Dispensing first with the standard among the year’s top-10 lists - The Departed, with a cast-list that amounts to an embarrassment of riches, and a return to familiar, brutal territory, you would expect Scorsese to better his source material (Infernal Affairs) at almost every turn, and that he did - save for the closing act, which was quite literally, brainless.
Largely ignored in most year-end lists, was Steven Soderbergh’s Bubble released too early in the year? Or is it notable only for it’s simultaneous release to theaters and DVD? On a budget that probably couldn’t sustain The Good German’s craft services, Soderbergh makes quiet statements about the nobility of work, while handling the all-amateur cast and rural locale with a far-less patronizing touch than another recent release that traced some of the same lines, Phil Morrison’s critically celebrated Junebug (2005).
A Scanner Darkly, The Fountain, and critical lightning rod Marie Antoinette all scored points for their grandiose visual charm, only to fail to provide proper plot development and substance with equal measure. The three are worth at least a cursory viewing, if only for a general road map for where the current class of taste makers are heading. I can’t help but fault Michel Gondry’s The Science of Sleep with suffering from the same woes, but the cardboard and crocheted dream sequences in the director’s post-Charlie Kaufman era stick as the high mark of invention this year, as far as eye-candy for eye-candy’s sake.
Quality comedies seemed to be in short supply, though Fernando Eimbcke’s Duck Season stands out as a Mexican coming-of-age import that manages to keep the sugar-sweet cuteness in check. Not that anyone ever walked out of Talladega Nights feeling any smarter, but you will see John C. Reilly more than hold his own in tandem with Will Farrell, matching his improvisational bursts blow for blow. Doing more with less was the other “road-trip in a bus gone awry” comedy The Puffy Chair, warts and all, worthy of a second viewing over big brother - Little Miss Sunshine, whose caricatures seemed to be assembled using indie-quirk mad-libs.
Todd Field’s Little Children offers one of the best takes on suburban ennui since American Beauty, while flying somewhere below the Oscar radar. Former Bad News Bears child star Jackie Earle Haley returns to the screen after a thirteen year absence to deliver one of the year’s genuine creep-out performances.
Best foreign offerings (that were available to Northwest audiences): Clean, The Death of Mr. Lazarescu, Volver, plus Hou Hsiao-hsien’s Three Times, recommended for any In the Mood for Love era Wong Kar-Wai fans.
In what essentially is an escort mission from point a to point b, the “sci-fi” film tag on Children of Men is unwarranted for a “world is fucked” scenario so simple and unfortunately, plausible. An eye-rolling lapse in the final few seconds is fair trade-off for the surprisingly funny moments (most often provided by the brilliantly cast Michael Caine), the breadcrumbs of hope, and a one-take battle sequence, fifteen or so minutes long, that would cause Spielberg to shake his fist jealously in Alfonso Cuarón’s general direction. With the impression still fresh in my mind, if I had to point to any one film for best-of distinctions, this is it.
Also notable: 49 Up, Babel, Cavite, Dave Chappelle’s Block Party, For Your Consideration, Inside Man, Scoop, Stranger Than Fiction, Sympathy for Lady Vengeance
Not yet seen: L’enfant, The Queen, Mutual Appreciation, Old Joy
- Posted by Ted Zee on December 31st 2006 | 3 Comments
Slow news. End of year. Lazy blogging. A self-congratulating selection of items within our decidedly narrow purview, since jumping into the entertainment fray - circa summer 06′.
– “I think it all became about like a little kid would. ‘I want to play with this; I want to watch this movie. Now I want to eat sugar.’ That was kind of my way of navigating and making her a sympathetic person.” - Kirsten Dunst, in the highly quotable war or words: Sofia Coppola and team Marie Antoinette vs. The Critics.
– Before The Science of Sleep, before the Rubik’s Cube fakery, Michel Gondry was filming himself, mumbling incoherently - Re: whatever he dreamt the night before.
– Recommending that you pop one of 2005’s best - Michael Haneke’s Cache, or Stephen Gaghan’s Syriana into your digital video disc player.
– Friend, fellow Seattleite, contributor - Regan pondered Project Runway’s Malan Breton, followed by Oliver Stone, naturally. Regan then went missing in action. Something about having to wash her hair.
– An American remake of kids killing kids flick Battle Royale? Let’s be real here.
– Took some snapshots of Andre 3000 in a turtle costume, alongside Michelle Rodriguez as Battle in Seattle rioters, with the photojournalism skill usually reserved for shots of Sasquatch or the Loch Ness Monster.
– Wrote a few Weeds recaps for moms with the munchies.
– Chan Marshall, aka Cat Power, dreamt of My Blueberry Nights, Saturday Night Live.
– The 10 Picks for the fall TV season. In retrospect, yes, Dexter was damn good. But 30 Rock is the best new show, and Tracy Morgan is a walking, talking, non-sequitur.
– “Six Feet Under was about dead people . . . American Beauty, the guy died at the end,’” he admits. “But I find it incredibly different. It’s more popcorn TV than Six Feet Under. It’s very raucous, more entertaining, much, much funnier. I’m done peering into the abyss for a while.” - Alan Ball, on his his post-Six-Foot project - vampire drama True Blood, back in July, when the future of HBO’s lineup was in question. Since then, Deadwood begat John From Cincinnati, Lucky Louie became a rookie season casualty, and The Wire and Curb Your Enthusiasm re-upped. Plus, Ricky Gervais and Extras - season 2, coming soon (January 14th to be exact). And what became of Johnny Drama and cellivision?
- Posted by Ted Zee on December 29th 2006 | 0 Comments
Spike Lee has been attached to direct a James Brown biopic, reports Variety. Before his death, Brown was involved in the development of the project, making himself available to scriptwriters, and permitting access to his close confidant, Bobby Byrd. Also by Brown’s hand, Lee and his collaborators will have full access to his music library at their disposal.
Production for the film will likely start in 2008, allowing Lee to direct his upcoming project based on the 1992 L.A. riots, and possibly a sequel to Inside Man, beforehand.
- Posted by Ted Zee on December 26th 2006 | 0 Comments
Clearing the bins as the year wanes:
– “Children of Men” may be something of a bummer, but it’s the kind of glorious bummer that lifts you to the rafters, transporting you with the greatness of its filmmaking…a gratifying sign that big studios are still occasionally in the business of making ambitious, intelligent work that speaks to adults. (Manohla Dargis review - New York Times)
– L.A. Times on pre-production for The 40 Year-Old Virgin director Judd Apatow’s musical mockumentary Walk Hard, starring John C. Reilly. (Registration required.)
– “As Samuel Goldwyn once said, ‘If necessary, we’ll cast Mexicans.’ That’s show biz.” - David Milch on getting the old gang back together for the Deadwood wrap-up, in which each of the final two, 2-hour episodes will represent several years of goings-on in the mining town, as opposed to a single day. (By means of what, time-lapse photography?) Also, more on “surf-noir” project - John From Cincinnati. (Mercury News)
– Ed Begley Jr., Justine Bateman, and Leave it to Beaver star Jerry Mathers join Illeana Douglas in Illeanarama - Episode 3.
– Basic Instinct 2, Lady in the Water among Variety’s 10 biggest flops of 2006.
– Music, politics dominate 2006 documentaries. (indieWire)
– The National Science Teachers Association has accepted contributions from ExxonMobil, Shell and the National Petroleum Institute, but says no to 50,000 free copies of Al Gore’s An Inconvenient Truth. (Variety)
– “I began to become very conflicted about the music I love…You still love hip-hop and you love to see the artists doing well, but then you ask, ‘What are they saying? What is the image of manhood?’” - Filmmaker Bryon Hurt, in NYT’s preview of PBS doc Hip Hop: Beyond Beats and Rhymes. (via GreenCine)
– HDTV: enemy of industry types striving to stay more than human.
Godfather of Soul video tributes:
– Should I get in the hot tub? Will it make me sweat? Should I get in the hot tub? Will it make me wet? Eddie Murphy - the golden days. Video via Risky Biz.
– Also, Mr. Brown provided the soundtrack to many a dance party, 1973’s Black Caesar - no exception. Via ScreenGrab.
- Posted by Ted Zee on December 26th 2006 | 0 Comments
Director Craig Brewer (Hustle and Flow) on shifting the release of the Samuel L. Jackson/Christina Ricci vehicle from September to February 23rd:
“They do this thing out there called running the numbers, where they want to know if there are other movies out there like yours so they can gauge how to market it. There just haven’t been many buddy movies that have my premise of a black bluesman trying to chase the demons out of a white sex addict.”
More from Brewer, previously: Craig Brewer Talks Black Snake Moan, Hustle and Flow sequels
- Posted by Ted Zee on December 21st 2006 | 0 Comments
As AICN has pointed out, Yahoo has launched an official trailer for the Quentin Tarantino & Robert Rodriguez joint venture - Grindhouse, this afternoon.
An earlier teaser shown off at the Spike TV Scream Awards in October was largely composed of shots from the Rodriguez half of the film - Planet Terror, featuring Freddy Rodriguez along with Rose McGowan - making efficient use of her leg mounted machine gun to fend off zombies.
Tarantino’s end - Death Proof, with Kurt Russell as a maladjusted stunt driver that uses his muscle car to stalk and kill his female prey, receives equal time in the new trailer. The segments from both directors are said to be “feature length”, with mock trailers in between the two, serving as intermission
Release date for Grindhouse is set for April 6, 2007.
- Posted by Ted Zee on December 20th 2006 | 0 Comments
Reprinted from Cigarettes and Red Vines - a definitive
resource on P.T.A. and his upcoming film -There Will Be Blood
(based on the Upton Sinclair novel Oil!), starring Daniel Day Lewis
as an oil developer during the 1920’s boon in Southern California.
2006, no movie.
Only means one thing; we will have a movie for you all in 2007.
Wanted to wish a happy chirstmas, merry new year to everyone.
We are working on the film, slowly but surely getting there. We’re
very happy, very burned out, a little sick of it, more than excited,
anxious to get back home for a break and sending you thanks
for being interested in what we’re doing.
It’s been a wonderful year, making the film and lots
of other things too. I have much more to say but should
leave it at that.
oh - for anyone not paying attention who needs to
see the greatest stuff there is: there’s a preston sturges collection
out./ now. just released. box set. all his movies. must go and get. great gift.
also: is little miss sunshine’ the best movie of the year? i think
so. it’s out on DVD today, too.
- Posted by Ted Zee on December 19th 2006 | 0 Comments
Let’s converse, gladhand. Send tips and correspondence to firstname.lastname@example.org
- Posted by Ted Zee on December 19th 2006 | 3 Comments
As the end of year lists filter in (GreenCine is your spot for the most comprehensive, obsessively updated film list wrap-ups) the people over at Director File would like to remind you that the lost art of the music video is not entirely dead to the world, as their top 10 for 2006 attests to. The otherworldly Boards of Canada, Will Oldham, aka Bonnie Prince Billy (also seen in ultra-limited release Old Joy), and Yeah Yeah Yeahs all hold down spots on a list that generally strays from the beaten path of (what’s left of) music television.
Related viewing tip: More progressive audio/visual, with the likes of Prefuse 73 and Four Tet, at Flash design guru Paul Neave’s - Neave.tv. Or off to one of the sister sites to play Asteroids, or allow your eyes to bug out.
Also related, peripherally speaking - preview tracks from Mos Def’s upcoming True Magic, due December 29th.
- Posted by Ted Zee on December 19th 2006 | 3 Comments
Looking back at Philip Seymour Hoffman’s stint as Dean Trumbell - Mattress Man by day, seedy phone-sex scamster by night. As foil to Sandler’s Barry Egan in Punch Drunk Love, Hoffman goes so far as to faithfully recreate a real-life, small-time commercial spot gone bad. Never making the final cut in the Paul Thomas Anderson classic, only available via the bonus features on the DVD. Compare the two.
- Posted by Ted Zee on December 17th 2006 | 1 Comment
Back to business now, after joining the one million other Seattle residents to fall prey to The Great Blackout of 06′. A forgo-the-exposition style, mid-week in review. Embrace the brevity.
Stills of Black Snake Moan’s Christina Ricci.
First images from Tarantino/Rodriguez joint Grindhouse (Movieweb).
Three-fourths brilliant Babel leads Golden Globes noms with seven.
Bob Dylan takes legal action to halt screenings of Factory Girl.
Funny how learning that two Reno 911 alums wrote Ben Stiller’s Jumanji-ish Night at the Museum turns the flick from a firm “no” to a “maybe-so”.
GreenCine wraps reviews for Soderberg’s The Good German.
I Heart Huckabees co-writer Eric Bana to take on battle-of-the-sexes comedy The Awakening of Jean-Luc Barbara (Cinematical).
Chasing Amy’s Joey Lauren Adams directs her first.
Critics list the best, worst and most overlooked films in the past 20 Oscar seasons (Variety).
Comedy Central takes on sports-talk radio.
Trailer for I’m From Rolling Stone, new MTV reality show following seven would-be rock journalists.
Live Free or Die Hard Trailer.
8 Clips from Smokin’ Aces, featuring Jeremy Piven, Ray Liotta, Ben Affleck (IESB).
- Posted by Ted Zee on December 17th 2006 | 1 Comment
There will always be tent-pole, franchise trilogies to plaster every available surface of our culture. Romantic comedies will continue to come out of a tube, every spring and fall. Right now, and for the foreseeable future, a car is exploding on screen somewhere, a drug deal is going bad, a couple are overcoming the obstacles between them and true love. The slate of every studio looks pretty much the same, year to year. But the hunger for a surprise, for a story with an unconventional structure or politics or ending, stays with us because moviegoers crave unpredictability. It looks like life.
Excerpt from Killer Films producer Christine Vachon’s recently released book - A Killer Life
- Posted by Ted Zee on December 14th 2006 | 0 Comments
Starting out as a short film, then produced as a pilot for the Oxygen network that was never picked up, Illeanarama - Supermarket of the Stars almost made it to television - via E!, but hit more snags. Rather than throw up her hands and walk away, creator/star Illeana Douglas went the route of YouTube. Not to knock the bedroom webcam superstars or penniless young filmmakers on the come that have made the site what it is today, but the current incarnation of Illeanarama (a remixed concoction of the original short with slices from the pilot) has the makings of a show that needs a more traditional home.
When I first viewed episode 1, the first thing that came to mind was another comedy that hasn’t seen the audience (or media chatter) that it rightfully deserves: Laura Kightlinger’s The Minor Accomplishments of Jackie Woodman (thank you, IFC TV). Not for the parallel satirical views of Hollywood trappings, but for their whip-smart but loose, rough around the edges feel that harken back to the days when indies (films) were indies. Before every major studio had it’s own “specialty division” to lay claim on what was left of the old aesthetic, not before sanding down the splinters (charm or true bite). And save for premium cable, we’ve come to expect even less risk taking from the networks. The Office never would have seen American screens if not for some baseline expectations for success set by it’s across-the-pond predecessor. The case for Arrested Development is moot now, as it is for the oft-compared to, even less watched ABC’s Sons and Daughters (2006 - 2006). Are viewers not ready for alternatives to spoon-fed laughs, or are the networks not ready to hand them over?
The one benefit that Illeanarama does have in it’s current home is the time and breathing room to build on it’s humble beginnings (few start-ups are born without flaws, this is no exception) while putting famous friends of Illeana’s to work, on the cheap. From the looks of things, along with Justine Bateman and Ed Bagley Jr., future guest stars Jeff Goldblum, Andy Dick, Courtney Cox and Noah Wyle aren’t looking to get paid (much).
Watch Episode 2.
- Posted by Ted Zee on December 14th 2006 | 1 Comment
An embedded reporter on the ground in India gives a first hand account, and the first on location pic for Wes Anderson’s The Darjeeling Limited, featuring Schwartzman, Wilson, and Brody. (Dug up via film ick.) I have to say, if these are the real costumes for the film, we’re talking true stagnation, or regression even, of the Anderson aesthetic. A bit much, no? Also, Anjelica Huston and Natalie Portman confirmed to have joined the film.
Ian McShane, still unsure of if Deadwood will get it’s long talked about closure.
Nickelodeon picks up an animated show created and voiced by SNL’s Amy Poehler.
American Psycho writer Bret Easton Ellis to write a script for Showtime’s The Canyons.
Coming Soon chats with Curse of the Golden Flower star Gong Li on re-teaming with director Zhang Yimou
JoBlo mentions John Krasinski’s directorial debut for Brief Interviews With Hideous Men.
Finally, director Michel Gondry solves a Rubik’s Cube with his feet in 2 minutes.
- Posted by Ted Zee on December 13th 2006 | 2 Comments
1: Andre Benjamin, Martin Henderson, and Michelle Rodriguez between takes during shooting for The Battle in Seattle. First photo, graciously provided by Tamara (more great on-the-scene shots via her blog and Flickr page. All others by Ted Z., if the lower quality didn’t tip you off.)
2: Andre and Michelle (at right) direct protester traffic.
5: Andre 3000 - turtle with bullhorn privileges. 6: Dexter’s Jennifer Carpenter, a stealthy addition to the cast-list. 7: A special message from Seattle’s historic Cinerama, across the street from another scene shot on Sunday afternoon.
“Turtles and Teamsters unite!” was the battle cry, via bullhorn by Andre 3000, with Michelle Rodriguez by his side, on a shoot for Stuart Townsend’s directorial debut - The Battle in Seattle, based on the 1999 riots and protests that overtook the downtown area (a reported 50,000 plus demonstrators over 5 days), rallying against the World Trade Organization’s first ministerial meeting in the U.S. The protests, pushed on by a brutal show of force by authorities looking to stem the tide (and local civic leaders woefully unprepared for the quickly escalating violence) eventually led to areas of the city being put under martial law until order could be restored.
The 10 million dollar budget for the film is paltry, especially when you consider the names involved (Charlize Theron, Woody Harrelson, Ray Liotta, Susan Sarandon, along with Benjamin and Rodriguez) and the scope of the events that Townsend is aiming to re-create (1999 footage - YouTube). Already having filmed much of Battle in Vancouver (which has doubled for just about any city, and where unforeseen snow days required rewrites), the cast and crew finally made it to Seattle proper this past weekend, with scenes shot in the Capitol Hill area (in front of The Paramount Theater) and the Seattle Center (the Seattle P.I. notes a rumor that Charlize Theron bared all there) on Saturday, then the Belltown area on Sunday, where passersby could spend the better part of a morning eyeing the extras (some of them were legitimate participants in the real thing) and stars marching, adorned in different gear to represent their respective causes and factions.
In Townsend’s words, The Battle in Seattle features “protestors, pedestrians, politicos, police, delegates and doctors” as the central characters, where “no perspective is left untold.” Battle is scheduled for release in late 2007.
- Posted by Ted Zee on December 11th 2006 | 3 Comments
- Dennis Hopper and director Alexander Payne (Election, Sideways) are among the lastest to offer short films for McSweeney’s quarterly DVD magazine - Wholphin. Check out the lineup, with clips and director bios for Issue 3, which you can preorder now. Should be a short wait, as the release is scheduled for “early December”.
- Trailer: Tim Robbins and Sara Polley in The Secret Life of Words
- With Weeds, Dexter, and the largely unseen/underrated Brotherhood now in their stable, Showtime is primed to make strides as many of HBO’s top hits are winding down. They’re offering a sneak preview for their latest, the second season of Sleeper Cell, what TV Guide calls “unnervingly topical suspense…reminiscent of 24 but about a dozen times more realistic”. View the entire first episode here. The password is “sneakpeek”. The series debuts this Sunday (12/10) with new episodes running every evening until the conclusion on December 17th. All 8 episodes will be available On Demand by the 10th.
- Audio tip: NPR’s Ira Glass is developing a small screen adaptation for his popular radio show This American Life (listen to the show’s archives), to debut on Showtime in March. “We basically said ‘no’ for a year and half,” Glass recalls. “And we kept saying we have no idea how to… be filmmakers. You have to hook us up with people who could design something that got across the feeling of the radio show.” - read or listen, via All Things Considered.
- Last warning for the debut of Six Feet Under’s Peter Krause in the Sci-Fi Network’s miniseries The Lost Room (earlier chatter here and here). View clips and promos from the official site, and another 2 minute clip featuring Krause and Juliana Margulies, provided by IGN. The Lost Room premieres Monday, December 11th.
- Posted by Ted Zee on December 08th 2006 | 0 Comments
Viewing Tips: Wholphin, 'The Secret Life of Words', 'Sleeper Cell', 'This American Life', 'The Lost Room'
Appearing in over 60 film and television roles, ranging from Goodfellas to Ghost World, Law and Order to Six Feet Under, Illeana Douglas seems to relish in supporting roles, but in a series of shorts she wrote and produced for The Sundance Channel, she finds herself as the center of attention, humbly so, in Illeanarama. The first episode has been released online, as Douglas spites her screen career for the bright lights and fresh produce found at the local supermarket, which in time becomes the hot retreat for Hollywood types. The first spot includes (Christopher Guest favorite) Jane Lynch and Justine Bateman (Family Ties), with more appearances lined up for Gene Wilder, Ed Begly Jr., and Jeff Goldblum.
via Pop Candy
- Posted by Ted Zee on December 07th 2006 | 5 Comments
Director Jean-Pierre Jeunet, who discovered upstart actress Audrey Tautou on a poster for 1999’s Venus Beauty Institute while walking the streets of Paris, brought her in for a screen test after Emily Watson, who the starring role was originally intended for, turned it down:
“When I did the test, immediately I knew. Like a sportsman, she has a great sense of timing. The best part — she can step into another persona, and she is so young. It was a revelation.” - S.F. Chronicle
Video via Risky Biz
- Posted by Ted Zee on December 07th 2006 | 3 Comments
In some places you can get a smack for linking to a 2 week old newspaper article, but there’s been such a tight lid kept on the production of Spike Jonze’s adaptation of Where The Wild Things Are that I’ll risk it, in the interest of the people. First: behind the scenes in Australia. Second: wrap party, last week (last item). Previously: Catherine O’Hara rapped about workshopping and such with the likes of Forest Whitaker, James Gandolfini, Catherine Keener, and Michelle Williams in preparation for voice-over work in the film.
Production Weekly reports that John C. Reilly will team with 40 Year Old Virgin writer/director Judd Apatow to star in Walk Hard, a parody of the current crop of musical biographies that are so hot with the Oscar crowd right now.
Related: Reilly says of Paul Thomas Anderson’s There Will Be Blood: “I haven’t seen the whole thing. I’ve seen like an hour and 20 minutes, and it is just incredible. If you’re a fan of his movies, it’s really going to blow your mind. It’s such a departure from everything he’s done before, but it’s so good and there’s no one in it that he’s worked with before.” - via Swede Degrell
Scarlett Johansson, nude on screen - basically a “when”, not an “if” proposition. - SlashFilm
Blockbuster stores looking to steal Netflix customers through a holiday promotion, giving one free rental to subscribers that bring in an address label from the tell-tale red envelopes - Variety
“Michael’s finding a way of doing that differently than [Leonard] Nimoy did with Spock, but what I enjoy about [Hall’s] performance in [”Dexter“] is you see these moments where there is this little emotional undercurrent where he’s not totally devoid of emotion, and that’s a really fascinating acting choice on Michael’s part that I’m really enjoying about the show.” - Peter Krause, while promoting The Lost Room (premieres Monday, Dec. 11th), on his Six Feet Under brother, Michael C. Hall. - New York Post via TV Tattle
Meet Andre Royo, aka Bubbles, from The Wire. And meet co-writer/creator David Simon while you’re at it, who at the tail end of this lengthly interview with Slate, crosses his fingers so that Spike Lee might direct the Season 5 opener.
In celebration of the DVD release for the 1983 video arcade sex-farce comedy Joysticks, a commercial for what’s widely known as “the worst video game of all time” - E.T., for the Atari 2600. Video - Youtube
Finally, speaking of delayed DVD’s - Eddie Murphy’s Delirious, a long time coming. - Cinematical
- Posted by Ted Zee on December 06th 2006 | 10 Comments