“Victory for the forces of democratic freedom!”

Posted in Uncategorized by johnwildman on January 21, 2009

Back at Sundance – Day #2

Just as the first day was full of hope and indie film promise, day two delivered a body slam of reality to temper the giddiness care of two movies (actually two and a half because there’s a short in there too) that – as Leonard Maltin used to softball, “I didn’t like too much.” This, of course, followed the inauguration and more hope and promise on a even larger scale than Sundance could dream up. Take your time with that statement – I know it’s hard to hear if you live in L.A.

Anyway, first up to bat was THE INFORMERS, another ode to the excesses of the 80s courtesy of the man who may be the last living historian of this particular period and place who still cares – Bret Easton Ellis. Directed by Gregor Jordan, it’s all ray bans and skinny ties and young pretty blonde people screwing each other in every combination imaginable while taking every drug they can manage to get into their system. Meanwhile, people like Kim Basinger, Billy Bob Thornton, Mickey Rourke, Winona Ryder, Chris Isaak and Rhys Davies are in this other movie which doesn’t involve all the jaded youngsters and their three ways and blow. You wonder, did they see the rest of the script? Or care? Jordan packages all of it as well as he could – I guess – but, wow. My favorite character was a Brian Ferry meets Morrissey hybrid named ‘Bryan Metro’ and played by Mel Raido as if he was trying to pull off an unfunny Zoolander character. I mean, not even “Blue Steel” could save that bit of work. My favorite quote came from a wannabe actor slash concierge (played by the late Brad Renfro) who says, “It’s hard to make it in this town unless you’re willing to do some awful things… And I’m willing.” Unfortunately a line like that only works if you’ve got original 80s recipe James Spader ready to teach that guy what kind of “awful” things someone nasty can REALLY make you do.

Next in line was John Krasinski’s BRIEF INTERVIEWS WITH HIDEOUS MEN. Now, I will qualify my thoughts on the film by saying I haven’t read David Foster Wallace’s book. Wait – a short played before it called THE NATURE BETWEEN US, directed by William Campbell. And ironically, it was more 80s-style torment. This time in the form of candy colored bad 80s sit-com and music video stylings wrapped around nonsense. In fact, that’s what it should have been titled: THE NONSENSE BETWEEN US.

Back to our regularly scheduled programming: “Victory for the forces of democratic freedom!” One of the interview subjects describes his affliction, which causes him to shout that phrase at a particularly exhilarating and vulnerable moment. It’s funny, but to what end? Men suck, they’re manipulative dicks, insensitive, don’t get it, not worthy of a woman’s love. I’m guessing you either might have already heard about this or you’re one of the guys helping to perpetrate this stereotype. So you probably don’t have to see the film. Okay, that’s too harsh. But the main problem I had with the film is that there’s just nothing or no one to latch onto, to give a rat’s ass about. I mean we know what the male nature is, so seeing many variations on this theme is neither educational nor enlightening. And Julianne Nicholson, as solid as she always is, can’t withstand the tide by herself to keep us onboard. There is plenty of clever – Krasinski is smart and he’s clearly got ideas – he just tackled something that didn’t need to get on the playing field in the first place.

So then I changed it up with some Japanese sci-fi titled, THE CLONE RETURNS HOME. Executive produced by Wim Wenders and directed by Kanji Nakajima, the film follows a young astronaut’s participation in an experimental cloning program. After he dies, he is cloned complete with his old memory. The problem is that memory includes some feelings he suppressed about a tragedy he experienced during childhood with his twin brother. It’s clinical and glacially paced, but fascinating all the same. The film has a whole lot of SOLARIS going on and it veers much closer to existential art film than it does sci-fi to be honest (complete with an image of the clone carrying the burden of his own space suit clad body crucifix-style to his childhood home). But at this point in the day, I was happy to take what I could get.

The final film brought it all back to a happy Sundance place. Jonas Pate’s SHRINK starring Kevin Spacey, Keke Palmer, Mark Webber, Dallas Roberts, Robin Williams and Saffron Burrows should have irritated the hell out of me. Set in L.A. and revolving around various people in Spacey’s psychiatrist universe, it has no qualms about pulling every cliché about L.A., the film industry and those around it out of its multiple interweaved storyline top hat. Spacey and Palmer are both trying to run away from suicides (his wife’s/her mom’s). He, by trying to not take a single breath not aided by a joint and her by ditching school for a local movie house as often as she can. And everyone else has issues too. But the film survives and wins audience hearts and minds because the characters have them – hearts AND minds, that is. They are genuinely endearing in a not-easy-to-get-there way. And that will trump movieland cliché every time, as far as I’m concerned. Are you listening Bret Easton Ellis…?

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