Friday, June 11, 2010

When in Rome, Greenberg + Hoosiers

If not held captive on a cross-Atlantic flight, I wouldn't have watched When in Rome. Why should I? It's just another formulaic as all get out, mindless, imaginationless, silly piece of romantic comedy fluff from Hollywood. They churn these films out one after the other around February and none of them stand out from the other as they are practically carbon copies.

The story for this concerns a magic fountain in Rome with coins that cast a love-spell. Enough said. Kristen Bell is indeed adorable but take that away and this film is wretched. Plus, having to watch When in Rome while undergoing all the stress of flying is border-line passenger abuse by the airlines and should probably be investigated by the FAA cinema division. If those detectives don't exist, I'm offering up my services for the position of airline programmer but am only interested if I could choose out of the box selections. Imagine being on a flight getting to choose from good movies! What a concept that would be. This recent flight from London had nothing but dreck. Absolute dreck.

There's no lower feeling than that of watching a movie that has been highly anticipated for months and months and getting that sinking feeling as it unfolds. You know, the film isn't as good as the build up in your mind? Greenberg is an an example of that for me. I looked forward to seeing Greenberg as soon as I heard about it as it was written and directed by Noah Baumbach (The Squid and the Whale, Margot at the Wedding), stars Ben Stiller as a very neurotic guy stuck in stasis in California. Supporting cast of Rhys Ifans, Greta Gerwig and Jennifer Jason Leigh didn't dampen my enthusiasm.

But I didn't like Greenberg. At all. Due to the build up and my exaggerated expectations, this might be win the title of biggest disappointment of 2010 for me. Blaming annoying and exasperating characters in a Baumbach movie would be a tad ridiculous as that's a Baumbach trademark. The people in Greenberg do have those traits though. I found the film to be unfunny--I didn't laugh or even chuckle a single time, unemotional and didn't form a single attachment to anyone. While these aren't always needed for me to enjoy a movie--the lack of these things in this particular film created a mammoth barrier in front of me that restricted my ability to get lost in the story. Greenberg felt phony, artificial, forced and was working so hard I could see the strain of labor. The lesson to be learned--don't build up a film so much. Hard to do, I know.

I hadn't watched the inspirational sports film Hoosiers since it came out in 1986. The Blu-Ray format encourages re-screenings so a few nights ago I watched it on a stormy Oklahoma night and found it kind of hit and miss. The night was the perfect viewing atmosphere--tornados brewing in the area (the sirens were set off a few times during the film), hard rain and strong winds that knocked out my satellite dish. What else was there to watch if not the copy of Hoosiers sitting on my mantle?

Gene Hackman plays a volatile basketball coach who hasn't had a job in twelve years after punching a player in the face. In 1951, he takes a job in Hickory, Indiana, a small town whose social life revolves around their beloved high school team, the Huskers. Things don't go well for the new coach as he's short on players, the team loses games, he's ejected a lot, seeks the aid of the area drunk and the local phenom, Jimmy Chitwood, would prefer to make shots on a dirt, farm court rather than in a cramped gym.

Naturally, this being one of those tear-jerking sports related films, Hackman turns it around and the town rallies behind the team as they mow through the large city squads during the playoffs. There's lots of swelling music and ecstatic crowd shots as everyone is getting redeemed. I found Hoosiers a bit dated 24 years after I last saw it. Still entertaining, the tears did well up in my eyes as the rousing ending occurred, the movie is just too ham-fisted and simplistic to register a classic. That era was a more innocent time and Hoosiers tries to link into that but watching it this time, that innocence just comes off as naivete way too much.

1 comment:

ROFO said...

Sounds interesting. I'll try to watch it.