Saturday, May 20, 2017

Three Films Make A Post: Your favorite fire-breathing monster... Like you've never seen him before!

Uncle John (2015): I feel a bit like a barbarian saying this, but despite being well-acted, beautifully shot, and all-around well-made, Steven Piet’s sort of crime drama, kind of romance, US post-mumblecore indie does very little for me thanks to pacing so glacial, calling it slow would be like pretending it is fast. There are quite a few scenes that are brilliant, clever, and effective but a viewer has to pay for them by suffering through long, long scenes of the characters very poignantly doing little of interest. I just found myself losing my patience watching it. It’s not only the slowness that bugged me, really, but that quite a few scenes seem to be only in the film to reiterate points about its characters it has already made twice before. As it stands, the film could lose a good twenty minutes of runtime and not say less but actually say what it has to say more effectively instead of dragging it out. I really blame the influence of mumblecore as well as a certain type of arthouse movie and their inherent unwillingness to edit things here.

Lone Star (1996): John Sayles does of course belong to an earlier generation of US indie filmmaking, and having spent his times in the (sometimes gold) mines of more commercial filmmaking quite obviously taught the man things about getting to the point of any given scene. Or rather, the points, for this – one of his best films perhaps even his best – is a film that speaks about a Texas border town and its history by way of its people, explores the idea and practice of real, metaphorical and ethical borderlines, the shaping of history and our stories about it, and understands how to draw complex characters and show complicated situations without ever feeling the need to show us every single interaction its characters have in excruciating detail. While it is a highly shaped tale, Lone Star still feels as if its storytelling came about naturally, by the by; there’s no grasping for moments of truth here, they just come, or don’t, as is their wont.

How Do You Know (2010): Theoretically, this is a light, fluffy and not terribly pointed romantic comedy deep from the Hollywood mills featuring Reese Witherspoon and Paul Rudd as two people finding one another in a time of personal crises, but because it’s written and directed by James L. Brooks, it is also a film that has a lot of fun with just letting (often wickedly funny) dialogue flow, knows how to shape the ensemble surrounding its stars into more than just a backdrop (which would be a waste of for example a very funny and ambiguous performance by Jack Nicholson). It is also a film about grown-ups growing up more instead of the sort of romantic comedy that pats its characters on the back for learning not to be complete tools, as well as one that comes by its emotional moments the honest way – by being about well-written and well-acted characters going through things that feel like movie-enlarged versions of experiences people might actually go through. I’m afraid real life does not have dialogue this good nor the appropriate happy end, alas.

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