20 April 2008

Lars and the Real Girl

The Highland Cinema vastly preferred Love Object, a film that, in spite of its late night cable salaciousness, portrayed the creepiness of Real Doll-dom with far more accuracy. Lars is bleeding heart specialty theatre fare -- a This American Life tale of despair and misguided coping wherein a human simulacrum is anthropomorphized by an entire town in an attempt to soothe an ailing native son. Lars and the Real Girl isn't all bad -- yes, it's slow and unconvincing (evidenced by the calculated wardrobe design for leadin' man Ryan Gosling), but the film's closing third is surprisingly full of an honest and affecting poignancy. Even for us.

13 April 2008

Is It Really So Strange?

Is It Really So Strange? introduces itself as a look into Morrissey and The Smiths' Latino fanbase, but it really amounts to a simple interview hodgepodge about everything involved in Moz hero-worship. This isn't entirely bad (such idolatry is what brought us to Manchester's finest in the first place), but the film feels incomplete and unfocused -- its monotone narration, lifeless static shots and editing, and queer-centered kino eye make it the most "San Francisco" doc we've shown. Watching this, The Highland Cinema felt like we were both UCB lecture hall and KQED-informed East Bay sublet.

But to get back on track, Is It Really So Strange? has at least one surprisingly effective moment early on as director William E Jones reaches for his introductory thesis. His ten minute Burns-esque photograph montage of the real HelL-A, the one of polluted sprawl, third generation immigrants, and plain old regular folks is the most honest depiction of California livin' we think we could ever see. It's too bad Jones doesn't delve deeper into this idea of working class suburbs and Taquerias as hotbeds of "Suedehead" worship. While nearly all of his interview subjects are of non-Caucasian descent, the interviews themselves are little more than a litany of fanboy recollections involving KROQ's Smiths airplay, Tower Records Morrissey spottings, and pompadour upkeep. The love both for and of Steven Patrick Morrissey is made rather apparent (as is Morrissey's perfectly calculated iconic persona), but there's no story here. And half of these guys get the song titles wrong. Some fans -- sheesh!

Born Into Brothels

I thought I was being an overly cynical jerk when I thought this was an oversimplified PSA for the National Endowment for the Arts, that it was just a way for privileged New Yorkers to pat themselves on the back for exposing themselves to the squalor of this world and taking comfort in the almighty healing powers of artistic expression. But then I talked to some people who had reactions even more negative than mine and I realized I was giving this film the benefit of all doubts.

Born into Brothels shows the world how children sired by Calcutta junkies and prostitutes are really just regular kids who have, gosh, immense creative talent! Look at all those fantastic photos they took with simple point and shoots! They are geniuses they are! And here we thought they were a pox on humanity. Whatever. I don't honestly believe these kids are trash, but the idea that meaningful salvation can come from a camera lens is a notion of Western bleeding hearts. There's one boy in here who's a real artist, but the rest of them are kids plain and simple, and no matter how fucking horrible it sounds their destiny is joining their mommies in the red light district and hoping for a too-soon chancre-ridden death. Too bad.

I'm well aware how much the filmmakers cared about these children and the work that they went through hounding boarding schools and shipping in photo supplies, but much of the film felt like an exercise in cause celebre, like a Save the Music campaign gone NPR. I don't believe the kids really took those pictures anyway -- they set the shots up, sure, but prints like that can't come without contrast filters and ritzy Leibovitz labs.

Yeah. You know, I am an asshole.

05 April 2008

The Smiths -- Under Review

VH1 style biopic that sticks mostly to the band's A to B to C historical/recording progression instead of tabloid tales of infighting and pomposity (the internet-capable Cinema thinks we prefer the latter). We've secretly liked Morrissey and Marr (eh, and probably Rouke and the other chap too) for a coupla years now, but it's only been in recent times that we've decided shit yeah we really really like these guys -- something that strikes us as pretty funny since we were a bunch of years out of high school before we heard that first Manchester-bred note. Your enjoyment is based on your tolerance for fawning talking heads and, of course, for the almighty Moz croon. And as much as we like this band even we had a tough time stomaching all the praise heaped on these cats, especially considering how at least half the catalog is awfully boring.