In Memoriam- Corey Haim

Corey Haim Credit: Michael Bezjian/wireimage.com

It is so impossibly sad not to be shocked when learning of the death of one so young that it is nearly impossible to quantify in words. Corey Haim died at the young age of 38, the cause of death was ruled eventually to be natural causes. Haim battled substance abuse, with varying degrees of success, for most of his life.

Drug problems had already effectively cost Haim the career he had been building but now, tragically, if they have not cost him his life they were likely a contributing factor. However, that is all that bears saying as it is my policy with these pieces to not dwell too much on the details of how we lost the entertainer we admired but to try and preserve their memory and Haim in a very short span left quite a mark on the film industry with the parts he played.

His debut was in Firstborn where he played Terri Garr’s son. He is the son of a divorced woman who starts seeing a man named Sam, Peter Wellet, who always seems to be trying a get rich quick scheme but is, in fact, engaged in illegal activities. It is a purely dramatic role in which he is quite strong indeed.

Corey Haim was the actor who brought the character of Marty Coslaw to life on celluloid – Coslaw being the protagonist of King’s short werewolf novel Cycle of the Werewolf, which was called Silver Bullet as a film. It stands not only as one of his most impressive performances but also one of King’s better cinematic adaptations. Later on that same year he appeared in the Oscar-nominated film Murphy’s Romance with Sally Field and James Garner.

1986 brought one of his signature roles as the lovestruck nerd Lucas, few could adequately play both sides of the social spectrum and be convincing on either side. Haim did so with an ease that belied his years.

In 1987 he appeared in the now classic vampire film The Lost Boys and was one of the reasons for its success and it was truly his breakout role. He recently participated in a straight-to-video sequel in the mid-90s and on most of the work he did find was either on TV or straight-to-video projects.

In 1988 he starred in another horror vehicle The Watchers and one of the better known teen movies of the era License to Drive.

By 1989 his private life had been making such headlines that he tried to address them in the video Me, Myself and I. Prayer of the Rollerboys was pretty much Haim’s last hurrah as most had come to know him. Things were never quite the same after that either in his life or his career. Haim made several comeback attempts none of which obviously got him back to where he was previously. As a young screenwriter to aid my visualization of a film I’d frequently find actors to play roles if it suits them; at a time I was writing a character, an adult character fitting his age, with Haim in mind.

One could be cynical and scoff at yet another actor dying young after battling addiction for a bulk of his days but this was a person who lost their life far too soon and before we forget this story and bury it along with all the other unfortunate early losses Hollywood suffered recently with Heath Ledger, Brad Renfro and previously and shockingly with River Phoenix these incidents ought not be forgotten but should serve as a reminder because the only thing worse in this world than wasting away one’s talent is wasting away one’s life.

Megan Follows and Corey Haim in Silver Bullet (Paramount)

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The 83rd Annual Academy Awards

I decided that I would not write during what portion of the red carpet I did watch as attention must be paid. Overall, while in the end there was nothing that will likely go down as a historic Oscar look. It was one of the better looking overall displays I can remember.

I don’t know when this half-hour pre-show started (it wasn’t that long ago). I never really cared for it and it’s a little superfluous and just makes the show end later. Why does it still happen?

Begnini’s celebration is my least favorite acceptance moment. For the record.

You gotta love Steven Spielberg. Wiping the producer’s forehead and giving him water is classic.

Like the opening montage of best picture nominees. Why not the end shot from Inception?

Great opening with Anne Hathaway and James Franco. Great joke in the opening about James ‘appealing to a younger demographic.’ Glad to see the families get introduced.

Tom Hanks presents as Gone with the Windand Titanic get mentioned. Art Direction and Cinematography mentioned early in the show is a nice change. This was not a category I was looking for an upset in Alice in Wonderland takes Art Direction. Shocked.

First, applause of the night upon hearing Wally Pfister’s name called for Cinematography. Very well deserved award. Loved his speech in regards to Nolan.

Another pleasant surprise and the first standing ovation of the night as Kirk Douglas is introduced.

Douglas’s shtick may go down as one of the moments of this year. Also, I have to see Animal Kingdom. It has been decided.

I stand corrected Leo’s speech.

“I’m Banksy”
-Justin Timberlake

Awesomely amazing line.

I said it previously I would be rather happy if The Lost Thing got animated short. Congratulations.

Toy Story 3 wins Best Animated Feature. I knew that already.

Didn’t really like that Screenplay got the short shrift in terms of presentation. No excerpts or anything. Surprised but gladdened by the win for The King’s Speech. I also think that winners should realize there are 23 other winners who all deserve their time to do their thanks and shouldn’t risk taking some time from others.

I want to see In a Better World but am a little surprised it won. It’s the 3rd Danish winner and surprisingly the first since 1959.

Am I the only conspiracy theorist who thinks clips are based on one’s chances of winning? That was not the best scene for Mark Ruffalo at all.

Best part of Bale’s speech was his saying he’d dropped the F-bomb enough already. Oscar-winner or not he’s had plenty of other wonderful and worthy performances not the least of which is the one that launched his career many years ago, Empire of the Sun. All roads lad to Spielberg.

I’ll bet the theme from E.T. has been played at the Oscars every year since 1982. It always makes the closing medley.

OK, so does Trent Reznor and Atticus Finch winning mean that the trend away from composers towards current/former recording artists is going to stick?

First, winner I was extremely geeked about in a while. Sound mixing goes to Inception. And there goes another sweep in the sound categories. I wish I had stats for it but I bet it happens a lot. I have also enjoyed how everyone is thanking Chris Nolan first, almost as if they are trying to subtly point out his being snubbed for Best Director.

I really wish that more time would be spent on the technical awards maybe a special after the earlier presentation. Some really awesome technology gets kind of glossed over.

I need to look into the other Make-Up nominee that I hadn’t heard of, The Way Back. Looks sweet.

Leave it to President Obama to have the best choice as best Oscar-winning song. I’m a little tired of these categories that flex their nominations between three and five. Pick a size. Really, only four songs were nominated? Why? The process is intricate but music is where you can add to your appeal if you’re looking to boost ratings. I was floored when “It’s Hard Out Here for a Pimp” won that scored high enough to be nominated and win but yet this year songs by Eddie Vedder, Alanis Morissette and Justin Bieber didn’t?

Kudos to Luke Matheny not only on the win but on plugging all the nominees who are iTunes. They were great.

The best, most entertaining part of the night was the musical montage.

Inside Job wins and now I never want to talk about Banksy again.

Billy Crystal comes on for a bit. Always glad to see him back.

Inception wins visual effects and stops Alice’s unthinkable streak.

Jude Law and Robert Downey, Jr. should do something together that’s not as “Holmesy” that was pretty funny stuff.

Listening to the other nominees actually got me rooting for Randy Newman for the first time in years. Some sleepy stuff in there.

Complete and utter failure this year in the “In Memoriam” montage. Firstly, with the lives singing people who were shown didn’t get their due applause like they did in previous years and first the SAG Award show excluded Corey Haim and now the Oscars did too. I assure you he is missed by many film fans and is exclusion is a joke.

Tom Hooper wins for The King’s Speech. Dare they split it?

Best story told by a winner tonight has to be Hooper’s tale about how his mom found out about the play and said “Tom, I just found your next film.”

They were at it again. Kevin Brownlow is a man who has more than earned his Life Achievement award. For all intents and purposes he pioneered preservation and restoration of films and brought many silent films back from the dead. Here is a link to Kevin Spacey’s speech about him at the Governor’s Ball.

I also found it a little humorous that they said Jean-Luc Godard was sorry he couldn’t be there.

This congratulatory intro to lead acting categories is also making it take a lot longer than it has to.

It looks like there’ll be no surprises in the acting categories.

Congratulations to Colin Firth for his win. It’s his first but it shouldn’t be. If you haven’t seen A Single Man you most definitely should. It’s good to know that some people do get their due.

Listing the previous winners and nominees in the Best Picture category is a great way to lead off the Best Picture montage.

The King’s Speech wins Best Picture and now I can rest comfortably.

The finale was a fanastic and needed addition to the show. It was either ending on a jubilant note or a down one based on where my rooting interest were. if they keep this up it’ll be a fantastic close every year. Great job, P.S. 22.

Review- I Am Number Four

Alex Pettyfer and Dianna Agron in I am Number Four (Disney)

Most films that can be said to be bifurcated are strong in the first half and tail off towards the end. Few films fly in the face of the screenwriting axiom that first acts are easy and it’s keeping interest through the second act that is truly a challenge. I am Number Four does do that to an extent but it still fails to salvage itself.

It’s not as if the film doesn’t try, it most certainly does that. A lot of the fault is in trying too hard. It does a lot of legwork in the beginning to establish the players in this tale from John (Alex Pettyfer) to his protector, Henri (Timothy Olyphant), to Number 6 (Teresa Palmer) in small and mysterious, at the time, introductory scene, to Sam, the sidekick with a secret attachment to this world (Callan McAuliffe), Sarah, the love interest that tears at John’s world (Dianna Agron) to Mark (Jake Abel) Sarah’s ex and John’s earthly antagonist.

Not to mention the actual antagonists the Mongadorians, who come from a planet of extra-nostriled Voldemorts. While it’s a good thing that all these pieces do end up fitting the puzzle it takes too long to develop them and then display their purpose. Instead of locking these people into the drama in a meaningful way off the bat they all connect close together in a sort of domino effect that suddenly plunges the film into a hyper-drive from the second half through the end.

This film also leaves a lot details out and questions unanswered. It is ultimately hoping for and promising to answer them in a sequel but that’s really putting the cart before the horse. You can’t be so defensive of your story options in a sequel that you do the film at hand a disservice.

How this happens is that only one extra person of the chosen nine is found, Number 6, Numbers 5 and 7 thru 9 are a mystery. Sam who ends up being integral as his life has been directly affected by Mongadorians gets no closure and moves on with the tale into a supposed sequel. Sam’s character also illustrates another issue with this film in as much as he ends up being the most real, identifiable and well played character. This is great for Callan McAuliffe who gets a chance to prove himself in a bigger profile film than he did in last year’s Flipped, for the film, however, it’s kind of an issue when your male and female lead just look the part, say their lines, hit their marks and not much else is added to the equation through them.

Then, of course, this film also suffers from a mild case of Random Animal Syndrome. As the name suggests its where random animals make too big an impact on a film. First, there’s a gecko trailing John and Henri. We are left to surmise it becomes a dog. A dog who is not a dog rather because it’s rather easy to see early on that it’s a bit too smart and good at navigation to be a regular dog. Then we see what the dog becomes late for an awesome beast showdown, which I’ll admit is kind of cool and the CG is well done but it is slightly SyFy movie like.

There’s also a lot of information withheld not only from our protagonist but also from the audience. We already know this is a Chosen One(s) plot but what we need are the rules and a reason to root for this chosen entity. For any of these plots to work like they do in Star Wars or Harry Potter there needs to be some grounding. Some very strong attachment we can build with the protagonist so we can be truly invested in his/her plight. That doesn’t really exist here at least not in this incarnation of the tale.

I absolutely despise when reviewers get cutesy, so in closing, I just want to state for the record that I am not giving I am Number Four a four for that reason. As my rating scale indicates a score of 4/10 is “A film with a few mistakes too big to overlook.” There are definitely things to like about the film but there are too many things that stop it from getting going and leave you scratching your head. If you walked in halfway through the film you might love it until you saw the excruciatingly slow and un-illuminating first half.

4/10

The Gray Area Reviews

Every year there is invariably going to be a gray area with regards to films. What I mean by that is due to the tyranny of release dates (meaning Oscar-nominated or contending films being released towards the end of the year) there will be some that slip into the following year.

Some of these films will fall into the gray area meaning they were out in say 2010, I had adequate opportunity to see them but passed for whatever reason. Some I was ignorant about their release so they retain their eligibility for the following year.

This year has an additional shade of gray, if you will, and that comes form the fact that I was transitioning from one site to another and busy archiving rather than writing new content. Some films failed to get timely reviews due to that fact, however, they still deserve them and that’s what this article hopes to do: bridge that gap.

So without further ado: The Gray Area reviews.

Rare Exports

Rar Exports (Oscilloscope Films)

There isn’t much in the way of originality coming out of American horror films these days. If you want something different you’re better off going international specifically to Europe. Rare Exports is a Finnish film that tackles the Santa Claus in horror subgenre with style, humor and intelligence much in the way the Norwiegian film Dead Snow took on the Nazi zombie subgenre.

There is a good bit of folklore re-interpreted and made to be a modern horror tale with a few intentional chuckles along the way. There is some good make-up work and some really good performances out of the cast both young and old.

The only thing that holds this film back is after a while it stops progressing its narrative and danger quotient and just sort of stagnates. It never becomes uninteresting and has a nice button at the end it just slips in the latter part of the second act into the third.

It is, however, a brisk and fun watch that you should look for on video when it comes out.

6/10

True Grit

True Grit (2010, Paramount)

This film falls into the Gray Area because I only managed to see it in January though I had chances to in December. For the record, I would not retroactively include this film in my Top 15 of 2010, however, that is one of the few things I can really fault it for. The film works and it works well I could just never get as involved with it as it wanted me to be.

The other thing that is a little bothersome is that in a rather realistic and well-spoken film you get an ending that smacks of a Hollywood cliché. The annoyance of false climax aside it’s two perils combined in one to add a little more running time and a quasi-tragic button to the whole affair.

Regardless of that the film is beautifully photographed by Roger Deakins and is played very convincingly by its cast particularly Jeff Bridges and newcomer Hailee Steinfeld. It’s a plot that’s simple enough but also intriguing enough that it naturally becomes a character study without ever being tiresome.

8/10

The King’s Speech

Colin Firth in The King's Speech (The Weinstein Company)

I have been reading some people either complain or just state how The King’s Speech is both rather bulletproof but also not mind-blowing. To re-iterate the above review if I had to go back would I slide this film in my Top 15, probably not, do I get the bulletproof comments? Yes.

There is even less to nitpick this film about, if you want to use that term than there is for True Grit. The only thing that slightly holds it back in my book is the intangible visceral reaction that I just didn’t quite get out of this film as opposed to others.

It’s not a daringly original film in terms of concept or structure it’s just very well executed, acted, edited and shot. It’s the kind of Best Picture contender that while I may not have nominated I can really get behind because it is the best film that the lowest common denominator can get behind. Seriously, who can hate this film?

Before you answer consider the fact that I may need to ask you what your problem is. This is a really easy film to get into whether it blows you away or not and is a really likable kind of story. It’s a “feel good” movie without all that “feel good” movie cheese in the mix.

9/10

The Rite

Anthony Hopkins in The Rite (Warner Bros.)

The Rite is a rather surprising entry in the possession/exorcism subgenre of horror. There’s not a lot of new ground to tread so far as this kind of tale is concerned, however, the one thing this film, does right off the bat is acknowledge the existence of the subgenre with a reflexive joke about The Exorcist.

This film, of course, is a little like that one: there’s an old priest and young priest, there is the subject of doubt and it is in turn more about the exorcist than the exorcised, as a matter of fact, the exorcised are typically rather glossed over. However, what this film does do is deal with the mundane aspects of exorcism, it deals with many possessions and brings it down to earth a little from where its been.

The examples it uses as proof are simple and well-thought out. There are very good flashbacks in this film that allow more doubt to be created about where the tale is going then you’d ever expect.

Then there’s Anthony Hopkins. Just the fact that I am mentioning his name this late is an indication that this is a quality film worth seeing. Without saying too much there are shades of Hannibal Lecter in his performance which are great. The acting overall in fact really props this film up. It is definitely worth viewing.

8/10

The Green Hornet

Seth Rogen and Jay Chou in The Green Hornet (Columbia Pictures)

I truly shudder to think at what this movie would’ve been like had it not been for the creativity and flair that Michel Gondry brings to it. Yes, there is plenty of competition between action and comedy elements of the tale and both serve the film and story well but there’s also a lot of both and the film gets a little long in the tooth. As an origin story it’s not the most gripping based on how its handled not just based on the empirical facts of the character such that the flair and verve that Gondry brings is desperately needed.

The name Seth Rogen in the same sentence as the word superhero still does seem a little funny to say, however, it does kind of work for this character because it’s not a case of his being superhuman and his sidekick, well-played by Jay Chou does contribute quite a bit to the equation.

6/10

Mini-Review- The Academy Award Nominated Short Films, Live Action

This past weekend there was a screening of the live action short films that are nominated for an Academy Award. I have decided that since overall the category is so strong that I would include a still image from each. These are films that deserve to get their recognition beyond just the five minutes of the Oscar broadcast that they occupy. So these screenings arranged by Shorts International and the theatres that screen them are to be commended. They are a bit long but there has to be some way to include the documentary shorts in a broader way next year, here’s hoping.

As for the films like I said I was resoundingly impressed with the strength of the field but I most definitely have a favorite.

The Confession

Lewis Howlett in The Confession (National Film and Television School)

And here it is. It is so shockingly rare to see a short film that is so layered and plays on so many levels as this one does. There are moments of genuine comedy, horror and drama in this film. It is a beautifully shot and composed film that shows the tragic consequences of the combination of real guilt and “Catholic guilt.” It’s a film I’m not ashamed to say brought me to tears at the end which is a feat that’s unprecedented in my limited experience with shorts.

Wish 143

Oliver Arundale and Dolya Gavanski in Wish 143

What Wish 143 does well is to create a serio-comic tale. It is not a greatly nuanced tale but it works. How well it works is where most of the interpretation comes into play. As I watched it the thought occurred to to me that this is what Holden Caulfield would be like if he was a cancer patient. Specifically, I recall the scene where he hires a prostitute and all he really wants is company. That’s a bit of an oversimplification but gives you the gist of this tale as it is centered around a young man seeking to lose his virginity in the time he has left.

Na Wewe

Floris Kubwimana in Na Wewe (A PRIVATE VIEW)

This a simple tale that subtly demonstrates the stupidity of genocidal tendencies. It concerns a bus traveling through Burundi in 1994 at a time where the Hutus and Tutsis were at war. The passengers are all taken off and then questioned regarding their background. There are a few great twists and good jokes in the tale as well as moments of drama. Furthermore a pretty good original (to me anyway) song to end it and underscore the message of the film.

The Crush

Olga Wehrly and Oran Creagh in The Crush (2010)

This is a pretty funny, dramatically well-executed and honest portrayal of a boy’s crush on his teacher. It’s deceptively simple as it does have a few surprises in store. It can be easily be described as the most charming and charmingly told of the short film nominees and it also deals with a universally relatable concept, most of us have has a teacher who fits this mold and it’s not only a wish-fulfillment tale but also concludes rather logically.

God of Love

Tim Matheny and Christopher Hirsh in God of Love (2010)

The funniest of the nominees, this is the fantastical tale of a modern-day cupid. It’s told in such a way, however, that it reminds you both a little of Magical Realism but also of the Early-Career whimsy of Woody Allen such that it is also a very entertaining entry.

In conclusion, I would not be disappointed in any of these films being given the Oscar but I do think that The Confession is the most special film of the group.

Review- Megamind

Megamind (Paramount)

The phrase “flip the script” has become a part of the vernacular as an expression of a 180-degree change in the expected course of action. Oddly enough, even though there is a cinematic connotation to this expression you rarely see a film that exemplifies this expression. Megamind is that kind of a film. While you can’t claim it’s wildly original it does set up certain expectations and exploits them very well.

What is refreshing is that not only do you get a villain-turned-hero but you also have a new villain emerging from an unexpected source. You also have a reluctant hero who fades completely into the background and doesn’t make a triumphant return.

The film absolutely refuses to be overly-simplistic and didactic in showing why those who turned villainous did and why there was a change in our protagonist and how. It also nicely implies that heroism was, in fact, Megamind’s fate, as we never learn what his parents said to him before sending him off to Earth. It ended up being circumstance and not reacting to it well that lead him down the path he took.

What is also good to see is that as Megamind disguises himself to try and gain a new rival there is a great treatment of the “Bad Friend Plot.” This occurs with a rift between Megmind and Minion. There is no failed attempt to reconcile and when they do reunite it is surprising and satisfying, avoiding unnecessary convolution of the story.

While the film clearly excels in dramatic terms it is also rather successful on the comedic side of the equation and the comedy excels more often than not. Megamind’s mispronunciations, while hit-or-miss, do play a key role in the film.

While this is yet another animated film that insists on boasting name recognition in its voice talent with Will Ferrell, Tina Fey, Jonah Hill and Brad Pitt, they do all commit themselves to their character work enough that eventually you do think of them in terms of their character and not the performer. It just takes a little time.

Which is also a tribute to the writing in this film. Aside from the many interesting variations on themes that you get there are also clearly defined characters with struggles, needs and wants that you identify with and this is true of all the significant personages.

The animation in this film is quite impressive with the great cityscapes it creates and in terms of the 3D there are worst purchases you could make at the movies this year.

8/10

Megamind is out on DVD today.

Review- Due Date

Robert Downey, Jr. and Zach Galifianakis in Due Date (Warner Bros.)

If you’re trying to decide whether or not you should see Due Date it boils down to one key question: How big a fan of Zach Galifianakis are you? As a film it passes marginally. As a showcase for Galifianakis and all his quirks it soars. So that is really what’ll tip the scales for you one way or another.

The epitome of this is shown through the fact that his character who is an aspiring actor seeking to move out to LA. A doubtful Downey Jr. asks him to play out a scenario for him. On his second chance, after another false start, he really shines and it’s a great moment.

Before getting into some of the issues that do face this film it does need saying that this is indeed a very funny film. The three men who deliver the largest doses of that comedy are, of course, Galifianakis, Downey Jr. and Jamie Foxx. Some of the situations are also rather humorous so that helps buoy the film along.

The major hurdle this film faces is the question of how forgiving are we as an audience and in turn should our protagonist be. Some of Ethan’s (Galiafianakis’s) mistakes are through sheer ignorance and naivete but towards the end you learn something that really changes things and you stop for a second and wonder how it would really pan out or how you’d prefer it to pan out, depending on your level of outrage.

Granted Galifianakis’s character does not have bad intentions he is just very socially maladjusted and awkward but still everyone has a breaking point and perhaps this had exceeded it. Only the logic that he does have to get there for the birth of his child and he’s already gotten so far really makes it feasible.

The baby brings to mind another quibble: the film plays up the “Is she cheating subplot?” a lot. Such that you think it’s a definite only to squash it. It only ends up being good for some humor but it went too far in terms of circumstantial evidence to be brushed aside so simply.

There are many good laughs to be had in this film it’s just the form it takes and some of the decisions that it makes along the way that are counterproductive to it reaching maximum effectiveness.

6/10

Due Date is out on DVD today.

Justin Bieber: Never Say Never Extended Cut Coming this Weekend

Justin Bieber in never Say Never (Paramount Pictures)

As previously reported Paramount is poised to release an extended cut of Justin Bieber: Never Say Never this coming weekend, for one weekend only.

Reports vary between sources about how much content would be added but estimates are between 30-40 pushing the running time over two hours.

The film will include music which is not seen in the current cut, more friend footage and other things which were suggested by fans and already existed but were excised pre-release. What’s perhaps most compelling is that the film will get somewhat reflexive and include footage of fans watching the sneak preview of the film on February 9th, which truly brings the story of the film full circle. Jon Chu, director, in the video embedded below talks about how this film fits the mold being made by the current artist.

Ultimately, it is quite likely that the correct decisions were made for the initial theatrical release as it was quite a successful that told a well-rounded tale and didn’t just shoot concert footage all fancy like but it would be interesting to see what was left out and how an extended cut change things. Again it’s something you can look at a few ways: either crass or a team and crew going the extra step to thank the fans who made all of this possible. With all the suggestions and the technology available (as Chu mentions it’s screening in 90% digitally-capable cinemas) these were easy request to accommodate and documentaries offer more flexibility.

It is also being reported that the film will be released on DVD in August. That has yet to be confirmed by Paramount and clearly details don’t yet exist about it.

Weird Wednesday #2- Guy Maddin

So in digging through Netflix one day I found out that one of the most idiosyncratic, unique and creative filmmakers in all the world, Canadian Guy Maddin, has quite a few films available to stream.

Now it is rather difficult to encapsulate Maddin’s style but I will attempt to do so as to get a brief understanding of who he is and what he’s about in part to understand my disappointment in the first film.

Maddin’s films usually employ voice over, they are typically shot and styled like an antiquated film whether it be a silent, early sound or other classical techniques are employed, the films cuts quickly and chaotically at times like dreams, films may be tinted or in black and white, in terms of cinematography strange angles and overexposed imagery is not uncommon. Story-wise some sort of family drama is taken to the nth degree and the strange is commonplace and treated as such and not exploited. Due to the emphasis on technique and narrative there is usually not a dependence on performance.

Twilight of the Ice Nymphs

Pascale Bussiéres, Shelley Duvall, Ross McMillan and R.H. Tomson in Twilight of the Ice Nymphs (1997)

First, a disclaimer: Netflix claims that they stream both this and Archangel as one, they do not. Now the observations I made on Maddin’s usual style are based on viewing many titles long and short. This film is a departure from that formula, however, that is not why it fails to compel in my estimation.

In terms of camera-work and editing the film has a very simplistic zero degree approach most of the time. The camera does not draw attention to its presence, however, the cinematography does manage to be bothersome. You’ve heard of desserts being too sweet, well the same applies for eye candy. The colors are lush the sun-like light is plentiful but the palette is too crowded with brashness and boldness and blown out images such that its hard to look at.

Maddin’s dialogue, as well as his narration, can be quite poetic and beautiful as is evidenced by My Winnipeg, however, while the text of this film on the surface read wonderfully it is rarely performed as such. Furthermore, when your text is quasi-Shakespearean in terms of imagery and few of the actors carry it off convincingly it also becomes an assault on the ears.

Granted there are good performances (Krige and Duvall) and the narrative which starts non-existent does eventually reveal itself, however, it takes far too long and at that point interest has been lost.

Careful

Careful

Now, before proceeding I have included video links to some shorts below which will give you a taste of this man’s style and why it’s so easy to fall in love with it.

Careful is the kind of film that plays right into Maddin’s wheelhouse, for lack of better words this is the kind of film you expect from Maddin. The tale is a strange one taking place in a fictional Teutonic village in the Alps wherein all loud noises are frowned upon lest they cause an avalanche. This reserve permeates the fabric of the city and infiltrates the private lives of its people.

All the families seemingly have skeletons in their closets which are slowly but surely brought to light. However, things don’t play out in a typical fashion. there is heavy usage of tinting, odd angles and a decidedly 1930s approach and technique to all aspects of the film.

The film starts off with the narrator talking over cuts in a mock-educational film wherein life in the town is described. The tale ends up being split into a part one and part two despite only running 99 minutes. Yet with this throwback style the narrative is not reserved as there are severed limbs, murder, suicide, incest and more.

Despite how disparate in quality and style I found two films Maddin is always exciting and is worth getting to know if you have the stomach for his brand of weird.

My Winnipeg (trailer)

Sparky: To the Pier and Back

Maybe the best illustration of how his mind works. A simply concept, shot uniquely and cut frenetically.

Sombra Dolorosa

Two for Tuesday #2

So for this Two for Tuesday I decided to switch things up because after all variety is the spice of life, or so they say. Rather than continuing the Oscar theme, and sparing my DVR, I decided to finally give a few DVDs I picked up over the summer a chance.

Both of them are horror films. One is called Boogeyman and the other is Shutter. As further proof that there’s not that much at all in a name the former is much better than the latter.

Boogeyman

Barry Watson in Boogeyman (Columbia Pictures)

On the surface you may think there’s nothing much to Boogeyman. It’s a tale we’ve all more or less heard, mostly through oral tradition. Some of us horror aficionados have even read Stephen King’s rather brilliant rendition of the legend.

This film does have some surprises in store, however. Not the least of which is the performance of Barry Watson. Now I was not all that familiar with Watson’s work other than his time on 7th Heaven. I came away from this film quite impressed with him indeed. It’s a quiet role that dominates the film and he handles it easily. He is convincingly scared without ever going over the top, much of his dialogue is in whispers but it never gets annoying and he’s the kind of everyman that can really transport you into a horror film.

It can be easy for a horror film to have a really effective teasing scene but it’s far more rare for that scene to have such a direct correlation to the rest of the film but it gets more surprising. The villain, the literal Boogeyman in this case, is hardly ever seen for 80-90% of the film playing into the doubt of his existence and actually amping up how scary this film can be. I mean literally absent not you don’t see its face I mean most of the time you see nothing which is an amazing feat.

Time and space are played with quite effectively, there is also what in another film would be a major twist moved up and not made the center of attention which is refreshing. While not original there is also a play on missing children in this film, which is always an effective angle for a horror film.

The cinematography both in terms of lighting and framing and how it shoots into the edit is brilliant. Kudos to Bobby Bukowski, a name I think I’d like to get better acquainted with.

With all this goodness mounting still there was a niggling doubt building. The question that kept bugging me was: “Why have I never heard of this movie?” I answered that question and much to my chagrin had my speculation confirmed.

Now some, Stephen King, included will cite the revelation of He Who Walks Behind the Rows as the downfall of Children of the Corn, while I can’t argue that the effects are great I still like them in a cheesy 80s kind of way and love the film. Here not so much. After so much that went right the effects totally drop the ball and actually made me giggle a few times which is tragic because there were genuine scares to be had before.

To think with just a halfway decent practical makeup job on the Boogeyman it could’ve been something special.

Shutter

Joshua Jackson and Megumi Okina in Shutter (20th Century Fox)

For everything that Boogeyman did right and then blew in the ending, Shutter pretty much did all those things wrong right off the bat and then compounded with a stupid ending. The giggle factor for me starts right at the beginning shortly after the inciting incident.

While Boogeyman is a quiet and mostly very intelligent film with commendable performances by the cast Shutter is louder, dumber and poorly acted through a lot of it.

Now I can say I’ve seen enough Asian horror to cast aspersions on an entire continent’s approach to a genre but I sure as hell have had enough of our pale imitations both via remake and rip-off. There always ends up being more unintentional comedy than an actual fear factor.

There is a delicate balance in horror films: too much build up or too much action, especially if its repetitive, is likely to bore an audience. This film falls into the latter category. For the longest time we see “spirit photos,” which is an oft-used trick in supernatural films then there is the girl herself and we just see her incessantly and it takes next to forever for her to actually do anything.

As more details unravel about her identity and motivation things just get progressively dumber and uninteresting instead of getting smarter and more engrossing, again the antithesis of the previous film.

I won’t spoil the ending but it’s the kind that if you liked the film you love it because of how it concludes. If you hated it before you’ll loathe it after its through.