May 31, 2004

Project Greenlight 3 (update #13)

Hey folks, the Top 5 are announced tomorrow. Wish us luck!

Actually, "announced" is a bit of a misnomer, as the Top 5 are informed by a phone call. I'm assuming they won't post the names on the site until everyone's been informed, so the other 95 probably won't know who made it until Wednesday at the earliest.

I'd really like to make the Top 5, if only to jump through their next hoop: each contestant gets notes from bigwig mucky-mucks at Miramax, and the contestants have to rewrite their script using those notes. Wouldn't that be awesome to see bona-fide studio notes? Even if the notes did suck, it would be an awesome experience to get feedback from real filmmakers and an invigorating challenge to incorporate the notes into the script.

Honestly, though, Martin and I don't think we're moving on. For a two-week draft, it's good and has potential, but I think it needs major work to get it where it needs to be. The Top 5 will likely only have about two weeks to turn in their rewrite; I think we could do it (of course), but do they? Wouldn't they rather have five scripts that need less work?

But I didn't think we'd even make it this far, so who the hell knows?

Oh, and good luck to Jack (whom we affectionately refer to as That Chicago Kid), as well as Nick Carr, Gregory Burkhart, and Jody from Naked Writing, Top 100 contestants all. I'd be happy if at least one name I recognized made the next cut.

Posted by kza at 10:45 AM | Comments (10)

May 30, 2004

SIFF - Secret Fest #2 (can't say, won't say) 47

Welcome to Indie County! You know the place. Look over here: there's the dwarf who has a fixation on trains. Hey bud! And look over there: there's the retarded killer who likes french fries. That's right, my friend, they sure are tasty!

But we're gonna pull over and rest for ninety minutes in the dark side of Indie County. Not Tarantinoville; that's a few more miles up the road. No, I mean the wrong side of the tracks. Here, the buildings are taller, cast longer shadows, the colors drabber, the concrete and the blacktop harder. Things aren't as happy as they are on the good side of the tracks. There's less friendship and more danger, and people just don't have the time or energy to be quirky.

Yes, the residents of the bad side look forbidding. They advertise their scars, and want to lure you into their lives with the whisper of taboo. But the bad side of Indie County has a secret it doesn't want you to know: It's all the same soil underneath, good side or bad. It's stable, dependable soil, and everyone in Indie County walks on it and feeds from it. So fear not, gentle traveler. No matter how uncomfortable it might get (and it can get uncomfortable), remember: You know these people, and they won't break the skin. Even if they're a dwarf, or a retarded killer, or a...ah, that would be telling.

Posted by kza at 04:00 PM | Comments (1)

May 29, 2004

the week in review (5/23/04 - 5/29/04)

I've been devouring an awful lot of movies lately, mostly on video. I feel like I'm starting to turn into Jeremy Heilman, only, you know, without the smarts. I have to say, I'm enjoying this bit of cinematic gluttony; the constant indulgence in narrative creates a hypnotic state that juices up the screenwriting portion of my mind. Or maybe that's just fatigue. Anyway, I'm gonna try and keep up the pace, at least until we move into the new apartment (Hello, Ballard!). Here's what I saw this last week:

The Last Picture Show (1971, Peter Bogdanovich) (v) 97
I'm thinking that ratings of 97 or higher are for movies that are so stupendous, they inspire me as a budding filmmaker, even as I suspect I'll never, ever reach their heights. This might be the best drama ever: intelligent writing, amazing cinematography (it looks like it could've been made in the 50s, except for the brilliant addition of explicit sexuality), and every performance a bullseye. Best moment: Cloris Leachman holding Timothy Bottoms close so he can't see her tears.

Cowards Bend The Knee (2003, Guy Maddin) (f) 83
The Saddest Music in the World (2004, Guy Maddin) (f) 81

Perhaps more later; I'm writing these out of order, and I'm tired. I will say that I saw these as a double-feature of sorts, Music first, and I could easily imagine the ratings switched around had I seen Cowards first.

Dressed to Kill (1980, Brian DePalma) [unrated version] (v) 80
Falls off after the hour mark, and the final scene is like an overindulgent bonus track on an otherwise-good CD, but until then...wow. I thought I was going to have to wipe sweat from the TV after the opening scene, and the near-silent twenty(?) minute sequence, from the museum to the elevator -- that's what people mean by "pure cinema", I think. Also interesting in that the clues to the killer's identity are presented not so much through physical evidence, but cinematically, through the directorial manipulation of visuals and sound.

Great Expectations (1946, David Lean) (v) 77
Man, Dickens was one sick puppy. Old, bitter woman emotionally-engineering a girl to break men's hearts? Death-masks and mass hangings? Death by burning wedding dress? Admittedly, it's all cut through by Pip's good deed, an action as steeped in humanity as it is lacking in common sense. You always know there's a compassionate hand underneath the dark details of the story. But this shit's fucked up, yo. Dude really was the Stephen King of his time.

All The President's Men (1976, Alan J. Pakula) (v) 65
As intriguing as a movie about making phone calls can be, but once it's over and nothing happens, it's like an equation that solves itself and disappears. Great direction, though.

Five Deadly Venoms (1978, Chang Cheh) (v) 63
Criminally slow, it seems, for a martial arts movie, and I was distracted by hearing Wu-Tang samples in their original context ("Toad-style is immensely strong, and immune to nearly any weapon. When it's properly used, it's almost invincible." RAW, I'ma give it to ya, with no trivia... ahem, excuse me). But the comic-book tropes (the names, the super-powers, the "Hey, let's you and me team up and kick ass!") are irresistible.

Secret Fest #1 (can't tell, won't tell) (f) 59

All About My Mother (1999, Pedro Almodóvar) (v) 58
Admittedly, I didn't scan that many reviews, but it seems like no one mentioned the clear reference to Opening Night. Or am I the only other person who's seen Opening Night? Oh yeah, the movie. I like melodrama as much as the next guy, but this one started to try my patience by the end.

Eyes of Laura Mars (1978, Irvin Kershner) (v) 45
Saw this because I was under the impression that its hook was similar to one Martin and I used in our screenplay Yellow. Turns out it's kinda like it, but not really. (How's that for stupidly vague?) Not awful as far as serial killer movies go, but it's way too logy to build up any real suspense, and I think the identity of the killer was decided by a coin toss. (Heh. I'm sure the same criticisms could be hurled at Yellow.) Bonus points for some character stuff (and it helps if you think Rene Auberjonois is a hoot, like I do), and for the fact that Raul Julia is mysteriously and hilariously credited as "R.J."

High Anxiety (1977, Mel Brooks) (v) 39
The hit/miss joke ratio is about 1:100, and the structure is...well, there is no structure. But this is Mel Brooks, so all that's a given. No, what sinks this is the unconscionably flat lighting and dull, dull, dull cinematography. Hitchcock movies are lush. Where's the care for detail that went into Young Frankenstein? Madeline Kahn = Awesome, though.

Posted by kza at 03:40 AM | Comments (4)

May 28, 2004

what's yr take on the cassavetes box set?

Criterion is bringing out a box set of five Cassavetes films (Shadows, Faces, A Woman Under The Influence, The Killing of a Chinese Bookie, and Opening Night) plus a 200 minute documentary (A Constant Forge) sometime this Fall. Generally, I'm pretty fucking pleased. Cassavetes is one of those directors who deserves the Criterion tiara-and-roses treatment, and maybe this will expand his audience.

Unforutnately: A) I just friggin' got both Shadows and Influence for Christmas! True, I didn't pay for them, and I could hock them to pay for the box set, but still. And B), no Husbands, Minnie & Moskowitz, or Love Streams. (Gloria, I can take or leave.) I'm assuming there are hard-core rights issues involved, which is why it took so long to get this box set going. (I'd bet dollars to donuts that the Criterion guys didn't just wake up a few months ago and say, "Hey! Cassavetes box set! Let's do that!" It must've been in the works for years.)

I remember the first time I saw one of his films. It was just a few years ago, 2000 or 2001, I think. The Grand Illusion was playing the long version of The Killing of a Chinese Bookie, and Le Tigre's "What's Yr Take On Cassavetes" was in my head. Le Tigre offered three possible takes: Genius, misogynist, and alcoholic. After walking out of the theater, I went with "alcoholic". It was like the film had been dipped in booze just prior to projection. The plot stumbled around like it was drunk, passing out in dark alleys. The characters were sad-sack and pathetic, like a barfly's sob story. Honestly, I didn't get it.

And I didn't get it after Faces, either, despite the killer performances. I think it was with the reviled Husbands that it began to sink in. What a bunch of assholes these three are! Yet their pain was clear. The whole movie is like Harvey Keitel's patented Moan O' Anguish, only hidden behind booze and smiles and songs. It's both heart-breaking and chilling.

But unless you've got something like Scarecrow Video in your neighborhood, you won't be able to see it, or Love Streams, for that matter. While the C-Man had a reputation for a kind of ultra-realism (it wasn't really; his characters were more like opera arias in flesh form, but I digress), in Love Streams, he began to show a willingness to go beyond what we might call a "Dogme-style" world and into some freaky Resnais-type shit. He died about five years later, without completing another film, and one can only imagine what else he could've accomplished.

(I also wonder what Cassavetes would have made of the so-called digital revolution. This was a guy who put his monetary ass on the line with nearly every feature. Would DV have freed him to make more movies more quickly, for less money? Or did he need to walk the tightrope every time?)

Posted by kza at 12:23 PM | Comments (6)

May 26, 2004

ratings update

I've gone back and updated the blog entries to reflect the new ratings. A few movies escaped the two-digit brand, but I stamped them and corralled them here for your convenience:

Suspiria (1977, Dario Argento) 88
The Brood (1979, David Cronenberg) 85
The Birds (1963, Alfred Hitchcock) 60
The Bird With The Crystal Plumage (1970, Dario Argento) 57
The Last Samurai (2003, Edward Zwick) 53
Shrek (2001, Andrew Adamson & Vicky Jenson) 20
Moulin Rouge (2001, Baz Luhrmann) 6

Something I should've said earlier: the rating system is, obviously, still in its infancy -- numbers I make up now are becoming benchmarks for later ratings, so there's still a need for some fine-tuning over the long haul. I've rated all the 2003 movies, more-or-less giving each a gut-instinct number, and needless to say, it's made a mess of my Top Ten list. I'll probably go with this new Top Ten, but I want to get some more ratings under my belt before I finalize it.

Posted by kza at 01:52 PM

Holes (2003, Andrew Davis) 92

This one caught me off-guard. Basically a prison movie, like Cool Hand Luke, only in a kid's orange jumpsuit. Lots of great details: the shot of the desert pockmarked by thousands of holes, the kids tossing their shovels in a big pile as they come back from their duty, the special shovel that's a little smaller than the others. And it's pretty tough, too: the kids treat each other shittily without apology (I could've sworn one of them muttered "motherfucker", but obviously that's impossible), there's a surprising amount of violence (I found the racially-motivated murder of one character gut-wrenching), and then there's Tim Blake Nelson. All of the acting is superb (including Shia LaBeouf -- that guy's gonna be amazing when he hits his thirties), but Nelson creates a portrait of petty, human-sized evil, one that lurks behind a smile and a suspect title of "Doctor" that's jaw-dropping. His jovial "Go on, hit 'em" bit is horrifying.

Unfortunately, reading through Theo Panyide's review, I realized another reason for my high rating: some of the plot moments that were explicitly foreshadowed (like the identity of the bandit and the significance of Zero's last name), I totally didn't pick up on. (I blame my sprawled-on-the-couch-okay-On Demand movie-impress-me posture.) So, what was probably obvious to every other viewer had the force of revelation to me, rather than the soft thud of the other shoe finally dropping. I can imagine the rating going down on a second viewing.

But then again, Tim Blake Nelson is so awesome, maybe not.

Posted by kza at 01:11 AM | Comments (1)

May 25, 2004

He Loved Him Some Movies -- Jetzt mit Bewertungen!

I've fought it for a long, long time, but today I've given in: I'm now adding a number score to the movie entries. I'd been resistant so long because I thought that, by not providing ratings, that somehow my criticism would be "purer" somehow. And maybe it does work like that, but, let's face it, I don't write enough for anyone to make a reasonable assumption about what kind of rating I might give a movie. Also, it looked like Martin added a "We deign to rate it" tag to the end of my entries, like what appears on his blog. I admit, it excited me. Well, it was just a software error -- I couldn't just type in a rating, like he can -- but in that brief moment, I revealed my true colors to myself. So, ratings ahoy!

I've decided to go with the 1-100 scale, like all the cool kids are doing. The scale breaks down in a sort-of Metacritic fashion: 100-80 is totally awesome; 79-60 is recommended; 59-40 is so-so, with maybe a few things to make it worth watching; 39-20 is bad; and 19-0 is just godawful.

Some of the individual numbers have specific meanings, as well. I've imported Mike D'Angelo's definition of the 69 rating: a movie that's good, but is missing that certain something to put it in the unqualified thumbs-up category. I probably have more negative things to say about a 69 than, say, a 66, cuz they were just that close. And a 40 is shaping up to be a movie that, had it not had a great performance or two, or incredible talent behind the camera, would have its ass dropped 21 points or more.

Here's a more-or-less complete list of what I've seen so far this year. The (f) is for a film viewing, the (v) is for video.

Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind (2004, Michel Gondry) (f) 97
Holes (2003, Andrew Davis) (v) 92
Thieves Like Us (1974, Robert Altman) (f) 90
Dawn of the Dead (2004, Zack Snyder) (f) 89
Cowards Bend The Knee (2003, Guy Maddin) (f) 83
The Saddest Music in the World (2004, Guy Maddin) (f) 81
The Barbarian Invasions (2003, Denys Arcand) (f) 75
The Winslow Boy (1999, David Mamet) (v) 74
Night Tide (1963, Curtis Harrington) (v) 73
Blade II (2002, Guillermo Del Toro) (v) 72
Assault on Precinct 13 (1976, John Carpenter) (v) 69
Hatchet For The Honeymoon (1969, Mario Bava) (v) 69
Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid (1969, George Roy Hill) (v) 69
The Stranger (1946, Orson Welles) (v) 69
Images (1972, Robert Altman) (v) 68
All The Real Girls (2003, David Gordon Green) (v) 67
The Butterfly Effect (2004, Eric Bress & J. Mackye Gruber) (f) 66
All the President's Men (1976, Alan J. Pakula) (v) 65
demonlover (2003, Olivier Assayas) (v) 64
The Company (2003, Robert Altman) (f) 63
The River (1997, Tsai Ming-liang) (v) 63
The Bridge on the River Kwai (1957, David Lean) (v) 63
Dreamcatcher (2003, Lawrence Kasdan) (v) 60
The Station Agent (2003, Tom McCarthy) (f) 60
Tokyo Godfathers (2004, Satoshi Kon) (f) 60
Secret Fest #1 (can't say, won't say) (f) 59
Death Hunt (1981, Peter Hunt) (v) 57
Along Came A Spider (2001, Lee Tamahori) (v) 50
Opera (1987, Dario Argento) (v) 49
Roman Holiday (1953, William Wyler) (v) 48
The Battle of Shaker Heights (2003, Kyle Rankin & Efrem Potelle) (v) 47
Dementia 13 (1963, Francis Coppola) (v) 46
Stolen Summer (2002, Pete Jones) (v) 41
Elephant (2003, Gus Van Sant) (v) 40
House of 1000 Corpses (2003, Rob Zombie) (v) 35
Nattevagten (1994, Ole Bornedal) (v) 33
City of God (2003, Fernando Meirelles) (f) 30
Seabiscuit (2003, Gary Ross) (v) 28
Pit and the Pendulum (1961, Roger Corman) (v) 25
Anatomy of a Psycho (1961, Brooke L. Peters) (v) 23
Japanese Story (2003, Sue Brooks) (f) 15
From Hell (2001, The Hughes Brothers) (v) 8

Posted by kza at 10:30 AM | Comments (10)

May 24, 2004

SIFF - Secret Fest #1 (can't say, won't say) 59

Here's the ever-continuing problem with the Secret Festival -- the movies need to be so gripping, original, amazing or...something, that you want to shout to the rooftops that you've seen it, but can't.

Needless to say, #1 isn't one of those movies.

Which isn't to say it was bad or boring. The actors, whom I've never seen before, are terrific. And the interstitials that break up the story into acts are cool. But the story is flat, afflicted with a kind of rigorous logic that prevents anything truly surprising or off-the-wall from happening.

I suppose I shouldn't be too harsh on the Secret Fest; in the past three times I've gone (1998, 2001, and 2002), I can only think of two movies that fit my stringent requirements. (Both were 2001, oddly.) But I can't help but feel a bit frustrated. Oh well -- three more chances.

Posted by kza at 12:21 PM | Comments (3)

May 17, 2004

now that's a fuckin' commercial

Check out this German commercial for a product called "K-fee":

Auto

Warning: it's not what I'd call 100% work-safe, even though there's nothing sexual or violent about it. And yet, it could never, ever air in the States.

Additional Warning: Best not to use headphones, either.

Enjoy!

Posted by kza at 12:00 PM | Comments (18)

May 14, 2004

anybody in the audience ever see "The Mouse and His Child"?

I thought I'd see a few more movies this week, to have something to write about, but that didn't happen. Instead I've been busy reading the screenplays of fellow Project Greenlighters, thinking hard about the next draft of Yellow, and stressing about moving out of Mountlake Terrace and back to The Promised Land, a.k.a. Ballard. If we're lucky, maybe my wife and I will find time to see some big movies we missed, like Kill Bill Vol. 2 or Hellboy.

Anyway, in lieu of some kind of review, I present a link sent to me by Martin. Enjoy, and don't stare for too long!

Swirl.

Posted by kza at 11:19 AM

May 11, 2004

one of those stupid late-night thoughts

Lindsay Lohan's fan club should be called either "The Riders of Lohan" or, better still, "The Lohirrim".

Posted by kza at 02:33 PM

May 10, 2004

Elephant (2003, Gus Van Sant) 40

From the home office in Mountlake Terrace, WA

Top Ten snarky potshots at Gus Van Sant's Elephant, in the Martin McClellan-approved style:

10. I'm glad there were those title cards giving us the characters' names; otherwise, I might've gotten them confused.

9. Less Classrooms, More Moving Students.

8. Rumor has it that the planning scene with Alex & Eric is actually a word-for-word transcript of a discussion between Van Sant and his cinematographer Harris Savides.

7. Where can I pick up a copy of KILL MATT DAMON & CASEY AFFLECK, and is there a Mac version?

6. I know the line goes something like, "I've never kissed anyone before," but I heard, "Dude, Gus wants us to kiss or something."

5. "Hi, I'm Benny. I'm here to dispel stereotypes about the survival rates of black characters in...oops, no, wait, guess not."

4. I think there was something wrong with my copy; I pushed all the buttons on my game pad but I couldn't make the characters turn around.

3. Pretty Teens Make Corpses.

2. I'm so, so very happy John found his dad, creating the possibility of an open dialogue between father and son. It really made everything worth it.

1. I've always wondered what it was like to be a student at Columbine on 5/20/99. Now I don't have to. Thank you, Gus Van Sant!

Posted by kza at 12:05 PM | Comments (1)

May 09, 2004

Project Greenlight 3 (update #12 1/2)

Martin thought the first picture was too serious and pretentious.

Okay homes, how do you like these apples?

martinpg3.tiff

The truth is, the 3 minute video is a lot of things: sober and goofy, loose yet carefully planned at the same time. No single frame is going to do it justice, I think.

Or will it....?

kentclockpg3.tiff

I'd like to think that our 3 minute video is going to be different than most of the entries. I'd like to think that it's so different, that it won't be forgotten after the 100th video has played. I'd like to think it is, in a word, unique.

Now, whether or not that's a good thing remains to be seen.

Martin, care to comment?

Posted by kza at 03:29 PM | Comments (7)

May 07, 2004

Project greenlight 3 (update #12)

Lookit these guys:

kentmartinpg3.tiff

So serious. So full of mystery. So fucking up their lines.

We're done with our three-minute "Please Choose Us!" video. That's Martin on the left, Yours Truly on the right. The shoot went well. Laughs were had. Gummies were eaten. Overall, it wasn't unlike the script-writing experience: very little time, a whole lot to do, but in the end, it got done and was a satisfactory experience. I'm pretty sure this is the end of this particular train, though, but I did say that after the Top 1000, so who the fuck knows?

There are still some people out there who -- don't mean to be pushy! -- but who have read the script and haven't given us their impressions. Don't be shy! You won't hurt our feelings. Well, you might hurt mine, but I'll get over it, since I know we still have a lot of work to do.

(And a shout-out to reader Bull, who did give his impressions. Thanks, man. Go ahead and turn around and we'll commence the scratching...)

Posted by kza at 01:55 PM | Comments (5)

SIFF!

Ah-ah! Savior of the Universe!

Well, no. If the Seattle International Film Festival was the savior of the universe, we'd be fucked. Let's face it, compared to other festivals, SIFF is pretty lame. Very rarely does anything interesting debut here; most of the films are usually last year's Cannes and Toronto, with local stuff thrown into the mix. One day, I'd like to go to a real film festival; for now, I have SIFF.

But with that said, there's some cool stuff this year. The biggest event for me is the one-time showing of Jacque Tati's Playtime, in 70mm, at the Cinerama, no less. I have the DVD, seen it twice, but anyone familiar with the movie knows that a TV, no matter how big, aint gonna get the job done. I'm gonna have to watch the DVD two more times and read the Rosenbaum essays again just to get in shape.

Also, we're getting the premiere of Donnie Darko: The Director's Cut. Now, I wasn't terribly impressed with Darko the first time I saw it, but lots of people, people I respect, are nutty about it, so I was looking forward to giving it another shot, especially with extra footage, and especially on the big screen. Unfortunately, they're making a big event out of it, with a reception afterward (so you can tell Jake Gyllenhaal, "Hey, sorry about Spider-Man 2") and the tickets are $12, which prices me out of the game.

Then there's the Secret Festival. For $30, you get to see four movies, one each Sunday, with the caveat that YOU CAN'T EVER TELL ANYONE WHAT YOU SAW. Occasionally, one or more of the films are shown really do need to be kept secret; I've heard rumors that, several years ago, they showed a rather infamous film starring Barbie dolls. I've done the Secret Fest three times, and, unfortunately, it's rarely like that. Now, I've seen at least one absolutely amazing film that I wouldn't have been able to see otherwise. And I've seen some crap. I've even been part of a test-audience for a lame horror film. So you never know what you're gonna get. My wish list for this year is The Brown Bunny, The Hour of the Wolf, and my Susan Lucci of Secret Fest films, Pulse. Now that I've said it, it won't happen.

My schedule isn't cemented just yet, but right now, it can be divided up into a couple different categories: The Gimme! Gimme! Gimme!s (Playtime, The Saddest Music in the World, Cowards Bend The Knee, Primer, and Hero), the Super Troupers (Doppelganger, Bright Future, Goodbye Dragon Inn, In Your Hands) and the Take A Chance On Mes (Minor Mishaps, The Best of Youth, Parts 1 & 2 [3 hours apiece!], Slim Susie, Take My Eyes, and Torremolinos 73 [which I'm interested in primarily because it sounds similar to a script I wrote a couple years ago.])

More info as it happens.

Posted by kza at 01:20 PM | Comments (4)

May 05, 2004

Night Tide (1963, Curtis Harrington) 73

...part of my ongoing attempt to post something new every Monday, Wednesday, and Friday. You know, just like my closest competitor, Penny Arcade.

Anyway, this is a small, low-budget flick heavily inspired by Cat People, starring a very, very young Dennis Hopper. And because of its similarities to that Val Lewton classic (Kim Newman called it the first of the CP homages), it gets slotted as a horror film, but it isn't really. If anything, it falls under the category "Haunted Romance", like Rebecca or Wuthering Heights (not that it's anything like those films or books, of course).

Two of the sources I read for commentary on this flick compared it to Cocteau; admittedly, I've only seen Beauty and the Beast, but I don't see the connection. While the plot, of a young sailor (a good, sensitive performance by Hopper) falls in love with a woman who believes she is a siren destined to kill, certainly has a dream logic to it, the cinematography has that great, sixties indie flavor, full of great B&W photography of real places. It made me think of Cassavette's Shadows, actually.

While the ending is unsatisfying (didn't need the Psycho-esque "Here's what it's really about"), it's really worth watching for Hopper's performance, the atmosphere of loneliness, and especially the sense of place. The story occurs mostly on the long-gone arcades of Santa Monica, wonderfully weather-beaten piers and merry-go-rounds and sideshow attractions. We get to learn a little about the people who work here, and occasionally it has the feel of an Altman film, with the piers like the man-made towns of McCabe & Mrs. Miller and Popeye. A small, modest gem.

Posted by kza at 01:23 AM

May 03, 2004

The Office - Season One

Mind-blowing. If you've never seen it, every good thing you've heard is true. If this was a three-hour movie, it'd be number one on my top ten list.

What strikes me most about the show is David Brent, the character played by creator/writer/director Ricky Gervais. He's been described as a "boss from hell", but I see him as a guy who is conflicted about the power he wields, but delusional about how that power is percieved ("I'm a friend first, a boss second...entertainer third"). He wants to be popular and everybody's friend -- he wants to be loved, more precisely -- but doesn't want to sacrifice the power and show the vulnerability that that requires. There ends up being such a split between the lonely, unfunny guy he is and the charismatic leader that he insists to himself he is, all you can do is gaze dumbfoundedly.

Now, that description probably sounds a bit general, a bit intellectual. Yet I think we've all met this guy at one point in our lives, and I can't think of any other movie or TV show that's ever portrayed this kind of character, at least not with this kind of detail. It's like he sprung into existence fully formed, yet was always lurking out in the ether, an archetype waiting for expression. In other words, I hope Ricky Gervais gets around to doing other stuff, otherwise he's going to be seen as David Brent forever.

I don't necessarily think that every episode is equivalent in quality, though; Episode One is a bit dry, and Episode Five is probably the least successful. (I'm assuming it's Episode Five that features the new secretary sub-plot; it's one of the few times they push their super-realism to the breaking point, I think.) Episodes Two and Four, the porn and the teamwork seminar, are the funniest. Episode Two is actually the first one I saw, and I think my love of the show was solidified by "Gareth Keenan Investigates".

Then there's Episodes Three and Six. Understand that the humor of "The Office" is raw, in the sense that, like "Curb Your Enthusiasm", it deals with uncomfortable situations and awkward silences, and mining the laughs from these encounters. In Three and Six, they plunge so deep into the heart of this office environment that they end up stripping away all the humor to reveal, without a buffer, the darkness at the center of it. The ending of Episode Three, in particular, featuring David Brent's best friend, the monstrous Chris Finch (a brilliant performance by Ralph Ineson in a series full of brilliant performances) is one of the most depressing things I've ever seen.

Can't wait to see Season Two!

Posted by kza at 12:21 PM | Comments (2)