F.I.L.M. of the Week (January 8, 2015)

8 01 2015

Now that Paul Rudd has officially debuted as Ant-Man, I expect that we’ll soon have to start referring to him as “Marvel’s Paul Rudd.”  Plenty of clueless fanboys will totally think of Rudd as the next Chris Pratt, a comedian that the comic-book magnate picks up from relative obscurity and turns into a bonafide action star.  And I will be sad.

But then, I will wipe away my tears and watch another one of Rudd’s hilarious comedies.  I will think of the time he and I shared a brief word in London, and I will remind myself of how his affable characters appear to accurately reflect his genial real-life personality.  I will remind myself that he is the perfect choice to play me in the movie of my life no matter what career move he makes next (although BuzzFeed recently told me that Benedict Cumberbatch would play me, another choice that suits me fine).

And finally, I will watch one of his comedies that stand head and shoulders above nearly all the other mainstream output.  For the most part, Rudd chooses projects with smarter wit and keener insight than the usual macho lineup of flatulence, misogyny, and homophobia.  Perhaps chief among these is 2009’s “I Love You, Man,” the bromantic comedy that serves as my selection for the “F.I.L.M. of the Week.”  (Yes, I am fully aware this is hardly independent or little-known, although it certainly deserves to be more widely known.)

Rudd, rather than erecting a cool facade, plays his character Peter Klaven as unashamedly dorky and unabashedly earnest.  Though he means well, Peter often stumbles over his own nicety into the verbal equivalent of a pratfall.  The film begins with the happiest moment in his life: proposing to his girlfriend, Zooey (Rashida Jones).  After the initial bliss dissipates, however, things get awkward as Peter seems unable to provide enough groomsmen to match Zooey’s seven bridesmaids.  In fact, he does not even really have a potential best man.

Rather than disappoint his beautiful bride-to-be, and apparently unwilling to suck it up and ask either his father (J.K. Simmons) or brother (Andy Samberg), Peter goes on the hunt for a male best friend.  After a series of hilarious misunderstandings, he comes across Jason Segel’s palatably absurd Sidney Fife, a friendly bachelor that stumbles into one of Peter’s open houses while scouting prospects for a wealthy divorcée.  They hit it off immediately, easily finding conversation topics and mutual interests.

Sidney and Peter’s friendship is purely platonic, yet writer/director John Hamburg replicates the experience of watching a romantic comedy.  We get the beginning stage of figuring out tastes as well as boundaries; we see the way that they bring fulfillment to each other’s lives; we have the classic blow-up fight that turns into a dissolution of an amicable partnership.  As “I Love You, Man” progresses, it exposes the parallels between forging friendships and romantic relationships as well as the absurdities inherent in both.

Peter and Sidney are not just the average dudebro BFFs – they are types to explore and investigate the very nature of human connection.  Although, in the hands of talented actors like Rudd and Segel, they are also fully fledged people that I’d love to slap the bass with any day.

REVIEW: Celeste and Jesse Forever

9 09 2012

I won’t lie: I’m a little ready for the post-“(500) Days of Summer” boom of quirky romantic comedies to die down or at least start getting somewhat original again.  Not that Rashida Jones and Andy Samberg don’t make an infinitely watchable semi-couple in “Celeste and Jesse Forever.”  And believe me, I would much rather a movie buck the genre conventions than accept them completely.

But part of the charm of Marc Webb’s movie back in 2009 was that the anti-romantic comedy was not entire subgenre; it was just one movie that dared to be real.  Now, lack of formula has started to feel like a formula in and of itself.  This reactionary spirit is now starting to inspire that same thing that galvanized it to react in the first place: fatigue.

I have a feeling that perhaps the viewing climate for “Celeste and Jesse Forever” may be the reason why my reaction to the film was not quite as rapturous.  To be sure, Rashida Jones’ script, co-written with Will McCormack, of two best friends who get married and then have to separate to regain their friendship is well-developed and acutely perceptive about the nature of romance.  It’s even accompanied by surprisingly effective direction from Lee Toland Krieger, who uses the camera for powerful emotional impact in a way that humbly doesn’t draw too much attention to itself.

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Random Factoid #495

5 12 2010

We’ve been doing some debates in my Economics class over certain hot-button issues (bailouts, Social Security), and the sessions always end with an open forum for those not participating to throw questions at the debaters.  I’ve been particularly bold, throwing out questions that aren’t easy to answer without the debaters sacrificing their cause to avoid looking like a villain.  It’s earned me a certain … reputation, if you will indulge me.

So, who do I have to thank for this?  Two movie characters who I’d like to thank with this post:

Marylin Delpy (Rashida Jones) in “The Social Network.” Chances are you don’t know the character’s name off the top of your head; I sure didn’t.  Yet her impact in David Fincher’s “The Social Network” is so crucial, particularly in her final scene with the vulnerable Zuckerberg.  She speaks to her abilities to sway a jury in even the simplest of manners.  Delpy talks specifically about the power of the question; even if you can’t prove something, you can get a jury thinking about it by merely suggesting it.  A question has a power to sway anything even if that person has the right answer.  You can get them on how they phrase that answer, how long it takes them to come up with their answer, how eloquently they deliver their answer.

Nick Naylor (Aaron Eckhart) in “Thank You For Smoking.” Obviously, the smooth-talking lobbyist with a swagger all of his own is the main influence though.  As Naylor puts it, “Michael Jordan plays ball. Charles Manson kills people. I talk. Everyone has a talent.”  His pointed way of phrasing questions and insatiable desire to be right has definitely been very influential, as well as blending wrong and right to form this vast gray area through which Naylor walks comfortably.  As he says, “If I prove that you’re wrong, I’m right.”  It’s an interesting ideology, and one that can be debated over its correctness.  However, I have definitely learned from Naylor that if you are looking to quickly win an important argument, the quickest way to sway the tide in your direction is by proving the other person wrong.