Archive for February, 2010

The Oscar Debate

Posted in Uncategorized on February 27, 2010 by anubhavbist

Well since there’s just 8 days remaining until the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences reveals their picks for the the year’s biggest achievements in film, on what may be the most glamorous awards show on the planet, I guess it seems like the right time for me to voice my opinions, guesses, and notes on this year’s Oscar ballots and show. Now the big change this year is the fact that the Academy has decided to expand their best picture nominee list from the traditional 5 films to 10 films. While many were skeptical about this move, some were won over by the thought that some indie or fan favorite films that are routinely ignored year after year (most popularly the Dark Knight last year) could have a better chance. While there weren’t too many big fan favorite films, at least not as big as Dark Knight, the question leading up to the nomination readings was still “whether or not the usually very conservative Academy would have a list of nominees that better reflect the best films of the year.”  Well with five more films to nominate, the world saw that a list that was…still rather boring:

Avatar
The Blind Side
District 9
An Education
The Hurt Locker
Inglourious Basterds
Precious: Based on the Novel “Push” by Sapphire
A Serious Man
Up
Up in the Air

I’ll give credit to the Academy some credit for nominating a film like District 9, a fan favorite film this year which probably wouldn’t have gotten nominated any other year, or my own pick of the year’s best film, A Serious Man. But most of the other films selected really aren’t that surprising: Avatar, The Hurt Locker, Precious: Based on the Novel “Push” by Sapphire, and Up in the Air were all expected to be fighting for the top prize since December. The Hurt Locker is a fantastic film and one I included on my top 25 films of the year, but the other three just weren’t my cup of tea. Avatar was the international sensation this year and it was entertaining enough to get raving reviews from big name critic as well as well as other internet critics I highly respect, but the film was just too predictable for me and the blue alien character designs just looked ridiculous to me. Its sad that every James Cameron film I seem to not care too much for goes on to break big box office record and garners massive amount of Academy award nominations (where are the best picture nominations for Aliens and Terminator 2). Cameron’s films also have a tendency to age poorly really fast. Films like Aliens, which I love, looks very dated today which is kind of sad when you consider that the original, that was made 7 years before it, still looks phenomenal. This is also the case for the first Terminator, but then again that was a pretty low budget film, and his billion dollar epic Titanic. Sadly the only film of Cameron’s that still looks as impressive today might have to be his underrated action-spoof action film True Lies. Or maybe it was because Avatar lacked Cameron regulars Micheal Biehn and Bill Paxton? Up in the Air isn’t a film I totally disliked but it was still one that annoyed me. The film tried so hard to be a kind of zeitgeist film that captured the economic trouble and technological dependency of our modern culture, but after the fourth joke about texting and the third George Clooney monologue about firing people, you realize that Reitman is just trying just a little too hard. Compare this to a film like Steven Soderbergh’s The Girlfriend Experience, A film that really nails the recent economic hysteria among people, you’ll see how off Reitman’s film is. But even with all that said I will go on record and say I didn’t hate the film. The film has some really good performances from both it’s stars and supporting players (I especially liked Jason Bateman and J.K. Simmons) and the film has some very good witty dialogue as well as some very powerful moments, including an ending that does sidestep some big cliches. Its basically the reaction I’ve had with all of Reitman’s film; they might be a tad overrated but they are still pretty decent films. Precious: Based on the Novel “Push” by Sapphire is another film like Up in the Air; one I didn’t hate but got far too much attention. A lot of the attention was given to Mo’Nique’s performance as the protagonist’s vicious mother, and while I think it’s a good performance, I’m not sure it warrants the type of praise it’s getting. I thought Gabourey Sidibe should be the one getting all the attention because personally I thought she was fabulous. But the film was poorly directed, trying too hard to be flashy and was far too long for me considering that most the film was seeing a character going through hell. The other nominations, like An Education, Up, and The Blind Side were just a complete disappointment.  Well…Up was a great film and I included it in my top 25 film list, but it’s just bizarre to me that the Academy would nominate it for the best picture and still nominate it in the animation category. Why have a best animated film if you already know whats going to win; its insulting to the other nominees and really just a waste of time (how are you supposed to justify giving the best animated film Oscar to any of the nominated outside of the film that is nominated for best picture?) . My anger for this might also come from the fact that I believe that Coraline was the best animated film of the year. The other two, An Education and The Blind Side, are the real disappointments. An Education has received an outstanding Rotten Tomatoes score but for me the film is pretty uneven. While some performances are pretty spectacular, especially Carey Mulligan and the sadly overlooked Alfred Molina, others are pretty flat, like Emma Thompson and Olivia Williams, not because they aren’t good actresses but the characters are just too underwritten and in the case for Thompson’s character,  border on characture. As for The Blind Side, it may the worst best picture nomination in the past decade, and could be the worst ever. I don’t remember the film even garnering good reviews, which isn’t surprising since the film looked like a bad made for TV movie. The nominations for District 9, Inglourious Basterds and A Serious Man are all deserving, but it really doesn’t matter when you understand the race is between three films: Avatar, Up in the Air, and The Hurt Locker. It’s too bad that the Oscars don’t care to look to the great independent films that America produced this year that didn’t have the support of big name stars like Ramin Bahrani’s Goodbye Solo or Robert Siegel’s directorial debut Big Fan, films that is a hell of a lot better than The Blind Side. Or how about take notice of the horror genre for once? It’s a genre that is so unappreciated and it’s just awful to see how many great films haven’t been n0ominated for best picture because of the genre: Psycho, The Shining, Repulsion, Dead Ringers etc.   Sam Raimi’s Drag Me to Hell was incredible and deserving of a nomination as was Ti West’s fantastic House of the Devil or why not go for something foreign like Park Chan-wook’s Thist which is more complex than most that got a nomination? That also brings up another point, why not some foreign nominees? Jean Renoir’s Grand Illusion was once nominated for best film as was Ingmar Bergman’s Cries and Whispers, both deserving. Why not consider some foreign films like White Ribbon or A Prophet and just get rid of the foreign film category? It’s just annoying.

But whats less eventful than the best picture race is the acting categories, where at least three of the four are just about already decided. The best actor race was rather interesting when award season started mainly because there was no front runner, unlike other years where there are no brainiers like Daniel Day-Lewis’ performance in There Will Be Blood or Forest Whitaker in The Last King of Scotland. Some thought George Clooney, others thought Colin Firth, and others, like myself thought, Michael Stuhlbarg was the shoo in. But out of no where, Jeff Bridges wins every significant award possible for his performance in Crazy Heart. So when the nominations came out it was easy to pick a hands down favorite:

A Single Man – Colin Firth
Crazy Heart – Jeff Bridges
Invictus – Morgan Freeman
The Hurt Locker – Jeremy Renner
Up in the Air – George Clooney

Right when I read the nominations I knew the Academy had screwed up; Wheres Michael Stuhlbarg? His fantastic performance in A Serious Man was one of my favorite all year and his snub easily ranks among the worst of the decade. The second thought was “why is Morgan Freeman getting nominated?” I hadn’t heard his name at all this award season and didn’t expect Invictus to really score any nominations. But the Academy loves Clint Eastwood and it wouldn’t be an Oscar ceremony without his film getting nominated for something. Last year Angelina Jolie got nominated for Eastwood’s Changeling, which I’m not gonna say is a bad performance, but she got nominated over Sally Hawkins, whose performance in Happy Go Lucky had basically won every critics award out there, and Michelle Williams, who’s turn in Wendy and Lucy ranks among the greatest performances of the decade. I think there’s a clear Eastwood bias. I’d also say that though George Clooney gave a very good performance in Up in the Air, its far from the actor’s best work. I could name many performances this year I thought were better like Nic Cage’s fantastic portrayal of a cop on the edge in The Bad Lieutenant: Port of Call New Orleans, or what about comedian Patton Oswald’s brilliant dramatic turn as the tragic Giant fanatic Paul Aufiero in Big Fan or even Souleymane Sy Savane’s awesome performance as the immigrant taxi driver in Goodbye Solo? Would it kill the Academy to take notice of independent cinema? But it appears to be Jeff Bridges’ year, who’s Oscar is long overdue (where’s his Academy Award for the Dude?), playing a character sure to be up the Academy’s ally. I mean didn’t they award Robert Duvall his long overdue Oscar for basically the same archetype back in 83. To be honest, I actually thought Crazy Heart was a remake of Tender Mercies after watching the trailer.

The female race however is little bit more interesting, in that there’s the best chance for an upset:

An Education – Carey Mulligan
Julie & Julia – Meryl Streep
Precious: Based on the Novel Push by Sapphire – Gabourey Sidibe
The Blind Side – Sandra Bullock
The Last Station – Helen Mirren

Right now the two early favorites are Streep, for a film I totally forget about, and Bullock, who’s nominations and praise doesn’t really make much sense to me. Bullock did much better work in Paul Haggis’ overrated Crash and I believe was more deserving of an nomination then. I haven’t seen The Last Station so I can’t comment on Helen Mirren’s performance but i can say that it’s always nice to see her nominated. I think the race should be between the two new commers:  Carey Mulligan and Gabourey Sidibe. Both were so good in their films and personally, I’d be shocked and delighted to see them win. I really can’t weigh in too much in this category because I really didn’t see too many great female performances in American films this year to argue with their choices. Personally I would have loved to have seen Kim Ok-bin’s sexy vampire femme fatal from Thirst get nominated and had Bong Joon-ho’s Mother been given a theatrical release in America during award season, Kim-Hye-ja would have gotten my pick. Same goes with Katie Jarvis, who gives maybe the most exciting breakout performance I’ve seen all year. The biggest snub, who I actually thought might have a shoot, was Abbie Cornish in Bright Star.

The supporting actress category seems like an open and shut case however:

Crazy Heart – Maggie Gyllenhaal
Nine – Penélope Cruz
Precious: Based on the Novel Push by Sapphire – Mo’Nique
Up in the Air – Vera Farmiga
Up in the Air – Anna Kendrick

It’s Mo’Nique’s year and no one will get in the way of the inevitable. Vera Farmiga and newcomer Anna Kendrick both do a good job in Up in the Air but I don’t imagine them playing spoilers in this category. Gyllenhaal has always been a great actress for years so a nomination for her is long overdue. I never saw Nine so I can’t say much about Cruz. I will say that I know she has no shot having won an Oscar already last year. I though her performance in Broken Embraces was great and would have been happy to see her nominated for that. But Mo’Nique will win and her performance is worthy of a nomination. Personally, I’d like to see Gyllenhaal win because I’ve always thought of her as being an actress who has deserved a nomination since her breakout performance in Secretary.

The nominees for best supporting actor is probably the most interesting of the list:

Inglourious Basterds – Christoph Waltz
Invictus – Matt Damon
The Last Station – Christopher Plummer
The Lovely Bones – Stanley Tucci
The Messenger – Woody Harrelson

Waltz will win for sure and it’s a real shame. Not that he’s not deserving, I think he gives the best performance of the year, but that he should be nominated as Best Actor rather than supporting. His performance is like Anthony Hopkin’s great performance as Dr. Hannibal Lecter or  Forest Whitaker’s incredible turn as Idi Amin; He might not be in the film for as long as some lead performances, but his character is big enough to be the centerpiece. Invictus gets another acting nomination for Matt Damon, who I didn’t think had much of a chance because he wasn’t nominated for any other major critics’ award. But I already got my rant about Eastwood films out of the way so no need to go over it again. Stanley Tucci has always been a great actor for so many years so a nomination seems fitting. though I admit I haven’t seen Lovely Bones. Same goes with Christopher Plummer. An actor who I believe should have been nominated for The Insider in 1999, so it’s hard to be upset with this one (but again I haven’t seen the film). The next nominee was another pleasant surprise; Woody Harrelson has always been a great character actor and it’s been a while since his last nomination. But while I’m happy to see him get another nomination, I wish he would have been recognized for Zombieland instead. The big snub here is easily Christian McKay, who was looked at as an early favorite for a nomination. Not sure why his name was totally forgotten is beyond me, but i guess it happens.

The worst category I saw has to be for directors, but that’s nothing new. Year after year, it seems like there really isn’t much thought put into the list. Take some of the most recent snubs this decade: David Fincher (Zodiac), Alfonso Cuaron  (Y Tu Mama Tambien and Children of Men), Todd Haynes (Far from Heaven and I’m Not There), Christopher Nolan (Memento), Spike Jonze (Adaptation) , and, the one that hurts the most, David Cronenberg (Spider, A History of Violence and Eastern Promises). This year continues the trend of bad choices for nominees:

Avatar – James Cameron
Inglourious Basterds – Quentin Tarantino
Precious: Based on the Novel Push by Sapphire – Lee Daniels
The Hurt Locker – Kathryn Bigelow
Up in the Air – Jason Reitman

We all knew Kathryn Bigelow and James Cameron would make it (though I would have thought twice about Cameron’s nomination) and Tarantino’s was a nice surprise, but I can’t say the same about the next two. I was mad Reitman got nominated back in 2007 for Juno over a crop of more worthy directors (David Fincher for Zodiac, Tim Burton for Sweeny Todd, David Cronenberg for Eastern promises, Sydney Lumet for Before the Devil Knows You’re Dead, Ridley Scott for American Gangster, Andrew Dominik for The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford, Cristian Mungiu for 4 Months, 3 Weeks, 2 Days, and Todd Haynes for I’m Not There) and this year isn’t any better. I also think Lee Daniels is another strange pick mainly because I thought the biggest problem with Precious was it’s overly flashy direction. I would have liked to see the Coen Brothers get their nomination along with Michael Haneke for his incredible White Ribbon. Others I wouldn’t have minded seeing on the ballot would have been Ramin Bahrani for Goodbye Solo, Henry Selick for Coraline, Werner Herzog for The Bad Lieutenant: Port of Call New Orleans, Sam Raimi for Drag Me to Hell, Jacques Audiard for A Prophet, and (a long shot but) Greg Mottola for Adventureland. This was just far too disappointing of a list.

To close this long rant, I’ll add that there were many films I didn’t mention from my top 25 mainly because they have yet to get proper exposure in America, so there wasn’t much of a chance for any of them to get a  nomination. But even then I’d like to add just a few films and people I would have wanted to see get nominated:

Cinematography – Christopher Doyle, The Limits of Control

Documentary – Terence Davies, Of Time and the City

Foreign Film – Lucrecia Martel/Argentina,The Headless Woman and                    Bong Joon-ho/ South Korea, Mother

Well that just about does for my Oscar rant. Make sure to check back daily for more Oscar related articles before the big show and leave some comments about your opinion on the upcoming event.

Killer of Sheep

Posted in Uncategorized on February 25, 2010 by anubhavbist

Killer of Sheep, as well as its director Charles Burnett, is a kind of strange anomaly; A film and a director who have been so critically celebrated and influential yet still unseen and unknown to a majority in film circles. It’s even odder when you consider that Burnett is American. But that shouldn’t take away the fact that Killer of Sheep is a fantastic American film and one of the all time great directorial debuts, ranking among Orson Welles’ Citizen Kane, John Cassavetes’ Shadows, Jean-Luc Godard’s Breathless and Satyajit Ray’s Pather Panchali. Channeling the gritty documentary style of Italian neorealist cinema, Burnett is able to create a sad but poetic portrait of the – life in Watts (Los Angeles) and its residents, who are mostly of African decent. The film’s protagonist Stan (played effectively by Henry Gayle Sanders) , suffers from insomnia, works at a slaughterhouse (interestingly killing sheep), lives in poverty, and is surrounded by the harsh reality of a life that seems to be going nowhere. Stan could have been snatched right out off a Jean Renior film; he just fits the mold of the tragic hero so perfectly. We see this in a scene where Stan and a friend try to purchase a motor only to end up breaking it. Burnett also explores the lives around him like his wife, who serves as a voice of reason for Stan and their children (a scene that best personifies this is one where she breaks out and wonderfully delivers a passionate monologue about “what it really means to be a man” to two gangsters trying to persuade Stan on an upcoming crime). She is also shown as a tragic character who struggles to keep her husband’s interest, even though she takes her time putting her face on. You can sense sexual frustration between the two in many scenes where the two try their hardest to be intimate.

Burnett constructs Killer of Sheep like an episodic dream, cutting the film up in a series of vignettes documenting street life in a very poetic fashion rather than a conventional narrative. This makes the film flow like a stream of consciousness, shifting from scenes of  Stan’s life, African American youth, and footage of the broken down neighborhood. But Killer of Sheep still documents the harsh reality of the poor African American life better than any film made before or after it, while still capturing a strange beauty in it. Scenes like watching kids jump from house roofs, playing on railroad tracks, or even have rock fights (scenes which have an eerie similarity to modern day footage of kids in Iraq or any other third world country) create both scary and wonderful images, much like the films of Satyajit Ray. Another striking scene is one where Stan’s daughter puts on an ugly Halloween dog mask which is both creepy yet oddly appealing (the scene which I wouldn’t be surprised influenced David Gordon Green to use the alligator mask in his own debut, George Washington). But this style of filmmaking does strip Killers of Sheep of an actual story to move in an actual narrative direction. But, as has been proven by filmmakers like Godard, Lynch, Resnais, or Cassavetes, a narrative isn’t necessarily a requirement.  In reality, the endless feeling the film has fits it’s character’s sad meaningless lives, which is so well captured in the film’s last sequence where Burnett fades from a scene of a pregnant African American woman’s belly to a heard of sheep ready to be killed.

In many ways the film  Burnett’s film sometimes falls into the trap of being referred to as an “African American” film, a category the director probably has always wanted to avoid. Making Killer of Sheep as an answer to the popular blaxploitation movement of the 70s, African American cinema has since evolved only a little since, falling into categories like racial statements (something like Spike Lee’s late 80s masterpiece Do the Right Thing, or really any of the director’s other, and much inferior, films), hood life (basically John Singleton’s overrated filmograghy, which does include his only good film Boyz n the Hood, as well as Allen and Albert Hughes’ sadly underrated Menace II Society), annoying Oscar bait films (Dreamgirls or Ray or this year’s own Precious: Based on the Novel Push by Sapphire) and, the bottom of the barrel, Tyler Perry films. This is also not to say that Burnett doesn’t also make his own racial statements in Killer of Sheep. One scene in particular involving an awkward, to say the least, interaction between Stan and white business woman has as so much to say about black-white relations and never do we feel like Burnett is hitting us over the head with that information.

But even with today, Killer of Sheep is highly regarded as one of the greatest films ever made and may be the most important American independent film since Cassavettes’ Shadows, as well as the decades most striking debuts, along with Terrence Malik’s Badlands and David Lynch’s Eraserhead (which interestingly enough came out the same year).

Strange Days

Posted in Uncategorized on February 18, 2010 by anubhavbist

With the Academy awards on the horizon, and the fact that both Bigelow and Cameron will be competing for the top directors’ prize, it seems like a perfect time to revisit the two’s  cult science fiction collaboration, Strange Days, from more than decade and a half ago. Directed by Kathryn Bigelow, with a story and screenplay written by former husband James Cameron,  Strange Days is another in a line of many science fiction films from the 90’s that capitalized on the popularity of virtual reality and cyber-punk (i.e. Total Recal, The Matrix, Virtuosity, Johnny Mnemonic, Dark City). Opening with an  armed robbery shot in the point of view of the robbers, the film proves right off the bat that Bigelow can direct an adrenaline filled action sequence as good as any male director. Sadly what takes place after is a script marred by poorly written dialogue, recycled ideas from William Gibson and Philip K. Dick, and a celebration of terrible action film cliches. Set on December of 1999, just four years from the film’s initial release year, in what appears to be a futuristic Los Angeles, though more resembles an anarchic wasteland of violence, prostitution and racial indifference (Think a fusion between the sleazy underbelly of Martin Scorsese’s Taxi Driver and the futuristic Detroit from Robocop), the film follows an ex-cop turned street hustler named Lenny Nero who is a SQUID recordings dealer. SQUID recordings which are recorded experiences from one’s cerebral cortex and played on a Mini-disc. When Nero (Ralph Fiennes in a fun over-the-top performance)  is given a snuff SQUID recording of a killing of an old friend, our protagonist is then drawn into a mystery that goes as deep as to police corruption to the endangerment of Nero’s ex-girlfriend (played by Juliette Lewis in what may be the actress’ worst performance ever). The story becomes even more convoluted with the death of a rapper, rising sexual tensions between Nero and his bodyguard friend Mace (played by Angela Bassett), and the mass hysteria surrounding Y2K.  The film is juggling far too many subjects while trying to walk the thin line between a serious provocative sci-fi thriller and an entertaining popcorn film; Sadly it achieves neither (it’s 145 minute run-time is far too long for a popcorn film and it’s far to cheesy to work as a serious thriller). A big chunk of the film revolves around the death of a rapper named Jeriko

One who is murdered by the LAPD and the SQUID recording of the event. It’s an interesting allusion to the Rodney King tape and could have made for a very fascinating subject for a sci-fi film, but the script mucks it ups. The first problem is that the slain rapper is regarded as highly respected figure in the black community even though he is partying all night with hookers. Had the character been modeled more after a real life controversial but respected figure, someone like Louis Farrakhan or Huey P. Newton, it might have not been so laughable. Second the cops who murdered rapper aren’t fleshed out at all. The two characters basically just go through the whole film with a very bad mood and curse out racial slurs as if they were lifted from one of Spike Lee’s films. It also doesn’t help that Cameron, along with Woody Allen,  maybe the worst high profile screenwriter to write for African American characters. I was also shocked to see that the film wasn’t based off a novel or a short story from Philip K. dick or William Gibson or any other big cult sci-fi writer from the 70s and 80s because the film borrows so many ideas from them. I don’t think he even mentions them in the credits. This was not the case when David Cronenberg released his own virtual reality sci fi film, his semi sequel to his 83 masterpiece Videodrome, eXistenZ . That film also borrowed many ideas from those authors mentioned before (especially Dick) but Cronenberg never denied it and actually stated the film to have been a homage. I wish Cameron and Bigelow had done that as well, but that doesn’t seem to be the case nor is it really that big of a deal I guess. And finally, one other big problem that is hard to overlook is how futuristic the film is even though its only four years in the future. Cameron did this in Terminator 2 as well (having the film take place in ’97 while coming out in 92) but in that film, technology don’t make such a gigantic leap making that film work and Strange Days fall short.

But the most disappointing thing of all might be the fact that the premise is really cool and the film begins so brilliantly, only to degenerate into a mindless action film with a hammy B movie “whodunit” mystery in the center. It only gets worse when you think about the people involved in making such a disappointment: The three main leads were all coming off oscar performances, Cameron had just made his magnum opus (Terminator 2) , and Bigelow who is nothing if not a shoe-in for this years Best Director Oscar. It’s a film i really tried to like because there are some good ideas as well as good filmmaking but the film just never gets it right.

Schizopolis

Posted in Uncategorized on February 14, 2010 by anubhavbist

Steven Soderbergh’s Schizopolis is less a film and more of a fascinating experiment that encapsulates a nineties zeitgeist while exploring themes ranging from the failure in communication to the mundane everyday routine of cubicle life. The film approaches it’s subjects with an off beat abusurdist sense of humor and explores different techniques giving he film a very surrealist and avant-garde feel. Much of this is evident right from the opening sequence as the audience sees the director speak to them, alluding to Cecil B. DeMille’s intro to The Ten Commandments, following into  a very low budget commercial, reminiscent of something one that might aired on public access programing, for a self-help novel endorsed by Eventualism, a pseudo-religious following created by phony prophet T. Azimuth Schwitters. The commercial, an obvious reference to Dianetics, the first book that featured the teachings of Scientology, and it’s author L. Ron Hubbard, is both satirical as well as representative of he film’s low-budget look (in other words, viewers won’t mistaken this for Soderbergh’s more  mainstream and commercial outings like Erin Brockovich or his Oceans’ franchise). The plot of the film is rather unique as well as it’s divided into three different segments. First, the film follows the character Fletcher Munson (played by the director himself) who has a cubicle job working for Eventualism, writing a speech for T. Azimuth Schwitters’ upcoming appearance. His marriage seems to have hit a standstill as evident to their interaction (Fletcher: Generic greeting, Wife: Generic greeting returned). the second segment follows Munson’s doppelgänger, dentist Dr. Jeffrey Korchek (played again by Soderbergh) who is having as affair with Munson’s wife. Korchek, however, becomes more enamored with one of his patients, which makes him end his relations with Munson’s wife. Korchek then begins to send her various love notes filled with perverse and morbid comments that later gets him a sexual harassment suit. The third segment then follows Munson’s wife during her affair as she encounters both Munson and Korchek (both of whom have their voiced dubbed with different languages). That only scratches the surface of the film’s universe which is filled with various eccentric characters from adulteress housewives, to an odd exterminator and reality star who speaks only in coded metaphors.

The film explores the lack of communication between it’s characters very interestingly, whether is between Munson and his wife or Korchek and his patient or even Munson’s Wife and Korchek. The film’s characters never seem to ever be on he same page with each other and Soderbergh shows this in various creative ways from audio dubbing to cryptic languages. The scenes with Soderbergh and Betsy Brantley, who plays Munson’s wife, have an added layer knowing that they were once married. One scene in particular that exemplifies this takes place between Korchek converses with his heroin addict brother’s drug dealer in which the dealer repeatedly says “8 hours your brother, 1500o.” The film is easily admirable; Soderbergh’s willingness to uses experimental techniques from speeding up some scenes to create a very surreal scenes or switch between film stocks to personify a character’s thoughts or strange interludes between some scenes satirizing news reports are all great little additions. Some sequences even seem prophetic as  Soderbergh tackles big issues like Scientology or has one of his characters become the center of a nonsensical reality show. But while the film may be ahead of it’s time in giving a satirical look at such big issues, the film might come off a bit tame on such issues when watched by an audience today. Subjects like Scientology, while not as talked about through film and television back in the nineties, has become an easy target for many including comedians, sketch shows, and satirists during the past decade alone (the most popular and infamous being an episode of South Park). The same can sadly be said about office culture as well with Mike Judge’s Office Space in 1999 or even going back to Dilbert comics.

Soderbergh remains to be one of the most interesting director of his generation, being able to balance both artistic and commercial film-making and yet still no have any real characteristic directorial style. Being referred often as a “chameleonic filmmaker,”Soderbergh is one of the few big Hollywood directors working today who can have his cake and eat it to, routinely going from interesting independent features to big budget films with an all star cast (the only other directors that come to mind are Richard Linklater and Gus Van Sant). Schizopolis obviously belongs in the former category. But many times Soderbergh’s film, like Jean Luc Godard who seems to be an easy influence on the director, never really feel like films bu more like incomplete thoughts. Schizopolis suffers from this as well as it doesn’t have much of a resolution (the same could be said about Soderbergh’s newest independent experiment, The Girlfriend Experience, which itself feels like a semi update of Godard’s own 2 or 3 Things I Know About Her). While I don’t think everything in Schizopolis works and is sometimes flawed in areas where it does work, the film is a fascinating work from a major director.