Late night streaming on Vudu: The Humbling is an adroit adaptation of Philip Roth’s novella. Co-scripted by Buck Henry, who adapted The Graduate and Catch-22 for Mike Nichols. Al Pacino as a morose suicidal actor. Greta Gerwig is his bisexual love interest. Zaniness ensues. Comparisons to Birdman are not misplaced: The Humbling employs fantasy sequences (in a departure from Roth’s novella) that dramatize Pacino’s scrambled state of mind, including a Birdman-like dream of Pacino locked out of a theater mid-performance. The movie substitutes a more ambiguous ending than the novella’s brutal finish, but it’s well worth a look. Directed by Barry Levinson of Rain Man and Wag the Dog.
Archive for the 'Current Cinema' Category
Tags: Al Pacino, Barry Levninson, Birdman, Buck Henry, Catch-22, Greta Gerwig, Philip Roth, Rain Man, The Graduate, The Humbling, Wag the Dog
Tags: Adolf Hitler, Eli Roth, Inglourious Basterds, Quentin Tarantino, Sheldon Roth
Eli Roth was unforgettable playing “The Bear Jew” in Inglourious Basterds, Quentin Tarantino’s audacious wish-fulfilling WWII epic that posited the successful assassination of Adolf Hitler. I just caught up with this: Roth’s father, who is a Harvard professor and psychoanalyst, wrote a thoughtful, surprisingly moving essay on the pride he felt watching his son onscreen “machine-gun the Fuhrer’s face to a bloody pulp.”
Tags: Elegy, Kate Winslat, Orphan, Penelope Cruz, Revolutionary Road, The Reader, Up in the Air, Vera Farmiga, Vicky Cristina Barcelona
Time once again for Coffee Spew’s annual Nominated for the Wrong Performance award, which singles out an actor who in the previous year gave a better performance in a different film than the one for which they’ve been Oscar-nominated. (Previous winner was a tie between Kate Winslat, who was so much better in Revolutionary Road than The Reader, and Penelope Cruz, who gave a richer performance in Elegy than Vicky Cristina Barcelona.) This year’s winner is Vera Farmiga, wrongly nominated for Best Supporting Actress for Up in the Air instead of Best Actress for her harrowing work in Orphan. Farmiga’s sexy-cool femme fatale in Up in the Air is really more of a plot contrivance than a believable character. (I don’t know about you, but I felt cheated by the “surprise” revelation of her character’s duplicity and the manner in which the film invited us to scorn her.) Farmiga in Orphan, on the other hand, is simply astonishing playing a recovering alcoholic mother and wife whose grip on reality grows slimmer by the minute.
Tags: Alive in Joberg, District 9, Neill Blomkamp, Sharlto Copley, Wikus van der Merwe
If you enjoyed Neill Blomkamp’s fiendishly clever sci-fi hit District 9 as much as Augie and me, you’ll want to take a look at the director’s 2005 short film, Alive in Joberg, which is essentially a six-minute nanobot blueprint for District 9. The engaging actor Sharlto Copley—who stars in District 9 as Wikus van der Merwe—also appears in Alive in Joberg (about three and a half minutes in).
Sunshine, but temperatures below zero. Work canceled. School closed. Wife’s out of town, so it was a father/son day for me and our eleven-year-old. We drove into the city and caught a couple of monster flicks.
Cloverfield is getting a lot of attention as the ultimate in shakycam chic, a sort of rollercoaster hybrid of The Blair Witch Project crossed with The Bourne Ultimatum. Which is plenty cool, if you’re attracted to motion sickness. Thank God for Dippin’ Dots ice cream, which calmed our stomachs like Milk of Magnesia. I’ll refrain from describing the precise nature of the disaster that befalls Manhattan. The 9/11 imagery is impossible to ignore, with scenes of collapsing skyscrapers and roaring clouds of smoke chasing pedestrians down city streets. There is nothing low-tech about Cloverfield’s state-of-the-art CGI special effects. What most impressed me was a small but ingenious stylistic flourish: the camcorder through which we’re witnessing the story is recording over an older tape of a romantic excursion to Coney Island by two of the characters. Throughout the movie, a few seconds of Coney Island footage occasionally bleed through like flashbacks.
The second flick was I Am Legend in IMAX. Big-ass screen, no question. More scenes of a demolished Manhattan. More Dippin’ Dots. Will Smith, possibly the last man alive, has survived a plague that’s wiped out most of humankind. Those who haven’t died have devolved into menacing nocturnal zombies. It’s a serviceable sci-fi premise. In fact, this is the fourth adaptation of the same Richard Matheson novel, preceded by The World, the Flesh, and the Devil (1959), The Last Man on Earth (1964), and The Omega Man (1971). Will Smith carries the film. His range and intensity give the story more depth than it probably deserves. (I Am Legend, like Cloverfield, uses heart-tugging flashbacks—scenes of Will’s former life with his wife and daughter—but the cutaways are handled in a more conventional fashion.)