Friday, November 11, 2011

Friday Link-O-Rama

From the MaddowBlog:
Politics Goes to the Movies: 'Into the Abyss'

Werner Herzog makes his intentions clear early in his powerful new documentary “Into the Abyss.” “I do not think human beings should be executed,” he says. “Simple as that.” The moment is particularly charged because it’s not stated in narration; he says it to Michael James Perry, a smiling 28-year-old who is days from execution. The filmmaker’s word choice is telling—he does not speak of the “death penalty,” which is the charged language of an issue. Herzog is less interested in the political implications than the philosophical ones.

From Flavorwire:
The Most Definitive Music Cues in Film History

That’s the power of a well-chosen music cue in film; when they’re properly matched, we’ve suddenly married them, and anytime we hear that song we see that scene, and anytime we think of that movie, we hear that song. After the jump, we present ten songs that are forever tied to the movies that showcased them (and, just to keep it fair, there’s no songs from “musicals,” and no songs that were composed specifically for the film in question). Agree, disagree, and add your own in the comments.

Open Thread: Let’s Talk About Adam Sandler

I’m a fan of subway film criticism. It’s one of the pleasures of being a movie fan in New York, like Film Forum double-features and midnight cult films at the Landmark Sunshine; a wise guy with a Sharpie often articulates our collective reaction to a film more succinctly with a few words on a subway ad than any number of critics can in a thousand-word review. Take, for example, this pointed little barb recently spotted on the L-line. Scrawled across the poster for Jack and Jill, the new Adam Sandler picture in which he plays both a regular Joe and — wait for it — his own twin sister, are the words “not even f*cking trying anymore.” Glancing over at Sandler’s wide-eyed mug, it seems a perfect marriage of word and image.

Let’s Plug Our Favorite Filmmakers into Unexpected Genres

Maybe there’s a lesson to be learned here: too often, filmmakers become defined by a certain type of movie, locked into a specific genre or style. Some break out occasionally (see Scorsese’s upcoming Hugo), and a few have made a career of genre-jumping (think Danny Boyle). But back in the “studio era,” directors-for-hire like Howard Hawks and John Ford were given assignments, and had to adapt themselves into journeymen who could make any kind of film with style and skill. After the jump, we’ve compiled a short list of a few filmmakers who we’d like to see class up some B-movies.

‘Melancholia’ and Our Favorite Cinematic Apocalypses

Apocalypses are a popular topic for filmmakers—though most are more interested in the narrative possibilities of the post-apocalyptic world than the event itself. Melancholia distinguishes itself by being something of a pre-apocalyptic picture, delving into the anxiety and fear of those who are awaiting the earth’s possible collision with a foreign object (timely!). After the jump, we’ll take a look back at a few of our favorite cinematic apocalypses.

Trailer Park: Cops, Corman, and Our Old Friend Eddie

Welcome to “Trailer Park,” our regular Friday feature where we collect the week’s new trailers all in one place and do a little “judging a book by its cover,” ranking them from worst to best and taking our best guess at what they may be hiding. We’ve got six new trailers this week, including new vehicles for The Rock, Kristen Stewart, and Jonah Hill (and an old one for Eddie Murphy); check ‘em out after the jump.

Thursday, November 10, 2011

In Theaters: "London Boulevard"

William Monahan’s London Boulevard kicks off with the most tough, joyful, strap-yourself-in-cuz-we’re-watchin-a-picture-show opening credits sequence in many a moon: big bold lettering, sliced-up images, and the pounding sound of the Yardbirds’ “Heart Full of Soul.” There’s such fierce energy and raw power bursting from the screen that it seems like a promise the picture can hardly keep, and who knows, maybe it doesn’t. In terms of plot, tone, and structure, the movie’s something of a mess, full of pieces at odds with each other that Monahan is constantly struggling to snap together. He ultimately just slams them all into each other and barrels on through—and he does it with such sheer bravado and confidence that we end up going along with him. It doesn’t really hang together, not really. But when a picture is this sleek and pleasurable, why complain?

In Theaters: "The Love We Make"

There is something wonderful, evocative, and more than a little nostalgic in seeing Albert Maysles train his documentary camera—shooting in 16mm black and white, no less—on one James Paul McCartney. Maysles and his brother David were the lensmen of What’s Happening!: The Beatles in the U.S.A. (aka The Beatles: The First U.S. Visit), accompanying the lads from Liverpool on their first whirlwind invasion of New York. The McCartney that Maysles meets here is now an elder statesman of rock, and the occasion is a more solemn one—the assemblage of “The Concert for New York City,” the all-star show McCartney helped put together a month after 9/11.

The resulting documentary, The Love We Make (co-directed by Maysles and Bradley Kaplan), ran on Showtime for the 10th anniversary of September 11, and is now seeing a limited theatrical run. It seems strange that the footage sat unused for so long (its belated release, and those of such other delayed items as the 30 for 30 entry Muhammad and Larry, makes one wonder what other treasures are buried in the Maysles vaults)—or, at least, it seems strange in the first hour or so of the film, which is marvelously intimate and frequently entertaining. Once the picture reaches the home stretch, however, the motivations for the interval become a bit more clear.

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Outtakes from the Greil Marcus Interview

My interview with Greil Marcus, which ran in the online version of the "Village Voice" a couple of weeks back, was something of a dream assignment for me; Greil is one of my literary heroes, the guy who made me want to do the kind of pop culture criticism that I hope to do, y'know, when I grow up. So smashing our 90-minute interview into a reasonably succinct piece that not only profiled him but gave proper time to his new book on the Doors was a bit of a job; I went through a lot of drafts, and had to lose or not use what I felt was a lot of good quotes. As a result, in the spirit of the bootleg recordings and alternate versions that he so often focuses on in his work, I wanted to present a couple of outtakes from my profile of him.

In Theaters: "J. Edgar"

On the Venn Diagram of Oscar nomination probability, the titular role in J. Edgar has got to be something of a sure thing for Leonardo DiCaprio: slightly villainous, based on a real person, wide range of aging, secretly gay. If he were mentally or physically challenged, they might as well call off the ceremony. (He does have an occasionally surfacing stutter, so, nice try.) The film provides DiCaprio with the opportunity for some award bait, and it gives director Clint Eastwood the chance to make a big, sweeping biopic. Those are reasons enough for them to make the picture, I suppose, though they might not be reason enough for you to see it.

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

On DVD: "Great Directors"

So many films overstay their welcome, it’s rare to come across a movie that should, legitimately, be about twice as long as it is. Such is the case with Great Directors, but that’s not entirely a compliment; director Angela Ismailos profiles ten of our greatest living directors in about 89 minutes, so you do the math. With those kind of time restraints, some folks are bound to get short shrift—Richard Linklater is barely glimpsed until well past the halfway mark; John Sayles disappears so early that by the time he was included in a film-ending montage, I’d forgotten he was even one of the subjects. Add in Ismailos, a filmmaker who clearly enjoys being on-screen herself, and you begin to get a pretty clear summary of the picture’s problems.