Reviews written by dmt5
The Film Behind The DowneyJun 23rd, 2010
Who is KK Downey? It is an appropriate question to ask on multiple levels. Not only can it be applied to the character in the film, but it can also be leveled at the film itself. KK Downey is a bizarre amalgamation of ideas and comedic tropes, seemingly thrown together at will. It's a vulgar and at times schizophrenic film than can never seem to decide how absurd it wants to be. One minute we have ruminations on the nature of marketability in the mainstream media, and the next we have car chase scenes involving male prostitutes. Characters who seem surprisingly human at the start of the film will become complete cartoons by the end.
In spite of this seemingly fractured narrative, KK Downey proves to be entertaining. The overall style of the writing can best be compared to fellow Canadian comedy troupe Kids in the Hall, only with more references to the aesthetic values of dejected 20-somethings. Like all good satires the film plays itself almost completely straight-faced; only towards the end do the proceedings veer into all-out camp territory.
In spite of the absurdist nature of the film the script veers into cliched territory at parts, particularly in terms of the romance subplot, and many of the characters prove to be unlikeable at the beginning of the film. There's nothing wrong with vulgarity, but there needs to be a punchline to go with it.
In short, KK Downey the film proves to be just as bizarre and scattershot as the titular character for which the film is named. Although the film isn't perfect by any means, it is an enjoyable and unique look at the price of stardom.
The Real UndergroundJun 22nd, 2010
The Latin American hip-hop scene is one that is not often explored in any medium, let alone film. The exposure that hip-hop does get in mainstream film is normally limited to the usual suspects, like 2Pac or Biggie or Eminem. So the fact that Estilo Hip Hop actually goes into a good deal of depth about such a unique facet of the genre is refreshing, as is the overall scope of the film itself. The 57 minute documentary includes a good deal of info for those who may be unfamiliar with hip-hop's cultural role as a tool for political and social activism, which is a facet of the genre that seems to have been all but forgotten in recent years. The three subjects that are covered here - Eli Efi of Brazil, Guerrillero Okulto of Chile and Magia of Cuba - are all interesting in their own way, as each one tries to reclaim hip-hop in the name of their people.
The film seems somewhat brief - admittedly, it did debut as a special on PBS, but an additional 10-15 minutes would almost certainly have been to Estilo's benefit and allowed the filmmakers to explore the topic in a bit more depth. Estilo Hip hop is recommended for those who would like at the hip-hop genre through a different cultural lens, or even for those who simply want to see that the genre can represent something more than mindless materialism.
Empanadas For AllJun 3rd, 2010
Despite being an immigrant story, Entre Nos has surprisingly little to do with United States immigration policies. Though released during a period where the debate over immigration reform seems to be reaching a fever pitch, Entre Nos manages to avoid any overt political commentary on the subject. For some, this will undoubtedly be to the movie's detriment; however, Entre Nos works *because* it doesn't try to tackle any larger issues. It is a simple film, unburdened by any need to Tell Us How The World Really Is, and it is that simplicity that makes the film work on such a human level.
From a technical standpoint the film may not seem like anything special, but triple-threat director/writer/leading actress Paola Mendoza manages to infuse Entre Nos with a striking and palpable sense of gritty realism. New York is presented as neither a sterling metropolis nor a grime-infested deathtrap; it simply exists, as unconcerned with the main characters' plight as any random passerby. Speaking of Mendoza, it is her genuinely touching performance as Mariana that elevates the film to the level it is at. She is resilient and loving but also fearful and deeply hurt by her husband's betrayal; Mendoza tackles this emotional gauntlet like a seasoned veteran. Credit, too, must also be given to Laura Montana and Sebastian Villada â€“ who play Mariana's children Andrea and Gabriel, respectively - as their performances are as equally real as Mendoza's, without the stiffness and wooden delivery that so often plagues child actors.
Entre Nos may not be for everyone. It's a sparse and quiet film that doesn't attempt to explain or solve the issues that surround immigration. However, in a time when the facts about immigration reform are frequently be boiled down to mere numbers and statistics, Entre Nos serves as a reminder that, for all the talk of stolen jobs and welfare exploitation, there is a human element involved that is all too frequently forgotten.
We All Live in PublicJun 2nd, 2010
Try to imagine your daily existence under constant surveillance. Now imagine that this also applied to everyone else in the world. Your life is viewable to anyone with an Internet connection, while at the same time you may peer into countless numbers of lives. What would happen to the laws of society, or even to one's own moral code, if the concept of privacy was simply to vanish? We Live in Public both answers these questions and poses new ones as to where exactly our society is headed.
The film mainly serves as a biopic of the life and times of Josh Harris, described by the film as "the greatest Internet pioneer youâ€™ve never heard of.â€ Indeed, Harris does seem a visionary at times; his social experiment â€œQuietâ€ and its smaller-scale offshoot â€œWe Live in Publicâ€ seem like little if not outright prototypes of reality television. The documentation of the former is where the film truly shines, with director Ondi Timoner providing a harrowing and occasionally terrifying glimpse into the basis of societal breakdown. The detachment from any privacy or intimacy (and at times from any humanity) that is shown by the individuals involved is striking in the way it is bluntly depicted; it also proves to be quite chilling when one realizes that perhaps modern-day society wouldn't be too far off from what's shown here, if given unlimited access to alcohol, women, and other people's lives.
The latter experiment, and indeed the latter half of the film, explores Harris' emotional detachment and gradual withdrawal from society at large. While not as striking as the â€œQuietâ€ section on a visceral level, it resonates deeply on an emotional one. Harris fancied himself a veritable puppet-master during â€œQuiet;â€ â€œWe Live in Publicâ€ and its aftermath, on the other hand, shows him as a remarkably lonely individual. Is the general public truly that dissimilar? Any time we flip on â€œJersey Shoreâ€ or â€œThe Real World,â€ are we not feverishly peering into the lives of others simply in order to fill some void that exists within our own?
A Delightful Musical RompMay 26th, 2010
Artistic ruminations on the matters of life and death are not uncommon in film, especially for smaller independent features. In spite of this, All My Friends are Funeral Singers manages to stand out. Equal parts comic and tragic, Funeral Singers provides a fresh spin on what otherwise could have been a gravely dull feature by taking a remarkably unique and theatrical approach to the proceedings.
The film at first seems like two disparate plot-lines running simultaneously, one centering around a fortune teller named Zell and the other around a group of ghosts. Soon, however, these two plot threads become one, and the film begins to truly gel into a cohesive whole. Part of the film's surrealistic appeal is the way it keeps the audience guessing as to what exactly is going on. Angela Bettis does a commendable job as Zell, managing to seem appropriately haunted without ever devolving into self-parody or shrieking hysterics, and the menagerie of ghosts all play their (admittedly somewhat limited) roles well.
Though the base story is satisfying in its own right, where Funeral Singers ultimately excels is in its style. Director Tim Rutili infuses the film with a dark, bizarre atmosphere through some very simple means, such as the slight tilt of a camera on some scenes or the grainy, home-movie-type filter applied to others. Credit, too, must be given to the score, a catchy yet unsettling group of country-flavored tunes that enhance the film more than any amount of cliched weeping strings would have.
As previously mentioned, the film's slight use of CGI is distracting enough to bring attention to itself, and some other directorial choices seem somewhat cheesy. Also, the character of Zell's boyfriend Henry is so lacking in development and screen-time that he may as well not be there, and the pacing at times can seem somewhat sluggish.
However, these issues are minute in the grand scheme of things. All My Friends are Funeral Singers proves to be a success both because of and in spite of its highly experimental nature.