Showing posts from November, 2006

Passings: Gary Graver, Cinematographer and Director

One of the most important cinematic auteurs of the last 50 years passes away, and I'm woefully underequipped to expound. Go figure. Director Robert Altman's influence looms large over modern cinema, so much so that eloquent testimonials to the man's work can be found all over the Blogosphere (here are two of my favorites). But my Altman experience extends to just four complete viewings: The Player (so universally loved and pungently witty it'd be redundant for me to cluck on about it), Popeye (still one of the oddest comic-to-film adaptations ever made, with Altman's very free-form style constantly fighting with a very structured cartoon universe), MASH (overrated, but not without its moments), and Buffalo Bill and the Indians (an erratic but interestingly off-kilter western that had me scratching my head as a kid). This means I haven't seen Nashville or McCabe and Mrs. Miller , widely reputed to be two of the finest films of the seventies (make that ev

The Chronicles of Riddick, just 'cos I got nothin' else.

I was just looking over the list of a dozen unfinished entries on the Dish to see if any of 'em were close enough to snuff to merit posting (the answer, as you might imagine from this entry, is no). As I undertook this ritual The Chronicles of Riddick , director David Twohy's prequel to his enjoyable B flick Pitch Black , played on basic cable. It's pretty telling that almost all of Riddick unspooled before I took much notice. Contrary to its unceremonious descent into the waters of financial failure upon its initial release, it's really not terrible. Despite making more lousy career choices in the last five years than any twelve actors make in their lives, I still appreciate Vin Diesel's minimalist charisma, and flashes of blunt wit occasionally flicker through the grandeur, action, and special effects. But it's a pretty glaring misfire nonetheless, because its two principal architects completely disregard their strengths. Twohy (who frequently writes as we

Horrorfest: Old-Fashioned Fun and Frolic

Horrorfest--Eight Films to Die For hit multiplexes last weekend, and if you're among the throngs who regularly peruse this Blog (I have officially decided that six or more people qualifies as a throng), my attendance of said Fest should surprise you naught . Limits in funds and time prohibited a Full Monty of all eight movies offered, but I did manage to do a Horrorfest Triple Bill last Saturday night. Two enthusiastic co-conspirators joined me, and damned if a good time wasn't had by all. It's hard not to root for the success of Horrorfest's distribution company, After Dark Films, on principle alone. This independent company's roadshow-style marketing strategy hearkens back to a time before corporate megaliths and big studios exacted their death-grips on multiplexes, when true indies could still sneak entertaining B flicks of all stripes into theaters all over the country. Seeing movies in a theater or (gasp) drive-in in the seventies and early eighties was

A Blog about Borat: Bet you Won't See Many of Those

I saw Borat this weekend, and since everyone and their sister's best friend's tennis coach is already pontificating to the high heavens about it, I'll try to keep it brief. Yes, Sasha Baron Cohen's naively-twisted Kazakh brainchild offends with sawed-off-shotgun blasts of scatology and gleeful racism that assault everybody and anybody. And contrary to the deification it's been given by the nation's critics , it's not perfect: Sometimes it leaps off the chasm of Offensively Funny and splatters at ground zero of Just Plain Offensive. But it's a sharper critique on this country's foibles than damn near anything mainstream Hollywood's excreted since a certain fire-and-brimstone Texan galloped into office. And most importantly, Borat is the funniest movie I've seen in God knows how long. Those of you who've likewise seen it need only ponder upon these five words to break into stitches uncontrollably: The Mortgage Broker's Convention S

Sex and Fury: It's Art! It's Trash! It's Both!

Eleven minutes into Sex and Fury (originally released in 1973, now out on Panik House DVD) there's a scene which represents an amazing--perhaps even definitive--cinematic crystalization of sex and violence. I wouldn't dream of spoiling it for anyone who hasn't seen it, but trust me: it's a mind-blower. The most astonishing thing about this moment isn't the high quotient of violence, nor is it the wall-to-wall nudity on display (how are those for hints?). No, the most shocking aspect of this scene is that it's shot, edited, and acted with the unbridled artistry of a Kurosawa flick. Were a typical US director prompted to bring this moment to cinematic life, he'd jam his tongue so far into his cheek that it'd rip out the other end. And that's what makes Sex and Fury so utterly fascinating: it juxtaposes base exploitive elements with the kind of craftsmanship customarily reserved for something a lot more respectable (this sub-genre, the Pinky Viole