They replaced my hard drive, but it seems that they forgot to go over the corrupted bits from the old one...also, my CD drive bit the dust while in the shop and will be repaired by monday. IN the meantime, they gave me CD backups of my review files.
Here's the stuff I should have put up over the past week:
I’m not sure what inspired Steven Soderbergh and his writing partner Coleman Hough to do this thing, perhaps it was the budget (a few hours pay for one real movie star), perhaps it was acclaim for returning to indie roots with an entirely amateur production.
Martha (Debbie Doebereiner) is a doormat living somewhere along the Ohio/West Virginia border. She works at a doll factory and takes care of her disabled father. It seems that her “bestest friend” is her coworker Kyle (Dustin James Ashley), who has a couple of other jobs. This being the permanent recession in the Midwest, everybody has to have at least three jobs. These are unfortunate nobodies living lives of quiet desperation. The kind of thing beginning filmmakers like to make films about.
While we’re being bored to tears, in comes Rose (Misty Dawn Wilkins), a single mother who’s far prettier than the oldish, dowdy Martha. Rose is a manipulative bitch and a bit of a thief to boot. Therefore she has to die. Who did it? This is the most obvious murder mystery in many a year. I’m not exactly sure why such a major talent as Soderbergh would make a film as amateurish as this one. The script is boring, the acting atrocious, the direction is poor,...what the hell happened here? I had thought that his and Hough’s “Full Frontal” was the worst thing he ever did. But nooooooooo. This is a new low, an amateur film by a consummate professional. Soderbergh should be ashamed of himself.
THE SQUID AND THE WHALE (USA)
Written and Directed
by Noah Baumbach
The breakup of a marriage is something that has fascinated literary types for many a century, and like the beasts in the title, the two participants frequently fight to the death. The question is which is the squid and which is the whale. We’re never actually sure.
This is also a tale about ambiguity and pretentiousness. Bernard(Jeff Daniels) and Joan(Laura Linney) have been married for going on twenty years. He’s a famous writer, and she’s about to become one. They’ve got two kids, Walt(Jesse Eisenberg) being in the latter part of high school and Frank(Owen Kline) about enter it.
All of the above quartet are highly intelligent morons. If you look up the word “arrogant” you would find Bernard’s picture. We soon find out that Joan has been cheating on Bernard for a few years. The kids find out about it as the parents complain about each other. Soon they’re separated and making the extreme effort to turn the kids against the other parent. This, to some extent actually works. Not only do the two brothers turn against one of the parents, it drives young Frank to drink and sexual deviancy.
Meanwhile, Bernard starts shacking up with one of his students(Anna Paquin) and Joan starts going out with a local tennis pro(William Baldwin), who’s also Frank’s tennis instructor. This makes things worse.
This is one of those movies that’s like a train wreck. It’s horrifying, but you can’t take your eyes off of it. It’s not what you’d call enterainment, although it has some really good performances and is morally instructive.
However, it’s not really worth the money.
THE DEATH OF MR. LAZARESCU (Romania)
Written and Directed
by Cristi Puiu
Feature versions of TV shows very rarely work. The reason is that there’s no real reason for them. Sometimes however, a filmmaker of genius may figure out how to steal a basic idea in an original way, which is the case here. A fan of “ER,” filmmaker Cristi Puiu wanted to do a Romanian version, so he decided to have his doctors and paramedics deal two disasters one quite major, and one quite small.
The big one is in the background. A bus full of tourists has been slammed by a truck, causing a major multiple vehicle collision and dozens and dozens of casualties, and we don’t see any of the victims up close, or the accident at all because we are focusing on the small one, the one mentioned in the title of the film.
Mr. Lazarescu(Ioan Fiscuteanu) is a retiree living in a Bucherest flat with his numerous cats and lots of liquor. Today, he’s got a whopper of a headache and painful digestive system. Unable to take it anymore, he calls the paramedics, and when they don’t show up, he goes to his next door neighbors(Doru Ana and Dana Dogaru) and asks for pills.
The wife doesn’t like our hero because he’s a drunk, and introduced her husband to liquor, but she can see that Mr. Lazarescu is genuinely sick, so they take care of him until the paramedics,
Mioara(Luminita Gheorghiu) and Leo(Gabriel Spahieu), finally show up. Mioara examines him and knows the jig may be up.
Now the problems the two paramedics and Mr. Lazarescu face are formidable: first off Mr. L is a drunk, and in general most doctors are unsympathetic to alcoholism over in the former second world. Second is the first mentioned disaster, dozens and dozens of badly injured people who have priority.
This is not, as advertised a heartless system that ignores the sick, no, in fact Mr. L. gets the best of care under the circumstances. The doctors and nurses, except for maybe one or two, are treated completely sympathetically. We understand where they’re coming from, and Mr. L isn’t helping all that much with his own case.
Luminita Gheorghiu as the paramedic Mioara gives a really powerful performance, she’s the hero of the thing as she goes around trying to save Mr L not only from his ailment, but from the rest of the medical profession who are arrogant and venial, despite the honesty of their efforts. It’s one of those films where we root for almost everybody and is definitely worth a look.
I AM (Jestem)
Written and Directed
by Dorota Kedzierzawska
Children sometimes fall through the cracks. We’re never actually given our protagonist’s(Piotr Jagielski) name, sometimes he’s called Sonny boy, other times he’s called the Mongrel. Whatever he’s called nobody really likes him all that much. When he’s humiliated at a poetry recital by the powers that be at the orphanage he lives in, and is then given a choice between starvation and a meal he doesn’t like, he escapes and heads home.
This might have very well have been a mistake. For his mother is the town whore and he finds her sleeping with a client. He violently rejects her, then he rejects him. Nobody likes him back home, and it’s quite possible that he did something horrible, as all the kids in town try their best to beat the crap out of him.
He hides in an abandoned barged near a smallish mansion, where lives a cute little girl(Agnieszka Nagorzycka) with whom he has a chaste romance. She has self-esteem problems, so does he. She has plenty of food, so she feeds him. Nobody seems to care where he came from or where he’s going.
This is a rather sad and lyrical little film. The two lead kids are terrific, but while this is great for the film festival circuit or effete aficionados of cultured cinema, there’s no real market for this beyond the art house.
Methadonia is a land of junkies. Methadone doesn’t get you all that high, but getting off of it is harder than the heroin it’s supposed to replace. Filmmaker Michel Negroponte follows several clients of one clinic over a period of years while they try to get their lives together.
This is almost a different world, and we root for the junkies as they try to either get straight or get a life. Some do and some don’t. The majority of the people followed are either middle aged or downright old. Which makes it all the more heartrending. One generally thinks of junkies as just kids, and this is far from the case.
The film is going to appear on HBO just after the festival ends, and it might be worth a look. Very educational.