Wednesday, May 24, 2017

My Entire High School Sinking Into the Sea

Caught this on the last screening at the Museum of Fine Arts - I'd meant to get there a week earlier, but between trying to fit one last bit into Sunday morning and the MBTA's weekend shuttle-bus shenanigans, I got to the museum at 2:05 for a 2pm show, and between not expecting trailers before something at the MFA and the movie only being 75 minutes long (plus having to snake one's way through the building after buying a ticket), I bailed that day. So, if you're looking for a Boston-area recommendation, it's too late. Sorry!

I'm mildly curious as to how Kendall Square being below half capacity might have affected the distribution of this movie here. If they're running four instead of five screens, some stuff is going to get shoved to the side, and maybe they don't book another niche animated film anyway while Your Name has a nice month-and-a-half-long run. So stuff which might normally play Cambridge gets pushed off other places. It didn't much seem to hurt Their Finest, which opened at the Coolidge and then popped up in other places, but this movie probably could have benefited from opening at the Kendall, as the MFA's film program can be pretty far off the beaten path.

Of course, it might not have even opened elsewhere at all - even if GKids is pretty good at getting things into local theaters, this movie's weird and the audience for adult-skewing animation may not be that big.

My Entire High School Sinking Into the Sea

* * * ¼ (out of four)
Seen 20 May 2017 in the Museum of Fine Art Remis Auditorium (first-run, DCP)

My Entire High School Sinking Into the Sea is very much not for every taste - it's got a style of art and animation that looks primitive, hipster adults playing high-school sophomores and a bunch of self-referential gags. On the other hand, it tends to work because it's got a teenager's honest stumbling excitement of creating something without playing by the established rules; writer/director Dash Shaw will get an idea and throw it in there when asking himself why the heck not doesn't yield an obvious reason to stop, but not get so self-satisfied that he strings it out past the point of actually being funny.

"Dash Shaw" is also the name of the film's main character (voice of Jason Schwartzman), half of a writing team on the Tides High school paper with best friend Assaf (voice of Reggie Watts). The editor, Verti (voice of Maya Rudolph) is more taken with Assaf, and the bitter things he puts in the paper about the pair wind up leading to a mark on his Permanent Record. Sneaking into the school records room to remove the document, he and cheerleader/student councilor Mary (voice of Lena Dunham) - there to steal back her confiscated cell phone - discover that Principal Grimm (voice of Thomas Jay Ryan) have faked the approvals for the new rooftop auditorium, which is apparently extremely unsafe, especially with the school located at the end of a peninsula over a fault line.

I'm not sure whether I want to give Shaw too much credit for imagining high school as a structure where you must climb to the top - Tides High has each class on a separate floor, freshmen on the bottom - avoiding sharks that want to pull you under and apart before being airlifted out, leaving with the ability to write a story about how you survived. That's there, sure, and maybe it only seems like happenstance because he makes the rest of the film seem very casual, with the jokes either tending toward the silly or deflating such pretense. It winds up putting the film on the sweet spot of the range between high school being intensely melodramatic and just high school, self-aware but not smirking at how dumb this all seems in retrospect.

Full review on EFC.

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