ROGER EBERT BLOGS ANTICHRIST, another fun-filled romp by Lars von Trier, aka crazy man. (I believe von Trier and Werner Herzog compete for that title year to year.) I only read the beginnings of these Ebert posts, but will return to them if I ever actually get around to seeing the movie, which I’ve naturally become a teensy bit wary of, considering it’s being described as a mildly traumatic life experience. Here’s Ebert after the premiere at Cannes:
There’s electricity in the air. Every seat is filled, even the little fold-down seats at the end of every row. It is the first screening of Lars von Trier’s “Antichrist,” and we are ready for anything. We’d better be. Von Trier’s film goes beyond malevolence into the monstrous. Never before have a man and woman inflicted more pain upon each other in a movie. We looked in disbelief. There were piteous groans. Sometimes a voice would cry out, “No!” At certain moments there was nervous laughter. When it was all over, we staggered up the aisles. Manohla Dargis, the merry film critic of The New York Times, confided that she left softly singing “That’s Entertainment!”
If, as they say, you are not prepared for “disturbing images,” I advise you to just just stop reading now….
And then his follow-up two days later:
Lars von Trier’s new film will not leave me alone. A day after many members of the audience recoiled at its first Cannes showing, “Antichrist” is brewing a scandal here; I am reminded of the tumult following the 1976 premiere of Oshima’s “In the Realm of the Senses” and its castration scene. I said I was looking forward to von Trier’s overnight reviews, and I haven’t been disappointed. Those who thought it was good thought it was very very good (“Something completely bizarre, massively uncommercial and strangely perfect”— Damon Wise, Empire) and those who thought it was bad found it horrid (“Lars von Trier cuts a big fat art-film fart with ‘Antichrist'” — Todd McCarthy, Variety).
Enough time has passed since I saw the film for me to process my visceral reaction, and take a few steps back….
All this before an actual review.
FOUR SIDED TRIANGLE is a science fiction novel by William F. Sample which was turned into a movie in 1953. And judging by the synopsis, it sounds kind of great:
Graduate students Robin Grant (John Van Eyssen) and Bill Leggat (Stephen Murray) have both loved the beautiful Lena (Barbara Payton) since childhood. After years of perseverance by both men, Lena finally chooses Robin, and the two become engaged. Devastated by the news of Lena’s plans, Bill uses his latest science experiment, a cloning device that duplicates matter, to create a “new Lena” for himself. Unfortunately, this device performs too well, producing a clone that also loves Robin. Furious and desperate, Bill decides to use electro-schock to burn the memory of love out of the clone’s brain.
(via Roger Ebert’s blog)
REDBELT is an unusual little flick – a samurai/noir/fight film with turn-of-the-screw plotting, some enjoyable martial arts scrapping, trademark Mametian masculinity throughout (for better and for worse), and, yes, a somewhat dopey ending. But I dug it. Every scene contains both surprise and a sense of inevitability, and the characters and themes resonate with a singular, uncomplicated understanding of decency – a notion usually ignored, upstaged, or over-sentimentalized in movies. Here, despite all the twist and turns, decency remains the simple principle on which all the action pivots, and by the end, it becomes a virtue raised almost to the level of nobility.
EBERT LOBS BON MOTS on cinematic bombs:
No matter what they’re charging to get in, it’s worth more to get out. (Armageddon)
And a lovely existential one:
Mad Dog Time is the first movie I’ve seen that doesn’t improve on the sight of a blank screen viewed for the same length of time. It is like waiting for the bus in a city where you’re not sure they have a bus line.
SYNECDOCHE, NEW YORK is the kind of weird, mind-bending and heartbreaking movie where you walk out of the movie theatre and don’t feel quite right. Like, maybe the sky is the wrong color, or that person across the street can read your mind, or nothing is real and you’re actually dead. (Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind and Solaris were a little like this for me, too.) It’s like Borges, Fellini, Dalí and Willy Loman made a movie together – bizarro, great and kind of a fantastic bummer.
ASHES OF TIME (REDUX) is a weird bird, even for Wong Kar Wai. Veering from silly and melodramatic to simple and affecting – almost moment to moment and shot to shot – the movie has over-stylized camera work, preposterous sword-fighting, stirring heroics, over-the-top emotion, specious logic, a scene with a girl getting all sensual with her horse and many more scenes of a different girl standing around with a very sad donkey. Eventually the impulse to guffaw is overcome by the desire to weep, and the movie builds toward an unlikely and surprisingly emotional ending. As the review in the Village Voice puts it:
Wong has a bit of a wink with all of the deadpan death threats and grand allusions — women rake their cheeks along tree bark, limestone, and a horse’s neck in fits of longing — before turning mannerism into the very stuff of transcendence, as with Maggie Cheung’s penultimate lament. It’s a knowing end-run around cliché that seeks to assert the damnable truth of cliché itself. In a move that would become his trademark, Wong rejects the happy ending for the almost ecstatically sad, making your heart soar even as he tells you, essentially, that it’s impossible, all of it — that it’ll never work.
WE’RE ALL SICKOS, according to the way it’s laid out in this Salon article about Michael Moore’s new movie:
When Moore interviews Tony Benn, a leading figure on the British left, his larger concerns come into focus. Benn argues that for-profit healthcare and the other instruments of the corporate state, like student loans and bottomless credit-card debt, perform a crucial function for that state. They undermine democracy by creating a docile and hardworking population that is addicted to constant debt and an essentially unsustainable lifestyle, that literally cannot afford to quit jobs or take time off, that is more interested in maintaining high incomes than in social or political change. Moore seizes on this insight and makes it a kind of central theme; both in the film and aloud, at the press conference, he wondered whether some essential and unrecognized change has occurred in the American character.
Sounds ’bout right.
TOP 10 COMIC BOOK SUPERHERO MOVIES, in order of best to worst (not counting The Incredibles — because it wasn’t based on a comic book and it’s animated — but otherwise it would have been number 2 on this list):
- Superman: The Movie
- Superman II
- Spider-Man 2
- Spider-Man 3
- Batman Returns
The point being: There aren’t a lot of great comic book superhero movies. So even though 10 gazillion people watched Spider-Man 3 this weekend and 5 gazillion of them liked it and 5 gazillion of them disliked it, it still makes it squarely into the top 10 and dominates as a series.
JIGGLY. JIGGLY? GIGGLY. GIGGLY? This little internal dialogue goes through my head at least twice a day — on the way to work and on the way back. The source of the confusion is the subway poster for a new movie, starring J. Lo and Ben Affleck, called Gigli. Jiggly? Giggly? The title, however, is only one of the many unsettling aspects of the poster. Altogether, it inspires bewilderment and a vague feeling of unsavoriness all over. Both on the way to work, when I am tired, and also on the way home, when I am tired. I wish it would go away and flop already.
WHAT ARE YOUR FIVE FAVORITE MOVIES? Oh, what a waste of time, they’ll say. As if there’s no fun in agonizing over a silly list. And as if movies aren’t important. And as if five is nearly enough:
- Lawrence of Arabia
- The Cable Guy
- 12 Monkeys
- Dancer in the Dark
- Planet of the Apes
- Grave of the Fireflies
- Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind
- After Life