Friday, August 28, 2009

A Shaky First Year!

Wow! As August comes to a close after flying by, a lot of great films hit which I would give four salt shakers to: Harvard Beats Yale 29-29, Trouble the Water, Tyson, The Class and Goodbye Solo. Normally I would choose one or two of these and tell you why to see them, but I didn’t want August to pass without acknowledging that this month marks the first anniversary of this blog!

Jessi and I worked together before she moved to New Mexico. I have seen so many friends come and go out of my little friendship fish bowl that I assumed we would e-mail once or twice a year before eventually losing touch. We are both frustrated creatives with the exception that Jessi works at it and I just repress it. Our e-mails would often turn to films we’d seen and we’d compare notes. As is obvious in this blog, some of the films she loved I hated and visa-versa. She then suggested this blog which I was dead against it since I see most blogs as self-indulgent and didn’t want to jump in that pool. However she convinced me to give it a try, nothing fancy just straightforward, concise reviews.

Last August, 'Salty Popcorn' began with Jessi’s post on 'Tsotsi'- I immediately countered thinking it was going to be the point-counterpoint deal, like the original Siskel & Ebert. We then both reviewed "The Savages" and "Surfwise", two great little indies and I put my best of all time list down. As we closed the most productive month ever, Jessi reviewed "Jumper" and I looked at "August" as we quickly realized it would never work for us to line up our viewing habits with the same films. We persevered somehow and this blog literally became my therapy.

Without going into detail we have both continued our struggle for meaningful work, again Jessi being more successful than I. I thought this blog would just die off since there were so many other places where folks could get opinions- but between Jessi and myself I feel we have added some original voice on the state of current home cinema. Even if we do have very light traffic, content is content.

I know one thing- as life gets me down - I do still find watching films to be my most favorite thing ever. This past year wasn't a banner year but through it all I have been able to watch many films I would never have had time for. Films inspire me and take me to a world as seen through someone else’s eyes. They touch and inform me- and remind me that the struggles of life are a common drama. I've seen artists who understand film as the 20th century art form and those who see it as a business churning out product. SP has allowed me the forum to yell at those who get it wrong and praise those who get it right. I’m still touched by heartfelt dramas and laugh loud at good comedies but unfortunately, more often than not, I feel like a hollow piece of crap has wasted my time and sucked out my soul. Yet that’s the point, I can suffer that turkey so you don’t have to. Even in my negative reviews I try to steer you to a similar film that got it right. So I thank you Jessi for nudging me into this. Happy Birthday ‘Salty Popcorn’! - Let’s keep the films popping and I’ll keep it shaking!

Your co-editor,

Tim

Monday, August 24, 2009

Dudeism

Two new releases this month tell of unusual male friendships- one for laughs and one for sentiment; both seemed overrated and predictable.

In “The Soloist” Jamie Foxx went with the advice of Robert Downey’s actor character in “Tropic Thunder” and didn’t play “full retard” just going with schizophrenia. Based on the true story of Los Angeles Times columnist Steve Lopez (played by Downey) who befriended a down-and-out man, Nathaniel Ayers (Foxx), who he discovers had some classical cello training at Julliard and then told his story in several articles. Director Joe Wright tries hard to beat the clich├ęs and be original, but by playing loose with the facts (and doing hokey things like presenting a symphony internally from Ayers point of view), the film lays the melodrama on when understatement would have worked better. Downey as usual is great and Foxx keeps his character credible but this is another case of the actors being better than the material. With forced flashbacks and a skid row that seems to be more “Escape from New York” than the real streets of LA, Wright and the screenwriters kill the reality of film despite the two strong performances up front. Trying to play a meaningful violin piece with only two strings again doesn’t work.

On the wackier side of unusual male friendship is “I Love You Man” written and directed by John Hamburg although it seems way similar to the work of bro-mance comedy director Judd Apatow. Paul Rudd is Peter Klaven, an LA realtor who is getting married but seems to just realize that he has no male friends. He finally bumps into bohemian free-spirit Sydney Fife (Jason Segal) who he connects with on the rocky road to male bonding. Along the way there are jams in the man cave, scuffles with Lou Ferrigno and some forced awkward man-dates. Unfortunately for me all seemed like a Comedy Central made-for-TV movie and the only laughs are when Rudd tries to speak hip – saying things like “Slappa da bass mon! “, calling Sydney bizarre nicknames like “Joben” and generally mining the un-coolness of his character to the hilt. Segal as Fife on the other hand seems completely unreal whether when he is threatening people who ask him to curb his dog, launching an unauthorized billboard campaign for Peter or engaging in primal scream therapy. Needless to say this all builds to a downright stupid ending. Reworking date movies for male appeal is a good idea, but they need to be funny, this one is all premise no delivery- totally ... totes my goats!