Friday, September 2, 2011

Sadly Overdue Post

I've watched a few entertaining (mostly) but throwaway comedies lately. One I expected much more from. Bridesmaids and Horrible Bosses are the kinds of comedies that you don't expect much from, except a few laughs, and they both delivered on that count. Kristen Wiig's performance in Whip It is still my favorite, though. When she's playing serious, she's actually pretty good. I hate to say it, because I'm a fan, but her range of funny voices is somewhat limited, and over the course of her career at SNL, a little played out. And I really hate myself for saying that. I love you, Kristen! Rochester rules! It's not that I don't think she's talented, she maybe just needs to expand her repertoire a bit. Performance is not an insignificant part of my job, and I know what it's like to get to an acceptable plateau and then get lazy. It happens. Charlie Day was the best and funniest part of Horrible Bosses, and the two Jasons performed on par. Wiig has more range than Bateman, I'll say. Though I still haven't gotten tired of his only character. I love you, Jason!

Your Highness was a BIG disappointment. The endless string of crude jokes barely held the plot together and they weren't even trying at their English accents. I may regret saying this, but Portman looks good in medieval leather. So sue me, but I bet at least half the population agrees. It's fun watching Natalie Portman kick ass. David Gordon Green is a VERY talented director. George Washington was very compelling (from Flixster, 3 years ago: "Great storytelling. I'm interested in what Green would have done with his characters without the help of the 'dead kid' plot device."), All the Real Girls was intense and emotional, Pineapple Express was funny and original (Flixster, 2 years ago: "Danny McBride stole the show. He's worth a star all by himself. The rest was funny but the plot was disappointing. Franco was really funny too."). So what the hell is Your Highness? It looks like they probably had fun making it, anyway. They should have sent the money to Africa instead.

I would like to say a few things about Hannah Takes the Stairs. I know already that John isn't a fan of mumblecore, but what about the rest of you? I think there's something endearing about it. I love what it means: anyone can make a movie that's worth watching with a limited budget. I like the emphasis on the present in the plot, the open-ended finish, the moral ambiguity, the lack of smooth transitions between scenes. It's all very down-to-earth. But I will acknowledge that it is an acquired taste. As John knows, I was also quite fond of Baghead (thanks again, John!) and Cyrus is on my list (I'd like to see what Duplass does with a budget). Hannah herself is not really a likeable character, but you still find yourself rooting for her to get her sh** together. I liked her character less as the film progressed, but didn't necessarily blame her for her lack of self-awareness. Gerwig played the part very well. I really hope we get to see more of her (well, more roles anyway. We've already, um, seen quite a bit of her in pretty much every movie she's been in).

Very interesting and entertaining discussion about violence in horror movies. I have to confess I'm largely past my torture porn stage. There was a resurgence in the subgenre around the time Cabin Fever came out (still one of my all-time favorite horror films) and a few films did a decent job "reinventing" the style that became popular in the seventies or thereabouts, before Halloween and Friday the 13th made gory horror mainstream. I've mentioned them before: House of a Thousand Corpses and The Devil's Rejects, Hostel, probably Wolf Creek (though it really was too much for me), and the first couple of Saw films were noteworthy additions to horror's sordid history. But it was when Captivity (2007) came out (which I didn't see) that I remember thinking, okay, this is not about filmmaking anymore. It's moved on to raising the ante in shock value. As much as Hostel is maligned, Roth was referring back to the exploitation films of the seventies, not trying to compete with the glut of torture porn films that now flitter across the screen several times a year. That's why I think it stands out. 2005 was the last good year for torture porn, in my opinion. I will probably not watch A Serbian Film or Human Centipede. I'm not sure I want to see how far the envelope can be pushed.
Antichrist, on the other hand, is not torture porn. Not even close. The violence is shocking in part because it's so sudden and extreme. The shock is as much about the contrast to the relative "quietness" in terms of physical violence to that point as it is about the violence itself. The violence in Antichrist is a vehicle more than a player, unlike your typical torture porn film.
I'm still very interested in horror, but my interest has moved somewhat towards supernatural horror, which has been revitalized by films like Paranormal Activity and Insidious--I still think it was really scary, Brandon! I'm really looking forward to seeing Don't Be Afraid of the Dark tomorrow night.


  1. I think you've hit your exclamation point ration for the month.

  2. Wait until you see my post about tonight's movie.