05/29/15 9:00am
05/29/2015 9:00 AM |
"No Aloha (press screenings)"

Cameron Crowe has a new movie out this weekend, and given his career over the past decade, what happened to Cameron Crowe? is not an unreasonable question. It’s not quite what happened to Rob Reiner? or what happened to M. Night Shyamalan?, though, and I do wonder how fair it is to Crowe’s gifts as a filmmaker and, moreover, the simple facts of his filmography. In the past fifteen years, Crowe made his dream project and won a screenplay Oscar for it (Almost Famous); notched his second and third-highest grossing movies ever (Vanilla Sky and We Bought a Zoo); and suffered one unequivocal critical and commercial flop in the form of Elizabethtown. Nonetheless, the Crowe brand (if we can label Crowe’s films as things that can, in fact, be sold, bought, and processed) is obviously in disrepair as Aloha cruises into theaters with limited press screenings and heavy embargos on anyone who managed to catch one.

I haven’t seen Aloha—I couldn’t make it to that one screening they had—but I will see it this weekend, because twice Crowe has made one of my favorite movies ever. Besides the aforementioned Almost Famous, there’s Say Anything, or as I frequently refer to it, a better John Hughes movie than anything John Hughes ever made. In between accessible masterpieces, Crowe used to make good movies like Singles and Jerry Maguire (which I recognize as the Crowe movie that probably means the most to “them,” the nebulous moviegoing public); now, after his last couple of in-betweeners without a great movie to chase them, anything as good as Singles would be greeted rapturously. Early word suggests that Aloha suggests it will not be greeted rapturously. Still, I hold out hope for the Crowe of old, even if it’s in minor form.


05/27/15 7:02am
05/27/2015 7:02 AM |

Richard Widmark and Jean Peters in Samuel Fuller’s PICKUP ON S

Pickup on South Street (1953)
Directed by Samuel Fuller
High and low crime go eye-to-eye in this dustup of swindles. Fresh out of jail and back to his grift, Richard Widmark’s magic-fingered, sneering hood, Skip McCoy, makes off with a lovely straphanger’s (Jean Peters) purse. Plus the purse’s cache of microfilm intended for the Soviets. From the beginning critics found the plot hard to believe, with the New York Times and Variety shaking their heads at its tale of Feds and Reds and something like love, one half of that love (Peters’s Candy) getting knocked out, beat up, shot at, and showered in beer. But pulp the way Fuller cooks it—snappy, violent, and mean—makes it own sense, right being Peters’s pleading, artless look, wrong a matter for us in the real world to fuss with. Pickup on South Street is fresh, pulpy, and savage, a still hot, hard-boiled classic. Jeremy Polacek (May 29-June 4 at Film Forum; showtimes daily)

05/20/15 8:39am
05/20/2015 8:39 AM |
photo courtesy of Magnolia Pictures

Directed by Andrew Bujalski
Opens May 29 at IFC Center

Like lazy, looping boomerangs that never quite make it back, Andrew Bujalski’s films routinely take a gamble on desultory paths, living with his characters but never wanting to impose. Primarily concerning two trainers and a schlub, Results continues that illusory insouciance, as unconcerned as its deviously witty title is targeted, but significantly it’s also Bujalski’s first work starring two established actors rather than the moonlighting postgrads and postpostgrads his usual casts resemble.

Starting off with a spring in its step, the Austin-set comedy shuffles among Danny (Kevin Corrigan), an ornery trainer named Kat (Cobie Smulders), and Trevor (Guy Pearce), for whom she works. This might be thirteen years after Funny Ha Ha, with people supposedly further along in life, but the aimlessness still obtains, as does the variability. Playing divorced Danny, who inherits a pile of money and has zero idea what to do next, or how to do it, Corrigan flourishes; Guy Pearce has the ready-made fit-and-upbeat look of a trainer with a program to market—namely, his character, Trevor—but never quite finds his footing.

Lanky, bright-eyed, and ever a step away from calling people on shit, Kat is given an appealing unpredictability by Smulders (who reminded me of a rising French actress, Adèle Haenel, in a film also being released this month as, awkwardly, Love at First Fight). But Results rises and falls with Corrigan’s hilarious performance as a sad-sack with some fight in him, and the money to buy weed and distractions and dinner, if not quite able to stick to the regimen prescribed by Kat, whom he predictably lusts after. Corrigan’s been a personal favorite since an earlier era of indies, and despite sometimes being treated elsewhere as a character on the periphery, here he gives a command performance of marvelous subtlety and comic timing, and not a little pathos.

Corrigan’s slow-burn consternation in this film never fails, on par with the greats, and when the story renews itself with a fresh focus on Kat and Trevor, it’s a bit of a letdown, not least because the two actors never seem to mesh. But just for giving Corrigan free rein, Results gets… itself.