Monday, September 29, 2008

Paul Newman, 1925 - 2008

As part of what's been an unfortunate trend this year, actor, heartthrob, and salad dressing maker elite Paul Newman has died, another tremendous loss to the industry following the passings of Heath Ledger and Sydney Pollack (and Bernie Mac, and Isaac Hayes, and --).

As part of what's been an unfortunate trend in my life (of taking too long to catch up on certain older films), I've seen only a select few of Newman's classic movies. I own "Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid" and I love "The Sting" (yeah, the Newman-Redford titles). I also recently caught "Nobody's Fool," a charming 1994 drama for which he received his ninth of ten Oscar nominations (in addition to Honorary and humanitarian awards). And then there are "Road to Perdition" and "The Hudsucker Proxy," two fine films with fine performances.

But I've missed the classics. No "Hud." No "Hustler." No - gulp! - "Cool Hand Luke." The latter, given its reputation and prominence in pop culture, will be the first one I catch. Then the other two, then, say, "Cat on a Hot Tin Roof." That sounds like a nice line-up from an actor whose existence - and I don't need to have seen all his work to know this to be true - played a big part in shaping modern movies.

Saturday, September 27, 2008


I almost bought this poster today...

...just thought I'd share that with everyone.

(And why did I ultimately decide against it? Lack of wall, wall-e space! ha, ha! ...sorry.)

Friday, September 26, 2008


Mike Leigh, who's led women like Brenda Blethyn and Imelda Staunton to Best Actress Oscar nominations with his previous films (they would be "Secrets and Lies" and "Vera Drake," respectively), returns this year with "Happy-Go-Lucky" and may just do it again. The film's lead star, Sally Hawkins, won the top actress prize at this year's Berlin Film Festival and many are predicting that she'll take that momentum all the way to the Academy Awards.

As Polly, an impossibly cheerful North London school teacher, Hawkins is said to charm and amaze, a feat that may put her in the company of such possible hopefuls as Angelina Jolie ("Changeling"), Melissa Leo ("Frozen River"), Kate Winslet ("Revolutionary Road" -- see below), Kristin Scott Thomas ("I've Loved You So Long"), and Anne Hathaway ("Rachel Getting Married") - to name a few - come January.

*Apologies: I know I've been posting an abundance of videos lately but just deal with it! This trailer is delightful! I love that it incorporates that splendid Lily Allen track. What a way to get one so genuinely excited for what appears to me a most pleasurable film.

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

Leo, Kate...and Mary

The exquisitely subdued trailer for "Revolutionary Road" has hit the web. The only version I could find on YouTube was from "Entertainment Tonight"'s broadcast, featuring an exquisitely obvious commentary from "ET" anchor Mary "I want Vanna's youth serum" Hart. Please forgive her intermittent, "I'm still here, you're still watching 'ET' - in case you couldn't tell by the graphics all over the screen" interjections about the film's plot which, if not inferred naturally, are told to you through the dialogue anyway.

As you no doubt have guesssed, I am tremendously excited by this. While I've grown to love "Titanic" for its sheer beauty and watchability, I haven't been a superfan all along, nor am I ga-ga over this match-up. No, this whole project just reeks of talent and taste, and that's what's got me worked up. I love that this trailer even features potential Oscar clips (because you know Kate and Leo are headed for the lead performance short lists). Kate has such fire in her. I'm glad they let some of it out to burn up this preview. And Sam Mendes...well, let's just say this seems to be one picturesque picture. It looks like "Road to Perdition" meets "American Beauty." Thankfully, that's something from which no half-witted Hart narration can subtract.

Monday, September 22, 2008

Girls Just Want to Have 'SEX'

Rumors have been buzzing about Sarah Jessica Parker and the gals teaming up again for a sequel to the incredibly successful, record-breaking "Sex and the City: The Movie."

While any idiot could have seen this coming, I personally think it's a bad idea. The first film was no masterpiece but, as I wrote, in appropriately fluffy style, "it's a delectable cherry atop the series." And there is where the cinematic treatment of the beloved show should remain. I have all six seasons placed securely on the top shelf of my DVD library - yep, in that uber-gay pink box - and I'm ready to place the (undoubtedly) pink DVD of the film right next to it. And that's where the 'Sex' should stop. Series, movie. Nice. Done. ...But try pitching that to the cash-hungry studios.

Yes, Chapter 2 in the Book of Cosmo-Swigging and Louis Vuitton-Slinging will surely reach theaters within the decade. In the meantime, the girls' first big-screen outing arrives on DVD this Tuesday and, as mentioned, I've already designated a spot for it in the library.

Elswhere in the collection - of which I tried to post an image, but Blogger is infuriatingly insistent on being difficult, a.k.a feeble - is an earlier SJP flick, the '80's specTACKular "Girls Just Want to Have Fun." In it, she co-stars with a pre-Oscar Helen Hunt and a pre-bitch Shannen Doherty and tries like hell to become a regular on the even tackier "Dance TV." Don't remember it? Check out the clip below. Trust me, you'll wanna grab your leggings and bust a move.

Monday, September 15, 2008

Simple Pleasures

Have you heard about the French gem "The Grocer's Son?" If not, I'm happy to be the one to introduce you, because everyone deserves to take in the simple joys of director Eric Guirado's concise celebration of food, family, and finding oneself.

When his father suffers a heart attack, 30-year-old Antoine (a focused and smoldering Nicolas Cazale) leaves his independent life in Paris and returns to his childhood home in the country to help with the family's grocery business. Estranged for a decade because of ongoing family strife, Antoine is only half-heartedly welcomed back. His bed-ridden dad (Daniel Duval) hates him, his mom (Jeanne Goupil) barely knows him anymore, and his brother, Francois (Stephan Guerin-Tillie), is harboring deep-seeded resentments (as well as some painful personal secrets). Antoine seems anesthetized to his family's disapproval ("he left, selfishly, without a word") and he takes on the responsibility to appease his mother, the only one with whom he's retained a fraction of a kinship. He's accompanied on his trip by Claire (bright French actress Clotilde Hesme, previously seen in Phillipe Garrel's overpraised "Regular Lovers"), a 26-year-old college student who lives in his apartment building and on whom he has a not-so-secret crush.

"The Grocer's Son" rolls out slowly, so slowly that, in the beginning, it gets dangerously close to boring territory. Thankfully, it knows just when and how to pick itself up. As soon as Antoine gets behind the wheel of his family's grocery-on-the-go delivery truck (do they have those all over France?), the film comes wonderfully to life. He sets out on his father's route, meets all of his colorful regulars, and quickly learns that small-town service (in the movies, at least) often comes with customer favors and gracious, long-running tabs. One woman is flustered at Antoine's new policy of payment in full. Another never seems to have exact change. One man pays with eggs and booze. And then there's the grumpy town witch, who only shops if she's in the mood. This is one of those movies that's lit up by its minor characters, and the audience comes to appreciate them long before Antoine does. What he sees as annoyances, we see as defining quirks. Where he sees walls of old tradition, we see basic humanity at its best. The fact that he eventually comes around is one of the best kinds of movie character growth: he gradually earns the respect and admiration of the viewer.

Plenty of things happen before that, of course, including layers of family drama and a sweet, subdued romance. It's clear from the beginning that Claire, the open mind to Antoine's closed-up soul, will have a lasting effect on the lead character. That his growth is prompted and sustained by her presence is as silent as their budding relationship. This film presents a love story that everyone knows about but no one talks about, a rare approach that I found quite refreshing. There's a mutual understanding between Antoine and Claire that's kept private, even from the audience, making a beautiful scene of simultaneous love-making and art-making that much more special and poignant.

Around the middle of the movie, Claire observes, "it's never too late to change your life," and every character, more or less, ultimately proves that statement true. No one in "The Grocer's Son" sees a perfect resolution but everyone sees personal progress. Cultural progress is where it may be lacking, as Antoine only earns his father's respect through a display of hard work, suggesting that diligence alone is a sufficient foundation for a father-son bond. Maybe it is, maybe it isn't. What's important is that Antoine finds peace by the end, finally able to stop rebelling and embrace the simple pleasures of life. In that sense, I saw a bit of myself watching this movie. Not long ago, I fostered an immature urge of defiance. Only recently have I managed to openly embrace simple pleasures, simple pleasures like this film.

Sunday, September 7, 2008

27 Women

Fun, huh? Apparently, today's chick flicks aren't complete without a text-covered ensemble.

Speaking of seeing double, Diane English's remake of "The Women" is like another "Sex and the City," making 2008 one chick-tastic year. I'm sensing that I'm gonna be in the minority, but I was pleasantly surprised with the film, which lacks the lived-in feel (and fan base) of "SATC"'s fab four but delivers on the platforms over which the hit HBO adaptation stumbled.

Catch my new review -- it's in "THE VAULT."

Saturday, September 6, 2008

Must. See. MILK.

This is one of the year's best trailers. This is going to be another Best Actor nomination for Sean Penn. This could make it all the way to the Best Picture short list. Without further adieu, Gus Van Sant's "Milk":

Monday, September 1, 2008

Musicals Cash In

In a desperate effort to reel in audiences who haven't already scoffed at the mess on display in the big screen adaptation of "Mamma Mia!," the film's producers have re-released it in a sing-along version. That's right: theater-goers can sing along, karaoke style, with Meryl, Christine Baranski and Stellan Skarsgaard, as the lyrics to "Dancing Queen" and "Money, Money, Money" pan across the bottom of the screen (as if that film needed any more choppy elements to assault and distract its viewers).

In a similar vein, Sony is attempting to resurrect its movie version of Jonathan Larson's "RENT"...sort of...

As part of its "The Hot Ticket" series, which takes filmed performances of live shows (anything from sports to concerts) and markets them for the moviegoing public, "RENT: Hot Ticket" will feature the long-running Broadway hit's final Sept. 7 performance, as well as interviews with the original cast. While I'm sure the cinema-cum-Broadway mash-up will hit DVD sooner or later, the film will only be shown in theaters on four dates: Wed., Sept. 24; Thurs., Sept. 25; Sat., Sept. 27; and Sun., Sept. 28. So, it seems, it's almost as hot a ticket as the actual show.

No day but today...and tomorrow...and two days this weekend...but that's it.