Friday, March 29, 2013

Film Review: Quentin Dupieux's Wrong

If, by chance, any of you fine folks out there, saw, and liked, Parisian-born, electronic musician turned filmmaker Quentin Dupieux's last film, titled Rubber, a film ostensibly centered around an abandoned car tire that somehow attains sentience, and goes on a killing spree in the deserts of the southwest, murdering people with, what seems to be telekinesis, then it is a pretty good bet that you might just like the director's new film as well.  But, if you are one of those who thought Rubber was a, let's say, steaming pile of dog shit - and there are probably more of the latter than the former - then it is an equally good bet that you should probably avoid this new film like one would avoid the veritable plague.  Lucky for me, I am in the former group, so Dupieux's simply titled, Wrong, though not as flat-out enjoyable as Rubber (less frantic but more cerebral indeed), is just my so-called cup of tea.  Granted, this tea may very well have been laced with something (think David Lynch meets Charlie Kaufman), but it still tastes pretty darn good to me.    

Now, to set up the plot of this film for the non-initiated, may be a little difficult.  Sure, I can tell you that the film is about a man named Dolph, who loses his dog, Paul.  I can let you know that in actuality, Paul has been kidnapped by a a mysterious self help guru who goes by the name of Mr. Chang.  I could also mention that there may be man/dog telepathy involved, as well as mind control, matter-of-fact returns from the dead, odd occurrences, such as a palm tree suddenly becoming a pine tree, or a torrential downpour inside an office building, that is never even questioned (much like the ever-burning house in Charlie Kaufman's Synecdoche, New York), and to top it all off, time itself may have no meaning whatsoever.  Oh yeah, and we get to see the inner thoughts of a dog turd as well.  And, these things are merely the tip of the batshitcrazy iceberg that is Quentin Dupieux's aptly titled, Wrong.  Trust me, once you experience the film's opening shot, you will know whether you are in the rightest of places or in the the wrongest - all depending on which side of the fence you were on with Rubber.

Overall, the film is not as purely enjoyable as Rubber, a film that abandoned all rights of narrative and acted as pure, unadulterated pulp kitsch, but it is still a decidedly fun film to watch.  I mentioned David Lynch earlier, and any Lynchian worth their salt can see how influenced by the Maestro of Missoula, M. Dupieux obviously is.   For those who would rather eat a sentient sociopathic rubber tire, than sit through anything even remotely similar to Rubber (though Wrong is quite different), all this ranting and raving and general hoopla over the director's new film, is probably all for naught, but what the hell.  Really though, rant and rave is really all I can do, for fear of giving some plot twist away.  Hell, even the twists that are seen coming, are better left to be seen than read.  Outside of generalizations and hints at what is going down (did I mention the dog turd thing?) this is a film that you must see to believe.  Being rather an odd duck myself (I did not think Rubber was really all that out there, nor did I find the aforementioned David Lynch or Charlie Kaufman to be all that out there either), Wrong does not come off all, um...wrong, but I am sure there are those out there - those damn Rubber haters - that would think the whole shebang just downright wrong.  Oh well, their loss.

Thursday, March 28, 2013

Forces of Geek "A History of Sci-Fi Cinema" Column - Part IV

The fine folks over at Forces of Geek have allowed me the space and time to ramble on about the history of science fiction cinema.  These bi-weekly columns, will make an attempt, however feeble, at discussing the history of this often chided cinematic genre.  From its birth to the latest CGI box office hits, I will take a look at the films that have filled the genre, as well as their literary influences and TV offshoots.  In this episode, my fourth in the series, I take a look at the the onslaught of horror and sci-fi from Universal, at the serials of the day, and at a big ole loveable ape by the name of Kong.

Read my column, "Universal Horror, Space Age Heroes, and a Giant Ape Falls in Love," at Forces of Geek.

For links to all the parts in this series, go here, and scroll down to the Forces of Geek section.

Wednesday, March 27, 2013

Film Review: Harmony Korine's Spring Breakers

Much the way Ken Russell's infamous 1991 film, Whore, turned the tables on Disney's ultra-sanitized, hooker-with-a-heart-of-gold film, Pretty Woman, Harmony Korine's controversial new film, Spring Breakers, gives all of those exploitative teen sex comedies the proverbial middle finger.   But, unlike the rather unremarkable Whore, Spring Breakers is a rather surprisingly wry satire on the drinking, drugs and general debauchery of that annual college-age springtime ritual we know as spring break.  In fact, it is probably Korine's most satisfying film yet.  Well, I am not sure if satisfying is the best term to use when describing anything by l'enfant terrible Harmony Korine (just ask David Letterman and/or Meryl Streep), but I must admit, I was pretty damn satisfied, so I am sticking with the word.

Korine, who for better or for worse, can be considered the Lars von Trier of American cinema, has been the controversial sort ever since his screenwriting debut with Larry Clark's 1995 film, Kids.  Making his own directorial debut with the 1997 film Gummo, a movie that was called both vile and sublime at the time - and sometimes by the same person - Korine has been a purveyor of the ugly and downtrodden.  Influenced by the likes of Cassevetes, Fassbinder, Herzog and Alan Clarke, Korine directed four feature films (and a slew of shorts and art installations) before this, and not a single one has met with anything less than disdain from the so-called mainstream, but yet here he is with what is surely his most accessible film yet.  Taking the idea of spring break, and turning it on its head, Korine's film is loud and brash and quite confrontational.  Spring Breakers is also a stunning work of cinema, that captures the harrowing side of society, and creates something strangely beautiful.  Korine's film, decorated with the bathing beauties of the Florida beaches - most of them drunk and apt fodder for a comeback of those Girls Gone Wild videos of the 1990's - is alluring and erotic, not so much for the sexuality of the goings-on (said goings-on are more ridiculous and/or pathetic, than sexy), but for the way Korine puts it altogether in a way that matches the surprising beauty of his third (and my favourite of his oeuvre) film, the enigmatic Mister Lonely.

What really makes Korine's film as intriguing as it damn well is, is the unique casting of the whole thing.  Now, I am sure such casting is unique just in order to be unique, just as Korine often pushes buttons just to, know, but it still is quite a fun little crew the director has put together.  Korine takes Vanessa Hudgens of Disney's High School Musical fame, Ashley Bensen of ABC Family's Pretty Little Liars, and ex Disney star (and ex-Beiber girl) Selena Gomez, and tosses them right into the middle of the aforementioned debauchery of spring break.  Most likely taking the roles in order to dirty up their typically squeaky images (granted, Hudgens already managed that through a publicly-outed sexting incident a few years back) this trio of former teen TV shows, manage, for the most part, to do just that.  Granted, Gomez still acts the good girl here, never delving into the nudity and so-called sexual depravity (not really depravity in any sense of the word in my mind, but other, more conservative folk would surely think so) that the other girls do, but for her, one supposes it is a stretch.  Benson and Hudgens definitely stretch.  Korine also tosses in his own wife, Rachel Korine, as the fourth in this out-for-kicks quartet (and media hype be damned, for the mostly unknown Mrs. Korine is, probably because of being the most real of the girls, the sexiest of the bunch - and perhaps the most fleshed out, character-wise as well) and, in the role of Alien, a rapper-cum-drug dealer-cum-nasty-assed white boy gangsta-wannabe, the rather ubiquitous Mr. James Franco - right off his own Disney-funded project, Oz the Great and Powerful.  Putting all of these unique factors together, Harmony Korine has handed us what can surely be called, his most satisfying work yet.  Hell, let's just come right out and call it the director's best damn movie yet.  So there.

Saturday, March 23, 2013

Film Review: Park Chan-wook's Stoker

Granted, it is probably a bit early in 2013 to start tossing around monikers like best of the year, and yes, there is bound to be at least a film or two yet to come, that will inevitably top it, but at this particular time, on this particular day in mid-to-late March, one has no other ethical recourse but to hand such a moniker to Park Chan-wook's English-language debut, the beautifully enigmatic Stoker. Full of the succulent detail found in the oeuvre of the Korean auteur (Park's regular cinematographer, Chung-hoon Chung, has come along to Hollywood for the ride as well), and done in the most intriguing, the most metaphorically daring, the most psycho-sexual manner possible, even if we are seeing a somewhat different side of Park Chan-wook than we are used to.  When we see Mia Wasikowska, as the newly eighteen year old India Stoker, dressed in saddle shoes, a spider crawling dangerously close to her nether regions, eyes staring not at you, but through you, we know we are in a different kind of world here - a newly discovered Park Chan-wook kind of world.  But then, Stoker was around long before the Korean ex-pat signed his name to the dotted line.

Written by Wentworth Miller (that dude from Prison Break, as a friend put it, when finding out who scripted the film), the screenplay floundered about Hollywood for at least two years before finally being made, even managing to be voted one of the ten best unproduced screenplays of 2010.  Though with obvious reference to Bram Stoker, this film is not a vampire movie per se - though one could argue such a fact, if daring to speak in the metaphorical - but actually more of the kind of psycho-sexual thriller that made Alfred Hitchcock the best known director on the planet in the 1940's and 1950's.  So Hitchcockian is Stoker, and Miller has said he based the basic premise of his screenplay on Hitch's 1943 classic, Shadow of a Doubt, even giving Matthew Goode's character the name of Uncle Charlie, after Joseph Cotten from the Hitchcock classic, that we see Park almost channel the master of suspense throughout his film.  From the (mostly) unreleased sexual tension, to the charming sociopath, to the use of trains as sexual euphemism, Stoker is, at times, the epitome of the Hitchcockian motif, but here, both Miller and Park take their characters in a much more twisted direction than Hitch was ever able to do under the tight Production Code of the time.  A beautifully filmed, delectably manicured, visceral kind of direction.  The kind of cinematic creature that sinks its metaphorical fangs into you, and just refuses to let go at any price, dragging you along as its victim of circumstance, as it darkly and dankly treads brilliantly visual and rapaciously emotional caverns as if the most disarming, and therefore dangerous kind of filmic spelunker. 

Now I know some of my fellow critics have been harping on about how, without the artistic freedoms Park is usually afforded back home in Korea, the film suffers, but nothing could be further from the so-called truth.   Sure, we do not get the in-your-face-ness of Park's typical oeuvre, a vicious streak that came boiling well over the surface of films like Oldboy and Lady Vengeance - a boiling over that I quite liked by the way - but in its place, we are handed a quiet and melodic, and rivetingly unnerving, film experience.   We are given a creature that near-perfectly blends together the appalling and gruesome tropes of horror with the alluring and titillating aspects of a thriller.  When Wong Kar-wai made his first attempt at an English-language film in 2008, the often unfairly maligned My Blueberry Nights, the usually cool and collected Hong Kong director, let loose with a brazen American hoot and holler.  With Stoker, the typically audacious Korean auteur, takes the opposite approach, and creates the kind of film that grabs it strength through a sort of restrained unfamiliarity.  From beginning to end, which is actually the beginning again, Stoker exudes the creepiest of vibes, even when nothing particularly creepy is happening at the moment, and it is in this very aspect that Park brilliantly succeeds in creating what this critic has no other ethical recourse but to call, at this particular time, on this particular day in mid-to-late March, the best film of the year.

Thursday, March 21, 2013

Battle Royale #12: Battle of the Foxy Flappers

Welcome to the twelfth Battle Royale here at The Most Beautiful Fraud in the World.   It is an ongoing series that will pit two classic cinematic greats against each other - and you can vote for who is the greater by clicking your choice over in the poll at the top of the sidebar.

For the twelfth installment of Battle Royale, we are heading back to those halcyon pre-code days of the late silent era and the early sound era - back to that Jazz Age where the booze ran freely (though in supposed hush hush, of course) and the women ran even more so - and how (and not so hush hush).  Yessiree, we are heading back to the days of the flapper.  The days of the bootlegger and the Bronx cheer.  The days of the hood and the hooch and the horsefeathers.  Back to the days when sex sold, and we weren't afraid to say so.  And what two better flappers, what two foxier flappers can you think of, than Miss Louise Brooks and Miss Clara Bow.  Yep, that's right kiddies, it's Lulu versus the It Girl.  Time to get your vote on.  But first, in case you are woefully unfamiliar with these two cinematic beauties - and yes, everyone should be acquainted with them, it has been eighty-some years since either one could be considered relevant in the film industry - please allow me to expand your knowledge base just a bit.

Mary Louise Brooks, a Kansas girl from way back, was just on the verge of superstardom when sound came around, but due to not wanting to be controlled by the studios, or more specifically, Adolph Zukor and Paramount Pictures, the actress with the distinctive bob haircut (she started a trend ya know) and the nickname of Lulu, packed her bags and went off to Germany, becoming the muse for German auteur Georg Wilhelm Pabst, probably second only to Fritz Lang in popularity at the time in theses pre-Hitler days.  Brooks would make just two films with Pabst, but both of them, Pandora's Box and Diary of a Lost Girl, both released in 1929, are still considered masterpieces to this day.  After returning to Hollywood, Brooks' career was stunted, as, thanks to Zukor's unofficial blacklisting of the actress, she was only able to get small parts in mediocre movies, or big parts in terrible movies.  She would retire from acting in 1938, and would eventually, after years of alcohol abuse, become a writer, specializing in the cinema of her youth.  

Meanwhile, Clara Bow, easily the bigger star of the two at the time, was known as the It Girl, and would become the epitome of the flapper on film (though don't let that sway your vote here).  Starring in many flapper films of the age, as well as a role in Wings, the very first Best Picture Oscar winner, Bow was a shining star at Paramount, but her private life left more than a bit of uproar.  Much like the aforementioned Miss Brooks, Bow was a rather boisterous person, and indeed, quite the partier.  Of course, many in Hollywood were quite rambunctious in those days, but Bow took such a life to extremes.  After getting married, retiring from acting in 1933, and moving onto ranch life in the wilds of Nevada, Bow said of her career, "My life in Hollywood contained plenty of uproar. I'm sorry for a lot of it but not awfully sorry. I never did anything to hurt anyone else. I made a place for myself on the screen and you can't do that by being Mrs. Alcott's idea of a Little Women."

All you need do is to go on over to the poll, found conveniently near the top of the sidebar of this very same site, and click on who you think is the greater of these two long lost legends of the screen - these two foxy flappers.  And remember, you can comment all you wish (and please do comment - we can never have too many of those) but in order for your vote to be counted, you must vote in the actual poll.  After doing that, then you can come back over here and leave all the comments your heart desires.  Who knows, maybe we will get some sort of lively cinematic discussion going.  And also please remember to tell everyone you know to get out the vote as well.  I would like to see us reach triple digits this time around.  Voting will go until midnight, EST, the night of Friday, April 5th (just over two weeks from the starting gate).  The results will be announced that weekend.  So get out there and vote vote vote.

Wednesday, March 20, 2013

Look Out, Ole LAMMY, He's Back or: The LAMMY Awards Are Back in Town, and Here's Hopin' I Maybe, Possibly Get One, Yes!?

Well folks, it is that time of year again.  The time of the year where I get snubbed by my peers, and am left cold and nominationless at the LAMMYs.  What are the LAMMYs you ask?  Well, let me tell you.  There is an organization floating around the web, and that organization is called The Large Association of Movie Blogs, or LAMB for short.  Two-and-a-half years ago, I became proud member #678 of this organization.  Now, every year, around the beginnings of Spring, there is a thing called the LAMMYs.  This is our queer little version of the Oscars.  With categories such as Best Movie Reviewer, Best Classic Film Blog, Best New LAMB, Most Knowledgeable (formerly called the Brainiac Award - a much better name if you ask me), Best Horror Blog, Best Design, and the big boy, Best Blog, among others, we LAMBs go about campaigning for votes from our fellow LAMBs.  Or we do nothing, and hope for the best.  Or we just ignore the whole damn thing and go on with our lives.  I personally do the former, and campaign for votes from my fellow LAMBs.  

In years one and two of my eligibility for such awards, I received exactly zero nominations, and thus, no wins at all.   Yes folks, just like Marilyn Monroe, Rita Hayworth, Tyrone Power, Veronica Lake, Boris Karloff, Ida Lupino and Edward G. Robinson, never having received even a single Oscar nomination throughout their careers, I have never received a LAMMY nod.  Now granted, my career as a LAMMY possibility is only just now in its third year, so perhaps it is not a lost cause after all.  And, giving me even more hope this time around, is the new way of going about nominating this year.  With much more concise rules, and a list of eligibles in each category (as opposed to the 1500+ member free-for-all of past years, where basically only the cool guy clique members got nominations), we hopefuls have a better chance.  Personally, I have submitted myself in five different categories - Best Blog, Best Movie Reviewer, Most Knowledgeable, Best Design, and Best Running Feature, wherein I have two eligible features, my Battle Royale series and My Favourite Things series.  Now I figure Best Blog is probably a no go (the cool kids are still bound to be there), and Best Design would be a fluke nomination (my website is nice-looking, but still quite basic when it comes to web design), and the Running Features category is so stuffed to the gills, it will probably not happen.  The other two though - Reviewer and the old Brainiac award - are the ones I am hopeful about, as well as the ones I consider the highest of honours, so there lie the most desirable of the bunch.

And speaking of campaigning (I did speak of such things earlier - go back and check if you do not believe me) pictured above and to the right, is my FYC banner for this year's LAMMY (and there are some alternately coloured ones below as well).  Past banners (and past pleas) can be viewed here and here.  Now, at this point, if you haven't already dozed off or abandoned me for some other cyberspace shiny object, you are probably wondering how the hell do I vote for this guy!?  Well, unless you are also a LAMB member, you sadly cannot, but all those fellow LAMMYs reading this, well you know what to do.  Voting runs through April 3rd, at the LAMB (all eligible nominees can be found here, and a link to the actual voting booth, as it were, can be found here) and hopefully I can count on your vote, and yada yada yada, and all that jazz.  Yeah, Marilyn, Rita, Karloff and Eddie G. are fine company to be in, but, shallow as it may seem, I think I would rather have me a nomination or two as well.  That'll show 'em.  Here's hopin'.

Monday, March 18, 2013

Susan George Ooh LaLa's Herself Around the Giddily Exploitative Motifs of Pete Walker's Immensly Fun Die Screaming, Marianne

When a film, after already spending an almost ten minute long prologue fixated on the scantily-garbed protagonist, the titular screaming Marianne, running from the bed she shared with a hapless sailor who, like a post-coitus satisfied puppy, happily goes along with the masters-at-arms when he is arrested for going awol, to the speeding sports car of a stranger, has an opening credit sequence involving star Susan George, now dressed in nothing but an appropriately alluring string bikini, gogo dancing to Kathe Green's haunting song, Marianne, you know you have hit the veritable jackpot of any self-respecting expoitation/grindhouse junky, such as I.   In fact, it is the kind of film that, when you look at the newly released blu-ray case (wonderfully done by Kino Lorber's Redemption label, but more on that a bit later), you are surprised to not find the words "Quentin Tarantino Presents" scrawled across the top.

Okay, okay, maybe everyone isn't as into this style of filmmaking as QT and I are, but really, even those unfamiliar with such "low brow" art as this, would probably, at the very least, get a kick out of Die Screaming, Marianne.  Right?  Okay, probably not, but for those horror/thriller fans, those Pete Walker fans, those denizens of the dark cellars of underground cinema, this is truly a great joy to watch.  The needless running about of beautiful women, flauntin' what god gave 'em; the cheap language and, let's face it, pretty awful dialogue and acting; the giddy split-screening moments; the swelling music and genre-specific luridness.  All of it equates to, not art cinema, not mainstream cinema, but the trash of the film world.  But oh darlin', what fun and alluring trash it is.  And yes, as I am a shining example of, one can like the so-called higher art of cinema - you know, the canonical stuff that always makes those greatest films list (many of which adorn my own favourites list) - and still get the biggest kick out of what many would call trash cinema.  

Pauline Kael, a critic from whom a generation of acolytic Paulettes, myself included, have been born, said of such things, "Movies are so rarely great art, that if we cannot appreciate great trash, we have very little reason to be interested in them."  I don't know if I agree with such a statement, at least not fully, but it does have some merit indeed.  Kael also spoke of such trashy ideas, when she wrote, "When you clean them up, when you make movies respectable, you kill them. The wellspring of their art, their greatness, is in not being respectable."  Again, not something I would totally stand behind - I like Citizen Kane as much as the next film snob - but one sees where she is going with such talk.  The staid academic flavour of an Antonioni or a Tarkovsky, even if they are creating solid pieces of cinema, or the pedestrian manner of all those high-falutin' arthouse pics that try to be something they just are not, the kind of films that the enfants terribles of the Nouvelle Vague were rebelling against, or the achingly middle-of-the-road fodder that spews forth from Hollywood at a ratio of about 100 to 1 against that auspicious creature, that rare mainstream work of art.  All of these beasts can make way any day, for what Kael calls trash cinema.  Sure, it is great to play the cinematic intellectual - and god knows I can play the film snob with the best of 'em - but it is just as fun to wallow in the so-called trash of the film world, and even though visually, Die Screaming, Marianne is quite the work (can a film this obscure be this influential, or is it just that this film is influenced by  the obvious usual suspects), it surely is pure trash cinema - and I mean that in the most complimentary way.

But enough of this trash talk (see what I did there), let's move on to exactly what all this trash is about, shall we?  Die Screaming, Marianne was the third of what would eventually be fifteen films, by English writer/director Pete Walker.  Walker specialized in horror and exploitation films throughout his career, and even amongst that crowd, which included such directors as Mario Bava and Jess Franco, he was one of the lesser known quantities.   Never getting much respect at all, often derided by contemporary critics, Walker made movies for the sheer fun of it.   The filmmaker is credited as having said, "I was the uninvited guest to the British film industry. Nobody wanted to know me. I knew I wanted to make films, but I would see these serious-looking guys going around with scripts under their arm, spending three or four years trying to get their films made. I couldn't be like that - I had to make a living and I wanted to get behind a camera and shout "action". So I would go out and shoot something like School for Sex - God, that was a terrible film - and a few weeks later every cinema in the country would be showing it."  Walker would kind of denounce his own self-criticism later by saying, "But recently I had to record commentary for the DVD releases, so I saw the films for the first time since making them, and you know what? They're not as bad as I thought. But searching for hidden meaning . . . they were just films. All I wanted to do was create a bit of mischief."  Granted, Die Screaming, Marianne is the first, and so far only, Pete Walker film this critic has seen, but it is more than enough of a whistle-wetting, to make me search out the director's other works.

The basic gist of the film, is this: twenty year old Marianne is first seen running from the hoodlums sent after her by her sadistic ex-judge father.  We find out that upon Marianne's mothers disappearance/death, the young girl was given the number to a Swiss bank account that held several hundred thousand dollars, as well as papers that would put her father away for life.  And all this will be hers upon her twenty-first birthday.  Of course, her evil dad, and even more evil half sister, want that number, and will do anything to get it.  There is a lot more twisting and turning in the film, but this is the basic storyline.  Full of sex, violence, torture, and even a hint of incest thrown in for good measure, Die Screaming, Marianne, is a perfect example of the great trash that Kael spoke so fondly of.  Influenced, judging from the artistry of Walker's style here, by the Italian Giallo genre, it is far from a great film - one may be able to associate his love of cheap cinema with someone like Ed Wood, but his talent, at least judging from this one film, is far superior - it is however quite a lot of fun, and actually, as I just more than alluded to, quite artistic in its style, camerawork and overall mood, but the thing that makes the film go splash-and-a-half, is the aforementioned screaming mimi in a string bikini, Miss Susan George. 

The film was made and released in 1971, the very pinnacle of George's rather brief rise to the upper echelon of acting.  Out around the same time as Sam Peckinpah's subversive yet  influential Straw Dogs, George was the very epitome of raw sexual desire, and directors used that to their best advantage.  George would only make a handful of films of any note (Dirty Mary, Crazy Larry and the oft-overlooked Mandingo among them), and would eventually semi-retire from the movies, doing the occasional British TV show, and raise Arabian horses on her stud farm, but that raw sexuality, even if it was inside someone who really was never the greatest of thespians, is more than enough to get the home town thugs of Straw Dogs all riled up, and it is most certainly enough also to get pretty much everyone, even a father, in a tizzy right here in Die Screaming, Marianne.  But truly, the film is a fun creature indeed, and its new release on blu-ray, via Kino Lorber's enigmatic Redemption label (see, I told you I was going to get back to this in a bit) is a godsend for any genre fans out there.  As clean and as crisp as one can expect from such a low budget, and let's face it, mostly ignored, and therefore probably not cared for like a classic film would and should be, the bluray transfer is quite good.  It really is a rather intriguing piece of work from Pete Walker, and I cannot wait to check out his other work.

Sunday, March 17, 2013

Battle Royale #11: Battle of the Sexes (The Results)

Well that sure was a pretty weak Battle Royale now, wasn't it?  With just 34 votes cast, this latest edition, this Battle of the Sexes, was the second lowest voter turnout we have seen so far.  For those so interested, the battle between sisters Olivia de Havilland and Joan Fontaine, with a mere 28 votes, was the lowest, but we are hear to talk about Spencer Tracy versus long time love, Katharine Hepburn.  In the nine films the duo did together, Tracy received billing above Miss Hepburn, in all nine of them.  When asked why this was, Tracy was known for stating the simplest of reasons - he was the man.  Surprisingly, the quite liberated Hepburn allowed him o get away with this - well, at least in public.  Anyway, even though Tracy got top billing in their films, it is Hepburn who takes away the prize in the eleventh Battle Royale - and boy, does she ever run away with it here.  Out of those aforementioned (meager) 34 votes, the four time Oscar winner (a record ya know), received 25 of them.  Yep, that's right folks, the second-billed Katharine Hepburn won - hands down - by a final tally of 25 votes (or 74% for the more statistically-minded) to Spencer Tracy's rather pathetic nine votes (or just 26%).  Incidentally, this was the second worst drubbing anyone has gotten thus far, falling just short of what the Marx Brothers handed to The Three Stooges.  Well, at least Tracy still has his manly nine top billings over his lover.  That's something, right?

But enough of all that.  What I really want to know is, where the hell were are the voters this time around?  Well, where the hell were you!?  Not talking, huh?  Be that way.  What I would like to see, when we return in a few days with Battle Royale #12, a battle that will take us to the Jazz age and some pretty sexy bob haircuts, is a lot of voting dammit.  A lot of it.  I know I have been saying this all along, so why stop now.  I would love to see the voter turnout get into the triple digits.  I know we can do it - I have faith in my faithful readers.  So when the new Battle Royale pops up on Wednesday or Thursday (surely one of those two days), get your vote on - and tell everyone you know to do the same.  I know there are more than enough classic film lovers out there to make this a reality.  So, here's a-hopin'.

Friday, March 15, 2013

Forces of Geek "A History of Sci-Fi Cinema" Column - Part III

The fine folks over at Forces of Geek have allowed me the space and time to ramble on about the history of science fiction cinema.  These bi-weekly columns, will make an attempt, however feeble, at discussing the history of this often chided cinematic genre.  From its birth to the latest CGI box office hits, I will take a look at the films that have filled the genre, as well as their literary influences and TV offshoots.  In this episode, my third in the series, I take a look at the the 1920's and the expressionistic and art deco work of Fritz Lang, and especially at his great classic of the genre, Metropolis.

Read my column, "Fritz Lang, Metropolis and German Expressionism," at Forces of Geek.

  For links to all the parts in this series, go here, and scroll down to the Forces of Geek section.

Thursday, March 14, 2013

Film Review: Sally Potter's Ginger and Rosa

Yes, the material - the classic coming-of-age tale, betrayal, angst, the endless possibilities and seemingly endless problems of adolescence - is surely familiar ground, having been tackled in an untold myriad of past movies, TV shows, books, comics, plays, poetry and even in song, but the way director Sally Potter, the woman behind such esoteric oddities as The Gold Diggers and The Man Who Cried, but who is best known for the Tilda Swinton starring gender bending, time traveling Virginia Woolf adaptation, Orlando, along with her cinematographer Robbie Ryan, the man behind the moody look of Andrea Arnold's Red Road and Fish Tank, make the film look and feel, such familiar ground is given a jagged, unexpected feel, even while maintaining what is essentially a smoothly melancholy mood throughout, eventually falling into the disarray of what the tormented life of the film's main protagonist becomes.  Then again, even Potter's unique way with settings, and Ryan's equally unique way of setting those shots up, both of which give the film a truly bygone feel, full of what seems like tragic romance and long forgotten pasts, do not necessarily save Ginger and Rosa from its fateful date with the inevitable mediocrity that comes with, and awaits such familiar ground in film - and there are more than a few cliche's running around here - as much as the performance of the young and, dare I say, brilliantly talented, Miss Elle Fanning, in that aforementioned main protagonist role, does.  One could, would and most definitely should, say that the young Miss Fanning, runs away with the movie.

Just fourteen years old (she will turn fifteen next month), though playing a character of seventeen, which just gives more proof of the young thespian's prowess as an actor, Miss Fanning, is Ginger, the more prominent of the titular duo of besties for (almost) life.  Co-starring the eighteen year old Alice Englert, daughter of filmmaker Jane Campion, and who can be seen right now in Beautiful Creatures (this film technically came first so the credit of "introducing" is used here), Ginger and Rosa is the story of best friends who are both born of the atomic bomb - apparently born in England, side by side in hospital cots, as Hiroshima was being bombed into submission half a world away - and who are now living in a cold war world, as news of the 1962 Cuban Missile Crisis is being blasted across the radio throughout the film.  Both girls are from broken homes.  Rosa is fatherless, and is forced to help her cleaning lady mum out with a brood of younger siblings, while Ginger's father (Allesandro Nivola) - who insists on being called Roland, as dad is too bourgeois of a title for his anarchist ways - sleeps around, and comes and goes as he pleases, leaving her mum (Christina Hendricks) an emotional wreck, and leaving Ginger in a constant state of sadness, either blatantly so, or often hidden behind a facade of gaiety.  We are shown these actions through Ginger's POV, so it is the emotions of a young, and still quite naive, girl, that we get here, and therefore, never the whole story.  

We see these two girls going about life, in those days of burgeoning sexuality, and typical teenage rebellion.  As Rosa takes an overtly sexual path - including the inevitable hook up with Ginger's dad, Roland - Ginger takes the path of most resistance, becoming more and more active in the nuclear disarmament protest movement of the time, and taken under the wing of her godfathers, a middle age gay couple, both named Mark (Timothy Spall and Oliver Platt as Mark and Mark II, as they are called), and their visiting American poet friend, May Bella (delightfully played in the all-too-small part by Annette Bening), more and more angry with the world that scares her so much.  Fanning's performance is an instinctive piece of work, and anyone already familiar with her work in Sofia Coppola's 2010 film, Somewhere, will not be surprised at such a display of naturalistic acting.  With a face as angelic as it is both beautiful and dangerously anguished, her hair dyed red for the role, and the most expressive of faces at that, the young Fanning, already far surpassing older sister Dakota's flame, plays Ginger with equal parts tragedy and romantic idealism - a siren upon the screen, if you will, bashing our own emotions against the proverbial rocks, as her Ginger is ripped apart from the inside out, finally exploding, and exposing her guarded psyche, in the penultimate, cathartic scene.  Quite remarkable indeed, even if treading dangerously on old familiar ground, and having an inherent streak for cliche.  Quiet remarkable indeed.

Saturday, March 9, 2013

Film Review: Sam Raimi's Oz the Great and Powerful

To co-opt a catch phrase from Mike Myers old SNL Coffee Talk character, Linda Richman, Oz the Great and Powerful is neither great, nor particularly all that powerful.  Discuss.  In fact, it is pretty goddamn mediocre if you ask this critic, which, I am assuming, since you are currently reading this review, you did, in a way, ask.  Now granted, there are some pretty remarkable looking set pieces to be found in Sam Raimi's new motion picture (can we even call them that anymore?), but really, once one gets past the brightly coloured flowers - some quite lethal mind you - and the shimmering excesses of the fabled Emerald City, as well as the waterfalls and poppy fields and a demolished porcelain village known as - and I love this one - China Town, the movie itself is quite lackluster in its narrative, and quite pedestrian and predictable in its obvious, but yes, inevitable, climax.  Not necessarily a terrible movie, like Tim Burton's 2010 cover of Alice in Wonderland, its closest modern-day brethren, just as Carroll's books were the closest contemporaries to Baum's original Oz novels, or as godawful as Lucas' Star Wars prequels, which may even be a closer compatriot to the idea of this movie, but still quite bland indeed.

Now, before I go on, I should probably warn of a bit of a spoiler herein.  Not much of one really, as it is obvious as one watches the film, and even more obvious if one were to look online and see which actress is playing which part, but, just in case there are any of you out there who might get upset at such an unveiling, the warning has been thrown your way.  Now, on with the review.  Oz the Great and Powerful takes place about twenty or so years before the events of The Wonderful Wizard of Oz, the first of Frank L. Baum's fourteen canonical novels, and the one that the most famous tale of the Land of Oz, 1939's The Wizard of Oz, is based upon.  Not based on any of Baum's work, Raimi's movie is an originally-conceived prequel that plays on characters we all know, and one's that we do not.  There is no Dorothy Gale here, though there is an allusion to the wizard once dating the woman who would eventually give birth to our gingham-garbed heroine of legend and lore.  There is no Toto or Tin Woodsman or Cowardly Lion either.  We do get a reference to the Scarecrow, but not the one we know, and we do get the twister, and the black and white opening set in the plains of Kansas (yeah, I know, the 1939 version is in sepia, not black and white, but why quibble about that), this time involving a dubious carny magician that will eventually become the so-called great and powerful Oz, and a wicked witch painted green, though, due to legal issues, a different shade of green than Margaret Hamilton's 1939 witch (I'm not kidding).

Now, to compare this new film to the classic, some would say, and some would be correct in saying, iconic, musical with Judy Garland and pals, would be unfair, as not many films could get a fair shake in such a comparison, but to take this film on its own merits, one must still inevitably come to the conclusion that it is a mere shadow of what it coulda, woulda, and most definitely shoulda been.  Yes indeed, in this modern day age of colour-by-numbers franchise moviemaking, the creation of something truly bold and utterly groundbreaking is a near-impossibility (one must go to the land of Malick or Fincher or Tarantino for anything even close to that in mainstreamesque moviemaking), but c'mon people, we can surely do better than this drivel.  From the casting of James Franco as the wizard before he became wizard (the usually entertaining actor's smooth conman charm works in the opening scenes, but becomes weighed down once he enters the colourful Land of Oz and falls well out of his thespianic comfort zone) and Mila Kunis as the witch Theodora, who becomes the green-skinned Wicked Witch of legend (the aforementioned make-up looks simply ridiculous on the actress, and the entire time, though through no fault of her own, I can't help but want to slap her and say "Shut up, Meg!") to the obvious middle-of-the-road way of telling the story, Raimi's film is, what one would call, a hot mess.

Sure, as I said in my opening salvo, there is a visual quality in much of the movie that makes it a worthwhile watch for that, and really that alone (something that can be seen in better films, so why really bother), including some rather spectacular and Michelle Williams, as Glinda, the Good Witch of the South (the 1939 film resets good Glinda to the North, but in the books, it is indeed the South from whence she rules) - and please excuse my rather obvious objectification - is always something worth looking at, even if she has the blandest of the all-bland band of bland witches in the movie.  Even the opening credits, playing out like the props in a traveling carnival, and the way Raimi opens his film in the old standard 4:3 Academy ratio, and widening it to 16:9 upon Franco's touchdown in the Merry Old Land of Oz, are fun elements of a movie that should really be a lot more fun than it ever manages to be.  A movie that starts out with promise and playfulness, ends in a much more mediocre manner.  In the end, all we get is a bunch of smoke and mirrors, which incidentally is kind of apropos considering the way the conniving wizard does business.  In the end, all we get is, to now co-opt a bit of Shakespeare, a bloated piece of Disneyized cinema, full of sound and fury, signifying nothing.  Nothing at all, and that is quite a shame, indeed.

Thursday, March 7, 2013

Film Review: Alex Karpovsky's Red Flag

In an interview once - I am not sure from where or with whom - writer/director/editor/actor Alex Karpovsky said that he aspired to be in the same realm of fame as directors such as Spike Jonze and Jim Jarmusch.  According to Karpovsky, this was just the right amount of fame.  Only the cool people know who you are, and you are not bothered by the world at large.  I am sure that Karpovsky would agree with the statement that he is not quite there yet, but with the release of Red Flag, a charmingly disarming comedy in the vein of a small-time Woody Allen, he is most certainly one step closer, or at the very least, should be one step closer.  The main problem with the director's new film, is not its narrative nor Karpovsky's filming techniques, nor really any of the acting, even if it does suffer from an amateurishness on occasion (a silly criticism that is really just a minor one in the whole scheme of things), but from a lack of distribution.  

You see, for Alex Karpovsky to achieve his rather median-flying aspirations of Jarmusch-hood, people need to actually see his films, and even though Red Flag is easily the most prominent of his films so far, its quite miniscule limited release, concurrent with, as is the norm in Indie Cinema these days, a Video-on-Demand release, ends up making it an unseen quality in most of the movie-going world.  But then again, those who should see it - those who would naturally enjoy a film such as Red Flag - are seeking it out, and perhaps this is something after all.  Of course, the fact that Karpovsky is one of the co-stars of the HBO series, Girls, created by friend and fellow Mumblecorish filmmaker - and newly-minted Golden Globe winner - Lena Dunham (he can be seen in Dunham's obscure slacker-gen film, Tiny Furniture as well), surely helps out in the whole recognizable face department.  And, I don't know if it helps or not, but Red Flag is being released side-by-side with Karpovsky's other new film, Rubberneck.  This latter film, a departure for the filmmaker, is a dark thriller, that never really does what one assumes Karpovsky wants it to do, and therefore sags while Red Flag, in all its dark comedic fun, blooms.  But, exposure is exposure, eh? 

As for the film itself, the story is pretty simple.  Alex Karpovsky plays a filmmaker named Alex Karpovsky, who, after being dumped by his long-time girlfriend for an apparent lack of commitment, is traveling the arthouse cinemas and colleges of the south, promoting a film called Woodpecker, which incidentally, is a film that Karpovsky actually made back in 2008.  This simple - and one would assume, easily played by Karpovsky - scenario is given a twist as the filmmaker is joined on his journey by an old friend and a new obsessed fan, either one of which can be described as the true looney of this haphazard road trip. Taking the typical idea of indie filmmakers writing movies about there own lives and own problems, Karposvsky twists it about to blend fact with fiction almost seamlessly.   With obvious comparisons to Woody Allen (whenever a filmmaker decides to talk frankly, yet comically, about adult relationships, one must always compare said filmmaker to Woody Allen - I believe it is a film critic rule actually) Red Flag takes its time building up to the eventual, and inevitable, climactic emotional showdown, in a film that is really not all that much like the aforementioned Mr. Allen, but is quite a fun piece of indie cinema in its own right.  Perhaps Karpovsky is not quite up to that cool factor realm of Jonze and Jarmusch, but if he keeps making films like Red Flag, he should be there soon.

Wednesday, March 6, 2013

Astaire/Rogers #2: The Gay Divorcee (1934)

The following is the second in a ten part series on the films of Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers.  Enjoy.  For the first installment in this series, please go here.  And now, on with the show.

1934's The Gay Divorcee, produced by RKO, the home of the first nine of the eventual ten Astaire/Rogers films, like many comedies of the time, including several other Astaire/Rogers films, plays under the assumption that if only everyone would just be honest with who they are and what their motives are, the ridiculous antics that inevitably ensue from such misunderstandings, could all be nipped in the proverbial bud.  Of course, if everyone did come clean with who and what they are, and what they are after, then we would never get to watch these said ridiculous antics that inevitably ensue - nor would we see the song and dance numbers that go hand-in-hand (or foot-to-foot) with the ridiculous antics - and considering that is pretty much the whole reason we are watching a film like this in the first place, that would be a shame - a shame indeed.

And speaking of said assumptions and misunderstandings, The Gay Divorcee is about a famous dancer (Astaire, of course) who falls for a pretty lady (Rogers, of course) while traveling in Europe, only to have every advance rebuffed.  Hell, he doesn't even know the girl's name.  But, not to fear, for Fred is an intrepid and determined little bastard, and get the girl he most certainly will.   After several funny, meet cute incidents, Fred and Ginger finally hook up in a London hotel, where her lawyer has hired a professional gigolo to come and act as her lover, so when her husband shows up, he will grant a divorce (marriage law must have been fun back then).  Fred, unbeknownst to any divorce schemes - unaware that she is even married in the first place - follows her to her room, where she promptly mistakes him for the hired gigolo.  The fact that Ginger's lawyer, and Fred's best friend, are the same person - played wonderfully by Fred and Ginger stalwart, Edward Everett Horton - just makes things even more confusing for the wouldbe couple.

But storyline aside - and really, though I mock it in my opening salvo, I do enjoy the screwballesque story here - the real reason we are watching this film is to see Fred and Ginger kick up there proverbial heels - and this one has some good ones.  First and foremost is Cole Porter's famous "Night and Day," sung and danced by Fred and Ginger overlooking a beach at night.  This number is the only holdover from the Broadway Musical.  The musical incidentally, was called the Gay Divorce, but apparently, the Hays Office would not have that, and made them add an extra e at the end.  Presumably, a divorce cannot be lighthearted and funny, but a divorcee can.  But even though the rest of Cole Porter's stage musical songs were left out, they were replaced quite nicely in the film.  One notable song is "Let's K-Knock K-nees," and it is most notable for not only excluding both Fred and Ginger (others should get some spotlight two one supposes) but being headlined by a then-still-unknown seventeen year old Betty Grable.  Sure, seven years later she would be the biggest box office star, and the best-selling pin-up girl of WWII, but here, she is still an unknown teenage girl.

The big number though, is the one that (almost) finishes the film.   "The Continental" is an elaborate seventeen and a half minute long number (the longest in a movie musical until Gene Kelly takes it a minute longer for his big ballet number in An American in Paris seventeen years later) that involves a huge chorus dancing along with Fred and Ginger.  The song would go on to win the very first Best Song Oscar ever awarded.  A great way to close out any show, and a great way to show off the talents of Fred and Ginger.   And, I suppose, we should feel lucky that we had such a number at all.  In fact we should be glad we had this film at all.  After Flying Down to Rio, Astaire was reluctant to partner with Rogers a second time.  After a partnership of nearly twenty-seven years (Fred was just six when they began), Fred had recently stopped performing with his older sister Adele, because of her marrying, and also because of Fred wanting to make a name for himself, instead of being in the shadow of another dancer.  Because of this, Fred was wary about committing to what might become another dancing partnership, but obviously, he was eventually convinced, and the second of ten team-ups did occur.  

And, on top of all this, The Gay Divorcee is the first of two Astaire/Rogers films to be nominated for Best Picture at the Academy Awards, the second being the following year, and arguably, the duo's most famous film, Top Hat.  But before we get to Top Hat, the duo's fourth film together, we must first talk about Roberta, which was actually headlined by Irene Dunne, with Astaire and Rogers receiving second and third billing respectively.  But not right now.  Howzabout next time around?  Until then, see ya in the funny papers.

Monday, March 4, 2013

Film Review: Austin Chick's Girls Against Boys

One one thinks of rape and revenge films, one's mind goes back to, or at least should go back to, the 1970's and 1980's, and seminal films such as I Spit on Your Grave, Lipstick and Ms. 45, as well as variation on a theme installment, The Last House on the Left, or the Swedish film that so influenced Tarantino's Kill Bill, Thriller - A Cruel Picture, ie. They Call Her One Eye.  One could even go all the way back to Ingmar Bergman's The Virgin Spring, arguably the first in the genre.  Whichever way one wishes to go, they will see a brutal, vicious film, where a woman raped (or, in some cases, the parents of the woman raped) will seek out her revenge on those who caused her such brutality, and hand out even more brutality upon them.  One finds oneself cheering for these women.  It is vigilante justice at its best - an eye for an eye, and all that.  What one gets with the latest entry in the genre, Girls Against Boys, is a cheaply made - and, unlike many other small budget films, it shows - film full of ridiculous plot holes and even more ridiculous character developments and narrative choices.  One need only look at the theatrical poster, and then watch the film, to realized what is being sold here, is not what is being advertized.

Girls Against Boys, is about a twenty-something bartender who is raped by a man she meets at a nightclub, and who ends up teaming up with her friend to seek him out and kill him.  What ensues is a weekend of murder, mayhem and, as is the case in many exploitationesque films, lots of lesbian undertones.  The fact that these two women (girl-next-door Danielle Panabaker as our intrepid victim out for payback, and sultry Nicole LaLiberte as the quite twisted, but quite helpful friend) end up cutting down men that, granted may be douche-bags of the most royal kind, but have nothing whatsoever to do with the rape, or any rape as far as we know, makes them less a scorned woman out for revenge with her kick-ass friend, and more a two-girl hit squad, who are no better than the men they have killed.  Sure, as misogynistic as cinema is - especially in the more horror/thriller based properties - I, as a male of the species, should probably not worry too much when cinematic women go on a killing spree, justified or not, for it goes the other way much more often than not (and here too, these women are sexualized more than they need to be), but it does make for a rather mangled piece of moral ambiguity - all written and directed by another male of the species, Austin Chick.

Chick takes the rape and revenge model, an already controversial one, and warps it into his own obsessive male adolescent fantasy, where women are victims of their own sexuality, and who have no recourse but to blindly destroy everything around them, before succumbing to their own latent sexual desires in the end.  Sure, both Ms. 45 and I Spit on Your Grave were directed by men, but the brutality in those films seems justified, considering what was done to the women in the films, and even when they cross a line, it too seems justified.  Here, not so much.  Here it just seems like a cheap cop-out in the narrative (the brutality here is rather low on the scofield scale of such things) or just more fodder for the sexualization of the revenge.  Yes, there of course does have to be brutality against women in such a genre, for one cannot have the revenge part with the rape, but in all the films I mentioned earlier, as well as more modern renditions like The Brave One with Jodie Foster and, in a more comedic vein, Mitchell Lichtenstein's darkly hilarious Teeth, this brutality, against the women and the caddish bastard men, is narratively necessary.  Here, again, not so much.

Still though, moral ambiguity has never been one to bother this critic - some of my favourite films fly in the face of morality - so such a thing really doesn't bother me on any level other than it's just lazy storytelling.  Then again, the fact that these women are killing people just because they happened to know the rapist, or because they left the one girl to go back to their wife (watch Andrea Arnold's Fish Tank to see how that should be handled), is not even the laziest thing in here.  Why oh why, after a weekend that includes five murders, does everything go back to relative normalcy?  Is there no investigation here?  No clues leading back to these women?  Even when the murder of a cop is involved in the festivities?  Really, nothing at all?  Okay, whatever.  I guess these women are suddenly professional hit men, and know full well how to get rid of all bodies and all evidence.  Okay, let's go with that.  Even letting such lazy storytelling slide, we are still handed the most obvious of cliché in the inevitable last act of the story.  All-in-all, we are left with a sour taste in our mouths, not necessarily for the aforementioned moral ambiguity (remember, I kinda like that aspect, at least when it is done properly), but for the cheapness of the entire production.  I suppose now I should go and re-watch I Spit on Your Grave, in order to - and this will probably sound quite weird - cleanse my palette of this junkheap of a movie.

Saturday, March 2, 2013

Film Review: Apichatpong Weerasethakul's Mekong Hotel

Mekong Hotel, the latest ditty from Thai auteur Weerasethakul Apichatpong, would be looked upon as the strangest of creatures if it were by almost any other filmmaker in the world, but since it is from who it is from - and his friends just call him Joe, by the way - this hybrid of fact and fiction, this melange of documentary and ghost-cum-vampire fable, this amalgamation of truth and legend, seems like just another day in the life of Apichatpong "Just call me Joe" Weerasethakul - and by just another day, I mean a hauntingly melodic work of cinema, that is equal parts beautiful and terrifying, luscious and vicious, mesmerizing and harrowing.  In other words, it is a film from just another film from Apichatpong Weerasethakul.

Clocking in at a slim 61 minutes, this experimental film, ostensibly blending together rehearsals for a never-made film with documentary footage of a hotel along the perennially rising waters of the Mekong River, which separates Thailand from Laos, is full of the typical beauty that is so often associated with the arthouse cinema of Mr. Weerasethakul - a beauty that never invades its subject, never engulfs it so no one can see the underlying torment of his characters, but rather acts as an artistically-minded frame for the story inside.  No less than two of Apichatpong's films have talking animals in them, inside stories that have no real reason for having talking animals, but when those animals talk, you don't even blink.  Nothing inside you says, "Oh, this is weird.  Why is this happening."  Instead, you think, "Well, yeah, of course those animals are talking, why the hell not."  This is the strange creature that is the cinema of good ole Joe.  Nothing is odd.  Nothing is out of the ordinary.  Everything here is just the way it should be, even if a catfish starts talking to a lost princess, even if a tiger taunts its prey, even, as happens in Mekong Hotel, a woman is feasting on the entrails of her seemingly oblivious daughter.  You just think, "Why the hell not."

Granted, the short run time of this latest film, makes for a slimmer content than most of his films - as well as a more difficult time trying to release the film theatrically (my best guess would be, other than on the festival circuit, of which it has already pretty much made its rounds, an online release as opposed to a theatrical one here in the states, is more likely), but even so, the queer melancholy one gets from the director's two best works, Tropical Malady and Uncle Boonmee Who Can Recall His Past Lives, the disarming quietness, the bucolic beauty, is in full force here, as we watch put-on rehearsals for an unrealized film about ancient vampiric ghosts, called Ecstasy Garden (though much smaller in scope, one is reminded of Terry Gilliam's unrealized film doc, Lost in La Mancha here), blended with talk of flooding and evacuation and immigration problems, and all encased with the melodic strings of an acoustic guitar that plays over nearly every minute of the film.  Mekong Hotel really is a quite fascinating work of fact and fiction - something one would be hard-pressed to take one's eyes off of - and hopefully it can find the light of day here in the states, so anyone who is interested - and yes, Weerasethakul is definitely a unique taste in cinephilia - can watch and be as mesmerized as this critic was.


Friday, March 1, 2013

Battle Royale #11: Battle of the Sexes

Hey you guys!!  Look what's back.  That's right, it's the triumphant return of the famed Battle Royale.  What is Battle Royale, you ask?  Well, for the uninitiated, it is an ongoing series that pits two classic cinematic greats against each other - and you can vote for who is the greater by clicking your choice over in the poll at the top of the sidebar.  This particular Battle Royale is the eleventh, and after a month and a half sabbatical (to make time for our Oscar poll), everyone's favourite running feature here at The Most Beautiful Fraud in the World, hath returneth.  Now, on with the show.

For this eleventh installment, we are going to do something just a bit different.  Before we had actor vs. actor, actress vs. actress, director vs. director, and so on.  This time a round we are going to toss an actor and an actress in the ring together, and see who comes out smiling.   So, for this round, this Battle of the Sexes, we are tossing Spencer Tracy and Katharine Hepburn into the ring.  Let's watch the feathers fly.  The official unofficial couple made nine films together over their twenty-six year relationship.  Of course, we all know the story - Tracy was married but had a relationship with Hepburn from 1941 until his death in 1967.  The affair was kept a secret from the public (yeah, that was something that could still be done back in those days) but everyone in Hollywood knew about it, including Tracy's wife, who apparently, was okay with the whole shebang.  

Professionally, Tracy and Hepburn were two of the greats of their craft.  If there were a Hollywood Hall of Fame, they would both be members in great standing.  He was nominated for nine Academy Awards, winning twice (back to back even), and she was a twelve time nominee, winning a still record four times (two of hers were back to back as well).   When they worked together, Tracy was always billed first ("I'm the man" would be his reply when anyone asked why this was) but Hepburn was never one for taking second fiddle to anyone, and her star was just as bright.  Hepburn lovingly said in her autobiography, "I would have done anything for him."  Tracy famously said, in Pat and Mike, the couple's seventh film together, "Not much meat on her, but what's there is cherce."  Now it's time for you to make your "cherce."

All you need do is to go on over to the poll, found conveniently near the top of the sidebar of this very same site, and click on who you think is the greater of these two legends.  And remember, you can comment all you wish (and please do comment - we can never have too many of those) but in order for your vote to be counted, you must vote in the actual poll.  After doing that, then you can come back over here and leave all the comments your heart desires.  Who knows, maybe we will get some sort of lively cinematic discussion going.  And also please remember to tell everyone you know to get out the vote as well.  I would like to see us reach triple digits this time around.  Voting will go until midnight, EST, the night of Friday, March 15th (just over two weeks from the starting gate).  The results will be announced that weekend.  So get out there and vote vote vote.