Wednesday, September 27, 2006



Black and white and noir all over, Renaissance is an uninspired amalgamation of forms. It intends to garner the blockbuster appeal of a gritty futuristic action adventure, with a look that resembles A Scanner Darkly filtered through the monochromatic design of Sin City. I’m an admirer of both films, but not solely for their graphic bells and whistles; one draws from comic book savant Frank Miller’s understanding of the well-worn hardboiled detective yarn, while the other sternly rebukes the country’s war on drugs. Renaissance has no such muscle. Featuring imagery seemingly produced by an antique television set with a busted contrast dial, it’s a bleak construction that’s at worst incoherent and at best mildly entertaining.

Continue reading about Renaissance in the New York Press...

Tuesday, September 26, 2006


So help me, the Washington Square News continues to provide a forum for my eloquent insight. Sort of.

For what it's worth, I said a lot more than this budding reporter chose to excerpt from my responses. My full statement, intact with original questions, lies here.

Wednesday, September 20, 2006


My cover story on Michel Gondry runs this week in the New York Press. I suppose the final piece might turn a head or two and catch some attention from faithful Press readers before they flip ahead to Armond White's appropriate praise for Gondry's latest film. For what it's worth, I've got more to say about this quintessentially quirky artist than the published piece might lead you to believe. So here's my extended version, which I think tells a much stronger tale of success and frusteration in the limelight. Or maybe it's just a couple extra words.

Michel Gondry earned his celebration.

The 43-year-old French director was fresh from the premiere for his newest film, The Science of Sleep, at the Sundance Film Festival in Park City, Utah. Immediate responses were predictably favorable. Gondry, distinguished connoisseur of magic realism and pop sensibility, had undoubtedly made his most personal work yet. It was an elegy to the mysticism of dreaming set in his native country, incorporating his trademark stop-motion animation, featuring a heartbreaking tale of unattainable romance. It didn’t hurt that international screen star Gael Garcia Bernal, a commodity on his own, portrayed the lead character. According to various reports, Warner Independent snatched the film for a modest $6 million before the projector had time to cool. But for the time being, it was booze, not business, on the menu for the after party on Main Street.

Continue reading...

Wednesday, September 13, 2006


Paper Dolls

Transvestite Filipinos sing and dance in Tel Aviv! Fifty years ago that would’ve fit the posters for low-level cheese from the Ed Wood school of crap. Now that we’ve moved past such unabashedly exploitative times (wink wink), it isn’t hard to see how Paper Dolls could garner a respectful following. Even today, however, it poses a tough task for marketers: Tomer Heymann’s documentary doesn’t feature worshipful character sketches (a la Spellbound) or political grandstanding (a la Michael Moore’s oeuvre), but it has a little bit of both. The result is sad, funny and often enraging—all those great things—but also frequently uneven.

Wednesday, September 06, 2006


Red Doors

The opening montage in Red Doors, director Georgia Lee’s Chinese-American family drama, smartly removes focus from any single hero. Instead, we get a collage of personalities. Age difference binds them together, even if their diverse lives pull them apart. Using this divergent structure, the story distributes tension and feel-good resolution in strands of sorrow and strength.

This is the sort of balanced sentimentalism the world wanted so badly from Little Miss Sunshine—to the point that the actual movie mattered less than the hype. It was sweet and fun, to be sure, but left no room for credibility. Red Doors finds room—several, actually—hiding behind the darkly-hued entrance to the Wong household. They’re a diverse gang of archetypes borrowed from sitcom conventions, but the comedy illuminates their idiosyncrasies, and that’s when believable characters start to take shape.

Read the rest of the review in the New York Press...

Tuesday, September 05, 2006


Hollywoodland is a title that could benefit from dropping its last syllable. The film's director, Allen Coulter, says that the term "suggests a state of mind," but even as the story embellishes on the mystery surrounding the suicide in 1959 of actor George Reeves, star of the popular 1950s Superman television program, it is hardly steeped in enough Americana to justify the director's grandiose pontifications. It ends up as a decent Hollywood noir, but its dour tone fails to reach that proverbial Tinseltown sparkle. For a period piece, it's strangely subdued.

Read the rest of the review at indieWIRE...

Friday, September 01, 2006


was the only film that actress Barbara Loden directed in her 48 short years, and its continuing historical obscurity is unsurprising. Loden’s marriage to Elia Kazan may have placed her near the nexus of Hollywood royalty, but that alone did little to assist her own risky creative output. A pseudo-heist story shot in 1970 on a shoestring budget and employing an experimentally minimalist narrative, the film preached a profound pessimism that would have disqualified it from the midnight movie circuit. According to scholar Berenice Reynaud’s fascinating essay accompanying Parlour Pictures’ release, Loden intended a stark realism that was “anti-Bonnie and Clyde.” A mere three years after the exaggerated heroic coupling of Warren Beatty and Faye Dunaway, Wanda attacked that fantasy to boldly critique the zeitgeist.

Continue reading about Wanda at Stop Smiling...