Two new films have opened around the country, greeted with a collective groan by elitists desensitized by awards season hype. Despite the groaning consensus, they are both pleasures to behold.
Michel Gondry's sixth feature film, The Green Hornet, is a deceptively mainstream reconfiguring of the culty 60s television series. While the hipsters sound the death rattle for Gondry's banner as their darling, anyone with a cinematic sixth sense can see this is where his art has been headed. It may not be his best film, but Gondry is such a sensitive filmmaker, it is easy to see this as a playful stepping stone on his filmic journey.
Breaking down superhero stereotypes with a combination of Rogen's simple script and Gondry's own "music video" effects, he seamlessly flows the slapsick action into a coherent narrative commentary on the inherent homoeroticism of boys and their toys.
The high gloss cinematography illuminates the joy guided along by songs of The White Stripes and Van Halen to ridiculous and raucous fight scenes, piecing the plot together in Gondryesque phantasmagoric collages of action and violence. The preposterousness of the entire enterprise reaches a crescendo of Hamlet inspired surrealism in a blacked out, green backlit fight sequence.
While most have turned their heads, Gondry has spun a blissfully benign studio confection worth looking into.
Ron Howard has been a hit and miss director, mostly denied the reputation he so richly deserves as a low key auteur. His films have admittedly been uneven, yet even his worst (The Grinch, The DaVinci Code) have been interesting. The Missing, Cinderella Man and Frost/Nixon have been some of the most fascinating American inquiries into genre in the past decade.
His new film, the "comedy" The Dilemma, has also been nationally disregarded as a miss, yet the film is so unusual it is definitely worthy of closer study.
Allan Loeb (Things We Lost in the Fire) has crafted comfortable, naturalistic characters and dialogue within a typical plot framework/device, and Howard gently shapes his comedy drama around it, swabbing our tired eyes with Salvatore Totino's low sheen, homey images of downtown Chicago.
Vince Vaughn and Kevin James craft two of their most sensitive performances around two buddies who become wrapped up in the moral vicissitudes of one another's lives, where Howard brings to mind the power of Eric Rohmer, the triumphs and lows of love.
The element of suspense, the moral question he raises and builds around Winona Ryder's dynamic, gutsy comeback performance, is odd and ballsy.The urgent dynamic we are drawn into in this peculiarly likable film is palpable and deserving of more attention.
So those who won't even give these two lovely new films a chance, won't even admit the quirks and pleasures gifted to ungrateful American audiences by these two modern masters, I say these January gems are too beautiful for you.