05 June 2008

short cuts: iron man, forgetting sarah marshall, forty guns, all that heavens allows, young american bodies

iron man

if you're going to make big hollywood blockbuster, make it like this. start with a good cast, including a star who takes character roles like robert downey jr. does. pepper it with other talent, such as paltrow, howard and bridges. give them a structure for the story, but let them improvise a lot of the dialogue, often to comic effect (paltrow after their dance: "that was weird"). make sure the storyline actually makes sense and is grounded in reality, and tie it in to current world events and concerns (weapons proliferation, terrorism). geek out with the technology and computer graphics (tony stark's lab), but don't let it overload the story. have great set pieces (flying into the clouds). and make sure everyone knows there will be a sequel (wait through the credits).

those are some of the things jon favreau did with this movie, and that is why it was so successful.

forgetting sarah marshall

how fun is it that judd apatow ushers through smart comedies starring largely unknown folks? this is a good, fun summer movie with a grounding in pain, which gives it heart. they rope us in with a twist on an old premise (dude gets dumped, becomes depressed -- but he's naked!) and then send us into sunny hawaii. normally that's a paradise and is always seen as such on film, but we get hawaii from the perspective of a man depressed -- weird locals, whacked-out surf instructors, drinking all day out of anger instead of joy.

i know certain people think the apatow formula is getting old. i don't. i will take a smart hollywood comedy with legit emotions and sketched-out characters before i'll take a lowest-common-demoninator comedy from mike myers. i also disagree with charges that its a sexist, scumbag's fantasy: pretty girls with scuzzy good-for-nothing dudes. in the case of "knocked up", she was STUCK with her man because of her pregnancy, and she old got with him because she was drunk and he was funny. in the case of this movie, our main character is a bit of lay-about, but he's also successful at his music work, and their relationship before the movie starts works because he serves to ground her. we see this in the scene directly after sarah marshall finds out her show got cancelled, and she goes into a monologue about how she "happy to move into features." he tells her: "you're not on the view, you can talk to me." the scene is great, because it shows how their relationship worked (she needed him to keep her in check from becoming too much of a hollywood asshole) and we see her, perhaps for the first time, as a real human with real concerns about her life and career. it reminds me of leslie mann's scene after she finds paul rudd playing fantasy baseball in "knocked up": "just because you're not yelling doesn't mean you aren't being mean."

not every comedy is as generous to its females.

forty guns

forty guns = forty dicks. this is a hollywood picture at its most subversive to the code. we see stanwick riding through the plains with men behind her -- they could be chasing her, but they really are stuck on her like glue.

what struck me most about the movie beyond the double entendres ("may i feel your gun?" "it might go off in your face.") is the technical mastery. fuller stages amazing tracking shots -- dollies down a table to see all forty guns, a crane from inside a building, across a town, and panning over to see horses galloping. that's why the french loved it.

all that heavens allows

another 1950's subversive one. this is a model of the auteur theory's posit that you can plant a personal tone on any picture, even a hollywood studio genre picture. this movie is scathing social commentary on the mob mentality that led to conformity in the 50's that dictated how you could live, who you could see, how you should dress, who you should love. its a thinly-veiled reference to rock hudson's homosexuality (wyman's character's name "cary scott" is a reference to two of hudson's lovers, including cary grant), mccarthyism, television's influence on society (and the film business, natch), and the fact that conformity can shape even the most strong of individuals -- after all, ron slowly transforms his rustic old mill into a virtual reproduction of cary's suburban house.

again, the production is glorious. the production design and costumes are period-perfect, the music is just right, and the color and lighting are beautiful and thematically exact right.

young american bodies

i'm a guest star in season 3 of joe swanberg's web series young american bodies, from ifc and nerve. check it out!


Blogger Austin Kleon said...

Meghan loves Judd Apatow movies, and I think her perspective is pretty interesting. She told me "I don't think his movies are derogatory at all. I think he worships women. I think he sees most women as these beautiful, mysterious creatures, tied down to these bumbling idiot men." She also points out: there's often lots of male nudity, but no random boob shots...

4:03 PM  
Blogger stridewideman said...

Well. Actually there are boob shots in Forgetting Sarah Marshall, specfically the photo he tears off the wall and gets his ass handed to him for.

I thought these posts were smart, jff. I agree with you on the iron man stuff (comic geek that I am), though Howard is the only brown person in the movie who gets away from either villification or martyrdom. Good they broke trope with one person, but still...

I actually think Apatow's movies are excellent examples of the fact that personality can go a long way if you're an average looking dude, though it doesn't work as well for women. I'd be interested to see him doing the same movie from average looking chick perspective.

Everything else sounds interesting. I'm going to be taking your suggestions about old movies, since my knowledge is exclusively based on reading reviews constantly since 1990.

young american bodies. I haven't looked at this yet, but I can only assume that it's gay.

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