I think what bothers me most is that:
- This is news.
- The important element being reported is that “a fashion contract may be in jeopardy”.
I think what bothers me most is that:
Today I saw, Do Not Disturb (2010). I’m going to call this a fun, art house, anthology with interesting roots.
In a nutshell, this is a film about four strange nights in one hotel room. Each part of the anthology was directed by a separate director. These vignettes are held together by the room itself and by “The Maid” who spies on and occasionally gets involved in the stories as they unfold in the room.
As for the roots, the film was produced and curated, if you will, by Mali Elfman, the daughter of film composer Danny Elfman. The maid is portrayed, beautifully in my opinion, by Diva Zappa, the youngest daughter of music legend Frank Zappa. It has been suggested elsewhere that this is a case of spoiled little rich girls having the means to make films that maybe otherwise wouldn’t (and shouldn’t) have been made. The film is not without weaknesses, but I think it unfair to dismiss anyone for having famous parents. The film was produced on a very modest budget, as films go. I don’t get the impression that anyone’s daddy was just writing checks to get the project done. On the other hand, I’m sure it doesn’t hurt to be rich or well-connected when you want to make a movie.
I would say Elfman overreached. The film, where it is weak, falls on her. The project was ambitious and I personally enjoyed the result immensely but it doesn’t all work. Zappa on the other hand, I think is under appreciated today. The prettiest of the Zappa children, Diva brings a sensibility to her part that is at once, innocent, charming, and a little creepy. Try to imagine, Amélie, but with a dark edge, working as a maid in a hotel. I am a little concerned because she seems now to have dedicated her life to knitting.
In other reviews, I have seen the film over-analyzed, breaking down each story and largely telling them. I’m not going to do that. The entire film runs just over an hour and with five segments none of them are very long. Since the goal of my movie reviews is (almost always) to help you decide if you’d like to see the film, I’m going to summarize. One of the five segments just didn’t work for me at all. I’m not even going to tell you which one. On the upside, while I didn’t time the individual stories, I think this entire scene takes up less than ten minutes of the film. Also, the segue between the fourth and fifth segments is not like all the others. I think stylistically this was a poor choice. Because I knew in advance that there were five stories and because all the other transitions are very similar, near the end I was distracted looking for the last break. Then the movie ends and you realize you missed it.
A fun, funky, flick…flaws and all. For me personally, I’m calling this one 4/5, your mileage may vary.
It’s looking like I have not done one of these mass movie reviews since April. Well, I’ve seen a slew of movies since then. It’s a lousy time for mainstream cinema right now if you ask me, but in the last few days I’ve been through several indie films that seem worth mentioning.
TiMER (2009) TiMER is a near-future science fiction film where a technology has been perfected that allows a small timer to be implanted on your wrist that (if the other person also has a timer) will count down to the day (and then subsequently the moment) when you will meet your soulmate.
First let me say that while this is technically an independent film, it was clearly crafted by people with industry experience. Emma Caulfield is easily near the top of my list for under-appreciated actresses in Hollywood and while the rest of the cast includes no “stars” it is primarily made up of experienced actors with commercial film credits. Similarly, the technical execution lacks the rough edges you sometimes find in lower budget films. The film was shot on good equipment, is properly edited, and just visually looks like a polished professional film. The script is coherent and works well.
Like most good science fiction, TiMER is not not about the science at all. The actual operation of the timer device is nonsense and the thin attempts to make it sound otherwise would make an inverse warp-bubble conduit engineer blush. You should just assume that the timer is a magical artifact, making it “sciencey” just lets it fit into the otherwise modern consumer world more easily.
Rather, the film is about what this technology would mean to people. You can have a successful relationship without a timer, but who would choose to, when the timer offers you a guarantee? (At least three characters have their timers removed, deciding they are in love with someone who is not their “one”, all with different outcomes.) And, what would you do with yourself while you were waiting? (We meet characters who are saving themselves, as well as those who engage in casual sex, knowing they are just killing time.) What would it mean to opt out, in a society that embraced this kind of technology. (Supposedly, fifty percent of the country has timers, but the technology has been embraced and parents are routinely getting timers for their children at puberty.)
If the film has one weakness or at least one place where it is clear that this is not a mainstream commercial film, it is the ending. Through large portions of the film you find yourself sort of waiting for a rebellion against the technology that never really comes. The film seems ambivalent about the TiMER technology. It’s not a trick, there’s no dark conspiracy, it’s just an ordinary gadget you can buy at the mall for $79.95 that happens to change your life forever. In perhaps the most iconic quote of the film one character says, “I don’t believe we should have them, but I know that it works.”
I found the film thoroughly enjoyable and it has stuck with me, perhaps exactly because of the lack of resolution. It was not a huge commercial success. Based on the negative criticisms I’ve read, I have to assume this comes from an inability to get past the implausible technology and a general discomfort with what many perceived as a muddled message. Personally, I recommend the film highly. Shrug off the technobabble and accept that it would be complicated to sacrifice the mysteries of love for the guarantee of future happiness. I frequently describe movies in terms of other movies, TiMER earns a special place in my heart for being unique.
That brings me to The Speed of Thought (2011). In this near-future science fiction film, telepaths are enlisted by the government to perform clandestine missions, before they succumb to the disease that ultimately renders them all insane before the age of 30.
Unlike the last film, this one looks and feels like an indie film. The actors are fair, but they are the high point. The effects used when the characters are telepathically in each other’s minds are really terrible. (We’re talking college freshman film project terrible.) But, the real level of suck comes from the script. Seriously, I feel like I need to watch this again to see if it can be made into some kind of drinking game. The problem comes from these awkward phrases that are then repeated over and over as if saying them enough times will make them work. Telepaths are called “scopers”. It’s fine to make up a new name for a thing, but for most of the film the characters say it like it’s a word they know they just made up…in particular Wallace Shawn’s opening scene is nearly unwatchable. Similarly, the facility where the scopers are cared for is called “The Home” and they say it again and again.
I can’t say a lot about the film itself without spoiling various aspects of it, but if you can get past the dialogue the plot itself is actually kind of intriguing. I can’t recommend this one in good conscience, but if you’re a film buff…willing to look past the obvious flaws…it’s not all bad. Think, X-Men gone wrong.
And, last night, Exam (2009). Eight candidates vie for a position at a powerful and mysterious corporation. Having already survived some unknown preliminary trials they are now locked in a windowless room together for a final test. Given only a few simple directions the candidates are left alone for 80 minutes. Rather quickly things break down as the pressure to compete brings out the worst in nearly everyone.
This one’s a little easier for me to describe, in that I think it most closely resembles a corporate version of Reservoir Dogs. The film takes place in entirely in one tiny room. The cast consists of only the eight candidates, the test proctor, and a guard. While most of the film revolves around the candidates, Colin Salmon’s “Invigilator” has a screen presence that is just fun to watch and Chris Carey delivers what must have been a very difficult performance as the stoic (and silent) guard.
Now for the warnings, while not as gritty (in my opinion) as Reservoir Dogs, Exam is occasionally pretty hard. Characters psychologically and in some cases physically torture each other. I’m going to ask you to trust me when I say, it all sort of works out. Definitely worth watching for the sort of person who enjoys this kind of psychological thriller.