DID YOU READ

Interviews: Bjork! Murakami! Cillian!

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Skeleton fight.Björk, talking to Luke Crisell at New York magazine about "Drawing Restraint 9": "Because of how Matthew [Barney] uses character, it’s more like sculpture. Me and Matthew actually sculpt each other in the film, we remove each other’s legs [with flensing knives at the film’s climax] and we end up swimming after the ship as two whales. It’s not acting like Dustin Hoffman does."

Novelist/director Ryu Murakami, talking to Kim Tae-jong at the Korea Times about how his 1992 "Tokyo Decadence" is finally being released in Korea: "Before I directed this movie, I made three other films, which I and other people weren’t happy with. The dissatisfaction could have resulted from my inability but also the fact that I worked with major film production companies and I couldn’t get my points accepted. So when I made ‘Tokyo Decadence,’ I worked with young staff, whose average age was 27, and with a low budget (to give myself more freedom in expressing my ideas)."

Cillian Murphy, talking to Jessica Winter at the Village Voice about "Breakfast on Pluto" and walking in high heels: "Oh, you just need that confidence to go for it and fall down as much as you need to. I hung out with these transvestites in London, and their advice was, ‘Learn when you’re drunk,’ so I did."

The great Ray Harryhausen, talking to William Shaw at the Observer about his career and how he inspired the recent return of stop-motion: "A lot of [the figures] were cannibalised at the time because we were short of time and money. The tentacles from this character became a dinosaur tail in the next movie."

Filmmaker Debra Granik, talking to Jeremiah Kipp at Filmmaker Magazine about "Down to the Bone": "At Sundance, an actor I admire had a cup of coffee with me…He told me, ‘You guys had so much freedom. It was like nobody was telling you what to do.’ This is an actor who has been in $15-20 million dollar films. What dawned on me was that he was right. On this project, there was no one greater than our selves. It reminds you what slogans like ‘fiercely independent’ really mean. Some days, this level of filmmaking feels like you’re in the ghetto with both hands tied behind your back. You’re unable to raise a penny. At other times, it feels like the only freedom there is exists on the margins of the filmmaking community."

Actor Donal Logue, talking to Don R. Lewis at Film Threat about his directorial debut, "Tennis, Anyone?" (which, incidentally, is going to be one of the first films released through Mark Cuban’s Truly Indie filmmaker-financed distribution arm): "The distribution environment for little movies that aren’t about blondes with big tits shooting machine guns is more grim these days than ever. We could sell rights to our movie for fifty grand, but beyond that you will never see anything again. We own our movie and are now close to breaking even, even without finishing domestic DVD deals. It is rough. Even ‘My Big Fat Greek Wedding’ had millions to keep it pumped up until it found an audience. All I have is my ATM card and I can’t do that with kids."

Heath Ledger, talking to Belinda Luscombe at Time about you know what: "I feel like I’ve never been in a film that people have liked before."

+ New Björk (New York)
+ Japanese Author Brings ‘Decadent’ Film to Seoul (Korea Times)
+ Change Clothes (Village Voice)
+ The origin of the species (Observer)
+ CUTTING CLOSE TO THE BONE (Filmmaker Magazine)
+ DONAL LOGUE: TENNIS FOR EVERYONE (Film Threat)
+ Heath Turns It Around (Time)

Soap tv show

As the Spoof Turns

15 Hilarious Soap Opera Parodies

Catch the classic sitcom Soap Saturday mornings on IFC.

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Photo Credit: Columbia Pictures Television

The soap opera is the indestructible core of television fandom. We celebrate modern series like The Wire and Breaking Bad with their ongoing storylines, but soap operas have been tangling more plot threads than a quilt for decades. Which is why pop culture enjoys parodying them so much.

Check out some of the funniest soap opera parodies below, and be sure to catch Soap Saturday mornings on IFC.

1. Mary Hartman, Mary Hartman

maryhartman

Mary Hartman, Mary Hartman was a cult hit soap parody from the mind of Norman Lear that poked daily fun at the genre with epic twists and WTF moments. The first season culminated in a perfect satire of ratings stunts, with Mary being both confined to a psychiatric facility and chosen to be part of a Nielsen ratings family.


2. IKEA Heights

ikea heights

IKEA Heights proves that the soap opera is alive and well, even if it has to be filmed undercover at a ready-to-assemble furniture store totally unaware of what’s happening. This unique webseries brought the classic formula to a new medium. Even IKEA saw the funny side — but has asked that future filmmakers apply through proper channels.


3. Fresno

fresno

When you’re parodying ’80s nighttime soaps like Dallas and Dynasty , everything about your show has to equally sumptuous. The 1986 CBS miniseries Fresno delivered with a high-powered cast (Carol Burnett, Teri Garr and more in haute couture clothes!) locked in the struggle for the survival of a raisin cartel.


4. Soap

soap

Soap was the nighttime response to daytime soap operas: a primetime skewering of everything both silly and satisfying about the source material. Plots including demonic possession and alien abduction made it a cult favorite, and necessitated the first televised “viewer discretion” disclaimer. It also broke ground for featuring one of the first gay characters on television in the form of Billy Crystal’s Jodie Dallas. Revisit (or discover for the first time) this classic sitcom every Saturday morning on IFC.


5. Too Many Cooks

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Possibly the most perfect viral video ever made, Too Many Cooks distilled almost every style of television in a single intro sequence. The soap opera elements are maybe the most hilarious, with more characters and sudden shocking twists in an intro than most TV scribes manage in an entire season.


6. Garth Marenghi’s Darkplace

darkplace

Garth Marenghi’s Darkplace was more mockery than any one medium could handle. The endless complications of Darkplace Hospital are presented as an ongoing horror soap opera with behind-the-scenes anecdotes from writer, director, star, and self-described “dreamweaver visionary” Garth Marenghi and astoundingly incompetent actor/producer Dean Learner.


7. “Attitudes and Feelings, Both Desirable and Sometimes Secretive,” MadTV

attitudes

Soap opera connoisseurs know that the most melodramatic plots are found in Korea. MADtv‘s parody Tae Do  (translation: Attitudes and Feelings, Both Desirable and Sometimes Secretive) features the struggles of mild-mannered characters with far more feelings than their souls, or subtitles, could ever cope with.


8. Twin Peaks

peaks

Twin Peaks, the twisted parody of small town soaps like Peyton Place whose own creator repeatedly insists is not a parody, has endured through pop culture since it changed television forever when it debuted in 1990. The show even had it’s own soap within in a soap called…


9. “Invitation to Love,” Twin Peaks

invitation

Twin Peaks didn’t just parody soap operas — it parodied itself parodying soap operas with the in-universe show Invitation to Love. That’s more layers of deceit and drama than most televised love triangles.


10. “As The Stomach Turns,” The Carol Burnett Show

stomach

The Carol Burnett Show poked fun at soaps with this enduring take on As The World Turns. In a case of life imitating art, one story involving demonic possession would go on to happen for “real” on Days of Our Lives.


11. Days of our Lives (Friends Edition)

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Still airing today, Days of Our Lives is one of the most famous soap operas of all time. They’re also excellent sports, as they allowed Friends star Joey Tribbiani to star as Dr Drake Ramoray, the only doctor to date his own stalker (while pretending to be his own evil twin). And then return after a brain-transplant.

And let’s not forget the greatest soap opera parody line ever written: “Come on Joey, you’re going up against a guy who survived his own cremation!”


12. Acorn Antiques

acorn

First appearing on the BBC sketch comedy series Victoria Wood As Seen on TV, Acorn Antiques combines almost every low-budget soap opera trope into one amazing whole. The staff of a small town antique store suffer a disproportional number of amnesiac love-triangles, while entire storylines suddenly appear and disappear without warning or resolution. Acorn Antiques was so popular, it went on to become a hit West End musical.


13. “Point Place,” That 70s Show

pointplace

In a memorable That ’70s Show episode, an unemployed Red is reduced to watching soaps all day. He becomes obsessed despite the usual Red common-sense objections (like complaining that it’s impossible to fall in love with someone in a coma). His dreams render his own life as Point Place, a melodramatic nightmare where Kitty leaves him because he’s unemployed. (Click here to see all airings of That ’70s Show on IFC.)


14. The Spoils of Babylon

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Bursting from the minds of Will Ferrell and creators Andrew Steele and Matt Piedmont, The Spoils of Babylon was a spectacular parody of soap operas and epic mini-series like The Thorn Birds. Taking the parody even further, Ferrell himself played Eric Jonrosh, the author of the book on which the series was based. Jonrosh returned in The Spoils Before Dying, a jazzy murder mystery with its own share of soapy twists and turns.

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15. All My Children Finale, SNL

allmychildren

SNL‘s final celebration of one of the biggest soaps of all time is interrupted by a relentless series of revelations from stage managers, lighting designers, make-up artists, and more. All of whom seem to have been married to or murdered by (or both) each other.

Are you there, God? It’s me, Oscar.

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"...one of the great threatened faces in screen history..."We’re going to be ranging far wider and cheesier than the above before the end of this awards season, we promise you.

But seriously, God (Buddha?), please prevent Caryn James from any more articles like her howler of a Sunday Times piece on the sudden deluge of actors taking on gay roles, in which she take the following point, which we’ll lay out in the snappy, concise, dumb style of your average magazine front-of-book:

In: Playing gay

Five minutes ago: Playing mentally disabled

Out: Playing in blackface

And proceeds to subject it to some painful and awkward analysis: Most of the actors playing flashy gay parts this year aren’t gay! (Even though the Internet sometimes says they are!) Which makes it less threatening to Middle America! Where they’re often threatened by gays! And sometimes even though a non-gay actor makes the massive stretch of acting like he or she is gay, it still doesn’t work! But what actually drives us nuts is that while there might be a point to be made here (several good ones, actually), she fails to arrive at one, linking "Capote" (and Philip Seymour Hoffman‘s performance there was really more about "Ray"-style ventriloquism than sexuality), "The Dying Gaul" (which, beyond being campy, is also such a small indie that it probably won’t get beyond the top ten markets, which is what most gay-themed films are limited to anything), "Transamerica" (same) and "Brokeback Mountain" (which is shaping up to be big enough to shake shit up) to add up to…a trend report?

Kevin Maher at the London Times suggests that playing a drunk is actually the over-tried and true Oscar bait.

Elsewhere on the burgeoning Oscar front, Tom O’Neil at the LA Times refutes reports that there’s nothing to talk about regarding the Best Actress race (beyond Reese Witherspoon in "Walk the Line," who’s been getting buzz for, like, forever). He points to Felicity Huffman in "Transamerica" (who is actually very good), Zhang Ziyi in "Memoirs of a Geisha" (though the cool kids are saying it’s Gong Li who walks away with the film), Keira Knightley in "Pride & Prejudice" (buoyed on recent glowing reviews), and "The New World"‘s young newbie Q’Orianka Kilcher.

And David Thomson at the Independent would start a club of actresses who win two Oscars and then never do anything of note again — and he’d make Jodie Foster chairperson.

+ The Winner Is…Only Acting Gay (NY Times)
+ The message in the bottle is Oscar winner (London Times)
+ A race worth running (LA Times)
+ You want a babysitter with brains to burn? Call Jodie (Independent)

The in-other-countries round-up.

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"Takeshis'"It’s tempting to poke fun of Joseph Braude‘s piece in the LA Times about Middle Eastern moviewatching, except we’re not quite sure where to go with it. There’s certainly a lot of worthy stuff in the article, but there’s also a gawkish underlying assumption that it’s surprising that the inhabitants of the Arab world watch and care about films that seems about a decade outdated and that reminds us of the Lexus convertible conversation in "Three Kings" (we just got it on DVD, so it’s been on our mind recently, apologies).

Many governments don’t bother to forbid most American motion pictures. Protesters in Libya, Syria and the Palestinian territories may burn the U.S. flag during street demonstrations, but they catch the latest U.S. films in theaters. All of the Persian Gulf states except Saudi Arabia abound in state-of-the-art movie houses, often in luxurious shopping malls. In fact, Kuwait was the second nation in the world after Austria to introduce technology enabling automatic movie ticket purchases by mobile phone.

A friend of ours who grew up in Iran swore that nothing was more popular there than a satellite channel that played only "Baywatch," but sadly, Braude doesn’t confirm this, though he does get into some interesting points about the relationship between Arab viewers and left-leaning Hollywood.

Fiona Ng at the New York Times reports on "Action English," a Chinese television show that uses film clips to attempt to teach American slang.

At the Japan Times, Mark Schilling takes on Takeshi Kitano‘s latest, "Takeshis’," which premiered at Venice to mixed and bemused reviews, and which is a departure from the actor/director’s previous work, a surreal exploration of Kitano’s persona and previous films that sounds a bit like Akira Kurosawa‘s "Dreams." Schilling compares the film to Seijun Suzuki’s 1967 "Branded to Kill," and wonders if, like that film, it will later be regarded as a masterpiece, though at the present, he doesn’t seem to know what to make of it himself. Either way, a possible turning point for Kitano’s career:

Kitano has described it as a kind of "death"
(pronounced in Japanese, the title is "Takeshisu" or "Take[shi] dies"),
in which he shakes off the mortal coil of his first 11 films and
prepares himself for the next stage of his career. (He says he wants to
make a film that challenges Kurosawa and other Golden Age masters —
whatever that means.)

Also at the Japan Times, Giovanni Fazio becomes the first we’ve seen to defend Lou Ye‘s "Purple Butterfly," which stars Zhang Ziyi and which opened here in a minimal release to fairly bad reviews (we loved his debut, "Suzhou River").

Chris Johnston at The Age has an excellent essay on based-on-actual-events Aussie horror film "Wolf Creek" (which gets a Dimension/Weinstein Co. release on Dec. 25), and its relationship to a particularly beloved national icon:

And then comes the moment. "Bit of a
bugger, eh?" says Mick. Just five little words. But with them, and
other similar moments, Wolf Creek subverts a mainstay of Australian
outback mythology – the noble white bushman, the loveable rogue.

It’s no coincidence that Mick is called Mick. He’s Mick Dundee,
Crocodile Dundee, gone evil. He has the same hat, the same flannel
shirt and the same jeans. He has the same knockabout ways, the same
laconic humour. During Melbourne filmmaker Greg McLean‘s low-budget
horror film, which has become a surprise box office winner, he even
reprises the famous Croc Dundee line "Call that a knife? This is a
knife!" as a victim, Kristy, hopelessly brandishes a tiny, red Swiss
Army penknife. It is puny and useless next to Mick’s long, curved
monster, which he keeps in a leather sheath on his belt.

Alongside picks for who’s going to win, the Sydney Morning Herald talks to the organizers of the Australian Film Institute Awards about revitalizing the presentation and getting Russell Crowe to host them for free. Tom Ryan at The Age is a little more cynical about the choice:

Yet surely he can
be relied upon to bring a bit of spice to the night. Imagine his
response if someone tries to tell him to wind it up. Or if they attempt
to stop him reading the poem or singing the song he’s penned just for
us. Or if he doesn’t get the standing ovation he deserves. Or if a
teleprompter doesn’t work.

Well, we think that all awards show would be a little better with the promise of violence, so good on ya, Australia — scatter some cell phones around the green room and let’s see what happens.

+ Reelpolitik (LA Times)
+ Movie English as a Third Language (NY Times)
+ Kitano beats his own drum (Japan Times)
+ Love and death in Manchuria (Japan Times)
+ Beware a wolf (The Age)
+ AFI Awards: We tip the winners (Sydney Morning Herald)
+ A good deal to Crowe about (Sydney Morning Herald)
+ Rusty oils the wheels of our industry (The Age)

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