Impressions of … Safety Not Guaranteed [Colin Trevorrow]

this is a charming if slight indie rom-com stroke whimsical sci-fi caper inspired by a classified ad which appeared (I’m told) in Backwoods Home magazine in the Nineties:

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Trevorrow’s film concentrates on the first part of the ad – the need for a partner on the mission – but neglects other aspects of the ad: the matter of payment is passed over, weapons and self-defence are played for laughs, and most glaring of all, we hear little of the startling assertion that he’d already been back: the first question you’d ask is ‘what was it like?’ or ‘where did you go?’, but the journalists – implausibly bank-rolled by their provincial print magazine – see the story as a (mocking) character piece and the guy himself doesn’t really mention it (in fact, it appears he’s still putting the finishing touches to his machine, so why did he claim to have done it before?)

you wonder what kind of person would place this ad? a certifiable comedy genius would be my answer, although with ‘certifiable’ I do intend the mental health connotations of the word, Trevorrow hypothesizes a kind of charismatic loser, intense and vulnerable, but then decides he’d prefer him to be a winner …

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there’s a curious, refreshingly tentative, almost-romance at the centre as one journo (a very watchable Aubrey Plaza) poses as a would-be time-traveller, with the issue of trust doubling nicely in both romantic and adventure plots, while Mark Duplass is suitably intense as the paranoid inventor, perhaps too intense, this guy was too close to madness for the relationship to have a future, meanwhile Jake M Johnson steals the pic as the hack more interested in reviving an idealized adolescent romance, the script serves him well, a lazy arrogant asshole, a familiar type, whose vulnerability retains our sympathy, especially in a lovely impassioned speech delivered to the virginal (male) intern: “why are you sitting here? why would you be sitting at your computer, you’re a young man, you’ve got the whole world ahead of you, I’m asking you to be a man and try, are you ready to have a crazy night with me, ’cause I’m ready, say you’re ready, say you’re ready”. Great comic writing, nicely delivered

this is the kind of indie which could have been made by the studios, a film that will lead to bigger things to all (though Duplass has already made that journey)

the ending is a serious, though sincere miscalculation

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Impressions of … Upstream Color [Shane Carruth]

a hotel bar, Toronto, the early hours, Terrence Malick, David Cronenberg and David Lynch have been knocking back the whiskey sours, Lynch and Cronenberg decide they should make a movie together: it will have dream logic – a maggot will be ingested – through an inhaler – later it will crawl beneath a woman’s skin – the maggot will be sourced in the roots of a blue orchid – ingestion will make the victim completely suggestible, she’ll give up all her savings and lose her job, but remember nothing – for the rest of the movie she’ll be trying to work out what the hell happened to her life – there will be rabbits – no, pigs – okay, pigs – it will be a romance, says Malick quietly

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Well, this movie has been made. By Shane Carruth. Who’s Shane Carruth? (No, not the guy serving the drinks in Toronto – that epic session never happened, I made it up.) Carruth is the guy who made ‘Primer’, the brilliantly mundane low-budget sci-fi feature that won Sundance back in 2004. I’d forgotten about him. ‘Upstream Color’ is sort of sci-fi too (I hope), this time pursued with sensuality and lyricism, both emotionally present and narratively elusive – it does have a narrative, but the logic is associative, the editing elliptical, and though, deep down, the film is rooted in procedure and process and details of ordinary life, the strange world it describes is one that doesn’t actually exist and one its characters struggle to understand

experimental, unnerving, a delight to the senses: this film is not a film, it’s a menu by Heston Blumenthal

an absolute treat

and possibly the greatest pig movie ever made

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~

‘Upstream Color’ is being self-distributed through Carruth’s company, available on DVD, Blu-ray, download, and streaming:
here

Impressions of … Oblivion (Joseph Kosinski)

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oh my, what a seemless blend of CGI and cinematography, and beautiful production design, particularly liked his neo-helicopter, or whatever it was – but why a husband and wife drone repair team are provided with such architecturally elegant digs is a mystery (did they really need that swimming pool?)

the plot, on the other hand, is a not quite seemless blend of sci-fi tropes (La Jetee, Matrix, Total Recall, Moon, Planet of the Apes Independence Day, and many many more), conventional and, at times glib, but it’s pretty effective – it didn’t matter that I had guessed the ‘twist’ from seeing the trailer; the flashback sequence before the climax was a clever touch, and I confess I was moved (yes, what a confession: moved by a Tom Cruise sci-fi flick), what does Mamet say, ‘a simple act of heroism’ … plus my personal favourite, unrequited love

I think it was Andrea Riseborough who won me over: the first half hour was essentially a two-hander (not counting Melissa Leo’s appearance by way of their video screen), just Riseborough and Cruise (mostly Cruise), she is prodigiously talented and slightly crazed – my brother-in-law noted her dilated pupils; the nuance of her line readings are a different class, she brought the best out of Tom, and they gave her a very flattering dress to wear, which she also removed

Morgan Freeman’s first scene (with cigar) was naff