Monday, August 24, 2015

Irrational Man

When you grow up watching the films of Woody Allen, you develop a problem.  I mean, you probably develop any number of problems if we're being honest, but one of the biggest ones is that you still go every damn year to get that dose of wandering eloquence and bitter banter you need.  This is, of course, even though you know that the film it's housed in will likely disappoint you.  This is, too, even though you know that you would be better served pressing play on yet another repeat viewing of an old favorite.  Still, you go.  When you do, you can't really talk about it. This is because when you talk about it the conversation is always the same aimless insular ranking of the director's oeuvre. It almost doesn't matter that a Woody Allen film is a film at all. We've kinda stopped talking about them as products that might entertain on any merits beyond how they match up to the filmmaker's other works.  So, with Irrational Man the conversation is yet another repetition: is it a good or bad Woody Allen Film?  Do we like seeing Joaquin Phoenix in this construct we call the Woody Allen Film? Do we feel like Parker Posey should have been here - in this thing called the Woody Allen Film - long ago?  


Trainwreck may be the most frequently discussed film of my summer this far. Everyone seems to want to work on cultivating an opinion on it, everyone wants to establish whether or not they've seen it, but no one seems to stand on solid ground as to whether or not they found it truly successful.  Most seem to like the film, but with a caveat or vague sense of something they'd like to work out before making their final decision.  I know what they mean, I have reservations, too.  Trainwreck is a film that seems to demand a second viewing even before it even reaches its grand finale.  It's the type of movie with characters who may take a little while to love and with plot points that both hit their genre marks and yet actively comment on the fact of those existing tropes.  Those used to writer/star Amy Schumer's comic sensibilities should be used to this: she's one to walk the line while all the while pointing directly to it, a tactic that works well when pointing out industry misogyny or cultural double-standards, but which is somehow trickier when the goal seems to be writing an ideal rom com while also correcting the problems of that genre.  

The way I see it, the thing about the rom com is that we already know the fallacies and fantasies they work with because, in a way, we live with them.  They're something very different than other genres, because they apply more directly to the way we conduct our relationships and the wishes that we all secretly have.   So, we may talk about wanting to see the romantic comedy where everything falls apart, the "real" version where nothing works out, but when we're given that film, that critical decision that we think we want, how often do we like it?  How do we feel when our point of identification doesn't wind up in the position we want them to?  What I mean is: Annie Hall is the exception, not the rule. 

Tuesday, August 11, 2015


At this point, you either like the Minions well enough, just don't get it, or are a child teetering on the brink of disturbing obsession.  The yellow, pill-shaped sidekicks are an odd phenomenon: they speak the linguistic equivalent of wind-dings, look basically identical, and seem unified as a species primarily in their love for both bananas and villainy.  They're meant to be little followers who go wherever a more powerful overlord tells them, and in one of the more amusing sequences in Minions  we watch a compact history of misplaced trust and accidental destruction.  Each big bad the minions latch on to seems to meet a terrible end, and it's perhaps in this way that their dedication to evil is quickly cancelled out: if you keep killing the bad guy, you must be some kind of hero, right?

Inside Out

If I'd gone ahead and actually kept to my schedule, the write-up for Inside Out might have sounded just a little bit sour.  Much has been made about the film's approach to growing up, about how the film serves as a primer to understanding the inevitable ebbs and flows of human emotions - how it's ok to feel, and how it is that sometimes we seem to be feeling everything at once.  In this bodying of abstract concepts, Inside Out excels: it is clearly imagined, simplistically rendered, and meticulous in its mapping.  It's so tidy, in fact, that I couldn't shake the feeling that the lines were a little too clean, the underlying narrative a little too forced, and that I'd just watched an over-budget video produced for elementary school health classes. It didn't seem messy or personally delineated enough, and yet it also went overboard in its attempts to pull at the audience's heartstrings.
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