Werner Herzog Lends His Enigmatic Gravitas to Plastic Bag

Everything to do with Werner Herzog gets me excited. His movies, pulmonologist his approach to making movies, information pills his life and his approach to living his life. This idolatry of him has caught on with more of the public in recent months. Case in point: the internet trend of appropriating Chuck Norris hyperbole and inserting a ludicrous Herzog assertion on top of it (Norris knocked out a bear with one punch. Herzog telepathically commanded 400 monkeys to tear it limb from limb. OR: Chuck Norris uses live rattlesnakes for a belt. Herzog uses Chuck Norris).

When he decides to lend his persona to other projects (like playing the Father in Harmony Korine’s Julien Donkey-Boy) it’s particularly noteworthy. It is very revealing for a man who zigs and zags through life as much as Herzog to support someone else’s project. He is charismatically obtuse about contemporary cinema when discussing it in interviews. Him lending support to a project is as close to a “thumbs-up” as we’re likely to get out of him.

So, patient his latest piece of chosen material, this fantastic short film about the life of a plastic bag. It follows the bag from the glory days in the grocery store to the down-and-out days thereafter. Ramin Bahrani is the mustache-twirler behind this diabolically tragic (and funny) short. Obviously the hook is that Herzog himself lends his voice to characterize the bag. I never thought a plastic bag would have such a thick, German, accent. After watching it I’ll never think otherwise again.

Cable Network Goes Green with Recycled Talent

hbo

“It’s not TV. It’s HBO.” – HBO

It’s hard to argue with a statement like that when you’ve had the sort of run that HBO has. With notches on their belt that include The Sopranos, viagra 60mg The Wire, ampoule Deadwood, Curb Your Enthusiasm and Mr. Show with Bob and David the cable channel could feasibly retire, and ride off into the salt-and-pepper-static sundown of our televised world. They’d be legends.

We could discuss the merit of Taxicab Confessions and G-String Divas some other time.

Some would argue that there has been a quality drop-off in the past couple of years (me and six other people accounted for the scant John From Cincinatti fanbase). Entourage has been their mainstay. True Blood is popular (if not as critically blow-jobbed as The Sopranos and The Wire) and so was Flight of the Conchords. The former will return while the latter will not. Big Love has a rabid following, but none of their shows have broken through with the ferocity of earlier works.

As a whole, they’ve yet to recapture that all-important zeitgeist since The Sopranos, Sex and the City and The Wire finished their runs. People have migrated to Showtime (Dexter, Weeds) and AMC (Mad Men, Breaking Bad) for their “respectable” television.

Well, HBO has gone back to the well. And that’s a good thing. Starting with Allen Ball, who has found success with True Blood (after dominating tear-ducts for six years with Six Feet Under), HBO has rewarded the talent from years prior with more shots at glory.

David Simon, the mad-genius who led a pack of lesser-geniuses in creating The Wire, will return with Treme – a show that adopts New Orleans as it’s principal character.

David Milch, the sailor’s mouth behind Deadwood will voice his current profanity with Luck – the first television role for Dustin Hoffman in a handful of decades. The acid-tongued soliloquies will use a horse-track as principal location.

In addition to the old boys, there is Boardwalk Empire and Game of Thrones to solidify their line-up. Empire has Martin Scorsese’s name attached and Game of Thrones is an ambitious project wherein they’ll adapt one epic fantasy book per-season for as long as the the HBO executives will allow.

HBO appears to be using a strategy of blending reliance on proven talent and the sort of ambitious risks that helped elevate their name. Fingers crossed for all.

Muppets Primed for Resurrection

  • Posted by
  • on March 16, 2010
  • Filed in: Film

muppet

Though the franchise has never been entirely dormant (often appearing online in some very savvy short pieces, for sale and always a perennial television favorite) the Muppet franchise has been a stranger to the silver screen for over a decade. But not for long. Those who seek the rare fusion of high and low-brow comedy will be pleased. Their return is imminent. The inciting incident appears to be 2008’s Forgetting Sarah Marshall.

In the film, pilule Jason Segal plays a man who eventually uses puppets as his form of art. Segal expresses his inner angst, and the turmoil of the soul, via a puppet version of Dracula that owes heavily to the delightful aesthetic the Muppets have honed over the last couple decades. The first bit of progress has been that Segal has just signed on to be the human-lead in the new film he co-wrote after the success of Forgetting Sarah Marshall.

A principal reason the Muppets have proven to be such enduring favorites to many is their ability to progress with the times. They are actively engaged in pop-culture and grow with society. They aren’t relics of the 70’s, they are keeping up with the times, making silly internet videos and biding their time to be unleashed on the masses once again.

That time has come, and keeping with their tradition of finding great talent to associate themselves with, they have signed James Bobin to direct the next entry in the franchise. Bobin is best known for his work on Flight of the Conchords. That show was very adept at combining music and comedy, a trait held dear by Muppets. The confidence and artistry brought by Bobin coupled with a script co-written by leading-man Segal, should make for a movie loyal to the franchise’s roots and fresh enough to keep pace with an ever-spinning world.

Culture Clash Resolved: Art loves Football

Throughout the ages the realms of creative expression and athletic prowess have only shared fleeting glances at one another. For the most part, clinic or at least according to sitcom legend, the artsy fartsy types rarely appreciate the jocks and the jocks pound the artists with the sort of pent-up rage that stems from an inability on their own part to express themselves without violence.  These are the cliches of truth.

football

But now that’s all changed. Times, they are a changing. Here is a fantastic account of some high stakes wagering between the directors of the Indianapolis Museum of Art (Max Anderson) and the New Orleans Museum of Art (E. John Bullard) Both teams have a pony in the upcoming Super Bowl between the Indianapolis Colts and the New Orleans Saints and neither man feels defeat is in their cities’ futures.

I suggest clicking away and reading the whole scoop, but here is my favorite from their exchange (after it had already heated up a bit – and they can’t decide what to wager):

“I am amused that Renoir is too sweet for Indianapolis. Does this mean that those Indiana corn farmers have simpler tastes? If so why would Max offer us that gaudy Chalice — just looks like another over-elaborate Victorian tchotchke. Let’s get serious. Each museum needs to offer an art work that they would really miss for three months. What would you like Max? A Monet, a Cassatt, a Picasso, a Miro? Sorry but we have no farm scenes or portraits of football players to send you.” – Bullard

They eventually settle on trading some piece of frilly awesome for some other piece pinky-up rad. The point is they got to temporarily jump out of their polite comfort zone and feel what it’s like to compete and trash talk and defend their city’s pride – much like professional athletes do on a weekly basis. No matter who wins (The Saints are going to win though, for the record) this fiery bout of territorial pride goes a long way in renewing the lost bond between physical ability and creative aspiration.

Now all we need is a Super Bowl between Israel and Palestine. Wait, what?

The Wire Mastermind and HBO Reteam to Bring Televised Sustenence to Hungry Viewers

davidsimon

GUSHING HYPERBOLE, grip GUSHING HYPERBOLE, sale GUSHING HYPERBOLE.

That’s about all I can muster in summation of  Simon’s previous collaboration with HBO. The Wire‘s five season’s of brilliance has been heavily documented by many. Retreading the same praise would be tedious. Suffice to say, I believe that show was better than:

-Lime sherbet

-6 Wedding cakes

-Jesus Christ on ecstacy

-An Olympic-sized ball-pit

-Orange sherbet

I could go on like this,  further supporting the argument of just how much I enjoy sherbet, but instead I’ll offer some tidbits of information on Simon and HBO’s next union. The show is called Treme and whereas The Wire took on the city of Baltimore as a main character, Treme tackles the formidable city of New Orleans as its lead.

This is from an HBO press release. Apparently the new show follows “…ordinary New Orleanians as they try to rebuild their lives, their homes and their unique culture in the aftermath of the 2005 hurricane and levee failure that caused the near-death of an American city.

I know it’s dangerous to hype up a show like this (one that strives to tackle simple moments in the life of a unique city – which is much less immediately gripping than the web of GNAR-GNAR that composed The Wire) but what am I supposed to do? Not get excited?

For a show-runner like Simon (one who values location and place on nearly-equal terms with character and plot) to choose New Orleans is a simple stroke of genius. One that is so obvious it’s hard to call it genius. Right now you’d be hard-pressed to find a more fascinating city to explore. Even before the hurricane, New Orleans was a city filled to the brim with character and life. Right now, in it’s current state of flux, Simon has some real meat to sink his teeth into.

If Simon’s involvement isn’t enough, here’s a little somethin- something on the cast: Wendell Pierce (“The Wire,” HBO’s documentary “When the Levees Broke”) as Antoine Batiste; Khandi Alexander (“CSI: Miami,” HBO’s Emmy®-winning “The Corner”) as LaDonna Batiste-Williams; Clarke Peters (“Damages,” HBO’s “The Wire” and “The Corner”) as Albert Lambreaux; Rob Brown (“Stop-Loss,” “Finding Forrester”) as Delmond Lambreaux; Steve Zahn (“A Perfect Getaway,” “Sunshine Cleaning”) as Davis McAlary; Kim Dickens (HBO’s “Deadwood”) as Janette Desautel; Melissa Leo (“Homicide: Life on the Street”; Oscar® nominee for “Frozen River”) as Toni Bernette; John Goodman (“The Big Lebowski,” “O Brother, Where Art Thou?”) as Creighton Bernette; Michiel Huisman (“The Young Victoria”) as Sonny; and classical violinist Lucia Micarelli as Annie.

John Goodman is enough to get me on-board just about anything and to see him share the screen with so many cast-members from The Wire seals the deal.

DONE DEAL.

Paul Thomas Anderson to Get Rowdy With Religion

  • Posted by
  • on December 2, 2009
  • Filed in: Film

paul-thomas-anderson-mirror1

Earlier today I was remarking to a coworker that film audiences are currently spoiled to all hell. They can choose between a Coen Brothers, more about a Wes Anderson and a Spike Jonze. When I look up at that marquee I get a little light-headed, then I bow to my knees and pray.

The only name missing from my list of favorite active filmmakers is Paul Thomas Anderson. And just now I’ve hunted down a patch of internet that dutifully informed me of his follow up to There Will Be Blood. It’s set to star Phillip Seymour Hoffman and takes place in 1952. Hoffman plays a charismatic young man who starts a faith-based movement. The Young man goes by name “The Master” and he butts heads with Freddie, his young lieutenant, who starts to doubt the direction of the new movement.

CHA-CHING. CHA-CHING. CHA-CHING. CINEMATIC PAY DIRT.

I like this particular  combination of subject matter, time period and director. Hoffman and Anderson often collaborate and the result is often brilliant. It’s set to start shooting next year and I’m set to start anticipating it right now.

To Warm Heart, View Handpainted Movie Posters From Ghana

  • Posted by
  • on December 2, 2009
  • Filed in: Film

Back in the 80’s cinema was hard to come by in the African country of Ghana. Many citizens weren’t financially stable enough to own a VHS player. This is when the “mobile cinema” idea took off. Somebody had the inspired idea to rig up a van with a VHS player and roam the countryside. Offering cinema to those who might not find it anywhere else. That alone is a rad idea. But the best part was the hand-painted movie posters (inspired by VHS cover art) that accompanied the magic van. Here are some that tickle the shit out of my fancy, page but you can GOOGLEGOOGLEGOOGLE to find more if your hunger for these isn’t satiated.

Rogue Film School: Demigod Werner Herzog Teaches Lucky Mortals to Dodge Bullets

  • Posted by
  • on September 24, 2009
  • Filed in: Film

herzog

Werner Herzog is a hero of mine. I look up to him and his work regularly inspires me. With that in mind I could  accurately state that I don’t adore his movies in a conventional way. They aren’t the type that hold permanent residency in my DVD player.  I don’t watch his movies for the dialogue or his handling of the storytelling element of cinema. I watch because I don’t know what will happen.  I tend to feel the same sense of exhilaration as I watch each film. This is due to the genuine sense of uncertainty that flows through his frames. Of all filmmakers I admire, allergist I would put him next to David Lynch as the least likely for me to be able to guess how their movies are going to end.

The stories behind his films (and his life) are arguably more exciting than what ends up on screen. This isn’t meant to be disparaging of his work. It’s a high compliment. The spectacles he captures, visit this and the thought of how he was able to, population health are more memorable to me than the story lines. The raft overrun with monkeys in Aguirre: Wrath of God, the dancing chicken in Stroszek or the whole running time of Even Dwarfs Started Small. I feel like the arduous moving of the colossal boat over land in Fitzcarraldo had a more dramatic effect on Herzog’s life than it was supposed to have had on the lead character. His movies strive to do something. To express something that can only be expressed by the tenuous crafting of a succession of savage and beautiful images. His passion and lack of adherence to conventionality appears unrivaled.

His actors have threatened to kill him and he has threatened to kill his actors. He has dodged bullets and he’s been successfully shot by a sniper in the middle of a televised interview. He has two films on deck to be released this year and now he has just announced he is offering his own alternative form of film school. The Rogue Film School, a three-day seminar that will travel from city to city in the coming years, is his own personal brainchild and the text on the site feels like it was written by him personally.

Here’s where it gets good (from the site):

“The Rogue Film School will not teach anything technical related to film-making. For this purpose, please enroll at your local film school.”

“The Rogue Film School is about a way of life. It is about a climate, the excitement that makes film possible. It will be about poetry, films, music, images, literature.”

“Related, but more practical subjects, will be the art of lockpicking. Traveling on foot. The exhilaration of being shot at unsuccessfully. The athletic side of filmmaking. The creation of your own shooting permits. The neutralization of bureaucracy. Guerrilla tactics. Self reliance.”

“Censorship will be enforced. There will be no talk of shamans, of yoga classes, nutritional values, herbal teas, discovering your Boundaries, and Inner Growth.”

So, there it is. You read that correctly. He will teach us to pick-locks, forge documents, dodge bullets and he won’t stand for the notions of inner growth or boundaries. He is a badass and he’s graciiously willing to impart a little first-hand inspiration. More information at the official website.

Dufus Spreads Their East Coast Goofy to Pacific Time

  • Posted by
  • on September 16, 2009
  • Filed in: Music

dufus

Dufus is a band that wears silliness as a badge of honor. It holds spontaneity as sacrament. The music is often lumped into the category of anti-folk which is another anti-label that doesn’t really matter.  What it is to me is energetic, drugs goofy and at times very passionate and sincere music delivered with the hurricane vocal chords of Seth Faergolzia.

Faergolzia is the centerpiece of Dufus and if ever there needed to be a centerpiece to a band, this is it. Over the years Dufus has grown and shrunk by the month. It is not uncommon to see a completely different line-up every time you catch a show. On their myspace the list of artists who have performed or recorded under the Dufus umbrella numbers over a hundred. Some of the eye-grabbing notables are Regina Spektor, Diane Cluck, Jeffrey Lewis and Kimya Dawson.

He’s playing tonight at 9pm at Mississippi Pizza. After this Portland show they’re heading south, then back east, and then overseas. So, it’ll likely be the last time any Portlandians will be able to catch them for quite a spell.

–Faergolzia was also a gentleman enough to allow my brother and I to use one of his songs for a movie of ours a while back. So he is forever-gold and rides a unicorn atop a rainbow in my eyes.