A few weeks ago, a guy who was writing a book for film school students asked what I thought was wrong with indie movies and what pitfalls new filmmakers should avoid.
No offense to the author (seriously I was touched that you wanted me to opine), but that’s a shitty way to teach, ain’t it?
It reminded me of my years in Chicago, struggling to learn improv through a series of brain-scrambling proscriptions: Don’t say “No.” Don’t talk business. Don’t talk about yesterday. Or tomorrow. Or….this often resulted in new performers standing there stammering, paralyzed by the fear that anything they did might be wrong, which kinda defeats the free-flowing purpose of something called “improvisation”, no?
(For more on this, read Mick Napier’sImprovise.)
I don’t think there’s anything wrong with indie movies.
I realize that, earlier this year, Brett and I did a song parody about indie clichés, but so what if sensitive, middle class white boys are frequently the protagonists?
That’s what you get when there are a lot of sensitive, middle class white boys who want to make movies. What else do you expect when one of the mantras of writing is: “Write what you know”?
If you’re not a sensitive white boy and/or you don’t feel adequately represented in cinema, it’s on you to tell your own story.
So the love interest is some heart breaker now commonly derided as a “manic pixie dream girl?”
Everyone’s characteristics – wearing gym shorts, singing to themselves – are wondrous and strange and adorable when first viewed through love-colored glasses.
(Later, when those glasses break, those same traits are re-labeled “crazy.”)
So this new indie’s derivative of that indie, which makes a reference to that movie, which was inspired by–what? Are filmmakers supposed to live in a box so they can shit out the most original ideas in the universe? All artists are influenced by their surroundings and idols at first. It’s like a warm, inspiring little cocoon, out of which one’s own style eventually emerges. It will.
Flip side: When a filmmaker does inject something unique, perhaps something from their very own lives – a hamburger phone, a job in a mattress store – it’s belittled as “quirky.”
Anyway, fuck those people.
Originality doesn’t matter as much as execution. Case in point: there were two indie movies this year in which a sensitive white boy fell in love with Zooey Deschanel: Gigantic, which sucked; and (500) Days of Summer, which charmed.
(I chalk that up to direction: no one in Gigantic seemed to want anything badly enough; they looked blank most of the time, which isn’t very fun to watch.)
Indie filmmakers don’t need to wrack their brains finding original ways of saying “I love you.” They just need to open their hearts and make the saying of it as true as it can be. Which brings me to the only advice that might be of service to young filmmakers, which is to look inside and ask themselves “why?”
Why be a filmmaker? Why make this movie? Because you feel this story must be told? Because you want to prove yourself to someone? Because if you turn a miserable experience you had into art, it will have at least been good for something?
Because it's when you're at your happiest?
Because if you can earn a living or win an award by doing something you love, it will make you happy at some future time to be disclosed?
Because you think it might change the world for the better in some small way?
Because it gives you delight?
Because you always imagined yourself doing so?
Because you don’t feel adequately represented by all the other movies out there?
There are no wrong answers. You don't even have to have a reason. The asking is just the exercise.
With so much of a filmmaker’s energy devoted to output, to sending things out into the world – I figure it’s worth they're while to tend to what’s inside from time to time.
Even if no one else ever sees it. Even if not one shred, not one tiniest whiff of it, winds up in a movie.
1. I saw the preview of 2012 on Monday, which was way over in Westwood.
2. I didn’t know shit about Roland Emmerich. Isn’t he the German guy who wrote that Oprah book “The Power of Now”? No, that’s Eckhart Tolle. He’s boring. This is the German guy who made Independence Day.
3. Writer/director Emmerich’s movie is about how in 2012, just as the Mayans predicted, all the planets will line up causing the tectonic plates to shift and blah blah blah…. LET’S SEE SOME PANTIES DROPPIN’!!!!
4. The panties drop about twenty minutes into the film, when Los Angeles falls to pieces in a special effects sequence so giddy, it’s like the punchline to every joke ever told about LA. We clapped.
5. John Cusack and his family escape just in time and we follow them for two more hours (90 minutes would do), hoping against hope that his wife will not be the last woman on earth because she’s played by Amanda Peet who’s boring.
6. John Cusack is the hero? Yeah. He and co-star Oliver Platt actually lend a bit of sardonic-indie credibility to the film that methinks a more All-American Tom Cruise type could not. It’s humorous without being campy.
7. Ya know how in most action films, it’s all about making it to the airplane and then they’ll be safe? In 2012, making it to the airplane is just the beginning.
8. The guy who’s taken three flying lessons pilots them to Yellowstone. Emmerich is wise to keep things unrealistic, because if it were realistic it wouldn’t be as much fun to watch the end of the world. It’d be sad.
9. The only shot that hit me a little too hard was a mid-air image of office workers falling out of a crumbling skyscraper.
10. But for the most part, it’s a three-star hootenanny; the kind of blockbuster I still enjoying seeing with Dad.
Went to Tumblr’s Reblog This Film Festival on Tuesday. The first short, Follow Her, was a prickly little charmer about the effect of twitter on a couple’s first date.
He thinks it’s like wearing a T-shirt with your thoughts on it. She thinks it’s like keeping a diary.
I think it’s been a disappointment.
In fact, my primary motive for checking twitter throughout the day is to see if any of the people I follow (most of whom I’ve never met) have finally written something of interest.
Usually they haven’t. But that’s not because they’re not interesting – it’s because they’re not good at twitter.
There are billions of fascinating people out there whose lives in the coffeehouse or mall or factory or office are being misrepresented as dull because they 1) aren’t looking at it in the right light or 2) don’t know how to describe it very well.
I’m no expert, but I am pretty good at writing. So here are some DOs and DON’Ts on how to make minutiae of your daily life more attractive to strangers.
1. If you don’t want to share the minutiae of your daily life with strangers – DO NOT have a public account. That’s what private accounts and texting and email and sometimes even phone calls are for.
2. If you have a public account, DO write in somewhat complete sentences. Tweeting “off the hook!!” doesn’t tell as much as “We’re crammed into an over-capacity nightclub with blocked emergency exits but we’re so drunk on Red Bull and vodka we don’t care!”
3. If you’re feeling stumped, DO write like a reporter: Tell us Who, What (happened), Where, When, Why and How (do you feel)? Example: “Katrina got mauled in the stairway a second ago because she flashed her coochie when she was dancing on the bar. She kinda deserves it.”
4. DO use your senses – Sight, Smell, Taste, Touch, Sound and even the 6th one. Example: “Think I see the village down the road. I still taste blood but I’m so cold I’d huddle by my own funeral pyre if it got me any closer to the ancient mine. “
5. DON’T mention or post pictures of children on twitter with reckless abandon. Example: “Here are the latest pics of Jamie and the twins in the bathtub! They’re getting so BIG!”
6. DO share something you love and why: “I love cleaning off my dry erase board so there isn’t a single mark left! Makes me feel cleansed after a day of teaching doomed, ungrateful third-graders.”
7. If you have repeated difficulty thinking up something that you love, you may be suffering from depression or dysthymia. DON’T beat yourself up. It’s probably hereditary. Talk to a licensed professional.
8. If you’re a student, DO tweet something you learned that day, if only to allay your parents’ fears that you’re just getting high. Example: “The mach number at the sonic state is unity.”
9. DON’T post a link without tempting me with a little taste of why I should click on it. Example: “I told you Robert Pattinson wasn’t circumcised! www.twitpic.com/twilightuncut”
10. And finally, DON’T think for a second that your life is any less interesting than a celebrity’s. Everyone has a story – and now it can be told 140 characters at a time.
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1. I just read the New York Times review of Amelia even though I try not to read other critics’ reviews of movies until I write my own. (I’m easily swayed.)
2. The Times pans Amelia for its screaming “melodramatic excess”, storybook look and its characterization of Earhart as a toothy bore.
3. As Catherine O’Hara used to say on Saturday Night Live: I guess you have a point there.
4. Actually, she wasn’t on SNL and said nothing of the sort. But I’m going out of my mind trying to figure out what comedic character (if any) used that as a catchphrase.
5. Email me if you know.
6. I liked watching Amelia, which is different from saying it’s a good movie, but I’m sticking to my 80 percent rating anyway.
7.Yes, I lapped up the epic Out of Africa/The English Patient music and scenery and fabulous clothes – and perhaps that makes me no more deep than a pimply 15-year old lapping up Michael Bay’s latest explosion-fest.
8. I loved seeing Hillary Swank back in her niche – playing earnest, unconventional, tragic women – after the detour she made into romcom territory with Gerard Butler in P.S. I Love You.
9. I don’t want to see Hillary Swank in dippy chickflicks any more than I want to see Jennifer Anniston play Joan of Arc.
10. Even though Swank works a strange accent (like Katherine Hepburn but really stoned), she never broke character so I still bought it.
11. My co-host Brett complained that the film doesn’t delve into what made her who she was.
12. But an early flashback of her daydreaming in a field is all you need to know. She – like many avid pilots – was born that way. It’s almost like an addiction, with her worried husband as her sworn co-dependent.
13. Sounds about right, right? Wouldn’t the world’s first (and doomed) major aviatrix be a sort of other-worldly, single-minded, uncuddly weirdo? Just look at that Cirque de Soleil guy who went to the space station to become the first clown in space.
15. I was also gratified that the film posits Earhart’s open marriage and affair not as a sign of her rumored lesbianism – but as an extension of her constant restlessness, her yearning for something else.
16. All that luscious scenery and glamour and adventure swirling around this odd, inscrutable, uncomfortable woman. “Autistic” is the first thought that came to my mind as I sought to describe Swank’s portrayal – though I’m not sure I’m using it right.
17. By now, you’ve probably realized that I like the film because I see a lot of myself in Amelia. Because I’m a girl who’s primary impulse is to get away from wherever I am at the moment. I don’t find men all that interesting or easy to tell apart. I bolt off by myself to random places – be they real destinations or simply in my head.
18. That’s why I liked Amelia; because its lush, dazzling visuals feed my wanderlust at the same time its peculiar, restless heroine expresses my yearning for more still.
Halfway through last week’s preview of Couples Retreat – as Jon Favreau grew a fake boner on the massage table or some such banal silliness – I was reminded of how hard it is for me to laugh at comedies.
Granted, Couples Retreat has been almost universally panned (14 percent on the T-meter) – but even modern comedy “classics” like There’s Something About Mary or The Hangover tend to leave me sitting there in the theater, staring blankly at the screen while everyone else around me bursts out like a cued chorus.
Little wonder I wound up a couple years ago telling a shrink: “I feel like an alien who observes and mimics the strange human race around him. Like, ‘Oh, now we laugh? Yes. Okay. Ha-ha. I’m doing it now.’”
The last film that actually had me laughing to tears was Brüno – because the level to which Cohen took the comedy – opening a champagne bottle with his Asian boylover’s ass – was so stratospheric and surreal I felt like I was tripping (or watching Monty Python for the first time).
By comparison: The Hangover’s crazy naked Asian guy jumping out of a trunk? What’s so funny about that?
There have been a couple stand-up routines by cutting edge comedians – Duncan Trussell and Brent Weinbach – that had me doubling over. But the only other times I laugh seem to be when I myself am having fun or, embarrassingly enough, when I’m cracking myself up. Fortunately, I mostly crack myself up when I’m alone. Go ahead and visualize it. Sure, stick a bubbling cauldron in there if you like. Fuck you.
I suppose the most logical explanation is that I work in comedy for a living – so I can’t help but look with a discriminating eye upon the hijinks that – to the untrained – seem to come out of left field.
(Really: callbacks, the rule of three, reversals, opposites – you can learn a lot of these comedy techniques from books and classes).
The other explanation is that, like the archetypal “sad clown”, I’m a bit of a dark one – so perhaps something’s gotta be extra hilarious to penetrate the shroud.
It’s the same things with shopping for purses – I seem to end up only with red or brightly patterned purses. I’m like a hummingbird, instinctively drawn only to a syrupy red feeder.
Yes, that’s what I am. That’s exactly what I am.
A sad, shrouded, little purse-burdened hummingbird.
Tell me: What’s something “funny” that you’ve never been able to laugh at? And why?
1. I finally finished watching the original 1980 film Fame.
2. I’m glad I watched it after seeing the recent crapola remake Fame – which is still hanging on in theaters – or else I probably would have judged it even more harshly.
3. I do have hazy memories of the 1980s’ TV series about kids at New York’s High School of the Performing Arts, which was inspired by the film’s success.
4. Of course, my chief memory is the “Fame Costs!” exhortation that dance teacher Debbie Allen delivered each week during the opening credits:
“You got big dreams? You want fame? Well, fame costs. And right here is where you start paying. In sweat!”
If you’ve recited it along with me – chances are you’re making it sound way more bitchy than the way Allen actually said it:
5. As for the original Fame, it combined the surging hormones of high school and the ache of young artists into a wonderfully frizzy, perspiring, autumn-colored postcard from a New York that’s not around anymore.
6. New York in 1980 – Graffiti on the subway, no AIDS ransacking the performing arts and not one, but TWO Howard Johnson’s in Times Square. The original’s where a supposedly street-smart Irene Cara meets a sleazy predator. (It’s also where my parents went on their first date).
7. If you’re like me, and you like to daydream that you’re a serious, emotional teenage dancer (yes, say it with me, dancer!) who lives life at the dance studio, you’ll probably love it. The leg-warmers, the artfully mismatched outfits, the boobs. This look wasn’t invented by American Apparel, ya know.
8. But the real star of the film – and, later of the TV show – is Leroy, the angsty street dancer who moves around the screen in an aura of sex.
9. Leroy was played by Gene Anthony Ray, who apparently wasn’t unlike his unbridled character. He’d even attended – and had been kicked out of – the high school that Fame is based on. I don’t think it matters if you’re gay or straight, black or white, male or female – this guy had the omnisexuality that so many of the best film stars (Greta Garbo, Cary Grant) seem to exude. At the very least, he could have wiped the dance floor with John Travolta’s flappy ass.
10. After the series ended, Gene Anthony Ray pretty much vanished from the screen. He died in 2003 from complications of a stroke. He was 41-years old and HIV-positive.
11. Meanwhile, Paul McCrane, who played the film’s gay and disturbingly translucent student, Montgomery, went on to a successful 11-year stint as ER’s Dr. Romano. He’s married and has two children.
12. For what it’s worth, around 59 minutes into watching the original Fame – I could no longer sit there on the dressing room couch, staring into my laptop as Leroy and his ebullient, spandexed pals leapt around their grotty New York public school.
13. I paused the movie, got on the Internet and found a beginner’s hip-hop class at a nearby Hollywood dance studio. A few hours (and $13 later) I was making my way as best I could through a routine to Janet Jackson’s “That’s the Way Love Goes.”
14. And it made me very happy.
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“Well,” I smirked to myself last week, “I guess I’m not jealous of Diablo Cody anymore.”
I had just finished watching the preview of Jennifer’s Body – Cody’s second movie since her Oscar-winning Juno. It could have been a kick-ass post-feminist Scream, but turned out to be just so much blood down the drain.
And believe me, I loooove hot, girl-versus-girl stories – from Wild Things and Poison Ivy to more obscure fare like Old Enough – and 80s TV Show “Double Trouble”.
I mention this because a couple days after I saw Cody’s film, a box arrived – the first of eight (containing books and memorabilia) that I’d shipped to LA from my hometown in New Jersey.
In this box, atop the voodoo tarot card set and art history tomes, were some two dozen candy-colored paperbacks.
These were my “Sweet Valley High“s – Francine Pascal’s fictional series about two blond, identical twins: Elizabeth (the good) and Jessica (the bad) who lived in a mythical California town.
SVH’s appeal back in the 1980s was perhaps no different than that of shows like “Laguna Beach” and “The Hills” today. It was a way for dysthymic girls with zits and worrisome vaginas to evaporate, however briefly, into a fabulous sun-splashed world of skinny, clear-skinned bikini babes and hunky boyfriends.
As recently as last month I found myself twittering about them:
“Since the studios are adapting beloved books, can we get Sweet Valley High the movie, w/ Dakota Fanning as the good twin? Bad twin hmm..? (Sep 9th).”
And now the books sit in piles on my coffee table, as I debate whether to display them on the shelf (as originally intended) or pack them away again, where they can’t remind me of the big news:
Diablo Cody is Adapting Sweet Valley High.
Welp, guess I’m jealous again! And just when I thought I’d overcome my envy of the cool-named-stripper-writing-pregnant-heroine-movie-hit-Oscar-winning-it-girl! Never mind that I never wanted to write a movie about a pregnant teen, that’s not the point!
She’s, like, thirty and zeitgeisty and gets thanked by Toni Collette at the Emmy’s and I’m, I’m–well, let me tell you the daily hell with which I must contend:
I’m a skinny, clear-skinned, bikini-wearing girl who lives in California and gets paid to (ugh) review movies and write silly songs on a TV show. What’s worse, my co-host is charming (genuinely, not in the “love me!” way), I get to wear trendy clothes and, oh, I just had a dalliance with a menacingly handsome former soap hunk.
Woe. Is. Me.
Now, I’m not saying this JUST to make myself feel better (but oh, Lordy, it helps).
It’s to show that even though my life today could turn stuck-up Lila Fowler green, I’m just as susceptible to petty jealousy as I was twenty years ago when I was a sullen, black-clad hater who wished she were the star of the school musical.
But all is not lost. In fact, I’ve learned a couple things since then, things I wish I’d known twenty, or even two, years ago.
[*]The good news is, a career in the creative arts – writing, acting, whatever one’s dream job – is not the exclusive domain of universally loved, talented people who star in school plays or whatever. You – yes, you! closet poet! – can learn all this shit in classes and by working at it. Talent doesn’t matter half as much as determination.
[*]The bad news is, even if you do work on a fun TV show or turn out a Gesamtkunstwerk that could make “The Artist’s Way” shit itself – it will never cure what ails you spiritually or psychologically. Many people know that being a rich and famous dipshit in Hollywood won’t make you happy. What fewer people know is that being an artist who channels their soul into something funny or beautiful that touches humanity also won’t make you happy.
That’s right, even doing “whatever makes you happy” doesn’t make you happy.
Oh, everyone knows that already? Well, I guess some of us keep forgetting. Because judging by the tabloids, if there’s one story Hollywood seems to have been put on earth to tell over and over and over again, it’s that one. Well, that and stories about sports underdogs. Who doesn’t love those?
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9, director Shane Acker’s first feature film is clogged with rusty gears and a sepia-toned fantasia about a group of numbered rag dolls living in a post-apocalyptic wasteland.
I’m not the hippest chick in the world. It took me a while to get a cell phone and a MySpace account and skinny jeans. Even when I went to interview the costumed crowds at Comic-Con, the comic convention in San Diego, it shouldn’t have surprised me that I wound up feeling like a total dork. I flagged down a dandily dressed couple in Victorian garb.
“What characters are you dressed up as?” I asked, figuring this was their homage to some crime fighters from a graphic novel.
“We’re not dressed up as any particular characters,” the man with the monocle warmly explained. “This is called Steampunk.”
(Those familiar with the term may jump ahead. Fellow dorks, however, read on.)
Steampunk is an aesthetic inspired by the steam-power age in 19th-century England. Think Jules Verne and H.G. Wells, locomotives and goggles and bustles. It’s softer and smarter than goth, but a little grimier and sexier than Victorian. I mention all this because the new film 9 is completely wrought in steampunk (or what one fan dubbed “stitchpunk”) style.
The title character, 9 (Elijah Wood), wakes up to a world that’s been destroyed by machines and joins forces with other survivors to escape the wrath of robo-dino-monsters that are too scary and loud for your kids.
Do other plot points stick out? Not really.
Can I think of a single memorable line? Nope.
Was I at least able to identify the actor providing the voice of its emboldened protagonist? The credits tell me it was Elijah Wood. Seriously, I got more everyman heroism out of Jen, the animatronic gelfling from Jim Henson’s 1982 sci-fi fable The Dark Crystal. Which brings me to my biggest gripe with 9 - it’s way too derivative.
I can’t condemn a young filmmaker for unconsciously imitating all his his favorite films. But I can question what Tim Burton (one of the producers) was thinking when he decided that this script, expanded from Acker’s 2004 Oscar-nominated student short, was compelling enough to throw his weight behind.
Machines destroy the world? Terminator.
Cute hero with roly-eyes? Wall-E.
Haunting animated dolls? The Brothers Quay. Or, Tim Burton, for that matter.
And the list goes on. You could have a doozy of a drinking game at your next Steampunk Salon if you did a shot of absinthe every time you identified something that reminded you of a better movie. Goth-night club promoters can also project it on the big screen, finally giving “The Crow” a well-deserved rest.
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September 2, 2009 - Wednesday
My Top Five Favorite Films! Enjoy! Condemn!
Current mood: argumentative
Category: Movies, TV, Celebrities
Five Favorite Films with Ellen Fox
The spunky co-host of the Rotten Tomatoes Show shares her passion for film with us.
by RT Staff | September 01, 2009
Earlier this year, Rotten Tomatoes and Current TV took a chance and launched a movie review show unlike any other: one based on the myriad opinions of the moviegoers themselves. The Rotten Tomatoes Show, now 25 weeks old, has been a success, featuring webcam reviews submitted by viewers, Current TV and RT community members, film critics, and filmmakers. However, another big reason for its success is the chemistry and wit of its hosts, Ellen Fox and Brett Erlich.
Ellen majored in English at Rutgers University. She moved to Chicago and spent the next ten years writing about culture and entertainment for the city's newspapers - including film reviews for the Chicago Tribune. Along the way, she also studied and performed in the city's respected improv comedy scene. In The Rotten Tomatoes Show she has found a new home, and we just couldn't picture the show without her. Read up on Ellen's Five Favorite Films here, then check out her RT profile and add her as a friend!
[B][B][B]Xanadu[/B] (1980, 41% Tomatometer)[/B]
[CENTER][LEFT] I'm not being sarcastic: Xanadu is the foundation of my aesthetic. It's a 1980 musical in which angsty painter Michael Beck meets muse Olivia Newton-John and an aging musician (Gene Kelly) from the Big Band Era. Naturally, they team up to open a roller-disco complete with tap dancing, leg warmers, and Zeus. All of it woven together - in perfect sincerity - by an ELO soundtrack.
[B][B][B]The Wizard of Oz[/B] (1939, 100% Tomatometer)[/B]
[CENTER][LEFT] Like Xanadu, it's a phantasmagoria - but more menacing. A lone teenage gal and her dog hit the (yellow, brick) road and pick up a trio of men along the way. Try pitching that idea to a Hollywood studio! The only film in recent memory with a similar story was the lugubrious indie Wendy and Lucy, which I couldn't even finish. Maybe a flying monkey or a smartly dressed munchkin might have perked things up.
[B][B][B]Gone With the Wind[/B] (1939, 97% Tomatometer)[/B]
[CENTER][LEFT] My ideal man was Christopher Reeves' Superman; my ideal woman Lynda Carter's Wonder Woman. But here was my first glimpse of the electricity that can crackle between two such sexy grown-ups. Like Oz, it's another 1939 tale about a dark-haired, willful farm girl. But Scarlett O'Hara's desires aren't as heady as Dorothy's; they run hot and elsewhere. Thanks to the manic perfectionism of both producer David O. Selznick and Vivien Leigh, it's the best depiction of female desire ever captured on film.
[B][B][B]Singin' in the Rain[/B] (1952, 100% Tomatometer)[/B]
[CENTER][LEFT] Gene Kelly plays a silent film star who falls for cloche-wearing babe Debbie Reynolds during the industry's awkward transition to talkies. Hollywood: The sunshine! The song-and-dance! The handsome, dynamic men! It only took me 25 years to discover it's all true. There's a funny-terrifying scene about the complexities of wiring Kelly's bitchy leading lady for sound. Sometimes I think of it when I'm taping a tiny microphone inside my bra and running the wire out through my armpit.
[B][B][B]Bring It On[/B] (2000, 64% Tomatometer)[/B]
[CENTER][LEFT] This clever-enough confection about warring cheerleaders proves that films don't have to be classics or award-worthy to work their magic. I wish I could say it was James Taylor's music or Robert Frost's poetry that soothed my post-9/11 anxiety. But no, it was star Kirsten Dunst's perky, bouncing breasts that lifted my spirits. Whether ever-so-lovingly hoisted in a bikini top or shaking to-and-fro as she dances on her bed, with ta-tas like hers in our midst, I wondered, could the world still be that hopeless of a place?
Permalink to Column on Rottentomatoes.com
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First things first: Julie, a restless New York blogger (Amy Adams) decides to cook every recipe in Julia Child’s (Meryl Streep) cookbook. The film, written and directed by Nora Ephron, flips back in forth in time between Julie’s efforts in 2002 and Julia’s effervescence in post-World-War-II Paris. You should go see it.
Still, and I’m sure I won’t be the first person to say this, I wish it had been Julia & More Julia. Let me break it down for you:
I can’t let Amy Adams off the hook for turning in an unceasingly whiny performance in what could have been an overall splendid picture. Sure, no one’s expecting Adams to compete with the powerhouse that is Meryl-as-Julia. But for Chrissakes, Adams is 34-years old and still working that wide eyed, child-like shtick. It hasn’t just worn out its welcome, it’s getting creepy!
There are only two excuses for a grown woman to act like an 11-year old on screen. The first is if she’s playing a Disney princess, as Adams did, in Enchanted. The second is if she’s Marilyn Monroe. But wait, you say, isn’t Julia Child rather wide-eyed and silly voiced and childlike as well? Yes, she is; the difference is Meryl’s Julia, as the acting teachers say, fights.
We do not want to see characters in movies whine. We want to see them rise and fight whatever life or the screenwriter throws them. Good acting also contains specificity, be it the characters’ or your own little Method-induced tricks; I only wish that she had been able to pop in on Julia to borrow a cup.
It’s impossible to stay mad at Adams. After all, her ass was the only redeeming feature in this spring’s Night at the Museum: Battle of the Smithsonian. I’m just disappointed and hope for better from her.
But, on Julia? Yowza!
Meryl Streep turns in a rock star performance, and I mean “rock star” more than actress. She’s got the ticks and the accents, but what an alive person even at 60! If only she had been cast in Amy Adams’ role as well. People are always talking about how great actors disappear into their roles or become their character. I didn’t get that feeling from this performance. I felt like Meryl Streep was letting Julia Child come, like a spirit, in to her.
What a life-force! Every time the film flipped from Adams’ generic world into Meryl’s, I involuntarily sighed and relaxed just like when I walk through the front door at my parents’ home and smell Thanksgiving in prep. Afterward, I felt that Streep was no longer performing for the audience. Instead, I felt she was acting chiefly for herself and for what it does for her on the inside, rather than us.
Seeing her joy (JOY, fuckers! Parisian, exploratory JOY) I refuse to believe that Streep could not have been somehow spiritually enriched by the experience of invoking Child. Look at her: possessed, chopping the onions all night, ecstatic in her first tastes of food. You just can’t fake that! You have to be feeling it on the inside! If not about the food then about SOMETHING!
So Julie & Julia is still about how connecting with the spirit of Julia Child spiritually enriches the life of a modern woman. It’s just that that woman isn’t Amy Adams’ Julie. It’s Meryl Streep. To this, Brett burst out laughing in disbelief: “You’re projecting! You can’t know what’s happening inside Meryl Streep! If that’s how she made you feel watching, that’s a testament to her great acting. But that’s how you feel, not Meryl!”
Oh, no, honey. I know. I just do. So no homemade strawberry fucking pie for you!
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