Trailer: As I Lay Dying


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As far as I’m concerned, 2013 should just be called “The Year of James Franco.”  Not only is James Franco my super hot (and smart) fantasy husband but he’s also starring in Oz, the Great and Powerful, playing himself in This Is The End, and making memorable appearances in supporting roles in films like The Iceman and Spring Breakers but he’s also directed his first film!

As I Lay Dying is based on William Faulkner’s classic novel.  A lot of critics have claimed that the book is unfilmable but I think that, if anyone can make As I Lay Dying into a great film, it’ll be James Franco.

Why?

Because he’s James Franco.

Guilty Pleasure No. 8: Paparazzi


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I once got into an argument with a friend of mine about whether or not a film could actually be so bad that it was good.

His argument was that bad, by its very definition, was the opposite of good and therefore, nothing bad could be good and vice versa.

My argument was Paparazzi.

First released back in 2004, Paparazzi tells the story of Bo Laramie (Cole Hauser).  Bo is an up-and-coming super star.  As the film begins, we’re told — by a breathless correspondent from E! News — that Bo has arrived.  He’s starring in what promises to be “the world’s biggest action franchise.”  Bo has a wife (Robin Tunney), a son, and a beautiful house on the beach.  Whenever he goes jogging, huge groups of women magically materialize so that they can giggle as he runs by.

However, not everything is perfect in the world of Bo Laramie.  Like far too many defenseless celebrities, he’s being harassed by the paparazzi.  At first, Bo attempts to be polite.  However, a demonic photographer named Rex (Tom Sizemore) refuses to stop trying to take pictures of Bo at his son’s soccer game.  Things escalate until eventually, Bo’s son is in a coma and Bo is coming up with ludicrously elaborate ways to kill all of Rex’s colleagues.

The thing that distinguishes Paparazzi is not that it’s a revenge film.  What distinguishes Paparazzi is that it seems to seriously be arguing that celebrities have the right to kill people who annoy them.  Rex and his colleagues are portrayed as being pure evil (one even laughs maniacally after snapping a picture) while Bo is the victim who has to deal with the issues that come from being a multimillionaire.  Even the homicide detective played by Dennis Farina seems to be continually on the verge of saying, “Right on!” while looking over the results of Bo’s handiwork.

It’s so ludicrous and stupid and over-the-top that it can’t help but also be a lot of fun.

Don’t get me wrong.  Paparazzi is a terrible film.  In fact, it’s so terrible that, if a group of aliens ever somehow saw Paparazzi, they would probably hop in their spaceship and come to Earth specifically to wipe out the human race.  However, as bad as the film is, it’s also one of those films that you simply cannot look away from.  Watching this film is like witnessing a tornado of pure mediocrity coming straight at you.  You know that you should just stop watching and get to safety but it’s such an unexpectedly odd sight that you can’t look away.  Once you’ve seen it, you’ll never forget it and it becomes impossible not to become fascinated by the fact that such a terrible film could actually exist.

Consider the following:

1) When he’s not busy killing photographers, Bo Laramie is filming a movie called Adrenaline Force 2.  Seriously, that title is so generic that I couldn’t help but smile every time it was mentioned.  Can you imagine anyone saying, “I want to see that new movie, what’s it called, uhmm… Adrenaline Force 2?”

2) Speaking of generic, do you think that anyone named Bo Laramie could ever possibly become the biggest film star in the world?

3) In the role of Bo Laramie, Cole Hauser seems like he’s as confused by this movie as everyone else.  However, towards the end of the film, he starts to flash a psychotic little grin and the contrast between that grin and Laramie’s previously stoic facade is oddly charming.

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4) You haven’t lived until you’ve seen Tom Sizemore play the world’s sleaziest photographer.

5) Vince Vaughn has a cameo as himself!  He’s co-starring in Adrenaline Force 2.

6) Mel Gibson has a cameo as himself!  He’s seen sitting in a psychologist’s office.  (No, seriously…)

7) Matthew McConaughey has a cameo as himself!  He shows up out-of-nowhere, tells Bo that it’s a pleasure to meet him, and then goes, “Alright, alright…”

8) Chris Rock has a cameo as a …. pizza deliveryman!  At first, I assumed that Chris Rock was playing himself and I kept waiting for him to explain why he was delivering a pizza to Bo Laramie’s house.  However, according to the end credits, Vaughn, McConaughey, and Gibson were playing themselves while Rock was playing the role of “Pizza Guy.”

9) Plotwise, this film invites the viewer to play a game of, “What if everyone in this film wasn’t a total and complete idiot?”  For all the effort that Bo puts into plotting his revenge, it’s hard not to feel that he just got extremely lucky.

10) The film manages to be both silly and completely humorless at the same time.  As a result, it’s a good for more than a few laughs.

11) There’s a scene where, out of nowhere, Bo recites an inner monologue about the price of fame that will remind observant viewers of Tony Bennett’s classic narration from The Oscar.

12) At one point, Tom Sizemore says, “I am going to destroy your life and eat your soul. And I can’t wait to do it.”

13) The film’s director used to be Mel Gibson’s hairdresser.

14) Finally, the film was produced by Mel Gibson and that probably means that the film actually is making a sincere case for murdering members of the paparazzi.

If ever a film has deserved the description of being so bad that it’s good, it is Paparazzi.  Between the sense of entitlement, the feverish fantasies of revenge, and the out-of-nowhere celebrity cameos, Paparazzi is a film that has earned the title of guilty pleasure.

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AMV of the Day: Fidelity (Wolf Children Ame and Yuki)


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I posted just recently a new anime that people should be watching. I mean watching like this very moment if they find a copy of it. The anime I speak of is Ookami Kodomo Ame to Yuki (or known to those of us who don’t speak Japanese as Wolf Children Ame and Yuki). It’s from this anime that the latest “AMV of the Day” comes from.

Over this past weekend was the annual anime and otaku gathering in the Northeast called Anime Boston. Site writer pantsukudasai56 attended the con and had himself a King of a time. As part of the yearly con ritual would be the viewings of AMV nominees and the announcement of which videos won which categories at the con’s closing ceremony. This year one particular AMV caught the attention of pretty much every attendee who saw the video. It won in the Best Drama and Editor’s Choice category. Just watching the video I can see why it won in these two categories and was surprised it didn’t win Best in Show as well.

“Fidelity” was created by AMV editor Xophilarus and pretty much does a great job of emphasizing the dramatic aspects of the anime. It’s not difficult to do so since this anime is quite the tearjerker. What really puts the video into great level is the song choice. “King” by Laura Aquilina is such a beautiful song and fits very well with this anime. I could describe in more detail why this song fits this anime perfectly, but it’s better to just watch it and try and keep the waterworks from leaking.

Anime: Wolf Children Ame and Yuki (Ookami Kodomo Ame to Yuki)

Song: “King” by Laura Aquilina

Creator: Xophilarus

Past AMVs of the Day

Let’s Second Guess The Academy: Best Picture 1985


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Last week, we reconsidered whether or not The Hurt Locker deserved the title of Best Picture of 2009.

This week, let’s go back to the year of my birth, 1985.  According to the Motion Picture Academy, the five best films of the year were:

1) Steven Spielberg’s controversial adaptation of Alice Walker’s The Color Purple,

2) Witness, a film about a tough cop (Harrison Ford) who hides out with the Amish,

3) Kiss of the Spider Woman, one of the first independent films to ever be nominated for best picture,

4) Prizzi’s Honor, a darker than dark Mafia comedy from John Huston that starred Jack Nicholson,

and finally,

5) Out of the Africa, the film that was eventually named best picture of 1985.

Despite its victory at the Oscars, Out of Africa hasn’t aged well.  If any year seems to be worthy of a little second guessing, it would certainly be 1985.  If you were a member of the Academy in 1985, which nominee would you have voted for?  Personally, I would have voted for Witness.  How about you?

Now, here comes the fun part.  Let’s say that Out of Africa wasn’t released in 1985.  Let’s say that Steven Spielberg never made The Color of Purple and that Jack Nicholson refused to star in Prizzi’s Honor.  Let’s say that none of the five nominated film had been eligible in 1985.  Which films would you have nominated in their place?

You can vote for five of the film listed below and yes, we do accept write-ins!

(Incidentally, I voted for Brazil, The Breakfast Club, To Live and Die In L.A., The Purple Rose of Cairo, and Insignificance.)

Anime You Should Be Watching: Wolf Children Ame and Yuki


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In late summer of 2010 the anime and film community lost one of its brightest stars with the passing of Satoshi Kon. With Miyazaki getting up there in age there was now a clamor to see who would take on the mantle that Kon had left behind with his passing. It didn’t take long for many fans of anime to finally look at Mamori Hosoda as the heir apparent. While Hosoda’s body of work as a feature-length animation film director hasn’t been as extensive as Kon’s or Miyazaki’s what he has done has garnered a near universal acclaim for their excellent storytelling, fully-conceived characters and lush, humanistic animation style.

In 2009’s most people were finally made aware of Hosoda’s skill as a director with the worldwide success of Summer Wars and this success made people look forward to what his next film would be. It took three years, but in 2012 Hosoda and anime fans were finally given his next film with the animated film Wolf Children Ame and Yuki (Ōkami Kodomo no Ame to Yuki). It would be a departure from the scifi themes which has been Hosoda’s go to themes for his first two films.

Wolf Children explores the themes of the unconventional family unit of a single mother of two children born of her love and relationship with an Okami (a sort of spirit-animal who can turn from human to wolf). It’s these two young children, Ame and Yuki (who have inherited their father’s gift for turning into wolves themselves), who become the focus of the film. The two children must navigate their childhood and teenage years knowing that they’re different from the rest of the kids in school and both must make the life-altering decisions to follow their own paths whether it be as a human or as a wolf.

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To say that the film skews more towards the naturalistic and humanistic themes of the Hayao Miyazaki films would be an understatement. Hosoda doesn’t steal from the master, but instead takes what made the Miyazaki films such timeless and global classics to spin his own tale on the role of a mother’s love for her children even after suffering through a terrible loss and right up to the exploration of nature. So much of the wonder in this film comes from the two children exploring the wild nature around them. It’s a joy to see and at times will even bring tears to some.

It’s no wonder that Hosoda has become the latest name to be seen as Miyazaki’s next heir apparent. While it’s unfair to put so much on Hosoda to accomplish he seems to be more than willing to take on the task and have done so with surprising success.

Wolf Children Ame and Yuki might be a slight departure from Hosoda’s two previous works, but it just goes to show that he’s a director who is willing to branch out thematically and stylistically. This latest film might not be on the same level as his two previous, but it’s definitely one that should help build his reputation as one of the best director’s in the anime and film community.

Before The New One Comes Out — “Before Sunset”


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When I got back to the US after spending 18 or so months abroad in 2005, Before Sunset had already come and gone from theaters the previous year, and to be honest, my first reaction to it was to be a bit perplexed by the whole idea. “Never saw that one coming,” I thought to myself — but I knew I had to see it. Yeah, as I said last time, I couldn’t really picture any other ending for Jesse and Celine apart from one where they absolutely had to have met up again six months later and lived, as the saying goes, “happily ever after,” but here we were, nine years down the road, with the real (well, okay, not “real” — it is a movie, after all — but you know what I mean) story of what came next. Fortunately for me, my very good (to this day) friend with whom I had seen Before Sunrise had missed this one in the cinemas, as well, so just a few days after getting settled back into my house, with almost no furniture in place, and my TV and DVD player only having been hooked up a matter of hours earlier, we kicked back and did a little marathon viewing session of both films back-to-back.

The first thing I was taken aback by was how much of an emaciated meth-head Ethan Hawke looked like this time around, and Julie Delpy looked to be bordering on “unhealthy thin” status as well, but no matter — for the next hour-and-a-half or so we were back in their lives, and they were back in ours, and even if everything wasn’t gonna be perfect, it was all gonna be good enough.

Which isn’t too bad a summation of Before Sunset as a whole, with one added caveat — “good enough” can be pretty damn beautiful in its own way. Jesse’s an author know, touring Europe to promote his new book, an obviously-autobiographical account of two strangers who meet on a train, spend an evening in Vienna, and fall deeply, passionately, and completely in love. Then never meet again. Or maybe they do. The novel’s ending is deliberately ambiguous.

Sound familiar? Anyway, on the last night of his tour he happens to be giving a reading/signing in Paris, and Celine shows up. They have just enough time, it seems, to grab a cup of coffee before he’s on a plane back home, and the motif of “stolen time” that they should never have had in the first place that runs through the first film is definitely pressed even further this time around, as events unfold very nearly in real time and every minute our two long-separated lovers spend together is one that pushes the envelope of their “real lives” even further out of shape.

I have to be honest — on first viewing this ultra-compressed time frame gave things a very rushed feel that I wasn’t terribly “in to,” but  I’ve subsequently grown to appreciate its utility as a story-telling device more and more. Jesse’s got a wife and son back home, but it’s a sham marriage where they’re both just going through the motions, while Celine, who now does some sort of unspecified work for an environmental organization,  has a boyfriend who works as a photojournalist and is basically gone all the time. She couldn’t make it back to Vienna to meet him all those years ago because her grandmother had just died, while Jesse showed up and couldn’t find her, even going so far as to post missing persons flyers around town in hopes of tracking her down. And that “missed meeting” has informed and shaped the course of their lives every bit as much as the time they actually did meet.

Once again,  Richard Linklater’s superbly subtle eye ensures than the camera is in exactly the right place for maximum dramatic impact with every shot, but giving the proceedings an even more naturalistic flow here is the fact that there’s no Linklater/Karen Krizan script to be read — rather Hawke and Delpy were allowed to “get in character” and create their own dialogue for these people they knew so well. It works like a charm, and the whole thing feels like nothing so much as an expertly-filmed conversation between two old lovers that unfolds as they hurriedly stroll through the streets of Paris. Every second counts. Every word counts. Ever movement and expression counts. Everything counts. Even if it’s delivered with the more practiced nonchalance that most of us acquire as settle into what life is rather than dream about what it could be.

With both characters now in the early 30s, those possibilities of which I speak have narrowed considerably compared to last time around, but I think that’s the whole unfolding theme of this entire series — learning to find a place for dreams, and for love, in a world that whittles away the chances at achieving both as the years go on. A search for beauty and truth and meaning by projecting our hopes and ideals into visions of a world that we wished existed inexorably giving way to a life where we can still, hopefully, search for — and maybe even find — beauty and truth and meaning in a world that already exists.  It’s painfully obvious that both Jesse and Celine have never really “moved on” from their one magical night together, and that they’ve both dreamed of an existence where they were able to meet again ever since. Jesse’s stumbled into a responsible “family man” life simply because he saw it as all that was on offer anymore, and Celine’s carefully walled herself off from real emotional connection with others simply because it all hurts too much when they inevitably leave. Both are hopelessly infatuated with a memory, yet torn apart by it at the same time,  and are  now presented with a very rare opportunity in life — the chance to rekindle that memory, actively, in the present day, and maybe — just maybe — build on it. They both share the unbreakable bond of one moment in time that’s authored every moment since. And now, finally meeting again after all these years, wouldn’t ya know it — they’re in a hurry.

Imperfect circumstances for two people leading imperfect lives that have largely been a series of imperfect reactions to one perfect evening. Celine’s completely neurotic, Jesse’s completely resigned to his fate, and yet — the spark is still there. Their time together here is often painful, argumentative, and decidedly uncomfortable, but it all feels so almost unbearably authentic that you can’t help but become just as swept up in it as you were by that night in Vienna.

All of which leads to an ending you can’t help but love, despite the enormous complications you know it will present to both of these characters’ lives. Linklater is obviously trading in reversals with Before Sunset from the outset — showing us still-frame shots of where our couple will go at the beginning rather than showing us where they’ve been  at the end, and swapping out talk of what they want their lives to be with a litany of regrets over what their lives have become, but whereas their first meeting was a luminous evening capped off with a separation, their second is a rocky, tenuous, long-delayed and frankly even a bit faded afterglow that Jesse purposely blows off his flight home to stay in. This is no longer an idealized memory, or a painful reminder of what might have been — this is here. This is now. This is real life with all its flaws and foibles and tragedies and responsibilities. And these two are in in together.

As with all things as we get older, moments of revelation and life-altering decisions become more subtle and unpronounced in their execution, but their impact is every bit as real. When Celine tells Jesse “you’re going to miss that flight,” and he replies “I know,” it’s not tinged with the momentous import of every new character revelation we enjoyed in their first outing, but it sure does resonate at least as much as any of them, if not moreso. These people are grown-ups now. Their actions matter. And our reactions to them are consequently more complex and nuanced. “Dude, you’re fucking your life up big-time here” is answered by “but you’ll be fucking it up even more if you leave.” I was, and still am, elated by his choice, despite its implications, and am eagerly awaiting the next chapter in this story with a burning interest I haven’t felt for any other film in years. Before Sunrise left me in love with an idealized vision; a dream. Before Sunset left me in love with the real world and all the possibilities that still exist within it.

Before The New One Comes Out — “Before Sunrise”


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Folks who only “know” me from my online and (occasional — in fact, too occasional for my tastes, but that’s another matter for another time) print writing are probably going to be surprised by what I’m about to admit : the summer movie I’m most looking forward to here in 2013 isn’t Man Of Steel or Star Trek Into Darkness or Iron Man 3 or The Lone Ranger or any of that. Nope, friends, the one I absolutely can’t wait for — hell, pathetic as it sounds, the one I feel, at this point, that I’m flat-out living for is Before Midnight, the third collaboration between Richard Linklater, Julie Delpy, and Ethan Hawke that marks their next — and hopefully not last — look into the lives of my personal favorite couple in cinematic history, Jesse and Celine.

How much do I love these flicks? So much that I’m setting myself an arbitrary 1,000-word limit on my reviews of the first two so that I literally have to force myself not to spend all night writing about them. Say what you will for the likes of Pulp FictionReservoir Dogs, or Linklater’s own Slacker or Dazed And Confused, but for me the first two Before films are the celluloid touchstone for so-called “Generation X”-types like myself, and are probably, I would imagine,  pretty damn engrossing for other audiences — both older and younger — as well.

Once you’ve seen the second, it’s fairly well impossible to look at the first through anything but the prism of what comes after, so pretending like I can take Before Sunrise on its own merits is an exercise in futility. Let’s not even go there, then. And let’s avoid the whole question of which is the “better” of the two, as well, since they’re inextricably linked and those of us who know ’em and love ’em wouldn’t have it any other way. Let’s just agree right here and know that we’re looking at them one at a time only because they came out one at a time, and let that be the end of it.

And while we’re at it, I might as well state for the record that I can’t look back at Before Sunrise without some kind of warm nostalgic glow that, I’m certain, warps my overall view of the film itself and colors everything about it with a far more rosy tint than it’s earned.

Or wait. Maybe it has earned it. In fact,  maybe the reason 1995 stands out as a great fucking year in my life is precisely because that’s when this movie came out. It would make sense. It’s not like there are a tremendous number of overly specific memories that flood my mind when you say “1995.”  I was living in an apartment I shared with a buddy of mine since high school, I worked a couple of dead-end gigs, I had a girlfriend that I had a semi-rocky but mostly just dull and listless relationship with — the usual stuff. But I did party a lot and have a ton of fun and found myself tenuously taking the first steps into what would eventually become — yawn! — “responsible adulthood” along with a good group of friends who were going through the same shit at the same time, some of whom I’m fortunate enough to still be “tight” with to this day.

Damn, we could talk about anything. And one thing we talked a lot about was Before Sunrise. How Ethan Hawke was so much more human than he’d seemed in anything else. How Julie Delpy was just fucking luminous in every frame. How the dialogue was so real and immediate and free-form and authentic.

Truth? I think these were people we wanted to be having a night we all wanted to have. Most of us probably didn’t catch the numerous Ulysses references dropped as Jesse and Celine made their way through the streets of Vienna, most of us didn’t know enough about film yet to really appreciate the spot-on choices Linklater made with his camera at every turn, and most of us couldn’t yet directly relate to the intense and abiding love these two developed over the course of one (goddamnit, I’ll say it) magical evening — we just knew this was what we wanted life, and love, to be like.

And I think we all still do. We’ve probably all been lucky enough to feel that same sense of unfolding wonderment at the discovery of another person in our lives — I know I have and I was smart enough to marry the girl — but it didn’t happen in Vienna, on a compressed time frame, and we were all probably a lot more clumsy about it. So hey — here’s to movie magic.

It’s kinda hard to believe that just a couple years prior to this, Hawke was starring in a flick called Reality Bites, because Before Sunrise is, at the end of the day, a story about how reality doesn’t “bite” at all, but about how amazing, wonderful, and almost unbearably perfect life can be, even if it’s only for all-too-brief moments here and there. Linklater and co-writer Kim Krizan delivered a crackerjack script, to be sure, but the best and most important line they gave us — even if it’s a cliche — is when Delpy’s Celine informs us of her belief that “if there’s a God, it’s not in you, or me, but right here — in the space between us,” because for all it’s amazing dialogue, naturalist acting, and pitch-perfect characterization, it’s in observing that space between our two young lovers that the real enchantment in this work lies.

When the two finally part company at the end, it really does rip your heart out — especially knowing what’s in store for them nine years down the road — but I have to admit, before I ever even heard that the first sequel was in the offing, my reaction to the way this one wrapped up was always the same — “Jesse, you schmuck, don’t get on that train, drop everything and tell this girl you want to love her for the rest of your life starting right now and let the chips fall where they may!” I spent the following years imagining that they must have met again in Vienna six months down the road precisely as they’d planned because, frankly, I just couldn’t bear to picture any other possible outcome — if any couple ever deserved to live “happily ever after,” it was this one.

Nearly 20 years (!) and God-knows-how-many viewings later, I still believe that. Even before knowing what happened next (but not yet knowing what happens after that one — folks in New York, LA, and Austin who have already gotten to see Before Midnight, know that I am well and truly envious) this simple, uncomplicated story, where nothing happens but everything happens — a story laced with a kind of, for lack of a better term, “active nostalgia,” that takes you right back to where you were in life when you first saw it but reveals new things each time that can only come from being certainly older and hopefully wiser — was enough to make me fall in love with love in a richer and more rewarding way than I had ever considered previously and to want the spontaneous joy of getting to know another person and what makes them tick that these two shared to never, ever, in a million billion years, end. Not for them, not for me, not for any of us.

Now I’m getting sappy. Or maybe I started out sappy right from the get-go here and have gotten progressively worse about it to the point where I just can’t ignore it any more.  And that 1,000 word limit? Guess I fucked that up. But ya know, I don’t care — I’m just happy right now. Happy to live in a world where stories like this are even possible. Happy to have a front-row seat to perhaps the greatest intermittent two-person character drama anybody’s ever come up with. And happy to share my thoughts on a movie that’s meant so much to me with you good people reading this. If you ain’t got a love like this, friends, I wish you nothing but the very best in finding it. And if you’ve got it, never take it for granted and never let it go. This. Is. What. Life’s. All. About.