The Movies We Love: Employee Picks From the Staff of the Dundee Theatre
This blog is by the employees of the Dundee Theatre. Each blog has an author and it is that author’s opinions not necessarily that of The Dundee Theatre or its management.
Blog entries may contain coarse language. If you are easily offended, please take note.
WET HOT AMERICAN SUMMER
Dir: David Wain
Cast: Molly Shannon, David Hyde Pierce, Paul Rudd, Janeane Garofalo, Michael Ian Black, Michael Showalter, Christopher Meloni, Amy Poehler, Zak Orth
David Wain’s retro-funhouse first feature WET HOT AMERICAN SUMMER is so alarmingly, disarmingly “1980’s” in its visuals and attitude that it, at first glance, appears to be a product of the very time period it lampoons. The costumes and vernacular and soundtrack choices all reinforce the tube-sock-y lameness of that ’78-86-ish time frame that brought us MEATBALLS and LITTLE DARLINGS and VALLEY GIRL, not to mention a slew of slasher films that merely replaced the good times and rock n’ roll with splatter and gore.
Within the confines of being entirely self-aware, WET HOT AMERICAN SUMMER also seems to lose itself in its own nostalgia a bit—in the very best way. Starring a cadre of comedians and former SNL-ers (Amy Poehler, Janeane Garofalo, Molly Shannon, Michael Ian Black) along with some genuinely versatile actors (the gleefully sleazy Paul Rudd, a loose-and-wacky David Hyde Pierce, SVU’s stoic Chris Meloni in a refreshingly google-eyed and hilarious turn) this is not just another teen movie. The direction, by former “The State” member, David Wain, is done with enough precision and attention to detail that it looks like a product of a bygone era. Wain’s crackling script (co-written with his “State” and “Stella” compadre Michael Showalter) knows when to bring in a more modern edge just as well as it knows when to play dumb. The performances are uniformly excellent, and the comic timing is mostly impeccable.
While not a reinvention of the modern comedy, WET HOT is more than a musty tribute to a bygone era. While it does get kooky (a can of talking vegetables, a day trip that turns into a heroin binge) it holds it together well enough to deliver a laugh-laden climax involving the return of Skylab during the big summer camp talent show. The big cast of characters—camp counselors, staff and the campers themselves—come together in a well-written conclusion that makes this a satisfying DVD rental for a hot summer night.
Available on www.amazon.com and Netflix.
Review by Jon Berch; theatre staff member
Director: Gus Van Sant
Followed by Elephant and the pseudo-biopic Last Days, 2002’s Gerry marks director Gus Van Sant’s first entrée in the aptly-named “Death Trilogy.” Starring Matt Damon and Casey Affleck (quite literally the entire cast), Gerry is a spare and somber meditation on choice, death, and friendship. The film begins with Damon and Affleck embarking on a hiking trip in the middle of the desert. After fatefully deciding to venture off the designated path, the two quickly find themselves lost in a vacant wilderness.
At a minimum, the film underscores the fragility of human life, but it is the cinematography of Harris Savides (Zodiac, Milk) that moves Gerry beyond a simple tale of survival. The frequent use of time-lapse elegantly shows the situation our Gerrys find themselves in: alone and running out of time. The act of walking begins to take on more and more significance as the film progresses. As the Gerrys set out on their hike, it is their carefree bounding among the desert scrub that gets them into trouble. Cut to the film’s final moments as they shuffle across a barren salt lake – frail and dying. It is a stark contrast, and highlights nature’s indifference to our own enthusiasm and ignorance.
In another scene, Damon and Affleck walk silently in tandem for nearly 10 of the film’s 103 minutes. It is an eerie scene that plays with our notions of what is permissible in film; but more importantly, it slyly brings us closer to true empathy with the characters. With each step, we too begin to wonder when will this end?
Gerry also offers insight into our modern detachment with the natural world. Damon and Affleck venture off the hiking trail- foolishly believing that in a world of conveniences, all paths will ultimately lead to their destination. The film ends darkly and profoundly- and we are quietly left to ponder what it all means.
Without a doubt, Gerry is a film that requires patience, but Van Sant is rewarding to those who take the time to fill out the picture.
written by Josh Weiner
Writer: Sam Shepard
Director: Wim Wenders
PARIS, TEXAS is a distinctively American film made primarily by German/Euro filmmakers near the beginning of the 1980s. The film has a dusty, lived-in feel not uncommon in the novels or adaptations of the work of Larry McMurtry (LAST PICTURE SHOW, his own adaptation of Annie Proulx’s BROKEBACK MOUNTAIN) yet maintains a certain European detachment from the actions of its’ characters.
Directed in the middle of a particularly fertile creative patch by Wim Wenders (culminating in what some would say is his masterpiece–WINGS OF DESIRE), PARIS, TEXAS is unlike most other films—thematically, visually, viscerally. It is desolate, but also warms the heart; erudite and literary, but without using flashy dialogue or show-off filmmaking to impress.
Shot by crackerjack cinematographer Robby Muller (also responsible for manning many of Lars von Trier’s famed “100 cameras” for DANCER IN THE DARK, not to mention lensing von Trier’s BREAKING THE WAVES, Jim Jarmusch’s GHOST DOG, Michael Winterbottom’s 24 HOUR PARTY PEOPLE and Barbet Schroeder’s BARFLY), the film is exquisitely shot–bright, evocative without ever quite being typically “pretty”. There is always a darkness or an edge to the proceedings—an unsettled feeling that permeates the film on most levels. The look of the picture suits its tale of a malcontent drifter (Harry Dean Stanton) reacclimating himself to the life and the child he left behind years before, creating an unshakeable mood that will stay with the viewer for days after a screening.
The performances by Harry Dean Stanton, as Travis, the nearly-mute drifter, young Hunter Carson as Hunter, the son he left behind and Dean Stockwell as Walt, Travis’ patient brother are uniformally excellent. Particularly affecting is Nastassja Kinski as Jane, Travis’ former lover. A scene near the end of the film where Travis and Jane reconnect for the first time in many years is an across-the-board success. An example of a long, slowly-paced, mostly quiet scene that is anything but boring.
Reassessed last year after a stunning Criterion Collection blu-ray re-release, PARIS, TEXAS has held up marvelously. The transfer of the film itself is flawless, and the extras, including extensive interviews with the filmmakers Allison Anders (GAS FOOD LODGING, GRACE OF MY HEART) and Claire Denis (WHITE MATERIAL, 35 SHOTS OF RUM) regarding their involvement as crew members are particularly fascinating.
If you’re a fan of deliberate, elegiac filmmaking, PARIS, TEXAS just might be for you. Available at www.criterionco.com and at most major online retailers, a la Amazon, Barnes & Noble, etc.
Dundee Theatre Manager
* THE MOVIES WE LOVE is a monthly employee blog where the workers of The Dundee Theatre share with you, our customers, the films they are currently enthralled by. Stay tuned for more reviews, and to interact with us, please feel free to follow us on Twitter or “Like” us on FaceBook!