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Archive for May, 2009

Charlotte Gainsbourg  best actress winner at Cannes 2009

Charlotte Gainsbourg best actress winner at Cannes 2009

As an avid filmfan I do like a lot of different genres and look for all sorts of different things in the films I view.  Everything from “edgy” indie dramas to teen sex romps with lots of fart jokes and boobs to cool sci fi films to deep, introspective period pieces to spaghetti westerns to mel brooks to french nouvelle vague to samurai and kung fu flicks and genre pics to, well, you get the idea.

I admit, too, that I do enjoy cinematic provocateurs – those trying to freak out or even offend the more tender sensibilities of their audiences.  Think Takashi Miike’s Audition or Eli Roth’s Hostel or Alexandro Jodorowsky’s whole career.   However, that doesn’t mean I enjoy all provocateurs.   My filmloving friends are often surprised to find how much I tend to hate David Lynch (who, for all of his apparent true weirdness and obvious psychological damage, seems to me to almost always be trying too hard to show how weird he is on film.  “oooh check this out – didn’t expect that did ya?  pretty weird, huh?”).    And Lars Von Trier, the danish filmmaker perhaps most famous on these shores for creating the whole Dogma ’95 “genre”  (more a strict set of rules that the films must adhere to than a true genre) and creating a trilogy of films on america that seem to profess a deep rooted hate american culture, while having never actually set foot on american soil (dude is apparently afraid of flying), is another non-favorite of mine.

My dislike of Von Trier stems largely from one of his Dogme ’95 films (for those unfamiliar with the idea, quickly it basically means films without frills – no special effects, no special lighting, no incidental music that isn’t actually heard by the characters, etc), Dancer In The Dark (starring  Bjork – who claimed she would never do another film again after the battles she had with Von Trier), and Breaking The Waves (while not a Dogme 95 flick persee, it uses many of the same techniques plus is shot on grainy digital video).  Both films that used rather stark filming techniques to tell brutal stories of how awful man is to man.   They felt to me much like slowly stabbing and scraping my arms with pointed wooden sticks for 90+ minutes .  So I’ve always been leery of attempting another Von Trier film.

However, I do peridocially revisit music and film that, while I may have previously greatly disliked, friends and/or artists I admire dig,  just to find out if I can hear/see what these folks do in these works and maybefind out if I missed anything.

For example, despite my avowed hatred of Lynch, I will eventually go back a review Dune, Blue Velvet and some others once more, to see if my opinions change.  (One of the great things, in my opinion, on music, film, literature, art in general, is that even though a completed piece of work is generally static, our opinions, reactions and general view of them are constantly changing, as we ourselves constantly change.   The problems in the production and marketing of mainstream film and especially modern music culture these days, I think, can be largely attributed to the fact that  thecorporations that run the film studios and record companies do not take these constantly changing perceptions into account, and market the stuff much like one would market a dish washing detergent or a deodorant or a car.)

All of this is a rather long introduction to the fact that Lars Von Trier’s new film, Antichrist, premiered at Cannes this month and apparently caused quite a stir.   I’ll let the words of Mike D’Angelo – who wrote a pretty damned good daily blog of his attendance at this years’ Cannes for the AV Club – fill you in on why I find it intriguing, and am actually now, in fact, quite eager to see this:

I’m pretty sure I kind of despised your new movie, Antichrist, but that doesn’t remotely matter. Thank you. Thank you for having the guts to make something as insane and offensive and wholly uncompromising as this. Thank you for not caring whether people laugh at you, and for smacking the international press corps with a much-needed dose of cognitive dissonance. Most of all, thank you for lighting a bomb underneath the perfectly respectable, largely forgettable efforts of your fellow Competition entries. You may have whiffed huge this time, but movies like yours are what the Festival de Cannes should ideally be about.

Combine this with my recently gleamed knowledge that, long before Dogme 95, Lars was apparently a very visually imaginative director (I’m now also dying to check out his supernatural hospital miniseries for Danish TV The Kingdom he produced way back in the ancient 90s) who wanted to do more than make movies his audience would just have to endure.

The story, as far as I can tell, of Antichrist, involves an unnamed couple (Willem Dafoe and British/French actress/chantuese Charlotte Gainsbourg) who lose their toddler in the opening scenes.  They then retreat to their remote cabin in the woods, charmingly called Eden, to try and cope.   And apparently it spins waaaay out of control and becomes very twisted and insane –  notoriously including some scene of  backwoods masturbation/genital mutlation (mutilations?) that is supposed to be very difficult to view.

Gainsbourg, daughter of late french singer/provocateur Serge Gainsbourg and brit Jane Birken, has been upping her profile quite a bit in recent years.  After a role in 21 Grams, she played the romantic female lead in Michel Gondries offbeat follow up to Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind, The Science of Sleep, and then last year released her own debut record, 5:55, on which Pulp’s Jarvis Cocker wrote the songs and french mondo cool mood duo Air played backing band.   And now this movie, in which she’s been praised for playing such a brave role.  uh oh.

Apparently Von Trier caused quite a stir at the post screening press conference, proclaiming himself the best director in the world and being hit right away with a question demanding that he justify himself and his movie.

I will probably hate this film, but somehow it doesn’t make me want to see it any less.   It will, at the very least, surely be a more interesting experience than most of the remakes and sequels hollywood is offering us this summer.

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Brick flick guru Judd Apatow dares you to say this post's title out loud five times fast.

Brick flick guru Judd Apatow dares you to say this post's title out loud five times fast.

Today’s film industry is capable of producing four genres: super hero movies (Hulk), remakes (The Incredible Hulk), Ben Stiller embarrassment films (all films starring the American actor Ben Stiller), and brick flicks.

Brick flick has two meanings, but this post will focus on the latter.

1. Slang for stop motion animation with LEGO or other brick-like elements (see: BrickFilms.com)

2. A hybrid comedy targeting both sexes (see: Judd Apatow)

How do brick flicks work? They start out as buddy or “bro-hive” movies, weaving a rich tapestry of farts, porn, bongs, and nerd-friendly pop culture references. This renders guys so intoxicated they barely notice (or care) that trademarks of the dreaded romantic comedy have already begun to reveal themselves. Female characters bond with each other over activities such as shopping, dancing, and chocolate. Then – and this is key – ladies begin showing the ability to “clean up” their slack-ass, caveman-like male counterparts. 

In their final acts, brick flicks morph into full-on, unmitigated chick flicks. Sure, a broseph might crash the wedding armed with a hilarious dick or poop joke, but all such matters are trivial. The transformation – for both the male protagonist and the film itself – is complete. It’s a simple formula, but one that always works because people really are that predictable. 

This would totally happen in real life.

This would totally happen in real life.

Brick flicks commonly include Lopsided Hotness Ratios (LHRs) – unrealistic girl-to-guy levels of physical attractiveness that are always tipped heavily in the direction of the female character. LHRs, much like films about time travel, are sometimes so extreme that the audience is forced to completely suspend their sense of reality (Jonah Hill and Emma Stone, from Superbad), while others are slightly more plausible (Seth Rogan and Katherine Heigl, from Knocked Up). Though the LHR phenomenon has long existed in Hollywood, hotness standards for actresses in the past decade have skyrocketed. If Brat Pack icon Molly Ringwald were 21 today, would she be cast as the “it girl,” or her homely advice-giving sidekick? Today’s actors, meanwhile, continue to enjoy the “everyman” role. 

Another feature that is unique to most brick flicks and Saturday Night Live sketches is the Unfunny Scene That Goes On For Way Too Long (UFSWTLs). Examples include the “do you know how I know you’re gay?” and electronics store scenes from The 40 Year Old Virgin, and all of the movie Knocked Up

"Neil Peart is awesome!" - any character ever played by Jason Segel.

"Neil Peart rocks!" - every Jason Segel character ever.

The newest brick flick, I Love You, Man, is perhaps the genre’s best offering yet. It tastefully steers clear of LHRs and UFSWTLs, and doesn’t try to appeal to your baser cinema instincts by constantly bashing you over the head with its “br-ness” and “ick-ness.” It is, in the words of Jason Segel’s character from the film, a revelation. Also, it is not produced or directed by Apatow – coincidence? TLOS awards this movie a 8.735 out of 9.8 and highly recommends you rent it when it comes out on video.

Are brick flicks harmless fun or destructive forces that need to be stopped? Tell us what you think!

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One of the really fun things about Remy is how much he loves to get partner Don Orsillo, the Sox play-by-play guy since 2001, completely lost in laughter. He’ll see that Don is starting to lose it, and he just pushes him over the edge if he can.

Check this clip out. And listen close at the beginning of the clip — you can hear Don trying to hold it together right from the beginning. Awesome!

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Sometimes politics is just too funny.  Like, remember when Dick Cheney countered Barack Obama’s assertion that enhanced interrogation techniques made us less safe by accusing him of “phony moralizing?” Ha!  Or when the Senate passed legislation that would rein in credit card rate increases and excessive fees, a move which arguably ushers us into a new era of credit card reform? A gas!

But for real, once in a while, the soulless shells of human beings that walk our halls of power make funny.

I vote that we hire this hero, Douglas Wilder, to engage in a to-the-death speak-off with another hero, John Moschitta.  Doug, you may have displayed your patriotism through enhanced congressional testimony, but John is actually carrying an aircraft carrier.  Who’s the patriot now?

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Dennis Eckersley when he was acquired by the Boston Red Sox

Dennis Eckersley when he was acquired by the Boston Red Sox

Here in Boston, us Red Sox fans have been listening to Jerry Remy (a.k.a. ‘The Remdawg’) do the television color commentary for years. Great personality, great knowledge of the game, and just a whole lot of fun to listen to. Over the past few years, his star has been on the rise, and he has become as big as any Red Sox player in terms of profile.

Well, now Remdawg is on the DL indefinitely recovering from complications from cancer treatment of last year. We wish Jerry Remy a quick and full recovery from this, whether or not he comes back to announcing. I’d love him to come back at least for home games or a game a week or something. He’s just fun to listen to.

But subbing in for the Remdawg is Hall of Fame pitcher Dennis Eckersley. Now, Eck has been an analyst on NESN for some time, platooning with HOF inductee Jim Rice and providing great commentary and depth beside lead anchor Tom Caron (‘TC’).

Eck started filling the Remy role maybe two weeks ago, and I gotta say, I’m really enjoying his commentary. It’s more pitching-centric than Remy is, which makes sense since Eck understands pitching as well as anyone, but he’s always got something interesting to say. Furthermore, he’s got a machine-gun delivery of colorful terminology that is a riot. I translate for Lexi all the time after we stop laughing.

To wit, here is something he had to say when Big Papi was at the plate yesterday:

…Don’t you just want to see (the Toronto Blue Jays pitcher) throw him a piece of cheese so he can bale-and-wale and knock that ball four-thirty? You know, just get some gas and really turn on it and it’s a bomb

That is just all kinds of awesome. And he’s almost always talking like this with some of the same intensity you would expect from one of the dominant closers in baseball. He gets really fired up about stuff. At one point I thought he was going to throw off his headset and dive onto the field to get involved after a pitcher threw FAR inside on Youk.

Great fun to listen to Eck.

But get well soon, Jerry. We still miss you.

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Yesterday I bought two tickets to Sunset Rubdown (Middle East Down, Thursday, June 11, $12).  I love Spencer Krug and pretty much all the hipster-approved projects he’s involved in, including Wolf Parade (a longstanding obsession – expect an expanded post about how Apologies to the Queen Mary changed my musical life forever) and Swan Lake.

Here’s one of my favorite songs:

http://www.sunsetrubdown.net/

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What better way to celebrate cubicle imprisonment on a 90 degree Thursday than with…wolves.  I was fortunate enough to be involved in a wonderfully-entertaining email chain that illustrated what happens when you combine wolves, the people who love them, and the intertubes.

First Email

“Please read the product reviews

Amazon comments

Amazon comments

Second

“No, no, I want THIS one…”

Hot Chicks On Wolves

Hot Chicks On Wolves

Third

“I’m throwing video in the mix”

4 ever.

4 ever.

Fourth

“Don’t forget your local rocker, seen twice daily strutting the streets of Harvard Square, in this exact outfit.”

Peter Wolf

Peter Wolf

Fifth

“And of course the classic film version of said rocker”

Hot.

Hot.

Anyone got any more good wolf references?

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