Tuesday, February 19, 2008

The dopest dope I ever smoked.

Some important news:

First and foremost, I encourage everyone and anyone who reads this to go out and see Charlie Bartlett, which opens this Friday nationwide: a teen comedy directed by John Poll, the editor of the Austin Powers and Meet the Parents movies, starring Robert Downey Jr., Hope Davis and newcomer Anton Yelchin (who is going to play Pavel Chekov in J.J. Abrams' new Star Trek film). Poll is an alumni of my high school and I was fortunate enough to be invited to a screening of the movie there last year. It is a brilliant teen movie, worlds better than both Superbad and Juno (both of which I enjoyed,) about a well-meaning but clueless rich kid who is kicked out of private school and goes to public school, where he becomes a self-appointed psychiatrist to his peers and starts selling them meds. The picture mixes the quirk and pathos of Rushmore with the unpretentious emotional honesty of John Hughes' films. I got the biggest kick out of seeing this movie in an auditorium packed with 14-to-18-year-olds, and I really hope it finds and audience. It's a film that doesn't talk down to teenagers, but tells them it's okay to screw up, a long as you admit to your mistakes and take it upon yourself to put things right, which, if you ask me, is a great message. This movie is almost a Breakfast Club for the "if there's something wrong with 'em, feed 'em some ritalin" generation.

Also - I'm probably late to the party reporting about this, but the upcoming stoner adventure comedy Pineapple Express just shot up the top of my list of most anticipated films to see this summer. The film, written by Seth Rogen and produced by Judd Apatow, involves a stoner and his dealer who witness a murder and must go on the run. It co-stars Rogen and James Franco, which is almost as good as a "Freaks and Geeks" reunion. Furthermore, the film's director is none other than David Gordon Green - yes, he of George Washington and All The Real Girls fame. Recently a red band trailer was leaked online, and most of the copies were promptly removed by Sony Pictures Entertainment's lawyers - but fortunately, they didn't detect the one below because the description is all in Russian. Be quick about watching it, though, because they're liable to take it down any day now.

In other news, Woody Allen has cast Larry David in an as-of-yet untitled project. 2009 should be a pretty cool year, if the universe does not implode from so much neurosis. Evan Rachel Wood, star of Thirteen and Across the Universe is also set to star as the director's latest blonde-headed lolita cherub.

Finally, if you'll begrudge my plugging of a family member's non-film-related artistic endeavors, my father Richard Criddle was interviewed recently for a Berkshire Fine Arts article about his recent exhibition of sculpture and drawings entitled It's Rude To Stare, which will be on display at Kidspace at MASS MoCA through February 24th. Great article which is a companion piece to a really spectacular show (and I'm not just saying that because he's my pop.)

Thursday, February 14, 2008

Happy Valentine's Day...

...courtesy of Dr. Criddle and the late great Tex Avery.

Wednesday, February 13, 2008

I can do anything, I'm the chief of police.


The news of Roy Scheider's passing came as something of a shock to me, not just because he was an actor I greatly loved and admired, but also because I had no idea that the guy was 75 years old and had been suffering from staph infection. For me, he always seemed to be immortally 35-40 years old, a figurehead of 1970's American cinema, and the role I will probably always associate him with is that of Chief Martin Brody in Jaws.

Smart-alecky film critics typically accuse Jaws of being the hammer that drove the first nails into the coffin of the "Easy Riders & Raging Bulls" era, drawing audiences like the Pied Piper away from downbeat, gritty, and character driven fare, and towards bankable studio blockbusters. What they often overlook, however, is although Jaws has a straightforward monster-movie plot, its execution is pure 70's character study - and it is Scheider who is mostly responsible for this. Brody is a flesh-and-blood human being, filled simultaneously with verile toughness, guilt and new-guy insecurity. He wasn't a John Wayne or an Arnold Schwartzenegger, he looked and acted like your best friend's dad. Indeed, I consider Chief Brody one of the greatest father figures of the cinema alongside Atticus Finch: he's not a suphero, and he knows he doesn't have Matt Hooper's education or Quint's nail-chewing grit, but he has something to do, and he's going to go out and do it.

Scheider displayed equal amounts of depth throughout the 70's playing a variety of roles: a soul-broken ghost of a man at the end of his rope in the asshole of the world in William Friedkin's underrated Sorcerer, Dustin Hoffman's mysterious CIA agent brother in Marathon Man, and Popeye Doyle's slightly more grounded partner in The French Connection. A friend of mine had a pet theory that Jaws was actually an unofficial sequel to the aforementioned film, and that the reason Russo/Brody moved out to the supposedly quiet seaside resort of Amity Island was due to too many stressful years of palling around with a loose-cannon Gene Hackman.

Regrettably, I have not yet seen All That Jazz or Naked Lunch, but I plan on doing so, right after I return Sorcerer and The Seven-Ups to the video store. But 70's cinema is just as much indebted to Scheider, one of the greatest actors of that decade (and consequently, one of the best of any decade) as it is to Martin Scorsese or Francis Coppola. I'm sure he's battling great white sharks somewhere in the next world. Farewell, Mr. Scheider, we loved you and shall miss you.