a seemingly random journey through cinema's heart of darkness. so to speak.

Friday, March 25, 2005

two lousy movies for the price of one

A couple pointers:

* Churning 'em out a year-and-a-half apart nowadays rather than the usual 12 months, Woody Allen is at such a low ebb with Melinda and Melinda that a mere drive-by blurb can't do justice. Drab, flat, and, more than anything else, positively depressing, I think I'll tackle it -- and, more to the point, Woody -- via a Sontagian point-by-point offensive. Is this what it felt like during his Bergman period? (A: No, because that only lasted two or three years and there was always hope of recovery. I don't smell a Crime and Misdemeanors around the corner.)

* My paper's siamese twin, the City Paper, has a fairly interesting article on the 31st Annual Convention of American Atheists, which will be rolling into Philly over the Easter weekend. Their claims of being a "minority" are a little overstated, but not without their pointers. Perhaps I've just been lucky, but by and large I've encountered little bigotry, excepting the occasional lengthy debate when people find out I think a superior being is entirely man-made. (Which, yes, isn't even really bigotry, so what's my point?) I won't be attending; instead I'll be comforting my parents by attending an Easter brunch. Speaking of which, Sunday's my birthday. Just FYI, that.

* The Office, American-style, predictably stinks to high heaven, and I'd be shocked if the flaccid, choppy, rhythmless proceedings last more than its allotted six episodes. If nothing else, it really makes you appreciate (or rather, even moreso) the original: one of the BBC version's secret strong points is its sense of living death, the long stretches of tedium interspersed with random nuttiness that it nails so effortlessly. Perhaps the show just doesn't plain work in 20 minute stretches; those missing ten minutes turn out to be necessary. Steve Carrell is game, not even trying to ape Ricky Gervais' schtick, and is solely responsible for any and all guffaws that the show invariably pulls off. But the rest of the cast is a waste, with much hatred extending to the stand-ins for Tim and Dawn: John Krasinki's your sub-standard slacker with zero comic timing and Jenna Fischer has wildly reinterpreted her character as a meek bubblehead -- how come she's getting so perkily excited about marrying her dopey boyfriend? My Dawn never did that. More or less, it plays like a high school rendition of same, mucking up some of the original's stronger bits, such as Gareth's freak-out when David's about to announce the possible redundancies. (The names, by the way, have been changed.) And of all the first episode's moments, why nix the throwing-out-the-stapler bit but keep the batshit stapler-in-jello one, a tougher bit to pull off (which this cast predictably can't). Good job picking Scranton as the setting. See Dana Stevens for a nicer, but not much more so, take.

* Speaking of Slate, David Edelstein loves Oldboy. I'll have to wait till the PFF to see Park Chan-wook's purportedly brutal revenge saga, but I got more pumped after taking in Sympathy For Mr. Vengeance last weekend. Very South Korean -- i.e., unfocused but amiably so -- it slowly, logically builds to 45 straight minutes of vengeance, where each main character (ACK! SPOILER ALERT!) both a) takes part in a grisly murder(s) and b) is grisily murdered themselves. Still, it's not quite nihilistic: there's a humanism to it, giving each character some moment of sympathy (ha!). Even the kidney-scamming mamma gets a couple moments.


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