Thursday, August 05, 2004

Multiple Movie Extravaganza! (Spiderman 2, Napoleon Dynamite)

Well its been a great couple weeks a the theaters; for me at least. The faithful 'ol indie theater in my area has rounded up a great bunch of old flicks from the 80s. These are flicks I'd never thought I'd ever see on a big screen. Its been awesome. AND, I've squeezed in Spiderman 2 and Napoleon Dynamite. So... Lets get it on!

Spiderman 2

I thought the first Spiderman movie gave Tim Burton's Batman a serious run for its money. And I thought Spiderman 2 was even better than the first. So in my mind, Spiderman 2 is the Best. Superhero. Movie. Ever. Before I really get started let me say: I really like the Spiderman mythos; I was Spiderman for Halloween like 3 years in a row; and I think Kirsten Dunst is the bee's knees. So, grain of salt and all that.

The film is extremely well served by the return of the major talents Toby Maguire, Kirsten Dunst, Danny Elfman, and Sam Raimi. This great set of talent is joined by one of my favorite authors Michael Chambon. With they're powers combined, they form Captain Planet. I mean Spiderman 2. If you're at all familiar with Chambon's work, you can feel his presence adding a much needed dramatic weight to the universally familiar superhero story. About 70% - 80% of the movie is focused on relationships and character. Not only in the story but in the placement of the camera. Huge sweeping shots are reserved exclusively for following Spiderman's aerial gymnastics through the city and in some spectacular special shots. It works great; keeping us focused on the characters and their reactions. It also has the pleasant effect of getting your adrenaline going during the action sequences.

Speaking of action, there' s plenty, but concentrated in a handful of extremely intense scenes. CGI integration is much better than last time around and not nearly as distracting. Raimi really works his real and CGI cameras to propel movement on the screen. The film has his unique style stamped all over it. There's one scene in particular that I love where he throws his fans a really meaty bone. It comes in the form of a shot for shot lift from one of his older cult movies, Evil Dead 2. There's all sorts of other goodies liberally scattered through out the movie. Watch for cameos from Stan Lee, Bruce Campbell, Ted Raimi, and - my favorite of the film - Hal Sparks. Genius. See it!

Napoleon Dynamite

This movie is really... REALLY fucking funny. You know those movies people always quote at parties? This is one of those movies. Its infinitely imitateable. Jon Herder seriously deserves an honorary Oscar nomination. At least. Napoleon is the kind of kid who even uncool kids could rag on. The lowest of the low. The kid who tells you he went wolverine hunting with his uncle. The kind of kid who is SO annoying and SO clueless you're always hearing them say the dumbest thing you've ever heard. But you end up empathizing with him. Its crazy.

The brothers Hess have created a very detailed very quirky world for their film. It doesn't really hit you at first, but you'd have a really tough time placing this movie... in time. As far as I can tell the only modern references are a Backstreet Boys song and the music on a tape Napoleon receives later in the film. Before that its deliberately and wonderfully vague. Even the stuff about computers is questionable. Chat rooms have been around for a long time. And look at that big beige box he uses. There's plenty of style to go around, and I hope the Hess brothers go on to make other great movies after this.

Napoleon's friends and family also deserve a mention because their essential to what turns into a very triumphant story. Napoleon makes one of his only friends Pedro in the beginning of the film. They have a lot in common even though Napoleon is white and Pedro is Hispanic. There's also Napoleon's brother, Kip, who's 31, lives at home with their grandmother, and spends most of his time in chat rooms with his online honey, LaFawnduh. They're all ridiculous awkward and inept. Even Napoleon's Uncle who shows up to look after the house when Grandma is hospitalized after an ATV accident in the dessert. In fact everyone in the film is flawed in some way. Even the cool kids at Napoleon's high school. I think that’s where the film gets a lot of its power. It ditches the traditional underdog formula and deadpans everything to a ridiculous degree. So when the moment of truth finally comes it actually takes you by surprise. So in the end even losers win. And the cool kids are left in the dust because they're so cool, exclusive, and alone.