Spike Jonze is a curious case.
Born into the Spiegel mail-order catalog fortune (his given name is Adam Spiegel), the teenage Jonze found solace in the skateboard/BMX bike culture of the 1980s. A DIY-bred autodidact with an oddball sense of humor, Jonze’s filmmaking “career” kick-started with a series of crafty skateboard videos that caught the attention of the Beastie Boys, who eventually recruited him to direct their playful, refreshingly lo-fi video for 1994’s “Sabotage.”
A series of inventive music videos followed, all of which were informed by Jonze’s boundless imagination and complete indifference to the flashy, jump-cut-laden techniques that flooded other MTV fare.
What’s up with this supposedly scary movie called Paranormal Activity?
Paramount Pictures, the film’s distributor, has been sending me e-mail press releases with big, bold-faced titles like “More Than 230,000 Fans “Demand” Paranormal Activity" and "Fans Spur the Film’s Opening in Twenty Additional Cities Across the Country” and “Paranormal Activity Sells Out Midnight Screenings Across the Country.”
The fall movie season gets a much-needed kick in the ass this week, as no fewer than a half-dozen worthwhile (or at least intriguing) films in a variety of genres hit movie houses.
The fall movie season has gotten off to a pretty mediocre start, and this week’s slate of new multiplex offerings does little to reverse the trend: a pair of ho-hum-looking sci-fi thrillers, Pandorum and Surrogates, and what looks to be a glossy remake of Fame, the 1980 movie musical that would serve as the senior play for yours truly many years later (I played Ralph Garcy.) Not coincidently, all three screened after our print deadline, typically a sign that they’re not ripe for much critical love.
The New York Times published a story Aug. 21 that attempted to dissect why so many established movie stars have failed generate their once-golden numbers at the box office this summer.
Among those mentioned were Denzel Washington (The Taking of Pelham 1 2 3), Eddie Murphy (Imagine That), Will Ferrell (Land of the Lost) and Tom Hanks (Angels and Demons).
The screen fills with a close-up of a military-issued boot marching along. Its owner, a grizzled and scarred commander, bellows, “You ain't in Kansas anymore.” So begins the preview footage of Avatar, the long-awaited and much ballyhooed sci-fi epic from James Cameron.
It's the filmmaker's first full-length feature project since Titanic made him the self-proclaimed “King of the World.”
The summer movie season is closing with a flurry: Recent weeks have given us such diverse, worthwhile fare as Funny People, The Girl from Monaco, Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince, (500) Days of Summer, Ponyo, District 9 and the best film of the year so far, Kathryn Bigelow’s The Hurt Locker.
John Hughes, the writer and/or director of such 1980s staples as Sixteen Candles, Pretty in Pink and The Breakfast Club, died of a heart attack yesterday at age 59. That sucks for a variety of reasons, the least of which is that few filmmakers made popular entertainments with as much heart, authenticity and wit as Hughes, and fewer still did it in the largely vapid genre of teen comedy.
I guess there’s nothing wrong with wishful thinking.
I bought my ticket for the 6:30 p.m. Friday film Official Rejection at Oxford International Film Festival — being held on short notice at the Esquire Theatre in Clifton — 90 minutes early because the volunteer at the information booth warned me it would be one of the better-attended movies. I then watched the clock as a friend and I had dinner nearby, wanting to be sure we got there in time for a good seat.
Our largely uneventful summer movie season gets a kick in the ass this week with the arrival of not only one of the best films of 2009 — Kathryn Bigelow’s The Hurt Locker — but also the third annual Oxford International Film Festival (OIFF), which moves to Cincinnati this year.