20 March 2006

snakes on a plane

do you know about snakes on a plane?

i only bring it up because skirt mentioned it in the comments. here's what i know about the picture:

1. its about snakes on a plane.
2. it stars samuel l. jackson
3. it co-stars that fat kid from "fat albert" and "good burger"

i read something where slj said, "i signed up for the movie just based on the title. 'snakes on a plane' -- you either want to see that or you don't." in fact, they even tried to change the title, and he vetoed it! samuel l. jackson was adamant that this movie was called "snakes on a plane". it's hilarious to think that he's that casual about picking scripts, but in this case, i think he's right: any movie called "snakes on a plane" is going to be good, at least in some way. it tells you everything you need to know.

will i see it? well, based on this, i'd say yes. i'd say hell yes.

19 March 2006

grapes of wrath

facets cinechat, sunday march 19th.

ever heard of facets? if you're not from chicago, if you're not a complete and total film geek, then probably not. i heard about it first from a film professor back at miami. he mentioned, off-hand, a spot in chicago that had tens of thousands of movies for sale and for rent (by mail!) -- rare stuff, foreign stuff, stuff you literally couldn't get anywhere else because facets has their own home video label.

when i moved to chicago in late summer of 2004, i quit netflix and joined facets. they have a similar program: $24 a month gets you unlimited rentals (3 at a time), discounts when buying, and, most importantly, free admission to screenings of whatever they are showing at one of their two theatres. since joining, i've seen stuff like primer, tarnation, and now, the grapes of wrath.

this one was special. certainly i wanted to see the picture. for one thing, lately i've been on a john steinbeck kick. how could you not be after reading "travels with charley"? the man was an amazing writer, and he also seemed like a good man, a kind man, a curious man. secondly, its john ford. also, henry fonda. there is absolutely no way you could go wrong here.

but the main reason i wanted to go was this: studs terkel was scheduled to speak. because of illness, i had just missed studs the previous week at columbia college's writer's week. studs is 93 years old and still kicking, but who knows for how long? and i wanted a piece of him before he was gone forever. that is the real reason i bought my tickets and took that ride.

so. arrived in the theatre to find a packed house. studs shuffled in, slumped over a cane with a fish on the top, balanced by a handler making sure he didn't fall. he was pleased by the turnout, in particular, the amount of "young people here. and by young, i mean 80 and under."

he and the raspy-voiced tribune writer, michael wilmington, talked about the film for a bit, by way of introducing it. they mentioned greg toland's work, which is indeed sweet -- a documentary approach to shooting, which i imagine was groundbreaking at the time. and to be able to make it work with all the painted backgrounds in the studio is fantastic.

the movie is good. so good, in fact, and in varied ways, that it approaches the quality of the book. considering the book was written by my current obsession john steinbeck -- and, also, you know, won the nobel prize -- that is high praise indeed. besides the aforementioned photography and writing, the acting is stand-out. henry fonda as tom joad. he's not as rough around the edges as he was in the book, but his delivery is spectacular. check out near the beginning when he gets off the truck after hitchhiking -- the way he says "homicide"! and of course his goodbye speech to ma joad at the camp is classic shit -- well-written, well played by fonda. he is the idealistic force of this work, the flawed young man who grows up to go off and be a hero for the cause. and ma joad plays that earth mother character the best way possible -- accepting, trusting, silent and strong. she's what a western woman was.

the topic of the film is timely. its about migration from an undesirable place to that of suspected affluence, and the resulting hardships and prejudice. we are seeing, right now, the hot political potato on immigration. just today, tens of thousands marched in los angeles to protest. two weeks ago chicago was chock-full of hispanic folks filling downtown, letting the powers that be know they wouldn't stand for the policies being contemplated, and the closet prejudice implied within. this movie is about that, only some 75 years ago.

a final point about the writing. this movie is full of religious symbolism, most notably jim casy as a christ figure, martyred for the cause, and inspiring other folks in his do-gooding (most notably tom joad). steinbeck also included a shocking end to his book, one that the internal censorship code wouldn't allow; one that modern-day audiences would even have a difficult time swallowing if they saw it in a movie. it involves the loss of a child and some breast-feeding, and it is brilliant. steinbeck's religious symbolism runs deep, as it did for raymond carver, as it does for george saunders. this kind of symbolism, with christ figures, with martyrs, with strong virgin mary type women, strikes a powerful chord with us. i believe that these are the myths that are so persasive in ours lives that we can't help respond to them -- i definitely do. this is something i want to emulate in my own writing, to do and to do well.

12 March 2006


watched the season opener of the sopranos with rob while we drank lemmy's favorite beverage: whiskey and coke.

as always, they do the opening montage so right -- a weird william burroughs prose poem with a montage including drea de matteo back from the dead, a check for $2 million, and...meadow dancing in her underwear. this is right up there with the montage set to PiL, and my favorite, the "very good year" montage.

i kept commenting to rob: "this show is SO GOOD!" and it is. its easy to forget after 2 years just how good it is, and that's mostly because of the writing. they reestablish everything they need to with such economy: junior's senility, christopher's bumbling, the odious materialistic relationship between tony and carmela, and gene's subplot about trying to get out. so well-written! to give a character a choice like that: kill a guy and MAYBE we'll finally let you out of the mafia. so powerfully, so simple, so good. and the conclusion to that subplot was both technically amazing (how did they get him to swing for over a minute?) and totally unexpected.

that a trend so far -- the unexpected. and why not? its the first show of the new season and so anticipated. so that's why they start with a bang and keep it coming. count the ways: adriana's brief return, a rat's heart attack while ratting, hesh's ass kicking, and how about that ending? this show will surprise you and surprise you.

the only thing that shouldn't be a surprise is tony's demise. my feeling is that he's going to have a heart attack and die. they' ve been planting the seeds for a while now, and they laid it on thick this week -- showing tony on the scale, him eating sushi alone and getting heartburn, comments from the fat/skinny about tony getting a coronary. everyone is waiting for david chase to kill off tony with a bang, but letting him suffer a heart attack may be his biggest surprise yet.

04 March 2006


ok, the oscars is tomorrow and i usually do this somewhere else (i.e., my notebook/journal or via email with sarge (who takes it personally and gets so pissed when what he likes isn't nominated)) but since i'm doing this film blog now, why not share?

here's how it works: i list the nominees, then i write what i think will win, what i want to win, and oftentimes offers witty comments. ok? ok.

* Best Picture: "Brokeback Mountain," "Capote," "Crash," "Good Night, and Good Luck," "Munich."

Will win: Brokeback
Should win: Brokeback

In my mind, Brokeback and The New World were the best movies of the year. The fact that Crash is even nominated and people are thinking it has a chance is fucking absurd.

* Actor: Philip Seymour Hoffman, "Capote"; Terrence Howard, "Hustle & Flow"; Heath Ledger, "Brokeback Mountain"; Joaquin Phoenix, "Walk the Line"; David Strathairn, "Good Night, and Good Luck."

Will win: Joaquin Phoenix
Should win: Phil Hoffman

This is my upset category. I fucking LOVE Phil Hoffman (I wrote my first full-length script for him) and I hope the convention wisdom that he's a shoe-in is right. However, I have some gut instinct that this will be an upset and they're going to give it to someone else. I think Joaquin, but again, I hope I am wrong.

* Actress: Judi Dench, "Mrs. Henderson Presents"; Felicity Huffman, "Transamerica"; Keira Knightley, "Pride & Prejudice"; Charlize Theron, "North Country"; Reese Witherspoon, "Walk the Line."

Will win: Reese
Should win: Reese

I think Reese should win, even though I didn't see the movie, because the Oscars aren't really about who did the best job, they're about politics of who's hot and who does the academy like and respect and all that. And everyone loves Reese and they are right to because she's a really good actress even in shitty pictures (Sweet Home Alabama, for example) and she's cute and likeable and classy. So she'll get it and deserves it.

The truth is that I've only seen one of the above pictures, Pride and Prejudice. And I really liked Keira's nomination. She grounded the movie and, astonishingly, was able to more than hold her own in an awesome kiss-off scene against Judi fucking Dench. That deserves *something*.

Oh, also: Q'Orianka Kilcher should have been nominated here.

* Supporting Actor: George Clooney, "Syriana"; Matt Dillon, "Crash"; Paul Giamatti, "Cinderella Man"; Jake Gyllenhaal, "Brokeback Mountain"; William Hurt, "A History of Violence."

Will win: Paul Giamatti
Should win: Clooney

Giamatti wins because they've overlooked him so many times before. Clooney was fucking great, though. Again, the fact that Matt Dillon was nominated is silly, although I like the William Hurt nomination.

* Supporting Actress: Amy Adams, "Junebug"; Catherine Keener, "Capote"; Frances McDormand, "North Country"; Rachel Weisz, "The Constant Gardener"; Michelle Williams, "Brokeback Mountain."

Will win: Weisz
Should win: Weisz

She was really good in that movie. But I've heard lots of nice things about the lovely Amy Adams...

* Director: Ang Lee, "Brokeback Mountain"; Bennett Miller, "Capote"; Paul Haggis, "Crash"; George Clooney, "Good Night, and Good Luck."; Steven Spielberg, "Munich."

Will win: Li An
Should win: Li An

Why isn't Malick in here?

* Foreign Film: "Don't Tell," Italy; "Joyeux Noel," France; "Paradise Now," Palestine; "Sophie Scholl - The Final Days," Germany; "Tsotsi," South Africa.

Don't know. Is one of these a holocaust movie?

* Adapted Screenplay: Larry McMurtry & Diana Ossana, "Brokeback Mountain"; Dan Futterman, "Capote"; Jeffrey Caine, "The Constant Gardener"; Josh Olson, "A History of Violence"; Tony Kushner and Eric Roth, "Munich."

Will win: Brokeback
Should win: Brokeback

Although I *really* liked the Capote screenplay, because it did something extremely hard to do: make us care about a character who is dispicable.

* Original Screenplay: Paul Haggis & Bobby Moresco, "Crash"; George Clooney & Grant Heslov, "Good Night, and Good Luck."; Woody Allen, "Match Point"; Noah Baumbach, "The Squid and the Whale"; Stephen Gaghan, "Syriana."

Will win: Crash
Should win: Squid

This is going to be the token Crash win. Man that movie sucks, and was not written well. But! Akiva Goldsman has an oscar, so why not?

* Animated Feature Film: "Howl's Moving Castle"; "Tim Burton's Corpse Bride"; "Wallace & Gromit in the Curse of the Were-Rabbit."

Will win: Wallace
Should win: Wallace

Their studio burnt down, so give it to them. And give them some money.

Check it out -- no CGI movies!

* Art Direction: "Good Night, and Good Luck.," "Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire," "King Kong," "Memoirs of a Geisha," "Pride & Prejudice."


* Cinematography: "Batman Begins," "Brokeback Mountain," "Good Night, and Good Luck.," "Memoirs of a Geisha," "The New World."

Will win: Brokeback
Should win: The New World

* Sound Mixing: "The Chronicles of Narnia: The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe," "King Kong," "Memoirs of a Geisha," "Walk the Line," "War of the Worlds."


* Sound Editing: "King Kong," "Memoirs of a Geisha," "War of the Worlds."


* Original Score: "Brokeback Mountain," Gustavo Santaolalla; "The Constant Gardener," Alberto Iglesias; "Memoirs of a Geisha," John Williams; "Munich," John Williams; "Pride & Prejudice," Dario Marianelli.


* Original Song: "In the Deep" from "Crash," Kathleen "Bird" York and Michael Becker; "It's Hard Out Here for a Pimp" from "Hustle & Flow," Jordan Houston, Cedric Coleman and Paul Beauregard; "Travelin' Thru" from "Transamerica," Dolly Parton.

Three 6 Mafia is playing the oscars! HOLY SHIT!

* Costume: "Charlie and the Chocolate Factory," "Memoirs of a Geisha," "Mrs. Henderson Presents," "Pride & Prejudice," "Walk the Line."


* Documentary Feature: "Darwin's Nightmare," "Enron: The Smartest Guys in the Room," "March of the Penguins," "Murderball," "Street Fight."

Will win: Penguins
Should win: Murderball

No Grizzly Man is a damn shame.

* Documentary (short subject): "The Death of Kevin Carter: Casualty of the Bang Bang Club," "God Sleeps in Rwanda," "The Mushroom Club," "A Note of Triumph: The Golden Age of Norman Corwin."


* Film Editing: "Cinderella Man," "The Constant Gardener," "Crash," "Munich," "Walk the Line."

OK, I've already made a lot of references to The New World getting robbed, but here's where is REALLY doesn't make sense. Malick's genius is in his cutting and the fact that he basically makes feature length montages that effectively give a filmic version of stream-of-consciousness. He is amazing, and part of the reason is in his editing. Completely outrageous that there's no nomination here.

There are other nominations, but many of them I don't care about. One thing I do like is the Altman tribute. Altman is fucking rad and going to die soon, so good for them for recognizing him before all his cigarettes catch up to him.