Kicking off Cannes Month with last year’s jury prize-winning tale of misfit youth, shot in the People’s Aspect Ratio of 4:3. After finding love in a hopeless place (wal-mart), Sasha Lane dumps two kids onto a woman line-dancing to Steve Earle’s “Copperhead Road” (“they ARE yours”), sneaks away from her boyfriend (husband? stepdad?) and joins hottie Jake (Shia LaBeouf, last seen in Nymphomaniac) on the road, selling magazines for group leader Krystal (one-note villainous Riley Keough, of Fury Road).
The characters are all useless, but as far as capturing a certain vibe/mood and creating visual energy with the camerawork, it’s a pretty swell movie, keeping me going for all three (!) hours despite some groanworthy choices (“Dream Baby Dream” when they talk about their dreams – later the new girl in Sasha’s place is named Drema).
There are so many extraordinary moments, beautiful shots and intoxicating rushes of pure teenage adrenalin, that it’s all the more frustrating when … American Honey stops short of being more than a fitfully exciting, occasionally trying and undoubtedly overlong experiment.
It works best as a rowdy ensemble piece — sort of a co-ed, mobile, present-day version of Richard Linklater’s Everybody Wants Some, examining the frayed bonds created among newly formed adults with few responsibilities and a dynamic torn between loyalty and rivalry.
Nobody wanted to pick between the Rohmer and the Pasolini, so I brought out the dark-horse Disney flick as a sorry compromise. I heard it might actually be great, but it was… okay. Had to get used to the digital animals looking so cartoony in motion, though their speech and mouth movements were the most realistic I’ve seen since Whiskers, The Kitten Who Can Name Fruit. Admittedly this was probably better in theaters in 3D, but we watched in HD on our big screen with the volume up, so I feel like if there’s real magic, we would’ve felt it. Anyway it was fun.
Songs worked better in context of the cartoon, and were pried into this version, making it feel like it’s referencing the original – so not only a remake for new audiences, but one that wants you to have watched the original. Between that and the cartoony animals wanting so badly to be real, it’s a conflicted movie – one of Disney’s “live action” remakes without much live action (the kid was okay).
Usually I don’t notice celebrity voice casting so much, but it’s hard to miss Christopher Walken (King Louie) and Bill Murray (Baloo). Katy recognized Idris Elba (evil tiger), Scarlett Johansson (evil snake), and Ben Kingsley (fatherly panther Bagheera). Apologies to Garry Shandling and Giancarlo Esposito and Lupita Nyong’o, I guess, for blending in and not sounding distractingly like stunt celeb casting.
Its jungle is a complete simulacrum: Everything from the birds to the leaves is artificial, which means that nothing can ever stand out as unreal. The ironic exception is Sethi’s manic Mowgli, mugging on partial sets against blue screen; in a digital world realized by a dream team of effects studios, the one real thing seems fake.
Never before realized that Baloo is a sloth bear.
Hosoda’s latest, which we watched after catching up with his previous three, was disappointing. There’s lots of incident, but we didn’t always buy the characters or situations, and the idea of a beast world that exists parallel to ours is only sorta-developed. It was maybe hurt by my recent love for Ernest and Celestine, which is also about parallel animal worlds where a grumpy bear takes on a sidekick, but Katy skipped Ernest and didn’t seem to be having this one either.
Boy and Beasts:
Very moody Boy gains a fluffy pet who hides in his clothes and isn’t important, then finds his way to beastville where chimp and pig monks introduce him to a filthy slacker Beast, who is challenging the beloved local Boar for grandmaster title after the disappearing Grandmaster Bunny (my favorite character, by far) retires. The boy is fed raw eggs and Karate Kids his way towards being a warrior by imitating Beast’s every move, then inevitably he returns to humanville where he meets his real dad and a girl tries to get him into school. And I guess the boar has also been fostering a human son (wearing an unconvincing genki hat), who crosses over to threaten the human world, turning himself into a whale after glimpsing a copy of Moby Dick (shades of Ghostbusters). Guess I don’t remember the very end since it was getting late, but one assumes the good guys are rewarded.
Also this happened, whatever it was:
Showdown in humantown:
Sure it’s the cutest-ever story of an orphan mouse who befriends a hermit criminal bear, but it also has major subplots about teeth theft at the behest of a sinister orphanage.
Also there’s a family with a dentist mom who works across the street from her candy seller husband, which is funny and low-key cynical but they don’t seem to deserve the chaos Ernest wreaks upon their businesses.
Beautiful watercolor backgrounds, often fading away at the edges. According to the codirector the writing was influenced by Studio Ghibli (naturally) and Kikujiro (ha!).
I was crazy about it, but something seemed off with the English voices. After just having seen The Little Prince and feeling Jeff Bridges was just perfect as the inventor neighbor, I wasn’t feeling Forest Whitaker as Ernest. The movie is short, so I watched it again in French with original Ernest Lambert Wilson (the American in Not On The Lips), which was perhaps an improvement, perhaps not, but either way a joy to see twice.
The movie that blew up my twitter the most in December, from “bear rape” to “movie pussies”. And it won the golden globe over Carol, Mad Max, Room and Spotlight. But it’s by Iñárritu, who I haven’t trusted since the putrid 21 Grams, and I was ambivalent to his oscar-winning Birdman. So surely the question on everyone’s mind is: did I enjoy The Revenant? Yes!
This one’s not done as a fake single-take – and who told me it was? – but rather shot with a grotesque wide-angle lens by the great Emmanuel Lubezki and edited by Soderbergh’s man Stephen Mirrione. I guess Leo DiCaprio is the gone-native white dude with a half-breed son and the two of them are well-paid to guide and protect a crew of trappers under siege by a group of natives looking for a kidnapped girl, rival French trappers (who kidnapped the girl), snow, bears, and worst of all, their own greedy compatriots. After Leo is half-destroyed by a bear, trapper Tom Hardy murders Leo’s son and abandons Leo to the elements, returning to camp to collect his reward for valiantly trying to help (Tom’s word against nobody’s). But Leo survives a million horrible things, makes it to camp and gets Captain Domhnall Gleeson (having a good year with Ex Machina and Brooklyn) to go after the villainous Hardy.
So yeah, I was convinced by the film, went along with the ride, edge of my seat like a disgusting, frozen, bloodied Panic Room, and didn’t even feel bad about it afterwards. Some folks weren’t as persuaded.
That The Revenant is egregiously overlong is almost beside the point; audiences will manage their expectations in that regard. What pushes the film, at long last, into the icy river, is its very design, as a monument to slick, mercenary grandeur.
He makes a good point about The Big Sky being a more efficient film, but did The Big Sky have characters named Trapper Hatchet In Back and Dave Stomach Wound?