Boys will be boys. Films Reviewed: Weiner, Swiss Army Man

Posted in comedy, Cultural Mining, Disabilities, documentary, Manhattan, Meltdown, Mental Illness, Morality, Politics, Scandal, US by CulturalMining.com on July 1, 2016

Hi, this is Daniel Garber at the Movies for culturalmining.com and CIUT 89.5 FM.

Boys will be boys. By boys I mean men, and a lot of us behave like idiots, get caught, and then end up doing it all over again. Because boys will be boys. This week I’m looking at two American movies about guys being guys. There’s a documentary about a politician trying to revive his moribund career; and a comedy/drama about a guy trying to revive his expired buddy.

e45efdca-1789-4f65-a222-f879fac82d5eWeiner

Dir: Josh Kriegman, Elyse Steinberg

Anthony Weiner was a rising young politician representing part of Brooklyn in the US congress. He was a progressive Democrat, tried and true, and a popular politician – he even appeared as a guest on Jon Stewart’s Daily Show. He was outgoing, friendly, smart and funny. But he was 248dd2e3-708d-4c8d-b3db-36534ed5d9a2forced to resign his seat following a so-called scandal. Basically, he did some sexting – sending sexual selfies by email – to a woman he met online, but never encountered in person. He flirted with a woman online, sent a picture, Weiner shows his wiener – there’s the entire scandal. But it was enough to bring him 1a1956f2-dd46-4d59-8781-b3a8098727b2down.

So, a few years later he thinks, maybe I should try again. Maybe, I don’t want to live my life as a guy with a funny name that the punchline of a joke. Maybe the people have forgiven me, and they like what I’m saying. So he decides to run for Mayor of New York City – his hometown.

He travels around the five boroughs, he shakes hands, kisses babies, tries local food. He marches in parades. And he gives speeches ff8d5107-d4eb-4cd9-aa44-72c98eacef26everywhere – in person, on TV, on the radio. And his popularity grows. But then, remember those selfies, those sexts he sent? Turns out he sent more than one. Scandal!!

Weiner is a fantastic fly-on-the-wall documentary that follows the spectacle of an American political campaign. The cameras are allowed into his home, behind 6cf67874-1a86-4e85-a24d-665a2fb32a7fthe scenes in his headquarters, his phone calls, everything. And you see his campaign crumble before your very eyes… it’s painful. Most of all for his wife, Huma Abedin. If you haven’t heard of her, she’s a smart, beautiful, high-powered political staffer for the Democratic party. She’s also Hillary Clinton’s top aid. And in this movie, she’s the long suffering wife of Anthony Weiner who causes her so much trouble. Great documentary.

SWAST_89_M2.0V4.0Swiss Army Man

Dir: Dan Kwan, Daniel Scheinert

Hank (Paul Dano) lives the life of a beachcomber on a remote island in the Pacific. He camps out there, living on the flotsam and jetsam that washes up on shore. But he’s no happy camper: No luck with girls, his dad doesn’t like him, no friends. It’s not clear how he washed up on this beach, but, however he got here he’s clearly lonely, misunderstood and depressed. In fact the movie begins with him hanging himself. That is until something new washes up on shore. A person!

Well, a dead body, actually. Hank tries to revive him but he’s clearly just a fully-dressed corpse. But this is no ordinary dead man – this one is full of gas – he loudly farts into the sand. Using this expelled gas, Hank manages to climb on top of him, like a skidoo, and ride him across the ocean.

And when they touch land again, Hank decides to keep him around as a new friend. He calls him Manny (Daniel Radcliffe). Manny’s very useful. When it rains his body fills with water, and Hank can use him like a water fountain – punch him in the stomach and water shoots out his mouth.

But he’s not just a human “Swiss Army Knife”. After a few days, he begins to _02_9440 small jpegspeak. Manny is a tabula rasa, like a newborn babe who knows nothing. It’s up to Hank to educate him about the birds and the bees, truth and lies, and the meaning of life. Finally, Hank has found a real friend. Someone he can share his deepest secrets with. Someone he can share his stale Cheetos with! And as Manny slowly comes back to life, the two of them decide it’s time to look for civilization and move back into the real world.

But is the real world ready for a talking corpse and an oddball loner?

Swiss Army Man is a weird movie. It’s a fantasy seen through the eyes of someone not quite right in the head. It has big stars but with a low-budget indie feel. It’s funny, stupid, weird, cute, quirky and actually sort of touching. I kinda liked it. On the surface it seems like a reboot of Cast Away, where Tom Hanks makes friends with a volleyball. But it’s not. This one doesn’t take itself nearly as seriously – that’s it’s best point.

Weiner and Swiss Army Man both open today in Toronto; check your local listings.

This is Daniel Garber at the Movies, each Friday morning, on CIUT 89.5 FM and on my website, culturalmining.com

Daniel Garber talks to Doug Blush about his new film about bipolar people OF TWO MINDS

dougblushHi, This is Daniel Garber at the Movies forculturalmining.com and CIUT 89.5 FM.

There’s a psychiatric term to describe the condition of extreme mood swings that go from up in the clouds to down in the dumps. It’s known as Bi-Polar disorder. Its been diagnosed, categorized, treated by prescription drugs. Some people fear it and ostracize anyone given that label. Others say the world would be worse off, less interesting without it.

A new documentary, called OF TWO MINDS, gives an account of four people whose lives Cheri-Dance-01-1024x576and personalities are tied to and shaped by this condition, by both its good and its bad aspects. And I’m very pleased to have DOUG BLUSH, (who produced documentaries like the Invisible War) co-director, with Lisa Klein, of OF TWO MINDS.

of two minds posterDoug’s talks about bipolar people, what it’s like, how it’s dealt with in popular media, how people handle it, why he chose to make a film about it, Mad Pride, medication, “Bipolar 1 vs Bipolar 2” diagnoses, and more…

Tagged with: ,

Off-Beat Comedies. Movies Reviewed: A Glimpse Inside the Mind of Charles Swan III, Identity Thief

Posted in 1970s, Cars, Class, Crime, Cultural Mining, L.A., Meltdown, Movies, Uncategorized, US by CulturalMining.com on February 17, 2013

Hi, this is Daniel Garber at the Movies for culturalmining.com and CIUT 89.5 FM, looking at high-brow and low-brow movies, indie, cult, foreign, festival, documentary, genre and mainstream films, helping you see movies with good taste, movies that taste good, and how to tell the difference.

It’s February and it’s winter and I hate it. With snow comes slush, and with slush comes sludgy puddles. I got sprayed with brown muck from my shoes to my face by an SUV driver a couple days ago. Not fun.

So what better time for a laugh or two.

This week I’m looking at a couple of off-beat comedies about men trying to get their lives back together. Ones a retro look at a man’s midlife crisis; the other is a buddy/road movie about a robber and a rob-ee forced to travel together.

Party_CS_BM_1A Glimpse Inside the Mind of Charles Swan III

Wri/Dir: Roman Coppola

Charles Swan III (Charlie Sheen) is a drunk, a womanizer, a stoner, and a self-centred, Hollywood semi-demi-hemi celebrity. He has his own successful design studio where he makes pop-art posters and record album covers for megastars, like his best buddy Kirby Star (the director’s cousin Jason Schwartzman). He is known for his airbrushed images of camp, huge-breasted woman in fringed vests and cowboy hats. He drives around in his vintage car (known for the giant fried eggs painted on the side) to make out with his current girlfriend Ivana (Katheryn Winnick). But, when she digs up a crusty diaphragm a past date left from under a seat, she loses it. She dumps him. She’s gone, his career collapses, his life is over, and he spirals into a dramatic, Hollywood-style meltdown.

An LA meltdown starring Charlie Sheen? Who woulda thunk it? We follow his encounters with his doctor, his psychiatrists, his agent, his lawyer, his friends and his family, all of whom have lots of their own problems and neuroses to complain about. You get to see all this through the filter – and I use the term lightly, since the one thing this movie could use is a filter! — of Charles’s brain, filled with fantasies within stories within meta-memories, until your brain wants to explode, too.

Does this sound messy? It is. It’s a slapdash, hodgepodge mess of a movie, less compelling than confusing, less funny than eye-rolling. It’s just hard to sympathize with a rich successful conceited Charlie_Sheen_and_Jason_Schwartzmanguy having a midlife crisis.

At the same time, it’s a visual smorgasbord. It takes during the 1970s, the “Me decade”, and is filled with all the kitsch icons — the cowboys and Indians, fast-food, sports cars, the bikinis, the faux country/western ranches, the psychedelia, the sideburns, the seventies’ nostalgia for the twenties, forties and fifties. What at the time was thought of as incredible excess, is now almost admirable for its care and craftsmanship. Peter Max, Tom Robbins, Linda Ronstadt…

It shows us an era where you really could get rich designing the cardboard cover of a hit record album, and you were allowed to rent elephants or camels and extras and costumes for that one perfect shot. While I love the music, the images, and even the amazing fonts used for the titles, I find the story a godawful mess.

identity thief 2Identity Thief

Dir: Seth Gordon

Diana (Melissa McCarthy) favours heavy make up, a fright wig and loud, flowered shirts. She doesn’t have any friends. So she replaces them with hairdressers, shop clerks, bartenders. What she does have is a nearly bottomless money pit, a goose that keeps laying golden eggs. She has multiple toasters, fiberglass boats, a new car. But money doesn’t grow on trees – she gets it from other people’s credit cards, using Identity theft.

Meanwhile, in Denver, Sandy (Jason Bateman) a mild-mannered, middle-aged middle-manager, has a beautiful wife, two cute daughetrs, and another one on the way. But suddenly his job disappears, his bank account is drained, and he’s suddenly a wanted criminal – for something Diana did in Florida. He’s the victim, she’s the culprit.

So, after discovering who’s to blame — and without any help from the police — he decides to drive identity thiefacross the country to bring her to justice in Colorado. Although a pathological liar, she agrees to come with him, as the lesser evil. You see, she’s being stalked by a pair of slick gangster hitmen and a ruthless bounty hunter, both out to catch and kill her. So Sandy soon finds himself surrounded by her world of con-jobs, frauds, deception and crime. Will he descend to her level, or will she rise to his?

This is actually a funny trip comedy. It’s made by the guy who did Horrible Bosses, and has a similar feel, lots of slapstick comedy with Diana getting Identity_Thief_4hit by trucks, Sandy getting punched in the throat, people having embarrassing, kinky sex with Texans in roadhouses… things like that. Lots of sight gags and shtick thrown in just for the laughs, but the movie doesn’t suffer, and the story pulls it along. And Bateman and McCarthy are an excellent team, with her as the funnyman, him as the straightman. Good comedy that’s actually funny, worth seeing for the laughs.

Identity Theft is now playing and Charles Swan III opens today in Toronto. Also playing and worth checking out are some great documentaries. Shadows of Liberty, by Canadian Jean-Philippe Tremblay, exposes the excesses and biases of mainstream media. And 5 Broken Cameras, (directed by Guy Davidi and Emad Burnat) is a devastating, first-hand record of the lives of the people in Bi’lin, a Palestinian village after settler encroachment. Check your local listings for times and screens.

This is Daniel Garber at the Movies, each Friday morning on CIUT 89.5 FM and on my website, culturalmining.com .

%d bloggers like this: