Saturday, April 11, 2009
NICK AND NORAH'S INFINITE PLAYLIST
Nick & Norah's Infinite Playlist is a music-centric, harmless time-waster (that may be a compliment, by the way).
Often, the commentary on a DVD explains what is right or wrong about a film. Here, there are two commentaries, and they explain a lot about the film.
First, the actors just sort of goof around on their commentary, much as they did in character in the film.
Then, on the other commentary track, the authors of the book on which the film is based explain how they came to write it and, with the writer of the screenplay and the director, explain how it changed to become a film.
The book originated in a meeting at a restaurant, where the following snail-mail improv was concocted: Each of the two writers, a man and a woman, would write successive chapters of a novel (in practice, each ending their chapters in a deadend to make it hard to start the next part). The main rules were that the two central characters were named Nick and Norah (from The Thin Man - there, Nora), and they were NJ High School Bridge and Tunnel clubbing kids in New York for one night.
It's necessary to listen to the entire author's commentary to find out how the movie got its name.
The film, unfortunately, dropped much of the sex that was apparently in the book, making it very bland.
The whole film is something like a High School version of After Hours.
Michael Cera and Kat Dennings are both good as the leads (though I find her lipstick schmear unflattering and marginally out of character). Most of the supporting characters are good, with some cameos by SNL guys & other well known people. Ari Graynor is very good as the lost, drunk friend around whom the night revolves.
It's watchable. And listenable. A bit like looking at a fire or the small lapping waves of a lake at the shore. Sort of pleasant, inconsequential, almost content free, intermittently boring or amusing, but somehow with a feeling as you watch that if you watch just a a little bit longer you will get another joke and understand the profundity behind the back and forth... up and down... light and dark... soft and loud flow... and little sparks, that meet the eyes and ears.
WARNING: These comments contain some spoilers:
Duplicity is a brilliantly written, brilliantly acted, excellently directed, old-fashioned in technique, modern in spirit, thoroughly entertaining film... until the last few minutes.
Then it confuses and disappoints, ending with the wrong payoff, weakly presented.
Much is often made, in films and stories about Hollywood, about how a studio forces some idealistic young director to change his ending -- the one with integrity -- to a softer ending in order to make more money. (eg. What Just Happened). Duplicity is the perfect example of where, if the studio had insisted on a different ending, they could have been right! Forget the fact (well, guess) that the film might have made twice as much money, the current ending just does not work. And right before the ending there is a bit of expository back-flashing that is confusing and so simple-minded, compared to the rest of the film, that it compounds the problem.
If, as one may guess, one element of the duplicity in the film is the ending, then perhaps the idea of the ending is OK, but the execution still fails completely.
By the way, the actors are innocent victims of whatever problems the film has:
Julia Roberts and Clive Owen are both exceptional, classy in the classic way, and as tawdry as they should be.
As a side note, they act "bad acting" perfectly.
The other principal actors in the film are also excellent.
Enjoy the film up to the last few moments -- and then at the end, just re-write and re-direct the ending in your head.
Friday, April 10, 2009
I have an excellent dentist.
My car has run perfectly since I got it.
It was my birthday recently.
I do not believe there is any justification whatsoever for getting an automated "Happy Birthday" from my dentist and two automated "Happy Birthdays" (yes 2! 1 online, the other, one of those really annoying pre-recorded phone calls) from my car dealer.
The only reason my dentist should have or use my birthdate is for medical reasons. Certainly not for marketing (or anti-marketing as in this case).
The only reason my car dealer should have my birthdate is to verify financial information when financing a car. Again, certainly not for marketing (or anti-marketing as in this case).
2 -- Great respect for private information should be expected and required by everyone handling personal information.
3 -- In particular, personal information should be used only for the purpose for which it was provided.