Monday Morning Critic – 3.30

On tap this week:
— Feeling bad for Jessica Simpson
— My thoughts on the Stooges
— Going around the independent circuit
And slightly much more!

You know who I genuinely feel bad for? Singer/actress Jessica Simpson.

I know . . . it’s hard to feel bad for a blonde with huge knockers, millions in the bank and hot & heavy with the choke artist/star quarterback of the Dallas Cowboys. And it’s hard to feel bad for an actress who headlines films, albeit the Direct to DVD variety. It’s especially hard to feel bad for someone who has had nothing but success in one field and a variety of studios trying to shove her “talents” down the throats of cinema goers until we buy her as a both an actress and as someone worthy of plunking down money for.

But I still bad for her. Why? Because of the recent controversy surrounding her weight gain and subsequent loss, that’s why I feel bad for her. Let me explain, as even the President took what could be perceived as a wisecrack about the situation.

Simpson is a talented singer who tried to become a crossover star as an actress and so far hasn’t been successful. Her major role has been in the Dukes of Hazzard film, as that film’s limited success has seemingly been the high water mark in a career of cinematic missteps. Employee of the Month was a failure, but gets chalked up more on the career of its star (Dane Cook) than it does for her but Private Valentine: Blonde & Dangerous and Blonde Ambition are loose remakes of Private Benjamin and Working Girl respectively. So it’s not like she has a lot to work with as an actress, but the whole affair about her weight pointed out something to me that no one seems to have noticed.

People only care that she’s attractive. Nothing else is pointed out other than she’s a size 8 or a size 4. She’s the ultimate living, breathing Barbie doll and once she can’t lose that 20 lbs that settles on her hips she’ll get replaced on the assembly line.

And that’s why I feel bad for. In a couple years, or when she goes to a cheap plastic surgeon, her one bankable asset is going to be gone and she’ll be left with nothing to bank a career on. She’ll be too old to be a sex symbol, and it’s not like there’s a market for has-been pop singers en masse. All she ever is, and probably will be, is someone with a remarkable body and an IQ that borders on the double digits. So when aging catches up with her, and it does with everyone, she can look back and realize that all she accomplished was showing that ridiculously attractive women can make it for a while with the right marketing.

Random Thoughts of the Week

So it was big news this week that the Farrelly Brothers’ comedy flick The Three Stooges has finally been cast. Moe, Larry and Curly will be portrayed by two Oscar winners (Benicio Del Toro for Traffic and Sean Penn for Mystic River and Milk) and one of the best comedians of the 1990s (Jim Carrey).

At first I was a bit non-plussed, as I’m a Stooges fan and doing any film about them doesn’t seem right, but the more I think about the more I like the idea. While no one is sure what kind of film they’ll make, with the rumor mill churning that it’ll be three shorts, I’m kind of intrigued by the idea of these three. Why? Because they’re all excessively talented individuals, that’s why.

Penn is right now one of the few gentlemen who can legitimately claim to the title “World’s Greatest Actor.” It’s hard to argue against him. Two Oscars, a litany of great performances and recognition by his peers en masse. And Penn, while perhaps one of the people who might be hard to like as a person based on his behavior, doesn’t take a role without going full bore into making it the best he can. He’s got the sort of desire that not even two Academy Awards will dull.

Del Toro is one of the more underrated actors out there and coming off a handful of terrific parts. He also has this knack of pulling out great performances when no one expects him to; Traffic was totally out of the blue. He’s also worked with, and been directed by, Penn in the past. Chemistry is going to mean a lot and these two have been around each enough that chemistry won’t be a problem.

Carrey is the wild card, as he’s Curly, but I think this might be the film where he pulls out a vintage Carrey performance. For the last couple years a Jim Carrey comedy meant he was funny for about ½ the film and markedly unfunny for the rest, and Yes Man was commercially successful but not critically. He also tends to step up his game when around other talented people, and now he’s with two of the best actors in the game. He blends well with nearly any actor and has worked with the directing team before. So I think they’ll make a great trio together.

The wild card is the directing team, as Peter and Bobby Farrelly have been trying to get the film done for years and this is their veritable dream project. So they’re going to throw everything they can at the film to make it work, and they’ve got a dream cast as well. This isn’t three unknowns or d-list actors trying to pay the mortgage. They’ve got one of the best directing teams in comedy with three terrific actors on a dream project.

Well some people might think they’re pissing on the legacy of the Stooges, I think they’re going to make a phenomenal comedy. It’s a gut instinct but something about this leaves me to think this could be a great flick.

A Movie A Week – The Challenge

This Week’s Film – …Around


One of the joys of writing for Inside is that independent film makers, p.r firms, film festivals and anyone remotely connected to the film industry sends you e-mails, screeners, et al, on a fairly regular basis. Most of them are not worth reading, honestly, as they don’t apply to our audience. On occasion I’ll write back to see if it’d be interesting enough, as our audience doesn’t skew towards any number of alternative lifestyles that a lot of minor film circuits aim at, but there are the rare occasions where I’ll interact with someone and will get a screener, etc, to review. This is one of them.

…Around is one man’s look at finding a home in New York. That man is David Spaltro, and the film is an autobiographical film in the vein that directors like Scorsese did earlier in their careers. The film is a fictionalized account of his life through college at the School of Visual Arts (2001-5).

Doyle Simms (Robert Evans) is the stand in for Spaltro, being the fictionalized version of himself, and I have to give Spaltro credit for what’s a pretty ballsy decision in how he crafts the character. Most times a writer/director/producer will put himself as the greatest person around him and instead Doyle is the kind of guy who says the exact wrong thing at the exact wrong time. Some of his responses to his art school friends are classic and delivered by Evans quite well. Spaltro gives his fictionalized presence in the film some undesirable qualities, giving him a fleshed out presence as opposed to giving him all the best qualities he sees in himself and none of the bad ones he’d admit he had.

The film’s production is rather interesting on a number of levels because Spaltro made the film like Robert Townsend made Hollywood Shuffle: with his own credit cards. Spaltro ran up $175,000 in debt to make the film, using Brooklyn lofts to construct his sets that would later end up being torn down for zoning restrictions. The film looks it, as well, as the sort of production values one sees in a much higher budgeted film are nowhere near this film. It looks amateurish because it is amateurish, as the film has been done by a number of people who don’t have full IMDB resumes. For all the lack of experience, the film has solid acting that definitely could hold up with plenty of films that had million dollar budgets and more “professional” actors in it.

For all the lack of experience, Spaltro has pieced together a solid film. It has a solid, steady pace and doesn’t reach beyond what it aims for. While I would normally put up a full review, the film doesn’t have a release yet so I’d rather not at this juncture. So instead I’ll write about my general thoughts before formalizing them to coincide with the film’s release.

The director is actually a very nice guy and sent the DVD to me on his own accord, which I respect. The website, and you could be featured in the next “Monday Morning Critic.” Include your name and hometown to improve your odds..

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