July 26, 2012
The pseudo-indie dramedies that Steve Carell has traded in for a number of years now have had a remarkably solid track record – non truly amazing but always just pleasant enough; they’ve been schmaltzy but tempered just enough to make them work on some level. The idea of putting his sad-sack character in an End-of-the-World film reeks of some sort of quirky half-assery on the part of whatever “indie” division at a studio agreed to put money up for the production. I can imagine someone saying, “Melancholia-lite might sell this year.” Still, even if the result is not ground-breaking, nor does it transcend the rather milquetoast pleasures of other Carell fare like Dan in Real Life, it has an oddball, morbid quality that creates a distinctly bittersweet aftertaste. It also features what might be Carell’s best rendition of this character, and it’s utterly refreshing to know he’s not yet sleepwalking through these roles yet. Read the rest of this entry »
June 3, 2012
This contains spoilers – suffice it say that I thought this was very good indeed and you should definitely go see it.
There’s a moment a little ways into Wes Anderson’s Moonrise Kingdom in which the young boy Sam (Jared Gilman), who looks short, gawky, and desperately uncool with his thick-framed glasses, walks out of a local children’s production of Benjamin Britten’s Noye’s Fludde and through the backstage areas of the church where it’s being performed. He finds his way to the dressing room, where a row of young girls dressed as birds are applying their make-up and preparing. Looking directly at the camera, he asks, “What kind of bird are you?” The girls turn around, and one starts to explain what they each are until Sam stops her mid-sentence and asks again, pointing directly at the camera and, it turns out, at one girl in particular: Suzy (Kara Hayward). There’s an air of supreme confidence in the delivery, and Suzy’s reaction is to be instantly taken with him. It feels like wish-fulfillment on Wes Anderson’s part – one imagines he would have loved to have taken young love by the throat and just gone for it the way Sam does – as well as feeling very reminiscent of Max Fischer in Rushmore, Anderson’s breakthrough film which was also about a boy determined to act with confidence. Except, it’s different this time. Where Fischer was vaguely absurd in his over-compensating manner and most could see through it, Sam is genuinely confident. It’s a testament to just how good of a film Moonrise Kingdom is that we understand that confidence as a believable character trait and not just the wish fulfillment it might seem to be. Read the rest of this entry »
April 13, 2012
Whit Stillman has talked quite a bit about ‘utopia’ in his interviews regarding his new film, Damsels in Distress, as well as the other three years in his sadly sparse body of work. There’s a sort of utopian ideal to the worlds he creates, though in his first three films (Metropolitan, Barcelona, and The Last Days of Disco), they all took place in closed-off societies. There were outcasts who didn’t fit in – notably Tom in Metropolitan – but on a whole they were closed off from the outside world. Damsels takes place at a fictional university that is a member of a fictional Ivy League equivalent. It’s a bizarre society, and its outlandish (though not quite cartoonish) characters hovering around the edges can be quite jarring. Stillman, it seems, decided to go broad, even incorporating some slapstick suicide attempts. It felt, for a while, and only in places, to be something of a disappointment. Read the rest of this entry »
March 8, 2012
The first thing to get out of the way when dealing with Young Adult is that Jason Reitman is not a good director. His previous films have been, at best, blandly functional enough for the characters to carry it along without interruption, but at worst he displays little-to-no understanding of how to film two people talking as well as a penchant for jarring stylistic leaps that detract from the story. There are some of those stylistic leaps that just don’t work in Young Adult, including some awkward handheld shots that don’t fit anywhere into the his already boring visual schema. Needless to say, he is not up to the task of making Young Adult work the way it should. As a dark character comedy, there’s a way to handle this kind of awkward humour that he clearly doesn’t understand, and on the other side of the card, there might have been subtle ways to tease out the depth of a number of characters, but we’ll never know because he doesn’t seem to understand that either. Read the rest of this entry »
August 4, 2011
If given the choice between seeing a mediocre action film and a mediocre romantic comedy, nine times out of ten I’ll pick the latter. Both can be terrible, but while the former will probably be a boring dirge through mindlessness, the rom-com has the ability to transcend the rigid demands of the genre through occasional subversion of societal expectations, a few witty scenes, and perhaps most commonly, some good performances that can truly elevate the middling material. After all, these films are mostly about dialogue and character interaction, and the general simplicity of the filmmaking (no elaborate special effects sequences, less time devoted to making something ‘awesome’) allows for the actors to find rhythms and beats that give a scene much more punch than it should have. This is not to say that a majority of Hollywood rom-coms aren’t absolutely dreadful – they are – but there’s more of a chance there will be something to make the time spent watching them not totally intolerable. Read the rest of this entry »
August 29, 2010
As much as I have fond memories of my childhood and the frivolities of life as a youngster, I can’t help but find certain hipster trends in recent years both shallow and regressive. Yes, I loved playing SNES games and arcade fighters and I loved the Smashing Pumpkins, but referencing the obsessions of a bygone era does not endear me to the nostalgia-laden world that people selling Megaman t-shirts and and their chillwave bands are basking in. Not to denigrate the cultural touchstones of a generation, obviously including my own, but the mere mention of a tanooki suit does not fill me warm, fuzzy feelings and it certainly does not elicit a chuckle. Such are the dangers of geekdom, for making some ‘shit that is awesome’ is not enough to generally enough to make that same ‘shit’ interesting, and certainly not if the only thing ‘awesome’ about it is that it stirs up memories of my life as an 11 year old. After all, ‘Remember when’ is the lowest form of conversation.
January 26, 2009
A quick note: I bashed this out pretty fast one evening, still fresh from the simmering rage of sitting through the film. I sat down this evening intending to re-write it, or at least reformat it to a large degree, but then realized that, quite frankly, this film doesn’t deserve anymore of my time. I’m not making excuses for the writing (though I probably should), but I will warn that, while an effort was made to scale back and not give out spoilers, I probably talk too much about the plot. If you’ve seen the film, my condolences, and please read on. If you haven’t, don’t see it in the first place.
As soon as the trailer appeared, the spectre of Liar Liar loomed large over the latest Jim Carrey vehicle. After his latest stab at a ‘serious’ project (the unbelievably awful Number 23), Jim was back to what pays the bills: a straightforward high-concept comedy about a man ‘forced’ to change his ways for the better. Liar Liar was the launching point, Bruce Almighty followed this well enough, and while Fun with Dick and Jane is largely forgettable, it was agreeable enough when watching (though one can’t ignore the diminishing returns). With these films in mind, it was quite surprising how astonishingly bad Yes Man turned out to be. All the elements were there: the concept, a supporting cast that wouldn’t bother to compete with the lead, a journeyman director. Somewhere it all went terribly wrong, as this film is not funny in the slightest, and without the comedy, all that’s left are the dull, lifeless components whose very purpose is to not get in the way. Read the rest of this entry »