Thursday, December 24, 2009

Slice: Merry Christmas Eve, Cinema 2009 YT

So, my roommate just sent me this YouTube -- as I watched it, I sounded like I had Tourette's ...

"Public Enemy!"

"District 9!"

"Inglourious ..."

"Where the Wild Things...!"

"Twilight: New ...!"

"500 Days of ...!"

"Serious Man!"


"Pirate Radio!"

"An Education!"

"Away We G...!"


"Up in the...!"


"Julie and Julia!"

I dare everyone to try to name them all ... it goes so fast! By the end of the 7-minute mash-up, I realize I missed a few. I tried so hard to see so many, many movies -- even some of the worst (G.I. Joe, 2012); I spent so much money that it's despicable.

But, as mediocre as I thought 2009 was movie-wise (personally-wise ... it was the pits, but, that's what movies are for!), I know that in 2010 I can go back and watch a bunch more 2009-ers as I try to tread the '10 waters.

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Back to Bad Blake, Crazy Heart

As expected, I fell pretty hard for the characters in “Crazy Heart.”

Jeff Bridges
as Bad Blake, a rundown, alcoholic cowboy singer, and Maggie Gyllenhaal as Jean Craddock, the young, beautiful journalist who
becomes Bad’s unlikely darling—all set to dreamy folk songs that take me back to my roots (Fictional Bad Blake is from my hometown of Houston).

How could I not fall hard?

From the start,
Bad is despicably charming. In the opening scene, he slams shut the door to his beat-up Suburban—Bessie—sidles out unsteadily, and looks up to see he’s been booked to play at a bowling alley in the rural Southwest. At that, he swears, spits, and shoves his hand inside his truck to pull out his portable toilet—a plastic jug (looks like it once housed anti-freeze?) and dumps the contents on the pavement.

Maybe that gesture’s only despicable, and not charming, but to each his own.

Despite this delightful start, as the film moved forward, I didn’t expect to find the story as – perhaps, predictable? Rote?

After we watch Bad give a few performances where he barely
(though still, somehow, charmingly?) makes it on stage because he keeps stumbling behind the bar to retch; after he sleeps with the dregs of these honky-tonk bars; after we see him repeatedly fall asleep with McClure’s whiskey on his big belly, only to wake up face first in his own filth; after we … well, understand just how dire his situation is, he meets Craddock and suddenly he’s somehow got a will to live. His whole demeanor changes, if not his unsavory habits.

Though there are c
ertainly some spins on this tried-and-true story of an old, washed-up drunk who seeks redemption and perhaps a new lease on life, I guess I wished for a little more originality.

Bridges is more than fantastic as Blake, as everyone’s saying, and he sings all of his own songs in the movie; Gyllenhaal is too gorgeous for words, per usual. And, there is a great story there.

I’ve just seen it so, so many times.

Next up, "Invictus," which I saw last night as part of a double feature.

I should've gotten
2+ more hours of sleep and saved my pennies (I really tried to like it, too!)

Sunday, December 20, 2009

Slice: New Paul Posters, Abalone Shells, "The Sting," Etc.

It's been a good while since I've done some doting on him.

I've spent the past couple weeks fixing up my new Brooklyn digs, and I've been surprising myself at how adept at adult life I've managed to be. I wended my way to IKEA by myself, after standing underneath a Crooklyn overpass, where I heard none other than:

"Baby, you can't take me ANYWHERE without a condom and some money. I know, KNOW, you don't got either of that. bye bye!"

At that, i almost started to run for fear of some airborne VD, but then the bus came and i went to IKEA. I took a car service home.

But, I bought a desk, a lamp, a trash can, etc. and managed to tote it home all by myself. Might've sprained my back (nothing like a fractured femur!) getting everything up the four flights, but, nothing a little bed rest couldn't cure -- a bed I'd managed to get up those same four flights alone.

While I twiddle my thumbs, thinking of what should adorn the wall facing my bed, there's only one thing -- one man -- I want to wake up to every morning.

The large prints are ordered, the frames will be bought today -- I'll get to wake up to Paul every morning, staring at me, as I stare back into his dreamy blue eyes.

Some good Newman clips -- oh, how I miss him being around this dreamworld.

"Cool Hand 1":

"Cool Hand 2":

"The Sting":

Friday, December 18, 2009

Slice: Bad Blake, The Dude, "Crazy Heart"

"I'm Bad Blake. My tombstone'll have my real name on it--til then, I'm just gonna stay 'Bad.'"

It's finally out! I've been waiting for "Crazy Heart" to grace the silver screen for months, and today I get to see it. The Dude (err, Jeff Bridges) and Maggie Gyllenhaal star in this film about a hard-living, disaster of a country singer, Bad Blake (played by Bridges), and a journalist (Gyllenhaal) that's doing some exposé on the man behind the music.

I'm such a sucker for these two, (and, secretly, sad folksy country music), that I can't imagine I won't love it. Angelika Film Center, here I come to empty my (shallow) pockets, once again. Will report back.

"Crazy Heart" trailer:

And, for shits, a "The Dude" clip because there can never be too many viewings:

Thursday, December 17, 2009

Slice: Ode to Ms. Portman, and her New "Pride and Prejudice and Zombies" Film

My fondness for Natalie Portman has grown readily, if unsteadily, over the years; the early infatuation began with her role as Mathilda, opposite Jean Reno, in “The Professional” (a film I was much, much too young to have seen in 1994, but that was also the year that “Pulp Fiction” became a favorite—thank you, unaware parents). That fondness subsided when Portman began accepting roles in “Anywhere But Here” and “Where the Heart Is”—and I really thought I'd never regain my affection when she took part in ruining “Star Wars”—not once, but thrice.

But, somewhere around “Garden State” and “Closer,” she became a mainstay in my favorites list of young leading—or, supporting—actresses. She's always been
so beautiful, can be so endearing, yet now she seems to make all the right movie choices.

And, no Great Choice tops the fact that she's signed on to star in and produce “Pride and Prejudice and Zombies,” a film that's based on the book by the same name, by Seth Grahame-Smith “and Austen.” [quotes mine.] This is too great.

“Described as an expanded version of the Austen classic, the book
tells the timeless story of a woman’s quest for love and independence
amid the outbreak of a deadly virus that turns the undead into vicious

Portman will play feisty heroine Elizabeth Bennet, who is distracted
from her quest to eradicate the zombie menace by the arrival of the
arrogant Mr. Darcy.”
[Sweet. Darcy was always such a needling foil.]

Given my infatuation for Portman, and my tried-and-true love of good
zombie films—I'm keeping my toes crossed that this was yet another right choice. If not, it's at least bold; and, that's great, too.

"The Maid," Screen Comment, Chilean Films

I originally wrote the following for, but I think once the publisher puts them in my column, they disappear once the next thing's posted (I've written a few other things). So, I'll repost here my thoughts on "The Maid."

The film: Quite compelling and good, if very different.

After watching ten films in twenty-four hours a couple days ago (thank you, Netflix!), a feat I've achieved but a few times, I decided it was time to rejoin the real world by going to the movies—-to sit in a darkened theater--by myself.

So, I arrived at my
favorite East Village cinema to find only one movie of interest playing: Chilean writer-director Sebastian Silva's “The Maid” (“La Nana”) about a crazy housekeeper/nanny who's dead set on keeping her position of twenty years in a Chilean upperclass household.

Raquel, played by
Chilean actress Catalina Saveedra, is bug-eyed, has atrociously frizzy hair and about as much social grace as a goat. She also has a curious hatred for the eldest girl of the household; a creepy infatuation with the young sons; and a "Single-White-Female" streak during scenes where she tries on the lady of the house's clothes and later buys them.

Raquel begins having health problems, so it's suggested that the family hire additional help. This leads to
some evil jealousy, yet pretty hilarious exercises by Raquel to eliminate the new maids by driving them away screaming, humiliated, and scraped up.

That is, until the younger, sweeter Lucy turns up as the new help and is more unwilling to be battered around by the bullish Raquel.

movie takes some quite curious detours, and you're often left wondering what tone Silva was going for. It was often very funny, but there were many moments I found myself cringing and tense, worried that Raquel had really lost it and that just-around-the-corner we were going to find one of the new maids with her head lopped off. I thought for sure she might try to grind up the cat and serve it for dinner a few times.

And, there were certainly some
loose ends as to the matriarch's motivation for keeping the crazy maid on for so long—as if there was some bond, or back-story, between them that we're missing. But, all in all, it was a pretty great film, if uncomfortable, confusing in tone, and meandering. Catalina Saavedra as the maid was fantastic.

PS: The movie starts out with Raquel, the maid, not wanting to be celebrated on her birthday; those who know Grice's adamant ways about Birthday Week know this was as unsettling as the movie, itself.

"The Maid" trailer:

Monday, December 14, 2009

"Brothers," The Clink, Afghanistan

For a couple months now, I've been subjected to the tremendously melodramatic trailer for "Brothers." When I was home in Texas, trying to enjoy an art-house film at the Angelika, so I could keep my nose up in the air when strangers passed me -- of course -- I'd be sent some unwanted goosebumps while previews ran.

Jake Gyllenhaal, with those man-whiskers.

Tobey Maguire, his hair shorn and about 40 lbs. lighter than anyone should ever care to see him at.

Natalie Portman, looking more like a lady than she has in the past -- this time, caught in the cross-hairs of two brothers that both love her; one's a vet, who's meant to be dead (Maguire), the other's a ruffian who's recently been let out of the clink and who's surprisingly fatherly (Gyllenhaal).

The film's a remake of a Danish movie called "Brodre." Tobey's a soldier who gets sent off to Afghanistan, leaving his three ladies back home (two daughters, and Ms. Portman). Everyone thinks he's dead early on, while Gyllenhaal gets released from prison, starts to take care of the family -- then, bam, Tobey's back home again.

It's a good movie; sure, it's insanely melodramatic at times (Tobey's made to take a crobar around his newly-done kitchen ... and he's got to say the F-word a couple times when accusing his wife of sleeping with his brother -- when he's thought to have been dead.), but it was enjoyable.

I was a little shocked that they got all three of these Young Hollywooders to play their parts, given the material and the cliched subject. But, it all worked out well enough.

It didn't help that I'd had my heart broken a couple hours earlier in "Up in the Air," but I didn't let too many tears leak out.

2 1/2 stars.

Food Inc., Put Me Out of My Misery: "It's a Notional Idea of a Tomato"

So, I saw Super Size Me; good old Morgan Spurlock telling us the evil ways of quarter-pounders. He nearly gave himself kidney failure for that film, all for the sake of documenting the bad ways of McDonald's and its sort.

I probably patted myself on the back as I waltzed out of the theater with a tub of half-eaten popcorn in my paws, saturated with movie-theater butter, no doubt.

But, Food, Inc. -- that really took the cake.

I eat roughly a dozen eggs a week; that's a very meager estimate. I toss in some tofu from time to time, just to make myself feel I'm doing myself some protein service. I don't think about the chickens; I certainly don't think about how my little eggs are procured.

I had to turn that movie off: exploitation of Mexican workers (my people!), inhumane treatment of dirty animals (my people!), and all for making corporate brass richer (my future husband(s)!)

I didn't like it one bit. See below my angst:

Margaret Sandwich: sure thing.

and hey, learning things is painful

me: this is a bunch of hippie b.s.

Margaret Sandwich: good rebuttal

me: incorporate my food, just don't let me know about it. Don't Let Me Know.

Margaret Sandwich: or, just get normal food

me: good night, hippie

Sunday, December 13, 2009

Movies of the Year, Guess I'll Go Ahead and Do It

I don't like following in the footsteps of David Denby. I get it; we're both blowhards who tend to think our opinion means something. That said, what follows are some notable flicks that I likely saw while twiddling my thumbs and making sure that 10 fingers still exist. That is, there weren't a boatload of speakable movies this year (There was no "No Country for Old Men" or "There Will Be Blood") -- sad to say.

We end the decade on mediocrity.

Chin up, move forward --I'm refusing to look at DD's list, which is going to make this blindly hard:

The Informant!

No, this was nothing to write home about (Hola, Mama and Brother G!), but it was certainly a compelling film -- and one that deserves to be spoken of, given its sweet choice in movie ditties and voice-overs. Matt Damon had to pack on some pounds to play a Midwesterner; his efforts were duly noted, and appreciated, by this old Grice.

District 9

I said it once, and I'll say it again: this was a fantastic film. It looked silly in previews, a bunch of 28-Days-Later-esque zombies coming to sink their teeth into you; but D9 wasn't about that at all. It was/is a film about a manufactured problem involving racism amongst us humans, and second-class citizens, nicely named the "Prawns."


I don't really know what to say. I saw it twice in theaters; I have it queued to be sent to me ASAP. I've always loved Woody Harrelson -- Bill Murray was just an amazing treat, unexpected. This movie had laughs in all the right places -- Brother G and I just kept looking over at one another to make sure we'd gotten every reference --and, despite its name, it should become a comic classic.

500 Days of Summer

OK, let me go get my barf bag -- but, before I do so, I should admit that I fell in love with this movie quite readily. Joseph Gordon-Levitt ... his aspirations toward love are vulnerable-making, even in just watching the film -- I think it cracked the old Grice impenetrable spine. I'll still die (willingly) sad and alone, but JGL made me remember that some people consider that failure.

Julie and Julia

I loved this horrid movie! Meryl Streep, steeped in a cast that boasts Stanley Tucci and Amy Adams (of "Catch Me If You Can," "Enchanted," etc.), plays Julia Child, while Adams is JulIE --a notable difference. And we get to watch a young blogger (why, hello?) play to Julia Child's cookbook, making herself and her young husband's dishes every night.

3 stars.

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

Slice:, Heavenly-Dire Clips, Time-Suck

Last week, the movie gods unveiled a sweet online paradise when went live. I was straight off the heels of remembering my first (and, hopefully, last) layoff from a corporate behemoth, The Blerg, and I was looking for fictitious commiseration. This website provides cinephiles like myself with most anything they need.

You can hover over the tiny icons that promise a minute or two of your favorite movie scenes; it suggests a bunch beneath your search results to entertain yourself while your specific movie-choice loads.

While we close PopSci for February, I've been checking out some favorite scenes of telling the "Haters. Gonna Hate." (see above animation) of the corporate world to go shove off.

See below iterations of a couple fun movies from the past decades, where the characters tell their bosses and/or stories of their disillusionment--and their desire to QUIT.

Lordy, me, the resolution and nice capsulized versions of these bits gives me goosebumps. Please check out the Movieclips site, yourself.

"Half Baked"

Steve Martin, in "Parenthood": ("I have been KILLING myself, aren't you Dazzled?")"a3378e13c236db439401a8e6020aa428fe203335","url":"","autoHide": "always","hideDelay": "2000","clipMode": false},"rtmp": {"url":"","netConnectionUrl":"rtmp://" }}}">

A seven-figure settlement in "Office Space." This is from YouTube, since the MC site is giving me errors (it could be my fiddling with the html so it won't Autoplay), but ... I can't watch/relate this scene enough. It's brilliant. I work hard and very, very well at PopSci; at The Blerg, I was Peter:

And, finally, a new tawdry favorite, "Wanted" scene:

Up in the Air, Double Feature, Rare Loneliness

Hide all
Well, tonight turned out to be an impromptu double feature.

After a late day at work (Pop Sci's February issue is closing this week, so it's all push, push, push), I decided to go see “Up in the Air,” the new George Clooney movie about a man whose sole purpose in life is to ruin everyone else's. His job is to travel from corporation to corporation to rid them of pathetic souls. The first minutes of the film feature a series of poor dopes getting the ax (shot from Clooney's point of view), and I must admit I found it a little unnerving—it brought me back to the morning when I was the poor dope, and the Blerg was letting me go.

No matter how much I hated that job—and, oh, how I hated that job—the indignity felt from being told to leave instead of leaving on my own volition ... well, I suddenly remembered the rush of tears and expletives that fell from my face and spilled from my mouth.

I imagine that millions of Americans will feel a similar sting once they see this film (if they can afford it—zing.)

Clooney's character is Ryan Bingham, a wry, cynical (if devilishly handsome) man who prides himself on being able to live out of a figurative backpack (or carry-on). Possessions are baggage, weighing one down (“Moving is living.”); personal relationships are burdensome anchors, to be avoided at all costs. (I'd heard from a colleague that Clooney plays a pretty despicable, unlikeable character, but, in truth, I rather liked him, and one day aspire to be him! I digress.)

Bingham considers the sky his home, airports a refuge, and his permanent residence in Omaha, NE, a veritable hell. He averages 300,000 miles of air travel a year and loves the elite status it affords him at hotels, car rental places, airports, etc. And while he doesn't delight in ruining people's lives—he's not evil—he seems to think that on the whole people are better to be cut loose from their shit jobs to pursue some latent passion; and, a job's a job, and his affords him the ability to be accountable to no one (Sweet.).

Of course, old Bingham's every-man-is-an-island world gets rocked by two ladies. First, he meets Alex (the beautiful Vera Farmiga) in a hotel bar; she's his female equivalent, and they start a steamy little romance that they manage to find time for by arranging meetups in airports across the country. Second, there's the young Cornell grad who's begun to work for Bingham's company. The little go-getter (Anna Kendrick) has hatched a plan to save the company millions of dollars by conducting layoffs remotely via the Interwebs.

This would obviously ruin Bingham's ideal existence. He'd be grounded.

Bingham's boss (Jason Bateman) decides it'd be a good idea for the new kid to join Clooney on the road. He and Alex carry on.


I really liked this movie. While there were some predictable elements, all does not end hunky-dorily for everyone; it feels realer, and sadder, in a somewhat refreshing way. I loved Farmiga and Clooney, and this Kendrick kid was quite good as a neurotic square.

By the end, I was feeling super lonely and sad, imagining my ultimate fate of dying sad and alone—something that usually doesn't trouble me as I think of how I'll be able to watch 18 hours of movies a day in peace when I'm old, without fear of social reprobation.

As I was walking out of the theater, I glanced over my shoulder just to see what some of these happy couples surrounding me were going to see … and I saw that “Brothers” was playing in 10 minutes.

So, I somehow decided it'd be a good idea to tend to my uncharacteristically-aching heart by going to watch a movie about the tumult and suffering war bestows on families.


More on that later or tomorrow. Needless to say, I feel like someone just broke my heart, then water-boarded me. Must fall asleep to something uplifting before I toss myself out of my fourth floor window.

"Brothers" trailer:

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

"Broken Embraces," Almodovar-ian Thoughts

Walking out of “Broken Embraces” (Los Abrazos Rotos) last week, I was
rambling, per usual, about the movie’s merits and demerits compared to director Pedro Almodovar's
the other films. As we strolled down
Houston St. from Sunshine Cinema, I asked my old friend what he’d
thought of the movie, relinquishing my death-grip on the conversation.
He sort of shrugged his shoulders, cocked his head, and said: “Eh, his
films all run together to me.”

While my heart palpitated a bit, thinking of the intricacies of each
and every one of Almodovar's films
, how he's a filmmaker's Film Man –
a film student who's never grown up – I took a deep breath and said,
“Yeah, I can see that.” Sure, I could tell you the ins and outs of
“Talk to Her,” “All About My Mother,” and, lately, “Volver” – but
there's an elemental sameness to all Almodovar films that make them
unwittingly Almodovar without need for credit recognition. Every
character has a twisted, twisted back-story – and they all tie
themselves seamlessly together in a beautifully-shot sequence of
events, somewhere down the line.

That said, there've been some Almodovar stand-out scenes that
couldn't erase themselves from my memory, were they to be Magic
Ink-erasable. I'll never forget the images and themes from “The Bad
Education” (La Mala Educacion),
with one of my old loves, Gael Garcia
– he plays a fledgling actor-cum-transvestite-cum-deceptionist.
Those images and sequences are so engrained in my warbled movie memory
that I'll never lose them – and I'll never forget making many a soul
watch that film.

So, back to “Embraces.” Penelope Cruz plays the gorgeous protagonist lady;
she's the star in Almodovar's immediate film that we're watching, as well as his film
within-the-film – he shoots a comedy within an atypical drama. We
learn early on that her father's sick, she's an assistant at a huge
corporation—which is run by an ineptly ruthless CEO-type (aren't they
all?)—and she's got to make the all-too-rough (not) decision whether
to sell her beautiful self to the sexually voracious old man, or let
her Pops die in the hands of an unsympathetic hospital.
Enter the dreamy man protagonist (who's been involved in the story as
a narrative from minute 1)
, an oft-used Almodovar standby, Lluis Homar
(of “La Mala Educacion”) – a dreamy director who's fallen for Cruz's
beguiling looks and clutchable soul.
Well, no point in going on with the narrative arc.

It's a great story, fantastic role-playing on both sides (Cruz and
Homar's), yet only a good movie.
It's a great effort, and it's so, SO Almodovar; it's just not told
in the same deft, clever way that he usually spins his tales,
unraveling them layer by layer till we're left with just the most
brute forms of humans—which he's so good at. This feels like he
started in the middle of opening a can of worms, got nervous and made
sure he closed the can back up.

It's good, but not great.

Still worth a see.

Broken Embraces trailer: