Saturday, February 28, 2009

Can You Say "Synecdoche" Three Times Fast?

EAST BRUNSWICK, N.J. - My latest article at is a more favorable reconsideration of Charlie Kaufman's Synecdoche, New York. I admit that I found the film a pretty tough slog the first time, but there was always the feeling lurking in the back of my mind that a second viewing might prove to be more illuminating, at least now that I was prepared for the film's emotional and narrative terrain. Last week, I finally got around to getting in that second viewing, and I do find myself in greater appreciation and even affection toward the film than before---particularly its final 10 minutes, in which Kaufman's neuroses finally transcend literary conceits and attain something close to genuine visionary grandeur. I always admired this concluding passage of the film even as I had doubts about the rest, but only after this second viewing did I realize just how much I really admired it. When the DVD comes out in a couple of weeks, I am hoping I get the time to dig into this portion of the film and explain just what it is about it that moves me so.

If anyone is interested in my take on the Oscars Sunday night...well, I'll just say: Oscars Schmoscars. I don't usually care much for judging the ceremony itself, because, however entertainingly it's put across---and thanks to Hugh Jackman's solid hosting job, it certainly had its entertaining moments, mostly in its deliberately crude opening musical montage---the Academy Awards are still just a glamorous industry circle-jerk. As for Slumdog Millionaire, the big winner of the night: the makers and producers of that piece of tricked-up, condescending swill may be enjoying their moment in the sun right now, but I'm guessing that, decades down the road, the film will join the ranks of recent Oscar winners like Gladiator, Shakespeare in Love and others as films that will eventually be consigned to trivia oblivion once all the hype has subsided and the film is revealed for the inconsequential piece of wish-fulfillment Hollywood hokum that it really is.

The 2009 movie year is off to a fast start, however: so far, Coraline, Serbis, Two Lovers and the upcoming movie Hunger have proven to be real keepers. Already, I'm building up a list of blind spots: Terence Davies' latest Of Time and the City, for one, and Cristian Nemescu's California Dreamin'. Hopefully, these and others will be released on DVD by the end of the year---provided neither Strand Releasing or IFC Films goes the way of New Yorker Films.

And what about my life outside of movies? Well, I'm more or less doing the usual: trying to keep my writing going and trying to make strides in my journalism career, while trying to keep as active a social life as possible on my weekends. No global economic downturn is going to keep me down, dammit!

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