On loan from Chicago, comedy troupe The Second City is back at the Woolly Mammoth Theatre Company, this time with their production of A Girl’s Guide to Washington Politics. As you no doubt surmised from the title, the group skewers our nation’s recent leaders and the increased lunacy in today’s political debate. Aided by a set that resembles a metro platform, there’s even room for some DC-centric jokes. Topics include Todd Palin’s unhappy marriage, Nancy Pelosi’s pervasive bitterness, and, of course, the horrors of commuting. Some bits work better than others, but with performers of this caliber, you can always be sure there are more hilarious moments than there are misfires.
Leonard Bernstein’s Candide is cheeky, energetic fun. Using Voltaire’s 1759 as its source material, Bernstein’s musical satirizes western civilization with an equal cheerfully wicked punchlines. The music and lyrics are full of punchy wit, and under the direction of Macarthur fellow Mary Zimmerman, the production finds resourceful ways to convey its globetrotting plot. With a strong cast and several exceptional performances, Candide is an absolute delight.
I think Alfred Hitchcock would have enjoyed the premise of Florian Henckel von Donnersmarck’s The Tourist. The film centers on a wrongly-accused man and an icily beautiful woman, two archetypes that the Master of Suspense revisited often. But a dearth of suspense and onscreen chemistry would likely stop Hitchcock from admiring this would-be romantic thriller. Despite an A-list cast and lushly romantic locations, The Tourist is disappointingly bland.
End-of-year lists are fucking hard. Sure, they’re fun to read, but they’re agonizing to compose (for me, anyway). I could see myself spending hours, hours I say, comparing the merit of No Country for Old Men to There Will be Blood, or Closer to The Shape of Things. Frankly, I’m not willing to undergo such a painful endeavor. Rather than actually rank the best of the year, I’m going to embrace the arbitrary nature of such an exercise. Here are ten movie superlatives from the past year, presented in (mostly) random order with a (completely) arbitrary justification.
Given its subject, I Love You Phillip Morris is surprisingly affable. It tells the story of a real-life con man who lied to everyone, including those who loved him. The deception, however, is secondary to a genuinely sweet romance between the con man and a fellow inmate. Same-sex romance is less taboo in movies than it was a few years ago, so it’s surprising a warm-hearted comedy like this one sat in limbo for so long. With scenes of broad humor and unlikely pathos, writer/directors Glenn Ficarra and John Requa show again, as they did with Bad Santa, that they have a knack for gleeful irreverence.
Tiny Furniture strikes a successful middle ground between mumblecore production values and stylized dialogue. Written and directed by twenty-four year old Lena Dunham, who is also the star, the movie takes a look at post-college angst with wry wit. By refusing to pull any punches, Dunham’s characters are cast in a somewhat sympathetic light. Moments of dry humor and unlikely pathos punctuate uncomfortable on-screen chemistry, but the low-key approach deflates energy from otherwise momentous scenes. Many twenty-somethings may see themselves (or their friends) in Dunham and her fellow actors, though I suspect they won’t necessarily like what they see.