Wednesday, February 24, 2010



The guy who played Rorschach in Watchmen will now be playing Freddy in the new Nightmare on Elm St. reboot!

Aw, kid- this is gunna be good!

Little pig, little pig, let me in!

Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf
For all I knew about the film, the thing that stuck in my memory was that its language was deemed so vulgar that it was almost condemned by some Catholic organization. Upon watching it, I realized that after watching movies like Snatch and The Aristocrats, the language in this movie should seem downright wholesome. But it's aaaaall in the delivery.
Let us take a moment and bask in the glory that is Dame Elizabeth Taylor:
She won an Oscar for this film. If she hadn't, God may very well have smited the Academy. Dame Elizabeth is a roaring, venom-spouting hellcat the likes of which you have never seen as Martha. Richard Burton, whom she married twice, is a slimy and sadistic as her long-suffering husband, George. The chemistry is electric. George and Martha have just come from a party, and Martha has invited the new young biology professor and his wife to their home. Then the shit hits the fan, and no one gets out alive. Well, no one really dies, but their dignity and faith in humaity have suffered such a beating that you wonder how they'll ever survive.
After so many years of watching sit-coms, you start off thinking "I know this bit. He insults her, she insults him, they're the typical old married couple that have settled into resentment and loathing."
No. No. You have no idea.
If you just got engaged or married, don't watch this movie. Yikes. The things they say to each other aren't that bad, but the way they say them is incredible. Every word is thrown like a knife that the follow-up twists.
Sometimes all the love and games in the world can't save us from ourselves.


Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Speak now...

... or forever hold your peace.

I started the list, but I need feedback.
Am I saying too much? Not enough?
Should I separate by genre? By decade made?

I cannot do a star system or grades. I'm sorry. There are just too many facets to films. What earns an A in cinematography could merit only a D in dialogue.

Monday, February 22, 2010

Go for the gold!

As I've stated on this blog before: You can't not watch the olympics. Especially when people wear stuff like this:

Every once in a while I explore the past posts on this blog to see what I was watching in 2008. When Istarted this blog my husband worked nights and I was usually bored and by myself. Thus, I had lots to say and lots to blog about. Now, I see Dan every night and talk to my friends more often. My blog is more focused now. All for the better.

Nosferatu is the classic silent film based on Bram Stoker's Dracula. It also happens to be the most faithful film adaptation of the book. Of course, a lot of the action is absent because of the limitations of the camera in the 1920s. But, the plot remains intact. For a silent movie with a melodramatic score, it's still remarkably good and creepy. The direction was groundbreaking at the time. Appreciate the way they sped up action by cranking the film through the camera at a slower frames-per-second rate so that when it was played at regular speed, the action onscreen appeared to be in fast-forward. This is old school special effects at their best. Marvel at the grotesque appearence of Max Schreck as The Count. He never appeared in another film. Was that makeup, or did Morneau find a circus freak or incredibly ugly man to star in this movie? The horror film that begat all other horror films.

The Hurt Locker impressed me because it was not what I expected. Free of preachy politics and action film nonsense, this movie is gritty and honest. So honest, in fact, that when someone dies from being in close proximity to an I.E.D., I remarked "How are they dead?" because I'm so used to the fictional movie world where being 40ft from an explosion will result in only minor cuts and bruises. In reality your organs would liquify. The Hurt Locker reminds you of that. It reminds you of the fog of war, the fragility of life and the need to love what you do and do what you love. This is a heavy contender for Best Picture. If I had to pick the winner from the bloated list of ten that isn't Up, it would be this movie. Solid acting, solid dialogue and a plot that genuinely keeps you guessing. It lacks the typical story arc, so I warn you that it can feel anti-climactic, but it's still satisfying.

I think I'll devote my next post to the oscar noms for Best Picture that I've seen. Not that I care about the Academy Award for Best Picture. The award is a joke that often goes to a film that could never hope to sit among The Greatest Movies of All Time.
I submit the following Best Picture winners as proof:
Shakespeare in Love - Vomit. Scratch that. Vomit beautifully encased in period costume, but still vomit.
An American in Paris - A hundred dancing Gene Kellys couldn't save this movie.



I have resolved to take my dear friend Lola's recommendation to heart and create a list of movies that I feel you, dear reader, should watch.
Upon resolving this, I went to my Netflix to see how many movies I have rated to get an idea of the number of titles I'll be working with.

I have rated 1,180 movies to date, this is by no means includes all movies I've ever seen.
This could take a while.
Stay tuned.

P.S. If I had a nickel for every movie I've rated so far, I'd have $59.00

Thursday, February 18, 2010

Hot towel?

Towelhead was adapted for the screen by Alan Ball. Yes, the same Alan
Ball behind the genius of "Six Feet Under" (best. Tv. Drama. Ever.) and
"True Blood" (meh.)
This film treats the coming-of-age of a Lebanese American girl with
brutal, heartbreaking honesty. As much honesty as The Squid and The
Whale and Fast Times At Ridgemont High (minus the comedic relief).
It's brutally honest to the point where it's uncomfortable to watch.
You'll never look at Aaron Eckhart the same way again. His performance
here is disturbing and brilliant.
The honesty in the plot is that the adults around Jasira, the main
character, seem to be just as bad as she is at making mature decisions.
And all your decisions have consequences. They all learn from each
others terrible, terrible mistakes. And Jasira is stronger for it.
If you loved "Six Feet Under", you'll love this movie. Not only because
you get to see Claire's pretentious art professor being an entirely
different kind of douchebag. The moral and sexual topics will leave you
cringing and ready for discussion (must watch with a good friend).
Especially if you can remember what it was like to be a 13 year old
-- Noel
Sent from my T-Mobile Sidekick

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

...His hair was perfect!

Bear with me. I'm attempting to post via email. Links will be added later.

The Wolfman falls victim to a problem that plagues so many remakes: trying to be unique and different while still being loyal to the source material.
So, the effects are better. The changes to the story unnecessary and lacking because they fail to make the plot any less predictable. The acting is strong.

I have to hand it to the screenwriters and directors: I love how they nobly took the oedipal complex of the movie to a whole new level. Their attempts to make this film cerebral and visceral are to be applauded.
But we all know that all the poetic Fruedian imagery in the world can only class-up a movie with a wolfman-on-wolfman showdown so much. Plus, they telegraphed their punches by introducing Lawrence Talbot to us as starring in Hamlet and estranged from his family. File that under Not Very Subtle.
The gore is awesome. The cinematography and costumes are sumptuous and sensual. Yet, in the end, this movie is schizophrenic. It's visuals and gore appeal to our basest desires, yet it's plot and undertones try and
appeal to our higher consciousness. This balance is carried off successfully in movies like Fight Club and Kill Bill. The Wolfman cannot keep both balls in the air. I think the high-brow intentions of the movie would have worked if we saw less of the werewolf. The low-brow intentions would have been easily achieved if the writers had kept the simpler original Wolfman plot so we weren't dealing with complicated family and psychological issues.
Still, it's worth a watch. Terrific blood, gore, fights and fantastic feats of facial hair. There are so many beards and mutton chops on the villagers that it made me hope Gillette goes out of business. (Seriously, men. Reclaim your fuzzy face rights!) Danny Elfman's score doesn't disappoint and sets up the tension nicely.

-- Noel
Sent from my T-Mobile Sidekick


Saturday, February 13, 2010

I die.


I am a makeup junkie.
I am a pink junkie.
I am a sparkle junkie.

Tarina Tarantino's makeup line has been launched at Sephora.
I can now die happily O.D.'d on sparkly pink makeup.

The only way this could be more awesome was if it had Darth Vader incorporated into it somehow.


Friday, February 12, 2010

Yes, Mother darling.

There's no way I can talk about one of these films before talking about the other, and there's no way you can watch one without needing to see the other. You must watch them in this order:

1. Grey Gardens is an amazing documentary created in 1975 about the estranged aunt and cousin of Jackie O. They have been living in squalor at their decaying hampton mansion. "Big Edie" Bouvier and "Little Edie" Bouvier were formally New York socialites. It is incredible to see these women, speaking with brahmin accents and surrounded by the remnants of a fabulous life. They have hermited themselves and you can see the isolation and heartbreaking desperation is leaking out of every crack of their carefully crafted facades. This is easily one of the best documentaries I have ever seen. The only loss is that the Maysles brothers didn't get there until after Jackie O had the house cleaned out and repaired as much as humanly possible. Prior to that, the house was apparently full of garbage and animals. Yet, the Edies' do their best to appear glamourous and classy, like two Norma Desmonds clinging desperately to the life they lost so many years ago.
While watching you will have to keep repeating to yourself: This is all real, these women aren't acting, this is who they are and how they live. You will also be wondering to yourself: How did this happen? How does one settle on living in such a way?

2. Grey Gardens is a dramatization that tries to answer those questions. This dramatization shows us the slow fall of the Edies. The plot structure is non-linear. We jump from the '20s, '30s, '40s, '50s, '60s, and finally, the '70s. We see the red flags popping up along the way: Little Edie has no interest in marrying but Big Edie won't let her leave home because of it, Big Edie has had servants her whole life and has no idea how to clean or take care of a large house, and so many more.
Drew Barrymore and Jessica Lange give the performances of their careers in this movie. No matter how big the sobs or outlandish the behavior, because of the documentary we know this is not melodrama. This is how these women really were. Barrymore and Lange do them justice and humanize them. They have revived the spirits of these women perfectly. Big Edie and Little Edie sort of came off as pathetic Miss Havishams in the documentary. Here we see them as they truly were: Two women trapped in a relationship as toxic as their environment. They love each other deeply, but that is perhaps their greatest undoing. They love each other too much to say no and too much to leave or let go. You feel that love in the fantastic chemistry onscreen.
Every decade is created. The Edies' glory days are lush and luxuriouss, deeply saturated colors and rich texture. Their "current" conditions are dulled, dingy and gritty. The set dressings and costumes are impeccable. The commitment to re-creation here is really remarkable.

The documentary is the pre-cursor to the popular TV shows Hoarders and Obsessed. The dramatization is hopefully the precursor to many other wonderful biopics produced by HBO.

Wednesday, February 10, 2010


Why is Gone With The Wind on a list of romantic movies?

Nothing will get you and your squeeze all snuggly like watching Miss O'Hara use up men like tissues?
This movie also includes the untimely death of a child.
So where's the romantic part? Is it when Rhett lets Scarlett know he's not getting stuck in her honeytrap again? I feel like I'm missing something here...

Help Wanted

No, really. Wanted needs all the help it can get. Someone needs to do this movie a favor and give it one plausible plot component. For a movie about fabric there are are a whole lot of holes in the ridiculous plot.

This is the kind of film that fills you with questions. Questions such as:
Why is there only one woman in "The Fraternity"? Why would they even have a woman in something called "The Fraternity"?
Why would you suddenly like and try to emulate your absentee father because you find out he's a super-assassin?
I know how you got the rats in the dump truck, but how in the hell did you train them to disperse themselves evenly inside the textile mill once you dumped them in the courtyard? And how is it that the blast from the rats is strong enough to blow out all the windows, yet even the people we saw in close proximity to the rats were not harmed in any way by them exploding?
Why is there a butchery department in the textile mill?
Why would you go downstairs to fight the butcher guy and red-shirt-guy when the guy you really want to kill is upstairs?
If Morgan Freeman has been manufacturing names out of the textile machine for years, why would you believe him when he told you your name came up?
How, exactly, does fate work a textile machine? What does fate do while the textile machine is off? How did The Fraternity get these codes a thousand years ago when they were manually weaving the textiles? When you manually weave textiles, any flaws in the fabric results from your mistake. That's not fate, it's your shoddy workmanship!

Wanted is also the kind of film that makes you realize you're much smarter than most screenwriters assume you are. You know bullets can't curve, no matter how wildly you flail the gun around while firing. You know that the human heart can only beat so many times before it would just explode from pressure. You know that you can't shoot a single bullet through the heads of several people standing in a circle. That bullet would not only have to be curving, but extraordinarily strong and travelling at a speed few hand guns can produce.

James McAvoy's character, Wesley, has a fat lady for a boss, who is cruel to him because he doesn't complete his work in a timely manner. Rather than maybe think that her treatment of him is due to his poor work ethic and productivity, he immediately jumps to the conclusion that she's giving him a hard time because people used to give her a hard time for being heavy. Here's how he tells her off:
   "Wesley: [yelling to Janice] Shut the fuck up!
   [the office grows quiet]
   She has one single iota of tenuous power. She thinks she can push everyone around.

   [grabs Janice's stapler]

   Wesley: You don't need this.

   [throws stapler into the wall of his cubicle]

   I understand. Junior high must've been kind of tough, but it doesn't give you the right to treat your workers like horseshit, Janice. I know we laugh at you, Janice. We all know you keep a stash of jelly donuts in the top drawer of your desk. But I want you to know, if you weren't such a bitch, we'd feel sorry for you. I do feel sorry for you. But as it stands, the way you behave - I feel I can speak for the entire office when I tell you... go fuck yourself"

Now, there are several problems with this. He doesn't know how long Janice has been heavy. He mockingly calls her "anorexic" in the opening narration. Riiiight, because only skinny people have eating disorders.
But the thing that really gets me is that he tells her that "if you weren't such a bitch, we'd feel sorry for you." Feel sorry for her??? Not that they'd like her, not that they'd be friends with her if she were nicer? Get real. She's overweight! Apparently, all you do for a nice fat girl is feel bad for her, right?
It could not be more obvious that this movie was written by a group of men.

Further evidence: Wesley's girlfriend is sleeping with his best friend. Wesley concludes that this is because she's a bitch and his best friend is a jerk. The only time we see Wesley with his girlfriend, he tells us that her voice is annoying. He also leaves for assassin camp and doesn't bother to tell her where he's going. When he finally shows back up, she starts yelling at him. This is understandable. If the person you're living with disappears with no explanation, you'd have some choice words for them the next time you saw them. Then Angelina Jolie breezes in and makes out with Wesley, to show off to his ex. Sure, because if your loser ex-boyfriend, who seemingly never really liked you anyways, dropped off the face of the Earth then showed up with some tattooed brunette, you'd suddenly realize "you don't know what you've got 'til it's gone". Another keen summary of the female condition! The screenwriters must be an expert on women. It's like they're in my head!

The screenwriters also love video games. Wesley fights through the bad guys at the end. Each bad guy has an increased level of difficulty in killing, and he must use different fighting techniques for each of them. After he's killed all the level bosses bad guys, he gets to the big boss leader of The Fraternity. That's when things get interesting, and by interesting I mean defying all logic.

But there's a silver lining. The effects are fantastic, barring some obviously computer-generated rats. The awesomeness of the stunts and special effects is almost enough to make you forget about how insulting the plot is to your intelligence. Almost. Not quite.

You'll love this movie if you liked The Matrix, hate women, and are missing half your brain.

P.S. Morgan Freeman, Laurence Fishburne pwns you when it comes to action movies. Think about that.
Angelina Jolie, I really liked Tomb Raider, in spite of myself. This is how you repay me?


Tuesday, February 9, 2010


I don't have a clever title for this review. Big whoop, wanna fight about it?

Frost/Nixon was nominated for a slew of awards. It's a solid picture: Good acting, excellent writing and a compelling true story as its base. The filmmakers made an excellent choice in sparing us the typical true story format. It's not narrated in hindsight by a single character. It's also not single character POV. There are mock-documentary style interviews with all the key players mixed in with the scenes of action.
The editing and direction creats a quick moving tempo and the feeling of mounting tension is so good that you'll forget that you already know how it ends. The viewer feels all the antici... pation of the final interview.

I'm not usually a big fan of recent American history films. Good Night and Good Luck and Capote come to mind as movies I truly wanted to like. I tried so hard to make it through them and while I fully appreciated their storytelling and acting, I was rather bored.

Frost/Nixon suceeds much in the way that Apollo 13 did. There's a chemistry and electricity built into every aspect of the film: the score, the acting, the dialogue, the cinematography. It's palpable and keeps me engaged and even on the edge of my seat. That's what makes or breaks a film: It's ability to keep you on the edge of your seat even if you know how the story plays out.
Like a good book, a good film's story should feel new and enjoyable no matter how many times you've seen it.

Other elements that make this movie great: An actor playing Nixon without a silly fake rubber nose. Kevin Bacon as a character so similar to the one he plays in A Few Good Men that you'll want to shout at him "You're a lousy fucking softball player, Jack!". Grown men having conversations about shoes. Delicious set dressing and costumes.

Monday, February 8, 2010

My so called autism.

I know what you're thinking: Claire Danes, Noel? You're telling me that Claire Danes is a good actress?

Yes. I am. Don't strap me to the gurney yet, hear me out. See Temple Grandin.

Turns out that Claire Danes can do more than portray angsty misfit women with ennui.

I know what you're thinking now, too: But Noel, is another misfit girl really that far of a stretch?
Yes. It is.

Claire Danes successfully fills out Temple's western shirts and dungarees with raw emotion and boundless charm.

This film is remarkable in very many ways. First is that Temple Grandin is a real person with real autism who is really remarkable. Secondly, Temple's accomplishments are not things that you or I take for granted. Few could do what she does. She doesn't catch up, she excels. Lastly, we watch from Temple's perspective, we feel what she feels. The POV makes her, in every way, our equal. So, this is no Forrest Gump, Rainman or Simple Jack.

Temple Grandin harnessed the unique abilities autism bestowed on her to revolutionize the cattle industry. She was blessed with not only her amazing mind, but a network of family, teachers and friends who compromise her safety net. Them, and a "squeeze machine".

The movie is fun, funny, touching and inspirational. The ways that the director and editor give us Temple's perspective is inventive and poetic. It's enjoyable and exceedingly watchable in a way most biopics can never hope to be. It will appeal to audiences of all ages.

HBO has shown itself to be no slouch when it comes to commissioning biopics. I thought they couldn't top Grey Gardens. I was wrong. Claire Danes has some awards coming her way for this one.
(More on Grey Gardens in the future. Two incredible movies about two of the most fascinating people you can imagine.)

A flock of seagulls

Get it? "And I raaaan..."
It's okay, I'm aware of what a lame joke that is.

What do you get when one of the most revered filmmakers of all time decides to make his most expensive production and base it on a mix of true story and one of Shakespeare's greatest tragedies?
One fucking hell of a movie.

Ran is in color. It won a Best Costume Academy Award. Kurosawa was influenced by the beautiful robes used in traditional Japanese Noh theatre. The costumes are gorgeous. When you see Lady Kaede sweep into the room, be prepared to drool over her amazing kimonos. Be prepared to appreciate the three sons, each always dressed in the same primary color in a way that must make the Power Rangers hang their heads in shame.

But that's only the beginning of the stunning use of color. This film is so beautiful that it almost contradicts the insanely ugly acts it depicts.

Kurosawa read that a great Japanese warlord once decided to retire and distribute his lands to his three loyal sons. His rationale being that while one arrow can easily be broken, three arrows bundled together are unbreakable. Kurosawa knew this wasn't true, so he started imagining what would happen if the three sons weren't so loyal. That's where King Lear comes in.

This film was a long time coming. Kurosawa wrote it and let it sit until he thought he was ready to make it. It took a very long time to get financing for this film. It's quite the epic.

The film opens on an aging war lord, Hidetora, his sons and his court all out on a boar hunt. After they fell the beast, they sit and have lunch. The war lord seems like a wise and benevolent ruler. His two sons Taro and Jiro seem obediant and loyal. His youngest son, Saburo, seems like a jerk.
The film's title means chaos. Chaos is basically what occurs after Hidetora decides to divide the kingdom amongst his sons. Hidetora's folly is that he believes all the semblances I just described.

If you've read or seen King Lear, you know how this is going to go down. Except that there's a massive battle sequence with more incredibly red blood tossed over extras than you have ever seen. There's no way there was any red dye left in Japan after this movie wrapped.
Kurosawa shows us war at its ugliest. This is a full-on massacre. It's so epic, so bloody, so unbelievably tragic and violent that you're glued to the screen. After a little while you start to wonder "How is there anyone left to kill?". Kurosawa built an exact replica of a Japanese castle by a mountain for this film. We get to see it ransacked and burned to the ground. You wait for mercy, none will come. Mercilessness is at the heart of this movie.

Hidetora became lord of the country by waging a merciless war against his rivals. He raised his sons on this merciless warfare, he stole their wives for them by mercilessly killing their families and burning their castles. He rules through fear. And now, he must reap what he has sewn. Karma will be merciless.

This film is a brilliant meditation on legacy and loyalty. When we are at the end of our lives, we can see our past clearly for the first time. One cannot leave behind a legacy of peace if one lived a life of war. One cannot expect order when one has created only chaos.

Watch the environment around the characters carefully. The elements themselves belie the action of the film. Fore roars, clouds rumble, wind howls and rain pours. The Gods are trying desperately to do something, anything...

(btw- there's lots of seppuku, I figured it made it an appropriate follow-up to Hara Kiri)

Get ready

'cause here I come.

After another too-long break from blogging my film watching journey, I will be sharing my thoughts on Ran, Temple Grandin and Frost/Nixon.

To be continued...