The most awesome/unevenly ambitious Spike Lee movie since She Hate Me. I knew in advance that Teyonah Parris (Coco in Dear White People) has a plan to deny her man (Nick Cannon) sex until he stops fighting with a rival gang led by Wesley Snipes, but didn’t know she gathers a legion of women who commandeer an army base. The social issues within a heightened, unrealistic comedic production (rhyming dialogue, dance scenes, narrator Sam Jackson) make for a great combo.

Cowriter Kevin Willmott was here last week but I didn’t go see him since my parents were in town.

Not a Do The Right Thing sequel at all, except for some embarrassingly distracting cameos by Spike as Mookie, still delivering pizzas. Except for Clarke “Lester Freamon” Peters’s performance and one crazy shot when his church’s holy-cross-shaped fluorescent lights reflect in his eyes as he goes on a defensive preaching rant, almost the whole movie is embarrassing.

Frohawked Atlantan kid named Flik Royale (okay, the names are good) is dumped on his grandfather Enoch in New York for the summer. They don’t get along, grandpa forbidding junk food and yelling about Jesus all the time, and Flik hiding behind his iPad and hanging out with asthma-having girl Chazz. What do we know will happen when someone in a movie has asthma? Yeah, that happens. Flik almost bonds with his grandpa after Enoch’s friend gives him some good advice, but suddenly a dude named Blessing crashes into the church accusing Enoch of child abuse years ago in Georgia. This takes over the movie – the preacher gets beat down by some gangster kid who’d stolen Flik’s iPad earlier, and Isiah “Sheeeeeeee” Whitlock “eeeeit” Jr. appears as Detective Flood in his third Spike joint. Then Flik, having learned nothing but at least made a friend in the asthma girl, goes home.

Thomas Jefferson Byrd of Girl 6 and He Got Game plays a drunk deacon. A character named Mother Darling is played by Tracy Johns, star of She’s Gotta Have It. Movie has a couple of blatant Michael Jackson references (note Spike’s other movie this year is an MJ documentary) and some amusing DTRT references: the phrases “do the right thing” and “that’s the truth, ruth” show up in the dialogue. Seems harmless until “do the right thing” comes back as a terrible song towards the end. Overall the music is innocuous, picture is unexceptional (with digi noise) and dialogue is groany.

Great little indie movie, don’t know why I remember disliking it. Tracy Johns (her only other role was New Jack City) is Nola Darling, who strings three guys along without committing to any, finally dumps them all to stay independent. Tommy Hicks (Daughters of the Dust) is Jamie, who’d seem like a perfect man except that he keeps trying to make her settle down. John Terrell is an arrogant rich guy, and Spike (Mars Blackmon, great character names) is an immature joker, and Nola’s lesbian friend Raye Dowell is after her as well. Spike’s relatives make appearances (Bill plays Nola’s dad, Joie is her roommate).

Spike’s feature debut, with nice b/w cinematography by Ernest Dickerson, except when Tommy gives Nola a musical dance number for her birthday, shot in color.

I’ve become obsessed with this since watching it again at the Fox. Found a book about the making-of, which I’ve just begun to read. The post-film Q&A with Spike and Joie and fellow Atlanta college grad Radio Raheem was nothing earth-shattering, but it’s an honor to be in the same room as Spike Lee. Learned about the cast: Ruby Dee is still alive and working, Richard Edson (Turturro’s friendly brother Vito) was Sonic Youth’s original drummer, one of the shit-talking guys on the corner is Commissioner Burrell on The Wire, and Martin Lawrence’s comic-relief role cracks people up more than it probably should. Looked beautiful on the big screen. Must watch again soon and show to Katy.

Where did this movie come from, and what happened to it? How come this and Chacun du cinema, anthology films with tons of super-famous directors, aren’t well known and out on video? Paris, Je T’aime did pretty well, right? Whatever… we’ve got two 90-minute anthologies here, “The Trumpet” (the first seven listed below) and “The Cello”. Each has short films with the theme of ten minutes, or else something to do with time and the number ten. Each begins with some light jazz, abstract images of water, then the signature of the director on a black background and the title of the short.


The Trumpet

Aki Kaurismäki – Dogs Have No Hell
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More dry wit from Aki. Guy spends the night in jail, gets out and has ten minutes until the train leaves for Siberia (via Moscow). In that ten minutes, he finds a girl he knows, proposes to her, buys a wedding ring and gets them both train tickets. Not much in itself, but a good start to the anthology, setting up the whole ten minutes thing.

Víctor Erice – Lifeline
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A sleeping baby starts bleeding while its twenty-or-more family members are each doing their own thing. Time passes, tension mounts. Someone finally notices the baby and fixes him up, no problem. Great camerawork here! The kid above is listening to a watch he drew on his wrist.

Werner Herzog – Ten Thousand Years Older
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A sad ten-minute documentary. Twenty years ago in Brazil, contact was made with the last tribe of people anywhere in the world who didn’t have watches and t-shirts and chicken pox. We gave them all three of those things, the chicken pox killed most of them, and now there aren’t many left. Werner, along with a member from the original team, checks up on them. The younger generation is embarrassed by their parents, want to move to the city. The older ones, represented by the war chief (above right, with his brother on left) ponder their fates and the passage of time.

Jim Jarmusch – Int. Trailer Night
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Chloe Sevigny tries to unwind in her trailer on a film shoot for ten minutes. There are interruptions. It’s pretty, but what else is it?

Wim Wenders – Twelve Miles to Trona
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Wenders manages to make a ten-minute desert road movie. This is kinda hilarious actually… straight guy accidentally overdoses on unknown hallucinogenic drug, has to drive himself to the hospital in another town ten minutes away. He doesn’t make it, but a passerby gets him there and he’s okay. Looked a bit like one of those Masters of Horror episodes where they mess with the camera to make things look trippy, but it pulled me in pretty well. They played two loud Eels songs from the Souljacker album.

Spike Lee – We Wuz Robbed
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A compressed mini-doc about Bush II stealing the 2000 presidential election from Gore (with help from the mass media and supreme court), snappy and nicely done, using all interviews and TV news graphics.

Chen Kaige – 100 Flowers Hidden Deep
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Crazy guy brings a moving company to a dirt lot to move his furniture. Finally they pretend like they’re moving furniture to appease the guy, until one mover “drops” a “vase” and breaks it. Not great, but cute. Wish it didn’t end with an awful, sub-2046 wireframe 3D animation though.


The Cello

Three of the seven Trumpet shorts made me tear up with emotion (hint: Spike Lee yes, Wim Wenders no), but most of the Cello disc left me sad, tired or bored. Huge difference there, but I’d rather have it that way than have the crap diluting the good stuff over both discs. If only the Michael Radford short had been on the Trumpet disc, I could’ve just sold Cello.

Bernardo Bertolucci – Histoire d’eaux
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I kinda liked this, but it still gave me a sort of “uh oh” feeling about The Cello when it started. Foreigner (Indian?) is in Italy with a pile of other foreigners, confused thinks he’s in Germany. Old guy wanders away from the group asks our man for a drink of water. Our man finds a girl, fixes her motorcycle, marries her, has kids, gets a nice job, buys a car, crashes the car, wanders off from the car crash site and sees the old man still waiting for his water.

Claire Denis – Vers Nancy
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A dry, academic conversation on a train about outsiders & foreigners, with the writer and one of the actors of Denis’ 2004 feature The Intruder. I haven’t seen Intruder, but this is obviously a companion piece, prequel or commentary on it. It almost put me to sleep, and I wasn’t even tired.

Mike Figgis – About Time 2
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Figgis was the oscar-nom director of Leaving Las Vegas, but I don’t think the producers of Ten Minutes Older realized that in 2002 his career was on the verge of death after Timecode and the critically bashed Hotel (it would die for real the following year with Cold Creek Manor). This is a nonsense short, shot Timecode-style. So far, it is the least-bearable ten minutes I have watched this year… I was itching to fast-forward.

Jean-Luc Godard – Dans le noir du temps
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In collaboration with Anne-Marie Miéville, I think this was actually a trailer for Histoire(s) du Cinema. They’re definitely related. The most unfortunate similarity to Histoire(s) is that this was only partially translated – none of the onscreen French text has subtitles.

Jirí Menzel – One Moment
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A very nice tribute (using archive footage) to Czech actor Rudolf Hrusínský who acted in more than ten of Menzel’s movies and died in 1994.

Michael Radford – Addicted to the Stars
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Guy travels 80 light years in suspended animation in a space capsule, gets back to earth and doctors say he has only aged ten minutes. Goes to visit his son, who was a young boy when he went away, now a very old man. Movie has an awesome sci-fi look to it, and I liked the story and atmosphere – a very nice short, my favorite of the Cello bunch. Fresh off Lara Croft Tomb Raider, Daniel Craig starred as the astronaut.

Volker Schlöndorff – The Enlightenment
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Camera zooms around an outdoor party while unseen narrator ponders the nature of time. At end camera flies into a bug light and dies. It turns out we have been a mosquito. Har!

István Szabó – Ten Minutes After
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Szabó is the Hungarian director of Lovefilm and Sunshine – I haven’t seen anything else of his. A husband comes home extremely drunk and angry, starts storming around the house while his wife watches upset, “what’s wrong? you never drink!”, finally he tries to strangle her, she stabs him, emergency crew arrives in like fifteen seconds, cops question her, the end. Why? I thought it was gonna be all one long shot, but then I saw a cut towards the end, so there were probably a couple others.

“This life came so close to never happening.”

A movie about sadness and mourning, loss and bad decisions, real friends and sham friends. Picked this as the first of my Seven Favorite Movies To Show Katy but forgot to mention to her that it’s my favorite heartbreakingly sad movie and that I can start crying at work just by thinking too hard about it. Oops! Still, a little sadness can be good for you and once she stopped crying Katy said it was a good movie.

Came out late 2002 and proceeded to be pretty much ignored. Won two awards for best music score and some film festival in Barcelona gave Edward Norton “best foreign actor”. I guess it was nominated for a golden bear in Berlin, beaten out by Michael Winterbottom.

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D. Edelstein doesn’t think the 9/11-WTC connections belong in the film: “The story of 25th Hour is fueled by the threat of anal rape: It’s what preoccupies Monty, and it’s the heart of the sexual-panic motif that runs (subtly, mischievously) through the screenplay.”

Where Are They Now: writer David Benioff put an X-Men reference into his “25th Hour” script (which starred two X-Men movie vets) and is now writing the Wolverine movie. Good job. Spike’s doing a TV movie with Amy Ryan and a WWII movie set in Italy, and I still feel bad for never watching When The Levees Broke. The “sheeeeeeeeeit” detective was on The Wire, Rosario Dawson may or may not be in Sin City 2 or 3, Anna Paquin’s starring in a TV show and Ed Norton is HULK.

Nice heist movie, glad I saw it. Looked good, competent acting, everything in its right place. Fun, twisty plot. Some humor, not at all dark and serious. Josh used movie as ammo for his idea that Clive Owen is a great actor, and I used it as ammo for my/Steve’s idea that Jodie Foster is not a great actor. Saw the nazi part and the fake-execution part coming. Nothing much to be said.