Saturday, January 15, 2011

Saturday Night at the Movies: "Last Chance Harvey"

Welcome to "Saturday Night at the Movies," a weekly feature in which I recommend an older title that you can go watch, right this very minute (provided you have Netflix Instant). 

From April 2009: 
Dustin Hoffman is a tremendously likable actor, but he’s seldom played a character as completely sympathetic as Harvey Shine, the hero of Joel Hopkins’ romantic comedy/drama Last Chance Harvey. Indeed, it would take a downright loathsome actor to not make us feel some pangs of sympathy for a man who has been so shut out from his family that he’s informed at his daughter’s rehearsal dinner that she’s decided to have her stepfather walk her down the aisle. That’s gotta smart.

The Altman Project: Day 5

Banged through a wide array of films for The Altman Project ™ today—more stage adaptations, more experimental work, and lots of music.

Friday, January 14, 2011

On DVD: "Steel Gaze: An Unauthorized Story on Clint Eastwood"

There’s rip-offs, and then there’s an item like Steel Gaze: An Unauthorized Story on Clint Eastwood—a blatant cash grab that strings together existing materials into a faux-documentary without a trace of artistry or scholarship. We get a ton of these “unauthorized biography” jobs here at DVD Talk, and I’ve sat through plenty of them (I’ve even enjoyed a couple, for what they’re worth). This one—whose existence I can only attribute to a desire to confuse consumers seeking out the far-superior Richard Schickel documentary The Eastwood Factor—contains an astonishing dearth of information, relying instead on lots of video of Eastwood attending stuff. The program makes Eastwood’s A&E Biography seem positively penetrating in comparison.

The Altman Project: Days 3-4

And into the ‘80s, as Altman begins losing his audience (including me…)

Thursday, January 13, 2011

On DVD: "Buffy the Vampire Slayer: Season 8 Motion Comic"

Just so we know where everyone’s coming from, I approached the Buffy the Vampire Slayer: Season 8 Motion Comic as a Buffy fan, and a comic book know-nothing—not as a snob who doesn’t see the value of comics, but a busy guy who doesn’t make time to read them. I’d meant to check out the Buffy comics since they started rolling out back in 2007; this seemed as good a way as any to finally sample them.

In Theaters: "Every Day"

Every Day
marks the feature film debut of writer/director Richard Levine, best known previously as a writer, director, and producer for the TV show Nip/Tuck. His main character, Ned (Liev Schreiber) is a writer for a provocative television series called “Mercy Medical’; several scenes of the film take place in the writer’s room for that series, where his boss Garrett (Eddie Izzard) reprimands Ned for not making his scripts edgy enough. He demands that each episode have at least five “shocking moments”—you know, like anal or bestiality or incest. This is not the most thickly-veiled autobiography I’ve seen. But there’s more happening here than a game of connect-the-dots; Every Day, while enjoyable, feels very much like the work of a writer/director best known for slick, well-made television.

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Beyond Huck Finn: Other Books in Need of an Image Makeover

As you’ve certainly heard by now, the wise, forward-thinking folks at NewSouth books are issuing a new edition of Mark Twain’s Adventures of Huckleberry Finn and Adventures of Tom Sawyer that helpfully replaces all instances of the word “nigger” with “slave,” because then racism never happened and people never used that word and we all live happily ever after THE END. According to publisher Suzanne La Rosa, this was borne out of the notion that “there was a market for a book in which the n-word was switched out for something less hurtful, less controversial.” And she’s right—that’s the trouble with words, always running around in books, being all hurtful and controversial. Change ‘em out! Nothing fixes great literature like a little switcheroo.

This got us thinking—you know, there’s so many banned books out there, and surely at least a few of them could benefit from this kind of ingenious use of the Find+Replace function. Here’s just a few books that NewSouth and like-minded connoisseurs of great literature might want to consider “revising” for us:

The Altman Project: Day 2

Moving in to the late ‘70s, as Altman grew even more idiosyncratic (and less bankable).

On DVD: "The Freebie"

The Freebie is the kind of movie that surprises you with its boldness, and then disappoints you with its timidity. It deals in matters of monogamous intimacy with a frankness and honesty that is downright refreshing in the current cinema, independent or otherwise, but then gets itself all hung up in conventional conflicts and fake-outs. It builds up a tremendous amount of power and goodwill in its first two acts, and then, unfortunately, chips a good chunk of it away.

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

The Altman Project: Day 1

This spring, I’m taking a class in long-form critical essay, for which our primary project is (imagine this) a long-form critical essay. I settled on my topic some time ago: a piece on Robert Altman’s America, exploring the notion that Altman was perhaps our most democratic filmmaker (maybe even our most patriotic), because so much of his work addressed—directly or not—the friction between who we are as a country and who we like to think of ourselves as being.

The trouble with a piece like this is that Altman was one busy dude; he directed something like 50 films, and there’s about 20 of them that I’ve never seen. Hence, before school starts back up, I am undertaking The Altman Project ™, an attempt to bring myself up to speed on his filmography, in (roughly) chronological order. I’m skipping the ones I’ve seen, though I’ll probably be revisiting some of the more applicable ones (Nashville, McCabe, Thieves Like Us) during the semester.

Monday, January 10, 2011

On DVD: "The Social Network"

David Fincher’s The Social Network is a business procedural played with the intensity of a thriller and the ingenuity of a screwball comedy. It’s something of a departure for the filmmaker, whose pictures lean toward visual pyrotechnics and darker, more disturbing themes. Handling a screenplay by Aaron Sorkin that consists primarily of people in rooms talking, and in which the violence is purely psychological, he curbs his occasional excesses and cooks up his most satisfying film to date. Though mining (with some significant departures from the official record) the origin story of Facebook, a presumably of-the-moment phenomenon, Fincher and Sorkin have made a movie that is about more than its ostensible subject. Yes, The Social Network examines, at least implicitly, the cultural moment that precipitates the explosion of a site that aims specifically to make the social experience a virtual construct. But where the film strikes oil is in understanding the kind of guy who would want to create that experience.