Tuesday, February 26, 2013

Compliance review

Based on a true story, Compliance stars Dreama Walker (from Don't Trust the B in Apartment 23) and Ann Dowd (who's name was on the shortlist for best supporting actress this year, I didn't see it) in a tense voyeuristic (whew! the spell-check worked overtime correcting that word for me) drama about a prank call that morphed into a case of a sexual assault in the back room of a fast food restaurant.

Compliance is one of the few films I've seen in recent years that could measure up to Hitchcock (the other one that comes to mind is Terrence Young's 1967 film Wait Until Dark) Disturbing and heart-poundingly suspenseful without any excessive dramatic devices, Compliance was a viscerally uncomfortable experience in a way I haven't really experienced lately and in that sense it was a unique and thought-provoking experience. Unique and thought-provoking are two things I hope to get out of every film I see.

On the other hand, the film was flawed structurally with such a heavy overemphasis on the first act. I'm going to guess that 3/4 of the screentime is from Becky's point of view. While it is necessary to show the horrificness from Becky's POV to its full emotional effect, I think that after a while, it started to feel like empty space that could be filled in with other angles like giving us a fuller picture of the villain, the thought-process of the cynical friend Kevin, the psychological aftermath of Becky, and the police investigation. I'm not suggesting that the film would have been better as a Tony Scott (RIP) style thriller, but a little more emphasis on that would have been better. In fact, the more I think about it, the more sure of it I seem.

Monday, February 25, 2013

Articles form the Archives: Anthony Minghella's tragic death in 2008

Everyone was mourning Heath's death and talking about how the world is deprived of so many pictures becaues he died young. At the same time, I find it curious that the Heath Ledger effect doesn't work for directors as well. I find it curious that the 2 founders of Mirage died premature deaths this past year and while Sidney Pollack's funeral was one of the most widely attended events in Hollywood this past year, no one has felt it's a loss to the world of movies that he won't be making any more pictures. I don't know but I imagine Pollack might have had 2 or three films left in him. He was 74 when he died, which is pretty old, but Altman, Lumet and Scorsesee seem on course to make films into their 80s as does Eastwood.
Granted, Pollack was old, but Minghella died at age 54. He could have done a dozen more films before he died and while Pollack could be uneven, Minghella's films were usually Oscar caliber. He won an Oscar as the director for the English Patient (1996), and earned a follow-up nomination for best writing on his next film, Talented Mr. Ripley (1999). His adaptation of the Charles Frazier novel, Cold Mountain (2003), was the most buzzed about film of its year, and earned Minghellia his highest box office take to date. He came very close to being nominated for a second directorial Oscar and earned Golden Globe and BAFTA nominations for his directorial and writing work. Breaking and Entering (2006) was quiet and not widely viewed but it was well-received among those who had seen it. Minghellia usually tackled booksand challenging adaptations which are a much more timeless and consistently reliable source material than what most films are made of, so it's a good bet he would have had many more memorable films within him.
Not only did Minghella tackle books but he tackled the best: Talented Mr. Ripley, The English Patient and Cold Mountain had all earned accolades as novels and one has to surmise it was the scribe in Minghella who loved the challenge of taking good source material and capturing the essence of a good novel. I also credit Minghella, the producer, for having an eye for good material, and Mingella, the director, for translating the essence of a good novel into cinematic terms.
Minghella was also said to be very active in selecting the music of his films and is credited on imdb.com as being the music producer of Cold Mountain and Talented Mr. Ripley and I think the poignant bluegrass score of Cold Mountain is a perfect example of everything a good score should be.
Lastly, Minghella was a producer of films and perhaps it's a tribute to him that his latest production, The Reader, just got nominated for an Oscar at the 2008 Academy Awards. The credits are currently in dispute because I imagine they want someone who's alive to pick up the statue and represent the filmat the Academy Awards Ceremony, but if Heath Ledger can be honored posthomously, it is my wish that Anthony Minghella can be honored as well.

Monday, February 04, 2013

A list of things more vulgar than 2 Broke Girls

"2 Broke Girls" creator Michael Patrick King has gotten a lot of flak for being vulgar and crass with his show. I watch "2 Broke Girls" regularly (this is something I have to keep secret from my other TV critic friends lest I lose face) and don't find it very vulgar at all. Even more important to note here is that I'm particularly sensitive to vulgarity and can think of a long list of TV shows and films I either find too vulgar to enjoy or enjoy despite the vulgarity (which I view as a distraction). So in defense of Michael Patrick King, here's a rough list of things more vulgar than "2 Broke Girls":
South Park-Duh
Party Down-Particularly Kyle who regularly speaks about sex in very vulgar ways and talks about dicks and female anatomy a lot. One episode takes place at a porn award ceremony and the episode's climax (no pun intended) is Ron's (Ken Marino) penis getting mutilated
Entourage, Eastbound and Down, and The League-The male characters greatly objectify women
Adam Sandler films-They generally have a thematic sweetness and some films like Click or Mr. Deeds are marketed as family films. However, Click has Adam Sandler farting in a guy's face, a father-son conversation about the size of his penis that made me cringe, and a gross-out scene of Adam in a fat suit
Judd Apatow films such as Superbad, Knocked Up and Funny People-The makers of Superbad prided themselves on using the F word more (yes, that's how great literature works, you juvenille nitwits. Maybe if you rewrite Taming of the Shrew as Taming of the Bitch, the Nobel Prize Literature Committe will come knocking at your door) than any other film and that wasn't even the half of it. Knocked Up is about a guy who's life's ambition was to create a website that supplanted Mr. Skin. And watching Seth Rogen plow into Kat Heigl, why in the world did I have to watch that?
"Funny People" starred Adam Sandler as a thin doppelganger for THE Adam Sandler and his routine consisted of a lot of dick jokes and there was kind of a disturbingly fetishistic sex scene with Nicole Parker in which she wanted him to recite his catchphrase during sex. Note, I think two of these three movies are excellent (and Superbad is awful) but they are far more vulgar than 2 Broke Girls.
Get Him to the Greek-All I can say is that a friend of mine watched this film with his wife and in-laws and he felt massively uncomfortable.  As for me, this is one of the very, very few films in which I walked out of a theater.
Weeds-Justin Kirk's kind of a one-track mind ladies man who talks about sex with women in pretty vulgar terms. One episode deals with Nancy's son discovering masturbation in pretty graphic (read: gross) detail (it involved socks and bananas).
Bruno and Borat-I loved Borat in spite of some mixed-up sexual undertones (is an underlying thesis of the film that the more 3rd world you are, the less refined attitudes you have about sex?) but the naked wrestling scene was a bit too much for my eyes. All the talk about anuses and vagines and whether they're tight or not was a little gross for me.  Bruno, on the other hand, scarred me so much. Do not go anywhere near that movie, people, if you have any uneasiness about seeing men having sex with each other.
Ace Ventura-When I was younger, this grossed me out. I should try it again.

Lastly to show I am not completely prude, films/tv shows that talk of sex or show sex in ways that fall on the classier spectrum:
Todd Philips films (The Hangover, Old school)
Adam McKay's films (Anchorman, Talladega Nights, Step Brothers)
Kevin Smith's films
30 Rock (Hazel comes close to being gross but Kristen Schaal is too funny)
Pretty much every single TV show in the 90's
My Name is Earl and Raising Hope
Austin Powers series (although Spy Who Shagged Me had a few gross-out moments)
James Bond films
It's Always Sunny
Flight of the Conchords
Dumb and Dumber, Stuck on You-Since I mentioned Ace Ventura above. Haven't found the Farrelly Brothers that bad
The Coen Brothers comedies
Jack Black's films
Pineapple Express, Cyrus-Since I picked on Jonah Hill and Seth Rogen before
Key and Peele, Portlandia, Kids in the Hall
Juno, Young Adult