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Makes You Appreciate Christopher Guest
This film really makes one appreciate just how brilliant Christpher Guest's mockumentaries are. It also makes one realize that a TV show like The Office is much harder to make than it might appear.
All that naturalistic mockumentary acting looks so easy, but if this film, Lollilove, proves anything it is that mockumentaries can be very hard to make.
There aren't any glaring mistakes in the film's production, but rather none of the elements of the film are done to the level that needs to be done to make these films work. The acting is just a tad overdone, the writing is slightly implausible, and the camera-work is amateur. All those small mistakes add up to bring the entire thing down to the level of mediocrity.
To be fair, the film seems like more of a casual side project than an attempt at film-making history. It seems that the actors obviously knew the film was kind of a lark and not something that should be taken very seriously. In fact, low budget films like this almost never get put out on DVD, so it is pretty interesting from that standpoint.
Even if you are a die hard fan of the genre, though, I would say that you could miss this film without any regret at all.
Anime Version of Freaks & Geeks?
I rarely like Anime, so the fact that I like this show so much, makes it a real gem for me. I was thrilled to find out recently that there will be a second season released in late 2006.
Unlike most anime, this show is extremely realistic. It focuses on the members of a student activity club at a University in the outskirts of Tokyo. The club is a group of slackers whose sole activity is appreciating anime, manga, hentai, cosplay and other pastimes normally associated with nerds (sometimes called "otaku" in Japanese).
Each episode in the first season more or less describes some new aspect of nerd culture. One episode shows the group getting obsessed about building Gundam models, another one shows the group going to Akihabara to buy erotic manga.
The dramatic tension of the show is created through the character of Saki. She is the girlfriend of one of the club members. She is in love with the guy, but finds all the "otaku" stuff kind of weird and many of the episodes feature her struggling to come to terms with her love of Kohsaka, but her dislike of his hobbies.
The show has very good character progression and many of the characters are allowed a depth to their characters not normal for Anime shows.
In a medium that is too often plagued with clichés and repetitive plot lines, Genshiken is a breath of fresh air that should be viewed by both anime fans and non-fans alike.
The Comeback (2005)
Kudrow is Delighfully (and purposefully) Bad!
"The Comeback" is a well done blending of "The Office", "The Larry Sanders Show", and "Curb Your Enthusiasm". It is a fake reality show about an idiotic TV star that offers a parody of both reality TV and network sitcoms.
The show is composed of reality TV footage filmed during the life of a TV star from the 80's, played by Lisa Kudrow, trying to wage a career comeback by staring in a new TV sitcom. The twist is that rather than showing us a final edited fake reality TV show, the show is composed of outtakes from the fake reality TV show. We get to see the character redo lines that are supposed to be spontaneous reality, we see her continually tell the filmmakers to stop filming -- which they never do. And we even see the filmmakers themselves dealing with some of the logistical problems inherent in making this type of show.
What makes it all work is that Lisa Kudrow's character is a buffoon. She is totally delusional about how big of a star she is and the show asks us to laugh at her vanity and idiocy. She is a lot like the boss on BBC's "The Office", because she is a lead character we are meant to laugh and cringe at. At the same time, Kudrow gives her character just enough empathy that as much as we hate her we also feel sorry for her just a little bit. Knowing that Kudrow was so intimately involved in a network TV sitcom, makes the parody directed at sitcoms come across as very realistic and especially funny.
As long as you know that the show itself is supposed to be bad, and if you like the kind of comedy that is filled with cringe inducing moments of embarrassment, then you will like this show.
Alla vi barn i Bullerbyn (1986)
I enjoyed the low key innocence of this film.
This film is an adaptation of one of Astrid Lindgren's more low key books. Lindgren is most famous for writing the fantastic tales of Pippi Longstocking. Alla Vi Barn in Bullerbyn, however, represents the author's lower key style that is more grounded in reality.
Bullerbyn is translated as Noisy Village, which is sort of a joke, because Bullerbyn is just about as small and quiet a village as you can have. Living in the village are only three families. The film follows the innocent exploits of the six children of this village as they pass away the days of their summer vacation.
Since the film was simultaneously filmed to be a TV series, the plot is very episodic. For the 90 minutes of the film we watch the six children go from one low key episode to another. What makes the film special is how each scene is such a well crafted observation of what kinds of things children wind up doing when left alone to their own devices. Much of the humor is centered around the fact that there are three boys and three girls. Since they are all under 10 the play is very innocent. But there is nevertheless a lot of gentle teasing that goes back and forth between the sexes.
For those people looking for another fantastic tale like Pippi Longstocking, this may sound boring and trite. For Swedes, however, this is the cinematic equivalent of milk and cookies. I just recently saw this at a Swedish Film festival in a theater filled with young Swedish kids and their moms and a few childless grown-ups as well. The 4 year old girl sitting next to me was clearly entertained and gentle laughter was heard throughout the theater during the entire film. At the end everyone clapped. It is nice to know that a film so innocent as this one can still generate that kind of response from a modern day audience. 7/10
Du är inte klok, Madicken (1979)
Very high quality adaptation of book.
I have recently seen this at a museum showing of the film. It is a very well made adaptation of the famous Astrid Lindgren book, Madicken.
The movie itself is very episodic. There is no real plot as the story really just follows Madicken, a 7-9 year old girl, and her various adventures in the small village where she lives.
It appears as if the film was originally filmed as a TV series and this film, is just a series of TV episodes edited together to form a complete film. The story is very engaging, as it addresses issues of class, alcoholism, and poverty in a manner that is appropriate for young children. Madicken, herself, is much more of a sweetheart in the movie than in the book, where she is a bit of a troublemaker.
All aspects of the production are very expertly done. The costumes are extremely authentic looking and beautifully crafted. It is filmed on location in a real Swedish village, so the production feels extremely authentic.
While it isn't the most serious film ever. The high quality of its content makes this a very worthwhile film to track down for anyone curious in seeing a snapshot of traditional Swedish life in the countryside.
Dead Like Me (2003)
I was quite disappointed by this show and am wondering if I even saw the same show as all these other people. The show I saw featured poorly written 'trying too hard to be awkwardly realistic' dialog spoken by actors who were trying too hard to be quirky.
Even worse, though, I just found the entire concept of the show to be too dumb to be interesting. Supposedly the lead character is selected to be a grim reaper after her own death, which means she must live on Earth as a walking undead. But for some reason she has to get a job so she can earn money to eat and have a place to live. Um, isn't she dead? Why exactly does she need to eat? Is she going to starve to death ... again?
It just all felt like the producers were trying too hard to create a quirky dark comedy, but I never felt that the actors were able to pull it off. It sort of surprises me how universal the praise is for this show, because the show I saw was at best mediocre. 5/10.
Anna Karenina (1977)
After recently reading and falling in love with the book, I started doing research into the filmed adaptations of the novel. I first watched the BBC adaptation from 2000, which impressed me, but I was somewhat disappointed by the amount of editing done to the story.
I, therefore, picked up this version with great anticipation, because it is much longer (10 hours) and I was hoping would therefore be a more fully realized version of the story.
Unfortunately, I barely made it through the first hour before turning it off and giving up on it.
The whole production felt too staged and unnatural for my taste. The actors looked like English 'thespians' dressed up in stock period costumes rather than Russian aristocrats. And they all more or less spoke in the same loud and clear stage voice making the conversations feel less intimate than I would have liked.
Camera-work and directing was mostly just like that of a noontime soap opera.
I'm sure that in 1977 this was perfectly acceptable, but nowadays, it is just not good enough to spend time watching. It certainly does no justice to what is often considered one of the greatest novels ever written.
If you are looking for a filmed adaptation of this story, stick with the more recent version from 2000. While it is a somewhat edited down version of the story, it is a much superior product that does a far better job of fully capturing the richness of Tolstoy's novel.
Too Much of a Love Letter
This film is simply a love letter to the three writers Allen Ginsburg, Jack Kerouac, and William Burroughs. The film offers no dissenting viewpoints, and provides very little evidence to back up its claims that these three men were somehow 'The Source' for all counter culture movements that followed them.
This is a preposterous claim. The Beats were simply part of a long tradition of counter culture art that began in earnest in the mid 19th Century.
Anyways, outside of some sloppy history, the film does at least seem to capture the spirit of who the Beats were. What it fails to do, however, is convince me that I should still actually care who they were. So, for a fan this film will be a joy ride, but for people, like me, who have always been somewhat ambivilant about the Beats, it doesn't do much convincing.
The Day of the Locust (1975)
Way too long...
This extremely boring, rambling film is ultimately pointless. I did not need to sit through 144 minutes of souless character studies in order to learn that Hollywood has a dark soul destroying edge to it.
For the first 2 hours, I was just left wondering where the film was going. All I got to see were a bunch of loosely connected storylines involving characters I couldn't find myself getting interested in.
Then all of a sudden the film becomes a giant disaster film full of bizarre surrealistic energy.
None of it added up to anything very compelling. There were a few moments where you could tell that the filmmaker was earnestly trying to develop some metaphor and symbollism through the visual 'magic' of cinema, but these attempts were so obvious that it mostly just made it look like the guy was trying too hard. I think that in the spirit of the adventurous world of 70's cinema this film must have seemed very daring and compelling, but today, the film is just dull.
Not that funny anymore
I first saw this movie in College, 2 years after it came out (1991). At the time I thought it was delightfully subversive and funny.
All these years I have considered the film a dark comedy, and something of a classic.
But after just now seeing it on DVD, my opinion of the film has changed dramatically. For some reason I just didn't find it remotely funny anymore. I thought the dialog was stilted and unnatural, with too much of an emphasis on 'witty' lines and not enough emphasis on conversational flow between characters. Elements like set design, costumes and cinematography were horribly dated looking and cheap. And worst of all, I just thought the whole concept of the film was no longer surreal enough to be darkly funny. I just couldn't get past the fact that JD, the Christian Slater character, was just a psychotic killer unworthy of any real sympathy -- it was obvious we were meant to think of him as a semi-lovable rebel.
It seems like young people are still discovering this film, and maybe that is the age group that can still find the film fun, but if you are a 30-something who fondly remembers this film, you might want to give it another viewing, because if you are like me, you will find that it definately does not live up to its reputation.