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It's Kind of a Funny Story (2010)
The good out weights the bad, but barely.
(originally posted on my blog: www.deadendfollies.com)
Teenager movies make me freakin' cynical, because they're so profoundly meaningless. I used to watch them piled on a bed with a handful of my fellow adolescent friends and love interests, in a bedroom seeping with hormones, and they filled me with unexplainable existential sadness. I later found out that it's because they all say the same thing: ''everything is going to be all right. You're going to get the girl and everybody's admiration and you're awesome at the core of your being, it's just that everybody else is too immature to see it''.
It's that kind of thinking that transformed Occidental society into an jerk factory. IT'S KIND OF A FUNNY STORY is kind of a teenage movie, but only kind of. It's a movie with a beating heart, written by talented people, and yet it lacks the assertiveness and the commitment to make a powerful point about its theme, mental illness.
Craig (Keir Gilchrist) is a kid suffering from clinical depression. One morning, he first the courage to check himself in the psychiatric ward, but immediately regrets when he's confronted to the suffering of others. You can't just walk away from that place once you're admitted though. There is a minimal 5 days evaluation you have to go through. So Craig is going to have to face himself, and he discovers that when you put your shoulders into it sometimes, things aren't so bad. People in the ward are used to be judged, so none of them are particularly keen on judging others. Ward veteran Bobby (Zach Galifianakis) takes Craig under his wing and shows him that there is a fine line between being crazy and ill.
IT'S KIND OF A FUNNY STORY had been destroyed by the critics and yet it's been a hit with the audiences. Why is that so? It's a well written movie about mental illness. If you've been anywhere around the issue yourself, you'll understand. For example, when Craig checks himself in at the E.R, he's trying to explain the doctor that he fears what he can do to himself. He doesn't have the precise words, but his latent fear is palpable.
Another example is the absolute dissonance and incomprehension that goes in between what's happening inside and outside the ward. Mental illness is still a misunderstood issue and Craig gets into every layer of misunderstanding with the people in his life outside, from his friends who are intrigued to his family who has difficulty assessing the seriousness of the situation. IT'S KIND OF A FUNNY story does a good job at displaying that if it's not happening to you, it's extremely difficult to understand, and that the best thing you can do is not judge.
Zoë Kravitz made me feel like a pervert scumbag in this movie, and she's like 25 years old!
The best way I can possibly explain the viewing experience of IT'S KIND OF A FUNNY STORY is watching a friend of yours draw something beautiful, only to tear it to shreds after your complimented him/her. It's a coming-of-age movie that ultimately trivializes the issue of mental illness and this angers me to no end. IT'S KIND OF A FUNNY STORY takes all this time to depict mental illness in a proper light, only to conclude that MAYBE you just need a little love to get better, that MAYBE you just need the proper friends and to express yourself. Maybe you need to channel that negativity. Blah blah blah. I know IT'S KIND OF A FUNNY STORY doesn't mean harm, but it's bound by the shackles of its genre and sends the wrong freaking message. Plenty of mentally ill people have all the love they can get and still choose oblivion over life because they have a problem with their brain, you condescending pricks.
Mental health is a sensitive issue for me. If you want to know what it is to live with this affliction, I invite you to read this piece, by the talented Sam Hawken. I'm all for mainstream movie to discuss the issue, and I think it's fair to say that IT'S KIND OF A FUNNY STORY does its part. Especially for a teenager movie that's supposed to make you feel cuddly. I suppose it's a movie with an interesting dual nature, but the laziness it showed in order to stay in the proper tone of its target audience angered me enough to make me shake my fist at my television screen. You cannot catch a mental illness like you catch the flu and clear yourself forever with 5 days of quarantine. You're not helping if you say everything will forever be OK again
Has not aged a single day in nearly fifteen years
To render the proper justice of Mallrats genius, it should have started as a novel. As a movie, I saw it get judged and snubbed by the film buffs, but let me disagree here, take Mallrats for what it is, an entertaining portrait of consumerism counter-culture.
Petulent formula you might say? Well think about it. Mallrats has been made in 1994 and was portraying the first generation of grown up kids put up face to face with mass capitalism. As the portrait shows kids with mixed up feelings and a sense of confusions towards this abundance, it remains fun.
Thats what Mallrats is. Pure fun. Kids forming their identity against all the abundance of stuff pushed down their throat. Crazy situations in a mall, epic story of reconquering your true love...in a mall...are they buying stuff? No. Sometimes you almost forget the thing is in a goddamn mall.
I've had fun with this movie. Brodie Bruce is the prime example of the empty criticism towards his generation. Its not what you do that defines who you are, its who you are that defines what you do.
Pure non-arrogant fun, killer dialogues and a legacy that lives on. Thanks Kevin Smith
Flawed, but overall satisfying!
Contre-Enquete is the prime example of a movie that is not really well directed, but that is carried on by his actors. If you like your direction tight and extensive, this is not a movie for you.
You seldom feel rushed into the action, the scenes are too short and everything happens in the same time, which makes it difficult to get attached to the characters. In its first twenty minutes, the movie out pours a lot of emotional scenes that comes out as being cheesy because...well the movie is just starting! Nobody really cares about the characters yet.
But there is all the bad I have to say. The odyssey of a broken down father to find the true murderer of his daughter is a gripping tale that has Jean Dujardin and Laurent Lucas as their shining stars. Their play is subtle, tight and leaves the viewer in a total state of confusion towards the potential ending of the movie.
It could have been a landslide due to its predictability and its sloppiness, but Dujardin and Lucas made this an overall rather enjoying experience.
El espinazo del diablo (2001)
Great film? Absolutely! Spooky film? Nah!
Don't get me wrong, I thought this film was great. It's one of the best melodramas i've ever seen about Spanish war. It's a very sensitive movie with a lot of close ups and analytic editing surrounding the life of the orphans. It gets you into their universe and makes you feel what it was about to be an orphan in times like these. There is also a metaphorical level of political and historical denonciation in this. That's how you make a melodrama interesting, you clearly put up history into the roles of your film. Eduardo Noriega did a great job being the conceptualization of war, totalitarism and hate. Frederico Luppi as the protecting father was once again awesome(he always shines in Del Toro's works).
Thing is...what was billed as a horror movie isn't really horror. I mean there is what? Four scenes with the dead boy? Best thing yet is that when he's not there they are not even talking about him! This film could have got on without the use of a ghost story. Sad thing in this is that the special ghost effects are great, Santi is a creepy young fella. Del Toro is so scare to burn every away with horror like Hollywood does, that he only puts some here and there. I know it's a great film but I feel frustrated because handled better, it could have been the best film I ever seen in my life. It has nothing to envy to American classics of New wave europeans.
The film kicks off with Nekes telling us that cinema in the summit of many inventions, and that he's gonna show us during the film how is it a crossroad.
He does explain...some things, but the major part of the movie is the unilateral showing of Werner Nekes pictural toys collection. I mean he has a great collection, but he presents them here & there, nothing is organized, structured of rigorous. He seems to have more fun playing with his toys than explaining what role it had into the road to cinema.
It goes like this: -Shows a random pictural toys that has an ingenuous moving image mechanism.
-He says:"This thing had a pivotal role into the pictural tradition that leads to the cinema invention" -Then he plays with it while we're listening to crap music.
Not denuded of interest...not at all in fact. It could've been lot better though if Nekes had the ambition to make a decent documentary.
Le diable noir (1905)
A very Poe'esquire film
Méliès fans, I salute thee, this movie is, what I consider, the granddaddy of horror movies. The filming method is very conform to Méliès style, but the narrative (which everybody knows is a pretext for the magic tricks) is slightly different. The usual fantastic aspect leaves place for a paranoia induced story about a man tormented by a black imp, pulling some evil tricks on him, screwing up with his perception. Multiplication of chairs, furniture mysteriously changing place around the room...the poor man dosen't know what's going on until he finds out about the imp. Ensues a great fight between the man (armed with his broom) and the imp, which is continuing to use his mystical powers to mess around with the sleeper.
Very good movie for those interested in the genesis of horror films.
Donnie Darko (2001)
The movies I would've loved to write...
I watched "Donnie Darko" for the first time last Saturday. I was expecting some kind of teen movie with stupid bunny jokes. Hang me, I was wrong. Damn wrong. I'm gonna review the movie, but not in the way it usually is. I'm going to go over the scenario, this scenario I would've loved to think about.
Donnie Darko is written on three levels of interpretations. On the first level it is, an high school movie with a kid talking to a giant bunny. On this first level, I saw some thirteen years old kids finding it funny, but being somewhat uncomfortable with the movie. On the second level is about this science fiction physics-a-go-go riddle that Richard Kelly is proposing us. I am an aficionado of riddle movies. Donnie receives messages from a giant bunny in his sleep, ordering him to do stuff like flooding a school or burning a pervert's house...in order to save the world. This bunny in fact announced the end of the universe after a jet engine fell from nowhere on Donnie's house...while he was curiously sleepwalking. What is this all about? Well watch this movie and find out. I gotta say it's one of the most challenging riddle movie i've seen.
The third level of narration is in my opinion the most important one, and it struck me right in the heart. I think that most of all, Donnie Darko is a critic of conformism..and a powerful one. Donnie Darko, by being the "choosen one" who receives the big bunny messages gets to feel solitude and difference in his ultra-conformist religious school. Take a good look at every scene where the confrontation with Jim Cunningham, the epitome of conformism in this movie are somewhat touching. I felt the pain of Darko's solitude and fear or what he didn't understood.
Great great movie from a very young director. Everyone should love it.
Zero Day (2003)
Realism pushed to it's scary limits
I just came back from the Montreal premiere of Zero Day...and i'm surprised as hell to find a negative comment on the movie. Basically the blame is about Coccio doing an easy and overplayed social message...well, Mr-I'm-a-reviewer, it's an easy and overplayed critic of movies with a social charge.
Not that I want to expose my life here, but I come from a small town with a similar school than these guys go. Reject & ignorance on the menu. Thing is...I understand how can young kids can be driven to do such horror. High schools have became battle fields of conformity. It's a real ugly sight. You need to fight your way into being like the others. It's hard to explain, bit a lot of people dosen't realize that high schools are becoming cemeteries of human intelligence. Meanwhile, parents are closing their eyes and smiling about how their life in their comfortable suburb is perfect.
The real motive of the movie isn't about what is driving them. It's about this death-like calm suburb and everybody closing their eyes and trying to create this atmosphere of a perfect town. Cal expressed it well. It's a wake up call. Drama is everywhere and it can take every shape. In that case little dramas(like Andre being called a faggot for wearing a J.C Penny shirt) are shaping into being the worse nightmare of a whole town. Andre & Cal took the most extreme way to express their pain. The malaise of unconformity in an era where you need more than ever to be like the others to be accepted.
I like particularly the last scenes where some guys are burning the crosses of Andre & Cal, like if with the pain they communicated, Cal & Andre have communicated their blind rage to their community, their refusal to think about the causes of some acts.
It might seemed aggressive as a movie, but Coccio is meditating more than whining or enunciating. What Andre & Cal are living is a reality...and a scary one that might get to other kids.
Disturbing movie...Home making and strong feeling made Ben Coccio do a very very disturbing movie.
Perfect Heat (2005)
Don't get me wrong, I like puzzling movies, I like them to death, but this short film is...beyond puzzling, I'd need to see this like thirty times to really understand the underlying philosophy in there.
The whole film is about some "anxiety" treatment. I don't know, but I think this movie is breathing Kierkegaardian "anxiety". Soren Kierkegaard was a Danish philosopher who said that anxiety was caused by the projection in a future state of being....
So...we got a guy, on a treatment table and a girl who seems to be a doctor....but everything she really does it shooting the guy in the head with some kind of...experimental gun...clever ain't it? It sure does stop the anxiety from going.
That said, the movie seemed primarily a big excuse to experiment. I have nothing against it, it was very cool. The blood stains from the gun wound were constantly moving and morphing into memories (or prjections?) The photographer for this movie did an awesome job of blending the whites together in the "treatment scence".
An extra-prop for the "show" scenes where the guy talks about his experience. I feel the keys for the movie are in his speech, but...like I said i'll have to see it again. Big ups for the music too, keeps you in that mood of "anxiety"..pretty enjoyable short film.
In Canada, we good good stuff, very good stuff
My second movie for Fantasia 2005 and...it got a lot better than I expected. I chose to see "Sigma" because I wanted to encourage local productions, but it ended up being just damn great. So great that I hugged the director after the film.
Even if the plot is kinda deep and researched, this movie is all about the format. Identified by the director Jesse Heffring as a work-in-progress made to push the mini dv format to his extreme limits...well it's the case. With more than 66 hours of footage Heffring and his production buddies cutted it back down to 85 minutes and are pulling out and putting in different parts at the same time, so we've been warned "it might not be the final version after all". It makes me enthusiast to think I might re-watch this movie and see like forty minutes of different footage.
The story of Adam Lemay, trapped into some kind of macabre game of collecting some unknown electrical pieces is constantly followed by security and hidden cameras throughout his journey. What makes the taste of the film is two things. First the intentional camera movements, that keeps you in a state of rush. Like famous theorist André Bazin was saying: When a film about catastrophe or urgency is made, a too good production and directing just ruins everything. The constant agitation and twirling of the camera keeps the spectator in the same state of mind than Adam, rushed and grabbed to the throat.
The other way that Heffring is bull rushing his spectator is with this delicious frame game. The frames are constantly switching sizes. from wide in the relaxed moment to a tiny square in the middle of the screen when Leah is menaced with drowning. The more it's tense, the more the frame is moving from wide to very close and hard to escape. I mean there is no escape point for the eye.
Seriously, I was arguing a lot with teacher about how genre cinema CAN be art cinema too, but Jesse Heffring RIGHT THERE gave me a weapon for this struggle. Thanks Jesse! And the other ones reading this critic...go to see this damn movie!