2007 Verve Awards

2006 Verve Awards

Best Arts and Culture Blog 2005 Queer Day Awards

Best Gay Blog Nominee 2004 Weblog Awards

Best Arts and Culture Blog Nominee

Monday, December 03, 2007


Currently Playing At The Multiplex

The Kite Runner - I haven't read Khaled Hosseini's acclaimed book, but I'm guessing it has to be better than director Marc Forster's (Finding Neverland) sentimentalized take on the struggle of two Afghan men to reconnect after a troubling childhood incident. Stylistically, the film occasionally recalls the visual verve of Neverland, with imaginary animals replaced by computer-generated kite battles over the streets of Kabul. But emotionally, it fights a losing battle to reconcile authenticity with a distractingly overblown score and performances that vary widely in quality. Factor in the story's ungainly, prurient indulgence in Islamic sexism and homophobia, and it's hard to imagine who exactly this film is for.

The Savages - It's hard to imagine this engaging, uneven look at the dynamics of eldercare would be anywhere near as effective without its superb cast, who elevate the situations and dialogue with some of the best individual work seen this year. First and foremost, Savages eloquently makes the case that Philip Seymour Hoffman (Capote) and Laura Linney (The Squid and the Whale) are the most dextrous actors of their generation; as psychically-damaged adult offspring of an ailing father (the superb Philip Bosco), they are able to show wounds buried deep without losing the numb emotional surface. A deep supporting cast drawn from Broadway veterans (Bosco, Debra Monk, Kristine Neilsen, Margo Martindale, etc.) props up the screenplay when it falters. The production design is pretty cheeky, too.

Juno - After the Oscar success it had last year, the reverberations of Little Miss Sunshine echo loudly these days. Here's the recipe: a quirky comic indie with a too-clever screenplay, dialogue that seems tailored to the club-kid generation, and a sentimental streak a mile wide. But Juno switches up the ingredients, downplaying Sunshine's aim to charm and setting its sights on snark instead. Is it cute? Sure, but it's hardly the second coming...and neither is Ellen Page (X-Men: The Last Stand) who, as the titular pregnant teen, is very good but hardly the Oscar frontrunner, as she's being called often these days. I applaud Diablo Cody's screenplay for having the courage of its convictions, especially in the last act, and its snap-happy dialogue is almost as fun as The Opposite of Sex. But let's hope the critical chorus brings the volume down to a reasonable level, before it gives this good film a fatal case of heightened expectations.

Southland Tales - Is "Lynchian" an actual adjective? The seeds of the master's most elliptical works are haphazardly strewn through this trippy, indulgent, and meandering satire on America's post-terror excesses. There's a little Tarantino in the mix, too, with a near-future story that pits guns and blimps (don't ask) against a pop-culture ensemble of porn stars, revolutionaries, and corporate enchantresses. I won't even attempt to figure it all out, but it can't be denied that, in some scenes, it's fascinating. (Bonus points for having The Rock shirtless for much of the film's running time!) Bottom line: if Mulholland Drive ever had a prettier, younger, and developmentally-challenged sister, it would be Southland Tales.

Before The Devil Knows You're Dead - Director Sidney Lumet (Dog Day Afternoon) has been picking up all the praise for this botched-heist drama, but the real kudos should go to debuting screenwriter Kelly Masterson, who provocatively mixed a crime drama premise into a film exploring the legacy of damage family members impose upon one another. There's real meat here, rich contradictions and extrapolations...which some actors (Philip Seymour Hoffman, Marisa Tomei, Albert Finney) are better equipped to handle than others (Ethan Hawke). Devil is far from perfect; there are tonal shifts that come out of nowhere, and a final showdown that doesn't fit with what has come before. But the film is trying to do so much, you can't fault it for overreaching.

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Blogger Dr. S said...

You know, this was pretty much my reaction to the book as well:

"But emotionally, it fights a losing battle to reconcile authenticity with a distractingly overblown score and performances that vary widely in quality."

Obviously it wasn't an overblown score in the novel. Overall, I remember feeling pretty disappointed in the novel, which I was only reading because some high school teachers with whom I was working wanted to use it in their upper-level English classes, as a way to talk about current events.

12/3/07, 5:02 AM  
Blogger Dr. S said...

Dude! This post totally got picked up by the NYTimes! Nicely done.

12/4/07, 1:16 PM  
Anonymous will g said...

Ditto on the congrats!

12/4/07, 5:37 PM  

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