Friday, July 15, 2011

the bloggy, bloggy movie review

More highlights from my weekly movie column for the DCist. Visit the DCist for this week's column, See this week's column, Popcorn & Candy: Manacled Mormons and Androgynous Aliens Edition, in which I review Tabloid, the new Errol Morris film. I also reviewed three offerings from the Capital Fringe Festival this week, my favorite being the Pointless Theatre Company's Super Spectacular Dada Adventures of Hugo Ball.

From Popcorn & Candy: Technology is a Blessing and a Curse Edition, June 30, 2011

Larry Crowne

What it is: The second feature from writer/director/auteur Tom Hanks, whose portrayal of the lowly worker is a stark rejoinder to the oppressive hegemony of the Roumanian New Wave.
Why you want to see it: The titular Crowne (everyman a King, yo) is called to the front office at the big-box store where he works, boasting to his cow-orker that he's won Employee of the Month designation an Ed Rooney-esque NINE TIMES. [Ed. note: I had (and still kind of have) no idea who Ed Rooney was when I wrote this, but my editor inserted the additional qualifier.] But this time Crowne is a different statistic: he's laid off, allegedly because he lacks a college degree. And thus, multi-millionaire Tom Hanks (who I'm sure is a nice guy) takes an imaginary bullet for The People. Oh the catharsis! Hanks wrote and directed -- his first such project since 1996's That Thing You Do, which painted a picture of stardom in a more innocent time. But is this the right time for innocence? Is Forrest Gump II going to make America sleep better through this economic crisis? No, but Hanks' studied naivete magically transforms this picture into a live-action Spongebob Squarepants, in which the forbidden sexual tension between Spongebob and Squidward (Julia Roberts) is finally, subversively fulfilled. Co-written by Nia Vardalos of My Big Fat Greek Wedding fame; exercise extreme caution.

View the trailer NINE TIMES.
Opens tomorrow at a pineapple under the sea near you.

Rear Window

What it is: The AFI's Hitchhock retrospective continues with one of his greatest films.
Why you want to see it: Photo-journalist L. B. Jeffries (Jimmy Stewart) is holed up in his Greenwich Village loft after breaking his leg shooting an auto race. (Be careful out there, kids!) Bored and restless, he watches the comings and goings of his neighbors across the way. Rear Window is one of the classic thrillers. But it is also a case study in the power of photography, and of seeing. The film's main action takes place entirely in the space of one character's apartment, and what he sees from his window: the courtyard, a distant street, fragments of his neighbor's apartments, framed by their own rear windows. Does this presage the internet? People-watching has long been a favored past-time, and with a lens trained on nearly everybody it's hard to know where to look. Can what we see hurt us? This masterpiece from fabled voyeur Alfred Hitchcock examines the dangerous nature of photography while celebrating it with finely-crafted suspense and one of the great screen beauties, Grace Kelly. A Bernard Hermann score [I only realized after I wrote this that Hermann would not begin to collaborate with Hitchcock until The Trouble with Harry] might have made this a perfect movie, but Franz Waxman's treacly music serves as a fluffy counterpoint to the brooding danger within. Trivia note: the score is performed on screen by a young Ross Bagdasarian, creator of The Chipmunks.

View the trailer.


From Popcorn & Candy: Young and Misunderstood Edition, July 7, 2011


What it is: The birth of the shower scene.
Why you want to see it: Marion Crane (Janet Leigh) is an office drone entrusted with enough money to blow Phoenix for greener pastures. Too bad she has a change of heart -- at the Bates Motel. Hitchcock's beloved avian imagery -- both predator and prey -- explodes a few years later in The Birds, but here it plays a more subtly sinister role: flight is arrested and animal urges are kept in check by man's own cages. What is the shower but a birdbath, the carving knife our hunger for fresh KFC? Psycho is the ur-slasher movie, the iconic shower scene the first in a long line of brutal punishments that are visited upon any sexually active bodies with the misfortune to find themselves in a horror film. Its influence goes far beyond the theater, to music ("Psycho Killer"), art (Douglas Gordon's 24 Hour Psycho), and even the collector's doll market (the shower scene became a liimited edition Madame Alexander doll). And thus, the film itself is like a phoenix: out of the horrific crimes of Ed Gein (who inspired Robert Bloch's source novel) rose something like poetry. Or is it kitsch? For all its strengths, the movie is flawed, the psychological exegesis ridiculous, the plot twists so much a part of the collective consciousness that it is impossible to watch it with the intended suspense. Then again, seeing the film with an audience helped Hitchcock realize the movie was, in fact, a black comedy. It may not be as funny as, say, Eraserhead, but rather a stark look at the arid morality of the American desert, an Oedipal western with Perkins as a troubled outlaw. And mother? She's the sheriff.

View the trailer.

No comments: