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Overall Rating

Awesome: 17.24%
Worth A Look37.93%
Pretty Bad: 5.17%
Total Crap: 1.72%

7 reviews, 16 user ratings

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Art School Confidential
[] Buy posters from this movie
by Erik Childress

"Now Here's A Film To Celebrate In Your Classrooms"
5 stars

SCREENED AT THE 2006 SUNDANCE FILM FESTIVAL: Friends of mine delight in my tales of years at Columbia College Chicago, the local breeding ground for wannabe filmmakers and other various artists. The term “freak” was not used to affectionate effect and those who would come down with me on occasion would notice the clichés of the starving artist lining the streets and the hallways. It’s wrong to lump everyone into the same checklist. After all, I met several great and creative folk during my tenure there; many who shared the point-of-view of those wanting to create great art in all fashions of the word without succumbing to the punchlines which befitted those who, shall we say, seemed less accessible to the viable commercial aspects of what they were studying. Terry Zwigoff and Daniel Clowes, last seen together creating the wonderful Ghost World, are back on the A-list with their skewering of the pretentiousness and fighting the battle for the true voice to come out of all of us.

Jerome Platz (Max Minghella) is showing up for his first day at the Strathmore Institute, which looks prettier in the brochure than it does on campus – just the first of many ways were asked to look outside the box. Jerome’s dream is to become the greatest artist of the 21st century, following in the footsteps of his hero, Pablo Picasso, the kind of obvious choice that draws ire from pretentious art students who all want to be different. The resident wiseguy, Bardo (Joel David Moore) will tell Jerome all about the archetypes of the creative wannabes (The Angry Lesbian, The Vegan, The Boring Blowhard, etc…). Jerome is even rooming with two of them, the effeminate fashion designer (Nick Swardson) and the aspiring filmmaker (Ethan Suplee) who believes he’s got the next ticket to becoming Flavor of the Month.

In the class of Professor Sandiford (John Malkovich), students are told not to have expectations since “only one out of a hundred will ever make a living as an artist!” Jerome’s wide-eyed optimism turns to cynicism really fast when his classmates take a shine to either the most obtuse of artistic expressions (a bunch of squiggly lines, for instance) or the simplistic drawings of household items by pretty-boy, Jonah (Matt Keeslar). With criticism like this, it’s easy to appreciate why a serial killer is picking off students of campus. While suffering through the meanderings of his brethren and the drunken self-pity of failed artist, Jimmy (Jim Broadbent), Jerome instantly finds his muse in Audrey (the luminous Sophia Myles), an artist’s model whom he strikes a friendship with after she appreciates the painting he does of her in class.

Like Ghost World, there’s more than just plot strands bumping into one another. So much so, that when it comes to the “murder mystery” its easy to believe it becomes the domineering one (especially in the second half.) But its just one of the many affectations that Zwigoff and Clowes have on the art world. There are little red herrings dropped along about the potential guilt of some of the characters, but its not really treated like a mystery that needs solving. The first sign of trouble that hits in the world we live in, it’s become commonplace for authority figures to point blame at the artistic community. For Zwigoff, it doesn’t matter who is responsible for the deaths, only that the cops are clueless and have only one outlet – to harass anyone in a coffee shop. When one detective mistakes a student film for that of an actual murder scene, it’s a joke we’ve seen before but it produces a further resonance to the misinterpretation of art reflecting life and not the other way around.

It’s all part of the fabric as we watch Max fall from the heights of hopefulness down to the clichés of the angry, starving artist because of a community preaching individuality as long as it doesn’t interfere with their own aspirations. Malkovich’s Sandiford seems like he has just the right amount of cynical wisdom for his students, but the revelation of his life’s work proves that he’s as clueless as the rest of them. Anjelica Huston’s art history teacher speaks wisely to the timelessness of art, a lesson Max first takes to heart but then forgets when he ignores his own instincts to follow the patterns of others which register as either too innocent or too dark. All he needs to do is look closely at the penultimate portrait of his muse to see what great artists suffer for and whom many, like Max, get into the game to begin with. If only there were more Audreys out there able to recognize how perfect it can be when seen through the eyes of someone like Max and not the innumerable posers out there fighting for her attention.

With this, Crumb and the musings of art school pretentions in Ghost World, Zwigoff clearly finds something off about where the endeavors of the art world are headed. Perhaps it should be acknowledged that when it comes to creativity, teachers can only give you so much and the success of others should be inspirational but not imitated. The lack of originality out there in just the film world has given way to countless remakes and not-so-hidden homages to the resumes of heroes. Art School Confidential is wise and sad, but also has countless laughs in smacking down what many could consider an easy target. But its knowing where to poke and how to poke it that makes this more than just another wise-ass thesis. Its final shot is a beautiful masterstroke of the separation and desire involved in personally connecting with a piece of art and is the kind of frame-worthy moment that more students should be learning about.

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originally posted: 02/03/06 07:00:28
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OFFICIAL SELECTION: 2006 Sundance Film Festival For more in the 2006 Sundance Film Festival series, click here.
OFFICIAL SELECTION: 2006 Portland Film Festival For more in the 2006 Portland Film Festival series, click here.
OFFICIAL SELECTION: 2006 U.S. Comedy Arts Festival For more in the 2006 U.S. Comedy Arts Festival series, click here.
OFFICIAL SELECTION: 2006 San Francisco Film Festival For more in the 2006 San Francisco Film Festival series, click here.

User Comments

2/27/13 David Hollingsworth Suprising, funny, and a little high-brow 4 stars
2/25/08 SamanthaP being anart student i thought that this movie was very true, it was also very funny! 4 stars
5/09/07 David Pollastrini not great, not terrible 3 stars
2/18/07 Bad Critic Thank you Zwigoff. Dark comedies of yours are a treat. 5 stars
12/07/06 Indrid Cold The comedy is a lot better than the serious parts, but worth a look. 4 stars
11/17/06 Phil M. Aficionado Weak brew indeed; more hackneyed stereotypes than smiles, and very scattered/spotty. 2 stars
9/21/06 John B Fell apart 1/2 way though 3 stars
6/14/06 Ole Man Bourbon Some funny jokes 4 stars
6/03/06 Stefan Russell an endless parade of cliches and bad acting... ha ha not funny either 2 stars
5/29/06 Troy M. Grzych 1st 1/2 is a comedy, the 2nd a dark drama, should have stayed a comedy. 3 stars
5/25/06 cailen dry, dark and tedious 1 stars
5/17/06 Mase Smart, original, unigue,dark comedy from Zwigoff. Smiled throught laughed out loud often!! 5 stars
5/17/06 Paul funny, right on, fine mix of crazy yet eloquently done writing and acting 5 stars
5/14/06 K. Pearlman Indy comic stuff doesn't always go over well with audiences 3 stars
4/13/06 marty Funny Classic and a little dark 5 stars
3/07/06 js Kind of a mess. And I loved GW. 2 stars
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  05-May-2006 (R)
  DVD: 10-Oct-2006



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