About This Blog

A place to find my reviews not featured on epinions.com or horror-asylum.com, as well as opinions and lists on everything from movies to TV to music. It's all about me! Send hate mail to vegie18th@hotmail.com or just leave a comment beneath the posts. Review grading system assumes C+ is somewhere in the vicinity of a Passing grade or minor fail.

Friday, February 22, 2013

Review: Horrible Bosses

Jason Bateman, Jason Sudeikis and Charlie Day star as three fed-up buddies drinking at a bar and swapping bad work stories. They don’t necessarily hate their jobs, they just hate their horrible bosses. Hey, that sounds like it could be a movie title! Anyway, after a little too much drinking, one of them suggests the idea of killing their bosses. The other two find the idea amusing, but he’s not joking. Before long they have attracted the counsel of a former felon known as Motherfucker Jones (Jamie Foxx, who once won an Oscar!), who, inspired by “Strangers on a Train” comes up with the idea of the three guys each killing the other person’s boss so that nothing gets traced back to the person who works for said boss. Needless to say, with these three amateurs, things don’t go according to plan. Kevin Spacey is Bateman’s boss, a mean-spirited bully who manipulates Bateman and callously cheats him out of a promotion. Jennifer Aniston is Day’s boss, a horny dentist who apparently doesn’t know that ‘No means no’ and doesn’t care that Day has a fiancée (Lindsay Sloane). Yeah, I don’t feel so bad for him, either. Colin Farrell plays the balding, cokehead son of Sudeikis’ grandfatherly boss Donald Sutherland, which wouldn’t be so much of a problem if Sutherland didn’t up and die, leaving the completely irresponsible shithead in charge. Ioan Gruffud has a cameo as a potential hitman who turns out to be not quite what the guys were expecting. Julie Bowen (in a too-small role) plays Spacey’s horny wife. Brian ‘Babu’ George voices Atmanand, the helpful Indian operator for a car’s GPS.


Directed by Seth Gordon (of “The King of Kong” fame), this 2011 comedy is funny enough to get a good rating from me. Hell, it’s a lot better and funnier than the “Hangover” movies, that’s for sure. And that’s good considering it’s one of those films that plays better in the moment than it does on reflection. Looking back on it, the plot rips off “Office Space” (and both star Jennifer Aniston), Kevin Spacey rips off his own performance in “Swimming With Sharks”, the Jennifer Aniston character doesn’t remotely convince, and by the end, I really wasn’t sure how I felt about the main characters and their behaviour. In fact, the ending is really quite awful for a number of reasons, and the tone seems to get darker (and the film less funny) the longer it goes on.


But first, let’s go with the good. This is a pretty funny film, no doubt about it. So long as you’re not easily offended, you should have a pretty good time here. Especially funny was seeing our protagonists mix up “Strangers on a Train” with “Throw Momma From the Train”, and I’m still chuckling about the reveal of Jamie Foxx’s character’s rap sheet. Let’s just say, it’s a good thing that Motherfucker Jones has a badass name, because that’s about the only badass thing about him. Kevin Spacey might be repeating his “Swimming With Sharks” performance to a large extent, but let’s face it, Spacey is terrific at being a glib, cold-hearted bastard, it’s not just in “Swimming With Sharks”, it’s been his stock and trade (even in dramatic work). Typecast or not, Spacey’s the right guy for the role, and he and Foxx get most of the best moments, though Bateman deserves credit also for being an appropriate punching bag for the venomous Spacey. The scene where Spacey screws Bateman out of a promotion is key to his evilness, because Spacey can’t really be called out on it, because as is noted, Spacey is taking on more of the workload. And yet Bateman, and the audience, know that Bateman is really getting screwed and that Spacey is a heartless bastard.


Colin Farrell’s not in the film enough to escape his rather gross caricature (the makeup job is a little silly and he’s not nearly as funny as Tom Cruise in “Tropic Thunder”), but the scene where he tries to get Sudeikis to fire either ‘the fatty or the cripple’ is hilarious, even to me (Me being in the latter of the two groups Farrell is insulting).


It’s when we get to the Charlie Day and Jennifer Aniston characters that the wheels started to wobble for me. In addition to Day’s vocal intonations bordering on Bobcat Goldthwait, I never once believed in this situation, certainly not nearly enough to find much of it funny. For starters, while sexual harassment against males does exist and it isn’t a laughing matter, I gotta side with Day’s pals here who just don’t take him seriously. I mean, it’s Jennifer Aniston, not Melissa McCarthy (no offence to Ms. McCarthy). The scenes of sexual harassment are too overblown to convince, there’s just no way the Jennifer Aniston character would operate like that in the real world, or even the world as it is depicted otherwise in the film. Yes, it’s a comedy, but it still needs to convince to a certain extent. Jennifer Aniston (who for once is kinda hot, I’m not a fan) gives a completely forced and unconvincing caricature of a performance, in addition to constantly reminding us we’re watching a film clearly inspired by “Office Space”. It’s Jennifer Aniston being Rachel from “Friends” acting like a sex-crazed, foul-mouthed loon. That is not the same as Jennifer Aniston disappearing into a role or stretching herself, and it’s the problem I’ve always had with her. Even when playing a role completely alien from her “Friends” character, she’s retaining a lot of the tics and mannerisms of Rachel. She never once seemed credible enough in the role (nor naked enough, if you ask me. Why is it that actresses will say all manner of disgusting things but rarely show their perfectly healthy bodies? In a film like this it makes no sense) in order to have sympathy for Day’s plight, certainly not enough to think that murder is the best and only available option to him. I mean, he could’ve actually slept with her. I wouldn’t recommend it in the real world (infidelity is wrong, of course), but Aniston is playing such a caricature and surely infidelity is a much lesser crime than murder, right? Especially when it’s obvious that it would stop the harassment (Perhaps not in the real world, so don’t take my advice necessarily!). Call me strange, but I really do feel more uncomfortable with Aniston being murdered than say, Farrell (For starters, he’s a cokehead likely to OD at some point anyway). Perhaps there’s some kind of outdated sexual politicking on my part here, but it didn’t sit well with me, even if I could take the caricature as a character.


And I think that’s the problem with this film, preventing it from being more than it is. As funny as it is, it wants to be a black comedy mixed with an exaggerated Apatow-esque gross-out comedy, and the two subgenres of comedy don’t gel so well. I guess screenwriters Michael Markowitz and John Francis Daley, and Jonathan Goldstein (who have a background in TV apparently) are fans of black comedy, but felt the film wouldn’t be marketable without Jason Sudeikis shoving toiletries up his clacker. Especially near the climax, the gross-out and slapstick stuff gets a little out of hand, with Day seriously unfunny as he trips out on coke (drug humour didn’t make me laugh in “The Hangover” and it doesn’t here, either), and a last minute ‘deus ex GPS’ that doesn’t for a second hold up to any intelligent thought (If good ‘ol Atmanand were really doing his civic duty, surely he’d tell the cops what he knew about our three protagonists attempting to hire a hitman!). I was also left with a bit of a bad taste in my mouth considering one person ends up in serious trouble with the law due to false information derived (intentionally or not) from the actions of our protagonists. Yes, it provides a little bit of an ironic twist on the “Strangers Throw Momma From the Train” motif, and yes, the character was an a-hole, but...I dunno. Maybe if the film were an out and out black comedy, it would’ve sat better with me, but as is, I wasn’t keen on the last third or so of the film.


I also need to take the film to task on its familiarity to “Office Space”. The difference between the two (aside from “Office Space” being better) is that instead of taking revenge on corporate schmucks by ripping the company off financially, these guys attempt to take to murder instead. Other than that, the basic premises are the same, and it’s obvious to anyone who has seen both.


But look, for the most part, this is a funny, if unoriginal film. At any rate, it’s better than the “Hangover” films and certainly funnier than “Bad Teacher”. Sometimes ‘funny’ is (just) enough.


Rating: B-

Review: The Hangover Part II

Stu (Ed Helms) is about to marry Lauren (Jamie Chung) at a resort in Thailand, and despite protesting that he does not want a bachelor party, Phil (Bradley Cooper) manages to talk him around to having a quiet beer. Unfortunately, Doug (Justin Bartha) insists on his idiot brother-in-law Alan (Zach Galifianakis) being invited to the wedding, despite the calamity he caused last time at Doug’s own wedding. Also with the guys is Lauren’s overachieving teenage brother Teddy (Mason Lee). Anyway, next thing you know, the guys are waking up the next morning in a strange place with Stu’s face adorned with an eerily familiar tattoo, Alan has his head shaved, Teddy has gone missing, and absolutely no idea where the hell they are (seemingly the seediest part of seedy Bangkok) or what the hell happened to put them there. Doug is safe, this time, having stayed at the resort. Oh, and one of Teddy’s fingers is found. So now the gang have to find Teddy and get to the wedding in time. Yeah, that’s going to be easy. Throw in chicks with dicks, an elderly monk who isn’t much of a conversationalist, a return appearance by whiny criminal Mr. Chow (Ken Jeong), Paul Giamatti as an intimidating crime boss, and a cameo by Mike Tyson, and you’ve got yourself...um, whatever the hell this is.

I didn’t like “The Hangover” at all. It was a bunch of ugly people doing ugly things and then complaining when they couldn’t remember anything the next morning. It was also mostly painfully unfunny (Mike Tyson providing the only chuckle) and concerned itself with things I knew little about (I don’t drink, think getting drunk is stupid, and I hate parties) nor wanted to. This inevitable sequel from 2011 to the box-office smash is even lesser than the original, if only because the original, well, came first. It’s painfully derivative of the earlier film, only this time set in Bangkok instead of Vegas, Bradley Cooper is slightly less sleazy (but looks grubbier), and Zach Galifianakis is slightly less sociopathic this time and just completely annoying instead. That’s it.

Director Todd Phillips (“Road Trip”, “Old School”, “The Hangover”) and his co-writers Craig Mazin (“Scary Movie 4”, “Superhero Movie”) and Scot Armstrong (“Road Trip”, “Old School”, “Semi Pro”) were obviously too busy boozing it up the night before they wrote this, got so blind they forgot any ideas they came up with, and the next day decided to just largely re-write the first film, right down to Justin Bartha having fuck all to do, this time because he actually stays behind. Hell, they even manage to lock up Mr. Chow again thinking he’s dead, though this time it’s not in the boot of a car. It also includes another cameo by Mike Tyson, once again providing the only real chuckle via another amusing karaoke moment. This time, amusingly and improbably- yet rather appropriately- Murray Head’s ‘One Night in Bangkok’. Sadly, that comes right near the end and that’s far too late.

I fail to see how the film’s plot is even remotely funny. If any of this had happened to me, I’d be absolutely horrified. This is not the plot of a comedy, it’s a nightmare. But then, I don’t drink, go to countries known to be quite dangerous, nor associate with creeps or buffoons, so it wouldn’t happen to me in the first place. Truth be told, even if I did drink or associate with creeps or buffoons, it still wouldn’t happen. To anyone. And whilst the exaggeration is meant to be kinda the point of the film, it’s not actually funny and is full of archaic Asian/Thai stereotypes like shemales. A Mike Tyson tattoo joke? In 2011? Really? Lame. But at least that joke was harmless, the rest is sleazy and disturbing, if you ask me. I mean, take the hermaphrodite/transsexual, for instance. It is never shown, but strongly suggested that one of the main characters has had sex with a transsexual, something this character most certainly would not have done whilst sober (Nor drunk, but let’s not use our brains and actually think for a change). It isn’t funny, especially the more you think about it, probably largely due to the rather dangerous choice of location (In Las Vegas, the absolute worst that could happen is significantly lesser, you would think than Thailand).

More importantly, though, the film is incredibly dull. Unendingly so, seemingly going on for even longer than the first film. It definitely should’ve ended at the conclusion of Tyson’s performance. Or before the film even began, to be honest. Sorry, but I got even less out of this film than the first one. I guess it’s just not for me. Kudos for playing Billy Joel’s highly underrated ‘Downeaster Alexa’,though. Love that song.

Rating: C-

Wednesday, February 20, 2013

Review: Tom Horn

Steve McQueen stars as the real-life tracker and interpreter, who was instrumental in capturing the infamous Geronimo. The film charts his last stages of life where he is recruited as a ‘stock detective’ to take on cattle rustlers on behalf of the Stockman’s Association, particularly the folksy John Coble (Richard Farnsworth). Unfortunately, after a while, news of Horn’s violent methods become far too widely known for the association (particularly Billy Green Bush’s politically ambitious Marshall) to tolerate and something must be done, although the honest Coble will have nothing to do with this talk. The Marshall arranges for Horn to be arrested for the murder of a young boy, including getting a contrived and drunken ‘confession’ to the crime from Horn. Linda Evans is a local schoolmarm Horn strikes up a relationship with, Slim Pickens is the local sheriff somewhat reticent but duty-bound to arrest Horn, Roy Jenson plays a foul-mouthed homesteader, Geoffrey Lewis is a smarmy prosecutor, and Elisha Cook Jr. appears in one early scene.

This dour 1980 William Wiard (A TV veteran in his film directing debut) western inspired by the real-life title character is definitely a bit underrated. It could’ve even been a really good film if it weren’t such a narrative mess, but it’s still a whole lot better than its reputation suggests.

The problem is definitely the screenplay by Thomas McGuane (“Rancho Deluxe”) and Bud Shrake (“J.W. Coop”, “Songwriter”), who fail to make us see why Horn’s employers would turn against him for his violent ways which were essentially why he was hired in the first place. I also don’t think there was enough of an emphasis on those supposedly recklessly violent actions (Obviously they can’t show him killing the kid, because he most likely didn’t. But his reputation was of a violent, shoot first type and I didn’t see him to be much different from anyone else in the Old West).

Also, the romantic subplot between Horn and a schoolteacher played by the vanilla Linda Evans is crudely integrated into the film. I couldn’t work out if it was all a flashback or not. Apparently there were lots of rewrites and studio interference led to much editing, and it definitely shows. Having said that, the film gets right on track for a harsh, grim, and memorable finale.

Steve McQueen (who, legend has it, directed much of the film himself, after several others had a hand in it), in one of his last roles, apparently found out he had cancer just after filming this movie. He certainly looks older and more weathered and gaunt than I’m used to seeing. His performance, though, is typically rock-solid, and his characterisation typically stubborn, unbending, and stoic. Richard Farnsworth is excellent in support, and there are scene-stealing roles for veterans Slim Pickens, Elisha Cook Jr., and Roy Jenson who gets one scene and one line, but it’s the funniest in an otherwise hardened film (‘I got your fucking note! I rolled it up in the back with tobacco and smoked it!’).

Historians might quibble with the depiction of characters and events here (and indeed, Horn comes off as stupidly stubborn towards the end to a degree I couldn’t quite understand), but I must admit, overall this film kept me interested throughout. It’s a lumpy and not terribly successful film, but an interesting failure at least. I’m surprised there’s so much scorn for it, even today.

Rating: C+

Tuesday, February 19, 2013

Review: In the Realm of the Senses

Eiko Matsuda (who seemed to have a sad time of it after this film) stars as a former hooker turned hotel maid in 1930s Tokyo who engages in an intense affair with married hotel owner Tatsuya Fuji. The relationship becomes increasingly obsessive (and Matsuda becomes increasingly jealous and demanding) and fetishistic, as they both explore sexual boundaries.

Banned for 20 years in Australia, this 1976 film from Japanese writer-director Nagisa Oshima (who went on to make “Merry Christmas, Mr. Lawrence” with David Bowie and Jack Thompson) has me completely perplexed. Now that I’ve finally gotten around to seeing it, I’m still genuinely unsure of what I actually watched (On cable, if you can believe it. God bless Foxtel and World Movies Channel!). It wasn’t at all what I was expecting, but more importantly, I don’t know quite how to take it. Is it a porno? Softcore? An exploitation movie? Any kind of movie at all? And why are there so many cocks in this film? It should really be called “9 ½ Cocks”, so I hope you like your sausages, folks. You can certainly see why the film has been so widely banned, given we see not only blowjobs, but also their ‘happy endings’, among other kinds of sexual activity. If you want to watch lots of sex, this film gives you that. However, I must confess that even on this level, it’s not the kind of sex I have any interest in personally. I don’t like sausages, I’m afraid, and there’s not nearly enough from the Isle of Lesbos here for me to have gotten anything out of it on that level. Yes, there’s practically a lesbian orgy here, but the scene is much shorter than any of the hetero scenes, unfortunately, and not terribly sensual. Like every other scene in the film, it’s just fucking, it’s porno stuff. Hell, the women aren’t even all that attractive, and I can’t even believe I’m typing that.

Still, the sex is far and away the only notable thing here, and although not especially appealing to me (some of it doesn’t look terribly consensual), some might get something from it. But if porn is meant to turn you on, I was largely unmoved, and I would say a great majority of others would be too, so perhaps it’s not porn. It’s certainly not a legit movie, so I have no idea what critics have been raving about. As far as I’m concerned, subtitles don’t make a film ‘artistic’. It’s about 100 minutes of two people fucking, a string of sex scenes with practically no story. I don’t review porn, I review films (and yet here I am anyway). It’s got no more (and perhaps even less) artistic merit than a Hong Kong Cat III film (like “Erotic Ghost Story” or “The Weatherwoman”), but with more explicit sex and less humour. And less plot, if you can believe it. Anyone who says otherwise, is simply too scared or ashamed to admit that they like watching people have sex.

The film ultimately reveals itself to be a film about a sexual psychopath, with a basis in fact. The ending is a true disgrace, thrown in there for shock value, but more importantly, information has been withheld throughout. It’s supposed to be a story about obsession, but it’s barely a story at all, and mostly about horniness. Instead it’s just two people fucking, with the plot thrown in at the very end, revealing it’s about something more sinister. Perhaps if the film started at the end, it might’ve actually been something. Something unpleasant, but at least something nonetheless.

Absolutely horrible, with incredibly unpleasant characters lacking any development whatsoever. How the hell does this have the right to run over 100 minutes? Compare that to a film like “Room in Rome”. That was about two hours of people having sex, too. Yes, it was simulated and probably meant to be a far more sensual film than “In the Realm of the Senses”. However, it was still a film mostly concerned with two (gorgeous) people having sex, and yet it took the time to tell a story and even have the characters and their relationship involve. Their conversations were actually interesting. There was nothing interesting to me here at all.

Pretentious, one-note fetish porn, some of you might get into this, but I was severely disappointed. I guess its notoriety makes it something worth seeing once, but if you’re looking for a hardcore version of a Cat III Hong Kong softcore romp, you will be as disappointed as I was. Hell, if you’re expecting a movie you’ll likely be disappointed. But if you’re someone who thought “Memoirs of a Geisha” would’ve been a lot better if it had lots of floppy penises and auto erotic asphyxiation scenes, this might be the film for you.

Rating: D+

Review: The Big Town

Matt Dillon is a handsome, promising young small-town crapshooter named Cully who leaves family and mentor Don Francks behind as he heads for potential big-time success in 50s Chicago. There he hooks up with married hustlers Lee Grant and Bruce Dern, whom he agrees to play for. They get him invited to the big tables, he gives them a healthy percentage of the winnings. But soon Cully gets the urge to strike out on his own and beat sleazy club owner/gangster Tommy Lee Jones out of his crooked game, and steal his stripper wife Diane Lane while he’s at it. Playing ‘good girl’ to Lane’s sultry ‘bad girl’ is Suzy Amis, an aspiring female DJ and struggling young mother whom Cully also has feelings for. In a subplot, taciturn, blind Dern is looking for the gambler who long ago threw acid in his face. The extremely mannered Del Close and no-talent Tom Skerritt (sorry, I wanna like the guy, but he always gives the same constipated performance!) play a couple of gamblers, and a young Sarah Polley can be seen as Amis’ adorable kid.

This 1987 Ben Bolt (son of “Lawrence of Arabia” screenwriter Robert. The younger Bolt did very little after this film) unofficial update of the fantastic “Cincinnati Kid” (here Dillon’s ‘The Kid’ and Canadian character actor Francks essentially gets the Karl Malden part, with Lane perhaps echoing Ann-Margret) is perfectly enjoyable entertainment if entirely unoriginal. You’ve seen it before, and in the aforementioned case, better, but this one’s stylish and full of terrific performances and colourful characters.

A decidedly oddball Dern and rather frightening Jones are especially good, Dillon is well-chosen in the lead. The women fare a little worse, with Amis a bit wan, but Lane is solid and Lee Grant spot-on.

Fun stuff for fans of gambling movies, or Matt Dillon. Just don’t expect anything beyond the B-level. Screenplay by Robert Roy Pool (who went on to co-write the underrated “Outbreak”).

Rating: B-

Sunday, February 17, 2013

Review: The Guard

Brendan Gleeson stars as a small-town Irish copper who is anything but conventional. Insensitive, a bit of an a-hole, not above dropping acid found at a crime scene, fond of banging hookers, but also a good son to his ailing mum (Fionnula Flanagan). He also claims to have been an Olympic-level swimmer in his youth. He generally gets the job done, but he’s...frankly a bit bonkers. Don Cheadle is an African American FBI agent sent to assist Gleeson on a big drug bust. He’s more straight-laced and has absolutely no idea how to take the big, burly Irishman who barely seems to give a crap about the case. At one point he wonders if Gleeson is really fucking smart or really fucking dumb. The drug smugglers are played by Mark Strong, Liam Cunningham and David Wilmot, and they have already killed Gleeson’s partner early in the film (You’ve heard of the guy dying on his last day before retirement? This poor bugger pushes up the daisies on his first!). They’ve also bought off every cop in town, hoping to keep Gleeson quiet, too.


If you took “Fargo” (crap as it is), “Local Hero”, “Heartbeat”, and “In Bruges” and put them all in a blender, you might get this quirky, highly watchable 2011 film from writer-director John Michael McDonagh (whose brother Martin made “In Bruges”, with Brendan Gleeson in a lead role- a talented family!). It’s not a gut-buster, and the plot is hardly original, but it’s consistently amusing (Wilmot at one point existentially wonders if he’s a psychopath or a sociopath), and Brendan Gleeson (one of my favourite character actors) is terrific in a wonderful characterisation (equal to his turn in the hilarious “In Bruges”). His character isn’t a bad guy, but he’s not the most law-abiding cop you’ll find (but moreso than most others in the film), and his complete lack of tact around Cheadle is very funny at times. He’s not a racist, just completely unfamiliar with having to filter his every thought or whim. Or maybe he’s just taking the piss. The fact that one is unsure just makes it funnier. He’s an entirely unpredictable character in a relatively predictable film. Gleeson is well backed-up by the supporting cast of familiar faces. American actor Don Cheadle proves far less of a sore thumb in these Irish surroundings than one might think (and his difference is largely the point anyway), whilst Mark Strong might not be the most versatile actor but is too good at what he does to really complain. He’s good at being straight-up mean and not fucking around about it.


Dud ending, though, has things closing on an inconclusive downer. Still, Gleeson’s unpredictable, frequently amusing character is memorable (and surprisingly likeable), and the film is overall an easy watch (so long as you’re not easily offended). It’s not “In Bruges”, but this fish-out-of-water odd couple movie will do nicely, nonetheless.


Rating: B-

Review: The Artist

Set in Hollywood in 1927, Jean Dujardin plays George Valentin, a big star of silent swashbucklers (think Douglas Fairbanks) who is unhappy in his marriage to Penelope Ann Miller, and with the inevitable transition from silent cinema to ‘talkies’. Bérénice Bejo is Peppy, a promising, spunky up-and-coming actress whom Valentin starts to have feelings for. Whilst Peppy is pegged to be a big star of the ‘talkies’, Valentin is cynical of the invention and decides to go and make his own silent film. Also worth mentioning is Valentin’s dog (Uggie the dog), and equally faithful chauffeur/butler (James Cromwell). John Goodman plays a blustery studio exec, and Malcolm McDowell has a small role as a butler.

Written and directed by Michel Hazanavicius, this 2011 Best Picture Oscar winner is a nice, solid, but not great film. Years from now it’ll probably be one of those Best Picture winners that lots of people still haven’t seen and many will dislike, though plot-wise I can see why it appealed to the Academy. I liked it, but the film’s message borders on arguing that the transition from the silent era to sound pictures was a bad thing. That’s ridiculous. It’s called progress, and it’s a good thing. Anyone who thinks sound wasn’t an improvement is quite frankly an idiot. And I say that as someone who loves “Nosferatu”, “Metropolis”, “Sherlock Jr.”, etc just fine. Anyway, aside from a few slightly irritating things like that, the film is worth seeing. It helps if you know your movies and can at least appreciate silent films, but having said that, I did question whether a dog would be a huge star in the silent era. Maybe there were some, people with more knowledge of the era than me might be able to answer that.

No doubt about it, though, lead actor Jean Dujardin is pitch-perfect, a mixture of Douglas Fairbanks and Fredric March or something. He, like the film itself, just made me smile and feel good inside. This film kinda succeeds in doing what Woody Allen’s awful “Midnight in Paris” tried to do in recalling and revering a long-ago era. There’s an actual plot here, even if the ultimate message isn’t one I entirely embraced. There’s an hilarious way of introducing sound to the film, too. The feather in particular was a great touch.

Meanwhile, Penelope Ann Miller has never sounded better if you ask me. Yes, I meant that as an insult. Cast as either a tribute to Marion Davies or the Marion Davies clone in “Citizen Kane”, the role is right up her alley. And as much as I question the idea of a dog as a silent film hero, Uggie the dog is an absolute scene-stealer (despite not being an irritating camera hog like the animated dog in “The Adventures in Tintin”, which annoyed the crap out of me). He’s wonderful, and so well-behaved! John Goodman and James Cromwell are also solid in their roles, even if acting in a silent film requires them to change their acting styles, and to a certain extent, requires a lot less from them. Perhaps featuring such familiar actors was a mistake, because we know these guys can do so much more with sound at their disposal (Miller, however, is much better seen and not heard). Silent films had their own acting style, but when you know what these guys can really do, there seems little sense in them doing this. Cromwell, for instance, was much funnier as a chauffeur in “Murder By Death” than he is here, partly because of his ridiculous attempt at a French accent. Doing a story about the Silent Era as a silent film is appropriate perhaps, but also a bit of a waste of acting talent, I guess is what I’m saying. Still, they do perfectly embody their roles. Less effective is lead actress Berenice Bejo, who would probably look absolutely stunning and be wonderful in any other film except this one. Unfortunately, she looks far more like a Gina Lollobrigida than a Clara Bow, Lillian Gish, or Mary Pickford (who was married to Douglas Fairbanks, btw), and the makeup job is completely wrong to my recollection of what silent film stars looked like. Sure, her character is meant to be a crossover, but the lips in particular just don’t look right and she looks far too ‘exotic’ for the era to be playing the ‘good girl’ heroine. The reason why it stuck in my craw is because I find most silent film actresses tend to look exactly alike, especially the ingénues (Bejo, I believe, is white, but she doesn’t look like it, and for this film it’s actually important), mostly due to the distinctive makeup. This film definitely fouls up the makeup, though I’ve noticed that many have disagreed. I also wish her character was named Peggy, as Peppy is just stupid and would never have flown even in the Silent Era. Yes, I’m nitpicking- as I said, it’s a good film.

A slightly less important shattering of the illusion is the cinematography by Guillaume Schiffman, which at first bothered me because it looked far too pristine for what is meant to be a silent film set in the silent era. However, when you see a projection of one of Dujardin’s swashbucklers, it looks a lot more like a silent film, so perhaps this was the director’s way of differentiating between the two (I’ve read that the film was a colour film converted into B&W, which might explain things a bit). Truth be told, even the moment or two of sound that I liked, also shatters the illusion here, so perhaps I should stop nitpicking. I’m not even sure this is meant to be passing itself off as a silent film from the silent era (or even a mock version), given that I don’t recall too many silent films featuring infidelity, so perhaps such a discussion is just silly on my part.

It seems a decade or so out of step, but if that ending doesn’t make you feel warm and fuzzy inside, you’re clearly already dead. Look, this didn’t deserve to win Best Picture (the best film of 2011 wasn’t even nominated for Best Picture- “Rango”), but this film is almost impossible not to like. Ludovic Bource definitely deserved the win for Best Original Score, the Academy definitely got it right on that one. It’s the best thing in the entire film. It’s a feel-good film in many ways, even if I don’t entirely buy into its nostalgic message. I mean, it makes points against the Silent Era here, and every one of those points is valid...which makes the experience of actually watching this silent film very weird, especially since it ultimately wants to find sympathy for those the ‘Talkies’ may have left in their wake. Some silent films are better than some ‘talkies’, but the silent era is most certainly not preferable (And yet, I prefer B&W to colour, and technicolour to...whatever colour it is we have today. I’m a total hypocrite, and well aware of it). I still don’t think this is one of the better Best Picture winners, but you could do a lot worse.

Rating: B-