WAY TO D’OH!
BEST. SIMPSONS MOVIE. EVER. (OUT OF ONE MADE)
88 minutes/Rated PG-13 (sex jokes, profanity, drug references)
Kyle Smith review of “The Simpsons Movie”
SCENE I – BURNSÃ¢â‚¬â„¢ OFFICE
Smithers, release the review.
You remember Simpson, that oxygen-waster in sector 7G?
Never heard of him.
He seems to have a movie out.
Another D.W. Griffith spectacular, eh? Starring Lillian Gish and Harold Lloyd, I hope?
No, sir. But it does have Albert Brooks and a surprise guest – one of the biggest movie stars of the last 20 years.
Piffle and nincompoopery! CanÃ¢â‚¬â„¢t President Hoover do something about Hollywood standards?
SCENE II – EVENING NEWS
SpringfieldÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s top story tonight: Local boob Homer Simpson has caused an environmental crisis by dumping a silo full of his pet pigÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s waste into Lake Springfield! A sinister EPA agent who sounds a lot like Albert Brooks has ordered an airtight dome placed over the entire city. Looks like goodbye Mother Nature, hello Smother Nature!
Film crews are already making a movie on the subject. As doomsday approaches, local residents are delivering impassioned viewpoints.
SCENE III – MAN ON STREET INTERVIEW
SCENE IV – SIMPSONS HOUSE
Whoo-hoo! IÃ¢â‚¬â„¢m gonna be in a movie!
ThatÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s nice, Homey. But at the moment thereÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s an angry mob outside with torches.
Is my new environmentally aware Irish boyfriend out there?
LisaÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s got a boyfriend! LisaÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s got a boyfriend!
YouÃ¢â‚¬â„¢re the one who shows his wiener in this movie.
Something about this movie strikes me as awfully familiar.
COMIC BOOK GUY (leaning in window)
I of course have already seen Ã¢â‚¬Å“The Simpsons MovieÃ¢â‚¬Â and decreed on my blog that the star power of musical guest
Green Day does not measure up to The Who or U2. The good news is, Ã¢â‚¬Å“The Simpsons MovieÃ¢â‚¬Â is just like the TV show, whereas the bad news is, itÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s just like the TV show. Instead of trying something radically different, it follows a conventional plotline of Homer screwing up and trying to fix the situation. Though it does have a handful of dirty jokes meant to earn the audience-pleasing PG-13 rating and features Marge swearing, it falls short of classic status.
PROFESSOR FRINK (leaning in window next to Comic Book Guy)
Empirical testing shows it to be less frantically paced than the TV show and two-thirds as funny as the Ã¢â‚¬Å“Marge vs. the MonorailÃ¢â‚¬Â or Ã¢â‚¬Å“RosebudÃ¢â‚¬Â episodes.
APU (leaning in window next to Comic Book Guy and Professor Frink)
I found the Itchy and Scratchy section as pleasing as one of my strawburritos.
I havenÃ¢â‚¬â„¢t seen a movie this funny in 73 years! Which was the last time I went to the movies.
SCENE V – MRS. KRABAPPLEÃ¢â‚¬â„¢S CLASSROOM
Class, can anyone explain the concept of Ã¢â‚¬Å“metaÃ¢â‚¬Â?
Endlessly self-referential in a humorous but potentially aggravating manner?
In Ã¢â‚¬Å“The Simpsons Movie,Ã¢â‚¬Â when Homer says Ã¢â‚¬Å“I canÃ¢â‚¬â„¢t believe weÃ¢â‚¬â„¢re paying to see something we can get on TV for free.Ã¢â‚¬Â
Mrs. Krabapple? Can I get extra credit by giving Martin a humorous series of wedgies?
SCENE VI – POLICE STATION
Chief? We have a report that the Simpson family responsible for destroying the environment escaped and became fugitives in Alaska. WeÃ¢â‚¬â„¢ve also heard that Marge and Homer have been engaging in, uh, lovemaking with help from some whimsical forest animals.
(Putting down his sandwich) Well, there goes my appetite.
Also, another disaster is headed for Springfield, and it looks like Homer is the only one who can save us.
Sweet peppery Jesus! I canÃ¢â‚¬â„¢t believe it!
You knew? (Putting down Entertainment Weekly) Then why didnÃ¢â‚¬â„¢t you tell me Ã¢â‚¬Å“Sheriff LoboÃ¢â‚¬Â was available on DVD?]]>
I’ve just seen “The Simpsons Movie” and found itÃ‚Â is neither a disappointment nor the funniest. Movie. Ever. It’s 90 minutes of consistent laughs fit into a structure much like a long episode of the TV show–Homer gets into major trouble and has to dig himself out–featuring a surprise guest who turns out to be one of the biggest movie stars ever. Make sure you stay for the closing credits. More thoughts later.]]>
Our cousins across the water at The Times of London have published one of the first reviews of “The Simpsons Movie” and pronounced it….ehkkkkksellent! It getsÃ‚Â four stars out of five. (Warning: apparently this review contains lots of spoilers; IÃ‚Â read onlyÃ‚Â the opening line.) I’m seeing the flick on Tuesday afternoon and am going to try to avoid reading the reviews before I see it. Meanwhile, Entertainment Weekly reports that the writers were still refining jokes right down to the final days, worried that critics who have lost faith in the TV version over the past few subpar seasons would say haw-ha! Writer Al Jean promises that “as an event, I think it’ll rank somewhere between Sgt. Pepper’s the album and Sgt. Pepper’s the movie.”]]>
Kyle Smith Review: "The Simpsons Movie"–and Al Gore's Daughter's Enviro-Flick
The Post isÃ‚Â running my review of “The Simpsons Movie.” (I didn’t give away any major spoilers.) Today I also review the North Pole/global warmingÃ‚Â nature documentary “Arctic Tale,” which features stunning photography and a script like Fred Rogers gone hip-hop.Ã‚Â No, Al Gore isn’t in it, but his daughter Kristin Gore co-wrote it.]]>
Unlike The Times of London review, the one by The Guardian’s estimable Peter Bradshaw can actually boast that it was written by a professional film critic. Bradshaw writes that, “over the years liberals have learned to clench their teeth and admit that it was News Corps’s Demon King Rupert Murdoch who sponsored the world’s greatest TV programme.” But, hey,Ã‚Â Peter,Ã‚Â why spell Wiggum “Whiggum”? Sort of makes him sound vaguely….Englishy, no?]]>
THE SIMPSONS MOVIE (David Silverman, USA, 2007, 7)
The thing that saves THE SIMPSONS MOVIE is the TV show. Knowledge of 17 years (well … in my case only about the first 10 years) fills in the gaps and allows the film-makers to get away with a lot of shorthand. For example, when we see the long-haired bus driver sucking it in from a bong, we instantly remember all the years of Otto-man saying “hey, Bart-dude.” We know who it is. Without the memory of the show, we’d be walking out of the theater scratching our heads about the little-sister character and why her affair with the Irish boy was dropped so completely. And wondering what we were supposed to get from the pathetically perfunctory scene involving Monroe(?) Burns, who seems to resemble Mr. Potter from IT’S A WONDERFUL LIFE.
But coming in with the knowledge of who’s who and with their pasts and characters already set, the film can settle down into its moments of utter goofiness and in-jokes that come so fast they fly over the head. I recall right now: Homer and Bart’s games; Homer singing the “Spider-pig” theme song; Green Day’s titanically dissolving into the lake; the UMBRELLAS OF CHERBOURG gas station; “Thou Shalt Turn Off Thy Cell Phone”; the lookalike family; the people in the bar and the church exchanging buildings when the apocalypse is upon Springfield; Marge throwing the g-d bomb; and the Itchy and Scratchy short that kicks everything off.
In other words, there’s nothing more here than a very good 90-minute episode of the show. Still, that means that it IS a 90-minute episode … of THE FRICKIN’ SIMPSONS!!! How can anyone awake during the last 20 years resist that prospect? D-UH.
The thing that sinks THE SIMPSONS MOVIE, or at least prevents it from Year-Best-greatness, is the TV show. In many respects, the fact that animation does not use live actors is what has enabled THE SIMPSONS to survive so long and so strong as a TV show. For one thing, if this same show had to use on-screen personages, Bart would now have to be 25 and Maggie 18. And who knows how many of the character actors would have either gotten a spinoff or quit the show from frustration at only getting more than a walk-on for two episodes a season.
The prodigious number of memorable side characters is what makes THE SIMPSONS and Springfield so dense and rich, and while it enables us to “fill in the gaps” for a movie that need not start afresh, it also leaves a feeling of major disappointment because I guarantee every reader that one or more of your favorite supporting characters is virtually absent. In fact, I don’t know that it would have been possible to make a great movie out of THE SIMPSONS, at least by this time.
This movie strongly focuses on the Simpson family, and while that’s fine, it leaves little-to-no time for Apu, Troy McClure, Patty and Selma, Grampa, Principal Skinner, Diamond Joe Quimby, Barney Gumble or Mrs. Krebapple; and not much for Chief Whigham, Krusty or Moe. Again, any given episode wouldn’t have much of any of these named characters, but they all get their time over the course of 24-episode seasons. This movie tended to reduce them to walk-ons — see this picture of a Springfield mob coming to lynch and count how many characters you recognize. That’s all most of them get.
And one more thing … remember when Austin Powers and Borat appeared nude and how both movies, in different ways, made a joke out of having to cover male genitalia. There is an awesome scene where Bart goes skateboarding in the nude, with all the same very funny jokes. The earlier films were smart enough to realize that not-actually-showing is the joke. This movie … well, I thought the makers of THE SIMPSONS were at least that smart. D-OH.
[…] misguided folks, both Christians as it happens. (As I recall, they both commented similarly when I initially wrote about THE SIMPSONS MOVIE, though their comments were lost when I had my Blogspot […]
(”The Simpsons Movie” is briefly mentioned in this.)
Since I’m holding off revealing my Skandie ballot, I’ll reveal what I almost voted for but didn’t. My method is to put go through the list of all the films I’ve seen and write down everything that strikes me as memorable or a possibility. And then shuck back to 10. These are the leaves that got shucked. These were what did NOT make my ballot. And yes … I only could think of 12 lead female and 13 supporting female performances.¹
Lead male Song Kang-ho, The Host Is that the funny Helper Guy from SECRET SUNSHINE?
Ryan Gosling, Lars and the Real Girl Is that the Jewish Nazi from THE BELIEVER?
Russell Crowe, American Gangster Went with him over Denzel cause his character had a bit more of an arc
Brad Pitt, Jesse James He breathes his own legendness
James McAvoy, Atonement Didn’t think he had it in him; actually least convincing when trying for Big Emotions
Phillip Seymour Hoffman, Before the Devil Knows You’re Dead Doesn’t know how to give a bad performance as a Gen-X everyman
Chris Cooper, Breach Doesn’t overdo the religiosity, despite its obvious centrality in his character’s life. I actually met a couple of Robert Hanssen’s children (unknowingly) at a friend’s party
Tony Leung, Lust, Caution Might have placed if he had run full-speed and dived into cars more often
Slavoj Zizek, the Pervert’s Guide to Cinema Technically a documentary, but his onscreen “performance” is as central to his film as Algore’s was
Woody Harrelson, the Walker Perfect casting helps, as you always get the sense that he’s still the dumb bartender
Lee Kang-sheng, the Wayward Cloud More of a deadpan presence than a “performance,” at least in the dramatic scenes, but that’s what the role calls for
Phillip Seymour Hoffman, the Savages Ditto above. And this project looked so DEADLY BAD on paper (or trailer, actually)
Sebastian Koch, Lives of Others Turns 180 degrees without an exact “Eureka!” moment
John C. Reilly, Walk Hard Deserved a better script than he got, but has ironic sincerity chops to spare
Rose McGowan, Grindhouse Her legs alone made PLANET TERROR
Nina Kervel-bey, Blame It on Fidel If she’s too precocious, the movie falls apart
Teodor Corban, 1208 East of Bucharest Like a lower-key, less overtly demonstrative version of Steve Coogan’s “Alan Partridge”
Fridrik Thor Fridriksson, The Boss of It All I didn’t think an Icelander would ever work for Lars again
Jeff Goldblum, Fay Grim Made Hartley’s bizarro-dialogue seem completely natural
Josh Brolin, Grindhouse Everyman face makes the snarling ridiculousness of his zombie-movie performance
Jim Broadbent, Hot Fuzz
One great thing about British actors is that the greatest are not ashamed to do comedy
Nick Frost, Hot Fuzz Every man’s idea of a best buddy — comic version
Jason Bateman, Juno Every man’s idea of a best buddy — not-so-comic version
Andre Dussolier, Private Fears in Public Places Look at how the contrast between his mouth and his eyes makes the tape-watching scene
Chewitel Ejiofor, Talk to Me Yawn … another brilliant low-key, grounded performance from the best actor with a name you can’t pronounce
Paul Dano, There Will Be Blood Actually able to share the screen with Daniel Day-Lewis (is that a spoiler for my Best Actor ballot?)
Robert Downey Jr., Zodiac How he is able to get all these roles about people driven to drink and drugs by obsession is absolutely beyond me.
Tilda Swinton, Michael Clayton How often and in how many contexts can she play the White Witch (not that I’m complaining)
Juliette Binoche, Breaking and Entering The proverbial actress so great she can stir you by reading the telephone book (which this script pretty much lets her prove)
Kristin Scott Thomas, the Walker Playing “regal diva” opposite Lauren Bacall is hardly easy, but she has a contemporary quality too
Philip Groening, Into Great Silence I’ll probably have to do penance for this one since his film was in the Top 5, required the patience of Job to get made and got no other points
George Ratliff, Joshua I’ll probably have to do penance for this one since his film was in the Top 10, and I actually know him personally from our days at Texas (did the YMCA dance with his girlfriend at a mutual friend’s wedding)
Vincent Parronaud and Marjane Satrapi, Persepolis I’ll probably have to do penance for this one since this film was in the Honorable Mentions, required the patience of Job to get made and wound up with no points at all from me
Joe Wright, Atonement Best moments as a director, in this film at least, are the ones he hands over to others; plus, the library scene
Edgar Wright, Grindhouse I thought about giving him points for two films but then something told me … DON’T
Francis Lawrence, I Am Legend Handles the summer super-spectacle genre with surprising restraint
Tim Burton, Sweeney Todd Would have found a place for him if he hadn’t cast his nonsinger wife in a role that has no place for a nonsinger to hide
Lars von Trier, the Boss of It All It takes a great script to make a very good movie with Auto-Mat-O-Vision as director
Sean Penn, Into the Wild I hated what looked like Catcher-in-the-Rye-wannabe twaddle before I realized the film had been playing me for a fool the whole time
The Fate of the Coward Robert Ford after the Assassination of Jesse James, The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford I actually DID vote for this scene before Mike told me it was too long and too broad-in-scope to qualify as a scene
The TV interview, Atonement No scene more moved me this year than this one, but I’m not sure it could work even a little if you hadn’t seen what preceded
Reunited … at last, Gone Baby Gone See ATONEMENT scene … it’s a crushing rebuke to do-gooder idealism, but via a scene of banalities in which nothing really happens
“Nannare/Barso Re Megha,” Guru I’ll probably have to do penance for all the impure thoughts (the video is here, and though this reproduction is crap, it is still AR Rahman and Aishwarya)
Oil!, There Will Be Blood Great expressionist spectacle, great impressionistic subjectivity and darkness erupts into the world, in more sense than one
Anton Ego tries the food, Ratatouille A Proustian moment, seen on Bastille Day, a few weeks after eating madeleines for the first time
Opening terrorist attack, The Kingdom What an action scene should be — taut, quick, choreographed and brutal without ever seeming to be those things
Hotel shootout (the old-style hotel with corridors; not the motel with adjoining rooms), No Country for Old Men The competition from this film was pretty stiff
A midnight water run, No Country for Old Men The competition from this film was pretty stiff
Interview at Greenhill Manor, the Savages Funny test, plus PSH’s best moment in the film, telling off appearances-over-all sister later
“Hurdy Gurdy Man,” Zodiac Saw this again last week, and I realized it’s the only moment of real white-knuckle suspense in the movie
Bart goes skateboarding, the Simpsons Showing the 8-year-old’s willie was a mistake though
“All These Things That I’ve Done,” Southland Tales Boosted by being a moderately enjoyable scene in the middle of a train wreck of a movie
Driving through the village, Syndromes and a Century Five minutes of unbroken pure Being, in which nothing else really happens
Let us pray, Breach Stuck in Washington traffic and prayer combined — what more could I want
¹ There were a half-dozen films — THE WAYWARD CLOUD, LUST CAUTION, THE SAVAGES, ATONEMENT, BEFORE THE DEVIL KNOWS YOU’RE DEAD, LARS AND THE REAL GIRL — where I had a man and woman from the same film on my short list, but only the woman (women in one case) made the final cut. The competition was just so much less for the women, and I can think of only a few important female roles that I missed, either in terms of not seeing the film or forgetting about the actress until after I had submitted my ballot.
[…] was the scene from THE SIMPSONS MOVIE of Bart skateboarding nude (on a dare from Homer, natch). But I said there that “Showing the 8-year-old’s willie was a mistake though,” which has drawn two dissents […]
(”The Simpsons Movie” is briefly mentioned in this.)
Fox … anathema sit
IDIOCRACY (Mike Judge, USA, 2006, 8 )
Before the festival started, I took the opportunity last night to see IDIOCRACY, since Toronto is one of the few cities where Fox is dumping it. Shame, shame, shame.
The film looks somewhat cheezy and is unquestionably a bit one-note — “these people are stupid” is really the point to 90 percent of the jokes. It breaks no thematic ground that BEAVIS & BUTTHEAD hadn’t already plowed quite well.
But I busted a gut. This film is filled with quotable moments and lines — the hospital title (kind of a theological impossibility), the method of medical diagnosis (which isn’t that far off from cash registers in the era of innumeracy), the evolution of US News & World Report and the anchors at Fox News, always fair and balanced. The trial is like THE TRIAL as rewritten by Beavis & Butthead. And like with B&B, people who complain that, e.g., there’s too much cheap balls-kicking humor, are missing that this isn’t meant to be funny per se. What’s funny (and often hilarious) is that the characters in the film think it’s funny and/or brilliant. It’s a measure of the emptiness of their souls, consumed with consumption and sex (wait till you see what Starbucks is doing in the future; and I swear-to-God, the first time I ever heard someone refer to “Fuddruckers,” I thought this too). Nor is it just a pro-eugenic sneer at Red State hicks — the high-IQ couple are brilliantly skewered as well in their brief appearance at the set-up.
This is a movie made for video admittedly, as it is all throwaway gags and one-liners, and crammed with in-jokes at the edges of the frames (Sam Adams made the comparison to THE SIMPSONS last night over cider and beer). So for dumping this movie, Fox News, always fair and balanced, is … like … really retarded and shit.
This note brought to you by Carl’s Jr. They give me money when I say that.
(”The Simpsons Movie” is briefly mentioned in this.)
Toronto – capsules – Day 6
THE PLEASURE OF YOUR COMPANY [Wedding Daze] (Michael Ian Black, USA, 2)
Crass Stupidity, Part I. I understand that the guidebook for a film festival needs to make every film sound appetizing, so I know better than to blame the Toronto Festival’s writers if a movie turns out to be bad. But there still is an implicit moral contract of a certain amount of truth-in-advertising. I knew this was a commercial comedy going in. I was not prepared for how utterly crass and juvenile THE PLEASURE OF YOUR COMPANY was — pace these explicit words of Noah Cowan: “Black’s timing and rhythm is unerringly precise. He takes a sophisticated, adult approach to situations that might otherwise yield cheap laughs.” THE PLEASURE OF YOUR COMPANY has a yarmulke-wearing character who designs such toys as “Jew-nicorns” (get it) and “Jew-la hoops” in the shape of the Star of David (get it … “Jew-la” … rhymes with “hula”). THE PLEASURE OF YOUR COMPANY has a scene in which a father talks to his newly-engaged son about marriage and what he needs to know about the facts of life. But now Dad can pass down to Son his favorite cock ring, for when he needs extra endurance (it did not help that the son is played by Jason Biggs, who starred in a great but identical-in-premise scene in AMERICAN PIE opposite “father” Eugene Levy). THE PLEASURE OF YOUR COMPANY has a scene in which a newly-engaged couple on a bus put their ears up against a woman’s bulging belly. This is the exchange close as I can recall: “I feel it kicking … I can hear a heartbeat … When is the baby due? … I’m not pregnant.” Yes, that’s the sophisticated, adult approach that doesn’t go far cheap laughs. Now, my complaint is not that I did not laugh and I found THE PLEASURE OF YOUR COMPANY unbearably crass and nihilistic (though I did … and I could rant all day about this film’s worldview and understanding of love). What I find funny is not Cowan’s or TIFF’s responsibility. Nor is it my point that I never enjoy cheap laughs and/or the turning off of adult sophistication — I still rather like PORKY’S, 25 years later. But there is noway, nohow, no two opinions on whether PLEASURE’s approach to humor is “cheap” or “sophisticated,” and thus the festival’s description is a lie. Noway otherwise. Nohow.
COEURS [Private Fears in Public Places] (Alain Resnais, France, 9)
This film may be profitting by the dogs surrounding it, but I rather doubt it. Even the people who don’t embrace COEURS as full-on-great like I do — like “Lee Walker,” Michael Sicinski (pan down to the 14th) and Theo acknowledge that Resnais’ direction and Eric Gauthier’s cinematography are nothing short of flawless and there is much to like in this movie, even if they don’t think it quite comes together, as I do. It’s a very English film, with a strong resemblance to BRIEF ENCOUNTER — covering a lot of the same emotional ground, within the same reserved emotional register and a similar “life goes on as we endure unhappily” ending. Stylewise, COEURS is simply an unimpeachable treat — loading up on the unnaturally dazzling and color-saturated images, but with light schemes like the fluorescent light tubes at bars, the glass-with-Macs look at an office, etc., which give that dazzling look a reality.
As for content, I’m not ready to make the “Alain Resnais has found religion” speech (though I have some notes for a rough draft), but there’s no doubt that mortality casts its shadow over everything in this film by this 84-year-old Master. COUERS is filled with snow … all the fades between scenes are of fades to falling snow rather than the usual black (with IS used to great contrasting effect to mark the divisions among acts). It’s an image of winter, a memento mori, and an annual reminder that everything in this world ends, and not always on the terms we’d like. There is a scene between Charlotte and Lionel (brilliantly played by Sabine Azema and Pierre Arditi) in which the two discuss religion and Hell, which suddenly blinks from a familiar interior set to a snow-bound one. Charlotte is a rare figure in contemporary movies — a conventionally religious woman, a Catholic, who is never made a mockery of or the object of satire therein. She has a past, which is used to some comic effect, but … trying to vague … her sin doesn’t work as planned and it’s clearly shown as a one-off. But in this gentle snowbound exchange on the existence of Hell, she plainly has the upper hand as COEURS presents it. It’s a lovely scene but the one where I welled up the most was one in which Lionel described to Charlotte why he’s taking care of this comic tyrant of an old father. It’s unostentatious, dutiful and quietly moving in a way that middle-class middlebrow tragedy. Charlotte says at another point that “God blesses us with trials,” and neither COUERS nor the Toronto audience took it as a laugh line.
I obviously did not find NOT ON THE LIPS to be off-puttingly stylized to the point of aggravation or alienation. But some did, and you can rest easy on that front (you might not like COEURS obviously, but *that* should not be a problem). There’s no mugging, no fourth-wall breaking, no rhyming couplets or songs, though there’s some very stylized lighting and Resnais keeps the seven principal characters within about a half-dozen settings, and within what-I-take-to-be Alan Ayckbourne’s structure. And I see I’ve written a lot about this film without mentioning the brilliant performance by Lambert Wilson, who goes from depressed to jaunty without changing a thing or overdoing it; the way the film does a Hong Song-soo by recapitulating romantic relationships (admittedly among an ensemble) from one act to the next; or the way the three videotapes Charlotte loans to Thierry (Andre Dussolier — another brilliant performance) change both in meaning and in content, for her, for him and his girlfriend. There’s just that much to love.
OUTSOURCED (John Jeffcoat, USA, 2)
Crass Stupidity, Part II. Despite its title, this movie just uses the phenomenon of shipping service jobs abroad as an excuse to get The Innocent Abroad for a culture-clash romantic comedy, of a very rote pedigree. But Jeffcoat is not Mark Twain, though. We get the driver assuring the American arriving in India, to train his call-service office’s replacements, that “our town is very clean.” Cut to man peeing against the wall. Ho ho ho. The hero’s name is “Todd,” but the Indians call him “Mr. Toad” (there’s a lot more in this vein. Apu on THE SIMPSONS speaks better English than most of these Indians, thankyouvirrymuch). We get jokes about having to rent the Kama Sutra Suite at the hotel, misunderstandings over what hand to use to eat versus to wipe your ass (I saw another movie with that same joke earlier today), and attempts to explain the differences between rubbers, erasers and condoms. Yuk yuk yuk. And it wouldn’t be a movie about India without a failed attempt to get beef or The Innocent Abroad wondering why there is a cow wandering about someplace incongruous. If any of this description sounds funny to you, by all means rush out and see OUTSOURCED. There is one scene that works, in which the romantic leads, Josh Hamilton (not a bad match for Ron Livingston in OFFICE SPACE) and Ayesha Dharker (best remembered by me for the great Tamil film THE TERRORIST) are on a ferry trip. They recite each’s stereotypes of the other in the other’s accents. Dharker’s American English is near-perfect and Hamilton’s Indian English is at least broad enough and self-aware to be funny. They’re an attractive couple, and the scene works because it crackles with wit and spontaneity rather than 100 bad standup routines.
STILL LIFE (Jia Zhang-ke, China, 3)
I capped off a wildly uneven day with this film, which was hastily-added for two days after its surprising win at Venice, where it took the festival’s top prize, the Golden Lion. STILL LIFE has a scene where a rotating fan starts to move from right to left, but the fan blades don’t start to turn for a couple of seconds. Those couple of seconds sum up this snoozefest — lots of panning, but feeling nothing because the engine is dead. Some friends were convinced there were some video/color-correction issues. But obviously the film had arresting images of the effects of China’s plan to dam up the Yangtze River, flooding large areas in the resulting artificial lakes. Thus requiring a lot of demolition workers, the milieu through which the principal “character” moves in a quest to find his lost family from long ago (METAPHOR ALERT!!!!). And I enjoyed some of the images of buildings being demolished, and Jia’s framing of one demolition through the ripped hole in another building’s wall. Plus the sheer wtf-ness of a building suddenly blasting off into space. In other words, Jia has made a movie that would be really interesting if it weren’t boring as ass. To quote Mike D’Angelo apropos another film: “there are no human beings in [this] movie” (actually, there is one: the young man who tries to act like Chow Yun-fat. He disappears from the movie in its only moment of emotional heft). Everyone else mopes through this movie like a brain-damaged zombie on Ritalin. Double-dose. It’s as if Jia thinks that landscapes can create character. They cannot. And after a while, his attempts to substitute landscapes for things like incisive dialogue and psychology — both absent from these depressive undead/lumps of dead air — gets irritating. Impressive though it was, the dialogue when the central couple finally meet and discuss a divorce is so thumpingly banal that the (admittedly interesting in concept) way that the background changes as the camera tracks/pans around them didn’t impress me. It just aggravated me. At least, it was better than the top-prize winner at Cannes. But not as good as Berlin (TC).
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