Friday, June 19, 2009

Critique the critics

I know I promised something on friendship, and there is more and more "research" material piling up daily, but I'll start with something else.

As I left home today for the gym, I noticed that I had inadvertently left my BlackBerry® at home. I know, Maryam, it's a big source of shame, but I'm a relative newbie. This is only relevant because following my workout, I rode my bike to Chestnut Hill Café, Lancaster's haven of sanity (or insanity, if that's what you like best). Not having my handheld device on which to tweet, e-mail, text and play Sudoku or Word Mole, I resorted to whatever section of the New York Times happened to have been left on one of the tables.

It was the film review section. Now, a handful of my dozen followers may recall that I had dabbled in some reviewing of silver screen productions on this very blog, but today I'll do something much wilder. I will attempt to review three reviews of films I have not yet seen. I'm sure this has been done before. I've never read such a piece, but I don't care enough to google it and check.

The review of Woody Allen's new film, Whatever Works, was as entertaining as it was (expectedly) annoying. Critics love comparing any of the former Mr. Konigsberg's newest works to any number of his olden ones. They also occasionally compare him to other directors and accuse him of not being as good as the directors they argue he was trying to imitate. Now I agree that Annie Hall was fuckin' awesome. So fuckin' what? I also loved most of the Almodóvar films I've seen, with or without Penéleope Cruz. But when I watch a Woody Allen movie, I consider it a genre of its own. I guess Almodóvar is another of those genre-of-his-own directors. Robert Altman sure is (when my mother and I were watching A Prairie Home Companion, she leaned over and said, "it's just like Nashville!" to which I replied, "all of his films [e.g., Prêt-à-Porter, Gosford Park] are like Nashville – shit, don't you hate my digressions?).

So here comes A. O. Scott in the NYT with another mediocre review of a Woody flick (great title, I'll give him that: "Kvetch Your Enthusiasm"). And it's shot in Manhattan again (after a few European-shot films, in case you've been under a rock, no offense) and has Larry David as the Woody-like character. Conclusion: a must-see.

The next two I'm less passionate about, but their less-than-perfect reviews have convinced me that I will probably enjoy them.

On The Narrows, Stephen Holden writes that it "can be appreciated as the film equivalent of a reasonably palatable pasta dish concocted from a familiar recipe and served in a no-frills restaurant." Now have I ever turned down a decent fettucine carbonara? A nondescript, yet yummy lasagne? From what it seems, this is another New York movie, one of those that spans more than one borough, has a slightly more masculine than, Leo DiCaprio-looking adorable star, and promises some tension between blue-collar street smarts and ivory-tower goofiness. I'll go see it, I think.

Finally, the only movie I actually had known about before reading today's Times, and one that got probably the most decent review of all three (by Manohla Dargis), Year One. While Ms. Dargis digs up other, more "classic" pseudo-(pre-)historic films, by such geniuses as Mel Brooks, here's one thing about this movie that makes it a priori hilarious: Jack Black and Michael Cera in the leading roles.

I know a lot of people think JB is vulgar, that he overacts, and for those and/or other reasons simply hate his guts. Michael Cera, I guess some people might call him a fad, a fluke, a soon-to-be-has-been. But here's what I see. Jack Black as the anti-hero in School of Rock and as (the anti-?)Christ in Prop 8 – The Musical. And MC not only as the awkward son of the Jason Bateman character in Arrested Development, not only as the complex geek/jock/stud(???) in Juno, but also as a character in and of his own. Just go to YouTube and type his name for some gems. So there you go, a few shallow reasons to see these two in action, together.

Okay, enough of this pop-culture nonsense. I'll be back in a bit with the serious goods.


  1. I hardly ever see movies in the theatres, but I think I have to see this new Woody Allen film.

  2. I saw it and liked it...gotta love entropy! :)


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