Archive for January, 2009

Your wedding can suck it.

Posted in Uncategorized on January 25, 2009 by ilostitatthemovies

Yesterday, not wanting to blow my resolution already by missing out on a movie this week, I went to see Bride Wars. Man, this is a funny movie! Not just funny, either, but funny in kind of exactly the way I like – i.e., it includes comedy dance scenes. One scene ruthlessly bites the Sparky Pulastri sequence from Bring It On, and frankly, there are few movies that wouldn’t be improved by some Sparky. Is it even worth explaining what this movie’s about? I don’t think anyone who reads this blog is going to see it anyway. Well, why not? Kate Hudson and Anne Hathaway have been subconsciously lesbian best friends since they were little kids, and they share the lifelong dream of a June wedding at the Plaza Hotel. But when a clerical error sees them accidentally book weddings at exactly the same time, they must go to war – shady, bitchy, superficial girl war – to see who will get the coveted ceremony.

The awesome thing about this set up is that it’s immediately obvious exactly how it ends, so you can ignore the plot, and just luxuriate in the duelling anti-wedding pranks part of the story. The movie really excels here, and things escalate perfectly, so at least in the movie’s logic – “logic” – everything makes sense as a response to what the other one just did, even as they enter the stratosphere of truly insane movie prankdom. Holy shit, this movie is FUNNY.

On the downside it’s, you know, morally bankrupt. Obviously the main characters have to be complete idiots for this to work, have to care more about the formal institutionalisation of their heterosexuality provided by their wedding day than absolutely anything else, including their lifelong friendship. Chicks, huh? Ten years ago I think this movie would have just been shitty and chauvinistic, but now they just work it by ironising the chauvinism, make it like, “chauvinist movie”, we know, we’re all in on the joke, right? Nothing to get worked up about. This made me wonder at first if it was like the trickledown version of hipsterdom, the for-the-rubes version of trying to structure your pleasures around an idea of ironic distance so they don’t compromise you, the romcom equivalent of boyband T-shirts everyone knows you’re too cool to be wearing seriously. But then I got thinking, maybe that use of irony, which you, or at least I, think of as the defining mark of hipster culture, is just how culture works now in general, and hipsters are just this weird subset of the Bride Wars audience who think their assymetrical haircuts and knowingly shitty taste in house music make them cool, different, avantgarde. Am I stating the obvious? I guess so.

So I was conflicted watching this – OK it’s hilarious, but there’s no way you can defend it. One thing that is cool is how they draw out the obvious lesbian subtext that’s intrinsic to this kind of story – so the subtext is almost a subplot, without ever (really) being explicitly stated, it has a beginning and middle and climax of its own, parallel to but at odds with the main story. That part is well done. I guess there’s nothing about this movie that’s not well done, but obviously I just think about shit too much and it ruins going to movies for me. No, wait.

Huerta with the choke!

Posted in Uncategorized on January 21, 2009 by ilostitatthemovies

On Sunday arvo I went to a friend’s place for a barbecue. I’d had a quiet weekend but they were all hungover as shit, and were having a hard time getting the barbie lit. L ended up throwing little splashes of methylated spirits at it, to try and spread the flames around. Well, she succeeded. After a few shots, the flames just raced back up the stream and the bottle caught fire in this almighty wooshing fireball, and she managed to shoot some flaming metho into the long-grass back corner of the yard as well as dropping the bottle onto the hammock behind her, so that caught, too. It was pretty hilarious, that whole yard kind of has fire trap written all over it and all these groggy punks running around trying to figure out what to do was great. Eventually we put it out, got the barbie working, ate delicious tofu skewers. (I took kanga bangas, but we didn’t end up cooking them.)

By the time we watched Global Metal, I was pretty drunk, and maybe my critical faculties were skewed. It’s the sequel to some skinny metal nerd’s earlier doco about metal (since when do documentaries have sequels?) The first one was pretty good, if I remember right, with toned down sociology and plenty of lol, metalheads. This one kind of runs with the formula, but about metal fans in various non-English speaking countries. I found it painfully exoticising, because laughing at how dopey and weird American metalheads is is fine with me, but it’s more painful when the American dude is setting you up to laugh at dopey and weird Indo kids or whatever. Anyway, nobody agreed with me on this, so maybe I was just drunk. On the other hand, I thought there was less of this as it went on, so maybe he felt like he needed that sort of comedy racism at the start to hook people, then moved on to more interesting stuff. Or maybe I just got drunker.

Anyway, metal fans turn out to be exactly the same everywhere – they think that listening to metal, growing their hair long and wearing black makes them hugely rebellious. It’s funny, because they have this same attitude whether what they’re ‘rebelling’ against it, you know, their middle-class parents or a repressive dictatorship. Dudes in Myanmar or whatever complaining about the regime, sounding exactly like stoners you knew in high school, is pretty funny.

Earlier that day I’d picked up the UFC’s 2007 best-of collection, and everyone was really stoked to watch a match quickly before the movie. Or thought they were. I put on Huerta/Guida which is one of the best MMA fights I’ve ever seen. Huerta eats an absolutely sick beating but constantly looks like he’s waiting for his shot. Yeah, you’re on top of me punching me in the face, but I’ll get mine. People were pretty quickly grossed out by the ground-and-pound parts, and kept asking about the rules, so I’m trying to explain groundfighting while screaming my head off for Huerta’s comeback spots. It was pretty fun. The best-of is great, I’ve been watching a fight or two while I have dinner all week, lots of fun.

When the President does it, that means it’s not illegal

Posted in Uncategorized on January 18, 2009 by ilostitatthemovies

My dad was in town, so we went to see Frost/Nixon. He hardly slept through any of it, which at this point is about his highest recommendation for a movie. And yeah, it is pretty good. There’s nothing wrong with it, but really, how excited are you going to get about a movie where what’s at stake is the honour of the American presidency?

The guy who plays Nixon is really great. It’s a hard part to do because Nixon impression is such a cliche symbol for ‘bad comedian’, but he pulls it off. The guy who plays Frost comes across a little too much like a Ricky Gervais character. Kevin Bacon is awesome as the Smithers to Nixon’s Mr Burns. Overall, this would have been great if they just let it be the comedy it kind of wants to be. As a drama, it’s good but ultimately meh.

Also, dad managed to lose his phone at the cinema, so I have to go back today to pick it up. I might try and see Slumdog Millionaire while I’m there, since everyone says it’s so great. Then I think Milk opens this week. I really want to get past this run of serious Oscarbait movies and into more movies where there are things to say besides “technically competent, well done”.

Posted in Uncategorized on January 15, 2009 by ilostitatthemovies

This is a belated note on the first part of the Cinematheque’s four part series on film serials, featuring an episode of 1940s Batman and a long excerpt from the French silent series Fantomas with live musical accompaniment. Quick, random thoughts.

1940s Batman outfit is awesome. (Think they’re planning on showing one of these each week?)

Wish they hadn’t just picked a “lol 1940s = racist” Batman story, although maybe they’re all like that. Ah not to labour the point but because I think it plays into liberal we-tolerant, yeah! narratives that sit so nice with a Cinematheque crowd.

Oh yeah – the Cinematheque crowd. I liked it better last year when there would be like a half dozen scattered randoms strewn through the cinema. Now it is pulling decent crowds, including lots of young hipsters, and it has lost some of its charm. I mean, I genuinely am glad its drawing bigger crowds’, but I just want to go see old movies quietly by myself, not unexpectedly end up sitting next to my ex, you know?

Fantomas was pretty great, dunno about the live music. Why must this always be kind of jazzy improv? This is a 1940s gangster serial, would be awesome with like Alchemist instrumentals playing in the background. Should test this theory by finding a DVD and watching it with Sean Price playing or whatever.

Highlight of Fantomas was the two cops arresting the title villain and leading him away, one holding each arm. Fantomas escapes because they were false arms, which he sheds and flees. Cops left standing, confused, with a plastic arm each.

Incidentally, I probably won’t make it to the next few weeks’ screenings, so if anyone wants to borrow my pass, they’re welcome to.

That’s not a good idea.

Posted in Uncategorized on January 11, 2009 by ilostitatthemovies

I can’t remember the last time I was as excited about a movie as I was about The Wrestler, but I think I just ended up suffering the burden of heightened expectations. Was this movie as average as I think it was, or did I just expect it to be amazing? I am pretty sure this is a very average movie.

Mickey Rourke is good, it’s true. A lot of the time you just watch him Act Well, you know. “Yep, that’s a good performance he’s giving. That is a technically impeccable representation of the emotion the script calls for.” But there are bits where he is actually pretty great, too. The scene where he’s first working the deli counter is classic.

But the story? Come on. Washed up old star has heart attack, can no longer do the thing he loves, does it anyway. Did we really need another version of this story, however well executed?

The direction is heavy-handed. The long opening stretch where we don’t see the Ram’s face, camera tracking behind him. I guess you don’t expect too much subtlety from dude who made Pi and Requiem for a Dream, but really. Later, he calls back to this nicely, tracking behind the Ram again as he walks into his shitty new job. For a second it’s a neat parallel, then he fucking beats you over the head with it.

To me, this is a generically shitty indie film with an interesting subject. It has some good stuff in it, but overall it’s disappointing. Necro Butcher deserves an Oscar for his part, but then, he is just being Necro Butcher. Fuck man, he probably deserved an Oscar for the Cage of Death match that ended the ROH/CZW feud, but wrestlers aren’t even allowed to join Actors Equity, so I’m not holding my breath.

Some time soon I better watch some dumb action movie or stoner comedy or something, before you all think I only watch middlebrow bullshit films.

He stank like a man. The way men stink.

Posted in Uncategorized on January 11, 2009 by ilostitatthemovies

Arthouse but trashy, just how I like it. What better way to start. The Bitter Tears of Petra Von Kant. Its the first disc in the recently released Rainer Werner Fassbinder On Sex box set, one of a bunch of Fassbinder collections that I’m excited about working my way through. The other two I saw are out are On Gangsters and On Melodrama, but I picked up this one for um obvious reasons even though, having not seen that much Fassbinder, I’ve seen two of these three. But Bitter Tears is like seriously all-time and after catching it a couple of years ago at the NSW Museum, I have longed to see it again. LONGED. So anyway, this is the first of possibly many Fassbinder reviews to come.

Fassbinder, in case you don’t know – impossible to work with, get along with; pumped out 35 films in a 15 year career, many of them classics; helped define New German Cinema; gay, maybe the most cynical gay film-maker ever; died at 37 from pills and cocaine. My kind of director.

Incidentally, the box set comes complete with two academic-ish essays. Just in case you didn’t feel pretentious enough, buying 70s German arthouse cinema box sets.

This movie, adapted from Fassbinder’s play, has (basically) four scenes, all set in Petra’s lavishly decorated apartment. It’s very stage-y in a way that Fassbinder really makes work, and I guess we’ll get to the mise-en-scene below somewhere. Anyway, PVK is a recently divorced, control-freak fashion designer with an ambiguous relationship to her creepy-looking personal assistant/slave. She meets Karin, the ingenue, and seduces her. Later, Karin leaves her. PVK goes totally fucking nuts. It’s actually a classic girl-meets-girl, girl-loses-girl story, when you think about it. But you don’t think about it because it’s so a) beautiful and b) brutal.

I can’t go any further without mentioning Petra’s outfit in the second scene. This movie rocks some amazing outfits, but I genuinely think the scene two outfit is the single greatest outfit in motion picture history. Can not describe. See this movie, if only for PVK’s scene two dress.

Margit Carstensen is beyond classic in the title role, just exuding passive aggressive entitlement that shimmies its way, moment to moment, into just-plain aggressive. She gets to deliver lines like, “He stank like a man. The way men stink. What had once had its charms now turned my stomach and brought tears to my eyes.”  The seduction scene is so magnificent, with both characters failing to suppress their predatory intentions, letting each other pretend they’re not. Karin wants a career, PVK wants Karin. PVK would probably be outright terrifying – her haunched indifference to Karin’s feelings, her bitter, sleazy, neurotic desperation – if it wasn’t obvious that Karin was playing her right back.

The apartment. Holy shit, the apartment. People refer to the all-female cast but really you should say no-males, because the apartment is a whole person here, almost the star. Not just the design, which is sufficiently staggering – exactly how you hope the 70s German haute-bourgeoisie decorated – but hysterically controlled camera movements that subdivide the already tiny space, chop it up into gaudy baubles of luxury. Prettiness that’s overwhelming, humiliating. I think Fassbinder could have just kept the camera focused on that shag-pile carpet for two hours and it would have been compelling.

This movie is kind of in a genre of its own,”bitter lesbian break-up movie”. At least it’s the only one I know of. I guess because nobody ever watches it and thinks, “I want to make a movie like that”.” You would have to be nuts, because this is perfect. Well, the cover makes a big deal of this influencing Ozon’s 8 Women, but I don’t really see it. I mean, I remember 8 Women being a kind of campy murder-mystery farce. Maybe it had great design, I forget. Anyway, is that really a draw for anyone? “I don’t know who this Fassbinder is, but apparently he influenced a minor French cult hit of the early 00s.” This reminds me there was a time when I thought Ozon was the most exciting new film-maker around. Holy shit was I wrong about that.

This movie has the greatest kind of implicit movie, the parts that you extrapolate in between the scenes. I mean, PVK and Karin’s whole relationship goes there – and how long has PVK been drunkenly wallowing on the floor? God, imagine the sex they had. Karin’s blank stare as she mechanically fists PVK, occasionally snapping back into fulsome love-you eyeglaze when she remembers PVK might be watching. PVK would also be blank, but expressing a combination of lust, satisfaction, domineering indifference, and denial. Hot.

This could be the only movie that ever made breaking up seem more romantic than getting together. See it then fall apart in a protracted boozy tantrum on the shag-pile carpet of your own life.

In the end, he got his swimming pool.

Posted in Uncategorized on January 11, 2009 by ilostitatthemovies

My New Years Resolution for this year is to see more movies, something I don’t often do otherwise. I mean, my favourite movie of 08 was probably Harold and Kumar Escape from Guantanamo Bay, but even I am not contrarian enough to think that was the legit best thing that came out. And I do love movies, despite ignoring new ones, so my goal is to see a new release in the cinema every week this year. I’m sure that will fall through sooner than later, but anyway, I’m also going to try and write something here about every movie I see. If nothing else, it will make compiling my year end best-of list easier.

If you’re in Sydney and you want to see a movie with me, let me know, because obviously I’m going to need a lot of movie dates. I warn you, though, I am kind of into the obviously masochistic side of the movie-a-week ideal – I expect to see a lot of movies I dislike, or hate. But I’m also going to branch out as much as possible – indie shit, blockbusters, animations, international cinema, etc.

For the record, I watched two movies this year before starting the blog – The Wackness, an indie coming-of-age flick with a great mid 90s rap soundtrack, and Detour, a broke-hitchhiking-muso-accidentally-kills-dude, falls-for-femme-fatale noir. I enjoyed both a lot.