All posts filed under: Movie Night

Jennifer Saunders as "Edina" and Joanna Lumley as "Patsy"

Here’s to an AbFab Evening — And Bloody Good Mates

Every time I dabble in the “now” of fashion (which is usually a retread of the “then” of fashion) — gaucho pants, massive Jackie O’s, chartreuse tights, orange lipstick — I wrinkle my nose in the mirror and think, am I an Edina? That would be Edina Monsoon, the hilariously oblivious character from the British tv series Absolutely Fabulous. Edina, or Eddy, tenuously “works” as a PR rep and sports the most techni-crazy mash-ups of trendy items — and often wearing form-fitting, lycra-esque pants and avant-garde hats. Like Eddy I am at the age where I’m supposed to settle into weekend khakis and clogs, but of course wouldn’t dare dahling. Well at least not all the time. I, too, have my neurotic moments: Can I pull this off lovey? A little more botox in the brow? This past Tuesday night (natch), TueNight was invited to a screening of the brand new Absolutely Fabulous: The Movie. Creator and writer Jennifer Saunders (Edina) and Joanna Lumley (Patsy) reprise their roles as the sex, drugs and injectable-addled fashionistas of …

Indie 80s: A Celebration of Small Moving Pictures

I saw my first indie film when I was nine years old. Clutching my homemade lunch in one hand and my movie ticket in the other, I entered the dark theater at 8:30 a.m. that morning, the bright glare of sunlight still dazzling my eyes. I don’t remember what theater it was, only that it was between the Smithsonian’s Natural History Museum (where my dad was a curator) and the office where my 18-year-old sister was working for the summer in 1964. She’d dropped me off, and I settled in to watch The Beatles cavort in A Hard Day’s Night. Five times. Me, the empty theater and the Fab Four. A Hard Day’s Night wasn’t a big studio movie but a small, special gem of a picture made with love and affection for its topic. The theater was the only place near our home in Maryland, 40 miles away, that the indie “mockumentary” was playing. And my parents and sister didn’t think twice about leaving me there all alone, completely unsupervised, from morning till night. It …

The Movie That Changed My Perspective on Race Forever

In July 1989, my friend Gregory and I went to the movies. This was not an unusual event. As childhood friends growing up in Queens, we often went to our local movie houses. Cinema, for us, was about fantasy. The movies transported us to other worlds, other times, to exotic countries, to outer space, to rousing adventures with a Fedora-wearing Indiana Jones, and to cutesy romantic comedies where good-looking couples rode horse and buggy carriages through Central Park. When “Do The Right Thing” was released in July 1989, it made quite a splash in the media. This powerful independent film, written, directed, and starring Spike Lee, a young black filmmaker from NYU, was a no-holds-barred story about race.   The film’s opening title sequence, in which Rosie Perez danced to Public Enemy’s defiant “Fight the Power,” immediately signaled the director’s intention not to sugarcoat his anger and frustration over the state of race relations in the city. Although the film was marketed as comedic, some theater owners were afraid of showing it, thinking the realism of …

The Ballsiest, Awkwardest and Cryingest: Our Own Sundance Awards

Park City, Utah, stands about 6,900 feet over sea level. If you are used to, say, the 39 feet Philadelphia sits above the Atlantic, that’s a hell of a long way up. You feel this most walking from the outskirts of town — where the critics and press screenings are mostly ensconced — up the slight-but-treacherous-upgrade mile into the downtown area, where all the celebs, parties and nightlife take place. A couple of times I made this very trek while trying to talk on the phone and found myself unable to speak coherently for all the huffing and puffing I was doing. an apt metaphor for the distance between the Talent and the (digitally) ink-stained hoard that appraise them. Let’s not dwell on it. For this reason among a host of others, I pretty much kept it to the movies on this, my first visit to this annual American Indie showcase, and on that score, I wasn’t disappointed. Sundance 2015 may have been the usual mountainous smorgasbord of indie films, celebs, parties, very long lines, …

Four Money-Friendly Films and One Flat Broke Buster

In which we explore the filmic concerns of a given theme, and find new and novel ways of putting together yet another Internet-based list of movies. The wrinkle here, is our fifth pick will actually serve to prove as the counter argument, the best representation of the direct opposite of our theme. 1. Friends With Money (2006) Director: Nicole Holofcener Gist: Three longtime female friends (Frances McDormand, Joan Cusack and Catherine Keener), all of whom are married and quite wealthy, work to maintain their bonds while the fourth member of this tight-knit group (Jennifer Anniston), a cash-poor woman who used to be a teacher, quits her job and takes work as a maid. Currency: Income, earned or otherwise. The three wealthy women all get their funding from different sources: Franny (Cusack) is a stay-at-home mom sitting on a huge trust fund; Christine (Keener), is a successful TV writer; Jane (McDormand) is a fashion designer. Olivia struggles to make any kind of living whatsoever. Expenditure: Despite the trio’s wealth and success, their respective marriages are fraught with difficulties. Franny’s husband is an …

Four Pristine Films and One Covered in Filth

In which we explore the filmic concerns of a given theme, and find new and novel ways of putting together yet another Internet-based list of movies. The wrinkle here, is our fifth pick will actually serve to prove as the counter argument, the best representation of the direct opposite of our theme.  1. Mary Poppins (1964) Director: Robert Stevenson Essential Characters: Mary Poppins (Julie Andrews), Bert (Dick Van Dyke), Mr. Banks (David Tomlinson) Basic Gist: Into a mournful house of sad children living in disarray with their bored mother and cold, emotionally vacant father, comes the vibrant, sing-songy Poppins, who descends to the family on an umbrella, sings a great deal, and teaches the lot of them how to embrace life’s travails and flourish. Tidy Type: Physical and emotional. Poppins teaches the children how to clean things up and get organized — which notably makes them instantly happier — but also how to enjoy their lives, freeing their beleaguered father in the process. Cleanliness Quotient (1-10): A solid 8, though we’re talking emotional clutter rather …

Four Well-Coiffed Films and One Smooth Shaven Sci-Fi Flick

In which we explore the filmic concerns of a given theme, and find new and novel ways of putting together yet another Internet-based list of movies. The wrinkle here, is our fifth pick will actually serve to prove as the counter argument, the best representation of the direct opposite of our theme. 1. Amélie (2001) Director: Jean-Pierre Jeunet Gist: A sweetly innocent young woman (Audrey Tautou) moves to central Paris and takes on a life of selflessness and generosity in order to find love. The Hair: A ’20s-style bob, with fringe bangs. The Entanglement (Conflict): All her giving ends up taking away from Amélie’s ability to give to herself. Only when she learns to actively want things for herself does the possibility of love become reality. The Conditioner (Legacy): A timeless ‘do that still evokes the roaring, carefree spirit of the era that made it famous, it suggests a woman who enjoys a good time on the dance floor and doesn’t mind knocking a hair or two out of place in the process of throwing down …

Four Lovably Lo-Fi Celebrations and One Tech-Savvy Refutation

In which we explore the filmic concerns of a given theme, and find new and novel ways of putting together yet another Internet-based list of movies. The wrinkle here, is our fifth pick will actually serve to prove as the counter argument, the best representation of the direct opposite of our theme. 1. Brazil (1985) Director: Terry Gilliam Gist: In a sad Orwellian future adrift in bureaucracy, Sam Lowry (Jonathan Pryce) gets mistaken for a terrorist rebel and is ensnared in a would-be rebellion, while finally meeting and trying to protect the beautiful woman (Kim Greist) of his dreams. Offensive Technology: The whole damn system is a giant, bureaucratic disaster, with endless offices and committees and piles of paperwork that just confuses everybody and leads to glaring inefficiency and ineptitude. To make matters worse, the technology of the future is always breaking down at the worst possible moments, and seems barely functional when it does operate. Counter Argument: Not much to be said here. The future in Terry Gilliam’s brilliantly realized satire is a very familiar …

Four Very Giving Films and One Stingy Bastard

In which we explore the filmic concerns of a given theme, and find new and novel ways of putting together yet another Internet-based list of movies. The wrinkle here, is our fifth pick will actually serve to prove as the counter argument, the best representation of the direct opposite of our theme. 1. Adore (2013) Director: Anne Fontaine Gist: Two beautiful women who have been friends all their lives (Naomi Watts and Robin Wright), fall for each other’s sons (Xavier Samuel and James Frecheville) over the course of a single, tumultuous summer. Shared Benevolence: That would be the sons Ian (Samuel) and Tom (Frecheville). Simultaneously aghast and compelled, Lil (Watts) and Roz (Wright) cross social and moral boundaries in pursuit of their hearts’ desires, hanging the potential damage it could wreck to their friendship and the world around the boys. End Result: As you can imagine, things don’t go terribly well with this scenario. By the end, petty jealousies end up more or less blowing up everyone’s lives, and no one really gets what he/she might …

Snubbed: 5 Glaring Academy Award Omissions

With the Oscars taking place this Sunday, we thought we’d revisit the list of nominees, now that the initial cloud of critical dust has cleared. Are we still as outraged about some of their omissions as we were when the nominees were first announced? Turns out we absolutely are, so herewith, five instances in which the Academy has inexplicably failed us yet again, from least offensive to most galling. 1. Best Actress Brie Larson in Short Term 12 Director: Destin Cretton Currently Nominated For: Zilch Why So Much: Well, the truth is, I might not have been the biggest fan of the movie as a whole, but Larson’s performance — daring, gritty and suitably disturbed — absolutely stuck with me months later. Far from a glamour role, it shows the serious chops of a young actress with a hell of a career ahead of her. What Gets Dropped: Judi Dench in Philomena. This is categorically not calling out Ms. Dench, who is excellent as always, but in a crowded field of strong performances, hers is …

The Greatest Video Store — Ever

I’m in France. Truffaut, Goddard, Malle stand before me, asking me to pick them up and maybe take them home. Swooning in front of an entire wall of French film VHS boxes, I ponder the names, the drama, the possibilities. The unknown. A whole world is opening up to me right here on 4th Street in Philadelphia. The year is maybe 1991 and I’m spending countless hours in a Philly video rental store called TLA Video. Over the last few days, as we’ve watched Netflix get in bed with Philadelphia’s own Comcast for even faster, beat-that-buffer, on-demand streaming, we thought we’d “be kind and rewind” to a time when video store browsing was as good as the film itself. Just off South Street, the once punk haven (in the ’90s you’d still spot the occasional blue mohawk stroll by), the TLA was a cultural hub. The shop opened in 1985 as a subsidiary to the Theater of the Living Arts, then one of the country’s leading repertory movie theaters. There’s a whole separate piece to be written …

6 Movies That Don’t Shy Away From Addiction

Unlike our fabulous Piers Marchant, a seasoned movie reviewer I am not. However, I have seen my fair share of films about alcoholism and drug abuse (three stints in rehab, where weekly “Movie Nights” consist solely of anti-addiction flicks, will leave you with a vast viewing history). And obviously, I now have an honest interest in the subject matter myself. The following rundown are films that I feel address the disease of addiction in a way that’s both entertaining and realistic. (Or at least do a hell of a good job trying, as far as Hollywood will allow). They are the antithesis of 28 Days, the Sandra-Bullock-goes-to-rehab vehicle that, despite some good performances, pretty much wraps everything up into a nice, neat bow by the time the credits roll. These movies don’t let the disease get off so easy. While there’s hope (and why shouldn’t there be? we have to have hope to stay sober), there is also no bullshit. We know that the protagonists’ problems will not magically disappear once the final reel has …

Movie Night: Four Films in Need of Aid and One Beyond Assistance

In which we explore the filmic concerns of a given theme, and find new and novel ways of putting together yet another Internet-based list of movies. The wrinkle here, is our fifth pick will actually serve to prove as the counter argument, the best representation of the direct opposite of our theme. 1. What Just Happened (2008) Director: Barry Levinson Essential Characters: Ben (Robert De Niro), an aging Hollywood producer whose career is on the wane; Kelly (Robin Wright), his estranged wife who may be having an affair with a screenwriter; Sean Penn (Sean Penn), an actor whose latest film leaves his character with multiple shot wounds on the bottom of a giant pile of coal. Gist: A maniacal Hollywood producer in desperate need of a hit tries to juggle the chaos involving his estranged wife and her new lover while attempting to get his most recent production off to Cannes on time with the proper edits. Help Needed: Ben needs many things quite desperately, but most of all he needs for his director Michael Wincott …

Movie Night: Four Studmuffin Films and One Stale Cronut

In which we explore the filmic concerns of a given theme, and find new and novel ways of putting together yet another Internet-based list of movies. The wrinkle here, is our fifth pick will actually serve to prove as the counter argument, the best representation of the direct opposite of our theme. NOTE: As a middle-aged hetero male, I felt at somewhat of a disadvantage with this week’s theme, so I quickly assembled a makeshift panel of intelligent, witty Gen-X women I knew (from Tuenight and elsewhere) and conducted a brief poll of what films they found terribly sexy, which greatly informed my process. As you can imagine, there were some deeply felt biases and startling omissions that gave us all pause. (Where’s Idris Elba?! No Daniel Day-Lewis?! And what, oh what, of Michael Fassbender?!) But in the end, there was at least enough consensus to compile this week’s film list. Herewith, four break-out sexy actors and their female counterparts, and one decidedly not. 1. Brad Pitt in Thelma and Louise (1991) Director: Ridley Scott Essential …

Movie Night: Four Well-Aged Films and One Young Whippersnapper

In which we explore the filmic concerns of a given theme, and find new and novel ways of putting together yet another Internet-based list of movies. The wrinkle here, is our fifth pick will actually serve to prove as the counter argument, the best representation of the direct opposite of our theme.  1. Amour (2012) Director: Michael Haneke Essential Characters: Georges (Jean-Louis Trintignant), Anne (Emmanuelle Riva) Gist: An elderly husband lovingly cares for his wife after a stroke leaves her increasingly deranged and enfeebled, and leaves him largely alone. Generational Conflict: The couple have a daughter, but — in a terribly French manner — largely ignore her in order to better concentrate upon themselves. As a result, Georges refuses to lean on her for support when his wife turns ill. Important Life Lesson: True love can extend throughout any circumstance, no matter how grievous. Also, enjoy your time with your partner as much as you can while you have it, as you never know when it might be stripped away from you.   2. Harold and Maude (1971) Director: Hal …

Four Films with Sage Wisdom; One, Well, Not So Sage

In which we explore the filmic concerns of a given theme, and find new and novel ways of putting together yet another Internet-based list of movies. The wrinkle here is our fifth pick will actually serve to prove as the counter argument, the best representation of the direct opposite of our theme.  1. Moonstruck (1987) Director: Norman Jewison Essential Characters: Loretta Castorini (Cher), Ronny Cammareri (Nicolas Cage), Cosmo Castorini (Vincent Gardenia), Rose (Olympia Dukakis) Circumstance: Married more than 40 years, Rose knows her husband, Cosmo, is having an ongoing affair and is troubled by the implication. On some level, she can’t understand it, but feels pretty sure that it’s a way men stave off their creeping mortality. Advice Dispensed: Rose: “I just want you to know. No matter what you do. You are going to die, just like everyone else.” Result: Eventually, in front of the rest of the family at breakfast, Rose tells Cosmo he must stop seeing the other woman. He rises up menacingly, slams his hand down on the table, then sits back down …

Movie Night: Four Even-Keeled Films and One Very Off-Kilter

In which we explore the filmic concerns of a given theme, and find new and novel ways of putting together yet another Internet-based list of movies. The wrinkle here, is our fifth pick will actually serve to prove as the counter argument, the best representation of the direct opposite of our theme. 1. After Hours (1985) Director: Martin Scorsese Essential Characters: Paul (Griffin Dunne), Marcy (Rosanna Arquette), and a cast of thousands Gist: Poor nebbish Paul, a midtown working schlub, thinks he’s suddenly hit the jackpot when he meets the radiantly beautiful Marcy, an artist who lives downtown in SoHo. On uncharacteristically spontaneous impulse, he agrees to meet her in artsy, peculiar SoHo for a date he believes will change his outlook. Instead, he gets deeper and deeper embroiled in an ever-more ridiculous series of events and subsequent misunderstandings that leave more and more people chasing after him. Balancing Act (1-10): Perfect 10. *SPOILER ALERT* By the end of the night, with various different factions trying to hunt him down, Paul ends up, er, dropped …

Movie Night: 4 Deeply Emotional Films & 1 Callous Comedy

In which we explore the filmic concerns of a given theme, and find new and novel ways of putting together yet another Internet-based list of movies. The wrinkle here is our fifth pick will actually serve as the counter argument, the best representation of the direct opposite of our theme.    1. The Elephant Man (1980) Director: David Lynch Essential Characters: John Merrick (John Hurt), Dr. Frederick Treves (Anthony Hopkins) Plotline: Well, you have this poor, miserable man with an awful, face-and-body disfiguring disease who is literally a circus sideshow until he’s rescued by a kindly doctor and found to be a sweet and deeply caring individual. Only he still can’t escape the essential cruelty and intolerance of his fellow humans, even as he’s given a second chance. Particular Sensitivities: Emotional. Based on a real-life story, David Lynch’s first studio film treads upon extremely powerful themes. As absolutely nightmarish as John Merrick’s life has been, he remains such a wonderful human being, it’s almost unbearable to watch. Like a wildly abused dog who still sweetly wags his tail when …

The Best (& Worst) Films of 2013

It was a cinematic year that saw a singular devotion to the idea of survival — be it from a disabled yacht, cataclysmic space debris storm, or the alienation from your entire community of friends — which, I suppose can be analyzed any which way, but to this critic suggests the idea that no matter how grievous our world seems to be getting, how close we may be getting to the environmental and political precipice, our world is still worth fighting for, even if our chances of coming out the other side seem slim. To say nothing of all the sturm-und-drang concerning the fate of the Hollywood big-studio system itself, which suffered attacks from within, both from heralded indie-auteurs (Steven Soderbergh) and, perhaps, Tinsel-land’s most celebrated living director (Steven Spielberg) en route to a big box office year once again. Things might very well be broken, but there still seemed to be a fabulous glut of truly exceptional filmmaking going on all over the world (you go, Denmark!), which is to say, things might indeed …