December 28, 2004

Movie Reviews

Saw "I Heart Huckabees" and "The Life Aquatic." This is what happens when you try your hand at screenwriting after smoking too much pot or maybe taking ecstasy. Not that I didn’t like the movies, but there’s a kind of ultra-dry humor that can only be understood by someone who’s high, or someone who’s overly convinced of his own genius.

Both movies take all the most ridiculous parts of earlier movies and multiply them by a thousand. Wes Anderson’s "The Royal Tannenbaums" actually pissed me off quite a bit, up there with the new "Star Wars" movies. It’s unreality was an irritant, it seemed smug. How do you touch on any kind of truth when everything is more than slightly false? The soundtrack felt like Wes Anderson was showing off his music collection. It felt like a mix tape rather than adding anything meaningful. And I don’t think it’s all that funny for one of the characters to always be listening to The Clash.

I liked "The Life Aquatic" more once I realized that it was supposed to have no relation to reality whatsoever. It’s a little too obsessed with being unique and creative and original. It’s absurd but strangely rigid at the same time.

Interesting that "I Heart Huckabees" should come out at the same time because it has the same problems. I had always thought that David Russell might be an acid-head. The parents at the end of "Flirting with Disaster" turn out to be LSD dealers, and the freneticness of the movie seemed to be written under some kind of influence. I’ve known people who smoke pot and write screenplays and they tend not to make any sense. Huckabees makes enough sense. "I Heart Huckabees" takes all the extremes of "Flirting with Disaster" and multiplies them--a lot like "The Life Aquatic." I liked Huckabees more, mainly because it watched like an absurdist Celestine Prophecy.

Also saw "The Incredibles." Anyone who says this is neo-fascist and Ayn Rand-inspired needs to lighten up. I think that line of criticism might have been the last gasp of the election. People just wanted something to attack. It’s a superhero movie, a fantasy. I think Harry Potter might be more dangerous. In the first movie, he’s already famous for doing nothing. He’s also a superhero, but he’s worshipped in a different way than any Marvel Comics hero.

Even though all of these movies are highly talented and well made, there’s something sort of restrained about them, mechanical. I’ve always thought that music was getting less interesting because people were taking more ecstasy than LSD. Granted, I haven’t taken either in quite a while, but I’ve still got opinions. Ecstasy is a superficial drug, very uncerebral, unlike acid. It’s more about the skin than the mind. I look at a band like Radiohead which sees their version of "Sgt. Pepper" progress as becoming more machine-like, more computerized. I think Radiohead are amazing but for some reason I don’t listen to them very often. Something about his voice--like he’s cooler than his audience. I come back to "The Bends" and "Kid A." All these artists may be taking the wrong drugs, or using the right drugs wrong. To me, sixties psychedelia and the reality of seventies movies are more human and moving.


Anonymous said...

I think I'll watch secretary for the 12th time.

tequilita said...

i loved "i heart huckabees" it took everything i've been so confused about lately and made me laugh at myself a little (a lot). i really needed it.

Henry Baum said...

Good thing you're confused about that stuff or else there might be something wrong with you.

xo. war. said...

i haven't seena movie in a while; i've taken up reading again. at the moment i am reading; "seven types of ambiguity" by elliot perlman. & it's the best novel, so far, i've ever read.

hope you have a good christmas.

xo. war.

tequilita said...

i think that was the point of it...poking fun at the ridiculousness of it all. i also thought "closer" was a satire. it's the only way i could halfway appreciate it.

Henry Baum said...

I’ve stayed away from "Closer" because people have described it as grim. I’m tired of relentlessly grim movies. It’s the new thing that passes for art. There’s an undercurrent in some new movies that the characters are capable of murdering or raping at any moment. I don’t think that’s what people are like. I’ll have to give the movie a "Closer" look. HAHAHAHA. Sorry, deeply sorry.

goofy328 said...

How in the hell did you not like The Royal Tennabaums? That was a classic movie. Sometimes people take themselves entirely too seriously, dry wit is good, and that's exactly what the Royal Tennabaums delivers.

Now if you did not like Lost in Translation, that I can understand, but I guess that would appeal to a bourgeoisie, high-society type like yourself. I suppose you write screenplays yourself, based by the comment. Sounds like you're the one who's overly convinced of his genius.

Why does anyone writing music or screenplays these days have to be high?? Some of us are actual artists, not everyone falls back on the drugs. You should stop taking them yourself and "lighten-up".

Henry Baum said...

I don’t know why a movie review you disagree with should make you so annoyed. Are you kidding about lighten up? And if you think I’m so full of shit why do you link me on your site? I actually loved "Lost in Translation." It showed well that rich, beautiful, famous people can be deeply unhappy. Another movie that people love that I don’t get at all is "Igby Goes Down." People who like that seem to be the same people who love "The Royal Tannenbaums." Just not my thing. And I don’t do any drugs at all, I was just writing about it.

tequilita said...

"closer" was grim. it was so grim that it was ridiculous. i followed it to a certain point and then it became a joke. i overthought it to the point of liking it when it was over. i figured they were exaggerating to make a's the only way i came away not feeling like my intelligence had just been insulted. i don't know if that's how it was intended though.

about writing on's cheating and makes the rest of us feel pathetically unimaginative. i guess it is interesting to see what surfaces when the mind is expanded, but it's kinda like professional atheletes using steroids, kinda takes the spirit out of the thing. and i'm glad you don't use 'em anymore. i've read your stuff, you don't need it (i meant that as a compliment).

Rob Flaherty said...

I Heart Huckabees and The Life Aquatic were certainly weak movies. Regardless, they will be embraced by the pseudo-countercultural, eager-to-like-something-"cool" crowd. But for those of us that can see through the smoke and mirrors, I think it's interesting to figure out where the movies failed themselves. For me, they both failed at the basic structural level, for which the script is responsible. I think both writer/directors had an idea and an image for a movie they wanted to make, but did not know how to structure the idea into a script that makes a coherent film. This is common in Hollywood, and usually these films don't make it into production. But now, because the mainstream audience has developed a taste for "artful" films, be it superficial, these movies are getting pushed through. And to make them work, they throw a star cast into the mix and hope that we the audience are too distracted to realize the movie sucks. I'd say this was the case for Huckabees, Life Aquatic, and also Eternal Sunshine (with Jim Carey carrying most of the star power himself).
A counter-example would be Lost in Translation, which could only have begun as little more than an image and ambience for a film. But in the end the film worked. Incredibly.
One more thing, I'm a big fan of The Royal Tennenbaums. I think it suceeded where these other movies did not, and I think it's Anderson's best film. If your problem with it was its disregard for realism, you should remember that the film was presented as a fable. Everything from the narrator to the shots of the fairy tale book at the beginning of each chapter to the fictional part of NYC where they lived intentionally rejected realism.
And as for the soundtrack, tell me you don't agree that using "Hey Jude", a song for an epilogue if ever there was one, as the opening music was underived genius?
Sorry so many words...

goofy328 said...

I link to your blog for the exposure. I may disagree with some posts, but it isn't personal to where I wouldn't link. Many times posts or blogs I disagree with are some of the better one's out there. Figure this, people actually respond to your posts and comment on them, which is more than can be said for my blog.

"Igby Goes Down" is an excellent film, even better than the Tannebaums. I got the film the first time around. I'm not sure why you like "Lost in Translation" though, the art direction was interesting but I wasn't feeling the romantic sensibility of the movie though. And I like a lot of chick flicks, but that film was a bit too abstract for me.

What do you think of Kill Bill? I liked Volume 2 better but wasn't feeling the first one so much ...

goofy328 said...

Also, to answer your question about posting. We share some of the same interests as far as writing and cinema are concerned. I don't trade links with sites that do not share any similarities with the content of my own site.

I tried screenwriting a few times, the furthest I got was 30 minutes into the script. While I don't agree with a lot of art films, because the premise seems to be that anything foreign, or weird, or abstract can be considered 'art', and therefore must be good, disturbs me. It's what I call the "Mapplethorpe" phenomenon, before you knew it everyone had feces in a jar or something immersed in urine. Used to be you had to go to some shitty theatre downtown to see art films now you can see them on the big screen. I'm not so sure that this is a good thing.

Some films, like "The Good Girl" are actually pretty interesting, "Elephant" was a demoralizing and disturbing piece of tripe though. Art films like "Storytelling", for example, make too much of issues like racism and sexual perversity, issues that aren't that more interesting simply because they're viewed under a different light.

Henry Baum said...

G-328, thanks for writing. I have to admit, the bourgeoisie, high-society comment pissed me off. Ironically enough, my mom produced "The Good Girl." That’s not as high society as it might sound, or else I wouldn’t be struggling to pay the rent. I agree that it’s a good movie, though the critics seemed to go a little overboard, comparing it to Fassbinder. Owes a lot to "Badlands," one of those 70s movies that seems more human.

I have a problem with those independent movies that think good filmmaking means all the characters should be going through hell. It just puts me through hell watching it and makes me feel even shittier about the human condition. Anyway, got off to a rocky start, glad to be moving on.

Rob, I’ll have to watch Tannenbaums again. It might be one of those movies that I appreciate the second time. Especially if I’m dead wrong about the fable thing. I liked watching "Eternal Sunshine," though it didn’t leave me with much.

Just saw "Sideways." It was entertaining, but I don’t understand the critics’ adoration. Some of the movie seemed like a teen sex romp. People are treating it like some kind of heady, sophisticated movie. Maybe it’s all the wine. All of Alexander Payne’s movies are like that: they’re OK, but completely loved by critics. Sometimes they just need something to love….Enough opinions for now. I’ll go blind.

goofy328 said...

Now I'll have to watch "Sideways". Nice to have talked with someone who knows someone who produced a movie I like, it's a small world. Sorry I was an ass starting off though. Your comment on "Sideways" sort of reminds me movies like "Thirteen".

I'm a huge Ricci and Stiles fan. I understand Stiles is busy with college, and we probably won't see as much of her as we used too. I'd like to see some more of Christiansen, "Swimfan" really did it for me. Then again I actually saw Christiansen on Carson Daily and she sort of disturbed me, like she is really that whacked in real life.

I understand that "Party Monster" was a pretty wicked film. If anyone is interested Macaulay Culkin was pretty good in "Saved", a controversal yet entertaining film, although I didn't quite feel good watching it the first time around.

Henry Baum said...

Actually, "Sideways" is a pretty feel-good movie. "Thirteen" is one of those movies where everything's depressing. I always find myself asking, don't these people ever laugh, watch TV, stop brooding about their depression for a minute? There's a scene in the end of "Thirteen" where one of the moms gets a bad plastic surgery job, and I thought, come on, every moment does not have to be brutal. This hyper-realism about brutality is actually less realistic because it only shows one side.

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