20 January 2006

Sundance Day One, or: Let the Grumbling Begin.

But before I get started, I need to refuse to make two apologies.

Non-Apology the First: For this being my first blog entry in over three months. Trust me, you've all been much better off with me keepin' my big yap shut. What happened is this: Not long after coming to the conclusion that the world as we currently understand it will shortly do the same (see below), I fell in love. Plummeted, more like. This is not a phrase that I toss off lightly, as a host of perfectly wonderful women will readily confirm. So far, in 37 years 9 months and 11 days, it's happened to me precisely twice. And when it does, not much else matters, or frankly even registers. Even now, I'm so wrapped up in Cuteness Incarnate that I can scarcely function; only my internment in Park City for the next ten days allows me to devote a little energy hereabouts. Had I been posting for the last couple months, most entries would have consisted of little more than pathetic, lovestruck mewling. I chose to spare you. You're welcome.

Non-Apology the Second: For the slew of sub-60 ratings that will now commence. Shut the fuck up. Most movies are not that good. Most [pretty much any imaginable plural noun] are not that good. Yes, my standards are ridiculously high. Yes, 40% of the retarded 100-point scale is an arid wasteland as I employ it. Deal. Cope. Or get lost. If you want to read somebody who gives at least three out of four stars to anything that's projected marginally in focus, Ebert's reports are available right over here.

Still with me? Okay, onward.

(Except now I find I actually do need to apologize: For the alleged bullet points you'll find heading each movie. Flowers? Jesus. I'll fix it later.)

Fri 20

  • Lucky Number Slevin (Paul McGuigan, USA): 54

    Better than its title, but obviously that ain't sayin' much. My crotchety rep notwithstanding, I tend to go pretty easy on this sort of hollow, twisty-turny thriller, so long as it's reasonably clever and the cast seems to be having a good time. This one boasts a Big Twist that's almost painfully transparent (unless you believe that professional assassins really do distract their targets via hecka-long, convoluted anecdotes that will surely have no bearing on subsequent events), and McGuigan & Co., eager to distract us from the film's core emptiness, very nearly art-direct the thing into the dirt -- one overhead shot of a parking lot features an array of vehicles so expertly color-coordinated they could be photoshopped right into a Kelly-Moore spread, and let's not even get into the freakin' wallpaper. Plus then of course there's the whole nagging who-really-cares? issue. Still, I must admit that it held my attention throughout, thanks largely to brisk pacing, a smattering of sharp one-liners and deft double-takes, and Lucy Liu at her most fetching ever. She arguably out-Drews Drew.

  • It's Only Talk (Ryuichi Hiroki, Japan): 43

    For a while, I felt moderately guilty about having walked out of Vibrator at Rotterdam. Not anymore. Starts off beautifully, with evocative, loose-limbed shots of the heroine wandering her new neighborhood, digital camera in tow; once it becomes clear that she's afflicted with manic depression, however, the film slowly degenerates into -- yes, I'm afraid I must -- a frustrating mess. Dialogue scenes are deadly, with the camera either inexpressively static or drifting around with no apparent rhyme or reason; the protagonist's emotional cul-de-sac serves as a potent reminder that repetition - humor = tedium. And maybe it had something to do with the festival catalog erroneously shaving nearly half an hour off of its 125-minute running time, but man did this sucker draaaaag. Two weeks from now, all I'll likely remember is the tire park (including giant steel-belted Godzilla) and the lead actress, who in manic mode evinces a welcome hint of Moon So-ri.

  • Iraq in Fragments (James Longley, USA): W/O

    Longley's impressionistic approach is undeniably refreshing in an age when most documentary filmmakers have zero interest in aesthetics. After 15 minutes, though, I felt like I'd already seen everything the movie had to offer; even when it switched locales and subjects (not long before I bailed), I had no sense that these particular shards of quotidian existence were adding up to anything. Or, to put it another way, there seemed to be no reason why this film needed to be 90 minutes long (as opposed to 20 minutes or six hours), except that that's how long commercially-viable feature films tend to be. Plus I was nodding off, so heck with it.

  • The Peter Pan Formula (Cho Chang-Ho, South Korea): 48

    "This is like third rate Kim Ki-duk," I thought to myself (making sure to also mentally flip the bird to the Rayns Brigade, who would consider such a designation redundant). Score! Turns out Cho's been an assistant to Kim dating all the way back to Birdcage Inn. He's got enough of an eye that I'm prepared to give him at least one more chance, but nothing in this directorial debut makes a lick of emotional sense; it reminded me of my high-school efforts at writing short stories, which were invariably crammed with pretentious faux-symbolism cynically designed to create the appearance of Meaning.
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