A Raw, Open, Beautiful Wound : Nina Bunjevac’s “Bezimena”


Ryan C.'s Four Color Apocalypse

There’s a sense you get from page one of Nina Bunjevac’s new graphic novel Bezimena (presented in an oversized, lavish hardcover by publisher Fantagraphics) — the idea that this is no mere foray into the depraved mind of a sexually-charged psychopath. That there’s quite a bit more going on here.

And no, I don’t just mean the eerie and obvious parallels to the ancient Greek myth of Artemis and Siproites hidden in plain sight in the narrative. Nor do I mean the way in which Bunjevac seems to intuitively map out the complete psychogeography of her depraved protagonist, Benny, whose obsessive nature is reflected in the book’s painstakingly-detailed, luridly mesmerizing art, a succession of splash pages that each look as though they took a month or more to get exactly right. Nope — those things aren’t what I’m talking about, even though they are surely worth talking about.

Is this…

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Lisa’s Too Early Oscar Predictions For May


It’s that time of the month again!

It’s time for me to offer up my early Oscar predictions!

These will be my first set of predictions since the Cannes Film Festival.  It’s always debatable just how much of an influence Cannes will actually have on the Oscar voting.  A victory at Cannes pretty much led to Tree of Life receiving an Oscar nomination and it certainly didn’t harm the chances of BlackKklansman last year.  While Once Upon A Time In Hollywood and Terrence Malick’s A Hidden Life may not have picked up any major awards at Cannes, the positive critical reception that both of those films received can only help.  The same can be said of The Lighthouse, which was shown out of competition.  Finally, the Cannes jury gave its best actor award to Antonio Banderas and, for now, that’s enough for me to add him to my list of predicted nominees.

So, without any further ado, here are my predictions for May!  If you want to see how my thinking has evolved over the year, be sure to also check out my predictions for January, February, March, and April!

Best Picture

1917

A Beautiful Day In The Neighborhood

Fair and Balanced

The Goldfinch

Harriet

A Hidden Life

The Irishman

Jojo Rabbit

Little Women

Once Upon A Time In Hollywood

Best Director

Kasi Lemmons for Harriet

Terrence Malick for A Hidden Life

Sam Mendes for 1917

Martin Scorsese for The Irishman

Quentin Tarantino for Once Upon A Time In Hollywood

Best Actor

Antonio Banderas in Pain & Glory

Willem DaFoe in The Lighthouse

Leonardo DiCaprio in Once Upon A Time In Hollywood

Tom Hanks in A Beautiful Day In the Neighborhood

John Lithgow in Fair and Balanced

Best Actress

Amy Adams in The Woman in the Window

Cynthia Erivo in Harriet

Blake Lively in The Rhythm Section

Saoirse Ronan in Little Women

Alfre Woodard in Clemency

Best Supporting Actor

Matt Damon in Ford v. Ferrari

Malcolm McDowell in Fair and Balanced

Ian McKellen in Cats

Sam Neill in Blackbird

Brad Pitt in Once Upon A Time In Hollywood

Best Supporting Actress

Annette Bening in The Report

Laura Dern in Little Women

Scarlett Johansson in Jojo Rabbit

Nicole Kidman in The Goldfinch

Margot Robbie in Once Upon A Time In Hollywood

 

 

Scenes That I Love: Harry Meets The Mayor From Dirty Harry


Today, we wish a happy 89th birthday to the one and only Clint Eastwood!

At this point of his career (from which he says he is now semi-retired), Clint Eastwood has become an American icon.  In many ways, his persona epitomizes all of the contrasts and extremes of the American experience.  A political conservative who specializes in playing taciturn and rather grouchy men, he is also one of our most humanistic directors, specializing in films that often question the traditional view of history and morality.  He may have first become a star in Europe but Clint Eastwood is definitely an American original.

In honor of his birthday, I’m sharing a scene that I love from 1971’s Dirty Harry.  In this scene, Detective Harry Callahan (Clint Eastwood) meets the Mayor of San Francisco (John Vernon).  The mayor is concerned that there’s a psycho on the loose, gunning people down and demanding money.  Callahan’s annoyed that he’s spent a lot of time sitting in a waiting room.  Things pretty much go downhill from there.

There’s so much that I love about this scene.  Both Eastwood and Vernon do a wonderful job playing off of each other.  The Mayor may be in charge of the city but Callahan probably didn’t vote for him.  One thing that I especially love about this scene is the look of annoyance that crosses Harry’s face whenever he’s interrupted.

And, of course, there’s that final line!  Eastwood does a great job explaining Harry’s “policy” but ultimately, it’s Vernon’s “I think he’s got a point,” that provides the perfect closing note.

Happy birthday, Mr. Eastwood!

After The French Connection: Popeye Doyle (1986, directed by Peter Levin)


In this made-for-television movie, a pre-Married With Children Ed O’Neill takes over the role that won Gene Hackman an Oscar.

Popeye Doyle (played by O’Neill) is a hard-drinking, hard-living Irish police detective working out of New York City.  Along with his more emotionally stable partner, Tony Parese (Matthew Laurence), Doyle spends his time busting drug dealers, going on stakeouts, and chasing junkies through the mean streets of NYC.  When Jill, a beautiful young model (Audrey Landers) turns up dead, everyone assumes that it was an overdose.  Doyle, however, has his doubts.  All of her friends say that Jill never used drugs and, when Popeye searches her apartment, he doesn’t find any evidence that would point to her being junkie.  Instead, he finds tapes that Jill made for various wealthy men.  Convinced that Jill was murdered, Popeye is soon investigating the type of powerful people who are not used to being investigated.

In 1986, someone at NBC thought it would be a good idea to launch a series based on The French Connection.  Since Gene Hackman was busy making movies and hadn’t come anywhere close to appearing on television since losing the role of the father on The Brady Bunch to Robert Reed, the role of Popeye was given to Ed O’Neill.  At that time, O’Neill was an unknown who had appeared in a handful of plays, two movies, and one Red Lobster commercial.  The movie, Popeye Doyle, was meant to serve as a pilot for the proposed television series.  Needless to say, the film did not lead to a series.  If it had, Ed O’Neill probably wouldn’t have been available to take the role of Al Bundy on Married With Children.

O’Neill is probably the main reason that anyone today would want to see Popeye Doyle, which is otherwise a routine cop movie.  Except for a few scenes where he seems to be trying too hard to imitate Hackman’s iconic performance, O’Neill brings authentic working class swagger to the role.  He drinks too much, he often says the wrong thing, and he pisses off all the right people.  There are some scenes where O’Neill seems to blend right in with the pilot’s gritty visual style.  (It was shot on location in Ed Koch-era New York.)  There are other scenes where he gets so manic that he seems to be a man possessed.  In the scene where he watches Candy Clark do an impromptu striptease, O’Neill as Doyle gets so excited that you worry about him.  Interestingly, Doyle wanders through the film dressed like a slob and acting like a schlub but every beautiful woman he meets wants to have sex with him.  In that regard, it is easy to imagine the movie as being some sort of elaborate daydream that Al Bundy had while selling shoes.

As for the events in The French Connection, they’re mentioned briefly at the start of the movie, when a reporter asks Doyle about that time he accidentally shot and killed a federal agent.  Popeye Doyle still has many scenes that are meant to remind viewers of the first film.  There’s a stakeout scene, where Doyle and Parese sit out in the cold while their target enjoys a nice night.  There’s a scene where Doyle works undercover as a bum.  And, of course, there’s a car chase, though it’s nowhere near as exciting as the one from The French Connection.

Popeye Doyle has never been officially released on DVD (or even VHS), though it is available on YouTube.

Alfred Hitchcock’s Last Ride: FAMILY PLOT (Universal 1976)


cracked rear viewer

Critics in 1976 were divided over Alfred Hitchcock’s FAMILY PLOT, which turned out to be his final film. Some gave it faint praise, in an “it’s okay” kinda way; others decried it as too old-fashioned, saying the Master of Suspense had lost his touch – and was out of touch far as contemporary filmmaking goes. Having recently viewed the film for the first time, I’m blessed with the gift of hindsight, and can tell you it’s more than “okay”. FAMILY PLOT is a return to form, and while it may not be Top Shelf Hitchcock, it certainly holds up better than efforts made that same year by Hitch’s contemporaries George Cukor (THE BLUE BIRD), Elia Kazan (THE LAST TYCOON), and Vincente Minnelli (A MATTER OF TIME).

Hitchcock reunited with screenwriter Ernest Lehman (NORTH BY NORTHWEST) to concoct a devilishly clever black comedy about phony psychic Blanche Tyler who, along with…

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Here’s The Trailer For The Kitchen


The Kitchen, which will be coming out in August, is one of those films about which I am cautiously optimistic.

It’s about three women in 1970s New York.  Each one is married to a member of the Irish mafia.  When their husbands all end up getting arrested by the FBI, the women take control of the rackets themselves.  This, of course, brings them into conflict with the old and patriarchal Italian mob.

It is it a comedy?  Well, it does star TIffany Haddish and Melissa McCarthy as two of the of the wives.  However, though they both may be thought of as being primarily comedic actresses, Haddish is a critical favorite right now and McCarthy has two Oscar nominations despite the fact that she’s appeared in some truly terrible movies over the past few years.  Both of them have proven that they can handle drama just as well as comedy.

So, is this a drama?  Well, as you can see in the trailer below, it does appear to feature Elisabeth Moss falling in love with violence.  In fact, the trailer features a few people getting killed but it also appears to take a rather jaunty approach to all the death.  “Oh look!  He’s sitting on the toilet and he got shot!”

So, I’m going to guess that this film is going to try to balance both comedy and drama.  That approach, when it works, can lead to wonderful things.  And when it doesn’t work …. well, let’s not even think about it.

I will say this — the trailer’s glimpse of 42nd Street is gorgeous!

Anyway, here’s the trailer for Widows …. I mean, The Kitchen: