April 27, 2009

#025: Role Models

Role Models is the newest edition to the foul comedy genre that has formed over the past few years. If these type of movies are your thing, then you will probably enjoy it. I had a really great time with this movie. I liked it even better than Superbad, which I thought was a very good comedy. Role Models seems to follow the same formula of using very bad language to deliver what turns out to be a semi-sweet story in the end. I thought the acting was great with very good interactions between characters that allow them to feed off of one another. I especially enjoyed this movie because I seemed to share some odd connection with the main character Danny, played by Paul Rudd.
He works for an energy drink company.
- I drink energy drinks.
 He aspires to be married, and work as an engineer.
- I am married, and I work as an engineer.
He is sarcastic, sometimes mean, and always looks at the negatives in life.
- I am sarcastic, not ballsy enough to actually be mean but I do think it in my head, and I always look at the negatives in life.
 At fist I thought Danny's personality and style of comedy was awesome; something I wanted to strive for. Then I realized it is the one thing that everybody hates him for. It made me consider the fact that I may be becoming bitter and angry at the world, and maybe I should do something to stop it before it gets out of control. For example, the other day I was driving down the interstate when a car passed me going well over the speed limit, pulled in front of me and braked to take the exit. I was also taking that exit, and ended up pulling next to her at a stop light a little later. I looked over and saw some hill-jack woman shoving fast food in her face. At that moment I wanted nothing more than to drag her out of her car and beat the shit out of her right there in the intersection. I mean... is that bad? Here is another one. There is a woman that works at my company that wears a tiny backpack. Those stupid little purse backpack things weren't even cool when it was socially acceptable to be seen wearing one... which was at least 10 years ago. She looks like a very nice woman, and I have no reason not to like her, but when I see her wearing that tiny backpack I just want to strangle her with one of the straps. I guess this movie would suggest that I volunteer at Big Brothers, Big Sisters... and maybe I should. Anyway, I loved the movie and would definitely recommend it if you aren't offended by dirty words or live action role playing.


April 19, 2009

#024: Synecdoche, New York

On this little blog I like to pretend that I can "review" movies. This film is so over my head that I am not even going to make an attempt. However, I am going to write a little bit about it because a lot of people probably haven't even heard of it. Philip Seymour Hoffman stars in this movie playing Caden Cotard, a theater director trying to find some purpose in life. We start out seemingly rooted in reality, but as the film progresses things get more and more crazy. We seem to be living inside Caden's head, everything that happens is the way he might imagine it in his self-pitying, self-loathing, hypocondriatic mind. From beginning to end this movie had me thoroughly confused. I never felt like I knew what the hell was going on. The director does whatever he wants, and doesn't care if it isn't normal or logical. For example, one character is with her real estate agent shopping for houses. They visit this one house, and it is on fire. They acknowledge it is on fire, but it is treated as a minor inconvenience. I just imagine her weighing her options and thinking about the houses she had seen. " I loved the living room in the second house, but it had a small closet in the master bedroom... and it was on fire." The character even makes a comment about eventually dying from the smoke inhalation. Anyway, she buys this house, and for the rest of the movie it is on fire. That is just effed up, but I really liked it. I mean, why the heck was that house on fire and what did it symbolize? Surely it meant something, but I am not really sure what. There are lots of other things in this film that are equally thought provoking and confusing.

 I haven't even described the whole premise of the story yet. Caden's wife leaves him, and she takes their daughter with her. This seems to be where his neurosis begins. He seems to be tumbling through life, looking for some meaning. He then wins a grant that will give him enough money to create his own play. He realizes this is his big chance to do something "important", and decides to make a play about his own life. He rents a warehouse that contains a life-sized replica of the city where he lives. He goes out and finds actors to play all the characters from his own life, including an actor to play him. There are scenes taking place in the "real" world with the real people, then we will see them reenacted in this fake-world with the actors. At some point the two worlds become blurred and the fake world starts impacting the real world, which in turn impacts how things will go in the fake world. It all gets very messed up. To confuse things even further the character playing Caden in the play gets to the part where he decides to make a play about his life. Therefore the character playing Caden has to find somebody to play him in the 3rd iteration of this guy's life. All of the scenes are being treated like a rehearsal, not like the actual performance. This goes on for years as Caden becomes an old man. All the while, the are supposedly preparing for some grand performance that will take place sometime in the future. The ending is equally as confusing and messed up as the rest of the film, and I am not even going to attempt to give my interpretations of its meaning.

I enjoy movies that confuse me, but usually we are rewarded with at least a bit of an explanation. I can tell you that this movie isn't going to give you anything in the way of explanations. It is however, going to let you ponder everything in your own head and allow you to make sense out of it based on how you relate with the character. I was fairly engaged by this movie even though it has an extremely slow pace. Sometimes you feel like you are watching paint dry, and there is no apparent purpose for the scene. This is a signature of most artsy movies, but at times this one got a little too slow even for my liking. I can easily forgive that because of the unique and expressive dialog in this film. There were great moments between characters, and wonderful lines that make you stop and think. I really enjoyed this film, but will only hesitatingly recommend it. It isn't for everyone, but I think it will strike a chord with most that do watch it.


April 5, 2009

#023: Goodbye Sweaters

Warmer weather is quickly approaching, at least I hope it is. It seems like every time we think the warm weather is here... its a fake-out. Springtime is usually bittersweet for me. I like it because I get to start riding my bike again and spend a lot more time outside. I don't like it because I can't wear sweaters to work anymore. I freaking love sweaters. They are the slightly less comfortable cousin of the sweatshirt. Unlike the sweatshirt, I get to wear sweaters to work. Sometimes I wear a collared shirt underneath my sweater, but my favorite is to just wear a t-shirt with a sweater over it. Somehow this magical combination is deemed dressy enough for the business-casual work environment. I like wool sweaters best with an argyle pattern, although a cotton sweater is nice too. The best sweater I own is cashmere... what a heavenly garment. I sure am going to miss that thing. Anyway, I digress. The other negative about spring is it means I am going to spend less time watching movies. I definitely will spend less time writing about watching movies. Ironically, I will spend more time thinking about writing about watching movies. My mind has a lot of time to wander as I am pedaling the miles away. I should come up with a few good ideas for blog posts, but who knows if I will actually write them. If this blog were going to die, it would happen in the next 8-12 weeks. I will try my best to keep posting on a regular basis, but I am not making any promises.


April 3, 2009

#022: Slumdog Millionaire

Expectations are usually high when going into a film that gets as much praise and hype as Slumdog Millionaire has. This movie is worth watching, but I wouldn't classify it as the best film of the year. Director Danny Boyle brings us the story of Jamaal trying to climb the ladder to 20 million rupees on the Indian version of Who Wants To Be A Millionaire. His unlikely success raises suspicions of cheating, requiring him to explain to the cops how he knew the answers. We are shown in flash-backs the harsh childhood that Jamaal has endured. He experienced a string of very memorable events, each one of them providing him with an answer to the very questions he was asked on the game show. In true Danny Boyle fashion the movie is made up of lots of quick cuts and bright colors. It is fast moving and visually impressive, but at times I found it to provide sensory overload with everything that was going on.

Early on in the film we see shots of the Mumbai slums as the children are running from the police... all set to music. These were the moments that really made this film worth watching for me. First off, the music is really good. I enjoyed how the music was used to enhance sequences of the film as they are running around Mumbai or hitching a ride on a train. The shots of the Mumbai slums were sobering, powerful images. These children are growing up in complete poverty, surrounded by horrible conditions. The film forces you to think about what life must have been like for them, creating this strong feeling of empathy. However, that feeling isn't maintained for long as the movie progresses.

The biggest complaint I have about this film is how flat the characters are. For the best picture winner I would expect at least a little depth to the main characters. They are completely one-dimensional; cardboard cutouts of the people they are supposed to represent. I admittedly am on the more "cold-hearted" end of the spectrum, but I didn't care about these people at all. These kids amazingly escape so many situations that it plays more like a fairy tale than real-life events. While these were fun to watch, it caused me to withdraw from that emotional connection I had at the beginning. By the end I was just waiting to see what happened, not really caring if Jamaal won the money or got the girl. This whole film is propped up by a love story between Jamaal and Latika, and I didn't buy it at all. The movie hinges on us believing they are destined to be together, and they are so in love, but there was absolutely no chemistry between them. They are only on screen together for a short amount of time, and their interactions come mostly as small children. What is the reason for this undying love? I just didn't get it. There is a scene where Jamaal comes to Latika after they hadn't seen each other for years. He says, "Let's run away together, right now." Latika responds, "Where will we go? What will we live on?" Jamaal gives her a thoughtful look and responds in a very serious tone... "LOVE." ..................Bleh... it was so corny. They didn't earn that scene. If you are going to have a scene like that you have to give us a reason for it. They barely even know each other, and by the looks of things, Latika isn't all that interested. After the movie is completely over, they do a musical number during the credits. That dancing scene shows us more of a connection between Jamaal and Latika than anything that happened during the actual movie.

Overall I didn't feel the movie lived up to all the hype. I enjoyed the storytelling aspect of it. I liked how they used the device of the game show to go back and show us Jamaal's life. I liked the cinematography, though it did get a bit hectic and messy at times. The downfall of this film for me was the characters' lack of depth. This led to the feeling of everything being so contrived, and sometimes corny. I am probably being harsher on it because of all the praise it has gotten, but I feel it is unworthy of most of it. It is surely worth watching, and had quite a few memorable moments. It was a good movie, but it could have been so much better if more time had been spent letting us form connections with the characters, and letting those characters form connections with one another. Maybe I had set the bar too high, but last year's "best picture" winner is such a better film than this year's.