ART ISN’T EASY: Straight Outta Compton and She’s Funny That Way


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Warning: SPOILERS
straight outta compton 1Though bearing almost no resemblance in any other way (to say the least), two movies have opened of late that demonstrate, to paraphrase Stephen Sondheim, that art sure isn’t easy.
Straight Outta Compton is a tale told of the rise of three best friends who stop becoming friends and then find their way back to being friends before the credits come up (or as we say in the biz, guys meet guys, guys lose guys, guys get guys). It’s the tale of Eazy-E, Ice Cube and Dr. Dre who took the universe by storm with this newfangled sound called Rap and changed the world of music forever.
The film basically has four types of scenes in it: the first are scenes that show the horrors of growing up in the projects and how blacks are treated by the authorities (even when the authorities are black and in one case, find themselves to be music critics); second are the scenes that show the relationship of the three central characters, especially on tour, including the downtime of hanging out and getting high and laid; third are scenes of confrontation between the artists and their managers; and the fourth are the scenes where they actually perform.
I would say that all but the second set of scenes work well, sometimes astoundingly well, and are strong and rich in dramatic conflict. But the story tends to stall whenever the characters are doing little but hanging around just being themselves (the Beatles from A Hard Day’s Night they ain’t). Most of these scenes have little vibrancy or originality to them, while others resemble and have as much depth and insight as an MTV music video from the same period.
And as riveting as so much of the film is, somewhere in the second half it starts to lose forward momentum and I did sort of wish that they would wrap things up already at times. Continue reading

THERE WILL BE WEED or THE GRASSTER: Inherent Vice


First, a word from our sponsors. Ever wonder what a reader for a contest or agency thinks when he reads your screenplay? Check out my new e-book published on Amazon: Rantings and Ravings of a Screenplay Reader, including my series of essays, What I Learned Reading for Contests This Year, and my film reviews of 2013. Only $2.99. http://ow.ly/xN31r

 

Warning: SPOILERS
inherent viceI’m afraid that when it comes to me, myself and writer/director Paul Thomas Anderson, the honeymoon may, at last and alack, be over.
I mean, this was no one night stand.
When I first met Anderson, he took me with his Hard Eight. And we then spent many Boogie Nights together. I did think that with Magnolia we didn’t quite come together as we once did. Still, though it may not have totally worked, it was far, far…far more stimulating than many films that did. And with Punch Drunk Love he just, well, punched, drunked and loved me.
I was delirious.
But time marches on and, like so many relationships, people change, circumstances change, conflicts emerge until the relationship starts hitting some rough shoals. Continue reading

PEOPLE COME, PEOPLE GO. NOTHING EVER HAPPENS: The Grand Budapest Hotel


grand-budapest_2813768bThe Grand Budapest Hotel, the new demi-farce written by Wes Anderson and Hugo Guinness and directed by Anderson, is like a box of chocolates.  The outside is lovely to look at, even entrancing, and when you open it up, the chocolate itself gleams with droolful anticipation.
And then you bite into one and sometimes you get the deep, rich double chocolate you have always dreamed of, and sometimes you get the sour cherry cream (or whatever ingredient you consider to be the one you grimace at and throw back in the box after taking one quick bite). Continue reading