Category Archives: Awkward

Manchester by the Sea

manchesterNote: This is the second part of a review double-header!  Jesse sent two recommendations in a single shot so I’m reviewing them at the same time. Click here for the other review.

What Jesse said:

Two movies for you to watch: War Dogs, and Manchester by the Sea. Very different but excellent flicks. War Dogs is so absurd it will make you laugh and then wonder if the grownups really are in charge… also, it was funny ’cause it’s true (based on a real case). Manchester by the Sea was a pretty intense slow burn. Casey Affleck plays the main character. Watch out for the BAHS-ton accents. Family drama.

Mike’s verdict:

If you’re going to freak out every time you see a frozen chicken, I think we should maybe go to the hospital. I don’t know anything about this.

Judging by this quote alone, I should like Manchester by the Sea. Add the fact that it is packed full of awkwardness and I should really like it.  Awkward people just trying to exist in a world where all the little things are much harder than they should be; this is my favourite kind of movie by far. But let’s get things straight right up front: I did not like Manchester by the Sea and I am struggling for a reason not to give it 0/10.

Right from the beginning I was aggravated.  The dialog starts before the opening credits music has faded and it was annoyingly difficult to hear what seemed like an expository exchange.  It was a relief when the music finally stopped – little did I know that all the music in this film would be annoying, out of place, too loud or unnecessary.  It was never appropriate to the scene, nor even ironically inappropriate – it was just all wrong.  Music usage is a crucial aspect of film and when not done correctly it can be devastating even to an otherwise fantastic movie.

Of course, this is not an otherwise fantastic movie. Affleck is annoying before you even see his face. To be fair, he did start to grow on me by the end, but I’m pretty sure that had more to do with the rest of the characters.  At first I wondered why his character would be so anti-social, but then it became clear; he has the most immediately unlikable family and friends imaginable. I can’t think of another film with so many genuinely unlikable characters.  None of them are relate-able as people. A good awkward movie is good because the awkwardness is familiar and understandable.  But all of the characters in this film are unpleasant – and they are definitely not helped by the awful fake accents that just make the dialog that much more painful to hear.

Thirty minutes in I wanted to stop watching. By an hour in I had checked the time remaining half a dozen times, and I really wanted to stop watching.  By and hour and forty-five minutes in I wasn’t sure that I’d be able to take anymore.  And then, inexplicably, it just ends abruptly without any resolution. Normally that would impress me, but this time it felt cheap; I had earned something more involved.

Maybe I’m out of practice. Maybe this is what passes for awkwardness in film these days.  In my day, we had people like Mark Duplass to show how awkwardness can be reveled in. I’d like to see him redo this film shot-for-shot with a better cast. The only actor that should stay in the Duplass version is Matthew Broderick. Yes, that’s right, Matthew Broderick is the single best part of Manchester by the Sea.  In fact, for his part I will give the film a whole extra point.

1/10


Slow West

SlowWest.jpgWhat Jesse said:

Yo, I got another one fer ya. This one is called Slow West and it stars Michael Fassbender and some kid named Kodi Smit-McPhee, who, turns out, I’ve already seen in another great movie – The Road.  Anyway, this is kind of a weird love story about a pasty-faced lovesick kid (Kodi) who travels from Scotland to the badlands of 19th century America in search of his massive crush, a girl named Rose.  The kid is uber naive and idealistic about his quest so you know he’s in trouble as soon as you see him in the New World.  Throw in some crazy bounty hunters and a jaded gunslinger with an agenda and you got yourself a pretty quirky twist on the old western genre.  I really enjoyed this one so cancel your plans for the Pokemon Go hunt and go see this movie right now. Go.

Mike’s verdict:

Apparently I took a while getting around to watching this one – as evidenced by Jesse’s outdated reference to a game that I was too old for even a decade ago when anyone cared about Pokemon.  Part of the delay was life – I was busy doing non-movie-related activities. But I was also very skeptical about this movie.  I’m not a fan of westerns generally and the idea that Jesse might have uncovered a good one seemed pretty remote.

Thankfully, this isn’t really a western, or at least it doesn’t feel like one.  It does tick all the western boxes: dusty plains, wooden buildings, people riding horses, everyone has a gun, nobody can aim a gun, the good guy looks just like the bad guys, nobody is ever in a hurry, it rarely rains but when it does everyone just gets wet, etc. Yet somehow this film feels less like western and more like fantasy.  I can’t quite place it, but the atmosphere doesn’t feel like it’s intended to be part of our reality – it has the same once-upon-a-timeness as the beginning of Stardust. You can sort of relate to the characters, but their reality is clearly askew.  This is particularly strong at the start, before the film shifts to the New World, but it continues right through to the end.  That said, it’s doesn’t feel completely foreign in the way that Cowboys & Aliens does.

The whole thing gives off a slight awkwardness that I enjoyed, and also left me constantly guessing where it was going to take me.  In the end, the basic result is pretty obvious – you can predict how Jay’s quest to find Rose is going to turn out just from the interaction between the two characters in the first five minutes. But this is definitely one of those movies that is more about the details of the absurd journey, than the details of the absurd ending.

Aside from some minor gruesomeness near the end, Slow West is fairly easy to watch, has a nice unrushed – but not too slow – pace and is packed with dry humour that you need to pay attention to notice (ha, salt in the wound!).  It’s like an easy-listening radio station during ‘the cool DJ’s’ shift – nothing overly special, but a fine way to spend a few hours.

8/10


Bottle Shock

bottleshockWhat Jesse said:

I got another awesome movie for you to review. It’s called Bottle Shock and it stars Chris Pine (the new Cpt. Kirk) and one of my favorite badass (and unintentionally funny) actors of all time, Alan Rickman!

Rickman is absolutely perfect with his low-key off-beat performance as a wine-pushing guy just trying to make a buck. Yes, the movie’s title does have something to do with wine and the wine industry but the plot is really about people and their obsessions with trying to prove that their stuff is the best. Nothing tastes as sweet as being proven right and these characters’ agendas start to become more and more obvious as the story unfolds… enjoy.

Mike’s verdict:

I feel like there are actually three movies here, and the one represented by the title actually gets the least screen time.

First, there is the snobby wine guy movie. It’s not bad – but it sort of feels like Wes Anderson and Woody Allen came together and the best parts of both of them cancelled each other out. There’s always this feeling like something ridiculous and fantastic is about to happen, but at the end I realized that the anticipation was all I would get. I’m not really sure why this part of the movie got naming rights – the storyline begins and ends the film, but is almost completely absent in the middle.

Next there is the lost boy needs to grow up / serious dad needs to chill out movie. This one was pretty tired. It’s been done many times before and everyone knows that it will end with both men understanding each other and themselves a little better. Bla. Bill Pullman‘s character doesn’t even make sense – I don’t think that a guy who walks away from being a lawyer to start making his own wine would really need to be told to chill out. And I won’t even get into Pine’s character looking completely out of place wearing the Kurt Cobain costume.

The last movie is about a Mexican vineyard worker who wants to get out from underneath the prejudice that surrounds him. I think this would have made the best movie if it had not been buried within the other two. I really liked Freddy Rodríguez‘s character Gustavo, and his storyline could easily fill a feature-length film. 

I had hoped that Bottle Shock would live up Jesse’s hype. I really like Alan Rickman and looked forward to his deadpan disdain for life coming through in every scene. Unfortunately, there was so much of the movie that had nothing to do with his character that by the time he finally came back I had forgotten the movie was even about him.

If you want to learn about the California wine scene in the 70s, I’d skip this and find a documentary. If you like seeing Alan Rickman, I’d skip this and watch pretty much anything else that he’s ever been in. If you want to see Bill Pullman have a melt down, I’d skip this and watch the first 2 minutes of The Grudge. But if you like the feeling of anticipation followed by the emptiness of disappointment you should definitely watch this.

I’m going to rate this 3/10, but only because I really like Alan Rickman.


Happiness

What Jesse said:

…And, in honor of the passing of the great Philip Seymour Hoffman I want you to watch Happiness, a truly twisted piece of film-making. Hoffman’s performance is disturbing and brilliant and the opening bit with Jon Lovitz is absolute genius.

Mike’s verdict:

Happiness is about the most unfortunate family ever – even by movies standards. It’s centred on three sisters living very different lives but with a common undertone – nobody is happy; everybody is lonely. Even the people in their lives are lonely. And it’s really uncomfortable. So very uncomfortable.

But unlike most awkward films, Happiness is not just a series of unfortunate events or poor choices. Instead, the discomfort comes from its honest portrayal of life. Quietly anxious but evenly understated, Happiness is shocking because it all seems so tangible. The characters are real people with real flaws. Some of them are lost, some of them are sad, some of them are monsters – but they’re all still very substantial.

I really enjoy awkwardness in movies, and I definitely enjoyed this one. The acting is great, the dialog is witty and the pace was perfect – true awkwardness is not as easy as it seems. Even the soundtrack was well-chosen; Hoffman’s character’s theme song would definitely be All Out of Love.

However, this movie is not for everyone. There are a few scenes that are Hollywood icky – American Pie style. And the real awkwardness involves a level of discomfort that falls somewhere between that of Shame and Humpday. But it’s worth seeing if you’re into that sort of thing.

Favourite line of the movie: “Everyone uses baggies, that’s why we can all relate to this crime.”

8/10