Sunday, August 31, 2008

How Touching

Thanks to the wonderful Syms Covington (any Australian should be reading his blog) I found this hilarious clip. It's E! News making of feature for the new Aussie film Touching My Son, which is sure to be the saviour of the Australian film industry. teehee. Watch and laaaauugh.

"...on top of that, the kid's a ghost!"

Poster of the Day: Bad Luck

Bad Luck (1960)
dir. Andrzej Munk

This Week in Egregious Scarf Mis-use: Andrew G

I'm not sure if anyone was watching tonight's episode of Australian Idol (I was against my better judgement), but if you did you would have seen one of the craziest uses for a scarf ever. Andrew G has this year changed his regularly crazy high top hairdo and replaced with a much more "Isn't he a strapping young lad" kinda thing, but he seems to have knitted all that excess hair he once had into a giant scarf, which he then wore, but didn't tie. Instead, he just let it hang so far down that he was nearly tripping over it.

G Whiz! <-see what I did there. I'm so funny.

Cinema of the Absurd: I Know Who Killed Me

Newer readers of Stale Popcorn may not be aware that I used to have a very irregular series called "Cinema of the Absurd", which celebrated the absurd and bizarre that cinema offered. Titles like Glitter, How to Deal and Friday the 13th: Part 3D were lovingly torn to shreds. Having today watched the truly terrible I Know Who Killed Me I thought it was as nice a time as any to resurrect the ol' bastard and give it another spin.


I KNOW WHO KILLED ME (2008, dir. Chris Sivertson)

Okay, so I Know Who Killed Me is the now infamous horror/thriller/creature from the black lagoon that Lindsay Lohan starred in while she was high on coke (it's probably the only production note of worth). Figures, really. I couldn't help but get the impression that she just did not give a damn. Surely an actress of any reputable quality should have somebody behind the scenes telling them what would make a good movie and what would not (if they cannot do so themselves, natch), but it appears Dina "Mother of the Year!" Lohan read the script for this movie and thought "I know I would like to see my daughter's flesh pulled off by a sick madman, so why wouldn't everyone else?" Alas, the final product was I Know Who Killed Me, one of the most atrociously titled (amongst so much more that could be labeled "atrocious") movies of the last few years.

That Lohan plays a girl called "Aubrey" who is abducted, tortured, nearly killed and then shows up on the side of the road claiming to be "Dakota" is perhaps besides the point entirely because, clearly, the film - like Lohan - does not care. The director didn't care except to throw as many fancy tricks that he learned at film school and by watching too much MTV. Lohan didn't care as long as she got paid enough to supplant her drug habit and her mother's latest boob job. In fact the only cast member who seems to treat the material with any seriousness is Julia Ormond who mustn't have made a movie in a long while and had since forgotten what one is, let alone what makes them "bad", "good" or in between.

Naturally, however, I Know Who Killed Me (and yes, that line is indeed spoken by Lohan towards the film's end and yes it sounds as silly as you would imagine) has now become a "camp classic". While it certainly doesn't rank anywhere near luminaries in that pile like Showgirls and Glitter, it did have enough to make the 100 baffling minutes that followed seem like not as much of a waste as it may seem. That this movie was made a good 25 years too late is where it went wrong. I imagine this would've been kind of actually sort of good if it were made 1983 by New Line Cinema and featured a new wave soundtrack in between moments of gratuitous nudity, something that I Know Who Killed Me circa 2007 does not have any off.

The only way to truly show you how absurd this movie is is to, well, show you. Aah, the wonders of technology.

Lindsay Lohan's character "Aubrey" - in eerie foreshadowing - pricks her finger on a blue rose (don't ask), but the thing that amused me was that the drop of blood that forms on her finger takes the shape of a love heart. M Night Shyamalan would be pleased.

One of the most humourous aspects of I Know Who Killed Me is the bizarre wanky film school music video effects that director Chris Silvertson throws in for, oh I dunno, shits and giggles I assume. It's hard not to laugh when he does something he probably thinks is "cool" and "edgy", when in actual fact it is nothing more than preposterous wankery.

Firstly, what sort of cinema has an exterior design like that in this day and age, let alone one in the sort of "idyllic small town" that I Know Who Killed Me is set in, let alone a revival house cinema in an idyllic small town, which this cinema appears to be. Do idyllic small towns even have revival houses anymore? There's no "secondly", I just think it's stupid.

I Know Who Killed Me is, apparently, a horror movie. Yet, for me the scariest thing was this horrific cat that this family has. I am totally a cat person. I love cats. But that is not a cat. This is, like, some sort of demon fetus roadkill spawn of Satan. It's the sort of thing you'd see at the Queen Vic Market with a man nearby yelling at you saying they have "exotic demon flesh carcus, five dollar!!" <- Only Melburnians will understand that reference, so don't feel bad.

This is "Fat Teena". Exactly.

I couldn't help but laugh at this moment as "Aubrey's" parents and a doctor stand around her unconscious body wearing surgical masks as if they're going to contract a life-threatening disease, when just moments earlier there were people around her that felt quite at ease without the need to look like a fool.

"This... is... Mister... Jervis..."

Julia Ormond is a bit of a stark ravin' nutter, isn't she? When she is deep into her 80s and spends time looking out the window remember the good ol' days I imagine this will be the moment that flashes in her mind as being the bottom of the barrel. Oh, Julia. Poor ridiculous Julia. I personally adore Lohan's reaction though. Even through her coke-fueled performance you can tell she's wondering "what the hell am I doing here acting with a silly glove on my hand and fake leg?! And just who is this woman who is talking in my direction. I think I saw her in a dumpster on LaBrea last week on my way home from my dealer."

Just try an imagine how ridiculous this looks. Just for a moment. Done? There. Absurd! This scene is hilarious, however, because the police investigators all but shake and abuse the wheelchair bound "Dakota" because - heaven forbid - she didn't get a look at her attacker. Perhaps it never occurred to these specimens of intelligent design that her attacker wore a mask!!! because that never happens when people are abducted and tortured by a serial killer in a mysterious dungeon. Not ever.

State of the art technologically advanced robotic hand that reacts to brain impulses to create fluid motion (yet, nothing can save it from dodgy CGI effects) yet what does she get to cover it up and make it more palatable for public display?

Why yes, a ridiculous beige glove! And, yes, that man in the silly yellow suit is a doctor. I was surprise, too! As if to prove that this character is indeed a doctor and not a clown who got lost in the wrong ward they make his sprout hilarious dialogue such as this (in relation to the new robotic leg Dakota has received):

Excellent! You'll be back on the dance floor in no time, Dakota! ... Just don't forget to plug it in when you're not wearing it. If the battery runs down it's like draggin' 'round a wooden leg.


Maybe I spoke to soon. This moment is on par as surely the stupidest thing Julia Ormond has ever done. Poor ridiculous delusional Julia. Clearly she's never heard of leaving the house. She scrubs away at that basin with such vigour that I thought she was going to ware away at the enamel. Poor ridiculous delusional stupid Julia.

Amazing. This is from an online video that Dakota watches on the phenomenon that is "twin stigmata" (indeed) and, honestly, I haven't the foggiest what it's all about, but what I am entirely aware of is that it is the funniest thing in the movie. It's definitely the strangest way I've seen the central mystery of a movie revealed (I'm surprised they didn't use flash animation, actually.)

What did I say about the CGI in this film? It's like they spent their entire budget on colouring the roses that appear throughout the entire film.

I have a sinking suspicion that in 1988 (the year Lohan's character/s was/were born/expelled from the depths of hell) sonograms weren't available to take home on DVDs so they could be watched on big screen TVs. Just a hunch, but I think I'm on the right path.

The killer is... a member of Blue Man Group!!! Tobias Fünke would be so proud, I'm sure.

In conclusion, absolutely amazing. Also, one of the most inept exercises in film making I've witnessed in quite a while. Truly a terrible film and an embarrassment to everyone involved although I kinda wanna try whatever Julia Ormond was on. On the Scale of Absurdity I'd rate it a solid 4.5/5. The fact that the central mystery actually scarily made some minute sense really held it back.

Poster of the Day: Salesman

Salesman (1969)
dir. The Maysles Bros & Charlotte Zwerin

Saturday, August 30, 2008

The Absurd Astronaut

Has anybody out there seen Cory McAbee's absurdist surreal black and white musical sci-fi western The American Astronaut? I ask that in all seriousness because the movie is indeed an absurd black and white musical western set in space (specifically Jupiter, Venus and the space in between) and I can't quite think of any movie like it. At times it feels like the deformed lovechild that would be the result of Guy Maddin's The Saddest Music in the World procreating with David Lynch's Eraserhead.

I saw The American Astronaut last night at ACMI, which have "Freaky Friday" nights every week where they program cult fare. McAbee's film premiered last year and has since made regular returns to ACMI and I have wanted to see it, but hadn't had the chance. I'm certainly glad I saw it. Although I think much like Maddin and Lynch's films the finished product doesn't quite measure up to the initial idea behind it (although Eraserhead is still a great film, it is probably my least favourite Lynch film apart from the dire Dune).

Nevertheless, the cinematography by W. Mott Hupfel III is superb and was rightfully nominated for an Independent Spirit Award for his trouble. He also lensed the lovely-looking Notorious Bettie Page so he's certainly a name to keep an eye on. Meanwhile the music by The Bill Nayer Show is actually quite good - surprisingly so considering many lower budgeted musical fare tend to have bad songs. And the film has some very memorable moments and images. I particularly loved the sight of McAbee (he's also the lead actor) entering the Ceres bar (left) and the final scenes on the planet Venus (featuring the "girl with a vagina made of glass", ahem).

If you get the chance to see The American Astronaut I'd definitely recommend it, even if it is a flawed picture. As far as I'm aware it is unavailable on DVD down here, which is why I so wanted to catch it at ACMI, but as for the rest of the world... you would know more than I would. B-

Why Does Anne Hathaway Look Like Liv Tyler?

I think that title says it all.

Friday, August 29, 2008

Black + White Friday: The Texas Chain Saw Massacre

I wonder if horror classic, and one of my favourite films - what does that say about me? - The Texas Chain Saw Massacre would look like if it had been ten years prior in the 1960s when horror films and black and white went hand in hand (think the equally "backyard" Night of the Living Dead).

This entry has some heavy spoilers, but really it's been 30 years so I think spoilers are a bit silly now, don't you?


I'm fairly certain nobody has picked up a hitchhiker in Texas for at least 30 years.

Aww, look at that. The gang's all here. Haha, NOT FOR MUCH LONGER!


I definitely think these opening scenes in the van are the film's weakest. Having said that, this film's weakest is another film's never-gonna-reach, so...

Even in black and white Franklin is annoying. Man, how much do I hate Franklin? SO MUCH. At least he gets chainsawed in half later in the movie. Bless.

One of the things that is so scary about this movie is the sun. At least in the first half of the movie, Tobe Hooper constantly shoots the sun and it bleeds. Even in daylight these folks can't escape so heaven knows what's in store for them when it goes away. Even in black and white that's blatantly obvious.

What is it about Texas Chain Saw Massacre films that elicits such crazy facial acting? Both Marilyn Burns and Teri McMinn, pictured here, work overtime on churning out horrified looks one right after the other. One never looks exactly the same as the other, either.

Bye Franklin! I gotta say, the sight of Leatherface (Gunner Hansen) is actually perhaps scarier in black and white. As if it takes away the slight cartoonish nature of the character (clearly a deliberate thing if you've seen the sequels).

You can't see it very well here, but this is my favourite spot in the movie (it still seems so macabre to talk about having a "favourite" anything in relation to this movie, doesn't it?) It's of Sally (Marilyn Burns) running towards the camera closely followed by Leatherface. There is something just so simple and downright horrific about it. Add that to her screaming and it's like she's doing anything she can to escape including (*insert wanky film pretension here*) trying to jump right out of the screen. Just screencapping this movie is giving me the heeby jeebies.

I really don't think I've ever seen anybody's eyes get so wide as Marilyn Burns' in the dinner table sequence of The Texas Chain Saw Massacre. Honestly.

Seriously one of the best endings of all time.

Poster of the Day: The Bride Wore Black

The Bride Wore Black (1968)
dir. François Truffaut

Two alternate, yet stylistically linked, posters for Truffaut's film. Love these two. Obviously you can click them both to view them larger.

Thursday, August 28, 2008

Eathquake in Australia!!!

OMIGOD!! Have you heard the news? The earth-shattering news that will change your life forever? The news that will have you crying your eyes out?

Twentieth Century Fox announced today that it now will release AUSTRALIA – Baz Luhrmann’s epic adventure motion picture, starring Hugh Jackman and Nicole Kidman – on November 26th in the U.S., Canada and Australia. The rest of the world follows at Christmas as originally scheduled.

The move takes advantage of the Thanksgiving holiday play period in the U.S. – always one of the biggest moviegoing times of the year...

More at The Hot Blog.

Ugh. Baz is such a tease!

Does anyone else find it ironic that a movie called Australia is being released on Thanksgiving in America? Not exactly the most patriotic of choices an American cinemagoer could make, huh?

Don't Burn Tilda

While Brad Pitt and George Clooney put on their ever-tiring shtick at the premiere and press meet for the Venice screening of Burn After Reading (really, does anyone care if/when Clooney has kids?), Tilda Swinton was actually being amazing and stunning and simply better than everybody else in attendance. It's not especially hard for her to be like that, but I think it bares paying attention too because nobody else in the homogenised pop blog market is going to mention her. They'll all be about how many children Brad Pitt has adopted today or how many women Clooney is linked with. YAWN.

Wednesday, August 27, 2008

Must There Be a Morning Glory After?

Coming at a film like Lowell Sherman's Morning Glory and the central performance in it is all very confusing to do in 2008. Even having only a brief knowledge of Katharine Hepburn's subsequent career - such as I have - makes watching her first Oscar winning performance (and her third overall) frustrating. Hepburn had clearly not built up any particular earth-shattering goodwill that would make her win make sense in the general scheme of "here, have an Oscar because we like you too much". And yet, maybe the very fact that I have seen some of Hepburn's best work - I'm thinking The Philadelphia Story, Suddenly Last Summer, etc - that maybe, at the time, audiences and voters alike saw something in her performance that seems missing upon retrospect. As if having seen what Hepburn is capable of it seems quite like folly to even suggest that this a) is one of Hepburn's best performances and b) worthy of an Oscar. It's hard, too, to figure out just how she was nominated and won for a film like Morning Glory when she was so fine as Jo in Little Women from the same year. A film that was an Oscar winner in it's own right for Best Adapted Writing, and, considering its Best Director and Best Picture nominations, the far more popular and well-liked film.

Watching Morning Glory I couldn't help but want to tear my hair out. It is exactly the sort of "classic" film that I hate. It is neither appealing in its visuals nor inventive in the way it tells its rather boring story. That the film was based on a play is not surprising in the least considering the way Sherman and screenwriter Howard J Green structured the story. The first 50 minutes of Morning Glory's brief-but-not-brief-enough 74-minute running time are dedicated to a mere two scenes. The opening scene alone, set inside the casting office of a Broadway producer, runs for an unwieldy 30 minutes. Frightening.

The story as it was revolves around Hepburn's character of Eva Lovelace who has moved to New York City to make it big as an actor after moving from Franklin, Vermont. She makes nice with a writer who is played by Douglas Fairbanks Jr, my favourite performance of the film I might add, which later comes back to pay dividends once the star of a big new dramatic production, played by Mary Duncan, pulls out due to contractual disagreements. Duncan, clearly the sort of character than Dianne Weist had such delicious fun with in Bullets Over Broadway a whole 60 years later, is an awful little creature, isn't she?

The film's second act is definitely it’s strongest as Hepburn's character is broke and nearly run out of town after a string of failures. Upon getting drunk at a party Hepburn finally gets to do something that doesn't involve staring star struck or prancing about telling people how marvellous she is. That it involves reciting Shakespeare passages is both apt and unsurprising considering her character is such a boring and predictable wet blanket. The film could have had some interesting things to say about people who are so desperate to follow a particular endeavour, yet are not talented enough to do so. However, it quickly bypasses this possibly path for more Hepburn-plays-drunk chortles.

And to discuss Hepburn's performance is tough. It really is just hard to figure out what people saw in this performance. Maybe the voters were just as surprised that she was nominated for this and not Little Women that they gave her the statue to make up for the injustice. Hepburn's breathy and passive performance is just made of nothing. It's all cutesy stares and awkward fast vocal delivery. Her character is annoying in that way that so many characters of her type are in movies from this time period. How a man of Fairbanks' nature could fall for Hepburn is beyond me, least of all in the span of one day. Did people really fall in love so quickly back then or was it just a movie thing? They propose marriage within hours of knowing a person!

The end of the movie, however, proves to be the most problematic of all. They spend the entire movie telling us just how talented Eva Lovelace really is and then when we finally get a chance to witness it for ourselves, they skip out on us and then the movie ends with nary a climax to be seen or heard. It's a big build-up to nothing. It just ends. Was Morning Glory a quickie production for RKO Radio Pictures? It sure feels like it.

There is almost nothing positive I can say about this movie. It's just a complete waste of time. Nothing exciting, interesting or original happens. I could foretell everything that was going to happen down to the individual beats from the opening moments. It's fair to say that Morning Glory would barely scrape into the footnotes of cinema history if it weren't for the studio having the keen eye to cast Hepburn, which is probably the film's greatest claim of note. Yet, somehow, I reckon even if Hepburn hadn't have won the Oscar for this we would have still seen plenty of her in the decades to come. D

Poster of the Day: Querelle

Querelle (1982)
dir. Rainer Werner Fassbinder

I believe Andy Warhol had a hand in this piece of key art.

This Week on Australian Screens

Cinema Releases for the Week 28/08/08

Bonneville - Normally a movie with Joan Allen, Jessica Lange and Kathy Bates would be right up my alley. Alas, this one is not.

Hellboy II: The Golden Army - Call it indifference, but I just have no desire to see this sequel at all. I didn't hate the first Hellboy, I just didn't care enough about it. Moving on.

My Blueberry Nights - I have wanted to see this latest film by Wong Kar-Wai for a long time now, bad reviews and all. Also, does Norah Jones remind anyone of Mila Kunis? No...? Oh, nevermind then.

Not Quite Hollywood - Is this it? Is Mark Hartley's documentary about the hey day of Aussie genre filmmaking the film that will put a bit of oomph back into the industry? It certainly deserves to be, whether audiences will flock to a documentary about the very industry that they claim to not want to support is another thing entirely. My review here.

DVD Releases for the Week 28/08/08

Black Xmas - Going by the title Black Xmas down here, this yuletide horror flick is finally getting released. However, you'd think that having waited so long to release it direct-to-DVD (it was released in American cinemas on Christmas Day last year) that they would wait a couple more months and release actually at Christmas time. I'll never understand distributors. Never.

Deception - I wanted to this movie even after it had gotten horrible reviews. I'm pretty sure it would've been more successful if they had gone with the punchier title of Hugh Jackman Goes to a Sex Club! Alas...

it bares repeating

The Diving Bell and the Butterfly - I wasn't quite as taken as everyone else with this French film by Julian Schnabel, I found it a tad too repetitious and one-note, but that's just me I suspect.

I Could Never Be Your Woman - Oh dear. Every time I see this title though I am reminded of that White Town song "Your Woman". Anyone? ANYONE?

Prom Night - This "horror" remake will hold a special place with me for reasons I won't go into, but when I saw this at the cinema it was a RIOT. Everybody in the cinema was joining together to communally laugh in the face of Prom Night. It was epic. "Oh, there's a fire alarm and everybody in this hotel complex is being evacuated... I FORGOT MY SHAWL! I'll go back up to my room, which is possibly on fire, in the elevator to get my shawl. I can't leave that behind." To quote Victoria Beckham - MAJOR!

TV Screenings for the Week 28/08/08

28/08/08, Hidden (2005), SBS, 10.05PM - Walking out of the cinema after this movie I heard two men talking about how they didn't understand the final scene. Interrupting them to let them in on what I had seen I got sucked into a whole discussion with these absolute strangers. Random.

29/08/08, Romancing the Stone (1984), C7, 12:00PM - Raise your hands if you're still sad that Kathleen Turner was snubbed for an Oscar nomination for this film!

29/08/08, American Dreamz (2006), C10, 8.30PM - I am only mentioning this movie because it is truly one of the worst movies I have ever seen. Terrible beyond words.

29/08/08, Human Touch (2004), SBS, 11.05PM - Paul Cox drama starring Jacqueline McKenzie and Aaron Blabey.

30/08/08, Night Watch (2004), C10, 12.30AM - From the director of Wanted!

30/08/08, The Incredibles (2004), C7, 6.30PM - You should already own this on DVD for those frequent times when you just feel like watching the best (or second best, I can never quite decide) movie Pixar has ever made. You just should.

30/08/08, Gods & Monsters (1998), ABC2, 8.30PM - Ian McKellen really should be an Oscar winner by now, huh?

30/08/08, Leonard Cohen: I'm Your Man (2005), SBS, 10.00PM - Music documentary featuring performances by the likes of Antony Hagerty, Nick Cave and U2.

31/08/08, Beetlejuice (1988), C9, 1.00AM - It's Beetlejuice, man!

31/08/08, The Home Song Stories (2007), SBS, 9.10PM - One of the advantages of the SBS network being involved in the film funding business is that the movies they help fund end up on free-to-air television within a year of being released at the cinema. I wasn't sold on the film as a whole, but Joan Chen was fabulous.

02/09/08, Maléfique (2002), SBS, 12.40AM - Normally I wouldn't have looked twice at this, but French horror is becoming so big and popular these days (Ils, Inside, etc) that I thought it was worth a mention. Anybody seen it?

02/09/08, Suzie Gold (2004), C9, 12:00PM - As "ethnic comedies" go I'm not much of a fan, but I remember hearing good things about this one, which stars Summer Phoenix.

03/09/08, Sugarland Express (1974), ABC1, 1.25AM - Making a surprise appearance on ABC1 is Steve Spielberg's first American theatrical release (Duel, his first film, was a TV movie over there). It stars Goldie Hawn and won the Best Screenplay prize at Cannes.