Michael Winterbottom’s comedy is a riotous and often hilarious but also vaguely thought-provoking road trip mockumentary and it was the funniest film I saw all year. Steve Coogan and Rob Brydon (of Winterbottom’s Tristram Shandy: A Cock and Bull Story) play somewhat (?) exaggerated versions of themselves – two pompous and egomaniacal British actors who must travel the countryside sampling meals at various diners, restaurants and hotels only to have the occasion dissolve into bickering and dueling celebrity impressions (Michael Caine and Al Pacino are particularly astonishing), interspersed with moments of would-be insight resulting from bouts of self-loathing (at least on Coogan’s part; Brydon seems rather down-to-earth). Set to a melancholy score by Michael Nyman (who borrows from his own score for Winterbottom’s Wonderland), this is one of the most wickedly funny and (by the end) surprisingly touching films (in a sense) about acting I’ve seen.
Monthly Archives: June 2011
J.J. Abrams’ Super 8, as every critic from here to Timbuktu can tell you, combines nostalgia for the magical childlike wonder of circa late 70s/early 80s Spielberg classics like Close Encounters of the Third Kind and E.T. with the astonishing modern visual capabilities of the Alias and Lost co-creator who revitalized the Mission: Impossible and Star Trek franchises with his first two directorial efforts and now comes to us with a wholly original creation. Joe Lamb (Joel Courtney) is a fairly ordinary pre-teen in 1979 rural/suburban Ohio who is making a Romero-inspired monster movie with his friends (including Riley Griffiths as the immensely charismatic Charles, a chubby stand-in for every film geek turned filmmaker). One fateful night, an “incident” occurs that has literally intergalactic consequences as “something” causes a catastrophic train crash – all caught on Charles’ super-8mm film camera. Soon, the military and other government emissaries are involved. This is a delightful and consistently enjoyable throwback.
If The Artist and Hugo saw Hazanavicius and Scorsese, respectively, paying homage to their chosen art form, this year also saw writer-director Woody Allen get a major runaway hit on his hands by continuing his tour of beloved European cities with a whimsical and enchanting romantic comedy that is as much about the very city in which it takes place as it is about the tentative romance writer Gil Pender (Owen Wilson) has with a beautiful and mysterious young woman (Marion Cotillard), and his very romantic nostalgia for the past. A cavalcade of historical artists and figures pass through Gil’s magical-realist fantasy including Gertrude Stein (Kathy Bates), Ernest Hemingway (Corey Stoll), F. Scott (Tom Hiddleston) and Zelda Fitzgerald (Allison Pill), Luis Bunuel, Salvadore Dali (Adrien Brody), T.S. Eliot, and Picasso, among others. The prevalent theme seems to be one which Allen has most favored in recent years: the grass is always greener on somebody else’s side of the fence. In this bittersweet charmer, that notion is entertainingly dis-proven.
Pedro Almodovar loves women. This is a fact evident in just about every film in his oeuvre. Occasionally, women find themselves in sticky situtations. What are the circumstances in which violence is used by Almodovar’s women? Is violence a legitimate means out of such a situation? Does violence empower them or is it merely a necessary evil? By examining such examples as Volver and What Have I Done to Deserve This?!, we shall see. Continue reading