Friday, August 26, 2016

Ayn Rand fans, now I've never read Atlas Shrugged but I do know the gist of the plot and its general reputation. Anyway I started watching the movie version and... It. Is. Bad. Like real bad. If I start watching a movie its almost unheard of for me not to finish it. Even if its bad I like to be able to complain about it in detail, but this was just so awful, I couldn't do it. I planed on watching the whole trilogy this weekend but I didn't even get through part I. Bad acting, very limited budget, the dialogue and plot are just eek. I get what its trying to say, that the job creators and innovators are important, we take them for granted, big government bad, personal sovereignty good, you can't tell us what to do, we don't owe you anything, etc. But this story just felt like a pity party for the one percent, and the one percent can afford better. I'm guessing the book must be better then this. Anybody see this movie? Anyone like it? Is it faithful to the book and if so how is the book better? Thoughts? It's 10% rating on Rotten Tomato's seems kind of generous.

Indignation (2016)

I'm a big fan of the novels of Philip Roth, though I (and I think he) would freely admit the man and his work can have their excess. Though when Roth is at his best he really hits it out of the park. His 2000 novel The Human Stain was one such, to mix sports metaphors, 'slam dunk', however its 2003 film adaptation was not.  That movie was disappointing, but I don't think it had to be. A large part of the problem was the abbreviated 1 hour 46 minute running time, under the right hands and with say 2 1/2 hours to tell the story I think the movie could have been quite good, HBO should have done it. So I had some cause for trepidation when I heard that another great Roth novel, Indignation was to be made into a film. Though Indignation I felt also had the more potential for a movie adaptation in that the book is shorter, more of a novella, and its story more concentrated, whereas the side stories in The Human Stain, which added a lot to that novel, were largely dropped from its screen treatment.

Indignation, Roth's 29th book, came out in 2008. It along with Everyman (2006), The Humbling (2009) and the now retired authors last novel Nemesis (2010) (which I think has the most movie potential out of the four), are sometimes referred to as Roth's 'Indignation Quadrilogy', as these four short novels are all about a characters taking a real or perceived slight and letting it destroy him. (On a side note one wonders if this theme is at least in part a response to the nasty things Roth's ex wife the actress Clair Bloom said about him in her memories, but that also gets us into his 1998 novel I Married a Communist and is a digression I won't peruse further her)..

Indignation's story is (like many a Roth book) about a bright young Jewish boy of the authors generation from New Jersey, in this case Marcus Messner, the son of a kosher butcher who in the early 1950's gets to become the first member of his family to go to college when he gets awarded a scholarship to Winesburg, a (fictional) small but prestigious private college in Ohio. Logan Lerman, a relative unknown like all of the cast, is excellent as Messner, really capturing the characters mix of naiveté, defensiveness and pride. Plucked into this new world Messner is an awkward fit who seems unconsciously bent on making things worse for himself through a seemingly chronic inability to just let anything go. At Winseburg Marcus falls for fellow student Olivia Hutton (Sarah Gadon, luminous), a pretty but troubled girl who comes from a rich background. That relationship, which is central to the book, is central here, it is what the story is built on, and it is ultimately what will lead Marcus to his doom.

The films strong focus on this central story, as well as the fact that its an adaptation and can't help but drop some things, inevitably leads to some minor changes from the novel. Some of the side characters and subplots, like Marcus's conflicts with his roommates (one of which is played by Ben Rosenfield, who had been a supporting character on Boardwalk Empire and the only actor in this film that I immediately recognized), are truncated, and other things such as the campus wide riot that plays a large part in the ending of the novel, are completely left out (I had been excited to see the riot on screen, but ultimately it was not necessary for the movie and would have taken too much time to set up and been a distraction from the main story). Yet none of these changes really mattered, this film was true to the spirit of Roth's book in a way that The Human Stain movie never was. Beautiful to look at and excellently handled by first time director James Schamus, this understated little film is easily one of the best movies of the year so far. Schamus even manages to work in, and pretty close to word for word, an awkward, confrontational conversation between Marcus and his schools dean Hawes D. Caudwell (Tony Award winner Tracy Letts), which has got to run around 10 minutes and is probably the most glorious thing I've seen on screen all year. There is some sexual content so its not for everyone, but I loved this movie. ****
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Thursday, August 25, 2016

Me and Earl and the Dying Girl (2015)

The Fault in Our Stars meets Be Kind Rewind. ***