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Sundance Day 5: Big Fan, The Cove, and Good Hair

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Nothing but films today. I didn’t even have time to eat until I got home.

I think that maybe at the end of this week I might be sick of coming out of one movie just to go into another, over and over, but right now I’m loving it. It’s also amazing how fast a day can go by when you’re in a theater the whole time. Man, I wish work days went by as fast as movie watching days, but sadly that is not the case.

Now on to the movies! One dramatic competition contender and two documentaries.

Big Fan

The first film I saw today was a screening of Big Fan starring Patton Oswalt and written/directed by Robert D. Siegel of The Wrestler fame.

You know that saying “There’s always someone worse off than you?” Well, Paul Aufiero (Oswalt) is that guy. Paul works in a parking garage booth, lives with his nagging mother, and his only happiness in life depends solely on the success of the New York Giants football team.

Paul is the saddest and most pathetic character ever created for the big screen. He spends his nights writing personal scripts to use when he calls into the local sports talk show. Like two immature geeks on an online video game message board, Paul and a man named “Philadelphia Phil” exchange heated football discussions back and forth. His Sundays are spent, not actually in the stadium, but with his buddy in the parking lot of the Giants’ stadium watching the game on a tiny TV hooked up to the car battery.

Paul tells everyone he’s happy, but he presents himself like a person who just saw a group of innocent puppies get slaughtered. Oswalt is normally a very funny man, but here he is pathetic. That’s not a slight against the film, because he is supposed to be pathetic, the warning is don’t expect a comedy.

The film drags on at the pace at which Paul approaches his life. Virtually nothing happens in the first half of the film, except we learn Paul’s brother is a sleaze bag attorney, his brother’s wife has enormous fake boobs, and his family doesn’t respect him.

The conflict comes when Paul and his buddy follow the star quarter back of the Giants team to a club, where Paul gets the living crap beat out of him after he discloses they’d been following the player. Now what does Paul do? Does he turn his favorite player in and risk the Giants losing? Does he sue the thug for all he’s worth? Do we really care?

It’s so hard to care for a character that doesn’t care for himself. There’s no redeeming value in Paul. When he finally confronts his nemesis “Philadelphia Phil” the scene is confusing, and doesn’t accomplish much other than showing us how immature these people really are.

I understand there are people out there that actually take something as trivial as sports this seriously, but a movie about it isn’t interesting. If I wanted to see this type of obsessive immaturity I’d go down to the local sports bar where it’s free.

The Cove

This is the first documentary that I’ve seen at Sundance thus far, and it was worth it. If you have any heart or feeling in your soul you will connect with this film…that is unless you live in Taiji, Japan.

The Cove focuses on one tiny secluded piece of water in the town of Taiji, Japan where every year fisherman with large boats channel thousands of dolphins into a secluded bay. Here in the bay dolphins are sold to trainers from dolphin shows around the world. The dolphins who aren’t picked are then led to the cove in question where they are slaughtered, 23,000 every year.

About DVD Guy

  • bioware

    It’s people like you that have turned Sundance into the tragedy that it’s become. Sundance was founded on films like “Big Fan”. What would you say to a film like “Two Lane Blacktop” if it came out today? Probably something like: “I know there really are people who are crazy about cars, but who cares? And where are these people driving to?”

    Just keep watching Juno and convincing yourself that you have great taste.

  • Aaron

    Thanks for your comment bioware.

    Did you see the film? I would like to know what you actually thought about the film, if you saw it.

    And no I wouldn’t say:

    “I know there really are people who are crazy about cars, but who cares? And where are these people driving to?”

    Because if it were well made about a subject that I didn’t understand then I would enjoy it. Like the Good Hair review. I never knew black women’s hair could be so interesting. But I can’t comment on “Two Lane Blacktop” because I haven’t seen.

  • bioware

    I did see the film. And you should immediately see “Two Lane Blacktop”, as it is one of the most significant, influential independent films of the 1970′s. In fact, look up Monte Hellman. It might do you some good.

    “Big Fan” is a character study that asks the audience to live with the character, and to try and understand him. It’s not a comedy. It’s not a dramedy. It’s not for you to get right away and happily enjoy. Sometimes life is sad and slow, and “Big Fan” accurately reflects that. To say that Paul is “the saddest and most pathetic character ever created for the big screen.” is poignant. You think Paul is a loser, and you don’t like losers. You’re a brilliant film critic.

    “He spends his nights writing personal scripts to use when he calls into the local sports talk show. Like two immature geeks on an online video game message board, Paul and a man named “Philadelphia Phil” exchange heated football discussions back and forth.”

    Consider this. I’m Philadelphia Phil, and you are Paul. You write on a BLOG. You spend your time crafting rants about things that you apparently care enough about. Maybe you don’t live with your Mom, or maybe you do.

    “Oswalt is normally a very funny man, but here he is pathetic.”

    Again, with the pathetic business. I’m going to quote John Stewart here: “I’m not your monkey.” Patton Oswalt is not your monkey. Who the hell are you to call people pathetic? Aaron, that’s not an observation. That’s an insult. A real film critic doesn’t insult a fictional character like bully in grade school. Unless you are Michael Musto, but nobody takes him seriously.

    “I understand there are people out there that actually take something as trivial as sports this seriously, but a movie about it isn’t interesting.”

    Right. What about movies? Do you take movies seriously? Or are they trivial like you say sports are? I assume that this blog thing of yours is something you take seriously enough. And if you take something as seriously as you must about movies, I’m sure you would be able to relate, even just a tiny bit, to a “pathetic” “loser” like Paul Aufiero. The difference here is, you are probably getting paid a little money for your rants and Paul Aufiero does it for free. That’s what makes him interesting. He invests all his time and energy in a team he loves and ask for nothing in return. And it ruins him. It’s sad. And it hurts to watch. That’s life. Maybe you should re-watch the film. Watch “Big Fan”, “Two Lane Blacktop”, “Five Easy Pieces”, and anything written by Paul Schrader.

    This has been a pretty good year at Sundance if you ask me.

  • Aaron

    I agree that this has been a pretty good year at Sundance. I thought you said it has become a tragedy?

    Anyway, I respect your insight into the film and I’m glad you were able to get something out of it. There are quite a few film reviews out there from people in my same screening that say almost the same thing I did.

    The Winning Season, which I saw yesterday is about a pathetic loser, but he has some redeeming value. That’s what I was looking for. If you weren’t you’d really like The Informers. A lot of characters with no redeeming value at all.

    And no I don’t get paid anything to post on Blogcritics, I wish I did.

    But, yes I do understand where you’re coming from. I respect that you liked the film. Really I do.

    Thanks bioware.

  • bioware

    You’re welcome. But now I have to ask, this issue you have with “redeeming value”, explain why Paul has no redeeming value. That’s so dismissive. His “redeeming value” becomes VERY clear during the last ten minutes of the film. And again with the “pathetic” loser thing. In my opinion it’s pathetic that you think because other bloggers said the same stupid thing that you did somehow makes you justified.

    All things considered, yes, I think it’s been a good year for Sundance. Finally. The tragedy is in the expectation you people have developed of what makes a good Sundance film. The fact that a film like “Big Fan” is here should give independent filmmakers a little hope for the future.

  • Aaron

    I respect that you liked the film and I like to hear different views.

    You keep quoting the “pathetic” thing as a reference, but the full context of my review says:

    “Paul tells everyone he’s happy, but he presents himself like a person who just saw a group of innocent puppies get slaughtered. Oswalt is normally a very funny man, but here he is pathetic. That’s not a slight against the film, because he is supposed to be pathetic, the warning is don’t expect a comedy.”

    I understand that Paul is supposed to be a pathetic man, but at the end I didn’t feel like his character had undergone any type of change. No character development. That’s how I thought, and I know you thought differently and that’s great.

    I can understand where you’re coming from about the film. But, it just left a bad taste in my mouth afterward.

    It’s fun to have discussions about film, that’s why I’m here. There were a lot of people (critics) here that panned Taking Chance, and I will defend it forever, no matter what anyone says. I’m having the same discussions with other critics in their comments about that film.

    I’d be interested to hear what you’ve thought about some of the other films up here. What other films have you thought were good or bad? We must have some common ground :)

    Let’s just try and keep this discussion less personal.

    Thanks again bioware.

  • bioware

    Alright, alright. I’ll keep it less personal. But again, I don’t believe it was the intention of the filmmaker to create a “pathetic” character. I thought it was a groundbreaking decision to not make Paul change. It’s an indictment on modern storytelling.

  • Critic AL

    The Cove, Wow, finally got in, barely because its sold out for a reason. Tough to explain or encapsulate or describe. An emotional rollercoaster, a wake up call for everyone to see. Not to see this movie is like turning your back on mother nature, humanity, global warming, ignorance. Do yourself a favor and atleast give it a shot and then you can shoot it down or be totally in awe. I did and am a changed man.

    cheers

    AL

  • Aaron

    Critic Al,

    Were you talking to me or people in general? If you were talking to me, I’m not sure where you got the idea that I shot the film down. I loved The Cove as much as you did. It changed me inside. But, as I personally cannot stop the massacre going on, at least I can change one thing in my life and not support places that make dolphins perform.

    Aaron

  • Aaron

    Bioware,

    So what other films have you seen that you have liked or hated?

    Aaron