The need for a Smackdown between writer/director Alexander Payne’s earlier effortÂ About SchimidtÂ and his Oscar nominated The Descendants is so obvious that we just can’t let the final days before the Academy Awards go by without […]
It had to happen. Sperm Donor Dads: The Film Genre. Only slightly ahead of the zeitgeist culture curve, two relatively charming comedies duke it out for the hotly contested Smackdown title.
Mark Ruffalo’s shaggy roue blissfully ignorant seed guy of two (that we know of) takes on Jason Bateman’s neurotic and knowing father of one.
Lesbian moms Annette Bening and Julianne Moore up the ante just a bit on the A-List class-project The Kids Are All Right, and rom-com too-regular Jennifer Aniston depreciates indie-spirited The Switch a tad.
Jason Bateman plays Wally. Jennifer Aniston plays Kassie. With a K. That’s just about the most interesting thing about her. Wally loves her. He always has. But he’s her best friend. And her clock is ticking. And it would be too awkward to have a baby with her best friend. So â€” here comes the movie logic â€” hold onto your hats. She finds a married, too-good-to-be-true stranger and coaxes him into donating a cup of his best stuff. Not awkward at all. Are you with me so far? Because I know this sounds awful. But it’s not. Stuff happens to the stuff and paternity hijinks ensue. Here’s the thing though. You care. […]
Summertime and the movie theaters fill with audiences seeking relief from all that heat and sun. Who needs 3D, tired franchises, vampires and werewolves, chases, aliens, explosions, and CGI? Not me. Gimme an indie film with a half-decent script, a well-chosen cast, a fresh point of view, recognizable human behavior and I’m there. I’ll always opt to bypass the long lines and head for the arthouse to spend a couple of hours watching a dysfunctional family as long as it’s not my own.
Women’s breasts appear in a lot of movies. A lot. Usually, they’re gratuitous. Gratuitous, pneumatically enhanced and phony, fetishized dangling orbs meant to entice, designed for ogling. There. I’ve got your attention and I didn’t even have to unbutton my blouse. The breasts featured prominently in these two Smackdown contenders are all real and as far from exploitation as one could imagine. In the startling opening frames of “Please Give,” a series of disembodied, wordless and vulnerable milk glands get gently slapped, manipulated, and arranged under the harshest fluorescents. Readied for their respective mammograms, these random fleshy bundles of ducts and veins and possible disease are hardly ready for their decisively, definitively, defiantly unglamorous close-ups, and the tone is set. The bar is raised. In the remarkable French documentary “Babies,” mothers’ breasts appear frequently and utterly without the usual fanfare and sexual context. We’re on sacred ground, people. These movies weren’t made for teenage boys and the arrested men they’re destined to become. These films celebrate the human condition with honesty, integrity and very rare courage indeed.
“The Joneses” is about something important. I hesitate to explain much more than that, not wanting to spoil your fun. The film hasn’t been hyped, and if you hurry, you just might manage to see it without hearing much about the twists. Suffice it to say it’s super smart, ambitious, and it looks pretty darned good too. The cast is solid, and the ideas are sound. Moore looks absolutely amazing, and Duchovny delivers one of his surest performances ever. Simultaneously confident and vulnerable, they both play middle aged panic beautifully. The younger Joneses are played by fresher faces – the impossibly beautiful and occasionally naked (There. I’ve got your attention.) Amber Heard and heartthrob-in-training Ben Hollingsworth. Picture perfect as can be at first and even second glance, the reality behind the ideal reveals itself slowly and powerfully.
In Baumbach’s modern day Los Angeles, the disconnect continues and the rift grows wider between people. Love seems somehow outside the realm of possibility. Shambling through the wreckage of these wasted emotional lives, all these lonely people don’t even remember intimacy, don’t even attempt it. Everything is casual here; cruelty and thoughtlessness, abandonment, miscommunication and missed messages the currency of exchange. These characters are unsentimental, unceasingly critical, derisive, detached and deadset on avoiding attachment; sex is so casual and unfulfilling that it loses all meaning and pleasure. These zombie people slide in and out of beds, marriages, town, abortions, without registering anything much but a dull ache where real pain ought to be. Always on the lookout for something better, these narcissists seek pleasure and find only numbing activity; they fill their days somehow, connecting fully only with their dogs. Never far from an answering machine or a computer screen or a cellphone, these lost souls are drowning in their loneliness.
Itâ€™s 1962, stylishly retro and way cool. TVâ€™s Mad Men have paved the cultural way for two more stellar entries in the Sex And The Sixties pantheon. With the swinging sixties looming right on the horizon, Los Angeles college literature professor George (Colin Firth) and sixteen year old suburban London student Jenny (Carey Mulligan) fumble their un-merry ways through the rough-and-tumble terrain of love, loss, secrets, and sexual experience. Both lead performances have stirred up considerable Academy Award buzz, but theyâ€™re unlikely to compete head to head anywhere but right here. Dewy Maiden with Distinct Audrey Hepburn Echoes takes on World-Weary Confirmed Bachelor with a Not-So-Secret Secret. The winner? A grateful arthouse (and beyond) audience.
Cookie cutter romantic comedy satisfies a too-easily edified audience. No matter how formulaic and tepid the sausage, the factories grind out more product to feed the gaping maw; indie films usually attract a more marginal fringe-ier crew, on the hunt for the original, the untold (or even oft-told) story told in fresh new ways. Pitting a humble little indie versus a major studio wide release makes for an inherently unfair fight and one with a foregone conclusion at the box office, but ticket sales wonâ€™t sway this Smackdown. As â€œLeap Yearâ€ bounds onto virtually every available screen and Quirky Indie-That-Could â€œYouth In Revoltâ€ limps onto a fraction of that number, ask yourself: Is bigger necessarily better? Does conventional beat quirky?