Only Theo Panayides Has Wings

This is a blog about Theo Panayides, the cyprustician online critic that writes reviews of movies old and new on his website ( He is very good. In fact, he is awesome. It is also an exercise for my english-writing abilities, as I'm from Brazil.

Location: Goiânia, Goiás, Brazil

Sunday, October 30, 2005

Day 2 of the SP

I didn't update last night because, well, you know, alcohol, hangover, etc, so I am a day behind. But anyway:

A HISTORY OF VIOLENCE (69): Did I read something wrong or was this movie supposed to be one of those simple, straightforward thrillers that are subverted by Cronenberg's ability to make the violence in it disgusting and embarrasing, i.e. the Dogville Twist? Am I way off? I imagine I am, because I did not find much evidence of said subversion, aside from two things: (1) the sex scene between Aragorn and his wife that starts as an agressive, violent assault and ends in passionate humping, making the "Violence as Pleasure" point very well and clear, and (2) quick shots of very gory wounds during the violent scenes. But neither built any kind of unease that was necessary for said subversion or criticism, unless as an afterthought. In fact, I doubt anyone who doesn't know who Cronenberg is will take it as anything other than a straight fun type thriller with Aragorn being the redeming hero with an ugly past and etc. What it does achieve is ambivalence towards the actions of Aragorn, which is nice. It never seems to support it, nor criticize it directly, independent of Cronenberg's real intentions. In fact, the final scene, with Aragorn arriving at his family dinner and his daughter picking up his plate, is the only real moment where you feel the movie may be forgiving what Aragorn did, and yet their (the family's) faces seem so shattered and traumatized and etc. I also thought the whole stylized comic-bookness of the movie very interesting. The archetype-type characters, corny dialogue and LOTR-like score, etc, they really do show the movie's original form, and Cronenberg kept it all. This is almost Sin City-like -- except the graphic novel itself seems to be much much better than Sin City. William Hurt is hilarious. The audience broke out in laughter several times during the extended fight climax, and a friend of mine would giggle every time she saw a gore shot. "What the hell, you are sick", etc.

Oh, and a brazillian aside: we recently had a voting to decide whether we should make stronger laws for prohibition of weapon sales, which made it a Hot Topic here for months, with heated discussions about the use and utility of fire weapons and the cause of violence in Brazil and in general and etc. Anyway, the "No" won by a large margin, so no new laws will be passed against weapon sales (unfortunately, IMO). This whole shebang made the general feel of the screening more uneasy than usual. Everytime Aragorn's wife would reach for the shotgun and try to load it, or when she leaves it in the middle of the room and his teenage son picks it up to look at it, you could feel the tension, identification of the audience, etc. Interesting. I guess, if the audience would take the movie as it is (without the subversion), it's probably more of a "No" movie than a "Yes" movie. Interesting. I should see this again, by the way.

DIG! (76): Yeah, holy shit, this was fucking awesome. What is up with the lack of enthusiasm for this. No masterpiece or even particularly important, but most of the footage is electric and breathtaking and very funny and occasionally moving. It never goes into any in-depth explorations of any particular subject in the rock industry; only by following the two bands -- both starting at roughly the same level of success, one going down down down and the other going up up up -- does it achieve a statement about discipline and commitment and concessions needed to get anywhere (or somewhere) in this particular business. It's funny that Anton keeps calling The Dandy Warhols a sell-out band, a "cartoon band", and yet says their albums are great, what with the irony of him being supposedly "truthful" and going down the drain. But actually, anything he says is funny. He's an egomaniac, megalomaniac jackass, who does not seem to have much talent in the first place. Also, his tambourinist (sp?) Joel Gier (or Girth or whatever) is so hilarious, with his wacky hair and british accent and his uselessness in the band. Also, it's funny how in every single show of the Brian Jonestown Massacre, a fight breaks out, and they are always hilarious (until they start get embarrasing, and then depressing). Also, I found the ending very moving, although I don't remember what about it, exactly. Also, what is up with me liking the "decadent hispters" movies, what with this and LAST DAYS being awesome. Also, I heard The Dandy Warhols' "Thirteen Tales of Urban Bohemia" a couple of times through and it seems to be pretty good album, etc.

Oh, today's bloggy aside? I stood in line for coffee next to Fernando Meirelles, worlwide popstar brazillian director. He looks like a doofus in person. He's part of the jury for this SPIFF, if I'm not mistaken. Anyway, I did not get an autograph or photos or anything (although a friend almost convinced me). I figured I do not care about him enough to want his presence in a picture of me. In fact, I should have gone up to him and said "Hey Fernando Meirelles. Good job on CITY OF GOD. Bad job on THE CONSTANTLY IDIOTIC GARDENER. That one was pretty retarded. Why did you do the retarded movie? That movie is only worth 36 in my 100 point scale. That's pretty bad. That's as bad as CONSTANTINE. Or did you like that one too?". Etc.

Friday, October 28, 2005

The Day 1 of Fest

After a mind-numbing, weeping-baby-ing, guy-sitting-next-to-you-with-BO-ing fourteen hour bus trip from Goiania to São Paulo, only accompanied by Radiohead and The National CDs and the hope that the next few days will not suck as much, I arrived at the terminal and met with the buds and already felt as if things were going to get going in a nice way.

Anyway, it is nice to be in a huge city again (this is starting to sound like Theo's festival blog), the whole diversity thing going on, huge archtecture structures (sp?etc), an excutive-type with a nice suit holding a dog's collar sitting next to a punkish teen with a Che Guevara handbag and etc, you know how it is. I'm sure I had a few anecdotes for the day, but I sure as hell can't think of any now, because I'm sleepy and there's this dude sitting next to me playing Metallica on a guitar and reading what I'm writing, so etc.

Anyway, a few quick thoughts on...

ME AND YOU AND EVERYONE WE KNOW (61): What it is with this movie is that Miranda July has a bit of the Todd Solondz sensibility (Hal Hartley also came to mind) except she's not perverted or self-loathing (at least not as much). The entire thing has a dreamy feel, the dialogue is slightly stylized, the narrative feels constructed as to fit all of Miranda July's ideas for images, sounds, moments, dialogues; even though most of it doesn't really cohere, it is still a sight to see, a huge, rich collection of such moments as a gold fish on top of a moving car, a guy setting his own hand on fire, pink shoes with "Me" and "You" written on them dancing across a pink carpet, and such stuff. It's quirky, but never in an annoying way. The quirkiness in this case creates an uneasy feeling, not the typical inviting "Oh look how cute she collects sea shells that look like turtles etc!", and she also plays the weirdness for occasional deadpan hilarity, like the online sex chat with helpfull tips by the younger brother. I thought I found a connecting theme when the old dude (July's character's father?) says that "people are always looking for things they cannot have" (or something like that. I don't take notes. I mean jesus) -- July is in love with a guy who has no interest in her, tries to get her art to people who have no interest in it, the dad tries hard to be liked by his kids, the young one tries to change time in the end by knocking a coin on a pole (and with success!) -- but anyway, it still seems a little slight. I'll leave theme to better minds (aka the Theoster). Also, funky eletronic soundtrack.

HIDDEN (70): A disapointment. Not that it is bad. No sir. This movie is all kinds of awesome (ok maybe not all kinds but you know what I am talking about so thanks). But it is also frustrating. I guess I'm overrating it a little, because at least 4 or 5 of those points are out of pure objective admiration; if I'd grade it entirely on my response, it would be a 66, most likely. Some problems with my viewing experience: (1) by putting together all the pieces, like the trailer, reading 30 thousand different (non-spoilery) comments on Toronto blogs, knowing that the identity of the terrorizer will not be explained, and that there's a whole "War on Iraq" guilt subtext, well... when I actually got to watching the damn thing, there was not much to look for. I guessed most of the plot. Heck, I even knew from the moment that SPOILER puts his hand on his pocket to reach out for a SPOILER, that he would SPOILER himself with it in a really disturbing way, which took out some of the (immense, I imagine) shock. The tension I felt throughout was a mix of "oh lord just make it stop because this is so unpleasant" and "oh lord just move on because I'm way ahead of this movie". And also (2) Haneke makes this deliberately frustrating, by not giving the audience any "release" or "payoff", not even a climatic scene like the one at the end of CODE UNKNOWN (the "Drums + Steadicam" one). It feels impersonal, lacking any emotional core, and most of its tension's power would dissipate with a second viewing (right?). But this is still masterful stuff. Theo's right about the "Unknown Forces controlling our lives" this has going for it: there's even a scene during a shooting of Auteil's show where he's given off-screen directions on how to react while the show ends. And it is still nerve-racking: a friend would bury her face in my arm everytime she thought something bad was going to happen, and it is to Haneke's credit that she spent at least 60% of the movie with her face buried. Even a simple kitchen shot with Auteil buttering his bread or Binoche washing dishes was like "oh fuck something's gonna happen now. I can feel it. Anytime now. Oh lord it is going to be ugly. Oh no". And this is a good thing. Now Haneke please have shit actually happen more often. Ok? Thanks.

Oh yeah, I remembered a bloggy-aside type comment I wanted to make: the cinephile crowd during festival time is particularly friendly and open. One smart 30-ish guy overheard me and a friend talking about THE MANDY LAY while waiting in the line to HIDDEN and he was all friendly commenting his experience with it: "Oh, I was getting kind of bored because it lost DOGVILLE's freshness, but the last 20 minutes are breathtaking." Also, a cute 20-ish lady overheard me and another friend discussing about how the screenings are selling out easily and the difficulty to get tickets, and she happily dropped in her two cents. The weird thing is that they both said Wim Wenders' DON'T COME KNOCKING was the best of the festival they'd seen, so they must clearly be out of their minds (right?). Also, the same guy in line also said "Dardennes' THE SON is a fucking bore". So yeah do not trust the random friendly cinephiles.

Tomorrow: more rambling, retarded, incoherent, filled-with-spelling-mistakes type comments on THE VIOLENCE'S HISTORY and THE DIG(!).

PS: One of the buds, Khansc, is very sick, and will miss the festival because of it. We were all feeling for you, bud, while Haneke drop-kicked our asses. Try to make it to the MANDERLAY screening at least. Etc.

Monday, October 17, 2005

The Schedule of the São Paulo

Tentative schedule (10/28 - 11/2):

- CINEMA, ASPIRINAS AND SUCH CRAP is ditched. DIG!, is back in. The time constraints are not that big, so we will make it in time.
I think that's about it. The internet tickets for the last screening of HIDDEN (the one I'm going) were sold out in a few hours and I missed them. So one of my buds (the V dude) is going to the theater and get in line for the remaining tickets as soon as it opens. I think we will be alright, etc. If that doesn't work, I'll kill someone in line and steal their ticket (thus, giving Haneke something to make another movie about).

Updates on the Schedule:
- Saturday: DIG unfortunately ditched for time constraints and etc. The acclaimed brazillian movie CINEMA, ASPIRINAS E URUBUS replaces it.
- Sunday: TICKETS ditched because of time constraints.
- Monday: Victor Sjostrom's THE SCARLETT LETTER substitutes WHERE THE TRUTH LIES because of time constraints.
- Tuesday: KONG QUE added to the schedule, because it may be awesome.
- Wednesday: a new spot for WHERE THE TRUTH LIES (because I don't want to let Egoyan down, although he will probably let ME down). MY SUMMER OF LOVE and SOY CUBA go down the drain etc.
- Further alterations are expected.

Friday 28
THE CASH - 11:10PM (this is fucking late, I hope you wont bore me Mr. Haneke etc. Actually, who am I kidding, I will eat this shit up)

Saturday 29
DIG! - 7:30PM

Sunday 30
THE MOTHERFUCKING WORLD (the Jia movie) - 8:10PM

Monday 31

Tuesday 1
THE MOVIE WHERE TSAI MING-LIANG SHOWS HIS MAD SKILLZ - 10:20PM (this is going to be so fucking awesome)

Wednesday 2

Yes, it's very boring. Believe it or not, there isn't much else that's interesting. No THREE TIMES, no LAST DAYS, no BRICK, no GAY COWBOY PICTURE, no REGULAR LOVERS, etc. But at least there's more time for the drinking and discussing and the laughter and tears and etc. I'd be willing to bet we'll miss a few screenings out of laziness or boredom (watch out Greg Araki!!!).

Anyway, I'll be doing comments on these motion pictures probably in the same day I see them. But beware, I'll be drunk and/or sleepy, so it is not going to be a pretty picture. I will be making retarded observations, more than usual. I will try to tell a few anecdotes Theo style, so you can learn more about Brazillian culture and retardation.

Saturday, October 15, 2005

All The Primer's Men

Here's what I'm gonna do. Since I am not getting drunk tonight or doing Karaoke renditions of Arcade Fire's "Cold Wind" (no, you're the fanboy! Fuck off) and I've already seen like eighty movies today, so what I'm gonna do is write about a few movies I've seen recently. Nothing to do with my obsession with Theo's work or with movies anyone really gives a shit about anymore, and these comments are more about my particular tastes than the films themselves, so this is pretty much useless to anyone who is not me. So don't bother. In a few days I'll be back at writing about how awesome Theo's new festival blog is or how the São Paulo Film Festival is already in the process of revealing it's selection (which is exciting) or one of those random thoughts posts.


I've recently seen Alan J. Pakula's ALL THE PRESIDENT'S MEN (I'm not going to do a Vern-acularized version of this title because I intend this commentary to be (half)serious, but anyway, it would've been something like THE PRESIDENTS ARE ALL MEN (ha ha ha!)). It's the first time I've seen and in no way I expected it to be so awesome. What it is with this particular movie is that it's crafted with a documentary approach. There are no shaky cameras, but Pakula gives it an intense sense of reality with naturalistic details and performances. I can't point you out to many examples, because I've seen this movie a few days ago, but there's a six minute shot of Woodward (Redford) in his office, with him in the foreground making calls and trying to investigate clues, while in the background a group of people gather around a TV set (the content of which you don't see), dissipate, another co-worker out of focus tries to get Woodward's attention, heads and bodies enter and leave the frame, gesticulate, and Pakula shoots it with a really slow zoom in. It's not just that the content of this particular scene is tense, but that it feels like you are looking at the scene from a secret security camera. Or maybe, more to Pakula's intensions probably, from a spy camera, installed by a governement conspiracy.

Another realistic, genius element of PRESIDENT'S is that it never explains much to the audience. There's no cheap exposition. You have to work twice as much to follow the investigation and what exactly the characters are doing. It makes you feel like your part of the mystery. Names and places and numbers are being thrown around, and you have to sort everything out, like a jigsaw-puzzle, until a hazy picture starts forming in your head. Even if you are not completely aware of the events, you know you absolutely must have it all cleared out, because you are in the brink of a huge Revelation, an important, massive one. Pakula and screenwriter William Goldman make you feel like they know something that most people don't, a Secret. The filmmakers take pleasure in bringing you into the mystery, not just because they want to throw a particular political message at you, but because they know that we generally (well, at least I do) wish to be the Woodward and Bernsteins. Regular people, realizing that reality itself, as you percieve it, is breaking down, and that there was another reality under it all along. The giddy pleasure I get from watching it is one I often reach for in movies, and rarely recieve. It's the What If. It's the presentation of a particular recognizable enviroment, and then having the rug pulled under you. It is orgasmic. This is why I love (real) science-fiction, and PRESIDENT'S is more science-fiction than most sci-fi movies.

Admitedly, it's a lot easier for a movie create this feeling when it's mostly based on actual events. But there's no denying of the mastery of Pakula's silent, precise, brooding direction, Gordon Willis' dark, ominous photography, Goldman's "try and catch me fuckers" plotting and structure and great dialogue, the all-around fantastic, realistic acting, and sureal, hilariously brilliant, unbelievably friggin' tense scenes as the one where Woodward, after being told his life may be in danger by Deep Throat, arrives at Bernstein's apartment, and fearing planted bugs, turns up the volume on some classical music and procedes to have a conversation with his partner through a typewriter (this was so awesome. I mean, Jesus). I gave it an 87, and then upgraded it to a 92 after days of reflection, which safely puts it on "this is one of the greatest movies of all time ever thank you very much". Another upgrade I did lately was for Shane Carruth's sci-fi masterpiece PRIMER, which went from an (coincidently [or not]) 87 to a staggering (as Theo puts it) 96. I did not rewatch the film in these last few weeks, mind you, though I've seen it three times already. The upgrade occured because, after seeing PRESIDENT's and have it hanging over my mind for some time, I realized how closely they both resemble, and how significantly more amazing is PRIMER's achievement.

I'm not going to pretend that my realization of the similarity between the two movies is some kind of discovery. Shane Carruth basically said it himself in the interviews, something like this: "I watched ALL THE PRESIDENT'S MEN and wanted to make a movie like that". And who could blame him. But I don't remember reading any interesting comparisions between them, and though I will not be making said any extensive analysis on how they are similar, something struck me about them that made me understand a personal fetish in cinema (and sci-fi) for me, one that I already suspected. What it is is that PRIMER also takes the realistic approach that PRESIDENT'S took: they both have the same intense attention to detail and naturalism and recognizable, erratic, human behaviour; they are both shot in the same static, ominous, silent, ultimately frightening medium shot style of Pakula; they both feature screenplays where the plot and the content is thrown at you in an almost incomprehensible way, and make your mind race many times faster (which is very exciting, for those who care) to catch up; they both involve a couple of characters, regular guys, discovering a big Secret, that will change the way they look at the world, at Reality.

What makes PRIMER even more disgustingly awesome is that the Secret, in this case, is not political (something that affects a relatively small portion of our reality), but a Scientifical/Metaphysical one. The quest for Knowledge that Aaron and Abe go through leads not to resignations and arrests for political figures, but something so massive and otherwordly that it seems unbelievable. And the potency of the film comes from the fact that it makes you (or, at least me) believe it. Their discovery could easily be equated (in terms of importance) to the discovery of a proof that God exists. And only two Texan muffin-eating baseball-wathcing scientists know it (like Theo said, it's the juxtaposition of the mundane and the transcendental). And belive me, is this movie fucking transcendental. I mean holy fucking shit. There's a scene about 20 minutes in, after the realistic vibe has been stablished, in which the movie takes such a sudden, gigantic leap into the realm of sci-fi that I actually cried. It is when Aaron first sees Abe's clone through a binoculars, preceded by Abe urging him "not to scream, no matter what" and proceded by Aaron almost losing his voice, saying "Who was that, Abe?". The following stretch of the movie -- the next 10 or 15 minutes or so -- the sequence where Abe explains to Aaron in voice-over narration how did he travel through time (before, during and after) while Carruth plays the exact same thing the narration is explaining, but later on, with both Aaron and Abe... this sequence is so masterful that I do not even know how could people not consider this a major achievement in the Cinema (let alone by a first-time filmmaker, with a 7000 dollar budget). The people who do not consider this a major achievement in the Cinema must be fucking retarded.

I'm sorry, I don't mean that. Entirely.

So, there you go. Pakula's and Carruth's pictures are both firmly placed among my absolute favorites, bacause of some weird psychological background that cause me to enjoy movies that deal with metaphysics and the nature of reality in a mature and inteligent and realistic way (like in the great Philip K. Dick). I also love DONNIE DARKO* and TROPICAL MALADY for the exact same reasons -- to cite some recent movies I fell for -- and could easily write long, dull posts like this one about how unbefuckinglievably awesome they are (look for Jim Emerson's essay on DARKO that's somewhere on Ebert's site. It's genius). I'm not gonna, though (unless the fanbase of The Theo Blog requests it, har har). I think I've already made pretty clear what do I think is so amazing about these kinds of films that are willing to tackle the Fantastic with seriousness and to build it around a reality. It is, in a way, why I watch movies. It's not just to have filmmakers point to behaviour that I can see in the everyday and analyze it, but to have them also point outward, to what we may not even be aware of (master Antonioni also does this). It's not that movies (or art in general) will always reveal secrets and conspiracies, or that it's some form of escapism out of boring, mundane life, but just that fact that it's willing to go there already says a lot.

*How convienient, a movie about a teen who wants to delude himself that reality is not as boring as it really is by inventing in his head a weird surreal plot involving himself. He's also an atheist but makes himself believe he isn't one (because he can't handle the implications of being an atheist). He also wishes he'd not grow up, but go back to childhood, back when he believed in the mystical and the magical and in the easter bunny (geddit?). Anyway, Theo, 57? C'mooon...

PS: Mike D'Angelo, I know you did an Esquire review of PRIMER. It is not available for reading purposes. You have to buy it. I am not willing to pay dollars-converted-into-reais(our currency) to read your review. I do not feel it is worth that much. Although I do feel it may be worth something. So if you could e-mail it to me, I would be grateful. Though I wouldn't hold it against you if you didn't, since I am stupidly making this request in public. The Esquire team could be reading this. They could hack into our e-mails. They have the technology. They really do. I saw it in the movies. Our lives may be in danger. You should ask Deep Throat first. Put the red flag on your balcony, etc.

PPS: THE CONSTANT GARDNER (36). Brazillian filmmaker Fernando Meirelles, are you retarded. Thanks. Panayidettes do not watch THE CONSTANTLY STUPID/BORING GARDENER. Theo do not rate this movie over 45.

PPPS: There may be spelling errors in this post. Many of them, bad.

PPPPS: I would like to thank teenager baaab and baseball & politics asian guy Ryan Wu for the linking. And whoever else linked me (you know who you are, I am sure). Keep up the good work, etc.

PPPPPS: I do not even know what the fuck "PS" means. I think it's some latin shit. Like Post Scriptum. Or Post Scrotum.

PPPPPPS: I see my prediction failed on Theo's A HISTORY OF VIOLENCE grade. That is sad, but also ok. There are other predictions, other movies, etc.