Tuesday, April 28, 2009

TMI Trumbo: Johnny Got His Gun

The too-much-information age is a strange thing indeed. Take for instance Shout! Factory’s long-awaited DVD release of Dalton Trumbo’s “Johnny Got His Gun,” which takes place mostly inside the mind of wounded WWI vet Joe Bonham, a deaf/dumb/blind quadruple amputee. Smoothly and effortlessly the film weaves back and forth in time, from the present, B&W hospital setting (seen from third-person POV) to Joe’s colorful memories of the past to the trapped soldier’s vivid fantasy world. Adapted from the legendary screenwriter’s own award-winning book, Trumbo’s sole directorial effort was a film I’d never gotten around to seeing, so I was pretty thrilled when I noticed that the DVD contained a slew of bonus features. In addition to Robert Fischer’s 2006 doc “Dalton Trumbo: Rebel In Hollywood,” there’s a 2009 interview with star Timothy Bottoms, and the music video for Metallica’s “One” (a metal homage of sorts to “Johnny”). As if that weren’t enough, there’s also behind-the-scenes peeks with Bottoms and DP Jules Brenner providing commentary, the 1940 radio adaptation of “Johnny” (the book) starring James Cagney, a 1971 feature article from “American Cinematographer,” the original theatrical trailer and, oh yeah, a replica of the original poster! It’s like an all-in-one, film junkie overdose kit.

Which would be great, save for one giant spoiler, which I could have avoided had I not been so geeky that I watched the extras first.

To read the rest of my review visit The House Next Door.

Saturday, April 25, 2009

Ride with The Devil: Il Divo

“Il Divo,” Paolo Sorrentino’s 2008 Cannes Jury Prize-winning study of Italy’s “Life Senator” Giulio Andreotti (who shares his titular nickname with Julius Caesar) is an art-house crowd popcorn flick. Dense with Byzantine political information—blink and you’ll miss a crucial subtitle—the film should have been a miniseries, but nevertheless is steeped in the country’s populist operatic tradition, and moves with the speed (not to mention slo-mo action sequences) of a Luc Besson film. And like that high-flying Frenchman’s movies, Il Divo has the feeling of being completely choreographed. It’s a ballet on steroids, downright militaristic in its precision. Between the lush production design and sweeping camerawork, the overwhelming opera score alternating with roaring rock and roll (and even a silly tune from 80s pop-tart Trio), you forget you’re watching the story of a leader whose ruthless administration makes Bush & Co. look like Mother Teresa and the Missionaries of Charity. (Though all those Bush conspiracy theories do find their counterpart in Italy’s “strategy of tension,” which holds that the government causes chaos to create fear and maintain power—in this case for decades. In lieu of Skull and Bones there’s the secret society of the P2 lodge, of which Silvio Berlusconi, naturally, was a member.)

To read the rest of my review visit The House Next Door .

Monday, April 20, 2009

Putting the T&A in “Namaste”: Enlighten Up!

I always felt that yoga was something for closet perverts, not out-and-proud pervs like me. (Personally, I'm a Thai boxing enthusiast, martial arts being the Zen physical activities of choice among a heck of a lot of BDSM aficionados. But that's a movie yet to be made.) Right or wrong, I always associated the practice with the granola, free love, hippie shit that I've hated since my punk rock youth. So I was relieved to see that Kate Churchill's "peek behind the curtain of a 5.7 billion dollar 'spiritual' industry," according to the press notes for her yoga doc “Enlighten Up!,” stars a skeptical journalist named Nick Rosen whom Churchill enlists in her attempt to prove that down the road and past the hype lies a very real path to enlightenment.

To read the rest of my Sex Beat column visit Carnal Nation.

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

And A Day: Forever

While a recent slate of American fiction film directors, including Lance Hammer, Ramin Bahrani and Kelly Reichardt, grab the public’s imagination on these shores by making the intricacies of everyday life riveting onscreen, Lima-born/Rome-educated/Amsterdam-residing director Heddy Honigmann is quietly doing the same in documentary form with “Forever,” just released on DVD to coincide with her latest work, “Oblivion,” premiering at Film Forum. Who would have thought that a slow-paced, poetic meditation on France’s famed Père-Lachaise cemetery could be so edge-of-your-seat engrossing?

To read the rest of my review visit The House Next Door.

Monday, April 6, 2009

Sexonomics: Oliver Stone's "Wall Street" as Lust Story

"Power is the ultimate aphrodisiac," Kissinger once famously proclaimed, and he should know. When someone as hot as a hobbit lands babes like Shirley MacLaine and Candice Bergen it certainly can't be the hairy feet. Of course, in a capitalist society the one sure way to power is through money, which means greedy richies with bad combovers like Donald Trump also can snag bombshells as easily as "Henry the Kiss." So as the countdown to April 15th begins let's look back at how we really arrived at our current economic crisis—the inevitable result of the pursuit of dirty sexy money, of too many aspiring Gordon Gekkos speculating on Wall Street's lusty wild west.

To read the rest visit my Sex Beat column at Carnal Nation.

Venice Saved: A Seminar

Director David Levine’s “Venice Saved: A Seminar” at P.S. 122 is pretty much what it sounds like. Less a performance than an audience participatory, intellectual inquiry, the piece employs an unknown activist playwright (Simone Weil) and her obscure and unfinished work (“Venise Sauvée”) from the last century as a jumping off point into the subject of political theater and its relevance in today’s world. With both audience and actors collectively seated around tables Levine gently guides the discussion, beginning with a brief history of the iconoclastic Weil – born a hundred years ago and dying of tuberculosis at the age of 34 – whose longing to bridge the gap between art and the real world led her on a passionate quest for physical experience.

To read the rest of my review visit Theater Online.