Daily Screens
Speak Low If You Speak Love
Okay, Kim, as much as I hate to admit that you made a good point, I have to admit you made a good point. The gaudy materialism and ostentation of Luhrmann’s visual aesthetic does go a long way to communicating the moral vacancy in the lives of rich kids who are overindulged by their absent parents as a way of making up for their own waywardness and self-indulgence. Fair enough. (And screw you.) But then: It’s all well and good to use Shakespeare to make a point about societal dysfunction and adolescent immorality and to indulge in all sorts of hyperkinetic camera trickery and audio manipulation when you’re shooting a bunch of tattooed gang-boys shooting up neighborhoods and showing off their belt buckles. But what do you do when it comes time to shoot a scene that’s predicated on the more inward-facing, considered human emotions, the emotions that don’t change regardless of the prevailing cultural winds or the particular aesthetic whims of the day, emotions like love and despair? Do you, as a directorial practitioner of the antic arts, try to temper some of your more outlandish tendencies in service of the story and its characters, or do you just throw consideration to the wind, make no distinction between different emotional states in a screenplay, and crank everything up to the same frenetic pitch in the hopes that audiences will be swept away by the sheer overwhelming physicality of the experience?

2:41AM Tue. Aug. 19, 2008, Josh Rosenblatt Read More | Comment »

Something's Rotten...
Alright, I admit it: I threw down the gauntlet to you – to defend classical adaptations – all stealthy-like while we were in mid-watch of Richard III. Not the Olivier version, mind you – I dozed through most of that one, with the occasional rouse to snicker at his beaky schnozz and bright blue Prince Valiant cut – but the 1995 Richard Loncraine version starring Ian McKellen (who also adapted the text to the screen). It was a rotten trick of me, I know, to charge you to defend the old guard whilst parading around the bright shiny new one… but it worked, didn’t it? It’s a terrific adaptation – smart and sneaky and spry as hell. Shakespeare’s play of a conniving would-be monarch is still a bloodbath (and some of the deaths are downright shocking), but McKellen’s Duke of Gloucester is such a frisky, artful bastard, you can’t help but feel endeared to him. The setting is transposed to 30’s England, and not arbitrarily but to real effect: Just watch as Richard circles nearer the crown – the costumes, already militaristic, grow increasingly fascist-inspired. The sitting-duck Queen (Annette Bening) and her brother (Robert Downey Jr.) are ladder-climbing American upstarts; the wretched Queen Anne (Kristin Scott Thomas) is now in a druggie slide toward covert heroin injection; and after Dame Maggie Smith delivers her withering “I curse you” speech to son Richard, he quivers just a moment to reveal a lifetime of hurt of the “mommy never loved me enough” variety. In short, a thumping reinvention, yet utterly Shakespeare-sacrosanct.

11:02PM Mon. Aug. 18, 2008, Kimberley Jones Read More | Comment »

Two More Thoughts
I think you’re running with that Versace crack to prove a point that this is some flashy, unsubstantative, tinkering-for-the-sake-of-tinkering modernization. I’d argue the exact opposite – that without leaning too hard on it, Luhrmann has used the designer threads, the casual drug and gun play, the Papa Capulet-sponsored Bacchanalia, to frame the text very much in the now – a monied now of absent parents who overindulge then rule with an iron fist and their overprivileged children, desperate to give meaning to their lives. You ask: “Where’s the love? Where’s the lust? Where’s the poetry? Where’s the diction?” The love is there, alright, and so is the lust – those two kids are pawing at each other something fierce in the pool scene. That lust is tempered later with something far more solemn – in the wake of their secret marriage, his unfortunate slaying of her cousin, and also the fact that these two kids are embarking upon the scary/exciting rite of first sex. But there’s a reason Luhrmann plays their morning-after as a romp: Because these two kids, flush with new love, are just that – two kids. The poetry’s there, too – Luhrmann may have truncated the text, but that’s still Standard Bard everybody’s spouting, and the diction – well, possibly you’re too hung up on the plummy, theatrical enunciation of those yawning Shakespearean Actorly Actors. There’s worth there in Leo and Claire’s sometimes-stumbling but newborn interpretations. But how now, Rosenblatt: You haven’t done much but attack Romeo + Juliet. Where’s your own impassioned defense of the traditional adaptation? Go on -- sing you the praises of those Actorly Actors with their plummy, theatrical enunciations. I'm eager for it.

8:22PM Mon. Aug. 18, 2008, Kimberley Jones Read More | Comment »

Romeo Talk Back
I'll fly in the face of your manifesto (i suspect your strategy is death by word count) and make this brief: 1. You reduced me to a giggling fit over that Ecstasy diatribe... which doesn't bode well for me at all. 2. Nope, didn't notice that I linked to a Spanish-language clip from R+J. But the language of the Bard is universal, es verdad? 3. Luhrmann knew what he was doing when he made Romeo clutch a journal, and when I called him a wannabe poet, I didn't mean that as a compliment. You remember that when the play opens, Romeo's lovesick over Rosalind, and those pretty words he's penning are the mark of a teenage drama queen too quick to moan how he'll just die if he doesn't get the girl. When Romeo actually kills himself for love, it's the most grownup thing he's ever done – and no, not just because it shows a little follow-through, but because he finally found the girl worth dying for.

5:50PM Mon. Aug. 18, 2008, Kimberley Jones Read More | Comment »

The Very Ecstasy of Love
Prologue: Ahhhhhhh …. Film Fight, my Film Fight. God, how I’ve missed you. I’ve spent this past month in low-grade agony, without the thrill of constant argumentation and online contentiousness that made July bearable, without the joy of starting each day by reading 1000 words slandering my character, claiming to the heavens that I’m a misinformed, maladjusted, cantankerous jackass with a stone for a heart and oatmeal for brains. Suddenly thrust back into the role of the amiable citizen after all that wonderful Chronicle-sanctioned confrontation, I found myself at a loss, wandering the streets at odd hours looking for trouble, stopping shoppers in the grocery store and demanding they defend the collected works of William Wyler or prove to me that John Carpenter’s The Thing is better than Howard Hawk’s The Thing From Another World. (An old man in the cereal aisle at HEB actually came up with a pretty convincing argument for that last one, by the way. I’ll never look at Kurt Russell the same way.) But, Kim, Kim! - here we are (and what was just a world is a star!), back in the trenches, back at war, back where we belong, back at each other’s throats, back fighting the good fight. The Film Fight. The pleasure, may I say, is all mine. (Of course, if I lose this go-round as egregiously as I did the last, I’m taking my ball, going home, and never speaking to you again.) So … have at you, Miss Jones; it begins here: "Two stars keep not their motion in one sphere."

4:26PM Mon. Aug. 18, 2008, Josh Rosenblatt Read More | Comment »

Enter the Tangent
Bob Dylan's gotta be a Shakespeare guy: He took the title to his 1997 album Time Out of Mind from the Queen Mab monologue in Romeo and Juliet ("Her chariot is an empty hazel-nut/ Made by the joiner squirrel or old grub/ Time out o' mind the fairies' coachmakers"). But it's the one-off to Othello in "Po'Boy" – a song off of his next album, Love and Theft – that has been driving me crazy since its 2001 release. This is a spectacular tangent, but I've been waiting seven years for a public forum in which to vent, and I'll be damned if I'll let the opportunity slip through my fingers now. The offending lyrics, according to bobdylan.com: "Othello told Desdemona, 'I'm cold, cover me with a blanket/ By the way, what happened to that poison wine?"/ She says, "I gave it to you, you drank it." Now what bothers me here isn't that he's mixing methods of death and the roles of victim and executioner – Othello, of course, was the one who offed (the entirely blameless) Desdemona, and he did it in the bedroom with his bare hands.

4:07PM Mon. Aug. 18, 2008, Kimberley Jones Read More | Comment »

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I Defy You, Josh
Olivier versus Branagh is the obvious battleground for a debate about the merits of old versus new – and we'll get to them in due time. But I think the more fun place to start, and probably the more polarizing, is with Romeo and Juliet. We've had two iconic productions in 30 years' time – Franco Zeffirelli's 1968 faithful adaptation and Baz Lurhmann's wildly re-imagined 1996 version. I'm gonna hold off on saying much about Zeffirelli's take until you chime in – other than to note that 1) about 30 seconds into watching it, I flashbacked to high school (the last time I watched it) and immediately started to nod off, and 2) isn't Leonard Whiting, who plays Romeo (and plays him like a sniveling twerp, I might add), a dead ringer for Jared Leto? So on to Baz. I have to say, before I rewatched the film (for the first time in five years or so) I thought I'd have to do a whole song and dance about how I was a freshman in college when I first saw it – perfectly ripe for its charms – and that no matter its faults, or its datedness, and even if I'd long outgrown having an R+J poster on my dorm room wall, it would still hold a place in my heart. Eff the song and dance. There's no need. Turns out I still love it. LOVE, LOVE, LOVE IT. How do I count the ways?

1:20PM Mon. Aug. 18, 2008, Kimberley Jones Read More | Comment »

Austin Film Society Has Travel Plans Booked
The Austin Film Society is launching on Sept. 1 a program that will help offset travel costs for Texans whose films are invited to prestigious film festivals and events around the world, with small travel stipends given out on a rolling, year-round basis. Time to pull that short I made about Slinky worship out of the closet and aim for Cannes! For more info, see austinfilm.org.

12:37PM Mon. Aug. 18, 2008, Joe O'Connell Read More | Comment »

Danes Coming to Austin for Biopic?
It's been in the works for a solid nine years, with frequent rumors it would shoot in Austin. Now an HBO film about Temple Grandin, who found success despite suffering from autism, is slated for an October shoot at Austin Studios. Claire Danes is in talk to star as Grandin, according to The Hollywood Reporter. Grandin suffered abuse in high school for the outward symptoms of her autism, but went on to earn several college degrees and to become an influential writer and speaker on both autism and the humane treatment of livestock. These days she is a professor of animal science at Colorado State University. She has compared her mind to a computer search engine that only brings up visual images.

11:23AM Mon. Aug. 18, 2008, Joe O'Connell Read More | Comment »

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