Friday, February 11, 2011

Worth Mentioning - Nerd! Nerd! Nerd!

We watch several movies a week. Every Friday, we'll talk a little about some of the movies we watched that we felt were Worth Mentioning.

This week, Cody and Jay talk documentaries, Valentines, and Roman Polanski.


"The Life and Times of Toby Radloff", the Genuine Nerd from Cleveland, Ohio. Radloff's an eccentric and interesting character who became a cult celebrity in the late '80s when an MTV crew came to Cleveland to shoot a feature on Radloff's friend and co-worker, American Splendor comic book writer Harvey Pekar. This led to Radloff starring in some MTV shorts and teaming up with local filmmaker Wayne Alan Harold, who directed him in movies like Killer Nerd, Bride of Killer Nerd, and Townies, and who made this documentary.

When Harvey Pekar's American Splendor was adapted into a film in 2003, Pekar and Radloff appeared as themselves in segments, in addition to being played by Paul Giamatti and Judah Friedlander respectively. American Splendor is a great movie that I highly recommend, and will probably talk about on this blog again in the future.

While this documentary does feature Radloff telling the story of all of that, it's also just like spending a few days hanging out with him. So I enjoyed it, as we all need some Toby Radloff in our life.

At one point, one of the interviewees says, "If you're in northeastern Ohio, Toby radiates a certain presence and we all meet him sooner or later." Which is funny, because I have encountered him a few times myself during trips into northeastern Ohio, while walking around the Cinema Wasteland convention. You can see video of a couple of his visits to the convention on - here and here. I don't appear in them. I'm easy to miss, Toby Radloff is not.

With Valentine's Day coming up on Monday, I have to feature this video from 1989, Toby's guide to Valentine goodies:

Also, I need to recommend that everyone check out the 1981 horror film MY BLOODY VALENTINE. Another film that I will write more about in the future, this Canadian slasher is about a killer wearing a miner's uniform and gas mask who goes on a rampage in a small town when the locals don't heed his warning to never hold a Valentine's Day dance again. The gory kills were famously cut apart by the MPAA when it was initially released and the footage was feared lost for over twenty years. The gory bits were finally unearthed and re-inserted into the film for an unrated release in 2009, making an awesome movie even greater. You're not properly celebrating Valentine's Day if you're not watching this film every February 14th.

The 2009 3D remake from Patrick Lussier and Todd Farmer is also a decent slasher that's worth checking out. Have a double feature if you're really in the holiday spirit.

Jay's mentions: 

Directed by Roman Polanski
Starring Ewan McGregor, Kim Cattrall, Olivia Williams, and Pierce Brosnan

Per IMDb: An unremarkable ghost-writer has landed a lucrative contract to redact the memoirs of Adam Lang, the former UK Prime Minister. After dominating British politics for years, Lang has retired with his wife to the USA. He lives on an island, in luxurious, isolated premises complete with a security detail and a secretarial staff. Soon, Adam Lang gets embroiled in a major scandal with international ramifications that reveals how far he was ready to go in order to nurture UK's "special relationship" with the USA. But before this controversy has started, before even he has closed the deal with the publisher, the ghost-writer gets unmistakable signs that the turgid draft he is tasked to put into shape inexplicably constitutes highly sensitive material. Written by Eduardo Casais

The latest Roman Polanski thriller excels with a wonderful mood and feeling of dread that makes me want to put myself behind the camera again and dig into a great mystery movie. Ewan McGregor delivers a major league performance, full of hilarious gestures and with a fine smartass attitude. We never learn his characters name through the entire film, he's known only as the "Ghost", and this adds to the feeling of mystery for the overall film. All of the actors are fine in their respective roles and everything is held together very tightly by Polanski. Ninety-four year old character actor Eli Wallach turns up for one scene and does a great job as an old timer living down by the beach.

While the film is based very much around politics, I enjoyed the overall mood and suspense more than any of those aspects. McGregor's character stays at a hotel which is pretty much abandoned and the set design and mood here are second to none. Polanski has always had all of the intangibles covered when it comes to a good suspense film and he doesn't disappoint with Ghost Writer.

Directed by Casey Affleck
Starring Joaquin Phoenix, Casey Affleck, Sean Combs

Per IMDb: Documenting Joaquin Phoenix's transition from the acting world to a career as an aspiring rapper.

I originally wasn't sure if I thought this was worth mentioning or not, but it seems that I can't get the film off my mind. Is it a documentary? A mockumentary? Casey Affleck has come out and stated it was staged, but do we really believe the entire production was a hoax?

After viewing it, I wasn't able to make up my mind any more than I had before watching. The entire thing interests me, not necessarily because of Phoenix but more so because of the rap world that he was stepping into. If you believe that it's based in any shred of reality then there's no way this one isn't hard to watch. Yet some of it is so asinine that it momentarily blows away any shred of credibility, but then there will be another scene that's so real and uncomfortable that it just might have you believing in its truth again.

To think that Joaquin Phoenix would give up everything he has to become a rapper, and look like such a fool while doing so, is unbelievable enough, but to think he'd do all of this just as part of a hoax is just as insane as believing he's being honest. The truth, I'm sure, is somewhere in the middle.

One scene I can't shake from my memory is when Phoenix meets up with Sean Combs (Puff Daddy, P. Diddy) at the studio in order to let him hear a few of his new rap songs. This scene was probably the most uncomfortable thing I've ever witnessed and if it was faked then everyone involved deserves a pat on the back. You can expect a true performance from Phoenix, but P. Diddy is equally believable in every scene he's in.

The bottom line on this one is that if you have any interest in the subject matter at all, you'll just have to see it to believe (or disbelieve) it.

I'm Still Here is currently available on Netflix Instant Viewing.

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