Thursday, September 17, 2009

5 From 'Txt Critic' at TIFF: Antichrist, Jennifer's Body, Creation, The Trotsky and The Informant!

My texting friend who you've heard from a few times, exiting screenings with sudden opinions flying from his fingertips, just got back from Toronto. Yes, everyone was there but you and I. Txt Critic was only there half the time but saw as many films as I did last time and I stayed for the whole damn thing. They must have kept his eyes open with toothpicks like something out of A Clockwork Orange, only more voluntary-like. Here's part 1 of his capsule takes...

on Antichrist
This is the rare case where I think having the entire film spoiled for me prior to seeing it was actually a good thing. Ever since Cannes, I’d heard explicit reports -- ad nauseam -- of all the “shocking” content, and aghast reactions, on behalf of Lars Von Trier’s latest. It's about a couple’s ... let’s say ‘unconventional’... response to the death of their toddler. While it’s not generally a good thing to have prominent sequences described to you before you see a film, here, having heard all the descriptions of [semi spoilers ahead] scenes involving self-inflicted mutilation, scissors, talking animals, etc. [/end spoilers] allowed me to look beyond the artifice and see the film for its emotional content, and Von Trier’s warped, fascinating ideas. Whether you’ve been spoiled or not, it’s a film that only gets richer upon repeat viewings, and gets more and more interesting the more you discuss it. (B+)
on Jennifer's Body
Okay, so clearly I’m alone on this one. I thought this Diablo Cody scripted horror comedy was a lot of fun. It’s not scary in the least but there’s an awful lot of funny dialogue, knowing silliness, good gore (for those who like that stuff) and a soullessness from Megan Fox that's actually appropriate for once. To top it off, the proceedings are imbued with a playfulness that toys with (and subverts) teen movie conventions (including some startlingly upfront sexuality), and is clearly made by someone with a passion for horror films.

It’s not a great movie but it’s also not a retread. I wish people would back off a bit in regards to attacking Ms. Cody; I get that when an (arguably) not-great screenplay wins an Oscar it’s an affront to film aficionados, but shouldn’t she get some credit purely on the basis of following up an Oscar win with a horror flick, let alone a fairly smart, entertaining one? (B)
on Creation
There were times during this 100 minute ordeal that I actually started to wish that Charles Darwin (played here by Paul Bettany) had never been born so I wouldn’t have had to sit through this movie inspired by his life. I exaggerate but this is really one slog of a film, more dull and interminable than even a straightforward biopic might have been. Focused almost entirely on (a) Darwin’s decision to publish "The Origin of Species" in the face of his wife’s (Jennifer Connelly) religiosity, and (b) the Darwin's reaction to the death of their child, Creation offers almost nothing of substance about Darwin’s actual ideas, nor the complexities of his character or emotions. It’s mostly just the renowned central figure weeping over his dead daughter and going on numerous doctors’ visits for his long list of ailments. The title is misleading as it seems to imply too much focus on his originally controversial ideas. While this is the kind of tedious, inert historical drama that used to be catnip for the Academy, I can’t see many staying awake all the way through to see anything worth rewarding. (C-)
on The Trotsky
At long last, a star vehicle for the gawky Jay Baruchel best known for headlining “Undeclared” and bit parts in Tropic Thunder and Knocked Up. Writer-director Jacob Tierney casts the Canadian native in the role of the Leon, a high school senior who considers himself the reincarnation of the titular figure. Leon seems deadset on fighting every supposed authority figure he can (he stages a hunger strike at his father’s factory in the opening sequence). Mixing Trotsky/Stalin/etcetera in-jokes with broad sweeping Napoleon Dynamite quirk and power to the disenfranchised story beats, the film may have a limited audience (the plethora of Montreal jokes makes it unclear how it would be received outside of Canada). But it’s frequently funny and manages to not drag even though it’s too long (nearly two hours) for its somewhat thin premise. Schneider shows legitimate directorial finesse. (B)
on The Informant!
Despite the starring presence of Matt Damon and a heavily-marketed nationwide release by Warner Bros., this supremely entertaining 'based on a true story' project -- the latest from Steven Soderbergh -- is a much odder (and also more delightful) film than I was a expecting, and not simply for playing what is essentially a thriller premise as a jaunty comedy. While it’s more strangely amusing and witty than laugh-out-loud funny, Soderbergh makes a boatload of strange decisions (such as shooting this 90s-set story in a style of a 70s throwback, and utilizing a Marvin Hamlisch score that seems better suited for a Doris Day vehicle) that, almost inexplicably, work perfectly. They all contribute towards creating an experience that may throw some people, but is sure to engender itself as a DVD favorite for those who like their eccentric quirk at a lower volume. The story itself only gets more compelling as it unravels, slowly eking out details that reveal why the filmmaker felt comedy was the more suitable genre for the material. It's all sold by an utterly fantastic performance , at once broad and understated, by Matt Damon. He appears in every scene and he certainly deserves -- and in this weak year, just might get -- an Oscar nomination. (A-)
So there you have it. A lot to consider. And that's only about a day's worth of screenings. When he closes his eyes, he's probably still seeing shadows of flickering images.


Kent said...

I cannot wait to see ANTICHRIST. Von Trier works magic with actresses. Watson, Bjork, and Kidman prove it. I might pass out from Charlotte Gainsbourg presumably superb performance.

Jude said...

I'm excited for The Informant! But is Matt Damon going to be a supporting actor for Invictus so he won't compete with himself, a la Kate Winslet for Revolutionary Road and the Reader?

Ryan said...

I'm still a little scared for Antichrist haha. I generally know what goes on too. I might have to trick a friend into going with me.

I'm not really excited for The Informant! though. It just looks like it would annoy me. I'm surprised at how low it is on Metacritic and Rotten Tomatoes-top critics too.

As for Jennifer's Body, I feel it could be a cult favorite more than a box office hit. Looks very silly.

Hope this message made sense...I'm hopped up on vicodin after getting my wisdom teeth out haha.


ah, the removal of wisdom teeth. A good time to watch druggy movies.

I'm so excited for The Informant! actually.

and i don't want to hear ANY MORE about Antichrist before I see it.

Fox said...


I feel bad that you make Txt Critic write those longer reviews via his/her phone/blackberry. You sadist!!! I shall call you Nathaniel Von Trier!!!

Fox said...

If someone says "I really liked The Informant!", do they need to put two exclamation points? Or maybe they can just put one in parenthesis.


snowback said...

Who is Aaron Schneider? The writer/director of The Trotsky is Jacob Tierney.

Wayne B. said...

That's a drag about "Creation." I hope someday Jennifer Connelly delivers another unforgettable performance like in "Requiem for a Dream." I haven't really felt the same about her since she won that Oscar in 2001.


Fox! The us!é of exclamatory punc(?)tuatiön !!! is an artform. It has no rules!

Nathaniel Von Trier. I love it. Will Lars marry me? He does believe in provocation

Jessica said...

Thanks for the about the optimistic review on Jennifer's Body! I'm totally going to see it this weekend and hopefully be able to combat all those hopeless reviews I kept reading.

guessy89 said...

You posted a still of my second cousin. Although he and I have only met once, seeing his success brings me joy and it's very inspiring.

I haven't gotten a chance to read much of the blog, but I am excited to become familiar with it.