Every Monday I find myself whispering that old Beckett adage into the morning air: I can’t go on / I’ll go on. As I settle into the week’s work, and no matter how thrilling the day’s prospects, it’s that beginning of the week existential stomach ache that always seemed to start gnawing away at my insides. But breathe, just breathe, the hours will pass themselves and soon it will all be easier and the weekend will come again—one that’s rife with fantastic films playing in theaters all around the city. But in the meantime, look forward to the evening, when a wealth of wonderful films will be at your fingertips.
With so many great movies streaming online, what better way to spend a cold March night than curled up beneath the sheets with some of the best rare and incredible cinema from the comfort of home? But with myriad options streaming, I understand the decision of what to screen in your private bedroom viewing can prove a challenge. So to make your troubles easier, this week we’ve highlighted some of our favorite science fiction movies to watch without leaving bed. From confounding classics like Rainer Werner Fassbinder’s World on a Wire to modern wonders such as Shane Carruth’s Upstream Color, get cozy and enjoy.
By this time tomorrow, hopefully, you’ll find yourself out of the office and rolling around on a beach somewhere. If not a beach, perhaps a nice rooftop, relaxing with a cold cocktail, enjoying a rare Thursday untethered to your work space. You’ll indulge in one too many drinks, eat all the holiday BBQ, and come Friday when you’re back in the office you’ll wonder if the previous day of bliss was all a dream. But not to fear, as night rolls around and the weekend kicks off there are many dream worlds to enter—and I don’t mean through sleep, I mean through the cinema. Whether you’re looking to immerse yourself into a brilliant and bizarre world from the mind of Terry Gilliam or to cut yourself open and bear it all on the stage with John Cassavetes, there are myriad classic and beloved films playing around the city this weekend for you to enjoy. I’ve rounded up the best of what’s playing, so peruse the list and see what tickles your cinematic fancy.
Brazil Berberian Sound Studio Big Star: Nothing Can Hurt Me Frances Ha Jurassic Park Museum Hours Manaic Young Frankenstein Byzantium
Like many closeted fanboys, my veneer of normality crumbles when exposed to anything by Terry Gilliam. From 12 Monkeys to Brazil to Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas—hell, even the heartbreaking documentary Lost in La Mancha—my fawning admiration just grows. I do like to pretend that The Fisher King doesn’t exist, but I doubt I’ll have that reaction to The Zero Theorem, his latest.
Starring a futuristically bald Christoph Waltz, whose career arc is becoming the envy of every serious film actor, The Zero Theorem concerns a poor computer hacker set to an impossible task (making a nonzero number equal zero, as in a wonderful short story by Ted Chiang). Of course, he’ll also have to contend with what looks to be Gilliam’s most frighteningly gaudy dystopia since Brazil itself.
Yesterday a trailer for the film found its way on line, curiously ending not with a release date but the words “In Post-Production,” suggesting that the footage was a bit premature—indeed, shortly afterward, the clip was taken down. But we know this will be a hyperkinetic triumph for the only director who can render this absurd world as the living cartoon it is. A supporting cast including Tilda Swinton, Matt Damon and Melanie Thierry ought to help. For now, here’s some guerilla footage of the making of a street scene.
For some comedy nerds, Monty Python’s Flying Circus is still the pinnacle of the form: absurd, slapstick, satirical, smart, and impossibly British. The legendary troupe hasn’t made a movie together since 1983’s The Meaning of Life, but that could be about to change. Variety reports that members of the Flying Circus are set to reunite for Absolutely Anything, a sci-fi flick about a group of aliens who bestow the powers to do "absolutely anything" upon a clueless human being in the hopes that he’ll screw it all up. Director Terry Jones, who took the camera for three of the Python films, confirmed that he’s signed Terry Gilliam, John Cleese and Michael Palin to voice the aliens. The project’s been in development for a very long time, but with such a nice promotional tag, some forward momentum could be coming.
The main member left unsigned is Eric Idle, who’s feuded with Cleese over royalties from Spamalot, the Python-inspired play that everyone loves and loves. Jones told Variety that they’re attempting to sign him, but money has that awful side effect of turning friends against each other. Still, four out of five isn’t bad (the other missing member, Graham Chapman, passed away in 1989). Calling it now, this will be Reddit’s favorite movie whenever it comes out.
Last night, the Cinema Society screened and celebrated the upcoming release of Terry Gilliam’s latest film, The Imaginarium of Doctor Parnassus, which has garnered considerable buzz due to the tragic death of its male lead Heath Ledger. When Ledger passed away during production, Gilliam called on friends Johnny Depp, Jude Law, and Colin Farrell to finish the project, each of whom portray imagined variations of Ledger’s ersatz philanthropist character. The event was as wonderfully absurd as one might hope and expect from a Gilliam premiere. Patti Smith sat near Olivia Palermo. The film began late because, as Sony Pictures Classics co-president Tom Bernard quipped, “We’ve been waiting for Courtney’s Love’s car to arrive, but it doesn’t look like that’s happening.” The film’s female star, redhead supermodel Lily Cole, towered over Gilliam in short shorts and thigh-highs, a Brobdingnagian in Gilliam’s Lilliput. I caught up with Gilliam for a few minutes after the film.
“You’re the BlackBook guy! I can’t remember the last time someone put me in a cage!” he says, referring to our recent photo shoot with the filmmaker and Cole. I’d been wondering why Depp, Law, and Farrell hadn’t been promoting the film until I saw it. Their parts are all relatively small, and it’s really Ledger’s film. Plus, they’re not playing characters themselves, they’re playing Ledger playing his character. “They did the film for nothing,” says Gilliam, “so I didn’t want to subject them to the press.” It’s something that Gilliam and Cole have been doing tirelessly for the past three months, and Gilliam makes no secret of his fatigue. “I spent years working on this thing and now this? But at least I like this movie. I don’t often like them.” So what’s he going to do after the media blitz? Gilliam smiles and says, “I’m going to Capri for the holidays, where I’m becoming an honorary citizen.”
● Kristen Stewart refuses to answer questions about her relationship with Robert Pattinson because “There’s no answer that’s not going to tip you one way or the other. ‘Okay, we are. We aren’t. I’m a lesbian.’” [EW] ● Everyone’s favorite housewife of Atlanta, Kim Zolciak, says she’s a fan of Botox, but only because it helps her migraines, and she recommends it to everyone. [HuffingtonPost] ● Dancing with the Stars pro Cheryl Burke plans to take on the role of Roxie Hart in Chicago before Season 10 of the show. [People]
● Because anything can be made into a video game these days, CBS is releasing a Ghost Whisper game where, like Jennifer Love Hewitt, you can help the “recently departed move on to the afterlife and provide closure to loved ones left behind.” [G4] ● Apocalypse film 2012 isn’t even out yet, but it already has a spinoff television show in the works, rumored to be called 2013. Guess there is life after the world ends. [EW] ● Terry Gilliam says Zach Synder’s adaptation of Watchmen needed a “a kick in the ass.” Gilliam, who twice tried to bring the graphic novel to the screen, thinks it would have worked better as a mini-series. [Movieline]
Terry Gilliam needs a muse. The 69-year-old director of Twelve Monkeys and Brazil came close to finding one back in 1988, when he cast a then-unknown Uma Thurman in The Adventures of Baron Munchausen. But she left him for another rebel named Quentin and, according to Gilliam, “she never came back.” Two decades later, Gilliam’s latest film,The Imaginarium of Doctor Parnassus, features another otherworldly acting novice with blue saucers for eyes: supermodel Lily Cole. The 21-year-old Brit plays the title character’s doomed daughter, who aches for a suit-and-tie husband and white picket fence, in a welcome return to surreal form for the director.
A collision of reality and ayahuasca, the film is pure Gilliam — and so were the difficulties involved in making it. On-set disasters flock to Gilliam like pigeons to breadcrumbs. His 2002 documentary Lost in La Mancha chronicled the catastrophes that befell The Man Who Killed Don Quixote, with injury, flashfloods and NATO target practice all contributing to that film’s eventual eighty-sixing. A more heart-wrenching stroke of bad luck haunted Doctor Parnassus: the untimely death of leading man Heath Ledger. Out of respect for Ledger and Gilliam, Johnny Depp, Jude Law and Colin Farrell signed on to play various incarnations of Ledger’s character, salvaging a film that looked momentarily doomed. With Doctor Parnassus about to arrive in theaters, we sat down with Gilliam and Cole to discuss the redhead’s “alien beauty,” Ledger’s kindness and whether or not they’ll ever work together again.
Terry Gilliam: I think we should talk about how it all began. We wanted to cast somebody extraordinary as the daughter of Parnassus, and Irene Lamb, the casting director, said, “We need someone who looks 16, but is older so that we don’t have to worry about child labor laws.” Lily Cole: I got the part because I was legal? TG: Well, you’re extraordinary and legal. I had seen pictures of you and thought, Well, there’s somebody who looks different than the average woman. LC: Alien beauty, I was told. TG: It was like there was a doll face from some 19th-century porcelain factory staring back at me. Then we met at the screen test.
Terry, you’ve said that after the screen test you knew right away Lily was the one.TG: I was lying. The screen test was kind of clunky. But Lily could put words together and I thought, Her attitude is right, her intelligence is right and her ballsiness seems right, so let’s take a gamble. She can’t act but she thinks she can, and that’s the important thing [laughing]. LC: I don’t know if you can see me shaking in the film, but it wasn’t because of nerves. It was freezing and the heaters weren’t working. TG: I couldn’t tell what you were thinking, but I knew there was something distracting you — turns out it was the cold! I don’t want to make it all sound extreme, but we shot Parnassus in the middle of winter. Physically, it was painful and bitter beyond belief. I sometimes think that’s a good thing, though, because you’re not thinking about acting. LC: I’ve been through some pretty bad stuff, but never for such a long period of time. I’ve done a bunch of shoots in chateaus outside of Paris in the dead of winter. But I was 14 or 15, way too sweet to complain about dying of cold. TG: Years ago, when we did Brazil, Robert De Niro finished his bit but we needed extra pick-up shots, so I put on his costume to play his hands. And I suddenly realized how horrible it was. It was so heavy and hot.
Lily, were you nervous?LC: At the beginning, I was very nervous. I remember our first read-through, when it was me, you, Heath [Ledger], Christopher [Plummer] and Andrew [Garfield]. I was so nervous because I suddenly realized the gravity of everyone in that room. It wasn’t like I had a clear blueprint to follow so part of the process of becoming comfortable with my character was figuring out who she was, and who you wanted her to be. TG: Heath was incredibly good at drawing you out as well. LC: He asked me before we started if I was nervous, and then he said, “Don’t worry, I always am, too.” That sympathy — well, not sympathy, because he wasn’t patronizing — that support was very important. When I’d come off set after a good scene he’d say, “I’m really proud of you.” He was always quietly encouraging. TG: Andrew was also struggling to find his character. He thought he was good friends with Heath, but when we started rehearsal, Heath became the character of Tony and turned into a real shit. LC: I didn’t know that Andrew and Heath were good friends. TG: They had bumped into each other through the masses, I think. When we started rehearsing, Heath decided that Tony was an asshole and that Andrew’s character was his competition, so he cut him off at the knees. Andrew tried to improvise like Heath, but he wasn’t as good, and he did it in an aggressive way, which just wasn’t working. But there was one scene when it clicked, where it was magic and laughter. LC: Was there any point when it clicked with me? TG: For a long time, I wasn’t sure if it was going to work. You contain yourself so well, which makes it hard to know if you need help, or if you’re in trouble. I couldn’t quite figure you out. If we pushed you too hard you went in one direction, and only that direction, missing your subtleties. But on the second go you would find them. I’m not a good acting coach. I’ve got too many other things to do.
LC: When I did this film with Sally Potter [Rage], it was just me and her, and there were no effects. There was nothing else for her to concentrate on except my performance. But when we were filming Parnassus, you had eight different elements that you were trying to control and, as an actor, I did feel less guided. But, in some ways, I think it’s brilliant that you trust your actors and leave them to their own devices. You’re actually pretty calm on set. The chaos is spun around you because you create it. TG: Humor is one of the keys, isn’t it? It’s fucking hard work. It’s miserable and horrible, but if you’ve got good company, you can laugh and get through it. I don’t know why anybody wants to make movies. I always forget my old movies, and that’s why I make new ones. It’s like selective memory. Acting on film, especially, you’re sitting around doing bugger-all most of the time. LC: I was doing quite a lot, actually. There wasn’t that much sitting around in my trailer. TG: Well, you were constantly being fiddled with. She needs this huge gang of people to make her who she is. You had to spend how many hours in a chair? It was terrible. LC: But I love being in the hair-and-makeup chair. I specifically asked you to give me as much hair and makeup as possible. I spent half the shoot in that chair.
Lily, what were your impressions of Terry before meeting him? LC: I had seen Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas, but I’d never heard of him. TG: Bitch! What a fucking bitch! You knew it was going to be a party. It’s the same old thing: I treat her badly and she hates me. LC: I’d love to work with you again! TG: I don’t see why you should. Uma never came back! Some of the things I write are penance — I don’t know what for, but I suspect I’ve done some terrible things. And leaping into the deep-end always intrigues me, maybe because I’m so riddled with doubt and uncertainty that I want to see what happens. LC: I’m the same way. TG: That’s what I suspected, which is why I said, Let’s throw her over the edge. Don’t give her a lifesaver and see if she swims. LC: And did I? TG: You swam beautifully.
Gilliam wears T-Shirt by Gap, Pants by J. Lindeberg, Jacket by Prada. Cole wears dress by Naeem Khan, Necklace by Elie Tahari, Shoes by Barbara Bui, Bracelets by Malene Birger. Photography by Mark Zibert. Styling by Amy Lu. Special thanks to Holt Renew and Specchio.
To the dismay of everyone within earshot of my desk, my excitement will not be quelled about how totally major this year’s Cannes Film Festival is going to be. In addition to new awards-contenders from the likes of Quentin Tarantino and Michel Gondry (who didn’t make the list, only because I couldn’t find much on his latest film, L’epine Dans le Coeur), the sun-soaked Riviera festival will premiere Sam Raimi’s return to death and evil, as well as Jane Campion’s first major release since the Kiwi director tried, disastrously, to make Meg Ryan edgy in 2003’s In the Cut. Penelope Cruz hugs a lot of people in Pedro Almodóvar’s Broken Embraces, Ang Lee takes Woodstock and Brad Pitt screams, “Each and every man under my command owes me one hundred Nazi scalps … and I want my scalps!” Oh, and the late Heath Ledger might just get another Oscar. After the jump, the festival’s, if not the year’s, most anticipated films (with trailers).
Agora by Alejandro Amenabar. From the director of The Others and The Sea Inside comes a historical drama, starring Rachel Weisz and Max Minghella, about Hypatia of Alexandria, the Egyptian philosophy professor who fell in love with her slave. Minghella tells BlackBook, exclusively, “Rachel’s performance in the film is, objectively speaking, quite spectacular. Performances in historical films can so easily stray into frigidity, but she injects everything with warmth and modernity, which I really believe is a principle reason why the film is as accessible as it is.” Of his working relationship with Weisz, he adds, “I felt completely comfortable around her. We grew up on the same street in London, and now in New York our apartments are directly opposite one another — which is fantastic for voyeuristic reasons, but also a bizarre coincidence. Maybe it’s our shared geographic history, but I feel very at home around her.”
The White Ribbon by Michael Haneke. While it certainly would have been interesting to watch Haneke eke out another version of Funny Games, the master of torture’s latest project sounds incredible. Courtesy of IMDb: “Strange events happen at a rural school in the north of Germany during the year 1913, which seem to be ritual punishment. Does this affect the school system, and how does the school have an influence on fascism?”
Taking Woodstock by Ang Lee. Of course the director who turned Jewel into a cowgirl, Kevin Kline into a swinger, Eric Bana into a monster, and Jake Gyllenhaal into a pederast would eventually set his sights on Woodstock. Starring an incredible cast that includes Demetri Martin, Emile Hirsch, Live Schreiber, and Jonathan Groff, audiences surely won’t be able to quit it.
Inglourious Basterds by Quentin Tarantino. Unless you’ve been living under a very large, Brangelina-proof rock, this one needs no introduction. Still, I’m going to overlook the misspelling, and bypass the backlash by moving ahead to the backlash backlash, and just the love the guts out of this movie. Tarantino and Nazis? It’s almost better than Darryl Hannah and an eye-patch.
Coco Chanel & Igor Stravinsky by Jan Kounen. Forget Shirley MacLaine and Audrey Tautou for a minute, and watch Anna Mouglalis transform into the gamine Rue Gambon icon as she navigates a relationship with composer and pianist Igor Stravinsky. And keep an eye on Mouglalis: up next, she’ll star in 2010’s Serge Gainsbourg biopic.
Drag Me to Hell by Sam Raimi. Full disclosure: I saw an unfinished version of this. And, as a huge Evil Dead fan, was excited to see what the director of Spider-Man might do with his return to full-on horror. Alison Lohman plays a banker who pisses off a geriatric gypsy, which leads to one of the best catfights ever to appear on film. That said, some of the effects felt a little amusement-park ride-y, but I’ll reserve judgment until watching the final cut.
Broken Embraces by Pedro Almodóvar. This is the return of “Penelepedro,” the unstoppable force of director Pedro Almodóvar and Penelope Cruz, who last captivated audiences with Volver in 2006. It’s got a film noir feel to it, centers on love and a car crash that leaves the protagonist blind, and features a soundtrack that includes Cat Power and Uffie. It sounds near perfect, really.
Map of the Sounds of Tokyo by Isabel Coixet. From My Life Without Me to last year’s Elegy, Coixet has proved herself a masterful storyteller, which is why we can’t wait for “a dramatic thriller that centers on a fish-market employee who doubles as a contract killer.” Tokyo stars Oscar-nominated actress Rinko Kikuchi, who, in my opinion, is one of today’s most revelatory onscreen chameleons.
Bright Star by Jane Campion. Kiwi director Jane Campion is to dark drama what Amy Heckerling is to romantic teen comedy — no matter how tragically their recent films have bombed, I still get excited when their names are attached to new projects. Like this one. Starring Paul Schneider and Abbie Cornish, Bright Star chronicles the love affair between 19th-century poet John Keats and Fanny Brawne, before Keats’ early death. Actually, I just got sort of bored writing that, but, hey, at least it doesn’t feature Meg Ryan getting her nasty on. Plus, Campion made The Piano, so she’s more than capable of a comeback.
The Imaginarium of Doctor Parnassus by Terry Gilliam. Doctor Parnassus might just be the most exciting of all of the offerings at Cannes this year. Yes, the last time Gilliam and Heath Ledger worked together, they created The Brothers Grimm, which was very much so. And yes, Gilliam’s last film, Tideland, was ugly, misanthropic, and bloated. But after Ledger’s tragic death, actors Johnny Depp, Colin Farrell, and Jude Law stepped in to play the same character in various dream worlds. Plus, Tom Waits channels the devil, supermodel Lily Cole plays a damsel in distress, and Christopher Plummer transforms into the 1,000-year-old title character. Intriguing is a gross understatement.
● Queen Elizabeth is the latest recessionista. Word is she’s cutting back at the Buckingham Palace, asking staffers to reuse leftovers from banquets, among other things. [Page Six] ● Speaking of cutting back, Karl Lagerfeld has downsized his luxurious lifestyle … almost. Lagerfeld ditched his Paris home but kept his chambermaid, chauffeur, and chef, who are all “musts.” Oh, and he refuses to get rid of his Hummers. [Spiegel] ● Louis Vuitton announced today they’re scrapping plans to build their 10-story Ginza flagship store amid a declining luxury market in Japan. This would have been the largest LV store in the world. [WWD]
● Director Terry Gilliam would like you to stop comparing Heath Ledger to Hollywood burnouts like James Dean and River Phoenix. [Guardian] ● Marc Jacobs was spotted with boyfriend (not husband) Lorenzo Martone at the Chandelier Creative Recessionista Christmas Extravaganza being adorable. Nice to see MJ with a stable boyfriend for once. [Page Six] ● Anne Hathaway is on the cover of January’s Vogue, entitled “Change, Yes We Can.” By change, Vogue means change your hair color, not the world. [Just Jared]