Friday, June 25, 2010

Summer Movies (so far)

We tend to go to the movies more during the summer months. First, we have more free time, as my wife (a teacher) is off of work. Second, when the temperature starts rising, it's nice to go someplace dark and cool for a couple of hours.

But it can be frustrating, as the types of movies that are out in summer tend to be the types of movies we avoid: anything with a number in the title, anything that's a remake of something we watched on TV 30 years ago, and the all important Rule of 15 (anything that's likely to have more than 15% of the audience under 15 years old). Still, we've managed to see a few good films so far this month; Exit Through the Gift Shop, Solitary Man, and Micmacs.

Exit Through the Gift Shop is a documentary about Thierry Guetta, a shop-keeper, turned documentary film maker, turned street artist, and the world of graffiti artists such as Banksy, Space Invader, and Shepard Fairey (the guy who designed the iconic Obama poster). It's an absurd story that calls into question the fine lines between street art and fine art, between fine art and commerce, between paying ones dues (the suffering artist) and overnight success, and between being a filmmaker and being just another guy with a video camera and a mental problem.

Yes, the big question is always "but is it art?" but it's all the other questions along the way, and larger-than-life characters, that make this a fascinating, fast moving, and entertaining movie.

Solitary Man is the most commercial of the three films we've seen so far this summer. Michael Douglas plays a successful businessman who hits the mid-life crisis free fall with swift, steep, and beautifully self-destructive results.

It's a story we've seen before (catering to aging baby boomers is big business itself), and if you pay too much attention there are enough holes in the plot to fill the Albert Hall, but the performances (including far too little of Susan Sarandon, Danny DeVito, and a wonderfully viscous and spoiled Mary-Louise Parker) make it an enjoyable afternoon at the cinema never-the-less.

Micmacs is the truly amazing, charming, and creative gem of the group. Director Jean-Pierre Jeunet (Amélie) gives us the world of the luckless Bazil. While a boy, Bazil's father is killed by a land mine, destroying his family and childhood. Years later, the quiet life he's made for himself is again sent into turmoil by a stray bullet finding his head, which he barely survives. Now, out on the streets, he's taken in by an underground group of misfits and petty thieves (think Terry Gilliam directing Fagan, the Artful Dodger and the rest of the Oliver Twist gang), who help him exact revenge on the companies who made the landmine and the bullet.

But that plot, and characters like Elastic Girl, Slammer, and Calculator, only scratch the surface of how wildly inventive and visually stunning this movie is. I saw one review that said it was like a live action Toy Story. Having not seen the Toy Story series (see my rules for summer movies above), I can't say how accurate that is, but I would say that the style owes much to Tex Avery and Chuck Jones. There is a political message underneath all that creativity, but Jeunet slips it in quietly and without disturbing the creative flow. Best movie of the summer so far.

1 comment:

  1. I have been to a cinema for years. I realised whilst with the Road Crew, that i just wasn't a big movie freak, unlike you guys.
    A lot of the time, this is because any movies i'd like to see, just don't play near me. Also your own rules of thumb are similar to mine & therefore rule out a huge number.
    I love the Toy Story series though.
    Nice blog btw.


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