Monday, May 21, 2007

I'm begging you

Favorite Actor Monday can take a hike this week and possibly every week hereafter. I still have plenty of favorites, but I've run out of things to say. Instead, I want to implore, beg, cajole, coerce, persuade, convince, and plead with anyone who reads this blog and lives in Austin to see Charles Burnett's "Killer of Sheep" at the Alamo Drafthouse Downtown Wednesday night at 7 p.m. (if you didn't see it tonight, although feel free to see it again if you did). Burnett shot this film on weekends in 1973 with a cast of mostly nonprofessionals as his master's thesis for UCLA film school. He finally completed it in 1977. (It is worth noting that film schools once encouraged filmmakers to make art about, with, and for their communities as a means in itself and now churn out a supply of inconsequential douchebags whose goals are to get on "Entertainment Tonight" and become famous and wealthy alumni making bullshit for morons.) It was one of the first 50 films chosen for the Library of Congress Film Registry, and has never been officially released until this year due to a failure to clear music rights. It will be released on DVD later this year for the first time, along with his second feature, "My Brother's Wedding," and two shorts, "The Horse" and "When It Rains." When even our best new filmmakers seem to be obsessed with monosyllabic infantile indie rock breakups with their girlfriends, it's absolutely energizing and life-affirming to see a film with such modesty and ambition, an expansive and empathetic vision encompassing many lives and a community, an intelligent and organic feel for film language, and an artistic perspective not stuck up its own asshole. This film is poetry. It's beautiful and deserves to be seen by as many people as possible. Please go see it.

Monday, May 14, 2007

Favorite Actor Monday

Apples and oranges, yes, even though I'm talking about brothers working the same profession, but cut me a little slack and let me say that Chris Penn was a better actor than Sean Penn. He wasn't as famous, didn't get as many leading roles, had to do some truly shitty movies, and was playing mostly bit parts at the time of his death, but at his best, Chris Penn made his older brother look like a schoolboy getting depantsed (or pantsed, depending on where you're from). Chris may have been felled by an appetite for booze, drugs, and mass quantities of food, but Sean has been killed by his own ponderous humorlessness. Sean Penn tries too hard and is way too serious about it. He's as far away from his own performance as Spicoli in "Fast Times at Ridgemont High" as former president Dwight Eisenhower is from the nearest Burger King. Chris Penn was a fucking force of nature, scary and funny and natural and sad. Don't get me wrong. Sean Penn has turned in some incredible performances and directed some flawed but interesting films (particularly "The Indian Runner" and "The Pledge"). But he's no Chris Penn. Imagine Chris in "Mystic River" instead of Sean, and imagine a much better film. Raise your glasses and toast the forgotten Penn, our Favorite Actor of this Monday.

Recommended (a few of these movies are atrocious, but there's something happening when Chris Penn is on screen):
Rumble Fish (Francis Ford Coppola, 1983)
Footloose (Herbert Ross, 1984) (atrocioulicious)
At Close Range (James Foley, 1986)
Reservoir Dogs (Quentin Tarantino, 1992)
Best of the Best 2 (Robert Radler, 1993) (I dare you to rent this movie)
Short Cuts (Robert Altman, 1993)
True Romance (Tony Scott, 1993)
Mulholland Falls (Lee Tamahori, 1996) (atrocious)
The Funeral (Abel Ferrara, 1996)
Masked and Anonymous (Larry Charles, 2003)
a couple of TV performances I caught on late-night reruns of particularly awful material actually being transformed to something more than watchable by Chris Penn's performance:
"Grave Young Men" episode of CSI:Miami (2003)
"Fanilow" episode of Will & Grace (2003)

I'd like to see Sean Penn be taught how to dance by Kevin Bacon in a musical montage and totally commit to it without worrying about looking ridiculous:

Monday, May 07, 2007

Favorite Actor Monday

What else is left to say about Marlene Dietrich? I don't have any new insights. However, I should probably write something. Here's three observations and a quote:
1) She exudes an intense sexuality that fills the screen and the room where the film is being projected or watched on television while she herself seems less interested in sex than any other person on earth. There is an odd yet thrilling disconnect between her effortlessly magnetic presence and her uninterested detachment from it. She's like a spider who doesn't give a damn about its web.
2) She doesn't get enough credit for being one of the greatest comedic actors. She's funny.
3) It's difficult to find a picture of her without a cigarette in her hand or mouth, and she loved to get drunk. Somehow, she lived to be 90.
4) "There is a lack of dignity to film stardom" - Marlene Dietrich.

The Blue Angel (Josef von Sternberg, 1930)
Dishonored (Josef von Sternberg, 1931)
Shanghai Express (Josef von Sternberg, 1932)
The Scarlet Empress (Josef von Sternberg, 1934)
A Foreign Affair (Billy Wilder, 1948)
Touch of Evil (Orson Welles, 1958)

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