“I’m sorry I’m not the man with the mega-phone, but this is what I do.”

Entertainment round up for the week of January 29th – February 4th 2009.

Movies: 

Nick & Norah’s Infinite Playlist: Kim and I saw this enjoyable little teen romantic comedy in the theater and Kim made sure to buy it when it came out on DVD this Tuesday. It’s a story about a guy and a girl (played by Michael Cera and Kat Dennings) meeting for the first time who spend a night traveling around NYC in his Yugo looking for a super-cool indie band called “Where’s Fluffy” (A reference to Metallica’s “Breadfan” cover maybe?). Exes, gay band mates and the travails of a disgusting piece of gum all figure in along the way, eventually the young duo realize that they’re perfect for each other. If I go into too much analysis of this flick it might lose some of its charm (Like how Norah’s character arc is reliant upon her walking away from her boyfriend who isn’t really her boyfriend, who is so obviously a real dick it’s amazing that we’re supposed to believe that there might be a reason that she’s with him.) So I won’t analyze it. The movie succeeds most when it is sweet, fun and genuinely awkward (Michael Cera has a deep well to draw from). Where it most obviously lacks is the (thankfully few) Juno-esque passages of dialogue and when it tries to get too “deep” like when Thom tries to explain what “it’s all about” by using The Beatles’ “I Wanna Hold Your Hand” for reference, or when Norah mentions her favorite aspect of Judaism. Overall It’s worth a watch, but don’t expect it to change your life. The movie was very effective at making NYC a character involved in the story and really made me miss the city, it’s been far too long since my last trip in. I wonder how people that don’t live near NY react to it. Do they think the portrayal of the city is bullshit or do they believe in the representation?

Across The Universe: Speaking of NYC Nick & Norah… wasn’t the only NY based movie I saw this week. Although Across the Universe isn’t solely set in NY the bulk of it takes place among artists, musicians and anti-war “revolutionaries” during the combustible times of the late 60’s. If you’re not familiar with Across the Universe it’s a musical that tells the story of Jude and Lucy who fall in love during a tumultuous and highly romanticized time in America’s recent history.  The story is advanced and characters deepened by weaving 33 of The Beatles’ songs throughout the picture. Julie Taymor directs this movie musical with her usual flair for visual extravagance, stylized excess and, in places, her usual heavy handedness. Taymor’s rise to prominence began and, really, peaked with her direction of the groundbreaking musical, The Lion King on Broadway. When she moved into feature films she began with Titus, an adaptation of William Shakespeare’s “Titus Andronicus” arguably the most poorly written and least meaningful of his plays. I say ‘arguably’ because in college I fought to get this play included in our 1998 season. “Titus Andronicus” exists mostly as an excuse for excessive gore with one shocking and disturbing set-piece after another. I lost. Taymor established herself as a very indulgent director who preferred to focus on spectacle rather than true human relationships and conditions. Titus, like blood soaked cotton candy, ultimately leaves the viewer feeling empty. It appears that Taymor considered improving upon this flaw with Universe because at times she attempts to focus on the human relationships at the center of this movie. Instead, she can’t help but to either turn the emotional aspects into big musical numbers (“Let it Be” during the funerals for Jojo’s brother and Daniel) or practically skip past them with a line of dialogue (Max being “messed up”). But it’s unlikely that Taymor wanted to make emotionally deep, realistic small indie films and this movie does have some great things going for it. The integration of The Beatles’ music is spot on and enhances the experience, and that’s really what Across the Universe is, it’s an experience, a very theatrical experience. Evan Rachel Wood and Jim Sturgess turn in great performances as Lucy and Jude respectively.  Taymor does a good job of showing the many sides of the “revolutionary” story. And she opens the movie with one of the most beautiful opening shots I’ve seen. Across the Universe is very much a musical, very stylized and very much not for everyone but I enjoyed it. 

Taken: Basically, Taken is an intense thriller about a guy (Liam Neeson) whose daughter (Maggie Grace) is kidnapped in Paris for servitude in the international sex trade. Liam Neeson just happens to be the last person on earth whose daughter you want to kidnap because, as he puts it, he has “a very particular set of skills; skills I have acquired over a very long career. Skills that make me a nightmare for people like you” and a nightmare he makes. The Bourne Supremacy does better in the action department but Taken wins in the intensity department, probably because the personal stakes are well established. It’s worth seeing if you don’t mind sitting on the edge of your seat. I couldn’t stop thinking about Natalie Holloway.

 

Music:  

The ASOALS: Caught some excellent local music this week when The ASOALS (American Society Of American Lyricists Society), played at Frank Critelli’s Songs From The Sofa at Books & Co. in Hamden, CT. The ASOALS are a singer/songwriter collective(?) that meet once a month to individually create songs based on a central assigned theme, critique each other and improve upon the creative process overall. The members are Shandy Lawson, James Velvet, The Sawtelles, Eric Parradine, Mike Lasala and Russell Shaddox (who missed the show due to a broken ankle). Good stuff, if you live in the Connecticut area seek these guys out when they’re out and about playing around. It’s good times and great people.

 

That’s it for this week!

 

Jim Sturgess in Across The Universe

Jim Sturgess in Across The Universe

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6 Responses to ““I’m sorry I’m not the man with the mega-phone, but this is what I do.””

  1. carlydee Says:

    Across The Universe! I need to watch that again. I remember being all too blown away by the stunning visuals in it at first and not really touching on the story… it was like a big, colorful blur of art and music to just enjoy. Like a long, dialogue-sprinkled, multi-song music video. Then I watched it over and was less stunned while understanding the story more. I found it to be good overall, but the music was definitely the focal point rather than the plot to me.

    I wanted to see Nick & Norah’s… I’ll take your word for it. ; )

  2. nwrann Says:

    I would definitely watch Across the Universe again. I might fastforward a few parts (the circus tent acid trip for one, and probably the “I Get By With A Little Help From My Friends” musical number and the bit in the bowling alley.) There are definitely some beautiful, well done parts (the opening bit on the beach, the strawberry painting scene, etc). I just think that Julie Taymor needs to get more heart into her movies.

    One thing I forgot to put into this blog was that I am glad to see big budget, envelope pushing work like this continuing to get made and released on 1,000 screens.

  3. Alanna Says:

    You just listed two of my favorite movies. I just got Nick and Norah about an hour ago. It holds a very close place in my heart because the movie reflects the teenage life incorporated with music so well. I myself am a teen, and when I watched this movie I could reflect upon it with my own life experiences.

    And Across the Universe. Just- ohmygoodness. The art is so beautiful. It’s like looking at a moving painting. And the way how its all incorporated to some of the most important american history… vietnam, and the Beatles, is just wonderful.

    • nwrann Says:

      I was wondering how N&N played to the high school crowd. Whether it was a decent representation or not. I’m curious to know what movie in the past year or so best represents the high school experience today.

  4. Dana Says:

    I haven’t seen these movies yet, but I’m looking forward to seeing them, a lot of movies like Slumdog Millionaire, and Milk are not even on DVD yet at the video store. I do have netflix though.

  5. Jackie Says:

    I saw Nick & Nora’s Infinite Playlist and Across the Universe. Both were good in my opinion, but I definitely preferred Across the Universe. I agree that it did miss opportunites to deepen and develop the characters, but I loved the songs and I loved the whole movie in general. Sturgess and Wood are excellent in it, and I thought Joe Anderson did a pretty good job as well. That first scene with Jude on the beach was amazing on the big screen.

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