Friday, December 11, 2009

Early December Review or something

Okay, it's been a while and once again I've been reminded that people actually read this blog so here are a few thoughts on the new movies I've watched in the last month or so.

First, real quick, I could use some suggestions on the design and color scheme - I went black for October because black is spooky, but in general? This gray isn't cutting it. I think I want to migrate the whole thing over to Wordpress anyway (any tips on that from anyone?) Anyway:

Big Fan: I saw this as a New Beverly double feature with The Wrestler, as both were written by Robert Siegel (who was also, weirdly, former editor-in-chief at The Onion). The double feature was useful in illustrating the contrast between the two movies, and why Big Fan, entertaining and well-acted as it was, kind of fell short: Both movies are about New Jersey losers who are associated with professional sports, but whereas The Wrestler left me touched and emotionally invested in the characters, Big Fan was made by a filmmaker who, ultimately, condescended to them - The Wrestler has its share of jokes at the expense of the sad-sacks in the lower rungs of the professional wrestling world, but this was tempered by genuine pathos and sympathy. Big Fan is basically all snark, all the time, tempered only by Patton Oswalt's genuine and sincere performance. 6/10.

2012: For reasons I don't quite understand, I've pretty much loved the previous movies in Roland Emmerich's apocalypse triptych (Independence Day, The Day After Tomorrow) while hating everything else he's ever done (Stargate, The Patriot, 10000 BC). So I was planning to enjoy this movie too, which only a retarded fanboy would do, right? Anyway, as it turns out, the movie itself is pretty lame, with one major exception: the much-trailered sequence of John Cusack and co. driving around through Los Angeles in the midst of a superdeluxe earthquake pretty much rocked my socks off. What's wrong with me, that I should be so radically energized by the spectacle of literally thousands of people being crushed and whatnot? I don't know. But I have to admit that I find this sequence thrilling. 4/10

An Education: There's a certain class of movie that I've gotten used to, over the years, as the high-class snoozer - the kind of highly-regarded movie where you pretty much know, ten minutes in, what's going to happen by the end of the movie, so if you doze off for a few minutes here and there, it's pretty easy to pick up on what's happening. So since it was BLATANTLY OBVIOUS that Peter Sarsgaard was going to turn out to be a pseudo-pedophiliac cad and leave Carey Mulligan high and dry from his first (very creepy) scene in the movie.

Anyway, this movie isn't that bad, but the performances and direction are a lot better than the story itself, which is fairly mundane. 7/10

Precious: Based on the Novel Push by Sapphire: This one is interesting to me because it illustrates (like Transformers 2) that despite what all the screenwriting gurus say, audiences don't really care about story, because neither of those two movies really had 'stories' per se as much as they have compilations of scenes delivering what audiences want to see: CGI spectacle in one case, really good actors in scenes of heightened misery in the other. "Academy Award nominee Mo'Nique" seems to be inevitable.

As for the rest of the movie, even though Lee Daniels is obviously great with actors, he doesn't know much about storytelling or visuals and doesn't seem to have much of a vision beyond 'get all this awful drama up on the screen' which limits how impactful the movie can be to some degree. Anyway, not bad. 7/10

Fantastic Mr. Fox: If only Wes Anderson could have found a way to blend his unique style with something more family-friendly, this terrific movie wouldn't have flopped. Because it's basically just like every other Wes Anderson movie - ironic, formal, oblique, fetishistically detailed - but with puppets instead of live actors. Anyway, I very much enjoyed it as the latest entry into his world of upper-class world-weary whimsy. 8/10

Where the Wild Things Are: On the other hand, this one has a lot going for it (amazing performances, production design, creature effects, cinematography) but the story just totally fell flat for me. A big part was that I didn't connect to the kid - I was never a 'pretend to be wild animals and throw tantrums' kid, I was a 'sit quietly in the corner reading a book' kid, and never understood the other kind of kids. But beyond that, the story of this movie felt like an over-obvious pseudo-Freudian allegory for me. As soon as I saw the lead wild thing tearing shit up in Monster Village while the other monsters wonder how to deal with him, I got it. We all got it. 6/10


Scott said...

If you get an account at, you can easily import this blog. Believe it's possible to do the same with Tumblr if you choose that option.

Sam Juliano said...

Well Jeff, I agree that WHERE THE WILD THINGS ARE fell flat in a narrative sense. But FANTASTIC MR. FOX is a big winner with that wonderful source material and stellar voice work.

I am eager to hear what you say about ANTICHRIST, when it comes your way.

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