The Passion of the Weiss

Sometimes I rhyme slow, sometimes I rhyme quick. But most of the time, I don't rhyme.

Thursday, December 29, 2005

The Movie of the Year

Generally, anyone who has ever spoken to me knows that I believe Hollywood to be a den full of whores and thieves who would pay Adolph Hitler $20 million a picture if he could guarantee a $50 million opening weekend. In particular, 2005 was a terrible year for movies, bloated with big box office spectaculars that I didn't even bother to see, no matter how good anyone said they were. In general, my idea of entertainment doesn't involve paying $15 a ticket to see a monkey running around Skull Island for three hours while sipping wine at the Arclight. There' s nothing wrong with liking those things per se and blockbusters can be enjoyable, but it seems that as the Hollywood studios consolidate, they are increasingly becoming risk-averse and taking chances on movies that are true works of art. So perhaps it's fitting that the only decent movies that seem to be getting made today are independent productions that are filmed on a shoe-string budget and screened at film festivals across the globe, with the film's producers vainly trying to land a distribution deal. Many of these Indie films only elitist and generally much too esoteric for their own good (just because a film plays at the Laemmle does not mean it's deep), but every now and then a truly great one comes along, the kind of movie that you'll praise to anyone you ever meet and beg them to see. The last truly brilliant movie I remember that fit this description was "Eternal Sunshine For The Spotless Mind," but now, there's another one to add to the Passion of the Weiss canon: "The Squid and The Whale."

Debuting in the middle of October in a few selected cities, the film which was made for $1.5 million (practically unheard of by today's standards) has grossed barely over $4 million. Consequently, as no studio would ever have the brains to touch a film so unflinchingly honest and intelligent, this film has essentially gone unmarketed and except for a handful of "intellectuals" and film critics, practically no one has seen it. And at first, despite the raves of people whose critical tastes I respected (shouts goes-out to Jon "Fish Out of Water in Shark City" Caren), I couldn't bring myself to watch the film. After all, it was written and directed by Noah Baumbach, the person who had collaborated with Wes Anderson to produce "The Life Aquatic With Steve Zissou," which might be the most disappointing movie that I' ve ever ever seen. But I'm thankful that I got over my own biases towards seeing the movie, as it's my pick for 2005's Movie of the Year.

Chronicling the tale of a family in Brooklyn in the mid-1980s getting ripped apart by divorce, "The Squid and The Whale," is a must-see for anyone whose childhood might not have been candy-cane perfect (read: practically everyone.) The film features a ludicrously good performance by Jeff Daniels in what is likely going to shape up as the performance of his lifetime (yes...It is better than his role in Dumb and Dumber...which I might add is also a very excellent performance). Daniels plays the cinematic alter-ego of small-time novelist Jonathan Baumbach (Noah's father) as he loses control of his career and his marriage when his wife, played by Laura Linney (also amazing in her role), begins having torrid affairs with a series of men and begins having literary success of her own.

But the meat of the film concentrates on the aftermath of the divorce and the psychological havoc that it wreaks on their two children. Perhaps the most outstanding part about the work is that rather than wallow in the pain and trauma of divorce it manages to address the subject with depth and humor. It brings out deep emotions in any viewer, but never manages to depress you, as you're too busy laughing at the pretension and absurdly large egos of the main characters to even notice how sad the story really is. There are so many incredible things about this movie that I could point out, but then I'd be ruining the surprise in seeing a movie for the first time. This movie might not change your life, but it certainly will give you pause about your interactions with others and allow you to assess yourself with a level of measured introspection (at least it did for the bloated ego of this young pseudo-scribe). So please go see this movie. You won't be disappointed. It is without a doubt the movie of this year and to be honest, probably of nearly any year.


At 4:02 PM, Anonymous Nate said...

I must agree...I like seeing movies that make me think and/or laugh...and this movie did both...I mean it's much better than spending $15 to see Brokeback-Kong...I love it when people rant: "I don't want to think at a movie, I just want to be entertained"...You can't tell me that watching a monkey prance around for three hours is entertaining. I would rather pay to see Kevin Federline perform some of his lyrically deep songs. At least I would get a laugh out of that. And you're right, just because a movie plays at an indie theatre, doesn't mean it's good (Fuckin hipsters).

At 5:19 PM, Blogger Passion of the Weiss said...

seriously, I call it the Brown Bunny theory, if you create controversy, show it at three theaters in a city and make it purposelessly senseless and esoteric, you are GUARANTEED to get a substantial portion of the population to think its brilliant. They're too afraid to condemn it and some other asshole will just tell them, "oh, I guess you didn't get it." It's based off of this movie last year called the brown bunny which I'm 100% certain is the worst movie ever made and Mulholland Dr. sucks too,I don't care what anyone else thinks

At 10:10 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Whoa whoa whoa... simmer down there. I know you far preferred Cheaper by the Dozen 2...It was witty, CLEVER, and above all, intellectually stimulating. So much that when you went home that night, you stayed up for hours just contemplating the nuances and ironies so cleverly placed in that film....and besides, it had Hilary Duff AND that guy from the Superman show-- what more could you ask for? Not much, I say...not much at all.

At 12:55 AM, Blogger Passion of the Weiss said...

It was between Cheaper BY the Dozen II and Rebound (which was also my 04' movie of the year and had my head bobbing way into 05) but Squid and the Whale had the "I don't know what." Sure, there was no duff but there was Daniels and a whole lot o' Billy Baldwin...nuff said.

At 4:03 PM, Blogger Andrew said...

Based on your recommendation, I will definitely see the Squid.

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