The Five Words Challenge

July 29, 2006

Don’t mistake this for another one of those Favorite Whatever exercises. There’s no room for such fluffy diversions on Negative Space! Instead, let’s get right down to the heart and soul of it: What, I ask you, are your cinematic erogenous zones?

In order to adequately answer this seemingly abstract question, I challenge you all to name five specific words that bind the movies that move you. Not the most influential ones, not the culturally correct examples, but the movies you keep coming back to, however flawed they may be. The kind of movies that remind you (and you alone) of why you love the medium in the first place.

A film that cannot be described by these five words might still be good – an indisputable classic even – but it wouldn’t shake you to the core. The question is: what does? What tickles your fancy? What makes your movie-loving heart throb? Now’s the time to show the world where you’re really coming from…

To give an indication of what I’m getting at, here are my Five Words, in no particular order:

    I confess: I’m a romantic and an unflagging aesthete. I love the sense of being transcended by lyricism, beauty and the sublime.
  2. GLOOM
    Rapture only becomes truly heartbreaking for me when it’s wallowed in gloom. The celebration of tragedy that forms the climax of Blow Out is probably my favorite cinematic moment. Call me a romantic nihilist.
    Just because cinema is too sensuous a medium to NOT have sex in the equation. Which probably makes me a sexist romantic nihilist.
    Fiction is my religion. As a proud subscriber to the Manifesto for the Imagination, I hold the power of poetic truth, myth, metaphor, magic realism and the speculative in high regard.
    I have a special fondness for elements that are unlike anything I’ve seen/heard/felt before. True originality is hard to find, of course, but I’m always looking for a certain frisson (be it a camera angle, a line delivery, a facial or gestural expression, a visual effect, art direction, sound design, montage or narrative structure) that evokes a genuine sense of wonder in me.

Sure, that looks easy enough, doesn’t it? Just wait until you start your own list!

Rapture, gloom, sensuality, imagination, wonder:
Picnic at Hanging Rock (1975)

Your turn now. Mind you: Just five words. Not six, not fifty. I won’t be flexible about this! Avoid easy ways out (scratch VISUAL–every movie is visual!) or open doors (fundamental dramatic ingredients like CONFLICT). Give me something personal and precise that offers a good taste of your sensibilities, however unfashionable or bizarre. I assure you that, if you decide to have a go at it, the Five Words Challenge will make your next video rental choice a lot easier!


Embarrassing Movie Posters #3

July 24, 2006


On evaluative criticism

July 20, 2006

Statler (right) & Waldorf

WALDORF: That was wonderful!
WALDORF: I loved that!
STATLER: Ah, that was great!
WALDORF: Neh–it was pretty good.
STATLER: Well, it wasn’t bad
WALDORF: There were parts of it that weren’t very good, though.
STATLER: It could’ve been a lot better.
WALDORF: I didn’t really like it.
STATLER: It was pretty terrible.
WALDORF: It was bad.
STATLER: It was awful!
STATLER & WALDORF: Terrible! Take ’em away! Bah, BOO!!!

Cars: the prequel

July 19, 2006

I love Pixar, but their latest feature is nowhere as radical as this little gem from 1952. It never ceizes to amaze me how far Tex Avery pushed his animation. And what a wonderful ending!

Well, this post seems to have kickstarted a spontaneous Tex Avery blog-a-thon! For more Tex, visit these links:

Skinny-dipping with Angelina Jolie

July 16, 2006

I’m re-reading A Dame To Kill For at the moment–my favorite Sin City yarn and the graphic novel that will form the centerpiece for the upcoming Sin City (2005) sequel. One look at the panel below unveils how grateful we should all be for Frank Miller and Robert Rodriguez to have cast the curvaceous Angelina Jolie in the leading role. If their faithfulness to the source material in the first adaptation is any indication – and I don’t see why it shouldn’t be – expect OODLES of nudity in the next installment…


It’s easy to be entertained by Sin City‘s glorious design and think that’s all there is to it. The hard-boiled prose blown to Shakespearean proportions, the one-dimensional pulp archetypes and a downright fetishistic attention to sleaze and violence, make it seem all surface. And yet Miller taps into the romantic core of masculinity to give flesh to the most primal of urges.

A story like A Dame to Kill For laughs at the whole flimsy notion of civilization – social etiquette, virtue, nobility, tact – rips it open like the cheap dress that it is and reveals the roaring heart underneath. If film noir taught us that love is a trap, the inhabitants of Sin City show us how much we love to be trapped. Even if destiny looks us right in the eye, we can’t help giving in to our animal instincts.

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Which brings us back to überwoman Angelina Jolie… A word of advice: Forget the bad press Mrs. Pitt is currently getting because of the boring Brangelina hype. That’s gossip for losers. Forget all about that silly little tomboy called Lara Croft. Stuff for twelve-year-olds. Ava Lord is the role Angelina Jolie was born to play. The actress always seems slightly out-of-place in realistic settings, and here’s why: Sin City is where she truly belongs.

To be credible in Sin City, only the incredible will do. Jolie’s supernatural charisma will be a natural fit for the Frank Miller universe. Divine physique? Check. Throaty voice? Check. Unrestrained pleasure to the senses? Check. Danger lurking behind almond eyes? Check. We’re talking about Ava Lord here: the femme fatale to end all femmes fatale. It was a very inspired decision of the filmmakers to postpone the production of their sequel until after Jolie’s pregnancy. This dame shall be worth the wait.

Rendezvous in Amsterdam

July 12, 2006

Imagine starting up a website with a like-minded stranger from the other end of the globe. That’s what Jim Moran and me decided to do three years ago. Jim lives in LA, I’m from Holland, but after we got to know each other at an online discussion forum, we came to realize that we shared certain ideas about the sort of film criticism we wanted to see more of: The provocative, evocative kind that values a keen eye and an open mind over relentless evaluation. We began corresponding on a daily basis, and the two of us developed a very special friendship in the process of getting 24LiesASecond off the ground.

Last Summer, at the Amstelveld square in Amsterdam, Jim and me met each other in person for the very first time. It was a surreal experience to arrive there with my youngest son Luka, knowing this guy’s mind so well and yet be unfamiliar with the body attached to it. We hugged and it was no longer an issue. Jim stayed at my house for the weekend, where he became a member of the family for a while. We talked about movies and shared anecdotes the whole night through until the birds started chirping. Saying goodbye at the airport was pretty hard…

Jim (right) with yours truly

We began calling each other frequently, and much to my surprise, Jim planned another trip to Europe. Earlier this month we had our second rendezvous in Amsterdam. I brought Tina and the boys along for lunch and we threw frisbee in the Westerpark together. Then, Tina took the kids back home and I showed Jim modern architecture at the KNSM-island, Old South and the Cult Video rental store where Tarantino used to go to. The rest of the day we spent wandering along the canals, sitting at cafes and catching up.

It sure was good to see you again, my friend! Somehow I have the feeling you’re not as far away now as you seemed when you left the first time…

Embarrassing Movie Posters #2

July 9, 2006