Thursday, January 12, 2006

The Good, the Bad and the Really Friggin' Ugly

Actor/major tool Sean Penn, speaking at an antiwar rally in Sacramento this week, said that he’s unable to quit smoking while George Bush is in office.

Who needs Cindy Sheehan when we can just use Sean’s plight to appeal to the President?

“Mr. President! PLEEEAAASSSEE stop the war! PLEEEAAASSSEEEE step down from office! Can’t you see you’re KILLING one of our finest actors!”

What a maroon.

As 2006 immediately begins to shape up to be another marvelous year in this form of existence, it’s no small wonder why I’ve been on a real film binge as of late. In the world of cinema, I am safe and sound. Sure, I may be hiding out, but it’s only temporary. At least that’s what I keep telling myself. Since the beginning of the holidays, I've been ravenously gobbling as many gourmet product as I can possibly consume. I could say that I am furthering my ongoing cinematic studies, but that would be a load. The truth of the matter is that I’m gorging myself on movies because I’m a damn pig.

Among the many titles I’ve perused, here are some of the highlights.

MAD HOT BALLROOM-Everybody’s feel-good documentary delivered the goods in my household as well. Much better than the overrated SPELLBOUND, this was a kid’s movie I could stomach without wanting to join the Zero Population Growth movement.
Maybe there’s just something that is so charming and maybe just a little ridiculous about pre-teens learning ballroom dancing that it won me over.

From the 1950s comes A FACE IN THE CROWD, a film that’s eluded me over the years and I am so jazzed that I’ve finally caught with it. Written by Budd Schulberg and directed by Elia Kazan after ON THE WATERFRONT, this fable about the rise and fall of a media superstar has a message that resonates over the five decades since its release to sound as vital as ever. Take a look at “stars” such as Bill O’Reilly, Sean Hannitty, even deposed Golden Boy Rush Limbaugh and their minions (or even their polar opposites on the Left) to prove its point. Nothing’s changed in fifty years…except the technology. Andy Griffith is an absolute revelation as Lonesome Rhoades, the superstar in question. As my friend Max pointed out, he’s like Andy of Mayberry’s evil twin. Also check out a very young-and so extremely hot-Lee Remick.

But the best film I’ve seen in months has to be OLDBOY, Chanwook Park’s sick masterpiece from Korea. This is filmmaking of the highest order and the roughest ride you will take in quite some time. See this at your own risk. It ain’t for the squeamish, that’s for sure. It is not only unflinching in its depiction of ultra-violence, it practically reinvents it. But besides the extremely graphic action sequences (including a fantastic three minute fight scene in one continuous shot), there is a brutal and ultimately tender tale that plays out to an unforgettable conclusion. “Wow” is all I can really add, except remember these three things-a hammer, an octopus and some very spicy dumplings. That’s all I’m going to say.

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