Saturday, February 19, 2011

A Year of Film part 6- Cyrus

Viewed February... 7? Let's go with that.

"Cyrus," starring John C. Reilly and Jonah Hill marketed itself as an oedipal story about a middle-aged man who begins dating a woman with a 20-something year old son (Johan Hill). The son is fiercely protective of the relationship with his mother (The always-stunning Marisa Tomei) and will do anything to stop John (John C. Reilly) from pursuing the relationship.

The movie seems to think that it is telling a unique story about this relationship between the three people, wherein Cyrus begins to get passive-aggressive toward John and tries to sabotage the relationship. Unfortunately, despite the actors' best efforts, this movie doesn't do anything that new. In fact, there was a period of time when I was growing up in the early 90s when movies about new dads and preteen sons who didn't like them were commonplace and filled with people like Jonathan Taylor Thomas and Chevy Chase. In fact, except for the cursing and the sexual references, this movie is just a more adult version of 1995's "Man of the House."

Even the slogans indicate that this is almost the same exact movie. (And just for kicks, the scores on IMDB are Cyrus- 6.6, MotH- 4.4. This is the only time you'll hear me say that JTT got robbed.)

That doesn't really mean it's a bad movie. It's derivative, but it definitely had its moments. However, those moments are also derivative.

The plot of the movie is also both too fast and too slow. John meets Molly and follows her home the next day. It seemed by the third day he was already moving in. That's not hyperbole.
The crux of the movie is the battle for Molly between Cyrus and John, but that battle is such a slow burn that it hardly relevant to the plot, which is more focused on John's need for a relationship and Molly's striving for a balance between her new love and her old life. That is a movie in and of itself and it really doesn't need Cyrus at all to thrive.

The competition for Molly conveniently comes to a head at a wedding and Molly and John go through the requisite break-up-and-mopey-montage phase. Cyrus comes around and reunites the two. The movie is such a by-the-books story that it really puzzles me as to why people thought it was such a shocking film.

Overall, "Cyrus" doesn't prove itself to be anything new and its pacing needed some retooling in the editing department before shooting started. It toed the line between being a drama and a comedy and ended up being weak in both departments.

Seriously, Sundance? Why did this movie get such rave reviews when 15 years ago it was contrived kiddy fare crap? I guess it takes time to grow into contrived adult fare crap.

Wednesday, February 2, 2011

A Year of Film part 5- Waking Sleeping Beauty

Date viewed: 1/29/11

Imagine you're out in the ocean with nothing around for miles. While out there, sharks swirling beneath you, you come across a life boat. In that life boat are several pages, and those ages tell a great story, but it seems that the wind has picked up the first half and scattered them across the sea, and the writer died of starvation before finishing the book.
These pages are pretty good, but you no context for the story or the characters.

This is "Waking Sleeping Beauty." The documentary tells the story of the Disney animation renaissance between 1989 and 1994 (or, "The Little Mermaid" through the "Lion King" for those of you who know the canon).

It tells about the people in power at that time, Michael Eisner and Jeffrey Katzenberg, and their struggle to bring the Disney animation studio back from the edge of bankruptcy.

The movie does a fair job at this, giving us a brief history of Disney up to that point, but it's ultimately not enough. We never get the real scope of the situation. We have hearsay about the old films and how great they were and that the Disney standard is in the toilet. We have Roy Disney running around managing a company, Eisner beginning his "milk the brand for all it's worth" phase, and Katzenberg being wrong on every call he makes (cut "Part of Your World" from "The Little Mermaid"? "Pocahontas" will be bigger than "The Lion King"? Really?).

To really care about this movie we'd need a full history of Disney and the Nine Old Men who helped found the studio. We need to care about what is going on.

Personally, I think "Waking Sleeping Beauty" would have been more successful as a documentary about the history of animated film with the late 80s/early 90s as the fulcrum of the story. There is too much history before the movie begins and after the movie ends for us to care about the five-year vacuum that the movie showcases. We need to know what happened after the renaissance and what happened to our "characters."

Speaking of which, great documentaries have great characters. Christopher Guest knows this and has made a film career based on exploiting it. Even "King of Kong," which I talked about a few weeks ago, does a fantastic job setting up its characters. We know their history, we know why they do what they do, and we know what they're fighting for.

In "Waking Sleeping Beauty" we get none of this context. We are plopped down into the plot and told to care. In order to get more of the story, Lindsay Ellis's Nostalgia Chick video is almost required viewing.

"Waking Sleeping Beauty" does a decent job of telling us why this period is important in Disney animation history, but it lacks a care factor. There is nobody to cheer for because the documentary never takes the time to really introduce us to any of the people involved. The really interesting stuff happened as a result of the events in this film, so I feel like they should have at least been touched upon. Overall, "Waking Sleeping Beauty" will please those who have a deep knowledge of Disney's history, but leave those who don't wanting more.

You'd think she would at least get her profession right.