David Koepp‘s Mortdecai is obviously a Mike Myers-type comedy about an effete, full-of-himself asshole. At the very least it plants a notion that Johnny Depp‘s performance might be worth the price. But why put out a trailer in August for a mid-range film that won’t open until February 2015? And the use of cartoonish CGI in the accidental shooting scene kills the joke. If the victim had realistically responded to the shotgun blast by falling to the ground and writhing in pain, Depp’s blase remark — “I think I just shot George” (or is he saying “I think I just shot Jaw?”) — would be funny. Koepp, a smart guy, directed the darkly comedic Ghost Town. I’m wondering if Mortdecai will turn out to be more perverse than the trailer is letting on. Obviously a set-up for a franchise — Eric Aronson‘s script is based on Kyril Bonfiglioli‘s quartet of Mortdecai books. It costars Aubrey Plaza, Ewan McGregor, Paul Bettany and Olivia Munn.
You know what the copy should be, given the obviously base, pants-down mentality behind Dumb and Dumber To (Universal, 11.14.14)? “I don’t want an enema, you can’t force me to have an enema…if I have a damn enema I’ll do it myself because enemas are personal!”
There’s no question that Lynn Shelton‘s Laggies (A24, 10.12) is one of the best comedies of its type or the best…certainly the most satisfying Lynn Shelton film ever (well beyond the realm of Touch Feely and Your Sister’s Sister, and more schematically crafted and on-target than Humpday). And yet right now it has a moderately lousy 55% Rotten Tomatoes rating. That doesn’t calculate when you consider that the thumbs-uppers include Variety‘s Justin Chang, The Hollywood Reporter‘s John DeFore, Film.com‘s James Rocchi, HitFix‘s Drew McWeeny and The Playlist‘s Rodrigo Perez. When these minds are pleased for more or less the same reasons, a film has definitely done something right. Oh, yeah…here’s my reaction.
In a piece posted today (8.15), HuffPost contributor and Columbia film professor Annette Insdorf has linked Philip Noyce‘s The Giver and Victor Fleming‘s The Wizard of Oz. Both transition from black-and-white into color. Both feature wicked witches (Meryl Streep‘s bitch elder, Margaret Hamilton‘s Wicked With of the West) with the power to appear unexpectedly. Both title characters are mysterious older guys who may (or may not be) agents of salvation. Both are about adolescent rites of passage such as defying authority. Jonas’s journey enacts the yearning articulated in “Somewhere Over the Rainbow”, flying “over the chimney tops” to the forbidden “Elsewhere” of The Giver, moving ever closer to what resembles a traditional home. Favorite passage: “Perhaps both films share a questioning of what ‘home’ means. Salman Rushdie perceptively proposed that The Wizard of Oz is not about ‘there’s no place like home’ but the dream of leaving, the celebration of escape. As in that ‘road movie’ of 1939, Jonas must enact the combined courage, brains and heart to abandon the placid familiar for the dangerous unknown.” Second favorite passage: “In a very American tradition, The Giver valorizes memory and passion above serenity and predictability.” You know who will really like The Giver? Rand Paul, and that’s in no way a putdown.
I was fairly certain that today was Thursday. Somehow a day got lost or forgotten about. It’s not like I live in a cloud but since I’m always fighting the clock it feels easier on some level not to check it too much. I usually know what day it is but everything seems to be streaming along a lot faster. Months pass in two or three weeks. I’m leaving for Telluride in less than two weeks which means I’ve only got a few days. Obviously the sunlight tells me something and ditto the darkness, but otherwise I’ll check the time when I wake up and then I’ll start working and researching and calling around, and then I’ll check my watch while on the phone and I’ll be like “holy shit, it’s 5:30?” and then I’ll remember that a screening starts in 90 minutes, which means I need to take my spartan three-minute shower (long showers are for losers).
Movies have been a thriving industry for a little over a century now, and for most of this period romantic male leads were cut from a certain cloth. There were two categories, of course — studly, straight-arrow romantic leads (everyone from Cary Grant to Van Johnson to William Holden to Steve McQueen to Ben Stiller to Brenton Thwaites) to less studly, mostly pleasing but less-than-drop-dead sexy romantic male also-rans or “best friends” (i.e., Ralph Bellamy back in the ’30s, Wendell Corey in the ’50s).
Romantic male leads used to be guys whom (a) women can pleasurably imagine going to bed with and/or marrying, and (b) straight guys recognize as superior alpha males with excellent genes. But not so much lately.
What’s changed is not only the quality of the alphas but the romantic also-rans — i.e., the guys who never got the girl. Over the last decade or so the rise of cheap digital cinema and…whatever, the Sundance Film Festival aesthetic plus downswirling GenY-ish attitudes plus a couple of Judd Apatow-perpetrated scenarios have ushered in a politically correct notion that dweeby, dorky-looking guys or less-than-drop-dead-knockout girls (i.e., Lena Dunham being the standard-bearer) are just as acceptable in a romantic context as anyone else.
Twee-male Mark Webber (Laggies, Happy Crhistmas)
Put simply in a male context, guys who got the girl used to look like guys who got the girl…but no longer. Boiled down further, it’s become increasingly common these days for male romantic also-rans and even occasional romantic leads to fit the dreaded twee mold. The rule of twee means that any homely or marginal or bearded, overfed, gross-looking guy or girl can hook up with good-looking types and nobody bats an eyelash. Blubbery Seth Rogen married to and boinking Rose Byrne every which way in Neighbors…if you say so. Mark Duplass making sensitive-guy moves on Melissa McCarthy in Tammy…really? Anne Hathaway being sufficiently taken with Rafe Spall to move in with him in One Day…remarkable.
In my mind nothing illustrates this all-but-certified attitude more than the fact that Mark Webber, by any measure a dorky, balding, narrow-shouldered, knit-cap-wearing, carrot-haired, sensitive-dweeb beardo type who wouldn’t have been allowed with 100 feet of any hot leading lady during the ’70s or ’80s or even the ’90s, was cast as a romantic-lead opposite Anna Kendrick in Joe Swanberg‘s Happy Christmas and then as Keira Knightley‘s earnest-but-clueless fiance in Laggies.
I understand and accept that the HE community, obviously including but in another sense above and beyond the comment-thread regulars, is here for…what, the history and the voice and the pizazzy atttiude and…what else, the derision? I realize that attention spans are shorter than ever. I’m just as moody and scattered and “otherwise engaged” as the next guy…I get it. But I’m asking again for loose change for my son’s Kickstarter campaign for Domino.fm, and this time I really mean it, dammit. This isn’t late 2008 or ’09 or ’10 — there’s a degree of comfort out there now. HE is obviously free and that’s the way I like it, but anyone who’s been visiting and having fun over the past decade (or 16 years if you count the previous incarnations) is hereby requested to sprinkle a little sugar. $10 or $20…whatever works.
80% of romantic films are about great beginnings — the first spark and how a guy and a gal gradually overcome obstacles to a relationship that’s clearly meant to be. 15% are about deeply-felt relationships that end tragically or on a sad, bittersweet note — Romeo and Juliet, Titanic, The Way We Were, Brief Encounter. But touching romantic films about a couple dealing with second-act bruisings and fresh discoveries and emotional rebirths are very, very rare, and all the more valuable for that. This is what The One I Love shoots for and pretty much nails and brings home. On top of being agreeably mind-fucky and Twilight Zone-ish.
On top of which the ending of The One I Love planted an earbug. The Mamas and the Papas’ version of “This Is Dedicated To The One I Love” is played over the closing credits, and I still can’t get it out of my head. Most earbugs last three or four days — a week at most — but this been dogging me for a couple of weeks.