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Thursday, May 18, 2006

Please Don't Disappoint Me, Idlewild!

Anachronistic musical dramadies CAN work, as Moulin Rouge proved. Even though Moulin Rouge kind of annoyed me, it was a pretty impressive production. It takes a lot of balls to mix Camille, Absinthe, La Boheme and Smells Like Teen Spirit into one giant, garish musical at a time when musicals have a very limited following.

So what are the prospects for Idlewild, Bryan Barber's new musical about a speakeasy performer and his childhood friend? When I first heard about it, I was filled with joy. A hip-hop musical set in the depression-era south? With an entire score by Outkast? I have been wondering for a while why Speakerboxx/the Love Below did not release more hit singles. Now I realize that some of the best songs from those albums are being used in Idlewild. After watching the first preview on Rottentomatoes.com, however, I'm having my doubts. It could just be a really badly edited preview, but the drama looks overblown and the writing sounds stilted. This couls be another Harlem Nights (god help us all). Still, the musical numbers look lavish, and I just love Andre Benjamin. After the prediction I made about Silent Hill being good, I'm not going to make any bold statements about Idlewild. I will say, however, that it's already got my money. I hope it turns out to be worth it.

Wednesday, May 17, 2006

Art School Confidential

Art School Confidential is a smart, funny, yet unfortunately one-note movie about precocious young art students and their bullshit ideas. If that sounds a little curt and harsh, I'm only reiterating what the film hammers into our brains for two hours. The characters in Art School Confidential are caricatures of people you might remember from high school art class: the goth girl who cuts herself, the gung-ho film student, the kiss-ass, the bullshitter, the vegan who makes her own clothes...I could go on forever. The protagonist, Jerome (Max Mingella), is one more caricature: he is the virgin who thinks great art will get him laid. The lady he loves is Audrey (Sophia Myles), an artist's model and artist's daughter who reminds him of Picasso's own muse. Jerome is lovable and curiously different from everyone in his class. His drawings are beautiful and realistic, yet he finds himself a wash in a sea of deconstructivist, neoplastic interpretationalists (or something) who criticize him for being too "in the box."

He gets his chance, however, when he becomes famous for...a series of on-campus stranglings. The details of the plot are not terribly important. The real joy of this film is not its plot but its cast. Minghella is sweet and compelling as Jerome. John Malkovich is hilarious as the disenchanted are professor who loves to paint triangles. Jim Broadbent (Moulin Rouge, Gangs of New York) just about steals the show an an embittered alcoholic artist with homicidal urges. Art School Confidential is the fifth film by Terry Zwigoff, director of "Ghost World," and "Bad Santa." I love Zwigoff's style and I wish he would make movies more often. This is the second time he has worked with Daniel Clowes, the artist behind Ghost World, 8 Ball, David Boring and Art School Confidential. As a film, Art School Confidential is not as effective or compelling as Ghost World. It lacks enough emotional pull to really involve the audience. Instead, it plays it safe, poking fun at easy marks without taking many chances. On the bright side, the movie really gets it's ridiculous characters right--it might be one-note, but at least it has perfect pitch.

The amount I would pay to see this movie: $6