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Posts Tagged ‘My Name Is Bruce’

The Lodger: Director David Ondaatje‘s debut is loosely adapted from Hitchcock’s 1927 silent film about a ‘Jack The Ripper’ copycat killer. Ondaatje gives The Lodger a routinely modern twist by throws plenty of false climaxes, both run-of-the-mill and unexpected, at us. The visual elements are also far grittier than these types of films normally lend themselves to, thanks to nifty cinematography from David Armstrong. Actress Hope Davis (with whom I’m having a cinematic affair) as the hapless patron of the lodge and Alfred Molina as the obsessive detective deliver on so many levels that we can ignore Simon Baker‘s ineffectual brooding as the title character. Two other things that didn’t quite work for me – Philip Baker Hall darting in and out as the generic Captain Smith, grimacing perhaps a tad too unnaturally, and the predictable ending. Everything else deserves a thumbs-up in this suitably atmospheric Hitchcockian thriller.

Pig Hunt: I have the softest corner in my mind for low-budget horror films that scream bloody murder. It is adorable how they make us curl into a foetal position, letting our mind escape from recurring group hugs that define our lives, careers and breaks in sobriety. It is also heart-warming that there are film-lovers out there scraping together money and questionable talent to scare the shit out of other people. Like many other gory backwoods thrillers turn out to be, James Isaac’s Pig Hunt could be an extended metaphor for the socio-political hierarchies that govern every aspect of our world; so if you’re into that sort of thing, you may find sly references to misogyny, established religion and if you’re drunk, oedipal complexes too. Mutilated emus, a machete-wielding maniac, nymphomaniacal pot cultivators, and a monstrous wild boar that makes Russell Mulcahy’s Razorback look like Babe lost and hogtied in the city? The show goes on. And how.

Greenberg: These comedians have become infatuated with playing caricatures of their publicized persona – Adam Sandler in Funny People, Patton Oswalt in Big Fan, and that creepy guy, to an ostensibly lesser extent, in Pauly Shore Is Dead. Even crappy action stars have embraced it (spoiler: this intro is a waste of time) and gone on to make fun of themselves (JCVD and My Name Is Bruce). I assume Ben Stiller was going for something similar in Noah Baumbach’s Greenberg, but I could be wrong. Actually, Roger Greenberg isn’t very different from characters that we’ve come to associate Stiller with. Domesticated, empathetic, dorky and infatuated with delusions of grandeur – traits that don’t mesh very well with the character’s existential despair in this film. Sort of like Chris Cornell’s Scream album that toyed with hip-hop. I can appreciate the deviance from normalcy but uh uh no thanks…it’s just too weird. Thankfully, the film’s zanier and more admirable bouts of melancholia lie in Rhys Ifans‘ droopiness and Greta Gerwig‘s gut-wrenching facial expressions, both of which, are spectacular as is the soundtrack provided by James Murphy (front man, LCD Soundsystem). Now go watch Oswalt set the bar incredibly high in Big Fan.

The Losers: Sylvain White is the genius behind I’ll Always Know What You Did Last Summer. We definitely know what he did the summer of 2010. He made an abortion of an action flick.

American Splendor: Harvey Pekar died last week, so let’s spend a minute in obligatory silence as I pray to the distraught geeks in the sky for his soul to keep. In case you don’t already know, he was a iconic comic book writer and legendary cultural nihilist. His autobiographical comic series detailed the tortuously funny bits of his life as a file clerk at a Veteran’s Administration hospital in Cleveland. In Berman and Pulcini’s biopic, Paul Giamatti is very believable as Pekar. It is evident that someone has done proper research. One of the details I really enjoyed was the way Giamatti lets his eyebrows do most of the talking as did Pekar in so many of his interviews, especially on Dave Letterman. In addition, a special mention to the cameos from his real-life friends and their splendidly spaced-out, interstellar stares; with friends like these who needs copies of Hitch Hiker’s Guide. All said and done, a notch below the utterly cool crankiness of Terry Zwigoff’s documentary on Robert Crumb, but a tremendous water pistol salute to the man nevertheless.

Splintered: Vincenzo Natali‘s extended love letter to Spielberg’s epically bad film about cute aliens is no longer the odds-on favourite to win my ‘wasted storyline potential’ trophy for 2010. Director Simeon Halligan could have gone about a million other ways with Splintered‘s storyline and still had me thoroughly engaged. While the first 15 minutes promises vicious creatures of the night, creative dismemberment and a wee Welsh lassie’s descent into hyper-realistic madness, the rest of the film has some of the flimsiest excuses for bloodshed. He mucks things up further by paying zero attention to group psychology during moments of crisis. At times, I wasn’t sure if the guys were being stalked and attacked by unseen evil or frantically seduced by their pregnant cousins; a strange mix of disgust, euphoria and fear. Some of dialogues are so absurd that we might soon have a ‘Godzilla vs Splintered’s Script’ straight-to-DVD classic on our hands. Holly Weston‘s passive hysteria in the last frame as she walks towards a close-up angle is a thing of beauty, but everything is such a chore to endure.

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Judd Apatow’s Funny People, a film about a comedian/celebrity George Simmons – confused me. As the end credits rolled, I wasn’t sure whether I liked it or not. I ended up on middle ground, which was really annoying, given my aversion towards the neutrality of things. Indifference is the ultimate insult a common man can assign to a work of art and since cinema (and the love I have for it) is something I hold near and dear, I hated feeling inadequate about either recommending it or shitting on the essence of its being. Here’s the problem first. Adam Sandler (who plays George Simmons) must have hoped Funny People would do for him what JCVD did for Jean Claude Van Damme. I guess it’s alright for celebrities to seek therapy through self-caricaturizing; at least it beats going down to some river to pray. It worked for the Belgian muscleman because the public had never before thought of him as a man who suffers, let alone muse eloquently over all those crappy films he starred in. After watching his insecurities come alive on-screen, no longer did people think Van Damme’s first reaction to anything would be to do a seriously gay version of the splits or position his limbs for a Judo crane kick. The self-loathing characterization in JCVD hit a nerve (in me, at least) because it made for a chilling catharsis of the actor. Even Bruce Campbell’s My Name Is Bruce sort of worked, with the cult legend more than willing to laugh uproariously at his delusions of grandeur while secretly grinning at how fame once pulled a fast one on him about his place in cinema.

Despite not knowing if the director Judd Apatow intended to caricaturize Adam Sandler, I can’t but help nurse suspicions about it. Going by this alone, his film fell a little flat. The only musing I have ever done about Adam Sandler was whether or not the man is truly retarded. The characters he played in films like Billy Madison, Happy Gilmour and Waterboy seemed to be an extension of his real self minus the extraordinary savantism. His stand-up comedy too is centered on funny accents, childish cussing and penile jokes, something I’m sure his mates back home would testify to as a weekend by the couch with a couple of beers activity. Maybe I’m wrong, but I’d hate to think this didn’t affect my liking of this film. So, seeing his character supposedly bare his soul on the canvas didn’t do much for me.

Here’s what worked. Seth Rogen, Jonah Hill, Jason Schwartzman, Leslie Mann, Eric Bana and the ten or so brilliantly executed cameos. Rogen and Hill – who play standup comedians Ira Wright and Leo Koenig – are probably the most sought-after comedians in Hollywood right now. They’re pretty funny, if only they didn’t indulge in so much toilet humour (conveniently, George Simmons makes a mention of it). Here they are in form, especially Rogen with his man-child impersonations. Now I know that if Sarah Silverman and Will Ferrell ever had a child, it’d be really funny. Hollywood’s nerdiest prodigy Jonah Hill is going places with his obnoxious anti-frat boy comedy and he knows it; the arrogance is evident and well-deserved.

As for Jason Schwartzman (he plays Wright and Leo’s egomaniacal roommate), he has a little Bill Murray thing going for him. No matter how similar most of the characters he portrays seem to be, he still manages to make them engaging. In Funny People, the sympathy he shows for his roomies is subtly hilarious. There’s a scene in which he sits next to Rogen’s character and explains why he slept with his date…look at the expressions on Schwartzman’s face, I’m telling you, Mr Murray would be proud.

Leslie Mann’s character (Simmons’ love interest) was well crafted too. I really dug the confrontation scene, with the three men standing there, jaws open and fists raised, unsure of who to blame and for what. Eric Bana provides standard fare as the sweet and sour-tongued Aussie husband who has read too many self-help books. For me, the true highlights of Funny People were the cameos. The scene in which Marshall Mathers (Eminem) confronts Ray Romano (from Everybody Loves Raymond) is just about the funniest scene I have watched in a mainstream movie in a long time. Rap outfit Wu Tang Clan’s RZA, Andy Dick, James Taylor, Paul Reiser – all provide rib-tickling fastfood humour, with quick and to the point punchlines. The Sarah Silverman stand up bit about Kanye West and Obama also qualifies as a laugh out loud moment. (if you find it offensive, you’re a bigger jackass than Kanye).

I’ll say this too…Funny People could be the first step towards changing the public (for all those who care, at least) perception of Adam Sandler’s talent as an actor. Truth be told, it’s probably the most intense he has even been. Even in the vastly underrated Paul Anderson’s Punch Drunk Love, the tragedy of his character’s life seemed more odd than actually moving.

In Funny People, George Simmons desperately tries to take a step back, lose the jokes and get a bit more serious about his place in the world. I guess, in 2009, Adam Sandler tried that too. To quote one of his classically retarded characters – Billy Madison – “Well, I made the duck blue because I’d never seen a blue duck before and I wanted to see one”.

Well, you decide if you want to see this blue duck (I’m aware that at some level, I’m making no sense whatsoever).

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