Saturday, February 21, 2009
Friday, February 20, 2009
I was just reading that they're doing a re-make of Karate Kid, starring Will Smith's son...a child who already poses like an unbearable Hollywood star. I don't mind re-makes of bad movies, i.e. the Friday the 13ths...it's not like the new versions have a lot to compete with. But why mess with the good ones? I'd like to hear a smart movie producer/director on the subject of re-makes and why they are as inevitable as bad movies in January......
Posted by Elizabeth DeVita-Raeburn at 1:38 PM
More to come...
Posted by Elizabeth DeVita-Raeburn at 1:17 PM
Wednesday, February 18, 2009
I'm having a hard time getting as excited about this movie as most people. I found it adept movie-making with an absolutely disturbing undercurrent--not uplifting at all. Here's a reviewer who felt similarly.
Posted by Elizabeth DeVita-Raeburn at 5:35 PM
Tuesday, February 17, 2009
Actually (to use one of Henry's favorite words), I'm not kidding. Or making it up. There are two movies in the work that merge Austen's Pride and Prejudice (aka the Bible, for some people) and storylines involving zombies and/or aliens. I don't know whether to laugh or cry. I'm always game for a little ridiculousness....but Jane, well, Jane is kind of sacred. I'm not at all sure how I feel about this. Click here for more details.
Posted by Elizabeth DeVita-Raeburn at 12:15 PM
Chances are you've been encountering snippets of gossip about the decompensation of Joaquin Phoenix. I'm not accusing you of reading Perez Hilton (though I do). It's just hard to entirely avoid celebrity gossip, especially when it increasingly makes the headline news.
Here's the short version: Phoenix said he was giving up acting for a music career. He had one spectacularly bad performance, raised eyebrows with some pretty diva-like behavior, and apparently (though I missed it) was absolutely bizarre in a recent interview on the David Letterman show.
Some say he's falling apart, others that this is an Andy Kaufman/Sacha Baron Cohen-like bit of performance art--the latter theory supported by the fact that his brother-in-law, Casey Affleck, is supposedly making a film about his fledgling music career.
I confess, I don't know what to make of it all, though I hope he's not falling apart. I really like him as an actor. So I perked up a little when I read this piece about Phoenix (and his new movie) on Slate.
Posted by Elizabeth DeVita-Raeburn at 8:31 AM
I had so much fun with that Hitchcock trivia I dug up a tidbit on Quentin Tarantino, who, for the record, dropped out of high school at 16 to pursue a future in movies. Guess it worked out for him.
Anyway, here's a quote from him that I really like:
"When people ask me if I went to film school I tell them, 'no, I went to films.'"
Posted by Elizabeth DeVita-Raeburn at 7:29 AM
My friend Nuna just gave me a great book on Alfred Hitchcock---The Alfred Hitchcock Triviography and Quiz Book. It's chock full of stuff I don't know. And, I have to confess, I'm doing terribly on the quizzes--mainly because (and this shocked me) there are still so many of his movies I haven't seen. This guy was prolific--he made more than fifty films. I've got work to do!
Meanwhile, here's a trivia question for you: Who inspired Hitchcock to make suspense films? Scroll down for the answer.............
Edgar Allen Poe!
Posted by Elizabeth DeVita-Raeburn at 6:54 AM
Read a synopsis of this movie on Moviefone or Fandango and you're likely to go...eh, maybe I'll see Doubt again. The idea behind The Class is not so riveting--watch a teacher wrangle with a bunch of 13 and 14 year old French kids, trying to teach them the finer points of the language over the course of a school year. But if you, as I did, decide that there must be something behind the talk about this movie and go so far as to buy a ticket, you'll be pleasantly surprised.
The kid actors are amazing--so real it feels like a documentary. The teacher, Francois Begaudeau, who is playing a fictionalized version of himself, is also thoroughly convincing. I would say that's hardly surprising, except I think it would actually be hard to play a slightly fictionalized version of yourself. Which parts do you fictionalize?
The movie, incidentally, is based on a book written by Begaudeau, and he also helped write the screenplay. And the realism of the performances? The product of a year long process of improvisational workshops. I don't know what impresses me more--the idea, and the committment to making it feel so real, or the final product.
There are a lot of things to chew on here:
What's the better way to be, as a teacher, with unruly kids--understanding and flexible? Or strict and no-nonsense?
Should teachers be authority figures or friends?
When do you give up on a kid?
And how do you impose one identity (in this case, French--though there are certainly parallels in our country) on an increasingly diverse population? And how do they take to that? We see that process at work here, via what would be any culture's most difficult sell--13 and 14 year-old kids. (Having heard some horror stories, mostly second-hand, about well-intentioned friends of friends who attempted to teach in the New York City school system, I actually expected these kids to be a lot tougher.)
I liked this film a lot, was thoroughly engaged while watching it, admire the way it was made--but I have to confess I haven't thought about it that much since leaving the theater. I don't know why. I did really like it.
For those of you who want to read more about this film, I think the Times did a really nice review, which I just stumbled across.
Posted by Elizabeth DeVita-Raeburn at 6:22 AM
Sunday, February 15, 2009
It takes a village to run a movie blog. Seriously. Just when I think I can't---or won't--go to a certain movie, a friend steps up and does it for me, and agrees to write about it! Here's Wesley Clark on "He's Just Not That Into You"...Hint: He wasn't all that into it, either. -EDR
In a fraternity-basement temple somewhere in Hollywood, a group of men in The Business, upset at the three-dimensional, strong, interesting women in such movies as Happy Go Lucky and Revolutionary Road, were praying to the Misogyny God. And lo, he answered their prayers. “I will give you,” he said, “a devilish entertainment. On the outside it will look like a chick flick, luring women and their dollars from all across the land. Once they are comfortably seated, however, settled back in their chairs in the dark, I will heap them with insults, make them look shallow, devious, and self-centered, and show them to be obsessed with you, my tribe, yea, even unto the least attractive and most boring among you.” And therewithal he delivered unto them a script, and on the cover of the script it was written: “He’s Just Not That Into You.”
Apparently, this is the top-grossing movie in America right now (which makes me wonder how much “change” we’re really in for in the next few years). I can’t give a full review of it, since I eventually walked out, something I almost never do. Suffice it to say that it involves a number of very smart and attractive women, played by a crew of extremely capable actresses, who spend the entire movie thinking of, apparently, nothing else but how to attract and keep a bunch of men with all the appeal, interest, and charisma of a local news anchor.
There’s Gigi (Ginnifer Goodwin), who waits by the phone for days and days (and days), hoping for a call from Conor (Kevin Connolly), with whom she has had one utterly generic date. There’s Beth (Jennifer Anniston), who frets after leaving Neil (Ben Affleck), a man who apparently has no job (although he has a very large boat), and whose explorations of why he doesn’t want to get married after living with Beth for seven years display all the nuance and perceptiveness of a 15-year-old boy. And let us not forget Mary (Drew Barrymore), who, although she is smart, confident, and stylish, just goes all SHAKEY when, egged on by the obligatory crew of gay-man friends, she calls her voicemail to see if last night’s date has left her a message.
Oh, I lie. One of the women (Scarlett Johansson’s Anna) does think about something else. She thinks about how to break up the marriage of Janine (Jennifer Connelly) to the Bud-Light-ad-ready Ben (Bradley Cooper). As the prospect of doing this seems to cause her no anxiety whatever, I suppose she could be called one of the movie’s happy characters. Extra happy, no doubt, that she manages to escape arrest when, having agreed that Ben and she should be “just friends,” she strips naked and jumps into a health-club pool.
The offensiveness of all this – women are not only man-obsessed, incapable of self-direction, hell-bent on marriage, and willing to abase themselves for any dumb jock who happens to pass by, but ruthless and backstabbing, as well – is impossible to overstate. But the movie has more to offer. Dialogue that is often, to put it kindly, daytime-TV-level. Black actresses who are allowed on screen just long enough to do a little “street-talk” vignette about how their men have made them, yes, fat. Some jolly ribaldry on the subject of Beth not being married. And I didn’t even stay for the whole movie.
It all raises some questions. Did the people behind this actually think they were making a “hip” or “modern” film (I know slightly one of the people who wrote the book that inspired it, and she seems, anyway, like a normal, interesting woman)? Did they INTEND to insult half of the human race? Is this some sort of real-life version of “In the Company of Men,” where a movie acts all fun and funny, only to get its ya-yas by sticking the knife in and twisting it as soon as you let your guard down? Was it made by a bunch of small, bitter, angry men? Was it made, maybe, by the driving instructor from Happy Go Lucky?
Mostly what I want to know is, what were all those actresses thinking? Drew Barrymore, for God’s sake – she’s a funny, quirky, go-your-own way sort of presence. Was she really willing to become a spokeswoman for idiocy for a few million dollars? My only hope is that the original version of the script was substantially different, and more intelligent, than the finished product. Otherwise, I’m going to begin believing that women out there – or, at least, actresses – really are that desperate.
Well, that’s about it. Boring, conventional, embarrassing, insulting. Just what you’ve come to expect from America’s top films. I’ll be curious to hear if anyone found anything to like in it.
Posted by Elizabeth DeVita-Raeburn at 7:50 PM
Friday, February 13, 2009
I didn’t quite make it to see Friday the 13th today…but soon. Meanwhile, here are some fun facts, gratis of Livescience.com
*Fear of Friday the 13th - one of the most popular myths in science - is called paraskavedekatriaphobia as well as friggatriskaidekaphobia. Triskaidekaphobia is fear of the number 13.
*The next Friday the 13th comes in March, followed by Nov. 13. Such a triple whammy comes around only every 11 years, said Thomas Fernsler, a math specialist at the University of Delaware who has studied the number 13 for more than 20 years.
*President Franklin D. Roosevelt would not travel on the 13th day of any month and would never host 13 guests at a meal. Napoleon and Herbert Hoover were also triskaidekaphobic, with an abnormal fear of the number 13.
*Superstitious diners in Paris can hire a quatorzieme, or professional 14th guest.
Posted by Elizabeth DeVita-Raeburn at 2:43 PM
The Quad, that great little theater on 13th between 6th and 5th, is starting a new movie series for kids ages 5 and up. Elliott Kanbar, president of The Quad says that if people like the program, he’s likely to add another kid’s movie slot at 4 p.m. on Mondays. I so wish Henry was old enough. This weekend’s fare: Charlotte’s Web (the animated version, not the human version I bought by accident, which is vastly inferior...has anyone else got Dakota Fanning fatigue?) All tickets $7. Oh, and take a moment to go to The Quad's web site and sign up for Kanbar's email newsletter--he updates you on what's coming and opines on such topics as the 10 best movie entrances of all times and who really deserved The Oscar. It's a lot of fun.
Posted by Elizabeth DeVita-Raeburn at 2:22 PM
Thursday, February 12, 2009
Saw it, extremely engaged while watching it, haven't thought about it much since. The performances--particularly the kids--were AMAZING, however. I think I might be more interested in the process of making this movie, the casting, etc. than the actual movie. More later....
Posted by Elizabeth DeVita-Raeburn at 9:14 PM
I just caught the last ten minutes of Best in Show, a movie I love to pieces. I adore pretty much every one of Christopher Guest's movies (not to mention his great go-to cast), but this is the most perfect of them, I think. Waiting for Guffman may be my second favorite.
I'm currently (like, at this very second) watching Blades of Glory on HBO in Demand. (Will Ferrell and the dude from Napolean Dynamite, wearing a curly blonde wig instead of a frizzy red one, this time). It's kinda dumb....well, that's kind of the point, right? But in the genre of dumb movies, I really like it.
And p.s., I saw Will Ferrell walking in front of my building today, wearing a baseball hat, trying not to be recognized, and seeming not at all as light and amusing as he comes off in movies, interviews, etc. In fact he gave off kind of a cranky vibe. Maybe he was just having a bad day?
Posted by Elizabeth DeVita-Raeburn at 7:02 PM
Tuesday, February 10, 2009
Let’s say you have an astounding, soul-etching affair with someone you admire—a lot. You have nothing bad to say about him or her, except that suddenly, without warning, that person is gone.
Now let’s say that, years later, you find out that this person has allegedly done horrible—really horrible—things to other people. Does it un-etch this person from your soul? Change the good things you remember about the affair?
Who is the “real” person? The one you knew? Or the one to whom these other deeds have been ascribed? Can humanity and evil co-exist in the same person? What does it say about you if you feel compassion for someone who has committed an atrocity?
These questions (and more) are at the heart of The Reader, which tells the story of Michael, a 15-year-old innocent who accidentally encounters Hanna, a thirty-something trolley-worker with a healthy libido and no problem with younger men.
(SPOILER ALERT: I found it hard to talk about this movie, beyond this graph, without giving away some details….if you want to go in blind, don’t read further. If you like knowing the details….read on…)
Through Michael, we see Hanna as a gruff, tender, and sometimes bossy and dictatorial lover. Their most intimate moments are when Michael reads to her. That’s because the key to Hanna’s soul is the beauty of words and music. The affair comes to an end—leaving Michael heartbroken.
Fast forward seven or eight years to the mid-sixties. Michael is now a law student, and like many of his generation, he’s trying to make sense of his country’s behavior during the Holocaust. He’s attending a Holocaust trial for a class taught by a camp survivor. And there, lo and behold, is Hanna—on trial. It seems she was a guard in one of the camps, and that one of her jobs was to select ten women, periodically, for execution. Testimony reveals that she tended to single out the ones she’d made pets of—those who read to her.
One of the key moments in this movie is a speech given by one of Michael’s fellow students, which indicts all the older generation of Germans. He says they all knew what was happening to Germany’s Jews, even if they didn’t actively take part, and that they are all guilty.
What interests me is the notion that individual Germans behaved the way they did for different reasons. And that even people with a discernible soul were capable of it.
The temptation is to say that the people who were capable of atrocities were just evil. That let’s a lot of us who don’t perceive ourselves as evil off the hook—we’d never do that. And perhaps it makes the world feel safer—how many Hitler-like monsters can there be? It divides the world into us and them, which is the way we tend to like it. It makes a neat kind of sense.
This story doesn’t buy that explanation. Evil behavior and, tenderness can live side-by-side. It’s a much harder truth to live with. We watch Michael struggle with that—pitying Hanna, repulsed by her, wanting her to pay for her crimes, embarrassed by his pity and the enduring mark his first lover has left on him.
I don’t think, as some have said, that this take makes light of the guilt of those who participated, one way or another. I think it just makes it harder to separate ourselves from them. At the Holocaust museum in Washington, D.C. , there used to be (may still be—it's been awhile) an exhibit celebrating non-Jews who put their lives on the line to help Jews escape. My reaction: God, I hope I would have been one of them. But would I? It’s kind of a chilling question.
Posted by Elizabeth DeVita-Raeburn at 11:41 AM
Saturday, February 7, 2009
Okay, my friend Alex (of Star Trek opera fame) mentioned this trailer earlier, but I just got a chance to watch it. It's clearly a re-worked version of the story, but....it's awesome! I helps, I suppose, that the original show was so bad (I'll confess this, much as I love it) to begin with. In the trailer, at least, Will Ferrell makes the movie both funny and true to the story. I'm LOVING it so far.
Posted by Elizabeth DeVita-Raeburn at 5:02 AM
I doubt I'm seeing this animated kid's feature. Not because I don't like kid's movies.
I saw Toy Story and Toy Story II IN THE THEATER. Now I watch them a minimum of three times a week because my two-year-old, Henry, loves them.
ME: "Hey, Henry, you look like Buzz Lightyear!"
HENRY: "No, I NOT look like Buzz Lightyear! I not pretend to fly in the sky!"
Even Henry gets Buzz's problem. I love it.
Anyway, Coraline does not hold huge appeal. At least at the moment. So I'm linking you to Dana Steven's review in Slate. I like Dana, and her taste, so you're in good hands. If I actually see this I'll comment more, but in the meantime....
Also, look out for a future post on crossover kid's movies that work for adults.
Posted by Elizabeth DeVita-Raeburn at 4:47 AM
Friday, February 6, 2009
Let the Right One In, a Swedish horror/thriller based on a book by John Ajvide Lindqvist, who’s been described as Sweden’s Stephen King, has been at the Angelika, one of NYC’s arty theaters, all fall. The Angelika has pretty good taste. And no theater is going to keep a movie in their queue if it isn’t pulling in customers. So there was every reason to think this movie was worth seeing.
Rationally, I knew this, and yet…I couldn’t make myself see it.
Why? Two words that kept showing up in every synopsis: Bullying and Vampires. Ugh and blech, in that order. I really (really) didn’t want to see either in action. But, I finally ran out of things to see. Almost every theater in Manhattan is either endlessly showing all the Oscar nominated films, all of which I’ve seen (with the exception of Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie’s “gifts” to us) or they’ve got Paul Blart Mall Cop on three screens. And, though I have willingly seen any number of really bad movies, that one has utterly no appeal for me.
So, dear reader, we went. (That would be me and Paul, my husband and movie sidekick. He’s my Alice.) And an eerier, cooler, movie I have not seen in a long time. Having just posted about my soft spot for sucky 80’s horror flicks like Halloween, I have to say, this brings horror movies to a whole new level. Sure, there’s The Ring, which I adored, and which, incidentally, scared the pants off me. But, with its Japanese revenge-theme, not to mention that the main victims tend to be high school kids, there’s still something of teenage/pop flavor about it.
Let the Right One in, which stars Kare Hedebrant as Oskar, a lonely 12-year-old boy who lives with his high-strung mom in a depressing apartment development in Stockholm, and visits his dad (who’s okay as long as he’s not drinking) on weekends. His co-star, is Lina Leandersson, as the gamine, sensitive, ferocious, vampire, Eli, who has been about 12 “more or less” for a long time. How long is never clarified—but we’re led to believe she’s actually quite old. Oskar, who is an innocent 12, never seems to entirely grasp this.
We’re never told exactly what happened to Eli, but based on intelligence from the movie (no spoiler, me!) I’m guessing she was bitten by a vampire at age 12, survived, but got stuck that age forever more. She was also stuck with all the vampire traits, i.e. an overwhelming thirst for blood, a rather thrilling agility, and an inability to tolerate light, among others.
There is shockingly little of the stereotypical vampire movie in this vampire movie. In fact there’s none, it’s directed as a real story, not a horror movie, which makes it that much bleaker and scarier at times. Here’s a bit of an interview I found online with the author of the book, who also wrote the screenplay. In it, he talks about what he was trying to do in the film:
“I wanted to approach my subject completely seriously and absolutely reject all sort of romanticized notions about vampires, or what we’ve seen earlier of vampires, and just concentrate on the question: If a child was stuck forever like, in a 12-year-old existence and had to walk around killing other people and drink their blood to live – what would that child’s existence really be like? If you disregard all the romanticized clichés. And then it struck me when I wrote the book that it would be an absolutely horrible existence. Miserable, gross and lonely. And hence, the way Eli is depicted.”
There IS a bleak and melancholy feel about this movie. There’s Oskar’s loneliness, his game attempts to take it all in stride, and, of course, the hideous bullying I didn’t want to see. (I’m now afraid to send Henry to school…Okay, I was already afraid to send him. Now I’m NOT sending him.) And there’s Eli—emaciated, dark circles under her eyes, drawn, in spite of herself, and despite the fact that she knows it’s a bad idea, to Oskar’s tentative attempts to befriend her. Did you ever think you’d be touched by the sight of a vampire, bent intently over a Rubik’s Cube? I sure didn’t.
Somehow, as Paul and I both remarked later, you find yourself rooting for the vampire, who’ve you’ve seen—with your own horrified eyes—do some pretty bloody things. Of course you worry about Oskar’s fate, throughout, too—that’s part of the tension.
This is a real movie about childhood loneliness and friendship, with a vampire theme thrown in. (By thrown in I don’t mean it’s haphazard…it’s obviously carefully crafted…it’s that it’s not JUST about the blood and gore.) Because the writer, as well as the director, Tomas Alfredson, went for the real story, instead of the special effects cliché version, I found myself utterly drawn in and moved.
I can’t believe how much I liked it, in fact, and now, of course, feel stupid for avoiding it for so long. (Incidentally, there are a number of people who are incensed that it got snubbed by the Oscars in the best foreign film category…that’s how good it is.) The only thing that’s spoiling it for me is the fact that, as I noted in an earlier post, there’s an American version coming out soon. That, my friends, is bound to be the cliché Lindqvist was trying to avoid.
Posted by Elizabeth DeVita-Raeburn at 3:14 PM
Thursday, February 5, 2009
Those of you who dislike Gwyneth as much as I do should really invest a couple of hours in Duets, the last movie directed by the late Bruce Paltrow (sorry, Bruce) and starring his daughter, Gwyneth (who actually, I have to confess, does have a pretty voice). It's one of those so-bad-it's-good train wrecks that just won't let you look away. Especially gratifying is Gwyneth's dorky attempt to clap while singing (see above). You can actually see the concentration...all for naught, alas.
Posted by Elizabeth DeVita-Raeburn at 8:28 PM
Excuse the profanity. But a little googling just revealed the fact that an English-language re-make of Let the Right One In is in the works, by director Matt Reeves (who also directed The Pallbearer--a gag-fest starring what's-his-name from friends and the precious Gwyneth Paltrow.) That's never good. (American re-make or Gwyneth, for those of you who need clarifying.)
Three little words: Shall We Dance?
That's a reference, for those of you who didn't see it, to the Japanese movie Shall We Dance, which was a beautiful poem of a flick that Hollywood utterly dumbified for the English-speaking masses with the help of Jennifer Lopez and Richard Gere. Lopez I get. It's the perfect I'm-a-serious-actress delusion for her. But Gere? Maybe he had some alimony to pay? Needed another house in the Hollywood Hills?
At any rate, tragic. And lord only knows what they're going to do with my precious vampire movie. If Jennifer Lopez is in this one, I'M gonna go bite someone. In Hollywood.
And p.s. rent Shall We Dance--the Japanese version. It's lovely.
Posted by Elizabeth DeVita-Raeburn at 8:18 PM
Okay, she didn't get nominated for an Oscar. (F*ck you, Academy). But she's on to bigger and better things. Sally Hawkins is rumored to be signing on to a new flick called We Want Sex, the story of a bunch of female auto industry works who went on strike in 1968 to protest sexual discrimination in the workplace. Rumor is Imelda Staunton (the fabulous star of Vera Drake, also a Mike Leigh film) is also in negotations. F you, Oscars! Can't wait to see what she's up to next.
Posted by Elizabeth DeVita-Raeburn at 8:04 PM
Okay, I am way, way behind. I owe you some deep thoughts on The Reader. And since I saw that, I saw Let the Right One In...a Swedish vampire flick I've been avoiding for months (for obvious reasons). But all the Oscar nominees are hogging the line-ups at all my theaters so I've had a dearth of options. Long story short, we went last weekend. And it was...AWESOME. More soon. Sorry. I'm tired and it's been a nutty week. But let me just say the 12-ish year old female lead of this one is DA BOMB.
Posted by Elizabeth DeVita-Raeburn at 7:56 PM