Sunday, August 31, 2008

Sitting on My Netflix is conducting a reader poll about sitting on your Netflix. They asked which rental you've kept the longest and why. A couple clicks later and I had my answer:

Au Revoir Les Enfants; 21 days.

I pride myself in getting my money's worth from my Netflix subscription. Even in my busiest months, two hours are often set aside for movies. These DVDs always get priority over recently purchased films. If it arrived in my mailbox, it'll be back in the mailbox no less than 72 hours later.

So, what happened with Au Revoir Les Enfants?
And also, what the hell is Au Revoir Les Enfants?

Whitney over at Dear Jesus knew that I enjoy films about teachers. My thesis revolves around teacher movies and she recommended two films from France. The first was a documentary called To Be and To Have and the other was the Louis Malle film that sat on my shelf for three weeks.

The plot revolves around two boys living at a French boarding school during World War II. One's Catholic, the other's Jewish. They don't like each other at first but as time passes, they begin to become close friends. The Jewish boy, Jean Bonnet Kipplestein, has been allowed to hide from the Nazis at the boarding school and tension builds as the German troops move in closer to their location.

Sounds like it would be good, doesn't it? So, why did it take almost a month for me to watch? The answer is pretty simple. My intrigue was peaked because I love teacher films. That's how it made its way to the top of my queue. However, foreign films take a higher level of concentration than I was willing to give. When you rent Notorious B.I.G. - Bigger Than Life, checking your e-mail in the middle might seem a bit more managable. Decisions are made.

I just couldn't gear myself up to dive into Malle's historical war-time drama. Instead, I watched Wattstax and Untraceable, both films that found their way back to the Netflix Shipping Center long before Au Revoir. I knew that the film deserved a clear head and my full attention.

Late one night, I shut off all the lights, sat down, and watched Au Revoir Les Enfants. It was worth the wait. Three weeks after I recieved my little red envelope, I was able to fully take in and experience what I would consider a 'classic,' whatever that means.

Also, if you ever get around to watching this movie, just remember to put it in the right context. When Au Revoir was released, the top-grossing films in the U.S. were Three Men and a Baby, Fatal Attraction, and Beverly Hills Cop II. Call it a palate cleanser. Or a breath of fresh air. Or better than 3 Men and a Baby. In short, it's worth sitting on your Netflix for three-quarters of a month just to see this film.

Go tell what film you've kept the longest. But first, tell me. Thanks for reading!

Saturday, August 30, 2008

How to Survive a 12-Hour Roadtrip

When you find yourself in the car with your bestest girlfriend and fellow cinephile on a twelve-hour road trip, there are many ways to make the time fly. The best thing we came up with this weekend was recasting movies. Some worked, some flopped, but the best one we came up with was the recasting of Beetle Juice!

Two of the biggest changes between Tim Burton's movie and our movie are the two main characters. In the original, Alec Baldwin and Geena Davis play a happily married couple who live happily until the day they died...which happened come 50 years earlier than expected. With today's ever-changing definition of "family," Whitney and I decided to update this B-movie classic.

A mid-40s lesbian couple named Julie and Numar, played by Mary Steenburgen and Catherine Keener, live together in a quaint New England town. One lovey Sunday afternoon, they decide to go for a lovely Sunday afternoon drive. Some lovely Sunday afternoon apple picking might also be in order.

On their way home from the orchard, their car blows up. It just blows up. They blow up too. The accident scene looks like cranberry applesauce.

As you all know, the couple returns home, finds out they're dead, and witnesses a new family moving into their home. The original film starred Catherine O'Hara and Jeffrey "I love kiddie porn" Jones as the new home owners. Whitney and I decided that Catherine O'Hara nailed her role so we re-cast her.

We also decided that since Jones wants to nail 14-year-old boys that we should find someone else. The decision was easy. Larry Miller. Remember 10 Things I Hate About You?

Winona Ryder is proving difficult to replace. Could she still play a 13-year-old? Maybe. She'd have to tape her chest down like Girl Interuppted. Our casting agents are looking into it.

Rumors are swarming that that yet-to-be-filled role could go to Harry Potter's Emma Watson. The young thespian, donning the black, gothy clothes, make-up, hairdo, etc. could possibly play an impressive Lydia. The role is expected to be filled within the next few weeks.

Alan Arkin will play the pseudo-artistic homosexual interior designer, Otho. Yeah, we were pretty happy with this one too.

That brings us to the title character. Beetlejuice. A perverted zombie womanizer with a sailor mouth. Names were tossed around, maybe Sam Rockwell, Jim Carrey (my bad idea), and John Legizamo, to name a few.

Then Whitney had the genius idea to make him a drunk. Beetlejuice will be played by Robert Downey Jr. Easy choice. He'll harass the two women, martini glass in-hand, spouting off swarmy references to his junk. The two same-sex lovers will, of course, reject his offers and services and decide to take care of their problems on their own.

Suddenly, Beetle Juice turns into quite a powerful women's empowerment film when Julie and Numar take young Lydia under their wing and guide her through those tough teenage years. By relying on their own stengths, the three women band together to get Lydia's parents to move back to New York and for Beetlejuice to go back to hell.

Well, that's it. That's how we spent fifteen minutes of our twelve-hour drive. Hope you liked it. If not, I can guarantee it's better than our attempt to remake Stroszek as a Hollywood romantic comedy. It starred Dane Cook as Stroszek, Jessica Alba as his girlfriend, and Richard Dreyfuss as the old man whose trailer they move into. Also, when casting a live-action version of The Little Mermaid, we quickly realized that we has just cast Enchanted. Guess that means Enchanted did a good job.

So, what did you think?

Monday, August 25, 2008

Something I Stole from Joseph Campanella

But in all seriousness, go watch his awesome short film:

Saturday, August 23, 2008

What's the Best Way to Spend a Week?

Pineapple Express
Definitely the funniest of the summer comedies. It's nice to see that a guy who looks like me opening a hit picture. Judd Aptow is the King Midas of comedy's newest generation. Even if stoner comedies aren't your usual go-to genre, this one's a lot more than a "pot movie." This is one damn funny buddy movie. Damn funny.

Rogen and Franco are hilarious and the supporting cast are just as good. Even Rosie Perez is good. Rumor has it that she asked David Gordon Green to cut a lot of her dialogue. Seems like a good choice to me (and I LIKE Rosie Perez), haha. Gary Cole plays an awesome villain and his cohorts could have their own movie. Craig Robinson (The Office) and Kevin Corrigan (Grounded for Life) play hitmen who've been working together for way too long. When Robinson says "I look like the Hamburglar," I had one of those embarrassing way-too-loud laughs.

The last 35-45 minutes does seem to go on forever but I was laughing during each one of them. So was the rest of the audience. Unfortunately, the there was only one scene with a David Gordon Green (All the Real Girls) feel to it. Can you guess which one? Yeah, it was the "in the woods" montage with that little folk song playing over it. It would have been interesting to see a feature more representative of Green's minimalist style. I wouldn't doubt that most people assume Aptow directed Pineapple Express which is too bad because Green is one of the most talented directors working today.

One last note, "You just got killed by a Daewoo Lanos, motherfucker!"

Tropic Thunder
Luckily, I watched this right before Pineapple Express. Had I seen PE first, Tropic Thumder wouldn't have played nearly as well. Granted, I was laughing throughout, the 100 million dollar budget just shows a bit much. It feels like a 100 million dollar movie. The characters are all types and lack the depth that Green's film featured.

The fake trailers at the beginning were hilarious through. Great cameo from the MTV Movie Award Best Kiss Winner. Nice jab at Eddie Murphy too. Anyone else notice how Jack Black looked like a missing cast member from El Chavo del Ocho?

Got to point out how Danny R. McBride is blowing up. I loved him in All the Real Girls and Hot Rod. Now he's co-starring in the two biggest summer comedies. That's awesome! Next up, the Will Ferrell Land of the Lost project. Kick ass.

One last note, "I'm a lead farmer, motherfucker!"

Nothing in Common
As you can see, the soundtrack will rock you to your core. A cheesy 80s flick about an advertising executive who gets thrown back into his family life when his parents split up. Coming to the table without the heart of Big or the body count of Saving Private Ryan, this one's worth watching but not over and over again. A pretty generic Garry Marshall movie which marks the last film appearance of Jackie "POW! Right in the kisser" Gleason.

The Great Debaters
Denzel Washington's second directorial project (the first was 2002's Antwone Fisher) can't seem to decide what movie it wants to be. The Great Debaters is like a Disney film that also features lynchings and inflamed corpses. The film has a Greatest Game Ever Played feel to it that zaps out all the real emotion which could have been attached. Sure, you're invested in the characters. You hope they beat Harvard. It's just that this one could have been much more impressive and it just comes off as lacking some important element that leaves the final product as little more than forgettable.

Better than 90% of the family dramas released in the last couple years, Penelope is the Christina Ricci with a Pig Nose movie. For some reason, the theatrical release was pretty limited, playing mostly in art houses or second run theaters. James McAvoy co-stars which you'd think would help the film's chances.

Released two years after production ended, Penelope, in my opinion, could have done really well theatrically with a couple bucks thrown towards promotion. As far as family movies go, this one works on all the desired levels. It's sweet, smart, pretty original, etc. etc. etc. It's just too bad that shit films like College Road Trip get shoved down our throats while having to search for the quality product.

Grace is Gone
John Cusack plays a man whose wife is killed in Iraq. Struggling to find a way to tell his two young daughters, he opts to take them on a road trip, hoping to preserve their happiness for just a little longer. Let me tell you the best part about Grace is Gone: no flashbacks. The director never chooses to scream "THEY USED TO BE HAPPY!" at the viewer. He allows Cusack's performance let us in on all the important details. In the hands of another director, this film definitely would have been taken in the wrong direction. Stop-Loss comes to mind.

American Teen
As it turns out, I have a gigantic crush on Hannah Bailey. Not only does she dream about becoming a filmmaker, she made plans to do so at my alma mater! She loads up her car and leaves Indiana for California's best city, San Francisco. Wanna fight about it? She wears Boy Scout uniforms, plays in a band, dislikes the popular kids. She would have been the girl I would have admired from afar in high school, terrified to actually ask her out -- too cool.

Burstein's documentary certainly has its problems, the animated sequences and the number of well, that seems pretty staged scenes, especially. The marketing sells Teen as a real-life Breakfast Club. That description works when describing the film's model, but not the film's final product. It's too Laguna Beach and not enough High School (1968).

Henry Poole is Here
If you love Jesus, faith, stucco jobs, Luke Wilson, talk of miracles, thick glasses, the idea of George Lopez playing a priest, or Radha Mitchell, then this movie might appeal to you. A small film, much different than Mark Pellington's other work (Arlington Road, The Mothman Prophecies) this is the sort of movie to recommend to your church-going aunt who often complains about the amount of state of the world these days. My mom loved it...

The Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants 2
It's better than the original. Imagine that. My brain has an on-going love affair with America Ferrera and the inclusion of three additional pretty girls doesn't hurt either. I'm not going to lie, I enjoy chick flicks. I'm man enough to admit that. I've been known to watch Bloodsport and Notting Hill back-to-back. Nothing wrong with that.

I Want Someone to Eat Cheese With
Pretty damn charming indie flick starring Jeff Garlin, Sarah Silverman, and Bonnie Hunt. The title alone speaks to my heart (and its clogged arteries). If you're in the mood for a sweet movie that doesn't feel overproduced in the least, this might be up your alley. Overall, the movie works alright, but there are some standout scenes that are worth an upward move on your Netflix queue.

Tell No One
Vertigo meets The Fugitive.
Watch this movie.

Without giving anything away, here's a quick plot description. A man and his wife are attacked after spending a romantic evening out on the lake. His wife is killed and he is put into a coma. Eight years later, he gets an e-mail from a stranger. The link inside the e-mail takes him to a live camera feed at an unknown location. Then his wife walks in front of the camera. Who sent him the link? Was that really his wife? Is she still alive? The lead character, the winner of the Dustin Hoffman look-alike contest, sets out to find some answers.

This was by-far the best made movie of the week. You keep struggling to keep up as the movie progresses and just when you think you've caught up, they throw you for another loop. Even after the movie was over, I wasn't quite sure what had a good way. Hours after leaving the theater, all my brain could think about was about how every little piece of the film links together. Needless to say, a second viewing is in order.

So, that's what I did during my trip back home this week.
What did you see this week?

Monday, August 18, 2008

Wanna guess?

Sorry for the lacking post frequency.
Big announcement coming soon.

Until then, everyone head over to Natsukashi
and listen to the podcast Rob and I recorded.

As you should all know by now, Natsukashi is one of the best blogs around.
I was invited to record an episode with them on any movie from my past.

I chose something special. I don't want to give it away yet.
Go check out Natsukashi and listen to the MP3.


Thursday, August 14, 2008

Top 10 Guilty Pleasures

I realize that He Shot Cyrus has become a bit list heavy as of late, but when Invasion of the B Movies put on a guilty pleasures blog-a-thon I decided it was time for another. Here are my Top 10 Guilty Pleasures and a few reason you might want to check them out:

10. Born in East LA

A. The Waas Sappening montage.
B. A Cheech Marin trifecta: acting, writing, and directing!
C. Paul Rodriguez thinking God's in Tijuana.

09. Con Air

A. Nic Cage (a.k.a. Mr. Bangkok Dangerous)'s Southern drawl.
B. Nic Cage (a.k.a. Mr. Bangkok Dangerous)'s receding hairline.
C. Nic Cage (a.k.a. Mr. Bangkok Dangerous)'s dialogue:
"Put... the bunny... back... in the box."

08. Face/Off

A. The plot. They. SWITCH. Faces.
B. Margaret Cho's worst performance to date.
C. Nic Cage (a.k.a. Mr. Bangkok Dangerous)'s dialogue:
"Wooowhee. You good lookin'. It's like looking into a mirror. Only...not."

07. Sudden Death

A. I have no excuses for Sudden Death.

06. Big Bully

A. Cool Evil Knievel action figure.
B. Rick Moranis isn't making movies any more.
Maybe it's time to catch up on his older stuff?
C. Don't watch this movie. It's not very good.

05. UHF

A. Ghandi II
B. Conan the Librarian
C. Drinking from the fire hose.

04. House Arrest

A. Because it's about kids living the dream.
B. It's 1/5 of Amy Sakasitz's oeuvre.
C. Because Prehysteria and Remote are both checked out.

03. Carpool

A. Rips off the Blues Brothers driving-through-the-mall scene.
B. Rhea Perlman plays a hell-bent meter maid.
C. David muthafuckin' Paymer! You know he's the man.

02. The Stupids

Why should you watch The Stupids?
A. Because it's the third movie on this list to star Tom Arnold.
B. Because when it comes to Bug Hall, Little Rascals just wasn't enough.
C. Because you're stupid and you relate to the characters because you're stupid.

01. Steel Magnolias

A. If you don't like Julia Roberts, guess what? She dies.
B. Because M'Lynn, Truvy, Ouiser, and Drum are great names.
C. You know you want to take a whack at whack at Ouiser.

Sunday, August 10, 2008

Meet the Feebles (1989)

Imagine an episode of The Muppet Show where Kermit shoots up heroin and has Vietnam flashbacks. Miss Piggy runs around naked with a machine gun. Ralph has a three-way with two cats and get infected with AIDS.

A decade before Lord of the Rings, Peter Jackson made a nasty-ass puppet movie. Meet the Feebles. Gaining fame for his disgusting "splatstick" film, Bad Taste, the director began to raise financing for a project which would turn a familiar genre on its head. Thanks to a group iof Japanese investors, Jackson was able to release Feebles in 1989.

Feebles follows a theatre troupe as they prepare for a live television broadcast. The audience gets a behind-the-scenes look at the production and all the vile, perverted, illegal, and disgusting activities that ensue. You just haven't lived until you watch a fly eating shit--with a spoon--on the big screen.

This is the type of movies that gets passed around between junior high/high school kids, bootleg tape-style. That's how I first saw it. The "noise composer" who made short films on the weekend with the Bowie haircut/leather jacket combo at my school (every school has one) slipped me a tape of Feebles and Videodrome. Locked the bedroom door, popped it in the VHS player, kept the volume down low and watched the most stomach-wrenching flicks I'd ever seen. Then I passed the tape on to my friend Brad.

After that day, I was always talking about Meet the Feebles. Occasionally, I would run into someone who had seen it and we would reminisce over the "nasal sex" scene, the chickephant baby, and the Deer Hunter homage.

I was lucky enough to catch this on the big screen last weekend. Jesse Hawthorne, the host of Midnites for Maniacs, put together an unbelievable triple feature which just happened to take place on my birthday! The evening begun with a childhood favorite, Return to Oz, moved into Beetlejuice, and at midnight, closed with Meet the Feebles.

The Castro Theatre was packed when we showed up. By the time midnight rolled around most of the audience was still there. Ninety minutes of groans, gasps, and Oh My God's. Jackson's nasty-ass puppet movie still completely holds up. It's belly-laugh funny and gross-out disgusting right where it's supposed to be. Netflix has this one on "SAVE" so call up your local video stores and track down a copy. Or call up the lead singer from Snatch Sandwich (or whatever your town's band was called) and see if he still has that tape lying around next to his GWAR singles, syringe needle choker, and leftover copies of his zine.

Friday, August 8, 2008

Top 5 Birthday Scenes

Today's My Birthday!

5. Sixteen Candles

You can't have a birthday list without Sixteen Candles. So here's the big scene reenacted by shampoo bottles.

4. Problem Child

80s babies know how to ruin a good party.

3. Signs

This is the scariest scene from Signs...which isn't saying much of anything. However, it's a pretty damn good birthday scene.

2. Tootsie

Bill Murray cracks me up. "I want ninety people who've just come out of the worst rainstorm in history. These are people who are alive on this planet...until they dry off. I wish I had a theater that was only open when it rained."

Also, it's Dustin Hoffman's birthday today.

1. The Omen

This one showed up on my Top 11 Female Death Scenes list. It just goes to show birthdays and death have an eerie connection. It's like every time you have a birthday death seems a little more least if you're Satan's nanny.

Bonus Clip: Reno 911

One You Ought to See: The Unknown

The Unknown (1927)
Lon Chaney, the Man of a Thousand Faces, plays a circus performer named Alonzo the Armless. A professional knife-thrower, he uses his feet to dazzle crowds with his dangerous talent. Alonzo falls in love with Nanon Zanzi, a fellow circus performer. She claims to hate the feeling of a man's arms wrapped around her. Everything seems perfect for the pair but Alonzo has a couple huge secrets from his past. The Unknown explores the lengths will a man go to for his true love.

Spoilers Section Below

Alonzo decides to propose to Nanon. There's only one problem. His arms aren't really missing. Years ago, Alonzo had committed a murder. Since then, he's bound his arms under a corset, learning how to use his feet for everyday tasks.

One bright idea. A little blackmail. Some unethical surgery. And presto! Alonzo's got no arms.

All is looking well for Alonzo. That is, until he finds out that Nanon has fallen for a sideshow strongman. Guess she got over her dislike for arms. Our armless antihero decides that this romance will be short-lived. But something goes wrong when he attempts to sabotage the strongman's stunt. Alonzo jumps in front of a bucking horse, saving his love's life, but sacrificing his own. In the end, the strongman and Nanon live happily ever after.

End of Spoilers Section

The movie only runs 63 minutes long. The reason I decided to recommend this movie is because it's wildly entertaining, even for people who don't usually enjoy silent/black-and-white films. There just aren't that many plots as rad as the plot of The Unknown.

The film's director, Tod Browning, is best known for his 1932 feature, Freaks. Freaks deserves a post of its own. Browning got his start with D.W. Griffith (Birth of a Nation, Intolerance) and worked from 1917 to 1939. Spanning from silents to talkies, his career is filled with impressive horror films including the Universal Pictures classic, Dracula .

Chaney and Browning made ten films together. In only nine years. In those films, Chaney played gangsters, a ventriloquist, a magician, a hypnotist, and even a character named "Singapore Joe." I haven't seen that one yet, but I'd bet my oversized gong that it's devilishly racist.

The Unknown recently played at the San Francisco Silent Film Festival. Sadly, I missed that screening but after hearing lots of praise from friends, it moved to the top of my Netflix queue. This is one of the craziest silent films I've seen. If you're a fan of Chaney, Browning, or entertaining movies, then this is one you ought to see.

[This post is part of Cinema Fist's weekly blog-a-thon. This week's topic: black-and-white cinema.]

Tuesday, August 5, 2008

My Birthday Present

Sorry for not updating for a while but I've been busy. It's Birthday Season at my house. No new movie post today. I just wanted to show off one of the presents I received this year. A good friend was getting one and offered to pay for mine as well.

Here it first tattoo.

The world's strongest (and possibly whitest) calf has been decorated. I know what you're asking yourself, "Did he get a Doug tattoo?" Yes. Why? Because Doug practically raised me. I learned everything I needed to know for life from Doug and Pete & Pete.

I went over to my friend Ryan's house and he drew me up a couple different versions. Brad and I drove to the tattoo parlor, drawings in hand, and proceeded to have our skin mutilated by the artists.

Pros: My artist had an awesome Lee Marvin tattoo. Stevie B.'s "Spring Love" was playing. It only took ten minutes and didn't hurt like I thought it would.

Cons: My artist chewed tobacco while he drew Doug. He also sang along with "Hollaback Girl" which came on after "Spring Love." The bleeding. Although, it was awesome when Doug had a bloody Joker mouth! "Wanna know how I got these scars?"

Overall, I'm really happy with my Doug tattoo. So happy, in fact, that I'm going again in two weeks to get another. Not sure of what yet. Any suggestions?