Monday, June 15, 2009

Up, Away We Go, and Others

To use Dono's helpful and apt term, now it's time for another omnibus edition of Wrestling Entropy.

First off: Up, you guys! Of course, it's utterly delightful. The sublime image of the house floating over the cityscape, held aloft by that riot of candy-colored balloons brought tears to my eyes, and the simple but golden "chipmunk voice" gag with the dog collar made me laugh so hard that some lady in the theater turned around to glare at me. But, as with WALL-E, perhaps what left me most breathless was the filmmakers' obvious familiarity with and affection for film history: did anyone else catch the Eadweard Muybridge reference over the closing credits? I laughed hard, sharply, once, then sat there stunned as the image disappeared--did that really just get tossed off like that? 'Cause damn. Not to mention several of those loooong "wait for it" sight gags (Carl descending the staircase on the chairlift, Russell being dragged across the dirigible window) felt clearly influenced by Jacques Tati's sensibility (especially Playtime).

But more than any of that, I was deeply touched by the emotional poetry of the thing. For those of you who know a little about my family, the story reminded me a hell of a lot of my dad (only without the redemption [ouch]): crotchety old bastard can't let go of either his memories of the past or his stuff, which prevents him from engaging in the life that's right in front of his eyes in any sort of psychologically honest or present way. I sat there violently shaking my head yes, yes, yes, yes during the scene when Carl realizes that in order to get the house airborne again he has to divest himself of all the material possessions he'd been clinging to that were weighing him down. Somebody over at Pixar clearly understands the mechanics of grief, and healing.

Unlike Away We Go, which I was totally prepared to give a pass to...until they decide to go live in Verona's childhood home. Eurgh. I ran into my friend Ray at the theater, and we were both fairly disgusted with the ending. Why would this couple, who claims to place such a high priority on community, choose to go live in isolation among the ghosts of her dead parents? Especially when Burt's brother and niece were clearly in need of some help of their own? Pixar would have gotten it right: Up ends with the old man's house disappearing into the clouds (because you gotta let that shit go) and the formation of a newly configured, slightly improvised family unit. That's the right ending. Away We Go ends with a retreat into childhood and away from genuine engagement with other people under the guise of "making peace with the past" or some bullshit. This is not the right ending. Don't get me wrong--there's much more to commend Away We Go than I thought there would be (particularly the Montreal vignette and, as ever, Paul Schneider in general), but fuck that ending, man.

Elsewise: I caught the Man Man/Gogol Bordello show a few weeks back (pics here). I tell ya: there is almost no band working today that I trust as much as I implicitly trust Man Man. It doesn't even bother me that they don't banter with the audience. (I usually like a little banter.) They're just too busy creating a whole new world during the 30-45 minutes they have to give us. What more could banter possibly add to the experience? What an astonishing group of musicians.

As for Gogol Bordello, it's good to get recharged with that immigrant punk energy every once in a while. Plus, I couldn't help but marvel at their graphic design all night. Whoever designed their slingshot logo is totally firing on all cylinders: there's David and Goliath iconography combined with a sort of Marxist/populist ideology and a super juvenile punk rock sneer. Yes, please.

St. Vincent live at the Metro (pics) was a delightful way to spend a Sunday evening. For whatever reason, I haven't fully warmed to Actor yet, but I really enjoyed hearing all the songs live. (It definitely didn't hurt that she claimed it was the best night of the tour so far.) When she started really blasting on some of those apocalyptic guitar freak-outs, I just couldn't help grinning and thinking, "this is truly feminist music. This is the sound my fucking ovaries would make if amplified."

If each era gets the metanarrative about show folk and storytelling that it deserves, what does it say that the '70s got The Killing of a Chinese Bookie while we get The Brothers Bloom? Sigh. I don't mean to be a dick about it, and it's obviously unfair to put a young guy like Rian Johnson up against Cassavetes, but also--come the fuck on. "Live the story until it comes true," etc., etc. It's clearly a young person's movie--both from within and without. At the same time, though, I don't want to begrudge Johnson his apprenticeship because he's got a lot of raw talent and I want him to be able to continue to have a career. But, the wide-eyed naivete and quirk qua quirk really exhausted me. And I have a fairly high tolerance for that sort of thing.

Popular opinion seems to be that Zach Galifianakis makes/steals The Hangover, but I was rather partial to Ed Helms's performance. There's something quietly commanding about him here that I wasn't really expecting (Stephanie Zacharek, with whom I don't often agree, noticed this too). Of course the movie is outrageously offensive and I can't in good conscience recommend it to anyone, but I've long had an inexplicable affection for this "shit goes down in Vegas" subgenre of movies, so I knew I couldn't miss it. For the most part, I wasn't disappointed.

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