Five Easy Pieces

December 31, 2007

Happy New Year…

Filed under: Family,Movies,Sports,TV — danletscher @ 2:40 pm

What started out this year as a fast and furious blogging experience has definitely become a trickle.  Here’s some bits of what’s been happnin’:

(1) Watched Eastern Promises a few nights ago.  Definitely worth a look.  brutal, savage, bloody – all good Cronenbergian adjectives fit this one.  Except “surreal”.  The Ukranian accents can be a bit thick to penetrate at times but the story moves along at a nice pace and the steam room brawl is (literally) balls out intense. 

(2) Ratatouille is a great flick as well.  The adults watched it Christmas night after the kids were all tucked in (they watched it earlier that day).  Good laughs and incredible animation again from Pixar.  Our family snuggled up last night in the king-size bed for a repeat viewing.  We’ll be watching plenty more I suppose.

(3) Waitress was a delightfully simple film.  Simple premise, simple characters and you have a simple smile on your face the whole time.  I just got another film from writer/director Adrien Shelly, “I’ll Take You There”, looking forward to it.  The tragedy of Shelly’s death is not one to ignore – her talent was apparent to all in the industry and Waitress would have propelled her to national identity.

(4) I wasted my time with Live Free or Die Hard.  The first hour was somewhat worthy of the concept but the latter half turned into complete crap.  After the movie ended (at 11pm) I immediately got out the original Die Hard DVD and watched it.  Nothing better to get that acrid taste of the previous film out of my system.

(5) Talk to Me is worth a watch.  Don Cheadle does a great job as the jive-talking 70’s era Washington DC DJ, Dewey Peters.  I knew nothing of this man and was impressed with the impact he had on the city and the races.  The movie is funny as hell and Cheadle owns the whole thing.

(6) I only watched The Office on TV this year until the writer’s strike over.  My favorite from last year, Heroes, was unwatchable crap for the first four weeks so I gave up on it.  I’m going to watch the first season again on DVD with my wife (she missed it) to make me feel better.

(7) Haven’t been reading too many books lately – although I just picked up Clive Barker’s new one (about time!).

(8) Xavier Bball is in full force with their toughest non-conference sked ever.  Good wins vs. Indiana, Kent State, Creighton, UC.  Tough losses vs. Miami, Tennessee and ASU.  Next three games will tell a lot about our January – KSU, Virginia, Auburn.  Three BCS schools in one week.  Then the conference starts and the A-10 is loaded after a lot of down years.  Dayton and Rhode Island are ranked, UMASS is knockin’ on the door.  Brutal year ahead.

(9) We have been non-stop since Halloween.  Kids turned 6 and 3 in November, I turned 37(!) in December, Christmas parties, holiday travels and now New Year’s Eve tonight.  2008 can’t come soon enough.

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September 6, 2007

300

Filed under: Movies — danletscher @ 8:04 am

The hype was huge, the marketing endless – starting at the Super Bowl, a good month and a half ahead of the release date in March 2007.  This was the next picture from the graphic novelist Frank Miller – think “Sin City”, if you saw it you know the comic book stance it took, if you didn’t, adjust your perception and watch it, it’s a great flick.  Directed by Zack Snyder (now anchored to the film version of “Watchmen”, the mecca of comic book novellas), “300” is an action flick, no doubt about it.  It’s gory, bloody and somewhat gratuitously directed at everything with a penis.  The (1) half-naked oracle who predicts Sparta’s fall to the Persians and (2) the debauched harem of Xerxes, the self-proclaimed Persian god looking to wipe out Sparta and all of Greece, are the two signs that the filmmakers wanted to be sure every male would come to the theater and not feel like they were lured into a gay recruitment demonstration (think “Airplane”, the comment about Gladiator movies, you get the idea). 

 

Seriously though, it was an Ok film.  I was a little tired of the slo-mo battle after a while.  The camera tricks, quick zooms, slo-mo-to-to-really-fast-mo-and-then-really-really-slo-mo, you know what I mean.  The battles were brutal and bloody.  The courage and honor of the Spartans are things of lore – so unbelievably deep and unyielding that death is but an expectation.  You almost think they have a chance when you see the tactics and discipline of their battle manner.  But the end is already determined and predictable even at that time.  It still is impressive to watch in such a manner as Frank Miller presents.  I read the book (or graphic novel if you please) before I saw the film and it is amazing how well it is captured on film. 

 

King Leonidas is an iconic leader, devoted and rock-hard in his stance of giving no deference to Xerxes, ruler of the Persian Empire.  Gerard Butler is a brute force as an actor in his portrayal.  If you watch it, look at his eyes, forget the beard and listen to his voice.  It’s Mel Gibson before he got all crazy with the Lethal Weapon sequels and 90’s junk.  Mel came close to this intensity again in “Signs” but hasn’t done much worthy of his capabilities in a long while.  (And after catching “Braveheart” here and there on cable, that flick’s lost a LOT of its luster.  The battles are impressive but give me “Rob Roy” any day of the week over “Braveheart”).

 

The movie drags a little and could have been 20 or so minutes shorter.  But it was a worthy diversion from reality and a visual feast of effects.

August 15, 2007

Breach

Filed under: Movies — danletscher @ 8:47 pm

I watched Breach last night. This is the second film by director Billy Ray, the first being Shattered Glass. Both films are based on true stories and deliver suspense and intrigue at a smooth and pleasant pace. I saw Shattered Glass for three reasons: (1) excellent reviews (2) Peter Sarsgaard and (3) I had to find out if Hayden Christensen could do more than act like a petulant bitch-boy as Anakin Skywalker. I thoroughly enjoyed the film, moved by Christensen’s sad portrait of lifelong liar and infamous “New Republic” plagiarizer. Glass created a fictional world for his journalism and presented it to readers as fact. The film does a masterful job of tracking the downfall.

When Breach came out earlier this year, it was well-reviewed but lost in the doldrums of mid-winter blahs, a typically stale movie season. I really didn’t consider watching it until reading the review in Entertainment Weekly upon its DVD release. Billy Ray, Chris Cooper, Laura Linney and a story of tracking the downfall of the most notorious traitor in U.S. intelligence history = a good flick to roll along with at that aforementioned smooth and pleasant pace. Hell, I even tolerated Ryan Phillipe for an hour and forty-five minutes.

Phillipe plays the green FBI grunt (bucking for “agent” status) Eric O’Neill, assigned as the assistant to Robert Hanssen (Cooper). Hanssen is a lifelong intelligence guru, having made a career off the Cold War and monitoring the Russians for 20+ years. He’s 57, two months from retirement and is now back in Washington D.C. in a post that is basically a made-up job. He’s also a fanatical Catholic and a sexual deviant. Like bread and butter. O’Neill is recruited by Linney to work with Hanssen but also track him, monitor his calls, keep a detailed account of all activity. It doesn’t take long for O’Neill to call her bluff and ask just what the hell are they going after on this guy. The payoff = he has been turning highly classified intelligence over to the Russians for a long, long time.

Chris Cooper is watchable in any film he does. His roadmap face and heavy bags under his eyes give him the advantage over so many actors that can’t relay an emotion without speaking. He was outstanding in Adaptation, based on the….I’m not even going to try to describe the plot – just see it if you haven’t, it’s a great one. His delightful Oscar-winning turn as John Laroche showcased a side of Cooper the audience doesn’t see much, lighthearted and quite comedic. Other good ones to check out are The Bourne Identity, Lone Star and American Beauty.

I recommend Breach for Cooper’s work alone. Hanssen is a twisted scumbag of a man; but like O’Neill in the film, the viewer sees the vulnerability about him and almost sympathizes with his situation. Almost.

July 24, 2007

Back from the real world…

Filed under: Movies — danletscher @ 9:59 pm

Man, life just takes over and you forget about the important things like wasting hours writing about movies. Speaking of, I have to rant about “Blood Diamond”. What a crock this flick is. I was looking forward to it after reading some decent reviews and being surprised by the Oscar attention. Did I miss something? This is one of those “I want those two hours and twenty minutes of my life back” movie. All that talent and a story, centered around the struggle in Africa over the diamond trade and all its greed and death, worth telling. I bitched about the movie to my brothers in an email and Tim said it best – they couldn’t decide whether they wanted to make a “message” movie or an action spectacle.

Leo DiCaprio does a good job in the movie, giving his character Danny Archer just enough of a soul that we can forgive him for being a greedy, self-centered diamond smuggler turning a blind eye to the massacre of villages. I don’t think he deserved an Oscar nomination for Best Actor, but I don’t think he deserved some criticism I read about his South African accent.

Djimon Hounsou is the best thing about the movie. Alan Arkin won Best Supporting Actor over Hounsou?  A joke.  He plays Solomon, a father and husband ripped from his family – he helps them escape from their village as it is being raided and slaughtered by rebels – to serve as a slave panning for diamonds. The rebels use the diamonds to purchase arms and ammo from guys like Danny Archer. Danny Archer sells the rebels the arms (supplied by his former mercenary comrades) so they can overthrow the established government (after they slaughter the innocents). Then the established government hires the mercenaries (who sold the rebels the arms) to slaughter the rebels. It is a sick and twisted circle of violence and mayhem.

So Solomon finds the pink diamond worth millions, stashes it and ends up in jail. Archer hears the tale of the pink diamond, springs Solomon from jail and becomes his best friend – I’ll find your family if you get me the diamond. Cue the craptastic Hollywood machinery.

Jennifer Connelly shows up as a reporter itching to write “real” news, not the typical updates of violence and blah,blah,blah. Enter love interest and conscience-poking foil for Leo.

The three “buddy up” to fulfill their own destiny – family reunion, $$$$$, Pulitzer material – and learn to work with each other, realizing at certain points in the movie that they need each other for different reasons. This leads to numerous action sequences which drag on and don’t excite one bit. I can believe it when Arnold and Stallone ran through 1,472 angles of machine gun fire, grenades and explosions without getting hit. I mean I can suspend my disbelief long enough to grin and enjoy it. That’s what cheesy action is supposed to do. But to throw this crap in this movie just demeaned the plot and characters.

Don’t get me started on the heavy-handedness of Leo and Jennifer’s farewell over satellite phone. Don’t read this ending if you don’t want to spoil it for your viewing (but really, are you going to watch it?? Call me, I’ll talk you down) . Leo is dying, he has handed the diamond over to Solomon so he can free his family, and he is stranded on a mountaintop holding back the mercenaries with some erratic machine gun fire to enable Solomon’s escape. He babbles on to Jennifer and she delivers horrible lines like “Don’t you die on me” or some such shit. This was the Oscar scene. Leo smiles and gives up trying to shoot the gun anymore. He’s shot and near death, he is staring out in the distance and softly says to Jennifer that he wishes she could see what an amazing view he was looking at. Waiting….waiting…yeah, they never show the view. Instead of that we never leave Leo. It struck me then that the movie was summed up in that shot. It wanted to focus on the atrocity of the diamond crisis in Africa. But the focus couldn’t stray from the fatc that it was a big studio Hollywood production and they had a huge budget for the ancillary diversions.

April 26, 2007

Second great reason to return…

Filed under: Movies — danletscher @ 10:30 pm

CASINO ROYALE

Bond, James Bond.  It isn’t said until the last line of the movie.  That’s because he wasn’t “Bond, James Bond” until that point.  “Casino Royale” was big for two reasons when it was released last November: Bond was being portrayed by a new guy – Daniel Craig – and this was the first novel in the series by Ian Fleming that introduced Bond to the world.  This was the chance to re-invent the character by showing his christening as a 007 agent, done very stylishly and brutally in black and white in the signature epilogue, and give him a new face after Pierce Brosnan casually dragged the Bond persona across coarse pavement and left in it a bloody and shredded pulp.  Hmmm, do I sound bitter?  Maybe Brosnan doesn’t deserve the bad blood since the storylines and outrageousness of the last few films all but transcended whoever was cast in them, except Halle Berry, the most outrageous Best Actress winner of my time.  People think Marisa Tomei winning an Oscar was a fluke?  Watch “Slums of Beverly Hills” and you’ll see her act circles around anything Halle Berry has done.

“Casino Royale” does a great job of getting Craig right into the action.  Besides the opening scene (after all, you have to kill to get a license to kill), he is thrown right into a downright daring and deadly footrace through a village in Madagascar.  From there the plot goes a little haywire and then comes back into focus – Bond stopped the biggest bankroller of terrorism in the world from making a killing in a powerplay of stock.  Now, that bad guy must make back over $100 million to keep some assorted terrorists and factions from hunting his ass down and putting the terror on him.  He stages a very high stakes game of poker in the Bahamas – $10 million to get in the game – to make his money back.  Bond goes to play and decimate the guy with the blessing, and bankroll, of the British government.

The rest of the movie plays out in a very satisfying way, much as the older films of Sean Connery’s day did. Go back and take another look at “Dr. No”, “Goldfinger” or “From Russia With Love” – not a lot of over-the-top action or high-tech gadgetry but consistent intensity, intrigue and plot.  This film runs almost two and a half hours but coasts along and never feels sluggish.  Daniel Craig is a great Bond.  He creeped me out in “Road to Perdition” as Paul Newman’s petulant, murderous and bitterly jealous son.  He surprised me in “Layer Cake”  as the “good” drug dealer doing one last deal to get out (he takes a punch more than once and doesn’t fight back, much like Gabriel Byrne in “Miller’s Crossing”).  The ending of “Layer Cake” still pisses me off, by the way.  Here, Craig makes Bond a tough, arrogant son-of-a-bitch that doesn’t let a sliver of doubt show in his execution.

Welcome back Bond.  The new one is supposed to be ready for 2008 and I can’t wait.

First great reason to return…

Filed under: Movies — danletscher @ 9:18 pm

I’m Back. It may seem silly or just idiotic but I was so let down by the Xavier loss to OSU in the NCAA that I couldn’t write. I planned on making grandiose entries after that game and the rest of the tourney but the whole tourney lost its pull on me. I have rehashed that f**king game over and over in my mind and with my friends. There’s nothing left to say but “just wait til next year”. Besides the XU debacle, I have started a new job. That also contributed to my non-blogging because I was afforded down time on my last job which I could use to write bits and pieces of reviews, etc. Trust me, there is very little that has been written in one shot on this page. I don’t have that luxury anymore.

Four things happened in the last week and a half to get me back here. This is the first:

CHILDREN OF MEN, directed by Alfonso Cuaron

God almighty – what a helluva flick. A+, four stars, whatever you want to call it. Clive Owen is given the daunting task of protecting and transporting the first pregnant woman on Earth in the last eighteen years. The year is 2027 and the youngest person on Earth has just died (18 years old or so). The world is a horrid place. Theo (Owen) is contacted by his former wife Julian (Julianne Moore) , now the leader of a resistance faction. She needs him to help “deliver” a woman, Kee, to a specific destination by getting her fake credentials. The catch turns out to be he can only pass her off with the fake credentials if they travel as a couple. Simple. But not quite.

He soon learns he is accompanying the “Eve” of the new world. The Human Project is the destination, a “we think they exist” group trying to preserve the human race. Theo becomes her only hope and they are soon racing to get their rendezvous. To tell much more plot would leak too much detail. I want to focus on the pure beauty of the film as art.

There are very few films that can make me want to immediately re-watch a scene or the whole film. There are two segments in “Children of Men” that just blew me away – and the expertise with which they were executed will be overlooked by the majority of viewers:

First, there is a scene where Theo, Julian, Kee and two others are riding in a car after Theo has been introduced to the group. The take starts as Julian awakes after napping in the car; there is playful banter, humor, then shock, fear, violence, death and just pure confusion surrounding the whole scene. It lasts for 6 or 7 minutes and is done in one take with one camera. Absolutely amazing. You have to see it but you’ll know it when you see it and you’ll want to watch it again to relish in how incredibly it is staged and captured on film. I believe it is about 25 or 30 minutes into the film. I wish I had the track number and minute mark off the DVD but I don’t.

Second, later in the film Theo and Kee are attempting to escape a literal war zone – the “rebels” are battling with the military in and around an already devastated streetscape. Kee has been snatched from Theo by the resistance faction and he is pursuing the. The camera follows him guerrilla-style through shoot-outs, barricades and a burned-out school bus where someone is shot and the blood spray leaves droplets on the camera lens. The camera never flinches, the blood drops blur the screen and the scene goes on and on. For about 12 minutes. And your heart never stops racing. Invigorating film making!! Stanley Kubrick blew me away with the set of “Full Metal Jacket”, looking like he blew up an entire city to film the climax of that film. Cuaron takes it ten steps further in portraying the Hell that Theo and Kee must endure to try to reach their goal.

Hats off to Clive Owen for getting the shit beat out of him throughout the film; he is a ragged shell of a man desperately trying to do the right thing while depending on his flask and smokes to help him cope. This is the finest film I have seen in a long time. “The Departed” as Best Picture for last year? No way – this one gets my vote as of now.

March 15, 2007

The Holiday

Filed under: Movies — danletscher @ 8:24 pm

I had mixed feelings when “The Holiday” came out in the theaters. Working in its favor were: Kate Winslet, an extremely talented actress with a career I have followed since the haunting “Heavenly Creatures” [Peter Jackson’s breakthrough]; Jack Black, funnier than hell but teetering on overexposure and career self-parody; and Jude Law, a good actor who just needs better roles. Working against it: Cameron Diaz, sentimentality, gimmicky premise, “chick flick” labeling. First thought upon its release was “definite DVD viewing” – but pretty much everything is home entertainment with two young kids; if we’re getting a sitter we’re going OUT, not sitting in a theater. It was a pleasant surprise that it was a pretty good movie.

The film is written and directed by Nancy Meyers, the writer/director of “Something’s Gotta Give”; not a bad movie either, but it suffered from some miscasting and could have been 45 minutes shorter. Nothing will kill a good movie more than a laborious, bloated running time. “The Holiday” was a little long at 130+ minutes but never got tedious to watch. The premise is a little out there – do complete strangers on separate continents really chat online for 3 minutes and then decide to swap houses for two weeks over Christmas break without ever meeting, or at least talking? That’s what Iris (Winslet) and Amanda (Diaz) do. Iris is a meek newspaper writer living alone in a quaint cottage in Surrey, England and she wants to escape the unrequited love she has for an ex-boyfriend (Rufus Sewell) who just got engaged. Amanda is a high-strung movie trailer producer living in a posh mansion in Los Angeles, CA and she just broke up with her cheating cad of a boyfriend (Ed Burns). They both need a break and alone time where they don’t know anyone. Let the swapping begin.

It’s not long before each is meeting new people, i.e. men, and experiencing & enjoying life again. Both story lines play out well and take unexpected turns that allow each of the actors to show some depth. Until those moments though we have to endure the physical comedy schtick Diaz must put in every role she plays (she needs to stop it) and Winslet uncharacteristically acting like a cheesy girl, dancing and lip-syching (she definitely needs to stop that!). The movie gets better after Diaz meets Iris’ brother Graham (Law), they move past the awkward “sex first, conversation and relationship later” phase and we learn more about Graham’s situation and watch him and Amanda evolve over 2 weeks.  Iris meets two men: Miles (Black), a composer who scores Amanda’s trailers & Arthur (Eli Wallach, doing a great job as the lovable old guy), a elderly screenwriter from Hollywood’s golden days that lives next door.  Iris grows close to Arthur, helping out with chores and brightening his days (and hers) with intelligent and platonic conversation and companionship.  Her and Miles pal around a few times and develop a flirty, and initially innocent, friendship.

The parallel structure allows for adequate time with each story arc.  I enjoyed the many references to movies in general.  Amanda’s job producing the movie trailers creeps into her psyche and she periodically envisions her life edited into mini-movies, complete with soundtrack and cheesy voice overs. It’s well done and earns the laughs.  Iris is involved with “industry” guys.  She listens to Arthur compare and contrast the movie “reality” with real reality.  He also gives her a list of 50 classics to watch, prompting a visit to the video store with Miles and a “Jack Black moment” of him reproducing classic movie themes.  As I said earlier, he teeters on annoyance but still makes you laugh.  I personally loved the admiration he has for the soundtrack of “The Mission” by Ennio Morricone, I used to listen to that in college a lot as a study and sleep aid.  There are other “movie moments” and they don’t come across as forced or like stunts, like so many pop culture remarks or visuals in today’s entertainment.

Nancy Meyers does a good job with this one.  Because of the tone throughout the film you get the feeling that she knows when she is being sappy, cheesy, or even too earnest.  Meyers did a good job, in “Something’s Gotta Give” and has done it again here in “The Holiday”, of presenting love and relationships in a way that shouldn’t scare away men.  I was pleasantly surprised and continue to be even as I write this.

The Prestige

Filed under: Movies — danletscher @ 2:13 pm

I thoroughly enjoyed this one. “The Prestige” is Christopher Nolan’s latest achievement, and he is wracking them up in my book. “Memento” and “Batman Begins” were both excellent, while “Insomnia” was decent but a little limp. His next project is the Batman sequel “The Dark Knight” set for release in 2008.

Robert Angier and Alfred Borden are turn-of-the-century London magicians. They start out as “volunteers” from the audience and soon become the main acts themselves.  Their relationship takes a roller coaster ride through death, attempted murders, deceptions, sabotages, obsessions and illusions.  Angier (Hugh Jackman – he looks like a very young Clint Eastwood more and more) embodies the showman side of their trade, making up in spectacle what he lacks in creativity.  Borden (Christian Bale– I can watch this guy in any flick, really good) represents the quiet, darker side of the coin – he has the ingenuity and originality but has no spark in connecting with the audience.  After they part ways, their paths continue to cross as competing entertainment in London. They each do their best to promote themselves while interfering with each other’s momentum.

The story is told by overlapping three timelines. (1) Angiers commandeers Borden’s diary and follows the clues in it to the mountains of Colorado and the electricity experiments of Nikola Tesla (David Bowie).   Angiers is convinced the great secret of Borden’s master trick, The Transported Man, is there and he wants Tesla to provide him the same knowledge and technology to perform it. The voiceover of Borden reciting the diary entries acts as narration for Angiers. (2) Borden sits in a prison cell awaiting a death sentence for murder. He receives a delivery – Angiers’ diary of his experience in Colorado. As he reads it, Angiers narrates his entries describing his Colorado trip and his reading of Borden’s diary. Got that? (3) These two are intertwined around the series of events which led them to their respective journeys mentioned in (1) and (2).

It’s no wonder Nolan tackles this convoluted narrative arc successfully.  In “Memento” he delivered an innovative technique by telling the story backwards, creating a murder mystery where the mystery isn’t who was killed and who did the killing, but why things unfolded as they did.  It was engaging and provided lots of twists.  “The Prestige” accomplishes the same results.  The movie as a whole becomes a clever sleight-of-hand trick.  I’ll stop now so as not to spoil the fun.  The film opens with Michael Caine delivering a voice-over explaining the idea behind a magic trick – it’s the definition of the film as well:

“Every great magic trick consists of three acts. The first act is called “The Pledge”; The magician shows you something ordinary, but of course… it probably isn’t. The second act is called “The Turn”; The magician makes his ordinary something do something extraordinary. Now if you’re looking for the secret… you won’t find it, that’s why there’s a third act called, “The Prestige”; this is the part with the twists and turns, where lives hang in the balance, and you see something shocking you’ve never seen before.”

Good documentary to watch

Filed under: Movies — danletscher @ 10:33 am

Tiffany and I watched “This Film is Not Yet Rated” last week.  It takes a close look at the MPAA and the methods they use in arriving at the ratings assigned to movies released in the USA.  It gives goofy animated tidbits on the ratings and what supposedly constitutes and justifies each assigned rating – either G, PG,Pg-13, R or NC-17.  The film divides its time between (1) interviews and analysis with directors & actors discussing their silly adventures with the ratings process and (2) the pursuit of identifying the confidential identities the members of the ratings board by private investigators.  The director of the film, Kirby Dick [wow, the MPAA didn’t make him change his name?], has determined that the MPAA is the second most secretive society in America, behind only the CIA.  After the identities of the board members are revealed in a humorous “America’s Most Wanted” format, the film culminates in an amusing segment documenting Kirby Dick’s submission of this film to the MPAA.  The phone conversations with the MPAA director and the lawyers are priceless.  There is deception, lies and a simmering contempt throughout all the  conversations.

The focus of the outrage over the MPAA’s ratings system is sex; specifically how sex is treated as so taboo and violence is given the “kid gloves” treatment.  It is only fitting that this documentary was given a rating of NC-17 [though released as “unrated”, a little “screw you” to the MPAA] for showing examples of the sexual material filmmakers had to edit out of their films to get the MPAA’s seal of approval for an R rating.  There is also the accusation made that the MPAA panders to the big studio systems of Hollywood, alienating the independent filmmakers and smaller financiers.  Matt Stone, co-creator of “South Park”, tells how the first feature he made with  partner Trey Parker – an ultra-low budget film called “Orgazmo” – was given an NC-17 for sexual material.  Stone details the strict policy of the MPAA to not divulge any specific scenes or instances that cause alarm because that would censorship.  However, when the duo made “South Park: Bigger, Longer & Uncut” at Paramount Studios they were treated entirely different, provided detailed instructions of what was offensive and what needed to be cut or altered to gain the R rating.  The preferential treatment assures that big studios get their films cleared quicker and moved along in the process, while independent studios and directors are left to guess what to edit for the appeals process.

I can’t say that these bits of criticism are revelations within the industry or news to fans of the movies.  It is amusing to listen to the directors detail their frustration and bewilderment over pubic hair exposure and scenes of sexual enjoyment.  Apparently, the MPAA has a real problem with orgasmic moaning and satisfied smiles and eye-rolling – regardless that the camera is on the face of the actor and there is no nudity or motion.  It’s absolutely ridiculous.   Be sure to watch the first 8 minute segment of the deleted scenes on the DVD.  It is outtake clips of the interviews of John Waters, Kevin Smith and Matt Stone (all featured prominently in the actual film) and is funnier than hell.

March 7, 2007

“For Your Consideration”

Filed under: Movies — danletscher @ 12:05 pm

Consider watching “Waiting for Guffman” or “Best in Show” again instead. Christopher Guest’s latest on DVD was much more scaled back and somewhat boring compared to his other efforts. This outing enlists the same group of performers we’ve seen in his other movies (Parker Posey, Fred Willard, Eugene Levy, Ed Begley, Jr. Bob Balaban, Michael McKean, John Michael Higgins, Jennifer Coolidge, Catherine O’Hara, Harry Shearer) and plops them in Hollywood, filming an under-the-radar movie called “Home for Purim”. O’Hara and Shearer play over-the-hill actors starring in the little film which gets a boost of buzz from one blurb on an internet site. Soon the set is alive with talk of Oscar nominations, morning show appearances and coverage from the “ET”-style show “Hollywood Now.”

Expectations run high for Guest and Levy (credited writers of all the Guest-directed, yet heavily improvised movies). For me the air was already leaking out of the balloon during “A Mighty Wind”; here, the balloon is just about limp. The first 30-35 minutes spends time introducing the characters and it just has no life to it. After the buzz has started is when we are treated to a good dose of Fred Willard as a co-host of “Hollywood Now”, sporting a flashy wardrobe, cheesy grin and moussed mohawk (that was trying way too hard). As in the previous films, Willard masters the clueless boob who says all the wrong things. O’Hara is very good and ironically generated Oscar buzz for her performance (but, alas, no nomination). But that’s too little to save this one.

I think “For Your Consideration” failed because it wasn’t filmed in the mockumentary style of “Guffman” & “Best in Show”. That format gave the cast incredible opportunities to create their characters and expose their eccentricity, vulnerability, innocence or arrogance through the interviews. Mocking the cliches and stereotypes of the characters was elevated by the format and the cast’s creativity and timing. I’m sure the cutting room floor was buried in footage trying to capture the magic that appeared. Unfortunately this time around, without those chances to peek behind the scenes and see what makes them tick, the result was tepid and mechanical.

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