Tuesday, September 21, 2021

Hooray For Elvira!

Cassandra Peterson, aka the actress and icon sometimes known as Elvira who we just wished a happy birthday a few days ago, has an autobiography called Yours Cruelly out this week, and according to The Advocate she reveals she's been in a relationship with a woman for the past two decades! We got another one, everybody! Good work! Not just any old anybody of course -- Elvira's a score for the ages. Everybody go send her some love on Twitter so she knows she's supported and adored, please! And don't forget to watch her special on Shudder on Saturday night!

TIFF 5 Fast

I'm in a terrible funk mood-wise today, and it's affecting my ability to write. So I'm right now forcing my hand here in order to get the blood pumping from my brain down to my fingers, so I stop sulking slash googling pictures of Oscar Isaac to distract me from my sulk and just fucking write something -- that is to say I am right now going to spill quick thoughts on five movies I watched from the Toronto Film Festival that I won't otherwise be reviewing. 

I ended up seeing 42 movies at TIFF over the course of a couple of weeks, which is ridiculously too too much, but I can't seem to stop myself -- I work myself into a fever pitch convinced the world will realize I don't deserve access to anything and that they'll rescind it at any moment, and so for this immediate small window of time where I have them fooled I must grab everything I can. 

Oh christ I'm sulking again. Anyway point being I'll never write about all 42 films -- especially since NYFF has now begun -- and I've only written about 6 so far, so I should get out some thoughts while I still can think thoughts. Which, I warn you, I sort of can't -- I don't make any promises that anything you're about to read will be "interesting" or "coherent" -- I am simply forcing myself to type right now, so I stop emotionally spiraling. We'll see what happens! What a thrill for everybody involved!

Zalava -- Set in a small Iranian village on the precipice of the revolution Zalava sets a literal-minded police officer who's hated by the townspeople against a con-artist exorcist who has everybody convinced only he can save them from the evil spirits in their midst. It's basically the angry mob scenes from any Frankenstein or Beauty of the Beast film writ large, and it packs a hell of a gut punch on the subject of mass hysteria -- as we've learned over the past couple of years it's our next door neighbors who turns out are way scarier than any invisible forces, and who are more than happy to keep believing in nonsense that comforts their way of out-of-date thinking even as said continued belief drives us all straight into the ground. It's timely and scary and it should also be said that leading man Navid Pourfaraj is a hottie with a superior stache.

Dug Dug -- Recurring themes from all sorts of angles at TIFF, as this is also a movie about great crowds of people deluding themselves into believing whatever the hell they want to, common sense be damned, but Dug Dug goes at it from more of a satirical, funny bent -- an alcoholic good-time boy named Thakur goes for a drunken joyride on his scooter one night and before you can say "watch out for that bus" gets run over and killed by a bus. And then after some inexplicable post-demise shenanigans involving his scooter the entire village becomes convinced Thakur's spirit lingers and before you know it every business in town is named for him and a new religion's been born. My read of the film probably leans slightly harder into a cynical view than the filmmaker intended since I view everything having to do with religion cynically but I saw this as a delightful evisceration of the nonsense that is religion, and as such adored it. Fantastic editing too -- the sequences where we watch religion spread like a bad dollar bill are propulsive.

DASHCAM -- I promised myself I wasn't even going to review this movie because of how much I fucking hated this movie and how little attention it actually deserves, but I just want to go on the record briefly that this film is confused trash that platforms a real-life anti-vax maniac and then begs us to love her for her endless insufferable dick jokes. No thank you! No thank you, director Rob Savage! I don't care if Host was a fun treat at the start of this pandemic -- and it was, here is my review -- you haven't earned a free pass for this bullshit. The lead's ability to come up with things that rhyme with "cum" at the drop of a hat is funny for exactly point two seconds and yet this movie treats her as if she's this Rain Man comedy savant, and then every supposed scare is dropped into a blender of loud braying nonsense. Just fuck this irresponsible garbage. Pass!

After Blue: Dirty Paradise -- I have been meaning to watch writer-director Bertrand Mandico's previous feature, 2017's The Wild Boys, for ages... well since 2017 I guess. If that consists of "ages." And since I said that it's clearly the truth. Ages, then! Anyway yet even though I haven't seen that movie yet I still recognized After Blue as being Mandico's movie, just from the stills I have seen from The Wild Boys. Which is super weird! Mandico clearly has a recognizable style already set -- one that's clearly borrowing from people like James Bidgood  (director of Pink Narcissus) or Kenneth Anger, and then people who borrowed from Bidgood like Pierre et Gilles -- but I like that style so it's okay, borrow away. Anyway this was one of the last films I watched at TIFF and I think I was so totally exhausted by movies trying to have a "plot" or trying to make "sense" that After Blue totally charmed me, in that it didn't ask me to follow it; it was just a wacko experience, a stylish psychosis to luxuriate in. I really dug it. It's like Barbarella on ketamine. I assure you that you will have to be in the exact right mood for this, and that being under the influence of something, anything, will probably help. That said I wasn't on anything, except maybe extreme fatigue, and it worked for me, so.

One Second -- I am sure that every person who's reviewed this movie from Chinese legend Zhang Yimou has referred to it as "a love letter to cinema" and it totally is, except when it isn't. What's fascinating about One Second is the ways it understands the goods and the bads of what cinema is capable of, from the inside out -- what's most interesting about One Second are the moments where its ambiguity shines through. Not even getting into the Chinese propaganda thing at this movie's heart -- One Second got reworked by Chinese censors because of the things I just mentioned -- if you think about the history of the movies here in the US you should also feel that ambiguity; think about the ways the movies, thanks to things like the Hayes Code, have brainwashed entire generations into believing a form of history that's emphatically not true. That gay people didn't exist in the past. That people in the 1930s didn't swear or have sex. The movies have inalterably skewed reality itself. We should, alongside all our love of this art-form, be aware of its boundless possibilities for corruption! Zhang Yimou's movie, through the cracks of its front-facing sweet fable about a small town enjoying their movie night, is very much aware of all of this. 

Quote of the Day

"To be honest, I very rarely watch movies or TV shows if I know my music is in it. The way it usually works is I get a description of the scene and a solicitation from the director for why they wanna use the song. If I feel they’re doing justice to the scene and that my song speaks to them then I just trust their vision. I’m pretty democratic about it. After that, if I know my song is gonna appear in a film or TV show I turn it off so it doesn’t make me uncomfortable! With [Call Me by Your Name], I had so much admiration for Luca’s work because his films are infused with song and he’s just a real scholar of music. But I had to watch that film a lot, in all these different screenings, and every time my music came on, I’d either run to the bathroom or slouch in my seat ’cos I was kind of embarrassed."

It's been a couple of months since it was first announced but Sufjan Stevens' new collaborative record called A Beginner's Mind -- which sees him and Angelo De Augustine writing a bunch of songs based around movies -- is finally out on Friday, and a chat with the two musicians is up at Little White Lies today; the answer above is Sufjan being asked what his favorite use of his own music in a movie has been up until now. That's truly not even my favorite bit though -- earlier in the chat Sufjan admitted he's "a horror film fanatic" and I squealed. I honestly wouldn't have guessed -- I was surprised that one of the tracks on the record was based on Hellraiser III and figured that was Angelo's influence. Happy day! Pre-order A Beginner's Mind right here if you haven't yet, and watch the fun video for my favorite song released so far right here.

Today's Fanboy Delusion

 Today I'd rather be...

... spotting Jonathan Tucker. (via)

Riz Ahmed Four Times

I might have missed it but I don't really recall many heads of juries for film festivals getting fashion photoshoots to mark the occasion previously -- that said when we're talking about Riz Ahmed ain't nobody complaining. He headed up the Platform jury at TIFF these past few weeks, and these lovely photos here were taken to mark that (via) I guess. As a sidenote: he also starred in a movie called Encounter at TIFF (it's kind of a Body Snatchers riff) and he was good in it! It was a pretty good movie! I didn't have to review it so it sort of got lost in the shuffle of the dozens upon dozens of movies I saw, but it's worth seeking out whenever that will happen. For now though you can just hit the jump for the rest of these snaps...

Everything You Ever Need To Know About Life...

... you can learn from:

Hairspray (1988)

Tracy: How do you get your hair so straight and so flat?
Beatnik Chick: With an iron, man. I play my bongos, 
listen to Odetta, and then I iron my hair. Dig?

A very happy birthday to Ricki Lake today!

Five Frames From ?

What movie is this?

Good Morning, World

Because he gave some good quote worth sharing today about the new James Bond movie I went looking specifically for outtakes from Daniel Craig's British GQ layout from early 2020, back when No Time To Die was about to come out the first time -- see the rest here, it's a memorably hot photoshoot -- and look there, I found one! It comes via the photographer Lachlan Bailey's Instagram page -- he's the same dude who put Matt Damon in short shorts the other week so he is clearly worth a follow. Anyway there was a brief chat with DC in the Guardian yesterday -- maybe this made the rounds, I don't know, I was ensconced in NYFF screenings -- where he shared the following:

"The 53-year old actor, who lost teeth, tore muscles and severed tendons over the course of 15 years’ of shooting for Bond, said he was “more naked than the women” in the upcoming film, adding: “I’ve designed it that way.”

Since he walked out of the ocean in those blue swim-trunks in the first film the Bond movies have actually been a little disappointing on this front -- he's tossed us a shirtless crumb here and there -- so let's hope that Daniel is using his words wisely, and when he says "naked" he means "naked." Go out with a bang, Dan! Give us the first double-oh frontal! Okay I won't hold my breath for that given how straight-dude-centric these movies remain but he could at least bring back the blue trunks and take a victory lap. Hit the jump for a trio of photos of Daniel hitting the gym, proving he could more than fill those things out still...

Monday, September 20, 2021

Good Morning, World

I know these gifs of Oscar Isaac in Scenes From a Marriage might make you think I am here, but I am not here. Not today. Today is the first day of press screenings for the New York Film Festival. So I am there. Y'all enjoy these gifs and I'll be back tomorrow! Oh and if you've been watching SFAM let me know what you think. I haven't had a chance to start it yet myself.

Friday, September 17, 2021

The Hell Where Youth and Laughter Go

My most anticipated movie out of TIFF -- since I wasn't able to virtually screen either Dune of Last Night in Soho anyway -- was Terence Davies' gay poet biopic Benediction, and I am very happy to report that it did not disappoint! My review went up at Pajiba this afternoon, check it out right here. God I loved writing about this one. Anyway that new photo from the set seen above was shared by Jack Lowden on his Instagram earlier today -- that's him alongside his co-star in cattiness Jeremy Irvine, of course. No word on when this movie is getting an actual U.S. release yet, but I will surely keep y'all informed. Beautiful and moving motion picture, this one.

A Brief Check-back on Aaron's Arms

Diagnosis: Bigger than ever! 
(via, click to embiggen)

Looking Forward To NewFest

I missed this a couple of days ago because I am, as previously whinged upon, totally buried in Toronto Film Fest stuff and New York Film Fest stuff-to-be, but the NYC-based annual queer film fest called NewFest announced their line-up on Wednesday! Running from October 15th through 26th it's always a blast -- they're doing a mixed in-person and virtual line-up which is appreciated, given there is still a whole damn pandemic happening, but they're showing some really excellent shit so you should check it out! 

I've seen several of their bigger titles already thanks to earlier fests in the year -- for instance their Closing Night film, the animated Sundance smash Flee -- tackling the fairly timely subject of gay Afghan refugees -- will be gunning for all kinds of Oscars when the time comes and is absolutely worth it. They're also showing Rebecca Hall's masterful directorial debut Passing with Ruth Negga and Tessa Thompson, which I reviewed here, and the rowing team drama The Novice which has a tremendous performance from Isabelle Fuhrmann in its lead -- here's my review of that from Tribeca. Oh and Potato Dreams of America which I liked a lot when it screened at SXSW -- review here

Their Opening Night movie is a premiere doc about Pete Buttegieg called Mayor Pete, natch. And they've also got a few big anniversary screenings, including Truth or Dare's 30th and a premiere of Oscilliscope's just-announced 4K restoration of John Cameron Mitchell's Shortbus, which is turning 15 if you can believe it. (God that makes me feel old.) Anyway head on over to check out the line-up -- tickets go on sale today! 

Everything You Ever Need To Know About Life...

... you can learn from:

Elvira: And if they ever ask about me, tell them I was more than just a great set of boobs. I was also an incredible pair of legs. And tell them... tell them that I never turned down a friend. I... never turned down a stranger for that matter. And tell them... tell them that when all is said and done, I only ask that people remember me by two simple words. Any two, as long as they're simple.

A ghoulishly delightful 70th birthday to the legend that is Elvira! Which is to say the great Cassandra Peterson of course, icon for the ages. Arrow put out a gorgeous edition of Mistress of the Dark last year, I really recommend picking one up. Did you hear earlier this week that Shudder announced they're giving her a one -night-only Halloween-season special? Called Elvira’s 40th Anniversary, Very Scary, Very Special Special, she's going to be presenting a four film marathon on the night of September 25th (okay it's not one night only, it'll be on demand on the 27th, but this is the sort of thing you want to watch live to tweet along with if you can) -- the movies are her own naturally, mentioned up top, alongside the 1959 House On Haunted Hill, 1960's The City Of The Dead starring Christopher Lee (never seen this one), and (drumroll please) the great Messiah of Evil!!! Fuck yeah! Messiah of Evil ruuuuuules! Here's the teaser for Elvira's special:

Five Frames From ?

What movie is this?

Good Morning, World

I thought I had posted all of the photos of Synonyms and We Are Who We Are actor Tom Mercier in Behind the Blinds magazine awhile back, but lo, I was mistaken. It turns out they're releasing a special issue devoted only to Tom -- that said I have admitted in the past I have no idea how this magazine actually functions so what "a special issue" means you got me -- and there are more photos! Wonders, they never do that creasing thing. If anybody wants to buy a copy of this "special issue" and send it to me that'd be awesome -- 50 bucks (half of that shipping to the U.S.) is a little steep for me. Slash anybody. But we can enjoy these photos after the jump for free...

Thursday, September 16, 2021

An Active Remembrance

Whenever I visit my grandmother's house there sits an old black-and-white photo of my mother as a little girl in the living-room. "As a little girl" is such an odd phrase isn't it? Like it's the credit in a film. Starring Jason's Mom, "as a little girl." It fits though, since the entire concept seems unreal -- what were our parents as children? It's impossible to imagine them as anything but what they are when we step into the world ourselves -- they've been there staring down since our cribs, and the concept of a "before times" is rendered to weird fiction thanks to our all-defining egos. And yet whispers of that pre-place nibble about our edges. A photo stares back, quizzical eyed. No matter how many questions we ask it's like the right questions, the ones that will get us to an understanding, remain ineffable, ill defined, out of reach.

That's what Portrait of a Lady on Fire filmmaker Celine Sciamma's delicate swoon of a new film Petite Maman is all about -- in seventy brief minutes how do we map impossible landscapes, the ones that define who we are and where we stand in relation to the people who matter the most to our lives, our hearts? It requires magic. It requires storytelling. It requires a tree fort built in the trees -- between four trees, not three! -- in the middle of the woods behind the house where our loved one was raised. Going into those magical spaces, those ones that mean so much to the people who mean so much to you, already feels like some sort of wonderment -- Petite Maman makes that wonder real to the touch.

When we first meet sweet little Nelly (Joséphine Sanz) she's already drifting through someone else's space, a space where the ghost of what was an important person lingers -- her grandmother has just died and she and her mother (Nina Meurisse) are clearing out her things at the nursing home. From there they move on to mom's childhood home, packed to the rafters with ghosts, as we define memories, pieces of furniture and walking sticks -- they have got a few days to clean the place out, sort through an entire lifetime. Three lifetimes really, for three generations. Too much to cram into one backseat and go.

A tension thrums between Nelly's mother and father -- he shows up later, helps a bit, and then Nelly's mom has disappeared the very next morning. It's not what you're thinking -- this isn't some murder mystery nonsense -- but still a squeak of that kind of tension volunteers itself at unexpected moments; we follow a little girl on her own, doing her own thing a lot of the time, and the world is a big dangerous place after all. Death already exists in this place -- it is possible, tangible. Pain a spectral presence; the metal swinging handset over a bed showing that suffering took place here, and for extended periods.

And then, like something out of Peggy Sue Got Married, Nelly wanders all of a sudden through that tree-fort straight into the past. On the other side, not over the river but yes through the woods, another grandmother's house -- we wonder if this place is Coraline adjacent, button eyes on our opposites, but no. There on the other Nelly nonchalantly meets Marion, aka her own mother as a little girl (played by Joséphine's sister Gabrielle), and they make fast friends. Fast sad friends, with their own sets of ghosts, but what a thing to bond over. 

It's only days before Marion, Nelly's little mother of the title, is set to have surgery -- a surgery to right the illness that plagued Marion's mother, Nelly's grandmother, a lifetime to the grave. And it's here, in this twilight moment on the precipice of innocence lost, the place where Marion grew up and out of childhood, that Nelly finds her, woos her, and together they make crepes. They laugh, they make crepes, and reader how I sobbed. It's the sweetest crepe-making scene in the history of existence, I tell you, and Sciamma weaves the most delicate and tender crepe-making magic. 

"You didn't invent my sadness," Mom informs Nelly in the film's deeply moving and wise final moments, but by then we know that already, and only too well -- we all move with them, independently defined by every damned person around us, squeak after squeak. To be granted the gift of seeing it, my god. What a gift. What a movie. What absolute magic.

Fresh Blood From Degrassi High

I am not nor have I ever been a "Degrassi" person but I guess that actor there, named Luke Bilyk (whose name sounds like some kind of yiddish demon right?), was on the "Next Generation" of that seminal-for-some series, so maybe you recognize him. I did not when he popped up in the vampire movie Kicking Blood at TIFF last week, which -- hey whaddya know -- I just reviewed today for Pajiba. It's not bad! Maybe not the ringiest of endorsements but I've seen a lot of really bad horror movies lately -- I'll take "not bad" any day.

Everything You Ever Need To Know About Life...

...you can learn from:

Year of the Dog (2007)

Peggy: If you all didn't think I was crazy, I'm sure you will now. How do I explain the things I've said and done? How do I explain the person I've become? I know I've disappointed everyone and I'm sorry for that. I wish I was a more articulate person. I believe life is magical. It is so precious. And there are so many kinds of life in this life. So many things to love. The love for a husband or a wife, a boyfriend or girlfriend. The love for children. The love for yourself. And even material things. This is my love. It is mine. And it fills me and defines me. And it compels me on.

A very happy birthday to the magic and wonder of Molly Shannon today! If you weren't a Mike White Person back in 2007 but you are a Mike White Person now thanks to his HBO series The White Lotus I really recommend flinging yourself back in time to this 2007 gem, which asks a lot of the same thorny and complicated questions about humanity and our place in this world, coming up with no easy answers, just twenty more questions. Oh...

... and it also features an absolute firework of a funny supporting performance by Regina King, well before everybody was all like, "We love Regina King!" Mike White was once again ahead of the pack on that one. He's definitely one of those sage people that you just need to trail behind, picking up what you need to know about yourself as you go.

Who Wore It Best?

Thanks to the eagle-eyed anonymous reader who caught that both Lee Pace -- in his now legendary Met Ball get-up -- and David Harbour -- in his now legendary GQ photoshoot full of skirts -- were rocking the same Thom Browne single striped-sock / black boots aesthetic. David has the skirt going on, while Lee has the sock garters, giving both looks a kick, but who wore it best? Answer that poll above and we'll find out once and for ever!

Say it With Manny

What I'm about to write has nothing to do with actor and beauty Manny Jacinto -- although he does serve as a good reminder that I have fallen several episodes behind on Nine Perfect Strangers (I really have been doing nothing from morning to night but watching screeners for TIFF for the past week) -- but why not slap these two photos of Manny alongside it? Indeed. 

Anyway I just wanted to take a moment to point out that long-time visitors of MNPP might notice a difference on the site today -- I got rid of the sidebar down below on the right where I logged what movies I'd been watching, and just replaced it with a link to my Letterboxed account. Follow me there! I loved having that sidebar, I really did, but I had gotten terrible at updating it regularly and every time I noticed how far behind I'd gotten I felt angry at myself -- and I noticed it every damn day! That's too much anger. And in the meanwhile I'd fiiinnally taken to Letterboxed and now use it regularly. So why not just bite the inevitable tekno-future bullet? We're so hip, after all.

I will admit that I have one bad Letterboxd habit that I need to break, which is that I log the movies I'm watching as I start watching them, so I don't rate or review things there very often -- our ol' sidebar always had letter grades which I know some of you found helpful, and I'm sorry. I'm sorry, okay! God! Anyway follow me on Letterboxd if you don't, is my point. Also that Manny Jacinto is pretty, but you knew that already.