F.I.L.M. of the Week (July 16, 2015)

16 07 2015

COGHad I not known “C.O.G.” was based on a David Sedaris story prior to viewing the film, my reaction would probably have been less enthused.  I would have chided it for being slight and meandering, simply jumping around a bunch of mini-stories without ever settling.

But because I knew, Kyle Patrick Alvarez’s “C.O.G.” made for a most enjoyable watch – enough so that it has earned my pick for the “F.I.L.M. of the Week.”  Humorist and essayist Sedaris (perhaps the single biggest non-film critic influence on my writing) has gifted the world with quite the treasure trove of stories to adapt for the screen, and this film marks the first out of the gate with his source material.  Alvarez, and actor Jonathan Groff as Sedaris surrogate Samuel, set the bar high for anything to follow.

Perhaps the highest praise I can lavish on “C.O.G.” is that it perfectly replicates the joy of reading Sedaris on the page.  (Yes, I said page because I’m old-fashioned and prefer the feel of paper running through my fingers.)  The sardonic wit and dry observational comedy flows effortlessly from the film’s two key architects as Samuel, fresh out of Yale, ships out to rural Oregon in order to encounter some real, salt of the earth humans.

He gets just that in his encounters with pickers at an apple orchard, factory workers, and some rather pious churchgoers.  Groff plays Samuel as a good-hearted person who cannot help but look down on the folks with whom he half-heartedly tries to integrate.  No matter the scenario, be it an unwanted advance by his affable colleague Curly (Corey Stoll) or an instructive message from devout Martha (Casey Wilson), we can see the wheels turning in his head that will eventually convert life into prose.

In some sense, the payoff is knowing that everything leads to what we see on the screen in “C.O.G.”  And given how well Alvarez keeps the observations and clever comedy in tact, it feels worth the time.

REVIEW: Frozen

8 01 2014

Disney’s latest home-grown animation effort, “Frozen,” seems like it’s going to follow in the path of their traditional princess narrative.  In fact, the film boasts two marriageable princesses that sing show tunes flawlessly.  Yet as the movie progressed, I couldn’t escape just how dark the whole thing was.

Sure, other Disney princess stories have their share of bleak moments, but they’re usually right before everything gets better.  From the get go in “Frozen,” Elsa (voice of Idina Menzel), one of the princesses, is banished to her room until she can control her magical power to create ice.  Because, you know, it would have just been too easy for some Disney-Pixar intermingling to allow Frozone from “The Incredibles” to come train her).

Her younger sister, Anna (voice of Kristen Bell), is left lonely as a result.  Had Anna’s musical number of desolation and emptiness pleading for her sister to come out and play, “Do You Want to Build a Snowman,” been a little less cloying, it might have had me in tears.  But the song, like nearly every other tune in “Frozen,” feels a bit over the top.  They aren’t really in line with the catchy Disney tunes of their ’80s and ’90s animation renaissance; they are stock Broadway numbers that recall the cliched sounds of “Wicked.”

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