Thursday, March 27, 2008

Week 40: The Darjeeling Limited

I’ve been hanging onto the Darjeeling Limited as a little jewel in my Netflix Queue, saving it for just the right moment. You see, I love me some Wes Anderson. I would watch him direct traffic. But the Darjeeling Limited is…well…it’s a turd, Wes. It’s a turd.

Believe me when I say this makes me very sad. This isn’t like discovering that Mariah Carey’s Glitter was a turd, which is the least surprising discovery of all time. Anyway, Darjeeling had all the elements that make a Wes Anderson film great: quirky characters, whimsical charm, melancholy plot, cool soundtrack, Bill Murray (just barely), a Wilson brother…

But it just didn’t work.

And I think I know why. At no point in the film was I unaware that I was watching Owen Wilson, Adrien Brody and Jason Schwartzman pretending to be brothers. This for me was like watching a stage play – you’re never unaware that you’re watching actors acting. Sure, they had good chemistry, there were sweet, touching and funny moments, but for me the movie was an exercise in self-indulgence on the part of the director and actors. Everything about Darjeeling was just a little too artificial, with the exception of the setting itself, India, which is sort of the star of the film.

Maybe one of the things I love about a great Wes Anderson film is that I usually fall in love with the characters, and I only fell in like with the brothers of Darjeeling.

Another note about the DVD: it contains a short film called Hotel Chevalier, which is billed as “Part 1 of the Darjeeling Limited”. Hotel Chevalier wasn’t played in theaters: this was an extra created for the DVD.

We were confused about whether or not to watch it first – would it ruin the film or give us information that we couldn’t live without? We decided to watch it first and I wish we hadn’t. It would have been much sweeter to see this little slice of backstory after viewing the film.

My disappointments with The Darjeeling Limited continue to mount.

Tuesday, March 25, 2008

Week 39: Gone Baby Gone

I have to stop judging movies by their titles. Because all along I believed Gone Baby Gone was Ben Affleck’s cinematic tribute to his hairline. Zing!

Sorry, I don’t know why I love to rip on Ben Affleck, but I just can’t help meself. But even I am gallant enough to admit when my horseheaded foe has pulled off a winner. Kudos to you…Secretariat.

The movie follows a private investigator (Ben Affleck’s little bro, Casey “Ponyhead” Affleck) as he unravels the complicated disappearance of a little girl in a working-class Boston neighborhood. The plot is fairly intricate and the turns and twists really kept us surprised. Just when you thought you know what happened to little Amanda, a new seam opened up and you had to examine a new cast of characters. Grant was correct in identifying that the movie had a resemblance to the same gritty/scary/raw feel of “Se7en”.

The best parts of Gone Baby Gone are handled by the supporting cast, particularly Amy Ryan playing the missing girl’s train wreck of a mother – a hardscrabble drug addict who might be more concerned about getting her next fix than getting her daughter back. Her callous disregard for her only daughter will make any suburban soccer mom absolutely shiver with horror. It was riveting.

My problems with the film? There are a couple:
1. I COULDN’T UNDERSTAND A GODDAMN WORD CASEY AFFLECK SAID. I’m all for using authentic Boston accents, but give me a break. I’ve never had to use my rewind button on the DVD remote so many times. It was nearly impossible to figure out who he was referring to in any given conversation. After more than an hour of “Rhemnybeaschuuond”, we finally figured out he was saying a person’s name: Remy Bressant, and not just describing an itchy rash on his left buttock.

2. Casey Affleck is not a leading man. I’m sorry. He did his best. His acting was just fine, but he simply lacks the presence to carry a film. And, yes, he has unfortunately inherited the Affleck family curse. The one in which your head outgrows the rest of your body at a staggering pace until you resemble one of those cartoon characters skating in the Ice Capades. Let’s all put our hands together, ladies and gentlemen, for the amazing Equine Duo, Ben and Casey Affleck!!!!! Neigh!!!

Sunday, March 16, 2008

Week 39: Idiocracy

Haven't heard of Idiocracy? Oh, there's a reason for sucks. Idiocracy is a mildly (emphasis on mildly) funny comedy about a man (Luke Wilson) who is transported 500 years into the future through a bungled government experiment. What he finds is that in the future, society has been overtaken by redneck idiots who reproduced like crazy while educated yuppies put their careers and lives ahead of having children.

It's a kind-of funny premise and there were a few laughs (like in the future Fuddruckers is just called Butt F#ckers). But perhaps the funniest part of the movie is watching Luke Wilson as he realizes he's made a terrible, terrible mistake in taking this role. It's hilarious to watch him phone this one in. He seems awfully embarrassed to a part of the whole mess. And we were pretty embarrassed to be there with him.

Tuesday, March 11, 2008

Week 38: Confessions of a Superhero

Wow, here’s a movie that will make you feel better about your job. And your life. And the fact that you aren’t a Batman impersonator with a three-pack-a-day habit and serious rage issues. Confessions of a Superhero is a terrific documentary about a handful of panhandlers who dress up as superheroes to be photographed by tourists along Hollywood Boulevard. They earn their entire living on the tips they make for each photograph they grant.

When they tell you they can make $150 an hour on a good day, you think to yourself, “hey, that’s not so bad. Pretty good scratch, right?” But as you watch the documentary, you begin to realize that those good days must be few and far between as you see the sad, worn edges of each person’s life.

The star of the documentary is “Superman” Chris Dennis. He does bear a striking resemblance to Christopher Reeves, although the days of standing under the Hollywood sun and smoking cigarettes are taking their early toll on his face.

You think it can’t get any worse than his Superman-inspired apartment (think comic book store vomiting all over your living room) and then you meet Superman’s crazy girlfriend with extra-blinky eyes and Crystal Gale-inspired hair (literally). I wavered between feeling happy that these two found each other and concerned that they are both living outside of an institution. They give new meaning to the term ‘batshit crazy.’ And that’s saying something when you consider that Margot Kidder is also in the film.

And THEN, you watch Batman sitting across from his therapist in full Batman costume, confessing outright on camera to the murders of several people, and continually referring to the “body count” he’s left behind from his days working for “The Italians.” Wink, wink. I swear if you look close enough you can actually see his therapist wetting his pants. It is unsettling. But as the film progresses you begin to get the idea that Batman is a pathological liar. Or at least you hope so.

Go rent this film.

Thursday, March 6, 2008

Week 38: Deadwood Season 2, Disc 1

Oh, it feels good to be back in Deadwood. I missed you cocksuckers. Am I crazy or are the writers actually toning back all the cursing this season? I did not feel overwhelmed by references to c*cks and c*nts this disc. But then again, maybe they’re just building up to it.

I still think this is a great show though the convoluted plot line that involves Deadwood needing to have a mayor, sheriff, etc. in order to remain independent from the United States is so confusing that I’m completely lost. All I know is that Al Swearengen is still bad and Seth Bullock is still hot, er, good.

I must say that if I have to watch Ian McShane (as Al Swearengen) deliver one more lengthy soliloquy in his grimy union suit while he gets a bj from a prostitute, I may give up. I have seen more of that man’s saggy bags than any person should. How would you like to be the costumer on the show who gets to handle his ass-panel? You know, the person who has to make sure it looks appropriately poop-stained?

Honey, how was work today?
Oh, you know. The usual. I had to wash McShane’s filthy ass-panel by hand again.
That hand that you’re using to mix that salad right now?
Uh, yeah, I guess it is.
You’ve got, you know, something crusty on your finger there. Is that a … hair?
It’s probably best if I don’t answer.

Tuesday, March 4, 2008

Week 37: Juno

Thank god, I finally get all the pop culture references to Juno now. I know what a homeskillet is. And I now know that her eggo was indeed preggo. Honest to blog.

Okay, I'll stop. I feel like my dad when he talks about using "The Email."

I knew I was going to like Juno. This kind of movie is right up my indie-loving alley. I knew it was going to be funny and sarcastic and shrewd. But I didn't expect it to be so damned sweet too. That took me completely by surprise. I actually cried. Unstoppable happy-sad tears, which are really the best kind. Does that make me a wuss? Ah, what's new.

Are there faults with Juno? Sure. There are plenty (the dialogue, for one, is so unnaturally hip and pretentious at the start that it's actually off-putting). But the perks far outweigh all the hamburger phone jokes. Like Allison Janney. She is a major perk. Huge. She does the best wisecracking housewife routine on the planet. Michael Cera as Juno's boyfriend, Bleeker, is awkward teenage perfection. And while Jennifer Garner's Vanessa was shallowly perfect and a little one-dimensional, you can't help but love her. This is the kind of movie I wish I could watch for the first time a whole bunch of times.

PS: we broke our Netflix promise and saw Juno at the theater this past weekend. We bought a 32 oz. popcorn to share, which, though sounds like a lot, in reality equates to approximately 14 pieces of popcorn. I inhaled the entire thing before we even made it to our seats. Kudos to hubby for making the approximately 4,000-yard trek back to the concession stand for more. He is my Bleeker. He loves me even when I eat all his popcorn.

Monday, March 3, 2008

Week 37: Elizabeth, The Golden Age

I’m perplexed. Didn’t I already see this movie? Except it was just called Elizabeth? Seriously, this film is a near-identical replica of the first movie, right down to the murderous priest, only this time without as much dark intrigue and drama. But Cate Blanchett is so damned magnetic and luminous, who cares? I would watch her snake a drain.

Elizabeth the Golden Age, which I prefer to think of as “Lizzie 2, Still Angry and Now Possibly a Lesbian,” is basically a wet dream for lovers of beautiful scenery and costuming.

If you loved the first movie, you’ll probably like the second one, but just barely. The ending is fairly cobbled together and the director didn’t seem too interested in actually making us believe the Spaniards were coming for Elizabeth. But still, it was pretty to watch.

The symbolism in Lizzie 2 is way over the top. Like at the end of the movie once Elizabeth has vanquished the Spanish navy, she’s suddenly bathed in golden light in every scene. Get it? The GOLDEN age? I’m pretty sure even Helen Keller would have seen that heavy-handed symbolism.

Now, onto the lesbionics. The first half of the movie was spent with Elizabeth purring and petting her closest court lady, Bess. LITERALLY PETTING HER. It was…uncomfortable. Kind of like discovering that your grandma was a slut back in the day. The second half of the movie, Elizabeth is hot and heavy for Sir Walter Raleigh, played by Clive Owen. Now I understand that Mr. Owen’s masculinity has the power to overcome even the most serious lesbian, but it was a rather abrupt shift in Lizzie’s affections. I am still trying to work it all out. Which one did she love? Was she a swinger? Bicoastal? I can’t tell. Maybe they’ll explain it all to me in the third installment, “Lizzie 3, Very Angry and Awfully Gay.”