Just as a pile of puzzle pieces doesn’t inherently add up to a masterpiece, Let’s Be Cops has precious few laughs for a movie starring people as historically funny as Jake Johnson, Damon Wayans Jr. (both from New Girl), Rob Riggle and Keegan Michael Key. In fact, it has precious few laughs at all.
Robin Williams, who passed away on Monday, was agile, versatile, quick-witted and almost overwhelmingly boisterous. Energy seemed to flow from everywhere else into him and then back out again in a million tiny, disparate fragments. Even at his most serious, he seemed incapable of turning off the parts of himself that might come across as obnoxious or excessive in the wrong directorial hands. As a performer, he was like a rubber band perpetually on the brink of snapping. Last night, we learned what we already knew but couldn’t bring ourselves to talk about: that metaphor applied to his life as well as his art.
Guardians of the Galaxy is a movie in which a talking raccoon is friends with a talking tree, Andy Dwyer is buff and Dave Bautista demonstrates deft comedic timing. It’s a superhero movie with heroes who aren’t particularly super or heroic. It’s a space opera in an era when that sort of movie has been increasingly marginalized, though Star Wars Episode VII: The Never-Ending Hype Machine will reverse that trend next year. And it’s a Marvel movie that rarely feels weighted down by its obligation to feed the Avengers beast.
In simpler terms: Guardians of the Galaxy is an unlikely triumph.
This piece was inspired by Steve James’ moving documentary Life Itself, which I watched via Amazon’s Video On Demand service earlier this week. What follows is not exactly a review. I experienced the film as a Roger Ebert admirer first and a critic second. Any insights that I have about the filmmaking would be tied to my own feelings about the subject matter. Especially given that the subject matter is movie criticism itself, the connections seem too close to warrant a straightforward review.
Suffice it to say, I really enjoyed the film and found it worthy of Roger’s towering presence in the film world. I particularly appreciated that the movie was tonally diverse and willing to acknowledge its subject’s faults and limitations. Steve James carefully modulates the tone so that the movie celebrates Roger’s professional achievements and examines his personal ones. He affords plenty of screentime to Roger’s remarkable wife Chaz, and the scenes that depict their loving relationship are among the film’s most poignant. No single film can capture the implications of this one’s title, but Life Itself offers a potent memorial to a man whose legacy towers over film criticism.
His presence also lingers in my own life. I think about him often. Here’s why.
Roger Ebert taught me to love movies.
I never met him, and I never will. But I read his words, and I understood what it meant to sit in front of a movie screen (or a TV screen, or a computer monitor, or a tablet screen, or a smartphone screen), feel something, and then convey that feeling using the written word.
Listen to Episode 34 of The M&M Report here.
On this episode of The M&M Report, Devin Mitchell and I break down this year’s Emmy nominations. We’re outraged that Elisabeth Moss didn’t get nominated and a bit peeved that Jeff Daniels did. We don’t get the love for Downton Abbey or the broad support for House of Cards, but we’re on board with the embrace of Orange is the New Black and Fargo.
The Emmys air on NBC on August 25, 2014 at 8pm.
Listen to this week’s episode of The M&M Report here.
On this episode of The M&M Report, Devin Mitchell and I discussed World Cup 2014 and 22 Jump Street. Devin is more knowledgeable about soccer than I am, so his insights are particularly valuable.
Click through for the time breakdown:
Early in Boyhood, a young boy and his slightly older sister pile into their mother’s car with all of their belongings crammed in around them. It’s moving day. Mom is exasperated. The kids are equal parts anxious and rambunctious. But the journey begins. Almost instantly, the kids start fighting, because what else do they have to do in the back seat? Mom tells them to use their pillow as a divider, and then she suggests the quiet game. A successful round of that game has never been played, especially in a vehicle. The kids slap at each other in frustration. But suddenly, they start giggling, even though they haven’t stopped hitting each other. What was infuriating a moment ago just became hilarious. The camera lingers for a moment before the next cut.
Boyhood is made up of moments like this – all but unexplainable glimpses of the world as we know it but rarely see it onscreen. The movie follows the youth and maturation of Mason, a feisty young boy with a beleaguered mother (Patricia Arquette), a petulant older sister (Lorelei Linklater, the director’s daughter), a frequently absent father (Ethan Hawke), a succession of drunken stepfathers, and a rotating panel of love interests, friends and acquaintances. Mason is 6 when the movie starts and 18 when it ends. In between, seasons change, love comes and goes, youthful naivete turns to adolescent cynicism, and a young boy becomes a slightly older boy. Boyhood is not the first movie to tackle the topic in its title, but it might be the first to do so with the temporal sweep and technical restraint of writer-director Richard Linklater’s latest.