I've been doing little film festivals by myself. I will watch a few movies in a row that are linked somehow. Here are some "two- and three- and four- fers" I watched lately:
"The Chumscrubber" and "Thumbsucker"
"Chumscrubber" was no "Brick". It wasn't even a "Donnie Darko". Explorations of suburbia must be getting popular again... even the Arcade Fire is doing it with their latest CD. "Thumbsucker" was slightly better, just for all the cameos (Tilda Swinton! Vincent D'Onofrio! Keanu Reeves!) Too bad that this coming-of-age story never comes of age. If I wanted a pointless teen movie, it might as well be a pointless teen sex comedy. Whatever happened to those?
"Hunger" and "Thirst"
"Hunger" is a dull vampire flick by the director of the excellent "Oldboy", Chan Wook Park. But he really strikes out here, with only a few scenes in the movie of any interest. "Hunger" was much better, a sad documentary about Bobby Sands and the 1981 Irish hunger strike. It shows things leisurely, without explaining details to the audience, and because of that, it is riveting, because it happened, and it's true.
"A Town Called Panic", "Mary And Max", and "Sita Sings The Blues"
Some excellent animation! "Panic" is a Belgian stop-motion surrealist comedy mostly played by plastic army men and indians. This is the best thing Aardman Animation have ever done, and that includes "Wallace & Grommit". I find myself thinking of the oft-repeated phrase "Cheval! Cheval"! I bet it's funnier if you know French. "Mary and Max" is an Australian claymation film with voice acting by Philip Seymour Hoffman and Toni Collette. Initially the movie seems like it's making fun of the two lead characters, but as the movie explores topics of depression and suicide, it stuck with me deeply. I liked "Sita Sings The Blues" more than Thor, but I am giving it many extra points for letting underrated cartoonist Nina Paley follow three separate plotlines and four different art styles in the most original musical in years. This is profound feminism.
"A Serious Man", "A Single Man", and "Solitary Man"
What disappointments - I had high hopes for all of these. "A Serious Man" was like all other Cohen brothers movies: great actors with quirky characters experience a series of unrelated meaningless events. This movie was like real life... no redemption and no real meaning. There was no moral to the story. "Solitary Man" was a bitter acting exercise for Michael Douglas, and a trial of patience for me. I don't want to spend two hours with a selfish loathsome annoying character with no payoff. And "A Single Man" had the usual "tragic faggot" ending where the gay character dies in the end. Tom Ford shot this beautifully, but in the end, none of these movies had any soul or humanity. Pointless, pointless, pointless.
"The Blind Side", "Facing The Giants", "The Gridiron Gang", "Harvard Beats Yale 29-29", "The Express", and "The Comebacks"
I was in a football mood... but what slight choices here. "Havard Beats Yale" was the worst of the bunch - a documentary about rich privileged white men, who are completely clueless about social changes of the 1960s (sample dialogue: "I was putting up anti-war posters with Meryl Streep, when all the other football players started throwing things at us!" trust me... it's NOT riveting). Who knew Tommy Lee Jones played football for Harvard. Who cares? Soon the documentary slows down, and the voiceovers completely stop, stretching out the last 6 minutes of the game into thirty minutes of grainy dull footage. Oh yeah, spoiler alert - the two teams tie 29 to 29. "Facing The Giants" is part of the new generation of fundamentalist christian movies, where they somehow believe that an imaginary fable filled with a loaded-deck of exposition will convert the unbelievers. Instead it just makes their religion look silly. The coach's belief in god allows him to discover a dead rat underneath his house! Which he then uses to humiliate his wife! Because that's God's will and the proper place for a subservient woman... yeah, that really makes sense.
"The Blind Side" wasn't as bad as I hoped, thanks to Sandra Bullock. But I have a huge feeling that the events in the movie didn't quite occur as portrayed... and as such, this is pretty manipulative for a pseudo civil rights story (see also "Crash"). "The Comebacks" was a football comedy without the comedy or any capable comedian. The only thing worse was the similar feel of "MacGruber", which I watched the next night. Your mileage may vary - you may laugh where I did not. "The Express" was a biopic about an otherwise extremely dull young athlete. And "The Gridiron Gang" tries to reinvent "The Blackboard Jungle" for the new millennium, and ends up with a over-serious piece that will rented in the future as a silly period relic. It's tough to play halfback in the hood!