Sunday, November 19, 2006

New Movies, Quickly

Movie reviews. A habit I have to get back into. You know, every week. New, at least. And so -

Fast Food Nation: kind of a miracle I saw it, actually. The newspaper (or the paper's web site) listed the time as 12 noon - the sign outside the theater, however, said 11:40 - and the ticket said 11:45. As it turned out, the lights went down at 11:45, 15 minutes of previews followed (all of them but Reno 911 mercifully blanked from my mind), then the movie. Good thing I turned up early, I was thinking at the time, though the truth is, there were only a dozen people, if that, int he theater, so heck....

Where was I? Richard Linklater's second film of the year - a fictionalization of a muckraking book about the evils of fast food. Structured like Traffic or Babel - following three or four narrative threads (a group of illegal immigrants, a smart girl working at Mickey's (a fast food joint modelled on you know who, though not you know who), and an executive at Mickey's investigating their bad meat. These are more logically related than the stories in Babel, since they are all set around a meat packing plant in Colorado (thus more like Traffic); and Linklater has a looser, less insistent style than Inarittu or Soderburgh, sliding between stories without the attempts to link them with sounds and images and angles the way Inarittu does. Unfortunately, like Babel (and Traffic, I guess), the stories are just sketches - there are nice moments in each of them, but they all come off thin. It's too bad I guess - the performances are worthwhile - Kinnear is his usual likable everyman/audience surrogate, but doesn't really get to follow through, there are some neat cameos, and the kids playing the Mexicans and American fast food workers are pretty good... But the stories are predictable and not that interesting anyway, so... what can you do. This brings us to another thing it has in common with Babel - whatever faults I can find with it, it feels like an absolutely necessary film to see, because of the director. I find, at this point, that Richard Linklater is someone I want to pay attention to - somewhere along the line, I might take some time to think about some of the things he does as a filmmaker: it's interesting because his style is not really obvious, the main link between his films seems to be his sensibility and storytelling... but there are some things... I found myself noticing spaces in this film - the way he shot things to always kind of let your eye leave the scene. There are "openings" in what he shoots - doors and windows and blank spaces and holes that open the space. It looks casual, almost accidental, but I don't know if it is. It's not something I notice in every film I see. So - that might be worth thinking about somewhere down the line.

For Your Consideration: Christopher Guest and company take on Hollywood. Catherine O'Hara, Harry Shearer and Parker Posey are the leads, perhaps - they are at least the characters imagining themselves up for Oscar consideration. The usual gang supports them - Fred Willard, Jane Lynch, Jennifer Coolidge, Ed Begley Jr., Guest and Michael McLean, Larry Miller, Bob Balaban, Michael Hitchcock, Don Lake - and more! with Ricky Gervais turning up in a few scenes, and plenty more... It's a straight movie this time - there's no pretense at making a documentary - though things like the EPK and a bunch of TV shows give plenty of opportunity for the kind of interview format Guest loves... Okay. It's funny, it's nice - but it's probably the least of Guest's films - it's amusing, but not as funny as the first two, and less poignant than A Mighty Wind (the Mitch and Mickey parts, anyway). Still good, just not up to his rather high standards.

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