CINELATION | Movie Reviews by Christopher Beaubien
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Shirley Walker’s Contribution to “Apolcalypse Now” (1979)

by Christopher Beaubien • February 09, 2009 • 1 Comment


Before becoming the next best thing to the likes of film composer Danny Elfman, Shirley Walker made her mark as a conductor for a few renowned films such as Randa Haine’s Children of a Lesser God (1986) and Jonathan Kaplan’s The Accused (1988). Her greatness was matched by the production of Francis Ford Coppola’s Apocalypse Now (1979) as her first gig in Hollywood. On the Internet Movie Database, Walker is listed as a synthesizer musician in the film’s music department. The original music credit goes to its director (listed as Francis Coppola) and his father Carmine Coppola. Coppola’s wife, Eleanor, was too busy documenting its production with stunning material that would later become Hearts of Darkness: A Filmmaker’s Apocalypse (1991), written and directed by Fax Bahr and George Hickenlooper who also made the wonderful film, The Man From Elysian Fields (2001). Like Werner Herzog’s Fitzcarraldo (1982) and its accompanying documentary Burden of Dreams (1982), Hearts of Darkness presents the production as harrowing an experience as Apocalypse Now.


If I chose the Oscar Nominees…

by Christopher Beaubien • January 26, 2009 • 2 Comments


If I chose the nominees, none of that would have happened. Permit me to unlock this web page with the key of film obsession. Beyond it is another dimension- a dimension of sound, a dimension of sight, a dimension of liberties. You’re moving into a space of both shadow and substance, of crimes and misdemeanors. You’ve just crossed over into . . . the Beaubien Zone. In here, I am the sole voter of the 81st Annual Academy Awards. To make it more interesting, I will not recognize any of the existing nominees from that thing we’ll call reality, as much as it pains me to see the Best Supporting Actor category without the Michael Shannon nomination. Not only is the challenge more enticing, but it also works as a collection of those deserving – some even more – who were snubbed. Now this would have been a far more entertaining Oscar Night!

Best Picture

Synecdoche, New York (2008): Spike Jonze, Charlie Kaufman, Sidney Kimmel
In Bruges (2008): Graham Broadbent, Peter Czernin
The Dark Knight (2008): Christopher Nolan, Charles Roven, Emma Thomas
Revolutionary Road (2008): Bobby Cohen, Sam Mendes, Scott Rudin
Let the Right One In (2008): Carl Molinder, John Nordling
Special Mention: Wendy and Lucy (2008): Larry Fessenden, Neil Kopp, Anish Savjani

Best Performance by an Actor in a Leading Role

Philip Seymour Hoffman for Synecdoche, New York (2008)
Brendon Gleeson for In Bruges (2008)
François Cluzet for Ne Le Dis à Personne (Tell No One) (2008)
Lee Pace for The Fall (2008)
Michael Shannon for Shotgun Stories (2008)

I was very tempted to also nominate Philippe Petit from Man on Wire for Best Actor. True, he is just playing himself, then again, he is always performing. Plus he does his own stunts!


Woe, Originality, Woe!

by Christopher Beaubien • June 26, 2008 • 3 Comments


June 23, 2009: This article works best when regarded as a contingent whole from a distance rather than one meant for scrutinizing. By recognizing the existence and length of “Woe, Originality, Woe!”, the point is made as sharp as a slashing celluloid projector — fingers and palms are cautioned.

Have you recently felt waist-deep in the remakes that Hollywood is churning out at us? Those suits are approving them faster than a greasy teenager can wrap up and deliver an equally greasy feces-spotted burger. Now you have to understand, the execs are timid and frightened of green-lighting anything new and original. After all, anything untried could fail and cost them their job.

So far this year we’ve seen Peter Segal helmed Get Smart, The Eye, Shutter, Prom Night, One Missed Call, Funny Games, etc. With the exception of the Steve Carell flick, they all sucked, but that didn’t stop future Idiocracy members from making them profitable, which ensure more and more remakes…

Get ready to duck and cover because here they come!

TRAIN (2008) by Gideon Raff < Terror Train (1980) by Roger Spottiswoode.

The Echo (2008) by Yam Laranas < Sigaw (2004) by, you guessed it, Yam Laranas. It will be like George Sluizer remaking his chilling masterpiece Spoorloos (1988) into the Americanized (re: shitty) The Vanishing (1993).

The Valet (2008) by Bobby and Peter Farrelly < La Doublure (2006) by Francis Veber.

Star Blazers (2008) by producer Josh C. Kline < The Japanese anime series Star Blazers (1979). The upcoming movie will be live-action; just think Thunderbirds (2004) — question: did that hurt?


The Term “Nuke The Fridge” Is A Dud!

by Christopher Beaubien • June 06, 2008 • Start the Discussion!


There has been a very vocal outcry against an action set piece early in the film. I thought it was one of the film’s most inspired scenes. Indiana Jones has been deserted inside a small American town populated by eerie wide-eyed dummies made up as All-American suburbanites. The houses are outfitted with furnishings and plastic goods. The purpose of this crafted life-size Pleasantville is to test an enormous atom bomb that will detonate within a minute. Indy, taking a cue from the caped crusader from the episode Riddler’s Reform uses a housed refrigerator as a safe to protect himself from the blast.

Tension rises as he rips the metallic grills out of the icebox so he can fit inside. He shuts himself inside just as the manmade inferno blows everything to kingdom come. The refrigerator blasts off into the sky and lands ferociously to the ground miles away from the blast. Indiana Jones, never cooler, escapes his mini fall-out shelter with a few bruises. He is indestructible. The camera rises up to reveal a mushroom cloud swallowing the faraway landscape. Indiana Jones, silhouetted by the explosion, has entered the cold war. It is an awesome moment that unfortunately overshadows the rest of the film. I wouldn’t do without it.

Many people didn’t voice this favourable view, whereas a collective of disheartened curmudgeons found the magnificently preposterous sequence just preposterous. Back in Raiders, Indy’s body was dragged across a rocky terrain by the back of a Nazi jeep. He climbed up the car and fought the villains like he was in rare form. Now Indy’s fans are calling out the impossibility of Indiana’s Fridge stunt.

They wanted blood for this, even going so far as to burn an imprint of the scene as the movie equivalent to the television term “Jump the Shark”, which refers to a joyfully ludicrous stunt by the Fonz in Happy Days. The phrase had entered the lexicon, otherwise known as the Urban Dictionary, as “Nuke the Fridge”. For example, “Killing off all the surviving characters from Aliens (1985) sans Ripley at the beginning of Alien3 (1992) really nuked the fridge”. Nuked the Fridge. I just want to rake my tongue with a fork every time I say that. It is a clumsy catchphrase that ridicules a film sequence that doesn’t qualify for this degree of prejudice venom.

How about this instead: “Souring the romance between Peter Parker and Mary Jane in Spiderman 3 just killed off Newt”.

“Killed off Newt” — sharp and to the point!

Besides, “Jump the Shark” has always worked as classics often do.

Criterion Release of MISHIMA (1985) DVD Postponed

by Christopher Beaubien • June 03, 2008 • Start the Discussion!


The Criterion Collection, the best in restoring and packaging obscure films, has postponed the release of the Paul Schrader masterpiece Mishima: A Life in Four Chapters (#432, 1985). It was originally slated for June 17th, but will now be released on July 1st. The reason for this could be so the Director-approved 2-disc special edition can coincide with another Criterion release Patriotism (#433, 1966), a 29-minute film directed by and starring Yukio Mishima.

mishimaMishima is one of my favorite films of all time right behind Terrance Malick’s Days of Heaven (1978). It is one of the most strangest and artistically appropriate biopics about a deeply-complex and passionate man. Yukio Mishima (Ken Ogata, The Pillow Book, 1996), a quiet novelist and arguably insane radical who wrote dozens of stories about struggle, beauty, sexuality, love, suicide, and the importance of an artistic statement. He later formed a personal army in pursuit of more tradition livelihood in Tokyo.

Three of his most renowned stories The Temple of the Golden Pavilion (1956), Kyoko’s House (1959) and Runaway Horses (1968) were shot in rich, gorgeous color on eye-popping theatrical sets by Eiko Ishioka that compliment the black-and-white scenes chronicling the writer’s past. They are the best filmed expressions of the writing process matched by Spike Jonze’s Adaptation (2002). These passages of past and fiction all lead up to Mishima’s last day, shot like a documentary in color, when he committed a rehearsed act of seppuku – a form of ritualistic samurai suicide – in the headquarters of Japan Self-Defense Forces.

MISHIMA (1985) Trailer

At the 1985 Cannes Film Festival, the film’s cinematographer John Bailey (The Anniversary Party, 2001), composer Philip Glass (A Brief History of Time, 1991), and costume/set designer Eiko Ishioka (The Fall, 2008) won the well deserved Best Artistic Contribution. Director Paul Schrader, the writer of Taxi DriverAffliction (1998) has recognized Mishima as his best work. (1976) and director of Francis Ford Coppola and George Lucas co-produced it knowing that the financial venture wold not be profitable because mainstream audience would not embrace it despite critical acclaim. Luckily for those who appreciate challenging and expertly-made films, Mishima: A Life in Four Chapters can be experienced because it exists.

Warner Bros Home Video released a DVD of Mishima on August 2001 that included a director’s audio commentary. It is currently out of print.

A New Sunrise for MISHIMA (1985)


The Criterion release will sport a new, restored high-definition digital transfer of the director’s cut which was supervised and approved by director Paul Schrader and cinematographer John Bailey. The changes of the director’s cut include a deleted scene featuring Chishu Ryu, a favored actor of Yasujiro Ozu (Floating Weeds, 1959). For Ozu fanatics, you can read a Sight and Sound article by Ryu on the director here. Another change to film is a digital replacement of a blue skyline with a blood red one in the Runaway Horses segment because Schrader wanted it look artificially in sync with the rest of the story visually. Optional English and Japanese voice-over narrations will also be provided; the former by Roy Scheider (“We’re goin’ to need a bigger boat.”), the latter by Ken Ogata.

New special features include: an audio commentary featuring Schrader and producer Alan Poul – the one featured in the original Warner release will not be included.

mishima11There will be new video interviews with Bailey, producers Tom Luddy and Mata Yamamoto, composer Philip Glass, and production designer Eiko Ishioka. Mishima biographer John Nathan and friend Donald Richie will also have video interviews. A new audio interview with the co-screenwriter Chieko Schrader who wrote the Japanese dialogue was the wife of Leonard Schrader who also wrote for Mishima as well. Another video interview excerpt will feature Mishima talking about writing.

Also included is The Strange Case of Yukio Mishima, a 55-minute BBC documentary about the author, the film’s theatrical trailer, and a booklet featuring a new essay by critic Kevin Jackson, a piece on the film’s censorship in Japan, and photographs of Ishioka’s sets.

One of the Best Sequences in MISHIMA (1985)

Available separately on the same date is Yukio Mishima’s Patriotism, which foreshadowed his death playing an officer who commits seppuku. The original film was thought to be destroyed by Japanese authorities shortly after Mishima’s death, seen as a plight upon the nation. Fortunately, the original negative was saved and has resurfaced 35 years later.

patriotismThe DVD will be restored in a high-definition digital transfer of both the Japanese and English versions, with optional Japanese or English subtitles. Special features include a 45-minute audio recording of Yukio Mishima speaking to the Foreign Correspondents’ Association of Japan; a 45-minute making-of documentary, featuring crew from the film’s production; interview excerpts featuring Mishima discussing war and death; new and improved English subtitle translation, and a new essay by renowned critic and historian Tony Rayns, Mishima’s original short story, and Mishima’s extensive notes on the film’s production.

I’ll be picking them both up July 1st.