Archive for the ‘Erik Krasner-Karpen’ Category

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Burlesque: a bizarrely charming, strangely watchable pile of crap.

November 24, 2010

God knows Burlesque isn’t good. God knows Burlesque is the kind of mess that usually happens when Hollywood gets its hands on a hipster fad a couple years too late. It utterly fails at making the world of burlesque into an enchanting world of shadows in which nothing is as it seems. Things are pretty much as they seem in this movie. It’s not even that sexy, despite all the T and A and all the careful effort taken to package it. I don’t know why that is. It could be that this just wasn’t a very sexy movie, or maybe burlesque in general is too silly to be sexy. At any rate, many of the burlesque numbers stray pretty far from burlesque — would a burlesque show really feature three separate songs about burlesque? Would it feature a dozen women writhing all over a giant illuminated sign that reads “BURLESQUE”? These are the questions that don’t keep me up at night.

And it’s not a very tense movie. Yes, Cher’s burlesque club is in danger of shutting down — but there’s an offer on the table to buy it for $2 million. Back in Silicon Valley we called that “success”. Sure, Christina Aguilera has to work her way up from cocktail waitress to headliner, but there’s never any real question of her doing so, because she happens to dance and sing like Christina Aguilera. Cher, her supposedly tyrannical boss, and Kristen Bell, her supposedly ruthless rival, pretty much like her from the start. In fact, there’s no real professional rivalry at all. Bell, despite looking great in a nightie, apparently can’t sing, and Cher, despite being the only other great singer on screen, never attempts in earnest to keep the spotlight away from Aguilera. Thanks to the flat tone and crude pacing of the film, it doesn’t even seem to take that long. Even for a musical, this is fairly lightweight stuff.

But I couldn’t help liking it. The low stakes that make the movie uninspiring also make it endearing. It turns out there was room for a showbiz movie in which success isn’t very hard and everyone likes each other. First of all, there’s no reason Christina Aguilera shouldn’t be a burlesque superstar, and to dwell for too long on her rise to the top would be insulting. She lays waste to the stage, she grabs hold of notes and shakes them until they burst, she treats tiny, invasive dresses and giant puffy fans as if she’d been handling them all her life. And, sometime in the decade since her last big hit, she has learned to tease. After years of performing in a style we can politely call “anti-burlesque”, Aguilera has mastered the concept of restraint. So it’s not that incredible that her co-performers and her audience should embrace her so suddenly. It’s also plausible that everyone backstage should love each other so damn much, because they’re all sickeningly lovable. Stanley Tucci turns in a particularly fuzzy performance as Cher’s stage manager and platonic life partner, presumably a stand-in for all the gay men in the audience. Their chemistry miraculously enlivens even the dullest scenes in the movie. They joke and tease and flirt as if they really had known each other for years. Frankly, a lo-fi Clerks-style production about Tucci and Cher just hanging out would have been much more fun to watch, but maybe there was a production overrun at the makeup factory and they had to use it on something.

The rest of the cast gamely competes for attention with the main players, even though they maybe shouldn’t have bothered. Cam Gigandet, apparently a hot commodity (I’ve seen Twilight and I barely remember him) plays the guy Aguilera should end up with, even though there isn’t much to him beyond his smile. Eric Dane, of Grey’s Anatomy (whatever that is) plays the guy Aguilera shouldn’t end up with, even though he’s hilarious, charming and very, very rich. Alan Cumming doesn’t get nearly enough screen time as some kind of mascara-wearing burlesque-clown who’s actually as entertaining as the movie makes him out to be. Peter Gallagher’s cuddly as usual, playing Cher’s sweaty ex-husband. I wish there were more to say about the other burlesque girls, but one of the movie’s many failings is that it doesn’t really individuate the dancers’ stage personas, let alone their personalities. Awkwardly and inexplicably, the script tries to give a bigger role to a dancer named Coco (Chelsea Traille), by giving her all of the throwaway speaking lines and having other characters mention her at inappropriate moments. Also, one of them gets pregnant, because they had to fill some screentime. I don’t know.

Burlesque is one of those minor miracles of the screen, one of those movies you watch on a plane that turns out not to be so terrible, one of those movies that are enjoyable for reasons that are impossible to define in terms of other movies, one of those pleasant surprises that make life worth living. Just don’t watch it on purpose.

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Film On Fine, I’ll Review Get Him To The Greek

June 15, 2010

First of all, to those of you looking for another solid summer comedy from Judd Apatow: go see it. Apatow remains in top form as the unopposed master of anatomy jokes. Dicks, vaginas, scat and vomit abound, usually landing on their comic target, except in an unfortunate scene of female-on-male rape as comedy – I knew we as a culture had not moved past it, but I hoped Apatow as godfather of American comedy had. Get Him To The Greek works out a tonal compromise between the fart-jokes-with-heart mood of most of Apatow’s former work and the melodrama-with-fart-jokes of Funny People. Apatow seems to have retreated from the Chaplinesque sentimentality he reached for with Funny People, but Get Him To The Greek is some of his most emotionally mature work yet.

Emotionally mature.

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IRL News: Vote Jerry Brown because it would be hilarious

June 9, 2010

Here at the Squelch, we often write about politics from the perspective of any other jackass college student. We try to do our research and make our ideas entertaining, but we have nothing invested in the system and no idea how it really works. There’s no way you’re going to take us seriously when you know we’ll be tearing your movie tickets in twenty years. We expect no more gratifying role in our culture than that of the village idiot, parading his mental defects before a mirthlessly laughing crowd. You are correct that most of our “political” opinions have to do with legalizing weed. But once in a while, a story comes along that’s exactly our department. Once in a while, our long hours of sculpting the perfect fart joke place us among the most qualified people in the world to comment on an event. And today, our time has come. As a two-year veteran maker-funner-of of things, I can tell you with perfect certainty that Meg Whitman needs to lose this election.

get the money, dolla dolla bill yalllll

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The Internet In Brief 2/4/10

February 4, 2010

Things on the blog seem to be picking up again. I’ve been busy lately but you should all know I’ve been thinking of you, too.

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IRL News: World Made Safe for Blackwater

January 2, 2010

You may have noticed that these “IRL News” posts tend to be about terrible, depressing things. That’s because, if these things were slightly less terrible, we’d find some way to joke about them in the magazine itself, but every so often we come across a news story that shows we’re already living in Bizarro World and comedy is redundant.

See, in September 2007, six Blackwater contractors opened fire on a traffic circle full of innocent Iraqi civilians, killing 17 and wounding more than 20. They fired from a circle of SUVs using machine guns and grenades. Two Blackwater helicopters flew in, and witnesses say one of the helicopters also fired at the crowd (Blackwater denies this). There were dozens of witnesses, including a traffic cop trained to give detailed accounts of traffic accidents, and one of the contractors, who pled guilty. Want to guess what happened to the five contractors who didn’t cop a plea? Their case was dismissed on December 31. Happy New Year!

Wackity schmackity doo!

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Film on Fridays: OMG it’s like so0o0o complicated

December 25, 2009

This holiday premiere season, there’s one question probably not on your mind: is It’s Complicated significantly less stupid than its title, trailer, posters and tagline (“Divorced… with benefits”)? The answer, I barely care to inform you, is yes, thanks to careful direction and a cast more full of ringers than a United States Olympic basketball team. Writer-director Nancy Meyers, also of Something’s Gotta Give, acquits herself admirably in her apparent specialty of deconstructing ’70s movie stars by way of old-people romance. But it’s doubtful that she would have succeeded without the fine work of Alec Baldwin, Meryl Streep and Steve Martin, who play out a romance not only more convincing, not only funnier, but actually sexier than the young couples we’re supposed to enjoy watching generally manage. Unfortunately, Meyers never pushes the story far enough to make the strong statement about post-modern love that she clearly wanted to make.

It just looks so stupid, just so unbelievably stupid.

It shouldn’t be a spoiler that It’s Complicated has a happy ending, which in Hollywood means that the characters arrange themselves algorithmically into a neat grid of mutual obligation that takes into account strict monogamy, absolute no-homo for anyone in a leading role, loyalty to biological offspring, and devotion to True Love. In other words, by the end Meyers takes care to banish everything that the phrase “it’s complicated” implies. And the beginning involves no romance or comedy to speak of, establishing character and setting at the sluggish pace of a writer without faith in the audience or in her own abilities. But the middle zips, it crackles, it sizzles, it follows all the clichés about stories that don’t follow clichés. The middle section is so exciting, the MPAA gave it an R rating, for a couple of tame sex-having and pot-smoking scenes with no swearing and no violence. It’s obvious what disturbed the MPAA: this movie makes love and sex (and drugs) seem fun. Also dirty, illicit, confusing. Complicated, even. Hell, people enjoy food in this movie more than they enjoy love in most “romantic comedies,” which gives it real comic and romantic stakes.

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Film on Fridays: Jennifer’s Body is a Total Bust

September 19, 2009

Jennifer’s Body is terrible. No, not just high-school terrible, actually terrible. I know, if you plan to see Jennifer’s Body, you’re going in with low expectations, but none of your expectations will be met. You’re strictly better off doing something else. See it on DVD if you must.

What you might expect:

A cheesy but sexy horror-comedy about Megan Fox fucking a bunch of dudes and then eating them. Basically a Sam Raimi movie with more cleavage.

This took way more work to make than I'd rather acknowledge.

The boner you're experiencing right now is perfectly natural.

What you get:

A dull, lifeless snark-fest, incompetently directed, with no actual awareness of horror or comedy tropes, let alone affection for them. And it’s not even that sexy. Basically a Scary Movie with more cleavage.

I guess this is sexist somehow, but THE WORLD NEEDS TO SEE.

More breasts after the jump.

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