I finally caught up with Mother from Bong Joon-ho (The Host) last night at AFI Fest. It’s only been 2 days, but it’s in the running for the best of the festival.  Tonight I’ll be sampling Michael Haneke’s Palme d’Or winner and Foreign Language Oscar hopeful The White Ribbon plus Israel’s Oscar entry Ajami. I’m also tempted to see if all the fuss behind Precious is really deserved when it plays tonight at the Chinese, but I’m thinking I can just wait until Friday to see it with everyone else.

Depending on how they pan out, stay tuned for interviews with Terry Gilliam whose The Imaginarium of Doctor Parnassus is an AFI Fest centerpiece, Michael Fassbender (Hunger, Inglourious Basterds) who is in town with Andrea Arnold’s Fish Tank (loved it), and Romanian filmmaker Corneliu Porumboiu who is presenting his Un Certain Regard Jury Prize winner and Oscar entrant Police, Adjective at the festival.

In other movie news, I tuned into Fox NFL Sunday this morning to see how big of a fuss they made out of the Avatar trailer. It was pretty pathetic. The funniest part was when they quickly panned over to an orchestrated section of about 10 people who belatedly stood up and cheered in faux spontaneity as though they’d just had their eyeballs fucked by James Cameron. Forget for a minute that the stadium itself was half full at best and no one really seemed to care.

Also, the more I see the improved trailer, the less interesting it is.

That’s all I’ve got. Your turn.

24 Responses to “Watercooler: All AFI all the time”

  1. Watched lots of movies in honor of Halloween this weekend, mostly on TCM. On Friday I watched Gaslight and Psycho. Then early Saturday morning I revisited the terrific The Haunting (the original one, not the remake obviously).

    Saturday night I watched Night of the Living Dead on PBS. It’s archaic and of course doesn’t have the flashiness that we all grew up with in horror movies but it’s still very effective, especially the music. I also caught The Body Snatcher, with Henry Daniell, Boris Karloff and Bela Lugosi (in his last role that wasn’t an Ed Wood movie). Last was Ginger Snaps on the IFC channel, one of the better werewolf movies out there. It’s pretty low budget but very effective and creepy, with a different twist from other werewolf movies.

    Right now I’m watching Shadow of a Doubt. :D

  2. No new movies, but we watched the BBC’s Cranford over the past week. Despite bordering on twee at times Elisabeth Gaskell’s stories about the fictional Victorian England community of Cranford don’t shy away from serious social commentary and personal tragedy. Some very fine turns here from Eileen Atkins, Judi Dench, Imelda Staunton, and Lisa Dillon.

  3. sartre, I absolutely love CRANFORD, and agree with you high estimation of the performances.

    I attended a magnificent “Orpheus in England” concert Sunday afternoon at the Madison Avenue Presbyterian Church in Manhattan, where world-class soprano Dame Emma Kirkby and celebrated lutist, Jacob Lindberg performed John Dowland and Henry Purcell, and two encores. Dowland’s “In Darkness Let Me Dwell” gave one the shivers, as it’s one of the greatest passages in the history of western music. Ms. Kirkby was angelic.
    I saw three films in theatres this week:

    Michael Jackson’s ‘This is It’ **** (Wed. night; Clifton multiplex)
    The House of the Devil ***** 1/2 (Friday night; Angelika)
    The Maid **** 1/2 (Saturday night; Montclair Claridge)

    As I stated in response to a posted review at WitD by another writer, I thought THIS IS IT was a solid doc., and one that remains living proof that Jacko was prepared for the demanding schedule that the London concerts promised. Watching this often spellbinding film, one experienced both euphoria and sadness.

    A throwback to 80’s horror, THE HOUSE OF THE DEVIL combined genre atmospherics with a surprising witchcraft/devil worship subplot that provided for a hair-raising final 30 minutes that by any barometer of measurement was absolutely horrifying. There’s a bit of Kubrick, Bava and Craven, by in Ti West we have a filmmaker to be reckened with. In a year of strong entries in this genre this is the best of them all.

    A Chilean film about a maid who feels she’s part of a family she’s worked with for a number of years, THE MAID boasts a quietly brilliant performance by Catalina Saavedra, and director Silva uses a magnifying glass on his subjects, culling both the humor and dark edges in domestic family life. It’s one of the best films of the year without question.

  4. Can’t wait to hear what you say about THE WHITE RIBBON, Craig. There is no film this year I have been more excited about.

  5. “director Silva uses a magnifying glass on his subjects, culling both the humor and dark edges in domestic family life.”

    Fine piece of writing Sam. You have me intrigued about this film. And your take on The House of the Devil is very encouraging too.

    I’ve never particularly cared for MJ the man or musician so the new doc holds no appeal for me. But I can appreciate that this film must be a godsend to his many fans.

  6. I finally watched Snow Angels, which has been on top of my TV for the past month or so from Netflix. It was good. Great performances. Definitely worth a watch. I’d probably give it 3 1/2 stars out of five.

    I was excited for a minute to come across Bram Stoker’s Dracula on cable. Then I realized that Chiller (the station) was intercutting the film with not only commercials, but a) “scary” shorts and b) scenes from some horror/fantasy awards show. Unless this was the extended cut, and those were just really bizarre deleted scenes. Weirdest programming decision I’ve seen in a while.

    Can’t wait to see more AFI reviews from you Craig. The upcoming interviews are exciting too. Can we submit questions? :)

  7. I intend to VOD both House of the Devil and Antichrist in the coming days. I also intend to see A Serious Man maybe tonight.

    It was Halloween so lots of drinking, candy eating, and horror movies. Also saw Land of the Lost, and I’m bascially on Craig’s wavelength with this one, one of Will Ferrell’s most charming comedies. (It could play as the less self-conscious B side to Where the Wild Things Are, both are structured as people disappearing for a day, playing, and returning.)

    Transformers 2 is literally unwachable, and I say that as one who is less knee-jerk against Bay than most. I made it to the 75 minute mark before having a “life is too short for this” moment.

  8. I saw two films that could not have been more different: “This is It” and “Antichrist.”

    First up, “This is It,” which was, as Sam says, a solid documentary. I was surprised at how joyful the whole affair was and impressed that Ortega chose to celebrate the man’s talent rather than pull at our heartstrings (and God knows he had the footage to do so). It was sobering to see MJ’s talent and the enterprise many thought was exploitive and ghoulish, simply comes off as a time capsule that gives us a glimpse into the artistic process of one of the greatest entertainers this country has produced.

    And then there’s Von Trier’s “Antichrist.” I’m an unapologetic Von Trier devotee. I may even call him the best filmmaker working today. But boy, this film is a challenge in so many ways. Forget the graphic sexuality and violence, but what is the message? I’m still thinking about it and wasn’t bored for one minute, but I’m a bit troubled by what the film was trying to say. The imagery was pretty fantastic and the acting felt almost sacrificial. Still, something just keeps bothering me about it and I can’t quite put my finger on it yet (no pun intended).

  9. Halloween was quiet with a double feature of PHANTASM and Romero’s NOTLD, which holds up beautifully and its final moments are still utterly chilling.

    Saw TRICK R’ TREAT which joins the AICN Roster of Over-Rated Geek Films (THE SIGNAL is up there too). Fun atmospherics and CREEPSHOW vibe, but way over-directed and over-scored.

    The scariest thing here is Chuck and Craig agreeing on the utterly awful LAND OF THE LOST. Did you guys actually laugh at Matt Lauer gags? Or Will being shit from a dinosaur? I have the sins of RAMBO, Craig and Chuck now have LOTL as their movie cross to bear;]

  10. Christian, I think AICN praises the potential of a movie more than whatever the movie playing in front of them actually is. I think I liked TRICK R TREAT even less than you, its about as unoriginal as absolutely possible.

    I thought LAND OF THE LOST had a pleasant “screw it lets have some fun” vibe and I thought McBride and Ferrel and Hot Babe played well together, which surprised me (I expected the men to go overboard). The Lauer stuff was lame, but some of the more random stuff amused me. I don’t think I laughed at dinosaur crap, but I did, indeed, laugh at Ferrell drinking urine, primarily because he knew just how to undersell those lines. Bo Welch’s designs had his usual inventivness, and Siberling generally stays out of the way.

  11. I’m glad to hear everyone had such eventful and fun weekends. Nice to see film season getting into full swing, even when some of us are mostly sticking to the classics.

    I also recently revisited NOTLD, Christian, and I’d agree that this one holds together pretty well considering how low-budget it was and how much Romero’s zombies changed in subsequent films.

    “They’re coming to get you, Barbara.” Indeed.

    Sadly I’d also have to chime in with my disappointment with Trick-R-Treat, which was WAY oversold by the fanboy sites, CHUD included, and completely underwhelmed me with it’s poor narrative choices, uninteresting characters, and weak payoffs. The more I think about it, the more I dislike the hype and the film.

    I did see Antichrist this weekend. I’d agree that it has some startling visuals and some very interesting thematic elements, and like Dorothy I too am scratching my head over it. I really like the fact that Von Trier is swinging for the fences with this one, but I’m not sure I’m completely satisfied with the result. I have a lot questions about this one and a lot of reservations.

    I also saw The Botany of Desire on PBS, a 2 hour doc on Michael Pollan’s newest book. Really interesting documentary. It’s an interesting complement to Food Inc and The Garden, so I recommend it to fans of either.

  12. Watched Halloween and Halloween 2 on Friday. Time has not made 2 any better. Laurie lies in bed, drugged and in a bad wig, as Donald Pleasance raves about Samhain and eeeeeeevil. Meanwhile, a petite stuntman wanders listlessly around a hospital in Michael’s mask, randomly killing the staff in distinctly non-Michaelish ways before finally remembering why he’s there. The most ludicrously sluggish pursuit ever ensues.

    On the day itself, a Val Lewton double-feature: Jacques Tourner’s The Leopard Man and Mark Robson’s Ghost Ship. Both are surprisingly violent for their time. Tons of low-budget atmosphere, of course. I found the former most interesting as a precursor to Psycho

    SPOILER

    …with its amiable, split-personality killer (we never see it, but presumably he dresses up in a leopard skin and claws, much the same the way Norman “becomes” Mother) and amateur-sleuth couple who endanger themselves and enter the dragon’s lair to find the truth.

    Ghost Ship is a tense psychological suspense film with a nicely subdued performance by Richard Dix and a convincing sense of mounting desperation — the conclusion is a situation straight out of a nightmare. The golly-gee-whiz blandness of the lead, which made him such a bore in Body Snatchers, works in his favor here — he’s the embodiment of naive decency. There’s a well-staged, bloody knife-fight that must have given the censors conniption fits, and Lawrence Tierney in his first role, as a sailor who gets on the wrong side of the tightly-wound captain and suffers a creatively nasty fate.

    Also started Romero’s The Crazies (which I’ve somehow never seen) but had to stop partway through. And that was my Halloween weekend.

  13. I’m beginning to think I need to see The Crazies. Never have, but it’s come up a lot this last month, not the least for having recently been remade as a mainstream horror film (which may or may not suck).

  14. Also interested to read Craig’s thoughts on “The White Ribbon”. One of the year’s best films for me.

  15. I hate to post this here because it’s not really germaine, but I just saw over at the Digitalbits that Criterion’s recent re-release of The Third Man is officially OOP. Buy it now or not at all.
    =====================
    From their post:
    “First, I’ve confirmed with the folks at Criterion that their rights to Carol Reed’s The Third Man have expired, and so for now the recent DVD and Blu-ray versions are to be considered out-of-print. That means those copies that are now on stores shelves or happen to be sitting in the warehouse are all that’s left. So if you want either version, grab ’em fast while you still can.”
    ======================

  16. Interesting, Joel. I snagged a Third Man Criterion a month ago or so when Barnes & Noble was having their big 1/2 price on all Criterion sale. Not sure if it’s the most recent, or the older version. It was full to the brim of extras though.

    It tickles me that Chuck liked Land of the Lost. I did too, pretty much. I liked that it didn’t take itself too seriously–like this movie is a crazy bad idea but we can make something of it by being open to the goofiness of it all. There’s actually some intelligence in it, but wrapped up in a big over-the-top stupid bow. It was fun. Flawed, definitely, but fun.

    Michael Pollan’s an interesting guy. I keep reading essays by him and excerpts of his books, without actually reading the books. Maybe if I watch this documentary, it could keep me informed without ruining my unintentional not-reading-Michael-Pollan-books streak.

  17. You got the most recent version, JB. The original release has extras on it but I know B&N wasn’t selling it during that sale.

    Botany of Desire is his newest book, so this is sorta the Cliff Notes version with really pretty pictures and solid interviews. I recommend it to keep your streak alive.

  18. Am I the only one that disliked An Education? I thought it poses this kinda interesting dilemma between education and marrying itno the good life and then proceeds to undermine it by making someone a villain.

  19. I liked AN EDUCATION, but didn’t love it. As far as underage girl/older man stories set in the UK go this year, FISH TANK is a more satisfying film.

    They beauty of the Watercooler Joel is that everything is germaine.

    I’m still piecing together my thoughts on WHITE RIBBON. I’m not a huge Haneke fan, but I liked this one much better than is last couple.

    Christian, did you actually see Land of the Lost or are you just going on your revulsion of the trailer? I feel no shame for loving it.

    I’m glad a few people are giving Antichrist a shot even if it’s not the most likable film in the world. It’s unpleasant and it’s questionable what its message is, but it’s also kind of haunting and it really has kept me thinking about it.

    Frank, H2 scared the crap out of me when I was a lad, but yeah…you’re pretty much right on. My biggest problem with it is that it stooped to try and be more like all the crappy movies that ripped off the original Halloween. Yes, I’m looking at YOU Friday the 13th. I’ve always hated those movies.

    Sam I pretty much agree with you on THE MAID. It wasn’t at all what I expected it to be. Much better.

  20. I suffered through LOTL so future generations don’t have to. Outside of some nice fx, it was STAGGERINGLY unfunny, and I could see the off-camera crew and execs back-slapping Will after he drank urine. “Brilliant! 100 million dollars and we come up with piss drinking! Sid and Marty Kroft never thought of THAT!”

    Farrell’s shtick dried up for me ages ago, and I was barely a fan to begin with. I’ll stick with ANCHORMAN and THE LANDLORD if I want funny Farrell.

    Of course, I was a fan of the show, which actually had real sci-fi writers like David Gerrold and Ben Bova writing for it, so even a 30 year old Saturday morning kids show had more life and thought than this abortion. I’m thrilled it bombed, if only as a rebuke to the studios who assume all family movies must be loaded with dick, shit and groin gags. I feel about LOTL on one end of the esthetic spectrum as you do about RAMBO…so we’re even…I hope….

  21. The first 5 or 10 minutes, I was thinking “oh shit, this is going to be painful.” and then, sorry, it became awesome. I run hot and cold on Farrell too, but I giggled the whole way through this one. It was more subversive than the overrated watch-checker Hangover, that’s for sure.

    I loved the show when I was a kid too, but there is room on my plate for a stupid movie made by other fans of the show who also happen to be chronic stoners and to me that’s basically what LOTL was.

    Yes, I’m laughing to myself right now thinking of Farrell drinking urine. Chuck’s right. The guy sold it perfectly.

    Anyway, yeah, we’re almost even about RAMBO, except the Stallone flick still has some very disturbing socio-political connotations I can’t believe you went for whereas LOTL’s worst crime was being stupid.

  22. As a competing screenwriter here in La La Ville, I was depressed more by the awesome waste of money and resources on dino-shit gags. The whole thing reeked of such marketing cynicism that its box-office failure was a positive, uplifting thing. And speaking for chronic stoners, I’ll stick to Cheech and Chong;]

  23. I saw through the cynical studio marketing to the gleeful goof within. A couple of cocktails in the bar ahead of time definitely smoothed the journey for me.

    And I say this as a guy who firmly believes that the more money you spend on a comedy, the less funny it usually is. I don’t know what Universal’s intentions were…well actually I do know, they wanted to sell billions of dollars in LOTL Slurpees and whatnot…but I think Farrell and the filmmakers got away with one here.

  24. Checking in a little late. I ended October seeing I believe 3 movies in the theater, the fewest of any month in I don’t know how many years. I did get to This Is It on Thursday and loved it for all the reasons I loved MJ; others will hate it for all the reasons they hated him. I would say don’t bother seeing it unless you own at least one of his albums.

    That’s all I got to over the weekend with work obligations, a Halloween party, and the big Vikings-Packers game on Sunday. The Avatar integration was one of the worst marketing ploys I’ve ever seen in either movies or sports. I’m still holding out to see this movie, but man that pissed me off on a lot of levels.

    Hope you’re having fun at AFI, Craig – looks like a lot of awesomeness on that schedule. Speaking of which, it appears bside is the official film festival webhost these days. This is like the 3rd or 4th festival website I’ve seen on there in the last month. I like the design a lot. It’s been really easy to find info and you don’t have to click around a million times. Hopefully our local fest in April will use it.

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