Saturday, September 10, 2005

Our second batch

I was at the "Shopgirl" press conference, and found it to be the most unhelpful,especially since many of the journalists were condisering it to be a comedy, which it wasn't. I went because I saw it at a junket screening and thought I should report on some of the official activities therein.

That said, here are some more reviews:

The Piano Tuner of Earthquakes

Written and Directed by
Timothy and Stephen Quay

For many years, the brothers Quay have been animation's dirty little secret. Their films have been usually nasty brutish and, with the exception of “The Secret Adventures of Tom Thumb” short. Here, they have decided to go into the live action feature business, with something that looks rather like their animated work. This is nasty, brutish and long.

The famous operatic diva Malvina (Amira Casar) is about to get married when the evil Dr. Droz (Gottfried John) uses his nasty potions to kidnap her and spirit her away to his castle on the Black Sea. What are his nefarious plans? What does he want to do?

Cut to the castle. An innocent piano tuner named Fernandes(Cesar Sarachu) is sent for to tune some bizarre automita that Droz has created in time for his planned performance of something strange.

This is out there, really out there. The whole thing is opaque, a puppet show, where no one can understand much of anything, which for the Quays is par for the course.

The acting, I guess is good enough for what it's supposed to be for. It's all overwrought and theatrical. The best is Sarachu, who's permitted to be somewhat normal throughout the film, while everybody else, especially Assupta Seerna as Droz's major domo, is as if they're on drugs.

It reminds one of Peter Lynch's “Eraserhead” without the yucks. It's not all that good, but it's the right shade of weird for the midnight movie crowd.


Directed by
Ang Lee

Ang Lee has always been a risk taker, When he made “The Ice Storm” a few years back, and before that “Sense and Sensibility,” he broke stereotypes of genre and race and went to places no one expected someone from Taiwan would go.

Here he does it again, but with mixed results.

The year is 1963, and a rancher named Joe Aguirre(Randy Quaid) needs a couple of shepherds willing to break the environmental protection laws and herd the sheep in a National Park. What he gets are
Ennis Del Mar(Heath Ledger) and Jack Twist(Jake Gyllenhaal), two down on their luck cowpokes who really need the money, and are willing to camp out on months on end.

So they do. Summers in Montana are short, and up on Brokeback mountain, it gets real cold even in July and August. Ennis and Jack are forced to break the rules and share a tent. Their true natures break out and we discover that we're in the middle of the first big budget gay western. Love is in the air, but their secret is discovered, and soon, too soon, our loverboys are forced to go their separate ways.

But both men believe themselves straight. Ennis was going to marry Alma(Michelle Williams) before this all started and he does. Jack goes on the rodeo circuit when Joe won't give him another summer up in the wilderness. Years go by. Ennis and Alma reproduce, all seems well despite the poverty of the situation.

Then the inevitable happens, and Alma accidentally observes the happy reunion. Everything goes downhill from there. The film is about being in the closet, and adultery. If you're married and have a gay relationship on the side, is that any less sordid than having a mistress. Jack wants Ennis to leave Alma and the kids, but he just can't do it, and the longer the relationship goes on, the more Alma the kids, and eventually Jack's wife Lureen(Anne Hathaway) suffer.

The thing is too long. We don't really care about the two leads as much as their spouses and children. We want this to end one way or another and have it do that soon. But it doesn't. It goes on and on and on and…

This is a noble experiment, but one which has failed. Too bad. I thought “Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon” was a timeless classic and expected more.

TIM BURTON'S CORPSE BRIDE UK, Special Presentations North American Premiere

Directed by Mike Johnson
and Tim Burton

Ages ago, it seems, Tim Burton did a wonderful little film called “Beetlejuice” about what goes on in the Afterlife. In this version, the dead go on looking like they did at the moment of their deaths, perfect or squashed, cut into pieces or emaciated by disease.

Here he combines that sensibility with his design sense from his “Nightmare Before Christmas” to produce a stylistic sequel to the latter. A tale from the same universe, so to speak, reminiscent of a new “Star Trek” franchise show.

Victor Van Dorn (voiced by Johnny Depp) is to be married tomorrow. He has never met his bride-to-be Victoria (voiced by Emily Watson), the reasons for the situation remain unlclear, although Victor's parents(Tracey Ullman and Paul Whitehouse) want to enhance their status in the world, while Victoria's(Albert Finney and Joanna Lumley), are impoverished nobility who need the money.

Victor, who has fallen in love with Victoria at first sight, is extremely nervous and keeps flubbing his lines during the rehearsal, and flees into the forest to practice some more and gather his thoughts, and while getting his vows right the first time, he unknowingly marries a ghost, Emily, the Corpse Bride(Helena Bonham-Carter), has been waiting for love her life to come for years, after the bastard who was going to elope with her(Richard E. Grant), bumped her off instead. Like Orpheus, Victor ventures down to the underworld….

This is a very happy place where Danny Elfman's music pervades everything with a jaunty bounce and lilting step. The fans of “Nightmare” will delight in the music and glory in the design. The story isn't as predictable as one might expect for something like this, we know it'll turn out fine in the end, but since getting there is half the fun, we don't care about that.

Take the kids, go yourself. It's a perfect follow-up to “Charlie and the Chocolate Factory”


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