Tag Archives: The Canyons

Wednesday Round-Up: Why I’m Fascinated by “The Canyons,” But Afraid to Watch It

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Full disclosure: I have not yet seen “The Canyons,” the Lindsay Lohan/James Deen-starring film from Paul Schrader and Bret Easton Ellis. I have heard horrible things. The reviews are mostly terrible. Yet I cannot wait to see it.

Perhaps it is a perverse desire to find something special in a roundly criticized project — see also, “Only God Forgives” — or maybe I just find something fascinating about the film’s messy production, its trailers, and its clearly icy aesthetic, but to me, it feels like a must-see.

And I will, soon. But I’m afraid.

Why? Because I desperately want to love it. I don’t want to be one of the many critics calling it an embarrassment, or making “less than zero stars” cracks. In other words, I want to be part of that slim minority that finds the film a smart, intoxicating look at, as Film Comment puts it, “sex, career, money, and power in contemporary Hollywood.”

What a treat, for a film causing this much frothing-at-the-mouth to be released in the summer months! I love it … at least until I watch it.

This week, our round-up is focused entirely on “The Canyons,” and just some of the many articles and reviews about the film, as well as Paul Schrader. Will these prove more entertaining than “The Canyons” itself? Time will tell.

“Canyons”-mania:

  • The Hollywood Reporter looks at the film’s VOD release; IFC’s president calls it “must-see VOD.”
  • Schrader participated in a Reddit Q-and-A this week.
  • Film Comment cover story: “When they rejected the film, South by Southwest said: ‘There’s a cold deadness to it.’”
  • Meanwhile, Schrader himself penned an appreciation of Lohan for Film Comment: “From a selfish point of view, from a director’s point of view, that is, from my point of view, it was a treat to work with Lindsay. All the drama, the mishegas, all the stress—that means little. A director can shoot around misbehavior. He can’t shoot around lack of charisma. I just wish it was easier for Lindsay.”
  • Calum Marsh, who is fast becoming a favorite of mine, agrees “The Canyons” is ugly, lifeless, and cheap … But so what? Marsh: “Terms like ‘lethargic,’ ‘insipid,’ and ‘lifeless’ are not criticisms in and of themselves—these are aesthetic decisions, configured for a reason, and to reject them means doing more than simply observing their presence. It would be like castigating a Bresson film on the basis that its performances are not expressive. … Nothing is being acknowledged here that cannot be discerned by two working eyes. Kohn and Lumenick are not wrong: ‘The Canyons’ was inexpensively made and looks harsh and ugly. But they have not addressed an obvious follow-up question: So what?”
  • The Playlist looks at the long varied career of Paul Schrader, while The Film Stage explores Schrader’s Los Angeles.
  • Variety’s Justin Chang says watching at home might be ideal for this film, one that is perversely unpleasurable: “[D]espite its flat, airless style and sometimes less-than-adroit acting, its occasional full-frontal nudity and the prominent casting of adult-film star James Deen, ‘The Canyons’ is decidedly not pornography. Its restraint in that department — or its timidity, depending on your taste — may well be its most perverse stroke, for this is a film that deliberately short-circuits the viewer’s pleasure in every way imaginable. Our entertainment, to say nothing of our edification, could scarcely be more beside the point.”
  • Pointing to the film’s infamous New York Times making-of piece, Ryan Lattanzio says “‘The Canyons’ never had a chance.”
  • Molly Lambert for Grantland; a very insightful piece: “Right off the bat, no, ‘The Canyons’ is not a very good movie. But it has some great moments that make it worth watching, and it looks mostly gorgeous for a movie costing $250,000.”
  • Bret Easton Ellis, to the AV Club: “I really don’t care what people think of the movie. There, I said it. I don’t really care what anyone says about any movie or book I write. On a certain dopey level, you hope people like stuff, I guess. You don’t want people to dislike it. I think the movie is well done enough that if you don’t like it, it’s just not your cup of tea. I just don’t think that watching the movie and knowing how this movie was made, that you can really slam it. I’m kind of confident on that level. But, you never know. It could come out August 2nd and be a disaster.”
  • Kanye West remixed the film’s trailer, of course.
  • Last, but not least, Vulture collects the many faces of Lindsay Lohan. Of course.

Photo courtesy of IFC Films; from Indiewire

Weekend Preview: Neil Jordan Discusses His Reinvention of the Vampire Genre, and Almodovar’s Latest Opens

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In terms of summer blockbusters, this might be the most boring weekend of the summer. When it comes to indies, on the other hand, it could be one of the most interesting. Go figure.

Opening at Eastern Hills is Neil Jordan’s “Byzantium,” an icy, atmospheric vampire film I reviewed at TIFF 2012 for The Film Stage. (I gave it a B+; I will be posting that review here soon, but check it out at the link.) Also available on VOD, it is a fine bookend to Jordan’s “Interview With the Vampire,” and, I think, already a tad underrated.

I had the opportunity to interview Jordan for The Playlist, and while it was not a stellar interview — it was moved to the phone after a scheduling snafu two days earlier — it was humbling to chat with the man behind “The Crying Game.”

Written by Moira Buffini, “Byzantium” stars Gemma Arterton and Saoirse Ronan as a vampires in a British seaside town. For Jordan, it was a chance to revisit a genre he had dabbled in previously:

“Moira sent me the script. I read it, and thought it was very interesting. On the one hand, it’s kind of a story about a mother and daughter, on the other hand about a teenager growing up in this wonderful kind of mythological context of the period and I thought it was gorgeous. It was a chance to return to the territory of ‘Interview With the Vampire’ and ‘The Company of Wolves’… I think the whole thing was a great opportunity to really reinvent the vampire legend really. It’s become a bit tired of late, you know?”

It also offered him the chance to direct “Disappearance of Alice Creed” star Arterton:

“Gemma’s a wonderful actress. She’s physically beautiful but she’s also just so bloody good, you know? And I think when I saw her in ‘Alice Creed,’ I thought, ‘Okay, this is a woman who’s very professional and very brave, in a way that most actresses aren’t.’ If you want a vengeful, terrifying vamp, to be in a movie, that also brings all the protective instincts of a mother, I can’t think of a better actress to cast than Gemma Arterton.”

And Ronan, the star of “The Lovely Bones” and “The Host,” was another draw:

“I didn’t know her, but I’ve watched her work for the last six years and I’ve always wanted to work with her — she’s incredible. She brings everything, doesn’t she? She’s amazing, very extraordinary. She’s so young and so kind of tough and accomplished at the same time. … [Arterton and Ronan] don’t actually look like mother and daughter, but the strange thing is that they seem like it. They ended up being very good together.”

He also spoke briefly of influences on the film:

“I kept thinking of ‘Don’t Look Now.’ It’s not a vampire movie at all, it’s not really horror film, except maybe for that little red coat! And I kept thinking of those great English films like ‘Séance on a Wet Afternoon.’”

Check out the rest of the interview at the link above.

I am a longtime Pedro Almodovar fan — I reviewed, and adored, his last two films, “Broken Embraces” and “The Skin I Live In” — but I have not been able to get too excited about “I’m So Excited.” There has been a curious lack of buzz regarding the airplane romp, but it is Pedro, so it won’t be dull. It, too, is opening at Amherst and Eastern Hills.

In VOD-land, the already controversial, mostly panned Paul Schrader-Bret Easton Ellis team-up “The Canyons” drops today. I’m sorry, but even with these reviews, I’m fascinated by this one …

Meanwhile, the Sundance 2013 selection “This is Martin Bonner” is playing The Screening Room. I do not know too much about this one; I reached out to the film’s PR folks and received no reply. But it drew solid press at Sundance, and it is worth a look. (Next Thursday, August 8, The Screening Room features a sci-fi double-bill, with the underrated “Gattaca” and the classic “The Day the Earth Stood Still.”)

Now, prepare for boredom: This week’s two big openings are “2 Guns” and “Smurfs 2,” and I’m doubly disinterested. Mark Wahlberg and Denzel Washington are the reason to see “Guns,” which looks awfully rote. As for “Smurfs,” I did not see the first installment, but if the kids enjoyed it, they’ll likely dig No. 2. I would expect Smurfette and friends to lead the weekend box office; “2 Guns” should slightly disappoint, and come in at No. 2 or 3.

It will be interesting to see how “Wolverine” fares in week two — it was a slight disappointment in week one — and whether or not “Fruitvale Station” and “The Way, Way Back” continue to surprise.

BREAKING: “Sharknado” is on Regal screens at midnight tonight. Catch it now, before the joke is stale. (Or is it too late?)

Squeaky Wheel has a cool “Film Fiesta” planned for tomorrow (Saturday) at 1 p.m. as part of the Infringement Festival; see Squeaky’s website for details.

Bacchus brings us the great Kristen Wiig in “Bridesmaids” on Thursday (August 7), while the UB North Campus has the great “Place Beyond the Pines” tonight and the so-so “Iron Man 3” on Tuesday (August 6), both at 9:15. “Iron Man 3” is also showing at the UB South Campus at 8:45 on Wednesday (August 7).

“Elysium” is coming next week — probably the last interesting biggie of the summer.

Photo courtesy of IFC Films