The House


[Editor's Note: Universal still hasn't gotten with the times, hence this barn-burner of a video having been pulled from YouTube. Will update with the next YouTube clip that becomes available, but the video can be viewed on Erykah Badu's official site by clicking on the ankh.]

  • print
  • email

TAGS: erykah badu, matt and kim, new amerykah part two return of the ankh, window seat


Lost Clock

I've spent quite a bit of time watching and recapping the CW series Gossip Girl; especially early on, the show had a surprising amount of hidden depth. However, while watching the past few episodes of the series, two thoughts were on my mind. The first was that after two-and-a-half seasons, any critical insight the show had to offer and that I could glean from in-depth recapping had probably come to an end. The second thought was about the reason for the first.

The intractable problem facing Gossip Girl is the same problem that plagued showrunner Josh Schwartz's first series, The O.C., and is the same problem that any long-running television series confronts. A show survives the dreaded culling of pilot season and makes it onto the air. From there, it finds some combination of audience penetration and critical acclaim that justifies its existence to the networks, and it gets picked up for another season…and another…and another. At this point, dozens of hours of the show have been created, with each episode using up a plot avenue and closing off potential choices for the show's direction. Will the show embark upon radical changes which may be so disorienting to an audience already used to the show's pattern and template that it drives them away? Or will it rehash plots and tread water, creating new narratives from flimsier and flimsier premises, with the hope that the audience doesn't realize or care that they've seen this stuff before? The correct choice lies somewhere in-between alienation and stagnation, and many series founder when making that choice.

More >>

  • print
  • email

TAGS: aaron sorkin, battlestar galactica, carnivale, deadwood, gossip girl, joss whedon, lost, rome, seinfeld, the sopranos, the wire


A Cool Dip in the Barren Saharan Crick

At first, it seems as if Abebe (William Jackson Harper), the Ethiopian hero of Kia Corthron's A Cool Dip in the Barren Saharan Crick (try saying that five times fast), may never fully merge his ideas about God, the impoverished, and the world's water supply into a palatable presentation to his grieving, uprooted American caretakers (Myra Lucretia Taylor and Kianne Muschett). But then you realize that Corthron (Breath, Boom) will never pull off the same feat either, as her supremely unfocused, recklessly overstuffed new work makes quite clear pretty early on. Those three subjects could each make their own neat little play, but this one also crams in Hurricane Katrina, corporate commerce, foster kids, hallucinations, droughts, rekindled romance, and a peculiar pair of talking kitchen cabinets, resulting in a hodgepodge of styles, intents, and tones—a runaway train of a play that just keeps on jumping off track after track.

More >>

  • print
  • email

TAGS: a cool dip in the barren saharan crick, godlight theatre company, gregory konow, in the heat of the night, kia corthron, kianne muschett, myra lucretia taylor, sean phillips, william jackson harper


Close-Up

[Editor's Note: The following article is reprinted from the December 29th, 1999 issue of New York Press. My thanks to the author for his permission. Close-Up is currently playing at Film Forum in Manhattan through Thursday, April 1st. It will be released on DVD and Blu-ray on June 22nd, 2010 by the Criterion Collection. A new essay by Godfrey will accompany the release.]

Few figures in the history of movies leap from screen to become not just characters but paradigms, beacons that illuminate the paradoxical nature and power of the medium even as they exercise their own unique fascinations. The Little Tramp, Charles Foster Kane and a handful of others: these are the cinema's resonant, iconic Quixotes, whose significance surpasses even the films that contain them. At the end of the 1990s we can add another name to their select company of unforgettables: Hossein Sabzian.

This review, the last I will write for publication in the year that marks the end of the century of cinema, concerns Abbas Kiarostami's Close-Up, a 1990 Iranian feature that I recently named the most important film of the last decade and one of the 10 most important of the century. That estimation certainly reflects my own ongoing fascination with Iranian cinema, but it's hardly idiosyncratic. In 1990, when few in the film world were cued to the growing potency of Iranian filmmaking, Close-Up was passed over by high-profile festivals including Cannes and New York, but won prizes in Montreal and Rimini. Its renown has grown exponentially since then. After being voted the best Iranian film in history in a worldwide survey of critics published by the Iranian magazine Film International, the film has ranked at or near the top of critics polls regarding movies of the 1990s conducted recently in Canada and Europe.

More >>

  • print
  • email

TAGS: abbas kiarostami, close-up, film forum, hossein sabzian, mohsen makhmalbaf


Jay and Mark Duplass

So, last night while watching Cyrus, the word I repeatedly jotted down was "honest."

Jay Duplass: Oh God, we're gonna start crying now.

I'm wondering how you were able to keep and develop that honesty while working within a studio environment for the first time?

Mark Duplass: Well, we did work with a studio, but it's Fox Searchlight, so you know, this is what they want to be doing. That being said, it was a production with an 80- or 100-person crew, so we did have to take some extra steps to create an intimate set that can give you the honesty you're talking about. So the key for us was making sure that every set was a closed set. Jay on the camera, another cameraman, boom op, tops. And I would watch from a monitor and Jay and I would make sure to continue what we've always done, which is spend as much time as possible on the acting and with the actors. And keep everything technical that is happening out of the way of the actors. When you establish that set, it's almost like theater. It's just here, with the directors and the actors.

More >>

  • print
  • email

TAGS: cyrus, jack duplass, mark duplass, richard linkalter, robert rodriguez, sandra bullock, sxsw


Ghosts in the Machine

Yesterday's mid-season finale could prove to be a make or break moment for the remaining fans that have hung in there for Caprica. The penultimate episode, "Ghosts in the Machine," embodies much of what is wrong with this series. Everytime one gets caught up in a given plotline, the episode cuts away to another less interesting one. I would have bet early on in this show's run that Esai Morales would have held my interest more than Eric Stoltz. But that's not how it's worked out.

The "A" story continues to follow Joseph's Orpheic search for his daughter Tamara's avatar in the virtual (under)world of New Cap City. The mysterious Emmanuelle, introduced at the climax of "The Imperfections of Memory," continues to guide him, revealing that she was paid to help him. Emmanuelle's most important contribution involves a virtual "drug" called Amp, a hack that heightens one's senses while in the game in order to enhance performance. An Amp junkie tells Joseph he can find Tamara-A (known in New Cap as the "dead girl") in a burlesque club called Mysteries. The club is presided over by a crossdresser known as Cerberus (Dmitry Chepovetsky), who asks Joseph a riddle that hearkens back to a speech his son made on Battlestar Galactica, "As the Gods overthrew the Titans, so has Man overthrown the Gods. But when Man visits his sins upon his children, how shall he be repaid?" Joseph is unable to solve it (in hindsight, of course, the clear answer would be "the Cylons"), so he doesn't get an answer regarding Tamara-A's whereabouts, but he does find some distinctive graffiti on the walls outside the club indicating she was there.

More >>

  • print
  • email

TAGS: caprica, ghosts in the machine, recap


Cold WeatherCold Weather (Aaron Katz). You're bound to stumble upon a couple of mumblecore movies if you spend enough time at SXSW; regardless of your love or hate for that term and style of low-budget filmmaking, there's no denying that the festival smiles favorably on the likes of Joe Swanberg, Andrew Bujalski, the Duplass brothers, or anyone in their "extended family," and having an outlet of this magnitude is one reason why mumblecore hasn't died out yet, despite seemingly annual proclamations to the contrary from critics. However, because most of these films are only slight variations of one another, the so-called movement will eventually peter out if it doesn't evolve. This year, SXSW showcased a few examples of that evolution in Cyrus and Aaron Katz's Cold Weather, a film with polish, wit, and impeccable comedic timing.

Katz's features have always had a visual refinement that other mumblecore films tend to lack. The warm, sunny cinematography of Quiet City perfectly matched the story of a sweet yet fleeting romance, while Cold Weather, conforming to its title, goes for cooler hues and an overall cleaner, more pristine look. It's not an unwelcoming style, but a crisp, precise, attractive one, much like Frank Griebe's work in The International, or more recently, the brisk look of The Ghost Writer. With this visual scheme and a slow but deliberate camera, Katz and his cinematographer Andrew Reed inject a quiet confidence in Cold Weather.

More >>

  • print
  • email

TAGS: aaron katz, all my friends are funeral singers, carl theodor dreyer, cold weather, in the nursery, sxsw, the passion of joan of arc, the unknown, tim rutili, tod browning


Lost in NightmaresLost in Nightmares and Desperate Escape, the two downloadable chapters for Resident Evil 5, are pretty much perfect gaming experiences. They're compact, precisely assembled little machines of delight, built with the loving craft that makes for real art. Each chapter's campaign runs about 100 minutes, and it's worth praising them just for that. Freed from the obligation to provide an extended tutorial or an epic backstory setup, each chapter delivers a movie-length experience, the perfect block of time for one great co-op session—and for half the price!

Both chapters expand on RE5's emphasis on the co-op experience. The game constantly forces you to synchronize actions with your partner, communicate remotely across a level, cover each other from different vantages, and otherwise divide up duties at a moment's notice. Played solo, the levels are fun (though the AI player is as semi-competent as you'd expect), but play them with someone else and you have the rare campaign mode that creates the social narratives that usually only happen in intense multiplayer guilds.

More >>

  • print
  • email

TAGS: capcom, desperate escape, lost in nightmares, playstation 3, resident evil 5, xbox


Ab Aeterno

[Editor and Author's Note: These weekly recaps will be cross-posted over at Vinyl Is Heavy. We encourage comments at either joint.]

Easily the most "stylish" episode of the season, what with its longish takes and lowish angles, this Richard mythology is also not too great a reveal. How could Richard's "this is hell" thing be true? How could it not be misdirection? How come I kinda bought it at first, for a blip of a second, and then a few segments later almost bought it again? Must be because I've given up hope to a certain degree, and also because I've given up trying to outguess this shit. Must be because I was having fun with the mythology. After all, despite confirming my suspicions about what's really went down in that little love triangle, it was certainly entertaining to see Nestor Carbonell cry and squirm and play pawn.

More >>

  • print
  • email

TAGS: ab aeterno, lost, nestor carbonell, recap, titus welliver


Steve McQueen

What I learned from Roman Polanski's playful political thriller The Ghost Writer is that the old man can still bring it. Not Polanski, the 77-year-old director, but Eli Wallach, the 94-year-old actor, who shows up about halfway through to deliver a very brief but charming performance as a crusty, all-weather resident of Martha's Vineyard. Stepping out from behind a dilapidated screen door, Wallach's face is revealed to be equally worn, but there's still a sparkle in his eyes and a distinctive zing to his voice. He's as feisty as ever, if not quite as intimidating, and seeing him up on the big screen, in what we've got to assume will be his final performance, might be enough to make you think that you're in the middle of a cinematic dream from which you don't want to wake. And yet, for me, Wallach's presence is bittersweet. To marvel that he's still around—more than that: still acting—is to be confronted with memories of Wallach's costars past who have been off the screen and off this earth for years now. Even decades.

Among them is Steve McQueen, who starred opposite Wallach to memorable effect in The Magnificent Seven, near the start of McQueen's career, and then to less memorable results in The Hunter, in what proved to be McQueen's final film. McQueen died a few months later from complications due to cancer, and this November we'll have been without him for 30 years. He was only 50 when he died, and today would have been his 80th birthday—old enough that he might have long since given up acting, but young enough that perhaps he'd have had at least one cameo left in him, like Wallach in The Ghost Writer, or like Karl Malden, McQueen's costar in The Cincinnati Kid and Nevada Smith, who at 88 contributed to one of the greatest scenes in the seven-season run of TV's The West Wing in 2000. We'll never know.

More >>

  • print
  • email

TAGS: 5 for the day, bullitt, steve mcqueen, the cincinnati kid, the getaway, the great escape, the war lover







The HouseCategories



The HouseThe Attic

More »



Site by  Docent Solutions