So few movies this summer.

  1. Palindromes (Todd Solondz, 2004): I really wish that had sent Welcome to the Dollhouse before this one, since it starts with the funeral of the earlier movie’s main character — and I feel like I would have gotten more out of that one if I’d understood the way the two movies interconnected. As it stands, I liked parts of Palindromes: the device with the different performers playing Aviva is really effective, the way it asks viewers to jump barriers of age, of race, of size, even of gender for a second (though I wonder why Solondz only used the boy actor for one, silent, though beautiful scene) in understanding all those actors as a single person. I’m sort of working through how I feel about Palindromes — I liked the way it used the abortion debate to deal with the way that people aren’t just their opinion on one issue, and you can see how that point would maybe not be embraced in 2004 America or even now. But it’s been days since I’ve seen it and I’m still not sure what his point was about identity. Are we palindromes, the same backward and forward? Is it really impossible to change? But then, like, what does Aviva and Otto’s moment in the garden mean?
  2. Cry-Baby (John Waters, 1990): This is one of those movies I’ll start watching whenever it comes on TV, and it never gets less good. I still laugh every time Baldwin says: “We’ll get married and live in suburbia!” His delivery is so enthusiastic and horrifying, I like his performance the same way I like Vincent Kartheiser in Mad Men — it’s brave to be such an awful character.
    His bunny hop gets me every time. He’s just so gleeful about violently maintaining the social order. (Screencap source.)
  3. (500) Days of Summer (Marc Webb, 2009): This has exactly the flaws and exactly the great points you expect it to, which is fine. J G-L (oh my GOD look at the picture he has on wikipedia, it’s like the funny photo I would put on my Facebook profile as a JOKE) and Zooey were both good. J G-L was, honestly, pretty great, but the issue was more with the writing and it’s lean towards preciousness, and the fact that the first time director was basically like “look at all my techniques! Split screens! Montages! LOOK AT THEM!” (Actually he’s made like a million music videos, but that’s a really different medium and every minute maybe doesn’t need to feel so worked-over in a feature length film). Some of them worked — I thought the split screen bit (expectations on one side, reality on the other) was a bit on-the-nose, but fine in terms of the tone and themes of the story — but he didn’t need all of them. He did do a wonderful job of capturing a lot feelings, but I’m just saying he maybe could have done it more subtly. The main thing with this movie is the main thing with all these movies — it wants to have it both ways. This one does a better job than most of making it clear that Tom, our hero, is totally deluding himself the whole way through the relationship, but it still paints a really pretty, far too seductive picture of indie girls and holding hands at Ikea for us to be very cynical about it. Which brings me to the manic pixie dream girl problem — sometimes this works (Annie Hall, which this movie totally wants to be), but mostly it doesn’t (Garden State). Like, it’s fine to have a girl who is pretty and has a complicated personality, but you know, it would still be nice if Summer had, like, any life outside her relationship with Tom.
  4. Les Chansons d’amour (Christophe Honoré, 2007): Oh man, so good! It’s an Umbrellas of Cherbourg-style musical about love and life and death and it’s really beautiful despite the hero being a bit of a dweeb. The Cherbourg comparison is one I think everyone would have reached for even if Chiara Mastroianni (Catherine Deneuve’s daughter) wasn’t in it. She is pretty great though.

    As I wrote on my tumblr right after I watched it: They’re French! They have angst! Angst they express through song! The hero wears a striped sailor sweater and a charming yellow shirt. I loved it so.
    David Edelstein said this about it: “Honoré has proven you can make a movie musical in which style doesn’t upstage content–a movie musical that blossoms from the inside out,” which is a nice way of putting it if a bit insulting to the grand tradition of ridiculousness in movie musicals, but it is remarkably short on spectacle.