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Thursday, Oct 7, 2010
Quality over quantity... or something much more telling. Is it better to be prolific and pedestrian, or selective and sanctified?

He the most unlikely of potential auteurs, especially when you consider that (a) he only has a trio of feature films in his oeuvre, and (b) so far, his fame is a work in progress. Still, if Terrence Malick can be considered the second coming of Kubrick for only making five films in the last 37 years (yes, you read that time frame correctly), Mark Romanek can be considered the same with only three in the last 25. Heck, even the ever elusive David Lynch has done 10 in the same approximate time frame, which begs a specific question. Is it better to be prolific and pedestrian, or selective and sanctified? Naturally, many would argue that it depends on the director. Martin Scorsese has made over 30 films in his illustrious career and few would call him ‘ordinary’. On the other hand, someone like Terry Gilliam has been given only 11 chances since starting at around the same time as Lynch, and he’s still respected…even revered.


It’s an odd argument, almost situational in its potential responses. Hollywood is overrun with journeymen, joke names like Shawn Levy, Dennis Dugan, Brett Ratner, Brian Levant, and Paul WS Anderson tapping into enough commercial zeitgeist to warrant return after return to the director’s chair. For them, it’s not a question of art, or even artifice. It’s a paycheck, a pre-assigned release date, and a table at a fancy upscale restaurant. They don’t suffer for their muse; they make the audience do that. So maybe there is something to not seeing a David Lynch film every 18 months, or hearing that, once again, Paul Thomas Anderson is making another of his Robert Altman inspired cinematic canvases. Sure, sure, it’s quality over quantity. But in the case of the limited oeuvre, it’s more than that… seemingly much more.


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Tuesday, Aug 24, 2010
The Devils is like a trip through Baroque Hell as envisioned by a high end mentor to Kubrick and Jodorowsky. It's all textures and tactile reinterpretations, modernistic designs delivered into the bowels of a beleaguered, belligerent age

His status as a forgotten filmmaking giant remains unchanged. For every director he’s inspired, for every movie that pays homage to his esoteric eye candy conceits, he’s seemingly fallen further out of favor in the discussion of greats. Throughout the ‘60s and ‘70s, his reputation as Britain’s bad boy of cinema was rivaled only by the amazing movies he helmed, post-modern classics such as Women in Love, The Music Lovers, and his brilliant adaptation of the The Who’s Tommy. Today, he’s a punchline among all except the most erudite cinephiles. Part of the problem is precedent. Ken Russell today is not the mischievous maverick of forty years ago. Perhaps even more importantly, one of his true masterpieces, 1971’s The Devils, remains out of print and out of the conversation.


In actuality, a headstrong Hollywood continues to marginalize Russell’s rapier vision of sex and corruption in organized religion, original backing studio Warner Brothers still reluctant to release the uncut version to viable commercial formats (oddly enough, Apple’s ITunes offered it for a while a few months back, before mysterious dropping it from availability). Of course, when one actually experiences the shocking, clearly controversial nature of the narrative, it’s not hard to see their misguided reluctance. Focusing on madmen, power grabs, faith-based fallacies and the director’s always over the top visualization of same, it cemented his standing as an uncompromising, unmatched genius. It also proved to be an artistic albatross, a burden he would have to carry, comment on, and contradict for the rest of his rollercoaster career.


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Friday, Aug 20, 2010
As with most of the nu-media, the message is abundantly clear - it's time to take the cultural conversation away from those invested in its outcome and give it back to those who actually live it, day to day, dollar to dollar.

It was one of the most unusual movie intros in a long time, slightly reminiscent of William Castle and his “classic” carnival barker come-ons from the ‘50s and ‘60s. As the audience sat murmuring, the standard 7:30 screening time arriving with light dimming precision, a typical AMC theater ad announced the arrival of “Our Feature Presentation.” Prepared for a found footage look at a crooked preacher and the day he came face to face with a real case of demonic possession, many hoped that The Last Exorcism would be a Blair Witch/Paranormal Activity style scare show. What few could have expected was that Executive Producer and FoQ (Friend of Quentin) Eli Roth would be the first thing they’d see on the 70 foot tall theater wall.


Smiling like a cheerful Cheshire and looking directly into the crowd, the man responsible for Cabin Fever, the Hostel films (and by extrapolation, the rise in torture porn) and the memorable turn as ‘The Bear Jew’ in Tarantino’s Inglourious Basterds was present to ask “a favor.” Convinced that a movie like The Last Exorcism would never get a fair shake from the mainstream media, he was here to convince this ‘privileged’ preview audience to use the most potent form of publicity - word of mouth - to tell the rest of genre nation of how ‘awesome’ this movie was/is. Arguing that only true fans could understand the terror about to unravel, he then went on to add instigation to injury with a potent promise, something that actually earned a few gasps from the attendees.


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Thursday, Aug 19, 2010
The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo's Noomi Rapace, is and remains to this day the living embodiment of late author Stieg Larsson's troubled protagonist.

Over the last week, the ‘Net has been a-buzz with rumors over who will play the titular character in David Fincher’s “Americanization” of the brilliant Swedish thriller, The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo. As one critic recently put it, it’s the kind of role that doesn’t require a star…it MAKES one. So naturally, when initial reports began to surface and the same old names - Natalie Portman, Kristin Stewart, Ellen Page - bubbled up, film geeks everywhere were up in arms. How could the damaged cyber-savant Lisbeth Salander be played by someone carrying so much preconceived celebrity baggage with them. No, the role needed to go to someone new and untested and wisely, the noted filmmaker finally announced that he was indeed going with a relative unknown - Rooney Mara.


Before we get into the decision, it’s important to note that the angst was well placed. Hollywood loves to fool with foreign film hits. They’ve been doing it since three men became invested of a little baby and long before a bunch of schmucks were summoned to their own stateside dinner game - and each time, the casting decisions have been generally derided. Now, most of this distrust comes from a love of the source material. After all, who could envision anyone other than Kåre Hedebrant as Oscar and Lina Leandersson as Eli in the astonishing vampire thriller Let the Right One In. Of course, we will soon have an answer to that head scratcher as The Road‘s Kodi Smit-McPhee and Kick-Ass‘s own Hit-Girl, Chloë Moretz parallel the previously mentioned players in Matt Reeves’ remake, Let Me In.


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Wednesday, Aug 11, 2010
Edgar Wright is cut from the same cloth as the members of Monty Python some 50 years before, a British boy capable of great wit and even greater insight.

It’s the same story we’ve heard a hundred times - a hungry, imaginative young child is given a Super 8 camera as a gift, and the rest in potential cinematic history. Similarly, there’s the synchronicity of making a student project and having it appreciated by a struggling media outlet. Thanks to said exposure, you wind up getting noticed by up and coming talent trying to make a name for themselves as well. They choose you to helm their initial attempts at TV, and again, the rest is a kind of revisionist history. It’s not long before you’ve found your niche in a particular format - say, the sitcom - and a kind of creative cult revolves around your efforts. That final bit of appreciation, meshed with your own ongoing desire to expand your sphere of experience, leads you right back to your beloved celluloid. Soon, you’re on the cusp of becoming the filmmaking superstar those early home movie dreams inspired.


For Edgar Wright, the stereotypical steps to directorial respect are all there. The 36 year old has already made a massive name for himself among the web-ccentric members of ‘Net Nation, catering to their geek obsessive look at the world with his in-joke laden ideas. But Wright is not some nu-model member of the media. He’s cut from the same cloth as the members of Monty Python some 50 years before, a British boy capable of great wit and even greater insight. He’s also immersed in the new-old school of UK comedy, one symbolized best by the Young Ones/Bottom dynamic of dangerous slapstick violence and the Alan Partridge realm of self-deprecating irony. With his latest effort, Scott Pilgrim vs. the World, hitting theaters this week, one can look back at his brief career to see how he got started, and how all the various facets of his rise helped make him manna for the Playstation - and now mainstream - masses.


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