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Arts & Entertainment, etc.

You-Review-It Monday, 1/28/08

January 28, 2008

So what did you do this weekend? Catch “Doubt” at the IRT? Visit the new gallery show at Herron? Take sides in the “Beethoven vs. Mozart” concert with the Indianapolis Chamber Orchestra?

Being under the weather, I was limited to the A&E offerings available on my television and laptop.
That being the case, I caught up on an eclectic collection of films available through our amazing public library system. (Seriously, who needs Netflix when you can walk into any branch, borrow a stack of new DVDs, all for—assuming you drop them off three days later—free?)
When you’re a bit woozy, of course, your judgment can be clouded. So take the following with a grain of Sudafed.

My sickbed fest:

“Ocean’s 13." It isn’t saying much to state that this one is better than “12” and the Sinatra “11’” but lesser than remake “11.” It rediscovered the clear, forward motion of the plot and the Vegas atmosphere that were lost in “12.” And Al Pacino hits just the right notes as the villain. What’s missing, though, is the vague hint of plausibility. Caper thrillers work when you buy the interior logic of the scheme. This plan relies too much on coincidence and just plain impossibility to totally buy into. (Bernie Mac introducing a new game to a casino floor on a day’s notice without the Casino Control Commission paying any attention? Ummm, no.) 

“Superbad.” I have a theory. There are certain films that are praised higher than they deserve because they hit critics where they live. That was the case, I think, with “Almost Famous” (retroactively satisfying every male critic-geek’s dream of hanging with—and being accepted by—a rock star) and it’s true with “Superbad” (satisfying every male critic-geek’s dream to rewrite their high school years in such a way that the hot girls not only liked them, but wanted them). Still, “Superbad” isn’t bad. It’s got laughs and decent performances. But it succeeds because audiences can rationalize the raunchiness. At it’s core, the leads are nice guys who ultimately do the right thing. It's an improvement over the similar-minded “American Pie,” but it’s still no “American Graffiti.”

“For Your Consideration.” The first of the Christopher Guest improv-based films not to be presented as a mockumentary, this one justifiably tanked. Like the lesser “Ocean” movies, the main problem here is an unbuyable premise. Playing the awful film-with-a-film, “Home for Purim,” as if it’s directed by “Waiting for Guffman”’s Corky St. Clair undermines the notion that it might actually garner Academy Award buzz. And if you don’t believe the premise, the rest seems like acting exercises.

“The Fountain.” This is a tricky one. A very serious-minded Hugh Jackman costume-epic oddity about life and death taking place (maybe) in the past, present and future, “The Fountain” disappeared without a trace after a brief run in theaters last year. And I understand that disappearance completely. Romances are supposed to end happily—or, at least, with cathartic tears. Science fiction films are supposed to have battle scenes. Trees aren’t supposed to float in bubbles. And, by the end of a film, you should know for certain what a writer/director was trying to do—even if he, she or they didn’t succeed in doing it. So while I hesitate to recommend the film—the odds are overwhelming that you’ll hate it (not just dislike it, but hate it)—I have to say that it held my attention in a way that few Hollywood films have. It took me a while to piece together what (I think) actually happens in “The Fountain,” but whether I’m right or not, I found it more creative, interesting, and human that most critically heralded films. And I’ll probably watch it again just to see if my theories about it actually make sense.

So much for my A&E weekend. Tell us about yours. Or chime it with your comments on any of these films.
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