Daily Archives: May 20, 2008

“Ashes of Time: Redux” @ Cannes

I know, I know…another post about Cannes. Sorry, but I told you…I’m kind of obsessed right now. The good news for all you non-movie fans out there is that the Festival wraps up on Sunday, so, I’ll get back to more juicy “eat”, “do”, and “make” posts very soon.

Speaking of “eat”, wait till you see the Key Lime pie I had in Tampa…amazing! Anyway, back to the shiny film fest on the Riviera…

So, the big news on Sunday was all about the world premiere of “Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skulls” — more on that later, but for the record, we ordered tickets today for the Friday night show at the Arclight — but for fans of legendary Hong Kong director Wong Kar Wai, the night was all about the premiere of his re-cut 1994 masterpiece, “Ashes of Time”.

And since “Ashes” is one of the few films of WKW’s that I have not seen — aside from his recent English-language disaster “My Blueberry Nights” — I’m kind of dying to see this definitive, extended version of what many consider to be his first truly great movie.

Though the dreamy, retro vibe of his later films was still years away — if you haven’t watched the Criterion Collection DVD of “In The Mood For Love” you are missing out, man — “Ashes of Time” was the first of his films to really stand out from the rest of the Hong Kong “wuxia films” of the time.

Starring WKW regulars like Tony Leung, Maggie Cheung and Brigitte Lin, “Ashes” is said to be anchored around the central performance of the late, great Leslie Chung (“Farewell My Concubine”). And though Chung was sorely missed by WKW and the rest of the cast at the Palais on Sunday, I can assure you he was there in spirit as he is said to be amazing in the movie.

Interestingly enough, WKW’s longtime-collaborator, iconic cinematographer Christopher Doyle — who is rumored to have had a spectacular falling out with the director after working with him for the last time on “2046” — was also in attendance. And not only was he there — he is the white dude in the pictures above and below — but he held hands with Wong and the cast as they made their way to the theatre as well. Cool!

Here’s hoping that the rift is over and that Doyle returns to the WKW fold for his next film. And in the meantime, knowing that the “Ashes of Time: Redux” was so well received at Cannes gives me hope that a stateside theatrical run might be just around the corner as well!

Or at the very least, maybe I can start dreaming about a special edition DVD — are you listening, Criterion? — to add to my kick-ass Wong Kar Wai box set, pictured below. Either way, long live the king of Hong Kong cool!

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Ambassador Hello Kitty

Every once in a while a major news event is so pressing that Christine actually takes the time to e-mail me a link to the article from her work. And yesterday was no different…

So, the minute my wife learned that Hello Kitty, fashion icon to generations of cool, puffy-sticker-loving hipsters everywhere, was named Japan’s official Ambassador to Tourism with China and Hong Kong, she shot me an e-mail.

And despite the fact that most of us are still nursing those Chococat birthday party hangovers — his birthday was May 10th, and yes, he is a boy, I checked the website — Christine and I both rejoiced at the news that Sanrio’s Queen of Cute had a brand new title and a nice shiny plaque to go with it.

Kitty, who will be 34 on November 1st — no, I did not know her date of birth by heart, I had to check that too — was said to be delighted by her recent honor and was looking forward to serving her homeland with pride. I’m not exactly sure what she’ll be doing in her new role — seeing as she’s not real and all — but hey, real or not, who doesn’t love that crazy cute cat?

So, rock on, Tourism Ambassador Hello Kitty! Long may you reign…

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Confessions of a Cannes nerd…

Judging from my last couple of posts, you’ve probably already figured this out, but, for the record…yes, I am a total Cannes Film Festival nerd. Sure, I get excited about Sundance and Toronto and even the Los Angeles Film Festival — the only one I’ve ever actually attended! — but nothing for me is as exciting as Cannes.

I don’t know, maybe it’s because those cinema-mad Frenchies are such big fans of some of my favorite writers and directors.

Only a handful of American films have ever won the Palm d’or, and almost across the board, they were made by some of the coolest, most idiosyncratic filmmakers in Hollywood. Robert Altman (“Mash”), Martin Scorcese (“Taxi Driver”), Francis Ford Coppolla (“Apocalypse Now”), Bob Fosse (“All That Jazz”), the Coen Brothers (“Barton Fink”), Quentin Tarrantino (“Pulp Fiction”) and David Lynch (“Wild at Heart”) are just a few of the American winners to date, and the list of cool foreign films that snagged the top prize is even more impressive.

Unlike the Oscars, who’s crusty old members will throw a Best Picture Award at bloated schlock like “Crash”, Cannes juries are more discriminating and the movies they screen and honor with awards at the festival are much more interesting because of it.

For instance, aside from a Best Original Song nomination for Bjork, Oscar voters totally ignored modern classics like “Paris, Texas” and “Dancer in the Dark”, but not Cannes, baby. “Texas” and “Dancer” both won the Palm in their respective years and the Cannes jury even gave Björk a well-deserved Best Actress award.

And one of my all-time favorite writer/directors, Jim Jarmusch — who shockingly, has never even been nominated for an Oscar! — has been in the running for the Palm d’Or a whopping six times. And that’s just the nominations, Jarmusch’s list of Cannes wins could fill books.

Aside from taking home the lesser, but still prestigious, Camera d’or for his seminal “Stranger Than Paradise”, Jarmusch also won a Grand Jury award for “Broken Flowers”, a short-film Palm d’or for “Coffee and Cigarettes III” and a special award for “Best Artistic Contribution” for his seriously-underrated “Mystery Train”. As my French friends would say…incroyable!

And the writing awards at Cannes are even more eclectic. They doesn’t give out a screenplay award every year, but when they do, the juries at Cannes pick some really amazing scripts…stuff that is often totally overlooked by other festivals, the Academy and hell, even the WGA.

Genre-bending classics like “Nurse Betty”, “The Three Burials of Melquiades Estrada”, “Henry Fool”, “Volver” and even James Schamus’s pitch-dark swinger dramedy “The Ice Storm” are just a few of the rocking good screenplays to win at the Cannes Film Festival.

So, while I haven’t ever climbed the grand staircase at the Palais du Cinema in real life, I have followed the festival for years from abroad, and man alive, what a nerdtastic trip it’s been!

Vive le cinema! Vive le Festival de Cannes!

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Woody Allen @ Cannes

Even though his last movie, “Cassandra’s Dream” totally sucked — this despite featuring a uniformly excellent cast, including Ewan “Obi Wan” McGregor, Colin Farrell and the scorchingly-hot newcomer, Hayley Atwell — I am still a die hard Woody Allen fan.

And the fact that every other movie he makes is horrible will not stop me from seeing just about everything he makes. The way I see it, Allen makes enough movies that he can make a real clunker every other time out. As long as someone keeps giving him money to write and direct and super cool actors keep on signing up to work for him for scale…I say rock on, Woody!

And though my favorite films of his are mostly from the 1980’s — “Hannah and her Sisters”, “Broadway Danny Rose” and “A Midsummer Night’s Sex Comedy” — there are at least three other movies of his from every recent decade that I love in a big way. And I’m just talking about his major works like “Bullets Over Broadway” and ” “Deconstructing Harry”, but I also love me some minor Woody Allen as well…”Manhattan Murder Mystery” anyone? Classic!

Non-fans may see Allen’s recent “Anglophile period” as just another tired (if accented) rehash of his usual shtick — and though “Match Point” ranks with his finest work ever, I’d have to agree with them on “Scoop” and the aforementioned “Cassandra’s Dream” — but despite the misfires, I actually found it kind of exciting that he was trying something new for a change.

So, you can imagine how excited I was to read that Allen’s next cinematic venture, “Vicky Cristina Barcelona”, was shot entirely in Spain, featuring mostly Spanish actors. Even cooler than that is the fact that the movie received a ten-minute standing ovation after it’s premiere this weekend at Cannes! Ten minutes…man, those Frenchies rule!

Starring Oscar-winner Javier Bardem, Oscar nominees Penélope Cruz and Patricia Clarkson, newcomer Rebecca Hall (pictured on Allen’s left in the pic with Cruz, below) and Allen’s recent way-too-young-for-him muse, Scarlett Johansson, the movie revolves around the complicated love life of a Spanish painter (Bardem) juggling affairs with three different women.

Let me see…all-star cast, shot in Spain and it’s a comedy…gloria a Dios. Welcome back, funny Woody!

Always hugely popular in France, Allen worked the European press this weekend like a pro. And when asked if he himself had ever tackled a threesome — as Bardem apparently does with Cruz and Johansson in the film — he replied: “You know, it’s hard enough to get one person”. Ha…I think Mia Farrow would disagree on that one, but you gotta love the dude for trying.

And while “Vicky Cristina Barcelona” — which comes out on our shores on August 29th — is not eligible for any major awards action at Cannes (having screened out of competition) I’m still counting the days till I can give the movie a ten-minute standing ovation of my very own right here in Burbank.

Vive le Woody!

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