The Beaver

August 30, 2011

Issue Films tend to be the most problematic projects that Hollywood produces on a regular basis.  There is a tendency to treat serious subjects in a po-faced, serious way that is often reductive and, more often than not, insulting.  The most obvious recent example is the Best Picture winning, critically loathed Crash, which treats race in America in such an insulting, ham-fisted way that only a self-congratulatory cabal of morons could pat themselves on the back for being so damn sensitive.  There’s also the issue of Hollywood having to be Hollywood.  A serious subject can give weight to a film that doesn’t deserve it, because the audience will be guilted into thinking it is something they are supposed to like, but it can’t be too alienating that it just flat out depresses people.  So you get a po-faced representation of a real problem, but you must distract the messiness because it’s still a movie and people don’t want to leave thinking there are Real Problems that are too complicated to be easily dealt with.  This all means awkwardly shoehorning the serious subject into a classical, comforting formula, often leading to a series of offensively dull clichés peppering a structure too rigid to allow a serious exploration of whatever serious subject they want to explore/exploit.  Jode Foster’s The Beaver falls into an awful lot of these traps.  In fact, it falls into so many I wouldn’t blame anyone for hating it.  Read the rest of this entry »

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This month saw the passing of the fifteen-year anniversary of the release of John Carpenter’s oft-derided Escape from L.A., and though it is not unsurprising that such an auspicious occasion would go largely unheralded both in the press and in the blogosphere, I still feel the need to stick up for this seemingly lost little gem.  Given the absurd, satirical nature of the piece, I would have expected it to garner some level of cult status, even if it were among the annoying so-bad-its-good sect.  From what I can tell, it hasn’t, and though it was given a blu-ray release last year, it is telling that Universal never bothered to update the original DVD with an anamorphic transfer, a clear sign of a studio having no faith in a product whatsoever if there ever was one. Read the rest of this entry »

Crazy, Stupid, Love.

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 »

Late one night, in the waning days of summer, a boy and a girl sit on a floating dock just offshore from a high school party.  The girl, about to enter her freshman year, explains that she skipped a friend’s slumber party to be there.  The boy, about to be a junior, extols the virtues of slumber parties, and mourns the loss of childhood that comes with moving onto the more teenage pursuits of high school parties and social status.  “I don’t want you to buy into all this youthful adventure bullshit,” he explains.  The air of wistful mourning for innocence lost colours every frame of writer/director David Roger Mitchell’s The Myth of the American Sleepover.  Not necessarily mourning by the characters, but always by the director and, by extension, the film itself.   Read the rest of this entry »