last blogpost on the race to blog mountain (denver premieres 3/13/09)

Nevermind the trees, do you think he can even see
the forest with that thing on?

Timecrimes - This first-time feature by Nacho Vigalondo has the potential of being a nice little slice of mixed-genre fare with some action, suspense and gratuitous nudity all tied up in a bow of time traveling paradoxes. While investigating the forest behind his house where he caught a girl disrobing, a shlub named Hector discovers that a man with pink bandages wrapped around his face is stalking him. Running away from the bandaged creep, Hector stumbles across an isolated building that turns out to be physics lab. A scientist inside tells Hector to hide inside of the large metal contraption in the center of the room which, unbeknownst to poor Hector, is a time machine. After climbing out of the machine, the sneaky scientist tells Hector that he has been sent an hour and a half back in time. This, as you can guess, complicates Hector's life immeasurably. Last year when this movie was riding high in the festival circuit there were talks of a U.S. remake in the works that had, at various times, George Romero and David Cronenberg attached to direct. I think it's safe to say that if those two were interested in remaking this film then there has to be something worthwhile here. (Pike)

The Last House on the Left -Today, Wes Craven’s film The Last House on the Left (1972) is alternately the most overly-praised and unjustifiably reviled pictures from the heyday of the late 60s/early 70s American horror renaissance. By some, the film is analyzed within inches of it’s ineptly rendered life as a horrific primal scream aimed at the atrocities committed by the American forces during the Vietnam War. By others it is seen as a truly depraved piece of work, made by lunatics for lunatics who get off on sadistic violence. Both takes are over estimations of the movie's intent and impact. What the film does have is an uneasy juxtaposition of pathos, violence and tin-eared humor presented in a completely amateurish manner (this was basically Wes Craven's first film so when I use the word "amateurish", I mean it more as a matter of fact than a back-handed slight). Add to the mix producer Sean S. Cunningham's (later of Friday the 13th fame) penchant for using Jack Chick style old-testament moralizing to prime the plot (If the girls didn't fall away from the path by trying to buy pot, then they wouldn't have had to die!) and you get a structurally confused film that begs to be read into due to its general thematic and tonal incoherence. So now we have a remake, produced by Craven, that tries to up the ante of nonsensical elements by leaving one of the girls alive and using a microwave as tool for revenge? Well color me surprised if this turns out to be anything more than a quick cash-in for all involved. (Pike)

Miss March - Really? Really, is that what you came to this blog for? Shouldn't you be watching hockey or Fox News or something? (Dex)

Race to Witch Mountain - Oh man, I hope this Dwayne "The Rock" Johnson/Carla Guigino headlined remake of the 1975 live-action Disney sci-fi flick Escape to Witch Mountain does well - maybe then my dream of a brand new Song of the South will finally become a reality! (Dex)

Ink - This week the locally filmed, locally produced sci-fi/dark fantasy film Ink begins a two week run at the Starz FilmCenter. This is what they have to say about it:

As the light fades and the city goes to sleep, two forces emerge. They are invisible except for the power they exert over us in our sleep. These two groups battle for our souls in our dreams. Through good dreams one force supports our hopes and gives us strength. Through nightmares the other force leads us toward desperation. In this high-concept visual thriller, part It's a Wonderful Life and Sin City, John and his daughter Emma are thrust into a fantastical dreamworld battle between good and evil where the most precious elements - love, loss and redemption - are at stake. Filmed and produced entirely in Colorado!

Here are the first two trailers:
Trailer 1
Trailer 2

Gomorrah - The tension - not to mention the irony - between life and art is highlighted in the film adaptation of Roberto Saviano's critically acclaimed expose of real-life Italian gangsters; while author Saviano is now the proverbial "marked man," his life taking a Rushdie-like turn (alas, it would seem, without all the glamour that accompanied Salman's potential martyrdom), this piece from the Independent UK reports that Camorran gangsters were all too happy to participate in any cinematic recreation of their sleazy lives. What must feel like a gut punch to poor Saviano is that regular Juan and Juanitas have been almost as upset at the journo for busting their acceptance of and compliance in the region's ubiquitous gangster culture, but have apparently flocked to theatres to see it on the big screen:

In one scene early in Gomorrah, Marco and Ciro – two delinquents who dream of being big-time gangsters – steal guns from the Camorra. They treat the weapons as if they're toys or film props, letting rip with machine guns and rocket launchers for the sheer pleasure of it. Earlier, we've seen them giving their Tony Montana impersonations, recreating Al Pacino's demise in Scarface. On the one hand, their behaviour is pathetic and immature. On the other, it is exhilarating.

The Italian audiences who flocked to see Gomorrah in the summer aren't going because they want at last to see a truthful expos̩ of organised crime in Naples Рthey've been drawn by the intensity of the film-making. This is precisely the problem the gangster genre always faces; the films are celebrations of action and danger, not sociological dramas.

[Matteo] Garrone claims that when he was making Gomorrah, he was looking more to the example of Italian neo-realist movies like Roberto Rossellini's Paisa and Rome, Open City than to the world of Scarface, Little Caesar and Goodfellas. His film, which comprises five different stories, was shot in the Camorra's backyard, using mainly non-professional actors. There is no commentary; this is not one of those clichéd yarns in which a detective or journalist infiltrates the Mob. The storytelling is matter-of-fact.

"When you get there [to Naples] and see life from the inside, it is not easy to understand where is evil and where is good. There is a grey zone in the middle," the director says of a society in which everybody from housewives to politicians, street kids and elderly tailors is ensnared by the Camorra. "I wanted to make the spectator feel that he was there, with these people."


This is a virtuoso piece of film-making, but the sheer vibrancy of the storytelling gets in the way of any message Garrone might want to impart. Other Italian film-makers have had similar problems. In 1985, Giuseppe Tornatore made The Professor, based on the life of Camorra boss Raffaele Cutolo. He elicited an intelligent, complex performance from Ben Gazzara as the Mob boss who controls his empire from behind prison walls. Like Garrone, Tornatore tries to show the inner workings of organised crime in Naples, but audiences still approached The Professor as a thriller.

Gomorrah picked up the Grand Prix at Cannes; look for it at the Mayan. (Dex)

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