Posts Tagged ‘Daily Cardinal’

Showdown over “Greenberg”

April 7, 2010

One of the running gags/motifs throughout “Greenberg” is the eponymous protagonist’s pissy rejection of an attitude that he insists is quintessentially L.A.—the “me me me” mentality—oblivious to the fact that no other character in the movie embodies that same self-absorption better than him. With that said, pardon me while I shill for myself: the DC column comes a day early this week and it’s about—you guessed it—“Greenberg.”

In today’s paper you’ll also find my colleague Mark Riechers’ review of the film, which I disagree with for a bunch of reasons, as should be obvious from my gushy ode.

I’m particularly stumped by Mark’s assertion that Roger is an “an irredeemable asshole.” Sure, Greenberg is a prickly prick for 98% of the movie—but when does he do anything that’s truly “irredeemable”? (I used the same adjective to describe Jeff Daniels’ infinitely more despicable character from “The Squid and the Whale.”) His only crime is his borderline solipsism, which we gradually come to see isn’t solipsism at all, but rather a symptom of something much more psychologically and sociologically complicated. Is the film’s final stretch not an explicit indication that a certain corner has been turned, that Raskolnikov is wrapping up his sentence in Siberia while Sonya is putting the vodka on ice for his imminent return?

Mark also seems to have missed much of what makes Florence such a remarkable character. I guess I just don’t see how anybody with a sense of humor or a quantum of patience could find Gerwig’s performance “obnoxious.” Mark writes:

The end performance is so natural and yet whiny, so authentic and yet pretentious it strikes a singularity point that fuses the best and worst of mumblecore performances into a single character.

Strange… I’d hardly characterize Florence as a whiner; her stunned reactions to Greenberg’s verbal abuse imply a personality at once alluringly enigmatic and painfully familiar. If anything, Greenberg is the film’s resident whiner—but unlike a Florence, he possesses the intellectual equipment to kvetch in a way that effectively evokes a great tradition of cinematic shmendriks.

I strongly encourage y’all to catch “Greenberg” before its run at Sundance ends.

To stream or not to stream?

March 25, 2010

That is the question, according to this week’s DC column. Yeah, “Cinema in the Internet Age” is my fallback subject, and it’s probably apparent that I was busy with a bunch of other stuff and just sort of threw something together to meet my deadline—but please, don’t let that dissuade you from givin’ her (the article) a look. Links to the sites to which I allude, UbuWeb and the Auteurs, can be found in the Worthwhile Links section to your right; you can also scroll down the page to find a series of stunning stills from “India Song” and “Noroît.” Expect some decidedly more thought-out columns when I return from my week-long siesta/hiatus-from-blogging. Onward!

Cleaning house and trying to do nothing

March 24, 2010

Seeing as how I have pretty much nothing substantial to say for myself at the moment, it’s only fair that I direct you toward some things you might find interesting:

1. Check out my esteemed colleague Todd Stevens’ review of Sebastián Silva’s “The Maid,” which is currently enjoying a short run at Sundance Cinemas. I haven’t yet gotten a chance to see this film but Todd seems to have dug it quite a bit. He’s particularly taken with the film’s psychological dimension, which I find somewhat curious given how much I read about its overt Brechtianism. Then again, who says you can’t have it both ways? And it’s always nice to munch on the NY film scene’s leftovers.

2. File this under “Well I’ll be!”—the Badger Herald’s Tony Lewis scored a conference call with Ben Stiller, Noah Baumbach and Jamie Murphy (the LCD Soundsystem mastermind and former Princeton Junction resident). Good show, old chap. In the interest of continuing to fuel the “Greenberg” hype-train (allll abooard), I’ll say the interview is worth a gander, though Tony seems much, much more familiar with Stiller than with Baumbach or even Murphy—which is too bad because “Greenberg,” like all of Baumbach’s “mature” films, is said to be very much the work of an auteur, as demonstrated by Stiller’s comments in the interview.

Now if you’ll excuse me, I’ve got some last-minute botany studying to do.

Are you going to the Romanian Film Festival?

March 18, 2010

In this week’s DC column I try to persuade you to answer the question posed in this post’s title with a resounding “YEAH, PROBABLY.” Seriously folks: This year’s Romanian Film Festival at the MMoCA has a handful of films that are super-worthy of your time. Here’s a link to the festival’s website, where you’ll find the entire schedule and descriptions of all the included films. Does the Romanian New Wave exist? It’s pretty cool that you’ll be able to decide for yourself this weekend.

Une nouvelle semaine, un famille nouveau

March 15, 2010

On Saturday night I had the privilege of attending what was only the second screening ever of the new of Montreal documentary, “of Montreal: Family Nouveau,” hosted at the Project Lodge on East Johnson. I hardly knew a thing about of Montreal prior to being invited to the screening but the film, whose director, Spenser Simrill, attended and gave a memorable Q&A afterward, persuaded me that I need to do some more leisurely research. Anyway, my extended thoughts on “Family Nouveau” can be found in today’s Daily Cardinal.

2 or 3 things I know about auteurs

March 11, 2010

Seeing as how a gang of movies by prominent directors are descending or will descend upon Madison theaters this month, I chose to devote this week’s Cardinal column to evaluating the concept of the auteur and its place in the history of film criticism. Most of this is 101 (or preaching to the choir) for anyone who’s taken an introductory-level film class, but I think the debate remains unresolved and relevant enough to warrant more attention than it’s already gotten. Though my personal film aesthetics are pretty much anti-auteur, I’m usually guilty of mentioning films and their directors in the same breath. Then again, the same goes for just about every other critic—except, on occasion, for the great Manny Farber, who I quote in the column. Give it a look, if you’re so inclined.

To predict or not to predict

March 5, 2010

In today’s edition of the Daily Cardinal you’ll find some Oscar predictions by me, Ryan Hebel, Katie Foran-McHale, Mark Riechers, Kevin Slane and Todd Stevens. There’s a bit of an anti-“Avatar” attitude in the air, to which I’m certainly guilty of contributing. Whatever. Anyway, check the feature out and, come Monday, be sure to let me know if my predictions were right. It’d be cool if they were but if not it’s no big deal.

Serene views of a combustible man

March 4, 2010

Because it is Thursday you may now read my latest column for the Daily Cardinal in today’s paper. This week I wrote about the semi-new Werner Herzog joint, “Bad Lieutenant: Port of Call New Orleans,” which I dug quite a bit but remain unclear as to what it might mean for Herzog’s future. (I fully expect him to live to be 167 years old.) The film will be available on DVD at Four Star Video Heaven on April 6th. Perhaps you and I could even watch it together.

Overbearing style, single men

March 2, 2010

In today’s Daily Cardinal you’ll find a review, written by world-renowned CineMadison commenter Emma Roller, of “A Single Man,” which I somehow haven’t seen yet, despite the wealth of hype it’s received. Emma argues that director Tom Ford’s first film isn’t up to the task of confronting the philosophical matters it evokes; likewise, she says that the anal, hyper-calculated quality of the film’s mise en scène is suffocating, yielding a bothersome degree of artificiality that distracts from the more abstract psychological and existential issues the film halfheartedly probes. I suppose I’ll have to see “A Single Man” myself to determine whether it truly suffers from what I’ve previously called “overbearing style”; the way Emma describes the film, it sure seems that way.

Lamenting wasted talent

February 26, 2010

I’m not sure how my DC colleague Todd Stevens does it but he’s got three articles in today’s paper, one of which is a column addressing the not-so-latent anti-intellectualism at work on that wonderful forum of news and commentary, “Fox & Friends.” (I wonder whether anyone involved with said show is familiar with Rainer Werner Fassbinder’s gutter-scraping and unapologetically gay 1975 film “Fox and His Friends”…)

But what I’m really interested in is his review of the new Kevin Smith cop comedy, “Cop Out.” The following passage is worth excerpting:

[…] worse than the painfully awful story is the nearly tragic waste of talent. Smith has gained a well deserved cult following with films like “Clerks” and “Chasing Amy,” but where those films prospered with Smith’s nerd-friendly stylized dialogue, Smith merely took the director’s chair here, and the script feels woefully lifeless as a result. If not for a brief cameo by Smith’s frequent collaborator and bromantic partner Jason Lee, it would be hard to tell this was a Kevin Smith film at all.

Like most other former teenagers, I too was smitten with “Clerks” once upon a time. I haven’t revisited Smith’s first wave of films in a while, but given how obnoxious and casually homophobic “Clerks II” was, it’d be interesting to see whether I need to revise my largely positive memories of them. But I’m not so sure Smith’s contributions to those films as their director deserved much praise in the first place; as Todd says in his review,

[…] it’s still an incredibly sad sight to see a man who once made a generational touchstone like “Clerks” using some friends and a few grand make something as conventionally bland as “Cop Out” just for the payday.

Anyone familiar with les politiques des auteurs would tell ya that great directors find ways to make even lousy material do backflips and cartwheels. Considering the amount of control directors wield over the selection and development of scripts nowadays, the fact that they’re working within a system is shoved into the background, thrown into relief by the supposed immensity of their talent and the authorial authority they possess during pre-production, production and post-production. Stud directors of Hollywood’s bygone eras like Douglas Sirk and Jacques Tourneur could take preposterous scenarios and make from them something irrepressibly interesting; the system necessitated their choices to direct certain scripts but the brilliance of their imaginations and the chemistry of their collaborations ensured that those scripts weren’t transformed into limp, lifeless films.

There’s something to be said for the potency of individual talent, but there’s also something to be said for, as André Bazin put it, “the genius of the system.”