Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Profiles in Greatness: Male Hustlers

Midnight Cowboy (1969) & Flesh (1968)

Times are hard on the boulevard, and if anyone knows that it's street hustlers. Man's gotta eat. Despite the constant echoes of his girlfriend Crazy Annie, "You're the only one Joe! The only one," Joe Buck is not the only one. Not exactly street wise, but also no stranger to them, Joe Buck and Little Joe were both on 42nd Street back in the day. Those nostalgic days when it was cool to walk the streets in a cowboy hat and bandana looking to get paid for sex. Even in a bad economy, flesh is still a valuable commodity. First things first, get the money up front! Secondly, who foresees the extra monthly expense of paying for your wife's girlfriend's abortion, like poor Little Joe, or having to pay your own clients out of sheer pity, like proud Texan Joe Buck.

Who doesn't want to supplement their income? These boys knew how to hustle their way into infamy and an extra twenty in their pocket. Lest we forget: it's all about the MONY.

That's just exactly how you spell it
up there on that big buildin' up there."

Tip 1:
Walk the Walk

Joe Buck:

Accessories from your own hitchin' post
Distracting pants

Little Joe:

Red bandana
Clean underwear if possible

Tip 2:
Talk the Talk

The Joe Buck Approach:
Look like cowboy tourist + Stalk rich women

The Little Joe Approach:
Look like Joe Dallesandro

Tip 3:
Find Your Fanbase

Joe Buck
1) Rich Old Ladies
2) Drug and Scrabble Enthusiasts
3) Bob Balaban

Little Joe
1) Rich Old Men
2) Art Critics
3) Burn Victims

Tip 4:

Joe Buck

Little Joe

Tip 5:
Make Sylvia Miles Cry

Joe Buck

Little Joe

(Hustling his way through Hollywood in Heat (1972)).

NOTE: Club Silencio does not endorse self-prostitution as a means of income, unless you or a loved one is circa-1970's Joe Dallesandro.

Monday, January 18, 2010

Virgin Viewings: Perversion Story (1969)

New Discoveries,
Pretty Pictures

Lucio Fulci's giallo-lite, Perversion Story (aka. Una sull'altra, aka. One on Top of the Other), is filled with psychedelic sex and devious plot twists -- some sensational, some unsatisfying, but all of this stylish and (awkwardly) sensual. The Italians knew what they were doing, even when they didn't. It's like an Italian variation on Vertigo, possibly titled "Asthma," considering this film's main physical affliction. Similarly it includes a picturesque San Francisco setting, dual motives and even a doppelganger or two, although more manic than Hitchcock to be sure -- such is the pleasure of this era in Italian horror/thrillers. One of Fulci's finer films, more akin to Lizard in a Woman's Skin with it's drug-induced, jazz-infused, lesbian-lusting murder and manipulation. Quite a contrast from later Fulci fare, such as The Sweet House of Horrors, to which I recently recapped here.

Eyes: not only a window to the soul.

Perversion Story is most memorable for a stunner of a score from composer Riz Ortolani (Don't Torture a Duckling, Cannibal Holocaust), and immersing visuals that includes a lush sex scene filmed from beneath its lovers, through the veil of pink silk sheets. Another great moment has our lead doctor George, a dashing Jean Sorel, having a scandalous encounter with a prostitute he believes to be his wife, cross-cut with the dead body he also believes to be his wife. Italian film enthusiasts, lovers of camp, and general perverts take note. This one piles on the twists and the T&A, one right on top of the other.

Thursday, January 14, 2010

Mass for Cinephile Shut Ins: Part One

Far more exciting than any 'Best of' lists are those detailing movies any of us have yet to see -- feeding the deep-seated yearning to discover what's yet to come from our favorite directors, writers, and most beloved actors. With each new minuscule plot detail and late-in-the-game title change comes the potential for new surprises, new discoveries, new possibilities. They build our expectations and validate our eventual disappointment. Let us commune over all this vague pre-publicity so as to garner faith and hope for a bright cinematic future. And let us also pass invalid judgment.

This is Part One.

Lethal Weapon 5
Buddy comedy has never been this racially insensitive!

directed by: Jodie Foster
written by: Kyle Killen
starring: Mel Gibson, Jodie Foster

Basically: A CEO with a down-and-out family life turns a beaver puppet he recovers from the trash into a tool for of self-therapy.

And We Should Care Because: Jodie Foster returns to directing after 15 years since Home for the Holidays, another family-centric film steeped in neuroses. Knowing Jodie Foster's personal life gives extra immature chuckles to the film's title, The Beaver, while Mel Gibson takes advantage of his personal life in using a beaver puppet to spout his offenses. Jodie Foster also gives herself a long overdue central role as the wife, while Gibson will get to play up his comedic chops and gain forgiveness for his last attempt at such, 2000's What Women Want. Do beaver puppets breed dangerously indie quirk? Perhaps, but Jodie Foster's attachment and directorial return breed promise.

Status: Curious

Iñárritu enunciates the title of his new film, Biutiful.

directed by: Alejandro González Iñárritu
written by: Alejandro González Iñárritu, Armando Bo, Nicolás Giacobone
starring: Javier Bardem, Blanca Portillo

Basically: A man involved in illegal dealing is reunited with a childhood friend, now a policeman.

And We Should Care Because: Iñárritu's mixing it up it would seem. He's not using his trademark style of separate stories as means of interconnectedness, nor an inexplicable accident to center the action, as was the case in Amores Perros, 21 Grams and Babel. Nevertheless he's holding strong his glimpse into human darkness and the power of cause and effect. Whatever your opinions on the approach, Iñárritu has a gift for creating intrigue and heightened drama with just the right blend of naturalism and visual flourish. He has also done right in stealing from Almodóvar's repertoire with the likes of Javier Bardem and Blanca Portillo. Chances are it will be a little bit miserablist and a whole lot biutiful.

Status: Curious

Natalie Portman really can work a pole (see: Closer).
Even when set to Swan Lake.
directed by: Darren Aronofsky
written by: Darren Aronofsky, Mark Heyman
starring: Natalie Portman, Mila Kunis, Vincent Kassel, Winona Ryder, Barbara Hershey

Basically: A tale of psychological horror about a veteran ballerina's new rival, who could very well be a ghost or figment of her imagination.

And We Should Care Because: Darren Aronofsky is four for four, one of the great directorial talents working today. With a female-centric premise, dark psychological and sexual overtones (a rumored lesbian scene is getting most of the press), and a genuinely remarkable and underused cast, it looks to be another creative burst and change of tone for Aronofsky. Performance meets a psychological split -- could this be Aronofsky's Opening Night? Its ballet setting and moody underpinnings could make for a very stylish, surreal affair - all the more likely aided by cinematographer Matthew Libatique, and possibly another entranced score by Clint Mansell. Perhaps a blend of the low-key naturalism of The Wrestler with the dazzling headspace of The Fountain?

Status: Can't Miss

Are you 'avin a laugh?
Is anyone in this working-class town 'avin a laugh?

directed and written by: Ricky Gervais, Stephen Merchant
starring: Ralph Fiennes, Ricky Gervais, Matthew Goode, Emily Watson

Basically: 1970's England serves as backdrop for this story of young working-class friends seeking a life change.

And We Should Care Because: The genius duo behind TV's The Office and Extras reunite for their first big-screen collaboration, and their gift for mining painfully funny truths out of everyday misery seems to bode well for this personalized period piece. Ricky's first feature, The Invention of Lying, may have suffered a forced ending, but its anti-religious satire and high-wire farce served the screen well. Also keep in mind that episodes of The Office were miraculously adept at mixing powerful laughs with unexpected poignancy, likely the tone this film is gearing toward. Picture Slough in the 1970's, populated this time by the stifled passions of youth. Bonus points: A Karl Pilkington cameo!

"I could eat a knob at night."

Status: Can't Miss

Arthouse Egoyan meets the Poison Ivy franchise?
directed by: Atom Egoyan
written by: Erin Cressida Wilson
starring: Julianne Moore, Amanda Seyfried, Liam Neeson

Basically: A wife suspecting of her husband's infidelities hires an escort, Chloe, to test his faithfulness. She soon finds herself orchestrating their sordid, escalating encounters, and rediscovering her own sensuality.

And We Should Care Because: Atom Egoyan makes arthouse fare that's seductive and devastating, both of which are encapsulated in this film's enticing premise. Erin Cressida Wilson also wrote the script for Secretary, and this one promises even more erotic (and explicit) encounters. Julianne Moore continues to marvel in edgy material, remarkably still drawn to sexually ambiguous extremes (2008's Savage Grace) and innovative auteurs.

Status: Can't Miss

Jason Alexander, Joe Pesci, Mickey Rourke, John C. Reilly...
Marisa Tomei is THE dreamy woman for not-so-dreamy men.

directed and written by: Jay and Mark Duplass
starring: Marisa Tomei, Jonah Hill, Catherine Keener, John C. Reilly

Basically: Divorced boy meets girl... meets her attached son.

And We Should Care Because: Mumblecore innovators Jay and Mark Duplass crafted The Puffy Chair and Baghead, as well as being involved in the 2009 surprise Humpday, all of which earned their charms from their no frills attitude and devotion to character. Things have changed drastically, and yet not really at all. Where once were the faces of complete unknowns now reside Oscar winners and box-office champs. The dynamite talents of Marisa Tomei and Catherine Keener in particular still seem in keeping with the indie world, but promise to garner the film and its makers a lot more attention upon its release.

Status: Can't Miss

Eat, pray, love. But only after getting approval from Oprah.

directed by: Ryan Murphy
written by: Ryan Murphy, Jennifer Salt, Elizabeth Gilbert (memoir)
starring: Julia Roberts, Richard Jenkins, Javier Bardem, James Franco, Billy Crudup, Viola Davis

Basically: A woman with a seemingly complete life decides to divorce her husband and set out on a personal journey around the world.

And We Should Care Because: Julia Roberts gets another deserved showcase despite the film's seemingly disposable summary, title, and ties to Oprah's Book Club. Not since Erin Brockovich has Roberts been given such a spotlight, and with a startling supporting cast, it's enticing to think the film will blend her comic and dramatic chops together with enough awards-charged gusto. Ryan Murphy's cinematic prowess only extends to one other memoir adaptation, the disappointingly received Running with Scissors, but then he's also the mind behind uneven but admirable TV hits Nip/Tuck and Glee. Still holding out hope that Julia can hit Sandra Bullock in her Blind Side and steal back her title as box office queen.

Status: Mild Intrigue

What happens in Tokyo stays in Tokyo.
Especially if you're dead.

directed and written by: Gaspar Noé
starring: Nathaniel Brown, Paz de la Huerta, Emily Alyn Lind, Cyril Roy

Basically: A man caught in a hallucinatory afterlife observes the effects of his own demise after a drug deal goes awry in a Tokyo bar.

And We Should Care Because: Unlike Peter Jackson's The Lovely Bones, which imagines the afterlife to be a vibrant desktop screensaver, Gaspar Noé's film imagines it as a psychedelic headtrip to rival 2001: A Space Odyssey. The film's lengthy runtime of nearly three hours promises a full on cinematic immersion, rumored to include plenty of the arty and extreme sex and violence that's Noé's specialty. After notorious shockers I Stand Alone and Irréversible, Noé's rep is to combine innovative technique with mindblowing, and possibly mind-scarring, moments. Early reviews criticize it as overlong and containing of a few underwhelming performances, but quickly counter that by commending the film's bold visual and auditory scope, and all-encompassing experience to be welcomed alongside stoner classics such as 2001 and Fantasia.

Status: Can't Miss

Two teasers for the film here: Floating and Strobing. They're not for the easily disoriented, those prone to seizures or, god forbid, anyone who's sober.

Part Two soon.

Monday, January 4, 2010

I've Always Depended on the Kindness of Strangers

Survival horror can be a tricky but terrific genre. Able to tap into powerful human instincts and nature's savagery with taut, simplistic thrills, they're often just as likely to provide blank-slate characters for audience projection and one choreographed set-piece after another. Eden Lake (2008) does indeed do much of the same, but with enough awareness and angle to toughen the blow: its heavenly setting will inevitably become a bleak battleground. Kids are burnt and bludgeoned, yuppies are forced to hide in feces; such is this hard-hearted tale of human nature that's rotting and left for dead. A once majestic natural quarry is now the site of a dumpster filled with shit.

A pretty preschool teacher (Kelly Reilly) plays peekaboo with her toddlers, only to be given the greatest sense of irony later as she hides from a group of traumatizing teenagers armed with box-cutters and videophones. James Watkins debut is an interesting comment on the "killer kids" genre that we've seen more readily in recent years, most notably a film like Ils (Them) or even Larry Clark's Bully. While these unfeeling adolescents (or "hoodies" if we're being properly British) are knowingly given few characteristic quirks, the film still makes a point to comment on a society no longer dependant on the kindness of strangers.

Don't be a stranger, Michael Fassbender.

Our attractive young couple (Michael Fassbender in swim trunks!) at the center of the chaos has their parking spot stolen, suffer kids playing loud music, bikers cutting them off in an intersection, boorish bartenders, and townsfolk refusing directions. Every attempt by the couple to remain civil in their surroundings is subverted into a sadistic trap as the strangers reveal their self-centered and extreme soullessness. The adolescents of Eden Lake start out as simply rude ruffians but become utterly ruthless. It's clearly something that has been passed down to them more readily than used cars and clothing in this socially malevolent, ironically named British haven. It's a film about the sins of asshole fathers revisited on their asshole sons, revisited on their asshole fathers.

Why couldn't they just be doing drugs?

The film does look fondly on human nature's will to survive amidst such an often ugly and unfeeling world, even briefly celebrating our young lovers impending engagement... Of course that's after he has already been impaled by a tree and sliced to ribbons, and she's been forced to watch. Nasty and nihilistic it is, but all the same thoughtful and tense in its manipulations. These characters exist in the same distrustful world chaos as The Texas Chainsaw Massacre, The Last House on the Left or Wolf Creek, where momentary glimmers of hope quickly become detours into the hellish hands of disturbed people driven by absolutely nothing. Eden Lake stays true to its most base survival instincts, but it ultimately survives this because of a sharp and savage mood of social decay. It gives the audience a beating to be sure, but then in this day and age, that's just child's play.

Friday, January 1, 2010

I Thought Nought: The Essentials

The decade's finally over. Me talking about it? ...Not so much.

Moments and Thoughts on
the Best of the Noughts


Mulholland Dr. (2001)
Directed by David Lynch

David Lynch's deliriously fascinating and addictive fever dream aloft the City of Angels boasts an epic breakthrough from a sexy/scorned Naomi Watts. One of Lynch's finest cinematic experiences and artistic expressions. Gorgeous, ominous and wholly original; it's an impossible puzzle with all its pieces perfectly in place.

In the Mood for Love (2001)
Directed by Wong Kar-Wai

Sensuous longing of such exquisite craft and resonance. Tony Leung and Maggie Cheung spark one of the most haunting and passionate romances to grace the silver screen, without even allowing their romance to ignite. Wong Kar-Wai's enveloping aura looks back on a love in full bloom stifled in its time and place. Painful and majestic in its emotional and visual restraint, it's one of the greatest love stories ever told, and yet barely spoken.

Before Sunset (2004)
Directed by Richard Linklater

Richard Linklater's sequel-de-resistance picks up the love connection of Jesse and Celine with startling ease from its predecessor Before Sunrise, then adds to and extends it with a poignancy, maturity and immaculate sense of possibility. One flirtatious, funny and sobering stroll through Paris reveals characters that feel entirely real, with a spark that lingers even stronger nine years later. Julie Delpy and Ethan Hawke bring immeasurable authenticity and charm to their romantic reunion, no cutaways to the Eiffel Tower necessary. Finally a romantic comedy that makes love and connection seem like more than a requisite ending.

Y tu Mamá También (2002)
Directed by Alfonso Cuarón

Bawdy sex comedy and coming-of-age drama gain a dose of maturity, melancholy and cultural perspective -- not to mention a deeper understanding of characters initially driven by getting their dicks wet. Alfonso Cuarón's film feels like a journey of the unexpected, taking one by surprise with a light, naturalistic, and pulsating energy underlined by heavy, unspoken emotions. By the time the film and its characters reach their climax, there's a whole new way of looking at things.

Brokeback Mountain (2005)
Directed by Ang Lee

Like Ang Lee's best films it's both sparing and superbly grand - if not in the majestic mountain vistas than in its thematic and emotional reach. Steeped in repression and yearning, it toys with its American West origins to reveal a love story that's both roped in tradition and completely free rein. Like the inner turmoil of its doomed lovers, the film has an ache at its center that remains long past its misty-eyed final frames, much due to the deeply felt performances of Heath Ledger and Jake Gyllenhaal. It's classic romance with a literal bent, with an elegant restraint matched only by its raw passion. "If you can't fix it, you've gotta stand it." Lucky for us, this one's pretty flawless.

Dogville (2004)
Directed by Lars von Trier

Lars von Trier bares his teeth, chains you to your seat and smashes your Hummel figurines. This audacious and inventive approach to stripped-down cinema is about as big-scale in its ideas as anything this decade -- another vicious think-piece to follow von Trier's equal parts stunning and savage Dancer in the Dark (another decade favorite). Dogville looks into a seemingly sweet small town and the sourest sides of human nature. It's not the anti-American tirade many have criticized, rather a worthwhile indictment of society as a whole. Its satire is scathing, funny and sensationally dark, told with remarkable innovation and yet another daring and devastating turn by Nicole Kidman. A bit like a cinematic Our Town, populated by Depression-era scum of the earth.

More I Thought Nought (Best of the Decade) entries here.