Whether Edgar Wright truly envisioned a three-feature rejoinder to Kryzsztof Kieslowski’s “Three Colours” trilogy — only with each film keyed to a different flavor of the British ice cream cone brand Cornetto instead of the colors of the French flag — is a matter of conjecture. The point is, we have his “Cornetto Trilogy” now (aka the “Blood and Ice Cream” trilogy), and the cinema is better for it.
Wright’s first two features, Shaun of the Dead and Hot Fuzz, announced a remarkable comic talent who mixes visual hyperbole, a nimble, staccato cutting style, and a delight in all things geek culture, be they comic books, videogames or Italian cop movies. Yet his movies are elevated above mere reference-spotting by their droll humanism, their surprising melancholy undertone, and a pronounced pang of loss.
Starting 5:30 p.m. Thursday at the Hollywood 27 and Green Hills, you can see all three movies together in one sitting, all starring Simon Pegg and Nick Frost, capped by the 10 p.m. premiere of his latest, The World’s End. And since four Wrights don’t make a wrong, his non-Cornetto feature Scott Pilgrim vs. the World, one of the biggest cult movies of recent years, screens midnight Friday and Saturday at The Belcourt — where Wright turned up unannounced one Thanksgiving several years ago to catch The Last Waltz for the first time.
DON'T! miss it.
All of Wong Kar-wai’s films are movies out of time, but his big-budget wuxia epic Ashes of Time seemed particularly doomed to walk alone. Made in 1994, it arrived too late to capitalize on the mid-’90s crest of the Hong Kong action craze, too early to ride the whirlwind of Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon’s blockbuster success — and truth be told, it’s too woozy, dreamy and elusive ever to connect with a mass audience.
But at least Wong won enough of a following (through movies such as In the Mood for Love and Chungking Express, shot with some of this film’s cast) that he could finally get distribution for this recut edition. Calling it more accessible than the first version is like saying a spell-checked Finnegans Wake is easier to read: It’s still a smeared watercolor of a movie, with the way station of a heartsick hired sword (Leslie Cheung) serving as the fixed point for rhyming stories of lovelorn assassins, brotherly betrayals and pining femmes fatales.
It remains as easy on the eyes as it is hard to follow — a portfolio of the most gorgeous stars in the Hong Kong firmament (including Maggie Cheung, Brigitte Lin, Carina Lau and both Tony Leungs) at the height of their youthful bloom, shot by master cinematographer Christopher Doyle in a fever of longing and beauty-stricken awe. It’s as if Wong threw out the mythic story, kept its action-figure characters, and encased them in a chamber of romantic suffering where they would never age.
It sounds pretentious, and maybe it is — but to get lost in it you need little more than eyes, patience and the lingering pang of loving someone who didn’t love you back. In subtitled Mandarin and Cantonese, it wraps up The Belcourt’s “Wong Kar-Wednesdays” before his martial-arts epic The Grandmaster opens Aug. 30.
[Editor's Note: This is the latest installment of 'Notes From the 422nd Annual Wraiths for Writing Conference,' a biweekly series of story and art that artist Amelia Garretson-Persans has created for Country Life. Trace its roots by reading the previous entries.]
Professor Dogwood and I had just entered a small tract of woods in search of protective materials. The Professor moved quickly and easily through the thick trees, so it was hard for me to catch all that he was saying.
“Hazel branches, the … of raspberry brambles, early … buds … seashells, the abandoned eggs of … ” The Professor’s voice shone through the crunching of twigs like the moon in deep woods.
“The … with doubles, as opposed to other … is that they know you so well,” he called. “It’s almost like they can anticipate your … move.”
I grunted in assent, but I doubt if he heard. The distance between us was growing. For a man of probably 70 years, the Professor hiked with great dexterity.
In the past decade, Middle Tennessee has had an avid flirtation with the plays of David Lindsay-Abaire — including his eccentric comedies Fuddy Meers and Kimberly Akimbo, but also the more emotionally challenging Rabbit Hole, a 2007 Pulitzer Prize winner in which the author boldly but craftily deals with a couple’s grief in the aftermath of their child's accidental death. Tennessee Rep mounted Rabbit Hole in 2009, and now Circle Players opens its fall season with a new take, directed here by young Lipscomb grad Whitney Vaughn.
As with Circle’s recent production of The Piano Lesson, the Lipscomb campus once again plays host to Nashville’s oldest community theater. Vaughn’s cast includes Lipscomb theater department chair Mike Fernandez and the highly respected Wesley Paine, with Beth Henderson in the key role of Becca.
There was plenty of skepticism when TNT opted to retain most of the cast from The Closer two years ago, folding those characters into a spin-off titled Major Crimes. The biggest problem was widespread doubt the producers could create another breakout character like Kyra Sedgwick's Brenda Johnson, whose personality and charisma often elevated otherwise routine episodes and kept the audience's attention in situations ranging from odd or silly to chaotic and powerful.
As Major Crimes wraps its second season 8 p.m. tonight on TNT, it seems the show has largely settled those doubts. Series creator James Duff slightly tweaked The Closer's formula in making the switch to Major Crimes, moving Mary McDonnell's Capt. Sharon Raydor (introduced during the earlier show's final episodes) to the forefront.
Major Crimes' first season focused on her promotion and battle to gain the trust of her comrades, the identical struggles Johnson endured during The Closer's formative period. Duff added another twist with the presence of teenager Rusty Beck (Graham Patrick Martin), also initially introduced in a strong late-era episode of The Closer. Beck was and is a witness in the Phillip Stroh case, but Raydor's decision to bring Beck into her home proved both unexpected and intriguing. The growth of their relationship has been a key element throughout the show's second season.
We've written quite a bit — both in print and here on Country Life — about Sensuous Steel, The Frist's killer exhibit of art deco cars and motorcycles. And now everyone's favorite bow-tied, sunshiny morning news magazine is catching on — watch this segment from yesterday's CBS Sunday Morning, and get to The Frist before the show closes in September.
The Hollywood 27 has become Nashville's weekly outpost for Hindi-language movies, which often rack up some of the country's highest per-screen grosses thanks to the ticket-buying power of Indian American audiences. This weekend you can see two of the biggest stars on the planet face off in splashy separate vehicles.
Opening this weekend is Once Upon a Time in Mumbai Dobaara!, director Milan Luthria's sequel to his 1970s-set gangster epic Once Upon a Time in Mumbai. Heartthrob Akshay Kumar plays a high-living gangland boss whose obsession with a budding film siren (Sonakshi Sinya) causes rupture within his ranks.
Gun-toting rivals, however, are less of a threat than the held-over Chennai Express (trailer below), which set box-office records overseas last week on the strength of matinee idol Shahrukh Khan. (I didn't know what celebrity was until I saw Khan appear once at an event in Toronto — the screams were like the beginning of A Hard Day's Night run through a Marshall stack.) In the Rohit Shetty-directed action comedy, Khan plays a bachelor who runs afoul of kidnappers pursuing a runaway arranged-marriage bride (Deepika Padukone).
Both movies play at the Hollywood 27; check here for show times and more information.
In this week's Scene, Coco Hames talks to Bob Murawski, Oscar-winning film editor and longtime Sam Raimi collaborator by day, exploitation-movie connoisseur and B-movie buccaneer by night. When he isn't cutting movies like The Hurt Locker and the Spider-Man sagas, Murawski's baby is Grindhouse Releasing, the imprint he founded with the late Sage Stallone. His mission is rescuing the extremes of cinema from obscurity, whether it's an indescribable kidnapping caper directed by "the King of Palm Springs" (Duke Mitchell's Gone with the Pope) or the godfather of hippie splatter movies (David Durston's I Drink Your Blood).
His latest find, a 1972 epic called An American Hippie in Israel, screens midnight tonight and tomorrow at The Belcourt on the heels of the trailer above (which may permanently damage your retinas). An excerpt from his convo with Coco:
You and Grindhouse Releasing appreciate, track down, compile, and restore these cult classic exploitation and horror movies (especially the '70s and '80s Italian ones I'm not allowed to see). What is it that thrills you most about Grindhouse, and particularly, Hippie?
First and foremost, I love the movies. My heart has always been in low-budget exploitation films. The more shocking and outrageous the better. So it's a thrill to be able to do great, studio-quality releases of obscure films that have never had a decent presentation. There is more entertainment to be found in any 10 minutes of An American Hippie in Israel than you would find in a dozen studio movies.
Is there a hippie-horror genre? And if so, what are some other films that relate to Hippie?
Mostly the Manson related subgenre — David Durston's classic I Drink Your Blood, Sweet Savior (aka The Love Thrill Murders) starring Troy Donahue, and of course The Manson Massacre. ("Helter Skelter was only the beginning. The Manson Massacre takes you all the way!")
What's an annoying/incorrect generalization people often make about Hippie or other Grindhouse pictures?
The whole "so bad they're good" attitude toward these films drives me crazy. I want to punch these people in the head and tell them that the movies are so good they're great. They may be low-budget and a little rough around the edges, but they're full of great ideas and hugely entertaining. Yeah, there are sometimes some strange ideas of plot, pacing and characterization, and maybe some bad acting, but the makers of these movies put their heart and soul into them 100 percent and made them with absolute sincerity. So stop thinking you're so superior, you know-it-all jerks!
I've run into a lot of people who cannot or will not "get" Hippie when I explain it to them. Do you have an elevator pitch?
The greatest movie you've never seen! A movie like Hippie literally defies description and categorization. That's what makes it so incredible and unique. The director couldn't get it distributed when he finished it in 1972. Everyone thought it was too weird and far-out. I'm hoping audiences can finally handle it 40 years later.
I like to imagine that it went something like this:
[Seventies schlock director William Girdler is meeting with Mr. Producer.]
“So, Billy boy,” says Mr. Producer, “Grizzly was a big hit — ‘Jaws with Claws’ — brilliant! The rubes ate it up. Whatcha got next?”
“Well,” says Girdler, “one bear was a big hit, how about all kinds of animals killing people — aardvarks, ants, bears, boars, cats, bats, dogs, hogs, elephants, antelopes, pheasants, ferrets, giraffes, gazelles, stoats, goats, shoats, ostriches, octopuses, penguins, warthogs, yaks, newts, walruses, gnus, wildebeests …”
"What?! No rabbits?” Mr. Producer says.
“Especially rabbits!” Girdler replies.
“All those critters might be expensive,” Mr. Producer says.
“Well, we can scale it back a bit. I know, there’s this ozone thing they’re talking about in the news. We can say it drives all the animals crazy that are at high elevations! That way we can limit the action to one mountaintop. We’ll call it ... Day of the Animals!”
“That’s great!” exclaims Mr. Producer, “but will people take it seriously?”
“Are you kidding me?” Girdler says. “We’ve got Leslie Nielsen lined up to star, don’t we?”
“Sounds great,“ Mr. Producer says. “Let’s go with it. Say, I got an idea! How about the animals have some sort of general. You know, someone to coordinate the attacks. I don’t know — maybe a hawk?”
“Consider it done,” says Girdler.
To see the results for yourself, see Day of the Animals at the Cult Fiction Underground at Logue’s Black Raven Emporium — one night only, Friday at 8 p.m. and 10 p.m.
To that end, I put out a call to several artists for their own lists of books they think ought to be required reading. Tim Kerr, the Austin-based artist and musician who recently showed his work at Third Man Records, submitted a few of his picks for must-have knowledge.
• Bright Moments: The Life and Legacy of Rahsaan Roland Kirk, by John Kruth
(This one's been out of print for a while, so if you see a copy snatch it up.)
From Library Journal:
Using dozens of interviews and a just-unearthed audio autobiography narrated by Kirk, Kruth traces Kirk's life from his childhood in Columbus, Ohio, to his mid-career vocal black-power stance, to his debilitating stroke and premature death in the mid-1970s. Throughout, Kruth highlights Kirk's pioneering efforts—such as his reintroduction of the stritch and manzello saxophones and his innovative circular breathing that enabled him to play several instruments simultaneously.
I haven't seen it either, Lance, but I've set aside 3 hours for it tomorrow…
For what it's worth, this twenty-something cinephile is really excited to catch Boyhood this week…
From the blog of Mark Harris (author of "Pictures at a Revolution" and "Five Came…
Jim Ridley wrote: "The Best Picture talk sounds like wishful thinking: the Oscars are all…
Also the Night of Free Speech twice monthly open mic night is moving to the…