Archive for November, 2009

2 Amazing Music Videos

And now for something completely different.

I’m generally not a huge music video guy, but these two seemed more than worth pointing out. The first is a video for the single off Bob Dylan’s new Christmas album, Christmas In The Heart, “Must Be Santa”. Before you get all up in arms about Dylan putting out a Christmas album, consider: (1) all the profits are going to charity, (2) Dylan’s run through of “Must Be Santa” is an uproarious, semi-drunken romp that pretty much blows away everything on Together Through Life, at least performance-wise, and (3) the video for the tune, directed by Nash Edgerton, is actually just as much fun as the song itself, a party you will really wish you could’ve gone to.

The second is a video for a tune off the forthcoming Beck/Charlotte Gainsbourg album, IRM, called “Heaven Can Wait.” This baby is even more loco than the Dylan clip, an awesomely Dadaist entry into Beck’s video canon — the best of which are already pretty out there. Seeing Charlotte Gainsbourg holding a baby in a giant hotdog suit makes me love her that much more. Directed by Keith Schofield.

Cage-Fest, Day 3: Peggy Sue Got Married

In preparation for — nay, in honor of — the upcoming premier of Bad Lieutenant: Port of Call in New Orleans, directed by Werner Herzog and starring the great performer Nicolas Cage, the Acme Video blog will be running a series of (at least) daily pieces on the entire Cage Oeuvre, with its startling highs and mystifying lows. It is one man’s tale… a chronicle of madness and obsession.

DAY 3: PEGGY SUE GOT MARRIED

The film that ended the professional relationship of Francis Ford Coppola and Nicolas Cage. Cage, who is nephew to Coppola and had worked with him previously on Rumble Fish and The Cotton Club (we’ll be getting to those films later), plays Kathleen Turner‘s main squeeze in this nostalgic, time-traveling, graceless attempt at 50’s-era high school romp. They call these films, “Dramedies,” I think — shorthand for a film that’s too lazy to be funny and too stupid to be dramatic. Maybe this was the beginning of the end for Coppola. Bear in mind, we’re not talking about the director of Apocalypse Now, here; we’re talking about the director of Jack.

That said, the film ended up being a solid box-office success for Coppola, his first since Apocalypse Now. In fact, a lot of people seem to like this movie (rated 88% “Fresh” (?!) on Rotten Tomatoes). Maybe it’s an age thing… But as someone who hadn’t bothered to ever watch this flick until just a few days ago, I can honestly say that this is one of the stupidest, clumsiest, most trite films I’ve ever seen (again, Jack comes to mind). The plot is so cumbersome and poorly constructed you can actually hear it creaking as it stumbles forward.

That is, unless Nic Cage is on the screen. Cast in the kind of role and in the kind of movie that normally would have called for a cocky, masculine performance, Cage instead distills his character into a supremely dopey Ken-doll with a pinched, hyper-nasal speaking voice. Cage has since admitted that he based the voice on that of Pokey from the Gumby Show; numerous accounts from the production claim that Coppola was extremely unhappy with the voice and wanted Cage out of the film completely. Somehow, Cage was able to convince him that the voice would work and he should be allowed to stay on. And apart from bringing a much-needed dose of sarcasm to a film that gags on its own earnestness, there’s a zany energy to Cage’s performance that does far greater justice to the spirit of youth than any of the other campy, ebullient turns by the film’s obviously over-age cast. He’s the only one who lets the audience in on the fun; the only one who seems to understand that if you really want to act like teenager, you have to act like a teenager.

This clip is kind of long; skip to 2:50 if you want to go straight to Cage.

Cage-Fest, Day 2

In preparation for — nay, in honor of — the upcoming premier of Bad Lieutenant: Port of Call in New Orleans, directed by Werner Herzog and starring the great performer Nicolas Cage, the Acme Video blog will be running a series of (at least) daily pieces on the entire Cage Oeuvre, with its startling highs and mystifying lows. It is one man’s tale… a chronicle of madness and obsession.

(So, there’s not gonna be any order to this thing. My only goal is to see them all. And to try and space out the good ones, so that I don’t have to watch, like, six Cage/Bruckheimer movies in a row. Any and all are encouraged to chime in in the comment section with thoughts, recommendations, dissenting opinions, etc. Today you get two stinkers for the price of one. Ever onward…)

DAY 2: MATCHSTICK MEN + BANGKOK DANGEROUS

I’ll ignore, for now, the question of what in God’s name has happened to Ridley Scott. But what a stiff, joyless film this is. Seriously, everybody was on autopilot for this one. None worse than Cage, who looks in this film like someone completely devoid of the joie de vivre that defines his best performances. Playing an obsessive-compulsive con-man, Cage’s character is nothing more than a collection of tics, twitches, and stutters; he over-acts his character’s quirks rather than give us anything of substance. There isn’t a single moment where he seems to be having any fun at all, which is the least he could’ve brought to a slick caper-film of this kind. Utterly forgettable.

Exhibit B is blockbuster Cage. Or at least, attempted blockbuster — this baby flopped at the box office (supposedly Cage’s own production company, Saturn Films, fronted most of the cost). There is very nearly no reason at all to see this film, though it is necessary viewing, for my purposes. He’s an assassin in Bangkok, lives only for himself, loves no one, will kill anyone and everyone who gets in his way, yadda yadda yadda. But dig his deaf-mute girlfriend, whom he primarily communicates with via pained facial expressions. This is Cage’s bread and butter — he’s a clown without makeup. None of these scenes were intended for comic relief, but… you take what you can get.

As we work our way through Cage-Fest together, I want you all to keep an eye out for some recurrent symbols in Cage’s work. There are a couple in particular that I’m interested in, but I’m still formulating my theories and I can’t say much as yet. But I’ll give you all a couple clues.

Clue #1: Cage’s hair. Be especially mindful of the style, and the direction in which it’s combed.

Clue #2: There are two Cages.

See you tomorrow.

CAGE-FEST!

nickcagecrazyeyesIn preparation for — nay, in honor of — the upcoming premier of Bad Lieutenant: Port of Call in New Orleans, directed by Werner Herzog and starring the great performer Nicolas Cage, the Acme Video blog will be running a series of (at least) daily pieces on the entire Cage Oeuvre, with its startling highs and mystifying lows. It is one man’s tale… a chronicle of madness and obsession.

DAY 1: VAMPIRE’S KISS

I begin with Vampire’s Kiss because, for the uninitiated, for the non-believers, for the haters and the nay-sayers, there is probably no better single testament to Nick Cage’s truly unique, entirely reckless, batshit-crazy brand of “acting.”  This is Cage’s Last Tango In Paris. His Aguirre, Wrath of God. His Silence Of The Lambs. If you crossed Marlon Brando, Klaus Kinski, and Hannibal Lecter you would end up with something close to Peter Loew, Cage’s utterly psychotic method-acting transformation from depressed-skirt-chasing-1980’s-literary-agent to control-freak-vampire-maniac-rapist.

One is tempted to use the phrase “a descent into madness,” but Vampire’s Kiss is more like a private tour of every wing of the nut-house. Loew is mad even at the film’s outset — a spastic, giggling, sexually-charged playboy, with women and money to burn and an awesomely Gothic Manhattan apartment. Cage adopted a strange, high-falutin, vaguely English accent for part, which comes and goes depending on his mood (and in one of several phenomenal scenes with his shrink, it actually becomes contagious; see the clip below). It’s just one of several crazy-as-a-fox decisions Cage makes, choices that would have been disastrous for a lesser actor — or at least one with smaller cajones. The fun really gets started once Loew gets his first vampire bite and begins his fitful, wildly uneven mutation into a blood-starved creature of the night. A fun enough premise in its own right, but both the film — and primarily, Cage — take so many stylistic left-turns that it’s not long before you’re feeling just as lost and desperate as Loew, wandering through Robert Bierman‘s fantastically cheerless Manhattan. Vampire’s Kiss then becomes a truly Kafkaesque fracturing of the Cage psyche. Donning a pair of old-person driving sunglasses, Cage’s movements become decidedly bat-like, as he leaps and flits around his office, screaming and twitching at his lowly assistant because of some completely insignificant file that’s gone missing. Much of the film is devoted to the manic-depressive head games Loew plays on this poor young woman (a perfectly mousy Maria Conchita Alonso) who fears — rightly — for her safety. Cage’s performance is truly one of the moodiest I’ve ever seen, and I mean that in the best possible sense: you can’t look away, and you never know what’s next. Few actors have ever mixed horror and comedy this well.

He eats a cockroach, people (in fact he ate three, one for each take). Gobbles it up. The final scene is an insane Cage-vs.-Cage riff, basically like watching a psychopath simultaneously prosecute and defend himself in a court of law. You MUST see this film.

Impossible to pick just one scene, but yeah… this one rules.

Acme Sponsored Screenings at E & O

e&oBeginning this month on Wednesday nights at the E & O Tap, 289 Knight St. on the west side, Acme will be sponsoring Double Feature screenings presented by Liz Lemon! Films will range from the highest of brow to the lowest of trash. Coming up in December, various films of Nicolas Cage will be the focus to coincide with the release of the new Werner Herzog film Bad Lieutenant: Port of Call New Orleans! See links for more info.

Steven Soderbergh, Meet Sasha Grey

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Steven Soderbergh would seem to have walked a pretty short, straight line from Sex, Lies, And Videotape – released way back when in 1989 — to The Girlfriend Experience. He has, once again, made a film which at first blush would seem to be explicitly about sex but which, viewers will find, shows nothing of the kind on screen. There is, of course, a great deal of talk on the subject, and The Girlfriend Experience being what it is, that talk is something slightly more explicit than in Sex, Lies… For those unfamiliar, The Girlfriend Experience stars Sasha Grey, who made a name for herself initially in hardcore-pornography, while name-dropping Jean-Luc Godard in interviews and displaying a penchant for masochism in her movies. In this film she plays an ultra-high-class call-girl, providing “the complete girlfriend experience” for her über-rich financial-district clients. And in typical Soderbergh style, the film is superbly edited, expertly shot, lushly colored… and colder than a witch tit. But mercifully, the casting of Grey turns about to be less a marketer’s wet-dream than an inspired, essential choice. She gives a surprising warmth to a role that doesn’t present too many obvious opportunities for drama or sentiment. And Soderbergh, who more often than not has struck me as kind of a wuss as a filmmaker, generally seems to have the good sense to stick with his star and the natural energy she carries with her. My biggest gripe would be that Soderbergh spends too much time with the various Wall Street meat-heads who are supposed have had their realities all shaken up by the “Great Recession.” Who the fuck cares? Some of this stuff will seem really dated in just a year’s time.

Kind of a bummer that this guy is what passes for a rebel in Hollywood these days, but I digress… The film is worth seeing, and Ms. Grey might just turn out to be the real deal. Whatever that is.