The Lorax

The Lorax (film)

The Lorax (film) (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

I watched the Lorax on the big screen

time passed with laughter and screams

Ok maybe not screams, but it was pure delight

I urge you all to see it tonight.

Rhyming aside, Illumination film’s take on the Lorax extends beyond the book, and though Danny Devito does nothing to cover up his gruff voice, that reminded me back when he was a taxi cab driver, it was a lot of fun and if nothing else, imparted a good message to the young impressionable boys and girls, of how precious our earth is, and how easily consumerism and capitalism can ruin the fluffy truffula trees and de-fluff the cute little bears.

discover the forest lorax

discover the forest lorax (Photo credit: USDAgov)

I think this is a fabulous movie to watch with little kids, they’ll go gaga over the cute characters, though maybe not the best movie for a date.  It’s pretty much in line with what you’d expect as a follow up for Despicable Me, not quite a good and funny, but still enjoyable….$7

If you heart The Lorax

Recommendations from …:

Despicable Me
Toy Story

Friends with Kids

Sometimes I need a movie like this to really motivate me into writing.  I saw it and I thought, the People need to know!!  The People being, two people who read this blog.  Myself being one of them, and I don’t even read it much.  Friends with Kids is one of the worst movies I’ve seen in a long time.

Friends with Kids features a good chunk of the Bridesmaids cast including Kristen Wiig, Jon Hamm, Maya Rudolph, and Chris O’Dowd, yet using none of their talented humor and charm.  Ed Burns and Megan Fox are beautiful props used to reveal the meaning of love. Writing/director/actor Jessica Westfeldt stars as a woman in her late-thirties who decides to have a baby with her best friend played by Adam Scott.  They decide to irreverently have the baby, while cleverly evading the calamities of marriage that have befallen their friends (see Bridemaids cast) – or so they think… dun dun dun!

Westfeldt wrote this story thinking she was creating a clever twist in modern day romance.  But this love story has been written – so many times. It’s akin to writing a love story about star-crossed lovers, but replacing the boy with a goat to spice up the story.

The result – absolutely conventional and boring.  I was cringing at the complete lack of effort placed in this story.  Westfeldt desperately tries to create an edgy story, but ultimately, traditional values of monogamy, true love, and family win out anyways.  Surprise, surprise… $2

If you heart Friends with Kids

Recommendations from Yolkie:
Kissing Jessica Stein

Friends with Money
Knocked Up

Caveh Zahedi’s I Am A Sex Addict

Cuneyt Cakirlar’s essay “Queer art of the parallaxed document: the visual discourse of docudrag in Kutlug Ataman’s Never My Soul!” asserts that the Turkish filmmaker Kutlug Ataman uses a variety of techniques (or perhaps, subversions of classic Hollywood technique) in order to “queer” the genres and visual identification associated with confessional documentary, pornography, reenactment, auto-ethnography and melodrama. As Cakirlar says, “The artist attempts to confront the viewer with the machinery of truth-making and self-invention.”

The goal of this confrontation is of course to criticize the problems and methodologies of those genres in their tendencies to affirm existing-dominant positions (Western, male, heterosexual) and to critique marginalized positions (non-Western, female, homosexual). As Cakirlar writes, “Ataman’s artworks position the spectator within a problematic arena where documentary realism as genre and ethnography as method are being constantly queered via both subjects’ and artist’s performative manipulations.”

One of Cakirlar’s methods was to film his subject/actor (a transvestite called Ceyhan), transcribe her dialogue, have Ceyhan relearn this transcript as a monologue, and then re-perform it for the camera. Cakirlar calls this conflation of scripted and unscripted material, extemporaneous action and performance “a kind of parallax view” that would “create a formal expression of her parallel situation” (362). The “parallax view” can be seen as an attempt to undermine cinema’s ability to approximate and formulate truth. I believe it is also an attempt to criticize film’s ability to become a powerful tool for propaganda and to align its spectator with characters that are usually male, straight, white, conservative, capitalist and Christian. The “parallax view” is a mode that calls the audience’s attention to the film’s artifice and intention – thereby weakening its ability to persuade an audience that truth is being documented – rather than created. Ataman’s quote from Cakirlar’s piece reads:

“Subjects like Ceyhan and Semina aid in the process of creating those metapieces, because they are constantly referring back to their roles as actresses and therefore instigating the viewer’s investigation into the nature of these assumed and prescribed relationships. Ultimately this artifice makes you realize how reality is created and how lies can be no less true that what is understood as truth. Truths are also fabricated.”

Caveh Zahedi’s experimental, mash-up film I Am A Sex Addict is also trying to subvert those methods of meaning-making and visual identification through various strategies as well as content. I Am A Sex Addict took Zahedi fifteen years to complete and chronicles a decade of Zahedi’s confusions and tribulations from sex addiction. Love and relationships are kindled/rekindled only to be seen sabotaged later by Zahedi’s compulsion, psychosis, and hubris. It is a painful and sluggish road to Zahedi’s realization about his disease and the steps necessary to regain healthy connections with women. I call Zahedi’s film a mash-up because it is a collage of so many disparate mediums, modes and techniques – mockumentary, documentary, reenactment, still images, footage from pre-existing projects, animated sequences, 35mm footage, audio recording, direct address, voice-over narration, and so on. The employment of so much (excess) “artifice” recalls the quote above as it calls attention to the process of filmmaking and asks the audience to question the truth of what is being presented.

While Zahedi is attempting to capture a perspective similar to the “parallax view” his concerns are not necessarily the same as Ataman’s.  I Am A Sex Addict is deeply confessional (perhaps autobiographical) and preoccupied with sex but not with transvestite or queer culture. Zahedi’s film is focused primarily on debunking the cinematic mythologies around male sexuality. This includes Zahedi’s awareness that cinema comes out of a problematic history (and continued practice) of voyeurism. This voyeurism seeks to empower men by indulging their fantasy of seeing helpless or victimized women while never being seen or interrogated in return. This voyeurism is one that seeks to align its viewers with male protagonists. In her book Film Editing: The Art of the Expressive, Valerie Orpen discusses Laura Mulvey’s article “Visual Pleasure and Narrative Cinema” and its assertion that “cinematic codes create a gaze, a world and an object, thereby producing an illusion cut to the measure of desire.” The intent of this “gaze” is to give the illusion that a male protagonist assumes control over his (sexual) universe. It also encourages the viewer to identify with the male protagonist and his desires since his point-of-view is the window by which we encounter that particular universe.

Zahedi is critical of both the method and the power attributed to male sexuality. His film attempts to undermine the male “gaze” in its attempts to render women as subjugated sex objects. Zahedi does this by making the character he portrays (and his ego) that which is subjugated and held out for scrutiny and humiliation. While his male protagonist (if we want to take this project as documentary we would say this is Zahedi himself – this would be no stretch of imagination as his character is called “Caveh Zahedi”) is overwhelmed by perverse desires to dominate and objectify women – those attempts are generally thwarted by his awkwardness, anxieties and confusion. When I say thwarted I do not mean that Zahedi’s character does not succeed in objectifying women – he does. But he is incapable of deriving the sort of pleasure or sustained relief he seeks from those experiences. Those scenes tend to lead immediately to meditations on shame, disgust, regret, loneliness and hopelessness. Sex scenes are not geared at finding pleasure in the nude female body or engagement in an intimate/secretive act. They instead focus on Zahedi’s lack of sexual appeal, his isolation and his ridiculousness. Direct address and voice-over narrations during sex scenes further undermine them as moments of pleasure-seeking – and they become silly, surreal or absurd. Zahedi’s monotone, unemotional acting style employed during recreations seems to emphasize the male’s ineptitude in trying to gain mastery over his female counterparts or his sexuality. To compound those humiliations being expounded, Zahedi frequently interjects during the course of the film to admit he has lost actual control of his production and his female actors. Indeed the didactic of the film is – how not to be/why not to identify with – its main character . . . $11

If you heart I Am A Sex Addict:

Recommendations by Quispy
Shari Springer Berman & Robert Pulcini’s American Splendor
James Marsh’s Man on Wire
Banksy’s Exit Through the Gift Shop

Coming Soon: Moonrise Kingdom

Yolkie is looking forward to: Moonrise Kingdom

Wes Anderson and Roman Coppola’s latest looks just incredible (Rushmore, The Royal Tenenbaums).  I can’t help it.  It looks exactly as you’d expect a Wes Anderson movie to be, but the obscurity and hilarity is somehow still fresh and stimulating.  I have no doubt it will have a lot of heart and belly-laughing.  To name a few of the stars: Edward Norton, Bill Murray, Bruce Willis, Tilda Swinton, Frances McDormand, Harvey Keitel, and Jason Schwartzman.

US Release Date: February 17, 2012

The Muppets

In an age of dumbed-down action overblown Hollywood busts that should make the average American enraged, there is a soft glow of nostalgia and self-deprecating campy humor.  Oh Jason Segel, I love you.  True story: Jason Segel pitched the idea for the Muppets to Disney immediately after the success of Forgetting Sarah Marshall.  Their reaction: Hell No!  Disney was not excited about having a dude in his 20s who just exposed a full frontal of his long schlong to all of America helm a project about the resurgence of a beloved troupe of talking puppets.  However, he came back and somehow convinced them, through his passion of the Muppets, that he was the right guy for the job.  Pretty damn amazing if I say so myself.

But enough about the backstory, what about the movie itself?  Adorable, witty, charismatic and thoroughly enjoyable.  The film plot begs a question I oftentimes think of myself on nights that I find myself unable to sleep, tossing and turning, staring at the ceiling: Where are the Muppets now?  Turns out, Kermit is living a lonely bachelor life in a huge Bel Air mansion, Gonzo is making millions off of toilet manufacturing, or was it doorknobs?, Animal is at an insane asylum with none other than Jack Black, Miss Piggy is off being the Devil Wears Prada in Paris (with Emily Blunt reprising the same role as the aforesaid film), and Fozzy Bear, poor old Fozzy, is performing with Muppet knock offs in some tawdry casino in Reno.  Enter plot twist: an evil Rich Guy is trying to buy up the Muppets stage for the cache of oil beneath it.  And so begins the journey to try to reunite the Muppets once again, get money back in order to buy back the old venerable Muppets stage.

Besides the talented cast (Jason Segel wrote the screenplay and stars with his co-star Amy Adams, Jack Black) there’s a generous dose of random well-placed cameos (Sarah Silverman, Emily Blunt, her husband John Krasinski, Whoopi Goldberg, Serena Gomez, Zach Galifianakis, Donald Glover, Dave Grohl, Ken Jeong, Neil Patrick Harris, that Columbian kid from Modern family).  With the lovely backup musicals provided by Brett MacKenzie of Flight of the Conchords, you can imagine that this is a film that you wouldn’t want to miss.   I even stayed through the credits.  The Muppets are Back! $9

If you heart the Muppets

Recommendations by …
Toy Story 3
The Muppets in Manhattan

p.s.  brilliant

Li’l Fatass’s Top 5 of 2011: Michel Hazanavicius’s The Artist

#1: The top fifteen grossing films of 2011 were all fairy tales. This makes sense as life has become so utterly complicated so as to be considered magical. Everywhere we operate machines that are powered by invisible forces. The Interwebs – invisible. Satellites and televisions – invisible. Cell phones – invisible. Air travel – invisible. Vending machines? I mean, how does the food get in there? Fucking magical.

Also we’ve never been in proximity (temporally or geographically) to more undeniably villainous creatures than right now. Serial killers. Priestly child molesters. Osama bin Laden. Bernie Madoff stole eighteen billion dollars. Eighteen billion. Can you even fathom what that means? It means that if he stole that amount in $100 bills he’d have thrown his back out trying to lift the three hundred and ninety-six thousand pounds of cash (a hundred and ninety-eight tons) into his getaway van. Supervillainous forces are upon us. It is a reasonable response for us to become desperate for superheroes.

The obsession with fairly tales also makes sense since we now live in a godless America. I do not judge Americans for denouncing their various gods. The church has lost so much footing given that 2.6 billion dollars they’ve spent in molestation-related costs. But now our trust has gone out aimlessly. Our spiritual energy has gone out in search of magic, omniscience, predetermination, and moral authority. And it has apparently found Harry Potter and Edward and the Pirates of the Caribbean.

I believe magic can exist at the cinema – but in general I believe it does not exist at the top of the American box office. For me, one of the best markers for good art is surprise. Unforeseen delight. The least surprising artistic pieces are oddly the most profitable and accessible – those showing at your local movie theater. And probably involving Shia LeBeouf. There is an incredible tolerance by American audiences to be consistently disappointed by the movies they go see. I’m not sure if this is courageous or borderline-retarded behavior.

How many films can you list that didn’t waste a single opportunity? I thought so. Michel Hazanavicius created the only truly ingenious picture of the year. He made ten times the film of the any other and he did it using one-tenth the money, one-tenth the technology. Still, the magic got in there  . . . $14

If you heart The Artist:

Recommendations by Li’l Fatass:
Campbell Scott’s & Stanley Tucci’s Big Night
Paul Thomas Anderson’s Boogie Nights
Darren Aronofsky’s The Wrestler

Li’l Fatass’s Top 5 of 2011: Cary Joji Fukunaga’s Jane Eyre

#2: Do you believe in ghosts?

What is a ghost?

Is it a spirit? Is it a spirit that seems to be caught in bed sheet? And it hacks in the night and often is sort of hovering?

A ghost can be many things. For example when you have a mentally-unstable wife that you chain up in your attic. Chain her up non-sexually I mean. Chain her up so you can kind of go downstairs and forget about her. When you chain her up, chain her real good so she won’t get away and maybe set the house on fire. That is sort of like a ghost.

When you have someone you do not love. When you suspect there is someone who loves you and you think you should love them. But you are always thinking, “She has kind of a little rat face.” And so you do not love them or envision them sexually. Sometimes you imagine a rat face on Fergie’s body but that is more hilarious than anything. But there is a lot of pressure riding on your love. When there is so much pressure and your friends are often trying to get both of you to the same party but you keep saying you have the flu. That is sort of like a ghost.

When someone loves you. When they love you but they are blind so they cannot see your beautiful face. They are deprived of your beauty and so that love is so sad and dependent on smell. And they have a gangly beard or overgrown eyebrows because it is now too dangerous to shave with an actual sharp edge. That is sort of like a ghost.

When you are in love. When you love a man but they do not live in the same city. They live in a different city from where they write letters. They write letters saying they are setting aside money so as visit soon. So every night they just sprawl out in bed and imagine your body. They imagine they have not just one penis but five to match your equally-magical five vaginas. And when you have sex it is like a puzzle piece being penetrated on all sides – a perfect alignment. They are saving and soon they will be flying and checking into a nearby hotel room. But there are so many bills that get in their way. Like last month they were getting behind on paying the installments for their dog’s chemotherapy. But it is worth it. He is looking better all the time, old Rex, he is a fighter. But then another setback. Last week Rex escaped from the backyard and got raped. And now he is traumatized. Now there are psychotherapy bills to pay. But still, little by little, they are getting closer to the cost of the plane and the hotel suite. A suite! So do not betray their love! That is sort of like a ghost.

Cary Fukunaga believes in ghosts. Moira Buffini believes in ghosts. Mia Wasikowska believes in ghosts. Michael Fassbender believes in ghosts . . . $13

If you heart Cary Fukunaga’s Jane Eyre:

Recommendations by Li’l Fatass
John Patrick Shanley’s Doubt
Wong Kar-wai’s In the Mood for Love
Pedro Almodovar’s Hable Con Ella

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