Thursday, July 5, 2012

Membership Has Its Privileges

As I mentioned, I bought a membership to the Roxie.  For $23 per month, I get "free" admission to Roxie programmed screenings.  This excludes festivals such as the recent Frameline or upcoming Frozen Film Festival or Indiefest series but does includes series such as I Wake Up Dreaming or Mick LaSalle's upcoming The Beauty of the Real: A Celebration of Contemporary French Actresses!

To best utilize my membership, I've been seeing films at the Roxie that I wouldn't necessarily have otherwise seen.

Jeff, Who Lives at Home starring Jason Segel, Ed Helms & Susan Sarandon; directed by Jay & Mark Duplass; (2011) - Official Website
Indie Game:  The Movie; directed by Lisanne Pajot & James Swirsky; documentary; (2012) - Official Website
The Connection starring Warren Finnerty & Carl Lee; directed by Shirley Clarke; (1962)


I've heard of the Duplass Brothers for awhile so I was anxious to see Jeff, Who Lives at Home.  The Duplass Brothers' latest film, The Do-Deca-Pentathalon, opens tomorrow.

The suddenly ubiquitous Jason Segel plays the eponymous Jeff, a 30something slacker who has no job, lives in his mother's basement and smokes dope.  His mother's (Susan Sarandon) insistence that he go out and buy some home supplies turns into an odyssey.  Jeff encounters dope smokers, gets robbed, encounters his brother (Ed Helms), gets involved with his brother's failing marriage and finally has a life defining moment on Lake Ponchatrain, I believe.

Jeff feels like a slacker comedy with mumblecore roots but the Duplass Brothers layer on contrivances to further the humor.  Due to  his stoner sensibilities, it's Jeff's brother, sister-in-law & mother who are the most unhappy and it is Jeff who cuts through the chaff of their problems.  The film may have had a deeper message than I took from it but I thought it an enjoyable little film.


Indie Game:  The Movie is a Doc Lite film.  Reminiscent of the Tetris documentary from Indiefest or The King of Kong; Indie Game follows a few independent game designers.  I've never played Wii, XBox or PlayStation so I went in knowing nothing.  I grew up in the age of quarter arcade games.  There is a laundromat near me that has a game I don't even know the name of.  You shoot colored balls to the top of the screen.  You can bounce the ball off the sides.  When you get three balls of the same color touching, the balls disappear.  Every so often the row of balls get pushed down one row.  The goal is to clear the balls from screen before they touch the bottom.  That game is about the extent of my videogame playing for the past the decade. 

So when the characters mention EA Games, I had to think for a moment.  Their description of hundreds programmers working on Halo sounded like the complaints independent filmmakers frequently state.

I can't recall the games.  There was a weird one about Meat Boy who has no skin or something.  There is one called Fez that in the film industry would be called "stuck in development hell."  Perhaps a more accurate analogy would be Clouzot trying to finish Inferno

So Indie Game just didn't interest me due to the subject.  The film was mildly interesting to me and the filmmakers did a nice job building suspense but ultimately, I couldn't identify with the subjects.  Why did they invest so much time into creating these games?  Why didn't they do something worthwhile with the energy and writing a movie blog.


The Connection is a famous mocumentary about some heroin addicts waiting around for their dealer to show up so they can score.  The film reminded me a lot of Waiting for Godot but instead of waiting for the dealer, they are really waiting for their next fix.  The junkies argue and banter and tell stories.  When dealer Cowboy (Carl Lee) finally show up a Salvation Army granny in tow, it is almost anti-climatic.  The addicts dutiful queue to score their fix in the bathroom and we see each one change their behavior (or not) as the smack kicks in.

The film looked like a play adapted for the screen which in fact it was.  I'm certain it was edgy in 1962 but it had lost some of its edge.  Four jazz musicians/junkies are holed up in the apartment waiting for Cowboy.  Heroin addicted, jazz musicians - stereotypical but they jam some nice tunes while before and after getting their fix.  Sounds real hep in the Village in 1959 but doesn't play in the Mission in 2012.  Warren Finnerty (predating Ratso Rizzo by almost a decade) stands out as Leach, the biggest addict of them all who almosts ODs because one fix doesn't get the job done.

Likened to Lionel Rogosin's On the Bowery (1956) since it showed the seedy side of mid-century society in the US, I much preferred the cinéma vérité style of Rogosin's film to the jazz-infused dialog of Clarke's film.


For all three of these films, I can't say I would have regretted skipping them.  They were fine films but not quite in my wheelhouse which I guess is the main benefit of a Roxie membership.  It allows me to see films that I would not otherwise spend the admission price on.

If someone asks me if I can recommend a slacker comedy or a documentary on video games or a stylized exploration of heroin addiction, I have some decent recommendations.

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