|(Image: Focus Features and Teaser-Trailer.com)|
Monday, May 30, 2011
Wednesday, May 18, 2011
|A Time to Live, A Time to Die |
(Image: Central Motion Pictures Corporation and Lincoln Center)
Saturday, May 14, 2011
It's a little surprising that it's taken this long for it to happen, but a horror filmmaker has finally harnessed the demonic power of Tiny Tim. Yes, I recently saw Insidious, the sorta-haunted-house sleeper hit from the makers of Saw (which I've managed to avoid to date), director James Wan and writer Leigh Whannell. On the whole, it's far from a great movie, but scary flicks have a way of slipping past one's critical faculties - I still walked out with the rubbery-legged, butterfly-bellied feeling that comes after a prolonged period of adrenaline and tension. And I slept with a light on. Shut up.
Tuesday, May 10, 2011
|The Devil's own: Mae West and W.C. Fields in My Little Chickadee |
(Image: Universal Pictures and Hudson Square Bid)
I have long intended to make a better acquaintance of the right honorable Mr. William Claude Dukenfield, better known as W.C. Fields. As a kid, I repeatedly watched a cheap VHS tape of three of his shorts; ever since, I've tried to shoehorn into conversation whenever possible a line from The Golf Specialist, "Bringing a pie to a golf course! It's like bringing... something or other... somewhere... or other." (This is not easy to do, I would point out.) And of course I couldn't help being exposed to the Fields clips and quotes that litter 20th century popular culture. All of which was more than enough to let me know that he was my kind of guy, at least as a comic persona on the screen and not as someone I actually had to put up with in real life.
Film Forum's recent Fields series confirmed this - although none of the three movies I squeezed in were terrific in their own right, whenever he ambled onto the screen, he zapped them to life like a comedy defibrillator. He was one of those personalities who was scarcely containable by the constricted structure of his industry - he comes across like an emissary from another world, stopping in to let us know that there are stranger things in Heaven and Earth than are dreamt of in the Production Code Administration's philosophy, while at the same time he's always relatable as a human being.
Saturday, May 7, 2011
|(Image: dGenerate Films)|
If you had access to many hours of footage shot on the streets of any major city, you could cull from it quite an assortment of weirdos, scuzzbags and bizarre or disturbing incidents. I doubt, however, that my own lovely berg of NYC would, in any given year, be likely to yield the image of dozens of escaped pigs galloping and strolling around on a highway and disrupting traffic.
That's just one of the many indelible scenes in Huang Weikai's Disorder (2009). This astonishing experimental documentary/collage piece is the only one of the features I managed to see in the Museum of the Moving Image's recent, all-too-brief series "Tales from the New Chinese Cinema," focused on the wave of independent filmmakers emerging in the People's Republic. Huang's 58-minute work is distilled from something like 1,000 hours of journalistic and amateur video footage shot in Guangzhou, the southern city that's one of the ground zeros for China's volcanic economic and social upheaval.
If that sounds dry and academic, be assured that the screening was accompanied by almost as much audience gasping as you'd expect in a decent horror movie, and more than a few bone-dry chuckles as well. Disorder is the unruly, chained-in-the-attic relative of classic "city symphony" collage films like The Man with a Movie Camera or Berlin: Symphony of a Great City. In her introduction, film scholar and series co-curator Cheng Sim-lim said that the original Chinese title translates roughly as The Present is the Future of the Past, which she interpreted as referring to the way in which the strange or even unthinkable becomes "the new normal" in a rapidly changing world. No doubt even Chinese viewers would feel like much of the movie comes from another planet, and not one you'd necessarily want to visit (funny enough, I've been considering a side-trip to Guangzhou when I visit Hong Kong this coming fall).
Thursday, May 5, 2011
|Chow Yun-fat and hosts (Image: Emperor Motion Pictures and Kong-Cast)|
I always feel guilty about not attending much of the Tribeca Film Festival, and I always vow that next year it will be different - but there's so much stuff! I just get overwhelmed and kind of give up, seeing only one or two movies. The must-see this year that cut through my option-induced paralysis was Let the Bullets Fly, which recently broke the record for China's highest-grossing domestic film ever, and, more to the point, was reputed to be very good and, perhaps even more to the point, marks the now-sadly-rare occasion of a major vehicle for Hong Kong supernova Chow Yun-fat, still quite possibly the coolest man alive.