Paul Thomas Anderson: New Film to be ‘The Master’.

Posted in Uncategorized with tags , , , on January 3, 2010 by babydylan

Paul Thomas Anderson is a rare director with the ability of continually improving on his work whilst making films that are individually amazing and flawless. Hard Eight his 1996 feature, was an intense character study concerning the supposedly benevolent character Sydney (Phillip Baker Hall) a professional gambler who is unwillingly drawn into the personal lives of both John and Jimmy (John C. Reilly and Samuel L. Jackson respectively) two other professional gamblers. It’s miniscule budget and studio interference lead to a film different that what PTA originally hoped for and so to appreciate it or at least understand its significance next to the amazing Boogie Nights, Magnolia, Punch-Drunk Love and There Will be Blood – you have to look deeper to view the picture Hard Eight was intended to be.

Subsequently PTA demanded total control over his remaining films, as he is acknowledging of Hard Eight’s flaws and considers it to be different than his other work (to be honest, it is tedious and less entertaining). This includes a final cut of his pictures as well as input into its marketing and promotion (both the trailers and posters for Magnolia were cut and designed by PTA). If total control had not been possible, as his films are studio pictures and not complete independents, then he continually specifies to the thought police in control just how different the film will be from a normal classic Hollywood picture. Whilst making Boogie Nights, PTA continually retold his producers that the pictures glorious opening shot was going to be the one long take, without any cuts (in case they didn’t understand).

However, as respect for him grew PTA was largely left to his own devices – it was now trusted that his finished work will be quality – making films that satisfied his own creativity whilst being popular with the mainstream audience (to an extent). Punch-Drunk Love was an offbeat love story cut in with trippy, surrealist moving paintings by ‘outsider’ artist Jeremy Blake, and with a strong, believable performance by Adam Sandler (proving before Reign Over Me that he was a great actor).

There Will Be Blood was a departure. A period drama focused on the one character Daniel Plainview, with a grinding score by Radiohead’s Jonny Greenwood and understated direction that made film less self-referential than previous work (at times you forget your watching a film), his trademark long takes are there, but are less noticeable. Some of PTA’s regular collaborators were also not used: composer Michael Penn, and actors Phillip Seymour Hoffman, John C. Reilly, Julianne Moore, William H. Macy and Phillip Baker Hall. Finally, the picture was his most widely praised, with proper acknowledgement by the Academy. The film was nominated for best picture and PTA for best director, whilst Daniel Day Lewis won best actor for his intense, amazing and strangely heartbreaking performance as Daniel Plainview.

Considering PTA’s reputation for continually improving on his work, questions soon arose as to the nature of his next film. How could he possibly top what is considered by many to be a perfect film, and one of the best not only of 2007, but of the last decade?

In December of last year Newsinfilm published rumours of Anderson’s next film, a thinly disguised biopic on the founder of Scientology – Dianetics – L. Ron Hubbard. Tentatively called ‘The Master’, the film, said to be set in 1952, is about a charismatic master of ceremonies who decides to start his own religion, with the pictures focus being on the relationship between the master and one of his original followers, who begins to doubt the religion as its popularity grows.

The key word there is Doubt, for in 2008, Phillip Seymour Hoffman won praise for his performance as the priest Brendan Flynn in highly acclaimed film of the same title. Possibly due to his performance, or maybe because he’s a regular PTA collaborator (of course with the exception of There Will Be Blood), Seymour Hoffman is rumoured to be cast as the Hubbard-Esq master of ceremonies.

Those involved in the film have quickly denied any similarities between the picture and Scientology, defending it as an attack on all organised religion, as opposed to just the one.

However the film is coincidently set in the same decade as when Dianetics (Scientology’s original book) was first published, and Seymour Hoffman does resemble L. Ron Hubbard. Also, Jeremy Blake and Theresa Duncan, two artists from New York who were both friends with PTA, committed suicide during the making of There Will Be Blood. According to friends and family, both artists were under attack from Scientologists since deciding to leave the church, leading to constant bombardment from other believers and in some cases, attempts to ruin both Blake’s and Duncan’s credibility (it is not proven that their suicides was a direct consequence of the Scientology believers, but it is commonly accepted).

Coincidently, I was taking notes on an article I was wanting to write about Blake and Duncan when I saw the news bulletin about PTA’s next film. Like Boogie Nights, The Master maybe a broad satire whilst still being an indirect biopic on the one person (like with the Dirk Diggler/John Holmes character). Either way, it’ll be interesting see its reaction against the success of There Will Be Blood.

The Living End: An Irresponsible Film

Posted in Uncategorized with tags , , , , on November 27, 2009 by babydylan

Imagine: It’s 1992, you are a gay man living in George Bush Sr.’s America, you’re a mildly successful film critic with a place of your own and a best friend who knows you better than you do yourself. And you have just found out you are HIV-positive. Do you sit back and let the sickness take you slowly as you struggle to keep up with normality, or do you give the world a giant ‘fuck you’ and live like you’re trying to die, not like you are dying?

Gregg Araki’s 1992 film The Living End aims to explore this in a fable that comes with a tell-tale warning before the opening credits: ‘An irresponsible film by Gregg Araki’. The then 31 year old was angry, full of ideas and the burning need to express both.

Director Gregg Araki

Arriving in the middle of the New Queer Cinema movement The Living End is without a doubt my favourite film of the then-fresh genre. Films such as Paris Is Burning (1990), Parting Glances (1986), Todd Haynes’ confronting Poison (1991) and subsequent Velvet Goldmine (1998) and Safe (1995), Bruce LaBruce’s No Skin Off My Ass (1991) along with Gus van Sant’s My Private Idaho (1991) were all made at relatively the same time which prompted film critic B. Ruby Rich to coin the phrase ‘New Queer Cinema’. She was able to draw attention to a group of filmmakers who were finally finding their voice to share their stories, uncensored, raw and downright in-your-face. And in my opinion, no one says it better, more beautifully or as memorably as Gregg Araki and his films Totally Fucked Up (1993), The Doom Generation (1995), Nowhere (1997), Mysterious Skin (2005) and of course my favourite, The Living End.

Sometimes called ‘the gay Thelma & Lousie’, the story centres around two gay men, both HIV-positive and approaching their sickness in completely different ways. Male hustler and a regular Adonis Luke is a drifter, if he ever had a hometown he forgot it, if he once had a trade he doesn’t remember, he has no purpose other than to keep moving, keep fighting, finding moments of bliss with different strangers the only constant is the promise to himself that he will end his life before he starts to wither from the disease. Jon meanwhile, has his planned and stable life thrown off course in a time when AIDS and HIV was a death sentence for all infected. Attracted to Luke’s carefree attitude and physical presence, the two set out on a road trip across America and begin a tumultuous, passionate and often violent relationship trying to grapple with their approaching deaths as best they can.

Luke and Jon fight for the best ways to live or to die

Made on a shoestring budget of $20,000 Araki captures the desperation and the helpless feelings HIV-positive men were struggling with at the time. A generation who felt they were paying the price for the freedom those before them fought for. Lengthy shots with wonderfully simplistic camera angles make for an elegant frame and create a stark contrast to the intimate scenes between Luke and Jon, their conversations as heated as their love-making. The soundtrack consisting of post-punk and shoegazing tunes reflects the doomed and desperate leads as Ian Curtis and The Jesus and Mary Chain forebode the future.

The final scenes are heart-breakingly desperate as both men resign themselves to inevitability, yet when the time comes for both to make the final decision, to continue to fight or to die in their youth, neither can fulfill their wishes. The film ends tenderly but without hope as both huddle in limbo, ultimately doomed with little chance of redemption.

If you are to see one film from this poignant and revealing genre, The Living End is the film to see. Reflecting the time and the attitude while creating real characters whose lives spiral out of their control, Araki is the master of making you feel and realising you really have so much to be thankful for.

My new friend crush

Posted in Reviews with tags , , , on November 26, 2009 by babydylan
Many of you might know, but I have a bit of an obsession I like to call a ‘friend crush’.

It pretty much means when you see someone in your class at uni, at your workplace, on the train, in the coffee line, complaing about all those goddamn skateboarders and are amused or intrigued by something they say, you develop a bit of a crush. Not a romantic crush, but more of an intellectual one. It’s less of a ‘I-want-to-take-you-somewhere-and-devour-you-crush’ and more of a ‘you-seem-extremely-facinating-and-I-forsee-us-getting-on-famously-so-let’s-bypass-the-getting-to-know-you-awkward-bullshit-and-hang-every-day-crush’.

And if there is one filmmaker I am desperately friend crushing on at the moment, it has to be Rian Johnson.

My new best friend

It all started last year when I finally got my hands on a copy of Brick, Johnson’s 2005 film. Originally I was intrigued by actor Joseph Gordon-Levitt, definitely a crushcrush and known for his roles in tv show 3rd Rock From The Sun, teen masterpiece 10 Things I Hate About You, Greg Araki’s unsettling Mysterious Skin and most recently non-rom-com (500) Days Of Summer. Yet on viewing the film I realised that Levitt was only one aspect of its appeal.

Levitt plays Brendan Frye, student at a southern Californian high school who receives a call from his ex-girlfriend asking for help and then finds her two days later lying dead in a sewage tunnel. Set in the world of a teen flick but with the tone of film noir, Frye is a modern-day Bogart trying to decipher the mysterious death. Sucking the audience into a world where students speak their own language, vice principals are kept in the dark by their pupils while drug-lords and their customers sometimes share glasses of milk with unsuspecting parents.

My very favourite moment from 'Brick'

Inspired by the hard-boiled writing style of Dashiell Hammet and influenced by noir films from his youth such as The Maltese Falcon and The Glass Key, Johnson wrote the script in 1997 pitching it around Hollywood for ten years before being greenlit. A deeply personal film whose visual style is reminiscent of spaghetti westerns while following a plot similar to Chinatown, the mix of genres and styles makes for a unique film going experience. Sometimes high school feels like you tackle issues that are so much bigger than adults give you credit for and it is personified in this piece. School politics, social groups and general hierarchy are all given the weight they deserves without mocking youth, while the shots are elegant and simple – inspiring for those getting into film and for those who feel awash with seemingly trivial responsibility.

Which brings me to Rian Johnson’s latest offering, and reason I ‘want to go to there’, The Brothers Bloom. If Brick gave the audience a snapshot into Johnson’s somewhat lonely but intriguing adolescence, The Brothers Bloom is a fascinating look at the quirky, unique and oh-so-fun man he has become.  

Rian tells the cast to buckle up

Centred around two brothers (Mark Ruffalo as the elder Stephen and Adrian Brody as the most likely unintentional but nevertheless extremely good-looking younger) who are shuffled around from different foster homes as children in an adorable montage of quick-witted humour and delightful child acting. The boys develop skills as con-artists and spend their lives living out the fantasies older Bloom writes. Younger Bloom however, wants an ‘unscripted life’ yet is roped into one last con on gazillionaire Penelope played by Rachel Weisz, in yet another role with an annoying fake accent.

The characters are wonderfully loveable; zany Penelope who collects hobbies, calm and controlled Stephen who is cocky but never annoying, hang-dog Bloom who can’t seem to find happiness even in the simplest of things and best of all Bang-Bang played by Rinko Kikuchi who manages to steal the show while only uttering three words throughout. The set of exotic locations, the swoon-worthy costumes, and the timeless setting make for an intoxicating romp. The plot has more twists than Agatha Cristie smashed at an open bar, but as the film winds up, the plot doesn’t really seem to matter as you genuinely like all the characters. There are no bad guys, there’s only misguided steps and the best intentions.

The Brothers looking mighty fine

Although The Brothers Bloom doesn’t pack the same emotional punch as Brick, it still thoroughly charmed me, making me fall for Rian Johnson even harder. Apparently his next film is about time travelling hitmen set in Kansas and I am putting it out there, I can feel it will be mind-blowingly awesome.

The Road, has new direction….

Posted in Uncategorized with tags , , on November 2, 2009 by babydylan

If the second recently released trailer for The Road has told Babydylan one thing, its that the film is looking to be thee most important picture of 2009, if not for the past ten years. In contrast to the first, the second trailer convinces me that the picture has retained the original message so eloquently written about in the book (although I’d thought that for awhile, not only because ‘DissolvedPet’ pipped up and told me that The Road is suspected to be “pretty fucking brutal”). Hopefully this film will walk the same line as previous documentaries, ala The Inconvenient Truth, and give those in denial about Global Warming a firm kick up the bum. In fact I can imagine the irony of the film being more succesful than docos at conveying the message (it being a ‘work of fiction’ and all). Anyway, heres the trailer….tell us what you think!

The Road, it’s going somewhere……..

Posted in Uncategorized with tags , , , , on September 30, 2009 by babydylan

A few years ago my mums partner gave me a book for Christmas called The Road, a novel by Cormac McCarthy (author of No Country for Old Men). The book was about a father and a son making their way through a desolute and post-apocalyptic version of earth, camping in the ruins of buldings, encountering savage locals and all the while trying their hardest to fulfill a ‘quest’. What kind of quest, we didn’t know. I may be an exception, but it took me while to figure out that the novel’s world has been ruined by global warming (and the other grievances commited by us, the humans). I could see the futuristic element to it, but the idea of the earth having been ruined by polution and the novel therefore being a critic of how we’re dealing with global emmisions wasn’t immediatly obvious, at least to me. My mums partner understood the premise straight away.

Thats because at some points the narrative moves past its setting to focus on the relationship between the father and the son, the most poignant and heartrenching part of the whole text. The novel has since become one of my favourites, because it balances this relationship with its subtle attack on how we are treating our planet. Its a reminder that nomatter what happens, we do our best to survive and that love conquers all etc.

Now the novel has been adapted for the big screen by Australian John Hillcoat (director of The Proposition and Ghosts….of the Civil Dead). Whilst it is in capable hands, the recently released trailer was disapointing, as the film looks like it has focused on the ‘disaster’ element of the novel, and has ignored all the rest. It reminds me of The Day After Tomorow, or the new trailer for 2012. Hopefully it is true to the text, and they’ve just cut it this way to get more bums on seats, but then i guess only time will tell………..

Terrence Malick is not the Messiah! He’s just an amazing filmmaker!

Posted in Uncategorized with tags , on September 30, 2009 by babydylan

World War Two film The Thin Red Line exploded onto the scene with a resounding bang, standing out as a stark contrast to another 1998 war drama, Saving Private Ryan. As opposed to it being a confronting portrayal of the horrors of war, with extra schmaltz thrown in (as Ryan was), The Thin Red Line was deeply philosophical, its focus being the devastation of nature. The picture seemed to come from nowhere, details of its production were kept tight lipped. The most anyone could say prior to its release was that it was based upon a James Jones novel, it had an amazing ensemble cast and was the third feature in almost twenty years for filmmaker Terrence Malick, whose previous films Badlands and Days of Heaven are considered masterpieces of New Hollywood.

Rumours began to circulate about Malick’s twenty year hiatus from filmmaking. Who was this guy? Where had he been? And what had he been doing in that time? One rumour suggested that he had been running a second hand book shop in small town America, another was that he became a farmer, or that he was a cobbler operating in Paris. The most likely rumour was that he was teaching English in an American University under the alias of Joey Joe Joe Shabadoo Jr. The New World (Malick’s fourth feature) followed in 2005, and it was considered by some to be a companion piece to The Thin Red Line. Both were period dramas, involved nature being plundered by outsiders, both had a running internal monologue comprised of the thoughts of the characters in the films, and were representative of a filmmaker who was completely in control of his craft.

If the twenty year hiatus wasn’t enough, the perfection of the two films caused us to ask more questions about the man who made them. Who was he, this strange man who had disappeared from Hollywood, but had emerged years later with an ultimate control over filmmaking? And if this wasn’t enough, rumours began to circulate about the secrecy surrounding his projects. Malick’s contracts stipulate that no current photos of him are aloud to be taken, and that he is to give no interviews. Even the documentaries about his films don’t feature any interviews with the man himself, or any footage of him directing, it’s just interviews with his cast and crew. Colin Farrel, who worked with Malick in The New World, has done nothing to quell these rumours of his elusive reputation, in fact in an interview given to a magazine, he seemed to encourage them. “I don’t even remember making The New World. I just remember showing to meet Terrence for an interview, and when I walked into his office there was this shining flash of light…..and I passed out. And I woke up 7 months later and there was this completed film that had me in its cast. Weird.” * When Malick agreed to give a rare public appearance for a Q and A at the Rome film festival, fans were excited thinking it might be the only opportunity to glimpse the man, even capture footage of him. Yet as the following clip demonstrates (taken by an audience member on his phone) this couldn’t happen. We can hear Malick’s voice, but we can’t actually see him. How frustrating is that!

All this weird stuff combined, coupled with the sheer perfection of his films, caused many to speculate whether Terrence Malick was God himself. That maybe God had wandered down from Heaven and began a career as a filmmaker. If you go on IMDb, and look at Malick’s message board, every second post begins with “So Malick, is he like……God?” No he’s not God, nor is he a culmination of other filmmakers who have all pooled their talents and worked under the same alias (as I also heard on the rumour mill). He’s just a normal dude who started off as a normal filmmaker, but quickly tired of the Hollywood system and turned his back on it, deciding instead to operate under his own steam. After looking long and hard, I found two current pictures of the man. The one on the right looks like it was taken without him expecting it, the one on the left was taken at a film festival, on someone’s phone.

terrence_malick__photos[1]

Also, the following clip is from Malick’s debut Badlands, in which he makes a cameo as a door to door salesman, which suggests that at one point he wasn‘t as preoccupied with secrecy as he is now.

Peter Biskund, in the book Easy Riders, Raging Bulls, portrays Malick as a shy, introverted, normal guy, with weaknesses and eccentricities. “A burly young man, barrel-chested and bearded, Malick looked a little like Peter Boyle with hair**. He was shy and introverted, said very little. Malick came from Texas. His father was an executive with Phillips Petroleum, and he had two younger brothers, Chris and Larry. Larry went to Spain to study guitar with Segovia, a taskmaster of legendary proportions. In the summer of 1968, Terry learned that his brother had broken both his own hands, apparently distraught over his studies. Terry’s father asked him to go over to Spain to help Larry. Terry refused. The father went himself, and returned with Larry’s body. He had apparently committed suicide. Terry, as the eldest son, had inherited the birthright. He was the one who went to Harvard and became a Rhodes scholar, and now when his younger brother needed him most, he hadn’t been there. He always bore a heavy burden of guilt.” Further on, Biskund goes into detail about Malick’s unusual directing style on the Days of Heaven shoot ( including the “meticulous and indecisive” editing of the picture which took place over two years, and eventually made the plot “incomprehensible”, saved of course by the voice over), and the studio inteference Malick experienced during production on both Badlands and Days of Heaven.

Malick’s hiatus from filmmaking is more easily understood when we read the stories surrounding the making of his films, the production delays, the studio’s barging in on the editing, the budget cuts, the uncooperative crew. He disappeared from Hollywood for twenty years, fed up with all the red tape and the bullshit, but like all good directors found himself drawn back to it because of the stories still waiting to be told.

*I made this up, in case you couldn’t tell.

*The dad from Everyone Loves Raymond.

A short Trailer for ‘The Ghost’

Posted in Uncategorized with tags , , on August 24, 2009 by babydylan

As I said in my previous post, I will be keeping everyone updated on Polanki’s new film ‘The Ghost’ as it develops. In all his awesomeness, Polanski has released a very short (“very very fucking short”, Alex says) trailer that gets me (as well as the entire film viewing community) salivating with excitement. Ewan McGregor plays a ghost writer for Britain’s former Prime Minister, played by Pierce Brosnan. Nothing more needs to be said……….

As I said, its very short….but still guaranteed to be amazing. Kaching!