12.28.2008

nazis, get off my lawn! : denver premieres for xmas weekend


"Jeez - this Protocols of the Elders of Zion thing you gave me to read is totally whack! Can we have sex again now?"

Our man Pike Bishop isn't too happy with what Santa left under the tree this year:

Gran Torino- Clint Eastwood has been trying to apologize for the mythologized violence in film since his half-articulate oater Unforgiven in 1992. Note to Clint- No one asked for your apology. John Ford, John Sturges, Don Siegel, Robert Aldrich, Anthony Mann, Sam Peckinpah and even Sergio Leone did not ask for a third-rate actor turned middling director to throw out one cinematic mea-culpa after another in their name. So get over your “remorseful old codger” shtick and do something with a little thought behind it. There is a reason why there is still vitality in John Ford’s The Searchers or Anthony Mann’s The Naked Spur. There is also a reason why your films are as dry and decrepit as the characters that inhabit them. Figure out the difference and get back to us with something that shows that you earn the title of “Greatest Living American Director” bestowed upon you by your sycophantic admirers.

Valkyrie- Once again Tom Cruise must single-handedly save the world. After curing the 911 responders with high doses of niacin through his “New York Rescue Workers Detoxification Project” and freeing the world from the dreaded, Nazi science of psychiatry, Tom Cruise has decided to travel back in time to fantasy-cast himself into the role of Claus von Stauffenberg, the man who tried to kill Hitler. If, unlike von Stauffenberg, Cruise succeeds in killing Hitler, it will be a ternary of great deeds that will leave no doubt to us mere mortals that he is our better and we must immediately give him the title of “King of the World.” With Tom Cruise’s star-turn in Valkyrie coming out on the heels of Will Smith’s Seven Pounds, the race for the coveted Time magazine honor of “Most Self-Serving Martyr of the Year” award has tightened.

The Reader- Why is it that people are so fascinated by Holocaust fiction with psycho-sexual elements? First there was the book "The House of Dolls," a purportedly true account of a Jewish girl’s experience in a Nazi labor camp’s 'Joy Division.' After that came the underground Israeli pornographic novels called 'Stalags' of the late fifties and early sixties, that went on to spawn the Nazi fetish look of films like Ilsa: She Wolf of the S.S. and Salon Kitty. The psycho-sexual Nazi element is also used as titillation in so-called 'Art Films' like The Night Porter, Schindler’s List, and Aimee & Jaguar. Now we have The Reader, a film based on Bernhard Schlink’s best-selling novel about a man named Michael, who must confront the fact that the older woman that ushered in his sexual development as a teen (and subsequent sexual desires), was a Nazi SS guard during the war. Ralph Feinnes plays the Grown-up Michael and Kate Winslet plays Hannah Schmitz, the ex-SS guard/cougar that gives young Michael lessons in love. The film is directed by Stephen Daldry (Billy Elliot, The Hours) from a script written by the playwright, David Hare (The Hours and the forthcoming The Corrections). My only question with films like this is whether it is possible for the substance of a moral or ethical point to shine through the tarnish of a sexualized, fetishized Nazi mythos? Go see it and decide for yourself.

Bedtime Stories- Adam Sandler and the “House of the Mouse” team up to bring your kiddies a middle-brow beating. Sandler plays a hotel handyman who realizes that the bedtime stories he is telling to his niece and nephew are coming true in the real world. Add two parts sophomoric humor, one part meaningless love interest and one part pandering morality and you have the Sandler formula in kid-friendly form, ready to teach them a lesson in low expectations. I don’t think Mary Poppins would approve.

Marley and Me- Adapted from the best-selling autobiographical book by John Grogan, Marley & Me is about Grogan’s family and their dog Marley, a Golden Retriever who is a bad dog with a heart of gold. Twentieth Century Fox is sending out a little Christmas cheer aimed at the book’s legion of fans, but for the rest of us it will probably have all of the entertainment value of a years worth of Marmaduke panels shot at 24 frames per second. The film stars Owen Wilson and Jennifer Aniston and is directed by David Frankel (The Devil Wears Prada).

Lola Montes- This late period Max Ophuls film has been immaculately restored for theatrical presentation. It is about the life of a liberated adventuress as told in flashbacks from her current life as a circus performer. Shot in Cinemascope in lush, vibrant colors, Lola Montes just begs to be seen on the large screen. If you like films that are along the lines of Powell and Pressburger’s The Red Shoes or Tales of Hoffman, then please go see this in the cinema. It will come out on Criterion DVD in the near future, but really this was meant to be seen in a format that is larger than life. Lola Montes is only playing for a week (December 25th through January 1st) at the Starz FilmCenter so please try to see it before it’s gone.

The Spirit - While Frank Miller's late period graphic work ("300," "Sin City") stripped the medium down to its most lascivious elements - the violence, the feminine form, and the pulp story lines - those books also had a kind of avant garde elegance, like a particularly brutal Asian calligraphy. His leap to film has not suffered these indulgences: his 2005 collaboration with Quentin Tarantino and Robert Rodriguez on Sin City was an absolute mess of gore and bad dialogue that Mickey Rourke's possessed performance or Brittany Murphy's come-hither look could not save. The Spirit, Miller's adaptation of comic great Will Eisner's wink-wink-noir-noir masked crime fighter, looks to be similarly deranged. It's one thing to play with or exploit the conventions of noir, neo-noir, and classic thrillers, but it's another thing entirely to wallow in their most superficial aspects - you get no extra points for Scarlett Johansson in a scoop-necked blouse. And what's with the green screen? Aren't there any cities where you can shoot a movie any place any more? (Dex)

The Curious Case of Benjamin Button - It would be easy to take the low-road and blog all cynical and worldly-wise with David Fincher's new film: the adaptation of a minor F. Scott Fitzgerald story about a man who ages backwards looks to have all the trappings of the kind of Hollywood bloat that finds its way into theatres this time of year, what with uber-star Brad Pitt, the running time, and the mix of fictional melodrama against a backdrop of real-world events; it's even scripted by the guy who wrote Forrest-fucking-Gump. But Zodiac (2007), Fincher's last picture (a re-telling of a San Francisco newspaper cartoonist's obsession with the so-called Zodiac Killer) came as a complete surprise, and was chock-a-block with meaty scenes of tension and drama which showed some real chops on Fincher's part. It's always nice to find something under the tree you didn't expect to ever get, so perhaps this is indeed the case with Benjamin Button (at the very least, it makes a great porn title). (Dex)

2 comments:

octopede said...

That's cold—Clint Eastwood is a living legend. LEAVE CLINT ALONE!! Upon his death, I hope that my petition to have him bronzed and placed atop a 3000 foot needle in Carmel will garner the 50,000 signatures needed.

Actually, I don't think I've seen an Eastwood film in some time ('Fistful of Dollars' was on TBS the other month). His recent WWII films seemed to cement the 40s in the popular psyche as a decade bereft of any color other than grey, and any emotion other than 'triumphantly pensive.'

Pike Bishop said...

That would be amazing! I would sign that petition with out a moments hesitation.

I completely agree with your thoughts on his WWII films. I wonder if this is how he remembers things being when he was growing up during that time or if he now thinks that the only way to show respect for the time period is with a muted color palette and, as you say, "triumphant pensiveness"? I've talked to my grandpa a little about his time serving in the army over in Italy, and although I'm sure he lived through some horrific experiences, he has slightly more colorful take on the times. One story he likes to tell is how he and some of his army pals spent some R&R time in the movie theater of small, northern Italian town, watching The Outlaw over and over again. He still has a fond memory of Jane Russell's two main assets.