Quick takes

Please Vote for Me (2007,  Chen Weijun) IMDb

screened Tuesday January 22 2008 at the IFC Center Stranger Than Fiction series

Edwin Mak has embedded the entire film to be viewed on his site

yes
Noyava Moskva / The New Moscow (1938, Alexander Medvedkin) IMDb

screened Friday January 25 2008 at the Walter Reade Theater Envisioning Russia series

From the director of one of the most outstanding films of 1934, Happiness (TSPDT #874) – and what a difference four years of Stalinist rule make.  There’s some gentle ribbing of peasant culture as a young generation of Soviet urbanites blaze the way to the future by embracing infrastructural changes being imposed on the nation, with Moscow as the beacon example of modernity.  You’d think that Medvedkin would employ an avant garde cinematic technique to match the subject, but the best he can manage is a uneven blending of coarse country comedy, romantic musical numbers and sci-fi kitsch.  Nonetheless the film was still kept from a full release.  Incidentally, Medvedkin’s life and turbulent career is the subject of Chris Marker’s exceptional biography The Last Bolshevik.

mixed 

Superbad (2007, Greg Mottola) IMDb

screened Saturday January 26 2008 on DVD

Not as funny as everyone has made it out to be – so what if its unapologetically pubescent male outlook tells it like it is (as if we haven’t heard this story before? I miss the innocent days of Revenger of the Nerds). It’s as crudely, self-aggrandizingly in-your-face with its sleeve-worn juvenile precociousness as Juno. KNOCKED UP is so much better, managing to be both hilarious and emotionally multifacted.
mixed 

Author: alsolikelife

This is my pet project

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  • http://www.d-kaz.com Daniel

    To be fair, I think the comedic tone of Superbad is far from the “precociousness” you rightfully identify (and condemn?) Juno for. The former film has much of the same sweetness and warmth for its characters that Knocked Up had.

  • alsolikelife

    Daniel, I’d say that Juno has a lot of sweetness and warmth for its characters as well, but I don’t see how this is mutually exclusive from being precocious – in fact I see the two going hand in hand with both Juno and Superbad. I feel that both films coddle their characters, though admittedly in opposite ways – Juno pedestalizes its heroine for being smarter and hipper than the others, while Superbad makes being a loser into a badge of honor. Both postures strike me as more affected than genuine, esp. in comparison to Knocked Up.

  • http://www.imdb.com zetes

    So wrong about Superbad. It’s probably the best teen film ever made, which, of course, wasn’t that hard. How many good ones are there? This film actually hit me pretty hard, like it had a profound insight into my own teen years. I don’t think the film gives any badge of honor to the three geeks. I don’t even get what you mean by that, honestly. The geek POV is just where the film is coming from. I don’t see any special honor given to them.

    My only problem is that Seth Rogan posits himself as getting a girl way out of his league, which also happened in Knocked Up. No girl that good would even look at him.

    Juno, on the other hand, doesn’t strike me as taking place in the same universe I live in.

  • http://eternalsunshineofthelogicalmind.blogspot.com/ Bob Turnbull

    > Juno, on the other hand, doesn’t strike me as taking place in the same universe I live in.

    I’m not sure that’s necessarily a criticism of the film though. If it sets up its universe and remains consistent to it, then I think that’s fine – and in Juno’s universe (except for the yuppie couple), everyone has a quip or pop culture ready at the drop of a hat. I think it remains a pretty good study of a young 16 year old girl coming to the realisation that she isn’t the only human on the planet…

    I still have a few other problems with the film (having just said all that about its universe, I still find it overwritten and the music is too, well, twee (I can’t find a better description).

    As for “Please Vote For Me”, that’s just a terrific doc about a Grade 3 class in China going through an election for their classroom president. It’s funny, but also dives into their preconceptions of democracy as well as showing how much these parents invest in their kids (most being only childs).

  • http://www.d-kaz.com Daniel

    I’d say that Juno has a lot of sweetness and warmth for its characters as well…

    I agree, but, the film undercuts that with its snarky humor, where almost everyone and everything is something to be ridiculed, undercut, or looked at with a wry, cynical distance. This is not the attitude of Superbad.

  • http://www.imdb.com zetes

    I know that my “universe” statement isn’t the best way to say what I mean. Of course, Lord of the Rings doesn’t take place in the same universe I live in, either. Doesn’t make them bad movies. What I meant was more that I don’t recognize any human insight in the script. And that’s not even really a criticism, either. There have been plenty of good films that don’t have anything to say. It’s just that Juno feels like it is pretending it does have something to say. It’s way too worried about being clever and quotable. Superbad is plenty quotable, as well (I wouldn’t call it clever, though it is cleverly awkward), but I felt like it had something to say about high school, and the possible end of friendships.

  • alsolikelife

    Bob – Please Vote for Me is a fascinating and incredibly entertaining film to watch. My only beef with it is that I wish it would take a breath once in a while and have a conversation with the subjects, get to know them outside of their daily interactions with others, deign to interview them for what it was worth. I suppose the director was going for a more direct cinema approach and interviewing his subjects was the last thing on his mind, but the way it’s done is like Frederick Wiseman on crack.

    Dan – I see your distinction, but there’s still something self-aggrandizing about Superbad that rubs me the wrong way. I think I may actually prefer American Pie to this film – for one thing it had a stronger feminine presence to offset the male misbehavior.

    to offer a late reply to zetes, I wouldn’t put this in my top 10 of teen films. (ah if only i had time to spare to whip up a list to prove it – anyone want to get us started?) For one thing Ghost World is way better at the “end of friendship” theme, in Superbad this conflict is treated tangentially, and at times it seems to sidetrack the humor rather than add poignancy to it. but that’s just my predisposition talking.

  • http://www.imdb.com zetes

    Ghost World is a very good start to that list, and definitely an equal to Superbad. I’d probably rank the latter slightly higher, but then again I have only seen Zwigoff’s film once back in ’01.

  • http://www.imdb.com zetes

    And, RE: American Pie, I fucking hated that movie. As far as I recall, the “female presence” in that movie was only for fucking. They weren’t much more animated than that whore of a pie. In Superbad, the characters pretend to think that, but by the end, at least Seth & Evan are shown to be more sensitive persons than they seemed. Fogel, on the other hand, I believe has a future full of misogyny and juvenilia. As fun as it might seem, his night with the cops is probably going to be the worst thing that ever happened to him in the longrun.