandon, selfish ignorance and a little rock 'n' roll. This relative downshift may be attributable to the obvious - that Żuławski's production was sabotaged by its politically sensitive enablers and "Globe" exists forever fractured.

Le procès (The Trial)
Orson Welles, 1962
Welles' grounded yet entrancingly dreamlike surreality captures a very real aura of indictment both personal and in the public eye, effulgent with displacing wide shots and daedalian extended takes. "The Trial" is a technically masterful attack on "this famous legal system" that extends down a rabbit hole of liberty as seen within the confines of contemporary society. Exemplary!

30 Minutes or Less
Ruben Fleischer, 2011
Worlds better than "Zombieland", the playfully referential (to '80s cop flicks) "30 Minutes or Less" marks the first time I've found Aziz Ansari remotely funny and features its share of hearty belly laughs from all the on-screen principles in general, most notably Michael Peña in a surprisingly uproarious turn. I'll forget about it in a week and it could use less sloppy language and "Slumdog" slurs, but it's a solid popcorn rental. And those are official "Friday the 13th: Part 3" anaglyph glasses from the recent DVD re-release of what is probably Jason Voorhees' best film! I should know, I've worn a pair while watching my own copy. Most movies would have gone generic, so "30 Minutes" receives major kudos for this fun detail.

Jûsan-nin no shikaku (13 Assassins)
Takashi Miike, 2010
One of the better in the handful of samurai epics I've seen, comparable in some regards to Kurosawa's, specifically "Seven Samurai" (which has also been said of Kudo's original, while here enough of Miike's signature creative savagery factors), though with the exception of "Throne of Blood" I've never been much for such things.

Further first-time viewings:

River's Edge - Tim Hunter, 1986
Alrighty, then. Worth it for Glover and Reeves, and maybe its perpetually damp aesthetic.

- Federico Fellini, 1963
As with many certified essentials I wind up respecting on certain levels but not genuinely liking, I wish I didn't have to be that guy who says "8½" is only okay. Thing is, following five years of irrational procrastination after blind-purchasing my Criterion copy, I've finally wound up finding "8½" to be just that, and oftentimes a chore. It is obviously far from devoid of merit, particularly with its lovely close-ups and stranger dream moments, but I see present a surplus of what has dissolved my enthusiasm for international new wave. I'd like to think in time I'll experience revelations and eventually regard this higher than... well, at least the four titles preceding it on this list. We'll see.

Sucker Punch - Zack Snyder, 2011
So-called empowerment backfires in Snyder's widely substance-free version of "The Little Princess" that goes physically everywhere while remaining mentally nowhere, apparently for the purpose of recoiling to a series of meager "aha" moments before the perorational anti-moral of glorified tolerance finally tips it over the edge into certified awfulness. With this simultaneous surplus and detriment of territory covered, we have little to no grounding for the would-be dazzling (albeit compositionally inconsistent) effects sequences, rendering them nonsensically extraneous bores. It's disappointing to see Snyder reverting to poorer quality after his impressive "Watchmen" adaptation, but at least this is a league or two ahead of "300" (then, what isn't?).

Dung che sai duk (Ashes of Time) - Wong Kar-wai, 1994
Having seen this film's 2008 "Redux" cut as opposed to its original form, I cannot be sure whether the striking pace and tone similarities to 2004's "2046" have been incorporated after the fact. So while there is a chance the disconnected dream-like state seemingly purposefully restraining me at several arm's lengths might not be quite so prominent an aspect of the original work thereby somewhat invalidating my criticism of it, at least the lack of feeling is prettier here than it is in "2046".

The Help - Tate Taylor, 2011
Everything gets compared to "The Hangover" these days, so here goes nothing: "The Help" is "The Hangover" for great-grandmas. Petticoats and lesbians and curse words, oh my! An above-average ensemble cast plus a little Johnny Cash, Bob Dylan and Chubby Checker (listed in order of appearance) doesn't come close to raising this afternoon dreck from its sewer of mediocrity so deliberately safe and obligatorily formulaic it's as if Melvin Van Peebles and Spike Lee never existed and it's impossible to make an African-American rights film with any flavor whatsoever. I would say the intentions are honorable, but when key conflicts are irresolutely tossed off as mere heartstring-tuggers in favor of a much more focal plot charting the baking of feces into pie, I can't. Furthermore, while it's all too vanilla to truly offend, the most profound relationship developed is not one of exemplary equality, but between a maid ("maid" being the film's politically correct term for "black person") and a white woman portrayed as so daft the only reason for her acceptance is that she simply cannot recognize an then-recognized class displacement, giving the impression the racists are in fact the smart ones. Perhaps it's intended to come down to the difference between "smart" and wise", but something that subtle in a piece this spoonfed? Anyway, if laying down a high ticket price to see two and a half myopic hours of made-for-television quality film about Bryce Dallas Howard eating shit as retribution for her every moment on screen being cheaply designed to make you hate her sounds good, "The Help" is for you.

Total: 9

Rewatches (1): Dog Day Afternoon (Lumet, 1975)
- I had forgotten how funny the first act of the heist-gone-awry picture "Dog Day Afternoon" is! Talk about a flick with everything - this one runs the gamut. It holds up brilliantly on repeat viewing between Pacino's thoroughly charged performance, Cazale's wild card intensity, Lumet's visions of Brooklyn, etcetera, etcetera. It was already beloved, but it's most certainly made a leap upward on my all-time favorites list as of this rewatch.


My Week in Movies: August 6, '11

Stellet Licht (Silent Light)
Carlos Reygadas, 2007
Part fascinating docudrama, part devastating emotion, "Silent Light" is both meticulously and freely gorgeous throughout, recalling on occasion Malick's admiration of youth and nature. Another objective and reverent culture study if not in the vein of work from my recent director darlings Byambasüren and Brosens at least in the same nervous system, it allows the viewer to come as close as they may be likely to come to experiencing a different lifestyle, liberated of the Western necessity to blur, fleet and fly. Through conclusively self-assured, often mesmerizingly precise camerawork and the unique ethnography of the Mennonites the film has an otherworldliness about it that transcends narrative, but when the story's core does effervesce it makes for some of the strongest moments. Screenshots after the jump.

Rise of the Planet of the Apes
Rupert Wyatt, 2011
And lo, from the malaise of a summer marked by mere product unexpectedly rises a real movie - an honest-to-goodness blockbuster with brains, heart and teeth! And no reliance on perpetual expository dialogue (thank goodness for the apes - whose animal behavior is accomplished just as expertly as their developing humanity - not quite being able to speak yet)! My sole complaint concerns a single cheaply executed character who might have been better off axed in favor of another character's greater prominence (in this case, to an extent, a la Fuller's "White Dog"). With a grabbing, classically paced story harkening back to creature feature legends yet featuring plenty of modern flair, state-of-the-art visual effects the likes of which may not have been executed this daringly since "Pirates of the Caribbean: At World's End", thoroughly inspired direction from relative newcomer and lucky sonuvabitch Rupert Wyatt and, not to be forgotten, a handful of well-woven nods toward the 1968 original (I.E. the pre-established version of what is to come), "Rise of the Planet of the Apes" is why we go to the movies. Listen to further thoughts on Reel Time: Episode 16.

Din of Celestial Birds
Edmund Elias Merhige, 2006
How's that for a great title? Merhige's intensely consuming successor to "Begotten" goes all "Jupiter & Beyond the Infinite" on us, perhaps surpassing in its brevity the achievement of its fortuitously crude forerunner. It must be experienced! It's full of stars!

My Winnipeg
Guy Maddin, 2007
There is an involvingly Palahniukian stream-of-consciousness carrying through likewise subverted suggestion and an admirable Soviet influence (seen partially through overt homage to early animated propaganda and Eisenstein's "Strike", respectively) to Maddin's yet most reputed work. I still haven't quite fallen in love with the "Guy", but through this lucidly autobiographical portrait of his hometown it would finally appear there is hope.

Further first-time viewings:

The Hound of the Baskervilles - Paul Morrissey, 1978
Peter Cook and Dudley Moore again bring their signature cutting tongue-in-cheek wit, this time to the end of sending up Sherlock Holmes' notoriously nuanced mythos - perfectly at first, then less so but still notably. It seems rather odd Morrissey helmed this, as it appears so definitively a product of the on-screen duo with none of the "Flesh" or "Blood" from the director's distinct stylistic idiosyncrasies (or did those only surface through the Warhol partnership?).

Fortune Cookie - Darren Aronofsky, 1991
Not without spirit or some inspired flair beyond your standard student film (and indeed several hints of what was to come in "Pi" and "Requiem for a Dream"), and while without quite enough of these to transcend student mode, the overall verve brings it through.

Lick the Star - Sofia Coppola, 1998
Coppola shows ample promise with what is widely a precursor to "The Virgin Suicides". Thing is, "Lick the Star" is subjectively just that - a preview of the adolescent insipidity "Suicides" brought us, though thankfully in a somewhat less heralded form.

Swingers - Doug Liman, 1996
For better or for worse depending on your viewpoint, "Swingers" is to something like "It's Impossible to Learn to Plow by Reading Books", "subUrbia" or even certain Jon Jost pictures as something like "True Romance" or "Things to Do in Denver When You're Dead" is to "Reservoir Dogs", "Pulp Fiction" or even certain Martin Scorsese pictures (and would you look at that, there they go riffing on "Reservoir Dogs" and referencing Scorsese in the process). It's competent and amusing but being mired in derivative '90s-ness bars me from making a critical leap.

No Time - Darren Aronofsky, 1994
What is this, an episode of "Reality Bites" if "Reality Bites" were trying to be sketch comedy? And who'da thunk Aronofsky was so fond of fart humor (seen for the second time here after the gaseous bathroom stall brawl in "Fortune Cookie", given he did not pen that script nor the one for "No Time"). How does one arrive at the conclusion anyway, to perform the introduction of Pink Floyd's "Money" with noisy bodily functions (and I don't mean in a Le Pétomane kind of way)?

The Last Airbender - M. Night Shyamalan, 2010
I believe what is best said here could be, "No comment."

Winter's Bone - Debra Granik, 2010
Sundance doesn't seem to get anymore that it takes more than shaky cam and depressed, conflicted teens to make a "good" movie. Pretty neat to me the lead character's name is Ree, though, since it's my significant other's middle name after her godmother's first name and outside of those two I'd never heard it. So... for what that's worth... I guess.

Knucklehead - Michael W. Watkins, 2010
I'm sorry, Paul, this is a nigh unwatchable horror of a picture prolonged fart joke.

Total first-time viewings: 12

Rewatches (3): Midnight in Paris (Allen, 2011), Kung Fu Dunk (Yen-ping, 2008), The Matrix Reloaded (Wachowski & Wachowski, 2003)
-Though now knowing the big surprise of "Midnight in Paris" dissolves some of the picture's mirth, it's all so convivial and just plainly, delightfully charming that it's next to impossible to wipe the smile from your face throughout. A rewatch does, of course, help one admire the subtle complexities. I could sum up the ultimate morality with a quote from the nostalgic "Dazed & Confused", "...the '70s, oh, my God, they obviously suck", but there is so much more at such reflexive work (yes, everything on this blog is relatable back to "Dazed & Confused"). I only wish the film were longer!
-Have you seen "Kung Fu Dunk"? Why not? What could you possibly be doing with your life so important you haven't seen "Kung Fu Dunk" yet? In all seriousness, do yourself a favor.
-Where certain beloved films only prosper with virtually infinite rewatches, "The Matrix" sequels make for yet two more films I was once in love with but whose affects further erode upon each go. As time passes and the momentous hype surrounding the series dissipates, the many drier, exposition-heavy sequences hold less and less gravitas. I do still dig the revolutionary action sequences and the unwavering totality of deeply philosophical motivation behind them, though, and that's enough to guard the pair's' esteem in my mind (and believe me on that philosophy bit... in '03 I actually started - never finished, go figure - a Wikia-esque series of interconnected articles detailing my interpretations of each individual character and what they mean within the worlds).

-This is the first test run of that week-by-week (Saturdaily) format I mentioned for what has thus far been referred to as "My Month in Review". Let's see how it goes... if I'm not feeling it, it won't last long. So far, however, the "feeling" is optimistic.