Reviews, articles, rants & ramblings on the darker side of the media fringe

Posts tagged “New York

The Warriors – Roger Ebert Review

“The Warriors” is a real peculiarity, a movie about street gang warfare, written and directed as an exercise in mannerism. There’s hardly a moment when we believe that the movie’s gangs are real or that their members are real people or that they inhabit a real city.

That’s where the peculiarity comes in: I don’t think we’re supposed to. No matter what impression the ads give, this isn’t even remotely intended as an action film. It’s a set piece. It’s a ballet of stylized male violence.

Walter Hill, the director and co-writer, specializes in fables like this. His first two films were “Hard Times” and “The Driver,” and they were both at arm’s length from realism. Hill likes characters that take on a legendary, mythic stature, and then he likes to run them through situations that look like urban tableaux.

“Hard times,” a good and interesting film, starred Charles Bronson as a professional street fist-fighter who went up against opponents with all the dimension of a James Bond villain. “The Driver” didn’t even have names for its characters; they were described by their functions, and they behaved toward each other in strangely formal, rehearsed, unspontaneous ways.

“The Warriors” takes that style to such an extreme that almost all life and juice are drained from it; there’s great vitality and energy (and choreography and stunt coordination) in the many violent scenes of gang fights and run-ins with the cops. But when the characters talk, they seem to be inhabiting a tale rehearsed many times before.

One example: Three members of a street gang are lined up in a row. The camera regards the first one. He speaks. The camera pans to the second, and he speaks. The camera pans to the third. He speaks. Because the movement of the camera dictates the order and timing of the speeches, there can be no illusion that the characters are talking as their words occur to them.

This same kind of stiff stylization dominates the film. The street gangs take stances toward each other as if they were figures in a medieval print. The deployment of the police and gang forces is plainly impossible on any realistic level; people move into their symbolic places with such perfectly timed choreography that they must be telepathic. And the chase scenes are plainly impossible, as in one extended shot showing the Warriors outrunning a rival gang’s school bus.

All of this is no doubt Walter Hill’s intention. I suppose he has, an artistic vision he’s working toward in this film, and in his work. He chooses to meticulously ban human spontaneity from his films; he allows only a handful of shallow women characters into his stories; he reduces male conduct to ritualized violence. And in “The Warriors” he chooses, with a few exceptions, to cast against type: Only three or four of the movie’s characters look and sound like plausible street-gang members. The rest look and sound like male models for the currently fashionable advertising photography combining high fashion and rough trade.

All very well, I suppose, except that Paramount chooses to advertise the movie as a violent action picture — and action audiences, I suspect, will find it either incomprehensible or laughable. Walter Hill has a considerable visual skill, and he knows what he’s doing in “The Warriors” and does it well. But is this style suited to this material? And does Hill have other notes to play? All three of his films have shown a certain skittishness in the face of human juices and the unrehearsed flow of life. And so his street gangs, and his movies, walk lockstep through sterile streets.


The Green Inferno – Latest Trailer

Open Road Films released a full-length trailer to Eli Roth‘s highly anticipated The Green Inferno, opening on Sept. 5. The first teaser last month showed us images of a girl, lost in the Amazon, being prepared for dinner by a local tribesman. Here we see the story in full: A group of privileged New York City college students embarking on a trip to the Amazon in order to save the rain forest, only to realize a little too late (much like those in Roth’s 2007 slasher Hostel 2), they just should have stayed home. Based on Ruggero Deodato’s 1980 pulp cinema Cannibal Holocaust, Green Inferno kicks off the North American fall season on September 5.


Image

Leon – Art by Ilya Kuvshinov

Leon_The-Professional_Ilya Kuvshinov


R.I.P. Lou Reed

Lou-Reed-608x732Lou Reed, the singer, songwriter and guitarist whose work with the Velvet Underground in the 1960’s had an impact on generations of rock musicians, and who remained a powerful if polarising force for the rest of his life, died on Sunday at his home in Southampton on Long Island, New York. He was 71.

The cause was liver disease, said Dr Charles Miller of the Cleveland Clinic in Ohio, where Reed had liver transplant surgery earlier this year and was being treated again until a few days ago.

“I’ve always believed that there’s an amazing number of things you can do through a rock ‘n’ roll song,” Reed once told the journalist Kristine McKenna, “and that you can do serious writing in a rock song if you can somehow do it without losing the beat. The things I’ve written about wouldn’t be considered a big deal if they appeared in a book or movie.”

Reed played the sport of alienating listeners, defending the right to contradict himself in hostile interviews, to contradict his transgressive image by idealising sweet or old-fashioned values in word or sound, or to present intuition as blunt logic. But his early work assured him a permanent audience.

The Velvet Underground, which was originally sponsored by Andy Warhol and showcased the songwriting of John Cale, as well as Reed, wrought gradual but profound impact on the high-IQ, low-virtuosity stratum of alternative and underground rock around the world.

Joy Division, the Talking Heads, Patti Smith, R.E.M., the Strokes and numerous others were direct descendants. The composer Brian Eno, in an often-quoted interview from 1982, suggested that if the group’s first record sold only 30,000 records during its first five years — a figure probably lower than the reality — “everyone who bought one of those 30,000 copies started a band.”

Many of the group’s themes — among them love, sexual deviance, alienation, addiction, joy and spiritual transfiguration — stayed in Reed’s work through his long run of solo recordings. Among the most noteworthy of those records were Transformer (1973), Berlin (1973) and New York (1992). The most notorious, without question, was Metal Machine Music(1975).

Beloved of Reed and not too many others, Metal Machine Music was four sides of electric-guitar feedback strobing between two amplifiers, with Reed altering the speed of the tape recorder; no singing, no drums, no stated key. At the time it was mostly understood, if at all, as a riddle about artistic intent. Was it his truest self, was it a joke, or was there no difference?

Reed wrote in the liner notes that “no one I know has listened to it all the way through, including myself,” but he also defended it as the next step after La Monte Young’s early minimalism. “There’s infinite ways of listening to it,” he told the critic Lester Bangs in 1976.

“I was serious about it,” Reed said of the album more than a decade later. “I was also really stoned.”

Not too long after his first recordings, made at 16 with a doo-wop band in Freeport, New York, Reed started singing outside of the song’s melody, as if he were giving a speech with a fluctuating monotone in his Brooklyn-Queens drawl. That sound, eventually heard with the Velvet Underground on songs such as Heroin, Sweet Jane and in his post-Velvets songs Walk on the Wild Side, Street Hassle and others, eventually spread outward to become one of the most familiar frequencies in rock. He played lead guitar the same way, hitting against the wall of his limitations.

Reed is survived by his wife, the composer and performance artist Laurie Anderson. Dr Miller said Reed decided to return to New York after the doctors could no longer treat his end-stage liver disease.

“He died peacefully, with his loved ones around him,” Dr Miller said. “We did everything we could,” added Dr Miller, the director of the hospital’s liver transplant program. “He really wanted to be at home.”

Sober since the 1980s, Reed was a practitioner of Tai Chi. “Lou was fighting right up to the very end,” Dr. Miller said. “He was doing his Tai Chi exercises within an hour of his death, trying to keep strong and keep fighting.”

“I am a triumph of modern medicine, physics and chemistry,” Reed wrote in a public statement upon his release from the hospital. “I am bigger and stronger than ever.” Less than a month later, he wrote a review of Kanye West’s album Yeezus for the online publication The Talkhouse, celebrating its abrasiveness and returning once more to Metal Machine Music to explain an artist’s deepest motives.

“I have never thought of music as a challenge — you always figure the audience is at least as smart as you are,” he wrote. “You do this because you like it, you think what you’re making is beautiful. And if you think it’s beautiful, maybe they think it’s beautiful.”


R.I.P. James Gandolfini

James Gandolfini_Tony-SopranoActor James Gandolfini died suddenly after a suspected heart attack while on holiday in Rome to attend the Taormina Film Festival in Sicily. He was 51. Gandolfini will be forever known for his portrayal of mob boss Tony Soprano on the seminal HBO series The Sopranos, which eventually won him 3 Emmy Awards and a $1,000,000-an-episode paycheck. Overweight, balding, rough around the edges with a thick New Jersey accent, Gandolfini was the opposite of a marquee leading man, destined to be a character actor. Yet he proved through his masterful acting that he could make Tony Soprano sexy and smart, towering and powerful. Chris Albrecht who greenlighted the crime family saga at HBO in 1999 and approved Gandolfini in the role, just emailed Deadline: “Absolutely stunned. I got the word from Lorraine Bracco and just got off with Brad Grey who had just heard from David Chase. We had all become a family. This is a tremendous loss.” (Grey was the executive producer and Chase the creator of The Sopranos.) And Gandolfini’s managers confirmed the actor’s death.“It is with immense sorrow that we report our client James Gandolfini passed away today while on holiday in Rome, Italy,’ said Mark Armstrong and Nancy Sanders. ”Our hearts are shattered and we will miss him deeply. He and his family were part of our family for many years and we are all grieving.”

David Chase, the show’s creator, issued this statement today: “He was a genius. Anyone who saw him even in the smallest of his performances knows that.  He is one of the greatest actors of this or any time.  A great deal of that genius resided in those sad eyes. I remember telling him many times, ‘You don’t get it.  You’re like Mozart.’ There would be silence at the other end of the phone. For [wife] Deborah and [children] Michael and Lilliana, this is crushing. And it’s bad for the rest of the world. He wasn’t easy sometimes. But he was my partner, he was my brother in ways I can’t explain and never will be able to explain.” Gandolfini reunited with Chase for The Sopranos creator’s feature film debut Not Fade Away, a 2012 drama in set in 1960s New Jersey in which the actor co-starred as the father of a teenage rock ‘n’ roll band lead singer. Fans anticipated a Sopranos movie from the pair, possibly a prequel about the Sopranos’ grandparents first coming to America from Italy and starring Gandolfini.

Brad Grey, The Sopranos‘ executive producer who’s now chief at Paramount, told Deadline: “Jimmy was one of the most talented, authentic and vulnerable actors of our time. He was unorthodox and truly special in so many ways. He had the sex appeal of Steve McQueen or Brando in his prime as well as the comedic genius of Jackie Gleason. I’m proud to have been his friend and grateful for the extraordinary years I was lucky enough to work with him. My heart and support goes out to his wonderful and loving family.”

Gandolfini’s fellow actor on The Sopranos, Tony Sirico who played “Paulie” had this to say: “Tony was one of my best friends in life, he was there whenever I needed him. Not only did he help me with my career, but also in life, god bless  him. He and I were always helping the troops, we even went to combat zones to visit the Marines. He will be missed.”

Gandolfini’s portrayal of Tony Soprano was one of TV’s largest-looming TV anti-heroes — the schlub we loved, the cruel monster we hated, the anxiety-ridden husband and father we wanted to hug in midlife crisis when he bemoaned, “I’m afraid I’m going to lose my family. Like I lost the ducks.” In the most maddening series finale in recent history – an episode chock full of references to mortality (life, death, a William Butler Yeats reference to the apocalypse, a bathroom reference to a “Godfather” bloodbath) — his was the show’s last image, seen just as the words “Don’t stop” were being sung on the jukebox. It generated such extreme reaction that the series’ fans crashed HBO’s website for a time that night trying to register their outrage that it ended with a black screen, leaving them not knowing whether Tony Soprano had been whacked. In large part to Gandolfini’s charisma (“Jimmy was the spiritual core of our Sopranos family,” Chris Albright, who is now CEO of Starz, noted today), that Season 5 of The Sopranos in 2004 remains the most watched series in HBO history with 14.4 million viewers on average.


Image

New York Movie Map

New York Movie Map


Kiss of the Damned – Trailer

kiss_of_the_Damned_2013Xan Cassavetes (daughter of the legendary John), initially had the idea for Kiss Of The Damned after touring a house some years ago. The home eventually became the venue for the thriller/drama which revolves around a vampire, Djuna, who resists the advances of Paolo, but soon gives into their passion. “I went through the house and the nature of its setting felt so transitory — it’s a weekend house and it’s the setting for a transitory vampire,” said Cassavetes. “I looked at the house a year and a half before writing the screenplay.” After working on other projects, Cassavetes recalled the house and wrote the screenplay for Kiss Of The Damned in only three weeks. She and her team were able to put together the financing elements from previous films. “I wanted French actors because the movie has the flavor of a beautiful European flavor,” said Cassavetes. “I also wanted relatively unknown actors because I thought it was more powerful to buy into that.”

After shooting in 2011, Cassavetes and team edited for almost a year. One of her two editors was in New York though she lives in L.A. “I couldn’t be away from my children. We played with the film. There was a lack of rules and it took some going over because it was unknown territory.” After opening at the Venice and London film festivals, it had its premiere Stateside at SXSW. ” It was incredible. I was worried it wouldn’t be scary enough for the Midnight crowd there, but much to my surprise, the whole scene there embraced the movie. I’ve never been so surprised.” Magnolia’s genre label, Magnet, which came on board ahead of its world premiere in Venice, will open Kiss Of The Damned in New York at the Sunshine and in Los Angeles at the NuArt Theatre this Friday.