Films I Neglected To Review: "I Don't Think Mozart's Going To Help At All"By Peter Sobczynski
Posted 04/27/18 12:43:08
Please enjoy short reviews of "Duck Butter," "The Green Fog," "Kings" and "Supercon."
Although the combination of comedy, intense drama and wild lust sounds like a potentially combustible mixture, ''Duck Butter'' never quite strikes the sparks needed to ignite them all. The concept of the film is sound enough and both Shawkat (best known from her roles on ''Arrested Development'' and ''Search Party'') and Costa (who starred in the thriller ''Victoria'') are good enough but the whole thing falters because of two key flaws in the screenplay from Arteta and Shawkat. For starters, while the sex scenes are certainly steamy enough to warrant attention, the conversations the two have in between are meant to be soul-searching but merely come across as banal navel-gazing for the most part. (Things get a little more incisive after a shift in locale and tone in the last 20 minutes but it is too little, too late.) The other problem is that there is an imbalance at the center in that Naima, for all of her shallowness, is the only one of the central pair who has been even vaguely fleshed-out while Sergio is little more than a collection of flighty tropes straight out the European edition of the Manic Pixie Dream Girl instruction manual. Maybe if the film had explored the narcissistic tendencies of the two characters in a more overtly satirical manner, the results might have been more interesting but as is, ''Duck Butter'' (the title is explained in one of the overtly scatological moments that the story pivots to at times, seemingly in a desperate attempt to get a rise out of viewers) is a film that mostly serves as a reminder, not that one was needed, of how brilliant the superficially similar ''Before Sunrise'' really was in comparison.
This may sound like an exceptionally nerdy example of film geekery but Maddin & Co. prove to be much more clever than that. For starters, the parallels to ''Vertigo,'' while never overwhelming, are undeniable in many of the seemingly unrelated clips and as it goes on, it begins to serve as a fairly mesmerizing meditation on that key work of cinema and why it has maintained such a hold on audiences and filmmakers alike. More importantly, the film, like much of Maddin's best work, displays a keen sense of humor that keeps things from getting too pretentious. With a few exceptions, for example, all of the scenes involving conversations have been whittled down to nothing but reaction shots with no dialogue actually heard (perhaps to illustrate how unnecessary dialogue can be at times in most films while allowing its own sort-of narrative to take precedence over the details from the 98 different films that did make the cut) and some of the juxtapositions are hilariously inspired. (At one point, we see the ''Streets of San Francisco''-era Michael Douglas supposedly watching film of Douglas’s later bare-assed turn in ''Basic Instinct'' while another makes brilliant use of an old N'Sync video.) Because of all the myriad copyright issues at hand here, it is unlikely that ''The Green Fog'' is going to get a wide release or ever turn up on home video so if you get an opportunity to see it, especially if you are a film buff in general and a ''Vertigo'' fan in particular, you should make the effort to check it out if the opportunity arises. Just make sure to leave time afterwards (it only clocks in at 61 minutes, though they are as densely packed as one could hope for) to watch ''Vertigo'' because once this one ends, you will almost certainly be seized with the need to see that one again as soon as possible. (Happily, Chicago's Gene Siskel Film Center, where it will be screening for the next week, has your back in this regard with several screenings of "Vertigo'' on the schedule as well.)
With its combination of earnest drama, weirdo humor and too many WTF moments to list here, ''Kings'' is the kind of high-wire act that never even makes it to the ladder so that it can plummet to the ground. If Kathryn Bigelow had been fired from the helm of last year's ''Detroit'' and replaced with the infamous Uwe Boll, that would only begin to suggest how jarring the end result here is. I don't want to say that something got lost in translation along the way but I honestly do not know any other way to explain the film's bewildering changes of tone that veer wildly from comedy to intense drama without ever finding the right one for the material at hand. Not only is there not a single scene on display here that works on any level, many of them seem to be actively competing to be the worst of the bunch. (The ''winner'' is the insanely protracted when Millie and Obie find themselves handcuffed to a light pole and undergo an increasingly ridiculous series of gyrations in their efforts to free themselves.) As Millie, Berry contributes one of the most actively inane performances of her entire career (I promise you that ''Catwoman'' will supply more clips on her eventual AFI Lifetime Achievement highlight reel than this film) while Craig is so lazy that the most notable thing about his character is the way that his British accent inexplicably returns in the later scenes. The 1992 L.A. riots have inspired a number of movies over the years, both narrative efforts and documentaries, and will continue to do so for a long time. At least future filmmakers tackling the subject will be safe in the knowledge that it will be almost impossible for them to botch the material as badly and as completely as ''Kings'' does.
Even for someone who is as cool on convention culture as I am, the idea of a cosplay-heavy riff on ''Ocean’s Eleven'' that also takes shots at the ways that crappy cons exploit fans sounds potentially tantalizing. Therefore, it is a little shocking to see just how far ''Supercon'' misses the mark in every conceivable way. The heist aspect doesn't pay off thanks to the combination of lazy writing and indifferent direction from co-writer/director Zack Knutson that fails to compensate for what was clearly a budget too small to pull it off properly. (The film actually feels as if it was shot and edited entirely during a weekend at a mid-level convention and this, I hesitate to add, is not meant as a compliment.) The tattiness of the heist material might have been forgivable if they other stuff had worked but the rest of the movie is both desperately unfunny and bizarrely hateful in its humor--a startling number of jokes on display are of a racist, sexist and homophobic nature that flies in the face of the inclusiveness that is normally on display at conventions. And when the humor isn't being blatantly offensive, it falls back on just being gross--just when you think that the running gag about the child actor's character having suffered from testicular cancer on the show was going to be the low point, up comes the bit where a character dangles over an increasingly befouled toilet for several minutes before falling into it headfirst. A movie seemingly made for no one, ''Supercon'' is truly the pits--a film so lazy, so unfocused and so uninterested in the culture that it is shamelessly exploiting that it almost makes ''Fanboys'' seems nuanced and competent by comparison.
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