Friday, October 15, 2010

It's Kind of a Funny Story

It's Kind of a Funny Story was sold as a farcical comedy, but it's really a basic drama with a few laughs thrown in. A depressed teenager checks himself into a psych ward, spends a few minutes there and realizes he doesn't belong there. He meets some colorful crazy people (straight out of central casting), becomes the catalyst for breakthroughs for other patients and starts dating Emma Roberts.

It's not bad but it's not really good, either.  Lauren Graham and Jim Gaffigan are wasted as the kid's parents, and a running joke is a guy who quotes a Bob Dylan song claiming it as his own, but it's such an obscure song that it took me almost a minute to find a reference to it on Google. It's Kind of a Funny Story plays like the kind of video you would show to people in a psych ward.


Saturday, October 9, 2010

Never Let Me Go

Never Let Me Go is good science fiction movie in the classic mold. The rules of science fiction are simple: set the story in a time or place where events that are not possible in the real world can happen; then set forth a story, often a parable or allegory. I need to avoid spoilers here, so I'll be circumscript. Never Let Me Go follows three children in a private school in England that are being raised for a specific purpose. The three are joined at the hip, but, inevitably, grow apart as adults.

The setting is pretty sweet - it doesn't exist in the real world for technological reasons but the story is set in the recent past, making the contrast even more stark. Before you know it, the sci fi part of the movie gives way to moral and ethical explorations.

It moves a little slowly, but I liked that. It allowed the human and sci fi parts to soak in. Two guys were loitering at the box office when I bought my ticket. When they heard that I was going to see Never Let You Go, they asked who starred in it. When I said Keira Knightley and Carey Mulligan, their glances were as vacant as if I'd said "an apple and an orange." I hope they didn't follow me in. Utter disappointment would follow.  They'll be first in line for Transformers 3, no doubt.

During a particular emotional scene, the multitasking part of my brain started comparing Never Let You Go to other sci fi movies. I was struck that most of what we call science fiction is really future fiction, and really isn't science fiction at all. It's car chases with cars that fly, fist fights with slow motion and gun fights with ray guns. I'll take thoughtful stories about the human condition any day. And a futuristic shoot 'em up once in a while.


Saturday, October 2, 2010

The Social Network

The Social Network is an engrossing film ostensibly about the first years of Facebook, but it could be about any company. The film moves quickly, cutting between the creation events and depositions in a current-day lawsuit. I take historical dramas with a grain of salt, so I don't care if it was accurate or not, but it was fun. When the credits rolled, I couldn't believe almost two hours had gone by.

I don't know much about Facebook, but if the movie is anywhere near accurate, everyone involved with it, save one guy, are complete douchebags. Sean Fanning, founder of Napster, is presented as a douchebag extraordinaire and I had no idea he was involved with Facebook whatsoever or that he was so sleazy. For the sake of politeness, let's assume there were liberties taken with personalities for dramatic effect.

The Social Network was written by Aaron Sorkin, the master of quick back & forth dialog. His resume includes writing The West Wing, Sports Night and The American President. Perhaps, ultimately, Sorkin's greatest contribution to pop culture is writing the line "You can't handle the truth!" from A Few Good Men but for great lines, I recommend any of the first season episodes of Sports Night (1998-1999), all of which were written by Sorkin.