We came here in planes, you came here in chains.

Posted in Uncategorized on March 2, 2009 by ilostitatthemovies

I guess I was one of the lucky few who got to see The Combination at Greater Union before they banned it (supposedly, Lebanese kids were picking fights outside screenings; certainly there was no evidence of this at the session I saw, but who knows.) It’ll suck if they have to go to, like, Dendy Newtown to beat people up, although I suppose they’ll encounter less resistance. I could personally go for hanging around outside indie cinemas, beating up self-satisfied patrons. I dunno, the reviews are bitter today, it’s half cause my friends were picking on my taste last night and half cause I fucked up my back so I’m just lying in bed, bored shitless (don’t worry, it’s not serious; I’m just taking it easy).

This is very good for an Australian film, which sounds like faint praise, and I guess it is. It’s a very good movie with major problems that stop me unequivocally loving it, but I still liked it a lot; I think it’s clever, it’s very sad, and in particular, the cinematography is beautiful, phenomenal. The story is brilliantly structured, and makes excellent use of parallels and juxtapositions to organise its little victories and heartbreaks as it heads towards its major tragedy (not giving anything away; if you don’t know there’s a tragedy coming five minutes into this, you’ve never seen a movie before). When the tragedy did come, I heard the loudest straight-out sob I’ve ever heard in a cinema, and it certainly had my own personal waterworks flowing. (On the other hand, I am a big sensitive dork and cry at practically everything.)

But yeah, there are problems. Although the parallels between the brothers’ stories are well handled, the overall story is fairly cliched (older brother, fresh out of jail, doesn’t want younger brother making his mistakes), and at least to me, the older brother’s story is just much less interesting. I always love gangster movies, and the parts about the kids getting mixed up in low-level organised crime are, at least to me, just much more interesting than the mature, reformed older brother falling in love with a white girl parts. The love story also takes a big hit in the middle with a poorly thought out plot development that I don’t want to give away, but for me, never quite recovers. A lot of the minor characters are really thin, and while there’s certainly some charm to a movie where its the token Anglo characters who are poorly written stereotypes, they still bog the movie down.

I don’t want to go on too much about the negatives, because I did enjoy this a lot, but they are frustrating because you can almost see the actually great movie under here, trying to get out. I would still definitely recommend it, and don’t expect to see a better local movie this year.

Would I be Al Pacino in this scenario?

Posted in Uncategorized on March 2, 2009 by ilostitatthemovies

In the spirit of getting up to date – no, you don’t want to see this film. He’s Just Not That Into You, I mean. Not even as funny as I expected. I’ve never seen a film where I identified so little with the characters; nobody seems to have any ambition at all except to get married. Do you care if Ben Affleck will marry Jennifer Aniston in the end? I didn’t think so.

Do you ever just groove on your own body?

Posted in Uncategorized on March 2, 2009 by ilostitatthemovies

OK, I really have to get this up to date – I’m three movies behind. Practically a month. From now on I’ll try to write everything up within a week of seeing it, which doesn’t seem hard, but boy, time does fly. I mean, I had no idea how hard it would be just to go to the movies every week. It seems like the easiest thing, so achievable, but then suddenly it’s Sunday again and you realise if you don’t get to the cinema in like fifteen minutes you’re going to blow the whole deal.

Anyway, a couple of weeks ago the Cinematheque showed Andy Warhol’s Chelsea Girls over two weeks, chopped in half. The Cinematheque’s only programmed at the Chauvel (the cinema that hosts it) for a two hour, two and a half hour block, so they couldn’t screen the whole thing. Man, if you want to get a bunch of movie nerds riled up… I can see the argument both ways. I think it’s historically and artistically important enough that it deserves to be screened, even if you have to cut it up. On the other hand, duration – the physical experience of time passing as you watch the movie – is so intrinsic to Warhol’s cinema that cutting it in two really fucks with it. You’re really watching something different, watching Chelsea Girls in two halves, in a way you’re not even with comparably long or longer narrative films – I don’t see any reason not to show, say, Ran or Once Upon A Time In America in two parts.

Anyway, the attrition rate for these screenings was incredible – the smaller of the Chauvel’s theatres was literally full for the first part, and while the second part was also crowded, a lot of that was just different people. I can’t imagine watching the first half and not wanting to come back, because this movie is really awesome and fun, but then last night over beers me and some friends established that I just have ratshit taste in films, so what do I know? I would rather watch four hours of experimental wackness than some tasteful Oscar bait indie flick. You all should go watch David and Margaret and quit reading this, that’s for sure.

Chelsea Girls runs for about two and a half hours, with two screens projected side by side. I’ve seen it once before, and that time the projectionist fiddled with the soundtrack, sliding back and forth from one screen to the other at arbitrary intervals. At the Cinematheque showing, the soundtrack stayed with one side until it finished, then you’d get the tail end of the sound for the other reel. Each scene consists of an uninterrupted 40-minute (I think?) take, mostly black and white, joined theoretically by their taking place in the Chelsea Hotel. Because the projectionist has to load one reel, start showing it, then load the second projector and start it, and repeat this process every time one finishes, the movie’s never shown in exactly the same way twice. With the soundtrack drawing your attention to one whole reel at a time, as at the Cinematheque, it’s more like watching a movie (albeit a weird one) while your attention is, occasionally, briefly drawn to the image passing by beside it. I think that, although projectionists can show the reels in any order they like, there’s a de facto official ‘Warhol’ order that most screenings follow, and I think this screening didn’t follow it. (The scenes Wayne Koestenbaum describes as final in his Warhol book opened the first of the screenings here.) If Brett, the Cinematheque programmer, decided on the order he showed, he did a great job – it gave the proceedings something weirdly akin to a narrative flow, which is no small task with a film like this. Obviously, whether it’s desirable is open to debate. I’m not strenuously opnionated one way or the other.

Virtually every scene in this movie consists of someone being humiliated, generally by someone else, but sometimes merely by the circumstances of the film’s production. More or less everyone in the film is on drugs – mostly speed, but Eric Emerson’s scene (in which he slowly undresses and rambles through a painfully self-reflective psychedelic monologue) is a notable exception on acid. Some of the best times of my life have been just hanging out with people on drugs – I mean, not going out or doing anything, spending time in an altered state, with friends on speed or pills, or coming down; I just really love the torqued kind of wit and verve and whacked out sensuality (and yes, cruelty) people have on drugs. This movie really captures that, and honours it – if you learn nothing else, you learn there aren’t many things in life funnier than a really sharp-tongued speed queen.

But like I said, the dominant trope here is humiliation. The film is incredibly, although not conventionally, sadomasochistic. In two of the reels, Warhol’s legendary Pope, Ondine, offers to here the confession of a young woman. Neither woman has any idea what she’s letting herself in for. His hectoring is hilarious, but brutal – culminating in an incredible, uncomfortably funny moment when he hauls off and hits Rona Page, hard. As abrupt as this is, he doesn’t get anywhere near as cruel as the majestic Mary Woronov, who holds court over three beleaguered ingenues over two reels. She ties one of them up under the table, and forces another – who, in a tantrum, throws and shatters a glass ashtray – to pick up the debris with her bare feet. She refuses to let Velvet, who’s desperately awaiting a call about a possible modelling job, answer the phone. Woronov is the most hilarious, terrifying bully in film history. In another scene, a handsome young man in his underwear is tormented by an older gay guy – who seems to have hired him for sex – and Ingrid Superstar, as the ‘neighbour’, who unabashedly tries to seduce him. Seduce is probably the wrong word – it looks for all the world like she’s trying to embarrass him by giving him an erection while he’s stuck on camera in just his underwear. He, meanwhile, seems to not want her to think he’s gay, and in this project is extensively thwarted by the older man, who exposes his butt and refers to it repeatedly as his property. As may be obvious, I find all this tremendously erotic.

Being a huge Warhol stan, I fucking love this movie, but I think it’s genuinely great, and if you ever get a chance to see it, you really should. It’s easily one of the ten best movies I’ve ever seen, and might be the most flat-out entertaining movie on that list. It’s also thought provoking. Not like some shitty indie flick where you go have coffee and you’re all like, “Man, gay people really had it hard, didn’t they?” or, “It’s so sad, he just wanted to wrestle,” or whatever. It provokes actual, substantial, complex thoughts – about the passage of time (both in terms of ageing and the immediate experience of duration), the nature of relationships between individuals, cruelty, humour and drugs. It changes your perception of these things. And plus, you’ll laugh your arse off.

Say, “Over-pants hand job.”

Posted in Uncategorized on February 20, 2009 by ilostitatthemovies

Man, I’m already getting behind with this. Last Friday, the 13th, I went to see My Bloody Valentine 3D. I think all of us rationalised it like, “Who cares if it’s good or not – it’s in 3D!” I think this is a perfectly good reason to see a movie, I’ve been meaning to go see Bolt 3D, some shitty cartoon about a dog, on the same grounds. Anyway, this movie turned out to pretty much totally rule. In a way, it’s like the Platonic ideal of a movie called My Bloody Valentine 3D – you get absolutely everything you could want in a movie with that title, and nothing else.

One of my vices is reading movie reviews in the street press on the toilet at work, just for the hilarity of their inane opinions (my favourite example being the review of The Wrestler that said seeing this movie made him realise The Dark Knight wasn’t really the pinnacle of film art he’d first thought it was – can you even imagine letting that guy write movie reviews? I’m not even sure I’d let him watch movies.) Anyway, the review here – I imagine more or less the same review has appeared dozens if not hundreds of times by now – was that it was a fun, dumb movie but everything except the special effects (story, acting, etc.) don’t bear thinking about. I really disagree – while the story is dumb (and that’s just a generic convention, anyway), the structure is definitely smart and interesting. It knows how to play on your expectations – about things like pacing, story structure, and gore – in original and fun ways. I would say more about this, but I don’t want to spoil it for you – and believe me, there are strikingly few slasher films where I would be at all concerned about spoiling the story.

Nevetheless, the 3D gore is plainly the selling point, and the movie more than delivers. You will be amazed at the sheer number of angles at which its possible to drive a pick axe through someone’s head. Sharp objects will shoot out of the screen at your face, as will gobs of normally internal organs. Blood will drip on the heads of audience members in front of you. All this is hilarious to me – I think to most people, also scary to some people. I went with a friend who screamed more or less constantly, and I mean both the ‘screamed’ and the ‘more or less constantly’ – I mean, she wailed out loud during the previews for other scary movies. I ended up with bruises where she’d clutched my arms. This, of course, only made the movie funnier.

If anything deflated my enjoyment, it was the gratuitous nudity. Now, I don’t have a problem with gratuious nudity – again, it’s almost a generic convention – but the way it’s dealt with here bothered me both in its ironisation and for feministish reasons. Only one character gets undressed in the whole movie, and she spends literally her entire screen time completely naked. So it’s annoyingly ironic in a “yeah, we all know it’s dumb that she’s naked, so let’s just make it extra-dumb and we can all laugh about how smart we are” kind of way. (I worry this blog will end up being a series of complaints about unnecessary deployments of irony in contemporary film.) I guess the feministish complaint is pretty obvious. Just, kind of ick. I don’t know, maybe I’m just being ridiculous; “I want more than this from my sex objects.” Actually, this might lead in kind of nicely to writing up Chelsea Girls, which I watched over the last two weeks at the Cinematheque. But I might have to save that till I have time to write it up properly.

Kneel before Zod

Posted in Uncategorized on February 6, 2009 by ilostitatthemovies

I’ve had a cold, so I’ve been watching lots of videos. Here is the quick round-up…

Jackass 2. Easily one of the ten best sequels ever made, this movie is hilarious. I honestly think I’ve never laughed at any movie as much as this, except maybe the first part. Painful, gasping, can’t-breathe, tears-down-the-cheeks laughter. Also gloriously homoerotic.

Superman 2. Terence Stamp as Zod is such a great villain, like up there with the Wicked Witch of the West. Hey, is Wicked still playing in Melbourne? Maybe I should see it next week. The plot of this movie is beyond contrived but it’s still lots of fun.

Arsenic and Old Lace. This was my first Capra film, and def made me want to see his other stuff. It’s got the best Cary Grant performance I’ve seen, really great freaked-out straight man. Cary gets married, but on his wedding day discovers that his kindly old aunts have been poisoning a string of men and burying them in the cellar. Hilarity ensues.

You help me

Posted in Uncategorized on February 3, 2009 by ilostitatthemovies

The worst idea I had for this blog was to give each post a title from the movie. It turns out to be really hard to actually remember a line of dialogue properly, unless it’s obviously catchphrase-y. The Jammed was the first outright bad movie I saw this year, and man, I certainly don’t remember any cool examples of verbal repartee or screenwriterly panache. Not even IMDB can help me, with an unsurprisingly empty ‘memorable quotes’ section for this flick. I think the annoying mother probably says “You help me” at some point, it might even be her only line.

Anyway, this is a painfully serious Aussie drama about trafficking sex workers. My housemate rented it because she went to high school with the girl who plays the Russian one. Her accent is pretty hilarious. Actually, there’s plenty to laugh AT in this film, but not enough to overcome its painfully racist storyline – helpless, naive Chinese women and the courageous white woman who helps them – but don’t worry, all the Asian women will be gone by the end, dead or deported.

I don’t want to waste too much time writing about this one, but I feel I have to mention the incredibly ill-advised romantic subplot. When our protagonist first meets the evil gangster dude, he threatens to rape her if she doesn’t back off. She goes to hide at her ex’s house, and they sleep together. Dude! If your ex comes to stay at your house to avoid being raped, don’t fuck her! I could dig on this storyline if the point was that all anglo men are fucked, but I don’t think that’s the vibe they were going for. Avoid this movie at all costs. I mean, actually die before watching it. I don’t know, maybe it could be a good date film if you’re trying to get with a Sheila Jeffries student or something.

Civil rights or civil war

Posted in Uncategorized on February 2, 2009 by ilostitatthemovies

What is it with these cockteasing gay riot porn movies? It’s like Stonewall, which you would think might theoretically be about the famous Stonewall RIOTS that launched the modern gay lib movement etc., but instead it’s just 90 minutes of love story leading up to when the riots happened. I can’t even remember if they had a riot scene in the movie, but it clearly should have been one massive 90 minute riot scene. It’s not like that shitty movie about the anti-WTO protests in Seattle spends 90 minutes on what the dudes were all doing just before the protest, instead you get solid gold comedy shit like Andre 3000 dressed as a turtle and Pacey from Dawson’s Creek speechifying for the black bloc and COP ANGST! With Milk you get your 90 minutes of serious political campaigning and I think no mention is even made of the White Night riots. I think Gus Van Sant is pretty anti-rioting. Sean Penn is constantly like “there’s going to be a riot unless I do something”. Fuck you, Gus Van Sant. Yeah, this is a pretty well made movie about how gay white men and their token woman friend saved America and its wheelchair-bound gay teens from homophobia. If that’s your thing…