Monday, October 26, 2020

On the Rocks in 150 Words or Less

Super low-key and low-stakes but as smooth as a banana smoothie in a crisp white shirt standing on a SoHo corner watching ice skating videos on your iPhone -- that said that specific easiness means Sofia Coppola gave me the exact New York City Movie I needed right now. One where the world's not on fire, where people go places, together, and do things. There are low energy office parties suffuse with awkward half-banter between people who will never meet again. There's a ballet dancer serving expensive drinks in a mid-afternoon. There are strolls down avenues and through lobbies, sitting around in hotel bars watching hundred-year-old paint dry. Some stuff happens with Rashida Jones and her married relationship or whatever but that's all just backdrop to the real show, which is my pre-pandemic home making me cry just by being itself, the self and city I love and miss so. 

Bye Bye Ballad of a Thin Man

"We were going to do Bob Dylan with Mangold. That didn’t happen, with Timothee Chalamet about going electric in the ’60’s, and it would have been my third ’60’s movie in a row. ... Not right now. I don’t think it’s dead, but it’s a tough one to pull off in a COVID-era because it’s all in small clubs with lots of extras in period costumes, so you’ve got lots of hair and makeup."

-- That is the cinematographer Phedon Papamichael saying that Timothee Chalamet's Bob Dylan biopic isn't happening anytime soon, thanks to The Plague in a new interview with Collider -- he says that him and director James Mangold are moving on to the fifth Indiana Jones movie instead, and yes I had totally forgotten that Someone Not Named Spielberg was directing the fifth Indy, which I just talked about earlier. I'd even posted that Mangold news back in February -- alongside a pile of Sexy Harrison Ford snaps, I really recommend going back and getting lost on that link -- but... well that was February and some shit has happened between February and now so I have forgotten some things, okay? I apologize! 

Anyway I was fairly indifferent (read: actively hostile) to the idea of Timmy doing a Bob Dylan movie myself, since I find Bob Dylan's singing voice practically unlistenable -- send your hate mail to Who Cares, c/o My Butt -- but Timmy seemed rather into it, talking it up a bunch in that big GQ profile we just got last week, so I wouldn't call this "dead" yet. Just delayed. We'll see. Or we won't! Whatever!

Moon Me, Oscar Isaac

With today's big news that he's playing the Moon Knight for Marvel Oscar Isaac is primed to become one of the few actors who'll have played roles in more nerd universes than I have fingers on my good hand -- Marvel! Star Wars! Dune! X-Men! The Addams Family! The Coens! Hell add on Ex Machina and Robin Hood and Sucker Punch and you've got an entire Comic-Con's worth of people dressed as just him in movies. I don't know about you but I personally would love to go to a Comic-Con dressed as Llewyn Davis.

Anyway you can read more about the character here but the Moon Knight is basically Marvel's Batman (which is funny cuz there were those Oscar-playing-Batman rumors a couple of years ago) -- he's a rich playboy who uses his bucks to be a super-player, except he's actually got super-powers, bestowed upon him by the Egyptian moon god Khonshu. You know, that Egyptian moon god. Anyway I'm sure Oscar demanded in his contract a less intrusive make-up and costume ordeal than he had to deal with on X-Men since he's been vociferous about what a nightmare Apocalypse was for him...

Aww poor sad Apocalypse. Anyway the head-writer on Netflix's The Umbrella Academy is developing this property for Oscar and Marvel -- no director's attached yet. I imagine we've got awhile before we see this, so like with everything I say don't hold your breath. We might be dead before December for fuck's sake. Now I know how Apocalypse feels. Sigh. Well at least we can think about the Chunky Bum in spandex until the world blows up...

Riz Ahmed Four Times

Didn't I just say on Thursday when I shared his Interview Magazine photoshoot how every photographer worth their salt should know to get a shot of Riz Ahmed in profile because That Profile Amirite, and here we are, and they know what I am talking about thank goodness. These are for Fantastic Man Magazine -- they don't put their interviews online so I have no link to words for you, but these are plenty. We're being blessed with all these shoots because his deaf-shirtless-drummer movie Sound of Metal's out in a couple of weeks -- watch the trailer here. I haven't reviewed the film yet but I have seen it, and will say now that the buzz is correct -- Riz gives a fantastic performance. Also...

13 Rats of Halloween #8

"Ah, rats."
Did you know that Steven Spielberg had two thousand rats bred specifically for the shooting of this scene in Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade? You can't use just any ol' rats because any ol' rats are, you may have heard, stuffed with plague. This does beg the question -- what happened to all of these rats after filming? But I'm sure they all got sent to happy rat homes to live out their happy rat lives. And at least they used fake/animatronic rats for the big fireball moment.

Anyway apparently Spielberg used the same company here for his rats that he got the snakes from for Raiders and the "critters" from for Temple of Doom -- I love that the nightmare menagerie of Temple is so varied they can't be more specific. Temple's always been my favorite film of the Indy films and a big part of it is the wealth and breadth of "critters" -- the bug scene freaks me out more than almost any scene ever put on screen. And of course by the fourth film they were using CG for their "critters" -- that ant attack which is nowhere near on par with any of the earlier ones. Use real critters, dammit! 

This does beg the question -- what animals will attack in the proposed fifth Indiana Jones movie, supposedly coming our way if movies start getting made again before Harrison Ford is really for real too old? I had three thoughts -- spiders, wolves, and piranha. Spiders have popped up here and there but you could give them a spotlight of their own and I would tremble in terror. And obviously it depends on where in the world the next movie takes place, but they usually always make it to a desert or jungle. So if they're in a cold place, do wolves! Just please use real ones. We can tell the damn difference.

As for Crusade's Venetian Catacombs rat scene one thing I love about this is the way they worked it into the script that Indiana's father Henry (Sean Connery) -- and ask me sometime to do my impression of Sean Connery in this movie, I have got it down pat -- is the one terrified of rats, and that he'd have never made it through this gauntlet; that's how you keep character arcs wound up with silly little beats of action in meaningful ways. But then I think Crusade is really underrated... or it was, at least, before Crystal Skull came along. Maybe we can see what an actually bad Indiana Jones movie actually looks like now? Also justice for Alison Doody -- she didn't have rats in his goddamned hair for your bullshit!

Five Frames From ?

What movie is this?

Good Morning, World

Has anybody watch AMC's new sci-fi tinged series called Soulmates? It's an anthology show about a world fifteen years in the future where a company has figured out how to find, you guessed it, everybody's perfect soulmate, but yadda yadda complications have complications. Anyway all I give a shit about at the moment is the fourth episode which, as you see above, stars Bill Skarsgård and Utopia actor Nathan Stewart-Jarrett (and when I say "Utopia" I speak of the original Utopia, the one that matters) (although that's not totally fair since I haven't finished the remake yet and I don't entirely hate it) (but still, original Utopia will not be surpassed) as the titular mates o' the soul, ones who -- via all the images I've seen -- spend the majority of the episode half-naked. So really all I'm asking is if any of you have seen this specific episode, and if I should go find it and watch it immediately. Well? (Also good morning.)

Sunday, October 25, 2020

13 Rats of Halloween #7

I always make a random new-to-me discovery or two when I do my "13 [Blanks] of Halloween" lists every year, and this year it's proving no different with our look at the Rats of Cinemas Past -- like who the hell knew there was a scene in the second Fast and the Furious movie (still hilariously titled 2 Fast 2 Furious) where the bad guy (played by the ever threateningly pretty Cole Hauser)...

... threatened an undercover cop (played by the ever threateningly hirsute-headed Mark Boone Junior) by trapping a rat inside a champagne bucket and holding it down to his chest while he then lit it the fuck up with a blowtorch? I sure didn't! But then I have never seen a single Furious film out of the what, dozen now, so I wouldn't have. Anyway in any case it's nice to see Paul Walker and Tyreese squirming on a sofa real close to one another, even if under such grotesque circumstances -- I'll take what I can get.

Saturday, October 24, 2020

13 Rats of Halloween #6

Instead of listing down the "13 Rats of Halloween" for this October's festivities I totally could've counted down the "13 Rats of John Waters Movies" because if there's one filmmaker who's gladly aligned himself with this city scourge it's our dear ol' Pope of Puke himself from Baltimore, MD. Whether it's the rats fucking over his title card in Pecker seen above -- and you should listen to John talk about filming that sequence on Seth Myers show, it's very funny...

... or whether it's Donna Dasher (Mary Vivian Pierce) 
being terrified of Divine's neighborhood in Female Trouble...

... John Waters always found a moment or two for the lil' nibblers that could. Indeed as mentioned earlier in this list it was him who introduced me to the film Of Unknown Origin -- he personally screened it here in New York a few years back. But probably the most iconic John Waters Rat Moment comes from his 1977 film Desperate Living...

... which placed a cooked rat on a fancy china plate on both its original poster (which was rejected for print by the New York Times) and in its opening credits. This was obviously a shout-out to the iconic moment in the film What Ever Happened to Baby Jane which we talked about just yesterday, where Bette Davis serves a rat's corpse to Joan Crawford for dinner, much to Joan's horror. But John, being John, takes it all the way and actually shows someone cutting up and eating the rat over those opening credits. Which you can watch right here!

Friday, October 23, 2020

The Creature Charlestons Among Us

How's everybody's October Spooky Season going? I've been painfully remiss with my getting-in-the-mood-enings what with all of these un-scary film festivals I've been bound up in, but I think I can finally see the light, the spooooooooky light, at the end of the tunnel. NewFest ends on Tuesday and while I've got a few things to review from that still I think I can actually plunk myself down this weekend and start screening some proper frights for my ass! Thank the devil! 

That said it hasn't been totally scare-free here at MNPP -- while it's not 100% horror-movie focused we have got our "13 Rats of Halloween" series going on (and it will actually keep going on over the weekend so stay tuned!); there's my ongoing "Great Moments in Horror Actressing" series at The Film Experience; and then last week I did give you a list of "My 20 Favorite Horror Movies" over at Final Girl, which is kind of a big deal in case you missed it. Big deal!

Anyway this is all me just trying to get myself right-headed in the spirit of my most favorite season -- the real world's so terrifying right now it can be difficult, but let's try! Together! Y'all tell me in the comments what you're planning on watching or have already watched horror-wise that's worked for you this month! I wanna hear all about it with my eyeballs!

Three Docs Outta NewFest

Per usual there are a whole bunch of terrific documentaries screening as part of NewFest this year and I'm going to give you some quick thoughts on three of them. Right now! Here goes!

Truman and Tennessee: An Intimate Conversation -- What I found the most interesting about this well-crafted documentary (which is, as the title says, about the writers Truman Capote and Tennessee Williams) is its focus on two Southern gay men who were doing the same thing at the same time and how they nevertheless managed to be totally different people. That might sound an obvious revelation on its surface -- different people are different, stop the presses! -- but as a gay man I can tell you that we're still so used to getting such narrow representation that seeing this feature-length dissection of how these similar ideas of people compare and contrast feels, in its very conception, revelatory. 

The film intertwines the two writer's life-stories, swapping back and forth chronologically and watching the ways they lived and worked and moved through the world both independently and up against one another. They knew each other, were friends and creative antagonists fueled by jealousy -- they inspired each other in intangible ways of how they would and wouldn't be, what their work would show and wouldn't. It's fascinating, especially when you consider how much of the world these two shaped with their work. Melodrama and True Crime, how City and Country Life have been molded clay-like in the American Imagination -- these two men had an awful lot to do with that! To see the way their own impulses were born, formed, and reformed across the span of their tangled up existences was a rare and immediate fascination.

Cured -- It's rather mind-blowing, to put it mildly, when you think of how far Gay Rights have come in a few short (or is that long?) decades, and even moreso when you realize that a lot of our heroes, the people who changed our world, are still here walking this earth. But that time is starting to fade, as figures like Frank Kameny get older and pass away, and so documents like Cured here, which investigates the decade or so of process it took to change the psychological definition of "homosexual" from a mental illness to not a mental illness, prove themselves invaluable, historically-speaking. 

Cured manages to talk to most of the figures involved and draws from a wealth of documentation, and somehow crafts a riveting talking-heads-based thriller out of an outcome we already know beforehand. My jaw still hangs in awe when I see footage of the Mattachine Society's first marches, and seeing how those small (or is that enormous?) steps for humankind pushed hard the dominoes to where I stand today, in their shoes, well one wishes and dreams of being able to summon an iota of their bravery and determination. The fight goes on.

Killing Patient Zero -- Everybody now knows what a "patient zero" is. It's a concept that's far surpassed its origin in the AIDS epidemic, an idea that entire horror genres are based upon. It's good fiction, great fiction, but fiction is where it belongs, and the moving and often infuriating doc Killing Patient Zero takes us back to the insemination of the idea in the 1980s, as AIDS ravaged the gay community and the world went looking for a scapegoat. And they found one with Gaëtan Dugas, an openly gay airline steward who became a scary bug-dispensing specter in Randy Shilts' 1987 book And the Band Played On, making a monster for the modern age shaped like an effeminate, promiscuous man -- all the devils that the gay community and the straight communities could gang up together with in hating. 

This doc takes precise and deliberate pains to peel off the layers of blood metaphor that've gummed up the idea of Gaëtan all these years, made him more than he ever could possibly have been, and turns him back into a man, a human being, an individual that we lost out of so so many that it still astonishes in the worst of ways. In the process the doc shreds the very idea of a "patient zero" down to nothing, down to the conceptual gibberish it always was -- there is no scapegoat except for human foibles, political cruelty, and science just beyond our understanding. Gaëtan was only a man, one of too many men and women we lost from a nightmare plague, and we should weep for every single one of them. Then and now -- it's impossible not to watch an AIDS doc in 2020 and not see the parallels of societal stupidity making a mess of a simple equation today. Save every life you can and be just decent to one another, everybody.


All three of these are available to rent via Newfest's website right now, through next Tuesday. Go check them out, and while you're at it rent like everything else -- there's so much good shit to watch over there I can't even keep up.

Everything You Ever Need To Know About Life...

 ... you can learn from:

Sense and Sensibility (1995)

Elinor: Marianne, you must change. You will catch a cold. 
Marianne: What care I for colds when there is such a man. 
Elinor: You will care very much when your nose swells up. 
Marianne: You are right. Help me, Elinor.

A very happy 66th birthday to the great Ang Lee today!

This is Not a Review of The Witches

It's so difficult as a big boy now to fully toss my brain back to the wee-one place when I was carrying my tattered copy of Roald Dahl's The Witches everywhere with me, sneaking peeks at its cover -- Quentin Blake's iconic Grand Hitch Witch with her arms thrown over her head, all terrifying adult ecstasy -- in between classes, on the walk home. Just that cover gave me a thrill, my mind spiraling off through all the terrifying wonders contained within -- I was hip-attached to that book before Nicolas Roeg's fun film adaptation even came out in 1990; I read the book so many times my copy split right apart, although I still have it to this day. How could I possibly part with it? 

And how could I part with that feeling -- your first favorite book is something awful special. And yet we do, sort of -- we grow up and reaching back to those places becomes fraught with logistical impossibility. There are suitcases and steamer-trunks stuffed with bullshit all piled up in the way, and we stumble down dark corridors slamming our feet into them as we try to recall, remember, who we was when we was when. We're totally different people, adults from those kids, and unlearning what we know of them -- where they were going, where they had been -- is like peeling off layers of skin, cells, down to the bone again. It stings, and bleeds, and stuff.

Which is all to say that watching Robert Zemeckis' new adaptation of The Witches came fraught with more luggage than any movie could hope to manage -- as many bellhops and boisterous chambermaids as it tossed at me I kept piling my travel-things in its way, tripping up myself and my fun. The agony's two-fold -- you're trying to divorce yourself from your memories and expectations, while you're also trying to make of yourself a child, knee-deep in those old things all over again. It's impossible. The movie demands a child's eye but my child's eyes got emotional cataracts, son.

I don't know really how to write about the movie. Not properly. I wasn't watching the movie so much as I was watching for the movie I wanted the movie to be, which is wasn't, but what is? What was? What even could be? Even Roeg's film, as beloved as it is, has never been that thing I remember from my own beforetime. Revisiting the book's the only thing that takes me back there, and "back there" is so complicated and sad that I sometimes can't stand it.

I just don't know that I have room for this book being a movie in my heart. It's so much more than that. It's a sad little boy without any friends sitting on a bench in the lunch-room hearing the other kids laugh at him while he tries desperately to lose himself in the story of another sad little boy. It's the adventure I didn't get to take on those terrible days that sting to recall -- the book would close and I'd go back to hearing my parents screaming at each other, so the book would reopen again, for the fiftieth time.

Those are the things the book makes me remember the most. My loneliness, profound as any spectacular fantasy full of seaside whimsy and lip-puckering turns of phrase, shouldered against it hard as can be, shoulder to shoulder. Unpack one and it all comes unraveled. The Witches was my favorite escape place, where I dragged everything awful along for the ride. Me and Roald killed off my parents and gave me a fun Grandma who gave a damn, and we went on a ridiculous scary ride, for just almost long enough to forget... and then for it all to come flooding back in around the corners. I dog-eared this book to save myself from drowning. And that's all I got.

13 Rats of Halloween #5

"Oh Blanche. You know we've got rats in the cellar?"

Listen. We all agree that Bette Davis is amazing in What Ever Happened to Baby Jane. "Amazing" doesn't even seem a good, big enough word for what Bette Davis is in What Ever Happened to Baby Jane. But we really overlook too often Joan Crawford performance as Sister Blanche, if you ask me, and this scene provides one of my favorite bits of acting in the entire movie. After Jane says the line about "rats in the cellar" and leaves the room Blanche is left there to stare at her covered dish of dinner that Blanche dropped off at the same time. Crawford is tasked with, without really saying anything (save an under-the-breath whispered, "No..."), communicating to us the audience the connection between that line about the rats and her food dish, the ridiculousness of that connection, the horror and total revulsion that there might be a connection -- a million little unspoken beats and Joan knocks that shit out, yo...

I always go into this movie on Bette Davis' side, because I have been trained by life to always be on Bette Davis' side. But I always nevertheless end up feeling terrible for Blanche because of how damn good Joan Crawford is. I mean... it's hard not to get a little enjoyment out of seeing Mommie Dearest be tormented...

... but Joan always ends up making me feel a little guilty 
for those inclinations by right about this point in the movie. 

There were several admirable facets to Ryan Murphy's series Bette & Joan but one of its best was its window into Joan Crawford's anxieties and insecurities which had turned her into such a hardened character, and the light it shone on her as also a victim of bullying -- Bette Davis sure weren't no saint, and no doubt Joan felt as trapped as Blanche here does in that chair, in this film which was supposed to have its stars on equal footing but which was clearly being stolen from her right before her eyes. But Joan made the most of her straight-man role and gave a terrific performance, and the film wouldn't be considered the classic it is today without her. 

Henry Golding Three Times

The one-two punch of Henry's hot photo-shoot for Attitude magazine (those short shorts!) and his lovely little gay movie Monsoon (which is screening at NewFest right now and which I will hopefully get a review for up today) has punched my Henry crush into overdrive these past couple of weeks -- these shots are from his recent chat with the NY Times, and while they could clearly use more short shorts I sure will post them, stare at them, lick my computer screen all the same. If I have to die from COVID because I licked my computer screen because of Henry looking so hot then so be it! I will die as I lived! Dumb and horny!

Run a Train on Aaron & Brad

Now here's a tag-team I could sandwich myself between no prob -- Aaron Taylor-Johnson's just joined Brad Pitt's next movie! It's called Bullet Train and it's being directed by Atomic Blonde director David Leitch and it's based on a book about four deadly assassins (is there another kind of assassin?) who find themselves all onboard a you-guessed-it bullet train speeding between Tokyo and Morioka, Japan. The other two assassins are played by actress Joey King and the fantastic-faced action-star Andrew Koji...

... (yes I am asking you to look at his face) who's been previously seen on Peaky Blinders and the show Warrior, among others. Anyway I hope that Brad Pitt gets himself the full "Charlize in Atomic Blonde" action-star treatment from Leitch, and yes I include "bisexual lighting" and "bisexual make-outs" under that heading -- if Brad doesn't make out with either Aaron or Andrew I am gonna toss a fit the likes of which ain't nobody ever seen. That said Aaron, as the "other white male" in the cast, is the bad guy slash immediately more disposable, right? Well I hope he gets to make out with Brad before he dies. That's really all I wish for any of us.