Tuesday, November 24, 2009

The young, the restless, the retarded

At this point, my failure to post anything over the last few months is getting too conspicuous. I've been spending too much energy writing for the podcast, and not enough writing for the blog. So what better way to return than with a review for the worst movie of the year? That's right, to echo my dear friend Mr. Mathews' comments (though he gave it a half-star too many), here is my diagnosis of a clear-cut case of stunted emotional growth, the cloying disaster that is "New Moon."

And while we're at it, more releases from what has turned out to be a miserable month in cinema - Roland Emmerich's latest exercise in pseudo-spectacle, "2012," Same Dame favorite and voice-capture pioneer Robert Zemeckis' latest exercise in advanced zombie technology, "A Christmas Carol," the perplexing lie that is "The Fourth Kind" and the half-intriguing, half-laughable "The Box" - which somehow winds up being the best of the bunch.
bxAv110 bxAv110 bxAv110

Friday, November 20, 2009

Could I Maybe Try an Older Moon?

Twilight Saga: New Moon
Directed by Chris Weitz

1/2 star (out of four)

"Little Miss Mopey Picks Her Monster Mate" is a joyless mass of incompetent storytelling, embellished with laughably bad dialogue and a complete lack of wonder. It refuses to offer the slimmest bit of insight into teenage love, and instead indulges in absurd fantasies of despair. As the film began, my patience was tested with a long, drawn-out reveal of the film's title, but that was nothing compared to the 130 minutes that followed.
Kristen Stewart reprises the role of Little Miss Mopey, whom you will no doubt remember from "Googling About Vampires," the first screen adaptation of "author" Stephenie Meyer's obscenely popular book series—sorry, saga. As we rejoin her, she has just turned 18 and is still deeply in love with her vampire boyfriend, Magic Hair (Robert Pattinson), who is forever trapped in a 17-year-old's ice-cold yet oh-so-hot body. "You give me a reason to live just by breathing," he actually says. For real. But Magic Hair soon abandons Little Miss Mopey, which only serves to aggravate her mopiness.

Director Chris Weitz usually shows not even a modicum of excitement for the supernaturally overcast land of Washington state depicted in the film. On the rare occasions when he braves moderately adventurous territory, his insecurities sparkle like a vampire in the sun (?). In his most ambitious shot, the camera circles the room to show the seasons changing out the window while our star moper mopes interminably. Each time the weather changes, a title card appears up to tell us what month it is, as if we'd have otherwise assumed that a fresh coat of snow replaced the autumn leaves while the camera was looking the other way.

The only thing that gives Mopey any energy is danger, presumably because a ghostly vision of Magic Hair appears to tell her to stop doing stupid shit. She says (in the most boring way possible, of course) that she's become an adrenaline junkie. I guess that's one way to make her romanticized suicide attempts more palatable. To help her repair some old motorcycles, she enlists The Shirtless Wonder (Taylor Lautner), her totally ripped childhood friend who happens to be a werewolf.

Considering how glaringly clear it's been that he's a werewolf since the beginning of the first film, it takes a painfully long time for Little Miss Mopey to sort it out. Their relationship is basically the same setup as "Googling About Vampires." Something strange is happening, but damned if Mopey can figure out what it is. Not to be outdone by Magic Hair in the dialogue department, he says things like, "I feel like I'm going to disappear."

The Shirtless Wonder never replaces Magic Hair in Mopey's heart, but at least he's a man and he shows interest in her, and therefore gives her life meaning. Yes, without a man, Little Miss Mopey's life is completely dire. She might as well be dead without someone there to validate her existence. She exists as nothing more than the vessel of convenient plot whims.

The saga's abstinence allegory manifests strongly in this film, as Mopey is desperate for Magic Hair's cock—err…I mean to become a vampire so she can be with Edward forever—but he doesn't want to corrupt her and damn her soul, and tells her to wait. It doesn't make much sense, but results in some shapeless drama. And who can complain about teaching teenage girls to throw themselves at men, who will in turn nobly refuse them? Not I, not I.

You'd expect to find a lot of dramatic tension surrounding a lady who has a werewolf and a vampire after her affection, but no. Mopey never wavers in her love for Magic Hair, and so we know she won't fall too deep for The Shirtless Wonder. And without such inner-turmoil, there's precious little left.

The filmmakers' general inability to inject their story with urgency results in the dullest of villains, Fire Crotch (Rachelle Lefevre), whose continued stalking of Little Miss Mopey marks the cliff-hanger ending of the first film. She is mad because Magic Hair's family killed her boyfriend, who wanted to drink that mopiest of all blood. So now, we learn that she is still on the warpath, and without Magic Hair, Miss Mopey needs The Shirtless Wonder and his wolf pack's protection to be safe.

The plotline goes that far and absolutely no further. The last time we see Fire Crotch, she is coming toward Mopey. Then she disappears in between shots during editing, never to be seen for the rest of the film. Seriously. This first-act gun isn't even mentioned in the third act. I know, I know, this is a serialized story and Fire Crotch will indeed appear next film, mysteriously transformed into Bryce Dallas Howard. But that doesn't give writers and directors free license to establish someone to be of vital importance to the story at hand, then ignore her existence. But when the story itself holds no importance, I suppose it's foolish to expect anything from the characters.
bxAv110 bxAv110 bxAv110

Thursday, November 19, 2009

Oscar Doc Shortlist Snubs—or Considers and Discards—Big Names

It's hard to say whether certain high-profile films missing from the Best Documentary Oscar shortlist were snubbed or if they received their due consideration. I've only seen six of the 15 shortlisted films, so I'm in no position to judge where the missing big-name docs fit in the quality spectrum. (Of the films that I missed, "Food Inc." is the only one that I had an opportunity to see.)

The omitted titles include: "Tyson," James Toback's one-on-one discussion with the peculiar, emotionally fragile boxer; "Capitalism: A Love Story," Michael Moore's attack on big business's control of the U.S. government; "The September Issue," about the making of an issue of Vogue; the touching "Anvil! The Story of Anvil", about an '80s metal band that never gave up the dream of making it big; and Davis Guggenheim's "It Might Get Loud," a multi-generational character study of three rock guitarists who did make it big. Of course, Moore (for "Bowling for Columbine") and Guggenheim (for "An Inconvenient Truth") already won Oscars in the category, although most people say that Al Gore won Guggenheim's statuette. What's the deal, Al? Two Nobels aren't enough for you?

Anyhow, the films I have seen are all worth watching. Here's a quick rundown:

The Beaches of Agnes (Agnes Varda): The best of the bunch. A beautiful autobiography by French New Wave icon Agnes Varda.

Burma VJ (Anders Ostergaard): An uneven but extremely engaging tale of brave, undercover citizen journalists.

The Cove (Louie Psihoyos): The story of dolphin abuse in Japan distilled into a thrilling heist movie.

Every Little Step (James D. Stern and Adam Del Deo): Explores both the making of "A Chorus Line" and the auditions for the Broadway revival of the famous production. The film loses track of some of its subjects through its ambitious structure, but is nevertheless a touching ode of the drive to perform.

Sergio (Greg Barker): Telling the story of Iraq through one life, Barker's documentary crosscuts between the life story of United Nations Comissioner for Human Rights Sergio Vieira de Mello and the mission to rescue him after the bombing of the UN headquarters in Baghdad.

Valentino The Last Emperor (Matt Tyrnauer): Along with "The September Issue," "Valentino" is one of two documentaries this year that aim to convince the viewer that they should take fashion more seriously. It might not convince us of that, but it is a great study of the relationship dynamics between the great, egomaniacal fashion designer and his business and life partner.

And then the majority I haven't seen:
Facing Ali (Peter McCormack)
Food, Inc. (Robert Kenner)
Garbage Dreams (Mai Iskander)
Living in Emergency: Stories of Doctors Without Borders (Mark N. Hopkins)
The Most Dangerous Man in America: Daniel Ellsberg and The Pentagon Papers (Judith Ehrlich and Rick Goldsmith)
Mugabe and the White African (Andrew Thompson and Lucy Bailey)
Soundtrack for a Revolution (Bill Guttentag and Dan Sturman)
Under Our Skin (Andy Abrahams Wilson)
Which Way Home (Rebecca Cammisa)
bxAv110 bxAv110 bxAv110

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

SDP 19: At Long Last!

Recorded 10/23/09, episode 19 of The Same Dame Podcast was almost lost to the ages. Yet through the miracle of digital technology Jeremy was finally able to export a version that included his voice, which mysteriously disappeared from the previous 15 attempts. So now you can finally hear our reviews of such brand new releases as "Where the Wild Things Are," "The Invention of Lying," "Bright Star," "Capitalism: A Love Story," "Big Fan" and "Zombieland."

Be sure to subscribe to the podcast (via iTunes if you like) so you won't miss our next thrilling episode, which will hopefully be considerably more timely.
bxAv110 bxAv110 bxAv110