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I Am Comic (2010)
Fascinating look inside the comic mind
Interviews with dozens of different comics offer lots of perspectives on what's funny and how hard comedians have to work to write good material and keep the audience at a high level of entertainment and laughter. Everyone thinks it's so easy because they can make people laugh on occasion, but this documentary shows how angst-ridden, frenetic and intense these people's minds are.
Spoiler below, if that's even possible with a documentary that has no plot:
Easily the most painful and curious part of this bittersweet documentary is watching the film's co-writer, Ritch Shydner, a writer trying to return to standup after more than a dozen years away, bomb on stage. Watching him struggle is like seeing a pitcher who's lost his fastball and relentlessly trying to search for something, anything that works. It's interesting because I'm sure Shydner had the right to include his stuff or not, so knowing he included this somewhat agonizing material personalizes the onstage struggle greatly. It's effective conveying that scrambling to find something that'll spark the audience; hearing a bunch of people talk about how hard it is to connect just wouldn't have the same effect.
Well worth watching.
The touchy-feely counterpart to "Collapse"
Saw this on Sundance and it wasn't bad but was a little more hippieish and disjointed than I expected. If you're looking for a primer on peak oil, I'd definitely recommend "Collapse" before seeing this. Then this is a worthy counterpart to follow the detailing of the problem by humanizing it and discussing some potential solutions. It's definitely the more hopeful, if less polished, of the two films. Perhaps my ambivalence toward this documentary is intensified by the fact that, as it seems to me, the problem of declining fossil fuels and humans' relative inability to adjust and adapt seem like intractable, unsolvable problems. And it's also probably unfair to expect a low-budget documentary to present definitive solutions to those problems rather than vignettes about how people are trying to cope and deal with this -- localizing food sources, conserving fuel, looking into alternative fuels and so on. Anyway, worth a look, especially if you're already convinced of the problem -- that we're arriving at (if not already past) levels of peak oil production and consumption, and that the world, its economies and our lives as we know it are going to change within our lifetimes.
A Friday Night Date (2000)
One of the worst movies I've ever seen
I mean to tape this sometime along with "The First To Go" and watch with my friends a double-feature of astonishingly bad movies. I don't know if they'd hate me for it afterward though. Everyone is either shrieking her lines or chewing the scenery in this movie, grimacing painfully and overacting like it was their last dramatic job on Earth. Come to think of it, for some of these people it probably was. And if you want to read a working definition of a shill, it's the earliest comment in this thread. You'll never again see such a nakedly transparent endorsement. It had to be a family member, friend or agent, if not the actress herself. Wow ... wait till there are a couple of other posts first, huh?
Where's the Party Yaar? (2003)
The party is right here!
Saw this at the press screenings for the SF International Asian American Film Festival, and I can't say enough good things about it. Everything about this movie rocks:
-- Anyone who's been an immigrant or can identify in any way with that "stranger in a strange land" feeling can appreciate the simple stories going on here (Foretold he'll find love in America, Hari arrives here to study engineering, lives with his uncle and aunt and their kids, and creates tension when the college age son is ordered to assimilate the "fresh off the boat" newcomer into his hip social circle).
-- It captures the tensions between the assimilated and the newly arrived very well (as well as between the hip and the uncool, young and old, and men and women).
-- The acting is perfect for a comedy; the main roles are not stereotypes but real characters beset by doubt, limitations and desire.
-- It has great homages to the incredible palette of colors used in Indian films, as well as little Bollywood numbers that are perfectly timed in regard to the plot. They're pulled off very well.
-- And I swear, they must have put out a casting call for every hot Indian woman in the greater Houston area, where this was filmed. What beautiful women, and they act very well.
By all means, see this movie if it's playing near you. With the indie success of "My Big Fat Greek Wedding," it's possible this could get an extended release; it deserves it. This is an outstanding comedy.
Charlotte Sometimes (2002)
Moody, atmospheric, a real hidden jewel
Saw this at the press screenings for the Asian American Film Festival in San Francisco, and like others I am baffled by the ratings here. There has been speculation it is sabotage -- the film is up for independent awards as we speak, which would make any saboteurs extremely small, insecure, mean and petty.
Regardless, the film revealed its story slowly, without a lot of the standard devices of plot and dialogue that are often all too apparent and call attention to the fact that this is a storytelling medium and not leaving you to the story itself. That was a pleasure to see.
There is not a lot of plot -- it could be summed up in two sentences, but devotion to those kinds of small incidents in our lives (which often turn out to have the largest impact) allows attention to nuance and subtlety, rather than the broad strokes that gloss over the texture and feeling in our lives.
If you can appreciate a film without car chases or explosions and a talky-type movie that chooses to reveal much of itself through the filmmaking and not dialogue, see this. If you're not that kind of moviegoer, this probably won't be playing near you anyway.
Kung Phooey! (2003)
About three chuckles in it
A nice try, but you've got to be able to sustain farce for it to work. Any letdowns and the mood and interest come grinding to a halt. That's the case here -- a friend and I saw it at the SF International Asian American Film Festival, and there just wasn't the great comedic writing, consistent sight gags or consistent atmosphere to keep it going. It was somewhat similar to "Kung Pow" from a year or so earlier; I guess "Kung Phooey" worked harder at the farcical mood, and could have been a better film than "Kung Pow" had it had more of a budget for writing and filmmaking. Hope to see more from Darryl Fong in the future, however.
The Art of Woo (2001)
Absolutely tedious and unmoving in every respect. Acting is bad and unbelievable. Dialogue is bad and unbelievable. Plot is bad and unbelievable. For God's sake, even the sex scene is boring. The people are certainly pretty enough to look at, but if that's all I want, I can find that anywhere.
Capricorn One (1977)
Great, great score by Jerry Goldsmith
"Capricorn One" was on SciFi the other day and hacked up, but I watched it and taped it for reviewing, this time to focus on the music. The lurking, ominous theme, cut in and out as we change scenes, sometimes for just a few bars, is amazing. For you fans of the movie, the next time you see it I recommend paying attention primarily to the score. It's absolutely masterful.
The First to Go (1997)
Like watching a car wreck
This movie comes on cable every once in a while, and I'm drawn to it like a moth to a flame. I know it's bad for me, and I still can't stop. The characters are one-dimensional and annoying, young people don't really talk like this ("Cab service on this island leaves something to be desired" -- aaugh!), and scenes obviously written to be hip and smart alecky come off as forced and trite. Stuff like this is enough to get me to swear off indies forever.
Behind Prison Walls (1943)
Good for some (unintentional) laughs
Saw this at a Producers Releasing Corp. "revival" of films that would have been better left for dead. A truly bad movie that does offer some chuckles for its general ineptitude, bad acting, goofy dialogue and awful sets (not one scene set in or around the prison looks like it has anything to do with a prison but instead looks like it takes place in a boring 1930s office building). Did Joel and the Bots ever get ahold of this one? It would have been perfect. Definitely better with an audience to share the howlers.