Tuesday, December 05, 2006


I’ve barely written about film or movies or cinema before in my life, only a 1992 article on seventies films for an old fanzine I did + whatever you’ve seen on this here site the past month. I watch a lot of ‘em, though. I’m a parent, and often the post-8pm, a.k.a. bedtime, ritual involves popping a DVD into the drive and sinking into the couch. You know, that’s not a whole lot different than the 8pm ritual before we had a kid, come to think. In any event, I even got out of the doghouse and into the arthouse a few times the past three weeks as well – here are a few that I watched, with the added bonus of my Entertainment Weekly-style “grades”:

ART SCHOOL CONFIDENTIAL – Everyone said this would be lame, and they were right. Just what happened to Terry Zwigoff, the excellent director of “Crumb” and “Ghost World”? First he gave us the weak “Bad Santa”, a movie I only remember for a fantastic t-shirt at the end of the flick that said “Shit Happens When You Party Naked”, and then this boring, disjointed, sappy/pseudo-romantic weirdo comedy. The preview, showing some of the stereotypical late-teenage art school freaks that populate the film (unfortunately as very minor characters in seconds-long skits), was definitely as much as anyone needed to see of this one. C-.

THE QUEEN – Can you image a director thinking to himself – “Hmm, let’s make a fictionalized film about the complex relationship between Queen Elizabeth and Tony Blair in the week following Princess Diana’s death” – and then delivering 90 minutes’ worth of great acting and solid entertainment? It happened, folks. Helen Mirren’s every bit as good as you’ve heard, and while this film’s nothing more than a cinematic face in the crowd overall, it’s still well worth seeing. B.

BORAT – I guess if I were cool I’d be helping to lead the Borat backlash right about now, but I’m not cool. I just like to laff. I first got acquainted with this character in 2000 while visiting some friends in the UK, who showed us a PAL-format tape of Britain’s “Ali G Show”, featuring this fake moonbat Kazakhstani reporter interviewing proper Englishmen & women. Now that he’s taken America with this totally uncouth, offensive-on-multiple-fronts film, I have to applaud, because everyone in the theater, including me, was doing the boffo belly laugh for the entire length of the film. There are so many small laughs that pile up on each other. My favorite small laugh – when Borat tries to bond about music with some tough urban black kids in an Atlanta ghetto, and asks them if they’d ever heard “Corky Bushkin” and then sings some ridiculous made-up nonsensical Kazakh song. I actually threw my head back for that one. It’s not “the greatest comedy of all time”, as some have said, but if you put it in your personal Top 50 I’d totally understand. A-.

THE PUFFY CHAIR – Part of the recent nouveau-realist vogue of “talking indies” (much like Andrew Bujalski’s excellent “Funny Ha Ha” and sub-par “Mutual Appreciation”), a style notable for non-professional, only moderately decent-looking actors & actresses; Cassavetes-style improvised dialogue, and frustrating twentysomething ennui and angst bordering on the clinical and self-destructive. This film from earlier in the year is quite a hoot, a weirdo road movie that comes across more as a tragedy than a comedy. 3 characters, a boyfriend/girlfriend team in the midst of some serious relationship issues + the guy’s granola/hippie brother, embark on an Atlantic coast trip to pick up a La-Z-Boy they bought on eBay. Chaos ensues. Feelings are hurt, then massaged, then hurt again. Very much worth a Netflix DVD rental, which is where you’ll find this. B.

FOR YOUR CONSIDERATION – I’m done with Christopher Guest movies in the theater after this moderately middling comedy, which is really a fake-umentary targeted at fogies of my parents’ generation, and plays accordingly. I didn’t think “Mighty Wind” was all that either, and this one’s less funny than that one was. C.

I AM A SEX ADDICT – This one played far more like an uproarious laugher than I expected given the subject matter, and it is as strange & offbeat – but yet still totally quick-paced and relatively linear – a comedy as you’ll find anywhere. I really dug it. It’s a first-person retelling of the director’s problems with sex addiction, starring him and a trio of women who play his ex-wives and girlfriends. It’s also quite tragic in parts – and a bit annoying that just about every woman who plays his ex-wives or prostitutes is a total knockout, including this real-life pornstar named Rebecca Lord – yet I applaud Caveh Zahedi for something so wildly confessional and funny at the same time. Rent this one - it’s a low-budget, very offbeat winner. B+.


Anonymous said...

Art School Confidential is an epanded feature film version of the (very funny) art school scenes in Ghost World. Only what worked as ten minutes of footage in the latter film doesn't hold up for an entire movie.

I'm slightly more charitable about Art School Confidential, but not much. I did like the first half hour or so, but once the murder mystery, which starts out as a subplot, takes over the film becomes a chore to watch.

Reel Fanatic said...

"Art School Confidential" really started the summer off on a sour note for me .. I too had high hopes with the names Zwigoff and Clowes attached, but it was never as funny or clever as it was mean, and that tacked-on murder subplot was just stupid

Anonymous said...

let's hope that 'art school confidential' marks the end of clowes' foray into 'the cinema' and back into comics. 'shit happens when you party naked' is from eightball circa 1991. peak stuff.

Anonymous said...

Puffy Chair has its moments, but I predicted the ending a bit too early on in the film. I actually saw it on the big screen, and the "filming", especially at the beginning, almost made me ill.

An annual ritual at my house now is to get some folks over, have some drinks and watch Bad Santa just before christmas. I liked it the first time around, and I can understand why people might not like it, but I've liked it more each time I've seen it since the first time.

Thanks for the tip on I Am A Sex Addict. I'll be checking that out.

Anonymous said...

I finally got around to seeing Art School Confidential last weekend and with all the talk about how terrible it was my expectations were perhaps lowered enough that I didn't think it was bad at all. Sure, it wasn't as good as Ghost Wolrd or as funny as the short Clowes comic on which it was based, but it was good enough to give it a mild recommendation in my opinion. I honestly think a lot of the negative reaction to the film was based on the fact that the protagonist is not at all likeable or precisely is somehwat likable and identifiable when the movie begins but less and less so as the plot unfolds. I thought that was kind of the point as it works in the exact reverse way of a typical Hollywood film where the main character works though his or her faults to become a better person. In "ASC" the main character's faults consume him until he becomes a fairly despicable person, which seems to be Clowes and Zwigoff's take on the effect the art world has on it's own. I can't disagree that perhaps Clowes would have been better off working on another issue of Eightball rather than spending him time on this film but I don't think it's at all the disaster some have suggested it is.