Few communities are more culturally rich than the Queens neighborhood of Jackson Heights, which boasts some 167 spoken languages, a strong LGBT presence, and some of the greatest restaurants in the city. Frederick Wiseman, the 85-year-old director of observational documentaries (whose narratives are never forced with on-camera interviews, but merely suggested through motifs and editing), turned his camera on Jackson Heights for about nine weeks, during the summer of 2014, to capture the neighborhood’s diversity and the looming threat of gentrification.
Some time in the middle of Gaspar Noé’s new movie Love, star Karl Glusman ejaculates all over the camera. It’s a sight gag because the movie is in 3D, and probably the only instance of an anatomical closeup in the whole, sex-filled 135-minute movie. Generally, Love is more focused the bonds of its love-triangle-trapped characters Murphy (Glusman), Electra (Aomi Muyock), and Omi (Klara Kristin). When they are depicted having sex, as they frequently are onscreen, whomever’s having it is almost always in the same frame at all times. They are often performing actual sex acts, like the three-minute hand job/finger bang that opens the film.
Nasty Baby, the latest movie from Brooklyn-based Chilean director Sebastián Silva (The Maid, Crystal Fairy), is one of the low-key weirdest things I’ve seen all year. In a Fassbinder-esque turn, Silva plays an artist character named Freddy who’s attempting to have a baby with his boyfriend Mo (Tunde Adebimpe) and their friend Polly (Kristen Wiig). Shot at Silva’s own Fort Greene apartment, Nasty Baby (named after an art piece Freddy is working on) feels like a little slice of modern privileged life until a turf war breaks out between Freddy and an older, mentally unstable black man on the block named the Bishop (Reg E. Cathey). Tension escalates and explodes in a final-act shocker that some will find to be a jarring tone shift.
Sixty years ago, actor/singer/heartthrob Tab Hunter was outed. The story goes that in 1955, Hunter’s first agent Henry Willson sold Hunter out to gossip rag Confidential so that the magazine wouldn’t publish a piece outing another client of Willson’s, Rock Hudson. Despite being something that at the time was virtually inconceivable—especially for all-American boys—Hunter’s career thrived.
Superficially, Todd Strauss-Schulson’s The Final Girls looks like what would happen if Friday the 13th got the Wes Craven’s New Nightmare treatment: It’s a self-referential exploration of tropes (it takes its title from scholar Carol J. Clover’s brilliant analysis of horror cinema), a genre-excavation using a movie-within-a-movie conceit. (Note that the film-within-the-film is not Friday the 13th exactly, but the very similar fictional ‘80s horror hack-’em-up Camp Bloodbath). The action follows Max (Taissa Farmiga) and some of her friends, who get sucked into the slasher flick Max’s mom Amanda (played by Malin Åkerman) starred in during the ‘80s. When they figure out what’s going on, they realize they have to rely on their knowledge of the genre to find their way out.
One night in Berlin, a young woman from Spain meets a group of local guys while leaving a nightclub. She clicks with one of them, and so she decides to hang out with the group. Instead of being repelled when they attempt to break into a car that isn’t theirs, she’s enticed. They kick off a wild night that involves ominous drug dealers, heist, baby-theft, peril at almost every turn, and more partying. And it’s all captured in one single take.
“We wanted viewers to feel like they were washed up, panting on another shore somewhere having just had a brush with drowning in a tempest of narrative,” is how Canadian director Guy Maddin described his latest feature (co-directed with Evan Johnson), The Forbidden Room, which played this year’s New York Film Festival. And indeed, Maddin’s 11th feature is exhausting. Essentially an anthology film with a Russian nesting-doll structure, The Forbidden Room sprouts narratives out of narratives, flowing from one seeming tangent to the next with Maddin’s familiar silent-movie aesthetic (the narratives were generally based on titles and synopses “lost” movies often dating back to the ‘20s). A crew in a submarine that’s running out of oxygen attempts to extend their collective lives using the air pockets in flapjacks. A lumberjack attempts to rescue a woman from a cave-dwelling tribe called the Red Wolves. A man’s ghost attempts to teach his son how to trick his mother into believing that the man never died. There is a vampire banana, a virgin sacrifice, a character known as “Squid Thief.” It blends together deliriously in transitions that emulate the decay and melting of celluloid.
With The Green Inferno—the first of two new Eli Roth movies that will be released in the next two weeks—Eli Roth attempts the virtual impossible: making a modern cannibal movie. The Green Inferno is a throwback to the small but notorious cannibal subgenre of Italian horror movies that were made mostly during the late ’70s and early ’80s. The movies were characterized by extreme gore, on-screen mutilation of live animals, sexual violence, and depictions of jungle-dwelling natives as man-eating savages. They are intentionally revolting and, at best, effective assaults on the senses.
One of the biggest stories about horror cinema in 2015 is actually the story of a trailer: When the American preview for the Austrian film Goodnight Mommy dropped in late July, it immediately went viral inspiring a rash of reaction videos and copy deeming it the “scariest trailer of all time.” (At this point, the view count on the trailer is just under 6 million.)
Kristin Cavallari recently consented to an interview with the beauty blog Byrdie.com, which resulted in the instant classic blog post, “How Kristin Cavallari Does It All (and Still Looks Amazing).” We’ve already discussed a couple questions from the interview, like “Where do you find inspiration for the content on your app?” and “What sites do you visit for health and beauty inspiration?”
Who do you look at when you’re conducting an interview with someone who speaks in a foreign language—the subject or the translator? That remained unclear throughout my 30-minute discussion with Japanese visual artist Takashi Murakami and his translator Yuko Sakata earlier this week at the Criterion offices in New York. Close Criterion associate Janus Film is distributing Murakami’s first movie, Jellyfish Eyes, which Murakami was in town to promote. My eyes mostly darted back and forth between Murakami and Sakata as I asked questions about his work and movie, an ‘80s-esque tale about a boy and his fantastical pet that he uses to battle his classmates’ similarly fantastical pets in Pokemon fashion. To do so, they use controllers (“Devices”) issued by a local research center that’s actually run by an ominous bunch (the Black-Cloaked Four) who are stealing the children’s negative energy. Jellyfish Eyes is at once conventional by owing much of its plot and spirit to countless films and shows that came before it, and utterly insane. It’s by no means perfect, and often rests on cute—a fact of which Murakami himself seems to be aware. “Although the theatrical version may appear somewhat rough on the edges, I believe, for a first film, I have managed to create something with a solid structure,” he says in an interview provided in the movie’s press notes.
Throughout Boulevard, Robin Williams looks stiff, like he’s holding a suitcase in each arm at all times. It’s his way of physically conveying his character’s emotional baggage—Williams plays Nolan, who at 60 can no longer suppress his gay feelings and attempts a relationship with a prostitute named Leo (Roberto Aguire). But, in light of Williams’s suicide last August, it makes you wonder what Williams himself was carrying with him while filming what turned out to be his last onscreen performance (his voice will appear in next year’s sci-fi comedy Absolutely Anything).
If you see one film about a woman who can only orgasm when she sees her husband weeping, see Australian writer/director/actor Josh Lawson’s The Little Death. The anthology film intertwines stories about five fetishes—rape fantasy, role play, dacryphilia (arousal by crying), somnophilia (arousal by a person who is sleeping), and telephone scatologia (arousal from obscene phone calls)—in a playful, often hilarious manner. The scenarios tease out absurdity with cleverness (isn’t a rape fantasy a paradox, after all?). It all culminates with the knock-out final segment, “Sam & Monica,” in which a deaf man uses a Skype sign language interpretation service to call a phone-sex line. The three-way call segment is one of the most brilliant pieces of short-form filmmaking that I’ve ever seen.
“I have, obviously, shit to say,” said Rose McGowan earlier this week at a suite in New York’s Edition Hotel, where she was promoting her directorial debut, the short film, Dawn. “I’m not saying it’s good stuff, but I’m saying I’ve got stuff to say.” For almost 30 minutes, McGowan and I talked about Hollywood (McGowan is best known for her roles in things like Scream, Charmed, and The Doom Generation), fame at a young age (“It fucked me up”), and the controversial statements she made last year on Bret Easton Ellis’s podcast regarding misogyny amongst gay men and the state of the struggle (“I see now people who have basically fought for the right to stand on top of a float wearing an orange Speedo and take molly”).
Things got heated last night on Gawker’s roof, during a post-screening Q&A with the directors of the new movie Heaven Knows What, Josh and Benny Safdie, the film’s director of photography, Sean Price Williams, and one of its stars, Buddy Duress. It happened when Gawker employee Victor Jeffreys pointed out that he had seen one of the movie’s performers panhandling (or “spanging” as many who do it call it) on the street yesterday. There we were on the roof of a beautiful building in a beautiful part of New York and the first-time actor in question, Manny Aguila, was nowhere to be found.
In the third wacky season of The Eric Andre Show (a perfect show that I will love forever), crazyboy host Eric Andre interviewed Lauren “?” Conrad, who appeared both bored and uncomfortable with his off-kilter style. In an interview today with Hopes&Fears, producer Joshua Cohen revealed that Conrad was very mad about the taping—so mad she wanted to blacklist Eric Andre from getting any more guests.
When I posted the trailer for The Human Centipede 3 (Final Sequence) earlier this month, I jokingly wrote in the headline that the trailer “proposes a solution to prison overcrowding.” It turns out that maybe that’s not a joke—Dutch writer/director/producer of the franchise’s three films Tom Six told me earlier this week by phone that he thinks that “crime rates will drop like pants in a whorehouse” if the film’s “human prison centipede” system, in which inmates are attached mouth-to-anus in a removable manner, is implemented.
David Robert Mitchell's It Follows is like nothing we've seen before, and yet it owes so much to what came before it. A cross-breeding of tropes from the past 40 years of horror cinema, the movie is gorgeously shot, vividly told, and full of teen characters that have an unusual amount of compassion for each other. At its center is Jay (played by The Guest's Maika Monroe) who contracts an STD that makes her see visions of ghosts following her. The only way to avert death is to pass on the bug.
He's responsible for the likes of 1983's Videodrome, 1986's The Fly remake, 1988's Dead Ringers, and 2005's A History of Violence, but David Cronenberg may have delivered his most disturbing movie with Maps to the Stars. It's a tale of celebrity aspiration and Hollywood misery that weaves together incest, mental illness, a dead kid or two, a burn victim (played by Mia Wasikowska), a washed-up actress gunning for another hit who resembles what Lindsay Lohan might be like in 15 years (Julianne Moore as Havana Segrand), and a Bieber-esque child star who's already been to rehab (Evan Bird as Benjie Weiss). It's full of desperation, violence, and excruciatingly grim humor. There are images in this movie that are as indelible as they are hard to look at.
There are many radical things about Spike Lee's newest joint, Da Sweet Blood of Jesus, but you might not get that from hearing him talk about it. As a remake of 1973's Ganja & Hess, Sweet Blood pays tribute to experimental black cinema of the past. It stars Stephen Tyrone Williams as Dr. Hess Green, an affluent archeologist who develops a craving for blood (though Lee has warned repeatedly that Sweet Blood is not a vampire movie). Bloodletting aside, the film's centerpiece is a monologue on the strength derived from the difficult of growing up female and black, delivered by British actor Zaraah Abrahams as Ganja Hightower, Hess's love interest. Several scenes feature a black Baptist church service (in the Lil' Peace of Heaven Baptist Church, where much of Lee's Red Hook Summer was set). These are things we rarely see on film.