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By Christopher Stipp

The Archives, Right Here

I was able to sit down for a couple of years and pump out a book. It’s got little to do with movies. Download and read “Thank You, Goodnight” right HERE for free.

Check out my new column, This Week In Trailers, at SlashFilm.com and follow me on TWITTER under the name: Stipp

sita-sings-the-blues-dvdSita Sings the Blues - Quick Review

Sooooo….this is awkward.

I want to start off by making clear my stance on this DVD is that you should buy it. Go right out and purchase it any which way you can.

My second point is that not only is this a movie the venerable Roger Ebert reviewed glowingly on his blog a year ago but you can go on the film’s website and watch it for free.

Like Roger, I didn’t really have a strong passion to sit down with this film and consume it immediately. I got to it when it got to it as I didn’t really know what this movie was about, I was intrigued by the idea that this an animated film in the 2D vein, and wasn’t at all familiar with the filmmaker, Nina Paley. As Paley states, this film “is a musical, animated personal interpretation of the Indian epic the Ramayana” which focuses on, “the relationship between Sita and Rama, who are gods incarnated as human beings, and even they can’t make their marriage work.” Avatar this isn’t but this movie is brilliant. Utterly brilliant.

With a humorous and fascinating tone, the movie lays out the mythology of a Hindu epic that millions of people know but might not make sense to us Westerners who might not be familiar with the faith of people who live half way across the globe. The brilliance is not only the animation which just pops and makes you believe that Pixar does not have a corner on the market of evocative storytelling through this medium but Paley embeds her own personal story on top of this larger one.

Paley inserts herself into this film as she draws comparisons to these gods who become man and wife, their marriage unable to be one that’s stable or cohesive. Her own marriage, in the real world, crumbles and she uses this movie as a way to work through her own issues. As well, we have a couple of irreverent narrators who help school us on the whole mythological business in a way that is downright hilarious and poignant, almost like being taught by two professors who can’t seem to agree on anything but possess a deep knowledge of the very subject we’re here to learn about,  and the end result is a movie that defies any kind of linear explanation but it is that very defiance that makes this a movie that I would positively put into my top 5 animated films of 2009. It’s a must see and I cannot express enough the notion you should at least watch a little bit online and, if so moved, purchase the DVD. You cannot go wrong.

Product Description:

NEW YORK, NY – When filmmaker Nina Paley couldn’t make her marriage work, she decided to use it as fodder for an ambitious project: a musical, animated and personal interpretation of the Indian epic, the Ramayana.  The highly acclaimed, award-winning result, SITA SINGS THE BLUES, tells two parallel stories: the ancient Hindu story of a god and goddess and Paley’s 21st century break-up, stunningly woven together utilizing flash animation, original watercolor paintings, rotoscoping techniques and imaginative musical interludes which link the narratives 3000 years apart.

In SITA SINGS THE BLUES, the Hindu goddess (and namesake of the film) is the leading lady of the Ramayana, a dutiful wife who follows her husband, Rama, on a 14 year exile, only to be kidnapped by an evil king from Sri Lanka .  Despite remaining faithful to her husband, Sita is forced to endure many trying tests.  Fast forward to modern times, where artist Nina (the filmmaker herself) discovers parallels in Sita’s life when her husband — in India on a work project — decides to break up their marriage and dump her via email.  With narration and hilarious commentary by a trio of Indonesian shadow puppets, both the ancient tragedy and modern comedy are married in this beautifully animated interpretation of the epic, which is also enlivened by grand musical numbers choreographed to a cross-cultural and eclectic mix of 1920’s jazz vocals from Annette Hanshaw and Indian fusion.

In SITA – Paley’s first feature length film and one amazingly created entirely from her home studio, using standard-issue computers and over-the-counter software — multiple narrative and visual styles (such as Mughal paintings and temple sculptures to comic books) have been juxtaposed to create a highly entertaining, yet moving, vision of the Ramayana which comes to lavish life with a cast of hundreds: flying monkeys, evil monsters, gods, goddesses, warriors, sages, and winged eyeballs.  Universally acclaimed and winner of over 30 awards from festivals the world over – including the prestigious Silver Bear from Berlin and the “Best Film Not Playing at a Theater Near You” Award at the Gotham Awards, SITA SINGS THE BLUES was also invited into the American Film Institute’s prestigious program, AFI PROJECT 20/20, designed to enhance cultural exchange and understanding, by bringing together filmmakers and their films from the US and abroad.

Whether encountering the Ramayana for the first time or revisiting a familiar cultural icon, home audiences will be fascinated, enthralled, entertained and moved by SITA, a tale of truth, justice and a woman’s cry for equal treatment that deftly earns its tagline as “The Greatest Break-Up Story Ever Told.”

DVD Extras: Director’s commentary and interview, the bonus Paley short film “Fetch!” and more

INGLORIOUS BASTERDS - Giveaway

inglourious-basterds-movie-poster-11With no hesitation or hyperbole I can state that Inglorious Basterds was in my top 5 films of 2009. This movie could have been released on DVD without so much as any promotion as it certainly doesn’t need my help in saying how utterly brilliant it was.

Christoph Waltz deserves much of the acting kudos this film receives, not that everyone else really brought their A game to a film that Quentin Tarantino obviously had a fun time creating, but the production values and script are brought together in a maelstrom of what could be said is 2009’s answer to what could be called Best Picture. My fluffery aside, I do have a few more copies of the movie to give away along with some metallic Basterds branded shot glasses and faux blood spattered baseball pens (which you can see here: http://twitpic.com/to9i9). I’ve got tons of these tchotchkes to give out so shoot me a line at Christopher_Stipp@yahoo.com and let me know if you want to be entered to win.

Now, unless you’ve been living under a rock or have an aversion to movie theaters and pop culture here is the film’s description to see if you want to enter this contest:

Inglourious Basterds begins in German-occupied France, where Shosanna Dreyfus (Mélanie Laurent) witnesses the execution of her family at the hand of Nazi Colonel Hans Landa (Christoph Waltz). Shosanna narrowly escapes and flees to Paris, where she forges a new identity as the owner and operator of a cinema.

Elsewhere in Europe, Lieutenant Aldo Raine (Brad Pitt) organizes a group of Jewish soldiers to engage in targeted acts of retribution. Known to their enemy as “The Basterds,” Raine’s squad joins German actress and undercover agent Bridget Von Hammersmark (Diane Kruger) on a mission to take down the leaders of The Third Reich. Fates converge under a cinema marquee, where Shosanna is poised to carry out a revenge plan of her own…

Criss Angel:  Mindfreak -Collectors Edition

mind1Ok, I am not going to posture and say that Angel is my favorite magician of all time.

In fact, I don’t have a favorite magician of all time and I realize that they themselves don’t want to be called magicians but that’s neither here nor there as I barely know who Criss Angel is. Besides the blown out hair, the chunky jewelry, the guyliner, and the Jersey sensibility to not want to don a shirt (seriously, what is in the water on the east coast that makes clothing such as a shirt repellent to these cats?) the guy is good. In fact, he’s one of the best up close-and-personal illusionists I’ve ever sat down and watched and, without question, this show sparks all kinds of curiosity out of my kids. They we’re glued to what Criss does on the camera, and as we plowed through well over a dozen discs in this set, they were just as fascinated with the first one as they were with the last one.

Tricks, sleight of hand, and visual oddities abound in this show that does make you scratch your head to think about how he is able to be in things that blow up, how he can pass through glass. There is obviously a very logical explanation to all of this but Criss, love him or hate him, makes it a great show to simply watch to be amazed. Much like Christopher Nolan’s The Prestige the trick is not so much the trick itself but the way in which it happens. Criss’ skill is how he covers up any way to figure out what he’s doing or how he’s doing it and, God love him, kept me guessing through every damn frustrating episode where I couldn’t figure it all out.

This set collects every episode that he’s done and should absolutely be seen as a present to yourself if you’re a fan of the series or, if you have the scratch, get it for that special someone in your life. While the seasons seem predicated on topping the one that came before it, you can see the level of spectacle get bigger and more engaging as the time wears on. Obviously, going from Season 1 to the present is the way to go here there is still the interesting activity of watching Criss evolve as an entertainer. That said, the one real grand extra that I found most delightful is the Inside the Mind of Criss Angel which is just a great documentary on the man himself which provides one of the better insights into the guy a lot of people know only from tabloid reports.

A product description:

The #1 Mystifier of all time presents the definitive 15-DVD Collector’s Edition set of the A&E hit series CRISS ANGEL MINDFREAK. Criss Angel’s unique art form pushes creative, physical and mental boundaries, earning him the reputation as one of the most innovative artists of his day and the Houdini of the 21st Century. Each mind-boggling episode in this 15-DVD set captures the creative master at work as he prepares for some of the most mind-blowing illusions, death defying escapes and astonishing physical feats ever attempted.

Whether he’s floating above the Luxor, escaping from a speeding truck filled with explosives, levitating ordinary people through their TV sets, walking on water or hanging by fish hooks through his flesh from a helicopter 1,000 feet above ground, Criss blurs the line between reality and illusion like no other artist in the world.

This astounding collection includes every breathtaking episode from Seasons 1-5, the Halloween Special and a bonus disc featuring 6 episodes never-before-released on DVD—all packaged in a stunning collectible gift case.

* Features all every episode from CRISS ANGEL: MINDFREAK® in collectable pop-up packaging.
* 15 DVD - Includes five episodes never before release on DVD, plus the Halloween special

Bonus features include: Six New-to-DVD Episodes; Episode Commentaries With Criss Angel; Interactive Illusions Through Your Television Screen; “Inside the Mind of Criss Angel” Interview; Criss Angel’s Step-by-Step Guide to Creating Your Own Illusions; Featurettes “Teach a Trick,” “Interviews,” “Practical Jokes,” “Criss Angel Special Gifts,” “Criss Uncensored,” “Criss’ Celebrity Guests”; Behind-the-Scenes Footage; Additional Scenes; Two “Best-Of” Episodes: “Uncut” and “Up Close”; Photo Gallery; Text Biography

Get Your MINDFREAK On!

American Pie Presents: The Book of Love - Giveaway

bookSo, I don’t know much about this film and won’t purport to know different so whether it’s a decent direct to DVD film or if it’s another tired entry into this series. But, I do know Eugene Levy is back again so that has to count for something, right?

I am giving away five (5) copies of the movie on DVD and all you have to do is shoot me a note at Christopher_Stipp@yahoo.com and let me know if you want to be entered into the contest to win one.

Film Description:

When three East Great Falls High buddies accidentally discover the legendary “Book of Love”, penned by some of their school’s alumni, they embark on a hilariously outrageous quest to lose their virginity with the girls of their dreams. Join Jim’s Dad (Eugene Levy) and this lovable and outrageous group of guys in this raucous comedy full of shocking and heartwarming fun!

“Utterly hilarious and outrageous!”– Buzz McClain, Playboy.com

Dave Foley - Interview - Part 1

I have to give Kids in the Hall every bit of credit for pouring the foundation of my funny bone.

Thanks to its irreverence and wicked sensibility I found the bar for what’s possible with sketch comedy and filmed bits raised to heights that many who have come after them simply cannot match. While The Kids had an advantage of not having to be on every week like Saturday Night Live it still trumps a vast majority of what passes for funny nowadays.

While the show drove me to learn how navigate Internet newsgroups in the early 90’s just so I could geek out with like-minded nerds on a daily basis I can say that the show still holds a special place in the pantheon of great shows as judged by me. Dave Foley went on to become one of the most successful Kids when he landed on Newsradio shortly after Kids in the Hall stopped as he would stay there for the next five seasons, earning him critical kudos for his turn as Dave Nelson. A markedly different Foley, compared to the roles he performed with The Kids, allowed those around him to become stars in their own right as he once again rode the wave of success all the way through that series, films, and opportunities that have ballasted him all the way though the 90’s and into the aughts.

Dave Foley now stars in The Strip, a comedy in which Foley finds himself in the center of an ensemble of a cast of characters who all share some kind of disdain for having to work in a miserable, low-end electronics store. The movie has some laughs and is worth checking out if you can catch it in a theater near you. Dave is also going to be in The Kids in the Hall: Death Comes to Town that debuts in January on the CBC and represents the first time all the Kids are back on the air since the show went away almost a decade and a half ago. We chat about The Strip, Death, and what it’s like to be the elder statesman on the set of a indie comedy.

dave1CHRISTOPHER STIPP:  Dave?

DAVE FOLEY: Yeah.  You sound surprised.

CS:  No, I  was just waiting.  I’m totally bubbling with anticipation.

FOLEY: Well, I hope not to disappoint.

CS:  I don’t think you can.  I tried to figure out how many ways I could say – I’m a huge fan and I’ve been following you now for now what’s going over two decades.

FOLEY: Well, that’s a fine way to say it.

(Laughs)

CS:  I don’t know if I should say your eminence, your holiness…

FOLEY:  Any of those is a somewhat an understatement but perfectly acceptable.

(Laughs)

CS:  I saw the movie a couple days ago and I’m a big fan of the film.  I think I was expecting something like a mad, sort of a Keystone cops sort of movie. One where I think a lot of people have grown accustomed to nowadays…

FOLEY: You mean where a girls pants get torn off?

(Laughs)

CS:  It’s a quieter film.  It’s a comedy but not a seriously in your face kind of film.

FOLEY: It’s a very low key, character based comedy.  It’s more in a Rushmore vein than in another vein.  More Rushmore than Porkies.  How’s that?

CS:  Yes, I would agree with that.  Did you see that when you read the script?  Leap out at you that it wasn’t what is de rigueur in the world of comedy nowadays?

FOLEY:  I like that it’s really a character study, you know?  All the comedy comes out of these personalities  who all know each other because they share a crappy job together.  So I liked the premise to it.  We don’t wind up dealing with with the mafia or abducted by aliens or anything.

CS:  No vampires?

FOLEY: No vampires at all.  He ends up on a crazy road trip.  All comedy is based in real life which I really like.

CS:  Oddly enough, I was researching those surrounding you in this film and realize that director/writer Jameel Khan – this is his first foray into really anything.  Was there any hesitation?  How did you come in contact with a script from a guy who has never done anything?

FOLEY: Well they just got a hold of me through my manager.  Jameel and Jay Khan a hold of my manager and my manager just really liked them.  He called me up and said there are these guys from Chicago and they don’t have a lot of money so it’s going to be very, very low budget.  But then he said they seem like really good people and it’s got a good script.  My manager is a decent guy and I trust his judgment about people so I called them up and they were nice guys.  They sent me the script and it was a really good script and I thought if he can write the script then he can direct it too.  Basically having one conversation with them and after reading the script, I said sure, sign me up.  I’ll be happy to do it.

CS:  It’s amazing to me because you are willing to do things that just don’t seem – you’ve had major success with Kids in the Hall, you had major success with Newsradio and you are in the pantheon now of the Disney/Pixar heritage – is it hard not to fall into that trap of thinking there are some things you will not do?  You basically are open to possibilities.  Is that hard to do?

FOLEY: No, not for me it doesn’t seem to be.  I don’t think too much in terms of career plan or terms of legacy or anything like that.  If something seems like it will be a fun thing to do and if the people seems like they are going to be interesting to be with, then that is more important to me than the actual product in a lot of ways.  If it seems like it’s going to be a nice experience, because I spend most of my time, for me the movie is about making it.  To see it doesn’t take a lot of time but making it – you are going to be with these people for a while and I want to spend it with people I like.  That’s the great part about being an actor.  You get to meet all these people and I like being on a set and if it’s going to be a fun set to be on then I’ll show up.

CS:  That leads to the next question about the other actors around you.  I thought Federico did a fabulous job.  All these actors knew what they needed to do.

FOLEY: Yes.  And they are all not just actors but really talented people.

daveCS:  That’s what’s amazing that these guys, most of the people you were in with, do have long resumes.  They’ve done one shot here, one shot there but they’ve done a lot of productions but like you said, they are not household names but they are good at what they do.

FOLEY: Yeah, and I think they all will become much better known.  Everyone but me in that is pretty young.  Screw them.

CS:  Were you like the elder statesman on set?

FOLEY: Oh yeah.  Oh yeah.  Not sure if it was the elder statesman or the old uncle that has fun with the kids.

CS:  The one they’re not quite sure if he’s pervy or not.

FOLEY: Yeah, “Come on I don’t care if you’re 17, have a beer..”

(Laughs)

CS:  How was that with the other actors?  Obviously, it was Jameel’s first film. Were you leaned on at all?  Did you help add anything suggestion-wise?

FOLEY: They were very open.  It was a very relaxed set and Jameel really knew what he was doing.  He knew what he wanted and knew how he wanted to shoot the movie.  So, he didn’t need any help from me and he had already written a great script.  All I had to do was figure out how I wanted to play it and embellish it here and there, which is what you do when you are performing.  Jameel kept it open and shoot it in a way that we could so we could relax with each other and be very natural with the dialogue.  We could adlib – did a lot of cross masters and wide shots - three shots, two shots - which gave us a lot of room to play.  We were playing around within the scenes.  No one felt like we had to reinvent the scene.  We played it the way it was written.

CS:  Did you find that things moved rather quickly?  I only ask because reading in passing that from start to finish it took Jameel about 4 years to get this all together and put out there for everyone to see.  I assume you were brought on late in that game?

FOLEY: I was hired just a couple weeks before we started shooting.  Then we had a very short schedule and so, yea, we shot very quickly.  We didn’t have the luxury of shooting a lot of takes or shooting a lot of coverage so we shot as quickly as we could.  But, I’ve stayed friends with Jameel and Jay

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