Now in Cinemas: Reviews for July 26, 2007

The Simpsons Movie & François Ozon's Angel

Reviews by Jason Pirodsky

Feature-film version of the beloved and long-running TV show, The Simpsons Movie faithfully recreates typical episode with a flair not seen since the series´ heyday a decade ago. The film isn´t a few episodes strung together and padded out, it´s a single show blown up to feature-length proportions and a genuine movie that makes you wonder why they didn´t do this years ago. It´s good-natured, entertaining, and laugh-out-loud funny – fans of The Simpsons will have a lot of fun here, and the movie still remains accessible for others.

The Simpsons Movie
Directed by David Silverman. Featuring the voices of Dan Castellaneta, Julie Kavner, Nancy Cartwright, Yeardley Smith, Harry Shearer, Hank Azaria, Marcia Wallace, Tress MacNeille, Pamela Hayden, Joe Mantegna, Albert Brooks, Russi Taylor, Tom Hanks. Screenplay by James L. Brooks, Matt Groening, Al Jean, Ian Maxtone-Graham, George Meyer, David Mirkin, Mike Reiss, Mike Scully, Matt Selman, John Schwartzwelder, Jon Vitti, based on the TV show created by Groening.
IMDb link
A variety of irreverent subplots merge together at the polluted Springfield Lake; when Homer dumps a silo full of pig crap (don´t ask) into it, the scale is tipped and the EPA is sent in to monitor the thousand-eyed fish. President Schwarzenegger´s randomly picked (“I was elected to lead, not to read”) solution: encase the town in a giant glass dome. An angry mob comes after Homer, and he and Marge, Bart, Lisa, and Maggie manage to escape and attempt to start a new life in Alaska. But when they learn that the government plans to blow up Springfield (and create the ‘new´ Grand Canyon), will they return to save their beloved town? What´s great about the series is expanded on here – especially during a raucous, gag-a-minute (rather, gag-a-few-seconds) opening half hour where even the throwaway jokes had me in stitches (“Code Black? Black is the worst color of all…no offense, Carl”). Problems are also magnified, however, and the film begins to lag when plot takes over (and especially during a lengthy family-values climatic sequence). One other complaint: not enough time is spent with the other colorful residents of Springfield (including Mr. Burns and Apu, among others); almost everyone has a choice gag or two, however, if little more. Still, it´s plenty fun; instantly forgettable, but that will only make repeat viewings more rewarding. Mostly-traditional animation has an artistic flair and distinct style that outshines many of the recent computer-animated films. Stay tuned during the credits for a couple extra gags and an orchestral rendition of “Spider-Pig”.

NOTE: most cinemas are only screening a Czech-dubbed version of the film. Catch the original English-language version (without Czech subtitles) at Palace Cinemas Slovanský dům or Village Cinemas Anděl‘s Gold Class.


Directed by François Ozon. Staring Romola Garai, Lucy Russell, Sam Neill, Michael Fassbender, Charlotte Rampling, Jacqueline Tong, Janine Duvitski, Christopher Benjamin. Written by Ozon, from the novel by Elizabeth Taylor.
IMDb link

An uneasy mixture of camp satire and lurid melodrama, François Ozon´s Angel remains aloof – just like its lead character – for the duration. Based on the 1957 novel by Elizabeth Taylor (not the actress), itself (supposedly) a satire of the Douglas Sirk-esque melodramas of the time, the film mostly plays things deceptively straight; but there´s more here than a first glance indicates. Romola Garai stars as Angel Deverell, an entirely self-absorbed teen who improbably becomes an overnight sensation with the publication of her romance novels. We follow Angel as she purchases Paradise, the estate she dreamed of living in as a child, falls in love with and marries bitter painter Esmé (Michael Fassbender), whose ‘smudge painting´ works couldn’t be different from her fantasy romances, and lives in her own world despite the realities that surround her. She refuses to change a thing in her initial novel (despite clear errors, such as opening champagne with a corkscrew), and refuses to change anything about her self-centered ways, up to the bitter end; Ozon goes out of his way to paint this character as unsympathetic, and challenges us throughout the film to resolve our feelings about her. Garai is remarkable in the lead; while the character is never likable, her spoiled-little-rich-girl Angel is utterly believable. Taken at face-value, the movie is awful; an ironically straight, emotionally empty melodrama that layers on the schmaltz with lush cinematography and overbearing musical crescendos that hammer home every detail (not to mention the dime-store romance plot); but look closer: Ozon has faithfully recreated the kind of fantasy world that Angel has trapped herself in. While at times the satire is obvious (especially during amusingly retro rear-projection honeymoon scenes), the director otherwise downplays everything so much that many will miss the point entirely. A thought-provoking film that knowingly presents itself as empty as its lead character; challenging and rewarding, but less successful as entertainment. The kind of love-it-or-hate-it film that I fully respect but feel strangely indifferent about. An interesting (if more modest and less successful) companion piece to Todd Haynes´ Far From Heaven.

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