Tuesday, August 28, 2012

This Week In Tickets: 20 August 2012 - 26 August 2012

Busy! And potentially busier!

This Week In Tickets!

I had actually planned on going to two Red Sox games this week - even had a ticket for Sunday's game in one of my favorite places to sit (on the right field roof), but a combination of a little frustration at how the Sox were playing (which Tuesday's game only added to) and an invitation to my niece's birthday party which slipped through the cracks resulted in me skipping that and doing some last minute shopping on Saturday. Funny thing - when I was shopping for my 1-year-old nieces a month and a half earlier, I thought all the cool toys were made for 2-year-olds; shopping for Maisy's second birthday, all the neat stuff seemed to say "age 3+". Anyway, I didn't get to see the game (which, of course, they won, since I couldn't come), but I did see that this two year-old girl has a leg kick when throwing a ball (lefty!) from watching baseball with her dad.

Before heading to see the family, I hit up a few kung fu movies, and saw Robot & Frank after getting back. And then there are the two other indies I saw as well:

Searching for Sugar Man

* * * ¾ (out of four)
Seen 20 August 2012 in Landmark Kendall Square #8 (first-run, 35mm)

Man, what a great little music documentary; maybe my favorite since Standing in the Shadows of Motown, which was coincidentally also focused on forgotten musicians from Detroit. This one's got an extremely nifty hook: Everybody who worked with Sixto Rodriguez forty years ago felt he was one of the most brilliant songwriters in history, right there with Bob Dylan, but his two albums did nothing in the US. They were huge hits in South Africa, though, with his legend only enhanced by rumors of a gruesome on-stage suicide. Some Afrikaans music fans eventually decide to investigate the background of this enigma, and discover something surprising.

You know what I kind of love about this movie? The way it utterly dispenses with being interested in money and the music business fairly early on. Certainly, "follow the money" turns out to be an effective way to eventually find a path back to Rodriguez and his family, and there's an undercurrent of how it seems to be kind of unjust and suspicious that he never seemed to benefit from his success in South Africa, but the more we learn about the man, the less it seems he would be interested in such things, so while it would be an easy narrative and something where the filmmakers could get involved, we wind up with more about Rodriguez and the people he influenced.

It is, I must admit, kind of odd to hear how Rodriguez's music was influential in South Africa during apartheid almost entirely from the perspective of middle-class Afrikaaners; it's a valid perspective but naturally less compelling than that of the people who were actually oppressed. Still, the music itself is pretty nice, the animation and recreations used to evoke 1970s Detroit are atmospheric, and the story that develops over the course of the movie is a good one well-told. But most of all, it's unique; it's the rare music doc that doesn't seem to follow a well-worn path.


* * (out of four)
Seen 25 August 2012 in AMC Boston Common #11 (first-run, Sony Digital 4K)

There were ten of us in the theater for Cosmopolis on Saturday; three walked out and one took a bit of a break, and afterward, having stuck things out all the way through the credits, I figured I might be too stubborn for my own good. It's a thoroughly frustrating movie with brief, tantalizing glimpses of potential amid vast lakes of dull.

Take the scene with Samantha Morton (the movie really can be divided into "the scene with ____", as various people enter the limo Robert Pattinson's Eric Packer is using to slowly traverse Manhattan): It's kind of brilliant, with the two characters spouting economic theory inside this hermetically sealed luxury environment despite Morton's Vija not really knowing anything about the tangible things that make things happen as a riot rages outside the windows. It's a brilliant little encapsulation of where the nation stands, but it's in the middle of a sort of wasteland - most of the episodes on either side of it are just raw econobabble that stands no chance of hooking the audience, and Packer remains an utter cipher all the way through. That's not a knock on Pattinson - he plays this oddly inhuman person in a way that's entirely believable - just an indication that screenwriter/director David Cronenberg or original novelist Don DeLillo couldn't find nearly as much interesting material in the situation as they thought.

The real frustration here is that Cronenberg seems to have the raw materials for something but can't get nearly the results he wants from it. There's a nifty score by Howard Shore with songs by Metro, Sarah Gadon (whom it seems is a favorite of Cronenbergs pêre et fils) is strikingly icy as Packer's wife, and you really can't go wrong with the great character actor who pops up for the end and combines with Pattinson to elevate a deadly dull sequence into mediocrity.

Yes, that's the harshest damning with the faintest of praise, but that's what this movie inspires: The simultaneous envy of the people who cut their losses and left and appreciation for the scattered bits you get to see anyway.

Searching for Sugar ManAnother Red Sox lossThe 36th Chamber of Shaolin & Snake in the Eagle's ShadowThe Young Master & Shaolin TempleCosmopolisRobo & Frank

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Glad you enjoyed SUGAR MAN - not just one of the best Docs of the year - but, one of the best films, period.
I hope you give COSMPOPOLIS another shot. If you think of it as a sort of spiritual sequel to CRASH, I think it works on that sort of vague metaphoric level about society collapsing into a lack of inter-personal feeling devolving into the fetishistic. And, the last sequence is very very good.