The House


They used to die in threes. In the past week, cinephiles and music lovers have lost Eddie Fisher, Gloria Stuart (Nathaniel Rogers remembers her immaculate blondeness), Sally Menke (from severe heat according to the Los Angeles Times), Arthur Penn (Dave Kehr looks back at the man's life and work in The New York Times), Joe Mantell, and Tony Curtis (see Chris Anthony Diaz's "Tribute to Tony Curtis" from 12/20/08).

Despite evidence to the contrary, both here and on our main site, you may be forgiven for thinking the folks at the Film Society of Lincoln Center are the only ones throwing a film festival right now. The Woodstock Film Festival kicked off yesterday and ends on Monday with a screening of John Curran's Stone, and the Hamptons International Film Festival premieres shortly thereafter (notable films this year include 127 Hours and the U.S. premiere of Julian Schnabel's Miral). And for anyone Europe-bound this November, stop by gorgeous Valencia for some paella, maybe even check out La Cabina, a small but passionate international festival programmed by my buddy Carlos.

Esteemed New York City-based publicist Jeff Hill will hang up his skates at the end of the year after the release of Mike Leigh's Another Year. Good luck, Jeff.

Amateur photographers of the world unite: PLANET Magazine is, until October 31, taking submissions for its annual Global Travel Photo Contest. Two grand prize winners will get $1500. Anyone can enter, but if Roger Deakins submitted a still, will they call him a cheater? Below: a trailer for Deakins's latest feat of cinematographic wonder, Joel and Ethan Coen's True Grit:

Links for the Day: A collection of links to items that we hope will spark discussion. We encourage our readers to submit candidates for consideration to ed@slantmagazine.com and to converse in the comments section.

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TAGS: arthur penn, eddie fisher, ethan coen, gloria stuart, hamptons international film festival, jeff hill, joe mantell, joel coen, la cabina, planet magazine, roger deakins, sally menke, tony curtis, true grit, woodstock film festival


Alex TimbersWhen Alex Timbers was 12 years old, he and an elementary school buddy had their own public access cable show in Manhattan. "It was sketch comedy, very irreverent and strange," Timbers reports. His favorite segment was called "Pyro Time." "We'd buy fireworks and explosives in Chinatown and blow things up—like a giant cod. We'd explode it and then play it back several times in slow motion and play 'Carmina Burana' [on the soundtrack]." Timbers explains that at the time he was going to a straight-laced "coat-and-tie" all-boys school, and the cable show was a way of letting off steam. "So there was an anarchic side waiting to get out." Now at age 32, Timbers is letting some of his anarchy loose on Broadway. He's making his debut on the Great White Way directing two productions you wouldn't think of as typical Broadway fare: Bloody, Bloody Andrew Jackson, a rock musical he co-wrote with composer Michael Friedman, which opens at the Bernard B. Jacobs Theatre on October 13, and The Pee-wee Herman Show, a new version of an early 1980s comedy show created by and starring Paul Ruebens, which begins performances at the Stephen Sondheim Theatre on October 26.

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TAGS: a very merry unauthorized childrens scientology pageant, alex timbers, bernard b. jacobs theatre, bloody bloody andrew jackson, heddatron, hellhouse, les freres corbusier, paul ruebens, stephen sondheim theatre, the pee-wee herman show


Black Venus

If there is a thread running through some of this year's New York Film Festival selections, it is the acceptance of the enigmatic in human beings. Andrei Ujicâ's documentary The Autobiography of Nicolae Ceauşescu, for instance, used extensive footage of the notorious Romanian leader not to probe into the man's inner life, but to subversively present an extended version of his brand of public pageantry over the course of his decades of political prominence. In exploring the international terrorist who took the title's nom de guerre, Olivier Assayas, in Carlos, focused more on the vast disconnect between the man himself and the rock-star image he cultivated than in necessarily painting a detailed psychological portrait. And on the fiction front, Cristi Puiu, in Aurora, fastidiously observed his main character's increasingly irrational behavior in a perhaps deliberately failed attempt to get inside the head of a seemingly normal individual who commits four acts of homicide. In each of these films, there is a marked absence of psychological or emotional connection, the implication being that human beings are so complex and multifaceted that the more honest approach to these characters/real-life figures would be to simply recreate a milieu as immaculately as possible, invite the audience to look on and draw its own conclusions.

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TAGS: abdellatif kechiche, alfredo castro, andre jacobs, black venus, new york film festival, pablo larraĆ­n, post mortem, tony manero, yahima torres


The Bad News Bears

[Editor's Note: Take Two is an occasional series about remakes, reboots, relaunches, ripoffs, and do-overs in every cinematic genre.]

Ahh, baseball! The invigorating thrill of freshly cut grass, the sweet pop of leather and oak on a summer day! A lyrical little game, with a literary pace worthy of Updike, Angell, Malamud, Roth, Lardner, and Coover! A game of simple food, endless statistics, fathers and sons, and mustaches. America's pastime.

Which is all to say: Satirizing American culture by satirizing baseball is almost too easy. There are moments during The Bad News Bears and its nearly shot-for-shot 2005 remake where the story seems like it's telling itself, and not in the good way. The plot is as hackneyed an underdog tale as you'll ever find, and really the only joke in either film is, "Look at this louse, listen to this profanity! Aren't they so incongruous with this ostensibly wholesome sport!" From the moment that washed up ex-pro Morris Buttermaker parks his puke-green convertible and pours beer onto the gravel parking lot in the films' opening scenes, we know exactly where the movies are going and how they'll get there.

In 1976, Buttermaker was Walter Matthau—over the hill, perpetually stubbled, and bleary-eyed at all hours. In 2005, he was Billy Bob Thornton, wearing a stupidly slick handlebar-soul patch combination and a series of improbably crisp polo shirts along with his lecherous fake smile. And that's essentially the difference between the two films. The original, directed by Michael Ritchie, has a slack charm in its editing and construction that fits the story and characters. But somehow Richard Linklater—the director, fer chrissake, of a film called Slacker—never gels with this story. His version, as expected, is beautifully constructed, full of languid long shots and rhythmic editing. But for a director who routinely elicits career-best performances from his actors, Linklater's cast (with the exception of Greg Kinnear, who's always best when playing an asshole) all seem afloat and mismatched to the material. And while the script bubbles with the obligatory salty language, the set design and music are altogether too clean and polished to fit a movie about lovable slobs.

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TAGS: bad news bears, bill lancaster, billy bob thornton, glen ficarra, greg kinnear, john requa, marcia gay harden, michael ritchie, richard linklater, the bad news bears, walter matthau


Oki's Movie

It's official, say critics: Hong Sang-soo's repeating himself. Here comes another movie where the protagonist's a stifled filmmaker, where the men get drunk and embarrass themselves in public, and where a younger man and his mentor duke it out for a girl. The director of the gorgeously melancholy romance Woman on the Beach and spiky comedy Like You Know It All isn't just reproducing tones—he's mixing them. His new film, Oki's Movie, is at once abrasive and sweet.

The movie is actually made up of four short films, each introduced with the same garish blue background and "Pomp and Circumstance" blaring on the soundtrack. The hero of the first short is a student filmmaker who can't live up to his mentor. Adam Hartzell has written that Hong's heroes "are not antiheroes as much as they are exercises in humiliation," and this proves true when our man shows up drunk to a screening of his film. An audience member asks why he dumped her friend, he says he doesn't remember (and besides, what business is it of hers?), and the handheld camera stays on them, moving back and forth between accusations. Writers often compare Hong's films to Eric Rohmer's, with the way they focus on a relationship's changing dynamics by highlighting small, precise, delicate movements, but the spiky, nasty, very-funny scene here lies much closer to Albert Brooks.

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TAGS: albert brooks, eric rohmer, hong sang-soo, like you know it all, new york film festival, okis movie, pomp and circumstance, woman on the beach


The Beautiful Girls

A couple of times over the course of this season of Mad Men I claimed that Don Draper (Jon Hamm) didn't have much at stake anymore in continuing to conceal his true identity. Turns out I was wrong. Well, at least half wrong. In my defense, in a key scene of this week's episode, "Hands and Knees" (written by Jonathan Abrahams and Matthew Weiner, and directed by Lynn Shelton), Don confesses his identity switch to Faye (Cara Buono) with very little in the way of repercussions. Don confesses as if speaking into a void, like he's not even cognizant of another person being in the room with him; he's simply saying the words because he can, because he needs to say them, and perhaps the most shocking part of his confession is how easily the words pass from Don to Faye. Faye even seems pleased that Don trusts her with the information, and tries to play the role of caretaker, reassuring Don that everything will be alright. At one point even Pete (Vincent Kartheiser) expresses sentiments similar to Faye's, telling Don that his past isn't really all that scandalous, and that they could ride things out should the truth be revealed.

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TAGS: alison brie, cara buono, christina hendricks, christopher stanley, hands and knees, january jones, jared harris, john slattery, jon hamm, mad men, recap, rich sommer, robert morse, vincent kartheiser


[Author's Note: Looking for more of AMC's Emmy and Golden Globe®-winning original drama Mad Men? The wait is over! Each week, The House Next Door is your home for exclusive "previews" of upcoming Mad Men episodes, from Season 4 and beyond!]

The Wheels (Part 2)

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TAGS: mad men, mad men spoilers


Tuesday, After Christmas

I was around six when my parents began divorcing, a two-year bickering lurch of which I most remember hiding under a bed. I was old enough to understand what was happening, but too young to get that it wasn't my fault. Worst of all, I had no images with which to identify. I struggled to find a model for how divorced couples and their kids behaved, but came up empty. It seemed a subject that people not only didn't discuss, but avoided.

The gift my parents' breakup gave me was that it made me a moviegoer. The VCR became a way to deal with my troubles. I gravitated in particular toward stories about couples, with love lost and found: the church reunion in Sunrise, the spaghetti dinner and card game at the heart of The Apartment. Nights of Cabiria showed a woman who kept getting hurt in relationships, and I watched it over and over to try to understand how my parents had hurt each other.

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TAGS: ingmar bergman, john cassavetes, kramer vs. kramer, love streams, new york film festival, nights of cabiria, radu muntean, roberto rossellini, scenes from a marriage, the apartment, tuesday after christmas, voyage to italy


Silent Souls

When a national cinema produces a great director, it isn't always a good thing. The country's film industry can get typecast in the minds of American audiences, who have few reference points. Foreign film distribution in the United States is such that countries end up relying on one filmmaker (Andrzej Wajda for Poland) or on one film (City of God for Brazil) to represent them. While watching the Chinese film Perfect Life earlier this year, I found myself thinking repeatedly about the work of the great filmmaker Jia Zhang-ke; and though the film has many similarities to Jia's work, and though Jia indeed served as an executive producer, I also kept mentally referring to him because he's the only current Chinese filmmaker with whom I'm especially familiar.

The problem's at least 30 years old for Russian filmmakers, many of whom struggle to escape Andrei Tarkovsky's shadow (ironic, considering that Tarkovsky made his last two films in exile). The director's films like Andrei Rublev, Solaris, and Stalker cast a meditative spell over the theater by pulling you into quiet moments of astounding beauty. They remain so ingrained for Western cinephiles that even the best subsequent Soviet directors, like Aleksandr Sokurov (The Sun), can't avoid the comparison.

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TAGS: aleksandr sokurov, aleksei fedorchenko, andrei tarkovsky, andrzej wajda, city of god, jia zhang-ke, my joy, new york film festival, russian ark, sergei loznitsa, silent souls, the mirror


Aurora

As someone who was left less than overwhelmed by Romanian filmmaker Cristi Puiu's highly praised 2005 film The Death of Mr. Lazarescu, I was surprised to find myself thinking more fondly of it after seeing his sophomore feature, Aurora.

At the very least, The Death of Mr. Lazarescu, as overlong and one-note as it was, had a clear purpose underlying its deliberately repetitive and purposefully wearisome narrative structure. As an indictment of the ineffectualness of Romania's health care system, Puiu may have stacked the deck against its dying protagonist, but the film nevertheless carried a certain undeniable black-comic force. In Aurora, however, Puiu seems to have started with an idea—telling the story of a seemingly normal individual who, in the course of a day, kills his ex-wife's notary, an innocent female bystander, and his ex-wife's in-laws—but then discovered precious little in the way of actual substance with which to fill up his film. By the end, nothing much seems to have been revealed; whatever Puiu's intentions were in making his movie the way he did, either I was too numbed by the whole empty experience to be able to properly sort them out, or he hasn't successfully communicated it in any meaningful way in the finished film.

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TAGS: aurora, cristi puiu, new york film festival, the death of mr. lazarescu







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