Julie and Julia

By , March 28, 2010 10:56 am

This is what "Julie and Julia" does to Julia Child in the last five minutes of the movie

By now, most of you have seen Julie and Julia, which intertwines the memoir of Julia Child, the legendary chef, and the blog of Julie Powell, the New York City housewife who discovers herself by working her way through Mastering the Art of French Cooking.  Child’s story dovetails with Jenny in An Education:  Both women were caught on the threshold of feminism, fighting sexism to get what they want from life.  Where Jenny learns that her Oxford education might actually get her out of the schoolhouse, Child forges her way through the publishing world to create a true work of art, not a condescending “for women” how-to guide for providing warm meals to their man. 

Enter Julie Powell, the quintessential modern, urban middle class woman that’s too busy to cook, but wants more than Hot Pockets out of life.  The first fifty pages of the published version of her blog chronicle Julie’s adventures sneak-reading her parents’ copy of The Joy of Sex, by-the-fireplace dreams of cozy Christmases with Jason Bateman, arguments with her mom, and lots of booze.  In other words, she’s an NYC version of Bridget Jones. 

Without the charm and wit.  Her blog, truth be told, is tedious.  Check out Day 2, Quiche Lorraine.  Julie is sweating through an August evening in her small Brooklyn apartment kitchen, kneading pastry while feeding her snake and talking to her landlord while the husband plays Free Cell.  The quiche?  “It’s pretty goddamned good.”  The green beans?  “The green beans taste like green beans, only with butter.”

If you can’t already tell, Julie Powell is nothing like “Julie Powell.”  It took me three blog posts to realize that Amy Adams is fatally miscast.  She’s way too…likable.  Julie Powell is closer to January Jones in Betty Draper mode, if Betty Draper lost all her money and moved to Brooklyn after marrying Greg Focker.  

This is the problem with Julie and Julia.  Because Nora Ephron is too afraid to paint “Julie Powell” as a messy, neurotic, profane, emotional wreck—like she is in her blog—the plot falls apart.  Julie’s fussiness isn’t nearly enough to drive her husband away without him looking like a total jerk.  The culmination of this miscalculation comes near the end of the film, when Julie finds out that Julia Child hates her blog. 

The viewer thinks, wow, Julia Child is a real bitch.  I mean, look at Amy Adams and her cute little neurotic cooking exercise that taught her about love, life, and laughter!  It doesn’t make any sense.

Until you read the real Julie Powell’s blog.  In fact, in her last post, Julie writes, “I never met Julia Child.  I have no particular reason to think she’d even have liked me if I had.”  Even Julie Powell realizes how unlikeable Julie Powell can be.  This could have been a great movie.

Julia Child, in fact, didn’t like Julie Powell’s blog.  Child said she wrote the book for “servantless cooks”—a mission that’s more than a touch disconnected from real homemakers, even back in the 50’s and 60’s.  Generations later, Julia Child’s sentiment seems even less understanding of her audience.  Still, Child’s gift was teaching, even if she didn’t know her students.  If anything, Julia Child seems to have written her book for “Julie Powell,” as if imagining Amy Adams fussing over suffles.  Child’s real audience is the overworked, profane, stressed, neurotic government bureaucrat:  The one who’s so stressed that she might practically benefit from Child’s can-do explanations.  Because Nora Ephron didn’t figure that out, she insults Julia Child at the end of a movie that’s supposed to glorify her. 

The Pitch:

1 Beef Bourguignon

Plus

1 Typical Blogger

Equals

2 Julie and Julia

Percy Jackson and the Olympians: The Lightning Thief

By , March 26, 2010 5:56 am

If "Harry Potter" were the good "X-Men" movies, doesn't "Percy Jackson" seems like their "League of Extraordinary Gentlemen"?

I didn’t actually see this movie, but here’s an actual review from a twelve year old whose opinion I trust on such matters:

As a movie I thought Percy Jackson was good. But there were a couple of gaps in the story. The acting was pretty good and the background was great. I would give it a four out of five.

Compared to the book the movie is way off!  I would make a list of how many things are different but I don’t have that much time. So I’ll just say it was decent.

My total review would be a 3 1/2.                                          

Proceed as you will.  If you want the list, facebook me and I’ll see what I can do.

Mr. Phelps Goes to Washington

By , March 21, 2010 10:10 am

The scariest image of two cute little girls since "The Shining"

It looks like the Supreme Court is finally going to weigh in on this Fred Phelps business.  You know Fred Phelps as the “God Hates Fags” nutjob from the Westboro Baptist Church in Topeka, Kansas.  Fred doesn’t just hate “fags”; he hates “fag enablers,” a corollary of which is that God punished America on 9/11 for tolerating homosexuals.  This is why Fred thanks God for “dead soldiers.”  It’s a string of non-sequiturs, but really, how far is this from the Dinesh D’Souza argument—or, as Stephen Colbert put it, “what other cultural editing notes should we take from the terrorists?”

Anyway, I have been protested by Fred Phelps.  Well, not me specifically, but the University of Kansas School of Law graduation is always protested by the Phelps clan.  To be fair, Fred has grown so bored with protesting the “KU Law Fags” (he seems to mean every KU law grad, not just the handful of gay ones) that he sends the B-team.  He also protested a ballet recital I went to at the Lied Center.  Apparently, ballet attendees are per se gay, even those of us in attendence who aren’t actually homosexuals . 

And then there was this awesome scene outside Lawrence High School in 2004 on opening night of the LHS production of The Laramie ProjectThe Laramie Project is a play about the aftermath of the death of Matthew Shepard, the twenty-two year old gay man tortured to death in Wyoming.  The play features Fred Phelps protesting Matthew Shepard’s funeral with his standard-issue “God Hates Fags” signage.  And, of course, Lawrencians showed up to protest Phelps, who was protesting the play.  So, in a single scene, you had people protesting Fred Phelps who was protesting the play in which Fred Phelps is a character protesting a funeral.  Charlie Kaufman, we await your screenplay. 

This website gives you a terrific rundown of the history of Fred Phelps, who was actually a lawyer before taking on a new life in his cult church.  Phelps was an honored civil rights attorney before a brutal, bizarre cross-examination of a court reporter, in which he called her a “slut” and relentlessly badgered her on the stand.  Some law professors at KU will talk about Phelps, who by some accounts is actually a very good lawyer.  The takeaway is that Fred Phelps is very attuned to the legal particulars of his protests and the laws restricting his free speech at soldiers’ funerals.     

In fact, Fred Phelps may very well win (his family is full of lawyers, and they represent him in court). My constitutional law professor, Stephen McAllister, testified several times in front of the Kansas Senate, warning them that the Supreme Court is very wary of “buffer zones” in First Amendment cases.  McAllister then advised the legislature on crafting a bill that would pass constitutional muster—which served as a model for the Maryland law before the Court now.   Now, as predicted, these funeral protest laws are coming before the Court. The First Amendment Center has a great rundown of the legal history of the case.  Because Phelps won in the Fourth Circuit, the fact that the Court took the case at all may not be a good sign for the Westboro Baptist Church.  Still, if you thought that KU v. K-State in the national semis is the dream Kansas-on-Kansas smackdown, I offer you Kansas Legislature v. Phelps.

*Update 3/21:  Scratch that “dream semifinal” bit.

The Docket, 3-19-2010

By , March 18, 2010 8:58 pm

He's not going to give you your two dollars.

Since I haven’t done one of these in a while, let’s just take a look at what’s in theaters and out on video.  Really, there’s nothing this weekend, and you’re probably watching the tournament anyway.

Hot Tub Time Machine:  Ladies and gentlemen, one of the perks of KCFCC membership is sneak previews.  I can honestly say that I have anticipated no sneak preview more highly than this.  The premise is so weird, the cast is so inspired…and what the hell is John Cusack doing in this movie?  I get why Darrell from “The Office” and a bunch of former “Daily Show” correspondents are in this movie, but—and I realize the Cusack has long lost his indie cred—this doesn’t make any sense.  Unless Cusack runs into some kid on the slopes who wants his two dollars, I don’t get it.  Also:  Crispin Glover(!?!) and Chevy Chase.   

She’s Out of My League:  Why not cast McLovin instead? 

Green Zone:  I really like Paul Greengrass (the Bourne films, United 93), and this looks to be one of the better Iraq War films.  I’d like to Jason Bourne do kung fu in one of those Hurt Locker suits. 

Cop Out:  Doesn’t this look like it should be the Tracy Jordan movie poster next to Who Dat Ninja?

Alice in Wonderland:  This was probably a bridge too far for Burton and Depp.  As with Leo and Marty, perhaps it’s time to give it a break for a movie or two.

Jay Bilas, Esquire to Digger Phelps: You Can’t Afford Me

If you’ve ever wondered why Jay Bilas, ubiquitous ESPN talking hoopshead and former starter for a final four Duke team, sounds like he’s talking down to everybody else onscreen, there’s a good explanation:  Bilas is an attorney in North Carolina. In fact, Jay Bilas won a semi-major intellectual property case, Lyons Partnership v. Morris Costumes, Inc., in which he defended a mom-and-pop costume shop in North Carolina against Barney the Dinosaur in a trademark and copyright suit. 

Reading the opinion, this is actually a complicated case, and Bilas did some pretty good lawyerin’.  First, in a standard fact-based intellectual property argument, Bilas straight rejected Barney by showing that “Duffy the Dragon” was not “substantially similar” to nor was “likely to cause confusion” with a Barney costume.   Bilas’ other task was harder.  Instead of showing that “Hillary the Purple Hippopotamus” wasn’t too similar to Barney, Bilas ran a backdoor cut and dunked a Statute of Limitations and Doctrine of Laches argument.

So maybe Bilas had a point during ESPN’s twelve hour NCAA tournament blatherthon on Sunday.  Digger Phelps, when defending Virginia Tech’s weak non-conference schedule, turns to Bilas and says, “If you were litigating this—“.  Jay stops Digger cold:  “You can’t afford me, Digger, but go ahead.” 

Still, Counselor Bilas, even if Digger can’t afford you, don’t say it.  Otherwise, you end up sounding like a Former “Scrappy” Duke Player with a Law Degree.  Don’t be That Guy, Jay.

Shutter Island

By , March 17, 2010 11:54 am

Seriously, man. You do too many more of these Scorcese movies, you'll burn out like De Niro and end up in Rocky and Bullwinkle sequels

Shutter Island is certainly Martin Scorsese’s funniest movie since The King of Comedy.  How else to explain the fact that Scorsese has made, as if in a how-to video, an M. Night Shyamalan film?  In an age where Meet the Spartans passes for parody, here we see an old master skewer the cheap tricks of new Hollywood with a youthful vigor.  In the decade since The Sixth Sense, “twist ending” has substituted for “psychological depth,” making a parlor game of cinematic storytelling.  Here, Scorsese telegraphs the trick ending of his movie within the first fifteen minutes, then drags the audience along for another two hours and fifteen minutes until the truth is revealed.  The resounding thud of the “reveal” is a masterstroke of dark comedy, on par with the English Ambassador entering Elsinore to tell King Claudius that Rosencrantz and Guildenstern are dead. 

It’s that, or Martin Scorsese has made his least substantial film since the “Bad” video.  Scorsese puts Leonardo DiCaprio through an emotional wringer, opening with a puke scene in the bathroom of the boat headed to the penitentiary, suffering through improbably dangerous thunderstorms in the middle of a trip to a graveyard, and chasing him through Cell Block 3, where only the most disturbed prisoners go.  Scorsese intersperses DiCaprio’s pursuit of “the truth” with flashbacks to his wife’s tragic death, using showy, “director-y” nightmare sequences in which Michelle Williams gradually turns to embers in mid-embrace, then becoming a fluttering explosion of ash as Leo’s mental world falls apart.  Auteur fans may also be impressed with Scorsese’s homage to Hitchcock’s stairwell shot in Vertigo, several shots aping Northwest By Northwest, and several sequences cribbed from b-movies.  Essentially, this is Grindhouse for the unironic.

Now, you might be thinking, wait—didn’t Scorsese already do this when he remade Cape Fear back in 1991?  You’d be right, which suggests that America’s Greatest Living Film Maker is out of ideas.  He’s gone from being the 70’s poster child for American autuerism to a sub-Tarantino schlock artist ripping off other films—but doing it very well.  Say what you will about the morality of Tarantino’s Inglorious Basterds, he’s got ideas.  Shutter Island is just, well, top-shelf Shyamalan.

Case in point:  Halfway through the movie, one of the nurses gives a speech about how everybody at Shutter Island has gone crazy because you can’t do this kind of experimental therapy and not get sucked into this amoral alternative world where the idea of human decency doesn’t apply.  Here, you think, wow:  Shutter Island is actually Guantanamo Bay, and Scorsese is going to make a point about what torture does to the moral universe of the torturers.  I mean, why else have Ben Kingsley smoking a pipe in a plaid jacket, or have Max Von Sydow go on about how today’s experimental medicine draws on Nazi research.  What a great, and relevant, piece of filmmaking:  Scorsese’s f-you to the moral universe of “24”!

But then Scorsese completely drops the point and tortures DiCaprio for another hour, and we realize:  Shutter Island isn’t Abu Ghraib—it’s The Village!

The Pitch:

1 1/2 Cape Fear

 Plus

1 M. Night Shyamalan

Equals

2 1/2 Shutter Island

Hurt Locker, The

The haz-mat team from "Hoarders" takes on a crazy cat-woman house in suburban Baghdad

I agree that this is one of the few years in which the Academy gave Best Picture to the best movie.  But I had a weird experience at the theater about a few months ago that made me second guess all the praise.  I’m at the Screenland Crown Center here in Kansas City, waiting for another movie.  A tall, well-built, younger gentlemen walks in with a backpack and a buzzcut.  He looks at the marquee, decides he doesn’t want to see anything, but then tells the ticket woman: “That movie (pointing to the poster for The Hurt Locker) is 100% bullshit.  Nothing realistic about it.”  He told us that he had just gotten back from Iraq and worked with some of “those guys”: 

Think about it.  You know that robot at the beginning of the movie?  Why wouldn’t they always use that robot?  That’s how you do it.  We blow bombs up with robots and from remotely dropping detonators on the bombs from overhead.  Why the hell would we send some guy to walk right up to the bomb?  He wouldn’t last a day before a suicide bomber blew him up.

This guys was adamant, and, well, he looked the part.  Could have been one of those Stolen Valor guys, but he sounded like he knew what he was talking about.  I don’t have any idea, but it just makes sense:  Why would you risk human life when you could just blow the bomb up with a robot?  Isn’t that part of the reason we’re using Predator Drones? 

This is the kind of thing you wouldn’t hear from some retired general talking head on MSNBC, but the kind of thing you’d from…Roger Ebert.  One of the hallmarks of Ebertian criticism is to see right through this kind of distracting action movie ridiculousness—even after you suspend your belief.  Ebert doesn’t hate it when action movies are “unrealistic,” he hates it when movies are nonsense even on their own terms.  One of my favorite Ebert reviews is for The Mummy Returns, in which he observes that Brendan Fraser must have been running 1,041 mph to beat the sunrise to a pyramid, and that triggering “the next apocalypse” doesn’t speak very highly of the power of the first apocalypse. 

So this soldier got me thinking about the realism of The Hurt Locker—supposedly the most “realistic” of all the Iraq War movies.  He also said that any lone wolf crazy man like Jeremy Renner “would have been sent home that day,” but look, crazy people do stupid things.  It’s like saying, “Any teacher who hits on his students would be sent home that day,” and yet we know that it happens.  Sure, we don’t want to think that our soldiers do unethical things, but it happens.  There’s a lot of people over there in trying and confusing circumstances, so yeah, there will be some outliers.  It happens.

Here’s what I found:  The signature bomb scene, where the defuser pulls on some wires and becomes surrounded by shells…not exactly how that would happen.  Renner taking out a sniper nine football fields away?  Probably not.  Three guys headed down dark alleys investigating a mysterious truck bomb that’s rolled into the Green Zone?  Way too risky.  Apparently, you don’t defuse bombs with wire cutters; it’s like sending firefighters into the breach “with squirt bottles.”  It takes longer to disarm a bomb than in the movie.  Guy Pearce couldn’t have run away from that bomb in the opening sequence wearing the sixty pound bomb suitAnd in this scene, Jeremy Renner is apparently lifting about 600 pounds of bombs rather effortlessly.   

But is The Hurt Locker, as “bomb disposal expert” Guy Marot says, “staggeringly offensive?” As Marot himself says at the end of the article, there is a basic emotional truth to the film.  The value of The Hurt Locker stems from Bigelow’s use of Chris Hedges’ war correspondence memoir War Is a Force That Gives Us Meaning to open the film.  This book, written by a journalist who’s covered several wars, talks about the adrenaline rush of war as a drug that some men can’t get past.  By showing us these “very specialized task given to a small band of lunatics,” in what seems to the movie audience “realistic,” we feel the rush they feel.  This sets up the end of the film, when the Jeremy Renner character returns home and cannot cope with the boredom of home life with the kids.  Perhaps the most insightful, and important, statement made in any Iraq War movie since Three Kings is the scene in which Renner stands in a grocery aisle, utterly befuddled and uninterested in selecting just the right breakfast cereal.  Or, as Marot says:

A few days before, you’ve been dealing with stockpiles of munitions, or an improvised explosive device, and now your wife is asking you to choose between 47 different types of cornflakes. You do think: “Crikey.”

This is the human cost of war, even in an age where combat injuries result in fewer deaths than previous wars.  The adrenaline of war never leaves the system.  And, as Hedges suggests, as a nation, we fall prey to the same syndrome.  If the lack of realism in Bigelow’s “run and gun cowboy” movie is offensive to you, perhaps warrior-poet Brian Turner better captures the meaning of the ambiguous phrase for both the soliders and the nation who’s sent them to battle:  “Open the hurt locker and learn / how rough men come looking for souls.”      

The Pitch:

2 David O. Russell and George Clooney

2 David O. Russell and George Clooney

 

 

 

 

 

Plus

2 War is a Force That Gives Us Meaning

2 War is a Force That Gives Us Meaning

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Equals

4 The Hurt Locker

4 The Hurt Locker

4 The Hurt Locker

4 The Hurt Locker

Education, An

Some advice from a lawyer who used to work for a district attorney: The judge doesn't care if you "thought she was older" or that "she acts older than seventeen."

Most disappointing about An Education is that Nick Hornby, chronicler of man’s late-twenties “what to do with my life” crisis, doesn’t acquit himself as a screenwriter.  An Education is set in the London suburbs of the 1960’s, where a gifted private school girl Jenny (Carey Mulligan) has grown bored with the homework-and-music-practice march to Oxford.  One rainy afternoon, a semi-handsome stranger (Peter Sarsgaard) offers to drive her cello home while the girl walks beside his Rolls.  One thing leads to another, and soon David is taking Jenny to art auctions, weekend getaways to Oxford to “meet” C.S. Lewis, and Paris for bicycle rides along the Seine.  Life is hanging with David’s too-slick “business partner” and his vacuous arm candy girlfriend at jazz clubs, smoking cigarettes, and drinking martinis.  In comparison, Latin class is an insufferable drag. 

You can guess what happens from here, and there’s a reason the filmmakers dress Ms. Mulligan up like a jailbait Holly Golightly.  The problem is that the screenplay simply doesn’t hold together.  Jenny’s father Jack (Alfred Molina) is completely oblivious to the dangers of letting his gorgeous and precocious daughter gallivant all over London with a man twice her age.  David simply waltzes into their house, charms everybody (To her mom: “Jenny, you didn’t tell me you had a sister”), and it’s off to the concert for David and Jenny with a sharp 12:00 curfew.  Dad is not up when she gets home (mom is doing the dishes), and he never shows any concern for what’s going on.  For a man who’s introduced as a to-Oxford-with-you hardass, he’s remarkably lax about his daughter’s lecherous boyfriend.  

This is where the screenplay (or the editing, depending on what happened in post-production) lets the film down.  The gradual reveal of David’s dark side is skillfully done, and we see why Jenny refuses to go back to her old life, even when faced with the truth about David’s means.  The early 60’s caught Jenny in between feminism and the sexual revolution.   She looks contemptuously at Miss Stubbs (Olivia Williams, without makeup and hair pulled tight enough to pop right off her scalp) and Headmistress Emma Thompson, who seems ready for a schoolmarm bitch-off with Sister Aloysius Beauvier.  Jenny’s role models got their education, and it only liberated them…back to school, where they can scold Jenny for spending time at the dogtrack with interesting rich people.  

Too bad the film doesn’t develop these ideas.  In fact, all the secondary characters are a complete failure.  Jack’s sudden shift can be explained by his sexism:  We find that he really, really, really wants his daughter to go to Oxford because she’ll be interesting enough to some future barrister and earn her Mr.S.  He’s kept his wife under his thumb and stifled their life into middle class drudgery—and now he wants to kill his daughter with kindness by shoving her into the same closet.  

A few times, we see knowing looks from Jenny’s mother, but this subplot is never developed.  Hornby suggests the middle class suburban prejudice that afflicted the 1960’s (which sent a generation to France to read Camus and take in New Wave films), but he doesn’t really explore it.  Jack is put off by David’s Jewishness, but his anti-Semitism is treated with kid gloves by the filmmakers.  He’s not a monster, but had Hornby developed Jack into something more complex like, say, Alfred Molina’s Diego Rivera in Frida, we might see where Jenny’s brilliance comes from.  Here’s how we know Hornby and director Lone Scherfig cheat the story:  During the denoument, you can almost hear Trey Parker in the background, “If you gotta learn a lot of Latin in a short amount of time, you’re gonna need montage!  It’s a Latin-learning montage!”  I was hoping for something less movie-ish from the novelist. 

The Pitch: 

1 1/2 Educating Rita

Plus 

1 Holly Golightly

Equals 

2 1/2 An Education

Single Man, A

By , March 9, 2010 3:59 pm

I can't believe Tom Ford called you fat. It's not like you're going to have to drop weight for Bridget Jones 3, right?

Sad Man

A Single Man tells the story of an early1960’s English professor who has all the answers about George Orwell but none for his real life.  It’s one of those films that proves, if the movies were to be believed, tenure at any lit department would require a certificate from the candidate’s therapist and a shoebox full of liquor receipts.  You see, the professor’s knowledge is confined the classroom—he (always a he) is paralyzed by the existentialism within the pages they teach to their naïve students, dreamers who know nothing of the real world. 

This guy’s name George Falconer—that’s right, Falconer.  He’s been in a longtime relationship with a former student—the bird who stalked his prey, apparently, but was trained to fly back to its master.  The lover died in a car wreck, the parents have no interest in even acknowledging the relationship, and so George has been thrown into an unbreakable depression.  Picking up a year or so later, the film follows the day in George’s life where he seriously contemplates suicide.

How bad is it for George?  Well, when memories of his lover surface, news of the Cuban Missile Crisis emanates from the radio.  You see, fear has caused a Cold War between homosexuals and society.  In fact, America’s persecution of homosexuals results from its neo Roman-ness:  George gets the mail and talks to the neighbor kid:

Jennifer: Would you like to meet Charlton Heston? He’s our scorpion. Every night we throw in something new to him and watch him kill it. Daddy says it’s like a Coliseum. Daddy says he wants to throw you into the Coliseum.
George: No kidding. Why?
Jennifer:  Well, he says you’re light in your loafers. But you’re not even wearing any loafers.

This is not to say, of course, that homosexuals were not persecuted and that this was, and is, not a stain on our culture.  It is.  But a scorpion named Charlton Heston?  Surely the writers in George’s canon at school would have thought this a bit, um, writerly.  Or, considering the state of English language prose this century, perhaps not.

The director, Tom Ford, is a fashion designer who was the creative director at Gucci for ten years; this is his first film.  Ford’s design aesthetic is to take something classical (usually of the Hollywood golden years variety) and infuse it with twenty-first-century-urban sex appeal.  Essentially, Ford challenges the nostalgia for the Cleaver Era by saying, look, there was a lot of sex (of all kinds) going on, no matter what the Hays Code of Hollywood, tastemakers of Madison Avenue, and the politicians in Washington presented as the official story.  And that truth, taste-consumers of the today, is not repulsive or false—it’s beautiful. 

So is his movie—which is part of the problem.  No wonder Nicholas Hoult follows his professor around town all day—Dr. Falconer looks like he’s been fitted by Tom Ford!  There’s no doubt that Tom Ford can dress his actors and frame them properly on an exquisite movie set.  And he may yet become a great director.  The problem is that the overstylization creates the emotional distance of a Coen Brothers movie, but with overwritten melodrama rather than intellectual philosophy.  Ford makes Firth say this line in voiceover, rather than let the actor carry it on his face: “Just get through the goddamned day.  Bit melodramatic, perhaps, but then again, my heart has been broken.  Feel as if I’m drowning, sinking, can’t breathe.”

This is not to say that Ford should have gone for some gritty cinema verite version of mid-century California college life, or that he should have aped Todd Haynes (who also found a early 60’s muse in Julianne Moore) and made a parody of a Douglas Sirk film to express his disgust with the moral hypocrisy of the pre-Vietnam era.  But with the limited time and space of a film, you have to have stronger written material, else the substance gets lost in the style.

In short, “A Single Man” is not Mad Men.  Matthew Werner has also been accused of being too stylized, and no doubt, there’s style abound on the show—down to the workday cocktails.  But Werner has a very clear idea about what all this means (the American Dream of the early 60’s wasn’t all it’s cracked up to be!), and the time and space and writing staff to create fully developed characters and storylines.  Mad Men has as much depth and complexity than the very best of today’s prose. 

So, perhaps it’s folly to invite such a comparison.  But Ford gives us a Jon Hamm voiceover cameo near the beginning of the film to suggest precisely that.  Ford’s movie simply doesn’t have the script to pull it off, and he lacks the storytelling instinct.  Let’s compare.  Mad Men’s style develops the substance:  When Betty redecorates the Draper house, we see that the design choices of each character exemplify their positions in the social milieu, and thus refine our understandings of their relationships to each other.  When George Falconer meets a handsome stranger outside the liquor store, we think, wow, I don’t remember the James Dean look being coupled with rolled up jeans, and why is that image of a woman staring at them from a concrete building?   Tom Ford needs to, and perhaps will, refine his storytelling technique, but until then, enjoy the hosts’ suits on Oscar Sunday.

The Pitch:

1 Truman Capote

Plus

1 Mad Men

Equals

2 A Single Man

Movie Day at the Court 2010 Oscars LiveBlog!

By , March 3, 2010 11:02 pm

He'll have more fun than you on Sunday night...unless you participate in the Movie Day at the Court 2010 Oscars LiveBlog!

Big news, all!  Longtime Friends of the Blog will remember Filmsnobs.com, mine and James Owen’s website from 2001-2008.  Well, the Filmsnobs are reuniting on Sunday, March 7th at 6:45 for an Oscars LiveBlog!  James Owen will be making his glorious return to the web for 3+ hours of online snarkiness in all its snarky glory!  Join us during the Oscars by clicking at the link below.  We’re doing a Cover It Live event, so we’ll be able to field your questions, publish your comments, participate in our online polls, and basically have something else to do while you’re plowing through hours of awkward intros, weird dance numbers, the Debbie Downer “Who Died This Year” montage, and a bunch of shots of Drunk Nicholson in the front row.

Click Here to Enter the Movie Day at the Court 2010 Oscars LiveBlog!

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