Saturday, December 31, 2005

creepy weeper

Have any of you guys out there ever watched Robin Williams 2002 One Hour Photo? Can you tell me what you made of it? Because this is one movie that made me look at Robin Williams entirely differently. In a scary way.

Robin Williams was here

ALERT!!:2006/2007, Mrs. Doubtfire2 is coming to a screen near you. Are you glad or dreading it?

Tuesday, December 27, 2005

you know me, al.

"You can't kill me! you can't kill me!"

It was a pre-Christmas Al Pacino weekend in Kampala! I wished it was Frank Sinatra but all we could quickly get at first was Clint Eastwood. The blue eyed boy was sulking. I watched four Clint Eastwood spaghetti westerns (watch Pale Rider for Sydney Penny. She was absolutely sensational! Where did she go?) and painfully relearned why I like to think of Eastwood acting than actually watch him. I had the option of di Caprio but my cat always wants us to get something on when di Caprio’s in the room. I was going to fight with her over meeting her brothers for Christmas lunch and with di Caprio in her corner I’d have no chance. I was thinking Humphrey Bogart, the bitter with the sweet. My cat, she would know. But these DVD guys haven’t yet delivered on a Bogart tribute and now I’m holding out for an Edward G. Robinson.

I wanted something mean and lean and good for the night when she walked out but on the DVD I got Pacino was only hungry in Scarface and a stunning Michelle Pfeiffer leaner. In Scent of a Woman, leashed. Sea of Love, John Goodman the better actor. Carlito’s Way, pathetic. I wanted mean that night. I should have taken my Bogart when I had the chance. Not that Bogart is much better than Pacino.

Scene stealer

But after what I watched on Friday even Bogart could pull off being mean better in my book and Bogart never had me (have you watched that weeper Casablanca?). Bogart.

You know, that’s another thing. I could never get the Bogart halo worship. Really. Yes, Degstar, I have watched The Maltese Falcon too and HAVE YOU watched Treasure of Sierra Madre where Bogart is supposed to be a double dealing straight out badass cheater, gold hunger in his eyes, kissing the lips of evil behind his mates’ backs? Weak! Give me Richard ‘Shaft’ Roundtree any day, Ugandan interrogation cops took lessons from this guy I could swear in a court of law. Though they didn’t go to the gym too like he did.

You want mean? You want I’ll kick you in the mouth and make you swallow your teeth and laugh as you choke on your molars mean? Try James Cagney, short nasty angel with a dirty face. Try Brando. Try Edward G. Robinson. Try Christopher Reeves. Try Val Kilmer. Try Clint Eastwood High Plains Drifter even. But leave Pacino out of this. Leave De Niro. You’ve got to be mean-souled and Pacino is too sweet-souled.

Tough guys

And don’t give that Iwaya eye that I say this because Pacino is a short ass. I may be taller than Pacino but neither could I be as menacing as James and Cagney was shorter than both of us. If you have never watched a James Cagney film how I wish I could trade all the movies I have watched with you to watch a James Cagney film for the first time again!

Yet Pacino’s Scarface. That soundtrack. That soundtrack, wow! That music as Pacino watches a willowy young Pfeiffer gliding down in the elevator in the Miami boss’s house, the first time he has laid eyes on her and from the way he watches her we know this elderly genteel pretension boss is gone because Pacino will want her (in her eyes and tongue-lip play he can already taste her), that music. The music in Bolivia where Pacino steals the show and there’s a not too pleasant helicopter ride waiting for his boss. There are movies made just to play a song in appropriate setting and Scarface is one of them.

But still I guess this Scarface will never win with me because it was too Gatsbysian. There could
only be one Fitzgerald and you’re well advised to never ever try be the second. And I’ll never watch this Scarface again.

Now you maybe near yelling that come on you didn’t watch him in his best! The Godfather for instance. Yeah, what about the Godfather? Al Pacino as Michael Coreleone? Staggering performance, wouldn’t you say? Well I did. I also watched Pacino in Heat where he reteams with De Niro. And of the two (Godfather Pacino or Heat Pacino) I’ll say give me Heat. The Godfather is a Brando film and when Brando is dead so is the

But I’ll say this for the Godfather/ShakaZulu type of films. They can stand rewatching. And I don’t mean this one more sentimental second time watching. I mean the compulsive obsessive rewatching for all you crazy cinephiles out there, Saturday night you don’t have a date swing that sucker in and it won’t let you down type of rewatching. There’s always something new to notice, especially in the ShakaZulu. Yes, that ShakaZulu was a smart street buy and on Friday night Pacino was no friend of mine.

Saturday, December 17, 2005

“i want be loved by you. just you. nobody else but you.”

Until last night, I was not a Marilyn Monroe fan. I had gawked at her photographs, sure. I was aware of the living icon adoration thing much of the world has going on with her of course. But I was not fan. I used to think it must have been something that was in the air then. It probably was too. Actually I don’t even know if I can say I’m a fan now. But my attitude to Monroe has changed. Because I watched her best films last night. All night. Going to sleep at five in the morning.

I know I can never consider Monroe dumb again. Despite all the reams of print I had read before and I’ll read after this. Monroe was no fool. Niagara nearly made me think she was one. Until I saw the production date of the movie. 1953. In 1953 for a beautyface there were only two available roles. Ask Ava Gardner. A beauty face was either a whore or the Virgin Mary. Monroe was a whore. An adulterous social climbing whore tired of her husband and not going to divorce him. There would be no movie then. No, instead she was pressing the right biceps on her beefcake boyfriend to bump him off. In that little red number she flowed into, even you would have gone on all your fours and barked like a dog if she had asked you to too.

And I didn’t like her. Which is a compliment. In Niagara Monroe was acting not to be liked. On my DVD copy, the movies to fawn guiltlessly over Monroe were Some Like it Hot and The Misfits, not counting The Seven Year Itch. But I’m a Catholic so there’s no pleasure without guilt. Maybe The Misfits is the one movie to completely enjoy Monroe because she is herself in the movie suffering. As much as a pleasure to the eye and ear as Some Like it Hot is, it’s an insult to Monroe’s abilities. But that doesn’t mean I hate Some Like it Hot.

The Seven Year Itch is the one Billy Wilder I failed to like. But it does have in one scene I can never forget. No, it’s not the Monroe-over-a-subway-dress lifted scene. It’s the sitting on the piano bench scene playing chopsticks with Tony Ewell. Overwhelmed by Monroe’s perfume, her fanny (they use the word in the film!), her lips, Ewell knocks her and himself off the bench as he tries to kiss her and get on top of her. “What happened? This has never happened to me!” Ewell mumbles straightening his crumpled clothes and concealing a hard on. “Why, this happens to me all the time,” Monroe breathes unflustered. It’s a funny scene at first and then it’s an ugly scene. The innocence of this scene quickly seeps away re-watched. And an unnerving foreboding slowly grips you. It must be terrible to live like this, expecting all the time to be jumped. Never quite sure who is going to jump you. Always alert, always on the lookout, never once relaxing your guard. Is this how all women live their lives? A predatory male in my time I never ever stopped to think about it like this before.

It was with The Seven Year Itch that it began to strike me as I watched her films over a ten hour burst how for a persona memorialized for happy insouciance, Monroe consistently played unhappy characters that with hindsight seem like terrible revelations of the best place to hide a secret is in public. In Bus Stop she is abused, in Niagara she is an unhappy housewife, in Some Like it Hot she is self abusing, in The Seven Year Itch she is part prey. Monroe made me think for the first time that maybe actors, even Hollywood ones, do put as much foresight into the work they do as any writer, any painter, any architect. That the work actors do, that she did, was no mistake, that every film she ever starred and the character she was playing, were intended to be viewed when her life was over and the whole body of her work was viewed as a cipher with a message of its own. Her own take on life, her life and the world she lived in. That for Monroe and maybe for the best actors ‘my work is my diary.’ That maybe Monroe was not such a fool.

Some Like It Hot is a perfect film I don’t want to ruin for you by talking about. With Some Like It Hot I realized that Billy Wilder worked like a still life painter setting up images as miniature worlds of meaning.

Like when Sweet Sue’s jazz band with Monroe, Jack Lemmon and Tony Curtis arrive to check in the hotel they’ll be staying in while playing in Florida. A rich man’s hotel. Where the millionaires Monroe is hunting flock to pass the winter.

The millionaires are there to greet them on the porch. They are all in a line in rocking chairs: first mental image, helpless old ladies in retirement home porches, then the newspapers come down, immediately mental image changes; these are lip smacking birds of prey drooling over this season’s food. The rich shall have their fun.

The Misfits is irresistible. And that’s not just because this was Monroe’s last completed film. Is it possible to watch The Misfits objectively? Impartially?

The Misfits was shot in black and white. This is in 1961. And a movie with three of the world’s most famous film stars is shot in black and white?! Were they crazy? Then it starts to make sense. A lot of sense but firstly aesthetic sense. Shooting this movie in black and white was a kindness to Clark Gable. Clark Gable is a dead man walking in this movie and it shows in his face. In The Misfits, the acting is so nuanced it is much better than the script.

There’s lots of drinking in this film. The time doesn’t matter; bring out the whiskey the bourbon the scotch a glass and poached eggs. But the drinking that stands out is the drinking in the bar after the rodeo where contrary to all his boasting Montgomery wins nothing and nearly shatters his skull. 40 years later thrown off the bull and lying flat on his back a thin steady stream of blood seeping out of his mouth it still doesn’t seem like he was acting or the blood not real. But the drinking, it is what is of interest here. Lost another round in the category he says he is very good in, let’s not talk about how Gable soothes him by lying to him he’s done fine. The drinking. The drinking is really what is of interest here. Drink does not fortify them to be finer, braver men in a crass world of no values. The drinking lets the plastering of hard boiled wisecracks moulder off and reveal the cracks. The scoffing of real knuckle down nine to five jobs is not because they are driven by this great yawning need for independence but because they are afraid to try for long and prove again they are no good like they have failed at their marriages, their relationships with their children or even comprehending their world, finding their place in it. Drinking that was at first puzzling.

Then all of it clicking into place. The reason why after classes on Friday evening leaving the university grounds we would run laughing and joking to go into reed palaces in the shittiest slums you can get in Kampala, five of us, to go drinking. Drinking hard until coffee tables broke under your stumbling figure and you did not feel any pain at all, drinking until you could not see or feel the glass in your shaking hand. Drinking until with your tot glass in one hand held as far away from you as you could vomiting your lungs out outside in the back, a whimpering dog for company at 1 in the morning before going back in for more. Drinking until we lost each other in the room. Drinking and drinking they were doing the same thing.

Gable on the porch bar yelling for his children who came to visit him during the rodeo only in his mind and out of his mind. Elias Wallach drunk speeding the car in terror of the dreams he’ll have when they get home and he closes the door behind him and has to sleep. Clift the abandoned son talking of the mother he spoke to not less than four hours ago as if she is dead. All men through the alcohol squinting to understand the new woman who are the women in their lives. And Monroe, Monroe in this tempest, disquieting. In the performance of a lifetime.

Monday, December 12, 2005

where were you?

Asphalt angel

Perrrrfect! Perfect! Perfect weekend! Awesome in every way. I discovered a nugget of a film. A film I had not seen but even more wondrous, never heard of existing before. And you know what, Aha, from the same DVD library! This DVD library is extraordinary. Not only did I find there when I first joined the entire early great Italian cinema films, in the new batch of DVDS from last week, these guys have bought most of the 1960s French wave films. And would you believe it, some from the 1920s and 1930s! (God please, please grant me the calm to write about those films sometime soon!!) Within five minutes of Easy, I was cursing and laughing, wondering, asking myself again and again, how the fuck did Easy escape my new movie radar. And bugger me blind, if this wasn’t a 2003 release too! The answer was (!) easy. Easy is temperamentally English. Never mind that it was not directed by English film maker with English actors but nevertheless English. Something the all the pervasive Hollywood publicity machine ain’t ever going to promote. And what a loss it would have been!

There were many good vibes. Any movie that has in sex in the first seven minutes is going to have a redeeming feature. Easy had a full body on. And a movie with Naveen Andrews (in Easy as a Byronically sexy writer called John Kalicharan), so far, is going to be funny or interesting and since Easy promised Naveen was going to be a major character, they had me hooked. Naveen and I go back before Bride and Prejudice to The Budha of Surbabia and Mira Naira’s Kama Sutra(I hope I’ll be able to tell you about that one day because Naira’s Kama Sutra is stunning) where he’s a debauched woman crazy Raj—think Johnny Depp in Pirates of the Caribbean and Once Upon Time in Mexico; yes, he’s that good. Easy did not disappoint. Naveen was the guy in the, ahem, helm. (I wonder if he’s as good at it in real life as he seems in the movies?)

Naveen is a skilled scene stealer. Bride and Prejudice (updated Indian version of Jane Austen’s classic novel, Pride and Prejudice) is an okay film, would be a watch-and- forget film in fact. But for Naveen.
Every few minutes he is on the screen. Full of…I was going to say …indolent grace. But that’s not it. His grace is not indolent, if indolent means lazy. It’s more beguiling, like the tread of a big cat across a Savannah plain. This lion, leopard, cheetah (can’t yet decide which big cat he is) is slowly moving across a plain of land, almost sauntering as if without a care in the world, lazy looking, but you know it would not even take it a split second to explode suddenly into murderous speed. Yes! That’s it! That’s what Naveen’s acting has in plenty. His brooding is not romantically rosy, you get the feeling that it’s dangerous, he’s about to explode. He hasn’t yet but like Brando in A Streetcar Named Desire and The Godfather, with no evidence, you are in dread because you know you have on your hands a capped volcano. And the cap is coming off. (PS: Does anyone know anyone who knows where one can get Last Tango in Paris?) Good as I think Naveen is then though; Easy is the first movie where I watched him fail to be the lead star. Marguerite Moreau playing Jaime Harris is.

Until Easy, Moreau was the nice sounding name of some actress whose face I could never place. After Easy, that mistake will never happen again. Easy was made surely with Moreau in mind just as there can never be another Bridget Jones other than Rene Zellwegger. The pairing of film role and actress was seamless. Moreau here is playing a woman who has too much success with men. No, no, don’t turn away.

Jaime Harris’s problem is that when it comes to relationships, she is easy. Naveen doesn’t even need, technically, a first date to get her in bed. After they meet at his poetry book launch. No wonder she’s dumped this often. Yet we do not despise Jaime in spite of her misadventures. This is because of Marguerite Moreau’s special gift. Moreau, it is my pleasure to inform you, belongs to a new exciting generation of actresses that have IT. IT in the old Hollywood way. IT as in a quality that goes beyond mere good technical acting talent into something more. An inner light. Scarlett Johansson has IT. (Have you seen her in In Good Company, Girl with a Pearl Ear ring or The Love Song of Bobby Long? Bobby Long, that gutting greatness near miss. God, does Johansson have a face!) I’m not yet quite decided if Keira Knightley has IT but I know Moreau has IT. Moreau’s gift offering to us in Easy is to give us a glimpsing feel of the pain of her many breakups without deluging us with the messiness yet letting us see the funny side and laugh. Laughing but not laughing at her. Laughing at the memory of our own past breakups.

The other guy in Jaime’s life in Easy is this a Nick Hornby looking character played by Brian F. O’Byrne. The type of guy women like to give the line, “let’s be friends first” and he believes it. He does in the film too! And I absolutely don’t sympathize with him. (Shudder…I think it’s because he is bald and bland looking. Talk about judging people by their appearances!) And yes, when that primal scene comes, Mick at first does not disappoint my expectations though I don’t think Jaime in the blue bedroom would say the same. But this is the movies and everyone gets a second chance. If you can get up more than once in a single night. Pretty soon, Moreau is faced with the dilemma of choosing between two men who are crazy about her, and it is a dilemma, for unlike in most films of this kind, both men end up completely lovable. What Jaime does not know is that her gorgeous incredibly Nicole Kidman lookalike married sister Emily Deschanel (they have a close relationship) is waiting to snap up the man she makes a mistake of letting go, even temporarily.

Nicole Kidman's abandoned twin

From all of this I suspect that you’ll assume Easy is a fluffy chick film no man should get near. Let me tell you that you are right. If you are that type of man then let tell you that you’d also be missing an intelligent film, a grown up meditation on the nature of love: love of parents for their children, love of siblings, the new rules of love between men and women in a modern world. Suicide and living. I told you, this is one wise film. Easy is Closer with tact. And Jane Weinstock is a director on my watchlist.

Disclaimer: this take on Easy was written after 2pm under the influence of ten coffee cups (okay, twelve). And because there was no one in the other room.

Wednesday, December 07, 2005

could this be? can this be?

Is this guy the real Shaka, king of the Zulus?

pub tales

With the tearing down of the Plaza bar on Jinja road a part of my life definitely ended. I’m silly like that. A bar can come to mean that much to me. There was (and still is) City Springs across the road but what was City Springs without Plaza bar? So I never went back there either.

You see Plaza bar was not just a bar. Not for me at least. I first came into Plaza bar in 2002, a Saturday afternoon, just after four. I was on the run. Study my bar entrances if you ever have the chance. No one saunters more coolly into a bar than I do. From my nonchalant entrance no one could have guessed a girl with literal fang incisors was after me.

With job hopes clanging after my weary feet like weights, I had not seen her until it was too late chatting with a friend in front of a boutique on Plaza house, Jinja road. Alright, alright so she was supposed to be my girlfriend. But that was come night hours after several beers. Not one of my friends knew about her. And now here she was, plump arms wide open for me with fangs obscuring her smile!

As experience had taught me, I met only one friend of hers and she was enough to later be responsible for me fleeing another girl’s room in Kikoni pursued by this Fang Fang. I have had some ugly girlfriends (and one day I’ll make a photo essay of them) but with Fang Fang even a warthog would have been outraged to be compared to her. So when she introduced me to her friend friesian Felister as her man, I was wilting as I tried not to show becoming Mr. Warthog was disgusting. In fair exchange I got a warm hug from juggy Felister that would have made me stay and chat had not Fangy winked suggestively at me. I did not want people to know we were doing such things! So I treaded on a reputation.

Quick thinking, I said that I had come to buy cigarettes for Ernest who was around the corner in a car. Yes, that Ernest. Would right away be back. No bat out of hell could have run for it as fast as I did when she let me out of her sight. I decided I would be going back to Plaza bar definitely when I remained hidden in one of their toilet cubicles for an hour without becoming nauseous for so clean were they. And because no one in that bar had been rugby football rude to rattle me out. My kind of people!

Plaza bar became a Saturday tradition for me. understands why that balcony facing the railway headquarters meant so much to me. It was not until Plaza bar that a Larkinesque mad genius won me over to some points of view. Plaza was the bar on a Friday evening where I first sat down to take in the enormity of purchasing my first mobile phone staring this green gleaming face wonder rapt before I sent out my first incomprehensible SMSes. In Plaza bar watching her eat pork, I fell out of love with M after three years of storming an impregnable fortress and she fell in love with me but what could we do, she’s lesbian. Feeling out of place in teenies hub DV.8, with a friend we took Plaza bar as a last resort and totally by chance watched our first Obsessions show getting upclose and personal treatment because the crowd was small but passionate and I learned a new fragrance off a dancer who’ll remain nameless but the fragrance named, Razac. I left Plaza bar at 12:30AM on the last day when I knew for sure I would never be a Makerere University student again and I remember my mentor walking me from Plaza bar through the still center of Kampala, down tree crouching Kyagwe road, through ghostly Old Kampala talking less and less and communicating more and more until reaching me the gate of my parents’ house where when he tried to say bye a sob escaped from his throat. Before I came to work where I’m now, I came every day of the week before to Plaza bar and two days after Plaza bar closed down forever. I could never go back.

I have lost a lot of things in 2005 and I did not think I would ever love a bar again. But on Monday 7:49PM, I went into the Pub on Dewinton road and I fell instantly in love with the Pub. But you know this really should be back at

Tuesday, December 06, 2005

just who the fuck(!) is james spader?

For the last two weeks or so I seem to have been watching films with an actor I had never been aware of. Not planned, maybe it was unconsciously. Every time I went to my new DVD library find on Dastur street I seemed always to come away with a film that somehow had this actor who was not center stage in the film but I couldn’t quite stop looking at him from the corner of my eye.

This 1960 Boston child is the American Hugh Grant. Spader may display less obvious charm of the sweet ladies man type in the cheesy romantic way but he possesses something in oodles Grant’s film persona never had which is why Grant as the villain in Bridget Jones’ Diaries is hard to believe. Spader has the dark forces on his side. He is perversion on the screen. The dark prince of sexual fantasies. At least in the two movies. Crash, the other week; and this week, The Secretary.

In Crash some but mostly in The Secretary, Spader is no ordinary horny leading man zipper impatient to get it on or some incredible 16 inch penis pornographic film super hero. He’s something more sinister. You can tell he is bad news just by the way he moves, gliding, stalking, more than walking around his office room with gleaming eyes that never leave his prey, a spider focused on a fly. This is no fluke of being the boss in his office, a master at home in his environment where his supremacy is unchallengeable. Cringing neurotic freak that he is, nevertheless even in the street there’s a space he achieves that no one dares intrude on not because the coarse plebeians he has to go through respect his privacy but because they animal instinctively sense that to get too close and fall in his radar would somehow be suicidal for themselves.

He does not Clive Owen want to marry her; nor Humphrey Bogart style bittersweet like her much. There is no Tom Cruise playfulness in him. He is not di Caprio a la Titanic interested in talking out her low self esteem beautiful inner woman. His attitude is the attitude of all men that men now don’t have the guts to utter: bend down and shut up.

Thomas Ian Nicholas in American Pie, teen movie though it is, is true when he turns away from Tara Reid after getting his blowjob and has to ejaculate; a cowering pitiful spectacle of man losing control and trying to find a hiding place from the curious and contemptuous woman. Whichever way it’s done, I was, until I watched Spader in The Secretary, convinced that a man in this situation could not but be shamefaced after. Not Spader. Soames Forsyte couldn’t have been straighter backed after!

Mickey Rourke used to have this gift. Battle scarred by life he’s gone onto something else. James Spader is his wide screen heir.

The Secretary though was another story (hahahahaha!). The Secretary with Maggie Gyllenhaal in the lead was more disturbing. I was not sure watching The Secretary whether for example it was morally right. Not only was this a film about a boss, a lawyer, (James Spader) sexually exploiting his employer by making her engage in unnatural sexual acts. The secretary herself, Maggie Gyllenhaal, welcomed the ends she was ordered to bend to.

This was more than just sex in the office on a slow afternoon with the sun filtering through the drawn blinds. This was a girl’s sexual appetites being tutored and turned from the normal ordinary missionary style—“bang, bang, can we now go to sleep”--- to elaborate pleasure seeking in sex where pain and pleasure are the same thing. Where humiliation is foreplay. Though softly spoken, “Bend over and pull up your skirt,” were simultaneously the most chilling and arousing words by James Spader’s lawyer character who hardly ever seemed able to construct a full sentence. I found myself angry and outraged that Gyllenhaal made this film, I was about to say, was forced to make this film. That’s how Secretary fires up one. I’m never one to rush to the aid of women but I found myself rather hating the filmmakers on Gyllenhaal’s part.

But The Secretary is trickier than that. The victim turns out to be the huntress before the end of the film. I won’t spoil for you how. But out of this hothouse office thing grows like a flower an odd love story. It is as this love is growing that you begin to wonder whether perhaps you have misunderstood The Secretary. Okay, daft me misunderstood The Secretary.

Spader and Gyllenhaal are not exactly damaged people in the movie cliché way. Sure he is neurotic in a later Howard Hughes way and she, well, she …what the fuck was wrong with her? You have to watch the movie yourself. (Scratch…scratch….) But there is something wrong with her. The way she stares and the things she thinks about, just not natural. They are two human beings who turn on other people but they themselves never feel the heat they force out of the eager mouths of their partners. Gyllenhaal in bed with her boyfriend is the nightmare of every man.

Then they meet. Gyllenhaal reads Spader’s looking for a secretary advert in the newspaper and applies.