MacGruber

I have to admit I’m amused by the new brand of the humor the most recent cast of SNL is cultivating. I can’t put my finger on it exactly – base, grotesque, strange, scatological, dark, ingenious. For now I’m going to go with ingenious. I think my vote for best sex scene of the year will have to go to MacGruber. If not the best, certainly the funniest. And by funny I mean ingenious.

One worry I had while watching the film – is Val Kilmer okay? Val, are you okay? Are you on antidepressants? Are you playing Marlon Brando or Orson Welles in a biopic soon? I’ll admit the extra pounds did make you appear more vile and diabolical in the kingpin sense. But I worry about your health. Val, are you reading? I worry about your health. Time to get back into volleyball shape.

MacGruber also reconfirmed that Kristin Wiig is one of the funniest ladies in the entire Universe. I thank my lucky stars people like her take the risks they take. Kristin, I know you could have sold insurance. I know you could have started your own smoothie franchise. And I would buy a smoothie from you too. But thank you for that enormous feather you have which tickles my funny bone. Thank you for tickling me until I am on the ground, gasping for breath, orange juice spurting from my nose, promising you anything to stop . . . but go on . . . $6

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Jim Jarmusch’s The Limits of Control

is philosophically rich – probably one reason why the film did so poorly in the economic sense.

No doubt the most beautiful cinematography I’ve seen all year. Jim Jarmusch made the right decision in asking Christopher Doyle (longtime collaborator of Wong Kar-wai) to shoot his film. However, it seems like Jarmusch may have given himself too many artistic limits in making this piece. I sense a lot of resistance – resistance against dialogue, resistance against clear narrative or resolution, resistance against character development.

It is as though we are only perceiving characters in the most ephemeral instant and only when they are on the verge of transformation. Characters do not progress, they impress (as in, leave a vague impression of a thought or idea). This may have been a deliberate choice since portraiture is a recurring motif in the film. And that is what we indeed seem to get – a sketch of a character as opposed to a case study. Or maybe it was Jarmusch’s goal to impart a vivid impression with the sparest encounters. On that level, he’s wildly successful. On other levels I think he withholds too much and his film starves. But I should probably also add The Limits of Control contains the best nude scenes I’ve watched in several years. Paz de la Huerta becomes a goddess. Jarmusch is expert at creating new goddesses . . . $7

If you heart The Limits of Control:

Recommendations from DJ Cheet
Mulholland Drive
Hana-bi
The Man Who Wasn’t There


Vincere

One of the strangest and most aggressively fragmented films I’ve watched this year – Vincere follows Benito Mussolini’s mistress Ida Dalser through her decline. Very little screen time is paid to the affair itself. The majority of the film is spent wandering  the psychiatric wards where Dalser was kept captive for the latter half of her life. The primary focus of Vincere is Dalser’s obsession with Mussolini despite his indifference and eventual abhorrence towards her.

Dalser’s irrational reverence and dedication to Mussolini could be gesturing towards a commentary on Il Duce’s followers over the course of National Fascism in Italy. The metaphor is made richer by Dalser’s conception of Mussolini’s first-born son (Benito Albino, who also perishes in the captivity of a mental hospital). The film is well-acted (Giovanna Mezzogiorno and Filippo Timi deserve all the accolades they are getting) and imaginatively-conceived. Animations, historical footage and a musical score that assaults the ears combine in a fascinating collage of a movie. My main concern is that it just isn’t so pleasurable to watch. Trying to tell Fascist Italy’s story through the keyhole of Ida Dalser’s life suffocates the film. And without much levity, Vincere is likely to run an audience’s mood into the ground. Still, if you’re in the market for some novel film making, you aren’t going to find much better this week . . . $7

Sir Ridley Scott’s Robin Hood

Sir Ridley Scott continues to baffle me. On one hand he made possibly the greatest film of all time – adapting Philip K. Dick’s Blade Runner. He also made Alien, Thelma & Louise, and Gladiator – all films I consider extravagant and entertaining. Scott’s problem seems to be in between making his classics – he makes a whole lot of skunk turds – for ex. this year’s Robin Hood.

Okay, not all bad. Nothing he’s made is even close to the most terrible abortion of this year – The Wolfman. But still, he seems to be phoning in a substantial portion of them these days. One might be justified in asking, does he suffer from spells of brain damage? Does he have a recurring brain tumor we don’t know about? I don’t want to accuse a truly superb director of having made Hannibal and A Good Year and Robin Hood with clear consciousness . . . $5

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