Thursday, May 28, 2009

Critic's Most Wanted

We're halfway through the year, and the pool of great films remains conspicuously shallow. Which yet-to-be-released 2009 titles am I jonesing for the most? CLICK HERE to find out.

*Note: Choices are based on films with full trailers released before May 22, 2009.

Friday, May 22, 2009

Divine Decadence

There's no real reason for the title of this post other than the fact that I'm watching "Cabaret," and Sally Bowles's delectable lines (like such) were just impossible to resist. What I really intended to post about were my obsessions of the week, and since Sally is always worth obsessing over, I may as well add her to the list. Aside from Ms. Bowles, I'm also crushing on...

"UP" - Pure cinematic bliss. The incredible team at Pixar has done it again. In 100 years, the titles in the Pixar canon will rank high among the films of our time that will have endured. The studio's streak of beauty and brilliance is rather astounding.

The buzz, good and bad, surrounding Lars Von Trier's new Cannes selection, "Antichrist." Roger Ebert gives the film enough horrifying superlatives to make it must-see cinema for me, while Manohla Dargis taunts with talk of animatronic foxes and a reign of chaos. I've always been intrigued by Von Trier, but never to such a tantalyzing degree.

This guy Adam Lambert. Apparently, he was screwed over on "AI" for being light in the loafers. And Clay Aiken can't stand him. He's ace in my book.

Not liking Megan Fox, the woman who all but represents the divide between gay and straight men's perceptions of women. Where Jasper the college jock (and, evidently, the editor-in-chief of Maxim) see the sexiest bad-girl actress since Angelina Jolie, I see an irritating, tattooed tramp who certainly hasn't earned the staggering amount of media attention she's received...not with her film work anyway, which includes "Transormers 1," "Transformers 2" and, I'm sorry, what else?

The incredibly addictive, exuberant rendition of Journey's "Don't Stop Believin'" by the cast of Fox's new dramedy series "Glee." I think I've watched/listened to this performance about 48 times now. Feel free to do the same.

Friday, May 15, 2009

Nuts About 'NINE'

When I first saw this photo a few months back, I thought it was some kind of sick joke from a Photoshop whiz. Surely there had to be some mistake. All these incredible, high-profile women couldn't possibly be in the same movie together, let alone the same frame. But the wow-inducing trailer below confirms that Rob "Chicago" Marshall's big screen adaptation of the 1982 musical based on Fellini's "8 1/2" is, in fact, real, and the 2009 film calendar just got one dazzling boost of adrenaline. Watch, then watch again...and again...and again...and again...

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

'Precious' Trailer

I got within inches of my TV this afternoon when Oprah, as part of her comedy special featuring the likes of George Lopez and Mo'Nique, revealed the first-ever trailer for "Precious," that uber-devastating Sundance smash directed by Lee Daniels and starring Mo'Nique. Based on the Sapphire-penned novel, "Push" (and previously called such until a certain idiotic sci-fi romp invaded), this highly controversial and riveting-looking drama ranks high among my most anticipated films of the year.

Oprah, of course, is executive producing the film, with a little help from recent "Star Trek" bit player Tyler Perry, and Mo'Nique, who's reportedly (and evidently) transcendent, is a good early bet for Best Supporting Actress. The trailer isn't even available on YouTube yet, but you can watch it in high-resolution by CLICKING HERE. (Daniels even seems to pull a strong turn from Mariah Carey. Who knew?)

Art House Salad: IN A DREAM and GOODBYE SOLO

My newest review feature: Dishing on the latest blend of alternative flicks being tossed around in limited release.
By R. Kurt Osenlund

Dir. Jeremiah Zagar
HBO Documentary Films
80 min. NR

Jeremiah Zagar's "In a Dream" incorporates fanciful footage of South Philadelphia, talking-head confessionals, vintage photography, hundreds of original drawings and paintings and whimsical animation to tell the life/love story of the director's father, renowned Philadelphia mosaic muralist Isaiah Zagar, and mother, Julia Zagar. Exposing the high times and hardships of the artist (Isaiah reveals a dark history of mental illness), the couple (Jeremiah opts to document his parents' painful separation) and their family (Jeremiah's in-recovery brother, Ezekiel, also appears), the film isn't so much a family portrait, as many will call it, but a whole scrapbook of mixed media, new and old.

Jeremiah, who also co-edited, is a masterful manipulator of his medium of choice. Like his father but with a greater degree of control, he favors bold, vibrant colors and takes advantage of interesting architectural spaces. His curious cameras, deftly handled by cinematographers Erik Messerschmidt and Mark Stetz, are constantly moving through space, scanning Isaiah's indoor and outdoor creations with an affectionate, even loving gaze.

"Don't just give them eye candy," Isaiah says at one point in the movie, "give them something else to chew on." Jeremiah gives us something else, alright -- too much, perhaps. Just as Isaiah often straddles the line between fascinating eccentric visionary and plain-old weirdo (attempted self-castration in psych ward? Compelling! Handling feces and contemplating its beauty? Not!), Jeremiah continuously dances on the border of exploitation territory, showing us deeply personal moments we don't feel entitled to see. The director's daring to ask the tough questions is commendable, but it sometimes registers as an invasion of privacy for the sake of drama.

When the murals and their hard-at-work maker are are at center screen, though, one art form beautifully melds with another, and the divine synthesis frequently makes us feel as though we are -- you got it -- in a dream. 4 stars (out of 5).
- - - - -

Dir. Ramin Bahrani
Roadside Attractions
91 min. NR

Ramin Bahrani, that 34-year-old minimalist who won the hearts of critics with his dressed-down features "Man Push Cart" (2005) and "Chop Shop" (2007), proves himself a consistently skillful American auteur with "Goodbye Solo," a surprisingly unique friendship tale that exudes a great deal of power without the slightest hint of force.

It's pretty astonishing that Souleymane Sy Savane, the actor from Africa's Ivory Coast who plays the sanguine Winston-Salem, N.C. cabbie Solo, has no previous film credits. In a performance of equal parts subtlety and vitality, Savane fleshes out a cheer-worthy modern protagonist who seems more heroic amidst his daily tasks than many Superheroes do whilst saving the world. Solo is the very antithesis of William, the crotchety white fare who pays his driver $1,000 to take him to a windy mountaintop for undisclosed reasons. William is portrayed without pretense by Red West, a weather-worn veteran with plenty of film credits (as well as a former gig as Elvis's bodyguard). Though the film's trailers may imply otherwise, don't think for a moment that Bahrani would condescend to go the white-man-in-distress-consults-the-magical-Negro-route, for "Goodbye Solo" soars beyond petty genre conventions.

Bahrani, whose fondness for smart and simplistic American character studies makes him a gritty kindred spirit to actor-turned-filmmaker Thomas McCarthy ("The Station Agent," "The Visitor"), worked with his two leads for months, allowing both men to understand both characters and cultivate their rapport. We, the audience, reap the benefits of this prep process -- Solo and William don't have a single false exchange.

The ending of "Goodbye Solo" approaches with a palpable potency, like a wave waiting to crash. Though largely unspoken, the outcome is an inevitable and predictable one; however, Bahrani is too good a storyteller to allow that to subtract from the drama. There's still a graceful mystery hanging in the air when the movie reaches its final moments, wherein we reflect on the journey we've just seen -- one of two men at opposite ends of the human experience. 4.5 stars (out of 5).

This post originanlly appeared on's The Good Life Blog and has been reprinted with permission.

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

Mother Lovers

Unlike (what sure seemed like) everyone else, I wasn't a fan of "D**k in a Box," the SNL Digital Short sensation that saw Justin Timberlake and Andy Samberg serenade their ladies about some seriously stimulating improvised gifts. However, I'm definitely on board with the duo's hilarious follow-up, "Motherlover," mainly because SNL has upped the ante and thrown in ace actresses Susan Sarandon and Patty Clarskson.

Since the folks at NBC are some strict motherlovers themselves when it comes to allowing their content to appear anywhere but on their website, you're gonna have to CLICK HERE to catch the video. Be forewarned: the clip's a riot, but it pushes the envelope pretty far.

Thursday, May 7, 2009


Forget about the unfortunately de-clawed cinematic cat fight between Beyonce and that chick from "Heroes." Instead, take in a few of YourMovieBuddy's current pop culture obsessions. What, you thought I only watched films?

Bethenny from "The Real Housewives of New York City." So what if her and Jill's season finale spat turned out to be a dud? This outspoken Skinny Girl is still quite possibly my favorite reality personality EVER. Dear Bethenny, Please be my friend. Love, Kurtis.

The 2009 TONY nominations. I really just skim these to see which film stars I recognize, so you know I hit the brakes when I saw the quadruple noms for "God of Carnage." Can't wait to see this one when it makes its inevitable trip to screen.

"Drag Me to Hell." For months, I've thought this new flick from Sam Raimi looked and sounded like bulls**t. Then, I watched the trailer. Looks like the most entertaining horror flick since Zack Snyder's "Dawn of the Dead." And Raimi needs redemption after Spider-Man 3.

Zachary Quinto in "Star Trek." Speaking of "Heroes" stars, wait until you see this soon-to-be-superstar in J. J. Abrams's fantastic new flick. The physical likeness almost instantly becomes secondary to the actor's near-brilliant performace. Could easily end up being one of my favorite perfs of the year.

Oh, and this video:

Monday, May 4, 2009

Silver Linings

Well, at least the posters look good...

"Wolverine," may be top at the box office, but it isn't too sharp. Read more about it HERE.

Friday, May 1, 2009

Streep Esteem, Part V: SILKWOOD

The trailer for Meryl Streep's latest exercise in female driven counter-programming, Nora Ephron's "Julie & Julia," has just hit the web. It's a perfect opportunity to revisit the 15-time Oscar nominee's past work, YourMovieBuddy's favorite (and only) tradition. So far, we've looked deeper into "She-Devil," "Postcards from the Edge," "The Manchurian Candidate" and "The River Wild," all of which exhibit Ms. Streep's incomparable talents in vastly different ways. Now we come to "Silkwood," Mike Nichols's 1983 drama in which Streep stars as real-life heroine Karen Silkwood, who died in a mysterious car crash while investigating the plutonium plant that employed her. The film, which was written by Ephron and Alice Arlen, earned Streep her fifth Academy Award nomination.

Karen Silkwood is one of Streep's most celebrated roles, a sympathetic character with definable characteristics and dire circumstances. It gives Streep yet another opportunity to morph into a wholly believable woman, complete with quirks, distinct physical attributes (that hair!) and an accent from Streep's thick catalog of spot-on vocal variations. But most remarkable is the way Streep portray's Karen's harrowing situation -- being targeted by her corrupt company, which most likely contaminated her with deadly radioactive chemicals. These days, the film feels a bit dated, what with all the ErinBrockovich-types that have come since, but the strength of the performances, including those from Cher and Kurt Russell, endures beautifully. Don't take it from me -- here's a clip with two of "Silkwood"'s most devastating scenes. It speaks for itself.