Monday, September 29, 2014

The New York Film Festival has David Cronenberg bomb and a Surprise Screening that Surprises (MAPS TO THE STARS and WHILE WE'RE YOUNG)

A mixed day in the public seats was full of ups and downs

The downs came early with the new David Cronenberg film MAPS TO THE STARS. I'm going to rip the film apart and spill the beans so if you don't want to know skip down to where I talk about WHILE WE'RE YOUNG

Cronenberg's new film is close to a complete unfun, unfunny disaster. Its sole saving grace is Julianne Moore who should get an Oscar nom for her portrayal of tormented actress. The other performances might have amounted to something had their been a script, but there isn't one so it all falls flat. Worse the film tries to be transgressive but it never is. Its like a prim and proper child trying to swear..oh wait kids swear in this and talk about twisted sex..then again they do it badly.

The plot has the schizophrenic and fire scarred sister of a spoiled rich kid actor returning to Hollywood after her time in the mental hospital. She wants to make amends her parents want her to go away, they don't want the past dug up since it's laced with incest and mental defects. She lands a job thanks to Carrie Fisher working for messed up Julianne Moore who says her cult actress mother molested her. Throw in Robert Pattinson as a wannabe writer/actor and you have a mess of a film or as I like to say "Its a glorious Technicolor wannabe cornucopia of incest and fucked up behavior"

I don't blame the actors I blame either the script or the editing. Somewhere characters disappear and reason with it. Who are these people and why did they agree to play them? Cronenberg alone isn't the reason, something happened along the way. Something or lots of things beyond the over "nasties" had to have been here but got lost along the way.

Not to put too fine a point on it this film sucks. Jokes are told and there are no laughs, lurid things happen and we feel nothing. There is lots of shocking things said but they fail to shock.

How bad is it, most of my row of seats walked out before the end.

How bad? The biggest laugh came when a chunk the audience cheered when a character is bludgeoned to death. The rest of the audience just roared with laughter at the response.

How bad? One character burns alive in horrible CGI flames and the audience snickered and groaned.

I wanted to walk out but I stayed hoping it would turn around, It kind of did but at the same time I largely stayed, as did several others in the crowd, simply to see how far off the rails the film would go- somewhere the other side of Kansas I reckon.

The film is a cinematic disaster that is too stupidly bad to ever be revived as fun or camp (it should have been made as a camp film). I already fear the Cronenberg fans who'll find something in it to crow about-and I'm looking to see if I can find something really heavy to hit them with.

This is a perfect example of why the New York Film Festival has to stop taking films from directors who've been here before- sometimes they turn out shit.

Avoid it.

Noah Baumbach's WHILE WE'RE YOUNG surprised most people in the audience who thought the surprise film would be Clint Eastwood's AMERICAN SNIPER. We were all wrong.

Baumbach's film concerns a couple in their forties who are finding little in common with their baby having friends. They connect with a younger couple who revive their lives but also put them at odds with their old friends.

On that most basic of levels the film is quite good with Ben Stiller and Naomi Watts making a lovely couple.

The problem is, and its a BIG problem, is that Baumbach complicates the story by making Stiller a documentary filmmaker, and making the young couple as nice, but ultimately users. The film raises all sorts of issues about creativity, art and what is morally right in creating a documentary. The film also raises lots of questions about technology and the constant filming of everything by everyone. The film juggles these issues until the final fifteen minutes where it not only throws them out but rewrites several characters in the name of getting to the directors chosen end point.  Its horrible because its the point where a great film collapses to being okay.

When the film ended Hubert and I had a brief discussion about the collapse before the Q&A started and I really wanted to ask Baumbach what he was thinking when he changed the rules and the characters, but I was in the balcony.

Strangely the last question was from a woman who wanted to know what Baumbach was thinking. His answer pissed me off to no end. Basically all of that extra stuff doesn't matter since that's not the story. He only put it there for shading and we we're not suppose to care about it. When pushed to say what he at least thought about some of the issues he raised Baumbach paused for a long time before answering that the answer would require a discussion he couldn't have now and here. To me it sounded like Baumbach got called on his shit and didn't know how to answer. It sounds like he doesn't know his work as well as he thinks, nor does he really care about what he's doing in half his film. Certainly he had no clue as to how it was going to play with an audience.

I lost a great deal of respect for Baumbach.

Ultimately its not a bad movie, its just going to piss you off on any level beyond the superficial since despite it looking like a deep film,there is nothing there and characters end up betraying themselves. Baumbach has made a film best suited for the mindless multiplex and not the New York Film Festival.

And now bed for me- I have three films and my  brother by osmosis's birthday tomorrow,

Pictures from the WHILE WE'RE YOUNG screening are up at Tumblr and can be found here.

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