Saturday, May 31, 2008


If there's one place Sheldon enjoys visiting (and spending money), it's New York City. And if there's one show about NYC that Sheldon can watch over and over again, it's LAW & ORDER. I'm just kidding .. It's SEX AND THE CITY! (L&O is a close second though.) So what better way to give away three double passes to the film that can be used throughout its run of engagement (anywhere in Quebec) than combining two of Sheldon's greatest loves?

Below you will find four pictures of Sheldon at various locations in NYC. Read the text below each photograph to see what answer I'm looking for and send your answers to

Three winners will be chosen at random and announced Monday morning.


This is the Angel Bethesda (you might recognize her from phenomenal works like ANGELS IN AMERICA or in less spectacular fare like THE PRODUCERS). You can find her in all her glory somewhere near the center of ...


Sheldon doesn't see a purpose in passing through the Big Apple without taking in a show. This was taken while he waited in line with the rest of the sheep for A CHORUS LINE. What's the name of that stretch where all the shows play again?


This is me and Sheldon hanging in the park where fashion week takes place each year. Being there always reminds me of that line from the Rufus Wainwright song "Is true love a long walk through .... ?"


Sheldon spent the whole day here and was a little creeped out by all the realistic looking representations of some of his fellow animals. He was happy not to run into Ben Stiller though.

Thanks for playing. Sheldon appreciates your attention. While you're here, scroll down and read the full length review for the SEX AND THE CITY movie. Again, winners will be announced Monday. Good luck!

Thursday, May 29, 2008


Written and Directed by Michael Patrick King
Starring Sarah Jessica Parker, Kim Cattrall, Kristen Davis, Cynthia Nixon and Chris Noth

Carrie Bradshaw: You know that this is a fairy tale, right sweetheart? Things don’t always work out like this in real life.

It’s important to state right away that I am a devout fan of the “Sex and the City” television series. I have seen the episodes countless times and they still tickle me almost as often as they touch me. Clearly, what you’re going to get out of the SEX AND THE CITY movie depends on what you’re going in with. For anyone who cares as much as I did, and there are more than enough in my boat to sink it, these girls have been sorely missed. It has been four years since the boy who called love, Mr. Big (Chris Noth) found a crumbling Carrie Bradshaw (Sarah Jessica Parker) in Paris and told her finally that she was the one. Subsequently, it has been just as much time since Carrie foolishly believed him capable of feeling such things and forewent all her single sensibility for a crapshoot she called love. (It figures the one part of the series I would not like would be its conclusion). Who cares though? I still want more. When the lights went down and the sounds of that familiar theme began to rise (albeit just as a sample in some overwrought Fergie song), my romantic heart sped up just a little and an inevitable smile took over my face. But as the credits gave way to a recap of the characters’ arcs whittled down to their barest bones, I couldn’t help but wonder, who does director, Michael Patrick King think is seeing this movie that doesn’t already know all of this as well as the fit of their favorite shoes?

If you were not a fan of the series, this film will do nothing for you but remind you why. If you were a fan, you may feel some varying degree of disappointment but you’ll still likely see it and love it more than once. How could you not? I was mildly disappointed and I still cried at least three times. I missed these girls. They kept me company on so many restless nights. Miranda (Cynthia Nixon) taught me how to let go of life long enough to let love in. Charlotte (Kristen Davis) taught me that you might not recognize love when it finally comes to you. Samantha (Kim Cattrall) taught me that old habits eventually need to be left behind if your life is ever to become what it could. And Carrie … oh, Carrie. Carrie taught me about the constant struggle to find happiness in yourself and your own life regardless of whether you’re fortunate enough to be sharing that with another person. So often did her poetic musings give me calm and resolve that the show became a necessary fix whenever I lost hope that love still knew where to find me.

Though the ladies may mean different things to different people, the need for the SEX AND THE CITY movie is palpable within its devoted fan base. The movie itself however creates none of its own urgency and does little to justify its own existence. Yes, I wanted the girls back but it would have been nice if they came back for a reason. Without divulging too much (as I believe the fate for spoiling this film is castration), the good times pick up again four years after we last left the streets of New York City. Miranda’s busy married life with Steve (David Eigenberg) has gotten stagnant; Charlotte lives in bliss with her husband Harry (Evan Handler) and their adopted girl, Lily; Samantha has made a life of monogamy and management with her young stud, Smith (Jason Lewis)in Los Angeles; and Carrie has somehow managed to domesticate Mr. Big, now known as John James Preston. It would even seem that they are headed toward wedded bliss. The big day comes though with expected big disasters and Carrie gets exactly what she should have seen coming all along.

As I was never happy that the quintessential single girl settled for a man who hurt her repeatedly and consistently, it was hard to feel satisfied watching her make the same mistakes on the big screen. On such a grand stage, I wanted to see Carrie blossom into the true state of confidence and individuality that her character was destined to, if only just to remind myself that I have that same capacity. Instead, her small screen magnificence only half fills the new digs and left me feeling rushed and unfinished instead of post-orgasm elation. And with the last round of cosmos now behind us, I got my much needed fix but I can’t tell whether SEX AND THE CITY (the movie) will keep the love flowing far into the future or finally put SEX AND THE CITY (the phenomenon) to rest.

Sunday, May 25, 2008


Written by David Koepp
Directed by Steven Spielberg
Starring Harrison Ford, Shia LaBeouf, Karen Allen and Cate Blanchett

Mutt Williams: For an old man, you’re not bad in a fight. What are you? 80?

The latest Indiana Jones installment opens with an impromptu drag race in the middle of the Nevada desert. (It actually opens with a silly, fake gopher making a face at the camera but that is far too bizarre for me to comment on.) A car full of teenagers, looking 50’s fresh, pass a number of army trucks full of troops. When they get to the front of the line, they encourage the army driver across from them to step on the gas and they’re off. In many ways, this opening sequence announces the tone for what’s to come in Steven Spielberg’s INDIANA JONES AND THE KINGDOM OF THE CRYSTAL SKULL. The image is crisp; the camera movement is slick; and the thrills are swept up into momentary exhilaration. But then, as the cavalcade turns off the road and the teenagers continue on into the desert, it becomes clear that the entire sequence was speeding toward nothing at all.

It is 1957 and nearly twenty years since Indy’s last adventure, mirroring the same amount of time between the last film and this one. Both Indy and the man who first incarnated him in 1981, Harrison Ford, are in their 60’s now. Still, as Indy hops from towering to teetering crate in an army hanger and swings into a truck with his trusty whip secured against the rafters, it’s clear that his face may be weathered but this old guy’s still pretty spry. Indy has managed to get himself caught by the KGB, led by Cate Blanchett in a razor sharp, black bob as Irina Spalko. She needs his expertise to find a body that she hopes will then lead her to a crystal skull. Legend has it, as it tends to in Indiana movies, that the one who returns the crystal skull to its proper resting place will have infinite knowledge bestowed upon them. This would give this person the ability to know the thoughts of every person on earth and the ability to manipulate these thoughts. I can barely control my own thoughts so I doubt I could handle that kind of responsibility but the Russians seem pretty convinced that they would do just fine.

Indy also has a new adventuring partner, 21-year-old Mutt Williams (Shia LaBeouf). Casting Shia as the rebel without a cause (I may have swooned every time he unnecessarily ran his comb through his perfect pompadour) may have been an easy decision to ensure a younger crowd or to take some o the stunt pressure off Ford but either way, it works. As usual, Shia brings an unimposing depth to popcorn fare and, in this case, some great chemistry between him and Ford. Bringing in fresh blood or modernizing in general can be tricky when you’re also trying to honour tradition. The dynamic between Indy & Mutt (as well as the return of Karen Allen as Indy’s first squeeze, Marion Ravenwood) allows for the cheesy one-liners to flourish but the loss of Douglas Slocombe as cinematographer (he died in 2004) has practically removed the classical Hollywood style that made some of the more ridiculously implausible Indy moments bearable, if not campily enjoyable. Spielberg’s regular cinematographer, Janusz Kaminski, is certainly a genius but the only classical element remaining is a soft focus to keep Indy looking as young as possible. The result is at times breathtaking but fundamentally less authentic.

There is no question that Indiana Jones is a cinematic icon, from his hat and whip to John Williams’s triumphant score. The danger with reviving the character after such a long period is that you run the risk of tarnishing one of Hollywood’s most celebrated action heroes. If you’re going to take that risk, there had better be a good reason. The premise and ultimate conclusion of INDIANA JONES AND THE KINGDOM OF THE CRYSTAL SKULL leave you with some brilliant imagery, wavering levels of excitement and a nagging question as to whether this was the best they could come up with after twenty years. Indy does entertain with relatively little disappointment but while his latest adventure doesn’t kill the franchise, it does nothing for it either. Anyway, Spielberg best not wait another twenty years before the next installment. If he does, Indy will be a lot more likely to be cracking hips than whips.

Saturday, May 24, 2008


Written by Wong Kar Wai & Lawrence Block
Directed by Wong Kar Wai
Starring Norah Jones, Jude Law, Rachel Weisz, David Strathairn and Natalie Portman

Elizabeth: What’s wrong with the blueberry pie?
Jeremy: There’s nothing wrong with the blueberry pie; just people make other choices. You can’t blame the blueberry pie; it’s just … no one wants it.

It doesn’t get much more American than apple pie. I can’t say why that is exactly but that is what they say. And while blueberry most certainly isn’t apple, the reference to pie does make for an appropriate symbolic foundation for famed Chinese director, Wong Kar Wai’s first foray into American cinema, MY BLUEBERRY NIGHTS. And he doesn’t just stop at pie. Kar Wai immerses himself in Americana, taking us on a road trip from New York to Missouri and Las Vegas, with shift work, gambling and heartache along for the ride. Sadly though, Kar Wai crossed the Pacific only to get lost in the Heartland for there is something else distinctly American about this film – it rests comfortably on the surface without much effort to go deeper and dresses itself up in pretty colors to hide it’s lack of profundity.

To solidify his position as a stranger in a strange land, Kar Wai casts singer, Norah Jones in her first acting role. Jones plays Elizabeth and Elizabeth is represented by the blueberry pie. It’s a perfectly good pie but no one seems to ever choose it when there are more traditional slices to be had. Blueberry is apparently the black sheep of pies, if you will. Elizabeth isn’t afraid to try something new though and so she adamantly chooses the neglected pie. Now, she need only learn how to do the same for herself. To learn how, she bolts across the country but while she searches for herself through countless sleepless nights, she finds character after character in worse shape than she. As she gets further and further from New York though, you know there’s only one place that makes sense for her to end up. It wouldn’t be a journey of self-discovery after all if you didn’t finish precisely where you started. Well, it would be if this were earlier Kar Wai but this is America, baby!

As Elizabeth, Jones is in a constant state of bewilderment. It is as though she was just born or just woke up to find the world has stopped making any sense. She looks uncomfortable, agitated, not unlike her stage presence from her earlier touring days. It isn’t clear whether this discomfort is her character or her lack of ability to develop one. It doesn’t help that she is surrounded by a supporting cast all on top of their game. Jude Law smolders as the man who serves her the blueberry pie. He is the guy who once got burned and hasn’t moved since. Rachel Weisz and David Strathairn are a couple on the brink of divorce. She has been hollowed by a disastrous marriage and he spends night after night numbing his pain with drink after drink. She is the nervous wreck to his wasted space. Elizabeth’s final encounter is with Leslie (Natalie Portman), a fast-talking, overly confident poker player. Portman has been better but still has plenty of tricks to teach Jones. Jones knows how to brood but her delivery is too often hollow. She is the mystery at the center of Kar Wai’s America but doesn’t inspire any desire to be solved.

MY BLUEBERRY NIGHTS conjures a certain kind of mood. It captures the state of human damage that we all inevitably encounter at some point but only some figure out how to survive. Our initial instinct may be to run and we may do so by driving as far away as possible or staying still exactly where we are and never risking anything ever again. No matter what we do, the nights can get very lonely and if we’re lucky there is still pie to be had and someone to share it with. If we want to survive though, we must be brave enough to go home again. Now that Wong Kar Wai has gotten sufficiently lost, I think it is time for him to heed Elizabeth’s lesson and do the same.

Tuesday, May 20, 2008



Writer / Director, Bryan Bertino just got very lucky. His first feature, THE STRANGERS, has just been been made this last year and will be finding its way to theatres in wide release on May 30. It is the latest suspense thriller bent on fooling the audience into thinking that what they’re watching is a reenactment of real life events. Far as I can tell, the events that took place on February 11, 2005, at the summer home of James Hoyt and Kristen McKay, the same events that were so horrific they were never revealed to the public, never actually took place. Films inspired by real life events don’t actually have to have any base in real life t get away with the claim. When the films looks as dark, as eerie and as frightening as THE STRANGERS though, what does it matter if it actually happened or not?

Scott Speedman and Liv Tyler play Hoyt and McKay. The couple have just returned from a wedding reception for an evening of romance and celebration. They have retreated to the Hoyt family summer home. It is secluded and out of the way. It is the perfect private spot. Only privacy can lead to more than just romantic marathon lovemaking. While no one may be around to hear your cries of passion, there is also no one to hear your cries for help. It is the vulnerability of Hoyt and McKay that is the most terrifying thing about THE STRANGERS. What are we to do if we can never cast our fears aside long enough to relax?

Thursday, May 15, 2008


Wirrten and Directed by Garth Jennings
Starring Bill Milner, Will Poulter, Jessica Stevenson and Jules Sitruk

Will Proudfoot: And just so you know, “Cut” means stop.

They say boys will be boys. They don’t like rules and they like following them even less. That would make the early 80’s the perfect time to set Son of Rambow, Jennings’ minuscule-by-comparison follow up to The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy. Apparently, in the England of that time, there were no rules. Boys could sneak into R-rated movies, smoke cigarettes and record the movie with a camera in plain sight. Sure all this bad behavior could ruin their minds but, as is this case for the young and unlikely friends, Will Proudfoot and Lee Carter (first timers, Milner and Poulter), it also sets their imaginations free.

Son of Rambow is not quite as charming but just as mischievous as the boys on the screen. These particular boys are also easily influenced, whether it be by other boys, family or religion. For Will and Lee though, there is no greater influence than the Rambo classic, First Blood (which somewhat implicates film violence as a direct influence on real violence but hey, it’s a comedy). The film has such an impact on the boys that they are practically exploding with creative ways to pay homage to their hero. The best part about all this is that they don’t know what “paying homage” means and they’re just two boys having fun, making a movie.

One last thing about boys, they don’t like to admit they need anyone, especially other boys. When they do though, it’s enough to cut the laughter and make you cry – unless you’re a boy. Boys don’t do that.

Tuesday, May 13, 2008


Written and Directed by The Wachowski Brothers
Starring Emile Hirsch, John Goodman, Susan Sarandon, Matthew Fox and Christina Ricci

Mom: When I go to the races, I go to watch you make art. It’s beautiful and inspiring and everything that art should be.

A young Speed, as in Racer, sits at the back of his elementary school classroom, his foot practically tapping straight through the linoleum floor. It’s not just that he can’t sit still or focus on anything; it’s worse than that. He may be there in that room but this is in a purely physical sense of the word. Speed is beyond the snail pace of every day life and the majority of the people that shuffle their feet to and from here and there while draped in blandness. Speed knows he’s going to burn past everyone around him and he knows exactly how he’s going to do it. Why then does he have to sit here and wait to figure it all out when he already has? It’s as though the world is holding him back. Fire that starter gun already and get this race underway!

Speed isn’t the only one itching to get out of his seat. As soon as the kaleidoscope of candy coating colors graces the screen, the mysterious and revolutionary directing team known as the Wachowski Brothers (separately they are Andy and Larry), busts their remake of the popular 1960’s Japanese anime, SPEED RACER, out of the gate and into the race. As the opening race erupts into an explosion of every bright color imaginable, it feels as though the Wachowski’s are floating above it all and magically weaving all the elements together – from the extreme close-up’s of wheels spinning to the character profiles wiping across the screen in transition – to create a new live action animation hybrid. The enthusiastic race crowd cheers with fervor as the now grown Speed Racer (Emile Hirsch) cruises past the competition and asserts himself as a genuine talent. Speed is seemingly unstoppable. Only, when the dust settles and the feeling of being immersed in a video game you’ve never played before comes to a halt, you realize the Wachowski’s have gone on ahead without you.

SPEED RACER most certainly solidifies the Wachowki’s, the people who gave the world THE MATRIX – and nothing else since – as two of the most innovative filmmakers working today. Not only do they see things in a way that most of us only see in our dreams and forget once our eyes are open but they know how to put all the pieces together to make their visions a reality. The danger with being ahead of your time is that most everyone else is not. You run the risk then of creating something that may be genius in its own right but is rendered entirely meaningless if no one cares to bask in its glow. While the Wachowski’s strive to get every detail just right, a task that would have been near impossible if it weren’t for the talented cast, they slip off track without realizing. There seems to be more focus on orchestrating the elements that should amount to the appropriate level of fun instead of simple fun being had.

I don’t think the Wachowki’s are the problem though. They truly outdid themselves visually with SPEED RACER. In a time when so many animated films attempt to look as realistic as possible, they decided to go against the traffic and make reality look entirely animated. I think the problem is the content. Recreating a cheaply animated series from another country and another era may be impressive from a visual standpoint but the content itself can be just as hollow as it once was if the translation never moves past the point of literal. Without anything of true substantial value to sink your teeth into, you’re left with an abundance of sugar. While SPEED RACER is certainly sweet to start, your teeth may be slightly rotten by the time you cross the finish line.

Saturday, May 10, 2008


Written by Dana Fox
Directed by Tom Vaughan
Starring Cameron Diaz, Ashton Kutcher, Rob Corddry, Lake Bell and Queen Latifah

Jack Fuller: Did you just make a plan to make a plan?

What happens in Hollywood does not often happen in the real world. Where else but in a Hollywood created world would any judge find legal justification to sentence two people who got married on a drunken whim in Vegas to six months hard marriage in hopes they might learn their lesson? Nowhere, that’s where. However, if you can’t get past the ludicrous nature of the premise, than you’re in for an even harder conviction. Luckily, the newlyweds, Cameron Diaz and Ashton Kutcher, are so darn likable that it’s pretty easy to look the other way (even easier when they make the view so pleasing on the eyes). All that WHAT HAPPENS IN VEGAS needs is Queen Latifah in some oddly suited, voice of reason role to give it some real kick. Oh wait, there she is.

The main reason Jack and Joy’s marriage doesn’t just disappear quietly is because there is the small matter of the $3 million they won in a slot jackpot just as they had decided that perhaps their lifetime commitment was a tad hasty. If they stay together and show that they really tried to make it work for six months, they split the money evenly. On the other hand, if one can prove that the other didn’t try, quit or cheated, the partner that stuck it out keeps the whole bag. Jack and Joy proceed to some very dirty pool and Diaz and Kutcher are having too much messing with each other for us not to join in. Their performances are fully surface based (he supposedly gave up trying to be somebody out of fear he would become nobody while she apparently works too hard at something she can’t stand doing but you wouldn’t know if they didn’t specifically tell you) but they are each spot on with their comedic timing and physical presence that you’ll find yourself laughing a lot more than you might have expected to.

Another all too typical Hollywood convention anchors WHAT HAPPENS IN VEGAS. It wouldn’t be Hollywood if Jack and Joy didn’t both realize that the person they married might actually be their perfect match. If only there weren’t all that money keeping them from giving in to their true feelings. Fortunately, in Hollywood, when it comes to love and money, you can have plenty of both.


An interview with director, Bruce McDonald

We all know it’s difficult to be a teenage girl. Only, there’s adolescent angst and confusion caused by raging hormones and a developing mind and then there’s Tracey Berkowitz. On many levels, Tracey is like all the other girls. She’s waiting for her body to develop; she longs for the new boy in school’s affections; and she transforms her life into a fantastical movie star existence in her head when the dull monotony of reality gets to be too much. That said, the life she is fantasizing an escape from is far from perfect; it’s far from acceptable even. Between torment from her peers in school, a hotheaded father, a mentally unstable mother and a missing brother, it is not surprising that Tracey’s focus is so, well, fragmented. And while Tracey’s plight makes THE TRACEY FRAGMENTS a compelling tale in its own right, it is the visceral split-screen aesthetic and raw performance by Ellen Page as Tracey that create for the viewer a fundamental need to see these countless fragments be pieced together into some manner of integrated whole.

THE TRACEY FRAGMENTS is based on a novel by Canadian playwright, Maureen Medved. The novel too is a disjointed experience that alternates between first and third person narration as Tracey rides a city bus in the middle of a blizzard, wearing nothing but a shower curtain. One day a few years back, a colleague passed the book on to Canadian film director, Bruce McDonald (HARD CORE LOGO). The mouthiness of the main character made him feel this could be a good film alternative to the kind of perfect pop princess imagery that is so commonly tossed around today. McDonald and Medved were soon in touch and realized they had similar friends in common, a similar love of film as well as similar thoughts about Tracey Berkowitz. Medved would go on to write the screenplay as per McDonald’s theory that if you wrote the book, you should get first crack at the screenplay, if you so desire.

With the screenplay completed, the first of three vital aspects to this production was in place. The two remaining elements to secure were editors talented enough to fragment Tracey’s life and the perfect woman to play Tracey herself. The role ultimately went to Canadian actress Ellen Page before most people knew who she was. McDonald sat down with me hours before THE TRACEY FRAGMENTS was to screen at the Montreal Nouveau Cinema Festival to talk about the film’s journey through the festival circuit, the innovative ways they’ve found to promote the film and how he is basically one of the least important stars of this film.

Joseph Belanger: I was telling someone that I was interviewing you this weekend and they asked if I had seen the film yet. At the time, I hadn’t and told them such. They made a face and said it should be an interesting interview then. Why do you think she said that?

Bruce McDonald: It’s been funny to see audiences engage in their own debate with each other on the film. It’s been pretty hilarious actually. Some people are one way on it and some people are another.

JB: I’m sure you’ve had lots of chances to get reactions as you’re reaching the end of your festival run with the film. It’s playing the American Film Institute next month and being released nationally in Canada. Have you been touring with the film?

BM: Pretty much. We started in Berlin in February and we went to Istanbul, then here. If I want, we can still go to Cuba, London, Australia. We could tour forever really. I wanted to go to as many of these places as I could because I wanted to do what I could and say, “Hey, check this out. It’s a crazy, cooky, fucking weird movie”

JB: With the film going national though now, it must be a different experience to not be there to hold its hand, so to speak, to let the film speak for itself.

BM: Part of going on the tour was a general curiosity. We had been working on this for a year almost. I just wanted to see it on the screen with an audience and get a vibe from people. The editors came too. They’ve come to like three or four festivals. Often it’s just the director and maybe a star actor that comes to festivals. But everyone was in Berlin. Not only the three editors but the colorists, the DOP; they were all curious and they wanted to see it with an audience. They were just like what the fuck, how is this going to play?

JB: It’s nice to hear that all these other people, like the editors and the colorists, are all getting to go these screenings. It’s not like they’re not important roles on other films but in this case …

BM: No, they’re the stars, really. They’re the stars of this movie. I wish they could be with me on all of these interviews and talk to the interviews because the stars of this movie are Ellen Page and the editors. They didn’t invent this look from scratch exactly but they didn’t have a guidebook. I would just tell to go all the way and they would be like, what does that mean? Just do it. You figure it out. I don’t know how to work Final Cut Pro. I’m proud of those guys.

JB: And how did you decide to tell the story visually this way? Was it in the initial screenplay?

BM: The screenplay was done years before we shot it. At the time it was written, I didn’t have any split-screen stuff in mind. It was just when we got things together and it looked like the movie was going to be made that I told the investors this was how I was going to do this. The reason why really is because it’s like a kitchen sink movie. It’s about poor people, bad side of town, dark, not tons of laughs, a lot of grimness in it. I thought the split screen would bring an airiness to it and a pop-art feel so that it didn’t end up so relentlessly, fucking dreary. Y’know, it’s snowing; it’s night; it’s Canada; it’s some weird town somewhere. Why do I want to be here? It was a way to embrace that and not be afraid of the dark but at the same time be entertained. Plus, the title kind of suggests it and we just went with that. It’s like a portrait or a painting or something in this non-linear way. It’s like how does the brain think? Or how does memory work? What does memory really look like? Does memory look like BLADE RUNNER? It could but many things are going on all at once. It’s pretty crazy up there, as we all know. We tried to channel memory and desire, that full-on input/output you have when you’re that age. It’s kind of chaotic and fucking crazy.

JB: On THE TRACEY FRAGMENTS website (, there is a section you can link to called “Re-Fragmented”. If I understand it correctly, you can essentially download all the raw footage and recut the film any which way you like.

BM: It’s basically like, here’s the fourteen days of rushes. The reason for that is the design and the shooting of the movie was a great experiment and we’ve felt rewarded by the screenings and the curiosity and the generosity so we thought might just carry on that experiment. See what happens when you put it into this cyber-world. Let people just fucking play with it. There’s a contest. We’ll put some of the stuff people send us on the DVD when it comes out. People can cut a rock video for their band or what you think a cool trailer for THE TRACEY FRAGMENTS would be. Ideally, cut a full length feature film but don’t use the split screen. It’s like THE TRACEY FRAGMENTS unplugged, the acoustic version.

JB: You mentioned earlier that there are two stars of your film, the editors and Ellen Page. I had seen Page before in HARD CANDY. (This interview was conducted months before Page rose to fame with her Oscar nominated role in JUNO.) She clearly has a disturbing ease playing troubled, angry outcasts. What was your involvement in coaxing this performance out of her or does it all just come naturally to her?

BM: It comes out. Literally, it’s like turning on a switch. People think, what do you to direct that? You talk about a common ground, a couple of reference points, share a couple of mix tapes so you know where you’re going. It’s not campy or funny or ironic; it’s a little dark, heart-beating romance. My job as a director is just to make a safe place. She really surprised me. I’m a pretty straight guy. I’m not a big fan of attempted rape or anything. I just want to get through scenes like that as quickly as possible. But she said it didn’t bother her. She says she kind of likes it because she gets to go to the dark places without real life consequences. That’s what being an actor is all about. As a young woman and young actress, everything is just on and she’s ready to go there. She’s smart enough and grounded enough to know that it’s pretend. A lot of other people just get lost in it. She’s courageous and intelligent and refreshing. A lot of people want to be actors but their motivation is to be famous, to be a celebrity. With Ellen, her aim is true.

JB: Last but not least, let’s talk about Tracey Berkowitz. She’s a self-professed “normal” girl. To some extent, I would say she’s very much right. She’s an angst-ridden teenager, angry and not sure why. On the other hand, she’s a girl who has quite a bit on her plate, much more so than many other girls her age. Maybe you can clear things up for me. Who do you think Tracey Berkowitz is?

BM: The short answer to that is I always tried to think of Patti Smith at 15. Part of her is a female version of Holden Caulfield from “Catcher in the Rye”, one of the modern day teenage angst classics. So, she’s a weird cross between the two then, somebody who is trying to channel some interesting things. A fifteen-year-old girls who wants to be Patti Smith is much more interesting than a fifteen-year-old girl who wants to be Britney Spears. The teenage girl, I don’t know if it’s always been this way, but is weirdly important part of our culture, like it’s somehow this touchstone of glamour, innocence, horror, exploitation, pop music, like this foundational cornerstone. Other people could probably talk about it better than I do but just this ear to the idea of what is the model? I don’t think the model anymore is Joan of Arc. The model is that belly button-showing pop tart. I just thought why not put Tracey Berkowitz out there as this alternative touchstone. That wasn’t the reason to do the movie but I just wanted to go left instead of the right way.

JB: I can’t imagine it would have been a successful film if you had gone any other way.

Sunday, May 04, 2008


Written by Mark Fergus, Hawk Ostby, Art Marcum & Matt Holloway
Directed by Jon Favreau
Starring Robert Downey Jr., Gwyneth Paltrow, Terrence Howard and Jeff Bridges

Tony Stark: I love peace. Peace will put us all out of a job.

What is Iron Man anyway? Can we really call him a superhero? As far as I can tell, he’s just a guy with a bum heart that happens to be pretty handy in the shop. His superhero development falls more in line with Batman’s as neither necessarily has any special power (Wait, my bat-sense is tingling?) but rather relies on strength and gadgetry to get the job done. Even Batman has the dark history to fuel his passion though. What does Iron Man have? His day job is as an arms manufacturing tycoon named Tony Stark. He’s got all the money in the world, women throwing themselves at him and the worst part is, he inherited everything from his dad. This silver spoon baby has been set his whole life and now he gets to be admired and adored as a superhero too? Ordinarily, I would give in to my jealousy and scoff at this supposed superhero but Robert Downey Jr., under the fresh direction of Jon Favreau, just makes him too damn cool for me to do anything other than love him.

Aside from all this, Iron Man is also hilarious. Make no mistake; he most certainly gets himself into a number of perilous scenarios but he also manages to find something to laugh at no matter how dire the circumstances. While the original comic book found Stark in some life threatening Vietnam war situation (I am not a comic book junkie so I’m afraid I can’t get more specific than that), Favreau wanted today’s Iron Man to have a contemporary back story and what could be more appropriate than Stark being held prisoner in Osama Bin Laden’s former hood, the mountains of Afghanistan. At first, it feels all too easy to place Arab militants as the face of the bad guys but the film vindicates its initial racial vilifying by exposing Stark himself (and therefore, America) as the supplier of these terrorists’ entire arsenal. It is Stark’s realization that he truly is one of the great mass murderers in American history that wakes him from his comfortable, privileged existence to a new dawn of using his position for positive change. After all, a weapon is only truly a weapon when it is in the wrong hands.

IRON MAN is not without its clichés. Stark suffers injuries in the Middle East that requires him to have some form of electro-magnetic contraption lodged in his chest so that little bits of shrapnel don’t seep into his blood stream and eventually cut up the arteries in his heart. So what if the ultimate playboy/loner now needs help to sustain a healthy heartbeat when he has walked around for so long acting like he never had a heart in the first place. So what if the man who has everything doesn’t truly have anything of real value. These kinds of truisms are the foundation of comic book characters; what genuinely matters is how the men are portrayed and Downey Jr. was born to play to Tony Stark. After rising to critical fame with films like CHAPLIN, personal problems with drug abuse led Downey to years of type casting as characters with drug problems in films like WONDER BOYS and THE SCANNER DARKLY. With IRON MAN, it looks like he might finally be able to wipe his past clean and achieve the heights his talent has always warranted. Though his body is in noticeably better shape, it is his quick-witted delivery and cynical yet sympathetic duality that make Tony Stark the kind of guy everyone wants to hang out with or just plain be.

So, what is Iron Man anyway? Well, according to this adaptation, he is the superhero for the modern era. He is sarcastic and skeptical but still hopeful and genuine with those he is close with (most notably, his perfectly matched assistant Pepper Potts, played just as delectably by Gwyneth Paltrow). He is a man who is capable of admitting his failures, not dwelling on them and then fostering a new path for himself. He is the kind of man that is both envied and looked up to. He is building himself a reputation as a superhero that can manage tremendous feats through intelligence and perseverance rather than just brawn and dumb luck. And now, IRON MAN is also a movie that offers perspective on the world around us at the same time as some awesome exhilaration.


Written by Alice Arlen, Victor Levin and Helen Hunt
Directed by Helen Hunt
Starring Helen Hunt, Colin Firth, Matthew Broderick, Ben Shenkman and Bette Midler

April Epner: I want a baby. I can’t explain it. It’s like being hungry or having to pee.

We’ve all had our share of bad weeks and I’ve heard numerous times before that when it rains it pours but yet that still doesn’t seem to account for what happened to April Epner (Helen Hunt). A mere ten months into her marriage to Ben (Matthew Broderick), he decides he made a huge mistake. The next day, she goes to work, a school where she and Ben both taught to primary students, to find that he never showed up and is nowhere to be found. Within the week that follows, her adopted mother (Lynn Cohen) dies and her birth mother (Bette Midler) makes contact with her for the first time. It’s no wonder the bags under April’s eyes are so heavy.

Hunt’s directorial debut, THEN SHE FOUND ME, begins so tragically but attempts then to lighten the mood with awkward comedy and untimely romance. The combination is a bizarre contradiction that just falls flat. It doesn’t feel right to laugh just yet as there hasn’t been time to mourn but we don’t want to mourn either as we only just met these folks. We don’t know how to feel or where to go and neither does the direction of the film. When the dust from April’s disastrous week finally begins to settle, the film finally begins to breathe normally again and finds a particular charm in its decidedly neurotic voice. Still, it is more unsettling than it is satisfying.

While Hunt may be overly sentimental as a director, she finds a certain harshness in her acting style that becomes the film’s most unifying source. As put upon as she is at this juncture in her life, she manages to juggle everything reasonably well by balancing between protecting herself, demanding what she deserves and allowing her defenses down at just the right moments and only to those who deserve entry. The woman deserves happiness, be that in the form of a new love with troubled suitor, Frank (Colin Firth), or by realizing her longtime desire to have a child, but her life only gets continuously more complicated, sometimes by her own doing. I would ordinarily want to hug someone in April’s position but mostly I just wanted to shake her.

What ultimately undermines THEN SHE FOUND ME is its own air of self-loathing. Hunt spends so much time trying to incite sympathy for April by dumping so many hard realities on to her at once but then punishes her when all she has done is try to keep her head above water. It’s hard to feel love for a face on the screen when the woman who put her there hasn’t made up her mind herself.

Saturday, May 03, 2008


Written and Directed by Thomas McCarthy
Starring Richard Jenkins, Haaz Sleiman, Danai Gurira and Hiam Abbass

Barbara: Don’t flatten; make room for the train.

We first meet Walter Vale (Richard Jenkins) with his back to us. When the knock at his door that he has been waiting for finally comes, he still hesitates before opening it. He lives alone; he eats alone. Essentially, he embodies the state of being alone. Classical piano fills the air of his fully decorated house yet it still feels just as cold and lonely as its sole inhabitant. No matter where he is, he never looks like he belongs or that his mind is present. Walter Vale is a visitor in his own life.

THE VISITOR follows Walter as he begrudgingly makes his way from his cushy comfort zone in Connecticut to his longtime empty New York City apartment. Much to his bewilderment and less so his surprise, Walter finds that two people have made themselves at home in his absence. Illegal immigrants, Tarek and Zainab (Haaz Sleiman and newcomer Danai Gurira) unknowingly rented an apartment that already belonged to someone else and rather than put them out on the street or call the police, Walter lets them stay until they’ve made other arrangements. His compassion and the little effort it took to exert it catches him completely off guard and it isn’t long before an odd couple friendship develops with the outgoing Tarek. Suddenly, the man who had grown complacent in his solitary existence finds himself sharing his space and his life with other people for what seems like the first time since his wife passed away years before.

Jenkins’s gentle performance is THE VISITOR’s heart. It is as though he is constantly in hushed, private awe of the new facets of his personality he is discovering with each fresh experience. While he once found solace in structure and routine, he is now seeing that these comforts were slowly killing his soul. And with his eyes finally open, he can see that America’s visitors bring a color to the country that would kill its soul if it were taken away. So as Walter beats the drum that Tarek taught him how to beat, THE VISITOR beats its own in a language that is universally understood.