MCN Blogs
Ray Pride

By Ray Pride

DVDs: Passing Strange, Outrage, No Impact Man, Che,

spikestewstrange.jpgPassing Strange
Spike Lee’s adaptation of Passing Strange (IFC, $25) debuted at Sundance 2009 and later was distributed by IFC on video-on-demand. I saw it on DVD before its release to cable, and his vivacious direction of the Broadway edition of Stew and Heidi Rodewald’s smart, vivid coming-of-age musical makes for a pretty terrific movie. Still, it’s an indication of how movies slip in or out of the public consciousness, especially mine, that I haven’t found a place to even mention the movie. The old windows of festival-theatrical-video are still etched in a lot of heads. And when something as good as Passing Strange can’t find a place in the conversation, we have some catching up to do. Or, if you haven’t seen Passing Strange, you have a chance to catch up now. Fierce, funny, smart, sweeping, swell.
No Impact Man
Or, “Superdownsize This.” Functioning as a satire of contemporary media, aspiration and errant idealism, the central figure of Laura Gabbert and Justin Schein’s No Impact Man, (Oscilloscope, $30) writer and environmental activist Colin Beavan, is annoying, Morgan Spurlock with a mission but with condescending patter and a pronounced lack of charm. (A colleague told me she felt a simmering desire to punch him out.) But as he persists in his project as a 365-day idealist of eliminating any impact on the environment by himself, a privileged and connected Greenwich Villager with a book contract, his wife, Laura Conlin, a writer at Business Week, and their small daughter, friction sets in with entertaining results, even as he rubbished me the wrong way. (No imported food, no travel, no taxis, no air conditioning, no laundry detergent, no elevators, etc.) The book’s extended subtitle seems like a preemptive strike against accusations of bourgeois liberal guilt: “The Adventures of a Guilty Liberal Who Attempts to Save squashnoimpactman.jpgthe Planet and the Discoveries He Makes About Himself and Our Way of Life in the Process.” The film also cleverly opens with clips of sardonic media coverage of his enterprise. Beavan’s blog provides some of the savor of his character as presented on screen, and likely the flavor of his book. In prose, after dismissing a critic of his enterprise as “strident,” he sounds more reasonable. “Whether my book and the companion documentary of the same title are remembered as the stories of a stunt or not is ultimately immaterial. Of course, as a writer and a person, it hurts to be trivialized, but the truth is that ‘No Impact Man” is both a stunt and not a stunt. Because my hope in living and writing about my year was to put myself in a crucible in which to examine some important cultural issues surrounding our solutions to our environmental crises as well as the quality of life crisis which is so closely related to them.” Beavan is a snit. Conlin is the voice of reason. “Mommy doesn’t really like nature.” Really? Beavan also appreciates comments on his project, such as the profane comments section of a entry on their enterprise. Comedy sparks.
Kirby Dick’s methodical inquiry into the boundless hypocrisy of some politicians,Outrage (Magnolia Pictures, $27), was classed by some reviewers and columnists as a movie about “outing,” or revealing the homosexual behavior of closeted men and women. In a terse ninety minutes or so, Dick doesn’t reveal any names or behaviors that haven’t made it into the press in one form or another. (Still, National Public Radio yanked a review to remove named politicians as well as the correspondent’s protest in the piece’s comment section.) Senator Larry Craig of Idaho hasn’t much to hide after eagerly pleading guilty to soliciting in an airport toilet, for instance. The most telling comment comes late in the game, when former Governor McGreevey of New Jersey describes the behavior of closeted gay men being excellent training to become a politician, presenting a game face to whatever individuals you find yourself trying to persuade of things you truly do not believe. Among journalists, Dick chooses to single out one rambunctious Fox News personality(while burying a gossip column mention of a white-haired CNN anchor in the corner of a frame). Is Florida governor Charlie Crist, long a bachelor, recently wed, the white-haired hope of the Republican Party now running for Senator, a gay man? It’s a surprise that his opponents in Florida haven’t made more of the subject. But Crist’s legislative record, like those of other figures mentioned in the film, largely archconservative Republicans have at least the consistency of supporting anti-gay measures. Sirius host and veteran gay columnist Michelangelo Signorile, veteran gay activist Larry Kramer, longtime outer-of-politicians Michael Rogers and Congressman Larry Frank are among the other interviewees. There are fewer “Washington whispers” than examples of double standards and pretense. As in his documentaries This Film is Not Yet Rated, Twist of Faith and the co-directed Derrida, Dick is a good listener and an excellent editor. At the end of Outrage, there’s as much sadness and melancholy as outrage to go around: public lives spent in denial, supposedly productive lives spent in self-contempt, are a tragic spectacle. With McGreevey’s wife Dina Matos McGreevey.
One of the underrated elements of Steven Soderbergh’s Che (Criterion, $50), is Alberto Iglesias’ score. We talked about that a little about at the time of release, and I hope to post that interview soon. For now, a repeat of a short answer on video about how the RED camera affects Che and other projects. Original trailer here. And a clip from the DVD/Blu-Ray interview with Soderbergh.

Also this week: Wholphin # 10 (Wholphin, $20), and Chantal Akerman In The Seventies: Eclipse Series 19 (Criterion, $45). In three DVDs, early works by the daring director [pictued, from Je, Tu, Il, Elle], including La Chambre (1972); Hotel Monterey (1972); Je, Tu, Il, Elle (1974); News From Home (1976); Les Rendez-vous d’Anna (1978). I have fond memories of the chilly Euro-anomie of Anna; I’m curious if it’ll still seem to have affinities with Peter Handke’s work, as it did when I first saw it.

Comments are closed.

Movie City Indie

Quote Unquotesee all »

“I think [technology has[ its made my life faster, it’s made the ability to succeed easier. But has that made my life better? Is it better now than it was in the eighties or seventies? I don’t think we are happier. Maybe because I’m 55, I really am asking these questions… I really want to do meaningful things! This is also the time that I really want to focus on directing. I think that I will act less and less. I’ve been doing it for 52 years. It’s a long time to do one thing and I feel like there are a lot of stories that I got out of my system that I don’t need to tell anymore. I don’t need to ever do The Accused again! That is never going to happen again! You hit these milestones as an actor, and then you say, ‘Now what? Now what do I have to say?'”
~ Jodie Foster

“If there’s one rule Hollywood has metaphysically proven in its century of experimentation, it’s that there’s no amount of money you can’t squander in the quest for hits.

“Netflix has spent the past couple years attempting to brute-force jailbreak this law. Its counter-theory has seemed to be, sure, a billion dollars doesn’t guarantee quality but how about three billion dollars? How about five billion dollars? Seven?

“This week’s latest cinematic opus to run across no-man’s-land into the machine-gun emplacements has been the Jared Leto yakuza movie ‘The Outsider.’ Once again, debuting on Netflix, another thing called a movie that at one glance doesn’t look like any kind of movie anyone has ever seen before, outside of off-prime time screenings at the AFM.

“If you’re working at a normal studio, you have one or two of these total misfires in a year and people start calling for your head. How many is Netflix going on? Fifteen? Twenty? This quarter? Any normal company would be getting murdered over results like that.”
~ Richard Rushfield