John Otteni

Everybody Loathes a Clown

It

In only two weeks, It has become one of the most successful horror movies of all time. The film has already broken the record for a September opening and is currently the third highest grossing horror movie in history (223 million) after The Exorcist (232 million) and The Sixth Sense (293 million). But why? What is it about this movie at this time that has made it a huge hit?

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C.A.T.: Dirt

Alice in Chains – Dirt (1992)

Today marks the 50th birthday of grunge icon Layne Staley. A mighty presence in the 90s Seattle grunge scene, Staley tragically died from a heroine/cocaine speedball in his University District Seattle apartment on April 5, 2002 and yet the man and his music live on.

I’ve never been a big fan of grunge outside of Nirvana, but over the years (particularly this year) I’ve found a greater admiration. Chris Cornell’s death was a big part of that revelation. To see another Seattle icon befall such a tragic fate well before his time helped put everything in perspective. It was people like Staley and Cornell that gave the city I live in and love an identity, a pulse. Before grunge, Seattle was a sleepy fishing town. After grunge, people finally saw Seattle for what it was, a rainy, over-caffeinated hub of angst and alienation. A place of beauty and introspection but also pain. And we had the best spokesmen; Cobain, Cornell, Staley, all taken too soon.

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Criterion Month Day 26: Close-Up

Close-Up (1990)

Last May, Sean, Colin, and myself “drafted” our choices for a month of Criterion reviews. When I selected Close-Up I did so because the concept sounded intriguing yet I couldn’t quite grasp it. Is it a documentary? A mockumentary? Even after watching the film I’m not sure, but that’s what makes it great. Close-Up blurs the line between fact and fiction in a way rarely seen in cinema. It’s rarely seen because the opportunity for a film like this rarely comes up. It was good timing on part of the film’s director Abbas Kiarostami and his commitment towards convincing the “cast” to do this that made this film happen.

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Criterion Month Day 24: Paris, Texas

Paris, Texas (1984)

Paris, Texas was not what I was expecting. What would you expect if you heard an artsy German director made a movie with eclectic character actors in the American Southwest? Something weird I imagine. A movie that’s cold, experimental, possibly even David Lynch-ian. No, not here. Paris, Texas to my surprise is an incredibly heartfelt film. It’s a film about how we build relationships even after falling out for one reason or another. It’s a film as beautiful as its panoramic desert vistas. But there’s another element at work and it answers to three names: Harry. Dean. Stanton. Continue reading

Criterion Month Day 22: Thief

Thief (1981)

I wish Michael Mann had started his film career in the early 70s. I don’t know if it’s the De Niro connection on account of Heat, but I like to think of Mann as the west coast Scorsese. While Scorsese was showing off the grit of New York City’s seamy underbelly in films like Mean Streets and Taxi Driver, Mann was doing the same for Los Angles with Heat and Collateral. Both directors have dabbled with period pieces, Scorsese (Age of Innocence, The Last Temptation of Christ), Mann (The Last of the Mohicans)—why is everything the “Last” of something?—and both have dabbled in horror, Scorsese (Cape Fear, Shutter Island) and Mann (The Keep, Manhunter). The difference is Scorsese started his film career a decade before.

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Criterion Month Day 19: The Spirit of the Beehive

The Spirit of the Beehive (1973)

If there’s one thing I’ve learned from working with kids off and on it’s that they are all liars. Then again, are you really a liar if you believe what you’re saying? The whole reason children lie in the first place is because everything in the world is so new to them. They take in so much more information with far less context. They’re bound to believe things that don’t make sense to adults. And it’s this naivety that is part of the reason The Spirit of the Beehive is such a great film about children. It takes on that blurred perspective of the world through the eyes of a child. Also, it has a Frankenstein. Big points for a Frankenstein.

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