Martin Scorsese’s Hugo

Part Un: Leg

The most controversial and provocative character in Hugo is Inspector Gustav’s leg.  Villains often are marked by a physical deformity – a disfiguring scar or handicap.  Here, Inspector Gustav (Sasha Baron Cohen) is marked by a disability, Leg, giving him an over-the-top limp with markedly loud squeaks.  Leg is not only a mark of evil, its complex character runs through a number of phases.  Slap stick humor is one of them.  Tsk tsk for teaching kids to laugh at Leg, that’s cheap. Then, Leg moves into phase pity.  Look at that poor gimp, half of a man, he is.  Leg is equivalent to a large vagina doused in perfume and wearing pumps.  Inspector Gustav is emasculated to the point of obscurity, the poor chump can’t even talk to the plain flower lady (Emily Mortimer).  As Leg’s final phase, it is transformed into a source of goodness.  Through Leg, Inspector finds the strength of compassion.  Finally, Leg is reborn as a functional limb and Inspector Gustav emerges as a fully whole man.  Happy ending (at the expense of Leg).

Part Deux: Hugo

There are too many bits and pieces I was unhappy with, it’d be too tedious of a list.  So I’ll stick with just one.  I’m willing to give up a lot of standards when I walk into a children’s movie, but above all, I expect an imaginative and entertaining story.  Instead, Hugo has lots of mystery around characters that are weak, bland, and boring.  Makes it difficult for me to get involved in their secret histories if I just don’t care.

The only redeeming quality about this movie is the celebration of early film makers.  I didn’t know anything about Georges Méliès, but watching his footage and other old footage was pretty tight.

Overall, complete lack of charm.

Recommendations from Yolkie:

City of Lost Children
The Secret Garden
Harry Potter

Andrew Haigh’s Weekend

Andrew Haight’s Weekend dares to take verisimilitude as its subject. What is the reality of a romance contained to one weekend? What are its looks? What are its conversations? What are its confessions? What are its the arguments? What is its sex? Weekend answers these questions without panache, irony, or embrace. It looks you headlong from its window in the apartment building across the alley, smiles, then continues onto its kitchen to taste the pasta sauce it is making for dinner, barely remembering you.

The movie does not employ a locked room scenario—a snowbound cabin, an island vacation, an elevator malfunction, a sniper poised to shoot your telephone booth, etc. The two men live in this city, know this city. Either one can leave the other at any time. This is the danger we feel as we experience their courtship. There is no landscape to contain them. From time to time, the camera works hard (perhaps a bit too hard) to remind us of this fact, observing from a vantage point that illustrates all the empty space framing the couple. The melancholy is not overwhelming. No movie will be rejected by its audience when each and every scene is a possible occasion for sex.

Time rules the mechanism of the movie, yet it is the movie’s most artificial element. We know one weekend can easily comprise a two hour movie. We believe it. We know it. There is nothing we can’t believe. The actors rehearsed for months. The actors are improv artists. The actors are real life lovers. The actors are straight. These are all possibilities within the spectrum of current movie going experience. These possibilities no longer shock us, though we would like to know, one way or the other. This is the kind of arty thinking done by the character Glen that is a little annoying, but we accept it; it is okay because we love him as his new lover Russ loves him.

This is Russ’ movie more than Glen’s. Russ is the more attractive one, who thinks he is the less attractive one. We are over Russ’ shoulder. We follow Russ into the bathroom for a bath, to his job as a city lifeguard, to his goddaughter’s birthday party. When he and Glen have an argument, we follow Russ into retreat, where we see him recoup in silence. The movie places Russ in rare dramatic territory: when a gay man is comfortably out and has achieved a level of peace in both his private and public life, what is his life? What continues to contribute to his loneliness? One more ridiculously basic question this movie dares to take on.

There are several points in following Russ that the movie could abandon its project of reality and enter into a romantic haze: the morning after scene, the night of fun and drugs, the confessions of personal history, the goodbye at the train station. These scenes contain the possibility of transitioning into montage at any moment, cue majestic atonal score. Weekend has no score. Its music is diegetic, as well as its drama. Andrew Haight knows that love is an act as well as an emotion. There is danger to anything that can only be manifested as an act, and Russ and Glen are too aware of this, yet love generously, the best they are able to, for as long as they are able to. Andrew Haight makes sure you witness all the angles of their love. Andrew Haight has made the romance of the year, possibly of his generation. Weekend is worth every one of your $12.

If you don’t live in LA/NY and can’t catch this marvel, some acceptable replacements:

  • Before Sunset
  • It Happened One Night
  • Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind

Tower Heist

Let’s start with a list of what Tower Heist is not.  Tower Heist is not:
– an Italian Job/Fast Five/Ocean’s Eleven type thriller
– a raunchy funny comedy like Bridesmaids, or that funny at all
– an award winning film on any level

Tower Heist does have:
– current relevant material (it’s about a bunch of working class folk getting duped by a douchebag billionaire into a Ponzi scheme)
– a stellar supporting cast (Gabourey Sidibe with a Jamaican accent, where can I see MORE MORE of you?!, Eddie Murphy, GADS how I’ve missed you, Tea Leoni, you always surprise me by how freaking likeable and adorable you are)
– a ridiculous plot and premise, that is so laughably ludricrous

Things I could do without:
Ben Stiller. I have seen too much of you, and you are boring and ugly. I am tired of looking at your pushover face and seeing you furrow your catepillar brows.  Go away.
– Matthew Broderick. You were so adorable, funny and cute when you were young. That does not translate into middle age, unfortunately. You just seem sad, very very sad and you depress me.

Tower Heist felt like a sequel to a very funny film, in the sense that the humor was too safe, and mostly toed or overstepped the line into just not being all that funny.  In the end, not as many laughs as I would have liked, only a few thrills, but in general, good if you just want to make your mind melt for a couple of hours…$6

If you heart Tower Heist:

Recommendations by …
Meet the Fockers
Beverly Hills Cop
Oceans Twelve

Crazy, Stupid, Love

For a star studded cast, Crazy, Stupid, Love fell a little bit short of expectations. There was too much hype and too much expectation before I saw the movie. And while watching the film, I began to doubt whether I really liked movies starring Steve Carell as the main lead and the disappointment mirrored my experience when watching Date Night, except substitute Mila Kunis with Ryan Gosling as the resident hottie.

The biggest excitement of the film hands down is Ryan Gosling…I mean the only reaction you can possibly have whether you’re a guy, girl, single or not, straight, gay is HOT DAMN when you see those artfully crafted chiseled fucken abs. It was refreshing to see Ryan Gosling in a film where his function was to be just a hot piece of meat. I feel like I haven’t seen that in awhile…he’s either wooing his lady fans as the tragically lovesick lead in rom coms like The Notebook or beautifully tragic and dejected lead in Blue Valentine. It was quite cheesy the way they milk his hotness down to the Dirty Dancing “homage,” but you know nobody cares. It was actually funny to see and hear the reaction of the audience as they squirm in their seats in excitement.

Here, he plays a womanizer who volunteers his services to help Steve Carell rediscover his manhood with a makeover (one that I was not seeing significant transformation, but whatevers). Steve Carell plays the same used up role as in his other films. Frankly, it hasn’t really worked since The 40 Year Old Virgin. I will give this character more credit as it has a little more depth as he struggles between holding onto the love of his life and regaining his dignity.

The women in this film certainly took a back seat to the budding bromance of Steve and Ryan. The only thing I would say is that they didn’t really add or detract from the film. I don’t think Julianne Moore or Emma Stone was particularly great. I didn’t find their chemistry with their respective pairings particularly convincing, but I also don’t expect much of that from this sort of romcoms. Marisa Tomei was funny. Overall, the movie was entertaining, but fell a little flat. Definitely, not the best comedy of its class of the year as some might claim. The key is to watch with no expectation and you’ll walk out pleased. $6

If you heart Crazy, Stupid, Love:

Recommendations from Lil D:
Date Night
The Hangover

Another Earth

Another Earth. A brilliant concept for a movie.  A sci-fi masked in real-life drama.  It is writer/director Mike Cahill’s first full-length non-documentary feature – and it felt like it.  The preview reveals too much, but essentially the film is about a young woman and middle aged man whose lives have been devastated by death.  Overlaying this drama is first contact with Earth 2, a visible replica of Earth, where a parallel universe exists.  This sci fi concept hangs in the background.  It’s not the main focus, but it lurks in the sky as a constant reminder.  Another Earth has wonderful ideas, some which are beautifully executed, others which looked like it was someone’s first stab behind the camera.

What I mean is, the music was oftentimes intrusive, trying too hard to evoke a particular feeling.  There were a few too many close-ups of tears or displays of self-conscious art.  Sometimes, I could feel the people acting, a sure mood-killer.  There was very little dialogue throughout the movie.  It’s fitting, because the two main characters are so emotionally crippled they can no longer communicate with people.  I can easily be bored by slow-moving stories, but the lack of dialogue didn’t slow down the story for me.

Boy, did Brit Marling (as Rhoda) deliver an impressive performance.  I like the way she looks and talks.  I hope to see more of her.  As for William Mapother (as John Burroughs), I’d say I’ve seen enough, thank you.  If you find yourself watching it, and you’re not impressed, you should at least stay for the ending.

This movie isn’t for everybody.  It was for me, though… $7

If you heart Another Earth:

Recommendations from Yolkie:
Rabbit Hole
District 9

Coming Soon: Melancholia

Yolkie is looking forward to: Melancholia

This is the latest by Danish writer/director Lars Von Trier (Dancer in the Dark, Dogville).  Looks like a beautifully bizarre drama of two sisters, a wedding, and a catastrophic red star?  I’m not sure what that’s about, but I am damn sure I will watch this movie to find out.  To name a few of the stars: Kirsten Dunst (The Virgin Suicides, Spiderman), Charlotte Gainsbourgh (Antichrist, Science of Sleep),  Charlotte Rampling (Never Let Me Go, Swimming Pool), Alexander Skarsgard (True Blood), and Kiefer Sutherland (The Lost Boys, 24).

US Release Date: November 4, 2011

Beats Rhymes & Life: The Travels of a Tribe Called Quest

I left this film in a state of nostalgia for “conscious” hip hop and speechless because I couldn’t remember the last time I saw such an emotionally moving documentary.  It’s definitely not the originality in the subject matter that drives the film.  I mean Tribe is undeniably pioneers of a new brand of hip hop.  We’ve all heard of the complaints. WTF happened to good hip hop?  We’ve all seen and heard about the break-ups of legendary squabbling bands.  But the true greatness that is Beats, Rhymes & Life is not these heartbreaks, it’s how Rapaport so intimately captures human emotions in each of its context.  Rapaport uses timeless archival concert footage and signature singles like Bonita Applebum, El Segundo, and Can We Kick It, which perhaps is my biggest “I wish” was that he should have included more. The snippets were such a tease, but I guess that just shows how great innovative and influential Tribe Called Quest was that even a little snippet is enough to make you want more, to put you in a state of nostalgia, to make you feel regret for the stunting of a band’s creativity and decline of entire genre.  Certainly, emotions were yanked.
But what about the celebration and tribute?  One of the things I loved most about this film.  It was clear that everyone in the film, including Rapaport, loved Tribe – that they were emblematic of hip hop, holding a special place in everyone’s heart. This was also true for the in-theatre audience.  And let’s not forget the orgasmic display of hip hop giants, representing by their mere presence or the declaration that “I am Hip Hop” or echoed in their sentiments towards Tribe and that period in time when good music was being made.  Hearing their commentary had the effect of shit, that was taken straight from the mouth of the dragon…or was it horse? Whatever, dragon sounds way cooler. Anyways, you just had to believe it if fire was spit from the mouth of the dragon. I particularly liked being reminded of Tribe’s contribution to hip hop and other influential djs, emcees, rappers, artists…They really brought together a community literally and figuratively.  They changed the tone of rap.  Can you say Native Tongues? Craziness.  But these artists’ recognition of those who came before and how Tribe paved the way for artists like Common, Ludacris, Pharell, who I think was the best at conveying the impact of Tribe on our generation.

So yes, you get a slice of what the culture of the time was, but then there is more – the drama, the tensions, and the hardships of keeping the band together when there’s so much raw talent.  For me, the latter half of the film is less awe-inspiring, but in no way less great.  It was human.  Rapaport effectively captures the vulnerabilities of the members of Tribe.  It’s brings down the immortal, halo-wearing status of A Tribe Called Quest to a human level that is accessible and touching to fans.  We get artistic integrity. We get sibling rivalry. We get brotherhood. We get love. Life. Family. We get life-threatening diabetes. And yet, we get comedy in light of the most serious situations.  We get honesty and rawness of emotions from Phife, the ranty one, Ali, who is practically just trying not to piss his pants as he watches and crying over why his parents just can’t keep it together, Q-Tip, the one who wears the pants, and who else? Oh, Jarobi, the sibling that left the nest, choosing not to be around for his dysfunctional family, but remains the heart and spirit according to the rest.  How can you not get emotional when you see a grown man cry over friendship and loss?  Finally, we get the no matter what, at the end of the day, a simple few words is enough to remind us we are family.  One word on the conflict/drama, which I have mixed feelings. Rapaport did a good job in highlighting the tension between Phife and Q-tip, without vilifying either individuals take on the conflict, that it was a matter of difference in their perceptions of the same events and lack of communication and understanding between the two. However, I can’t help but think that the film is slightly misleading in its story-telling of the rise, the fall, and the reconciliation of Tribe.  Also, I would much rather have seen more original concert footage and music, than the underwhelming reunion clips.  Anyhow, Michael Rapaport did a lot. Go be moved. Go listen to the Low End Theory… $11

If you heart Beats Rhymes & Life:

Recommendations from Lil D:
Exit Through the Gift Shop
Waiting for Superman
The Devil and Daniel Johnston

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