Tuesday, January 01, 2008

Happy New Year, and some movie notes

Happy New Year! Hope you all had a great Christmas or whatever, and then engaged in debauchery last night. I know I did... if by "debauchery" you mean taking the crew (Daniel and Rob) over to Lianne and Sam's house and bringing along chicken chili for the assembled crowd (erm, Lianne, Sam, and Mr. Vinci); watching football and bad television throughout the evening; briefly breaking out Sam's Wineopoly game and then getting bored of it quite quickly; drinking one entire cider and two glasses of champagne before having to switch to diet Pepsi due to a stomach problem caused by sulfates in the beer and wine; watching old home movies of Sam as a small boy which were hysterical and cute; and then barely holding my shit together when Rob insisted we stay 35 more minutes until it was officially midnight when I really wanted to leave around 11... we could have been home, sleeping, by midnight, you know. Oh, and the freezing car ride for 59% of the drive home. But it was a fun night.

Rob and I had a goal to see three movies this weekend since we had so much free time on our hands: Juno, Walk Hard, and I'm Not There. We managed two of the three. Juno was Friday night's selection. We couldn't wait to see it as we had punked out on trekking down to the indie theatre two weeks ago when it was only playing there. I had a moment of panic upon getting to the theatre almost an hour early because we ate dinner too quickly and discovering the place was packed in a way I have never seen; we figured everyone had cabin fever after the holiday and snow and decided to get the hell out and see some movies. So this lady goes, as we were walking in, "Everything is sold out." And when we didn't immediately respond -- presumably by turning around and heading straight back to our car -- she repeated it: "Everything." And it was so cold out that I was thinking how pissed I was going to be if I got in there and Juno was sold out when I had just left the safe and warm confines of my vehicle to get into the theatre -- that's how long the walk is from the main parking lot to the ticket booth of this place.

But it was all good -- Juno wasn't sold out yet, although there were no tickets left for Charlie Wilson's War, Enchanted, Walk Hard, and two other movies I can't remember now. I'm sure that several movies being shown in that theatre got the trickle down effect from others that sold out... people don't like to just leave without seeing something after going to all the trouble of getting there and getting out of the safe and warm confines of their vehicles, so they'll just go see whatever at that point. So anyway, we saw Juno in what eventually became a theatre packed full of Highlands Ranch, CO teenagers and a smattering of adults. Needless to say, it was the adults who understood the jokes and pretty much everything else in the movie; I often find that just because a movie is about teenagers (or children) doesn't mean it's a movie for teenagers (or children)... although maybe there are teenagers out there who get Juno. Just not in this town.

And Juno was amazing. It was everything you've heard in the reviews and possibly more. And if you go see it and don't cry for the last 20 minutes of the movie, you're colder than I thought I you were. Ellen Page was incredible; the script was amazing. It is just a really great movie, and yet it's so quiet about it. If you don't see another movie this year, go see this one. P.S. The ads bill this one as a full on comedy, but it's really not -- it's what I believe the DVD sellers would categorize as Comedy/Drama. Just so you know. It's funny, but it's not lighthearted or shallow.

I wish I could get all excited and up in your grill about Walk Hard, but after loving absolutely everything to come from the mind of Judd Apatow for the last few years, this one fell flat... and I think it was because Apatow didn't direct it. I think if he had, it might have worked a little better. As it was, it was too conscious of being a satire, and therefore lost its satirical edge. It is more comparable to movies like Epic Movie and Scary Movie than to any really good satires (of which I can think of none right this minute, but I'm sure I could if I really felt like it... which I don't, since no one pays me to review movies, so I can be all lazy like that). I said to Rob when we left that it's a funny movie, but it's not a good movie. Like, Knocked Up and Superbad are funny and good. Walk Hard is just funny. And you almost feel guilty for finding it funny if you are also a fan of the movies it sends up, mainly Ray and Walk the Line (this more than any other), because a lot of the stuff it plays for laughs is stuff from the lives of Ray Charles and Johnny Cash that just isn't funny. What is funny are the artistic phases Dewey Cox goes through, and the sending up of those conventions of rock music, and the time he spends in India with the Beatles (played hysterically by Jack Black as Paul, Jason Schwartzman as Ringo, Paul Rudd as John and... crap, I can't remember the fourth one who played George). There is also a running gag about the Jews who control show business which is funny if not very clever, and these guys are played by three of the Jewish actors who regularly inhabit Apatow's films... so you see, it's okay to laugh... because they are Jewish and you're supposed to know that. It's all very wink wink nudge nudge. And maybe you're into that, but I prefer something a little more downright funny or clever.

The one place where the movie does transcend funny and moves into clever territory is with the music itself, which was composed by Apatow and a team of musicians such as Marshall Crenshaw and Dan Bern, among others (whose names I don't recognize, so see how I am? I just name the ones I actually know... again with the laziness!). The songs are hilarious. The best are Let's Duet, which is the song Dewey Cox sings with his love interest and makes all this sexual innuendo (in place of Walk the Line's Johnny and June duets); Walk Hard of course, which mocks Walk the Line while also paying homage to it; and a really hilarious tune from Dewey's Dylanesque phase where the lyrics make absolutely no sense but all the hippie kids love it and it's like their protest anthem.

I think the movie would have worked better as a mock-doc (a la This is Spinal Tap) than as an actual life story type film. I realize the danger would have been having the filmmakers accused of trying to remake Spinal Tap, but I really think it could have been done in an Office kind of way and not been too much like Spinal Tap, as it would have been looking back at the career of Dewey rather than taking place in the here and now.

We never did get to I'm Not There, as we once again balked at the notion of heading all the way downtown to the indie theatre and paying $12 a ticket to sit there in a decrepit seat while a bunch of drunk twentysomethings make stupid comments through the whole movie. You really have to be in the mood for that sort of thing. However, a new indie theatre just opened up right near my office, where apparently for $13 a ticket, you also get popcorn and beverages, and they will be delivered directly to your seat... which is brand new and hasn't been in the theatre since it first opened in 1910, and uncleaned since the Reagan administration. So we'll go see that in a couple of weeks. In the mean time, we have a lot of stuff we need to catch up on from the fall that just showed up on Pay Per View... I hate going into Oscar season without at least being familiar with all the Best Picture nominees.

All right, Daniel's restless and I have Bionicles to construct. Shannon out.


kt said...

i just saw juno the other night and it's one of the better moves i've seen in a long time! very good script writing!

Georgias Maximus, Feline Esq. said...

On the plus side, there may not be an Academy Awards show, per se... Still, the awards season is its own reason to go see potentially great stuff every year. Don't you wish they'd just make good movies for their own sake, though, and let us see them all year long?