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Monthly Archives: September 2008

fall films

zack_and_miri.jpgThe Vancouver International Film Festival is in full swing, but I’m giving it a miss this year. You need to be in the right frame of mind to enjoy the festival, and as of late, my filmgoing has been more about catching up with things I think I’ll like, more than exploring great swaths of unknown movies in the hope I’ll stumble on something exceptional.

And so, in that spirit, I sat down this evening and did a little counter-programming: putting together a little list of the “prestige-season” movies I want to check out. As usual, I’m a total auteur groupie. Finding out a director I like has a new and promising film gets me way more excited than who’s in it, or even what it’s about. Though I also follow the buzz from the Toronto Film Festival and Cannes, just to be enervated by the rush of being swept up in new hype cycles.

Anyway, here are the movies I’m most excited about:

  • where can i get isotretinoin Synecdoche, New York (oct 24). The directoral debut of Charlie Kaufman, who wrote Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind and Being John Malkovich, two of my all-time favourite movies. Advance word is that it’s prickly, hard to connect with, and a walk-out-magnet, all of which makes me want to see it even more.
  • order Ivermectin online Zack & Miri Make a Porno (oct 31). It’s cool these days to hate on Kevin Smith for his cult of personality and continuing anti-style, but fuck it. Even when they’re not very good, the man is making the movies he wants to make, the way he wants to make them. And Clerks II was damn entertaining. So suck it, haters. Advance word from TIFF is very positive, with not a few comparisons to Judd Apatow, so I’m doubly there.
  • Wieluń The Road. (nov 26). Based on a novel by Cormac McCarthy (No Country for Old Men), directed by John Hillcoat (The Proposition), and starring Viggo Mortensen. Plus, I’m a sucker for grim post-apocalyptic movies, which is probably why I got sucked into seeing Waterworld. Twice. My only question is whether or not to read the novel before seeing the film. That, and how much like killing myself the movie will leave me feeling.
  • The Wrestler (dec 19). Darren Aronofsky (Requiem for a Dream) apparently told Micky Rourke that he had an idea for a movie that would get Rourke an Oscar nomination, and then clinched the deal by telling him, “You have to listen to everything I say. You have to do everything I tell you. You can never disrespect me. And you can’t be hanging out at the clubs all night long. And I can’t pay you.”
  • The Curious Case of Benjamin Button (dec 26). Brad Pitt ages backward! Now that is a high concept I can get behind. David Fincher’s lesser films are still pretty good, and his best are Fight Club and Zodiac, two of the best films of the past decade. So there’s that.
  • Frost/Nixon. (dec 26). This is the one movie I’m not seeing for the director (Ron Howard, who I see as more of a competent craftsman than director I get excited about). I’m seeing it because since reading Nixonland, I’ve become mildly obsessed with the character of Richard Milhous. Plus the trailer looks pretty great.

Other movies I’ll be keeping an eye on: W. (Oliver Stone biopic of the president), Rachel Getting Married (Johnathan Demme in Mike Leigh country), How To Lose Friends & Alienate People (for the great Simon Pegg), City Of Ember (I’m not sure what to make of the trailer, but it has Bill Murray and Tim Roth), RocknRolla (I just keep giving Guy Ritchie chances, in the hope that he’s got some spark of talent left), Changeling (Clint Eastwood directing a J. Michael Straczynski-penned historical thriller, starring Angelina Jolie and John Malkovich), Milk (Gus Van Sant film about murdered politician Harvey Milk), Slumdog Millionaire (Danny Boyle film about a street kind in India who wins a game show — I’d be more excited if the advance publicity didn’t make it sound so saccharine), and The Brothers Bloom (con man story from Rian Johnson, who directed Brick, which I didn’t love, but admired a lot).

Gremlins (1984) and Gremlins 2: The New Batch (1990)


Check it out, we have a script by hot up-and-comer Christopher Columbus, about adorable little critters who turn into monsters! And it’s loaded with small-town schmaltz. Speilberg will produce! Phoebe Cates will star!


Can we make the adorable critter so cute that every kid in America will want a doll based on it?


Yes. Yes, we can. High five!


Nice. Now we just need a hungry, hip young director-for-hire who can make this thing sing.


It just so happens I had lunch with this struggling Roger Corman protégé, Joe Dante. He’s been around a while but his biggest credit to date is a couple of episodes of Police Squad. The kids seem to like that show.


The kids, you say?

gremlins1.jpg Dante directs an entertaining but surpisingly nasty kiddie-horror movie. It’s violent and has some flashes of pretty black humour, but the good guys win and Gizmo is so damn cute that everybody forgets about that. It makes an ungodly amount of money. Every kid in America wants a Gizmo doll.

Six years later…


Joe Dante, its six years later, you’re a genius and you made us all rich. Let’s make a sequel and all get richer!


Sure, but if you really want this to work, I’m going to need five times the original budget. Oh, and I get to do absolutely anything I want.




Now, let’s sell some more dolls! High five!


evil, evil laugh




What? What’s happening? Why is he laughing like that?

gremlins2.jpg Dante assembles a nearly-plotless collection of black comedy sketches, sick jokes and cartoon violence, dripping with acid contempt for the materialistic aspirations and sterile aesthetics of the 1980s, and the original film. There are multiple scenes of Gizmo being tortured. Phoebe Cates tells a story about being flashed by an Abraham Lincoln impersonator. Dante uses the budget to cram in references to every one of his favourite old horror films, gets Rick Baker to do the special effects, and casts Christopher Lee, Tony Randall and Hulk Hogan. It’s brilliant and indulgent and loses great globs of money.


Man, that was a blast! Who’s up for Gremlins 3?




Fuck you, Joe Dante.


nixonland.jpgI know it’s a cliché, but the older I get, the more interested I become in history. I have no romantic view of the past, though — I read history mostly as painfully slow progress punctuated by awful mistakes which cast very long shadows through the decades. And so I was fascinated by Nixonland: The Rise of a President and the Fracturing of America, Rick Perlstein’s 896-page political history. The eponymous “Nixonland” is the America that created Nixon and that he, better than anyone (except possibly Ronald Reagan), was able to exploit: a country with two visions that are both sincere, deeply held — and utterly incompatible. However, the Nixonland divide isn’t strictly between liberal and conservative, but between the privileged insider “Franklins” and striving outsider “Orthogonions”. The names are from two cultural clubs at Wittier College. When the former rejected Nixon for his poverty and working-class manners, he started the second.

The book is divided into four sections, roughly covering the election cycles of 1966, 1968, 1970, and 1972. Though the bitter and amoral genius Nixon is at the centre of the book, it’s Nixonland itself that the book spends most of its time in. Perlstein does a terrific job of letting us into the minds of the hippies and radicals and concerned middle-class parents and resentful blue-collar workers that live there. The author is, himself, a post-Boomer, and he argues persuasively that the country he grew up in is still Nixonland. Watching George Bush (and Sarah Palin), it’s hard to disagree.

scatterplot of paranormal activity


The points are individual states. Unfortunately, I don’t know what are which, except that the two rightmost points above the trendline (which have lots of UFO and Bigfoot sightings) are Oregon and Washington.

Mogwai at the Commodore

Mogwai at the Commodore, originally uploaded by Mister Wind-Up Bird.

Saw Mogwai last night, a band I’ve liked a lot since I first heard them on a Matador compilation in the mid-1990s. They put on a pretty good show, but as with their albums, it’s mindblowingly cool at first, and then you just kind of sit back and enjoy the post-rock rhythms for a while, and then you kind of get the point and end up turning on The Daily Show. So an hour into the set, I went home and did that.

Opening for them, though, was another band I like a lot, Fuck Buttons. I missed the beginning of the act, but what I saw fucking destroyed, to paraphrase Tyson referencing American Analog Set’s assessment of Explosions in the Sky.