Posts Tagged ‘family’

Lonesome Jim (Buscemi, 2005. US)

Masturbatory self-pity when pretensions of brilliance forgo decency.

Lonesome Jim does exactly what it says on the tin- it’s all about Jim and his lonesomeness. This film has been subjected to a fair deal of hate on the webs, and rightfully so really. The eponymous Buscemi-lite drifter is one of the most unlikeable protagonists to grace indie screens in recent years. Not in an uncomfortable-yet-necessary way, as we might find in a Noah Baumbach flick, or in a misunderstood-and-redeemable manner, ala Wes Anderson. Nope, Jim is just a prick. Consequently he  spends a lot of time on his jack jones.

There are some redeeming notes scattered about hither and thither, the only vestiges of Buscemi’s direction. As a character, I would have enjoyed watching Jim had he been played by a late 20s Buscemi in his trademark slightly socially incompetent sad sack routine. I like Affleck, especially in 2005’s Gone Baby Gone; he is a prime example of my slowly-evolving Hollywood theory: The Rule of Diminished Siblings. This is where the less famous/bankable sibling in a famous acting family is always a far better actor and quite often a more likeable person. Cf Casey Affleck, Joseph Fiennes, Joan Cusack, Rory Culkin… erm, Emilio Estevez. [Okay, every rule has its exceptions! Sx] (more…)

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Welcome To the Dollhouse (wpd. Solondz, 1995. US)

I love this film.

Some people think it’s harsh, but it’s funny because it’s true. Many of us know that ‘fly buzzing against a window’ sensation; the endless procession of tiny humiliations and defeats that was senior school (or Junior High, or whatever your national equivalent is for thirteen year olds.) From the ironic, lingering zoom in to the idealised, patriarchal American family portrait, to our first view of Dawn in an almost mesmerising tracking shot of her long walk through the school cafeteria in search of a seat, and the irrational abuse thrown at her by even the other bullied misfits, to culmination in the awful, jangling discordance of her brother’s band scoring the cutesy Americana of their sister’s ‘ballet’; every moment of the first five minutes of Dollhouse proclaims everything you need to know about Dawn Weiner’s life and Todd Solondz’s world view. This is no testimony for the nuclear family and a Middle American childhood.

Shit happens. He says. Mainly to you. Live with it. The rhythms of editing in Dollhouse are as important as the actors’ comic timing. Though Heather Matarazzo’s perpetually bemused, bespectacled mouth breather does chip in at the opportune moment almost every time.

Dawn’s ongoing battle with her parents and her obnoxious siblings will strike a chord with anyone who has a) a family b) a bit of pragmatism. (more…)

WATERSHIP DOWN  (Martin Rosen, 1978. UK)

 Typically and perhaps misguidedly promoted as a children’s film, presumably because it’s an animation featuring rabbits; but that is where the Disney similarity ends. There is real darkness in this film, beyond the ‘mild peril’ of Pixar or the sad -but-not-shocking demise of Bambi’s ever-cited mother. You don’t even need to scratch the surface to reveal a seething pit of misogyny and deeply troubling gender politics. Arguably this is typical of the late seventies moral backlash against sixties’ liberation, (although that was more of an American trait) but no matter what the rationale, if we are going to  sit children in front of these films, we need to question the messages we are exposing them to.

That said, Watership Down is known as a seminal film for a reason. The animation is idiosyncratic and distinctively stylised, with emphasis on pictorial representations of the declining British countryside. There is unapologetic moralising which is clearly lacking in some of the more lightweight animations produced subsequently, though the conservationist point is slegdehammered in towards the end. This is definitely an instance where I’d advise watching with children on first viewing as, violence and atypical quantities of gore aside, there’s certainly plenty of content they may not understand. Fiver’s fits and visions can be frightening and the totalitarianism the pilgrim rabbits encounter could well be bewildering to children raised in liberal democracies (such as they may be).

So, while accessible to children, this is a film I’d strongly recommend to adults. I didn’t see Watership Down till I was in my twenties, though most of my peers had encountered it in childhood and I still took a lot from it. For older viewers there is far more to be read in terms of allegory and criticisms of political regimes and rampant ‘progress’ (in this case industrialisation.)

Some of the soapboxing may be a little hard to swallow and the inherent attitude to women is troubling, but overall this is a strong film and a welcome variation to the sanitised dross often delivered under the rubric of ‘family movie’.

WATERSHIP DOWN (Martin Rosen, 1978. UK)

***Full Spoilers***

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