BAM, June 16, 2012
Movie #22 for 2012
The prevailing vibe of WES ANDERSON’s latest is awkwardness. Some of it is intended. Some of it is, unfortunately, not.
The intended stuff is he intended to be awkward is marvellous, regular Wes Anderson material - deadpan pauses and delivery; straight-on shots of blank-faced actors; saturated, off-tone colors; off-center framing and those jerky 70s-style pans and zooms. The other, unintentional awkwardness comes from the flimsy story, the budget CG, the flaccid pacing.
I’m in a quandary. I like Wes Anderson - I like him a lot - he’s original and has a great aesthetic. I appreciate his attention to charming detail when creating his self-contained, quirky worlds. But this film left me cold. There is an overabundance of bit characters and although a great cast and fine performances - especially, surprisingly, BRUCE WILLIS - these peripheral characters added very little. Most of all though was the awkwardness of the young leading man. Although sympathetic of his situation and his desire to escape, I didn’t warm to him at all. That wouldn't be a problem except that in a Wes Anderson film, quirky is supposed to equal charming, not annoying.
Sleepwalk With Me
BAM, June 20, 2012
Movie #23 for 2012
In Sleepwalk With Me, MIKE BIRBIGLIA writes, directs and stars as Matt Pandamiglio, a slightly fudged version of himself. Matt is a bartender with aspirations of stand up comedy despite much evidence that he’s not very good. His girlfriend of nine years is starting to wonder if the relationship is worth sticking around for and Matt’s anxiety begins to manifest as sleepwalking, with dangerous consequences.
Birbiglia is utterly charming and completely funny. He - and the story - manage to be funny and heartbreaking and surprising and delightful and sad all at once. The story - which he has told in the auto-bio form in book, recordings and a live show - is about how started out as a comedian, the implosion of his first serious relationship and his experience suffering from REM Sleep Disorder (where sufferers don’t get dopamine when they’re asleep and so act out their dreams of things like Insect-Jackals and the winning the Dustbustering Olympics).
This version of the story is tightened and tarted up for film. It gets a couple of rom-com clichés in it - off-kilter parents, a girlfriend who gets obsessed by their upcoming wedding, a wedding - but it also has a couple of surprises - a genuinely big heart, an engaging perspective (it’s a rom-com from the guy’s perspective) and a break-the-mold story.
And you know what, I don’t actually mind that this is the fourth retelling of the same story - it’s a story worth retelling. And Birbiglia is worth hearing out.
United Artists Court Street, June 22, 2012
Movie #24 for 2012
I have...issues with Brave.
On the one hand I very much liked the girl-hero, for the as-ever amazing animation and for the tremendous action. On the other hand, I am very much less excited by the murkiness of the message in this story. Essentially a spirited, resourceful, wilful young princess (ugh, why always with the princess?) called Merida learns to obey her overbearing, guilt-tripping mother when following her heart leads to a catastrophic mistake (a magic spell that turns mama bear into a bear). The mother also learns to loosen up a little, so I guess it's win-win for her.
There are some pretty interesting characterizations here that I feel seriously uncomfortable with - and I feel like it’s territory that Pixar have usually been strong at avoiding. (It would be easy to blame the "Disney" part for that, but the film does have Pixar's name on it too.) For instance, men are portayed as hopeless, warmongering buffoons who need to be controlled and looked after by women. And apart from Merida and her mother, women are largely absent - Merida does not have any peers or friends and the only other person in the castle seems to be a maid/cook of whose buxomosity the writer and director make much ado. The clowns of the piece are the three young princes and they too disquieting - less funny and more cutesy sinister - and breast obsessed - than is strictly comfortable.
While there are a couple of scenes that really pop with energy and style, mostly it’s just confusing and strangely disquieting. And sadly, a few weeks after the fact, it's the flaws that stayed with me.
BAM, June 24, 2012
Movie #25 for 2012
Let me preface this review by saying that I loved Alien and the Director’s Cut of Bladerunner is freaking awesome. I have not loved anything that RIDLEY SCOTT has done since. I did not love A Good Year, I did not love American Gangster and I don’t even want to talk about Gladiator. But still, for Alien and Bladerunner, Scott has a soft, squishy hold on that place in my heart for favorites.
I was interested to see where on the spectrum Promethueus would fall. I had hoped for Alien, I got A Good Year.
Yes, the film looks great, and yes there is some very effective body horror in it, but the characterization is terrible and the writing worse. And here’s a thought for casting: if the script calls for a Brit, cast a Brit. If the script calls for a Texan, don’t cast a Brit. If the script calls for an old guy, don’t cast a 45 year old. We can tell - we are not brain dead. And you used up all your “disbelief suspension” points on the crappy science and faith “plot points”.
I am not, in general, against prequels. But prequels made 30 years after the fact are always going to be problematic. And now I hear that Scott is planning a Blade Runner sequel it just seems like he's Lucasing his own oeuvre.
The film gets two and a half from me, but this perspective and insight on the film gets at least a four.
*I'm seeing Magic Mike tomorrow, so you can expect the review for that in about a month.