Saturday, March 07, 2009

What I'm Watching: Important Things, Milk, Gran Torino

I have a few episodes of "Important Things with Demetri Martin" on my DVR, and I finally got around to watching the one titled "Brains." While the "Jokes" segment isn't very funny, the sketch involving Ben Franklin, Shakespeare, and Galileo was genius.

And the stroller battle between the two dads was laugh-out-loud funny.

Martin's style of comedy (obsessive, conceptual, visual, faux-naive, and yet highly intelligent) works well in small doses, and this show breaks everything up into tiny segments, so the bits that miss the mark don't sting as much, and the bits that are hilarious leave a quick impression and then disappear. It's a good show.

I also caught up with some movie watching this week (and though I may have seen "Watchmen" by the time this is posted, I haven't seen it as of Friday afternoon's writing). I saw "Milk" and "Gran Torino," thanks to some screener dvds.

"Milk" is a good movie, and I liked Gus Van Sant's use of documentary footage mixed in with his own stuff. Van Sant also shot some new footage to match the grainy documentary sequences, but he mostly doesn't even try to make it match, visually. The cinematography between the in-movie Harvey Milk scenes looks like its a different universe from the documentary pieces, and I like the artificiality of the juxtaposition. It's one of the most interesting things about the movie, I think.

I talked about how Mickey Rourke deserved the Oscar in last week's "What I'm Watching" post, and even though I hadn't seen "Milk" at that time, I was confident in my assertion that Sean Penn wasn't as good as Rourke. And I was definitely right. Penn plays Harvey Milk as a gay caricature, which wasn't super-distracting as I was watching the film (it's a consistent and fully realized performance), but I have since seen some footage of the real Harvey Milk in various clips on YouTube, and Milk, in real life, was nowhere near as mannered and fidgety as Penn is in the film. Putting the real Milk next to the movie Milk makes Penn's performance seem almost embarrassing.

But nothing about "Milk" is anywhere nearly as embarassing as the abysmal "Gran Torino." If this is, indeed, Clint Eastwood's last performance, then it's a shame. He literally growls his way through the performance as Archie-Bunker-in-the-Hood, and the whole movie feels like a silly made-for-tv production, with 99% more racism.

You know what it reminds me of? Did you see "Million Dollar Baby"? You know that one really out-of-place scene where the the boxer girl's family visits her in the hospital, and they come in with their Disney gear and the whole scene is tonally unlike everything in the movie? "Gran Torino" feels like that for two hours. Every scene feels wrong, feels out of place, whether it's the embarrassing moments of Eastwood pounding the Pabst and growling racial epithets, or the cartoonish Hmong neighbors, or the after-school-special priest character and his awkward advice.

"Gran Torino" is just plain terrible.

What are YOU watching?


Ben Villarreal said...

Hmm...My wife and I finally got around to seeing Gran Torino last night, and we really liked it. I grant you, it wasn't as good as Million Dollar Baby, and if Eastwood was going for another Unforgiven then he definately missed the mark. But we still thought it was a good movie. And if anyone's acting was bad, I wouldn't have pinned it on Eastwood--the kids, yes. But not Eastwood; he's my hero ;-)

Bryce Menard said...

I'm watching DVR's Demetri Martin also. And I just saw Watchmen tonight.