The Orphanage

From Spain comes an incredibly spooky ghost story by first-time director Juan Antonio Bayona. The Orphanage, produced by Guillermo Del Toro (Pan’s Labyrinth) was just selected as the country’s entry for the foreign film Oscar. Belén Rueda and Fernando Cayo play a couple who move into an old mansion with their adopted son — who has imaginary friends who may be all too real….

Read my review of The Orphanage on

El Orfanato. Juan Antonio Bayona, 2007. ***

The trailer:

Pan's Labyrinth – Director's Commentary

Plenty of DVD commentaries are happy to dispense self-aggrandizing anecdotes or reveal information that permanently damages the viewing experience (I’m looking at you, Peter Jackson.) Instead, Guillermo del Toro talks about storytelling concerns, structure, framing, staging, color choices, sound design, edits, references and symbolism — in other words, the where and why of creative decisions that make up Pan’s Labyrinth.

If you’re one of the people who sort of liked the movie but ultimately didn’t quite know what to make of its blend of fantasy and brutal historical reality, this track should clear up some of your questions. If you recognized it for the instant classic it is, you’ll gain a new appreciation for the care and depth of thought that went into it. Together with Francis Ford Coppola‘s Godfather track, this is one of the best director’s commentaries I’ve heard.

El Laberinto del fauno. Guillermo del Toro, 2006. *****

The Devil's Backbone

Even the Academy has figured out that Pan’s Labyrinth is destined to be a classic (it’s exceedingly rare that anything with subtitles plays at Kaufman Astoria), and so we’ve been digging back through Guillermo Del Toro’s filmography. Hellboy and Blade 2 aren’t as good as the fanboys would have you believe, and my memories of Cronos are pretty hazy–but this film is very, very good on its own terms and obviously a stepping stone to the grander, more archetypal Pan’s Labyrinth.

Part Pan’s, part Empire of the Sun, part Lord of the Flies, The Devil’s Backbone is set in a boy’s orphanage during the Spanish Civil war. There’s anti-fascist gold, budding artists, tragic love, a Dumbledore who can’t get it up, and a ghost that spills clouds of blood from his fractured skull. Del Toro’s fertile imagination creates scene after haunting scene, and the film is full of proto-Pan images that are still worth absorbing in retrospect, such as the unexploded bomb that sits in the center of the schoolyard like a freeze-frame from the last page of Gravity’s Rainbow.

El Espinazo del diablo. Guillermo del Toro, 2001. ****

[tags]guillermo del toro, 4 stars, film, spain, war, children, orphans, ghosts, bombs, gravitys rainbow[/tags]

NYFCO Awards

Together with two dozen of our esteemed colleagues, we spent the afternoon voting for the annual New York Film Critics Online awards. Stephen Frears’ The Queen was a clear favorite, winning no less than five categories: Best Picture, Best Screenplay, Best Director, as well as acting awards for Helen Mirren and Michael Sheen. Guillermo del Toro’s fable Pan’s Labyrinth won for Best Foreign Film, and the climate change shocker An Inconvenient Truth was awarded Best Documentary. See the complete list of winners.

[tags]nyfo, film, awards, jurgen, marcy, nyc, the queen, helen mirren, documentary, pan’s labyrinth, guillermo del toro, al gore, michael sheen, stephen frears[/tags]

Muckworld Roundup

In the onrush of the ever-churning hype machine, never-ending blogs, and the constant RSS-fuelled river of news, it’s hard to hold on to two or three related thoughts for much longer than it takes to hit post. To counteract the continuing blurbification of the culture at large and my head in particular, here are a few items that deserve a little more than whatever has become of Warhol’s 15 minutes.

Must-See Movies, Out Now

  • Shortbus. Finally, in what has been a lackluster year at best, there are some serious contenders for film of the year. John Cameron Mitchell’s paean to post-9/11 New York is still very much in the running. Detractors like to point out the ramshackle filmmaking, but I think it adds to the film’s enormous charm. If the characters can be generous enough to share their lovers freely, shouldn’t we forgive when Mitchell crosses the line once or twice?
  • The Queen. A more perfect piece of filmmaking than Shortbus, and only slightly less daring. It’s only a matter of time before I go see my girlfriend Lilibet again.

Must-See Movies, Coming Soon

  • Pan’s Labyrinth. Guillermo del Toro’s masterful fairy tale won’t be out until after Christmas, but this is one film you should feel free to get excited about early.
  • The Host. Ditto for Bong Joon-ho’s riveting marriage of monster movie and art house film. Scheduled for release in January, and I’ll be first in line to see it again.
  • Woman on the Beach. No distributor, no release date, but I keep thinking about the sly wit and seemingly accidental elegance of this movie.
  • Volver. Almodovar’s latest opens Friday, and I’ll leave the superlatives to Marcy.
  • INLAND EMPIRE. My ankle’s not swollen any more, but Lynch still has a hold on my imagination. He’s releasing the film himself so perhaps an uncut version will arrive sometime soon.

Been reading top-secret drafts of friends’ novels and J. Robert Lennon’s wildly amusing Happyland as serialized in Harper’s. I’m also halfway through Klaus Kinski’s amazing autobiography, Ich Brauche Liebe. (Of course it’s outrageous. More on this soon.) I keep encountering variations of ideas Daniel Pinchbeck presents in 2012, many of which I first heard about from Danielo at Tikal . Here’s a video of Daniel with Douglas Rushkoff. Like the snake that bites its own tail, this gets us right back to accelerating culture, Shortbus, and the permeability of a shrinking world.

Finally, a week after the paperback release, no round-up can be complete with another plug for Marcy’s stellar debut Twins. If you missed her reading at In the Flesh, I’ve got the video.

[tags]roundup, shortbus, film, coming soon, books, tikal, twins, 2012, pinchbeck, bong joon-ho, pedro almodovar, david lynch, stephen frears, john cameron mitchell, guillermo del toro, klaus kinski, j robert lennon[/tags]