After playing the hellraiser in Le Ceremonie, Isabelle Huppert is back to being classy and restrained in this one. She’s the first and third wife of pianist André Polonski – he had a son by his second wife, who died in a car crash. In another part of town, Jeanne (Anna Mouglalis: Coco Chanel in the Jan Kounen film) learns from her mother that she was nearly switched at birth with Polonski’s son Guillaume. Since Jeanne is an aspiring pianist and looks up to Polonski, she takes this as a sign and visits his house, where he offers to give her private lessons.

Huppert and Dutronc:

It’s gradually revealed that icy Huppert, who runs a chocolate company, puts sedatives in the family’s chocolate every night, and drugged Guillaume’s mom the night of her car accident years ago. Jeanne drives off to the store at night with Guillaume in the car, knowing very well that she’s been drugged. Why does she do this, other than to offer us a climactic suspense scene? Huppert ends up like Sandrine Bonnaire in Le Ceremonie and Jean-Pierre Cassel in La Rupture: caught red-handed as the credits roll.

Mouglalis and Pauly, born on the same day:

All sorts of parallels and doubles – each kid is missing a parent, they were (nearly?) switched at birth, Huppert and Polonski were married twice, Jeanne dresses up as Guillaume’s mother – I’m not sure what it all adds up to, but it kept the movie from feeling thin even though very little happens, plot-wise, over 100 minutes. Guillaume is Rodolphe Pauly, who played the soldier who dies and swaps identities with Audrey Tautou’s beloved in A Very Long Engagement, and sharp-featured Jacques Dutronc was Pialat’s Van Gogh, also costarred with Huppert twenty years earlier in Godard’s Sauve qui peut (la vie).

Chabrol:
“Perversity guides its adept (or its victim) to a form of relative solopsism that leads us to provide other examples of relative solopsism; that of the musician, for instance, with infinitely more benign consequences that are nonetheless real. We have tried to illustrate this idea by the slow dissolution of the most definite certainties of our society – here, filial descent, and so the family. The main aim is to get across the idea that all certainties melt away as the story progresses.”

Nicolas Cage’s first good part since Lord of War and Val Kilmer’s first good movie since Kiss Kiss Bang Bang. Cage hurts his back rescuing a prisoner, starts taking lots and lots of drugs and racks up gambling debts. He robs kids outside clubs, gets a violent dude mad at Cage’s hooker girlfriend and loses a key witness. Surely he is a bad lieutenant, but he has a few principles, and Cage’s charismatic intensity keeps us on his side even as he’s waving guns at grammas (lovable Irma P. Hall of the Coens’ Ladykillers). Ultimately he takes down a drug baddie (Exhibit, fifth-billed in the second X-Files movie), saves his girl (Cage’s Ghost Rider costar Eva Mendes) and pays off his bookie (Awwww Brad Dourif is getting old. Life is too short).

Nic, Brad and red beans:
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The story (from a lead writer on Cop Rock) isn’t great, and the idea (remaking Abel Ferrara’s Bad Lieutenant) is awful, but Herzog pulls it off with flair. The occasional weirdness (extreme closeups of reptiles, including an iguana music video – what is it about drug movies and visions of reptiles? See also Fear & Loathing in Las Vegas), the sense that Cage is having too much fun to take anything seriously, and a lovely tacked-on ending where Cage meets the ex-con he saved and they get philosophical at an aquarium rescue this doomed movie and turn it into something I’d actually recommend. Can’t wait to see Werner’s other 2009 movie (star Michael Shannon, the contagiously crazy dude in Bug, shows up here as a police property guy).

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Cage pulls up at a building I think I saw in Wild At Heart. Maybe lots of buildings in New Orleans look like that. Jennifer Coolidge (Pootie Tang), Fairuza Balk and other names I know or faces I’ve seen pop up regularly. Surprising that so many actors wanted to be associated with a cheapie indie remake of a cult film, but I guess you can’t discount the Herzog factor.

Salon:

Your ending really defies expectations. I’m not quite sure what to think about it, in fact. We expect one of two possible endings — the bad lieutenant triumphs, or he is punished for his misdeeds. And you really don’t give us either one.

Herzog:

In my opinion, it’s a very beautiful and very mysterious ending. You see, according to the screenplay, it ended with a false happy ending that became a real abyss of darkness. And I thought, no, we should not dismiss the audience like that, out into the street. There should be something vague, something poetic, something mysterious.

Returning directors Ed Bianchi (now working on an alternate-reality King David miniseries), Steve Shill (whose Beyonce movie did pretty well) and Timothy Van Patten (of Master Ninja) are joined by Elodie Keene (two TV movies starring Linda Hamilton), Thomas J. Wright (Millennium, Firefly, a Hulk Hogan movie), Daniel Attias (Stephen King’s Silver Bullet), Rob Bailey (CSI), Ernest R. Dickerson (The V Word, Juice, cinematographer on Do The Right Thing) and series co-creator/producer Robert F. Colesberry (also first a.d. on Warhol’s Bad) who died six months after season two ended.

I briefly mentioned why I’d give a crap about TV episodes’ directors in my season one write-up – I started watching the show after reading an online fight over it. An auteurist extremist (heh) watched one late-season episode and wrote a tirade accusing the episode’s director (not the writer, not the series creator) of being homophobic and called the show “the most awful racist drek I have seen in years.” My favorite part: “The show, like a lot of current American TV, has deliberately bad exposition. This is designed to make you watch all 54 previous hours of the series, so you can figure out what the heck is going on.” This started a hundred-message discussion culminating in the dramatic exit of the list’s founder, and got me interested enough to finally watch the show which everyone but those two guys were passionately defending.

The Dead this season: D’Angelo Barksdale (Larry Gilliard Jr.) moved on to The Machinist and Brad Anderson’s Fear Itself episode and some new Patrick Swayze show. Frank Sobotka (Chris Bauer) was in Flags of Our Fathers, Broken Flowers, starred in Anderson’s Sounds Like, and is in a new vampire show. Stolen-goods warehouser George Glekas (Teddy Cañez) shows up in Law & Order from time to time. People who probably won’t be back (serving long prison terms or witness-protection): Nick Sobotka (Pablo “Liev’s brother” Schreiber) was in J. Demme’s Manchurian Candidate remake and Stuart Gordon’s Fear Itself episode (and should consider being Ben Affleck’s stand-in if he runs out of work). Ziggy Sobotka (James Ransone) was in Inside Man and Generation Kill. Dealer White Mike (Brook Yeaton) is actually The Wire’s props guy who worked with John Waters back in the day. Greek drug man Eton (Lev Gorn) played a dealer in Keane with at least two other Wire actors, and russian muscle guy Serge (Chris Ashworth) was 25th-billed in Terminator: Salvation.

I’d be here all week if I attempted a plot description. Season 2 was slow going at the start, pulling the team back together, but it got rolling towards a great/depressing ending, which should lead naturally right into another season. I wonder if there was no guarantee of a second season after #1, but after #2 a third was a sure thing.

The Freshman (1925, Newmeyer & Taylor)
The sad truth about Harold Lloyd is that I loved him when I first saw him, but every time I rewatch a movie I like it less. So far I’ve seen Safety Last! and The Freshman twice, and each dropped from “great” down to around “pretty good”. I’m afraid to rewatch the ones I thought were pretty good to begin with.

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Young Harold (he was actually 32) watches imaginary film The College Hero over and over to prepare himself for college, filling his head with stupid ideas about college life. I would’ve loved it if they’d done more movie-vs.-reality comparisons, but it seems the only thing he took away from the film was the hero’s nickname (“Speedy”), catchphrase (“I’m just a regular guy”) and silly jig, which everyone at college mocks until Harold manages to win the big football game, then the jig becomes the coolest thing. It’s a wonder that nobody else at school had seen this movie and figured out Harold wasn’t even an original nut, just a nerdy guy ripping off a bad movie joke. But my biggest surprise was finding that the silly hat Harold wears wasn’t an invention of his silly movie – college kids (according to this silly movie anyway) actually wore those hats!

Below: Harold and “the college cad” in silly hats. The cad, Brooks Benedict, later appeared in Leo McCarey’s not-sequel The Sophomore.
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In the scene below, Harold’s tailor hides behind a curtain, ready to patch Harold’s unfinished suit should the need arise, but the two get their signals crossed because of a dude at a table ringing a bell. Supposedly the bell ringer is Charles Farrell, star of Street Angel, but he sure doesn’t look like he does in my screengrabs from that movie.

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The girl who likes Harold, cutie Jobyna Ralston, was in The Kid Brother and Wings, didn’t make it in the sound era.

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The Mystery of the Leaping Fish (1916, Christy Cabanne & John Emerson)
Written by DW Griffith and Tod Browning, the same year they did Intolerance, and co-produced by Keystone. Douglas Fairbanks was apparently famous enough to play himself in a framing scene – I think he plays himself, and the rest of the film (starring himself) is his rejected pitch to a producer for a film to star himself. That’d already be plenty to wrap one’s head around for a 1916 short, but that’s before we even get to the main story, which involves incompetent and extremely drug-addicted hero Coke Ennyday trying to stop criminals from smuggling contraband via one-man inflatable toy rafts, and stop the criminal mastermind from forcing the lovely Fish Blower to marry him. Coke gets the drugs and the girl, and I didn’t know I could have my mind blown by Douglas Fairbanks. Bessie Love, the Fish Blower, appeared in three major films in the early 1980’s, sixty-five years after this one. I wonder if anyone on those sets asked her about her cult druggie silent short.

The Play House (1921, Buster Keaton & Eddie Cline)
I’d seen almost all of Keaton’s solo silent shorts, but I’d missed this major one, in which he plays all the characters in a trippy dream sequence that lasts the first half of the film. Reliable heavy Joe Roberts finally wakes Buster from his funhouse-mirrored delusion and he goes to work as a stagehand, where he’s spooked by a pair of identical twins with mirrors. A sheer delight of visual invention only grudgingly held together by a plot.

That’s two of Virginia Fox, daughter of William Fox:
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Buster Keaton’s minstrels:
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Cops (1922, Buster Keaton & Eddie Cline)
The Freshman was a movie about a boy whose ideas about life have been warped by the movies, Leaping Fish had Douglas Fairbanks the actor playing Douglas Fairbanks the aspiring screenwriter, and The Playhouse featured Buster Keaton playing a hundred of himself in a stage performance viewed by even more of himself. Cops has no self-conscious reflection that I can think of. It’s just a damn fine heist/love/chase flick with great invention in props and situations. However it does fit in with the outrageousness of last two films in its ending: snubbed by his intended love, Buster effectively commits suicide by running back into the police station where he has just locked up hundreds of angry cops.

Been enjoying this show. After reading a heated online fight between auteurists over whether a single episode of the show can be judged as “a film by” the episode’s director apart from the rest of the series, I gave the idea two seconds’ worth of thought before ruling it total bunk.

But out of curiosity, the episodes were directed by: Clark Johnson (former Cronenberg effects artist, dir. SWAT with Sam L. Jackson), Clement Virgo (movie Rude which played Cannes & starred Clark Johnson), our old friend Peter Medak (The Washingtonians, The Ruling Class), Ed Bianchi (Deadwood), Joe Chappelle (Hellraiser 4, Halloween 6 and Hackers 2), Gloria Muzio (20+ different TV shows), Milcho Manchevski (Criterion-anointed classic Before The Rain), Brad Anderson (The Machinist, Session 9, Sounds Like), Steve Shill (Knight Rider relaunch pilot, upcoming Beyonce movie) and Timothy Van Patten (star of Master Ninja).

I’d love to say that everyone mumbled in the Van Patten episode, screamed in the Medak episode, and lost 50 pounds to appear in the Anderson episode, but it don’t work like that. The true heroes: Written and produced by ex-Baltimore-PD Ed Burns (also Generation Kill and The Corner) and David Simon (those two plus Homicide: Life on the Street).

Too many actors to go through… I mean, they were all in movies I’ve seen in roles I don’t remember, so I’ll catch them next time. Noticed a few of ’em came up in the same movie though, one called Perfume (not the Tom Tykwer) written and produced by David Holzman himself. Also notably, McNulty was third-billed in 300. Of the dead, club owner Orlando has since appeared in a TV movie starring Alan Rickman and Mos Def, and young Wallace moved on to All My Children and is co-starring in an Atlanta-shot movie with Keith David and Ernie Hudson this year.

White kid with single parent is kicked out of his expensive prep school for disciplinary reasons and finds himself at public school, where he wants desperately to be popular so he takes to doing semi-illegal things and ends the movie a hero. Meanwhile, an adult and semi-father-figure to the kid expresses his depression and disconnection by hanging out at the pool behind his house and looking sad. Prison is involved, the school bully is fought then befriended, Cat Stevens songs are heard… but enough about Rushmore, I’m supposed to be writing about Charlie Bartlett! I don’t really want to, though – I wanna write about House and Wavelength and Fantomas instead, so I’ll keep this short.

Pretty good movie… kid becomes the psychotherapist of his whole school, prescribing drugs he gets from his own analyst after finding out you can get high off Ritalin. His dad is not dead but in prison, Charlie ashamed doesn’t walk to talk about/to him. RD Jr. is like a dull cross between Bill Murray in Rushmore and the principal in Ferris Bueller, but a good and sympathetic character. Hope Davis is actually better than Downey as Charlie’s crazy/spacey mother. Charlie has a crush on the principal’s daughter, and consults one kid into attempted suicide before he’s caught. Principal is fired (and ends up with a happier job as a teacher) after students (only slightly provoked by Charlie) trash the school as a protest against cameras in the student lounge.

Jonathan Rosenbaum compares it not to Rushmore but to Pump Up The Volume and Mumford. “Charlie Bartlett might not be as bold as its predecessor. Yet given how politically gutless most teen movies have become, it may provoke audiences as much as [Pump Up The Volume] did 18 years ago. I’ve lost count of the number of times its opening has been delayed since I first saw it last July, so clearly it has somebody worried that its defiant spirit will cut into its profitability—which is entirely to its credit.”

My mind is a blank.

Only thing I can say for this movie is that it cast a guy as GW Bush who doesn’t really look like GW Bush and gave him a full scene, instead of only showing the back of his head dubbed by a pro voice impersonator or any of that shady stuff. Here’s a guy, he’s playing Bush, get used to it. I appreciated that.

Otherwise the movie’s not so bad that you wish it was never made, nor so good that you’re glad you saw it. It mostly says “hey, remember what we did in part one? Remember most of the jokes? Here they are again – remember that?” Kinda like Indiana Jones 4.

Starts in the middle, no opening credits.

Only awards it’s winning this year are for ensemble acting. Phil Hoffman is the debt-ridden drug-addict stealing from his employer and about to get caught, and Ethan Hawke is his spineless loser brother behind on alimony payments and sleeping with Phil’s wife. Their aged jewelry-store-running parents are Albert Finney (ugh, amazing grace) and Rosemary Harris (spiderman’s mom). Hawke’s ex-wife is Amy Ryan (from Keane) and Hoffman’s cheatin’ wife is Marisa Tomei (In the Bedroom).

So yeah, a real good cast (esp. an awesome Finney). Movie just seemed alright, though. Your standard crime story of desperate men getting a little greedy, going deeper and deeper over their heads, ending up with a lotta death and no money.

Phil coordinates the crime to knock off his parents jewelry store but delegates the actual holdup to Hawke, who hires a guy who shoots (and is shot by) their mom. Mom dies, dad wants revenge, goes to a known diamond fence (cool Leonardo Cimino, who was playing old-man roles twenty years ago), tracks down his own sons. The brothers are blackmailed by the girlfriend of the dude who died, so Hoffman wipes out the girl’s brother and Phil’s own drug dealer, gets himself shot and hospitalized where Finney fuckin’ kills him in the hospital bed. Ethan runs but is too big of a loser to get away.

Movie comes off kind of unengaging, shot not as coolly detached as “Little Children” with its silly narrator, but not exactly sympathetic either. Comes down to a sweet old couple with some extreme fuckup kids who destroy the family. Kind of depressing. Wouldn’t call it a must-see movie.

“You fucking named him elmer??”

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Opens with 80’s-sounding music over shots of african masks to set spooky mood. Katy would be pleased. Movie wastes no time setting an utterly bizarre tone, with a very looney looking old couple trying to find their escaped brain-eating creature which has already attached itself to Brian (soap actor Rick Hearst). Creature looks like something between the brain stems from “fiend without a face” and a penis.

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Movie sets off making howling sex and drugs references, using hilarious puppetry and video effects. When Brian gets juiced by Aylmer, he hallucinates hysterically. Climbs into an empty junkyard and parties to the lightshow coming off the cars that only he can see. In exchange for the trips, Aylmer gets to kill people and eat their brains. Brian finds out and tries to kick, but his brain juice addiction is too strong and he comes crawling back. Aylmer eats Brian’s girlfriend via french kiss on the subway (which is nothing compared to the blowjob scene earlier, which I am not surprised was cut from theatrical release). Movie has a kickass ending, with Brian overdosing on brain juice as the old couple return and squeeze Aylmer to death.

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Along with the African mask bit, I love the movie’s understanding of homeless people. Brian passes a dirty homeless guy who spends his time under a fire escape drinking and crying.

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I liked it. Very recognizably eighties, but still a psycho good time… weird enough and good enough to see again sometime.

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