Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Bunched Undies, Inc: 2010 Year in Review

In 2010, the continuing struggles of the global economy did not significantly slow the growth of Bunched Undies, Inc. In February, we opened our new state-of-the-art training facility. Here, newly hired staffers learn all about the patented BU style of review writing.




In April, our world-wide offices were able to keep in touch via teleconference, thanks to our multi-million dollar investment in satellite technology. Thus far, the system only receives the Ecuadoran Porn Channel, but our engineers are working to resolve the issue.




In May, we launched The Not So Snooty Film Festival at the Best Western in Kingman, AZ. Envisioned as an alternative to the Cannes Film Festival, the event drew a small but somewhat enthusiastic crowd. Next year will be even more exciting as Larry Storch has agreed to appear. Look out Cannes… we drink your milkshake!!



But all was not hard work and drudgery here at BU, Inc. In June, our annual employee picnic was a smash hit! Please be advised that next year the open bar policy will likely be revisited.



During the summer, employees were allowed to bring their pets to work. The program was very popular, but liability issues eventually forced its abandonment.




Our new Estonian theme park, UndieWorld, suffered a bit of a setback with the discovery that it was built in a flood plain. Thanks to the tireless efforts of our staff, the park was quickly reopened and most of the attractions are fully functional. Visitors traveling long distances are advised to check the local weather forecast prior to departure.




We have continued to diversify our holdings. Our luxury condominium project in Shanghai, China is nearing completion. In November, progress was slowed when “Building E” suddenly and inexplicably toppled. Fortunately no workers were trapped inside, where it would have been too expensive to rescue them.


Pending inspections on the remaining structures, this exciting new property should hit the street in early 2011.

Perhaps that was a poor choice of words…

Bunched Undies, Inc: 2010 Year in Review

In 2010, the continuing struggles of the global economy did not significantly slow the growth of Bunched Undies, Inc. In February, we opened our new state-of-the-art training facility. Here, newly hired staffers learn all about the patented BU style of review writing.




In April, our world-wide offices were able to keep in touch via teleconference, thanks to our multi-million dollar investment in satellite technology. Thus far, the system only receives the Ecuadoran Porn Channel, but our engineers are working to resolve the issue.




In May, we launched The Not So Snooty Film Festival at the Best Western in Kingman, AZ. Envisioned as an alternative to the Cannes Film Festival, the event drew a small but somewhat enthusiastic crowd. Next year will be even more exciting as Larry Storch has agreed to appear. Look out Cannes… we drink your milkshake!!



But all was not hard work and drudgery here at BU, Inc. In June, our annual employee picnic was a smash hit! Please be advised that next year the open bar policy will likely be revisited.



During the summer, employees were allowed to bring their pets to work. The program was very popular, but liability issues eventually forced its abandonment.




Our new Estonian theme park, UndieWorld, suffered a bit of a setback with the discovery that it was built in a flood plain. Thanks to the tireless efforts of our staff, the park was quickly reopened and most of the attractions are fully functional. Visitors traveling long distances are advised to check the local weather forecast prior to departure.




We have continued to diversify our holdings. Our luxury condominium project in Shanghai, China is nearing completion. In November, progress was slowed when “Building E” suddenly and inexplicably toppled. Fortunately no workers were trapped inside, where it would have been too expensive to rescue them.


Pending inspections on the remaining structures, this exciting new property should hit the street in early 2011.

Perhaps that was a poor choice of words…

Monday, December 27, 2010

Let it Rain (2008)****


In Let it Rain, Agnes Jaoui and Jean-Pierre Bacri return with another pitch-perfect dissection of France’s pompous creative class. Fans of Jaoui’s previous scripts, Un aire de familie (1996), The Taste of Others (2000), and Look at Me (2005) – the latter two directed by Jaoui as well – know all about her ability to craft subtle character portraits of such icy accuracy that audiences suddenly erupt in belly laughs of recognition. Bacri, Jaoui’s husband and perennial leading man, is the perfect vessel for her delightful tales of homespun hubris. Bacri possesses tools that are the envy of every comedic actor: a face that smoothly glides from sour to smug, and line readings delivered with the precison timing of a Bach concerto.


In this outing, Jaoui plays Agathe, a writer of radical feminist books and broadsides, who finds herself running for a parliament seat thanks to France’s gender equality laws. While her candidacy is a long shot – polls show her at 18% and dropping – Agathe continues to go about the glum business of retail campaigning in hopes that enough hand shaking and baby kissing will reverse her numbers. Agathe is learning that discussing politics in Parisian cafes over coffee and Gitanes is infinitely more fun than trolling for votes among the great unwashed.

Agathe takes a break from the campaign and returns to her family’s home in Provence to settle her late mother’s estate. There, she reunites with her unambitious sister Aurelie (Florence Loiret-Caille) and her impossibly narcissistic brother-in-law Stephane (Guillaume de Tonquedoc, in a brief but very funny performance). Overseeing the grande maison is Mimouna (Mimouna Hadji), an Algerian housekeeper who has spent most of her life attending to the practical needs of this family of egotistic dreamers. Without her, they surely would have starved decades ago.


Minouna’s twenty-something son Karim (Jamel Debouzze) currently works as a bartender but is attending film school in hopes of becoming a famous documentarian one day. His instructor Michel (Bacri), a burned out, second tier filmmaker, hatches a scheme utilizing Karim’s connection to Agathe to film an interview with the controversial politician. Agathe agrees – figuring she’s got nothing to lose – but the eccentric, rambling nature of Bacri’s questions reveals much more about the neuroses of the filmmaker than the positions of the candidate. But as we eventually learn, the real reason for Michel’s interest in this project has little to do with politics, but rather with making his tireless quest for personal gratification a little more convenient.


The cockeyed, yet familiar worlds constructed by Agnes Jaoui are populated by folks who are much more self-absorbed than self-aware, and her films specialize in the infliction of karmic justice upon the arrogant. There are a number of these wonderful, laugh out loud moments in Let it Rain, and each one is preceded by a slow and steady build that makes the revelation of her characters’ pretensions all the more sweet.


When Bacri meets his geeky teenage son (Laurent Jarrior) for dinner, Michel’s ego will not allow him to admit that he is unfamiliar with certain menu items, so he launches into a lengthy and erroneous explanation of how pudding is made, only to be corrected by a haughty waiter. While Aurelie mourns her mother’s passing, it is her thoughtless husband who comically seeks solace for the profound pain the tragedy has inflicted upon him. In one of the film’s funniest scenes, a sudden storm forces Agathe and the film crew to take shelter with a farm family. But when they discover Agathe’s profession, the farmers’ warm hospitality turns into a hysterical debate on the distribution of agricultural subsidies.


One bit of business near the film’s conclusion encapsulates Jaoui’s telescoping view of the human condition. When Bacri offers her a toke of marijuana, Agathe reluctantly accepts and, a few moments later, this hard charging crusader for women’s rights is held utterly spellbound by observing the activities of a nearby ant. And such are the characters of Agnes Jaoui. They talk a good game, but are easily derailed by the tiniest distraction. By her clever and incisive skewering, their pomposities deflate and whither like week-old birthday balloons.


But underneath Jaoui’s constructions and Bacri’s dissembling lays a tale both amusing and cautionary. A generation weened on the navel-gazing culture of the late 20th Century is now assuming command of the world’s levers of power. God help us.

Let it Rain (2008)****


In Let it Rain, Agnes Jaoui and Jean-Pierre Bacri return with another pitch-perfect dissection of France’s pompous creative class. Fans of Jaoui’s previous scripts, Un aire de familie (1996), The Taste of Others (2000), and Look at Me (2005) – the latter two directed by Jaoui as well – know all about her ability to craft subtle character portraits of such icy accuracy that audiences suddenly erupt in belly laughs of recognition. Bacri, Jaoui’s husband and perennial leading man, is the perfect vessel for her delightful tales of homespun hubris. Bacri possesses tools that are the envy of every comedic actor: a face that smoothly glides from sour to smug, and line readings delivered with the precison timing of a Bach concerto.


In this outing, Jaoui plays Agathe, a writer of radical feminist books and broadsides, who finds herself running for a parliament seat thanks to France’s gender equality laws. While her candidacy is a long shot – polls show her at 18% and dropping – Agathe continues to go about the glum business of retail campaigning in hopes that enough hand shaking and baby kissing will reverse her numbers. Agathe is learning that discussing politics in Parisian cafes over coffee and Gitanes is infinitely more fun than trolling for votes among the great unwashed.

Agathe takes a break from the campaign and returns to her family’s home in Provence to settle her late mother’s estate. There, she reunites with her unambitious sister Aurelie (Florence Loiret-Caille) and her impossibly narcissistic brother-in-law Stephane (Guillaume de Tonquedoc, in a brief but very funny performance). Overseeing the grande maison is Mimouna (Mimouna Hadji), an Algerian housekeeper who has spent most of her life attending to the practical needs of this family of egotistic dreamers. Without her, they surely would have starved decades ago.


Minouna’s twenty-something son Karim (Jamel Debouzze) currently works as a bartender but is attending film school in hopes of becoming a famous documentarian one day. His instructor Michel (Bacri), a burned out, second tier filmmaker, hatches a scheme utilizing Karim’s connection to Agathe to film an interview with the controversial politician. Agathe agrees – figuring she’s got nothing to lose – but the eccentric, rambling nature of Bacri’s questions reveals much more about the neuroses of the filmmaker than the positions of the candidate. But as we eventually learn, the real reason for Michel’s interest in this project has little to do with politics, but rather with making his tireless quest for personal gratification a little more convenient.


The cockeyed, yet familiar worlds constructed by Agnes Jaoui are populated by folks who are much more self-absorbed than self-aware, and her films specialize in the infliction of karmic justice upon the arrogant. There are a number of these wonderful, laugh out loud moments in Let it Rain, and each one is preceded by a slow and steady build that makes the revelation of her characters’ pretensions all the more sweet.


When Bacri meets his geeky teenage son (Laurent Jarrior) for dinner, Michel’s ego will not allow him to admit that he is unfamiliar with certain menu items, so he launches into a lengthy and erroneous explanation of how pudding is made, only to be corrected by a haughty waiter. While Aurelie mourns her mother’s passing, it is her thoughtless husband who comically seeks solace for the profound pain the tragedy has inflicted upon him. In one of the film’s funniest scenes, a sudden storm forces Agathe and the film crew to take shelter with a farm family. But when they discover Agathe’s profession, the farmers’ warm hospitality turns into a hysterical debate on the distribution of agricultural subsidies.


One bit of business near the film’s conclusion encapsulates Jaoui’s telescoping view of the human condition. When Bacri offers her a toke of marijuana, Agathe reluctantly accepts and, a few moments later, this hard charging crusader for women’s rights is held utterly spellbound by observing the activities of a nearby ant. And such are the characters of Agnes Jaoui. They talk a good game, but are easily derailed by the tiniest distraction. By her clever and incisive skewering, their pomposities deflate and whither like week-old birthday balloons.


But underneath Jaoui’s constructions and Bacri’s dissembling lays a tale both amusing and cautionary. A generation weened on the navel-gazing culture of the late 20th Century is now assuming command of the world’s levers of power. God help us.

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Joyeux Noel (2005)****


Peace briefly erupts in the trenches of World War One, and the French and German commanders, safe at the back lines, are livid. This film, based on the famous Christmas Truce folk tale but greatly augmented, asks a number of important questions.


When the warring factions decide to cease fire and emerge from their trenches, the Great War becomes in essence the Great Cocktail Party, as Germans, French and Scots share food, drink and small talk. The soldiers get to know their enemies as people, and find that they have a large amount in common.


You can see on the men's worn and exhausted faces the unasked question, "Why are we fighting?", because it is clear that other than their tattered uniforms, there is little difference between them. Yet, a few hours ago, the sides were exchanging a hellfire of bullets and artillery shells.


The officers that called the truce are later severely reprimanded by their generals and face charges of conspiracy, yet ironically, it is those commanders who must conspire with their enemy counterparts in order to get the fighting underway again.


The film doesn't quite achieve the greatness of its aspirations - it drags in places and the resolutions are a bit pat- but still this is an enjoyable and worthwhile entertainment. And it may leave you wondering: What if they gave a war and no one came?

Joyeux Noel (2005)****


Peace briefly erupts in the trenches of World War One, and the French and German commanders, safe at the back lines, are livid. This film, based on the famous Christmas Truce folk tale but greatly augmented, asks a number of important questions.


When the warring factions decide to cease fire and emerge from their trenches, the Great War becomes in essence the Great Cocktail Party, as Germans, French and Scots share food, drink and small talk. The soldiers get to know their enemies as people, and find that they have a large amount in common.


You can see on the men's worn and exhausted faces the unasked question, "Why are we fighting?", because it is clear that other than their tattered uniforms, there is little difference between them. Yet, a few hours ago, the sides were exchanging a hellfire of bullets and artillery shells.


The officers that called the truce are later severely reprimanded by their generals and face charges of conspiracy, yet ironically, it is those commanders who must conspire with their enemy counterparts in order to get the fighting underway again.


The film doesn't quite achieve the greatness of its aspirations - it drags in places and the resolutions are a bit pat- but still this is an enjoyable and worthwhile entertainment. And it may leave you wondering: What if they gave a war and no one came?

Monday, December 20, 2010

The Bridge of San Luis Rey (2004)***


This film is not quite the unmitigated disaster that most critics would have you believe. We do get to see Emilie Dequenne, although she isn’t given much to do, and that always adds a star. Fortunately, no animals were harmed in the making of the film. We’re not sure you can say the same about the four men who had to lug Kathy Bates around in her sedan chair, all of whom appeared to be on the verge of hernias.


There is some superb art direction and costume design as well, and fans of Spanish Colonial architecture will find much to like here. The chief problem lays with the screenplay, which apparently assumes that everyone is intimately aware of the political upheavals within the Catholic Church 300 years ago, the threat to the established order posed by the Franciscans, and Spain’s unique and highly corrupt melding of church and state during that period.

To the historically ignorant, like me, it takes about half of the movie to figure out what the devil is going on, and by then we are into a variety of seemingly random subplots - a creepy pair of twins and an overdressed, remorseful sea captain, for instance- and all of it seems to come out of nowhere. We are left with a beautifully produced historical drama that somehow manages to generate an engaging momentum, despite the fact it’s often unclear where that momentum is going.


Robert DeNiro, Gabriel Byrne and F. Murray are all quite good in their roles, and Geraldine Page is extraordinary as the sensitive and caring Mother Superior. These performances offer glimpses into the novel’s deeper truths and almost overcome the film’s botched storytelling.


But director Mary McGuckian manages to miss just about every opportunity for clarity, and a strong bond with the viewer is never forged. There is a great film in this material, with lots of juicy possibilities, but its complex layers, at least as McGuckian presents them, are just too much to digest.



10 Years of The Savages

The Savages struck a vibrant chord with me when it was first released 10 years ago. It’s all about a pair of 40-ish siblings...