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.
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.
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.
The man behind the film is Ric O’Barry. He feels personally responsible for the plight of these dolphins and captive dolphins everywhere, because he’s the guy who made dolphins famous. He’s the brain behind TV show Flipper. After one of the five dolphins who played Flipper died, or as O’Barry says it “committed suicide” he has vowed that his life work will be to free the dolphins and stop the slaughter in Taiji.
Every year in Taiji thousands of dolphins are funneled into a small bay. The fisherman of the village make a very decent living doing this. They are also very particular that no one sees what actually goes on in the cove where the dolphins are slaughtered. And so the quest of O’Barry and his crew begins. Trying to find some way to film the atrocities taking place within the cove.
O’Barry is well-known by the government and police in Japan for trying to stop these activities, which hinders the group’s ability to sometimes get their work done.
The documentary works when it focuses on the town of Taiji and the cove. At points throughout though it loses its focus and goes off on a few tangents that could be covered in their own films, like the mercury toxicity in dolphin meat and how the Japanese government doesn’t mind selling it under the guise of it being whale meat.
The dastardly deeds of the slaughtering cove are finally exposed in gruesome detail. It’s one of those films that makes you want to do something, but you’re not sure what. I’ll tell you one thing though, I’ll never go to Sea World again.
Now here is the most interesting documentary I’ve seen since King of Kong. Just like King of Kong, Good Hair takes a topic I formally knew nothing about and sheds some light on it in the most fascinating way.
Good Hair is narrated by comedian Chris Rock. One day one of Chris’ daughters walked into him and said “Daddy, why don’t I have good hair?” This started a quest where Chris delves into the culture of the hair of black women.
Straight flowing hair is apparently the envy of the black female community. It’s a highly sought after commodity. The straighter the better. Some women achieve this look by using a highly concentrated substance called relaxer. This relaxer, Chris finds out, contains sodium hydroxide as the main ingredient. Sodium hydroxide is highly toxic and can cause scalp burns.
The other way to get straight “beautiful” hair is with the weave. Weaves can cost women anywhere from $1,000 to $3,000. The weave hair, we find out, comes from India where women cut it off in religious rituals, and then in turn it is sold.
Chris Rock is great at narrating, but at some points eats up too much of screen time with his face. He makes the famous black women he interviews, except the immortal Maya Angelou, look pretty vain and egotistical as they explain how much they spend to get long flowing hair.
Good Hair does falter as it loses focus from the main issue of the movie to talk about a large competition that takes place in Atlanta, Georgia every year where contestants compete in outlandish performances to be crowned the stylist of the year by Bronner Brothers hair products.
Even though Good Hair is predominantly funny as Chris Rock cracks joke after joke, it does show something that seems to be an identity crisis among black women. Most of them are ashamed of their natural hair.