(l-r) Minghella and Ethan Suplee in Art School Confidential.
Artist as Young Dope
by Terry Zwigoff
Art School Confidential, graphic novelist-screenwriter
Dan Clowes and director Terry Zwigoff (who previously teamed
on Ghost World) present a satire of artistic
ambition, as viewed in a fishbowl. In their version, the art-school
experience is one of the washed-up and burnt-out instructing
the pretentious and self-deluding. It’s by no means a savage
movie, though. Dismissive as the film is of certain art-school
stock characters (the vegan holy man, the boring blowhard,
the angry lesbian, the empty-nest mom, the crazy neo-beatnik
chick, the Audrey Hepburn-obsessed waif, etc.), the humor
is more fond than fierce. And the protagonist is as much the
butt of the joke as any of his clichéd classmates.
Jerome (Max Minghella) is a sensitive, sheltered suburbanite
attending the Strathmore Institute, an art school modeled
loosely on Brooklyn’s Pratt Institute (which Clowes attended).
Jerome’s ambition is, simply, to become the “greatest artist
of the 21st century.” Though, as we learn in early flashbacks,
his drive to become the new Picasso may have as much to do
with that painter’s legendary amorous accomplishments as with
his artistic achievements. In fact, he seems to have chosen
Strathmore primarily for its catalog depiction of a figure
model. It’s probably needless to say that things don’t quite
work out the way Jerome expects.
His technically proficient work fails to impress either his
classmates or his drawing-and-painting instructor. John Malkovitch
gives a nice performance as the teacher, a passive-aggressive
and competitive geometric minimalist quietly resentful of
his obscurity: “Do you know how long I’ve been doing the triangles?”
he asks Jerome proudly. “I was one of the first.” The filmmaker’s
own regard for the paintings isn’t tough to infer.
Jerome’s single-mindedness in regard to capturing the heart
of the figure model cuts him off from other experiences. He
seems to be learning little in class, growing closed-minded
and competitive himself, and he is nearly oblivious to the
on-campus murders that fascinate his film-student roommate.
But he does get the girl—only to lose her, of course. In the
course of so doing, he encounters: the celebrity-asshole painter;
the unknown-but-talented, bitter alcoholic painter; and the
uncultured and naive but frustratingly popular newcomer. As
befits a kind-sorta murder-mystery, some of these people are
not at all what they seem.
Clowes and Zwigoff use the guy-gets-girl-loses-girl story
and the murder subplot (yes, murder subplot) to comically
exaggerate their criticism of art-world fatuousness and faddishness;
The result is a movie that is in equal parts sweet and funny
and sharp-eyed and mean—which is exactly what a movie should
by Julian Jarrold
Wouldn’t it be great if the proprietors of the Northeast’s
dying industries could take a note from the British comedies?
That is, refigure their product, or their niche market, and
along the way, learn valuable lessons about compassion and
respect and, of course, regain that corporate edge. From The
Full Monty and others of its ilk, it would seem that adversity,
particularly in the form of impending bankruptcy, is just
the ticket that those plucky islanders need to put things
in order, both personally and professionally.
So it will come as no surprise to anybody who sees it that
Kinky Boots is, in fact, another of the same sort of
story. Charlie Price (Joel Edgerton) is forced to forego his
career in marketing when his dad, the head of Price Shoes,
dies. Going back to the factory, Charlie is shocked to learn
that the business is on life support—the big order the crew
has been working on is a sham perpetuated by the late Mr.
Price in order to keep up morale. While Charlie’s hard-as-nails
fiancée Nicola (Jemima Rooper) encourages him to board up
the place, he has second thoughts when a plucky about-to-be-laid-off
worker named Lauren (Sarah-Jane Potts) advises him to get
creative. Inspiration comes on the unlikely, wobbly heels
of drag queen Lola (Chiwetel Ejiofor), who complains that
women’s shoes just don’t have the right support for bigger,
The script, written by Geoff Deane and Tim Firth, has zero
surprises, preferring to deliver the expected in much the
way that Lola’s elderly landlady ladles out tea at proper
intervals. Nice and easy, almost cozy, with the requisite
number of witty one-liners and, especially, “aww” moments.
Those latter generally involve Charlie’s and Lola’s respective
struggles to come to terms with their life choices, but especially
Lola’s struggle to gain acceptance from the shoe workers.
In particular, bully Don (Nick Frost) causes some hellacious
moments, until Lola lets him win at arm wrestling in exchange
for him changing his mind about somebody.
Interestingly, despite the title, there is little that is
either kinky or sexy in this sleepy charmer, a status that
is particularly weird with respect to Lola. As a sexual being,
even when performing onstage in heels and sequins, she comes
across completely neutral. As a person, be it a man or a woman,
he/she has no relationships, except for the budding friendship
with Charlie and Lauren, a friendship that takes a backseat
to their romance. The effect is ultimately weird, as if the
filmmakers sought to desexualize Lola to such an extent that
she comes across as just one of the guys from the factory.
Granted, an underlying theme of Kinky Boots is the
humanity of each of us, but by defanging its central character,
it hedges its bets, as if the filmmakers couldn’t be sure
that we’d relate and accept Lola as she really wants to be.
by Wolfgang Petersen
You may not believe this, but Poseidon is pretty good.
There’s a huge problem with this tale of a ragtag group who
survive a catastrophic cruise-ship disaster, but if you can
get past it, this remake of 1972’s The Poseidon Adventure
is tense, exciting and exceedingly well-directed.
First, the problem. After an unbelievably brief introduction
to the key characters, a gazillion-foot-high “rogue wave”
thumps the massive Poseidon in the middle of the ocean on
New Year’s Eve, causing it to flip over. The CGI wave is impressive;
the carnage, as almost everyone on board is drowned, roasted,
smashed, blown up or otherwise obliterated, is horrifying—too
Even if you thought Titanic had lousy dialogue or the
original Poseidon Adventure was corny as a corn dog,
filmmakers James Cameron and Irwin Allen took time to introduce
us to a variety of characters. Some lived, but many more died;
by giving the victims some humanity, the filmmakers respected
both the characters and the audience. Poseidon, however,
is brutal and unfeeling in its use of mass slaughter.
I don’t think this was director Wolfgang Petersen’s original
intent. The running time of Poseidon is 108 minutes; Petersen
(Das Boot, In the Line of Fire, Troy)
is a big shot, and hasn’t made a film this short since The
NeverEnding Story. I suspect that there was a longer back
story, but it wasn’t very good—so it was cut.
Bad mistake. Even if it sucked, the back story is necessary
to build suspense and sympathy.
However, if you can adjust to this shock, Poseidon
turns into a terrific action thriller about survival. The
dialogue is thin, but the picture really moves. The desperate
survivors squeeze through air vents, swing across lakes of
burning fuel, nearly drown in ballast tanks, dodge live electric
wires and avoid flash fires on their journey to the bottom
of the upside-down ship, while sea water steadily fills the
wrecked vessel. Petersen does an excellent job of keeping
the audience aware of how, and how fast, the ship is sinking,
which ratchets the tension exponentially.
The experienced character actors and effective newcomers bring
their stereotypes to life: the savvy gambler (Josh Lucas);
the hero ex-mayor and concerned dad (Kurt Russell); the dewy
daughter (Emmy Rossum) and her annoying fiancé (Mike Vogel);
the unhappy gay architect (Richard Dreyfuss); the Latina stowaway
(Mia Maestro); and, as the original Gilligan’s Island theme
went, “the rest.”
By the time some of them manage to escape—some, not all—the
film has transcended its opening failure. Which is quite an
escape in itself.