Friday, March 07, 2003

When I'm not trying to figure out what the hell my mystery movie on Monday night might be (answers to the comment box, if you please), I'm musing on what to do with my time this weekend.

Aside from more packing of K.s remarkable accumulation of stuff, in preparation for our still-up-in-the-air house move, this weekend looks like a rather quiet one on the movie front.

There's no way that I'm going to see Jenny from the Block's latest flick, which is an even bigger waste of the biggest screen at our local UGC than "Jackass" was last week (Fine movie, just not really suited to a screen the size of two or three houses).

Thus, I will be going to see the latest Todd Haynes picture, "Far From Heaven", Neil Jordan's remake of French classic noir, "Bob le flambeur", the Nick Nolte-starring "The Good Thief" and maybe seeing if we can go to see something at Sheffield's arthouse screens, The Showroom.

Thursday, March 06, 2003

After a failed attempt on Tuesday evening, the enigmatic femme and your newly commented-up hack-at-large made a mad beeline for UGC yesterday afternoon and caught the 5:45pm screening of Spike Jonze's and Charlie Kaufman's latest confused gift to the world, "Adaptation.".

As somebody who tries to fling words about and arrange them into quasi-readable prose, it's certainly easy to relate to a movie which is most casually summarised as a shaggy dog story about writer's block. In truth, "Adaptation." does it's damndest to avoid easy catergorisation but if you really need the accurate skinny on just what this film is about, try to think of it as a modern fable about the battle between artistic integrity and the vulgar, product-driven demands of big business, an attempt to dramatise Susan Orlean's avowedly unadaptable non-fiction book, "The Orchid Thief", a revealing look inside the feverishly original and witty skull of "Being John Malkovich" and "Confessions of a Dangerous Mind" writer Charlie Kaufman and a return to credibility for Nicolas Cage, after a few years spent toiling lucratively in the matinee idol netherworld of Jerry Bruckheimer-produced, noisy, summer season action flicks.

Cage plays a somewhat fictionalised (?) caricature of Kaufman, the film's writer. He's overweight, balding, painfully shy around women, tortured by self-loathing and unable to finish the screenplay which he's been hired to write - An adaptation of Susan Orlean's best-selling, literary ramble, "The Orchid Thief", which offers no perceptible anchor for a narrative to spring from, a memorable protagonist in the form of gap-toothed Orchid poacher and obsessive oddball John Laroche and limitless opportunities to creatively stonewall even a writer of Kaufman's talent.

Contrasted with this is a wryly satirical, secondary story strand which depicts the ease with which Kaufman's entirely fictional twin brother Donald decides to pursue a career in writing, dreaming up a preposterous, studio-friendly potboiler after taking screenwriting guru Robert McKee's famed "Story" seminar and selling it almost instantly to a Hollywood system looking for the next, 'hot' script around town, no matter how absurd it may be.

Also along for the ride are Orlean herself (hilariously embodied by Meryl Streep) and Laroche (the wonderful, hypnotic Chris Cooper), who embark on a surreal and, presumably entirely invented, romance which cannily echoes the consuming love which any writer must have for a subject matter which often ends up being the sum focus of their waking hours. The twists and turns in this relationship are really what make the film soar and twist into entirely unpredictable territory - If you thought that the fevered invention during the finale of "...Malkovich" was out there, God alone knows what you'll make of "Adaptation." in it's final minutes, as Jonze and Kaufman seamlessly weave the kind of loopy, thrill-driven climax that the writer's on-screen incarnation spends the film railing against ( I believe they call this "Having your cake and eating it"...) into the body of this classic-in-the-making.

If you loved "...Malkovich", this will not disappoint you - It's a wildly involving, fearlessly creative example of how not to make a film by-committee and will hopefully be fully embraced by anyone who loves films which make bold, entertaining choices and tell engaging stories in a thoroughly contemporary, audience-inclusive manner (This is most avowedly not a movie which seeks to exclude any prospective viewers). Sure, your grey matter might have to do a little work at times whilst watching it, but "Adaptation." is well worth your time and effort.

My previously trailed job interview went quite well, thank you very much for asking.

I prepared reasonably well, had some more or less intelligent things to say to the people interviewing me and made a sterling effort to not trip over furniture, spill water on anybody or abruptly have an overly theatrical, hair-pulling, teeth-grinding freak-out if things went Pete Tong. Things went well, kids. Perhaps too well...

I will hear, apparently, a 'yay!' or 'nay!' response during the next few weeks, and could actually have a proper job of sorts by the time that the calendar reads May 23rd, and some movie or other with Keanu Reeves comes out (Come on, I've got to find some way of affording overpriced, fan-fleecing spin-off merchandise, and gainful employment seems as good a way as any).

Still, I refuse to count all of my chickens before they hatch, mainly because I don't own any, and I am still looking at other jobs and applying like a mad thing for entry-level, file-monkey gigs.

I'll keep you up to date.

Wednesday, March 05, 2003

If you fancy checking out one of the better blogs currently out there, why not direct your Space Browser 3000 to one of Blogger's highlighted Blogs of Note? This is Anne, straight from the hip, and she makes for good reading

And to add to the joy of last night's movie, as holders of UGC 'Unlimited' cards, K. and yours truly were invited to attend a preview screening of as-yet-unnamed movie on Monday night. We are to view said mystery pic, provide feedback via a questionnaire and assist in the multiplex's 'Recommended' scheme, where your average punter gets a chance to give their opinions and spotlight a movie which might otherwise get lost in the crush of blockbusters at your local 'Plex.

Man, I love UGC.

Naturally enough, the ever-fine and super-smart K. and Monsieur Blogworth did not manage to go and see Spike and Chaz's latest, yesterday evening - the slow-moving treacle-like morass which is Sheffield's rush hour traffic system saw to that for us - and instead got to our local UGC googliplex in just enough time to check out the Robert Evans documentary, "The Kid Stays In The Picture".

If you don't know who Robert Evans is, I wouldn't blame you - he is, to most moviegoers, an anonymous figure whose name happens to appear on the credits of some of the most financially successful and critically-lauded films of the sixties and the seventies. During his tenure as the youngest head of Paramount, Evans imprint was all over such halfway decent flicks as "Rosemary's Baby", "The Godfather" and it's sequel, "Love Story", "Marathon Man" and "Chinatown".

In a truth which is probably of no surprise to any armchair enthusiast of movies and their making, the details of Evan's life are probably more intriguing and dramatic than most of his movies. Married after a whirlwind, eccentric romance with Ali McGraw, the star of "Love Story", Evans lost his wife to Steve McQueen when they appeared together in Peckinpah's original version of "The Getaway". Rebounding from heartbreak, the driven and singular Evans cut a swathe through the rest of the 70s making lots of money for his studio, brokering friendships with the likes of Jack Nicholson, Warren Beatty and Dustin Hoffman and generally setting the standard of bad behaviour for any aspiring Hollywood bad boy since.

Thus far, it's a standard tale of ample cash, a series of bold creative choices - can you imagine any studio now wanting to make Robert Towne's eliptical "Chinatown" screenplay? - and fine living (A dizzying sequence depicts Evans' gallery of beautiful women and wild times, cut swiftly in a series of edits which resembles nothing so much as the internal thought process of a summer action flick director). As the 70's segued into the 80's, Evans' gilded existance inevitably topped-out and became a heady blur of disappointing projects - Altman's unloved and bizarre live action "Popeye", Travolta's "Urban Cowboy" - and off-screen, hardcore drug abuse, peaking with his implication in a botched cocaine deal, which prompted him to spearhead a celeb-driven anti-drugs campaign of toe-curling, eye-rolling earnestness. And then there was the ill-fated (to say the least) Coppola collaboration, "The Cotton Club", which more or less sent Evans' career into freefall until his muted return to prominence in the early 90s with such comparitively humdrum pics as the Sharon Stone vehicle, "Sliver" and Val Kilmer eccentricity-fest, "The Saint".

This said, Evans still has the knack for cinematic success, surprising everyone with his most recent picture, the Kate Hudson romantic comedy, "How To Lose A Guy In Ten Days", which has done that neatest of tricks by being reviled by critics and conversely embraced by the paying public. It's heading for somewhere north of $100 million at the US box office, as we speak.

To cut a long and very entertaining story short, "The Kid Stays In The Picture" is a hugely enjoyable tale of power, corruption and hubris, told more vividly and thrillingly than probably any documentary that you've ever seen. Hugely in love with himself, yet capable of surprising perspective on some of his personal foibles, Evans is a compelling narrator and hilarious mimic (you'll be apeing his impression of legendary Paramount head honcho, Charlie Bludhorn, in your head for days after seeing this film). This is a great movie about the making of great movies and should be enjoyed by anyone who loves a great yarn.

Judging by his latest entry, my good friend Paul the Postie is addicted to the death sticks. Tsk, tsk...

Tuesday, March 04, 2003

Reasons to be cheerful on this fine, if damp, Tuesday March 4th

(1) The ever-unseen, remarkable K. and your-eager-to-please blogsmith are going to see the latest Spike Jonze/Charlie Kaufman collaboration,"Adaptation", tonight at the local Googlieplex, and can't wait to see if the addled minds behind "Being John Malkovich" can deliver another superbly head-spinning meta-riff on reality, the unceasing, noggin-vexing difficulties of writing and tons of other stuff that we haven't even banked on yet.

(2) Fanboys? If you have hearts, prepare to lose them anew as America's favourite grad student spy, Jennifer Garner, returns to Sky One in the second series of J.J. Abrams' entertainingly insane espionage drama, "Alias". Sky One, 8:00pm tonight, and bound to be more fun than a bobsled full of monkeys.

(3) Coldplay's "Amsterdam" is sounding incredibly lovely as I type these words. How does Chris Martin sell millions of records, gad about with posh-o movie types, make an embarassing public display of himself whilst supporting quite blameless good causes and still manage to defy probability and make such fantastic records? For that matter, how have the rest of the band not killed him yet? I am very, very perplexed by these remarkable achievements.

(4) You can soon peruse a new William Gibson novel, "Pattern Recognition",which is even now readily available on import, via the ubiquitous Amazon. And it isn't even cyberpunkish SF, by God. Stay tuned for the skinny on this book, which promises to reduce my life to even more of an unproductive standstill upon it's release. Hence a probable lack of useful updates, I might reasonably warrant.

(5) I have a job interview on Thursday morning and you are all politely invited to pray for a positive result in this regard: It's about time that I got myself a gig that's both indoors and doesn't involve any heavy lifting.

Monday, March 03, 2003

If I live to be a hundred and twenty years old, I strongly suspect that I will never be able to understand my wife's dog, the golden mass of under-coordinated, lanky canine limbs and brown-eyed whimpering confusion we know affectionately as Miss Ella Fluffington.

Over the weekend, we were able to take advantage of some most favourable, quite temperate weather and head on up to Sheffield's Wire Mill park and take Ella out for a pre-dinner, breakneck, territory-bestriding constitutional.

During the course of this walk she tried to eat stuff that a doggie really shouldn't have been bothering with, recoiled in absolute terror from teeny-tiny dogs who came up to her ankles and ran around the wooden pathways like a blonde, canine exocet missile in search of nourishing twigs, delicious horse poop and all manner of inexplicable puppy good times.

I hesitate to mention the dread words "Santa's Little Helper" in any discussion of Ella's general demeanour, but what the hell - A cliche is nothing more than a neatly-encapsulated truth made dull through overuse, wouldn't you agree?

Ella's getting better at a lot of doggy stuff, happily - Though her fluffy coat is very inviting to dirt and icky woodland gubbins, Ella now realises the advantages of a cool paddle through one of Wire Mill's streams and manages to de-muck herself without any prompting from her guardians. And she will talk to fellow utilisers of T'Mill's jogging and cycling paths quite happily, where once she would bark, sniff at and generally be very suspicious of them (My pet theory - no pun intended - is that Ella believes that the parkland is her own personal playground and anyone else there is a terrible interloper, fit only to be yapped at and generally told off).

I've never really had dogs in my life since my early childhood - That universal truth about parents inevitably being called-on to take care of the family pet, once the children lose interest, seemed to hold sway in my home, and probably in yours too - but Ella is actually surprisingly nice to have around. She's nuts, sure, and has this neat trick of nudging my elbow when I'm typing out these blog entries in a bid to get the attention that she wants, but I wouldn't really change her personality or ask her to behave in a different way. She wouldn't be Ella otherwise.

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