Tuesday, January 11, 2011
One of my goals for the upcoming year is to chart, or at the very least list, the films I watch, books I read, at least a portion of the audio I consume in various formats, and any other artforms. With this goal in line, I'm labeling the effort Consumption. I'm hoping to make more frequent, shorter-in-length posts covering all topics. Through the first 11 days of '11, I've read one full book (review upcoming) and seen five films. Here's the first.
SOMEWHERE (d. Sofia Coppola)
Back in the earliest days of IFC, I remember repeatedly seeing a 15-minute short called Lick the Star that I really enjoyed. Sofia Coppola was the director and I was eager to see The Virgin Suicides when it came out on DVD, but the movie left me lukewarm. Once Lost in Translation knocked everybody's socks off (mine included), Coppola's stock was high. Then came the snore-fest of Marie Antionette, and heading into Somewhere, I couldn't get a read on whether Coppola was a director I like who's made two below average films, or a director I find overrated who started with a nice short idea, then happened to strike gold on Translation. After seeing Somewhere, I'm pretty sure it's the latter. The trailer is far more compelling than the actual film (though both contain this awesome Strokes demo.)
What's interesting is that so much of the tone and nuance that worked perfectly in Lost in Translation is repeated here, yet it completely backfires. Every time there's a silent stare between Bill Murray and Scarlett Johansson, the ambiguity is subtle and engaging. Given their status at strangers to each other, you never feel like you're missing out on necessary information. But when similar scenes of drawn out silence take place between a father and daughter, as they do repeatedly in Somewhere, depriving the viewer of any sense of the characters' past relationship only makes the film that much more frustrating - and not in a challenging artistic way, but in a "Why the fuck do I even care what I'm watching?" way.
Likewise, the surreal haze that made Japan simultaneously engaging and alienating in Lost in Translation is poorly imitated by LA's Chateau Marmont. It's meant to depict the retreat and lavishness awaiting Hollywood's elite, but you can only take so much of watching Stephen Dorff silently laying down all around the hotel before you hate every room in the place and find yourself cursing the fact that John Belushi died here, yet this fictional character keeps on living just for spite. Elle Fanning and - surprisingly - Jackass's Chris Pontius are effective in underdeveloped roles, but the movie goes nowhere*, up to and including the film's climax, which again tries to recapture the magic of this scene. Toward the end of Somewhere, Dorff's character says something that his daughter doesn't quite here. We as the audience do hear him, but by this point we just don't really give a shit what he's saying.
*Nowhere, AKA the opposite of Somewhere! If anyone needs me, I'll be waiting at the mailbox for my award celebrating artistic achievement in the field of pun-related insults.