God Bless America is a great film that only gets points knocked off for not realizing it's own hypocrisy at times and just that little bit of insight can separate a good film from a masterful film. From a character's perspective, Frank's psychological break down is well crafted and very heart felt, but the movie's weakest point is Roxy. Her character lives in a comfortable white American suburban family with everything provided for her and yet she has an angst so strong that she becomes a sociopath. Arguably, this type of person is as disgustingly horrible as Chloe, Frank's first celebrity shooting victim. There are points throughout the film where questions are posed to Roxy's character integrity and why she's so different than the people Frank kills, but ultimately the film seems to give her a pass just because she's a protagonist. This is what's known as "protagonist based morality" and it's a nasty double standard that fiction sometimes incorporate. Fortunately, Bobcat Goldthwait isn't a stupid writer and thus, this little syndrome isn't glorified as much as it could have been. Honestly, that's the biggest problem with the movie; that it tries very hard to say something but ultimately doesn't really say anything. You can forgive it's meandering message because it's a satire (and a very funny one at that) but when the curtain closes, there's just something inside you that probably expects a little more from such a controversial topic. Goldthwait seems like he doesn't really want to judge. But in a movie that's literally about judging people in the harshest way possible, that gun sometimes need to be turned towards the protagonists once in a while.
Melancholia is an exercise in the absurd that gets so self indulgent that it doesn't quite truly connect with its characters as much as it thinks it does. Similar to Malick's Tree of Life, Melancholia is a very extreme film that borderlines on the avant-garde. Despite that, the movie strangely feels mundane and empty. Based on my observations, this is largely due to a script that treats its subject material like a Shakespearean tragedy when, ultimately, the character's own plight and anguish seems oddly trivial and childish. Kirsten Dunst's unhappy wedding seems weirdly undramatic and confusing as we're never established why she's unhappy to be there to begin with. You can argue that the point of that would be to throw us into these character's lives in order to give us a sense of how their lives were quickly cut short. Yet, the most basic of common sense solutions to these situations that the characters finds themselves in are avoided for reasons unbeknownst to the audience. There's subtlety and there's incomplete characterization. Melancholia provides too little information to the viewers in order for the drama to function effectively. I respect writer and director Lars von Trier tremendously, but this film just seems like an incomplete story slapped on with an Armageddon premise just for the sake of doing something weird or different. The second part of the film also drags as we already know what will happen and the movie seems to only be interested in setting a dramatic mood rather than develop characters. It's also somewhat shocking to see von Trier resort to the "women are emotional wrecks when anything major happens". Kirsten Dunst's character seems unbelievably immature and childish while Charlotte Gainsbourg's character is just an emotional faucet of tears and outbursts. It's a cheap and lazy way to write drama (and women) and von Trier is better than that. The music is also incredibly heavy handed playing the few motifs of "Tristan und Isolde" over and over and over again. It's almost as if von Trier just wanted us to be so incredibly sad for these characters but the unfortunate fact of the matter is, most of these people act so annoyingly juvenile that it just sucks all the drama out of it. Melancholia is not as deep or insightful as it thinks it is and it just ends up wasting our time. The only thing that saves the movie is the marvelous visuals but if you were to read it as a script it'd be one hell of a long read and that's when you know you don't really have a solid story underneath you.
Page Eight, directed and written by playwrite David Hare, is a movie that seems to be crafted for an audience that has long been gone from the cinema multiplexes and perpetually dwell in the PBS Masterpiece Theater and HBO of TV. Yet, Page Eight is strangely as empty as a lot of the actioners that Hollywood churns out and you know there is something wrong when you come out of a movie like this with a very lukewarm and slightly disappointed feeling. Unlike, Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy or Syriana, Page Eight is meant to be a straight forward political intrigue thriller. There's no fancy editing, no overly cryptic dialogue, and no multiple flashbacks. In fact, everything from the writer and director to the cast should point to a highly intelligent and powerful political drama but it just isn't really worth the running time. The main problem is how the story is mainly structured. David Hare's dialogue is superbly intelligent and some of the debate scenes behind closed doors are surprisingly chilling. Indeed, Page Eight starts off very strong and powerful. Yet, as the conspiracy develops more and more and more, the entire movie meanders. I would say that the scene when Ralph Fiennes and Bill Nighy is the final scene with a strong point as everything after that just seems a bit pointless and drab and all this leads to a very bizarrely uninteresting finale. Ultimately, the film's development lacks a point. The Prime Minister knew questionable activities as well as dirty dealings when he promises to be a vanguard against Western political corruption. That's enough to develop an interesting premise but that's not enough to develop an actual point to a movie and it seems like David Hare didn't really know what to do after he got the idea for the movie. Page Eight is only saved by a brilliant cast and some very sharp dialogue, but there are more insightful political movies out there that might be worth more your time.
The Artist is, interestingly enough, unique because it takes advantage of several film techniques to develop its story but it's also not unique for the exact same reason. For sure, the absence of diegetic sound and color makes it stand out over most, if not all, movies within the past few years. However, the absence of a technique to convey a point is actually a familiar sight for those who know their movie history. Schindler's List's and Pleasentville's purposeful absence of color utilizes the same type of philosophy that The Artist incorporates. Remove a technique to convey a world as dramatically as possible only to fill in the technique when the character "completes his or her development" or when the plot concludes. Upon further reflection, what The Artist did actually isn't really that original, but it did take it a step further than movies like Schindler's List or Pleasentville. Film theory and comparisons aside, The Artist is a marvelous film on a very basic level. It's a beautifully written, inspiring directed, and touchingly performed. A silent film created in 2011 could easily become a gimmick that worn off after the midway point. But, Michel Hazanavicius understands that the story should always comes first and the techniques and gimmicks of the movie ends up becoming a necessary part rather than a cheap play to be "artsy". The Artist is a timeless and emotional story about being left behind by the world. Whether, it's execution is actually novel will be left up to the film theorists to debate over, but the sincerity of the movie will be hard to deny.
21 Jump Street is one of those movies that manages to have a lot of substance while still being crazily over the top. Usually in violent comedies about cops, the writer and director just forgets that the story needs to connect to the audience on a deeper level than just mindless laughs. Fortunately, 21 Jump Street is masterfully written and directed and balances a very fine line between outrageous silly comedy and actual character development and drama. It may seem a little off kilter at first but when the main plot gets going it's hard to not enjoy yourself while still learning something from the characters' ordeal. Yet, to understand why 21 Jump Street is so great, you have to compare it to other successful comedies of its ilk like Hot Fuzz. In the case of Hot Fuzz, Simon Pegg's comedy of a similar material sometimes gets a little weary as it seems that movie was just meant to be silly and not much else. 21 Jump Street is strangely a more fulfilling experience because of what the writers did with the scenes that weren't a part of the comedic aspects of the movie. Most good violent cop comedies are just that, good because it doesn't do much else besides being silly. 21 Jump Street is probably the pinnacle of these types of movies because it wasn't afraid to get serious from time to time.