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Rating History

Me and You and Everyone We Know
11 years ago via Rotten Tomatoes

[color=black]Critical darling Miranda July suffuses her feature debut [i]Me and You and Everyone We Know[/i] with discursive performance art preciousness, regarding life and love with infantile whimsy, apparently the cutest and most nimbly ironic way to comment on grown-up insecurities. Unfortunately, it's also the least resonant. In July's universe, adults are childlike and children are relatively comfortable exploring adulthood (to round out the multigenerational convocation of emotional blunderbusses, July has her semi-autobiographical character Christine drive an Eldercab, allowing for some artificially sweetened geriatric wisdom), and both communicate better through messages and punctuated smilies than through conversation or smiles.

Early in the film, bleary shoe salesman and recent divorcÚ Richard misremembers an old parlor trick, turning a nifty diversion intended to regale his children into a horrific act of self-immolation. The heavy bandage he wears around his hand for the rest of the film is a symbolic reminder of both his juvenile imprudence and his wounded ego (sometimes the most venturesome of endeavors just leave one burned). But it's exactly that kind of callow impulsiveness that July considers the backbone of uniqueness and ideal romantic pairings. As Christine and Richard walk unacquainted on the sidewalk heading toward their parked cars, they imagine the stroll as a condensed chronology of their hypothetical life together, not unlike the conditional sidewalk games kids play with themselves against approaching cars. It's all very button-cute, but by focusing on such a calculated metaphor July substitutes coy poetastry for recognizable human avoidance -- the quirks cover up the denial of shared experience.

Christine's hermetic performance art -- she creates bedroom videotapes of romantic postcards for which she supplies silly, semi-sarcastic voiceover and insipidly mimics hesitant mutual attraction using first- and second-person-labeled shoes -- is reflected in the fumbling experimentation of the film's youths. Richard's circumstantially precocious six-year-old son discovers the spurious joys of cyber-sex when his puerile scatological fascination is misinterpreted as liberated kinkiness; two coquettish teenage girls toy with an older would-be pervert whose libidinous window-dressing descriptions of pedophilic fantasies prompt them to experiment with Richard's older son in order to gain some know-how; and a 10-year-old girl collects linens and household appliances to assemble a trousseau for her future husband. The recurring theme is misperception, uncertainty and anxiety stemming from disconnection, whether the obstacle is a computer screen, a window pane or years of unrealized experience.

The problem with July's treatment of these ideas is that she presents them as functional idiosyncratic episodes that extend only as far as their eccentricities. Hers isn't an honest exploration of nascent sexuality or the ways in which children come to compartmentalize the adult world, informing their emotional development and how they deal with intimacy, but a series of prefabricated quirky incidents that restrict rather than distill life. A scene in which a bagged goldfish is inadvertently left atop a moving automobile is supposed to say something about the fragility of existence, but all it achieves is droll, bittersweet smallness. Christine mourns the pet's imminent demise, administering its last rites, and July celebrates her unique perspective. Though she seems aware that the art world is rife with frauds -- she makes an example of the open-minded stereotyping by a lonely museum curator -- July isn't immune to indie-bred bullshit. When Christine helps Richard stash a painting of a bird on a branch in the branches of an actual tree, the film strains for art-life amalgamation, suggesting that sometimes the two are indistinguishable and that we all live as artists. That may be the case sometimes, but it'd be more convincing if the characters were anything like me and you and everyone we know.[/color]

Sin City
Sin City (2005)
12 years ago via Rotten Tomatoes

[color=LemonChiffon][color=Wheat][color=Black]In case anyone was wondering.

Here's some [/color][url="http://www.rottentomatoes.com/vine/showthread.php?t=405351"]Flame Bait[/url][/color] .[/color]

Tarnation
Tarnation (2004)
12 years ago via Rotten Tomatoes

[color=Black]The worst kind of reality-television exhibitionism is on display in Jonathan Caouette's meretricious film diary, [i]Tarnation[/i], yet it has earned the kind of critical imprimatur that will no doubt inspire imitators and consequently diminish expressive potential. Using mixed media collected throughout the years, this affectedly intense montage of personal recollection and family turmoil is an assault of betrayed privacy and amateurish style. The opening scene has Caouette feigning a melodramatic reaction upon receiving word of his mother's lithium overdose (and just [i]why[/i] would he be filming that?), exposing this ostensible therapeutic confessional for the insensitive audition reel it is.

[/color] [color=Black]All the necessary exposition (which is to say, every horrific event and none of the good) is presented in Power Point shorthand -- third-person narrative title cards interpolated with still frames chronicle the skein of misery -- as a primer for the filmmaker's self-indulgence and familial exploitation. Caouette goes to great lengths to stress his identification with his mother, Renee -- he includes disturbing footage of himself as a child in drag reciting an ad-libbed, over-the-top jittery monologue as a terrified rape victim -- but what comes across is his odious propensity for plundering her depressing life for dramatic material. Diagnosed with Depersonalization Disorder after an unfortuante incident involving a PCP-laced joint that left him with dreamlike perceptions and feelings of self-detachment, he has created a film that is neither a subjective case study exploring a misunderstood mental illness nor a means of dealing with it; instead, it's just another symptom.

[/color] [color=Black][i]Capturing the Friedmans[/i] examined a family's obsession with self-documentation, both commenting on the Friedmans' inclination toward reality-fabricating performance and on-camera visibility and mirroring our common media-saturated sense of truth and justice. Caouette, on the other hand, merely perpetuates his disorder by indulging his unreality. His fascination with underground movies stems from his belief that he lives one (and now, thanks to Gus Van Sant and John Cameron Mitchell, he does). That's why he's more interested in filming the reunion with his long-absent father than actually reuniting with him -- establishing a filial connection in an effort to better make sense of his situation is less important to him than dramatizing the encounter. But the film is at its most offensive during a contemptible scene where Caouette trains his camera on his sick mother as she performs an interminable song-and-dance about a pumpkin, mining her brain-damaged incoherence for all its dysphoric devastation, and even stooping so low as to cue horror music when she's at her nuttiest. Loved ones are merely players in his fantasy world, and with this film he hawks his own derangement. He wants us to understand him, or at least be entertained by him. I'd rather watch [i]The Real World[/i].[/color]

Kinsey
Kinsey (2004)
12 years ago via Rotten Tomatoes
½

[font=Arial][color=Black]Given the current culture war pitting prurient rights against puritanical morality, an examination of our sexual awakening (and concurrent ignorance) is perhaps necessary. Scientifically rigorous yet politically driven, Bill Condon?s biopic [i]Kinsey[/i] adopts an ambitiously clinical approach, meticulously chronicling the progress of Alfred Kinsey?s sociological research as the harbinger of a cultural revolution. Humbled by the diversity of gall wasps and frustrated by the lack thereof in accepted sexual activities, Kinsey begins teaching a course on marriage (his own marriage was poorly consummated due to misinformation) that is actually a frank sex education class, intriguing his students and prompting him to collect comprehensive behavioral data on the subject. Even as we?re invited to titter at the uninformed superstitions of mid-century sexual simpletons, we are acutely aware of the dark ages thinking of those who today would welcome a fundamentalist reformation. While he is able to amass a wealth of information, Kinsey, as diligently played by Liam Neeson, is objective to a fault, sacrificing his humanity in favor of scientific clarity. His exhaustive documentation leads to a sort of scientifically sanctioned libertinism among him and his colleagues, a wife-swapping free-for-all that trades on knowledge for guiltless immorality. It provides an interesting look into the controversy surrounding discoveries that sometimes double as naturalistic excuses for social irresponsibility. Human casualties, such as Kinsey?s wife Clara (a wonderful Laura Linney), plead for the retention of certain behavioral conventions to balance personal liberty with intimate accountability -- a fair request for that which is shared privacy. Condon at times overemphasizes the researchers? sexual fixations -- get-togethers feature frequent bawdy conversations -- but rarely is the film sexy, which is a shame considering its celebration of discovery, experimentation, and openness. Kinsey may have given reprehensible sex offenders a sense of salacious justification, but more importantly, he helped pave the way for the sexually confused to find themselves and accept an unconventional life. Morality can?t disguise itself as fact if the facts are firmly in place.[/color][/font][color=Black]

[/color] [font=Times New Roman][color=Black][font=Arial]Early in Mike Nichols? vicious but weightless [i]Closer[/i], Alice, the damaged, dismissively coquettish stripper played by Natalie Portman, critiques a photography exhibit -- which includes an image of her dolorous face after discovering her boyfriend?s infidelity -- for lying about reality by making misery beautiful through composition. In a similar vein, Nichols perpetuates his own decked-out lie through a vacuity-chic approach to the scurrilous abuses and cruel vagaries of jealous and manipulative lovers. Less an observational dissection of dishonest actions and brutally honest reactions than a cynical exhibition of craven posturing, the film diminishes psychological complexity and understanding to indulge opportunistic maliciousness. Utilizing temporal elisions and a minimal cast, [i]Closer[/i] hermetically focuses on what it believes are the barest essentials of romantic tumult, deliberately eliminating from the film?s shifting relationships everything but initial attractions and ultimate dissolutions. The effect is a combination of meet-cute contrivance -- Jude Law and Clive Owen inexplicably engage in a vulgar cybersex session that leads to an even more inexplicable serendipitous encounter -- and part-ugly cruelty, and since the characters? behavior offers no clues about the omitted past, the resulting contempt and humiliation carries zero resonance. Harsh, carefully scripted words reveal little anguish or vulnerability and much fashionable callousness -- a self-conscious emotional vacuum diagrammed for maximum malevolence. Of all the actors, only Portman suggests a romantic journey -- Law reprises his [i]Alfie[/i] without the charm, Owen merely relishes being a remorseless bastard, and Julia Roberts acts like she?s underacting -- though even her role is undermined by ridiculous late-in-the-game revelations. By eschewing conventional romantic tropes and intimate context, the film feigns forthrightness to make an insipid statement about infidelity and the moral decay of modern relationships, though all it manages to get right is shallow artificiality.[/font][/color][/font]

Closer
Closer (2004)
12 years ago via Rotten Tomatoes

[font=Arial][color=Black]Given the current culture war pitting prurient rights against puritanical morality, an examination of our sexual awakening (and concurrent ignorance) is perhaps necessary. Scientifically rigorous yet politically driven, Bill Condon?s biopic [i]Kinsey[/i] adopts an ambitiously clinical approach, meticulously chronicling the progress of Alfred Kinsey?s sociological research as the harbinger of a cultural revolution. Humbled by the diversity of gall wasps and frustrated by the lack thereof in accepted sexual activities, Kinsey begins teaching a course on marriage (his own marriage was poorly consummated due to misinformation) that is actually a frank sex education class, intriguing his students and prompting him to collect comprehensive behavioral data on the subject. Even as we?re invited to titter at the uninformed superstitions of mid-century sexual simpletons, we are acutely aware of the dark ages thinking of those who today would welcome a fundamentalist reformation. While he is able to amass a wealth of information, Kinsey, as diligently played by Liam Neeson, is objective to a fault, sacrificing his humanity in favor of scientific clarity. His exhaustive documentation leads to a sort of scientifically sanctioned libertinism among him and his colleagues, a wife-swapping free-for-all that trades on knowledge for guiltless immorality. It provides an interesting look into the controversy surrounding discoveries that sometimes double as naturalistic excuses for social irresponsibility. Human casualties, such as Kinsey?s wife Clara (a wonderful Laura Linney), plead for the retention of certain behavioral conventions to balance personal liberty with intimate accountability -- a fair request for that which is shared privacy. Condon at times overemphasizes the researchers? sexual fixations -- get-togethers feature frequent bawdy conversations -- but rarely is the film sexy, which is a shame considering its celebration of discovery, experimentation, and openness. Kinsey may have given reprehensible sex offenders a sense of salacious justification, but more importantly, he helped pave the way for the sexually confused to find themselves and accept an unconventional life. Morality can?t disguise itself as fact if the facts are firmly in place.[/color][/font][color=Black]

[/color] [font=Times New Roman][color=Black][font=Arial]Early in Mike Nichols? vicious but weightless [i]Closer[/i], Alice, the damaged, dismissively coquettish stripper played by Natalie Portman, critiques a photography exhibit -- which includes an image of her dolorous face after discovering her boyfriend?s infidelity -- for lying about reality by making misery beautiful through composition. In a similar vein, Nichols perpetuates his own decked-out lie through a vacuity-chic approach to the scurrilous abuses and cruel vagaries of jealous and manipulative lovers. Less an observational dissection of dishonest actions and brutally honest reactions than a cynical exhibition of craven posturing, the film diminishes psychological complexity and understanding to indulge opportunistic maliciousness. Utilizing temporal elisions and a minimal cast, [i]Closer[/i] hermetically focuses on what it believes are the barest essentials of romantic tumult, deliberately eliminating from the film?s shifting relationships everything but initial attractions and ultimate dissolutions. The effect is a combination of meet-cute contrivance -- Jude Law and Clive Owen inexplicably engage in a vulgar cybersex session that leads to an even more inexplicable serendipitous encounter -- and part-ugly cruelty, and since the characters? behavior offers no clues about the omitted past, the resulting contempt and humiliation carries zero resonance. Harsh, carefully scripted words reveal little anguish or vulnerability and much fashionable callousness -- a self-conscious emotional vacuum diagrammed for maximum malevolence. Of all the actors, only Portman suggests a romantic journey -- Law reprises his [i]Alfie[/i] without the charm, Owen merely relishes being a remorseless bastard, and Julia Roberts acts like she?s underacting -- though even her role is undermined by ridiculous late-in-the-game revelations. By eschewing conventional romantic tropes and intimate context, the film feigns forthrightness to make an insipid statement about infidelity and the moral decay of modern relationships, though all it manages to get right is shallow artificiality.[/font][/color][/font]