Friday, March 29, 2013

Spring Breakers

Let me begin this review by indicating how much I loathe Harmony Korine. I have little to no respect for him as a filmmaker. I believe most of his work is mindless dribble made with the sole intent of shocking for the sake of shocking. You may ask why I even watched SPRING BREAKERS then if I hate Korine so much. Well, as an amateur film critic it’s imperative that I watch something before I talk shit about it. After all, I did watch ZERO DARK THIRTY. Also, as a connoisseur of graphically disturbing cinema, it’s my duty to see anything with a controversial buzz.

I won’t say SPRING BREAKERS is the worst film I’ve ever seen; I save that title for TRASH HUMPERS (also by Korine). SPRING BREAKERS is far from the best I have seen too. I admit it was mildly entertaining. Had it not been for James Franco, this film would have been an entire wash. Franco’s character of Alien is an over the top portrayal of “white gangstas” a la’ a Wayan’s Brothers film. Nothing about his character was believable or compelling which makes it ludicrously funny.

Clearly the female leads were all cast based on their seedy pasts as Disney dolls. These young actresses are desperately trying to shed their good girl images with the exception of Rachel Korine who just so happens to be married to Harmony. Rachel Korine cannot act her way out of a box, but she was thrown into this film as a message to the people who probably picked on Harmony as a kid. She’s his way of saying, “look at me now bitches, I married a hot chick” to all his naysayers.

Honestly, I expected this film to be way more fucked up. There’s not much in this film that I myself didn’t do (except armed robbery) on any given school night during my high school years. The lack of shock makes me think Korine is slipping in his old age. I thought for sure someone was going to get raped. Not that I anticipated it or condone rape, but SPRING BREAKERS has a sense of predictability to it. The reality is that any or all of these girls may have likely been raped had this been based on a real story. This is a sad unfortunate fact we deal with on a daily basis; just look at Steubenville.

To tell you the truth, I actually did enjoy KIDS (written by Korine) when it came out. I related to it in a way that terrified me upon initial viewing. As an adolescent indulging in the same vices as the kids in KIDS, the film hit a little too close to home. However, I think the things that made that film work so well were a complete fluke. A decent script coupled with Larry Clark and an incredible cast is what made KIDS work. The difference between the cast of KIDS and the cast of SPRING BREAKERS is experience. SPRING BREAKERS is full of trained one trick ponies who have been playing one dimensional characters their whole lives. KIDS was a cast of unknown teens who were not afraid to lose themselves in their roles. You’ll notice Korine has had less than stellar performances since that first film.

Overall, this film is amusing, but not enough to make it a great film. I did not expect the dialogue to be Shakespeare, but I did expect more substance than what a ten year old could write. I’d expect this film from a first time director, not a seasoned self proclaimed genius. On the other hand, this may just be a midlife crisis for Korine. SPRING BREAKERS is basically a really long & expensive dub step music video. It’s KIDS for the Facebook generation. Maybe Korine should start making grown up films instead of reaching into the hat and pulling out the same trick he did twenty years ago. Also, dub step is probably the worst genre of music of all time.

Monday, March 25, 2013

Top 10 Favorite Actresses

I’d like to thank D. Beth for inspiring this very post with her own illustrious list. It sure was a challenge, but I think I have narrowed down ten of my all time favorite actresses. If you would’ve asked my favorite actors, I can name those off without even thinking about it. I really had to sit and think about leading ladies though.

You see there are actresses that I love, but it may be the characters they played that I love even more. For example: Sarah Michelle Geller (Buffy), Kristen Bell (Veronica Mars), Mariska Hargitay (Olivia Benson), and Gillian Anderson (Scully). There are a few up and coming actresses that I am really excited about. Eva Green was the only redeeming part of DARK SHADOWS. She was unbelievable in THE DREAMERS and I really look forward to her role in SIN CITY 2. I’ve been raving about Juno Temple for a while too. She blew me away in KABOOM and I don’t even need to get into her role as Dottie in KILLER JOE (best film of 2012). She will also have a role in SIN CITY 2 and the highly anticipated (by me) HORNS. These girls have long successful careers ahead for themselves. Then there are the classic leading ladies we have all come to love. Sisssy Spacek, Diane Keaton, and Isabella Rossellini are women who exist on a whole other level. They are timeless talent that just seems to get better with age. These ladies just barely missed the list.

Now on to my personal favorites:

10. Ellen Burstyn
Burstyn has been making films pretty much since the dawn of time. She was wonderful in THE LAST PICTURE SHOW. People really didn’t notice her great talent until she starred in the greatest horror film of all time, THE EXORCIST. Her role as Chris McNeil still gives me chills to this day. I’m a big Scorsese fan so I loved her in ALICE DOESN’T LIVE HERE ANYMORE, a role she picked up an Oscar for. However, Burstyn really struck a chord with her tragic and disturbing role in REQUIEM FOR A DREAM. She really took her character, Sara Goldfarb, to the edge. Not a lot of women can do that.

9. Tilda Swinton
Nothing about Swinton is conventional which I think makes her incredibly appealing. She is a total enigma that fascinates and astounds me. I loved her in BROKEN FLOWERS and THE LIMITS OF CONTROL (two great Jarmusch films). She can do comedy very well, as seem in BURN AFTER READING. My favorite film of hers is WE NEED TO TALK ABOUT KEVIN, a film she was robbed of an Oscar for. She’s played a wide range of roles and I look forward to many more.

8. Toni Collette
Toni Collette is the kind of woman I want to be friends with. She’s smart, funny, talented, and beautiful. She does not fit the stereotypical Hollywood actress role, but she can sure as hell hold her own. I read somewhere that she was on a long list of actresses for the role of faux David Bowie’s wife in VELVET GOLDMINE. The producers wanted a bigger name with more sex appeal. Director, Todd Haynes said Collette faxed him a note in big bold letters that simply said, “I AM MANDY SLADE!” After that, the part was hers.

7. Jennifer Connelly
If Toni Collette is the kind of woman I want to be friends with, then Jennifer Connelly is the kind of woman I want to be. Technically a child star, she was only fifteen years old when she stared in a Dario Argento film. A pretty impressive start if you ask me. And what little girl didn’t want to be her in LABRYNTH dancing around with David Bowie? She really stood out in DARK CITY and held her own in REQUIEM alongside number ten. We won’t talk about the HULK because there are plenty more good films Jennifer Connelly has been in. There's plenty more to come I am sure.

6. Monica Bellucci
I’m pretty sure Monica Bellucci is the most gorgeous woman on the planet. She has played a variety of roles from Mary Magdalen to Dracula’s Bride. She may be most known for her chilling and brave role in one of the most infamous films of our time, IRREVERSIBLE. Any woman who can tackle a film like that and come out of it with little psychological damage is stronger than I am. Besides her beauty, Bellucci is a fantastic actress who is not afraid to lose herself in a character.

5. Uma Thurman
I simply have to include the muse of my favorite director. It’s hard to think about Uma before QT. She has done other forgettable romantic comedies, but nothing nearly as spectacular as Beatrix Kiddo or Mia Wallace. I will admit that as awful as BATMAN & ROBIN is, Uma may be the only saving grace as Poison Ivy. I really look forward to her in Lars Von Trier’s upcoming NYMPHOMANIAC. She was also married to Gary Oldman for two years which makes her ten times cooler.

4. Frances McDormand
Uma is to QT as Frances is to The Coens. Frances McDormand can do anything including marry a Coen. It seems like every movie I enjoy, there’s always an appearance by Frances McDormand. I loved her in ALMOST FAMOUS and MOONRISE KINGDOM. She excels at comedy like few other women I have seen. Her humor is much more sophisticated than other comediennes around now. She’s not snarky or self deprecating, she’s just funny. Even her dramatic roles are incredible. McDormand is a great and consistent actress.

3. Winona Ryder
Winona is my Goth sister from another mister. From the moment I met Lydia Deetz, I wanted nothing more than to be her. She perfected the troubled angst ridden teen role which I was playing out in real life as well. Johnny Depp got a “Winona Forever” tattoo; I mean how much cooler can you get? Did you know that the school in HEATHERS is called Westerberg High because of Paul Westerberg who was the singer of Winona’s favorite band, The Replacements (also my favorite band). Sure she’s done some crappy films like AUTUMN IN NEW YORK. But she also did REALITY BITES, DRACULA, BLACK SWAN, THE TEN, MERMAIDS, GREAT BALLS OF FIRE, and pretty much every Tim Burton film. I will forever admire and envy Winona.

2. Sherilyn Fenn
Another of my favorite actresses is also an ex-girlfriend of Johnny Depp. I’ve had a girl crush on Fenn since her days on Twin Peaks. The character of Audrey Horn particularly stood out for me more than any other. While Donna and Laura were evolving from good girls to bad girls, Audrey was the bad girl gone good. She starred in one of the greatest 80s flicks of all time, THRASHIN’. Blohan should have taken notes from her before she too tried her hand at portraying Liz Taylor. I really loved Fenn’s 90s Showtime sitcom, Rude Awakening. I just think Sherilyn Fenn is such a refreshing charismatic actress. She’s had a long career in film & television that will continue to grow.

1. Parker Posey
What can I possibly say about Parker Posey that has not already been said? Parker Posey is an unbelievable actress who has regularly chooses smart and exciting roles. She is the queen of independent film (sorry Chloe Sevigny). She’s never been to rehab or jail, has never done nudity, and hasn’t had cosmetic surgery. Parker doesn’t make tabloid headlines, but her acting skills speak volumes. I love everything she’s been in from WAITING FOR GUFFMAN to HOUSE OF YES. She continues to impress and delight me.

And there you have it, my favorite leading ladies in film & television.

Air raid bitches!

Sunday, March 17, 2013

SXSW 2013

Today marks the end of another whirlwind week and a half of SXSW. Every year it gets bigger than the last. Every year there's more people, bigger names, and longer lines.

My experience with SXSW has drastically changed since my first one in 1999. The last few SXSWs, I have spent a few hours of a couple of days out and about as opposed to morning, noon, and night partying my face off. I take a lot of flack for turning my back on my previous party girl ways. Feel free to peruse my old Myspace blogs for further tales of infamy. I admit, I do take myself too seriously sometimes and could use a little more relaxation. However, I do not miss the wild nights out. I do not miss waking up in weird places, forgetting where my car is, the excruciating hangovers, the random bumps & bruises, or any of the other embarrassing moments. I don't regret anything that I did, but I do not miss it either. I can still enjoy myself without getting falling down drunk or getting into THE coolest party.

Sure I was a little bummed out that I did not get to see Prince, Justin Timberlake, or Nick Cave. But I did get to see Prince's 2004 comeback tour at the SBC Center, I did see Nick Cave in 2006 at Stubbs, and I did get to see Nsync at the Alamodome in 2002 so I really can't complain. I got to meet Maddie the Coonhound, I saw Billy Bragg again, and I had a veggie dog from Hot Dog King. Sure SXSW is a lot of corporate bullshit, but that's what keeps it going. We have to take the good with the bad. I used to say I was never doing SXSW again. Now I just accept it as something we participate in every year like Halloween or 4th of July.

I did have fun this year nonetheless. I did see some really cool bands and I did talk to some nice people and catch up with old friends. All in all, it was a low key week. One of my favorite things about SXSW is the people watching. Most people either put in a lot of thought into their outfit or they're still wearing the same clothes from the day before. Both options make for great people watching and at one time I was guilty of both. I spoke to a fellow Austinite who transplanted from the Bay Area many years ago. He traveled downtown on the Metro Rail. He commented on how crowded it was on the train (it's usually a ghost train) and that how it's ALWAYS that busy on the BART. He said something that really stuck with me:
The city is just growing up and we just need to get used to it.
He is absolutely right.

We are lucky to live in a wonderful city that hosts one of the biggest media festivals in the world. We are lucky to live in a city that people actually enjoy visiting. SXSW generates so much money for Austin and we should really appreciate that. We live in a cool city! Why else would Robert Plant want to live here? Or Steve Niles? Or Richard Linklater? Austin cannot stay our little secret forever. Like every other living breathing entity, it will grow. The choice is: whether you will grow with it. Of course I complain when we get stuck in Kite Festival traffic on the way to brunch or have to take a detour to the comic book shop because of a marathon. It is inconvenient, but at least we have the option of these events to attend if we so wish. Not many big cities like Austin are as community oriented.

The worst part is that I know people who have lived here for 3-5 years and have never really experienced this city. They tend to stick to their five mile radius of Round Rock, South Austin, East Side, Cedar Park, or whatever neighborhood they live in. When I first moved here nearly fifteen years ago, I rode the bus everywhere. This gave me the opportunity to truly explore Austin. How can you complain about a place you have never really explored? I know people who have never been to Eeyore's Birthday Party, Mount Bonnell, eaten at Tamale House, gone roller skating at Playland, been swimming at Barton Springs, or even had a sno cone from Casey's. I feel sorry for the people who stick to the same sad Chili's and Panda Express in Pflugerville. It's true some of the iconic mainstays of Austin are long gone. Like everyone else, I too miss Sound Exchange (I REALLY miss it), Libery Lunch, The Dobie, and The Alligator Grill. But I look forward to the new memories and new places to make my own in Austin.

I hope everyone enjoyed their stay in Austin. Respect our city, respect each other, and most of all respect yourself!