Here's an early candidate for next year's Chlotrudis Buried Treasure Award: this engaging black-and-white Mexican indie is about two fourteen-year-old best friends, Flama (Daniel Miranda) and Moko (Diego Catano). On one Sunday afternoon, they have Flama's mother's apartment to themselves and plan on doing nothing but playing X-Box, drinking cokes and ordering pizza. However, not long after their sixteen-year-old neighbor Rita (Danny Perea) asks to use their kitchen to bake a cake (because her oven's not working), the power goes out. With the addition of Ulises (Enrique Arreloa), an older, initially hapless-seeming pizza delivery man, the four of them spend the day figuring out creative ways to amuse themselves and pass the time within the apartment, which is located in a vast high rise housing development.

Much like Ulises, Fernando Eimbcke's film is unassuming and unremarkable at first, but as more about each character is developed and revealed, it grows on you considerably. The minimalist style, complete with brief fade-in, fade-out transitions, is surely influenced by both Ozu and early Jarmusch (both are thanked in the credits), but Eimbcke is less formally rigorous than the former and less deadpan but more emphatic than the latter. Plus, he has an ear for how teenagers talk and reveal themselves to each other. Sweet, poetic, and not at all pretentious, this little gem of a film reminds me why I value indie cinema so much. If you see this one, make sure to sit through the closing credits for a fun surprise at the very end. (5/5)


Coincidentally, I saw another Mexican film this week: Carlos Reygadas' second feature which is also set in Mexico City but could easily have taken place on another planet. The film, in a nutshell: middle-aged, poor chauffer Marcos (Marcos Hernandez) lusts after Ana (Anapola Mushkadiz) his rich, jail-bait client. A lot. Now, it didn't even occur to me that scene after scene of Marcos and Ana engaging in graphic oral sex might all be a figment of the former's imagination until my boyfriend pointed it out to me. And knowing that helps me appreciate the film more. BATTLE is an encouraging advance on the director's JAPON in that the camera movements are even more stunning, the soundtrack immensely stirring, and the plot is relatively easy to follow in comparison. He also has intelligent things to say about the class struggle in his country. Unfortunately, it doesn't add up to as great of a film as I was hoping for. Unlike the charming DUCK SEASON, it's astonishingly pretentious, But I do admire Reygadas' decision to show two particularly unattractive people having sex without turning it into a joke or draining all the warmth and affection out of it. (3/5)



Here's two recent posts I've made to the Chlotrudis Blog, which I really should be posting to more often: one on Almodovar's new film, the other on this year's IFFB.

By the way, my ballot for the 2006 Chlotrudis Awards, which is this Sunday:

Best Director: Werner Herzog, GRIZZLY MAN
Best Actor: Philip Seymour Hoffman, CAPOTE
Best Actress: Nathalie Press, MY SUMMER OF LOVE
Best Supporting Actor: Brandon Ratcliff, ME AND YOU AND EVERYONE WE KNOW
Best Supporting Actress: Robin Wright Penn, NINE LIVES
Best Original Screenplay: ME AND YOU AND EVERYONE WE KNOW
Best Adapted Screenplay: MYSTERIOUS SKIN
Best Visual Design: 2046
Best Performance by an Ensemble Cast: THE SQUID AND THE WHALE
Best Documentary: DOUBLE DARE
Buried Treasure: TROPICAL MALADY

Also, I've been meaning to post a new mix and a music review (which I have yet to write!) here, and maybe I will before month's end.

Also also, LYMEJELLO celebrates St. Patrick's Day, not by drinking green beer, but by beatifically revelling in its own template colors.

Also also also, a Happy Evacuation Day to all the Suffolk County employees I know.



From worst to best...


Mildly amusing mockumentary that presupposes an alternate American history where the South won the civil war. Much of the film is a remarkable, painstaking facsimile of the Ken Burns school of television documentaries; unfortunately, the intervening faux commercials for satirical targets such as SSN (the Slave Shopping Network) and products like Darky Toothpaste often fall flat, their obviousness surfacing with a resounding thud. Still, the “real” history coda about such products is enlightening, and the whole thing is at least watchable, and a little more coherent than producer Spike Lee’s similarly themed (and maddeningly inconsistent) feature BAMBOOZLED. 2.5/5


You're darn tootin' I'm suing every last one of your behinds!

Niki Caro’s much-hyped follow-up to WHALE RIDER crashed and burned at the box office last fall, possibly because it was released too wide too fast, and probably because no one really wanted to see another NORMA RAE. In dramatizing the first successful class action sexual harassment case (brought on by women working at a remote mining facility), Caro and writer Michael Seitzman drain out every possible gray area to a manipulative degree and only leave us with black/bad (the leering, abusive male employees) and white/good (their victimized female counterparts) ones. Ah, but that’s what you usually get in a Hollywood film (so maybe this wasn’t released too wide too fast). Still, unlike CRASH, I found much to enjoy here: the grandiose overhead shots of Northern Minnesota, a soundtrack steeped heavily in regional son Bob Dylan, the mere presence of Sissy Spacek and Richard Jenkins, and of course, Frances McDormand in her gutsiest role since FARGO (not to mention her most FARGO-like character since Marge Gunderson). As the lead, Charlize Theron proves MONSTER was no fluke, even though she’s just not as revelatory this time out (will she ever be again?). Perhaps this will find a larger audience on DVD: it’s not a bad way to spend a lazy weekend afternoon, despite the many hokey empowerment speeches Theron has to recite. 3/5


After years of semi-obscurity, Michael Keaton attempts a Jeff Daniels-like comeback in this scrappy, low-budget indie; coincidentally, like THE SQUID AND THE WHALE, the setting is also 1986 New York. On the night of the fated Game 6 of the World Series between the Red Sox and the Mets, Nicky Rogan (Keaton), a ex-cabbie turned successful playright (and a lifelong Sox fan) is dreading the reception his latest Broadway opus will receive from feared enigmatic phantom critic Steven Schwimmer (Robert Downey Jr. at his quirkiest). Along with fine support from Griffin Dunne (as a sardonic fellow playwright whose career was derailed by Schwimmer’s scathing reviews) and a brief, fabulous cameo from Catherine O’Hara as Nicky’s wife, an alternately wiry and world-weary Keaton makes us remember why he was worth paying attention to for the first time in ages. Although Michael Hoffman’s film occasionally drags and periodically feels like a made-for-cable movie, it benefits from an affable, efficient first screenplay from novelist Don DeLillo, savoring the perils of fandom and consequence with grace. 3.5/5


Hmm... I wonder if Rosario Flores is anywhere on these walls?

This delightful, hilarious film unites two Spanish actors best known on these shores for roles in Almodovar pictures: Javier Camara (the nurse in TALK TO HER) and Candela Pena (Nina in ALL ABOUT MY MOTHER). Together they are a loving couple stuck in dead end jobs as, respectively, a door-to-door salesman and a beautician’s assistant. Then, Camara is given the opportunity to either make erotic films with his wife that will sold in the Scandinavian countries (under the cover of being facetious “audio-visual encyclopedias about reproduction”) or lose his job. After a rough start, Pena becomes an international sex symbol and Camara evolves into an unlikely auteur, penning an Ingmar Bergman homage that gives this film its title. Director Pablo Berger revels in plenty of Almodovarian absurd, deadpan humor, not to mention a bountiful display of dreadful early ‘70s color schemes and Spanish pop songs, but he does so with a lithe touch (especially in Pena’s desire to have a child) that makes for a winning combination. 4/5


We’ve seen scores of films about war, but very few that explore reconciliation. Provocative and exhilarating, this one is situated in a fictional West African country following a decade long single war between two tribes: the wealthy government, and the rebel peasants. The two tribes’ respective male leaders, Le President and Colonel Theo bring their peoples together for a night-long celebration of peace. However, lingering tensions between the two cultures are blatantly apparent from the very first scene where we see Edna, Le President’s wife, mourning the brutal death of her young son by the rebel army. As the Night of Truth reaches its wee hours, the film’s title gains resonance and power as we discern differences in taste, hear of damning accusations from both sides, and see shocking revelations surface. The four leads are all excellent (though I could’ve done without the cartoonish crazy elder peasant man who gives the film its only false note). Structured like a Shakespearian tragedy with an astonishing O. Henry twist of an ending, NIGHT OF TRUTH is being distributed in the U.S. as part of the Global Lens 2006 series; with any luck, it (and not Oscar winner TSOTSI) will become the next African film (after 2004’s MOOLAADE) to find a welcome reception here. 4.5/5



Well, what can you say about an awards program that gives a long-deserving Philip Seymour Hoffman his due (he also gave the most geunine acceptance speech), and then, in a shocking finale, inexplicably honors CRASH over BROKEBACK MOUNTAIN?

All I can say is Yeesh.

I volunteered at the Brattle's Oscar Party this year, and it's much more fun watching this ridiculous monstrosity with a large, considerably vocal crowd than sulking at home and bitching and moaning to no one in particular. Since I was checking guests in, I have yet to see the telecast's first hour (like a good film geek, I taped it at home). A little weird to see Jon Stewart up there on stage, perhaps the show's first postmodern host, but I'd rather see him do it again than Chris, Steve, or Billy (especially Billy).

Gag Rule put it best after finally watching CRASH this weekend:

Some are predicting that this film might win the Academy Award for Best Movie. And some people wonder why I created Chlotrudis Awards.