Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Homo Box Office

When I first saw a commercial for "Anvil: The Story of Anvil," I was fairly certain it was a really well-made mocumentary, complete with testimonials from members of Anthrax and Metallica about the influence the Canadian rockers had on a generation of heavy metal bands. And then when Steve "Lips" Kudlow and Robb Reiner -- who formed the band when they were 14-year-olds in the 1970s -- appeared onscreen, I was even more convinced. (They made the guys in "This Is Spinal Tap" look like the Osmond Brothers.) But as I watched the story of these old friends -- who work day jobs at catering company in order to support themselves -- struggle to keep their dream of finally "making it," I couldn't believe how powerful and moving this entirely true story was. (Seriously, I teared up -- repeatedly.)

Regular readers know that I'm a lifelong Woody Allen fan, even if he's given me little to be a fan about lately. (I agree with Matt that there ought to be a word for "someone whose work you once loved beyond all reason and for whom you continue to have fond feelings in spite of a measurable loss of appreciation for their recent creative output.") As such, I didn't even bother going to see Woody's 2009 release, "Whatever Works," putting it on a very short list of Woody films that I deemed not worth seeing on the big screen. (That list includes "The Curse of the Jade Scorpion," "Hollywood Ending" and "Cassandra's Dream," which you may recall completely surprised me -- in a good way -- when I got the DVD.) I was right to wait. "Whatever Works" is not good. Never one to shy away from being derivative of his own work, it's like he took the relationship between Max Van Sydow and Barbara Hershey, threw out everything plausible about it, then told the story a la "Broadway Danny Rose" with a dash of "Ferris Bueller's Day Off" -- oh, all of those minus any of the humor or charm. While it wasn't a bad idea to use Larry David as his stand-in (far more convincing than Kenneth Branagh, John Cusack or Jason Biggs), any good this brought was completely undermined by the ridiculously one-dimensional Evan Rachel Wood character.

What is remarkable about "Whatever Works," however, and almost makes it worth watching -- I said almost! -- is that it includes Woody's first gay character and features (212) dreamboat Henry Cavill is a fairly big role. (I don't watch "The Tudors," so this was HUGE for me.) The gay storyline isn't big or particularly meaningful, but seeing as Woody has still barely had a black person in one of his films (who wasn't one of Hannah's maids, anyway), it was kind of treat of sorts. (With Woody these days, it's the little things.)

That I'd gone a dozen years without seeing "The Ice Storm" is something I'm not proud of. (Isn't suburban angst my forte?) But now that I finally watched it last night -- snuggled on the sofa with Larry on my use-it-or-lose it "personal day" from work -- I can hold my head high and say I was not disappointed. (How Sigourney Weaver didn't win an Oscar is beyond me, and can we just admit Christina Ricci is a damn good actress?.) I loved "Swing Town." But the addition of Ang Lee and a far darker tone equals Kenny Movie Heaven.


Since Facebooking about "The Ice Storm," I've been told to check out "Lymelife," a recent indie (that I'd never heard of) described as a coming-of-age dramedy where infidelity, real estate, and Lyme disease have two families falling apart on Long Island in the late '70s. (I'm there!) There's a great cast that includes Alec Baldwin, some Culkin brothers, Timothy Hutton and Cynthia Nixon, although there's a Dr. Ruth joke in the trailer so I'm already concerned about the film's historical accuracy.

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