Monday, March 30, 2009

"Spinning" Into Coincidence?

Sarah Jessica Parker as Dean Sarah Daniels in the new film "Spinning Into Butter".
(Photo: Screen Media Films)

Last Wednesday (March 25) was one of coincidences. I had posted an early review of the film "Spinning Into Butter" which depicts racial tension and racism on a college campus in Vermont. Sarah Jessica Parker (above) stars and does a good job in the role of Dean Sarah Daniels. Strangely enough, I had not realized (I found out later) that March 25 was Ms. Parker's 44th birthday. Also on that same day, the renowned and revered black historian John Hope Franklin died, aged 94. He had experienced racism and racial tension first hand and wrote books about it and many other topics. What did these three events have to do with each other? Not much perhaps, but they are related by topic, timing and circumstance.

A very interesting Wednesday indeed.

In Hollywood Films Today, Where Are The Women Of Howard Hawks' Day?

Howard Hawks and his star Lauren Bacall, who made her debut in
Mr. Hawks' "To Have And Have Not", opposite Humphrey Bogart.
Miss Bacall was just 19 at the time, and she told ol' Bogey where to
get off. (Photo: UCLA Film Archives)

The recent spate of Hollywood girl-power love stories and romances ("Bride Wars", etc.) showing women as inept, self-pitying, spoiled rotten brats crescendoed last month with "He's Just Not That Into You", which has become a moderate hit since its release a week prior to Valentine's Day in the U.S. and Canada. Manohla Dargis of The New York Times pointed out the stupefying depths of degradation and dumbing down of women in these Hollywood comedies, longing for the days of tougher women like "Thelma & Louise".

Which brought me to thinking: what about the women of American filmmaker Howard Hawks' films from the 1930s through the 1950s in particular? What has happened to that kind of women in today's Hollywood film? Read on . . .

"Eyes Wide Shut" Has Its Tenth Anniversary This July

Tom Cruise as Bill Harford in Stanley Kubrick's final film, "Eyes
Wide Shut", which has its tenth anniversary of release on July 16.
(Photo: Warner Brothers)

A lot of the public detested it, convinced that they were duped by the two-minute sexy trailer that debuted earlier that year (March 1999, to be precise). They said that "Eyes Wide Shut" was boring, too long, slow-paced and pretentious. American filmmaker Stanley Kubrick directed what would be his last film over a two-plus-year period and in March ten years ago died of a heart attack in his sleep. "Eyes Wide Shut" opened in North America on July 16, 1999 to mixed but mostly positive reviews. The film starred then-actual spouses Tom Cruise and Nicole Kidman as a married couple whose real or imagined flirtations with infidelity lead Mr. Cruise's character on a nighttime odyssey.

The film has its 10 year anniversary of theatrical release in July. Colorful, foreboding, disturbing and hauting, "Eyes" is a riveting, penetrating powerhouse.

"Heat" Still Burns Cool Blue

Robert De Niro as Neil McCauley, in a contemplative stance, bathed
in deep blue, one image that defines Michael Mann's "Heat". (Screen
shot: Warner Bros/Omar P.L. Moore)

While Michael Mann's "Public Enemies", starring Johnny Depp and Christian Bale, doesn't open for more than three months in the U.S. and Canada, it's worth taking a look back at a classic film from Mr. Mann. "Heat" (1995) pitted Al Pacino and Robert De Niro on opposite sides of the law, cop chasing criminal in a test of relentless will. I predict that "Heat" will show up on the top 100 films of all time on the American Film Institute list. Here's a reminder of just how good this film still is.

Barry Jenkins Muses On "Melancholy"

Barry Jenkins, writer, director, producer (Photo: Omar P.L. Moore/ Copyright 2009.)
Earlier this month, San Francisco filmmaker Barry Jenkins was in that very city talking about his feature film directing debut "Medicine For Melancholy", which played earlier this year in Boston, New York, Philadelphia, Seattle and Los Angeles. The film, starring Los Angeles actors Wyatt Cenac and Tracey Heggins, is now enjoying an extended theatrical run in San Francisco, where it is set. Two on a one-night stand slowly wake up the next morning and retrace (or enhance) their steps in San Francisco, learning a lot about themselves and the city in the process.

Mr. Jenkins had several revealing things to say about his film and the politics and demographics of the city he now calls home. You can take a look here.