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Author Archives: James Rocchi
Just as the Super Bowl means that every American might find a refresher on the rules of the NFL useful, Oscar time marks one of the few occasions when fashion — and, even better, capricious fashion’s more level-headed sibling, style — matter above and beyond the way they do normally.
Many invitations this weekend — and during your life — will read ‘Black Tie’ For ladies, it’s the one time when the decision-making process is easier for them than gentlemen: Put on a block-rocking dress. For gentlemen, though, it’s a bit more complicated. Here, a few notes on “Black Tie.”
– When you think “Black Tie,” you think of bowties and tuxedoes, elegant silk black neckties with skinny lapels, white smoking jackets as James Bond stalks Goldfinger. But what Black Tie means is actually much, much simpler, with a fairly binary definition: Black Tie is defined by the gentleman’s waistband never being visible. This means either a vest, or a cummerbund, but — technically — it has nothing to do with the tie you wear or its color (about which more later). Make sure you start with either a vest or cummerbund so that, when your jacket is open, you can’t see the waistband (and NEVER remove your jacket, not until you’re at home or everyone else is) and you’re 99% of the way there.
– Vests can be tricky if you’re larger — I can’t wear them without looking like a cartoon mole — and, as ever, you will do far better wearing something that matches your jacket with dignity than you will selecting a vest’s color and cut and fabric for reasons of ‘contrast.’
– As for the Cummerbund, you want it so that the folds of the apparatus are open to the top — not downward. (You can tell yourself it’s “There to catch the crumbs,” if you’re 12; just have the pleats open upward.) It should match your tie and jacket. It should be black.
— While we’re talking about Vests, Cummerbunds and Ties, let us note that for gentlemen, variations of color are to be avoided. First of all, the host has requested Black Tie in order to not only ensure a degree of formality, but also a degree of uniformity; baby-blue tuxedoes and plaid cummerbunds go against this hope. As ever, whether black tie or not, remember the essential rule of men’s wear:
A gentleman dresses to be appreciated, not to be seen.
More to the point, Coco Chanel’s classic advice that a lady should take one thing off before leaving the house does not only apply to gentlemen, I think it applies doubly — and as Black Tie requires so many bits and bobs already, you’re already behind the game. Simplify, simplify, simplify. (This is why I also take a stand, persistently, against pocket squares — if you can take it off, take it off.)
– The tie offers three challenges/options. The traditional pre-tied tie welded to a length of fabric with a clip at the other side of the pre-tied tie is adequate — just make sure you have it properly tight around your neck, and, like leaving your jacket on, do not take it off until undressing. On the other end, there are elaborate guides to tying a bow tie on-line many of you will have the dexterity and experience to follow. (Again, as a bias, I find bow ties suitable only for Jimmy Olson, Orville Redenbacher and corrupt, corpulent Southern elected officials — and, thus, unsuitable for gentleman’s wear outside of Black Tie.) As a middle way — and this works, even if you have to fuss at the center-point afterwards – just take the bow tie and have you, or someone else, pretend they’re tying it like shoelaces as its tight on your neck, adjusting the loops and single-strands of the knot as required after to even/flatten. It sacrifices perfection for being done, though, and is eminently achievable in a jiffy.
– Your shirt should be the traditional wing collar; the points of the collar should go behind your tie. Studs are optional (again, simplify) but if you do choose to wear them, make sure they match your cufflinks. I prefer a French-cuff shirt with Black Tie, which requires cufflinks, but again, basic black and silver — no engraving or jewels or mosquitoes trapped in amber. 1/2 inch of your sleeves shot be visible past the cuffs of the jacket.
– The jacket should be single-breasted, never double-breasted, which are a) a disaster for shorter men and b) a disaster for everyone else but Pierce Brosnan. You have many collar options, but again: Stay with plain black. The contrast between a black satin lapel and the black fabric of the jacket should be your most showy moment.
– The trousers should a) have a satin stripe along the exterior side stitching and b) require braces. (It goes without saying that every part of the ensemble should be cleaned, pressed and fit well.)
– Tradition can demand a shiny, patent-leather shoe with Tuxedoes; for Black Tie, either acquire a pair or just go with your best, cleanest, best-polished leather slip-on; laces are a no-no.
– Make sure you are well-groomed. Again, your hosts have requested Black Tie to note formality and uniformity; you should respect that, as a guest.
– While you can technically wear, say, a black jacket with vest and conventional neck tie, or a white diner jacket with a pleated shirt and black bow tie for Black Tie, these are a) attention-getting devices and b) much more difficult to pull off than the narrower variations-on-a-theme a traditional tuxedo offers; again, a gentleman stands out through gradual conversation revealing character, not immediate “color-popping” revealing a desire to stand out.
– Owning a tuxedo is less annoying than you think — and if you have two or more events a year, it pays for itself. Check EBay and thrift shops as well; one of the pleasures of a timeless garment is that you can buy one from the ’50s – as I did for my first tuxedo — very cheaply. Also, tuxedos aren’t big retail ‘movers’ – you can often find them on-sale, if you look carefully and make sure you’re not buying some wide-lapelled joke just for value.
So, here it is — and while I’m taking part in MSN Movies’ Top Ten listing, I also thought I’d put some links and my whole list here. Nothing is in order after movie #1, really, and the ‘Worthy 25′ is not some too-kind day-care-style distribution of good news but, rather, a firm set of proofs to the idea that yes, 2012 was a great year for movies.
1. Zero Dark Thirty
“Stark and tough and smart, “Zero Dark Thirty” is a masterwork from a master filmmaker, a truly exceptional work that combines the questions and qualms so often found in the grey areas of the real world with the kind of storytelling and art so rarely found in the shared darkness of the movie theater.”
2. Holy Motors
‘Carax has made more of a dream than a story or a film, but it’s a dream about stories (the ones we tell people we love, the ones we tell ourselves) and about films (the ones in our hearts and our heads). Funny and heartbreaking, brilliant and bizarre, “Holy Motors ” is one of the best films of this year and a wholly unique work mixing compassion, chaos and comedy to startle us into seeing and celebrating how improbably lovely and sad our improbable lives on this unlikely planet are.”
3. Rust and Bone
“Love, they say, conquers all. If you think about it, that’s as much a warning as a promise, and “Rust and Bone” understands how life means pain, and how life can make pain into something more, if you let it. Everyone in Rust and Bone is wounded, and no one has a relationship predestined to end with hugs in time for the credits. In an Oscar season full of films offering sepia-toned homework, the lovably “mentally ill,” and singing revolutionaries facing down baritone bourgeois, a movie as flinty and superb as “Rust and Bone” stands alone as the real deal. Honest but never cruel, and striving for redemption while showing what agonizing work that takes, “Rust and Bone” is a must-see drama that will reward moviegoers who are both smart enough to seek it out and grown-up enough to take it.”
4. Django Unchained
“Like a blood-soaked Blazing Saddles, “Django Unchained” is a critique based in love, a celebration that understands what’s worth condemnation. “Django Unchained” isn’t just a product of how the young Tarantino watched a thousand Westerns and came to understand what was in them—it’s also a product of how the young Tarantino watched a thousand Westerns and came to question what wasn’t in them. The morality (or lack of thereof) of slavery and murder runs through the film, and Tarantino’s observations cut deep.”
5. How to Survive a Plague
No review, but let me say this: In a year when the spectacle of “Les Miserables” is being considered for Oscar consideration — not necessarily undeservingly — I still found this documentary about the organized struggle against AIDS the most moving, inspiring and touching story of revolution in the streets in the name of love I saw this year. A masterwork.
6. Beasts of the Southern Wild
“William Carlos Williams said that “the pure products of America go crazy,” and much of “Beasts of the Southern Wild” speaks to that observation, from the drinking and the stubborn refusal to leave The Bathtub to the meat and murder of daily life there. (At one point, an informal teacher for the community’s feral and filthy children dumps out a bucket of crawfish and exclaims “Meat. I’m meat, you’re meat … everything is meat.”) When the end comes — death and despair and hope and healing in one bitter and beautiful celebration — Hushpuppy explains that one of the things her father taught her was how, “You have to take care of things smaller and sweeter than you are.” There’s no heaven promised or present here — a bright, blaring sign makes a blunt joke to that effect — but our small heroine notes that “one day, the children of the future will know … that there was a girl named Hushpuppy, and she lived in The Bathtub with her daddy.” “Beasts of the Southern Wild” is as unique as it is uneven, as unforgettable as it is uncomfortable, and trembles with the energy, bravura and passion of director Zeitlin, his cast and his crew like some rough animal snorting and stamping with horrible wonder and the possibility of both loss and understanding.”
7. Take this Waltz
“And yet, “Take this Waltz” is also, for lack of a better words, infuriating and troubling — not because of what it gets ‘wrong,’ but because the things it gets right are buried under your skin like a splinter you can’t dislodge, tearing at the nerves and flesh. Critic Carina Chocano recently wrote a New York Times Magazine piece on how what the cinema needs, perhaps, are fewer “strong” female characters and more real female characters; this film serves as a demonstration of that idea. William’s Margo is deeply flawed, perhaps irredeemably broken, capable of monstrous selfishness in the search for happiness — and human, and as worthy of happiness as anyone. As we are. And Polley isn’t afraid of sex, nor is she banal enough to think it cures all ills, or that it can’t be used as a weapon. (Polley gets the sad fact only people who’ve been in ugly and protracted breakups know: Nothing could ever be more intimate than denying someone intimacy.)
Before you think this all sounds dour and sour, though, also know that there are moments of laughter and joy here. Rogen subsumes his good humor into a performance — Lou, a cookbook writer, knows full well what his chicken-centered work-in-progress is doing to his life and diet — and there’s also a note of play here (even as it feeds into Polley’s theme of permanent adolescence and immaturity extending into our adult relationships); when Williams and Kirby taunt each other as ‘gaylords’ it’s horrible, real, immature and funny. And the films’ use of music — from a raucous party-scene Feist cover of Leonard Cohen’s “Closing Time,” to a montage set to the Cohen song the film takes its title from depicting a relationship in fast-forward, hot sex and warm affection cooling to calm domesticity and freezing into half-aware snuggling while TV-watching — is excellent, with the exception of a pop-song from the past, used in two scenes, too good and brilliant and thematically appropriate and trashily perfect to name. Suffice it to say that Polley can find the pathos behind an ’80s one-hit wonder and turn that song’s dimwit chorus into an elegy on how time’s arrow moves only in one direction.”
“Compliance” makes no attempt to hide the turn of its plot, and the film doesn’t hinge upon it, either: “Officer Daniels” is a fraud, but even as a voice over the phone he can get Sandra and Becky to obey — and when Sandra’s boyfriend Evan (Bill Camp) is recruited to watch Becky, things get far worse. (Some have found the film clammily exploitative; after reading up on the depravities and indignities of the actual case, I can assure you Zobel actually shows a remarkable amount of restraint.) “Compliance” evokes nothing less than Kafka’s “The Trial,” where Josef K. is accused of unnamed charges so firmly and fiercely by the apparatus of the state that even he begins to doubt his innocence. But “Compliance” is about far more than the timeless and universal worry — and, in many cases, hope — that we will have to submit to a higher authority.”
9. Kill List
“New from director Ben Wheatley of “Down Terrace,” “Kill List” is one of those rare films where if anyone tries to tell you more than adjectives, just punch them. Full of surprises — and an incredible sense of dread — “Kill List” starts as an ex-soldier takes a freelance contract that’s highly illegal and that leads to terrifying consequences.”
– From my 2011 SXSW roundup at MSN.
10. Safety Not Guaranteed
“Yet the sub-plots and the jokes always work towards and speak to the film’s points about how we live and how we should live, about how we can see our past looking backwards but have to still peer at the unseeable future, how it may be better to live and be crazy than wrap one’s self in a straightjacket of sanity. And “Safety Not Guaranteed” — a caution that could be said about life just as much as it could be said about time travel — also manages to out-think, out-feel and out-write the majority of big Hollywood romantic comedies by actually showing us, and actually letting us enjoy, the process by which you understand Kenneth and Darius might find something in each other.
Plaza is best-known for her sardonic office assistant on “Parks and Recreation,” yet while Darius is cut from similar dark-shaded cloth, Plaza also gets to do some very nice, very subtle and silent acting as Darius opens up a little. Duplass — more physically funky and playful than he’s ever been, shoulder-rolling and shooting to prepare for “when the heat’s hot” — flips gracefully from bizarre conspiracies to sincere intimacies, tech talk to crazy action, managing to be neither Doc Brown, Dr. Who or Travis Bickle while lightly evoking all three”
… As for The worthy 25, well, they’re not Top Ten level-stuff — but I do believe you’re denying yourself the pleasures 2012 offered at the movies if you didn’t see them. So, for your consideration:
11. Moonrise Kingdom
13. Sleepless Night
14. The House I Live In
15. Sound of My Voice
16. Cloud Atlas
18. Wreck-It Ralph
19. The Hunger Games
20. Damsels in Distress
21. Oslo August 31
22. Middle of Nowhere
23. The Kid with the Bike
25. Miss Bala
27. Ruby Sparks
28. Haywire/Magic Mike
29. Cabin in the Woods
30. The Law in these Parts
32. The Grey
33. Hello, I Must be Going
34. Wuthering Heights
35. Carre Blanc
Happy and safe holidays to you all,
Perhaps best known for the supernatural-silly-sexy antics of HBO’s “True Blood,” actor Joe Manganiello is one of the many secret weapons in the cast of Steven Soderbergh’s “Magic Mike.” Manganiello plays a male dancer with the stage name “Big D**k Richie,” who provides the film with a healthy injection of comedy and carnality. We spoke in Los Angeles about commitment, club life and how classical theater training prepares you for the male club dancing.
MSN Movies: The metaphor that I kept hearing during interviewing the other cast and Mr. Soderbergh was “one hundred and ten percent commitment from the jump.” At the same time, there had to be that moment of walking up to the edge and going, “It looks kind of far down there … ” or “I’m not sure how deep the water is.” Did you have any hesitancy with this whatsoever?
Joe Manganiello: Well, I’ll say this, you get a script about male strippers and then you raise an eyebrow. Then you realize it’s Steven Soderbergh shooting it, and the eyebrow goes back down. I think the only trepidation I had was just that thought that came into my head about, you know, there’s such a big deal made about me having my shirt off on “True Blood.” I’m going to do a male stripper movie now. Could this somehow be piled up and used against me? And then you go, “It’s Steven Soderbergh, man. Come on.”
Used against you how, in a court of abs?
Well, I think there are people that think that because you are athletic or you are fit, therefore you are dumb or untrained or that’s how you get roles or whatever all that stuff is. I think you can be athletic and intellectual at the same time. A lot of people are like that. With that said, when you sign on to play a character named Big D**k Richie and you look: Okay, penis pump, fireman suit, shadow routine, gold statue … you go, “If there is a cliff edge, I ain’t looking down. You just run.” You jump off that thing.
If it’s not Steven Soderbergh, the nightmare is it becomes the male version of “Coyote Ugly.”
Sure, or “Showgirls” or whatever all these projects are, but it’s not. I don’t want to say “Boogie Nights,” but I certainly think Matthew McConaughey is going to get nominated for a bunch of awards. I think it’s a great film that Steven made, and further more I think it’s a great ensemble piece with the rest of the guys.
When I was watching, this I kept I thinking about “The Girlfriend Experience,” which is ostensibly a really hot sexy movie that winds up being about being a freelancer in a tanking economy. This has the fun and it has the dancing, but it has things about equity, making cash money in a business where you can age out of it really fast, and then, at the end of it, you’re oily with a bad back.
Yeah, but I think to me it’s also about club life as well. I started working at clubs when I was sixteen, which isyoung. I would not want my kid doing that, but I did, and that’s how it went. I got an education, a social education out of those years. You can get sucked in by the money. You can get sucked in by the lifestyle and the shininess of it, the immediacy of it without any thought for the long term. This movie is really about lost boys. Kevin Nash is “one of the guys” who has a wife and is in his fifties. He’s not even a club owner; he’s still one of the guys dancing. It’s like he’s a human chemistry set. He’s the Keith Richards of male strippers. He’s going to overdose every other day. He’s in it. Where else does that guy go?
There’s the whole interesting thing with Matthew McConaughey’s character, who has clearly gone from labor to management.
Yeah, he somehow moved up the ladder. So, in a way, that’s more excusable, but the fact is you’re still in that world and you’re still that guy. I think that the trick of club life is you can go in, wake up ten years later, and have nothing to show for it.
How much effort went into choreographing the sequences, and did the effort at any point stop and people say, “Okay, this can’t be too good?”
Well the choreography was fantastic. Alison Faulk and Teresa Espinosa, they killed it. The dance sequences are our Transformers. They’re our high concept scenes. With that said, male strippers are not ballet dancers, and it’s not supposed to look — the grimier the better, really. It’s not about us being perfectly in unison. I think even the takes even Steven shows — what it looks like from the finished copy (is that) he took the takes where maybe we were out of step a little bit. He took the takes on the end of the spectrum that were towards the sloppier.
You worked on “True Blood,” which I know, it’s not TV, it’s HBO, but it is a production level remarkably like TV, so I’m sure it’s swift and a lot of set ups.
No. It’s fifteen days for one episode. The finale we’re shooting is a twenty-day shoot, which is a one-month shoot for one hour, which is similar to film.
So, as much time as you had for “Magic Mike,” you’re getting ready for the finale? Was it very interesting seeing Mr. Soderbergh’s techniques as opposed to other film directors? Did it just feel swift?
Yeah. Once we started filming, yes, it did. His style is unique, because he is his own cameraman. You get there and you might hang out for an hour. You might hang out for two hours while he’s figuring out what he wants to shoot, but once he starts shooting, you’re done in two takes. It’s a different way. “True Blood,” you get there, you go, we’ve got to move, we’ve got to shoot this, we’ve got to get through that. There’s a million different characters that have a million different coverages. Steven doesn’t shoot all those coverages. On “True Blood,” they shoot every piece of coverage.
What I also found very interesting was outside of the guys …. we see the impotent frat guys for the one dance sequence, we see Olivia Munn’s fiancé. We don’t see a lot of men outside of the core group of guys. Was that the intention to create a sealed community in this testosterone swamp, this bro-pocalypse of self-reinforced male behavior?
To me, it felt like “Animal House.” You’re inside Delta Delta Delta. There was a feeling of that. I think that is one purpose. I think that serves the story in that when he does leave, who does he know other than Cody’s character? There’s no world outside of this, and I think that’s really what club life is. You know those people, and who else do you know outside of that? “I don’t know anybody else who has a real job …”
You know those people in part because it’s pretty much guaranteed they’ll never ask you, “What the hell are you doing?”
Yeah. But if you were ever in trouble, where are those people going to be? I think that’s kind of where it gets to, too. If you’re buying the drinks everyone is your friend, and as soon as you’re not, they scatter like roaches when you turn the lights on. I mean, that’s clubs.
The first shot where we see you, you’re sitting at a sewing machine fixing up the trimming on a thong. You’ve got these reading glasses. How much of that stuff do you get to pick?
All of it.
All of it?
Actually, they had the sewing machine. They said, “Okay, you’re going to sew a thong.” I said, “Okay, good,” then I started thinking. I have friends that are clothing designers, and I go downtown, and there are these weird a** old recently gentrified buildings, these loft spaces that are literally sweatshops. There are little dogs pissing on the floor. It’s just really grimy and weird. Everybody always had a cigarette hanging out of the side of their mouth, and had these glasses on with a bandana, and I thought. “This is it. This is my ode to a Korean sweatshop, downtown.” I was like, this is the sweatshop scene. We’re going for it. I rarely wear my glasses, because my eyesight is so horrible, that I thought it was going to be fun to bring out the glasses, and that was it.
I had a chance to talk to Mr. Soderbergh, and the one thing I talked about was the name of the club, ‘Xquisite,’ with no ‘E,’ and the ugly decor and all of the bad dance music. Is that disposability part of the weird toxicity of the cultural accoutrements of the world of stripping? Is that fun to play with, like the outfits, the tear-away clothing?
Yeah. You’re wearing like a sleeveless hoodie sweatshirt, which is the most useful article of clothing. Who the hell wears those?
It would let out the heat from your arms, right?
It makes no sense. The worst fashion statement ever. I think there’s a lot of that. I think McConaughey searched high and low for his little leather hat and his yellow halter-top. These guys are Tampa male strippers. We’re not talking Milan runway (models) here.
That was another interesting thing; Miami is mentioned in the film the same way Moscow is in “The Three Sisters.” It’s that shining city on a hill you can never quite get to, “We have to get to Miami.”
Matt Bomer and I went to Carnegie Mellon for drama together. We talked about that. We were like, “‘Three Sisters’ has really prepared us for where we are.”
You did go to Carnegie Mellon with Mr. Bomer. Was the re-introduction at the table read, or more awkwardly, on-set, in thongs?
No, Matt and I stayed in touch all through the years. Matt came to my Mom’s house for Thanksgiving. When you go to a school as small as ours, I think there were twenty-one of us that graduated, and out of those twenty-one, there’s four of us that make a living as actors still … you see each other. You stay in touch. Matt was my first call when I got the offer, because I heard Matt was getting an offer that day too. I called Matt, and I was like “Dude, are you going to do the stripper movie?” and he was like, “I don’t know, are you?” I was like, “I don’t know; are you going to get waxed?” He was like “Yeah, I guess.” So we had that conversation. We were in it. We were thick as thieves right from the start. It was fun having him there, because its just fun to come so far with somebody, and of course to go from Chekov to Xquisite.
I believe, as Chekov said, “When you have a penis pump on the wall in the first act, it has to be used by the third.”
Yes, you have to use it. If you’re sewing a gold thong (in the first act, by the) third act that thong needs to come up.
I believe I read somewhere that there was some prosthetic work involved. When you’re dealing with that kind of effects in some very intimate circumstances, how much of a pause does it give you to “Let’s apply a large amount of latex to my body?”
There was not a prosthetic? You refuse to say?
I’m having too much fun with the curiosity.
I’m more curious about how you get a silhouette of a penis pump being used in a film without making it NC-17.
We did it …
What was the one thing you were most amazed to get away with? You, as an actor?
As an actor, probably when I was painted head to toe in gold. Steven left the music going, so we had only choreographed up to a certain point, and I got to that point and he didn’t yell ‘Cut,’ and the music kept going, so there was a group of two hundred women in that room, and I tried to maul every single one of them. I was throwing tables out of the way. It was like this kind of Dionysian bizarre orgiastic festival starring this crazy gold Greek statue. He left the music going for like five minutes, and there is just footage on the floor somewhere of me going berserk. It’s something else …
(‘Magic Mike’ is in theaters …)
Warner Bros./Sony Pictures
New on DVD and Blu-ray,: ‘Sherlock Homes 2,’ ‘Ghost Rider,’ the funny-smart sci-fi of ‘Extraterrestrial’ and new Blus of the Raimi ‘Spider-Man’ films…
This week’s new DVDs, Blu-rays and Video On Demand offerings include a return engagement for Robert Downey Jr.’s ‘Sherlock Holmes,’ some rage-in-the-Cage action with ‘Ghost Rider: Spirit of Vengeance,’ the off-center sci-fi comedy ‘Extraterrestrial’ and the Raimi ‘Spider-Man’ films on Blu-ray.
It is with no small amount of excitment that I’m letting you know about a new venture, The Lunch. Based on the argument that Movie Podcasts need a touch of the short sharp shock and a bit of civilizing common ground, The Lunch is simple in execution: Myself and a guest go for lunch for about an hour, my treat. We then talk for a half-hour on-the-record; 25 minutes on film, and 5 minutes on where we had lunch, and how we enjoyed lunch. I’m working with the good folks at GeekNation.com on this, and you can talk to them about your subscription needs — but if you’re here, hey, you might enjoy it. In the first edition of The Lunch, recorded at the 65th Cannes Film Festival, I speak with Drew McWeeny of hitfix.com about the films of the fest like “Lawless,” “Beasts of the Southern Wild” and “Amour”; we also talk about Kebab, as served in Cannes, and digress about sauces and Shwarma-hype.
You can sample below, but click right here to the link where you can listen and enjoy; if you like it, tell your friends. Because starting today, every week I’ll be talking to a film maker to a film critic about the art, the science, the joy of movies — and, also, about what we had for The Lunch.
With its utterly conventional plot, sunny New York cinematography and loose, light-footed feel, “Lola Versus” might as well be a pilot for some new sit-com or serial drama — and, at the same time, it’s a sit-com or serial drama I’d watch. Our heroine, dumped but three weeks before her big wedding, makes a series of choices as a result of that change before kinda sorta getting life back on track again. The film, and the audience, however, both benefit from the presence of Greta Gerwig as Lola. Gerwig makes her likable, human, watchable — and to such a degree that even when the film dips and slips into cliché territory you’re glad to have Gerwig as your guide on the all-too familiar journey.
Search: More on Greta Gerwig
Directed by Daryl Wein and co-written by Wein and his partner Zoe Lister-Jones, “Lola Versus” starts with a jostling bump with, even before the credits, Lola’s long-standing boyfriend Luke (Joel Kinnaman) proposing marriage, planning their wedding and then calling the whole thing off. Shattered, Lola stumbles into a series of mishaps — bad choices, bad dates, bad sex — with her friends and family gathered around her. The film’s funny and frank about relationships and sex, to its credit, and it manages to be clear-eyed without being cringe-inducing on both topics.
[Each week, inspired by what's in theaters or in the news or even just by random firings of neurons, 'Retro Rental,' by film critic James Rocchi, looks at an older film on disc or download that links up to the here-and-now ...]
Charlie Sheen is in the news with his new FX show ‘Anger Management‘ playing a screw-up therapist; Martin Sheen is in theaters with ‘The Amazing Spider-Man,’ playing Uncle Ben. And so, in a world of converging Sheens that, not coincidentally, led up to the 4th of July, I was of course driven to re-watch ‘the Dead Zone,’ perhaps for the first time in years, and marvel not only at how good Martin Sheen is in it, but also at how chill and cold and sharp it is, a 1983 Stephen King adaptation made by David Cronenberg that, a lot of people would argue is the the best King adaptation on the big screen … (Look, ‘Shining’ fans, I can appreciate your point-of-view that film is great Kubrick, but ‘Dead Zone’ is better King, if that makes sense.)
To briefly recap ‘The Dead Zone’ — a novel written by King in his earliest and best years, published in 1979 — it’s about a schoolteacher, Johnny Smith, who has a pretty good life .. until a car accident puts him in a coma for five years. When he awakes, he and the world are different — his girl got married, his parents grew older. And, brushing the hand of a nurse helping him, Johnny ‘sees’ her little girl, across town, threatened by a fire: Call an ambulance, he says. There’s still time. And there is.
Yesterday, in Pt. 1 of this piece, I talked about a few reasons why I wasn’t, in fact, among the many blown away by ‘The Avengers,” in the hope of turning some of the roar around the film ito a conversation; before I proceed, though, I will note that in yesterday’s piece, I used the phrase “drinking the kool-aid,” which made Twitter user @KKRMalro to note “I’m fine James didn’t like it, but (his) ‘kool-aid drinking’ dismissal of those that enjoyed it is kind of insulting.” And in fact, Mr. Marlo, I want you to know that that was not the point at all — and while ‘kool-aid drinking’ is a convenient metaphor, it’s not a kind one, and I’m sorry if it was taken as a slight — this was intended to be a conversation, again, and not an insult to the film’s many fans.
But, with that said, numbers 3) and 4) on my questions about “The Avengers are below …
Now that Joss Whedon’s “The Avengers” is busy making all the money, I feel a little odd about it — while, to name but two other, similar, films, it’s “Citizen Kane” compared to “Fantastic Four” or “Green Lantern,” I still feel a little underwhelmed, especially hearing of people who’ve gone to see it five, six, seven times. A highly-placed friend in the industry — no names — mailed me from their desk to state that while they couldn’t ask this publically, was I the only person in the small-ish circle of film writers who found it unsatisfying and mediocre?
No, I noted — Amy Nicholson of Box Office Magazine, Karina Longworth of the L.A. Weekly, A.O. Scott of the Times and Andrew O’Heir of Salon, among others, also weren’t “Avengers”-mad as every other film critic seems to be, but, you know. My friend was relieved to know that not everyone was drinking the kool-aid.
With his blonde hair, enchanted hammer and sci-fi/Wagnerian hybrid clothing, the mighty Thor is one of The Avengers; speaking to MSN Movies in L.A., Australian Chris Hemsworth is more mellow and more relaxed than his on-screen character. We spoke with Hemsworth about his anxieties in taking on the role, about whether the hair or the hammer makes the superhero, and playing make-believe with a $200-million budget.
MSN Movies: When it comes to those moments where you have to get into character as Thor, what helps more: The hair or the hammer?
Chris Hemsworth: The hammer. It feels right. I feel naked without the hammer. There were scenes where he doesn’t have (it), and I don’t even know where to put my hands.
You get a little fidgety, as a thunder god, without your hammer?
“Thor” had that big cosmic epic scope, that mix of science and Shakespeare. When you look around this, and you’re standing in a flying aircraft carrier and fighting alien monsters, how do you wrap your head around the muchness of it?
It’s all make-believe, whether you’re in another realm in the middle of Asgard in some sort of ethereal chamber, or some helicarrier, like in this. To be honest, right there whomever you’re acting with, that becomes your focus. A lot of that is green screen anyway so you can’t even see it. It becomes about the script, and about the interactions with the characters, and trying to find what’s the truth in that moment, and then you just step by step, and hopefully it all falls into place.