Wednesday, March 19, 2008

What a day it has been

Last night around 1.30am (this morning then I guess) as I was thinking about going to be a posting something briefly on here about the last couple of films I've seen and not reviewed yet, the news was just breaking about Anthony Minghella's death at 54. I went to bed feeling shocked and contemplating writing a small piece about the director today. I awoke after an intense night of dreams to discover that Arthur C Clarke had passed away at the age of 90. Bizarrely enough (though perhaps not) I had also spent the night dreaming about death and space – not that I want to disturb anyone, I'm very adjusted to the strange workings of my unconscious and the depth to which it explores my inner thoughts, and lucid nature of the projections in my sleep.

In my dream death was most certainly a doorway. I was able to observe somehow the souls of the departed propelled on a voyage to another world, away from our tiny planet and solar system. Where they were heading I do not know, but I can't remember thinking what an awfully big adventure that would be. In my dream I wanted to pitch the idea as a film, which by the way was a dream within the dream. It didn't go down so well with what was a skeptical audience. That and the fact that even within my dream I was confused about what I had dreamt.

I not going into deeper details about my dream I assure you. I guess the point of talking about it here is that, however limited, it was a vision of sorts. A creation within my own limited imagination that seemed fantastic at the time. With Minghella and Clarke, the world lost two of its great visionaries while two families lost part of their world. There's not way of measuring either loss, suffice to say we are all a little bit poorer that such talented people are no longer among us to show us the voyage of human potential down a river limited only by the size of ones imagination.

More on this after the bump...


Anthony Minghella dead

This feels like some really way out there news, I can barely believe it as it breaks, but British director Anthony Minghella – director of The English Patient, Cold Mountain and The Talented Mr Ripley – has died at just 54 years of age. I'm still a bit stunned and distracted from the post I had planned on Vantage Point and Death Defying Acts.

The story coming out of the BBC quotes Minghella's agent confirming the news but details beyond that are in short supply. I don't want to write anything more than this until more is known. Either way, the world lost another of its most talented artists today.


Thursday, March 13, 2008

Classic scene #1: "But not a snitch"

A new series from Dark Habits. I thought about keeping it purely to classic monologues, and I think by and large I will try, but there's just so many wonderful moments, jokes, gestures and sequences in film history that I'd rather not limited the scope of discussion.

The first scene I've picked is purely because it is one of my favourites: Lt. Col. Frank Slade's (Al Pacino) character reference for the young Charlie (Chris O'Donnell) at the end of Scent Of A Woman (1992).

There's no doubt that Al Pacino chews up the scenery in this classic coming-of-age movie, but is there anyone on the planet that can chew it up quite as well Sonny? I don't think so.

From the moment he is rammed down our throats, Frank Slade sets a new bar for the definition of an asshole. Miserable, full of hate and anger, Slade rallies against everyone who comes his way. Charlie is the prep school boy charged with babysitting this big cry baby with a filthy mouth and bad attitude, for one weekend in New York City. Booze, hookers, fast cars and suicide are on Frank's mind, but Charlie has his own problems to deal with. On the verge of being kicked out of school, Charlie must decide whether to jeopardise his future or snitch on his classmates who have done something unbecoming of 'Bairdmen'.

The movie won Pacino his long-deserved Oscar even though it was almost certainly one of those awarded as career recognition – like Scorsese for The Departed. But I for one love seeing the old man flexing his chomps in outrage in this crowd pleasing finale.

Well, you don't need me to ramble on about it. Just watch for yourself:


Sunday, March 9, 2008

The Shotgun Critic #3: The Assassination of Jesse James By The Coward Robert Ford

Building them up or tearing them down in 5 minutes...ish

The two and a half hours runtime of The Assassination Of Jesse James By The Coward Robert Ford (Jesse James from here on) felt more like an out-of-body experience than a cinematic one. Yet a cinematic experience in the purest sense it most certainly was. Roger Deakins is arguably the finest cinematographers working in Hollywood today with a CV to match any of the greats in film history. His work here though is ably matched by Brad Pitt and Cassey Affleck as the eponymous James and Ford respectively.

I loved the drenched autumnal hues and dreamscapes that Pitt haunts with quiet menace. I loved Affleck as he explored the fine line between obsession, forbidden lust and jealously. And I loved director Andrew Dominik's exploration of celebrity, betrayal and American mythology. If you missed it at the cinema, rent the DVD now because I Jesse James might just be a modern classic overshadowed by the similar heavyweight releases of 2007, No Country For Old Men and There Will Be Blood.

Kind like, but better than: The New World

Read a descenting view from SF Chronicle's Peter Hartlaub HERE.


Thursday, March 6, 2008

Swayze has cancer

It might just be that I'm getting older, but it feels like actors and filmmakers I've grown up with are becoming endangered species. Not a week seems to go by without someone dying, and now I get wind that Patrick Swayze has pancreatic cancer. First Ledger, then Schneider, now the cooler – what the hell?

From being a rumour that appeared this morning, to confirmation by Swayze's publicist and doctor, we at least know that its not as grim as first thought. WENN reports Dr Fisher saying: "Patrick has a very limited amount of disease and he appears to be responding well to treatment thus far. All of the reports stating the time frame of his prognosis and his physical side effects are absolutely untrue. We are considerably more optimistic."

Ok, so apparently he was diagnosed back in January and is already undergoing chemotheraphy at the Stanford Medical Centre. To read more and the disease click here. I'm not gonna get into this much, but it should be noted that of all the cancers, pancreatic has the least amount of funds going into researching prevention, detection and treatment. It's also the bastard that got Bill Hicks. On the other hand, Steve Jobs survived it (the list of survivors vs victims on wikipedia doesn't bare looking at) and went on to give the world slick phones and mp3 players, which are great, but I really miss those "Chomsky and dick jokes".

In the mean time, if you wanna show support, go to the Pancreatic Cancer Action Network and donate. Failing that, throw a Swayze marathon starting out with The Outsiders, followed by Dirty Dancing and, well, you know the rest.

And I pulled this quote off his imdb bio:

I have a great deal of faith in faith; if you believe something strongly enough, it becomes true for you. I would like to believe that my father is right here with me in this room and that he's my guardian angel, that there's life after death -- because if there isn't, why are we here? I don't believe that just flesh and bones can contain from the point of view of physics this very real recorded energy inside of us. Whether it's true or not, we need to believe it.

And if all you need is something to cheer you up, check out the video below from Master Pancake theatre of Alamo Drafthouse fame. I didn't get to see this one while I was living in Austin, but I sure would have loved to...they just don't make 'em like this anymore:


Wednesday, March 5, 2008

The Shotgun Critic #2: Life As A House

Tearing films down, or singing their praises in five minutes...ish

Only rich people living in LA make films like Life As A House. Two hours of pious, tear-jerking rubbish, in which Hayden Christensen whines and whines until you're begging for his father (Kevin Kline) to hurry up and die already from his terminal, yet quite painless, cancer. Actually you're begging for Kline to die the moment your eyes are poisoned with the sight of him peeing in his Y-fronts. But first he must built the house he always dreamt of, share his troubled memories of his own father with his son, rebuild his relationships with the other people in his life, and piss off his humourless neighbour. Gripping cinematic viewing indeed.

One by one the film ticks the cliches off its wrap sheet and throws in a clumsy, and vaguely offensive if it wasn't so simpleminded, comparison of sexual confusion to drug use. If nothing else at least this film acts as another exhibit of Christensen's ability to convey emotion without the remotest iota of soul.

Kind like but better than: Message In A Bottle
Kind like but worse than: American Beauty

Read a proper review here...


Monday, March 3, 2008

The Shotgun Critic: Some Kind Of Wonderful

Here begins the first in Dark Habits' series of five-minute shotgun reviews as I continue my adventures in the whole universe of movies I have not yet seen...

Some Kind Of Wonderful isn't classic John Hughes by any stretch, it no doubt it carries his classic hallmarks (though directed by Howard Deutch). Dweeby boy with brave and romantic soul (Eric Stoltz) secretly loves school pretty girl (Lea Thompson) with asshole boyfriend (Craig Sheffer). Dweeby boy meets pretty girl, who breaks up with rich asshole boyfriend. Meanwhile tomboy best friends (Mary Stuard Masterson) disapproves while secretly loving dweeby boy. plot to embarrass dweeby boy is hatched. Pretty girl and dweeby boy come of age – while misunderstood school bully (Elias Koteas) and helps dweeby boy in teenage triumph over rich asshole ex-boyfriend. Dweeby boy realises he should be with tomboy.

Stoltz is pretty disturbing with Michael Jackson-esque voice and totally insincere as a 16-year old. Probably cos he's nearly old enough to have a 16-year old. The ending is at total anti-climax, but does allow Elias Koteas to totally steal the movie with some great lines at the end: "I didn't know James lived in a hen house. It must be a hen house because I don't seen anything but chicken shit!"

Ok, so this took me 15 minutes. I definitely need to work work on that. Fun movie if you pretend you're at a half-hearted 80s party.


Saturday, March 1, 2008

To tell you a little something of the person who writes these pages...

Scott Henderson is a freelance journalist currently based in Sydney, Australia with a 10 years experience writing mainly about film, but also on subjects as diverse as music, lifestyle, youth culture, history, politics, technology and even the paranormal ("sometimes shit happens, someone has to deal with it, and who ya gonna call?")

A former features editor for DVD Review magazine (now DVD and Blu-ray Review), Scott has contributed to SBS, Hotdog, Total Film, SFX, Senses of Cinema, Essential Home Cinema, Channel 4 Film, Time Out, Home Entertainment Week and Scifi Now. In 2008 Scott was the website coordinator at the Sydney Film Festival, where he also co-produced and hosted a daily video podcast from the festival.

When Scott hasn't been writing about film and making magazines he has: gained an MA in Anthropology and Cultural Politics, traveled in America for a year, worked and snowboarded for a season in New Zealand picking veggies in Victoria. He is currently to be found plying his trade as a film critic and writer for Street Press Australia, The Vine and Filmink.

Below is are a few of the features Scott has written over the past few years, though not all his published work by any means.

You can contact Scott via scott.journalist[at]

NB: the thumbnails are not links, just the text guys, just the text.


'24' creator Joel Surnow and Carlos Bernard, DVD Review #80

Michael Ironside, SFX #132

Kevin Bacon, DVD Review #79


Expandable posts!

After many many hours of trying, I finally figured out how to create expandable posts.

Many thanks to Hackosphere for helping me get my coding right...

Oh, and what do you think of the new banner? I plan to rotate anyway as I continue refamiliarise myself with photoshop.


Lost: The Constant

As I absorb episode five of the forth season of 'Lost', I can't help but spare a thought for those who threw in the towel and jumped into bed with the first new scifi drama that promised 'answers'. The cheap one-season stand that was 'Heroes' doesn't come close to the level of dramatic excellence and scifi mystery that 'Lost' is currently operating at. Of course I'm biased, but unashamedly so, for me this is one of the best written shows on TV.

There is a moment from the beginning of season 2 that sums up the experience of following 'Lost' with the kind of faith that the Israelites followed Moses. Locke and Jack are fighting over the button, in the hatch they've found, on the mystery island, where everyone has visions and the weirdest shit ever is pretty much par for the course, when this exchange occurs:

Locke: "Why do you find it so hard to believe?"
Jack: "Why do you find it so easy?"
Locke: "It's never been easy!"

And aint that the truth. In the face of a sea of doubters – all of whom are now rushing back to 'Lost' like men who cheated on their girlfriend with some fantasy girl who turned out to be nothing but a fantasy without substance – some were men (and women) of faith, and with that comes reward. It's not often you get to say that about television shows. Run over such long periods of time it's rare to see ending that accomplish a sense of satisfaction, and the payoffs along the way fall somewhat hollow because the trust is betrayed and doubt pervails. Perhaps audiences patience were tried too hard by shows like 'The X-Files', which in the end spent nine years going nowhere in particular. Other shows have lost themselves too, great shows like 'Northern Exposure' which forgot that it was about the New York Jewish doctor in this tiny town in Alaska; or (god forgive me for saying) 'Quantum Leap' which never sent its hero home; and 'The Sopranos' which ended with more bing than bang.

You may think me premature, but I believe that all the signs in these first five episodes are that a) the Carlton Cuse and David Lindelhof have had a masterplan all along, and b) we are moving at pace toward that end.

Far from saying the last couples of seasons have been perfect – not something I expect, the journey is more interesting when flawed – I just feel that 'Lost' is the genius child that went through its still brilliant adolescence and is now hitting the level of maturity its writers always had the potential for and showed in flashes. Has the show ever been so dynamic (since season 1) for five episodes on the trot like this?

It helps of course that this week saw the next chapter in Desmond's (the ever brilliant Henry Ian Cusick) story, my favourite character in 'Lost' since his deranged appearance in episode one of season two. My favourite because not only is he Scottish, has a fine beard, refers to everyone as 'brother', and saved the world for three years by pushing the button, but because Desmond is the modern day Odysseus with girlfriend Penelope (Sonya Walger) his modern day, well, Penelope. Theirs is the great love story in this whole island adventure, some might even say it is epic ("spanning years and continents; lives ruined, blood shed. Epic"). And while the love triangle of Jack, Kate and Sawyer has made for good TV these past three years, the sincerity of Penny and Desmond's relationship is what really sells me, it is taken me to the edge of tears on more than one occasion, and the phone call at the end of 'The Constant' was no exception.

Then there was the time-traveling. You have to appreciate the way in which one of the biggest reveals (though we kinda knew it was coming) in the 'Lost' mythology was sidelined by the love story of Desmond and Penny talking for the first time in three years, saving Desmond's life. Not only that, but perhaps after years of trying, here's a piece of fiction that has finally explained the premise in a coherent manner. Maybe it's just me, but while it left me with plenty to digest, my brain didn't become 'fused' nor did I suffer an aneurysm. And how about the stuff with the Black Rock and Paul Robinson, aka Charles Widmore, aka the superbly sinister Alan Dale buying up the 1st mate's diary – found seven years after the ship disappearance with pirate treasure in Madagascar (can I hear you saw Polar bear in Tunisia?).

Speaking of which, what is the deal with anthropologist Charlotte? I have a suspicion she knows much more than we think and is closely tied to the original Dharma group. Some other questions left over:

• Can there be any doubt left that Michael is Ben's man on the freighter?
• Will Sayid get the chance to torture him if he is?
• Who is the captain?
• Who is everyone else on the ship for that matter?
• What's in the 1st mate's diary and does the freighter belong to Charles Widmore?
• Why does Daniel need a constant – is time travel why his memory is skew whiff?
• Why didn't the water drain out of the sink in the toilets???

Just eight episodes to go this season and I would recommend everyone make the most of them.