DID YOU READ

Cornell Boxes

Cornell Boxes (photo)

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Swedish filmmaker Roy Andersson has a completely distinctive way of making movies — which translates to, he’s fortunate enough to have happened on a visual vocabulary that’s at the same time unique and deadpan and invigorating. Famously, Andersson has made only four features in over 40 years; after the failure of his second, 1975’s “Giliap,” he “retired” and spent over two decades going gangbusters as a commercial director, and developed his distinctive style, a kind of full-frontal, cold-blooded Beckettian art-comedy. Only in 2000, with “Songs from the Second Floor,” did Andersson decide the dry one-shot trope that was so funny in TV ads could work differently, mordantly, at length, and could build a feature.

Shot in wide angle from a personal-space-respecting distance in a fluorescent-lit world of moldy green pastels and ashen-faced zombie-humans acting out the absurd machinations of modern life, Andersson’s mature films make his dyspeptic Scando-brother Aki Kaurismäki look like Baz Luhrmann by comparison. Yet they’re funny and ecstatic, a parade of little Cornell boxes of life, coincidence, bad fortune and hope. “You, the Living,” his latest, is almost the shadow side of the previous film’s apocalypse-on-the-march tableaux; the world is the same, but instead of absurd dread, there’s a hesitant sense of jubilation and forgiveness.

01122010_YoutheLiving2.jpgAndersson’s movies are so mysterious and rigorous that they demand you use words like that — words that imply a vision of humanity larger than just a filmgoing experience. In this world, the various characters we meet often speak directly to us, sometimes about their dreams, which are then revealed as well, in real time. All the while, we see these people in entire rooms, and there’s no hurry.

A man stuck in a drizzly traffic jam shouts at us from his car, telling us about a dream that we then see, and which ends badly, in the electric chair. Desolate musicians abound, practicing their tubas and bass drums at home and driving their neighbors insane, and they reappear endlessly, playing at funerals and in parades in which other characters participate, before meeting to practice and ripping into a Dixie riff during a hellacious lightning storm. (It seems like a mildly random attack of scenarios at first, but see it twice and it suddenly appears to have a very tight weave.)

A young waif recounts her daydreamy crush on a local club-band guitarist, and her dream is a showstopper: the two are newlyweds, and as the hyper-coiffed rocker vamps on his axe, the whole apartment block they’re in motors across the landscape like a train, eventually pulling into a station where a crowd of hundreds congratulates them. All of this in one shot, of course. “You, the Living” is all set-piece, all the time — it doesn’t tell a story so much as tracks the fissures in everyday life.

01122010_YoutheLiving3.jpgBut Andersson’s single-shot wonders are not just digitized-Steadicam maneuvers, but the results of extraordinary orchestration, as well as fascinating spatial depth and expert comic timing. (A priceless moment involves a portly caller knocking on a door and presenting a bouquet, only to have the door slammed right on the flowers, leaving them sticking out into the air as the schmuck mopes away.)

It’s the kind of movie that could have a character pickpocketed right in plain view, and because you’re looking elsewhere, you’re not aware of it anymore than he is. The physical dynamics of the film reminded me of what’s possible with expertly timed stop-motion animation — but of course Andersson’s canvas is huge and human, and sometimes involves entire city blocks. The movie redefines “bittersweet” as a qualifier — it’s 80% cacao, and what sugar there is burnt and half-fermented, and bites your throat.

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Face Melting Cameos

The 10 Most Metal Pop Culture Cameos

Glenn Danzig drops by Portlandia tonight at 10P on IFC.

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Glenn Danzig rocks harder than granite. In his 60 years, he’s mastered punk with The Misfits, slayed metal with the eponymous Danzig, and generally melted faces with the force of his voice. And thanks to Fred and Carrie, he’s now stopping by tonight’s brand new Portlandia so we can finally get to see what “Evil Elvis” is like when he hits the beach. To celebrate his appearance, we put together our favorite metal moments from pop culture, from the sublime to the absurd.

10. Cannibal Corpse meets Ace Ventura

Back in the ’90s,  Cannibal Corpse was just a small time band from Upstate New York, plying their death metal wares wherever they could find a crowd, when a call from Jim Carry transformed their lives. Turns out the actor was a fan, and wanted them for a cameo in his new movie, Ace Ventura: Pet Detective. The band had a European tour coming up, and were wary of being made fun of, so they turned it down. Thankfully, the rubber-faced In Living Color vet wouldn’t take no for an answer, proving that you don’t need to have a lot of fans, just the right ones.


9. AC/DC in Private Parts

Howard Stern’s autobiographical film, based on his book of the same name, followed his rise in the world of radio and pop culture. For a man surrounded by naked ladies and adoring fans, it’s hard to track the exact moment he made it. But rocking out with AC/DC in the middle of Central Park, as throngs of fans clamor to get a piece of you, seems like it comes pretty close. You can actually see Stern go from hit host to radio god in this clip, as “You Shook Me All Night Long” blasts in the background.


8. Judas Priest meets The Simpsons

When you want to blast a bunch of peace-loving hippies out on their asses, you’re going to need some death metal. At least, that’s what the folks at The Simpsons thought when they set up this cameo from the metal gods. Unfortunately, thanks to a hearty online backlash, the writers of the classic series were soon informed that Judas Priest, while many things, are not in fact “death metal.” This led to the most Simpson-esque apology ever. Rock on, Bartman. Rock on.


7. Anthrax on Married…With Children

What do you get when Married…with Children spoofs My Dinner With Andre, substituting the erudite playwrights for a band so metal they piss rust? Well, for starters, a lot of headbanging, property destruction and blown eardrums. And much like everything else in life, Al seems to have missed the fun.


6. Motorhead rocks out on The Young Ones

The Young Ones didn’t just premiere on BBC2 in 1982 — it kicked the doors down to a new way of doing comedy. A full-on assault on the staid state of sitcoms, the show brought a punk rock vibe to the tired format, and in the process helped jumpstart a comedy revolution. For instance, where an old sitcom would just cut from one scene to the next, The Young Ones choose to have Lemmy and his crew deliver a raw version of “Ace of Spades.” The general attitude seemed to be, you don’t like this? Well, then F— you!


5. Red and Kitty Meet Kiss on That ’70s Show

Carsey-Werner Productions

Carsey-Werner Productions

Long before they were banished to playing arena football games, Kiss was the hottest ticket in rock. The gang from That ’70s Show got to live out every ’70s teen’s dream when they were set loose backstage at a Kiss concert, taking full advantage of groupies, ganja and hard rock.


4. Ronnie James Dio in Tenacious D in The Pick of Destiny (NSFW, people!)

What does a young boy do when he was born to rock, and the world won’t let him? What tight compadre does he pray to for guidance and some sweet licks? If you’re a young Jables, half of “the world’s most awesome band,” you bow your head to Ronnie James Dio, aka the guy who freaking taught the world how to do the “Metal Horns.” Never before has a rock god been so literal than in this clip that turns it up to eleven.


3. Ozzy Osbourne in Trick or Treat

It’s hard to tell if Ozzy was trying his hardest here, or just didn’t give a flying f–k. What is clear is that, either way, it doesn’t really matter. Ozzy’s approach to acting seems to lean more heavily on Jack Daniels than sense memory, and yet seeing the slurry English rocker play a sex-obsessed televangelist is so ridiculous, he gets a free pass. Taking part in the cult horror Trick or Treat, Ozzy proves that he makes things better just by showing up. Because that’s exactly what he did here. Showed up. And it rocks.


2. Glenn Danzig on Portlandia

Danzig seems to be coming out of a self imposed exile these days. He just signed with a record company, and his appearance on Portlandia is reminding everyone how kick ass he truly is. Who else but “The Other Man in Black” could help Portland’s resident goths figure out what to wear to the beach? Carrie Brownstein called Danzig “amazing,” and he called Fred “a genius,” so this was a rare love fest for the progenitor of horror punk.


1. Alice Cooper in Wayne’s World

It’s surprising, sure, but for a scene that contains no music whatsoever, it’s probably the most famous metal moment in the history of film. When Alice Cooper informed Wayne and Garth that Milwaukee is actually pronounced “Milly-way-kay” back in 1992, he created one of the most famous scenes in comedy history. What’s more metal than that? Much like Wayne and Garth, we truly are not worthy.

The Best Films of 2009

The Best Films of 2009 (photo)

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Matt Singer: We entered 2009 with a new president who promised to bring our country hope. But looking back at the year in film, I don’t see a lot of hope; I see a lot of grief and despair. Oh sure, the box office charts were dominated by your now-typical assortment of franchises, spin-offs, reboots and sequels — a major cause of grief and despair for some — but you also had enough apocalypse movies to fill a book on Biblical prophecy. Even some of the obligatory superheroes got dark: the world (spoiler alert!) doesn’t end in “Watchmen,” but it comes awfully close.

There was an air of doom in certain quarters of the film industry this year too, as the effects of the bad economy rippled through everything from festival attendance to the shriveling ranks of working film critics. Examining my own list of the year’s best, I find that most were stories about people struggling with loss, like the husband in my #4 film, or the trio of siblings in my #2 film (too bad Scorsese’s “Shutter Island” was moved to next year, on the basis of the early reviews, it looks like it would have fit in perfectly). I also see a lot of films on my list about waiting: waiting for success that never comes (my #5 film), or for the end of a tour of duty in Iraq (#6), or for the moment when a demon will come and drags your eternal soul to hell (#3). The bleak mood may have also contributed to it being a fine year for dark comedies, including two outstanding films on my list.

I’ve read lots of complaints that 2009 was a mediocre year for movies, but people who tend to complain about that sort of thing say that every year, no matter how many good movies there are. All I know is trying to pick just ten favorites out of all the worthy films felt tougher this year than it has in the four previous I’ve been at IFC. To me, that feels like a reason to hope. Without further ado:

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A Galaxy of Stars Burning Out

A Galaxy of Stars Burning Out (photo)

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As a country, our appetite for stars — for gossip and photos and red carpet footage — is greater than ever, but our willingness to shell out to see those stars in the movies for which they’re supposedly known seems to have faded a bit. Take “Tenderness,” a Russell Crowe thriller that got dumped into a single screen in New York last Friday by a studio who clearly didn’t expect legions of Crowe fans to make any kind of larger release worthwhile.

This week on the IFC News podcast, we talk about the changing nature of stardom, and whether having an A-lister in your film makes nearly as much business sense as it used to.

Download: MP3, 56:44 minutes, 51.9 MB

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