Monday, April 30, 2012

Kiki's Golden Birthday

Today, April 30th, marks the golden birthday (that's the birthday that you turn the age that the day is. And this is a milestone birthday: 30!) of Kirsten Dunst.

Kiki is one of the only actresses (the other is Keira Knightley) that when you mention her, most people talk about how much they dislike her. I've seen people get really adamant about it. I don't know where all the hate comes from, but I've enjoyed her since her days as a young vampire. So, in honor of her birthday, here are 30 things to celebrate about Kirsten.

  • Her imperfect teeth. As someone who grew up hating the gap in my front teeth, I've learned to appreciate it's uniqueness. And Kiki's snaggletooth gives her a quirky charm. 
"I want some more."
  • It's KEER-sten, not KUR-sten. (Remember when you had to call to get movie times? I heard that dreaded digital tone and that automated voice telling me, "I'm sorry. I didn't get that", when I corrected their pronunciation of her name once...)
  • Receiving a Golden Globe nomination at the age of 12 for Best Supporting Actress in Interview With the Vampire
  • She speaks German and gained dual citizenship (Germany and USA) in 2011.
"You don't need scores of suitors. You only need one–if he's the right one."
  • Turned down the role of Angela in American Beauty because she was 15 and didn't want to kiss Kevin Spacey. Kiki, NO ONE wants to kiss Kevin Spacey...
  • "Well this isn't an American Teen Princess Pageant! This...this...this is Nazi Germany!"
  • Appeared in a made for TV movie entitled, Fifteen and Pregnant. I wonder what it's about...
  • Playing the love interest of an obvious homosexual in that 90s pop sensation Savage Garden's "I Knew I Loved You" music video
  • Her first "adult" role as the mysterious Lux in Sofia Coppala's The Virgin Suicides.
  • Roller skating with Michelle Williams in Nixon's White House in Dick.
"Courtney, this is not a Democracy. It's a Cheer-ocracy."
  • Her refusal to wear a bra in any scene in Crazy/Beautiful. That's how you can tell what a free spirit she is!
  • Reenacting Marion Davies' silent films in The Cat's Meow
  • One of the most iconic screen kisses ever:
  • Dancing around with Mark Ruffalo in their underwear in Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind
  • Her multiple costume changes in Marie Antoinette
  • Appearing on the cover of the coveted September Issue of Vogue in costume as Marie Antoinette
  • Her ad campaign for Bvlgari with a lion:
  • Giving her best work to date in the little seen All Good Things
  • Joining the ranks of Isabelle Huppert and Barabra Hershey as a Best Actress award winner at the Cannes Film Festival for Melancholia
  • Went to rehab for depression, but used that negative into a positive as she channeled that time to play the depressed Justine in Melancholia (a role she took over for Penelope Cruz)
  • Has a production company called Wooden Spoon Productions
  • Whatever the hell this crazy/beatuful thing is:

  • Her priceless reactions to Lars Van Trier's remarks at Cannes
  • Cameo in the Sundance screened short about the Beastie Boys Fight For Your Right (Revisited)
  • Upcoming girls-being-ranchy-and-funny comedy Bridesmaids Bachlorette
  • Her attachment to play Blondie singer Debbie Harry in a biopic directed by Michel Gondry
  • Doesn't have a Golden Oscar, yet, for her Golden birthday. But, it seems like she'll be nominated in the very near future...

Sisterly Bonds

If one were to make a film adaptation of the work of Jane Austen, Regency England, and the bond of sisters, a male, Taiwanese director doesn't immediately stand out as the ideal person for the job. But, such is the brilliance of Academy Award winning director, Ang Lee. In his English language film debut, 1995's Sense and Sensibility, the director crafted a film that still ranks as the best film version of Jane Austen's work (Sorry, Joe Wright) and one of the best film's of the 90s. Not being English and steeped in the legend and reverence of Austen, he was able to look at the material through a fresh pair of eyes. And he has stated that his culture is all about repressed emotions, which people don't understand in the same way they did during Austen's time. It allowed him to get inside the psyche of these characters, who hid their true feelings, and capture the heartache of unrequited and unspoken love. And, yes, at it's heart Sense and Sensibility is very much a love story. But, the love that holds the film together is not romantic love, but the relationship between sisters– sensible Elinor (Emma Thompson) and wildly romantic Marianne (Kate Winslet)–that is the heart of the film.

I have highlighted three scenes that I feel best capture the relationship of the two and the growth it undergoes.
The Tease

Elinor: I do not attempt to deny that I think very highly of him. I greatly esteem him. I like him
Marianne: Esteem him? Like him? Use those insipid words again and I shall leave the room this instant.
Elinor: Very well. Forgive me. Believe my feelings to be stronger than I declared, but further than that you must not believe. 

After the death of their father, the Dashwood sisters are left virtually penniless as all his money and estate, by law, belong to his son of a previous marriage. Their half-brother and shrewish sister-in-law Fanny (Harriet Walter) have come to their soon-to-be-home, displacing the life the girls of the only life they have known. Elinor's repressed emotions are also put in an uproar as she begins to form an attachment to Fanny's visiting brother Edward (Hugh Grant). 

Up until this point, Marianne, who very much wears her heart on her sleeve, has been sulking about the home (all melancholy, downward looks and dreary piano songs). This is the first real, intimate interaction the sisters share with each other in the film. Marianne has gone to Elinor's room to inquire about her sister's affections. 

Marianne believes that real love is the kind that is hot to the touch and burns you with emotion. Elinor, careful with her emotions, is not outwardly showing her devotion the way Marianne prefers. Marianne gently teases her sister in this scene–berating Edward's lack of passion for reading poetry and for the limpid response Elinor gives when asked if she loves him. 

The scene quickly illustrates how each feels about the other. Despite all Marianne's teasing, she is devoted to her sister, even saying that she can't imagine living without her when she marries. Thompson and Winslet have a naturalness with each other and a playfulness that feeds off each other. Ang had them live together during the production so they could deepen their relationship off-screen, thus making the bond that much more believable onscreen. 

Heartbreak and Understanding after the jump

Saturday, April 28, 2012

Saturday Mornings Chat and Chew

Dionne: Look at him! Ooo, baby!

Tai: Break me off a piece of that!

Cher: Survey says?

Tai: Do-able.

Dionne: Puny. I like em big.

Cher: Eh, I hate muscles.

Tai: You know what, I don't care either way. Oh, just as long as his you-know-what isn't crooked.
         I really hate that.

Cher: What?

Dionne: Shh, don't scare her.

Tai: Why? What's wrong?

Dionne: Cher is saving herself for Luke Perry.

Tai: Cher, you're a virgin?!?

Cher: God, you say that like it's a bad thing.

Dionne: Besides, the PC term is: hymenly challenged.

Cher: I am just not interested in doing it until I meet the right person. You see how picky I am about
           my shoes and they only go on my feet.

Tai: Yeah...

Cher: You're one to talk, Di.

Tai: Oh, wait a minute here. Wait. I thought, like, you and Murray were...

Dionne: No. My man is sat-is-fied. He's got no cause for complaints. But, technically, I'm a virgin.
              You know what I mean.

Tai: Oh, God...

Cher: What's wrong. Tai?

Tai: They're playing our song. You know, the one Elton and I danced to...Rollin' with the Homies...

Dionne: Oh, Tai. Don't cry.

Tai: I'm sorry. (Starts banging head on table)

Dionne: Oh, my God. Stop!

Cher (V.O.): I could tell Tai's grieving period would be considerable. Unless I found someone to
          take Elton's place right away.

Wednesday, April 25, 2012

The Face of a Star

There are certain actresses that are ambassadors of world cinema and are as synonymous with their home country as the products, culture, and traditions that come from it. Think Catherine Deneuve for France, Sophia Loren for Italy, Aishwarya Rei for India. For China, that distinction belongs to Gong Li.

The first movie that actually introduced me to the talents of Gong Li was her role as the beautiful but haughty geisha, Hatsumomo, in Rob Marshall's adaptation of Memoirs of a Geisha. The film itself was beautiful, if somewhat lacking. But, I was immediately struck with the fiery movie star-presence of Gong Li. The fact that she learned her English lines phonetically and still seemed connected to the material was an impressive feat. I was at once fascinated by her. I delved into her filmography and discovered the significant impact that her body of work (along with director, Zhang Yimou) had in ushering Chinese cinema into the world market. Making China a country that created important, artistic films that changed the movie landscape.

One of the director and muse's first films together, Ju Dou, became the first Chinese film to ever be nominated for an Academy Award. But, perhaps the film that had the biggest impact and cemented Gong Li's place in cinema's pantheon was the 1991 film, and the subject of this week's Hit Me With Your Best Shot at The Film Experience, Raise the Red Lantern.

In my Gong Li movie-marathons, I hadn't actually seen this one yet. So, I was definitely eager to watch it. The story follows Songlian, an university student who drops out of school to be the fourth mistress of a wealthy master. The film is filled with lush cinematography courtesy of the titular lanterns that shine in the house of whichever mistress the master has chosen for the night. It's all very Chinese Big Love. (I guess that would make Gong Li, Ginnifer Goodwin?)

I wasn't expecting to find my favorite shot so early. But within the first frames, I was hooked. A stoic Gong Li in her schoolgirl braids has made a very real decision to marry a rich man. When her mother (a disembodied voice) tells her she will just be his concubine, Songlian unblinkingly states, "Let me be a concubine. Isn't that a woman's fate?"

There is no emotion in her voice or face, but her feelings are betrayed with the single tear that wells up and eventually falls from each eye. Much of the film is told through close-ups of Gong Li's face. The story is told through her eyes. In fact, we never actually see the face of the man she is married to. He only ever appears in wide shots so that the audience feels the same distance that Songlian feels toward him. 

The most striking thing about these close-ups is how still they are. The camera captures even the slightest movement. A lesser actor would be afraid to do more, but Gong trusts the camera. People remarked that working on set with Marilyn Monroe was frustrating because she appeared to be doing nothing. Then when you saw her on screen, you realized what control she had of the projection of her image. That's what makes a star. And in this film, Gong Li is a star. 

The impact of this moment has even more weight after you've experienced the entire film. Over the course of the film, the teary-eyed innocent that thought she knew the ways of the world becomes corrupted and see what damage the world–and she, herself–are capable of. Gone is any sense of feeling. In the demonic glow of the red lanterns, she begins her descent into madness. 

Saturday, April 21, 2012

Saturday Mornings Chat and Chew

Sally: So, what do you do with these women? You just get up out of bed and leave?

Harry: Sure

Sally: Well, explain to me how you do it? What do you say?

Harry: Just say I have an early meeting, early haircut, early squash game...

Sally: You don't play squash.

Harry: They don't know that. They just met me.

Sally: That's disgusting.

Harry: I know. I feel terrible.

Sally: You know, I am so glad I never got involved with you. I just would've ended up being some
          woman you had to get up out of bed and leave at 3 o'clock in the morning to go clean your
          andirons. And you don't even have a fireplace. Not that I would know this.

Harry: What are you getting so upset about? This is not about you.

Sally: Yes, it is! You are a human affront to all women. And I am a woman.

Harry: Hey, I don't feel great about this. But, I don't hear anyone complaining.

Sally: Of course not. You're out the door too fast.

Harry: I think they have an okay time.

Sally: How do you know?

Harry: Whaddyamean, how do I know? I know.

Sally: Because they...

Harry: Yes, because they...

Sally: How do you know that they're really...

Harry: What. Are. You. Saying? That they fake orgasm?

Sally: It's possible.

Harry: Get outta here.

Sally: Why? Most women at one time or another have faked it.

Harry: Well, they haven't faked it with me.

Sally: How do you know?

Harry: Because I know.

Sally: Oh. Right. That's right. I forgot–you're a man.

Harry: What is that supposed to mean?

Sally: Nothing. It's just that all man are sure it never happened to them and most woman at one time or
          another have done it, so you do the math.

Harry: You don't think that I can tell the difference?

Sally: No

Harry: Get outta here.

Sally: Oooo. Oh. Oooo...

Harry: Are you okay?

Sally: Oooo. Oh, god. Oooo. Oh, god! Oooo. Oh! Oh! Oh, God! Oh, yeah, right there! Oh!(gasp, gasp)

          Oh! Oh! Oh!Oh, GOD! YES! YES! YES! YES! YES! YES! YES! Oh! Oh, YES! YES! YES!

          YES! YES! YES! YES! YES! YES! Oh! Oh! Oh, god!

Woman: I'll have what she's having.

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

Yeah, But Their Costumes Come Off...

Summer isn't even here yet and I'm kinda over all the blockbusters vying for our attention. And try as I might, I just can't muster up any excitement for two of the biggest ones, The Avengers or Prometheus. Every day seems to bring a new clip from the films or a new screen grab from the teaser trailer, leading up to the actual trailer, and I don't even think about clicking on it. And the thing is, I've seen all the Marvel superhero movies (Iron Man, Captain America, Thor, Iron Man 2: The Curse of ScarJo) that make up said Avengers. I enjoyed them all, more or less (Are we including the two Hulk movies or are we supposed to pretend they didn't happen? Which, I mean, I'm fine with...). But, something about them all together (now with Oscar nominees Mark Ruffalo and Jeremy Renner!) makes me less than thrilled. How are they gonna cram all of them in and have a story that make senses? And more importantly, where are Gwyneth and Natalie? I need at least one Oscar winning actress in my superhero movies (Dark Knight Rises, you are so lucky you have Marion).

And my disinterest in Prometheus isn't necessarily the movies fault. I haven't even watched anything to be turned-off by it. But, the thing goes...I've never seen any of the films in the Aliens franchise. Are you happy now? I said it. So it's hard for me to get excited about something that I know nothing about nor have any special affinity for. And Prometheus even stars two actors that I really like. Charlize, Fassy, help me out here! Should I feel bad about not wanting to see it? It's not even like a real mindless blockbuster either. Serious film lover's seem genuinely interested in it. But, sci-fi is my least favorite genre. Kinda like Japanese is my least favorite type of food. Sci-fi is the sushi of cinema for me. And I know lots of people love sushi, but it's just not my thing.

What is my thing, however, is Channing Tatum's...thing. And we can finally feast our eyes on the newly minted A-lister's ass-ets (I'm Carrie Bradshaw all of a sudden with the sexual puns) in the trailer that was just released of his summer movie, Magic Mike.

Now this looks like the perfect summer movie. A charismatic Channing doing all his moves from Step Up in half the amount of clothes. Matthew McConaughey in a performance that looks bat-shit crazy/awesome (there's Oscar talk for a Supporting Actor Nom? Yeah, I'm game). It seems like just the right amount of escapism and intelligence (quiet, you) to make up for all the load explosions and aliens invading the movie theaters in the next couple of months.

Sunday, April 15, 2012

Epically Epic: Titanic

100 years ago today, the Titanic made history as the unsinkable ship hit an iceberg and sank to the bottom of the Atlantic. And ever since that fateful day, people–and Hollywood–have been fascinated by this tragic event. Just 29 days after the sinking, a silent film was released called Saved From the Titanic starring actress Dorothy Gibson, who actually survived the incident. That was just the beginning of countless film and television movies have been made since about the tragedy (including the latest that aired last night and tonight on ABC from Downton Abby's Julian Fellowes. The first season of Downton even begins with the event.) But, the most poplar telling of the story, by far, is James Cameron's 1997 film that won 11 Academy Awards (including Best Picture) and became the highest grossing film of all-time (it has since been replaced by another Cameron film, Avatar). 

I saw the film the day that it opened on December 19, 1997. Thanks to her performances in Sense and Sensibility and Heavenly Creatures, I was a huge Kate Winslet fan already and told my friends that we had to see her latest performance in Titanic as soon as possible. I was in High School at the time and the film definitely had a huge impact on me. I lost count how many times I saw it in the theatre (it's somewhere around 12) and I don't even know how many times I've seen it in total. I haven't seen the theatrical release in 3-D that just came out, yet. But, I plan on it. Even though over the past 15 years it has become fashionable to bash the film (I'll admit, the dialogue isn't the best, but it's a lot better than Avatar's), it still has a hold on me as a film lover.
"Just pretend you're listening to James and then, when he's not looking, run..."
In honor of the 100th anniversary, I decided it would be a perfect time to take another look at the film. (It's also the start of a monthly series I'm starting called Epically Epic, in which I'll explore some of cinema's most sweeping epics. Next month Giant). So, join me as we explore the film that launched Leo and Kate's careers into the stratosphere, revolutionized the way computer graphics were used in film, and gave us a song so good, it makes Kate wanna puke...

Are you ready to go back to Titanic?

Saturday, April 14, 2012

Saturday Mornings Chat and Chew

Trent: So, uh, you hung-up on which one?

Mike: Michelle

Trent: You hung-up with your girlfriend?

Mike: Ex

Trent: Oh, so, now she's your ex?!?

Mike: She was always my ex.

Trent: Yeah, right.
          You hung-up with her?

Mike: I wanted to take the other call.

Trent: What she say when you called her back?

Mike: I didn't.

Trent: You didn't call her back?

Mike: No

Trent: Why not, Mike?

Mike: Didn't occur to me.

Trent: Didn't occur to you?

Mike: It didn't

Trent: You've been, uh, tearing yourself up about this girl for six months. Didn't occur to you?

Mike: No

Trent: Well, Michael, I'll bite.
Mike: You know, man, I didn't understand it either. It's all so hard. Then it hit me on the way over here.
           like a ton of bricks. It's all so simple. When you...

Trent: Dude, wait a second...I'm getting vibe like in a really. Weird. Way here...This girl's looking at me
            like she knows me a little bit.

Mike: You don't recognize her?

Trent: I don't know. I could've been out with Sue one night drinking and told her I was a race car
          driver or something. No, I think I would remember this girl. I don't think I've ever met her before. I
          would definitely remember this one. She's got a lot of confidence, man. She's doing like...Wow...

Mike: What's going...

Trent: Mike, stop, stop. Stop, alright? Just stop. She's playing a little game, like a fun thing with me.
           Come on, you little party girl. That's it. Come on. Fun little games? You wanna play fun little
           games? Come on, you nasty little, cute little, baby.

Mike: What are you doing?

Trent: Mike, Mike, Mike, Mike, Mike. Stop. Don't. Don't. Don't. She's smiling at me. She's playing
           fun little baby games. She don't know me. She doesn't know my address. You know my address?
           You little...Oh, you...Hold on...She's coming over, dude. Play it cool. She's coming over. She's
           like the wild loony. But I threw, like, the great vibe at her. The funny vibe. You'll see.

Woman: Mommy's big boy. we're gonna go bye-bye now. Yes, we're gonna go bye-bye. We're gonna
            go home. Gonna play with Daddy.

Trent:...So, um, so you called her up, right? Or you didn't call her up? Why didn't you call her? You
            said you didn't call her? Why didn't you call her? Mike?