Agnes and His Brothers
Open Friday, June 9, 2006
Frank J. Avella
Agnes is a
transsexual. Her two brothers are about as
emotionally screwed up as people come. All
three are a product of the same father who
may or may not be a monster of sorts.
His Brothers is a character-driven gem
from German director Oskar Roehler. The film
probes the torturous pain damaged humans bring
with them as they attempt to lead adult lives
while still suffering psychological childhood
Agnes is attempting to lead some semblance
of a normal life until she is kicked out of
her home by her jealous boyfriend.
politically-motivated brother, Werner, is
having domestic problems. His family belittles
him. His wife will not sleep with him. His
eighteen-year old son has taken to videotaping
him in very private moments (not to mention
the fact that there is a disturbing Oedipal
feel to these relationships!) Werner has dream-fantasies
of murdering all of them.
The third brother,
Hans-Jorg makes the other two look perfect.
He is a pervert and sex-addict whose compulsions
lead to his getting fired and, ultimately,
committing a heinous act of violence.
blends the comedic and melodramatic elements
of these stories and creates a thoughtful,
richly rewarding work filled with striking
is a hilarious mess as the tortured Werner.
Moritz Bleibtreu delivers a complicated portrait
of a disturbed soul on a cursed quest for
love. Hans-Jorg could have easily been a cartoon.
Bleibtreu manages to humanize him completely.
newcomer Martin Weiss plays Agnes with subtle
restraint. It is a truly remarkable performance
that enables viewers to know so much more
about Agnes than the screenplay allows. Weiss
near steals the film and his face haunted
me for days.
sexuality is admirably handled as we casually
meet her son and realize that gender and sexuality
lines are never easily drawn.
script is pretty sharp and he make very good
use of preexisting music to enhance the plot.
My only real
complaint is that too little time is devoted
to Agnes’ story which is so compelling
and intriguing that it definitely deserved
more devotion. This would have made her onscreen
fate more poignant and acceptable. The reason
for Agnes’ becoming a woman is only
hinted at in the film. Exploration of that
alone would have added a great deal of desired
nuance to the movie.
34 West 13th Street
An American Haunting
Opens: May 5, 2006
Donald Sutherland; Sissy Spacek; Rachel Hurd-Wood;
James D'Arcy; Matthew Marsh; Thom Fell; Sam
Alexander; Gaye Brown; Kate Batts
Zoe Thorne; Miquel Brown; and Shauna Shim.
by Frank J. Avella
a thriller that is actually about something.
Who saw that coming?
I have to admit
I went into An American Haunting hopeful,
yet cautious. I was hopeful because it starred
the always superb Sissy Spacek as well as
arguably the most underrated actor working
today, Donald Sutherland. I was cautious because
I am not a fan of the horror/thriller/scary
movie genre, mostly because those I have seen
(especially in the last decade) are forgettable,
intelligent-free, non-scary excrement. Yes,
I have strong feelings.
how flabbergasted I was when Haunting
turned out to be a taut, exciting, terrifying
film that, with it’s last revelation
in particular, chilled me to the bone and
gave me a perfectly creepy feeling that, yes,
haunted me for quite a while after the credits
rest assured, this third act reveal
is no silly and incredulous M. Night Shaymalan-esque
twist. It’s believable and shocking.
Even if you see it coming, it’s still
is based on true events that occurred in Red
River, Tennessee in the early 1800’s.
A story that has become legend since it’s
the only U.S case that officially attributed
a death to a spirit. Plotwise, the Bell family
are visited by an evil poltergeist. The haunting
escalates into full physical attacks, first
on the daughter, then the father. The blame
was initially placed on a local witch (a nicely
wicked Gaye Brown) but the truth is a lot
more human...and a lot more ghastly.
Based on Brent
Monahan's novel The Bell Witch, An
American Haunting is directed with a deft
hand by Courtney Solomon, who manages to keep
a swift pace throughout. The movie boasts
a terrific ensemble led by the perfectly understated
Ms. Spacek and features: Rachel Hurd-Wood,
impressive as the tormented teen; James D’Arcy
as the skeptical teacher and the stunning
Mr. Sutherland who never ceases to astonish
with his risk taking.
Owing a great
deal to The Exorcist, Solomon stages
the brutal and disturbing attack scenes remarkably
well. Caine Davidson's score is quite electrifying.
The production designer by Humphrey Jaeger
is outstanding as is Adrian Biddle’s
An American Haunting specifically
to thriller fans who have been fed up with
the crap cookie-cutter copies of late AND
to folks like me who do not love the genre
but do love good films.
Art School Confidential
Opens May 5, 2006
Max Minghella, Sophia Myles, John Malkovich,
Reviewed by Frank J. Avella
Terry Zwigoff’s films are noted for
their surprising originality. Surprising because
the director seems to love to take a done-to-death
subject/genre/idea and inject it with refreshing
new spintwists. Crumb, Ghost
World and Bad Santa all shake
up and strange-ify existing genres and allow
audiences to delight in quirky, three dimensional
characters. (In the case of the docu Crumb,
a non-fictional character.)
feature, Art School Confidential,
is no exception. A clever, cutting look at
the insanely eccentric, cutthroat and self-important
world of arts academia, the film isn’t
afraid to poke fun at the sheer insanity of
who decides what is art...and how.
Clowes commendable script as a blueprint,
Zwigoff proceeds to genre-blast the coming-of-age
college movie, the 50’s teen flick,
the creative-artist biopic and the serial
killer thriller...just to name a few.
The film centers
on a handsome young artist Jerome Platz (Max
Minghella), an art school freshman who hero
worships Picasso and happens to be...a virgin.
On his way to becoming the ‘World’s
Greatest Artist.” he encounters a slew
of lunatic stereotypes including: his filmmaker
roommate (Ethan Suplee, chewing scenery flawlessly)
who would sell his soul for a good idea; an
arrogant, now-famous alumnus (Adam Scott,
dead on dripping with contempt) and the bizarrely
behaved jock (Matt Keesler, perfectly cute
and creepy) who has a secret...
falls for an older artist model (Sophia Myles,
who resembles a Cate Blanchett/Kate Winslet
hybridization--although I wouldn’t compare
her acting to these thespian titans).
commanding enough to make us give a damn about
Jerome and follow his oddball odyssey which
blend the hilarious with the melodramatic.
rocks and special kudos go to the lunatic
John Malkovich who can dust onscreen for two
hours and make that look interesting. His
Professor Sandiford is a scaryass mix of the
pathetic and the weird. Also on hand to twist
the plot is the divine Jim Broadbent who brings
new meaning to the label “angry artist.”
His Jimmy “lives only for the narcotic
moment of creative bliss.” The final
revelation is a testament to just how frightening
that phrase can be.
School Confidential exposes the ass-kissing
corruption inherent in most of academia as
well as unveiling the frauds that masquerade
as professors. At one point Broadbent asks
Minghella how he is at giving fellatio since
the measure of a true artist is in his ability
to boink the right person. It may sound like
biting satire, but Art School Confidential
can also be seen as a road map on how to survive
in the real world. And that’s the most
terrifying thing of all.
Ian Gamazon and Neill Dela
Through June 15, 2006
Reviwed by Jessica Cogan
a “no-budget” film, Cavite
is a remarkable adrenaline-charged thriller
that proves good films can be made with a
single actor, a cell phone and a couple of
fairly expensive plane tickets.
Shot on location in and around Manila, Cavite
follows Adam, a Filipino-American living aimlessly
in San Diego, who returns to the Philippines
for his father’s funeral. When he arrives,
he’s met at the airport not by his mother,
but by a ringing cell phone. On the other
end is a sinister voice who promises to kill
Adam’s mother and sister – who
are being held by the villain – if Adam
fails to follow directions.
Adam is sent
on a string of odd errands through the humid,
hectic streets of Manila and its nearby slums.
Some of his tasks seem trivial and aimed to
disconcert him: he’s made to attend
a cockfight, witnesses a beating and choke
down a balut (an aged fertilized duck egg).
But Adam is also ordered to clean out a bank
account and learns about his father’s
own involvement with Muslim extremists. In
fact, the sinister voice on the other end
of the line is himself a Muslim extremist
– although the underdevelopment of his
affiliations is one of the film’s shortcomings.
Finally, Adam is ordered to take innocent
life in order to spare his family’s
– and his native land’s history
and troubles are brought crashing into the
life he’s built thousands of miles away.
does an impressive job in building and sustaining
suspense. Adam is convincing as a bewildered
ex pat feeling both alienation and familiarity
in his native land. And the voice on the phone
makes a strong, sinister villain. He’s
taunting and menacing. Psychopathic. So it’s
a shame that he’s billed as an Islamic
terrorist since his ideological motivations
feel tacked on. Still, the film succeeds—and
bodes great things for the filmmakers who
will likely never need to work on so low a
Cavite was written and directed by
Ian Gamazon and Neill Dela Llana. www.cavitemovie.com
Village| 22 East 12 St.
The Heart of the Game
Opens Friday, June 9, 2006
“It's your life. Make every shot count.”
of the Game.
by: Chris ‘Ludacris’ Bridges
Reviewed by Wendy R. Williams
of the Game is a feel-good documentary
that follows college tax professor Bill
Resler for seven years as he coaches the
girl’s basketball team at Seattle's
Roosevelt High. Filmmaker Ward Serrill wanted
to make a sports documentary so he started
filming Resler and his team. And from the
school of thought that if you stand on a
street corner and watch the world go by
you will eventually see everything, Serrill
found his story. A few years into the filming,
Darnellia Russell joined the team as a freshman
and what had been a very good documentary
about hard work and the love of the game
suddenly had a compelling plot.
Here is a quote from their press releases:
“Serrill, camera in hand, followed
Resler – who looks more like Santa
Claus in Birkenstocks than a whistle-blasting
high school coach – into the Roosevelt
High School gym and soon discovered a group
of girls whose unbridled toughness, passion
and energy he came to call The Heart
of the Game. Then, one day, onto the
Roughriders’ court (and into the film)
walked Darnellia Russell – a tough,
inner-city girl whose off-court struggles
would eventually threaten to crash the star
athlete’s plans to play college ball
and be the first person in her family to
get a college education. At the center of
The Heart of the Game is Darnellia’s
unforgettable true story – the loss
of her eligibility and her legal battle
to get back on court to play the game that
means everything to her. With Coach Resler,
her team and her family standing by her
side, she takes on enormous personal obstacles
as well as the ruling body of high school
sports in Washington State.”
Resler is an incredible coach; his huge
heart matched only by his total commitment
to win. Every season he gives the girls
a mental image to inspire them to win like
telling them that they are a pack of hungry
wolves who are out to kill and devour their
opponents. From a less charismatic man,
these instructions would seem totally bizarre.
But the girls love him for it and go out
and “kill and devour their opponents,”
nearly becoming the state champion year
And then Darnellia joins the team as a freshman
and there is a change in the air. What had
been a great team now has that extra-luck-called-talent
to let them take the state championship.
The press releases are a little coy about
why Darnellia lost her eligibility, but
almost anyone can figure out that she became
pregnant and had a baby (a darling little
girl). Before the pregnancy, Darnellia was
just a kid who did not have the motivation
to work hard at school. Her mother had insisted
that she attend Roosevelt instead of her
more ghetto neighborhood school and she
felt out of place and unmotivated at mostly
white Roosevelt; her heart was still in
the hood. After the birth of her daughter,
Darnellia returns to Roosevelt, excels academically
and wants to play ball. Her heart is now
in her game but she is thwarted by the “powers
that be” who rule that she lost her
eligibility when she "decided"
to drop out of school to have a baby. But
Resler and her teammates believe in her
and vote to let her play while they fight
the decision in court. And Darnellia, with
the help of some incredibly talented team
mates, finally gets a chance to show what
she really can do.
So, if you loved Hoosiers, or for
that matter any great story, go see The
Heart of the Game. It will definitely
warm your heart.
Heart was produced by Serrill and
Liz Manne. The executive producer is Larry
Theatre |18 West Houston Street
Opens Friday, June 16, 2006
Frank J. Avella
As a showcase
for the tremendous talents of Kyra Sedgwick,
Loverboy proves the perfect vehicle.
Sedgwick, one of the best indie actresses
working today, has delivered the thespian
goods in such diverse films as Personal
Velocity, The Woodsman, Mr.
and Mrs. Bridge as well as the Julia
Roberts starrer, Something to Talk About.
Loverboy allows her to portray a
painfully complex and emotionally scarred
woman who’s misguided mindset leads
her to an astonishingly incredulous act.
confidence and panache’ by (her husband)
Kevin Bacon, with a screenplay by newbie Hannah
Shakespeare (based on the book by Victoria
Redel), the film juxtaposes moments from Emily
Stoll’s present and past as a way of
compellingly telling her story.
As an only
child, Emily (Sedgwick) is atypical in the
sense that she constantly feels her parents
(Bacon and Marisa Tomei having a loveblast)
are: “the embodiment of the dreadful
exclusivity of true love.” The only
bright spot in her childhood is provided by
the sexy and savvy Mrs. Harker (Sandra Bullock
in a radiant turn).
Grown up Emily
is determined to never marry, but is obsessed
with having a child who she can devote her
life to and love, like she feels she wasn’t.
After a legion of sexual encounters with a
gaggle of guys who she feels possess the qualities
that will help her conceive the perfect child,
she finds herself unable to get pregnant.
That is until she meets Paul (a wonderful
Campbell Scott). Once she has her baby, her
life is given a purpose.
Jr. is born, Emily exposes him to a magical
world of imagination--exclusive to the two
of them. For six years Emily succeeds in keeping
Paul all to herself, but Paul soon begins
to wonder about the world outside and why
he isn’t a part of it...
is unrelenting in it’s portrayal of
a damaged woman and her determination, born
out of defiance, to exclusively love her child.
to draw rich performances from his stellar
ensemble. In particular, newcomer Dominic
Scott Kay impresses as the boy. But the film
is Sedgwick’s from first frame to final
moment. She allows us access inside this complicated
woman--a frightening example of how we are
all products of our upbringing.
The one flaw
in the film is the cop-out ending. While Loverboy
may not be a feel-good movie, it’s
certainly a thought-provoking and significant
Prairie Home Companion
Opens Friday, June 9, 2006
Frank J. Avella
I must confess
to being a Robert Altman aficionado. And I
am the first to admit that not all of his
films are everyone’s cup of tea. Quintet,
which I love, can be a maddening sit, but
if you cannot appreciate Nashville,
The Player, Short Cuts,
Gosford Park and M^A^S*H,
you should spend the rest of your days on
earth locked in a room with nothing but Michael
Bay films playing over and over again.
The fact that
this living legend, filmic innovator, auteur-genius
has NEVER won an Oscar (he was deservedly
presented an Honorary one last year) and hack
Ron Howard has makes me seethe with the kind
of anger usually reserved for the spouses
So it was with
great excitement and anticipation that I began
my Prairie Home Companion journey.
It was also with great trepidation since I
never really thought of Garrison Keillor’s
radio show as anything special.
As the first
frames flickered I found myself wearing this
ridiculously wide smile on my face. 105 minutes
later, I was heartsick to learn two things:
that the film was over and that I had been
smiling that silly grin for the entire length
of the picture. I prayed no one saw how dopey
I must’ve looked. The only comfort I
got was from the fact that the film was so
delightful, so infectious, that I could not
have imagined anyone wanting to take their
eyes off the screen long enough to look at
anything else--let alone goofy-grinned me!
Altman has fashioned a non-traditional narrative
(basically non-linear and short on plot) that
explores character and tells a pretty straightforward
story in a fascinating and mesmerizing way.
imagines a final farewell broadcast of a very
Midwestern radio show. (ironically the real
Prairie Home Companion is still on
the air and still quite popular after thirty
of talent includes: oddball sisters Yolanda
and Rhonda Johnson (Meryl Streep and Lily
Tomlin) who were part of an ill-fated quartet,
and the envelope-pushing cowboys Dusty and
Lefty (Woody Harrelson and John C. Reilly).
Along the cinematic
road we encounter luckless PI Guy Noir (Kevin
Kline) who is the backstage doorkeeper; Axeman
(Tommy Lee Jones), the Texan who is responsible
for the show’s demise; Lola (Lindsay
Lohan), Yolanda’s songstress-wannabe
daughter and an Angel (Virginia Madsen) who
has come for more spiritual reasons.
cast is simply sensational beginning with
the perennially-amazing Meryl Streep (has
she ever not been anything short of astonishing
in any film?), who is obviously having a ball
with the role. Her onscreen sister, Lily Tomlin,
is also splendid and the two share a fantastic
chemistry when they are singing as well as
off-stage. They’re so good, in fact,
that it becomes painful to realize that the
Johnson Sisters are actually failures. Streep
and Tomlin are particularly glorious performing
“Goodbye to My Mama.”
is a comic wonder and his Guy Noir is a hilarious
and sad creation. The enigmatic Dangerous
Woman is divinely embodied by the ethereal
Virginia Madsen. In the hands of another director
this particular character and plot point could
have been delivered in a heavy-handed manner,
destroying it’s power and ultimate transcendence.
Altman allows her to enchant us.
does an admirably respectable job basically
playing himself. Keillor fashioned the terrific
imagined-swan song screenplay on some of the
persons and anecdotes that have kept Prairie
on the air. It includes many of his self-penned
these marvelous characters simply be, allowing
them the freedom to soar but knowing exactly
when to cut away. He is precisely aware of
where to place the camera and when to move
it. And he trusts his actors enough to let
them do what they do best.
The music is
infectiously entertaining with Streep and
Tomlin the chief showstoppers. Camerawork
is captivating with the usual Altman dolly
pans and extended takes.
so many unexpected pleasures, Prairie
Home Companion sometimes feels like Nashville-lite.
And while that 1975 masterpiece was a filmic
feast for all senses. Prairie is it’s
own smorgasbord. Yet as fun and facile as
it seems on the surface, the theme of death
pervades the film, in a strangely transportive
and magical way.
in their twilight years lose their creative
spark. Altman, now an octogenarian, is as
innovative, clever and thought-provoking as
Guy Pearce as ‘Charlie
Burns’ in ‘The Proposition’
Photo by: Kerry Brown
Opens Friday, May 5, 2006
Screenwriter Nick Cave
with no white hats!
Guy Pearce; Ray Winstone; Danny Huston; John
Hurt; and Emily Watson.
Reviewed by Wendy
(director) and Nick Cave’s (writer)
new film, The Proposition, is an
ode to violence and cruelty. Set in the nineteenth
century Australian outback, the film tells
a story of vengeance and murder in a land
swarmed by flies, battered by dust storms,
broiled by the sun and flooded with blood.
It is a place where the good are not good
and everyone and everything is filthy. It
is outback Queensland as one of the nastiest
places on this planet; you can literally see
the heat radiating from the dirt - an Australia
no one would willingly visit.
Here is a synopsis
from the press release:
Burns (Guy Pearce) is a renegade living in
Australia’s lawless frontier who, along
with his two brothers, is wanted for a grisly
murder. After being captured by local law
enforcer Captain Stanley (Ray Winstone), he
is presented with an impossible proposition:
the only way to save his younger brother Mikey
from the gallows is to track down and kill
his psychotic older brother Arthur (Danny
Huston), who Stanley believes to be the ringleader
in the violence. Meanwhile, Captain Stanley
has other problems with which to contend.
Having given up their comfortable life in
England, he is desperate to shield his luminous
wife Martha (Emily Watson) from the brutalities
of their new surroundings. However, his attempts
at “civilizing” the lawless émigrés
and renegade Aborigines only makes matters
worse. An uneasy sense of foreboding grows
as events close in and each character faces
a punishing moral dilemma that leads inexorably
to a devastating climax…”
his ungodly proposition, Charlie Burns journeys
to the outback to kill his older brother and
save the life of his innocent younger brother.
He is quickly attacked by a band of aborigines,
who are living like a pack of wild dogs in
caves. Then he is rescued by his older brother,
who is also living like a dog in a cave along
with as motley a crew of “associates”
as will ever be seen in a western. The brother,
Arthur Burns (played by the normally boyishly
likable Danny Huston), is a man with literally
“no redeeming social value.” But
he is Charlie’s brother and he saved
Charlie’s life and thus there is a dilemma.
back in town, Captain Stanley (Ray Winstone)
and his wife (Emily Watson) are incongruously
trying to recreate civilization by serving
tea, growing flowers and having formal dinners.
But Stanley also has a job and a boss, Eden
Fletcher (played by David Wenham), and the
likelihood of success of Stanley “proposition”
is severely compromised when Fletcher decides
to extract his own pound of flesh in revenge
for the atrocities committed by the older
So the “dogs
of war” (as played by the Burns brothers)
are unleashed on the town; Charlie and Arthur
ride to town to rescue their brother and enact
revenge upon Stanley and his wife. And when
they do, none of the amenities of English
country life can save Mrs. Stanley from being
assaulted by the horrific reality of her new
All of the
actors give incredible performances under
unbelievably harsh conditions (the heat and
flies were not added in a digital lab). Emily
Watson gives a beautifully nuanced performance
as the wife who longs for the beauties of
England but who also has an inherent human
capacity for cruelty and revenge. Guy Pearce
gives a quietly restrained performance, showing
no overt emotion but with eyes that tell a
story of desperation, despair and the search
for humanity in a land which seemingly has
none. Ray Winstone aptly portrays Stanley,
Guy’s nemesis and counterpart in the
search for some semblance of equilibrium.
John Hurt is amazing (as always) as an old
drunk (as always) who seems to have been just
dropped off in a cave to die. But the real
surprise of the film is Danny Huston. This
is most definitely a Danny Huston I have never
seen before nor expected could exist. Huston’s
portrayal of the thoroughly corrupt Arthur
Burns is simply mesmerizing.
The light in
the outback (as filmed by cinematographer
Benoit Delhomme), is eerily beautiful. The
land (for all its heat, flies and filth) is
a wondrous place, filled with shadows and
graced with incredible sunsets. The film is
also blessed by Nick Cave's haunting score.
Bravo to Nick
Cave and John Hillcoat for creating a truly
mesmerizing story of violence and the quest
for morality in a world with seemingly no
The Proposition opens on May 5, 2006
in New York City at the Angelika Film Center
(Houston & Mercer St.) and the AMC Empire
25 (234 W. 42nd St.).
The Devil Wears Prada
Opens Friday, June 30, 2006
Christina M. Hinke
Meryl Streep; Anne Hathaway; Emily Blunt;
Stanley Tucci; Adrian Grenier; Tracie Thoms;
Rich Sommer; and Simon Barker. Daniel Sunjata;
Jimena Hoyos; Rebecca Mader;
Tibor Feldman; Stephanie Szostak; David Marshall
Grant; and James Naughton.
The devil must have
decided to go down to Georgia because there
wasn’t an opening for the post of editor-in-chief
at the fictional New York fashion magazine
Runway. In the movie version of the best-selling
book by Lauren Weisberger, Meryl Streep brilliantly
plays the cold-to-the-core editor Miranda
Priestly. But in true Streep fashion, she
also manages to show the warmer side of the
ice queen. It would have been a lot easier
to hate Miranda had Streep played Miranda
as a Sub-Zero refrigerator, but instead she
shows Miranda as a warm-blooded person with
feelings (although they are demanding feelings),
so you hate to hate her.
Sachs (played by Anne Hathaway), is fresh
out of Northwestern University and she has
a passion for journalism. Somehow Sachs touches
a nerve with Miranda and soon the grandma
skirt-wearing Sachs is fetching Starbucks
(hot, very hot), answering phone calls, attempting
to schedule impossible flights during torrential
thunderstorms and scouring New York to get
her hands on a copy of the latest unpublished
manuscript of Harry Potter for her
impeccably dressed, unnerving boss.
is darling as Andy and manages to hold her
own against Streep, Stanley Tucci and the
delicious Emily Blunt (who plays Sachs nemesis,
actually named Emily). Hathaway manages to
look comfortable both in her sweats and straggly
hair and in her post transformation head-to-toe
Chanel. Surprise! Surprise!
performances, a tight script and an effortless
one hundred and ten minute run time make The
Devil Wears Prada into a devilishly good
New York time.
Twelve and Holding
Opens Friday May 19, 2006
Bruce Altman; Conor Donovan; Jesse Camacho;
Twelve and Holding, Michael Cuesta’s
eagerly awaited follow up to the intense and
controversial LIE, is a rich and
resonant look at the lives of three distinctly
different twelve year-olds. While Cuesta is
regressing as far as his main character’s
ages go, he’s grown in filmic confidence
begins with the tragic and freakish death
of Rudy, one of a set of Identical twins.
He leaves behind his meek, birth-marked brother
Jacob as well as his revenge-obsessed mother
and confused father. Rudy and Jacob have two
misfit friends: Malee, a half-Asian girl who
longs to be an adult and falls in love with
one; and the overweight Leonard, who realizes
he must shed his pounds and goes to extreme
lengths to make sure his mother does the same.
As he did in
LIE, Cuesta coaxes fantastic work
from his actors, most especially Jeremy Renner,
who gives a powerful and heartbreaking performance
and manages to deliver a third act speech
that in the hands of a lesser actor, could
have elicited laughs instead of tears. He
is riveting. Annabella Sciorra adds another
outstanding turn to her growing list of supporting
work. Someone needs to write this gal a lead!
And the young
actors are all touching and convincing. Conor
Donovan, in particular, plays both twins with
amazing ease displaying remarkable range.
is a bit too cliche’ but Cuesta has
a magical way of directing THROUGH them..
He, also has a great gift in being able to
show us the inner adult-wannabe world of a
child and how much their psyches are affected
by their parents and the “adult”
world around them.
not sure I appreciated the ending and what
it said about revenge (especially since the
crime wasn’t really intentional). Come
to think of it, I absolutely hated the ending
of LIE, where the Brian Cox character
was killed in a horrific way because he was
a pedophile. Cuesta seems a bit too bent on
marring his films with biblical vengeance
(or choosing scripts that do so) which is
a shame because everything else avoided the
bullshit-trappings usually reserved for studio
and Holding was reviewed at the 35th
New Directors/ New Films Festival
March 22 through April 2, 2006 at Lincoln
Center and MoMA.
Opened Friday, June 23, 2006
Angelika Film Center
Some of my
favorite movies: Best in Show, Drop
Dead Gorgeous and Waiting For Guffman,
have all been part of a new genre called “mockumentary.”
The films are not documentaries because they
are scripted situations (even though dialogue
is improvised) and the point is to satirize
the situations. Larry Clark’s Wassup
Rockers is yet another layer on this
new genre that does not include satire, nor
is it going for obvious laughs.
Rockers hits the streets of L.A. following
a group of teenage skater boys as they traverse
their way from South Central into Beverly
Hills to skateboard the famous “nine
Stairs.” The teenagers, led by fifteen-year-old
Jonathan, are all Hispanic, and their puck
rock, Ramones inspired look is not the norm
in the hip-hop flavored ghetto of South Central.
These boys are real people, not actors, and
the cameras follow them while they are put
in situations that might mimic their actual
lives (with actors playing the parts of the
other people in the scenes.) It’s a
tricky balance…the actors in the scenes
are not as good as the “real”
boys and subtlety is not Clark’s strong
played by an actor, harasses the boys for
skating on the public steps. In the interrogation,
the policeman consistently refers to the boys
as “Mexicans.” The boys, who are
from different Hispanic origins, none of which
is Mexican, correct the “policeman”
over and over and over…to the point
where we start to wonder if the policeman
is retarded. Then it dawns on you…this
is the scene where the audience is supposed
to learn that “Hispanic” does
not equal “Mexican.” We’re
also supposed to realize that this is a mistake
commonly made by policeman, even if the policemen
are corrected over and over, leading us to
wonder…are the police a little bit racist?
In an equally
subtle scene, the boys stumble into a fancy,
backyard Beverly Hills party hosted by a gay,
Gay, GAY man. The gay, who of course is instantly
fascinated by the group of boys flamboyantly
agrees to let Jonathan use one of his seven
bathrooms, but not before hissing at his DJ,
“Please play some Madonna!” While
showing Jonathan to the bathroom, the gay
immediately begins to hit on the fifteen-year-old
(because most gays like little boys.) When
Jonathan refuses his advances and goes in
the bathroom alone, the gay then frantically
tries to get a look at Jonathan’s penis
through the doors keyhole (because the gays
are all perverts.)
A drunken actress gives one of the boys a
bath because “being clean is fun!”
A Dirty Harry look alike shoots one
of them because he believes in “shooting
them first, asking questions later.”
The stereotypes go on and on, and it seems
like these boys might encounter less racism
if they just stayed out of Larry Clark films.
Rockers does succeed however in giving
the audience a peek into these boys lives,
despite the film’s desperately trying
to script them. The more revealing and interesting
scenes are the ones where the boys are unscripted,
either being interviewed or interacting with
each other. I wish Clark had more faith in
his audience. Racism is obvious in their poor
living conditions, their poorly supervised
school and for that matter, their poorly supervised
adolescent lives as a result of parents who
work in other people’s homes, watching
other people’s children. The audience
does not need to see a buffoon of a policeman
repeatedly calling them Mexicans to “get
The boys, as
I believe Clark intended for them to be, are
the most interesting thing in the film and
the process is interesting to watch. Wassup
Rockers is now playing in select theatres.
Theatre |18 West Houston Street