Monday, December 18, 2006

Favorite Actor Monday

"Elvis was a hero to most, but he never meant shit to me. You see, straight-out racist the sucker was, simple and plain, motherfuck him and John Wayne." -- Public Enemy, "Fight the Power"

"When John Wayne, the Duke, died, they found 44 pounds of undigested fecal matter stuck in his intestine." -- Some guy with a creepy mustache on an infomercial for a colon cleansing product, seen by me at 4:30 a.m. a couple of Saturdays ago.

Both of these statements are probably completely false, but the sentiments behind them are true. John Wayne was a macho, right-wing, jingoistic, war hawk and I hated him for it. I also hated him because he seemed to be in every boring movie my grandfather and dad watched on Ted Turner's Superstation WTBS. A few years ago, I had to admit to myself that John Wayne was also in a lot of my favorite movies, and I also had to admit that I really liked watching him act. People are a lot of different things, and John Wayne is no exception.

Red River (Howard Hawks, 1948)
The Searchers (John Ford, 1956)
Rio Bravo (Howard Hawks, 1959)
The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance (John Ford, 1962)
Hatari! (Howard Hawks, 1962)
Donovan's Reef (John Ford, 1963)
True Grit (Henry Hathaway, 1969)
The Shootist (Don Siegel, 1976)

Monday, December 11, 2006

Favorite Actor Monday

Eva Mattes is unselfconscious and not artificial. She never acts like there is a camera pointed at her. I like her.

Stroszek (Werner Herzog, 1977)
In a Year of 13 Moons (Rainer Werner Fassbinder, 1978)
Woyzeck (Werner Herzog, 1979)
Germany Pale Mother (Helma Sanders-Brahms, 1980)
My Best Fiend (Werner Herzog, 1999)

Monday, December 04, 2006

Favorite Actor Monday

I don't feel like writing much. I'm in a lousy mood. Like Bob Geldof, I also don't like Mondays, but unlike motherfucking Bob Geldof, I usually have to work on Mondays. Screw you, Bob Geldof. Seymour Cassel is way better than Bob Geldof. He is a versatile and empathetic actor, mostly picks great roles, and is capable of growing a fantastic mustache. Seymour Cassel, you're alright.

Too Late Blues (John Cassavetes, 1961)
Faces (John Cassavetes, 1968)
Minnie and Moskowitz (John Cassavetes, 1971)
The Killing of a Chinese Bookie (John Cassavetes, 1976)
Love Streams (John Cassavetes, 1984)
Tin Men (Barry Levinson, 1987)
In the Soup (Alexandre Rockwell, 1992)
Trees Lounge (Steve Buscemi, 1996)
Rushmore (Wes Anderson, 1998)
Animal Factory (Steve Buscemi, 2000)
Bartleby (2001, Jonathan Parker)
The Royal Tenenbaums (Wes Anderson, 2001)
The Life Aquatic with Steve Zissou (Wes Anderson, 2004)
Lonesome Jim (Steve Buscemi, 2005)

Monday, November 27, 2006

Favorite Actor Monday

I like Lili Taylor. She can make otherwise bad movies memorable just by being in them. Her lack of super-fame has kept her in interesting roles. I don't have any spiel this week. I just think she's good and worth watching.

Say Anything (Cameron Crowe, 1989)
Habitat (episode of the TV show "Monsters") (Bette Gordon, 1990)
Dogfight (Nancy Savoca, 1991)
Short Cuts (Robert Altman, 1993)
Household Saints (Nancy Savoca, 1993)
Cold Fever (Fridrik Thor Fridriksson, 1995)
The Addiction (Abel Ferrara, 1995)
I Shot Andy Warhol (Mary Harron, 1996) (not such a good movie, but she's good in it)
Kicked in the Head (Matthew Harrison, 1997)
Pecker (John Waters, 1998)
High Fidelity (Stephen Frears, 2000)
Factotum (Bent Hamer, 2005)

Tuesday, November 21, 2006

Robert Altman, R.I.P.

"Warren (Beatty) has never said a kind word about 'McCabe & Mrs. Miller' even though he got the best reviews of his career from it. When I die if that egotistical bastard says anything nice about me, then you know he's lying, but I'll haunt him to his grave for the unprofessional way that he treated me and our cast and crew. Other than him I've loved every actor I've ever worked with. ..."
----Robert Altman

Monday, November 20, 2006

Favorite Actor Monday

Eugene Pallette was a thin leading man in the silent era, but, after a tour of duty in WWI, he came back to Hollywood to find out he'd been usurped by younger, handsomer men. He decided to gain a shitload of weight and become a character actor. His health suffered, but his career flourished. I am immediately overjoyed when I see Pallette in a movie. He was a great comedian, for many reasons. He had excellent comedic timing, especially in his reaction shots and double-takes. He looked funny. He had a funny voice (it's a cliche at this point to call it "froggy," but no other word fits--he was the uber-frog). And, most importantly, he always played characters who were either constantly pissed off or constantly living it up with booze, babes, and huge fat cigars. In his best roles, he played guys who bounced back and forth between these two states of being. I start laughing as soon he appears onscreen, and I laugh even harder when he starts to speak. Pallette was an ultra-right-wing conservative who retired from movies in the late 1940s because he was convinced a Communist invasion was imminent. He moved to Oregon, bought a home in the country that he converted into a heavily fortified compound/bomb shelter/hunting lodge so he would be prepared when the Russians attacked. Many Hollywood stars visited his compound for long hunting and fishing weekends, particularly Clark Gable. Pallette died of cancer in 1954.

The Birth of a Nation (D.W. Griffith, 1915)
Intolerance (D.W. Griffith, 1916)
Shanghai Express (Josef von Sternberg, 1932)
The Adventures of Robin Hood (Michael Curtiz & William Keighley, 1938)
The Lady Eve (Preston Sturges, 1941)
Heaven Can Wait (Ernst Lubitsch, 1943)
The Gang's All Here (Busby Berkeley, 1943)

Monday, November 13, 2006

Favorite Actor Monday

Far from the polished robotic alien "cuteness" or indentured servitude for frighteningly ambitious yet talentless monster parents projected by most child and teen actors, Linda Manz was something else entirely--a human being. She's so good that her performances can be, and often are, mistaken for bad acting. We're so used to the bland professionalism of modern Hollywood celebrity performance that when somebody actually does something, we often get embarrassed and uncomfortable and are unable to respond in any other way but a negative one. We are all complicit in creating an American culture that is almost completely worthless and empty, but it doesn't really have to be that way. If we didn't fill our empty hours with so much useless junk and actively pursue the destruction of everything beautiful and wonderful about ourselves, maybe our current mainstream art and entertainment wouldn't be so loud, stupid, boring, negative, and dead. Maybe we wouldn't have to be such overdetermined spelunkers to find the good stuff. Maybe the good stuff would be everywhere, within everyone's reach, whether they lived in cities or small towns or whether they were fiendishly enthusiastic or mildly curious. Maybe I wouldn't be such an asshole. You know what? It's only a movie. This is true. It's only a movie, or song, or book, or painting, or photo, or sandwich, or high five. But these things add up. Anyway, Linda Manz was a great teenaged actor. Then she retired to have a family and a regular life, which is an underrated and sensible decision. She's been in a few movies as an adult, but mostly, she has better things to do. I wish someone would beat Julia Roberts to death with a lead bat. Are you that someone? Linda Manz is not a bad actor!

Days of Heaven (Terrence Malick, 1978)
Out of the Blue (Dennis Hopper, 1980)
Gummo (Harmony Korine, 1997)

Monday, November 06, 2006

Favorite Actor Monday

For a guy whose seemingly one-note delivery is still continually trotted out by hack comics/impressionists, James Stewart played a lot of different kinds of parts in a lot of different kinds of ways. The scene in "It's a Wonderful Life" in which he shares a telephone receiver with Donna Reed is possibly my favorite scene in movies. James Stewart was so damned likable and such a great actor, I can even forgive him for being a Republican. James Stewart, you're alright.

Recommended (there are a lot of Frank Capra and Anthony Mann movies missing, not because I dislike them, but because I have a lot of gaps to fill in the Capra and Mann filmographies):
The Shop Around the Corner (Ernst Lubitsch, 1940)
It's a Wonderful Life (Frank Capra, 1946)
Rear Window (Alfred Hitchcock, 1954)
The Man Who Knew Too Much (Alfred Hitchcock, 1956)
Vertigo (Alfred Hitchcock, 1958)
Two Rode Together (John Ford, 1961)
The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance (John Ford, 1962)
Cheyenne Autumn (John Ford, 1964) (Stewart's scenes are great in this, even though tonally and narratively they have nothing to do with the rest of the film, and were only added for comic relief)
The Shootist (Don Siegel, 1976)

Monday, October 30, 2006

Favorite Actor Monday

I've been purposely holding off on including any members of the Cassavetes or Fassbinder acting troupes in my Favorite Actor Monday series because once I start, it will be impossible to stop. I deeply love anyone who has been in either of these two directors' movies. I held off for as long as I can. Expect many more in the future. I'm starting with Barbara Sukowa because she was in one of the most affecting films I've ever seen, the 15 1/2-hour Fassbinder miniseries "Berlin Alexanderplatz." There aren't many 15 1/2 hour movies I'm dying to see again, but this is one of them. Please put these out on DVD, overlords of distribution. I have some moderately decent bootlegs, but that's not good enough. I'm growing weary of trying to explain why I like the actors I pick. Gushing adjectives don't do the trick. Barbara Sukowa is Mieze. She's Lola. I love those women. That's about it.

Berlin Alexanderplatz (Rainer Werner Fassbinder, 1980)
Lola (Rainer Werner Fassbinder, 1981)
Mariane and Juliane (Margarethe von Trotta, 1981)
Zentropa (Lars von Trier, 1991)
M. Butterfly (David Cronenberg, 1993)

Thursday, October 26, 2006

A couple reasons why I like Jonathan Rosenbaum

The Chicago Reader's Jonathan Rosenbaum is my favorite living, active movie critic for many reasons, especially because he eschews conventional wisdom and always gives me many things to think about, his taste could be called eclectic if that wasn't such a meaningless buzzword, he sticks up for important films that have either been ignored or battered by the mainstream critics, he doesn't give a shit about critical consensus (i.e. he thinks for himself whether it hurts his career or not), he's open-minded but very tough, and his approach to criticism is so much more thoughtful than any other current newspaper guy I can call to mind. He's not known for making grand, sweeping judgments, but a couple of grand, sweeping judgments he's made illustrate just how goddamn on target he usually is:
1) He's said that America would be a better country if John Waters hosted "The Tonight Show."
2) He's said that American film culture would be richer if John Cassavetes and Orson Welles had been able to make as many films as Woody Allen.
Disagree with those two points. I don't think you can.

Tuesday, October 24, 2006

Favorite Actor Monday: Special Tuesday Has-Beens Edition

I've been thinking about what happens when actors get too famous for their own good, and it hit me again after watching Jack Nicholson ham it up in "The Departed" on Saturday. It's easy to forget how great some iconic actors were and occasionally still can be when they spend most of their later career either slumming it, chasing after paychecks, or getting lost in their own persona. I'm going to single out four actors in particular who've consistenly excited and disappointed me, for different reasons.
1) Jack Nicholson. At his best, a charismatic, empathetic, and intensely exciting actor, also capable of subtlety and a give-and-take with his costars. At his worst, an eyebrow-wiggling ballhog who forces his own public image on his character.
Jack Nicholson performances I like:
Flight to Fury (Monte Hellman, 1964)
Back Door to Hell (Monte Hellman, 1964)
Ride in the Whirlwind (Monte Hellman, 1965)
The Shooting (Monte Hellman, 1967)
Psych-Out (Richard Rush, 1968)
Easy Rider (Dennis Hopper, 1969)
Five Easy Pieces (Bob Rafelson, 1970)
Carnal Knowledge (Mike Nichols, 1971)
The King of Marvin Gardens (Bob Rafelson, 1972)
The Last Detail (Hal Ashby, 1973)
Chinatown (Roman Polanski, 1974)
The Passenger (Michelangelo Antonioni, 1975)
The Shining (Stanley Kubrick, 1980)
Reds (Warren Beatty, 1981)
Terms of Endearment (James L. Brooks, 1983)
Broadcast News (James L. Brooks, 1987)
Mars Attacks! (Tim Burton, 1996)
The Pledge (Sean Penn, 2001)
About Schmidt (Alexander Payne, 2002)

2) Robert De Niro. Everybody knows what's happened here. Greatness becoming laziness. A series of forgettable Hollywood paychecks.
Recommended, though these are mostly pretty obvious:
Mean Streets (Martin Scorsese, 1973)
The Godfather Part II (Francis Ford Coppola, 1974)
Taxi Driver (Martin Scorsese, 1976)
New York, New York (Martin Scorsese, 1977)
The Deer Hunter (Michael Cimino, 1978) (a problematic movie, but I like the acting in it)
Raging Bull (Martin Scorsese, 1980)
The King of Comedy (Martin Scorsese, 1983)
Once Upon a Time in America (Sergio Leone, 1984)
Brazil (Terry Gilliam, 1985)
Midnight Run (Martin Brest, 1988)
Goodfellas (Martin Scorsese, 1990)
Cape Fear (Martin Scorsese, 1991)
Mad Dog and Glory (John McNaughton, 1993)
Casino (Martin Scorsese, 1995)
Jackie Brown (Quentin Tarantino, 1997)

3) Al Pacino. He used to be subtly wonderful, now he just yells and hams it up. HOO-AHH! She got a GREAT ASS! SHAKESPEARE! Unlike De Niro, he still looks like he's having a good time, though, so he makes me less sad.
The Godfather (Francis Ford Coppola, 1972)
Scarecrow (Jerry Schatzberg, 1972)
Serpico (Sidney Lumet, 1973)
The Godfather Part II (Francis Ford Coppola, 1974)
Dog Day Afternoon (Sidney Lumet, 1974)
Cruising (William Friedkin, 1980)
Scarface (Brian De Palma, 1983) (although I blame this role for the direction of his career)
Carlito's Way (Brian De Palma, 1993)
Donnie Brasco (Mike Newell, 1997)

4) Dennis Hopper. He was always hit and miss. Capable of two amazing performances and three horrific ones in the same year (especially when he does his "hey, man" schtick), he's mostly been slumming in straight-to-video dogshit for the past ten years. He's mostly interested in photography now, which is understandable given the current state of Hollywood filmmaking, but he also loves George W. Bush. Ugh.
Johnny Guitar (Nicholas Ray, 1954)
Rebel Without a Cause (Nicholas Ray, 1955)
Cool Hand Luke (Stuart Rosenberg, 1967)
Easy Rider (Dennis Hopper, 1969)
True Grit (Henry Hathaway, 1969)
The Last Movie (Dennis Hopper, 1971)
Out of the Blue (Dennis Hopper, 1980)
Human Highway (Neil Young & Dean Stockwell, 1982)
Rumble Fish (Francis Ford Coppola, 1983)
River's Edge (Tim Hunter, 1986)
Blue Velvet (David Lynch, 1986)
Hoosiers (David Anspaugh, 1986)
Straight to Hell (Alex Cox, 1987)
The Indian Runner (Sean Penn, 1991)
Red Rock West (John Dahl, 1992)
True Romance (Tony Scott, 1993)
Jesus' Son (Alison Maclean, 1999)
Land of the Dead (George A. Romero, 2005)

Monday, October 16, 2006

Favorite Actor Monday

Denny Jackson, whoever that is, writes about Gloria Grahame on, "She did, indeed, remind legions of fans of the girl next door." I wonder where Mr. Jackson and these legions live, because I've never had a neighbor like her, and I suspect almost no one else had either. Gloria Grahame was either too scarily intense or too tragically vulnerable to ever be a girl next door. She married one of my favorite directors, Nicholas Ray, and later married his son Tony (he played the guy who takes Lelia Goldoni's virginity in Cassavetes' "Shadows"). She had a very interesting mouth. I mean that as a compliment. Even when she shared the screen with Lee Marvin or Humphrey Bogart, I mostly watched her.

Recommended Gloria Grahame performances:
It's a Wonderful Life (Frank Capra, 1946)
In a Lonely Place (Nicholas Ray, 1950)
The Big Heat (Fritz Lang, 1953)
Human Desire (Fritz Lang, 1954)
Melvin and Howard (Jonathan Demme, 1980)

Monday, October 09, 2006

Favorite Actor Monday

I'm pretty hungry and am about to get something to eat, and Robert Mitchum doesn't need me to gush over him (first of all, he's dead; second, he never seemed like the kind of guy who liked getting gushed over; finally, what's the point?), so I'm not going to write a lot about him. I'll just say that there are a lot of gaps in my Mitchumography I hope to fill in over the course of my life (I've never seen the original "Cape Fear," for instance), and, besides being one of the best actors I've ever watched, he's one of the most goddamned interesting.

Recommended Robert Mitchum performances:
Out of the Past (Jacques Tourneur, 1947)
Angel Face (Otto Preminger, 1952)
The Night of the Hunter (Charles Laughton, 1955)
Secret Ceremony (Joseph Losey, 1968) (more a ridiculous performance than a "good" one, you still can't take your eyes off him)
The Friends of Eddie Coyle (Peter Yates, 1973)
Farewell, My Lovely (Dick Richards, 1975)
Scrooged (Richard Donner, 1988)
Cape Fear (Martin Scorsese, 1991)
Dead Man (Jim Jarmusch, 1995)

Monday, October 02, 2006

Favorite Actor Monday

Watching Sandrine Bonnaire act is like listening to Keith Moon or John Bonham drum. Seeing her in "La Ceremonie," which is one of my favorite movies, I felt complete empathy, bafflement, and terror from her character. All at once. For the film's duration. She's good.

Recommended Sandrine Bonnaire performances:
Vagabond (Agnes Varda, 1985)
Under the Sun of Satan (Maurice Pialat, 1987)
Monsieur Hire (Patrice Leconte, 1989)
Joan the Maid (Jacques Rivette, 1994)
La Ceremonie (Claude Chabrol, 1995)

Sunday, October 01, 2006

Half Nelson

I feel good. After The Science of Sleep last week, I saw another almost-great movie this weekend. Half Nelson (Ryan Fleck) sounds so horrible on paper, a smorgasbord of cliches. Not good cliches, either. Bad ones. Bad, bad, bad, bad, bad ones. It's like someone looked into my personal list of subjects the movies are awful at exploring. Let's check them off:
Drug addiction
White teacher inspiring inner-city youth
Race relations
Leftist politics
Inappropriate relationships between male authority figures and young girls
Drug dealers
Hippies becoming yuppies
Chasm between parents and children
The possibility of redemption

This movie is about all these things, all these things I've never, ever, ever wanted to see covered in a movie ever again, not even incidentally, and somehow is one of the best things I've seen all year. Every character is flawed, complex, and treated with respect. Every issue raised is raised honestly. Every situation is presented without melodrama. Almost every cliche is avoided. The use of background music is unusual and effective, only overbearing on a few occasions. The quiet expression of futility and outrage about our current political situation is refreshing. The characters are never let off the hook for their flaws, but are never reduced to simplistic representations of general ideas. One scene in particular, in which one character confronts the other, begins like any scene of this kind and becomes something else, something that happens often in life but almost never in a film. I'm glad I took a chance on it.

Thursday, September 28, 2006

Boy is my face red

I think I may have written this sentence last night: "I'm not going to tell you how highly I value this movie, mostly because anything I recommend seems to underwhelm almost everybody else (not because I'm some kind of supercool movie hipster, mostly because I value plot and dollar bills so much less than most, much to my continually frustrating dismay)."
Jeez. I sound like a twat. Teen angst never disappears for long. It hides out, but it never goes away completely. I am actually surprised at how many of my friends pay attention to my recommendations, and I know lots of people who don't care about dollar bills and less (but still a lot) who don't care much about plot, either. Some of my friends even read my childish rants. Voluntarily! I am a lucky guy in some ways.

Four more things I like about The Science of Sleep: 1) Gondry works from his own script this time and there's so much enthusiasm evident onscreen when the director is also the writer. 2) Alain Chabat is so goddamn funny. I'm glad this movie introduced him to me. 3) I like the mixture of languages (English, Spanish, and French) and the unfixed, casual way the dialogue ping-pongs between them, complementing the film's unpretentious commingling of dreams and reality. It's not one of those movies where you're asking, "Is this a dream? Is this really happening?" unless you're Richard Roeper, who was stuck in "Eternal Sunshine" mode and stupidly tried to impose that film's structure on this one. It's really a film about how our real and fantasy lives constantly butt heads. 4) I love the tonal shifts in dialogue in Bernal and Gainsbourg's scenes together. These scenes are so honest about how romantic couples can move from playful camaraderie to brutalizations of each other to tenderness (or any random permutation of this sequence) in just a few minutes of conversation. Most movies have such black and white misunderstandings of living. This one doesn't.

Wednesday, September 27, 2006

Some people dream of popcorn and comfortable recliners

I was irritated to discover Richard Roeper and guest host Fred Willard (an actor I like a lot) giving two thumbs down to Michel Gondry's newest and best film, "The Science of Sleep," on Ebert and Roeper's show last weekend. I'm not going to tell you how highly I value this movie, mostly because anything I recommend seems to underwhelm almost everybody else (not because I'm some kind of supercool movie hipster, mostly because I value plot and dollar bills so much less than most, much to my continually frustrating dismay). Fuck it, I'll tell you. It's my favorite thing I've seen in theaters all year. What bothers me about this double thumbs-down is that this particular television show is practically the only mainstream outlet for discussion of non-Hollywood film. Even if a film doesn't "work," and these TV and newspaper guys are obsessed with whether a movie "works" or "doesn't work," shouldn't a film with ambition, honesty, and originality get a recommendation regardless of its success as a cohesive narrative entertainment (never mind that this film is cohesive, entertaining, and a narrative, if you have the patience of a twelve-year-old, most Americans do not). Most Hollywood bullshit crapfests "work," narratively speaking, and are, almost without exception, worthless. A lot of interesting, ambitious, original, and beautiful films don't "work," narratively speaking, but are worth your time if you think movies can be more than what they are. It's a beautiful, largely untapped medium, film, and it deserves better than a couple of guys warning thousands of Americans away from something because they're too fucking lazy to step out of their comfort zones for a couple of hours. "The Science of Sleep" is funny, sad, honest, playful, and just right about the way dreamers struggle at work, the trouble shy people have at kindling romance, and the way couples hurt each other. It has a visual reason to exist, thank god! So many critics go on and on about how important a good "story" is to a movie's success. You just want to slap them and say, "It's a visual medium, you fucknuts! Who gives a fuck about your motherfucking stories? What about visual poetry, you douchebags? What abouut the confluence of sound and image? What about body language and facial expressions? Read your Hardy Boys books and fuck off!" Also, Fred Willard really offended me and gave a backhanded compliment to Charlotte Gainsbourg when he said that "she stops just short of pretty." You have been in Hollywood too long, Mr. Willard, if you don't realize how amazingly pretty Gainsbourg is.
For god's sake, my favorite actor of the week, Timothy Carey, looked like a raccoon who wanted to hug you and light fireworks inside your mother's house. Does that "work" as a narrative for you? Does he "stop short of pretty"?

Monday, September 25, 2006

Favorite Actor Monday

Timothy Carey was more interested in life than a career. He cared about you, but he didn't give a damn what you thought of him. He was often broke, and John Cassavetes occasionally paid his dental bills. He turned down a role in "The Godfather" and was fired from "Reservoir Dogs" by co-star and producer Harvey Keitel because Carey claimed to have never heard of Keitel (the part was then given to Lawrence Tierney). He made Elia Kazan so angry that his voice was dubbed over by another actor in "East of Eden" (his performance was great anyway). While auditioning for a part in "The Godfather, Part II," he fired a gun loaded with blanks at Francis Ford Coppola. He faked his own kidnapping. When Cassavetes went to his house for the first time, he made him wear an attack dog suit, then sicced Rottweilers on him while shouting "It's not you they hate, it's the suit." He was in "One-Eyed Jacks," the only movie Marlon Brando directed. I haven't seen it yet, but I bought the DVD for one dollar at Walgreen's, and I can't wait. He directed a movie called "The World's Greatest Sinner." (Bootleg VHS copies can be found on the Internet, but I'm holding out for an official DVD release. I can't hold out too long, though.) It is about an insurance salesman who becomes a rock star/fundamentalist preacher/cult messiah. A then-unknown Frank Zappa composed the score. He attempted to direct other features, but they remained unfinished at the time of his death. One was called "Tweet's Ladies of Pasadena" and is about a man who rollerskates everywhere, is married to a 300-pound female wrestler, is the only male member of a ladies' knitting club, and whose life ambition is to clothe every animal in the world. Another, "The Insect Trainer," is based on Carey's belief that the fart should be as socially acceptable as the cough or the sneeze. The plot concerns a cockroach-befriending dishwasher who accidentally kills a woman with a fart. It was eventually performed as a play with his son in the lead. Carey once wanted to make a film that, when exhibited, would feed directly from the projector into a shredder. It could only be shown one time. He died in 1994, after a series of strokes. He was in "D.C. Cab."

Recommended Timothy Carey performances:
East of Eden (Elia Kazan, 1955)
The Killing (Stanley Kubrick, 1956)
Paths of Glory (Stanley Kubrick, 1957)
Head (Bob Rafelson, 1968)
Minnie and Moskowitz (John Cassavetes, 1971)
The Killing of a Chinese Bookie (John Cassavetes, 1976)

Monday, September 18, 2006

Favorite Actor Monday

Movie stars get too much attention, and are often the least interesting thing about a movie. I'm a much bigger fan of character actors, or, to use lame-o Oscar-speak, "supporting actors." (This makes them sound like they are nothing more than jock straps for Tom Cruise.) Grace Zabriskie is one of my favorites. She made her character on "Twin Peaks," who does almost nothing but cry or drift into catatonia, infinitely interesting. Her performance as Susan's mother on "Seinfeld" is wickedly funny. Even though she hasn't been in anything I've wanted to see for about twelve years or so, I think she's great. (Fortunately, she's in David Lynch's new movie, "Inland Empire," along with Harry Dean Stanton, Laura Dern, and Jeremy Irons. I'm excited about that.)

Recommended Grace Zabriskie performances:
Drugstore Cowboy (Gus Van Sant, 1989)
Wild at Heart (David Lynch, 1990)
Twin Peaks (David Lynch, etc., 1990-91)
My Own Private Idaho (Gus Van Sant, 1991)
Twin Peaks: Fire Walk With Me (David Lynch, 1992)
Seinfeld (various, 1992-98)

I also recommend, with caution, An Officer and a Gentleman (Taylor Hackford, 1982) and Even Cowgirls Get the Blues (Gus Van Sant, 1993). The former is successful junk and the latter is an honorable mess, but she's good in both. She's not very good in The Big Easy (Jim McBride, 1987) but neither is anyone else.

Monday, September 11, 2006

Favorite Actor Monday

Warren Oates is possibly my favorite actor. He could play anything. He gave all his characters, even the creeps and buffoons, dignity. All his performances were subtle, even his broad ones. I can see traces of him in current actors I admire, including Jeff Bridges, Billy Bob Thornton, John C. Reilly, and Philip Seymour Hoffman. He died way too young, of a heart attack a few months before his 54th birthday. Like his good friend and fellow Favorite Actor Monday alum Harry Dean Stanton, he was born and raised in Kentucky. One of his last films was "Stripes." I'm not including it in my recommendations because I haven't seen it since I was a kid and can't remember how substantial Oates' role was, but I thought I should at least mention it. Bill Murray and Oates sharing screen space might really be worth seeing.

Recommended Warren Oates performances:
Ride the High Country (Sam Peckinpah, 1962)
The Shooting (Monte Hellman, 1967)
In the Heat of the Night (Norman Jewison, 1967)
The Wild Bunch (Sam Peckinpah, 1969)
Two-Lane Blacktop (Monte Hellman, 1971)
The Hired Hand (Peter Fonda, 1971)
Badlands (Terrence Malick, 1973)
Bring Me the Head of Alfredo Garcia (Sam Peckinpah, 1974)
Cockfighter (Monte Hellman, 1974)
92 in the Shade (Thomas McGuane, 1975)
China 9, Liberty 37 (Monte Hellman, 1978)
1941 (Steven Spielberg, 1979)

Thursday, September 07, 2006

Unintentionally disturbing Czech movie posters

From the top, Bob Fosse's "Cabaret," Dennis Hopper's "Easy Rider," Luis Bunuel's "Belle de jour," and Steven Spielberg's "E.T. The Extra-Terrestrial."

Monday, September 04, 2006

Favorite Actor Monday: Labor Day Edition

I have a big crush on 1970s Sissy Spacek. She had the amazing ability to look strange, average, and beautiful simultaneously. If there's a certain wildness that's missing from her features now, she is still a great actress. She has enormous range and a completely unpretentious way of inhabiting her characters. She deserves as much, if not more, of the accolades showered on Meryl Streep.

Recommended Sissy Spacek performances:
Badlands (Terrence Malick, 1973)
Carrie (Brian de Palma, 1976)
3 Women (Robert Altman, 1977)
Coal Miner's Daughter (Michael Apted, 1980)
Affliction (Paul Schrader, 1997)
The Straight Story (David Lynch, 1999)
In the Bedroom (Todd Field, 2001)

Monday, August 28, 2006

Favorite Actor Monday

Since I haven't updated in a long time, and inspired by Spacebeer's Secret Boyfriend Wednesday, I think I will institute a weekly feature: Favorite Actor Monday. It will be a welcome balance to the otherwise director-heavy focus of my rant-heavy movie blog. I can think of no one more appropriate to kick off this weekly feature than Harry Dean Stanton. I love character actors. He is one of the best. I was born on July 14. He was born on July 14. He plays guitar in a band. I like the rock and roll. He's been in a lot of good movies. I like movies. Harry Dean Stanton, you are one of Mr. Krauter's favorite actors.

Recommended Harry Dean Stanton performances:
Ride in the Whirlwind (Monte Hellman, 1965)
Two-Lane Blacktop (Monte Hellman, 1971)
Cisco Pike (Bill L. Norton, 1972)
Pat Garrett & Billy the Kid (Sam Peckinpah, 1973)
Cockfighter (Monte Hellman, 1974)
Rancho Deluxe (Frank Perry, 1975)
Farewell, My Lovely (Dick Richards, 1975)
92 in the Shade (Thomas McGuane, 1975)
Straight Time (Ulu Grosbard, 1978)
Alien (Ridley Scott, 1979)
Repo Man (Alex Cox, 1984)
Paris, Texas (Wim Wenders, 1984)
Pretty in Pink (Howard Deutch, 1986)
Wild at Heart (David Lynch, 1990)
Twin Peaks: Fire Walk with Me (David Lynch, 1992)
She's So Lovely (Nick Cassavetes, 1997)
The Straight Story (David Lynch, 1999)
The Pledge (Sean Penn, 2001)

Even if some of these movies disappoint, and most of them don't, they work whenever Stanton is on the screen.

Friday, August 11, 2006

A whole lot of bullshit

I've got a lot on my mind, particularly concerning my visits to the Vietnam Memorial and Holocaust Museum during my vacation to D.C. last week, and their relations to my life and art, Art, and ART!!!, and their relationship with both elitism and cultural tourism and/or terrorism, and what the fuck it actually means to be a citizen of the United States, but first I want to point any real, living human being to these thoughtful reviews of Oliver Stone's latest shitsterpiece, "World Trade Center." I think they set up a lot of what went through my mind last week when I was a cultural tourist/terrorist, though I must warn everyone that I haven't seen this film, and hopefully never will. I've spent enough time with Oliver Stone movies to realize that he is undoubtedly the worst filmmaker I have ever had the unfortunate luck of being acquainted with. (I have to end that sentence with a preposition, sorry. If you have a problem with that, watch "Nixon." Then fuck off.)

Jonathan Rosenbaum

J. Hoberman

Jim Emerson

(The J. Hoberman headline is seriously misleading. This headline is yet another example of how newspaper employees don't communicate with each other.)

I'm sorry our mainstream culture is so damaging. Maybe Conor Oberst can write a horrible song about this. Problem solved.

Saturday, July 29, 2006


For those living in or near Austin, Jacques Tati's Playtime will be playing at the Paramount Theatre on Saturday, August 5, and Sunday, August 6 in a 70mm print. I saw it there two years ago, and I hope to see it again many times. A DVD is available, but if any film needs to be seen on a huge screen, it's this one. The DVD might just reduce it to mush. There are multiple events happening on the screen simultaneously, so the viewer is left to decide what to look at, what people to watch, how to see the movie. You could watch it fifty times without repeating yourself. It's a French film, but it is unsubtitled because the dialogue consists almost entirely of grunts, groans, mumbles, squeals, incomprehensible mutterings, and small-talk pidgin French and English. The film has many things to say about work, play, loneliness, community, and life in a city. It is also one of the funniest films ever made. Tati constructed an artificial mini-Paris in rural France that is this film's setting and filled it with bustling, ugly, beautiful, chaotic life. It is something to see, and I hope you do.

Friday, July 21, 2006


While Roger Ebert recuperates from emergency surgery, several different columnists at the Chicago Sun-Times and his web editor are taking over the reviews for him until he returns. Opinion columnist Bill Zwecker is somehow one of these substitutes. Zwecker has the writing skill of a retarded twelve-year-old mountain lion given the gift of speech. Here are some samples from his review of "Clerks II":

"Where would they be 10 years hence? What would their lives be like today? Not only has Smith given us some very humorous answers, with "Clerks II," he has achieved something rarely accomplished by any filmmaker -- the creation of a sequel as good, and possibly funnier, than the wonderful original that inspired it.

Is "Clerks II" outrageous? Absolutely.

Somewhat over the top? Without question.

Completely intended for a very adult audience? You betchya."

"As I found myself laughing uproariously at the craziness and zaniness of it all, I also discovered I was drawn in by Smith's clever (and totally subversive!) way to make us think about the core values of love, friendship and loyalty.

And fans of Jay and Silent Bob will, I think, be totally delighted by how these iconic stoners are used by Smith to add even more richness to this juicy mixture of great offbeat humor.

After seeing 'Clerks II,' I walked out of the theater saying, 'OK, Kevin Smith. All is forgiven. Obviously, 'Jersey Girls' was just a silly aberration. You not only have not lost your comedic touch -- you've taken it to new heights.'"

To completely read the very full review, click on this juicy, zany (and totally subversive!) link.

Chilled-out entertainer

I hate bumper stickers. I don't care what your other car is, where your child attends school, how much you love and/or hate Jesus, dead babies, and/or the Dave Matthews Band, or who you vote for. I don't understand your need to tell all who drive behind you these things. I also don't understand why you would want to assist in U.S. culture's wildly successful program of reducing all aspects of human behavior, discourse, personality, taste, and politics to mass-produced identity brands. One of these identity brands is the counterkultur-intellectual-ecowarrior-TVhater. This brand comes in two flavors: purple Kill Your Television and vanilla raspberry swirl Throw Away Your Television. These neato slogans niftily and zanily forget that instead of killing your television, you should be killing yourself. Television brought us "The Office." "The Office," though it is a TV show, is one of my favorite films of all time. It will stand the test of time. It is great. It is funny, brutal, and compassionate. It is good. Your bumper sticker has dumbed down our world more than any television program, including "The Nanny," "That 80s Show," and "Friends." Kill yourself. You are too dumb to find the button that turns your television off, so you are too dumb to live. I don't care if your child is an honor roll student at Austin High. In fact, he/she sounds like such a genius that he/she can run the household for you after you blow your brains out. Now, if you'll excuse me, my dishwasher failed to properly clean my favorite cereal bowl in its entirety, so I am going to print several bumper stickers extolling the virtues of killing dishwashers.
By the way, TV also brought us "Curb Your Enthusiasm." What did you do? Asshole. Wheat from the chaff, buddy. It's not that difficult.

Tuesday, July 04, 2006

It's a cheap shot, but...

From's trivia for "director" Michael Bay:
"Films often feature a US President giving a major speech before a major action is to be committed."
from personal Michael Bay quotes:
"I write my own action. There's a scene in The Island (2005), a highway chase where a pile of train wheels fall off a truck and smash into the oncoming cars. That thought came to me as I was driving next to a truck carrying rail wheels. My mind is very fertile, so I'm like 'That's very dangerous!' I sent someone out to do research and found out those train wheels weigh a TON each..."

Happy birthday Plop Blop and the current worst country on earth!

My mind is very fertile. Once I saw a dog take a shit, and wrote a scene where a dog took a shit. My mind is very fertile!

Friday, June 09, 2006

Note to self

Stop posting while drunk.

Green not blue

My favorite movie of all time is John Cassavetes' Love Streams. I think to gain a full appreciation of this film, you have to see all of his other films first, simply because it's his last (official) film (not counting "Big Trouble," which is funny, but not written by him and taken only as a job of work after the original director quit), it references most of his other films, and he was dying when he made it. But that's just trivia, and is mostly unimportant. It is criminally out of print on video and never released on DVD in the USA, though most good video stores carry it. I don't mention this unavailability as a badge of hip, but as a sincere disappointment in my participation in a culture that values empty thrills over experience and beauty. Is it the best movie ever made? Who gives a shit. I'm one human being, and this one film has been in my thoughts every single day since seeing it for the first time four years ago. You hate it? I don't care. Every day in the shower for the past four years, at least one scene in this film has popped into my head. It is, for me, a goal to strive for in anything I do, including how I eat breakfast. This film is so goddamned tough, sweet, and beautiful. I love this movie. I love it like I love my wife, parents, brother, sister, friends, and pets. Bo Harwood wrote some music for the film that is so goddamn gorgeous. Of course, it's not fucking available, though you can buy any Limp Bizkit album anywhere in the world at almost any time. Fortunately, I was able to download part of Harwood's song "Almost in Love with You" off of the best argument against Luddite-ism: the Internet. I love, love, love this song. I'm not one to play a song on repeat over and over again, but I've listened to it about 23 times since getting home tonight. One day I'll write about Cassavetes, but it's almost too personal to me. His movies changed my life. Laugh at that sentence all you want. It doesn't take away any of the absolute excitement, sadness, irritation, joy, terror, feeling I get from his films. Effusive gushing is worthless. It isn't easy to love his movies. They're hard to watch, and my love for them negated immediately my love for several other films and filmmakers I had previously enjoyed because their output looked liked absolute fucking fluff, pointless garbage, compared to this guy who poured his heart, soul, life, and every bit of money into these ridiculous, wonderful, honest pieces of art. One viewing isn't enough. His movies change with each viewing like each of us change each day. He makes so many people look like worthless bullshit artists. Goddammit, I love his movies. Objectivity is a complete fallacy, but I can't even make a polite show of it. If you don't like these movies, you're a fucking douchebag. But I love you anyway. You're alright. No villains, no heroes. You're alive, but what if you were really forced to be alive? These lyrics are beautiful. The contradictions, the beats, the changes of meaning. I'm drunk, but I'm this sappy and effusive about his work on a sober day. These lyrics, goddammit! He wrote these goddamn lyrics! Bo Harwood wrote the music! Some other guy sang them fantastically! I hate superlatives! I can't help it! If you don't like this, your heart is made of cow dung and broken brick!:

"I've been pointed out by people
My name is mud
I've been dreaming all the dreams
and dancing in the evening
Singing in the shower
But nothing seems to take your place,
I'm almost in love with you
I nearly miss you
I've hardly seen you
When I do I get a feeling that something should be there

I almost like your eyes
They're green not blue
Your touch could thrill me
What can I do
I'm not, but almost, in love with you"

Monday, June 05, 2006

Another one bites the dust

Shohei Imamura died of cancer a few days ago. He made two films I love, The Eel and Dr. Akagi, and one I really like, Black Rain. I've also seen a short film of his in the anthology September 11 that is pretty damn good. He was an old man, but I would have gladly traded Oliver Stone's, Kevin Smith's, David Fincher's, and Christopher Nolan's entire existences for a few more years of Imamura.

Sunday, May 28, 2006

The world in 24 images

Twenty-four stills from twenty-four of my favorite movies.
From top to bottom:
The Killing of a Chinese Bookie (John Cassavetes, 1976)
The Kid (Charlie Chaplin, 1921)
Tokyo Story (Yasujiro Ozu, 1953)
The Wind Will Carry Us (Abbas Kiarostami, 1999)
Les Bonnes Femmes (Claude Chabrol, 1960)
I Fidanzati (Ermanno Olmi, 1963)
In the Mood for Love (Wong Kar-Wai, 2000)
Playtime (Jacques Tati, 1967)
Au Hasard Balthazar (Robert Bresson, 1966)
A Woman under the Influence (John Cassavetes, 1974)
Stalker (Andrei Tarkovsky, 1979)
Rio Bravo (Howard Hawks, 1959)
Ordet (Carl Theodor Dreyer, 1955)
L'Atalante (Jean Vigo, 1934)
Fitzcarraldo (Werner Herzog, 1982)
Scenes from a Marriage (Ingmar Bergman, 1973)
Rebel without a Cause (Nicholas Ray, 1955)
The Night of the Hunter (Charles Laughton, 1955)
Mikey and Nicky (Elaine May, 1976)
Love Streams (John Cassavetes, 1984)
The Bicycle Thief (Vittorio De Sica, 1948)
Naked (Mike Leigh, 1993)
Ali: Fear Eats the Soul (Rainer Werner Fassbinder, 1974)
California Split (Robert Altman, 1974)

I hate directors who aren't interested in people's faces.

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