F.I.LM. of the Week (August 12, 2011)

12 08 2011

Long before Jesse Eisenberg got slapped by Laura Linney, worked at an amusement park with the annoying “Twilight” chickfought zombies, escorted grey-haired Michael Douglas around a college campuscreated social networks, or robbed a bank with a bomb strapped to his chest, he made one heck of a performance in a little movie called “Roger Dodger,” my pick for the “F.I.L.M. of the Week.”  His cinematic debut at the age of 19 still stands as one of his most impressive works, full of the same richness, depth, and neuroticism that has made the Oscar-nominated actor one of the brightest shining faces of a new Hollywood order.  Alongside seasoned pros like Campbell Scott and Isabella Rossellini, Eisenberg propels the movie to some impressively high heights.

Long before Ryan Gosling turned bar pick-ups into an art in “Crazy Stupid Love,” Campbell Scott’s Roger Swanson saw everything in the world through the lens of sex.  In a brilliant take on evolution in the opening scene, he composedly explains how it is the final utility to left to man – and how in the future, once it’s gone, men will be totally obsolete and unnecessary.  Soon after, he’s dumped by his stalwart mistress and boss Joyce (Rossellini) and left in the doldrums to wallow in fear of his irrelevance.

But a surprise comes in the form of his 16-year-old nephew Nick, played by the tense and naive Eisenberg, who has heard that his uncle is quite the libido-driven lothario and wants a sort of real-world sex-ed class.  Roger begins by exposing Nick to all the sex around him that he’s totally oblivious too and then dumps him in situations for seduction with some beautiful older women.  Despite being with a living, breathing manual for these kinds of moments, Nick can never execute, scaring Roger into thinking that the night will have to end with a prostitute.

It’s a fascinating evening as Nick is forced to confront his sexual limits amidst Roger’s mid-life crisis which is forcing him to confront the implications and consequences of his own sexual behavior.  Scott and Eisenberg animate these fascinating self-examinations with a humorous yet probing seriousness.  They are undoubtedly helped by writer/director Dylan Kidd, whose script is intelligent and asks some challenging questions to both the characters on screen and the audience watching them.  A fan can only hope that Eisenberg keeps getting golden material like this to highlight his exceptional showmanship.

F.I.L.M. of the Week (August 5, 2011)

5 08 2011

I decided to hold using Charles Ferguson’s “No End in Sight” for my pick as “F.I.L.M. of the Week” (contrived acronym meaning First-Class, Independent Little-Known Movie) as I didn’t think it would be proper to publicize a movie critical of the government when Washington was in the midst of a debt ceiling deadlock.  But now that the debacle has put postponed the doomsday clock until 2013, I figure now it’s no longer kicking a man while he’s down.

Much like he did in his Academy Award-winning documentary “Inside Job,” Ferguson sees a blunder and ruthlessly investigates and holds everyone responsible.  While he has a pointed emphasis on the cabinet of George W. Bush, no one goes unexamined in this tale an operation gone tragically wrong in the face of simple, avoidable mistakes that were the result of clarity-blinding egos.  Ferguson is simply the best documentarian out there at taking complex things like the War in Iraq and breaking them down into simple, understandable components without dumbing down the entire movie.

He shows how the Persian Gulf War fought under the first President Bush led to mistaken assumptions that the Shi’ites would welcome a United States invasion, just as Donald Rumsfeld mistakenly believed that we could invade them with half the troops.  By giving us this tragic set-up, Ferguson makes the botched administration of the occupation magnify in disastrous impact.  While some might argue that Ferguson only presents one side of the story, his interviewees are highly competent and he, along with narrator Campbell Scott, matches their level-headed retrospect.  It’s less a call for heads as it is a call for reason and logic.  If Libya were to go south, I guarantee Ferguson would make “No End in Sight 2” and point the same finger at President Obama.