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  • Issue of
  • Jun 21-27, 2006
  • Vol. 26, No. 36

News & Views

Arts & Culture

  • The Scene
  • The Lake House

    The mix-CDs they sell at Starbucks are full of familiar old tunes: mostly predictable picks packaged together in a classy, tasteful and utterly unchallenging way. The new romantic fantasy The Lake House is a lot like one of those CDs — it takes two attractive stars who have been paired together before, plops them down in the middle of a sexless, inoffensive story about lovers separated by time, and wraps it all up in a gorgeous, gauzy visual scheme. If you’re not in the mood to be spoon-fed clichés like fate and destiny, you’ll hate it. But if you’re looking for a pleasant, modest chick flick that will no doubt go into heavy rotation on the Oxygen Network, then it might be worth a matinee.
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  • The Scene
  • Sketches of Frank Gehry

    If the world of architecture has a rock star, it’s Frank Gehry. He evokes strong reactions — you either love Frank Gehry or you loathe him. This tension between artistic vision and commercial necessity makes Sydney Pollack an inspired choice as a documentarian of Gehry’s work. Deliberately avoiding Gehry’s personal life, Pollack offers a captivating primer on the architect’s convictions and iconoclastic career. Where Sketches fails, however, is in the depths of its inquiry. You’d think the director’s decades-long friendship with Gehry would permit him to explore the most intriguing aspects of the architect’s life: his disastrous first marriage, the years of anger issues, the rationale behind his name change (from Goldberg) and the failures of his early career. Unfortunately, these important details rate little more than a passing remark.
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  • The Scene
  • Nacho Libre

    Napoleon Dynamite was an amusing but overrated comedy that felt like Jim Jarmusch crossed with John Hughes. Filled with more blank-faced dorks than a Babylon 5 convention, writer-director Jared Hess’s indie hit had enough quotable laugh lines to spark a rabid cult of fans but lacked two fundamental traits of good filmmaking: character and story. For his Hollywood follow-up, Hess meshes his studied stupidity with Jack Black — with mixed results. Though the script (written by the director, Mike White and Jerusha Hess, Jared’s wife) has a reasonably developed main character and a few laughs, it runs twice as long as its premise can be sustained.
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  • The Scene
  • Wah-Wah

    Actor Richard E. Grant’s screenwriting and directorial debut, is a semi-autobiographical account of coming of age in antiquated outpost of British colonial Swaziland. The story is set amid a community of British officials on the brink of being tossed out on their cans during the empire’s last days in the African country in the late 1960s. Grant inserts his formative experiences into the story of young Ralph (About a Boy’s Nicholas Hoult), whose African experience looks more like a suburban nightmare than an exotic safari. His Swaziland is one where elitist and racist adults rely on copious amounts of gin, gossip and infidelity to relieve the boredom of their isolation. Ralph’s drama begins when he witnesses his mom’s affair with another man. He's then shipped off to boarding school, Mom Lauren (Miranda Richardson) runs off with her lover, and dad Harry (Gabriel Byrne) turns to the bottle, facing the end of his marriage as well as the likely end of his job serving Her Majesty in Swaziland. When Ralph returns a few years later, he meets his new stepmother Ruby, a former airline “hostess” and an American ex-pat whom his father has known all of six weeks. She storms into Ralph’s Swaziland and immediately dismisses the little society’s stuck-up niceties and snooty colloquialisms as nothing but “wah-wah.” Storm is the operative word: Watson works with force, and her slight smirk, confident strut, witty retorts and blue-eyed glare cut through this overly polite film. Grant digs deep, ugly pits of alcoholism, abandonment, neglect and social ostracism that, only briefly, swallow up his characters. The problem is he lets everyone off too easy. When things get sloppy, Grant’s answers are too polite.
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  • The Scene
  • The Fast and the Furious: Tokyo Drift

    The cliché-ridden script is as predictable as the rising sun, and often aggressively stupid, but nobody comes to a flick like this for the character development. You can almost smell the diesel and burnt rubber.
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  • The Scene
  • Stranded at the Corner

    Anybody who saw a ballgame at Tiger Stadium can recall the rowdy spirit of the huge bleachers section, the dizzying slopes of the stands, the feeling of living in history that the ballpark engendered. The new documentary, Stranded at the Corner, produced and directed by Gary Glaser and written by Richard Bak, is sure to help warmly recall those glory days, and maybe get hot under the collar about the venue’s fate.
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