David Cronenberg

Culture Warrior

Editor’s Note: With Landon Palmer busy (read: probably writing a thesis on Sexual Deviancy in John Wayne Films in the Greater Context of Post-WWII America As Seen Through the Work of Southern Filmmakers), the excellent, insightful Adam Charles has stepped in to write this week’s entry. Enjoy. Few things have been as equally discussed and deliberated over the past few weeks than that of who Lionsgate was going to choose to take the reigns from Gary Ross to direct the second installment in The Hunger Games franchise. The first film had one of the biggest opening weekends in history (and it didn’t even require 3D price-hikes to get there), earned a positive majority from critics, and has a dedicated fanbase that defies demographic lines of fandom; and they’re chomping at the bit to see the next adaptation in the series, Catching Fire, as quickly as possible. Neither Lucas, Spielberg, or even Peter Jackson’s franchises could replicate just how much of the domestic populous is waiting for the next picture.

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The first teaser we saw for David Cronenberg’s upcoming film Cosmopolis gave us a glimpse of a stylish, violent work that not only looked like a throwback to the disturbing genre pictures the director made his name on, but that also seemed to be taking a page out of the playbook of Gaspar Noé, a director of French films who made waves in the U.S. with a couple of mind-bendingly stylized films in Irreversible and Enter the Void. That was probably enough to get film fans to mark this one on their calendars already, but after the movie was announced as being a big part of this year’s Cannes lineup, anticipation for Cosmopolis has reached a fever pitch. Or, at least, that’s what its producers are hoping, because they’ve put some new trailers out to capitalize on the Cannes announcement. This one comes from French site Allocine, and it expands on the colorful visuals and cringe inducing violence of the teaser trailer by giving us a better idea of what the story of this film is going to be about. Cosmopolis seems to be a timely tale, taking advantage of the growing Occupy Movement and the mounting frustrations with the world’s richest 1%, as much of the violence we saw in the teaser has now been given the context of being the brutal results of a world rebelling against its ruling class. A ruling class that, in this film, is represented by Robert Pattinson.

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The Hunger Games was a massive movie, but Lionsgate is definitely appealing to geek credibility when it comes to their wish list covering who should take over the franchise now that Gary Ross is gone. According to the LA Times Blog, that list includes seven or eight names, and none of them are women. The only names they’ve revealed are serious heavy-hitters -  Alfonso Cuarón, David Cronenberg and Alejandro González Iñárritu. All three would be stellar choices. They’re icons, visionaries. Of course, this is more than conjecture. This is a theoretical list of random names – not some concrete list of conversations that the studio has had. However, if it’s true that the list doesn’t include any women whatsoever, it seems like a calculated misstep from Lionsgate -  a poor, yet unsurprising oversight.  

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Whoa. Alright. If Robert Pattinson is trying to break out of his mold, he couldn’t have picked a better project than David Cronenberg‘s Cosmopolis. At least if he was looking for a movie where he gets to pee in a car, he picked well. Based on the book from Don DeLillo, the basic synopsis involves a millionaire rocking his way across Manhattan. From the teaser trailer, it looks like 80s-style Cronenberg with a touch of Jacob’s Ladder. Fair warning. It’s got some large-breasted nudity and some interesting gun violence. If Robert Pattinson was trying to break out of his mold… Check it out for yourself:

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Culture Warrior

Usually I’m quite cynical about end-of-year lists, as they demand a forced encapsulation of an arbitrary block of time that is not yet over into something simplified. I typically find end-of-year lists fun, but rarely useful. But 2011 is different. As Scott Tobias pointed out, while “quiet,” this was a surprisingly strong year for interesting and risk-taking films. What’s most interesting has been the variety: barely anything has emerged as a leading contender that tops either critics’ lists or dominates awards buzz. Quite honestly, at the end of 2010 I struggled to find compelling topics, trends, and events to define the year in cinema. The final days of 2011 brought a quite opposite struggle, for this year’s surprising glut of interesting and disparate films spoke to one another in a way that makes it difficult to isolate any of the year’s significant works. Arguments in the critical community actually led to insightful points as they addressed essential questions of what it means to be a filmgoer and a cinephile. Mainstream Hollywood machine-work and limited release arthouse fare defied expectations in several directions. New stars arose. Tired Hollywood rituals and ostensibly reliable technologies both met new breaking points. “2011” hangs over this year in cinema, and the interaction between the films – and the events and conversations that surrounded them – makes this year’s offerings particular to their time and subject to their context. This is what I took away from this surprising year:

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Do not expect a body horror show from A Dangerous Method. Do not expect someone grotesque mental or physical transformation. Do not expect kinky or unbelievably outlandish sex scenes. Most of all, do not pigeonhole director David Cronenberg. Whatever a “David Cronenberg film” means is a mystery now. Who would’ve thought the director behind Videodrome and (the very underrated) eXistenZ would go on to make an excellent gangster picture? Certainly not me. Now Cronenberg has tackled a subject that is, in some ways, in his wheelhouse. A Dangerous Method is not a dry or sloggy bio pic, but an entertaining depiction about the clashing of ideals and an exploration of how we tick, as expected. Much of the film focuses on the rise and fall of a rocky relationship between a young and intellectually hungry Carl Jung (Michael Fassbender) and the older, wiser and sex obsessed Sigmund Freud (Viggo Mortenson). Most the script involves Jung and Freud in back and forth conversations about their ideas, which will surely turnoff many viewers. If you are not at all into psychoanalysis and were bored to tears during your sociology 101 class, then this is not a film for you. At one point Freud jokes to Jung, forgive me if I am misquoting the line, “Have you realized we’ve spoken for eight hours now?”, and some may feel those eight hours. For myself, the exchanges between a convincingly conflicted Fassbender and a surprisingly hilarious Mortenson, are funny, intellectually stimulating, and, yes, cinematic.

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President Obama and Bill Murray

What is Movie News After Dark? It’s a silly little thing. Just a thing that some people read. Nothing special, really, just the world’s foremost late-night independent movie news and editorial round-up. You know, the usual. We begin tonight with a picture of President Obama and Bill Murray meeting at the Towson v. Oregon State basketball game this past weekend. I wonder if the Prez got a chance to grill him about all the recent Ghostbusters 3 rumors. We’ve already submitted a formal inquiry to the White House, with no response as of time of our publishing deadline.

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Ever since its debut at Venice, some have discredited A Dangerous Method as not being cinematic. The film is 99 minutes of nonstop conversations — and not at a brisk pace — regarding psychoanalysts and the collision of different ideas. Those conversations are acted out by Viggo Mortensen, Michael Fassbender, Keira Knightley, and Vincent Cassel, and directed by David Cronenberg. I don’t see how that’s not cinematic, and neither does Cronenberg. Just because there’s no body horror involving Carl Jung and Sigmund Freud (although that would be extremely fun to see) doesn’t mean this isn’t a “Cronenberg film,” a tag that the director himself seems annoyed by. When someone is capable of making films as vastly different as Videodrome and A Dangerous Method, all bets are off about what type of filmmaker you’re dealing with. There’s a thematic through line in his distinct works, but they’re mostly their own beasts. Here’s what director David Cronenberg had to say about damaged psychoanalysts, a dramatic conflict of ideas, and why the human face talking is the essence of cinema:

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Last month the Oscar season officially kicked off, and this month we’ll be getting plenty more Oscar baiters and real contenders to add to the mix. We’ll get another Brett Ratner film, the 25th film of the decade from Clint Eastwood, another upbeat audience friendly film from Lars von Trier, and the most expected and clichéd, a Martin Scorsese “kids” film. A fairly promising month, right? I’ve already seen a few films coming out this month, and there’s plenty of good-to-great films to see, even one or two that didn’t make it on this list. Honorable Mentions: My Week with Marilyn (an extremely enjoyable film with a great performance by Kenneth Branagh), Elite Squad: The Enemy Within, and London Boulevard (a solid anti-cliché gangster film). But here are the names who made it all the way to the top ten:

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31 Days of Horror - October 2011

We continue our journey through a month of frightening, bloody and violent films. For more, check out our 31 Days of Horror homepage. Synopsis: “Long live the new flesh!” Good old fashioned body horror courtesy of the master of such things, David Cronenberg. Videodrome stars James Woods as Max Renn, the sleazy president of CIVIC TV, a Toronto-based TV station, “The One You Take to Bed With You”. The channel focuses on lower quality content, the kind of stuff we get after 1AM on Cinemax these days. Always on the hunt for something more extreme, more what he calls “tough”, Renn believes he’s found his station’s latest offering in the form of Videodrome, a faux snuff show he has come in possession of. But Renn soon believes he is involved in a global conspiracy when the truth about Videodrome and the people behind it begin to reveal themselves, and Renn’s already sick mind deteriorates into hallucinations and madness.

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Top-tier director David Cronenberg hasn’t released a movie in four years, so anticipation to see more of his work is kind of at a fever pitch. I know first hand, as I just tried to buy a ticket to a festival showing of his new 2011 release A Dangerous Method and discovered that it was completely sold out. Why is there so much excitement over Cronenberg releasing a new film? Well, it’s because the guy always makes movies that are edgy and cool, and more often than not, they end up also being pretty good. That’s why I was interested to hear that Shock Till You Drop got ahold of Cronenberg while he was doing publicity for A Dangerous Method and asked him about the possibility of doing sequels to a couple of his best films, and his responses were encouraging enough that I thought I’d pass the info along. When asked about the rumors circulating a couple of years ago that he was working on a remake of his 1986 sci-fi/horror classic The Fly, Cronenberg revealed that a reboot wasn’t exactly the real story, but that something a bit more interesting is a possibility. He explained, “The Fly is not exactly a remake, it’s sort of a sequel, kinda. Yeah, that was a thing. I’ve written a script of that, and I don’t know if that’s going to really happen, but that has to do with Fox.” Watching Jeff Goldblum slowly morph into a slobbery fly creature left a […]

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There are many expectations fans of director David Cronenberg have embraced when he makes a new movie and his ability to surprise is definitely one of them. Not surprises in terms of jump scares but more in the vein of not knowing what you’re going to get. One thing is certain, his work is never boring and is willing to go to dark places whether it be psychological (Dead Ringers), sexual (Crash), or spiritual (A History of Violence). Having said that, it’s my sad duty to report that the only surprise in his latest work, A Dangerous Method, is his ability to take an intriguing subject (sexual analysis) and make such a tame, limp movie. On paper, the thought of Viggo Mortensen as Sigmund Freud and Michael Fassbender as Carl Jung in a duel of wits and sexual psychosis sounds like a film lover’s dream. The actors are more than capable of going to extreme places in search of an authentic performance and are only matched in their dedication by their fearless director. So why is it that a movie about the raw and animalistic ways we perceive sex be so neutered and detached from itself?

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Twenty-five years after its initial release, David Cronenberg’s The Fly is thought to be a modern classic, a highly effective mixture of science, romance, and terror that pulled in a much greater audience than the horror fans looking for a cheap thrill. Cronenberg has always been a director poised on horror as a higher art, a filmmaker who understands the grotesque and how much it is apparent in real life. Some, myself included, call The Fly his master work, and Cronenberg, a very intelligent speaker about all things, not just his own work, has much to offer the viewers of his film and the listeners of the commentary he provides that film. So here, without any further ado or buzz or flitting around your head or what have you, the things we learned from David Cronenberg’s commentary on The Fly.

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As many fellow conflicted yet faithful Netflix subscribers know, last week marked the beginning of the separation of Instant and disc-only memberships. I had been trying to whittle down my streaming queue for a few months, but we all know that is a nearly impossible task with that devilish recommendation list appearing every time you go to the site’s homepage. Suffice it to say, my queue had actually grown since the announcement, making the budgeting decision for me. One of the films at the top of my queue was 2010’s long-awaited gay love story I love You Phillip Morris starring the forever not-sexy Jim Carrey and the always delicious Ewan McGregor as two convicts head-over-heels in love with each other. I could spend an entire column writing about this rapid, surprisingly honest and tender romance sprinkled with deception and humor, however my greatest take away from this man on man sexiness was the unexpectedly hot chemistry (and subsequent love scenes) between Carrey and McGregor.

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This weekend’s 38th annual Telluride Film Festival has just announced their slate, including a number of buzzed-about titles from the likes of Cronenberg, Payne, Ramsay, Kaurismäki, Scorsese, Herzog, and McQueen. Telluride differs from other film festivals by keeping mum on its lineup until the day before the festival opens, though speculation runs high in the weeks before opening, with a bevy of well-educated guesses often revealing the festival’s top picks well in advance (an example from this year would be We Need to Talk About Kevin, as star Tilda Swinton is a consistent Telluride favorite). The festival will continue to announce additions to its lineup throughout its run. The festival seems to have a taken a number of cues from Cannes and Venice, with Cannes picks The Artist, Le Havre, Footnote, The Kid with a Bike, Bonsai, and We Need to Talk About Kevin showing, along with Venice films A Dangerous Method and Shame. The festival also announced that they will be bestowing the Silver Medallion Awards (which “recognize an artist’s contribution to the world of cinema”) to George Clooney (starring in The Descendants at the festival), Swinton, and French filmmaker-actor Pierre Etaix. The festival runs this weekend, from September 2 through September 5. Check out the full lineup for the festival’s main program, which also includes Albert Nobbs, Living in the Material World, and The Tuirn Horse, after the break.

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New Cronenberg means that Christmas comes in September this year, and Christmas Eve happens today with the release of the first trailer for A Dangerous Method. The film focuses on the real-life story of Carl Jung developing his methods with mentorship from Sigmund Freud and getting a little on the side with one of his patients. The drama is heady, and the cast is superb. Michael Fassbender as Jung, Viggo Mortensen as Freud, and Keira Knightley as the mistress Sabina Spielrein. It’s Cronenberg doing kinky sex. Check it out for yourself:

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For those of you new to the column, I am revisiting formative events in my life that have made me what I am today: A Special Effects Make Up Artist searching for relevance in the 21st Century. I left my home in a suburb of Gretna, Louisiana, traveled to Valencia, California where I attended the California Institute of the Arts. I am nineteen… Being in college, in California, in 1981, was like being in the front seat of an incredible roller coaster. Unlike how it was in New Orleans, where I would be lucky if I was able to get a hold of a genre magazine like Cinefantastique because it was not consistently available in news stands, now I felt like I was closer to “the hub” than ever. Magazines, trade papers, Hollywood poster stores, all were up to date with what was happening in motion pictures. There was also the benefit of being in one of the two (or three) “preview” cities for new films. Altered States, for instance, had opened in late November rather than at Christmas time when it opened wide, nationally. This, for a fan and initiate to Make Up Effects, was like being at ground zero.

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This week, on a very special episode of Reject Radio, we talk with sex symbol and film legend Angie Dickinson, discuss the parasitic relationship between studios and theaters, talk Bellflower‘s marketing strategy, and play a game we’re calling “Co-Directors.” Former assistant theater manager, massive film fan, and creative director at Rock Sauce Studios John Gholson explains how studios and theaters work together. He also makes a sex comedy featuring Andy Griffith seem just as enticing as it is in real life. Angie Dickinson has starred in over 50 films, played iconic roles from Rio Bravo to Ocean’s Eleven, and she was kind enough to spend some time talking to us about working with Sam Fuller and Frank Sinatra, creating her characters, and how movie-making has changed. FSR’s own Culture Warrior (and one of the Talking Heads) Landon Palmer braves a segment where we come up with directors we’d like to see work together, pitch a project for them, and figure out if it has a chance of getting made. Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Murder sounds like it could be a massive hit. Plus, our very own Jeremy Kirk matches movie news wits with Peter Hall from Hollywood.com. Who will triumph at the sound of the correct answer bell and who will be forced to narfle the garthok? Loosen up your tie and stay a while. Listen Here: Download This Episode

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Why Watch? Because David Cronenberg is a master who understood that the camera symbolized death. This short film starts with a very funny shot (just as the kids bring home the old camera they find), and it continues to explore itself until reaching a haunting conclusion. I could talk about it more, but it’s Cronenberg, so it speaks for itself. What Will It Cost? Just 6 minutes of your time. Does it get better any better than that? Check out Camera for yourself:

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Thanks to Netflix, it has become easier to watch controversial movies at home, but it’s also harder to find the quality. Often times a movie’s description is more misleading than helpful and may lead a person to feel duped once the credits have rolled. Following the website-generated suggestions only takes you so far—or right into the awaiting arms of something too line-crossing for a newbie – and a quick Google search turns up pages and pages of porn. I think it’s time someone makes this search a little less difficult. Yes, there are tons of lists out there compiled by reputable sites detailing which sex-centric movies are the quintessential, the most titillating, and even the most disgusting, but what if you just want to put your toe into the sex movie pool? You can have a movie that’s all about sex but doesn’t have one hot sex scene or a drop of chemistry in it…hello Last Tango in Paris!

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