Monday, December 31, 2007

the sartorialists: five best dressed men of 2007

When I think about what I wore versus what I wanted to wear in 2007, I'll think of the men I looked to for reliable inspiration and a dashing simplicity. All of these men exhibit a singular and defined personality in how they dress as well as embody the timeless trends of this past year--neutrals, slim cuts, and stripes. We can also hope that candy colored denim, Wayfrarers (I must admit I picked up a knock off pair at Old Navy over the summer), ethnic inspired scarves, and the Slim Slack at American Apparel will die a slow death before the next big thing in 2008.

In no particular order:

Mark Ronson, musician, dj, producer
Inspired by the lean lines of the Rat Pack, Ronson managed to make the mid-century lounge lizard look cool again without being too retro or costumey. This is the kind of look that necessitates a martini and Amy Winehouse playing in the background.

Lazaro Hernandez and Jack McCollough, fashion designers
A controversial choice indeed, due to the restrictive number that constitutes this list, but I think of Lazaro Hernandez and Jack McCollough as two complementary minds with one shared vision. I'm curious as to what a men's line would look like under the relaxed but effortlessly stylish eye of design duo behind Proenza Schouler. Their womenswear collections combine a soft and hard edge that's at once youthful and very of the moment but classic and clean. Essentially that's how they dress and I can't think of a better way of looking young and comfortable minus slovenly and unkempt.

Jack, played by Adam Goldberg in Julie Delpy's "2 Days in Paris"
It's easy to slip into the tall white socks, cargo shorts, fannypack, and college t-shirt routine when traveling abroad but Jack brings an incredible black velvet blazer, sunglasses fit for Godard, and a hot French girlfriend. Adam Goldberg's character is ready for any occasion, whether it be a late night soiree or shopping at the market in the morning. His style is pragmatic but with a flair and wit.

Kanye West during Paris Fashion Week
When in Paris and attending fashion shows ranging from Yves Saint Laurent to Vivienne Westwood, the standard is a little higher than an award show or television appearance. Gone are the distracting shades of day-glo, funky glasses, and Gucci backpacks from Kanye West's early sartorial repertoire during his many appearance during the collections. West's style has evolved leaps and bounds since his brazen debut into a more grown-up sensibility, favoring less flash over an overt and heavy-handed way of wearing luxury. Those navy Common Projects and tailored suit are remarkably modern and undeniably hip-hop.

Brad Pitt, parent, philanthropist, budding architect,
movie star extraordinaire
What to do when attending the most glamorous film festival in the world? Call Tom Ford and get him to costume design and tailor a tuxedo and daytime suit for you and nature will take its course. When he's not too busy adopting children, providing new homes for Katrina survivors, or making sensational movies, Brad Pitt makes such daringly perfect choices for his public appearances. Who else wears a scalloped vest with parted hair and not look like a Jay Gatsby rip off? Mr. Pitt, you are quite simply the man.

Honorable mention:
The cast of "The Darjeeling Limited"
George Clooney
Milo Ventimiglia

Worst dressed:
Tom Cruise
Gareth Pugh

Monday, December 24, 2007

murray christmas

The holiday season wouldn't be right without a party to rekindle friendships, relieve the stress of the taxing toil that is holiday shopping, or simply to dance, eat, converse, and drink the night away. My lovely friend and neighbor Alex and I hosted a holiday fĂȘte this past Friday that almost lasted until the sun came up. It was an evening of joy, randomness, and debauchery. Naturally, Alex and I were no slouches when it came to the food and drink. Unfortunately, but fortunately the food and beverages were consumed so quickly that they went unphotographed. I prepared shrimp and spinach quesadillas, crostinis, and an eggnog shot that during the apex of the festivities functioned as a toast to everyone and a jolly good night. Alex offered a delicious array of cookies, breadsticks, and a reliable punch that gets the party going. I'll get those recipes from her soon, but here are mine:

Shrimp and Spinach Quesadillas
40-50 thawed medium sized shrimp, tail-off
9 oz. fresh spinach
10 flour tortillas, 8 inch in diameter
3 cups shredded fontina cheese
2 sliced large white onions
4 table spoons extra virgin olive oil

In a medium sized pan drizzle a table spoon or two of olive oil on medium heat. Add the onions and cook until browned, which takes about 15-20 minutes. While the onions are cooking, in a larger skillet, also on medium, add the other two table spoons of olive oil. Make sure the shrimp have been thawed but don't allow the shrimp to sit for too long in their cold water bath. If your shrimp is frozen, simply run cold water over the shrimp in a colander for five minutes. Their flavor can dissipate if thawed for too long. Once thawed, add to the pan and tear handfuls of the washed spinach over the shrimp. Stir sporadically until the spinach is fully cooked and the shrimp have become tender. Coat one half of tortilla with the cheese and layer with the onions, shrimp, and spinach. Fold over the other half and add to a griddle or a large pan on medium heat. Brown both sides. When cooked, slice each quesadilla into four pieces and serve. Serves 15-20.

Roma Tomato Crostini
One loaf of baguette bread
6 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
8 diced roma tomatoes
4 cups shredded mozzarella cheese
4 tablespoons balsamic vinaigrette

The night before you cook, dice the tomatoes and place in a container or resealable plastic bag with the balsamic vinaigrette. Make sure it's mixed evenly.

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Slice baguette into 25-30 1/2 inch slices. Arrange on a cookie sheet and drizzle four tablespoons olive oil. Place in the oven. In a large pan on medium heat, add the remaining tablespoons of olive oil. Add the tomatoes. Cook until tender, which should take 10-15 minutes. Remove the bread from the oven and add a tablespoon or so of tomatoes to each. Evenly sprinkle the cheese over the tomatoes and serve. Serves 10-15.

Murray Christmas Eggnog
1 qt. Eggnog
1/4 cup of Kahlua
1/3 cup Smirnoff Vanilla Vodka
1/2 cup Evan Williams Kentucky Straight Bourbon Whiskey
1 tablespoon cinnamon

In a large glass pitcher add and stir the eggnog, Kahlua, vodka, bourbon, and cinnamon. Chill over night. Pour in shot glasses and serve. Serves 30. Feel free to add or reduce the amount of alcohol. It's best at your taste.

Enjoy and Merry Christmas.

third world democracy

M.I.A. for Marc by Marc Jacobs
photographed by Juergen Teller

I really like those ties.

courtesy of oh no they didn't

brown paper packages tied up with strings...

I can't believe there are only a few days left in 2007. There were surprises, disappointments, delicious meals, newly cemented friendships, long nights, fantastic parties, and most of all, the discovery of my new favorite things. When I think about 2007 fifty years from now I'm not sure how I would describe it, but perhaps these ten things will jog my memory:

Naughty trompe l'oeil at Marc Jacobs

Paul Reubens guest starring on "30 Rock"

Hating the iPhone

Time lapse sequence in David Fincher's "Zodiac"

My Rag & Bone jacket


The asparagus at Basa

My bed

"Killer of Sheep", dir. Charles Burnett

"My Moon My Man" video, Feist

Wednesday, December 19, 2007

chili a la stephanie

Now that there's a chill in the air and the temperatures have dropped, I can't think of a better relief from the cold than a nice big bowl of chili. The cacophony of flavors and soothing warmth make it an essential dish for the winter. My friend Stephanie, director at the excellent Gallery Nulu here in Louisville, gave me a recipe for some of the best chili I've ever had the pleasure of consuming. I had thirds the first night I made it and over the course of the next few days it got better as the flavors infused together coalescing into one of the best meals I've made for myself. Here's her original recipe:

2 tsp. olive oil
1 big tsp of red curry paste
2 diced onions
3 diced bell peppers (any color)
5 minced cloves garlic
2 tbsp oregano
3 cans black beans, undrained
2 cans diced tomatoes
1/4 cup garlic chili pepper sauce
1/4 tsp salt

Heat oil, add curry paste and saute until bubbling. Add onions and cook until they begin to soften. Add peppers, garlic, oregano. Saute two minutes. Add all that other ingredients, reduce heat and simmer for 40 minutes (or longer if you got the time). I added ground chuck to the recipe to satisfy my inner carnivore, but this could be prepared minus meat. I topped mine with shredded colby cheese but sour cream can also be used. Make it yours and not only will you think me but the next time you see Stephanie you'll want to give her a big bear hug.

Tuesday, December 18, 2007

crema de vie

I am a glutton when it comes to holiday foods and beverages. One of my favorites is eggnog. I'm having a holiday party this Friday and I was considering having some sort of eggnog, but I'm sure copious amounts of a thick, creamy, and punchy beverage is not a good idea. However, I think I will attempt this recipe some other time from the guy who has styled the hair of just about every major model and actress, Orlando Pita. Snaps on the gray on gray combination as well.

1 1/4 cups sugar
1 1/4 cups water
1 cup rum
2 cinnamon sticks
6 egg yolks
1 14 oz. can Carnation condensed milk
1 tablespoon vanilla

Bring water, sugar, and cinnamon to a boil. Boil for 6 minutes. Cool (you can place pan in ice water to speed the process up). Whip egg yolks in separate bowl. Mix in condensed milk. Mix in sugar mixture (Note: Pour sugar mixture into condensed milk can to get all the good stuff off the sides of the can.). Add vanilla. Add rum. Strain into a bottle. Refrigerate. Enjoy.

courtesy of

first look: the dark knight

"The Dark Knight"
dir., Christopher Nolan

How do you follow up playing a closeted rancher and version of Bob Dylan? A soggy haired villain in a major studio summer event movie, duh. The first six minutes have already leaked online but I will be a patient filmgoer and wait until next summer.

In other news, the Writers Guild Strike might throw a wrench into the plans for the award season. Click here for the story.

An update on more award winners:
Golden Satellite
Dallas Fort Worth Critics
Southeastern Film Critics

Monday, December 17, 2007

in defense: michael clayton

Tony Gilroy's "Michael Clayton" is one of the best and little seen films of the year. The plot cannot be summarized in one sentence, although its fairly simple in its most reduced terms, and the advertising was poor and did not accurately or attractively allure the masses to what is a very perspicacious and thrilling film about greed, corruption, and corporate responsibility. It's not child's fare but it doesn't pander or pat its audience on its head with its intelligence. "Michael Clayton" is a finely crafted film that I know a few friends have no desire to see probably due to the already mentioned advertising and plot issues. However, there are many reasons to see the film and I hope with all of the award attention its receiving more people will see it. Here are three reasons why you should "Michael Clayton."

1. Tony Gilroy
Tony Gilroy's early screenwriting credits include such dubious popcorn blockbusters as "Armageddon", "Proof of Life", and "The Devil's Advocate." It would be easy to write him off immediately after those titles, but there's a development in his voice that has lead him to be someone who has something to say about the world and yet make it utterly appealing in its universality. "The Bourne" series, of which he wrote all three, were films that crackled with breakneck car chases, fight sequences that enthralled, and explosions that were big and mighty, however the film's hero was, and to some degree, still on a journey to discover his identity and make good with the world. Jason Bourne has a clear conscious and strict moral code that he abides by with every brooding and quiet stare. There's a curiosity there that Gilroy pushes further in "Michael Clayton", his official directorial debut. It's such an assured and astute debut that it feels like he's been directing his entire career and has been burning to tell us something we need to hear. Michael Clayton, the character is a man caught in a bind where the world he lives in and the work he performs is ambiguous in its intentions. He covers up the wrongdoings of the big bad boys at his law firm, but he realizes he has a responsibility with that duty and uses it to expose the corruption at a big time corporation that has been responsible for the deaths of many and an attempt as his life as well. It's such a well written and balanced look at how we are now. No one is exactly good or bad anymore, but in the imaginative playground of film, Gilroy apes for a time when if given the opportunity we would choose to do the right thing.

2. Tilda Swinton
Cate Blanchett may be the auteur muse and fashion chameleon at the moment, but let's not forget about Hollywood's other alien beauty, Tilda Swinton. Her role as Karen Crowder in "Michael Clayton" is an interesting step for the actress who is more known for her independent film work. Her screen presence, which is based so much on her unusually striking physicality, reacts palpably with the movie's charming male lead, Mr. Clooney. She's not a classic beauty, but their story is not a romance, nor would that matter because they match quiet well in the film in the two or so scenes they share. It's a big film where she is not shrouded in theatrical costumes or a habitant of a fantastical otherworld. She is the modern day woman trying to establish herself along with the big boys at a major corporation. Although her character is a bit of an archetype--icy, bound to her work more than her life, a lover of boxy power suits--Swinton imbues the character with a certain weight that gives her a life beyond how she is defined by her job. The facial ticks and body movement Swinton employs during two great sequences in which we watch her prepare for a series of rehearsed speeches that cover her company's ass, and possibly her own, are fascinating to watch in their jumpy and revealing quality. She pulls her shaper over her tummy, winces at the sound of her own voice, adjusts her suits to fit just right, attaches an earring to her lobe ever so gently. There's an unspoken acknowledgment of the evil she is participating in that makes her character human and watchable. It's not sexy or pathetic but an honest and voyeuristic moment where everything we need to know about her character is expressed on that alabaster face. This was an odd year in film for women, particularly in American film, but this is one of the few great performances of the year that questions and gets at what it means to be a woman trying to have it all and what price there is to pay.

3. The opening and end credits
"Michael Clayton" begins and ends like a Michelangelo Antonioni film. There's a fine attention put on the meaning of space and the objects relative to their space at the beginning and end of the film that looks like something I haven't seen in a while. The film opens with an incendiary voice-over juxtaposed against very composed shots of Manhattan architecture, the contents on a desk, the wheel of a mail cart that increase in their edited intensity. The malaise of work, power, and white collars settles in quickly and with great fervor. Gilroy wants us to look at all of these things and ask what do they mean. Are we nothing but walls, pencils and pens, half empty coffee mugs? Is this the new beast that we have become part of? The deviation continues after the first few minutes. Clooney doesn't show up for almost another ten minutes, Swinton is profusely sweating in a bathroom stall, and Sydney Pollack is pissed about something. It's dizzying and on the verge of pure abstract. As a complement to the frenetic opening, "Clayton" ends in such a calm, sublime way that it's almost unbelievable how the film opened. I won't reveal what happens at the end but the last scene is punctuated with another great understanding of the power of space and object. The audience watches one of the film's stars have a moment of repose as the credits roll next to their satisfied visage. It's one of the best and unexpected ways to end a film.

Go see this movie.

Thursday, December 13, 2007

and the nominess are...

Thankfully my predictable lits of Golden Globe hopefuls turned out to be too predictable. I threw some wild cards in there (Halle Berry, Emile Hirsch, Seth Rogen), but as usual the official list of the 65th Golden Globes could not be more of a mix bag of films I thought were either dead in the water award wise or films I knew the Globes would ga ga for but hoped it wouldn't be true (Damn you "Hairspray"!). "Into the Wild" couldn't muster a presence in the major categories and I'm really shocked to see such a strong presence for "American Gangster." I would have loved to have seen more love for "I'm Not There" and a directing nod for Paul Thomas Anderson as well as a writing or directing nomination for "Michael Clayton." "The Great Debaters" and John C. Reilly also came as a bit of a surprise. I read "Charlie Wilson's War" was losing its award potential and is getting mixed early reviews but Mike Nichols seems to be a favorite with the Golden Globes with his last film, "Closer", not only garnering wins for Natalie Portman and Clive Owen, who were unfortunately shut out at the Oscars, but also a directing and best picture nomination. I don't think it will pan out during the award season with the exception of the supporting nominations but this looks like an award season that will grow with varied surprises.

Here are the nominees*:
"American Gangster" [X]
"Eastern Promises"
"The Great Debaters" [X]
"Michael Clayton" [X]
"No Country for Old Men"
"There Will Be Blood"

Cate Blanchett, "Elizabeth: The Golden Age" [X]
Julie Christie, "Away from Her"
Jodie Foster, "The Brave One" [X]
Angelina Jolie, "A Mighty Heart"
Keira Knightley, "Atonement"

George Clooney, "Michael Clayton"
Daniel Day-Lewis, "There Will Be Blood"
James McAvoy, "Atonement"
Viggo Mortensen, "Eastern Promises"
Denzel Washington, "American Gangster"
(spoilers slipped in and I got most of them)

"Across the Universe" [X]
"Charlie Wilson’s War" [X]
"Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street"

Amy Adams, "Enchanted"
Nikki Blonsky, "Hairspray"
Helena Bonham Carter, "Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street"
Marion Cotillard, "La Vie en Rose" (Wrong category)
Ellen Page, "Juno"

Johnny Depp, "Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street
Ryan Gosling, "Lars and the Real Girl"
Tom Hanks, Charlie Wilson’s War" [X]
Philip Seymour Hoffman, The Savages"
John C. Reilly, "Walk Hard: The Dewey Cox Story" [X]

"Bee Movie"
"The Simpsons Movie"

BEST FOREIGN LANGUAGE FILM (the only category I guessed without error)
"4 Months, 3 Weeks, 2 Days"
"The Diving Bell and the Butterfly"
"The Kite Runner"
"Lust, Caution"

Cate Blanchett, “I’m Not There”
Saoirse Ronan, “Atonement” [X]
Julia Roberts, “Charlie Wilson’s War” [X]
Amy Ryan, “Gone Baby Gone”
Tilda Swinton, “Michael Clayton”

Casey Affleck, "The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford"
Javier Bardem, "No Country for Old Men"
Philip Seymour Hoffman, "Charlie Wilson’s War" [X]
John Travolta, "Hairspray" [X]
Tom Wilkinson, "Michael Clayton"

Tim Burton, "Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street
Ethan Coen & Joel Coen, "No Country for Old Men"
Julian Schnabel, "The Diving Bell and the Butterfly"
Ridley Scott, "American Gangster" [X]
Joe Wright, "Atonement" [X]

Click here for more. (*an X denotes a name or film I did not predict)

Broadcast Film Critics nominations
London Film Critics nominations

final countdown

This week was a bit a of a milestone. The Look-See turned 10,000. Yes, all of my silly musings and ruminations have been viewed over 10,000 times since the birth of this outlet almost eight months ago. Most blogs I'm sure get that many hits in a day, but it's gratifying to know that somebody, anybody, or everybody cares to read all of the things that vex, inspire, and consume me. Hopefully this blog will continue to engage its mysterious readers over the next 10,000 hits and it has a been a pleasure thus far.

Things to look forward to when the holidays simmer down:

  • Top Ten Films of 2007
  • More food related entries
  • A list of my essential 100 films
  • More joint efforts with my pals at Gold Digger and Bitch, Please (couture is coming up in January and ready to wear in February)
  • Award season mayhem
  • A little bit of this and a little bit of that

Thanks for reading.


p.s., Because it's the holidays and I'm in a giving mood, take notice of the header change for the look-see. Consider it a little something from me to you. Things might be looking a little bit different around here around the new year...

Monday, December 10, 2007


Cool Kids, I have no idea who you are but I like you. I like you a lot.

the one to beat

The New York Film Critics Circle is fueling the "No Country for Old Men" award fire. Check out the winners:

Best Picture
"No Country for Old Men"

Best Director
Joel and Ethan Coen, "No Country for Old Men"

Best Actor
Daniel Day Lewis, "There Will Be Blood"

Best Actress
Julie Christie, "Away from Her"

Best Supporting Actor
Javier Bardem, "No Country for Old Men"

Best Supporting Actress
Amy Ryan, "Gone Baby Gone"

For more click here. I'm really surprised "I'm Not There" isn't getting directing or supporting actress accolades. That film seemed like it would get its greatest attention from the critics awards, especially the knockout performance by La Blanchett. However, I am loving all of this support for "There Will Be Blood" because somehow Paul Thomas Anderson has never been too widely embraced by major American awards. He's made me, and so many of his most loyal fans, wait five long years for his next film and this looks like it could be the film of the year (I hope I don't regret such a hyperbolic statement).

As promised, here are my predictions for Golden Globe nominations. Take into consideration that I've only seen so many films this year but based on critics awards, reviews, and my fervent attention to what kind of films and performances get major award nominations, this is the best I can do:

Best Picture Drama
"No Country for Old Men"
"There Will Be Blood"
"Before the Devil Knows You're Dead"
"Into the Wild"
possible spoiler: "Eastern Promises", "The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford", or "Michael Clayton"

Best Picture Comedy/Musical:
"Sweeney Todd"
"Knocked Up"
"I'm Not There"
possible spoiler: "Waitress", "Lars and the Real Girl", or "Hairspray"

Best Director
Sidney Lumet, "Before the Devil Knows You're Dead"
Joel and Ethan Coen, "No Country for Old Men"
Paul Thomas Anderson, "There Will Be Blood"
Julian Schnabel, "The Diving Bell and the Butterfly"
Tim Burton, "Sweeney Todd"
possible spoiler: Todd Haynes, David Cronenberg, or Sean Penn

Best Actor in a Drama
Denzel Washington, "American Gangster"
Daniel Day-Lewis, "There Will Be Blood"
George Clooney, "Michael Clayton"
Emile Hirsch, "Into the Wild"
Frank Langella, "Starting Out in the Evening"
possible spoiler: Viggo Mortensen, Benecio Del Toro, or James McAvoy

Best Actress in a Drama
Keira Knightley, "Atonement"
Marion Cotillard, "La Vie En Rose"
Julie Christie, "Away From Her"
Angelina Jolie, "A Mighty Heart"
Halle Berry, "Things We Lost in the Fire"

Best Actor in a Comedy/Musical
Ryan Gosling, "Lars and the Real Girl"
Johnny Depp, "Sweeney Todd"
Philip Seymour Hoffman, "The Savages"
Steve Carell, "Dan in Real Life"
Seth Rogen, "Knocked Up"

Best Actress in a Comedy/Musical
Amy Adams, "Enchanted"
Keri Russell, "Waitress"
Ellen Page, "Juno"
Helena Bonham Carter, "Sweeney Todd"
Laura Linney, "The Savages"

Best Supporting Actor
Hal Holbrook, "Into the Wild"
Javier Bardem, "No Country for Old Men"
Paul Dano, "There Will Be Blood"
Tom Wilkinson, "Michael Clayton"
Casey Affleck, "The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford"

Best Supporting Actress
Cate Blanchett, "I'm Not There"
Amy Ryan, "Gone Baby Gone"
Tilda Swinton, "Michael Clayton"
Marisa Tomei, "Before the Devil Knows You're Dead"
Jennifer Jason Leigh, "Margot at the Wedding"

Best Foreign Film
Ang Lee, "Lust, Caution"
Julian Schnabel, "The Diving Bell and the Butterfly"
Cristian Mungiu, "4 Months, 3 Weeks and 2 Days"
Vincent Paronnaud & Marjane Satrapi, "Persepolis"
Marc Forester, "The Kite Runner"

wanted: tie it on

I think of my style as being generally casual without being slovenly or forever clad in sweatpants and other loungewear, but lately I've wanted to throw on a tie for something a little rakish and unexpected. I wouldn't want to look too formal or ready for the office but a more casual sporty approach. I think owning a tie clip would be a definite impetus to own a solid tie collection that would look somewhat dapper without being stuffy or dull. Tie clips are insanely stylish and fit my ideal style period, the late 50s and early to mid 60s. Imagine: jeans, an untucked fitted shirt, and a tie-clip on my slim tie would be killer. Santa, please take notice:

Sterling silver tie clip, J. Crew $75

Ties to complete the look:
Brooks Brothers, Fields Tartan Tie $75
J. Crew, Solid Knit Skinny Tie $49.50
Band of Outsiders, Cashmere Bar Striped Tie $125

Sunday, December 9, 2007

and the award goes to...

Winners from critics awards this past weekend:

The Los Angeles Film Critics
Best Picture
"There Will Be Blood"
Runner-Up: "The Diving Bell and the Butterfly"

Best Director
Paul Thomas Anderson, "There Will Be Blood"
Runner-Up: Julian Schnabel, "The Diving Bell and the Butterfly"

Best Actor
Daniel Day-Lewis, "There Will Be Blood"
Runner-Up: Frank Langella, "Starting Out in the Evening"

Best Actress
Marion Cotillard, "La Vie En Rose"
Runner-Up: Anamaria Marinca, "4 Months, 3 Weeks, and 2 Days"

Best Supporting Actor
Vlad Ivanov, "4 Months, 3 Weeks, and 2 Days"
Runner-Up: Hal Holbrook, "Into the Wild"

Best Supporting Actress
Amy Ryan, "Gone Baby Gone" and "Before the Devil Knows You're Dead"
Runner-Up: Cate Blanchett, "I'm Not There"

For more click here.

New York Film Critics Online
Washington D.C. Critics
Boston Film Critics

And yes I will have a Golden Globes prediction post sometime this week.

Wednesday, December 5, 2007

"sen-saaaaaa-tional work!"

Gucci, David Lynch, and Blondie seemed like a great combination but I was ultimately let down by the mad cap maestro's commercial for Gucci's latest perfume Gucci by Gucci. However, these behind the scenes moments are amazing and make me love the commercial just a little more this go around. Lynch giving Raquel Zimmerman her inspiration and commanding more sparkle is incredible.


The 2007 National Board of Review winners were announced today. I love the support for "Michael Clayton" and "Jesse James", which appeared to be losing steam in all of this "Sweeney Todd" and "Into the Wild" hoopla. I guess I need to see "Away From Her", "Ratatouille" and "Lust, Caution." And a screenplay nod to "Lars and the Real Girl", really? Really? Oh well, I still have a few months before Oscar starts rearing its ugly, disappointing little head. Here are the winners:

Best Director: TIM BURTON, Sweeney Todd
Best Actor: GEORGE CLOONEY, Michael Clayton
Best Actress: JULIE CHRISTIE, Away From Her
Best Supporting Actor: CASEY AFFLECK, The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford
Best Supporting Actress: AMY RYAN, Gone Baby Gone
Best Documentary: BODY OF WAR
Best Animated Feature: RATATOUILLE
Best Ensemble Cast: NO COUNTRY FOR OLD MEN
Breakthrough Performance by an Actor: EMILE HIRSCH, Into The Wild
Breakthrough Performance by an Actress: ELLEN PAGE, Juno
Best Directorial Debut: BEN AFFLECK, Gone Baby Gone
Best Original Screenplay (tie):
DIABLO CODY, Juno and NANCY OLIVER, Lars and the Real Girl
Best Adapted Screenplay: JOEL COEN and ETHAN COEN, No Country For Old Men

Top Ten Films:
(In alphabetical order)

Top Five Foreign Films:
(In alphabetical order)

Top Five Documentary Films
(In alphabetical order)

Top Independent Films
(In alphabetical order)

Career Achievement – MICHAEL DOUGLAS
William K. Everson Film History Award – ROBERT OSBORNE
Career Achievement in Cinematography – ROGER DEAKINS
The BVLGARI Award for NBR Freedom of Expression – THE GREAT DEBATERS and PERSEPOLIS

they meet again

"Declare Independence"
dir., Michel Gondry

At least someone still gives a damn about music videos and knows exactly how to translate the poetry of their song to the power of a visual canvas. I'm really surprised such an aggressive, agitating song was chosen as a single, much less worthy of music video material, but not so surprisingly Bjork once again waves something in our faces that is a little scary and odd but all her own. It's not sexy, somewhat discordant, and the edge is hard and uncompromising, which can also be said for the song's enigmatic creator. Click here for a behind the scenes look at the making of such an energetic and bombastic video.

first look: persepolis

dir., Vincent Paronnaud & Marjane Satrapi

Granted it has the voices of one of cinema's greatest sex bombs as well as her gorgeous off spring, but this is the official selection for France? And no it's not just me who has issue with the Academy's rules regarding the submission process for the best foreign language film category.

Tuesday, December 4, 2007

half way there

Every year I compile a list of the top ten films that straddle the line between my personal favorites and what is truly some of the strongest, most compelling, and resonate filmmaking. Some years I feel like I'm scraping the bottom of the barrel to make a solid ten, but this year I have not been disappointed in the least bit. It's been a varied and interesting year that I will further write about once I have seen the rest of the must-see films of the holiday season as well as the ones on DVD I didn't get around to in the theaters and then some. One film that is a very strange and strong contender for one of the best films of the year, Andrew Dominik's "The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford", was unfortunately the "Children of Men" of this year, a somewhat flawed masterpiece that is as visually poetic as it is beautiful in its own language and poorly marketed by the major studio behind it. On BBC Radio 4's Film Programme, Dominik explains the film's visual references, the necessity of its divisive pace, and his disinterest in the western genre. Click here to listen.

Here are some of the best films of the year so far (or more accurately, the best of what I've seen):

  • "The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford", dir. Andrew Dominik
  • "2 Days in Paris", dir. Julie Delpy
  • "Michael Clayton", dir. Tony Gilroy
  • "Eastern Promises", dir. David Cronenberg
  • "I'm Not There", dir. Todd Haynes
  • "No Country for Old Men", dir. Joel and Ethan Coen
  • "Zodiac", dir. David Finch
  • "The Bourne Ultimatum", dir. Paul Greengrass
  • "Before the Devil Knows You're Dead", dir. Sidney Lumet

3 songs

"Around the World/Harder Better Faster Stronger (Live)"
Daft Punk
"Alive 2007"

Unfortunately I couldn't cough up the $200 to see what has been described as quite possibly the grandest and mind-expanding concert/stunt/performance art/set piece in current pop music. Daft Punk is rock, rave, dance, disco, and lots of leather and lights in their laser beam accented recent live shows. The French dance duo's latest live album, "Alive 2007", sounds like they swallowed every hit ("One More Time", "Da Funk", "Face to Face", among many others) and upchucked something that truly embodies the dance spirit and frenetic genius that has become their trademark.

"Sensual Seducation"
Snoop Dogg
"Ego Trippin'"
dir., Melina

Is he sending up T-Pain and smooth r&b singers from the late 70s? I'm not sure and I don't care. The key-guitar, 80s computer graphics, and the "Under the Cherry Moon" era backup dancers are all okay with me.

"As Above, So Below (JUSTICE Remix)"

Sample The Doobie Brothers? Yes, yes, and more yes. This is easily one of the best remixes of the year.

a grim fate for a pair of ordinary brothers

Dirty, sexy, money could easily be the title of Sidney Lumet's latest film, "Before the Devil Knows You're Dead." The 83-year-old maestro of the everyman caught up in the crime and grit of the city unleashes a visceral and incendiary tale of two brothers who commit a heinous act of their pure desire to be everything they are not. The film is relentless in its pursuit of exposing two men dangerously coming apart in a world bluntly chalked up by a former crook/diamond cutter at the film's conclusion as "an evil place."

The opening scene will surely be regarded as one of the most memorable scenes from any film this year. Andy (Philip Seymour Hoffman) and his trophy wife Gina (an impressive and self-aware Marisa Tomei) furiously fornicate while looking at their mirrored reflections in their posh mirror paneled hotel suite in Brazil. It's a fantastic scene on two levels: Hoffman immediately establishes everything we need to know about his character (sad, angry, pathetic, overly ambitious, inwardly broken) and it sets the film's bracing tone. It's not romantic, sexy, or arousing. In a way it functions as a fantasy of Hoffman's Andy who while on their vacation can embody the person he wants to be--powerful, content, pleasing to his wife. However, that fantasy is immediately pulled from under him when he approaches his impressionable younger brother Hank (Ethan Hawke) about a jewelry store heist that could turn around their lives that are equal in their failures and messy domestic problems. The jewelry store in question is not just any jewelry store but their unassuming parents mom and pop operation in the suburbs. It's too easy to loathe these characters and their decision to take from their parents but in times when money is hard to come by and life is not as dreamy and complete as we would often wish it to be, it's amazing what some will do for the ephemeral happiness associated with the promise and possibility of money.

Because this is Lumet's film, the heist could not go without its complications and mistakes. I won't divulge too much because the joy and impact of the film is watching the brothers try to clean up their own mistakes, but everything definitely does not go as planned and the brothers scramble to ameliorate their petty crime disaster. This is when the performances become so powerful and seething with confusion, guilt, and pent-up childhood resentment, that they become so perfectly etched into your mind for quite some time. These are flawed men at best; crooks they are not. Their intentions are honest (Hank needs the money to catch up on his child support and Andy wants the quality of his life to continually improve for he and his wife), but their loose morals and self-hatred has lead them down a path of unfortunate odds and inescapable fate that is more fatalistic than they could have ever imagined. Hoffman is pitch perfect as a man full of rage and disappointment. He's not the perfect son, husband, brother, or co-worker. He nearly punches through the screen with his horrifying ability to be corrupt, nasty, and at a loss for true control over everyone and everything around him in order to succeed at something he knows he can't. His villainy is absorbing to watch as his life collapses before him that are purged in two brutal scenes, one during a car ride home from a funeral and the other a quite moment of self and environmental destruction after the departure of someone from his life. No less impressive is Hawke who is the physical manifestation of who we would all probably be in their circumstance--ladened with guilt, inadequate during the execution of the crime, and knotted with paranoia and fear of his imminent fate. Albert Finney as their obsessed and grief stricken father adds to a fine ensemble that could not be better suited for Lumet's melodramatic bubble of deception and ordinary men compelled to do wrong for the sake of good.

That sense of wanting to do good in an evil world has fascinated Lumet to the point of compulsion. The film is as rigorously made as the anti-heroes goal of amending their financial woes, and in a broader sense are emblematic of Lumet's career. Sonny (Al Pacino) robs a bank to help his lover in "Dog Day Afternoon", Frank Serpico blows the whistle on his own corrupt police force in "Serpico", and his prescient masterpiece, "Network", sacrifices one man as a necessary middle finger to the media and its consumption of our lives. Those films and "Before the Devil" are less concerned with exerting an obvious aesthetic than they are with propelling the audience into a world that is unusually familiar and perhaps begs us to look a little inward at ourselves. Lumet and debut screenwriter Kelly Masterson examine and re-examine every possible angle of the crime in "Before the Devil" through a narrative structure that explores each character's tense preparation, action, and reaction to their criminal fumble. The characters become more real and honest throughout the film as a result. That is the true horror of "Before the Devil". Andy and Hank are as average as we are and compelled by the same wants and needs. There may not be a better and more angry proposition on how limitless humans can be in their confused desire for a better life that is so effortlessly achieved and shockingly perverse.

Lumet, Hoffman, and Hawke talk about the film on Charlie Rose: