MCN Columnists
Noah Forrest

By Noah Forrest

Summer Frenzies

At the end of last year I had my first annual “Frenzies,” which is my way of giving honor (or dishonor) to certain films throughout the year. It is my own personal version of the Oscars and to receive one of these coveted awards is, I’m told, the highest honor that an actor or filmmaker can receive. My year-end version at the end of 2008 was such a rousing success that I felt it necessary to dole out some Frenzies for the summer films that might not otherwise get a place in December.

Best Trailer for a Bad Film:
Terminator Salvation

I didn’t have any desire whatsoever to see this movie. When I heard they were making it, with McG attached as director, my mind was flooded with reasons not to see the movie. For starters, I didn’t understand the insistence on hiring yet another actor to play John Connor; I mean, I’m supposed to believe that Edward Furlong grew up to look like Nick Stahlwho grew up to look like Christian Bale? Besides that, I felt like the idea of making aTerminator film set in the future kind of takes away the fun of the little snippets of future we saw in past Terminator films.

Oh yeah, by the way, all of my fears were completely founded because everything I feared had come to life in this ridiculous and flat-out boring film. There is no elegance to the film like there was in James Cameron’s first two films; even Jonathan Mostow’s third film had the charm of Schwarzenegger, a sense of humor and a genuinely thrilling car chase. This new film was just lifeless, dull and ultimately meaningless.

But that trailer hooked me, convinced me to put down my twelve bucks to see it in theaters. The combination of some great looking images, all the best scenes and the use of Nine Inch Nails’ “The Day the World Went Away” made me think that perhaps this film would be a dark-hued adventure. Alas, it was just a really well-made trailer. Whoever cut that, by the way, deserves an award. Actually, he deserves a Frenzy, so congrats to whoever you are for that wonderful trailer to a terrible film!

Best Sequel: Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince

I’ve never read the Harry Potter books, keeping myself fresh for every new installment of a movie series that I’ve really enjoyed. All of the kids have gotten better and better as they’ve gotten older and the storyline has become darker and darker in correlation to its main characters – and its audience – growing up. Taken as one single movie, perhaps The Half-Blood Prince is no better or worse than any of the previous installments; but, as the sixth chapter in a much longer series, it continues to build on previous themes and evokes even more emotions because of our attachments. If one were to take the Harry Potter series as just one gigantic movie, it would surely be one of the most extravagant and enjoyable of all-time, a sort of wizard version of Berlin Alexanderplatz.

As it is, though, this new installment does everything it’s supposed to do. Most importantly, it sets things up for the inevitably emotional and exciting final showdown. Watching Daniel Radcliffe grow into this role, Alan Rickman chewing the scenery as Snape, Maggie Smithproviding a calming presence, the maturation of Ginny Weasley, the bond between Ron and Hermione, etc, it all has me a little bit sad that I only have two more movies left in this series. I will really miss many of these characters, which gives me a greater understanding of why the release of the final book became such a pop culture landmark.

Most Emotional Experience: Up

I think it’s safe to say that each and every Pixar film has made me cry a little bit. The ending ofFinding Nemo gets me every time, parts of the The Incredibles and Ratatouille get me a little teary-eyed, Wall-E certainly made me cry a number of times. But Up did me in rather quickly; it was during the moving opening sequence, the montage of Carl and Ellie getting married and building a life together. It is one of the most knowing and transcendent montages I’ve ever seen on a movie screen, able to evoke emotion with the smallest of gesture, trusting its audience to understand what is happening. Ten minutes into the movie and I was bawling.

Of course, that wasn’t to be the last time I would shed a few tears. In fact, the ending probably emptied out my tear ducts until the next Pixar movie comes along. It’s interesting that a movie about an old man who flies his house to South America with balloons and a chubby cub scout in tow, that is primarily designed to elicit laughter and smiles, would be most memorable to me as something far more emotional. I chuckled a few times and mostly had a grand time watching this fun flick, but when I think about it, all I can remember is that it made me cry. And that, make no mistake, is a very good thing.

Biggest Disappointment: The Brothers Bloom

Ever since I put The Darjeeling Limited at the top of my Best of 2007 list, all of my friends have been telling me I need to see this movie or that movie because of its resemblance toWes Anderson’s style. And I always respond with this: nobody can do Wes Anderson likeWes Anderson and most people aren’t really trying. I think it’s unfortunate, really, that a lot of filmmakers who are trying to make films with a very distinct style get lumped into the same category and are demonized for “ripping off” Wes Anderson. Most of the time, they are just making their own hyper-stylized and quirky films and folks just don’t have the vocabulary to describe it and so they compared it to Anderson’s work.

The Brothers Bloom is nothing like a Wes Anderson film, despite everyone I know describing it as such. I actually think Rian Johnson was attempting something more in the vein of a 70s film like The Fortune or The Sting with a little dose of Fellini mixed in and a tiny dash of Godard. But the unfortunate part is not what it was trying to do, but what it actually accomplishes. I wanted to like the movie, but it’s really flat and predictable and it has none of the pizzazz that Johnson’s first film Brick had in spades.

Rachel Weisz seems like the only actor in the film who isn’t sleepwalking their way through the proceedings. And despite every character having their own little quirk, it doesn’t help us to understand them at all. In other words, their personalities are so dependent on these little quirks that that is all they are. Mark Ruffalo’s character creates cons like stories…and that’s about it, that’s all he’s got, no more depth. Adrien Brody’s character, his quirk is supposed to be that he doesn’t have a quirk because he doesn’t know who he is without the help of his brother telling him what he is, which by its very nature makes him a cipher. Weisz is a collector of hobbies in the film, but she brings something else to the table, a warmth and humanity that makes her by far the most interesting person on the screen.

I root for Rian Johnson and I think he’s an incredible talent, so I hope this is just a sophomore slump and he’ll come back stronger the next time out.

Funniest Movie of the Summer: In the Loop

It was a tough choice because there were a lot of very funny movies this summer, includingThe Hangover, Bruno, and Funny People. But no movie made me laugh harder thanArmando Iannucci’s In the Loop. If you need any more information about why In the Loop is so great and hilarious, then just click here.

Breakout Performance: Algenis Perez Soto, Sugar

Ryan Fleck and Anna Boden’s movie about a minor league baseball player from the Dominican rests entirely on the shoulders of Soto, a first-time actor and amateur baseball player. The film charts his pitching path from the Dominican Republic to a minor league affiliate in Iowa, but instead of merely focusing on how the baseball minor leagues work and watching him dominate from start to finish, we watch him struggle to adapt to a new culture and trying to speak a new language. His struggles on the mound are given equal time as his struggle to order eggs in a diner.

Soto makes us feel his struggle with his wonderfully expressive eyes and his calm demeanor. His body language is what really surprised me because he is so calm and accepting of whatever happens, wherever life takes him, and the way he holds himself really underscores that feeling. Some actors say the lines that are in the script and act the way the director tells them to and give perfectly adequate performances. But Soto embodies this character so fully, understands him so well, that for brief periods of time we think of him as a real person. When he makes decisions we don’t agree with, we still care for him because Soto has such an endearing personality. I really hope to see more of this talented young actor.

Best Ending: Observe and Report (spoilers)

For most of Observe and Report, I was chuckling here and there, enjoying myself for the majority of the time, but also not terribly impressed with how things were playing out. And then that ending comes, the glorious last seven minutes of the film, that made me sit up in my chair and turn to my friend and say, “that was one of the most brilliant things I’ve ever seen.”

The ending, and the whole film for that matter, work because of the performance Seth Rogengives. Make no doubt about it, it is a real performance and a great one at that because it actually is one of the most fully developed portraits of bi-polar disorder that I’ve ever seen on film. And the fact that Ronnie has a mental disorder plays into a lot of what we see and while we might be laughing, there’s a real issue buried in there. Some people have called it a comedic Taxi Driver and that is exactly what the movie is, right down to the ending which may or may not be fantasy.

All I know is that I was kind of shrugging my shoulders at the film, but from the second that he shoots the flasher in the chest – causing me to gasp audibly – the movie went from shrug-inducing to sheer brilliance.

Breakout Performance Part II: Aubrey Plaza, Funny People

I remember laughing a lot at Aubrey Plaza’s performance as Daisy in Funny People, but I couldn’t tell you one funny thing she says. I think it’s because everything she says is kind of funny, the tone of her voice reminiscent of a female Steven Wright, deadpan and awkward. She’s like a nerdier Sarah Silverman, that beautiful girl that makes you laugh and makes you feel a little bit insecure about yourself. Plaza doesn’t have a whole lot of screen time in the film, but she makes the most of it, creating a real character that we feel we know. Apatow needs to write a vehicle for this woman ASAP.

Worst Ending: State of Play

I was enjoying this political thriller for most of its running time because of its intelligence and pace, a real adult film with lots of great commentary about the state of journalism today. I never saw the British mini-series that served as the basis, so I can’t say whether or not the ending is the same, but the ending of this movie was flat-out awful, ruining everything the came before. A film can get away with a mediocre ending if everything the came before it is good, but a film like this just can’t get away with a terrible ending, especially since the whole movie is building towards some kind of big reveal.

The problem with the film is that 1) the big reveal is not surprising and 2) it ends with a scene we’ve seen a million times before (the heavy who has a gun and is surrounded by cops) in hundreds of movies. It’s a shame because State of Play is such a smart movie for most of its running time, only to dumb itself down for the denouement.

Best Performances: Jeremy Renner, The Hurt Locker and
Peter Capaldi, In the Loop

I’ve talked at length about my admiration for these two performances, which couldn’t be more different; one is a rugged and crazed hero, the other is a whip-smart and crazed anti-hero. What they have in common is that they both command the screen and they create indelible characters without reminding me of other actors. In other words, I don’t think there’s anyone else that could craft these performances. After seeing how great Renner and Capaldi were, I can’t imagine anyone else in these particular roles. And as I’ve said before in previous columns, if they aren’t nominated for Oscars this year, then it’ll be a damn shame.

Worst Movie of the Summer: Wolverine

Okay, I could really describe almost any scene in this movie and just say, “I rest my case,” but I’m just gonna go with this:

So Wolverine and his brother have fought in almost every major US war from the Civil War forward. I understand that they probably didn’t keep records as well as they do now, but wouldn’t there be some kind of record that states that they fought in every single war ever? And wouldn’t they move a little higher up in the chain of command? And the thing about their aging, which is never explained, is why do they age properly until they are about thirty years old and then just stay at that age for the rest of time? From the 1860s to the present day, they don’t age at all, but from 1840 to 1860, they age twenty years. Oh and wouldn’t you think that being a live for over a hundred years would make them just a little bit smarter? Living that long should probably have some kind of effect on them, right?

Suspension of disbelief is one thing, but the complete lack of verisimilitude in this movie was astounding. There is no way that I will see a film that is more inept this year.

Best Movie of the Summer: The Hurt Locker

I don’t know how many other ways to say it. As I mentioned in my earlier column, The Hurt Locker is a war movie unlike any other war movie I’ve seen, which is due in large part to the fact that the Iraq War is unlike any other war that’s been fought. I think every war needs a film to kind of give it a style of its own, much in the way that Apocalypse Now gave us a glimpse at how a Vietnam War film looks, the way Coppola used music and colors and the way he used his camera; every Vietnam War film that came after owed a little something toApocalypse Now.

I think The Hurt Locker is that film for the Iraq War. Every other film about the current conflict has seemed derivative because they were referencing films about different wars. The Hurt Locker finally gives us the language for this war and its echoes will be seen in future films about the Iraq War for years to come.

– Noah Forrest
August 24, 2009
Noah Forrest is a 26-year-old aspiring writer/filmmaker in New York City.

The opinions expressed in these columns are the writers and do not neccessarily reflect the opinions of Movie City News or any of its editors or other contributors.

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Frenzy On Column

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It shows how out of it I was in trying to be in it, acknowledging that I was out of it to myself, and then thinking, “Okay, how do I stop being out of it? Well, I get some legitimate illogical narrative ideas” — some novel, you know?

So I decided on three writers that I might be able to option their material and get some producer, or myself as producer, and then get some writer to do a screenplay on it, and maybe make a movie.

And so the three projects were “Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep,” “Naked Lunch” and a collection of Bukowski. Which, in 1975, forget it — I mean, that was nuts. Hollywood would not touch any of that, but I was looking for something commercial, and I thought that all of these things were coming.

There would be no Blade Runner if there was no Ray Bradbury. I couldn’t find Philip K. Dick. His agent didn’t even know where he was. And so I gave up.

I was walking down the street and I ran into Bradbury — he directed a play that I was going to do as an actor, so we know each other, but he yelled “hi” — and I’d forgot who he was.

So at my girlfriend Barbara Hershey’s urging — I was with her at that moment — she said, “Talk to him! That guy really wants to talk to you,” and I said “No, fuck him,” and keep walking.

But then I did, and then I realized who it was, and I thought, “Wait, he’s in that realm, maybe he knows Philip K. Dick.” I said, “You know a guy named—” “Yeah, sure — you want his phone number?”

My friend paid my rent for a year while I wrote, because it turned out we couldn’t get a writer. My friends kept on me about, well, if you can’t get a writer, then you write.”
~ Hampton Fancher

“That was the most disappointing thing to me in how this thing was played. Is that I’m on the phone with you now, after all that’s been said, and the fundamental distinction between what James is dealing with in these other cases is not actually brought to the fore. The fundamental difference is that James Franco didn’t seek to use his position to have sex with anyone. There’s not a case of that. He wasn’t using his position or status to try to solicit a sexual favor from anyone. If he had — if that were what the accusation involved — the show would not have gone on. We would have folded up shop and we would have not completed the show. Because then it would have been the same as Harvey Weinstein, or Les Moonves, or any of these cases that are fundamental to this new paradigm. Did you not notice that? Why did you not notice that? Is that not something notable to say, journalistically? Because nobody could find the voice to say it. I’m not just being rhetorical. Why is it that you and the other critics, none of you could find the voice to say, “You know, it’s not this, it’s that”? Because — let me go on and speak further to this. If you go back to the L.A. Times piece, that’s what it lacked. That’s what they were not able to deliver. The one example in the five that involved an issue of a sexual act was between James and a woman he was dating, who he was not working with. There was no professional dynamic in any capacity.

~ David Simon