THE FILM YAP » art We Never Shut Up About Movies Wed, 19 Nov 2014 14:40:11 +0000 en-US hourly 1 Off the Floor Tue, 14 Oct 2014 07:57:13 +0000 Continue reading ]]> Off the Floor, a documentary about pole dancing

For showtimes, click here.

“Off the Floor” is a documentary about a bunch of strippers.

Yes, you read that right, but I’m being purposefully misleading. In fact, this film’s aim is to completely debunk that statement and others like it, that pole dancing is just a way for exotic dancers to practice, then claim what they are doing is an art form.

Directors Kate and Matt Celia go to great lengths to show society’s misconceptions of pole dancing, showing celebrities from Anderson Cooper to Whoopi Goldberg to Oprah Winfrey all questioning pole dancing’s legitimacy.

And while indeed its roots may or may not have been in less reputable avenues, Jessica Anderson-Gwin seeks to bring respect to what she has developed as her craft; think a less acrobatic Cirque du Soleil. Jessica develops her art form, and assembles and trains a troupe to perform routines. They soon find themselves on television talk shows, then auditioning for “America’s Got Talent.”

The movie is more or less typical of a doc of this type: people fighting against stereotypes to prove what they are doing is worthwhile, leading up to some sort of competition. Here, it’s done well if not spectacularly, and the characters are likable and worthy if not endearing.

“Off the Floor” is a solid documentary, a film that challenges you to look past society’s norms and prejudices and approach a subject with a non-judgmental mindset. It’s perfectly at place at Heartland, and is well worthwhile.

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Blue is the Warmest Color Fri, 15 Nov 2013 02:55:27 +0000 Continue reading ]]> blueisthewarmestcolorinside

“Blue is the Warmest Color” is a luxuriously and literarily elegant film, boasting a visual extremism that envelops us in its characters’ visages and a powerful erotic charge that’s explicit but never exploitative. From the early exhilaration of love to the annihilative power of secrets and resentment, this epic French-language drama spares us nothing in its portrayal of one young woman’s first experience in the ways of the heart, which she happens to share with another woman.

So naturalistic, unaffected and believable is the work of French co-stars Adèle Exarchopoulos and Léa Seydoux – in the year’s best female performances so far – that it hardly feels like you’re watching a work of fiction. That goes for the moments when they engage in lustful, unadulterated sex onscreen. No matter the orientation, such frank, contextually rich depictions of voracious, but sated, sexual appetites are rare.

Unsurprisingly, these scenes – of which there are several that run for minutes at a time, but make up a comparative blip of the film’s 179-minute running time – have become “Blue’s” calling card since it earned the prestigious Palme d’Or, the equivalent of Best Picture, at May’s Cannes Film Festival. Just this week, the Internet lit up with articles about real-life lesbians’ responses to the sex scenes, then an article about another lesbian responding to those responses. So goes the Ouroboros of popular culture.

Each scene plays out with inimitably explosive intensity – to a degree that the actresses used molds of their genitals to avoid direct contact. While the film undoubtedly earns its incendiary NC-17 rating, this is no skin mag tucked inside the dust jacket of a highbrow classic.

“Blue” avoids the tag of tawdry, cheap pornography by evoking the raw ardor and intimacy that surround an initial sexual encounter. As Adèle (Exarchopoulos) and Emma (Seydoux) make love for the first time, it feels like a discovery of their physical and sensual sensitivity. And although Tunisian co-writer/director Abdellatif Kechiche’s camera stays as close to them here as it does during scenes of dialogue, it feels nothing at all like the puerile fetishism of a heterosexual male. It’s just a physically expressive continuation of the acute character observation in scenes when they’re fully clothed.

Julie Maroh, the author of the graphic novel on which the film is based, has all but disowned Kechiche’s adaptation, branding his direction of the scenes “brutal” and “mechanical.” With all due respect to her opinion, I would ask what greater authenticity she truly believes a female, or lesbian, filmmaker would have brought to the scene. What does it really matter if the women are positioned at proper angles respective to their genitalia or moving against each other the right way? Moreover, what would be the “right” way for anyone to have sex? Quite honestly, one of “Blue’s” most intriguing, well-developed themes that spins out from its erotic content is more philosophical than anatomical: Can pleasure, dictated as it is by such individual desires, ever truly be shared?

The accuracy of “Blue’s” sex isn’t all that people are talking about aside from the movie itself. Kechiche’s planned two-and-a-half-month shoot ballooned to five, and it’s said that 750 hours of dailies were shot. Both Exarchopoulos and Seydoux have echoed crewmembers’ accusations of hostile filming conditions, including “moral harassment” and labor law violations, and said they would never again work with Kechiche. The director himself, during an interview in September, said he felt the film should have never been released because it was “too sullied.”

The making of “Blue” sounds like a miserable experience, but Exarchopoulos, Seydoux and Kechiche have emerged with a triumph in which they can take pride for their entire careers. In a rare move, the two actresses received the Palme d’Or prize along with Kechiche. It’s a perfect honor to their commitment, which, as much as his direction, fuels this emotionally taxing, but fascinating, drama. All of the ballyhooed sexual content feels like a complement to all of the dreams, ideas and disagreements Adele and Emma share long before, and after, their bodies unite.

Plus, as “Blue” unfolds, Exarchopoulos and Seydoux’s facial expressions during the amorous scenes become far more fascinating anyway – for what they reveal about the complex dynamic evolving in what is now a relationship far removed from any single, transitory encounter.

Furthermore, “Blue” is only about Adèle and Emma as a couple. It’s neither a screed against intolerance – lesbian slurs are mostly confined to a brief schoolyard-taunting scene – nor a film in which either woman defies her family with sexuality; Emma’s bourgeois parents seem to know she’s a lesbian, while Adèle’s blue-collar folks are oblivious to sexuality of any stripe and, after a certain point, never heard from again. (The film rockets through years of Adèle and Emma’s lives together, sometimes requiring a few seconds to let sink in how much has passed.) “Blue” doesn’t have to strain for social-issue poignancy, instead soaring on these two actress’s terrific interpretations of their love, warts and all.

When we first meet Adèle, she’s a bright high-school girl with an empty gaze waiting for something worthy of fixation to fill it. Exarchopoulos makes you feel her frenetic, futile search to find the spark in what she’s told is normal teenage behavior, as well as the sadness in her struggle.

Her attempt to date Samir (Salim Kechiouche), an affable, wannabe metal musician from her school, is half-hearted, despite the quickness with which they rush to bed. “It was great,” she says when they’ve finished, and she’s telling the truth, albeit not in any orgasmic sense. It’s great to her because it emboldens her resolve toward curiosity rather than resigning herself to a complacency with which she’s not comfortable (although a mistaken-intent encounter with a female classmate still awaits).

That “Blue” is also not dismissive of Samir as a libidinous lunkhead proves instructive for what eventually befalls Adèle, who comes to have stars in her eyes. Samir sees in Adèle a chance to be “better,” as well read and open-minded as she is. When it ends, they both shed tears. Such is the peril in idealizing a partner as a vessel for your self-improvement.

Adele feels a moonstruck moment in a busy crosswalk – a lingering, penetrating stare at a blue-haired, slightly older woman who, although she has her arm around someone, cranes her neck to glance back at Adèle. Not long after indulging her masturbatory fantasies for this woman, Adèle finds herself face-to-face with her after sneaking into a lesbian bar. Her name is Emma, and she’s about to finish art school.

At first, it seems improbable that Emma would be so nervous in her flirtations with Adèle – especially with a naïf stumbling onto her well-trodden turf. But then we realize we’ve only envisioned Emma through Adèle’s romanticized point of view. She is not so simple as a symbolically dominant force of nature. Her struggle is complex as well – a bohemian college girl about to collide with the cold, hard reality of a Parisian art scene where she may never be anything more than a hanger-on.

As Emma and Adèle begin to see more of each other, Sofian El Fani’s severe cinematography practically pries apart the actresses’ pores to peer into their cells – as if to gaze at the very essence of their existence as a couple. Although camerawork so precise you can track the trail of a tear and the pulse of a snot bubble may sound invasive, it makes Emma and Adèle’s burgeoning tenderness – and its inevitable curdling – all the more involving. It’s the visual aggression of late-period Lars von Trier without any of his usual attendant misanthropy.

Conflicts about their identities come to form the wedge driven between Emma and Adèle. Ultimately, neither woman seems to truly know who she is – one sexually, one socially. Is Adèle there only to be Emma’s model and muse, her individuality consigned to interpretations on gallery walls? And is she so certain that she really identifies as a “lesbian”? Furthermore, does Emma’s seemingly iconoclastic demeanor obscure true desire for more conventional comforts of adulthood?

In a third act stuffed with high-intensity confrontations, loaded words and judiciously shed tears, the bravery, vulnerability and risks in Exarchopoulos and Seydoux’s performances grow exponentially. It culminates in a resolution both unforgettably beautiful and unremittingly bleak – suggesting that sometimes gaining true forgiveness may mean giving up true love – and Kechiche isn’t afraid to let us see these characters barely survive the aftermath.

Blue may be the color of one of the hottest-burning flames, but such ignition eventually fades. As Adèle and Emma navigate their love’s violently fluctuating temperature, “Blue is the Warmest Color” lets you live in their joys and miseries. It’s a revelatory love story that delights, shatters, bruises and lingers long in the memory after the final frame, and it’s one of the absolute best films of 2013.

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Pixar Talk: Ratatouille Thu, 03 Nov 2011 17:45:10 +0000 Continue reading ]]> Every week, Austin is going to have a chat with Victoria Disque about a Pixar film. This is all leading up to a speech Austin will be giving about Pixar at the E.B. and Bertha C. Ball Center in Muncie on December 9th. Victoria is a producer of The Reel Deal and is currently majoring in telecommunications at Ball State University.

Austin: So you just finished “Ratatouille” for the first time minutes ago. What are your first reactions?

Victoria: I loved it. Within the first half-hour, I knew I was really going to like this movie. It never disappointed me.

Austin: This was Brad Bird, who also directed “The Incredibles” and “The Iron Giant.”

Victoria: I decided I really like him. I mean, I like them all — like John Lasseter — but I really like Brad Bird.

Austin: And he’s moving onto live action with “Mission: Impossible: Ghost Protocol” this winter. Every Pixar film goes through so many changes throughout its production. For this one, Brad Bird was called in a little bit late on the process. This was Pixar’s first film after the legal debacle of Pixar breaking away from Disney and all that madness. So this is their first thing on their own again, yet it feels like a complete movie. It’s so smooth and a wonderful story.

Victoria: I almost thought there was too much going on. But like I said, I loved this movie. There is the restaurant critic to deal with, there is the bitter ex-chef to work with, Remy tries to break away from his family, Linguini being Gusteau’s son. There was just a lot to take in. It all felt smooth, but it did feel complete.

Austin: There is a lot of plot, but I think one of the reasons why it worked was that they didn’t save it all for the end. Linguini gets the restaurant earlier than anyone expects. There’s even a montage where people think the movie could end. You see this more in French films, so it’s fitting that it’s set in Paris.

Victoria: Also, Linguini gets with the girl earlier in the movie — something else you’d expect to save for the very end.

Austin: That’s where you see what is the true point of the story. All of the Linguini stuff is secondary to Remy’s journey of finding his own place as a chef. I think they did a really good job of structuring that.

There are so many movies about “art.” There are so many movies about making movies or the romanticism of writing or painting. I like that Pixar decided to not do the obvious one and talked about the art of food. It’s probably one of the best food movies I have ever seen.

Victoria: This is probably really lame, but I watch the Food Network all the time. There is something really relaxing about watching other people make food. I didn’t expect that from animated food. I loved the montage where Remy had to figure out exactly how to pull the hair to make the spaghetti. Even when he was making food as himself, I was surprised how much I was enjoying watching a gutter rat make food.

Austin: That’s the power of animation. Obviously, we can’t smell or taste anything they’re cooking. It has to be entirely visual, basically. One way they did that was to create a great aroma of the kitchen where he smells the soup. What I really loved were the sequences when he closes his eyes and we see the colors around his head mixing together as the tastes blend. It explains something very personal and difficult to convey, and really the best person to display that geeky enthusiasm is Patton Oswalt.

Victoria: I loved his voice. When the rat first started talking, my mind went to him but then it disappeared. Just like all the other Pixar movies, I never think of it again.

Austin: If I had to make an arbitrary list of the best casting from Pixar, I think the top two are in this film. Patton Oswalt is so brilliant. I’ve been a big fan of his standup for years. Whenever he is enthusiastic about loving or hating a film, it’s always the greatest thing because he gets so passionate, so this character is an extension of him. Instead of yelling about “Star Wars,” he’s amazed about the taste of the food. It’s so genuine and perfect job casting.

Victoria: Who’s the other one, then?

Austin: Peter O’Toole as Anton Ego.

Victoria: Oh, yeah. That was a surprise for me. I never thought someone as legendary as Peter O’Toole would do an animated movie, but if you’re going to do it, you better do Pixar.

Austin: He brought such gravitas to it. I love Peter O’Toole, but he hasn’t had the best roles lately. He was pretty good in the “Casanova” miniseries and “Venus” was OK. But he was so good in this! Just look at the most talked-about scene from the movie where he takes a bite of the ratatouille. That was pulled off because of what O’Toole had brought to the role before that. Such brilliant filmmaking.

Victoria: I was a bit emotional at that scene. I was a bit choked up during that part because they added so many layers to this critic who, up to that part, was just … a big meanie. You still don’t know why he is that way at the end, but he grew a heart at that moment. It was like the Grinch!

Austin: And his flashback is so brief. You immediately know what is going on at that moment.

Victoria: They are really good at stuff like that. They give you enough story without milking it.

Austin: Then the scene to accompany that was the review.

Victoria: I don’t know if kids understood a word of that but I loved it.

Austin: I first saw this in theaters and before every Pixar film, I’m nervous. Kids are talking before it starts and I almost want to announce, “When the movie starts, you shut up.” But every time, my audience has been great. Everyone’s behaved because they love Pixar just as much as I do. During that scene, everyone knew how to respond. Even if you don’t know every word he’s saying, but they knew the Grinch grew a heart and it’s a good review.

So often, you have films or storytellers talking about critics. More often than not, it’s negative towards them. Everyone’s had a bad review in their life; that’s what happens when you put something out there. They could have easily turned that into a speech against criticism. But it wasn’t that. It was looking at the emotions behind it. Earlier in the film, there is a moment when someone says he hates food, but he says that he loves food and that’s why he’s so harsh on it. In this scene, he sees the potential and joy in food again. Sure, he ends up losing his job because he was discredited when the restaurant was filled with rats. I think if that didn’t happen, he would have stayed on as a critic and enjoyed the food more.

Victoria: Pixar never fails to surprise me. Any other animation company would go with the easy ending, the really, really happy ending. There were two parts that surprised me in this. The first was when Linguini was telling all of the chefs that Remy was cooking. You’d expect them to stay and deal with it, but they all leave. Then all the rats help out, which I didn’t see coming.

Then I didn’t see the ending coming, either. I thought it would be happily ever after, but the restaurant closes down. Then they have the smaller restaurant, which is probably less stressful and the rats can eat there. So it seems like a sadder ending, but it works more for the characters.

Pixar is fantastic at taking something so unrealistic and then making it as realistic in that concept.

Austin: I think this is the most unrealistic of them all with having Remy pull Linguini’s hair and making him move. For that is impossible … and insane. So they should walk out because what he is describing is madness. I would stay to see it all play out because that would be entertaining. That is the most fantastical element of any Pixar films aside from talking animals and inanimate objects.

However, the film does it so well. It takes the metaphor of the puppeteer and makes it literal. Even though it’s incredibly unrealistic, it works out best for both of them. You don’t really get the vibe that Linguini wants to be a chef, just that he wants to be in the kitchen.

Victoria: It seems that he wants to be part of something. His mom is gone. His father he never knew is gone. He doesn’t have anywhere to really call his own. The one question I had in the whole movie is when he first gets the job, why does he add stuff to the soup when nobody was looking?

Austin: Oh, because he’s an idiot.

Victoria: You’re just taking random things and putting them in a pot!

Austin: I think he wanted to contribute more than just taking out the trash. Looking at what you’re saying, I think he wants to be part of a group. The kitchen is like a family. Aside from the crazy French Ian Holm villain, the kitchen is a very warming place for him. (Transcriber’s note: That was an unintentional pun.) He finds the love of his life, there are quirky other characters that support him, he has rat friends. It does work well as a community. I think he was just trying to get to that point.

I do like this film quite a bit, but I guess the only part I don’t like is Remy’s family storyline. Watching it this time, I really got the metaphor of rats are like criminals. Linguini always thinks Remy is going to steal all the food and run out on him. Then there are the old “You can’t escape your past” and the “mobster who wants to go straight” tropes that operate with this family. They are thieves, but in a more respectful light they are animals. I know it was necessary for the plot, but when they opposed his lifestyle, it seemed awkward. It did pay off when it they came together, though.

Victoria: You know I saw this thing on my friend’s Tumblr that really sums up the differences between Pixar and Dreamworks. Pixar puts so much work into their stories where even if it doesn’t pay off, they’re trying really hard to make something special.

Austin: That is so awesome. You know, there really isn’t anything like “Ratatouille.” It has elements that are familiar, but it all blends together to be a completely unique movie. It’s really great.

Victoria: Loved it!

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Week Two TV Contest Results Sat, 30 Jul 2011 07:36:43 +0000 Continue reading ]]> As an experiment in recommendations, Austin is watching every show that was suggested to him over the course of one weekend. He’ll watch two to three episodes apiece and write about what he thinks every Saturday on the Film Yap. After he gets through his list, he’ll award TV-related prizes.


Previous Relationship: I have never seen a full episode, although I know of its prestige, I know the final shot and I know a bunch of the major characters, including Frasier Crane.

I watched: Season One, episodes 1-3: “Give Me a Ring Sometime,” “Sam’s Women” and “The Tortelli Tort.”

And..? I loved it. Loved, loved, loved it. My current TV love lies with shows like nerdy things like “LOST” and “Doctor Who,” inventive dramas like “Mad Men” and “Breaking Bad,” and modern classics like “The Wire” and “Arrested Development.” Yet my real intro to television was “M*A*S*H.” I loved TV on DVD because twice a year, I’d have a relatively cheap season of “M*A*S*H” to gush over every year.

I shouldn’t like laugh tracks or jokes with an obvious path, but this show really works. Not only did I laugh several times an episodes, the characters were immediately warm and likable. Every ensemble comedy ought to have a cast with whom you’d love to hang out, and I can’t think of one that pulled it off faster than this show. The structure of the episodes are strong as well. Diane could have easily been the “new guy” in the pilot to whom everyone was awkwardly introduced, but she works around that by having a contrasting objective. Even when Carla is in danger of losing her job in Episode 3, there’s no real danger but at least there is a more interesting problem than usual.

Will I continue watching? Absolutely. I’m actually bummed I can’t watch the rest now. Many more shows to cover …

Grade: 5 Yaps


“The Prisoner”

Previous Relationship: I knew the basic plot of someone being taken to a creepy isolated world full of secrets and mysteries. I knew it was a major influence on “LOST,” which automatically puts it on a “to-watch” list.

I watched: Episodes 1-3: “Arrival,” “Free for All” and “Dance of the Dead.” Turns out there are plenty of arguments over the ordering of the episodes, which was very complicated. I’m going with the order on the new DVD.

And…? I don’t know what I expected with the opening episode, but it wasn’t that. The crazy editing, the long montage sequence, the evil floating white ball, the dramatic line readings. It was … awesome. This is the most ’60s British show you can find. It is never winking at the camera or going too far in the other direction by being too self-important. When the lead character shouts, “I am not a number, I am a free man!,” I’m cheering along.

So these wackos kidnap an ex-spy because they want to know what caused him to resign. They place him in this bizarre world where people are known as Number Six, Number Two, etc. He tries to escape and figure out what is going on but is thwarted by their traps and drugs. It’s creative, trippy and, like I said, really awesome.

Will I continue watching? Absolutely. It’s only one season long and I happily don’t know the ending. It does have an ending, right?

Grade: 4.5 Yaps


“The Doodlebops”

Previous Relationship: No previous relationship, I promise, Your Honor.

I watched Volume 1, episodes 1-3: “High and Low,” “Tap Tap Tap” and “Queen for a Deedee.”

And…? OK, I understand this is a show for preschoolers. I am not a preschooler. That doesn’t mean I’m still not allowed to hate this show. It is about three annoying Doodlebops. How do I know they are Doodlebops? They purposely mispronounce their name in a silly way so that they can cut away to children to tell them it’s “the Doodlebops!” This is just the beginning of how they program these kids to obsess about this lame TV show.

Every episode does the same thing, which is fine. Deedee and Rooney start the show, but Moe is a dick and is always late. They sing their creepy anthem. They interact with their wacky house. They sing a lame song. They talk to a rhyming black lady who I think they have locked in their closet. Moe pulls a rope and water falls on him. They go outside to do random stupid stuff. They go on the bus. Sing a lame song. Arrive at a concert. Repeat the first lame song. Show a knock-knock joke. Sing another song. End the show. Bam. I get it; I read Malcolm Gladwell’s “Blink” as well. Repetition is important for this age.

What I don’t like is what the show does with that repetition. They all go to a Doodlebop concert every episode. They show plenty of stock footage of families taking their seats and having a blast. They’re dancing with the music and having a great time. That way the kids at home can beg their parents to take them to a Doodlebops concert. The show is more about branding than it is about having a show. It’s a cheap-looking show that is falling apart at its seams but without any moments of heart to bother and try to save it. Stick with “Sesame Street.”

Will I continue watching? What? God, no.

Grade: 1.5 Yaps



Previous Relationship: I knew it was about modern art because my friend kept telling me to watch it.

I watched Season One, episodes 1-3 “Location,” “Spirituality” and “Identity.”

And…? I’m not good at discussing art. I’m best at criticism and observation when there is some sort of narrative. That said, I love hearing others talk about the things I can’t articulate. Documentaries about art and fashion are fascinating, and this is another strong entry. The first episode is the best because it has some of the most interesting subjects.

The standout was Sally Mann (who constantly sounded like she was a “Lord of the Rings” villain). She took beautiful photographs of her children when they were younger. Their nudity is an easy source for controversy, but what I will take away from it is hearing how much time went into the shots. The children are now grown-up. They seem proud of the results, but there is still some resentment in how many tries it took to capture the perfect moment.

Having the artists speak about their work could be nauseating, but most of them treat the final product as separate from them. They remain curious about what they created. It makes for solid television.

Will I continue watching? I’m not sure. I liked what I saw, but it wasn’t pressing enough to keep with it.

Grade: 4 Yaps


“Black Books”

Previous Relationship: I kinda already love this show. I found the first season on a whim on Hulu and cracked up every episode. Season Two was a bit of a drop as it became too absurd for its own good. (Manny hides inside of a piano and plays it like a classical performer?) I just fell behind and never watched the last season.

I watched Season Three, episodes 1-3: “Manny Come Home,” “Elephants and Hens” and “Moo-Ma and Moo-Pa.”

And…? Oh, it’s still funny. I was worried it would keep getting worse, but I laughed a lot each episode. It was full of the things I liked the most about the series. Bernard acting like a stubborn lunatic and Manny bewildered. When Manny gets a job at a proper bookstore and his boss is Simon Pegg (a job reversal from “Spaced”), it’s a perfect playground for two brilliant comic actors to just mess a bit with each other.

Each of the episodes follows a regular sitcom plotline. The second one has Bernard and Manny making a bet with Fran about whether or not they can write a children’s book in a weekend. Instead of accepting their defeat at the end of the episode, they get drunk, go mad and write a brilliant 1,000-page novel and a pretty decent children’s book. Then they light them on fire.

I love the three leads and their insanity is inspiring because these are three truly crazy people. They function … kinda, but they need each other more than they realize. It’s a blast of a show. If you haven’t seen it, the first scene of the first episode is a great test to gauge whether you’re in it for the rest of the series.

Will I continue watching? I only have three episodes left so … yeah, I think I can get around to it.

Grade: 4.5 Yaps


“Men of a Certain Age”

Previous Relationship: I know that it was recently canceled. I know the leads involved and I know that TV critic Alan Sepinwall has really been pushing this show.

I watched Season One, episodes 1-3: “Pilot,” “Let it Go” and “Mind’s Eye.”

And…? Wow, this is way better than I expected. I have never been a big Ray Romano fan because most of his humor is really broad and then he shrugs it off. This show is more on par with “Louie” than “Everybody Loves Raymond.” It’s slower-paced and has more observations about men in their 50s than just “Oh, I hate being old!” The best way to speak to a wider audience is to fully understand your own niche.

Romano plays a recently divorced father who runs a shop. Scott Bakula is an actor who isn’t getting much work but still attracts younger women. Andre Braugher is a family man who is often emasculated by his father, who runs his car dealership. In the first three episodes, every plot moves by with an expert pace and earn a ton of emotional moments

Easily the biggest surprise of the experiment. This is a great show that didn’t deserve to be canceled by the network that renewed “Franklin & Bash.”

Will I continue watching? Yep. I’ll finish off the two seasons.

Grade: 4.5 Yaps


“Jersey Shore”

Previous Relationship: Hatred from afar. Never seen an episode.

I watched Season One, episodes 1-3: “A New Family,” “The Tanned Triangle” and “Good Riddance.”

And…? Shame on you, America. This is popular? This is still on the air? People like this show? What the … why? For those who don’t know, a bunch of idiots are brought to a house and then they party on the Jersey Shore. They are guidos and guidettes, and if you don’t know what that means, they will spend the first 10 minutes of the pilot explaining it.

I figured they would drink, party, fight and sleep with each other but I had no idea how dumb they would be about it. They all talk about how they are going to sleep with everyone. Then when Mike (“The Situation”) flirts with Sammi by holding her hand and cooking with her, everyone makes fun of them. He’s still a douche, but at least he was almost sorta trying to be a gentleman douche. The guys bring some girls to their place and they are bashed for it. The girls bring guys back and they are bashed for it. I don’t know how any of them are even happy! There is a thesis to be written about “Sexuality on the Jersey Shore.”

In three episodes, there were only two scenes that almost entertained me. One was Snooki — who may be schizophrenic — failing to figure out how to work the duck phone. She was accidentally home alone trying to call people on this duck-shaped phone and people keep calling on the other line. It was such a confusing moment that I really wanted the scene to end with a zoom to the outlet to reveal the phone was never connected.

The other was when Angelina was being called out by her boss for not showing up to work. Her argument was so confusing and empty it felt like a surrealist play. I just wanted the boss to snap and yell, “HOW CAN YOU BE THIS STUPID?!?!”

Stop watching this show, America.

Will I continue watching? **** no.

Grade: .5 Yaps


“The Dresden Files”

Previous Relationship: I’ve read the first two books in the series and I liked them. From a mystery standpoint, they weren’t very good because they were just Harry going from person to person asking “Do you know anything?” Yet they were fun and creative with the fantasy world. I should probably read more.

I watched Season One, Episodes 1-3: “Birds of a Feather,” “The Boone Identity” and “Hair of the Dog.”

And…? This did not work at all. With “Jersey Shore”, I could at least be appalled for the 45 minutes, but with this I was bored out of my mind. There’s no fun with the show. There is a ghost named Bob who lives in a skull, and that’s even treated as super-serious. Every person who hires the wizard Harry Dresden feels like they were rejected from a “Law and Order” episode for having even less of a personality.

There is voiceover for no reason. There are flashbacks to his boring childhood. Every case is solved by random bits of magic that they make up as they go along. Harry is melodramatic about everything! I hate it when shows or movies spend half of their dialogue talking about how deep/dark/interesting/charming/scary a character is but never showing any evidence. This show commits that crime every episode with everyone. None of the villains are memorable or even that threatening.

The book series deserved better than this.

Will I continue watching? It was cancelled after one season and I don’t even want to finish it.

Grade: 1.5 Yaps

Next week I’ll be jumping back into “Lie to Me,” checking out “Green Wing” and finally restarting “Friday Night Lights.”

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Cave of Forgotten Dreams 3D Sun, 29 May 2011 16:27:58 +0000 Continue reading ]]>


Werner Herzog is a legend. His films are often ridiculous and poetic. When he becomes interested in a subject, he knows how to move his lens in an abstract fashion that resembles his own worldview. His fans became excited when he announced he was going to experiment in 3D. Fitting with the trend, the results are anticlimatic.

“Cave of Forgotten Dreams 3D” sounds like a mystic adventure story. In terms of historical context, it is. Herzog was one of the only people to venture into the Chauvet caves in the south of France. The caves have their majestic presence, but the reason they are so significant is the images that are drawn on the walls.

The drawings are the earliest records of human art. Also, the drawings are surprisingly good. These are not boring stick figures depicting that one time where there were boar. Instead, the depictions of animals are remarkably accurate. There is expertise shown with the shading and placement that show something special.

The question becomes how special. Herzog does his best to bring his philosophic hyperbole to the tiniest of details. Some of it hits, but most of it doesn’t. He only has so much time to cover the caves, but he struggles to make a full subject out of it. Most of the problem comes from how little we know about these people. There are tons of drawings of animals, but none of a full human. Thus, they had high societal affection for animals.

The rest seems like a lot of stretches. They try to identity culture and religion from the most mundane things because they don’t have a lot to work with, so it’s a cold expedition since it’s an early discovery. The drawings themselves remain impressive but only to a point. It couldn’t sustain the montages the filmmakers create for them.

Knowing Herzog’s relationship with nature, I was surprised they spent all of the focus on these drawings and not the cave. Oddly enough, one of the more memorable moments in the movie is when they first enter the cavern. They have to go through a narrow passage, and with the crew and the 3D technology, it was very claustrophobic.

The charms of the film are the things that are separate from the premise, such as the albino crocodiles and the former circus performer. These are the quirks typically associated with a Herzog documentary, but it feels like he had an obligation just to stick with the drawings instead of venture elsewhere for the sake of the movie.

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Heroes of the Zeroes: Synecdoche, New York Tue, 19 Oct 2010 11:44:41 +0000 Continue reading ]]> Heroes of the Zeroes is Nick Rogers’ daily, alphabetical look back at the 365 best films of 2000-2009.

“Synecdoche, New York”
Rated R

No filmmaker excels at existential largeness and largesse like Charlie Kaufman — unearthing deep feelings from the floorboards of fatuous fantasies like “Adaptation.,” “Being John Malkovich” and “Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind.”

“Synecdoche, New York,” Kaufman’s 2008 directorial debut, at times felt like “8 ½” from the mind of the man who created the 7 ½ floor. Theater director Caden Cotard (Philip Seymour Hoffman) erects a facsimile of his world inside a warehouse, where truth and simulation collide until they’re indiscernible.

Caden’s life and overlapping plays become labyrinths in which he’s lost, besieged by failed lovers (Catherine Keener, Samantha Morton, Michelle Williams, Emily Watson), grotesque medical conditions (only Hoffman could reveal burdens through gastrointestinal distress) and melancholy insecurities.

Art is a dream through which some seek to rise above the mundane. “Synecdoche” is the nightmare of succumbing further to the mundane because of art.

But like a blank slate easily rewritten on subsequent viewings, “Synecdoche” concerns everything in life and death: ear-roaring, gut-plummeting anxiety; pathetic pathology of types and patterns; a year’s blink-and-miss-it passage; fear of being misremembered; fleeting moments of bliss; companions with whom we’re messy, but nevertheless comfortable and compatible

Only death cuts life’s Gordian Knot. Even then, others inherit and inhabit parts of our life. Our existence and legacy represent but a fraction of a fraction of a second of universal time.

“Synecdoche” could feel heady and inaccessible, but was gloriously indispensable — the Zeroes’ most thematically spidery, confounding, and combative film, but one of its very best.

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Catfish Fri, 01 Oct 2010 13:30:01 +0000 Continue reading ]]>

We’ve heard it all before: in today’s digital culture, we literally have the world at our fingertips.  Still, deception happens.  Just because inconsistencies and outright lies can be debunked with the click of a mouse or tap on the iPhone, doesn’t mean people constantly question what’s right in front of them.  When individuals are more surrounded and more isolated than ever, they’re less likely to investigate matters of the heart – anything to combat the loneliness, right?

“Catfish” has built an entire marketing campaign on knowing next to nothing about the film, and therefore it’s challenging to review it.  What I will say is that the movie brings forth a very familiar story, but raises questions that aren’t so familiar.  If you’re like me, your reaction to “Catfish” may change daily – but the fact that I’m still contemplating five days later must be significant.

A few years ago, New York filmmakers Henry Joost and Ariel (Rel) Schulman started documenting the online friendship of Rel’s brother Nev, a 24-year-old photographer, and Abby, an 8-year-old Michigan prodigy who enjoys making paintings from Nev’s photos.  Through Facebook, Nev becomes acquainted with Abby’s family: her mother Angela, and beautiful older sister Megan.  But, as Nev and the filmmakers’ impromptu road trip to Michigan will reveal, something more sinister is afoot.

As secrets and lies are revealed in “Catfish”‘s latter half, I found myself questioning not only the subjects of the film, but the trio behind it, including Nev himself.  At what point did they become suspicious that things weren’t quite what they seemed?  Did this moment of discovery take place on camera, as the film wants us to believe?  Or did it happen long before, and filming continued because, well, they wanted to make a movie?  Even as the filmmakers painted themselves as innocent victims against a deceptive force, I asked myself if they weren’t in the know all along.  Sure, entire lives are documented for public consumption, but where does an ethical filmmaker draw the line?  As “Catfish” illustrates, the answer isn’t so clear and the results can be tragic.

Combining celluloid, screenshots, and computer graphics without being obnoxious, “Catfish” is a well-made little film that never bores.  And while certain elements may leave a bitter taste in your mouth, the film will also leave many thoughts in your head about the media that has the potential to take over a life, and in some cases, create it.

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Boogie Woogie Thu, 16 Sep 2010 00:50:13 +0000 Continue reading ]]>

There’s something about the art community that is different than any other sort of creative medium. People can be obsessed with movies or books, but there is this amazing elitism around “art.” This is the subject of Duncan Ward’s first feature film, Boogie Woogie.

There are plenty of characters centered around Art Spindle (Danny Huston) and his art gallery. Gillian Anderson and Stellan Skarsgård are a married couple who are obsessed with owning the best pieces. Heather Graham has worked for Art for years and is now looking to branch out. Amanda Seyfried is the new girl who attracts the eye of everyone.

Alan Cumming is too nice of a guy and his ideas are always being shot down. Christopher Lee owns a very rare piece named “Boogie Woogie” that is the prize of his collection, but he doesn’t want to sell it despite how much they need money. Jaime Winstone is a radical new artist who is experimenting in video art, which includes documenting all of the intimate moments of her days. Jack Huston is more interested in perception art.

As expected, storylines converge and passion is heated among many of the characters. There are moments of cleverness as Ward and Moynihan play out their satire of the higher class but there is nothing that completely sticks. Most of the plotlines play out as expected, especially with Cumming and Graham.

It takes too long to set up the characters and they only really exist in order to have a purpose in the satire. There is so much potential, though, and actors like Huston and Anderson really add emotional depth to what is beyond the script. The movie feels more like a pilot for a TV show than a stand-alone movie. Even as the arcs reach a definite conclusion, it still just feels like the beginning of interactions with this set.

With more time, I think more can play out with the characters and their relationships. This movie doesn’t really start to come alive until the second act. Characters are nothing without their conflicts and these characters don’t feel full until they expose themselves in conflict. (Yes, literally in some cases)

With the art world under the microscope, Ward and the screenwriter/novelist Danny Moynihan are surprisingly restrained. This keeps the movie in check, but it isn’t used for any emotional moments. Give this movie a little more bite and a bit more characterization and you can have a very solid movie.

This is an IFC DVD, which means, once again, there aren’t any bonus features. Unless you count a trailer and a TV spot as a bonus feature. Ohh, ohh, there’s also an interactive menu!

Film: 3 Yaps

Extras: 1 Yap

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The Art of the Steal Tue, 27 Jul 2010 03:01:49 +0000 Continue reading ]]>

In 2005 documentary filmmaker Don Argott debuted with the movie Rock School. It was an entertaining parallel to School of Rock, but the subject matter never felt like it could fill up a whole movie. Years later, the game is totally changed with The Art of the Steal.

This is a story known to a lot of people who follow art and those who have a stake in Philadelphia tourism, but the rest of the world has probably never heard of The Barnes Foundation. Albert C. Barnes developed a drug that was a huge step against venereal diseases. This left him with a ton of money and he put it towards modern and post-impressionist art. Over time he created a house of over 800 paintings that is almost impossible to value, but the end result is undeniably in the billions.

Barnes was a very opinionated man. He had very strict beliefs about how The Barnes Foundation was to operate. It was supposed to be used for education, not for upholstery as he put it. Part of the week was devoted to students and teaching. It was not exactly open to the public. When he died, his will expressed his beliefs very clearly. The paintings were not to be moved.

Then people became greedy. In order to “repair the facilities” paintings were sent on a world tour in order to raise money. This starts a chain reaction where people are completely disregarding Barnes’s will and claiming this private collection for their own profitable use.

At the beginning of the movie, Argott does a great job setting up the artistic value of the Foundation. It plays off any admirer of art, regardless of the medium. He brings together a lot of experts who are really passionate about what is happening to the Foundation. In fact, later on we see one of the people interviewed in a crowd with a sign screaming at government officials. It doesn’t invalidate him; it actually makes him more credible in my mind.

The film does get a little weighed down once it becomes more complicated in all of the money changing hands and who has control over what. However the intensity is always there and it is a really compelling story. This is an angry and reactionary film, but that makes it very eye opening.

It doesn’t only speak to those who appreciate art, but those who are worried about what is considered private anymore. The Barnes Foundation was never a museum, but one man’s possessions. It’s scary to see what happens when that no longer is true.

Like a lot of films from IFC, this disc is empty with bonus features. All that was there was a trailer for this film and other films by IFC. So I guess it was useful because it reminded me that I really ought to see Mary and Max?

Film: 4 Yaps

Extras: 1 Yap

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Heroes of the Zeroes: The Fountain Tue, 20 Apr 2010 04:01:47 +0000 Continue reading ]]> Heroes of the Zeroes is Nick Rogers’ daily, alphabetical look back at the 365 best films of 2000-2009.

“The Fountain”
Rated PG-13

Bless budget cuts that forced director Darren Aronofsky to pare down 2006’s “The Fountain” to a metaphysical marvel that hurtled through consciousness, grief, love, art and science.

This visual alchemist’s most personal work felt like a double helix of love and loss — death entwined with life as existence’s only reliable truths. “The Fountain” offered a transfixing merger of biological imperatives and musings on creativity and tragedy.

Hugh Jackman delivers his most raw performance yet — nervy, impulsive, stubborn and devoted to the point of emotional detriment — in three roles over a thousand-year story arc.

Tomas is an impulsive Spanish conquistador, Tommy is a modern-day medical researcher and Tom Creo is a bubble-bound space traveler — all working to save the life of their beloved Isabel (Rachel Weisz).

Triptychs and motifs let “The Fountain” blossom into a beautiful representation — a metaphor for embracing death’s revelations over its limitations (echoed in rousing requiem qualities of Clint Mansell’s rapturous score, featuring the Kronos Quartet).

Tom must come to a place where death is not to be feared, but revered for the singular knowledge it can offer the living and the late. It’s an aching tear from his lover’s touch — lines traced on the small of a back, a tingle of breath on a neck’s nape — that could also unveil new dimensions within him after anguish subsides.

Sensual, somber and soulful, “The Fountain” reached deep into examinations of personal exploration, mediation and inner peace to demand a response — an exquisite, graceful and awe-inspiring work of art.

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