Wednesday, January 28, 2009

two of a kind

Mickey Rourke and Tracy Morgan
at the 15th Screen Actors Guild Awards

Battle of the trainwrecks?
Battle of the unnecessary scarves?
Battle of the stars who've benefited from working with a smart, creative person willing to subvert their image?
OR BATTLE OF THE AMAZINGNESS?

Seriously, they are so G'ed up that I could only dream of being in the same room as these two guys. I mean, can you imagine the stories they've got to tell?

Saturday, January 17, 2009

me and my buddy

Shockingly, I haven't owned a TV since I moved to New York. Well, it's a new year, therefore I needed a new TV. Ladies and gentlemen, let me introduce to my new 26" HDTV. I think I'm in love.

p.s. Five dollars to the first person that can correctly identify the movie playing on the TV.

Friday, January 16, 2009

new dawn fades

Very rarely does a film feel like it's literally pulling you into the screen, but Carlos Reygadas's triumph of a film, "Silent Light", is full to the brim with such deeply hypnotic moments in which you feel as though you're truly immersed in the Mexican transplanted world of German Mennonites living, working, and coveting thy next door neighbor. Filmed mostly in breathtaking wide-angle shots, the landscapes the film explores seem out of reach and beyond anything this Earth is capable of. The film primarily functions as a brilliantly achieved meditation on the gift and the curse of miracles and in its own subtle way, "Silent Light" is a tiny miracle that resonates to the bone.

One of the best opening scenes of the year:


A tender, odd moment as a family bathes and plays together

Thursday, January 15, 2009

posterati

Artwork by Olly Moss

Maybe these should have been the original posters?

Saturday, January 10, 2009

i'll wear them in any terrain

Clarks Desert Boot
Sand Suede, $89

Thank goodness for late Christmas gifts.

Friday, January 9, 2009

song of the week: "nothing to worry about"



I dare you not to like this song. I dare you.

about last night...

If bears spend their winters hibernating by sleeping days on end, I figure watching a shit ton of movies is my way of hibernating during these cold times. I have been taking full advantage of my new ability to view films on Netflix's website via the Watch It Now option (it was unavailable for a long time for Mac users such as myself) and you better believe the first movie I watched was Adriane Lyne's trashy 1986 film, "9 1/2 Weeks." Regressive, silly, hyper-stylized, and at times plain stupid, it is however an insanely stylish film. The color palette is mostly greys and blacks. Kim Basinger was my first movie crush in Tim Burton's "Batman", but if I'd been born a little earlier and seen her in this, I'm certain this would have been the film to cement my love for 80's Basinger. Whether it's wearing sexy tank tops meant to be ripped off or the perma-smoky eye she sports throughout the film, Basinger is dead sexy in every scene. Add Mickey Rourke in dark, quietly menacing overcoats, minimalist set design, and a plethora of diffused lighting and you immediately are taken by the mood. Forget about what you might have heard about this movie and instead take in the haunting images of beautiful people gone wild.

Thursday, January 8, 2009

light & vision

The nominees were announced for the American Society of Cinematographers this week. I have become much more invested in Best Cinematography awards over the years. Last year I was torn between Robert Elswit for "There Will Be Blood" and Roger Deakins for "The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford." The year before I fell hard for Emmanuel Lubzeki's work for "Children of Men", only to watch him lose the Oscar to the relatively deserving Guillermo Navarro for "Pan's Labyrinth." I could go on, but I'm generally ambivalent about the nominees this year. However, Steven Soderbergh's tireless work for "Che", Harris Savides's beautiful composition in an awkward and telling moment between Sean Penn and a drunk Josh Brolin in "Milk", the breathtaking grandiosity of Wally Pfister's work in "The Dark Knight", and the technical grace of Claudio Miranda for "The Curious Case of Benjamin Button" were all impressive. Here's a look at this year's nominees:
Roger Deakins, "Revolutionary Road"

Wally Pfister, "The Dark Knight"

Roger Deakins & Chris Menges, "The Reader"

Claudio Miranda, "The Curious Case of Benjamin Button"

Anthony Dod Mantle, "Slumdog Millionaire"

Any notable snubs?

he's got legs

Maison Martin Margiela
Look 20 from Spring/Summer 2009
$2,500

These leggings hit me smack in the face as I came off the elevator on the third floor at Barneys the other week. It's a bold look and I wonder what kind of man it takes to where those black mirror ball pants. And more importantly, what kind of man can afford them in these times?

Wednesday, January 7, 2009

the man behind the movie camera

Things I gathered about David Fincher after attending a Lincoln Film Center Q&A this past Sunday evening with the director after a screening of his latest odd opus, "The Curious Case of Benjamin Button":
1. Things he loves: Pushing technology in film, Gisele Bundchen, and "Chinatown" ("It's a perfect film.")
2. It's pronounced Cate Blan-chit, not Blan-chette
3. "I would be less interested in that than I would in having cigarettes put out in my eyes."--his feelings when an obvious fan boy asked if he would ever make a sequel to "Se7en"

Fincher came across as a no bullshit, vastly creative, non-artiste (the anti-thesis of those directors who bask in their own fleeting, lauded glow) who only seems to be scratching at the surface of the kinds of stories he really wants to tell. He admitted he's constantly living in his own shadows in terms of critical, audiences, and studios expectations. On the surface, "The Curious Case of Benjamin Button" might be an about face for Fincher, whose prior work consisted of mainly dark, gruesome action thrillers or complex, meticulous dramas. In fact, "Benjamin Button" fits neatly into Fincher's brief and still evolving oeuvre. It's a film about the passage of time, the effect that death has on us, and never finding the answers to the questions we're constantly looking to be answered. All of his films have pieces and parts of that curiosity (no pun intended) that distinguishes Fincher as such a visionary and never dull voice in contemporary cinema. Unfortunately the audience didn't ask many engaging questions, instead preferring to shower him in obsessive fan praise. One audience member declared he'd seen "Se7en" five times in the fifth grade and then proceeded to ask something inane about what's like being the greatest director in the world. Fincher, being the gentleman that he is, took it in stride and thankfully didn't indulge in a self-aggrandizing response, only offering the apology that at the tender age of eleven someone sat through "Se7en" five times. It all ended too briefly and I was interested to know what about Brad Pitt inspires him (this is their third film together and each character, genre, and performance is wildly varied), why he seems to have chosen digital filmmaking almost exclusively as his preferred mode to tell his stories, and what he really thinks of all those heinously off the mark comparisons between "Forrest Gump" and "Benjamin Button." However, Fincher has remained elusive until recently with the promotion of his last two films and in the Q&A he seemed reticent to give us all the answers about the magic of "Benjamin Button." I guess he's a true artist in the sense that he leaves his work and image up to interpretation. An artist with a thing for Brazilian supermodels to be precise.

Sunday, January 4, 2009

band of outsiders

Within the first few minutes of Joachim Trier's sensational debut feature, "Reprise", we're treated to a glimpse into the bright and broken futures of two best friends with aspirations of literary acclaim for their debut novels. After a peek into a future not so far off, we come back to the present and watch them nervously deposit their manuscripts into a mailbox. Cue Joy Division's "New Dawn Fades" over the credits and the slow motion image of the spirited Independence Day march in Oslo, Norway and immediately you feel like you're watching something inspired by the excitement and vigor of youth. Trier has made a convincing case of what it means to be young, creative, and on the way to personal discovery. The film is lead by a wonderfully semi-non-professional cast of vernal, stylish Norwegians who spend their afternoons goofing around, discussing literature, rhapsodizing about cult icons and their nights attending punk shows and late night parties where the music can't be loud enough. After several break-ups, breakdowns, hook-ups, trips abroad and relationships mended along the way in the lives of these young folks, Trier assuredly delivers an affecting ode to the joys and pains of growing up. It's one of the most stylish films of 2008 as well as one of the best.

grand hotel


Warhol? Spielberg? Jagger? In the same room talking about television and radio?

Saturday, January 3, 2009

performance: the face

The impact of the close-up has lost its resonance in Hollywood as a tool of either establishing the myth of the star or in this post-modern film world subvert the image. It's the one part of the body that cannot lie for an actor and it's the one part that truly pulls us in as its captive audience. Very few contemporary actors, or movie stars for that matter, draw attention to their faces. Perhaps they don't want us to discover their facelift scars or the nerves in their foreheads deadened by Botox. One such actor (not quite movie star in its most pure definition) melds his rumpled, almost unrecognizable visage perfectly with that of a fallen star of sorts in his latest role. Former Hollywood bad boy Mickey Rourke is not quite the same Mickey Rourke many might remember from "Diner", "The Pope of Greenwich Village", "Angel Heart", or "9 1/2 Weeks." No longer the pretty boy with the streak of unpredictable intensity and raw sex appeal, Rourke's physical transformation in the past two decades has caused the leading man tough guy parts to morph into villainous supporting characters whose physicality are matched by their own moral ugliness. Years of substance abuse, a brief stint in professional boxing in the 90's, plastic surgery, and Bell's Palsy has caused Rourke's face to look collapsed, tightened, and eerily fragmented. The erosion of the smooth, baby face lines that initially were his ticket to instant sex symboldom now work in his favor for what is surely is comeback role in Darren Aronofsky's "The Wrestler."

If Britney Spears and Robert Downey Jr. were able get their angel wings back in 2008, then Rourke is in the right to get his back as Randy "The Ram" Robinson. "The Wrestler" is the classic almost specifically Hollywood story of a fallen idol who feels more adept in the fantastical reality of the stage than capable of maintaining stability in the emotional reality of their own home. Sub Hollywood for professional wrestling and instead of Judy Garland you have Rourke. As a wrestler well beyond his prime living in a bleak trailer home in New Jersey, Randy is immediately sympathetic. His dreams and his looks have faded, but he keeps the myth alive that his audience still wants him around. It's for them that he will risk his life in order to satisfy them. Rourke beautifully plays him with such unabashed vulnerability that in some scenes you believe Rourke isn't so much acting but perhaps dealing with his own thrawarted dreams. Both he and Randy perform in patently artificial worlds of film and professional wrestling, but it's the illusion they want to keep alive. Randy will use an edge of a razor to cut his forehead to make his audience truly believe their hero bleeds for them. Rourke will beef up, wear a Jersey accent, and be photographed with grainy realism by cinematographer Maryse Alberti to sell the hat trick of his comeback performance. The duality of Rourke as an actor and Randy as a fictional character is a fascinatingly blurred indistinction that Aronofsky and Rourke seem content on playing with the audience, a game well played.

Aronofsky doesn't exploit Rourke as much as smartly cast an actor who can imbue the movie with some self-awareness and elevate it beyond its periodic sentimentality and well worn genre of the sports underdog. From the first frame of the film in which Rourke is shot from behind slumped over and deflated looking in a chair after a physically and psychologically taxing match. Like any good performer, the drain of exerting an intensity for the crowds to maintain interest and unwavering adoration has clearly taken its toll on Randy and Rourke. We don't get a close-up of Rourke's face for what feels like the first fifteen minutes of the movie; a wise decision on Arononfsky's part. We have to be eased into this new Rourke and to immediately show us the face that so many of us would be talking about would be a distraction from the earnest performance he's giving as well as the overall impact of the movie. It also prepares for the first reveal. A cascade of blonde hair frames his tanned, aged, pummeled-looking face. However, throughout the course of the film behind the transformation you get a sense that the former Rourke is there. It's almost as if he's wearing a mask that you think he's only wearing for the film, but this is how Rourke has rendered his face and the expectation that we'll ever see what his face could have looked like due to the natural process of aging is a mystery that will forever remain unsolved.

Carl Theodor Dryer's masterclass on the close-up in "The Passion of Joan of Arc" established what it could mean to constantly gaze into the face of an onscreen performer. There was something much more truthful about looking into Maria Falconetti's eyes or watching how her brows twitched than showing us a wide shot of a courtroom or holding cell. Gloria Swanson and Billy Wilder perfectly captured the notion of the tacit agreement between a movie star's face and the meaning achieved through this vessel to an audience in "Sunset Boulevard." Aronofsky finally gets at something more theoretical complex with the use of Rourke's face than technically complex, which has limited him in his previous films. Before the film's climax Randy gives a rousing speech performed rapturously by Rourke about although he can't make sense of the failed relationships in his own life (with his estranged daughter played shrilly by Evan Rachel Wood and a mom by day/stripped by night wonderfully played by Marisa Tomei), he can make sense of the diluted relationship between him and his audience, to which is met with thunderous applause.

Thursday, January 1, 2009

new order: 2009

Well, a new year is upon us. It wouldn't be a proper first day of the year without a discussion about resolutions. I made good on a few of mine for 08, so I guess I need to really be on it for 09.

Resolutions for 2009
-Make more money
-Save more money
-Although I get plenty of cardio by walking everywhere, I do miss jogging and lifting small weights. I'd love to have a better balance of working out and work.
-Drink less (ha!)
-Become more knowledgeable about bourbon (I know that negates the drink less resolution, but I do enjoy a cocktail every now and then.)
-Edit my wardrobe (I currently own about seven pairs of jeans and I only wear one or two. Why am I so attached to these things?)
-Meet more people
-Get around to actually making that list of my 100 favorite films
-Get around to watching "The Office", "Arrested Development", "30 Rock", and "The Wire"
-Get around to that damn KieĊ›lowski Decalogue series that I couldn't find time for in 08 as well as Rohmer's Moral Tales series

"i don't claim to be original."

It's become a new tradition to watch Claude Lelouch's "A Man and a Woman" on New Year's. He's a race car driver. She's a script girl. They meet and fall in love. It's that simple and that complicated.