About Me

A blog wherein a literary agent will sometimes discuss his business, sometimes discuss the movies he sees, the tennis he watches, or the world around him. In which he will often wish he could say more, but will be obliged by business necessity and basic politeness and simple civility to hold his tongue. Rankings are done on a scale of one to five Slithy Toads, where a 0 is a complete waste of time, a 2 is a completely innocuous way to spend your time, and a 4 is intended as a geas compelling you to make the time.

Sunday, March 16, 2008

Paranoid Park

Seen at Clearview's Chelsea Cinema; auditorium #1, Sunday March 16, 2008; 2 Slithy Toads, maybe

So I should have listened to Stanley Kauffmann on this one. Over the years, this long-time film critic for The New Republic has been my compadre; the one critic more than any other who speaks to my own tastes in movies. It was bitter solace when I was writing film reviews for The Michigan Daily in college, ran up in my final semester against an editor who did not appreciate me, and saw Stanley Kauffmann pick up on some of the same things in his review of Compromising Positions that I had mentioned in a spiked review of the movie. Which as I recall was replaced with one that ended with a line about seltzer in pants. And Stanley Kauffmann gave a thumbs-down on Paranoid Park.

But..., the reviews were all over the map, I kind of liked the coming attraction, the release broadened from theatres where I didn't have discount tickets to one where I did, there haven't been a lot of movies opening so The Bank Job (which I hope to see shortly) was the only other one on my list, theatre wasn't too far from the electronics drop-off day in Union Square where I was able to give up my old Epson ink jet.

I should have listened to Stanley.

The plot here is pretty simple. Kid goes joy-riding on train in Portland, OR. Security guard tries to club him off the train. Guard falls, gets sliced in half by another train, police think a skateboarder may have done it, kid isn't sure what to do. You can make great art from just about anything, but you've really got to beat those eggs something fierce to get this modest souffle to rise. Which it doesn't.

I haven't read the book, so I don't know if the big bad movie flare #1 is coming from the book or the screenplay by director Gus Van Sant, but the time sequence in the movie is nicely jumbled up. There are sometimes movies (Memento, anyone?) where this kind of gimmick is intrinsic and important, but a lot of times the main advantage of mixing up the time sequence is that it takes a very thin gruel and makes it seem thicker. If you told this story chronologically and without long languorous shots of skateboarding in Paranoid Park or of the lead character dressing it wouldn't stretch toward 90 minutes. Maybe he could have made the movie ten minutes shorter and padded it by double-spacing the end credits, like they did in Red Eye.

Maybe it's time to put Van Sant on my do not see list. I have to credit him for Good Will Hunting, but that was a long time ago now. Vaguely irrelevant aside: I saw Matt Damon in The Rainmaker and in Good Will Hunting in the same week in 1997. The Rainmaker I saw with my friend Mark, and I told him after I'd seen the other movie later in the week "this kid can act," and that's for danged sure. The Rainmaker was playing my beloved and much-missed Loews Astor Plaza before Titanic, and I saw Good Will Hunting (in 35mm but) on the Imax Screen at the Loews Lincoln Square at a very late show on a Thursday night so I could see it on a big screen before Titanic sailed on to all of them. It was a good week for seeing movies.

1 comment:

Bryce's Ramblings said...

I lost all respect for Van Sant after the Psycho "remake" he pulled back in 1998. I have yet to get around to seeing Good Will Hunting, but looking over Van Sant's other pieces, I hardly see anything to make me change my mind. Thanks for the warning about Paranoid Park.