Originally posted 10 July 2002
Movies: The Fast Runner, Men in Black II, and more
Let's ignore the obvious (I haven't written a review in six months) and get down to business (discussing shoes on the silver screen).
Earlier tonight, my friend Matthew and I met up at the Roachplex (a.k.a. Lincoln Plaza) to see "The Fast Runner," a three-hour Inuit movie. Actually, it could be called *the* three-hour Inuit movie, as it's the first feature film made in Inuktitut, the language of the Inuit, and it was made by a mostly Inuit cast and crew. "Minority Report" this is not.
"The Fast Runner" is an epic story of human interdependence and family struggle, sort of like "Ran" on ice with a much smaller cast and way fewer flags. It is set in Nanavut, a Canadian province just below the North Pole. The stunning outdoor scenes depict plains of snow and ice rolling to the horizon; the indoor scenes are filmed in igloos. It is visually glorious, and I could almost smell the snow. In fact, an hour into it, I was shivering in sympathy. Then I realized I was sitting in a room so air-conditioned I was lucky my blood wasn?t crystallizing.
Although critics have called "The Fast Runner" a knockout (LA Times) and a masterpiece (NY Times), I wasn't moved enough emotionally to give it that kind of rating. I was, however, gripped by the acting (it seemed more like a documentary than a fictional film), and I was fascinated by the Inuit culture.
I get cranky when the sidewalks in Riverside Park freeze over during the winter and there's nowhere to take the dog, so I find it hard to imagine how people live on sheets of ice. "The Fast Runner" is a primer in igloo building and hundreds of ways to skin and use seal, caribou and walrus, plus feathers. It also makes clear that living on ice involves ripping and eating a lot of animal flesh. Whatever else this flick is, it's not a vegetarian classic.
Here's How "The Fast Runner" scored on a scale of 1 - 10 in my categories of analysis:
* Shoes: 7. Think Manolos. Now picture their opposite. Highly functional-looking mukluk-type footwear that perfectly complements the sealskin/polar bear clothing.
* Dogs: 9. Oh lord, dogs in opening the scene, and it doesn't disappoint after that. But these sled pullers are pretty mangy (they might have enjoyed some attention from the Snow Dogs' stylist), and you never see them eat. I spent the whole movie fretting that they never got fed. Came home and gave my dog a piece of cheese.
* Cell phones: 10. None rang during the movie (there's no reception in that theater--it's underground), and not one Inuit can be spotted sneaking a call to his or her agent during the film. During the end credits, however, there are some shots of the making of the movie, and one of the actors is seen wearing headphones presumably connected to a nifty little CD or MP3 player. I doubt, anyway, that he's listening to the broadcast of a Yankees game.
* Do things blow up? 0. Like asking whether James Bond dies during "Thunderball."
* Poker: 0. None in the movie--cards probably freeze and break in weather like that, although you might be able to fashion some interesting chips from seal bones--nor did I think about playing poker the entire time I was watching.
If three hours of subtitles doesn't appeal, you might try "Men in Black II." My friend Chris and I saw it at the Sony on 3rd & 86th the other day, and it didn't suck. It's slight rather than sly, as the original was, and it doesn't even try for cleverness, as the original did. But it's entertaining enough if there's no baseball on and you cannot stomach the latest Tom Cruise-o-rama.
(I was planning on giving "Men In Black II" a full-blown review, but honestly, I can't recall enough of it to do so. Presumably, the actors wore shoes and they used a lot of cellphones. Better than even chance that a bunch of things blew up. Probably I thought at least once, "Huh, I could be spending this 90 minutes of my life playing poker." Definitely there were dogs, most notably a talking pug. I don't much like pugs (smushy faces, labored breathing), and I usually hate dogs that appear to speak (who's all that anthropomorphizing good for?). But this sassy little guy kinda won me over. I've got new respect for pugs, if not for Hollywood.)
Last week, my neighbor Rich and I managed a double header: "Lovely & Amazing" at the Angelika and "Notorious C.H.O." at the Sunshine Landmark. I love seeing two movies in one night, and we even had a leisurely drink in between, plus we walked up to my bank afterwards and deposited a check for $75 that The New York Times paid me to write about a digital music player shaped like a yo-yo. Heaven!
Anyhoo. The bad news is that "Lovely & Amazing" is boring and annoying. It's written and directed by Nicole Holofcener, who made "Walking & Talking" (1996), and it stars Catherine Keener and Brenda Blethyn, among others. Why make a movie like this? All of the characters are unhappy and unpleasant, no fresh insight is given into their cliched conditions, and nobody grows or changes during the film. If it's gonna be that grim, take a page from Todd Solondz and at least make it gruesome, too.
"Notorious C.H.O.," on the other hand, gets two thumbs up from me (and at least one from Rich), and it doesn't even have any dogs in it. It's a concert film of Margaret Cho in Seattle last year, plus a biting cartoon short beforehand. Cho could pick her cuticles on stage and I'd find her entertaining. She's hilarious, and she has a beautifully casual way of turning taboo subjects ordinary. Although "Notorious" relies more on stereotypes than did her last concert flick, "I'm The One That I Want" (2000), it's still good for a lot of laughs and a few surprises. I've rarely felt happier or more at home than watching Cho depict frat guys on the rag ("Dude, is your second day the heaviest, too?").
So that about wraps it up. In the interest of conserving bandwidth, I'll spare you my opinions of the other 15 or 20 movies I've seen since last I wrote. Suffice it to say that none of them was in Inuktitut.