Sunday, July 24, 2005

Comfortably Numb

I finally saw Pink Floyd's "set" (a whopping 23 minutes) from Live 8 on video and was left with very mixed feelings. It's amazing to see the four of them on stage together after 24 years, especially after the feuding between Gilmour and Waters. Waters happens to be an extremely talented musician and lyricist, but also one of most egotistical, self-serving pricks of all the great bands in the 70s, so I was thrilled that he was finally able to get over himself (even if it's only for Live 8) and play with the band again. He was also quite gracious on stage, saying how great it was to be back with the guys again. Gilmour is the man - one of the great guitarists of all time and a genuinely nice guy - but as post-The Wall Floyd shows anything, it's that these two guys work so much better together. Of course, I'd give Gilmour the edge since Delicate Sounds of Thunder and Division Bell have a few great songs wheras The Final Cut is The Wall without the great music behind it. So yeah, just seeing everyone on the same stage was enough to bring tears to my eyes.

As for the set itself, let me say that I didn't expect them to get up there and play Bike or Careful with that Axe, Eugene, but millions of people were not waiting 24 years to see a grand return consisting of four of their most "radio-worthy" tunes - Breathe, Money, Wish You Were Here, and Comfortably Numb. I understand they're trying to raise money to fight poverty and all, but throw in a Have a Cigar, Dogs, or Shine on You Crazy Diamond (all 3 which I've heard on the radio - the first quite often actually) for the fans. I would imagine they had at least SOME say in what songs they were playing and if they in fact never play live again, this would be a comfortably numb reunion. I have faith that Gilmour, Wright, and Mason will tour again and god-willing come out with a new album, but I have a feeling that Waters returned because it was for a good cause.

Still, no matter how old the guy is, it's pretty fuckin' awesome to see Gilmour play the solo at the end of Comfortably Numb, even if he could play it in his sleep by now.

Saturday, June 18, 2005

Days 6 & 7

Thursday, June 16

(s) Goodnight Irene (Sterlin Harjo, 2005) 16

5th World (Blackhorse Lowe, 2005) 22

These two films made by Native American's might be of interest to others from that culture, but to an outsider, they're meandering, unfunny, bland, and unimaginative. The first was only 15 minutes and focused on a Native American elder, a young Native American and a 20-something caucasian in a hospital waiting room. From the opening shot it was clear this was going to be one of those "bridge the gap" type films with the old, the new, and utterly clueless and it pretty much was. I think both films touched on the lack of cultural identity of younger Native Americans, now more engrained in American culture thus less aware of the beauty and complexity of their own. 5th World had a bit more to say regarding tribal relations and the difficulty of pursuing relations with other Native Americans because of blood lines, etc., but otherwise it's a typical road film where the young lovers chat, drive, watch tv, chat, screw, visit relatives and the like. By the end it's rinse and repeat - nothing I hadn't seen done significantly better in several other independent films.

Leaving Las Vegas (Mike Figgis, 1990) 69

Obviously fantastic to watch Cage in this performance after a fascinating Q & A where he surprised me by coming across as a very intelligent, well-spoken man who makes deliberate choices in what characters he plays and how he plays them. This might not explain stuff like National Treasure, but he made an interesting case for pursuing action films in the last 7 or 8 years. The film is a tough one to watch and Cage's mannerisms and speech patterns bring across what is possibly the most believable alcoholic I've seen on screen. It's not without its rough patches - a few weak parts in the script and slightly contrived actions to keep everything headed in the intended direction - but as a love story about two people so alone that they're willing to accept each others demanding terms, it's a lot better than I just made it sound. At times it veers into the "hooker with the heart of gold" territory yet never succumbs to the easy route of having either of them defeat their addictions.

Friday, June 17

Me and You and Everyone We Know (Miranda July, 2005) 67

Review to come.

Morvern Callar (Lynne Ramsay, 2002) 60

Again, another great choice for screening after the Q&A as this features Morton's most impressive and intense performance to date, one that demands more from her physicality in bringing across a sense of loss and confusion without feeling the least bit rehearsed. The natural feeling of her performance is key in making her enigmatic search for identity and acceptance worth all the work. It seems random throughout, but it's more about the culmination of all her experiences following her boyfriend's suicide (not a spoiler since it's known in the opening scene) than an A to B to C plotting of the normal "find yourself" films. The fact that she is unknowable and her thoughts and feelings always just out of reach are what makes her interesting and I got more out of simply watching her be than I would have from seeing her journey easily plotted or explained. A difficult and demanding film and though it doesn't completely work, it hits some brilliant notes along the way.

Saturday, June 18

Me and You and Everyone We Know
(Miranda July, 2005) 65

Review to come.

Thursday, June 16, 2005

Days 4 & 5

Aside from seeing many of the world's greatest poker players strut their stuff at the Rio, I've also seen a few more films.

Tuesday, June 14

Spicebush (Kevin Jerome Everson, 2005) 39

The prospect of seeing an experimental documentary was intriguing enough to suck me in, but after the first 6 or 7 minutes of nicely edited, slow montage of African American life in the Midwest, it turns into retread of uninteresting footage - two men performing their daily duties for their shipping business, a woman working in an office, etc. - that adds up to nothing interesting. It ceased to be "experimental", veering closer to the equivalent of placing spy cameras in several places and picking 5-10 minute clips at random. It's not quite as bad as I'm making it sound, especially with the interesting opening sequence, and it's nice to see an attempt to do something different with the documentary form considering the recent overload this decade, but Spicebush isn't exactly the second coming.

King of New York (Abel Ferrara, 1990) 53

I dig Ferrara's style here - consistently downtrodden with quick explosions of violence, the dark cinematography setting a bleak tone with the smell of death lingering in the air, and the completely realistic feel of the dialogue and action - but I found myself always admiring from a distance. It's great to look at and Walken's performance is fantastic, but outside of the style, there's nothing of particular interest. I wasn't surprised to learn it's something of cult classic, but I won't be joining the mailing list just yet. Certainly not a bad way to get into Ferrara though I'm hoping ones like Bad Lieutenant or Ms 45 grab me more.

Wednesday, June 15

Last Days
(Gus Van Sant, 2005) 75

Fantastic. A day later and it's still under my skin. Even more necessary to have a second viewing of this one than Elephant, but plenty of great things are evident immediately. The time-looping is extremely effective, not only in creating multiple contexts for certain scenes and moments giving their meaning more depth but also in poetically expressing Blakes social and spiritual isolation due in part to his own obsessive need to escape, but the self-serving attitudes of those around him. Some might suggest that it'd be more interesting to see the process of Blake's personal disintegration rather than the last few days of a disintegrated man, but Van Sant provides more than enough backstory with the behavior of everyone around Blake and obviously the correlations one will draw between Blake and Kurt Cobein. As pure and pared down as his previous two films, Last Days has it's own unique feel and with Van Sant's assured direction and Michael Pitt's incredible performance, it's sure to impress anyone willing to give it a try.

Monday, June 13, 2005

Day 3

Monday, June 13

In Memory of My Father (Christopher Jaymes, 2005) 55

Somehow this intense, but often comical, family confessional pulls it off. Solid performances all around, especially Jeremy Sisto, Judy Greer, and Jaymes himself, and quite affecting as well. Structured similarly to The Celebration (which the director says he saw later and loved), it transitions from room to room and character to character without skipping a beat and everyone involved feels like a fully conceived human being, rather than a conveniently place mouthpiece to pipe in from time to time. It takes some pretty hard blows on Hollywood insiders as everyone is exceedingly self-involved and we quickly learn that the father could likely have topped them all. It never points any fingers or completely villainize anyone - there are varying degrees of a-holes at this party (and though the father is lying dead in his room upstairs, it is a party) but they all have their issues and we come to care for them despite it all. A pleasant surprise considering most of the world premiere's I saw here this year and last haven't amounted to much. I actually hope this one picks up a distributor as it would likely do well in select independent theaters.

Unfortunately I missed the screening of The Aristocrats b/c I showed up late and they threw me in the back of the wait list. It should get a wide release and definitely a DVD, so I'll live.

Sunday, June 12, 2005

Day's 1 & 2

EDIT: I hate Mac's, so I'll try to figure out this bold/italics tagging b.s. as soon as I can. Also adding one more film for Sunday.

Things are a bit more organized here this year and most people seem to know what's going on, so it's looking like this year is going to be a little better than last year. Of course there's no David Lynch, but I'll manage with what's here. The party at the Green Valley Ranch topped last years which seemed pretty much impossible. 2,000 people, free food and drinks everywhere, scantily clad dancers in or around every pool, and taking place at a hotel where people who look down on the nice hotels on the strip would stay. The only bad thing is its the peak of the parties, but there's still plenty of fun to be had.

And yes, they're showing films here too, so without further ado:

Saturday, June 11

Red Doors (Georgia Lee, 2005) 42

A somewhat unique film as dysfunctional family drama's go and it never gets bogged down by its melodramatic pursuits nor caught up in the lighter side it touches on. The performances were surprisingly good and the direction never stagnant, but there were too many storylines and not enough support behind any of them. The youngest daughter's endless battles with a schoolmate was clearly weak link and became silly and intrusive while the other stories matured. The film was strongest when following the middle daughter coming to terms with her sexuality and the father realizing that his family has dominated his life to an unhealthy degree and otherwise it stumbles through the motions. It's sweet and amusing, but uneven and not quite satisfying.

Sunday, June 12

Mad Hot Ballroom (Marilyn Agrelo, 2005) 40

Bravo to Gabe for going from 64 upon leaving the theater and ending at 39 four days later.

(s) Foxy and the Weight of the World (David & Nathan Zeller, 2005) 41

Never as funny as it should've been, but there's something amusing about a dying man, who's an admitted bastard and was poisoned by his girlfriend, spending his last few minutes on earth preparing his dog for what's to come. It's downright stupid at some points, but I can't be too harsh since it had a few hilarious lines scattered about its miniscule 8 minutes.

Trona (David Fenster, 2005) 13

Everything people who don't see indy films hate about indy films. Insufferably pretentious, aimless, witless - the best way I could describe it is to imagine the first 3 or 4 minutes of Paris, Texas stretched out to just over an hour. The symbolizm is heavyhanded to the extreme and, for the most part, it's a man wondering through the desert "redefining" himself. Sorry, this is no Gerry, Zabriskie Point, or numerous other more successful films that I'm sure the director caught the trailers for.

Rize (David LaChapelle, 2005) 73

Inside Out (David Ogden, 2005) 15

Chalk up another one in the "painfully contrived thrillers that fail to redeem themselves by tossing in an extremely obvious twist at the finish". I figured with Eriq LaSalle, Nia Peeples, and Stephen Weber that this would at least be one of the better acted films of the festival, but far from it. It's Lifetime quality on those counts, taking the audience for idiots a number of times in its slow treck towards the center of the mystery. I'm also incredibly sick of seeing countless films satirize the cookie cutter image of suburban America as if it really all is like The Truman Show, but underneath they're all a bunch of perverted, pill-popping, wife beating bottom dwellers. Can't we all just watch Blue Velvet and be done with it, please?

Gabe's link to his blog is

Wednesday, June 08, 2005

The Lineup

Here's the tentative lineup of what I plan to see at CineVegas:

Saturday, June 11

Shorts Program 1 (Various)
Red Doors (Georgia Lee)

Sunday, June 12

Mad Hot Ballroom (Marilyn Agrelo)
Rize (David LaChapelle)
Inside Out (David Ogden)

Monday, June 13

In Memory of My Father (Christopher Jaymes)
Turning Green (Michael Aimette)
The Aristocrats (Paul Provenza & Penn Jillette)

Tuesday, June 14

Trona (David Fenster)
Spicebush (Kevin Jerome Everson)
King of New York (Abel Ferrara) w/award presentation for Christopher Walken

Wednesday, June 15

Last Days (Gus Van Sant)

Thursday, June 16

Losing Ground (Bryan Wizemann)
Leaving Las Vegas (Mike Figgis) w/award presentation for Nicholas Cage

Friday, June 17

Me and You and Everyone We Know (Miranda July)
Morvern Callar (Lynne Ramsay) w/award presentation for Samantha Morton
The Devil's Rejects (Rob Zombie)

Saturday, June 18

Shorts Program 2 (Various)
Land of Plenty (Wim Wenders) w/award presentation for Wim Wenders

Monday, June 06, 2005

Off we go

I've started this blog for the purpose of keeping updates while I'm in Las Vegas for CineVegas 2005. Ideally I'll be updating every day with thoughts on the films I see, goings on at the Festival, and maybe a bit about how I'm doing in the poker room. Well, Vegas is a place where, upon its inception, ideals have been crushed on a daily basis and who am I to beat these odds? I will have internet access at the Palms (but not at the Gold Coast where we're staying) and don't foresee any problems, so feel free to check in every day as there should be something new. After CineVegas, I may keep this up for random thoughts, stories and whatnot...or I may let it slip into the vast abyss that is cyberspace. For that, you'll have to wait and see, but from June 11th through the 18th, it will be alive and kicking.

P.S. If you're wondering about about the title of the blog, you obviously haven't seen Ernst Lubitsch's Trouble in Paradise, one of the greatest comedies ever made. Do yourself a favor and correct that problem.