Thursday, August 10, 2017

"Talking About Some Movies 2 - Or The Sequel - Or Simply The Stuff I was Unable To Fit In Yesterday"

Go figure.  Two romantic comedies that don’t stink.  I am not a fan of that particular sub-genre.  (I got the “subgenre” from a review.  I have no idea what the overall “umbrella” genre is.  “Movies”?  Go crazy, critics.  Call it a “genre.”)

Romantic comedies are agonizingly predictable: two people who are right for each other ultimately end up together.  “Wow!  I did not see that coming!”  What you are then left with is “the Journey.”  Which, for me, is like going to a movie about the Alamo:  You keep looking at your watch until everybody is dead. 

Except at the end of it, there’s a wedding.

Okay, let’s stop this hilarious preamble before this extends into an unwarranted three-parter.  (People have been known to fall in love with the sound of their own typing, and I refuse to be one of them.  At least, not this time.)

Two movies I enjoyed, the second one more than the first, though by a meaningless fraction.  Although tell that to the runner-up that lost the Kentucky Derby by a nostril.


The Big Sick

A movie based on actual events, written by the couple it actually happened to, and he stars in it and she lets an actress it actually didn’t happen to play her.  (Unless she wanted to play herself in the movie and they said no.  (“I’m sorry.  You are  unconvincing as ‘You.’  And not as physically attractive as the ‘fake’ you.”)

Thumbnail Summary:  Pakistani comedian falls for, in his words, “a white girl”, but keeps it secret from his family who insist on an arranged marriage within the proverbial “tribe.”  The smitten “white girl”, discovering the subterfuge, immediately angrily breaks up with him.  She then gets extremely sick – hence, the title of the movie – and is put into an induced coma.  The Pakistani comedian-boyfriend insistently stays in the picture, establishes a relationship with the girl’s parents… and we will leave it at that.  I dislike writing movie summaries, and also talking about the lighting.  I like giving my impressions, and that’s it.

Here then are my impressions concerning The Big Sick (which I believe was not a market-tested title; otherwise, it would be called something people might more happily want to buy tickets to.)

Judd Apatow, the production company “muscle” behind The Big Sick is a genius at one thing.  Actually, two things, but the considered more important one – his ability to know what audiences like – is of little significance to me.  What can I do?  I am what I am, and he is what he is.  Which is enormously more popular than me.

The thing that Judd Apatow is a genius at that truly impresses me is that somehow – and I am not exactly sure how – he manages to infuse his productions with genuinely authentic-feeling, conversational interludes, erasing all manner of cinematic artifice (once considered to be essential), making you feel not like you are watching actors spouting memorized lines in a movie but instead eavesdropping on naturally funny people playfully ribbing each other.

It happens in every one of his movies.  So it is goes way past “a fluke”, becoming instead, “I know how to do something that has never been done before, except by John Cassavetes, and he wasn’t funny.”

Every bantering scene in The Big Sick feels refreshingly honest and frequently hilarious.  Nothing contrived.  Nothing demonstrably stilted.  In fact, early on, I began thinking, “The Big Sick is, like, a perfect movie.”

And then it subsequently became less so.

The obligatory “story point” arcs – not so believable.  The characters’ dramatic transitions – as gratingly “writerly” as the conversational interludes felt natural. 

The lack of actual “star power”?  At the beginning, I loved it, because recognized movie stars can pull you out of the situational reality.  But movie stars are big stars for a reason – you cannot take your eyes off them.  Regular people, you can.  To me, the only close-to-movie-star presence is Zoe Kazan and they put her in a coma.  Wait.  Holly Hunter’s a star too.  But she does way too much acting, while everyone else is just being.  It’s like she went, “I went to acting class for a reason.  I am usin’ that stuff!”  And the others went, “We didn’t go to acting class, so we’re just going to be us (making you look ‘unnaturally mannered’ by contrast.)” 

Also, the film began to feel endless.  Like streaming series sitcom episodes one after the other.

Summary:  The Big Sick – a seemingly perfect movie that lost steam as it went on.  But it was wonderful when it was good.

Do I have time for this next one?  I’ll keep it short, though I liked this film better, which seems backwards, but what can I tell you?  I am a seriously flawed individual.

Lost In Paris

De-licious.   Or, since it takes place in Par-ee, delicieux or delicieuse.  Or possibly something more accurate.

Again, a mixture of cinematic and real, in this case, a real-life husband-and-wife team writing, directing and starring in the movie.  And boy, do these guys know each other’s rhythms.  Especially when they’re dancing. 

Lost in Paris is sweet and buoyant and imaginative and funny, especially physically funny, which is rare because it is really hard to pull off.  In one scene, the leading lady – imagine Olive Oyl portrayed by a young Emma Thompson – and a Canadian to boot – her small Canadian flag flapping madly at the top of her backpack even when there’s no wind – anyway, the poor woman gets her nose caught between the closing doors of an elevator.  Sounds “ouchy”, but I am smiling, just remembering it. 

Cribbing from Ben Kenigsberg’s New York Times review – because I’m lazy and I am running out of time, but also because it is insightfully accurate – Lost in Paris combines the antic grace and comedic charm – that part was me, the next part is Kenigsberg – that is… what the heck, I’ll put it in quotes:

“… equal parts Jacques Tati, Jerry Lewis (without the maudlin – that’s me, too), Wes Anderson and ‘Wallace and Gromit.’”  Hoping those references are meaningful because they are right on the money.

Lost in Paris – a silly, blissful, comically inventive romantic comedy. 

“Highly Recommended.”  (Though unlikely available at the AMC Showplace Michigan City 14.  Although The Emoji Movie is.) 

My original assertion was that all movies are different.  The thing is, not all “differences” are equal.  Some “differences” are better than others.  Of course, different people rate those unequal differences differently.

So in the end, you have to decide for yourself.

Which, in a liberal democracy, is exactly the way it should be.

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