Tuesday, November 4, 2014

Film Review: Two Bit Waltz

If this had been billed as a student film, I might have tolerated it a bit better.  Sadly, this first-foray by Clara Mamet (daughter of David Mamet) is just not smooth enough to be considered off-beat or quirky comedy.  The problem is that it tries too hard.

It's supposed to be autobiographical, which is even crazier.  Does David Mamet hide under his bed all day?

I'm all for absurdest humor.  I love Monty Python and have enjoyed some classic off-the-wall comedies from the UK as well as the US.  But maybe that's my problem.  Nothing seemed original.  Sure, dancing fish and ballerinas out of the blue does make one pause and wonder, but I was a teenager when MTV was born.  Oddball videos were a part of my upbringing, so I have seen this all before.

Sometimes a film is funnier to those involved in making it than it is to the audience.  I have a feeling the cast and crew laughed themselves silly, but maybe because it was a lot of fun to do something silly, quirky and just a bit odd.  Unfortunately, this didn't translate into the finished product.  The audience wasn't privy to on set antics, so what we're left with is an essentially, flat, static image of oddball things being played out in front of us.

Had the cinematography been more fluid, perhaps a moving camera that picked up the flow of the action, maybe it would have been more interesting and I might have felt a bit more involved.  The camera was fixed in most scenes as things danced by (or danced within the frame).  Clara Mamet directed this piece, and one has to wonder if the fixed camera made it easier for her to direct herself, rather than worry about what the camera would be doing had it been in motion.

To be fair I walked out half-way through, so I my commentary is really about the first 45 minutes. I do not know what decision, if any, Maude made about college, or whether she had an epiphany that changed the mood of the film.  Quite frankly, I didn't care enough to sit through to the end to find out.

I waited a week before posting this review to see what other critiques there were online and so far found nothing.  I have no idea what the release date is, if any, so perhaps I just have to wait a little longer to hear what others think.

Thursday, October 9, 2014

Film Review: Whiplash

It's been a while, and I think that's because I only seem to write in this blog when a film or TV show touches me emotionally or causes me to think.  Whiplash is one of those films.

I have heard the OSCAR buzz about it and while I do think it has a chance with its powerful performances, I'm wondering how people feel about J.K. Simmons' character of Fletcher. I hated him.

I totally get the tough-love approach to getting people to do their best.  When I was a kid in school that was the way to do it.  A teacher or a coach could be mean, be nasty and push buttons to get the kids to do their best, much like a drill sergeant in the army.  It's not like today's "good job" coaching where everyone wins.  I realize why it's not done as much, because in some cases it's akin to bullying.

My view is that while I am on the fence with tough coaching (when it works and it's done right, go for it, but think about the psyche of the people you're using it on), I think Fletcher, while saying his motivation was to bring out the best in people, is a bit extreme in his practices.  In one scene he kicks out a note-perfect trombone player from his band probably because he felt the student was too weak and sensitive, when he didn't punish the real off-note saxophonist for what he was going after in the first place, knowing the difference between being in tune and not.  And the saxophonist was not in tune, but he didn't punish him.  What kind of lesson was that?  Playing favorites?  Do you think the saxophonist felt guilty or responsible for the ouster of the other student?  If he did, he didn't show it.

And yet, I'm reading in reviews that Fletcher should be applauded for his efforts.  Did I miss the point?  He wasn't too extreme?

I like J.K. Simmons.  If he wins an OSCAR, that's fantastic.  If the film does well, that's great as the characters are well defined and the music is great.  I just wonder if we are all reading Fletcher the same way.  Is he a hero or a villain?  Should he be applauded?