The Beaver (2011) -vs- Lars and the Real Girl (2007)

May 10, 2011 Bob Nowotny

Step aside Wilson and Harvey — here come Bianca and the Beaver in a couple of remarkable movies that feature inanimate creatures as key co-stars. Bianca and the Beaver — there’s probably a good joke or two there somewhere, but, surprisingly, these films are not comedies.

Both The Beaver and Lars and the Real Girl are each based on a highly regarded, original screenplay — the first was Oscar nominated, the most recent one once famously topped Hollywood’s “Black List” for best unproduced script. And neither movie relies on CGI — now that is remarkable.

Both films explore the complexity of extreme personal demons brought on by feelings of loneliness, isolation and depression. Each one has also been accused of being over-the-top: their lead characters certainly have the potential to come across not so much compelling as uncomfortable. And there is the Mel Gibson-factor.

So it’s a testament to the screenwriters, the directors and the actors that both motion pictures are also solid dramas with heart and soul. They are character-studies of two men seeking to re-discover themselves, their families and the outside world. […]

Greenberg (2010) -vs- The Squid and the Whale (2005)

April 3, 2010 Sherry Coben

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.
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