Music video director Slade does a fine job here. He should be One To Look Out For in the future. Actually-18-yr-old Ellen Page (Kitty Pryde in X-men 3!) stars with Patrick Wilson (in his second movie featuring pedophilia and castration in a single year, jeez louise), and Sandra Oh has a single scene as a nosy neighbor.

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Great looking movie, candy-bright and colorful, lots of close-ups and private-ryan framing. About a predatory 14-yr-old girl who lets herself get picked up by an obvious pedophile online only to turn the tables, tie him up, torture him, and lead him to kill himself. The spoiler twist is that she’s done this before, and that he and another guy once kidnapped and killed another girl, who may have been our heroine’s friend.

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That’s pretty much the whole thing. A great first half gives way to a not-as-great second half. The ending doesn’t exactly kill the whole movie, but it comes close. I’ll blame the writer. Straightforward. She always seems to be in control, there’s never any question that he’s a pedophile, and he is never sympathetic. The girl calling his ex-girlfriend and pretending to be a cop is the only part that doesn’t quite fit – she’s a little too thorough in her psychological profiling for a 14-yr-old.

Next up for this director, writer and cinematographer: a Josh Hartnett vampire movie set in Alaska! Can’t wait.

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Movie 1 of the Key Sunday Cinema Club. The post-movie discussion really helped, made the movie more memorable, made its intentions and plot twists more clear. Thanks, Katy!

In West Berlin: Wiesler (meticulous rule-follower) works for Grubitz (ambitious, opportunistic dullard) works for Minister Hempf (fat awful bureaucrat). Georg Dreyman is a theater writer, Christa-Maria Sieland is Georg’s actress girlfriend, Albert Jerska is his blacklisted former director, and Paul Hauser is their anti-gov’t buddy.

Wiesler bugs Dreyman’s apartment to find proof that Dreyman is an anti-gov agent so he can be locked up and Hempf can be free to sleep with Sieland. But ever-loyal Wiesler learns the motivations for his operation, as he learns that Dreyman is not anti-gov at all, but becomes anti-gov as a result of all the spying, sleeping around and other rude behavior. Wiesler becomes unhealthily engrossed in “the lives of others” (oooh) and is eventually demoted after Dreyman is provoked to write an anti-gov scribe in a West German paper, and Sieland throws herself into traffic, remorseful for having informed on her boyfriend. Tragedy! All of this proves that Germans can never be trusted.

A neat movie and a story well told. AV Club says “von Donnersmarck largely keeps the emotion at a distance, preferring to intellectualize the action rather than letting the audience fully feel what Mühe and Koch are going through… makes the meaning of every moment thuddingly clear, and doesn’t move on until he’s sure everyone’s gotten it.” At least they agree that the actors and story are great. True the film’s a little dry and long, but it’s also in the head of the very formal Stasi cop Wiesler, so it only seems appropriate. And it had a lot to say about a system that I previously knew little about, so I found its straightforwardness helpful, but I guess I’m not clamoring to see it again anytime soon.

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Rabbit is an animated children’s book (complete with labels on everything) about a couple greedy, murderous kids getting their comeuppance via death by insects.

City Paradise is a cute Japanese girl learning English and wearing flippers – very nice look to it, reminds me of the Dave McKean short Neon.

Everything Will Be OK – good Hertzfeldt short, totally different style from the rest. More “mature” they’ll probably say. Too multilayered, sometimes hard to hear, gotta see again. Makes me a lot less apprehensive to see “The Meaning of Life” cuz even if it sucks I know he’s recovered since.
I watched this again a while later.

Collision – stars and stripes from flags colliding in neat ways. Pretty, short.

9 – awesome looking film of sock puppet guy with nightvision goggles, the ninth and last in a line of goggled puppets, using all his resources to defeat a giant rabbit monster. Soon to be a major motion picture by producer Tim Burton, who used up the only original ideas he’s had in a decade on “Big Fish”.

Eaux Forte – a light sketch sort of thing that I tuned out to recharge my mind’s batteries.

Overtime – funeral of a puppeteer given by the puppets, nice.

Dreams and Desires – funny, early plympton-looking drawn animation about a woman with dreams of being a great filmmaker making a horrible, drunken wedding video.

Game Over – video game scenes recreated with food, hilarious.

Guide Dog – surprisingly great plympton… I guess I like him again.

No Room For Gerold – CG animals sitting around a table having a confrontational roommate argument.

Versus – more CG, warlords on their own island castles fight over the tiny island between them, got big laffs.

TAS website says: “Versus” was directed by François Caffiaux, Romain Noel, and Thomas Salas from the French animation college Supinifocom. This is the same school that the film “Overtime” came out of. “Versus” has been one of the ‘hidden’ films in our current lineup but easily one of the better received audience favorites. More info on it soon!

Documentary about Ed “Big Daddy” Roth, pioneer in custom-cars, custom t-shirts, illustration and merchandising. Neat little movie with a fun Sadies score, but no big deal. The “talking cars” bit is just shots of Roth’s actual cars with the headlights pulsing and a celeb voiceover. Very little footage of Roth himself, just narrator and cars giving his story.

Roth’s take on Mickey Mouse in a custom car:
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Roth’s most famous creation (after Rat Fink):
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Roth:
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Black Book (2006, Paul Verhoeven)
Nice, twisty little nazi suspense drama. Watched on the plane, a little drowsy, so IMDB will help remember the plot details: “When the hiding place of the beautiful Jewish singer Rachel Steinn is destroyed by a stray bomb, she decides with a group of other Jews to cross the Biesbosch to the already liberated south of the Netherlands. However, their boat is intercepted by a German patrol and all the refugees are massacred. Only Rachel survives. She joins the resistance, and under the alias Ellis de Vries manages to get friendly with the German SS officer Müntze. He is very taken with her and offers her a job. Meanwhile, the resistance devise a plan to free a group of imprisoned resistance fighters with Ellis’ help. The plan is betrayed and fails miserably. Both the Resistance and the Germans blame her. She goes into hiding once more, with Müntze in tow. Together they wait for the war to end. Liberation does not bring Ellis freedom; not even when she manages to expose the real traitor. ‘Every survivor is guilty in some way.'” Edit April ’07: saw again in theaters – a real interesting movie. I definitely like it, glad Verhoeven is directing his talents away from stuff like The Hollow Man these days. Awesome final shot, with Rachel living in Israel, having moved from one besieged state to another. I don’t think Jimmy or George liked it much.

Jackass Number Two (2006, Jeff Tremaine)
Watched in the plane right after Black Book, when everyone around us was going to sleep. KLM didn’t censor it as far as I know. Completely awesome, hilarious movie. A masterpiece in its own way. Katy says I laughed too much/loud and annoyed my fellow passengers. Most other people watched that Kevin Costner movie with Ashton Kutcher for some reason.

Badlands (1973, Terrence Malick)
After a few days at the World Social Forum, finally one evening Katy and I were both awake enough to sit through a movie. I suggested Badlands, which we both ended up enjoying. Sheen kills Spacek’s father (Warren Oates) and they go on a little shooting spree before getting captured. Another quiet and beautiful movie by Terrence Malick. EDIT: JUNE 2007: after reading a great Adrian Martin article in Rouge, I realized that Malick is the only director I’ve seen whose EVERY film I would consider great… Charles Laughton excepted.

My Migrant Soul (2004, Yasmine Kabir)
On the last day at the Forum, I found the movie tent. Watched this half hour doc about a guy from Bangladesh who got a job in Malaysia in order to send money home to his family. But the guy who sends him gives him a forged passport, and he gets hard work for short periods of time, then sits idle the rest of his weeks, unable to find other work or complain to anyone without a legitimate ID, finally gets sick and dies. Sad.

Words on Water (2003, Sanjay Kak)
They’re building dams in India that destroy small towns, I guess. I fell asleep in the first ten minutes, then left the movie to wander the Forum and listen to the drumming, so I can’t tell you much more than that. Got back just before the credits when some protestors from the village are being arrested. Sad.

7 Islands and a Metro (2006, Madhusree Dutta)
I was drowsy and it didn’t make a strong impression. Some overlong shots (because the longer you hold a shot, the artsier it becomes) and some disconnected stories about Mumbai/Bombay. The director came out and said the movie reflects how people from all over got together to form this big city, and now the city is splintering into smaller communities again, without a firm focus or center (which of course reminded me of Atlanta), and told many stories of displacement, of trying to make a home in an overcrowded metropolis. I was disappointed that so many of the stories were made-up, and some of the actors were really overdoing it, as if in a soap opera. Decent enough movie I guess. Sad.

Early in the Morning (2006, Gahité Fofana)
The next day we went to the Alliance Francaise, checked out an excellent photo exhibit and saw some free movies. This one retells the true story about two kids from Mali who froze to death in the landing gear of a plane to Europe, having written a letter to Europe’s heads of state explaining that they’ve got it bad in Guinea and need some help. A well done movie, underplayed, not sensationalistic, quietly calling attention to the country’s problems without setting up some overbearing horror of war. The kids don’t even experience the war firsthand, so we don’t see it either, just hear about it in a single scene. Sad.

Bamako (2006, Abderrahmane Sissako)
Next up at the French Alliance was this awesome movie, which we wanted to see all week and surprisingly made it out to. Good thing the Alliance was walking distance from our hotel. A (mock?) trial is being held in the center of town and broadcast on the radio, with the people of Africa (Mali in particular) versus the European powers (the IMF and World Bank). A plea for debt forgiveness, for Africa to maintain its identity and stop to think how it wants to deal with foreign countries without getting exploited. Meanwhile small-town life carries on around the trial, the central story being about a family with a husband who can’t work, a wife who sings at a nightclub and their sick child. Wonderfully and humorously shot, with strange collisions of culture and a much talked-about bit where a TV movie starring Danny Glover suddenly takes over the screen. Must see again.

Garden State (2004, Zach Braff)
Katy watched on our last night in Nairobi, after the safari. I was just listening to the dialogue and music, and finally watched the second half with her. It’s an easy movie to make fun of after the fact, but while it’s playing, it’s very convincing.

Fighting Elegy (1966, Seijun Suzuki)
An action/comedy from Suzuki! Extreeeeme sexual tension leads Kiroku (lead actor from Tattooed Life) to join a fight club, and finally form his own gang and have huge fights with other groups of kids. IMDB guy says “a satire of the militaristic attitude that eventually lead Japan into WWII”. Wonderful. Watched this and 39 Steps on the portable DVD player on the flight home.

The 39 Steps (1935, Alfred Hitchcock)
Watched twice in a row, the second time with commentary. Robert Donat, a very capable leading man, gets caught up in a plot to smuggle government defense secrets out of the country when a woman he meets at a show is murdered in his apartment. He runs all over, never believed or trusted, Hitchcock’s original “wrong man”, predicting North By Northwest in structure and the final theater scene of the Man Who Knew Too Much remake during the great ending when, about to be captured again, he shouts to Mr. Memory onstage “what are the 39 steps”, revealing the plot to everyone. Very easy to watch… one of the better Hitchcocks I’ve seen, even if completely unbelievable.

The Royal Tenenbaums (2001, Wes Anderson)
For some reason, I thought about this one during the whole safari. Is it the boar’s head that Royal rehangs on the wall? I don’t know, but I was itching to see this again, and watched it as soon as we got home. One of my favorite movies ever.

The Lion King (1994, Allers & Minkoff)
Of course we thought about this one too, and watched it the next night. Didn’t finish it, though. Best not to.

The one where Cary Grant is married to Ginger Rogers (who gets to dance one time) and they take drugs that make them act like children. Marilyn Monroe plays a delicious secretary and gets to be the only actor on the DVD case, even though I thought both Grant and Rogers were a pretty big deal.

It’s a screwball comedy, which means there’s a funny fat posh guy (Charles Coburn) and some clueless nerdy guys and an actual monkey. Kinda funny and delightful, and kinda tiresome, like my reaction to Bringing Up Baby. One of the better comedies I saw this year though, and probably would’ve made a stronger impression if I hadn’t liked Cary Grant even better in The Philadelphia Story.

It’s been a month since I saw this, so I should finally rouse myself into writing something down.

All I knew about the director going in was that his last movie, Nine Queens, was remade as the underrated Criminal, and that after El Aura (only his second feature as director) he died of a heart attack.

This was a fine little genre film (crime/suspense being the genre) but really nothing special. Starting out with the lead character waking up from an epileptic seizure, then in the next scene showing him to be interested in planning “the perfect crime”… you don’t suppose he’ll plan the perfect crime then have a seizure in the middle of it, do ya? So the movie doesn’t strive for unpredictability, but instead it follows this nobody of a character (a not-socially-brilliant taxidermist) as he gets in over his head. The standout parts for me were the setup (our guy accidentally kills the man who was planning a heist, then assumes his identity, in a town where nobody knows who he really is) and ending (taxidermist is back in his normal life, the lone and unsuspected survivor of the totally botched robbery, and all he brought back with him is the original dead man’s dog). Side plots include the seizure thing and our guy’s never-acted-upon desire to save all the abused women he meets. Movie has a really good atmosphere, planting us in a peaceful, wooded hunting town. Was a pleasant viewing experience then. Whatever.

The third of Zhang’s extreme action epics. More colors than you can shake a sceptre at. Maybe a step down to in quality and emotional impact from Flying Daggers level back to Hero level.

Katy liked it a bit.

Emperor Chow Yun-Fat is poisoning his wife Gong Li because she is sleeping with her stepson, the crown prince. His mom, thought to be dead, is really now the wife of the royal chemist, exiled from the kingdom, with a young daughter who is also sleeping (whoops) with the crown prince (Ye Liu, who played the awesome Snow Wolf in The Promise). Gong Li’s two sons are handsomely bearded Jie (Jay Chow, singer, of Initial D), loyal enough to his mom to betray his dad for her, and ignored prince Cheng, who wants to get in on the action. Chow sits around being kingly most of the time, with only a few good enraged moments, and Gong Li gets to act out all manner of desperation, rage, sadness, sickness and everything else.

First movie of my Rivette Fest, to get acquainted with his work before seeing Out 1 in March. But Sam just told me that his late movies, like this one, have little in common with the early batch. So maybe my efforts are misdirected, but whatever the case, I enjoyed this one.

Lab rat Sandrine Bonnaire (Rivette’s Joan of Arc, also starred in Vagabond, East/West, Intimate Strangers, and Chabrol’s The Ceremony) hears from her brother Paul (Grégoire Colin, young star of The Intruder and Dreamlife of Angels) that old family friend Walser (Jerzy Radziwilowicz: Rivette’s Julien, Godard’s director in Passion, star of Man of Iron and Man of Marble) may have killed their father.

it all starts with a photo:
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angry brother:
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Rounding out a star-studded cast is their mom Francoise Fabian (of 5×2, Belle de Jour, and the title role in My Night at Maud’s) and Walser’s girlfriend Laure Marsac (of nothing in particular).

Sandrine confronts Walser and accidentally kills the girlfriend. Later, the gf’s twin sister (also Laure Marsac) shows up. Everyone is sleeping with Walser except for the brother, who’s still all hopping mad. Eventually the twin sister accidentally kills Sandrine (both deaths were caused by someone jumping in front of Walser).

dig the mobile:
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dig the sexy girl:
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Movie is usually captivating, but every time Sandrine rides the train in the first half, it shows us the entire train ride. Goes beyond “setting the mood” and starts to get boring. Much improved in the second half (unlike most movies). A twisty little mystery movie… liked it.

a long train ride:
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final shot:
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