Thursday, July 24, 2014

5 Actresses To Play Jesse Wallace's Ex-Wife

I recently re-took the distressing “Before Midnight” plunge after avoiding it for a year and a couple months after having my ardent (pitiful) Jesse & Celine Idealism shattered. And. Well. Yeah. It still hurt. I came around to seeing the ending in a bit more of a positive light – not positive as in “good” but positive as in “happy” – but not entirely. I don’t think I’ll ever get there. And in other ways, it was an even more brutal emotional experience than the first go-around. So brutal, in fact, that I unleashed yet another essay regarding my relationship with these films. And. Well. Yeah. I couldn’t bring myself to publish it. I almost trashed the whole thing. Not because I wasn’t pleased with it but because it kinda freaked me out. Perhaps I’ll put the post up on my birthday because an emotionally terrifying post coinciding with my birthday totally seems Cinema Romantico-esque.

Anyway, in lieu of that post, I still got to thinking. Because I’m always getting to thinking, if not about interesting things, per se, at least about things that I find “interesting” at which point I subject my few loyal readers who haven’t already flown this cinematic coop on account of my Katy Perry references to ponderings about them. ANYWAY, I got to thinking about the character in “Before Midnight” who is never seen but still a major player – that is, The Other Woman. The one to whom Jesse was previously married and gave birth to his son and whom he left Celine for because Jesse was meant to be with Celine because the world is perfect and wonderful (it isn’t). She is a major player because, as we learn, she moved Jesse’s son out of New York under the cover of darkness to limit her ex-spouse’s visitation rights. Cold. About as cold as the ways in which she’s referenced. In order, she is referred to as being “drunk and abusive psychologically”, possessing “the mother instinct of Medea” and – oh boy, here we go – “a hateful cunt” (Celine’s words! CELINE’S WORDS!!!).

So let’s say in nine years when “After Noon” (it’s a play on words) is released that Linklater, based upon our above criteria, wants to cast the ex-Ms. Wallace. To whom does he turn?

5 Actresses To Play Jesse Wallace's Ex-Wife

Marisa Tomei

Well, obviously. I mean, she should be in everything after all.

Winona Ryder

I concede both the predictability of this choice and its blatant self-referentialism, that casting the woman who acted opposite Hawke in the angstiest of angst fests, “Reality Bites”, would be an in-joke of epic proportions in a film series that should have nothing to do with in-jokes. And yet. Set all past history aside and simply envision Ms. Ryder in a metaphorical vaccum as a woman with “the mother instinct of Medea.” Yeah, you did.

Amy Adams

If you thought “The Fighter” was against type, this would totally go against the “Enchanted”, Probably The Nicest Person In The Whole World grain, and she could do it. Beware all ye who doubt the versatile skillz of AA. (I’m also assuming that in nine years she’ll have six Oscars and can just get cast in whatever she wants.)

Rosemarie DeWitt

God. God, what I would give to see Rosemarie DeWitt bust out the scoff face as Jesse does his Verbal Scat thing and then just cut him off and lay a titanic DeWitt-ish “You're so full of shit” on him. “I know what you’re doing, Jesse, okay? You’re answering all my questions with questions. I mean, I know you think you’re being really cagey, but you’ve used this same evasive methodology since I met you. It’s pretty obvious. And by the way, shoehorning a Dostoevsky reference into the middle of an argument? There’s no peanut gallery. There aren’t judges awarding you literary style points.” GOD, what I’d give.

Rachelle LaFevre

I am not a movie casting director because if I was a movie casting director I would do things like cast Billy Dee Williams as Batman and cast Kate Beckinsale as a version of Guinevere that told that charlatan Arthur and that lip server Lancelot what to go do with themselves and ruled the kingdom her damn self, but still… I like to imagine casting directors having epiphanies like the one Eddie Adams from Torrance had in the hot tub in “Boogie Nights.” And that was exactly the kind of epiphany I had when considering who should play Jesse Wallace’s ex-wife. When I close my eyes, I see this thing, a sign, I see this name in bright blue neon lights with a purple outline. And this name is so bright and so sharp that the sign, it just blows up because the name is so powerful. Rachelle LaFevre.

Wednesday, July 23, 2014

Cloud City Twin Pod Revealed On Set Of Star Wars: Episode VII?

Recently I was sitting in front of my laptop, hard at work on yet another painstaking review, or possibly watching Katy Perry videos on Youtube, when I received an email from an anonymous tipster claiming to be an extra for the currently filming "Star Wars: Episode VII" and saying he had captured a covert image of the Twin Pod spaceship on set. This, of course, caught my attention because the Twin Pod was the primary mode of air travel at the Bespin mining colony in scenic Cloud City. And the administrator of the Cloud City facility was, of course, Lando Calrissian who was, of course, played by Billy Dee Williams. This led to the natural speculation: is Billy Dee Williams in "Episode VII"?

Visual proof "Star Wars: Episode VII" will return to Cloud City?
My curiosity piqued, I forwarded the photo to my friend, who shall remain nameless, a photograph authenticator in Guatemala who has sussed out many a phony image in his day but also verified some of the most historically astonishing images of the past decade. His reply, which has not been altered or embellished, is as follows...

"Jesus Christ, dude. What's wrong with you? That's a toy fucking spaceship. It's sitting on someone's kitchen floor. How could you not tell that's a toy? Are you fucking with me? Is that what you're doing? Is the whole world fucking with me? Seriously. I've had it up to here. Look, I love movies and you love movies and we all love movies, but this? This is just going too far. People have GOT to calm down. They have GOT to stop obsessing over it. You know when they can obsess over it? The day it gets released. That's when. Wait in line for it and freak out about it and wear your stupid costumes and LEAVE THE REST OF US ALONE BECAUSE WE CAN'T TAKE IT ANYMORE BECAUSE YOU'RE CAUSING US EXTREMELY LITERAL BRAIN DAMAGE! I'm becoming a monk."

The jury is still out.

Tuesday, July 22, 2014

The Age Of Reason

There is a time in the life of every teenage boy, often on the precipice of adulthood, particularly if social interaction is limited, when angst and rage consumes him, and his outlets for its necessary release are scarce. Thus, he drives around and listens to loud music and talks back to his parents and breaks shit. He wants out but there is nowhere to go. Maybe with a little luck and motivation, he’ll fashion the first draft of a life plan, or at the very least find a way to make peace with his duress and simply put one foot in front of other. Maybe he'll find the courage to seek his dream. “The Age Of Reason”, directed with notable assurance by Andrew Schrader and Jordan Harris (they also wrote the script), is about a pair of teenage boys caught in that ancient state of adolescent limbo, and who come across less like best friends than two loners trapped in cookie cutter suburbia recognizing something of himself in the other, clambering toward self-actualization.

Set over the course of seventy-two hours, Friday to Sunday, evoking the youthful sensation that a weekend can feel like forever, we follow Oz (Myles Tufts) and Freddy (Blake Sheldon), the former without a mother and the latter without a father. Freddy, his appearance unkempt and grungy, accentuated by the fact that he literally digs around in trash, as if he figures that’s where he belongs, is without a father and filled with pent-up rage, stuffing food in his face in a desperate attempt to quell it. Oz, with his shaggy hair and blistering fastball, yearns to be the next Tim Lincecum. That daydream, however, runs aground on the bullishness of his father, Robert (Tom Sizemore), self-medicating with a bottle, and determined to prevent his son from ditching home for what he perceives as a fairytale Major League tryout in Nashville. Besides, how can Oz run away and leave his little sister (Avi Lake), outfitted in nearly every scene with a leotard in a bit of spot-on costume design, who is at the wondrous age where teenage agony seems so far away.

There is a girl too, Ruby (Megan Devine), because there always is, but don’t presume that she comes between the boys in a simplistic teenage love triangle, as it turns more on mere connection than any kind of popcorn love. Saddled with parental problems of her own, like an ornery stepfather whose attempts at connection are ill-advised, she recognizes something of herself in them, and inadvertently they form a sort of therapy group where rather than talk out their feelings they are willing to let each person exist on his or her own terms.

The recurring motif in “The Age Of Reason” is destruction; destruction of both a physical variety, whether it’s the opening sequence of Oz and Freddy bashing up a car or Freddy, in a weirdly hysterical moment, trashing the bike of a neighborhood kid for no reason whatsoever, and an emotional variety and the torment it yields which is emblemized in Oz’s broken down father. Ultimately their relationship becomes the film’s most crucial. He deters his son’s dreams not from spite but from a genuine fear that Oz’s brashness will lead him down the same dead-end road, oppression as a form of protection, which in its own way is as oddly admirable as it is it deplorable. And Sizemore, carving out subtle notes amidst the endless hangovers, strikes that difficult balance with a withering dignity.

The concept of baseball as saving grace could have been rote, a more lo-fi version of “The Rookie”, but baseball is merely the vessel by which the film explores the age when reality has begun beckoning even if we are not yet ready to relinquish our dreams. They say youth is wasted on the young but “The Age Of Reason” is about characters finding the conviction not to waste it any longer, to get out, to leave the old world behind, to see what a new one may have to offer, and to reach for the stars. Whether they latch onto them is of no consequence.

Monday, July 21, 2014

They Came Together

One of the most memorable movie-watching experiences of my life happened on some nameless Iowa spring night in the early 80’s. It was a seemingly endless evening of thunder and lightning and tornado watches and even the occasional tornado siren, and with the siren always threatening to beckon, I was allowed to stay up and lay on the couch and watch a movie as we waited. The movie was “Airplane!”, the epic spoof movie of Team ZAZ. I had never laughed so hard. And here’s the thing, I did not – could not – get all the references. I had never seen “Zero Hour” nor “Airport” nor even my future beloved “From Here To Eternity.” And it didn’t matter. When Robert Hays parades into the disco club, it’s a nod to “Saturday Night Fever”, sure, which I had not seen, but the sequence also breaks free of the pan to do its own thing. “Airplane!” was a landmark not simply because it skewered something with such specificity, but because it invited everyone in to share the laughs.

David Wain’s “They Came Together” seeks to spoof the the romantic comedy, a once mighty genre which has lately devolved more or less into a minefield of clichés. To be fair, Wain is not simply cutting and pasting whole bits of other films with minor “comic” addendums like the Aaron Seltzer & Jason Friedburg Chop Shop. Instead he gathers up the bounty of nauseatingly familiar rom com tropes - your Meet Cutes, your etc. - and then insistently presents every last one of them in such a way as to make their obviousness the punchline.

Framing the film as a dinner table tall tale of "How did you two meet?", Joel (Paul Rudd) and Molly (Amy Poehler) tell the story of their kinda, sorta true love over dinner with friends. A synopsis should go here, of course, but a synopsis is virtually pointless if you've seen any Katherine Heigl or Kate Hudson film of the last decade, or "The Shop Around The Corner" for the classics majors. They begin in the midst of faux conflict. The conflict cedes as they fall for one another. The false crisis intrudes. The happy ending arrives on schedule. Well known actors keep turning up for cameos. So on and so forth, but with jokes that go from tame to lame to clever to medium raunchy to raunchy to utter ridiculous. And while a few of the jokes are wholly original, like a Halloween costume gone wrong, the majority of them simply involve demonstrating a particular rom com cliche and then acknowledging out loud the cliche being demonstrated. This phenomenon becomes "They Came Together's" most prominent motif, and it's not that these moments wreak of being self-impressed, though they do, but that pointing out an absurdity is not the same as being absurd. It's like watching a screenwriting manual that tells you what not to do being acted out in front of you.

As a deconstruction of a genre, "They Came Together" really doesn't go far enough. It assumes that by simply identifying the genre deficiencies, it's done its job; and that would it be okay if it provided comic analysis or took the deficiencies and then spun them off into something new - a la "Airplane!" Instead they just lay there while the actors smirk. It's not a critique and it's not a spoof. It's just smug.

Friday, July 18, 2014

Friday's Old Fashioned(s): Up the Junction (1968) & Bang! Bang! You're Dead! (1966)

Oh! Well, hello there! I thought I might be extra generous this festive Friday morning and serve your regular Old Fashioned with a second Old Fashioned at no extra charge, compliments of the house. What do ya say?! I wrote about a couple sorta passed-by older films for PopMatters recently and figured I'd direct you over to them at your leisure.

"Up the Junction", starring Suzy Kendall, is definitely worth a look. I dug it. It's about Then, but it's also about Now. Review Here.

"Bang! Bang! You're Dead!", starring Tony Randall, eh......not so much. But still. Read the review. If you want. No pressure.


Thursday, July 17, 2014

5 Potential Cinematic Butter Sculptures

Well, you probably heard, the Iowa State Fair this year will feature a Field of Dreams made out of butter. Wait, on second thought, why on earth would you have heard that? Never mind. Doesn’t matter. The point is, the Iowa State Fair, famous and frustratingly known for its Butter Cow (which is, unfortunately, exactly what it sounds like – a cow sculpted out of butter), will feature a replica of the baseball diamond Ray Kinsella built just for Shoeless Joe carved out of butter alongside the dairy-based ol’ Bessie.

It’s no secret I despise the Butter Cow. Iowa has an acreage of great things, and I’m not just talking about Donna Reed’s Oscar (though I have – many, many, many times). Chicago’s great and all but Zanzibar’s Coffee makes Intelligentsia – fine, though it may be – taste like the dispensed swill from Dennis Duffy’s Coffee Vending Machine. Even so, what people do people in Iowa want to talk about? The State Fair. And what at the State Fair do they most want to talk about? The Butter Cow. They talk about that damn thing like it’s the Pietà. And it drives me loony. To quote Rob Corddry in “Butter”: “Oh, and newsflash, butter’s bad for you!” Still, if this is the road, State Fair “taste”makers, that you wish to go down, creating Iowa-based film items out of butter, who is better qualified to submit other future ideas than Cinema Romantico, a film-obsessed native Iowan? No one, that’s who. So I’m gonna help here. Because I feel it’s my civic duty.

5 Potential Cinematic Butter Sculptures

Butter Deansie & The O Fox, “Cedar Rapids” 

“Cedar Rapids” centers around an innocent insurance salesman played by Ed Helms, but what stands out is the failing-to-act-your-age antics of his cohorts Dean Ziegler (John C. Reilly) and Joan Ostrowski-Fox (Anne Heche), better known as Deansie and The O Fox. I mean, is that not the best duo name of all time? Would you not join their wild west posse? Sure, sure, Butch Cassidy & The Sundance Kid is pretty good, but it’s Malone & Stockton when compared to the Jordan & Pippen that is Deansie & The O Fox. In fact, I am desperate to see this butter sculpture. I would legitimately be excited to see a Butter Deansie & The O Fox. This needs to happen. (Note: It will not happen.)

Butter Patrick Bergin Moustache, “Sleeping With The Enemy” 

Yes, yes, yes, Madam Julia Roberts starred in “Sleeping With The Enemy”, wherein she moves to scenic Cedar Falls to escape the titular enemy, played by Patrick Bergin. But what do people really remember? Madam Julia? Or Patrick Bergin’s Moustache? The defense rests, your Honor.

Butter Kat Araujo, “Mystic Pizza”

Annabeth Gish, as I have noted before, was born in Albuquerque but moved to Cedar Falls when she was all of two years old and spent all her formative years there. Why she was still officially a Cedar Falls resident when she filmed “Mystic Pizza” with what’s-her-face, and that’s why there should be a Butter Kat Araujo. Because Iowa is not Daisy. Iowa is Kat. *Thumps chest.*

Butter Spring Break Massacre Sorority House 

Portions of 2008's “Spring Break Massacre”, of which IMDB reviewer innocuous wonders “I'm a bit unsure about why exactly this movie was made” were filmed in scenic Dubuque, Iowa, and featured……hold on, what’s that? My apologies. Iowa Governor Terry Branstad is telling me to tell you “this movie does not actually exist in terms of ‘Iowaness’. The state of Iowa is formally rejecting claims that any parts of it were filmed within its borders. Please remove it from your list.’” So, uh, never mind! Nothing to see here!

Butter 76 Trombones, “The Music Man”

I’m sort of surprised to learn this particular butter sculpture has yet to happen. Granted, it’s gonna take a lot of butter but hey, it’s Iowa! It’ll be epic! It’ll take up a quarter of the fairgrounds! It’ll be the Synochdoche, New York of butter sculptures!

Butter Sugar Santos, “Sugar”

Admittedly, most people, Iowans and others, will probably look suspiciously at a Butter Sugar Santos like it’s the high-falutin’ Des Moinesean who just walked into the one bar in all of some 500 person town in the northwest corner of the state, but so be it. Because look, Iowa already has the Best Baseball Movie Of All Time (“Field of Dreams”) but it also has the Second Best Baseball Movie Of All Time, which is “Sugar” (not all of which but a good and crucial portion of are set in Iowa). Yes. “Sugar.” If you blanch at such a proclamation, you haven’t seen it. If you accuse me of Iowan bias, you’re not necessarily wrong, but you are wrong, because “Sugar” is just that freaking good. And different. If there was ever a movie that deserved to be called “a breath of fresh air”, it’s this one, because it doesn’t merely turn baseball movie clichés on their head, it takes baseball movie clichés and runs them through the wood chipper. It’s magical but also unsparing, and utterly brilliant. And really, be honest now, what’s more Iowan than Sugar made out of Butter?

Wednesday, July 16, 2014

Saying Goodbye To [redacted]

"Dragon clouds so high above 
I’ve only known careless love 
It’s always hit me from below 
This time around it’s more correct 
Right on target, so direct 
You're gonna make me lonesome when you go."