Tuesday, June 7, 2011
Saturday, May 28, 2011
For an analysis far more intelligent and entertaining than the one above, check THIS out.
Sunday, May 22, 2011
Tuesday, May 3, 2011
Friday, April 15, 2011
Monday, April 4, 2011
Sunday, April 3, 2011
One might argue the same about long-term marriage.
Thursday, March 31, 2011
Remember those back-and-forth stories that we all used to do (or at least bored writers with weird friends, like me, used to do)? Where creative juices would run riot as you penned back and forth, each adding to the growing plot that the other had established? Where anything went, and hilarity ensued?
Well, the internet's best kept comedic secret (Nico Morley) and myself have decided to join forces and establish a blog just for this purpose. She and I will alternate posts, stopping abruptly in order for the other to continue the story. Who knows where it will go? What levels of brilliance will be reached? What caverns of humor, tragedy, life, death, metaphor, and insanity will be delved into? Will they be left undiscovered or blasted open with the force of our combined brilliance? Who knows?... Who cares?... check it out!
Also, a last minute note, Darryl, whose sense of humor is almost more acerbic than mine, has come on board as well. Let the wild rumpus start!
Monday, March 28, 2011
Wednesday, March 23, 2011
Thursday, March 17, 2011
Sunday, March 13, 2011
For all you film aficionados out there looking to expand your horizons, I am going to switch into advertising mode in order to plug one of my very favorite places on earth.
Mineral Point, Wisconsin is one of those towns that you hear so much about, but never actually encounter. Where the townsfolk conglomerate every morning at a quaint breakfast joint where the boundaries of conversation never stop at the table edges. Where time seems to slow to make room for the hours spent napping on the front porch, as well as those wandering in and out of art galleries and prowling through the sky high shelves of books crammed within the brick walls of the library. This is a place where the arts are a lifestyle, not an ideal and nowhere does this manifest its self better than at Shakerag Alley.
Tucked away amongst Mineral Point's quintessential 19th century lead miners cottages is the grand old Stagecoach house guarding the magical realm (if you've ever been there, you'll understand why I feel compelled to use such hokey terminology) that is Shakerag Alley. Peeking out of gardens galore are multiple outbuildings that are home to every type of artistic/creative/literary... and even some technological... workshops that you can imagine. Which brings me to the point of this post.
This Summer, besides hosting a slew of workshops in the afore mentioned mediums, Shakerag Alley will be the home of Stage and Screen week- an entire week dedicated to classes on the various aspects of film making and the preforming arts. The cast of characters at the helm of this learning extravaganza includes award-winning writers, directors, actors, costume designers, and many, many more. In addition to teaching about the preforming arts, Shakerag Alley is also home to The Alley Stage, an outdoor theater that entertains townsfolk and tourists alike all summer long with the work of some of Mineral Point's most talented individuals. During Stage & Screen week, the Opera House, usually home to quirky indie films, will collaborate with The Alley in presenting award-winning playwright Bill Svanoe's play, "Persons of Interest". Students in certain classes will also take part in the production of the comedy.
So in a nutshell, when I heard about an event of this caliber taking place in the hub of Southern Wisconsin's rural arts culture, I found it all but impossible to not immediately share it with you. For someone, like me, whose idea of an exciting theatrical experience is whenever the local theater gets a movie that isn't made by Pixar, this is too thrilling for words.
So tell all your friends! Tell all your enemies! Tell total strangers! Come experience it yourself! I've always said, if you've never been to Mineral Point, you can't know the full potential of Midwestern small-town beauty, or the creativity of the people who live there.
Stage & Screen Week runs through July 30-August 5. For more information, click here.
Monday, March 7, 2011
Friday, March 4, 2011
A while ago I watched a documentary on the dancers of the Paris Opera Ballet. I learned that, like film editors, a ballerina’s best work is that which appears to be effortless, flowing, flawless. The audience must never see past the impeccable exterior to the harsh, painful, mentally and physically exhausting work that goes into the art of an unadulterated expression of someone else’s vision.
However, the lifestyle of a ballerina, unlike that of a film editor, lends its self beautifully to psycho-sexual melodramas starring the likes of Natalie Portman and Mila Kunis.
Nina (Portman) is a hard-working mommy’s-girl whose personality is reflected in the tight wad of a bun that clings to the back of her neck like a swollen tick. Her mental stability thrives on perfection… too bad she was never told that nobody is perfect. She is cast as the Swan Queen by the sleazy choreographer Thomas-with a silent “S”-Leroy (Vincent Cassel) whose buzzard-like nose indicates Portman isn’t the only one metamorphosing into the bird that most closely resembles their personality.
But what appears to be the role of a lifetime becomes a paranoid mental coup once the daringly sinful dancer Lilly (Mila Kunis) enters the scene. While Nina gracefully embraces the pretty and pure “white swan”, the Swan Queen’s darker personality, “the black swan” is right up Lilly’s alley. As only one woman must dance both parts, Thomas decides to give Nina a lesson on loosening up, and no, he doesn’t mean that in the traditional choreographic sense.
Nina is unable to acknowledge her repressed desires, fears, and passions and instead grips that which she can control so desperately that her fingers bleed- literally. Eventually, with the provocation of jealousy and a little help from Lilly, her inner darkness bubbles to the surface in the form of inky feathers that send her soaring into the piths of a mental meltdown. Being trapped behind her eyes, somewhere in the unhinged corners of her mind, we go right along for the ride.
Even for those of you who, like me, need a bit of brushing up on Russian ballets and their subplots, it is fairly obvious that Nina is the Swan Queen in much the same way that Meryl Streep is Virginia Woolf in “The Hours” or that Steve Carell is Noah in “Evan Almighty”. Ballet has that sensation to it that lends its self exceptionally well to third-degree melodrama. Slap on a thick layer of insanity, and you’ve got yourself one mean theatrical sandwich.
It is like Portman is a ballerina and we are in her head, looking helplessly out as she skillfully spins faster than lightening. The world seems hazy and dizzying but never does she falter or stumble. Effortlessly- or so she would have it seem- she (and the film editor too) dances with the audience until the world is so blurred, we no longer know what reality is. If Nina Sayers is the Swan Queen, Natalie Portman is no Nina Sayers.
Saturday, February 26, 2011
Watching “The Room” for the first (and hopefully last) time was a bit like listening to Bob Dylan on auto-tune. No, scratch that. It was like watching Kim Kardashian preform mouth-to-mouth on a blood hound. Or maybe it was like eating a sloppy joe while Judah Freelander massages my feet. Somehow I cannot put together an analogy that completely embodies the queasy, incoherent, weirdly-dark-yet-still-completely-tacky-and-unpleasant-hot-mess-of-a-cult-film that is “The Room”.
The plot (and I use that word loosely) is composed of a love triangle that contains about as much love as it does geometry. Lisa (Juliette Danielle) is engaged to a hot chocolate-drinking, football tossing, lump of muscle, wrinkles, and grease named Johnny (Tommy Wiseau) but is in love (or at least says repeatedly and menacingly that she is) with Johnny’s best friend Mark (Greg Sestero). (Or at least he says repeatedly and exasperatedly that that is what he is).
Tommy Wiseau (who also writes, directs and produces) delivers an incredible performance as Johnny. I was unaware that it was even possible to act while simultaneously asleep and in a coma.
Furthermore, his skill as a director calls for him to pay great attention to detail. For example, a scene in which Johnny, Mark, Johnny’s pseudo-adopted son/friend Denny, and another pal who just so happens to be a (much needed) psychiatrist don tuxedoes and then scamper out into a back alley to toss a football back and forth. Things such as contextual plot relevance, explanation, and, well, meaning, are obviously unimportant to the development of time fillers such as this. One would imagine that plenty of time could have been filled with coverage of topics such as Lisa’s mother’s breast cancer or the fact that Denny owes money to a drug dealer. But Tommy Wiseau’s imagination is obviously better than the rest of ours, as these matters are tossed aside without so much as the blink of an eye.
Instead, most of the movie takes place in Johnny and Lisa's living room where people wander in and out for no reason other than to exchange a few rusty bits of dialogue and in moments of levity, to engage in spontaneous pillow fights. Scenes like this are crudely glued together with completely irrelevant shots of "The Room's" location, San Fransisco.
Of course, this film is so bad, it has accumulated quite the cult following. And if my understanding of cinematic cult followings is correct, this is made up of people who can somehow relate to the characters in a way that the rest of us mainstream folk just can’t. Who enjoy listening to dialogue that sounds like it has been wrenched out of a pull-string Barbie doll. Who find refuge in a movie that, in being unconventional, somehow showcases unconventionality in a way that is relatable or thought-provoking. “Rocky Horror Picture Show” did this. “Pulp Fiction” did this. “A Clockwork Orange” did this. If “The Room” is unconventionality at its best (worst), it would make someone like Alex DeLarge want to immediately rush out and apply for a job as an insurance salesman.
It takes very little effort and/or intelligence to make a bad movie. It takes quite a bit to make a bad movie that means something.
Thursday, February 24, 2011
*No, the Celluloid Kitchen is not going anywhere.
Friday, February 11, 2011
“La Grande Bouffe” is trademark French cinema at its very best… or worst, depending on your viewpoint and/or gag reflex. To give you a general idea of what I mean by this, I am going to have to venture into its grotesque and frivolous plot. This I do only to warn and recommend respectively.
We begin with four friends, all upper class, middle-aged Frenchmen who gather in an extravagant home, inherited but not inhabited by one of the quartet. It is to be a retreat from the trials of aristocratic life. Awaiting them are multiple truckloads of fish, cheese, wine, vegetables, and morosely alabaster animal bits. Though not immediately evident, the gathering is a surreal suicide pact. They intend to eat themselves to death- literally.
Before they even reach the second course of their gloomy gluttony, several young ladies take their place at the table and soon the getaway becomes a feast of food and fornication, each equally emotionless. Despite the over-abundance of luxury, nobody appears to be enjoying themselves. Things that are generally considered pleasurable to humans are conducted with an air of desperation and stoicism. Lavish items are disposed of without ceremony. A monstrously elaborate cake serves only as ammunition in a bizarre food fight and a shipment of meat is strewn about the garden before it gets refrigerated.
This is not a movie that most Americans (and even some French) find appetizing in any way. When a movie is explicit and disturbing, we tend to take it at face value. In America, if a movie contains a plethora of “graphic content” it rarely bothers to venture beyond its subject matter. The French cinematic tradition, however, tends to regard the risqué with a slightly more nonchalant attitude; and movies that bear the seal of a filmmaker’s politics or philosophical ideals are certainly not hard to come by.
I like to think of “La Grande Bouffe” as a hybrid of the minds of Louis Bunel and the Marquis De Sade. The characters and their obscure hedonistic actions are merely a foil for a larger idea. It is an allegory and a biting satire on the piggyness of the Bourgeoisie and their blind intent to devour as much extravagance as is physically possible. Their downfall, whether it be by violence or indigestion always comes about as a result of a blind consumption of luxury. “La Grande Bouffe” is tasteless because it wants to express the tastelessness of its subject.
Aristocracy and decadence are a favorite theme of French satirists- and why not? When extravagance is the norm, what is extravagant? When you have the best, what can you do but want more? When something is untouchable, what is left to do but make fun of it?