Wednesday, April 30, 2008
Tuesday, April 29, 2008
This post includes Phillip Kaufman's 2 1980s films and a highly acclaimed Japanese Film...all of which were long, long, long.
Previous 80s mini-reviews can be found here: Part I, Part II, Part III, Part IV, Part V, Part VI, & Part VII, & Part VIII.
The Unbearable Lightness of Being (1988)
Directed by Philip Kaufman
Recommended by Oscar (2 noms), Will
This film is one of my least favorite 80s recommendations yet. I thought I'd enjoy it since it's cast is so high caliber (Daniel Day-Lewis, Juliet Binoche, Lena Olin, Stellan Skarsgard) but in reality I found this film way too long, more risque then I prefer and with a story I simply could not get too interested in.
Lewis' role as a Czech doctor torn between two lovers (one is a long-term strictly physical relationship, while the other comes with more care and affection) does a good job, as he always does, but even he was less refined than I'm used to seeing him. I thought the most redeeming part of the story line was the passion that Tereza (Binoche) had for capturing war time photography.
The Right Stuff (1983)
Directed by Philip Kaufman
Recommended by Oscar (4 wins out of 8 noms), & kat
As much as I didn't enjoy Kaufman's 1988 feature, I loved this film. Clocking at well over three hours, this film is absolutely enchanting as it tells in a very honest way the early story of the American space story as it specifically related to America's first astronauts. The high level character development, the acting, and certainly the special effects make this film a great joy to watch. I'm certainly glad I caught this one.
Sam Shephard (as Chuck Yaeger), Dennis Quaid (as Gordon Cooper), and Ed Harris (John Glenn) are especially excellent. After a little discussion formed in the comments of my recent Neil Armstrong post my interest increased, and I am so glad I watched this film in my attempt to increase by 80s viewing. It made me want to head to Kennedy Space Center and see it all again in a new light.
Directed by Akira Kurosawa
Recommended by IMDb (#13 80s film), Oscar (won costumes, three additional noms including best director), Jandy, Will, & jasdye
Maybe I'm not supposed to say it, but I wish this film was shorter. I wish the editing was tighter. And I wish the Shakespeare-esque screenplay (fool included) didn't make it such a challengingly painful film to watch.
The story is unique, with all the intrigue you'd expect from a story about an old/competent king who starts to distribute his property and power to his three sons, who for various reasons find their allegiance to each other and their father very weak...leaving the father powerless, homeless, and insane, as the fighting between sons takes place.
To me, this is certainly one of those films I appreciate more than enjoy. The full on battle scenes are very impressive, and in many ways remind me of the work that was done in the Lord of the Rings trilogy, the music is great, the costumes, the story line, it's all there. Great fight scenes but too much talking and theatrics. I'm glad I've finally seen it, but I also feel like I could have benefited from some Cliff Notes.
Sunday, April 27, 2008
Yet, I must admit, the letter W is a strikingly attractive looking letter. It has far more character than some of those boring letters, like 'C' or 'O.'
After writing some well-commented post on the topic of Oliver Stone's movie upcoming presidential film "W," I've realized that I haven't noticed any comment on the other "W" titled films that show up one a search of imdb.com.
Oliver Stone's film is distinguishable from the other W-titled films in three ways.
Oliver Stone's W-film:
1. Has actual celebrities in it
2. People will actually see it
3. Oliver Stone & Company have place a period following the W so that the title looks like this: "W."
Previous W-titled pictures include.
W (1974) which to received a title modification when USA-television aired it, calling it "W is the Mark of Death." This film apparently is a suspense thriller staring Eugene Roche as a detective.
W (2003) appears to be a little seen edgy french film that involves a man who "accidentally" falls in love with a transvestite bartender.
W (1983) is a five minute short from Finland, and W (2004) is a 37 minute short from Finland.
The first 4 "W" films seem like definite passers. Will the period at the end and the cast be enough to distinguish this fifth W-film?
Friday, April 25, 2008
Thursday, April 24, 2008
Sergeant Milton Warden (Burt Lancaster):
Wednesday, April 23, 2008
"...a twist on the prodigal son story. It follows a wayward pastor's daughter, Jesse Brown, as she returns from a life as an exotic dancer to make amends with her family and teen son and eventually lead her father's parish, becoming Pastor Brown."
The indie-film is being produced by Rock Capital Films, produced, directed and staring Rockmond Dunbar (pictured left, of Prison Break, Dirty Laundry). It is also being produced by Shaun Livingston of the LA Clippers and former NBA player Charles Oakley.
The role of Pastor/Exotic Dancer Jesse Brown will be played by Salli Richardson Whitfield (pictured left, her biggest credit yet, I Am Legend).
The film will also feature appearances by R& B singers Monica, Angie Stone and India.Arie, as well as Olympic track star Carl Lewis.
Rockmond Dunbar will play the part of Amir, the Muslim love interest.
I have three different knee jerk reactions to this project, I encourage you to share yours...
(1) This movie sounds like it definitely has rooms for a very fluffy bunny, feel good, pluralistic religious perspective: "Sure you were an exotic dancer, but that was just a season, and now you want to change. Sure you have a Muslim love interest, it's not a big deal, whatever works for you, God understands and love you and is ultimately concerned with your happiness, blah, blah, blah."
(2) Or maybe this movie has a positive message about God's grace, mercy, and unfailing love. Maybe there is true life change and "Pastor Brown" stands up on her new found convictions and experiences the true life transforming forgiveness of Christ?
(3) Or maybe this movies going to be lame and it really doesn't matter what the message is because no one's going to see it.
What are your knee-jerk Pastor Brown thoughts?
Monday, April 21, 2008
When my wife and I got married in 2005 we had the opportunity to honeymoon in the Monterey, California area.
Gas prices had begun to rise, and the Jeep Wrangler we had rented was tons of fun, but certainly took it's fair share of gas as we drove throughout Pacific Grove, Monterey, San Fransisco, San Jose, and so forth. Gas around most of the cities was around $2.69. Steeper than what we were used to paying in the middle of United States, where gas prices had settled snuggly above the two dollar mark.
One day we driving down to Hearst Castle along Highway 1 and realized that our gas was probably not going to get us down to the Castle and back so when we stopped for some lunch we wanted to get some gas. Somewhere south of Big Sur we stopped for a sandwich and were shocked at the gas prices. The gas here was $3.69. I had never seen, nor could I imagine gas so high.
We needed some gas, but certainly not a full tank of this proud gasoline. So I filled up the tank with fifteen dollars worth, just a tad over 4 gallons. Knowing we could fill up later for at least a dollar less.
Amazed at these high prices, I took a picture with my camera phone and this picture became part of the texture of our trip as we told our friends about the $3.69 gas station.
Today on my way to work, I turned on my car and was reminded my gas light had turned on during the weekend and I needed to get some gas on my way to work.
I pulled into the gas station to see unleaded gasoline cost $3.69. A number that brought back a found memory of "remember that time we payed close to four dollars for gas on our honeymoon." Except this time I didn't have the hope of finding a place later that day that would charge me less, and $3.69 might be as good as it gets.
Yet, for memory's sake I decided to fill up the tank with $15 worth of gas (just over 4 gallons) and thought "who knows maybe it'll be cheaper, tomorrow" and with that drove off to work with fond memories of a great Honeymoon almost three years ago.
Saturday, April 19, 2008
Yet, I wanted to digest some of my thoughts on the Biblical title. I previously mentioned that the valley of Elah was the location where David killed Goliath. It is in this context that it is also used in Paul Haggis' film.
As Hank Deerfield is well involved in his search to uncover the mystery of his military son's disappearance/death with Detective Emily Sanders (Charlize Theron), Hank ends up over at Detective Sanders house where he displays his fatherly skills in telling Emily's son the story of David and Goliath. (Emily's son played by Devin Brochu is named David).
Hank's telling of David focuses on how David was ill suited to take on Goliath, but he conquered him because he was brave and courageous and took him down with a slingshot rather than the sword of the king (or a gun as Emily's son asked about).
Emily later mentions to Hank that this story is a myth. I appreciate Hank's belief's, conviction, and forwardness when he tells her that it's not just a story, but it is true and real. Like Hank, I hold a similar conviction.
Yet, what bothers me is that the way that Hank tells the story, and the teaching application of the story is that you should look your enemy in the eye, stand up to your enemy with out fear, be brave and conquer your enemy.
The way that Hank tells this story uses the story of David and Goliath in a mythological style. It's not told unlike the story of Greeks or Romans. There story told this way is worthy of fabalization with a clear explanation and moral application.
As I have learn and develop my faith and understanding of the Bible, specifically the old testament. I often am annoyed with the way Biblical stories are treated. Sometimes the focus and lessons of the Bible are created out of context with easy tangible lessons, often times admiring the Biblical person/character rather than admiring God.
As I read and understand the Bible I feel like the story of David and Goliath is Biblically significant, not so much to show how David (the future King of Israel) was brave and courageous when no one else was, rather it's purpose I believe is to testify about God. I believe it's purpose is to show how God uses the weak to shame the wise. In addition, I believe it shows how God is ultimately concerned with His glory over the glory of men, so he empowered someone who could not ascribe glory themselves without giving glory God.
I do not think that the purpose of this story is to model for us how we should be like David in tackling our fears, worries, trials...other than to say that we should follow God and give him glory when he leads us into victories we clearly could not have accomplished in our own strengths.
I do not share these thoughts as a criticism to In The Valley of Elah, rather it's part of a larger caution I'm weary of. King David's accomplishments are laid out very clearly in the Bible, as are his failings. He can be admired, much like Moses, Noah, Abraham, and the other flawed heroes of the Bible.
Because I believe God is immutable and his character does not change, I instead look in the old testament and try to reconcile who God truly is, not what I can learn from the leadership and lifestyles of the flawed people honored in the Biblical story of God.
The story of David and Goliath is an excellent example of my frustration with what I can only identify as idolizing biblical people.
Similar to the interpretation of the the David and Goliath story, the Christian marketplace has seen two recent success stories that personalize the historic Elah event and give it contemporary parallels.
Popular prolific Christian author Max Lucado (pastor of Oak Hills Church in San Antonio, Texas), wrote a book called Facing Your Giants in 2006 which captured a "face your fears, be courageous like David" mentality. (They even came out with a teen edition of this book in 2007)
Also, in 2006, the film Facing The Giants came out, which was a Christian film production by Alex Kendrick and a film cast from Sherwood Baptist Church in Georgia. This film took the classic losing football team to David and Goliath level as they attempted to turn their football program around.
My intention is not the be critical of Max Lucado or the film Facing the Giants. Yet, I think that it is easy to create Biblical principals out of context, especially when they involve the choices and decisions of individuals who enter the Biblical narrative.
Wednesday, April 16, 2008
My wife is interested in playing the role of Jenna Bush in your upcoming film. E-mail me if you are interested in coordinating schedules and contracts for filming.
Sincerely, RC of StrangeCulture
Tonight my wife curiously asked if anyone has yet to be cast to play Jenna Bush in Oliver Stone's upcoming film W. about George W. Bush.
After posting casting announcements for Laura Bush, Condelezza Rice, Colin Powell, and George H.W. and Barbara Bush, my wife Kim suddenly became increasingly interested in this project (as many readers seemed to as well as they saw the actors included in this project).
Occasionally my wife, Kim, has mentioned that she has been questioned (often at Dallas-Fort Worth Airport) if she is Jenna Bush. I found this particularly amusing during the time period where Jenna was stirring up tabloid press.
In someways I can see the similarities, in other way I cannot. My wife is beautiful, and if they can upgrade Condelezza Rice to Thandie Newton, Laura Bush to Elizabeth Banks, and Barbara Bush to Ellen Burstyn, than I say, my wife should certainly be considered in the Jenna Bush upgrade.
Tuesday, April 15, 2008
In the practical sense, I can't stand taxes. It's pretty depressing to see pay stubs with taxes taken out. It's depressing to buy something, and then be charged more for it. It's depressing to try to be semi-knowledgeable about how to save for the future in light of various tax laws, etc.
Overall, taxes are generally depressing, I imagine they've been so since the beginning of time...except of course in the days of early civilization if you were the corrupt official collecting the taxes...but of course that is a different story. (Remember, when Jesus was walking the earth...remember those sinners and tax collectors).
On the theoretical level, I found it acceptable to have to write a check to the US Treasury this year for Tax Day. I understood, it was taxes I hadn't paid out of my paycheck, and thus I needed to "settle my account," in essence. There was no penalty, just a necessary act. On the practical level, writing the check was a little more depressing.
I realize that not everyone who reads this blog lives in the United States, but if you do, and are unfamiliar with the book, I recommend you read The FairTax Book by radio talk show host Neal Boortz. (I read this a couple years ago, as a recommendation from my father-in-law)
While Mike Huckabee was not my favorite candidate in this past year's republican primary, I did appreciate him taking a stance and creating publicity for The Fair Tax (Ron Paul and Alan Keyes also support The Fair Tax).
This blog is a poor place to describe the policy of The Fair Tax as submitted to the senate and the house, but it's an interesting re-imagining of a better tax policy.
In essence the Fair Tax would be a steep percentage on all initial selling of goods and services, that would be figured into the product price. This set tax alone on goods and services sold in the United States would cover all taxes and eliminate the tax code. There's reasons to not like some of the concept of this tax, but I think it's a strong policy that would eliminate some of America's largest problems, such as lost taxes on black market goods and services, lost taxes on illegal immigrants, businesses being choked out by business and payroll taxes. And before you get all jumpy about tax the milk and bread of poor people, the bill also includes a standard prebate that comes in the mail to off set taxes on necessary goods and services.
Anyways, I don't really think there will ever be enough momentum to make the Fair Tax happen, but I do recommend the read and wish that politicians and people would discuss this as a valid possibility more. Read the book, hang out at fairtax.org, and see who in the house and senate support this bill.
Happy Tax Day from StangeCulture.
Monday, April 14, 2008
James Cromwell as George H.W. Bush & Ellen Burstyn as his wife, Barbara Bush.
Playing the part of George Bush's (Josh Brolin's) wife is Elizabeth Banks.
Bush's two secretary of state's...Colin Powell will be played by Jeffery Wright...
...and Condelezza Rice will be played by Thandie Newton.
Any thoughts on these casting choices?
Sunday, April 13, 2008
"Nothing makes me more sad than seeing an empty building."
I couldn't believe that Brian (the son of an achieved business man, who's achieving himself these days), would think the empty Kmart was "sad." I couldn't believe this, especially compared to all the other sad things in the world (injustice, abuse, broken families, violence).
Yet at times, I realize that I like Brian see empty buildings as something that is sad.
The other day when I heard that Frontier Airlines, the Denver-based airlines had filed bankruptcy last Thursday I found myself, like Brian, "sad."
The free market capitalist side of me says: "this is okay, when businesses fail it is because there's either not enough demand to meet the supply, or someone else is doing it better and cheaper."
Yet that cold-realist economic outlook isn't probably that comforting to the thousands of people that work for the airline. Nor is it good in the short term for Colorado tourist, or Colorado business and personal travelers who will see rising prices on airline flights.
In addition other airlines (Southwest, American Airlines for example) seem to be having trouble and seeing losses as well, and it's all signs of a struggling economy. (Not to mention other airlines that went bankrupt only weeks ago, Skybus, ATA, and Aloha Air)
I used to think Brian's response to the deserted buildings, and "store closing" signs as sad was overly-American-capitalistic. But I know embedded in Brian's logic of sadness he saw lost jobs, lost hopes, lost dreams. He saw wasted capital, wasted real estate, wasted buildings.
Things readjust, but they adjust slowly, and it's the gaps in the middle of hope, use and prosperity that make things sad.
The closed Kmart Brian saw in college eventually was torn down and made room for a major expansion and increased parking lot size for the neighboring Walmart.
Thursday, April 10, 2008
Last year, I got my hands on a copy of J.M. Coetzee's Booker prize winning novel Disgrace, and found it to be just an incredible piece of literature. Disgrace was such an incredible novel. In fact, I'm surprised at how much I liked Disgrace. In Disgrace you have this purely unlikeable, yet strangely sympathetic character who is sex-o-manic (I doubt that's a real word). The main character, David Laurie willfully looses his job as beyond middle-age communications professor after he did not acknowledge the inappropriateness of having sex with a young theater major.
Yet as disgrace unfolds, and you travel with David Laurie through the horrible days ahead of him, the story unravels in such a distinct and powerful way. Not to mention that Coetzee's writing style is simply fascinating. I don't think I've ever read something that created such a wide spectrum and perspective on such a challenging topic of rape and consensual sex.
I thought I was preparing myself for less controversial reading when I started reading Coetzee's novel Slow Man. Simply put, the writing was still fascinating, but the narrative was much more limited. In fact, the story, hardly had a story at all. The book was far more philosophical, dealing with the topics of loss, legacy, and loneliness.
Slow Man tells the story of another lonely man in his late middle-ages, this time though he looses his leg in accident involving him on his bike and young teenage boy in a car.
Slow Man isn't quite the "movie adaptation" type of book because frankly, the narrative of it is not that interesting or even make that much sense, fictional novelist Elizabeth Costello comes and stays with lonely amputee Paul as he's dealing with trouble adjusting to his new condition, and coveting a relationship with the Croatian nurse-assistant and her family. Paul longs for a family, a legacy, even a heritage to call his own.
Yet, like I said, it's Slow Man that gave me a sun burn. My wife and I were outside on Sunday reading and laying out, and she fell asleep and after staring Slow Man a weeks back I couldn't help but turning the pages and reading it.
Recently, J.M. Coetzee (along with Ian McEwan) have really captured me in his writing ability. When I read Coetzee I believe he could write about anything mundane and make it interesting and irresistibly readable.
Tuesday, April 08, 2008
Sunday, April 06, 2008
The "article" primarily mentions that Oscar-winning films normally come out in the last month of the year, and Dave Karger's "article" goes on to list some movies coming out in the last part of 2008. And even weirder than the cover tease, goes on to end his "article" to give some details about Duplicity and State of Play, both slated to come out in 2009.
Alas, I knew in writing my last post predicting the content of this article that I didn't know what to expect, but I think I truly expected a little more.
Here's how there "article" compared to my list...
1. Films/Performances that EW mentioned and I predicted they'd mention:
Nicole Kidman and Hugh Jackman & Australia; Leonardo DiCaprio, Kate Winslet & Revolutionary Road; Brad Pitt, Cate Blanchett & The Curious Case of Benjamin Button.
2. Films/Performances that EW mentioned that I did not predict they'd mention:
Keira Knightley & The Duchess; Julianne Moore, Mark Ruffalo & Blindness; Russell Crowe & Leonardo DiCaprio in Untitled Ridley Scott Project*; Viggo Mortesen, Charlize Theron & Cormac Macarthy's The Road;
3. Films/Performances I predicted that EW would mention, but did not:
Jamie Foxx & The Soloist; Wall-E; Frank Langella & Frost/Nixon; Heath Ledger & The Dark Knight; Kate Winslet & The Reader; Angelina Jolie & Changeling; Amy Adams, Meryl Streep, Phillip Seymore Hoffman & Doubt.
For those of you keeping score at home, EW listed 7 buzz films for 2008. In my list of 10, I only predicted 3. What can you do about it?
* This untitled project is called Body of Lies
You can see in that second cover teaser in the picture is the headline: "Oscar '09: The Buzz Has Begun. Already."
You can imagine, that I'd be interesting in reading this article. I don't even know if it's long or short, a bulleted list, or a multiple page spread.
But for me, half the fun of the Oscars...okay maybe 90% of the fun of the Oscars is the realm of predictions.
Now, I'm certainly not ready to begin making Academy Award predictions, but I am interested in predicting what "buzz" Entertainment Weekly decided to talk about.
So without opening up the magazine, and assuming that Entertainment Weekly is far more interested in identifying big names, big movies, as opposed to trying to identify potential "Juno-like" success stories...
I present my top 10 predictions of what "buzz" EW is talking about:
(Stay tuned for a follow up post)
10. Jamie Foxx & The Soloist. Director Joe Wright has his own little streak going with Pride & Prejudice and Atonement, and Jamie Fox has seen a lot of Oscar-love this decade. A baity bio-pic surely has a chance to make the EW article.
9. Wall-E. While it probably won't be overly discussed, we've seen Pixar films enter into various categories of Oscardom, and I don't see why you wouldn't suspect that same for Wall-E.
8. Frost/Nixon & Frank Langella. They'll probably mention how Frank Langella was denied a shot this past year for Starting Out in The Evening and then tought the stage play and how wonderful Langella should be as Richard Nixon.
7. The Curious Case of Benjamin Button. I'm thinking David Fincher fan love, mixed with Cate Blanchett, Tilda Swinton, Brad Pitt Oscar love will warrant some mentions. Especially for it's unique story line and F. Scott Fitzgerald adaptation.
6. Heath Ledger for supporting actor in the Dark Knight. Who knows if this nomination will play out, but I've seen the buzz already, and between the recent death and the make-up job of the joker from Christopher Nolan's film...it certainly creates some pop-culture-Oscar-buzz-collisions.
5. Kate Winslet. Her name is always buzz-worthy, and will surely be mentioned with the film mentioned in #1 (below) but could easily be mentioned with the film The Reader (directed by Stephen Daldry) as well.
4. Australia. Whether or not Baz Luhrmann's historical film will stay in the game comes award time is not what this list is about. I can't see the staff of Entertainment Weekly not making sure they got a chance to put a picture of Nicole Kidman and Hugh Jackman in their coverage.
3. Angelina Jolie & Changeling. Just when I thought that movies about missing children, swaped children, and abducted children where cliche, Clint Eastwood makes a movie of this nature as well. If they talk about Brad (#7) they'll have a really hard time not mentioning her.
2. Amy Adams & Meryl Streep & Phillip Seymore Hoffman. New Hollywood fan favorite and Oscar Royalty and the screen powerhouse. I can't imagine EW not mentioning their roles in Doubt..
1. Revolutionary Road, Winslet, DiCaprio & Mendes. I say the most early buzz will go to Revolutionary Road...the reuniting of Kate Winslet and Leonard DiCaprio in a time where they have even more love than they've ever had, and directed by Winslet's husband Sam Mendes. That's got headline buzz all over it!
Thursday, April 03, 2008
While there are many interesting aspects to this documentary, one of the thoughts that really struck me was that while some of these young men were given the opportunity to escape the starvation, disease, and death of the Lost Boys camps in southern Africa, they were struck with a different type of starvation.
They were struck with loneliness, isolation, and separation. Not just from their friends and families back home, but with humanity, the people that lived around them. Some of this was attributed to the life style of working hard, various jobs that kept many transported friends from getting time together. But even more so, it was the unwelcoming, unhospitable, and uninterested tendencies of American citizens, simply to not interact at all. Not to be co-humans with the Sudanese transplants. And it wasn't that they felt like Americans were mean, harsh, negative, violent, or malicious. No, it was simpler that that...they just found Americans to be unfriendly.
I've mentioned in a handful of post here about the challenges and realities of isolation and loneliness that is so prevalent in our Western world. And I see such a great present of starvation of the soul that occurs in the isolation and independence we create in our "modern societies."
While not the main message of the documentary, a power message I saw in the film was that food, clothing, job, self-sufficiency, shelter, electricity, pride, these things are not enough. We also desperately need relationship and interdependence.
Wednesday, April 02, 2008
Universal Studios (which seems like an appropriate choice...I can see the big globe now, zooming out into space in the opening credits) has picked up rights to the biography of Neil Armstrong by James R. Hansen called First Man: The Life of Neil A. Armstrong. (The screenplay apparently is being written by Nicole Perlman, who's former credits seem "spacey").
Obviously the success of a film like this lies in casting, promotion, and timing...and maybe while interest in "the space race" seems to have deminished, if pushed and done in the right ways, who knows...it could be a great film. It certainly is a part of Americana that hasn't had it's own dedicated film, although I instantly picture the archive footage of the moon walk from the movies Forrest Gump and Apollo 13.
I'll be really curious to see who they cast. Just as long as it's not Emile Hirsch of Shia Labeouf. They're everywhere!