Thursday, March 31, 2011

'Source Code' Review

Much to my surprise (though I should have known since I got the memo that he was in town), budding sci-fi maestro Duncan Jones popped in for a Q&A after my screening of "Source Code," where he thankfully wasn't introduced with the belittling, seemingly inescapable title of "David Bowie's son." He was just as serious-director-meets-giggly-geek as you'd expect, and it's always fun to hear about a filmmaker's process straight from the horse's mouth, but the more Jones divulged about where his head was at with this one (read: all over the place), the more like a ready-to-topple Jenga tower the film seemed.

Which, dear reader, will have very little effect on your enjoyment of the film, I assure you. This is a much more accomplished follow-up to "Moon" than I was expecting. It just has "Inception"-level conceptual ambitions without that same level of follow through. It's not much worth trying to wrap your head around on the car ride home. I touch on this in my review (which I'm still getting to -- god, do I ever shut up?), but remain vague lest I even attempt to fit any semblance of a spoiler into 350 words.

With that, read on, and gather a little more intel about this thriller, which really is worth the trip. The review's up on CLICK HERE.

Monday, March 28, 2011

'Crimes of the Heart' in Three Acts

It's been nearly two weeks since I offered a post at The Film Experience on Bruce Beresford's 1986 adaptation of Beth Henley's "Crimes of the Heart." But no worries -- if the terrible taste of this film's setting can still enthrall after all these years, there's certainly no risk of my little article going out of style.

"Crimes of the Heart" turns 25 this December. I was turned on to it after seeing a rendition of the play at Princeton's McCarter Theatre. A Google search revealed I could watch the entire movie for free on YouTube. Ergo, I took in the stage interpretation, the screen interpretation, then offered an interpretation of my own -- in three acts, I spent a good chunk of time with this work.

Head on over to The Film Experience to read the article, a wee celebration of actresses and tackiness. CLICK HERE.

Friday, March 25, 2011

'Jane Eyre' Review

I realized I made it through my whole review of this film without a mention of Dame Judi. A lot of that is surely  due to her being such a go-to casting  choice. As Rochester's earnest houemaid, she's perfectly serviceable, but this umpteenth "Eyre" adaptation is all about Ms. Wasikowska and Mr. Fassbender.

Do a little fist pump for Judi (may she never  stop working!), then mosey on over to, where my full review of "Jane Eyre" is available for your consumption. CLICK HERE.

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

My Office

Confession: I've been dying to do this post for a really long time. I know full well that it's extremely self-indulgent, but honestly, if I were to come across such a post on someone else's blog, I'd be hugely fascinated. Let's go ahead and say that's half the reason I'm publishing it. My office is the one room in our apartment that's wholly devoted to movies. It's the upscale version of the bedroom of my youth, which was papered, floor to ceiling, with filmic paraphernalia. It's a pretty spot-on reflection of me. Here I'll give a tour of its sections, all of which, you'll see, follow a color scheme ("Oh god, here we go," I heard you say...)

These posters alternate frequently, with one cardinal rule: I must adore the film and the poster. I won't put up that which advertises garbage simply because it's pretty, nor will I put up a poster for a great movie if it's ugly (i.e. no "Winter's Bone").

Moving to the left, this is the wall adjacent to the last one. Hanging above my worktable is an amalgamation of stuff culled from my old bedroom, from ticket stubs to magazine clippings to film school equipment. Clockwise from top left: quite possibly my favorite shot of Meryl Streep, a ticket assemblage with stills of Bette Davis and Cary Grant, a photo I took of my favorite local theater, a reel from my grandfather's projector, a decoupage of various stubs, an original photo of the "Gone with the Wind" premiere (a gift from a friend), pics of Maria Falconetti and Peter Lorre and Humphrey Bogart and, finally, my student film -- all on one little reel.

I've long been enamored of Vanity Fair covers, and found they were among the very few magazine-sized, tack-on-the-wall sort of things that warrant a large frame by themselves (it doesn't hurt that these particular fold-outs fit that color scheme perfectly). Along with them we have actual Vanity Fair issues, a picture of my honey, a few awards (oh, stop), a poster for "The September Issue" and, tucked away with the other mags, the very September Vogue in question -- that Sienna Miller-fronted beast from 2007. (Beneath the mags is a desktop computer, but that, like the worktable, isn't all that fetching.)

My "Hours" gals. This is one of my favorite posters ever. It's SO beautiful, and worthy of permanent placement. To account for the size of the space it had to fill, I had to cut it and squeeze it into a smaller frame. Here's the secret: I trimmed around the the right side of Meryl and moved her closer to Julianne and Nicole. No one ever notices.

I know, I know -- it's SUCH a bloody cliche. But come on -- it's in Italian.

When Brandon and I combined our stuff, his "Titanic" joined my "Brokeback Mountain" and "Atonement," and thus was born our Love Conquers All wall. The knickknacks include my grandfather's projector, its corresponding match that I found at a thrift shop, old cameras, an old hat (we like to pretend it belongs to Angelina "I want my son back" Jolie), a slate, the clamshell for "King Kong," 3D glasses and framed pics of Katherine Hepburn, Cate Blanchett, Orson Welles and Greta Garbo.

A lot of people accuse me of being anal for alphabetizing my DVDs. The response is simple: a) I am rather anal, and b) How the hell would I ever find anything if they weren't aplhabetized!?! This is where the geek in me comes out full-blast -- this here is my baby. My film collection is my favorite material thing on the planet. It's been growing for over a decade and, as you can imagine, I am in firm, life-sustaining denial of DVD being replaced as the premiere home video format. Not under my roof, darling.

If you've taken the time to read this, I hope you enjoyed my little office tour, and I hope I made it entertaining enough to distract from the self-indulgence. Now, back to work...

Saturday, March 19, 2011

Fashion Corner with Vanessa Williams

Yesterday was Vanessa Williams's birthday. Happy 48, Vanessa. You don't look a day over 35, which I'm sure would please Trish, the shallow and age-obsessed gal you played on MadTV a few years back.

This is by far and away my favorite Vanessa Williams performance, not to mention my favorite MadTV segment. "Woweee! Someone's looking to get a kiss goodnight!" Ahh...heaven. I could die. This clip is so funny. Happy Saturday:

Thursday, March 17, 2011

'Paul' Review

Did I read too far into this far-out sci-fi comedy? Nonsense. It's the folks behind it who failed to fully consider its wide-reaching implications. That makes the film sound sinister, but it's not powerful enough for that. It's...misguided...scatterbrained...sexually confused...out of its a U.K. comic-geek tourist in the U.S. Southwest.

Read my full review of "Paul," now online at CLICK HERE.

Spring Movie Preview

I've got your spring filmgoing plans all wrapped up with my new preview article, which highlights a handful of alternatives to all the unstoppable sequels headed our way. I chose the nice spring-y image below for this post, but wait until you see which image my editors chose to lead with after the jump.

Read the full article, now online at CLICK HERE.

Happy St. Patrick's Day... all the Irish -- and Irish lovin' -- folks IN AMERICA and beyond...

Sunday, March 13, 2011

Musing over Thomas Dekker

I'm super pleased to share a new piece I've written about Thomas Dekker, the dreamy rising star of Gregg Araki's "Kaboom" and HBO's upcoming "Cinema Verite." I look at Dekker's offbeat career path, but mainly how he falls in with the rest of Araki's angsty dark-haired muses.

The article is now posted over at The House Next Door, the official blog of Slant Magazine (hooray!).

I hope you'll give it a read. CLICK HERE.

Saturday, March 12, 2011

Early Contenders for Posters of the Year

UPDATE: The posters for "Kaboom" and "The Skin That I Inhabit" were added to the original five-poster post. Thanks to Michael C. from Serious Film for reminding me of the latter.

Thursday, March 10, 2011

'Take Me Home Tonight' Review

Take Me Home Tonight
3 stars (out of 5)
By R. Kurt Osenlund

As the 1980s continue to shrink in our cultural rearview, movie studios continue to greenlight decadent, souped-up homage vehicles in an attempt to cash in on the new retro. Some of these films rely too heavily on the nylon-and-neon kitsch of their setting, while others push past exteriors and actually capture a nostalgic spirit. “Take Me Home Tonight,” a 1988-set comedy about a landmark evening in the lives of a handful of L.A. 20-somethings, does both.

Written by the vintage-happy duo of Jeff and Jackie Filgo (“That '70s Show”), the movie spends much of its first half packing in the era-appropriate details, from popped collars to moussed-up hair to “Come On Eileen” to the all-but-defunct Suncoast video store chain. It's a flashy buffet designed to distract from the humdrum story's lack of ambition: Swimming in quarter-life confusion, underachieving college grad Matt (Topher Grace) heads to an all-night bash with his judgmental sister (Anna Faris) and oafish friend (Dan Fogler), feigning success in order to woo his high school crush (Teresa Palmer). What else is new?

Grace and Palmer take in the period detail.
About midway through, however, “Take Me Home” begins to transcend its throwback doodads and throwaway plot by adopting the comfy, sex-tinged, underdog essence of upbeat '80s cinema. Matt's banal hunt for romance and identity becomes a nice geek's “Can't Buy Me Love” quest for The One. Matt's friend's fat-guy schtick becomes less Jonah-Hill clichéd and more John-Belushi crazy. The dumb-jock villain becomes a sleazy amalgam of James Spader and Thomas “Biff” Wilson, and the party scene becomes a blend of “Sixteen Candles” house-trashing and “Porky's” experimentation. (Even Angie Everhart pops in for a cameo.)

“Take Me Home” will come and go as quickly as acid-washed jeans, but for a brief period it serves as an endearing, efficient little time machine. Once it reaches a climax where Matt rouses the party crowd with a speech before risking death to impress his dream girl, you'll swear you were watching this movie on VHS – a VHS you bought at Suncoast.

A version of this review was previously published at To read it there, CLICK HERE.

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

'Meek's Cutoff' Trailer

Kelly Reichardt, you'll remember, is the shrewd and buzzworthy American filmmaker who directed Michelle Williams in "Wendy and Lucy," that trim and slyly affecting drama that'd make a mean double feature with "Bicycle Thieves." Now Reichardt returns with her third feature ("Old Joy" was her first), directing Williams again in "Meek's Cutoff," a literal Oregon Trail offshoot with strong whiffs of "Days of Heaven," "Stagecoach" and "There Will Be Blood." As I wrote in a recent blog posting at Popcorn for Dinner, that's a potent referential mix.

This might be the best trailer I've seen so far in 2011 ("The Tree of Life" clip dropped in 2010, if I recall correctly). With a broader scale and at least somewhat larger budget than Reichardt's previous work, the festival fave suggests more than ever that its maker is a true natural whose talent, like Daniel Plainview's precious oil (evoked here in the setting, score and presence of Paul Dano), is still just bubbling beneath the surface. I think we can expect to gradually see a lot of great things from Reichardt.

Saturday, March 5, 2011

Why I Still Love Print Media

This is a republished version of an article I wrote for the March 2011 issue of ICON magazine. I feel an obvious tinge of hypocrisy posting it online but, hey, I gotta get my work out there just like anyone else. It has been republished with permission. Just pretend you're reading it in print.

Have fun with your Nook -- I'll still be browsing the newsstand.
By R. Kurt Osenlund

What you hold in your hands is a labor of love. Roll your eyes and call me a hopeless sap, but it's true. A whole team of people poured their guts into the content on these pages, and we're more than happy to know that some of it might smudge its way onto your fingers and literally stick with you after you've finished reading. We're pleased with the fact that you can roll up our work and shove it into your purse, fold it in half and slip it into your pocket, or file it away in a stack you might later dust off and revisit. We like that you can touch what we create, and we like that, once you've had your fill, you end your experience not by clicking a tab or minimizing an app, but by very symbolically and very romantically closing a book.

I'm 27 – three months older than Mark Zuckerberg. I'm part of the generation responsible for transferring the vast majority of our media consumption from the page to the screen, whatever dimensions, picture quality and degree of portability that screen may boast. I'm deeply grateful to be a young and hungry professional in the era of digital dominance, if only for the exposure and resources it affords. Any professional advancement I've achieved has come, at the very least, via an e-mail exchange or the cyber-broadcasting of my byline, and in terms of my everyday work, it is virtually impossible for me to fathom how writers and editors got by in the days of analog journalism. It would be like removing every bit of equipment from a quarry worker's arsenal and leaving him with a wee hammer and chisel. I'll admit that about 80 percent of my own media consumption takes place online, and that includes reading the latest national headlines, devouring the latest celebrity scandal, following the work of the writers I admire, and, yes, browsing oodles of material brought to my attention via Twitter and Facebook.

All that said, I will never fall out of love with the printed page, nor should our culture at large. The tactile pleasures of leafing through magazines, newspapers and books are what guided me toward this industry in the first place. And while I know I'm part of the problem, the unrelenting – if gratuitously premature – talk of print media's crumpling demise never fails to jab like a dagger.

When computing all the pessimistic points, specifically in regards to journalism, the key issue I always return to is just that: the issue. Reveling in the point-and-click immediacy, you may well turn to the Web for the newest updates on Gabrielle Giffords and Hosni Mubarak, or peruse the hottest Fashion Week couture while dodging ads and subscription offers in a slideshow on But never will you find online the distinct, bookended art of a printed issue – an issue with an encapsulated voice, perspective, theme and design. By nature, the Internet is a universe of instantaneous information, and no Web site thrives without delivering near-constant updates. Thus, your experience with a webzine, or with a print outlet's online presence, is never complete. Such a thoroughly modern, Zuckerbergian notion is surely exhilarating to some, and there's no denying the luster of limitless variety or the satisfaction of getting what you want when you want it. But another kind of satisfaction – the gratification of having gathered a concise collection of words and images in the precise manner in which a skilled group intended it to be gathered – is lost online, lost in the sea of lethally efficient and furiously fast data that, however useful and attractive, undermines artistic value in our society.

Since I can practically hear the Apple minions gathering, let's get to the iPad. Sleek, relatively compact and capable of hosting whole publications page by page, the iPad, along with its ilk of also-rans, provides the closest thing we have to the digital re-creation of the issue experience. I think it's a great thing. It's a virtual magazine of magazines, a newspaper of newspapers. Through with the latest edition of The New York Times? Good for you. You're now free to move about the new GQ with the swipe of a fingertip. You can still slip it into your purse, if not your pocket. You can carry it with you on public transportation (perhaps the one venue in which the print world has been able to maintain top billing). However, your connection to what you're consuming is still kept at bay, at arm's length. You're still a slave to the dazzling, but imperial and impersonal, Screen. As a writer, I can definitively say that I prefer to hold my work and the work of others in my own two hands. But the true measure of the palpability that's lost in pixelated translation lies with photography.

A few weeks ago, the annual Vanity Fair Hollywood Issue fell through my mail slot. It might be my single favorite piece of continually printed media. Have you seen this year's beaut? There on the gilded, maroon cover, decked out as if plucked from a Josef von Sternberg movie, are the dashing likes of Ryan Reynolds, Jake Gyllenhaal, Anne Hathaway and James Franco. Pull out the three-panel cover, and the rest of Norman Jean Roy's stunning group photo is revealed: Jennifer Lawrence, Anthony Mackie, Jesse Eisenberg, Olivia Wilde, Andrew Garfield, Noomi Rapace and five others are lined up across a swanky bar, looking out enticingly and beckoning you to pay the cover charge. Inside, the eye candy surges on with, among other things, the requisite portfolio of Hollywood portraits, an aesthetic high point for a publication that delivers a monthly gush of brilliant shots.

Magazines such as this, and even newspapers in all their halftone glory, serve as your personal scrapbooks of the work of supreme contemporary artists, be it original photography or pre-produced imagery collected and compiled for your consumption. It's a privilege, really – for a price that rarely exceeds $6, you're given a catalog of windows into potentially hundreds of different worlds, and you own the art in a capacity that's but one degree from its intended state (an un-doctored print). I run a blog, I manage a weekly publication's Web site, and any breaking picture that “must be seen” will almost always reach my eyes via the Screen. But those who contend that viewing the digital rendition of the photography in Vanity Fair – or The New York Times, or GQ, or Sports Illustrated or American Cheerleader – rivals the experience of drinking it in in the real world musn't be trusted. You simply can't beat the sensation of marveling at a printed picture, no matter how many copies of it can be saved to your desktop.

And speaking of copies, the collection is joining the issue as a victim pounded down by the iron fist of the Screen. How lovely that you can bring the whole Harry Potter saga with you to the beach on your compact Kindle (try not to get any sand in the grooves!), but how sad that you no longer have any use for all seven beautifully beefy volumes, no longer need to to gaze at Mary GrandPré's whimsical, iconic cover illustrations. The advent of digital is unfurling endless opportunities, but it is also robbing us of our possessions, our libraries, our fundamental relationships to spatial objects. Sure, my three-foot-wide archive of the last four years of Vanity Fair is unwieldy compared the convenience of the search-and-discover archives of, but how I love what's contained in those three feet, from the glossy design to the editor's letters to the contribution the stark, uniform spines make to the tableau of my office. How I appreciate dusting off an issue and revisiting it, remembering how I felt the first time I scoured its pages. The Screen insists that the media I consume exist not on a shelf or in an office, but in an alternate realm where it can never be held and never be enjoyed at its full sensory potential. Everything around me tells me that I should leap onto the digital train and never look back, but truthfully, I'd rather just step onto a train with a book.

February Rewind: Linking Valentines and Afterglow

Last month I continued my exciting contributions to Nathaniel Rogers' The Film Experience. (Not a regular reader of that site? GET ON IT!)

For Valentine's Day, I offered a post I was only too happy to whip up: a lovestruck tribute to Jane Campion's splendid 2009 offering "Bright Star."

Beyond addressing the film's unforgivable snubbing throughout awards season, I gave my screen-capture program a workout by including a lovely handful of the movie's frameworthy stills. CHECK IT OUT.

Later in February, I penned a last-minute, pre-Oscar post about the plusses and minuses of that ever-growing trend: Oscar afterglow. You know you're familiar with it. It's become nearly as common as poor Oscarcast ratings. GET MY TAKE.

Thursday, March 3, 2011

'Rango' Review

How I adored this woolly, Gore Verbinski-directed CG beaut, which tops its helmer's entire "Pirates" trilogy (and by all signs the forthcoming follow-up, too). Looks like Johnny Depp has found his new Burton, and given that partnership's recent output, we may be looking at the rise of a more beautiful friendship. "Rango" is the best-looking non-Pixar film of its kind to come along in some time. Its abundant homages are plenty fun, too.

Read my full review of "Rango," now online at CLICK HERE.

Wednesday, March 2, 2011

Oscar Goodies

The hubby and I had our third annual Oscar bash this year, and the cuisine, IMO, was our best yet. Instead of breaking the bank on heaps of ingredients, we offer candy and snacks themed around the Best Picture nominees. While there were surely no complaints, I think I can safely say that no one enjoyed eating these babies as much as I enjoyed prepping and serving them. Behold:

And now for the wide shot (The Sour Patch "Kids" and "Grit" Cakes went fast!)

A big thanks to Ms. Jess White for her lovely photography.