Posted: August 31st, 2010 | Filed under: Theater | Comments Off
Mid-way through Sarah Ruhl’s In the Next Room or The Vibrator Play, now running at the Wooly Mammoth Theatre Company, two characters discuss electricity’s potential to revolutionize society. They live in the late nineteenth century, when light bulbs were still in their infancy, and speculate electricity might illuminate entire cities, or allow future generations to hear recordings of their ancestors. It’s funny, then, that the only other electric device seen on stage is a vibrator parading as a medical instrument. With a modern take on a bygone era, Ruhl’s orgasmic comedy focuses on antiquiated sexual mores, and the emotional turmoil it causes members of either sex. Moans and screams earn big laughs, and an emotional undercurrent pares away misguided attitudes toward intimacy and love.
Posted: August 27th, 2010 | Filed under: Movies | Comments Off
Fatih Akin’sSoul Kitchen is messy, good-natured, and eager to please. Unlike Mostly Martha, Germany’s other restaurant comedy with art-house potential, Akin populates his kitchen with flawed, bizarrely offbeat personalities. There are times when the energy flattens, but Akin and co-writer Adam Bousdoukos redeem the slow moments exasperated performances and jokes that do not dwell on their punch lines. There is also ample assistance from a soundtrack that memorably combines classic soul and European techno. Amidst the broad humor and lovingly-filmed food, there is even insight into how a mediocre restaurant can transform overnight.
Posted: August 16th, 2010 | Filed under: Movies | Comments Off
Proud parent that he is, my dad will occasionally ask me to update him on recent movies I’ve seen. Whenever I mention one with art-house appeal, Dad feigns disinterest and asks, “Yeah, but is there any violent gore?” The joke is my dad was formative in my early movie-going years, particularly since he introduced me to brainless action spectacle. I start my review of Sylvester Stallone’s The Expendables with a bit of nostalgia because it harkens back to a simpler time, a time where audiences required little more than muscles, explosions, and viscera. Longtime fans of old school action will feel right at home, but those who don’t remember Cobra fondly may find the excessive mayhem tedious.
Posted: August 13th, 2010 | Filed under: Movies | Comments Off
Edgar Wright’s Scott Pilgrim vs. the World is the perfect movie for indie-rock loving video game enthusiasts, particularly the lovelorn ones. With references to Zelda and canonized Pitchfork bands, there is plenty for geeks to admire. But if you’re not a geek, rest assured Wright and his team crafted a unique visual wonder, one that uses pop culture as a metaphor for post-college growing pains. After so many movies in which he essentially played the same character (Scott included), there is potential for Michael Cera overkill. Thankfully Wright successfully sidesteps Cera ubiquity with a pastiche of solid supporting characters, as well as a moving emotional arc. The pacing and manic energy sometimes deflate, but when SPvtW is working, it is peerless.
Posted: August 6th, 2010 | Filed under: Interviews, Movies | Comments Off
For fifteen years, writer/director Todd Solondz has been challenging audiences with his offbeat, dark comedies. Welcome to the Dollhouse took a hard, unapologetic look at adolescent cruelty. His follow-up was Happiness, a cross-cutting narrative that unflinchingly examined suburban ugliness. There is humor even amidst themes of pedophilia, suicide, abortion, and racism. His characters have a way of speaking in blunt, arresting language. Their harsh vocabulary never insists upon itself, yet it usually leaves an indelible memory. His work may not be for everyone, but braver moviegoers find his work thought-provoking and bizarre.
Solondz’s latest is Life During Wartime, a direct sequel to Happiness. Unlike most traditional sequels, the director replaced his cast with entirely new actors. For example, Jon Lovitz’s role is now played by Paul Reubens, Dylan Baker’s role is now played by Ciarán Hinds, and Philip Seymour Hoffman’s role is now played by Michael K. Williams. I had a chance to speak with Solondz about his latest work. I guess I shouldn’t be surprised that he sounds like a character from his movies: awkward and sad, but capable of genuine warmth.
AZ: Why did you choose to film a sequel to Happiness with a different cast?
TS: I don’t think I would’ve wanted to make a movie any other way. [A new cast] makes it all so much more interesting. With them, I have different colors, shapes, meanings that I wouldn’t have otherwise. Paul Reubens, for example, is a comedic actor like Jon Lovitz, but [Reuben]’s history makes the character’s story so much more sorrowful and poignant. I loved Dylan Baker so much [as Bill], but this time I wanted someone with more gravitas, someone who would appear like a shallow husk. Cirian Hinds was more suitable – I couldn’t achieve what I wanted with Dylan in the same way. I wanted Michael Kenneth Williams because I didn’t want anyone who would be reminiscent of Philip Seymour Hoffman. With new actors, meaning can shift and it can all be much more compelling.