Posted by: kfugrip | September 4, 2007

Mixed Nuts

In order of viewing I’ll review the three movies I watched this Labor Day Weekend*. They are an interesting mix of movies with no theme what so ever.

The first was Superbad, directed by Greg Mottola, from the comedy duo of Judd Apatow and Seth Rogen. Superbad is a teen comedy for the teen comedy canon. It includes such staples as virgins looking to get laid before graduation, the quest for beer, and nerds brushing up against the popular kids. Jonah Hill and Michael Cera star as two best friends who will be separated when they go to college. Virgins, both boys agree to buy alcohol for a girl’s party, and the comedy ensues leading to the inevitable popularity and their procuring of girlfriends in the happy ending. Nothing wrong with that. It’s an excellent framework for jokes and comments on teenage life and friendship.

Superbad delivers on both but the comedy part left me wanting. I’ve seen the other films that Apatow has been associated with, as well and Freaks and Geeks and Undeclared(the fantastic canceled television shows) so my expectations were up. The trailer was filled with laughs as well but the film fell short of Knocked-Up. Perhaps it was the direction. The performances were good, and so was the casting, but the plot threads (McLovin with the cops) sometimes distracted from the narrative push of the film, which is where the bigger laughs were. I liked both the leads, which goes a long way in a comedy, but not enough to think any of the movie mattered. The problem is that I know how little ones teen/high school years matter when you get to college (which is where all of these characters are headed), and conversely how little college matters in the real world (see George W. Bush).

3 stars

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Next was Tokyo Story, by Yashiro Ozu, one of the movies mentioned on Paul Schrader‘s article that I have written about a few times. Considered a masterpiece, and one of the ten greatest films of all time, it would have to live up to those expectations when I watched it.

Tokyo Story is the tale of an elderly couple visiting their two living children and their dead son’s widow, in Tokyo. The couple is treated with respect but not love, as they are shipped off to a resort, where they have a bad time, only to return early to their annoyed and busy daughter. The widow is the most loving and attentive of all the characters who house and entertain the couple. The film is about the gap between generations and though it was made in the 1950’s it is relevant today.

I liked the film and thought it expertly made. Beautiful shots, compositions, naturalistic performances all contained in a an elegant story of loss made for an important film and I see why people like it so much. I did not think it was one of the best films I had ever seen. Not that there is anything wrong with it, it touched me and impressed me with it’s spare use of the cinematic language. I enjoyed watching it. There was a level of subtlety present that I was aware of and responding to, but perhaps I’m too young for it to effect me like one of my favorite movie would. I don’t see myself up there yet. I recognize that at a later point in my life that I will respond to Tokyo Story like it were speaking directly to me and my experiences but I see more of myself in other films. This is my only criticism, if you could call it that.

4 stars

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The King of Kong, directed by Seth Gordon, is a documentary about the world of competitive classic arcade gaming. The story is about Steve Wiebe, an engineer who is laid off and begins his quest to break the world record in Donkey Kong, a record held by personality extraordinaire, Billy Mitchell. The two play the classic hero and villain complete with conspiracy, as Wiebe’s high score isn’t recognized and he has to play it out live to beat Mitchell.

Gripping, emotional, and hilarious, The King of Kong is a look into the lives of people on the fringe. Many of the characters who populate this world are people you would fail to see in the grocery store. They are intelligent but not socially gifted. Billy Mitchell (who also rocks the mullet hairstyle) is the poster child of what they could be in their dream world. He’s confident, socially able, and married to a woman they probably view as out of their league.

The movie isn’t a freak show, however. There are interesting aspects to gaming, especially the old arcade games, explored in the film. There is a very real and heart felt story of a man, down on his luck, trying to prove that he did accomplish something. I recommend it as a feel good and funny documentary (which I watch very few of) and because it is bound to sneak into the culture due to it’s cult status and quotable lines.

4 stars

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*Labor Day is my favorite holiday

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