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Anyone else seen "Art School Confidential"? (Spoilers)


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#1 of 12 OFFLINE   Vince Maskeeper

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Posted May 06 2006 - 10:09 AM

Saw this Friday afternoon and enjoyed it, mostly. It suffers from the same problem Office Space seems to have: the desire to have a plot pop up at some point to drive the film. And, as usual, the funniest elements were featured in the trailer.

I really did get a kick out of how obvious the "plot device" characters were:
they would literally show up to be like "Well, I heard that the winner of the review gets a big showing at Broadway Bob's" or "Building burned up, all the people died."

I half expected them to be credited as "plot device 1," "plot device 2," etc in the credits.

Anyway- the reason I posted this is to ask: Did anyone get what the hell Ethan Suplee (Vince the hack filmmaker roommate) was talking about when he was suggesting that they "bust some hookers?" I really didn't get the whole thing about going to sleep and they leave you a gift... wtf?

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#2 of 12 OFFLINE   Vickie_M

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Posted May 06 2006 - 12:01 PM

In answer to the Title question, no, it hasn't opened yet. Because of, I hate you because you saw it before me. Fie.

Seriously, I've been a fan of Terry Zwigoff's since his very first movie, the wonderful documentary Louie Bluie. I've loved everything he's done since then, and will happily and cheerfully be first in line whenever the damned thing comes to Chicago. I don't need trailers, reviews, ratings. I'll see anything he does no matter what.

He's my man.
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#3 of 12 OFFLINE   Vince Maskeeper

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Posted May 06 2006 - 04:35 PM

I forgot I live in LA where the movies come from... so they open early. Well, when anyone else sees it, maybe you can clue me in on the joke I missed.

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#4 of 12 OFFLINE   BarryS

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Posted May 12 2006 - 08:29 AM

I saw Art School Confidential today. Loved it. Can't wait for the DVD. No, it's not as good as Ghost World, but it was thoroughly enjoyable for me. Yeah, the plot is pretty wobbly, but with such biting dark humor and quirky characters I really didn't care. I see Terry Zwigoff's movies for the misanthropic humor and well-drawn (no pun intended) social misfit characters. I'm like Vickie_M, if Terry's name is on the movie, I'm going to see it. I don't care what it's about, or who's in it. I can't wait for his next movie.

As for the "busting hookers" joke, I don't know. Maybe someone else can enlighten us.

#5 of 12 OFFLINE   Steve Y

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Posted May 13 2006 - 05:34 AM

I didn't get the "busting hookers" joke, either. Part of the problem is the camera moved outside the window (and his voice got fainter) as he was describing it.

Daniels Clowes is probably my favorite contemporary comic artist, and I've loved every movie Zwigoff has ever directed, so imagine my distress about halfway through "Art School Confidential" when I realized that not only did I dislike the protagonist Jerome (performed by a one-note Max Minghella) but the movie itself was not working for me. I found myself wishing that these were characters and dialogue that I could just read in a book by Clowes. For the most part, I already have -- and these situations worked so much better on the page. On screen they fall flat. Why does Ghost World work so effortlessly and ASC struggle so mightily?

I think despite all the "LA Confidential in an art school" aspirations, the screenplay was in the "graphic novel" format, and not enough of a cinematic work. Its pace is maddeningly slack, with loose, meandering takes and no sense of connectedness between many of the scenes. There are a few great performances (John Malkovich and Jim Broadbent, in particular) but their efforts are wasted on a ramshakle screenplay. ASC's (initially) amusing art school stereotypes wander around with nothing to do, and the audience is far ahead of every "twist". Even I could tell that the whole "murder" subplot is satirical (I've read enough Clowes to know that), but enough of the movie is played straight and it undercuts the satire. Subtler moments and jokes are killed by explanatory "comedic" dialogue:

When Jerome announces he has a girlfriend, you see a brief shot of his parents hugging in delight through an open door in the background - but then a character has to explain it out loud to us: "They thought you were a homo". Duh.


This is essentially too straight an adaptation of Clowes' comic style. It's not that the main character is essentially dim-witted and unlikable -- how much of that is due to Max Mingella's performance I have no idea -- but that we must "root" for him as a suitor and an artist. His romantic interest is never allowed to breathe. And there is no one compelling narrative thread (Ghost World had Enid). We're given so many characters and plotlines, yet so little is done with any of them.

So what is "ASC"? Dumb sex comedy about "getting laid"? Meaningful drama with a Beethoven adagio on the soundtrack? Harsh satire? Procedural thriller? Romantic comedy? It's all of those things, and less. It makes fun of these conventions while never breaking through them. I kept recognizing the brilliant "Clowes touch", but I couldn't bring myself to like the movie, and that was more frustrating than if it had been merely bad.

Sorry for the negative review. I was really looking forward to this one.

#6 of 12 OFFLINE   Michael Reuben

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Posted May 13 2006 - 08:29 AM

Quote:
Sorry for the negative review.
Don't be -- I think you've done a fine job of describing the film's weaknesses. I managed to enjoy it in spite of the problems, but it's a lesser effort from Zwigoff.

Max Minghella is a major weakness. A movie can get away with being shambling and disorganized if it has a compelling central character. Watching Minghella wander aimlessly through ASC made me appreciate Thora Birch's work in Ghost World even more. And it's not as if he had nothing to react to. Malkovich, Broadbent and Huston give him plenty, but he just sits there. The ending might have had more of a sting if Minghella had been able to show us more of the ambition and flop sweat that the character should have had in earlier scenes.

The ending is basically a steal fom King of Comedy, so I'd expect the character to show a little bit of Rupert Pupkin. Minghella just plays blankness.


As for the roommate's "busting hookers" line, I didn't take it to mean anything more than "let's screw some hookers, and we'll do it so well that they'll pay us". Just more bluster and bravado, which is about all there is to him.

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#7 of 12 OFFLINE   BarryS

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Posted May 13 2006 - 04:06 PM

Quote:
So what is "ASC"? Dumb sex comedy about "getting laid"? Meaningful drama with a Beethoven adagio on the soundtrack? Harsh satire? Procedural thriller? Romantic comedy?

It's all of the above. That's what I love about Terry Zwigoff's movies, they're so hard to define and are frequently contradictory. His movies manage a unique artistry by being smart and lowbrow at the same time. They're intelligent, but he refuses to give in to the art-house allure of being "classy" and "sophisticated". It matches my personality perfectly. I think of myself as intelligent, yet I am far from classy. I see a lot of myself in Zwigoff and his characters. Obviously, not everyone will have the same connection, though.

#8 of 12 OFFLINE   Patrick Sun

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Posted May 13 2006 - 04:59 PM

I thought it had a decent start, but then just descended into a pool of celluloid that parodied the pretensiousness of modern art. The closest parallel of this film to painting is the one where the "artist" paints himself green and throws his body into the canvas, and whatever sticks is what it is.

Max Minghella (Jerome) couldn't take the narrative where it needed to go in the final act because he lacked the acting chops. The rest of the supporting character didn't quite support the film, but rather pulled it in random directions throughout its running time. But I'm grateful for Sophia Myles being in the film, though her character Audrey is too underwritten as the muse of Jerome as the film progressed.

Now, as an indictment on art school, well, that stuff was hit-or-miss, but trying to shoe-horn the murder mystery into the film just didn't work. The ending also feels like the one from "Hustle and Flow".

I give it 2 stars, or a grade of C.
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#9 of 12 OFFLINE   Steve Y

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Posted May 14 2006 - 01:57 PM

Barry, I've loved every one of Zwigoff's films until ASC, for exactly the reasons you specified. I expected to react similarly to this one, but alas... Michael pretty much summed up how I feel about it.

Not that it matters, but RottenTomatoes has it at 36% - not too great. Mahy of the same criticisms are being floated around.

#10 of 12 OFFLINE   Craig S

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Posted May 14 2006 - 02:18 PM

Well, everyone seems to be in agreement on this one, and I'll just say "You're right". Great start, but the 2nd half was a letdown. My problem with Jerome was the way his character was written. The actions he takes (especially appropriating Broadbent's art as his own, which is where the film lost me for good) don't jive with the way the character is set up.

I would certainly recommend that anyone who's enjoyed Zwigoff's films in the past check this one out, but lower your expectations a bit.

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#11 of 12 OFFLINE   BarryS

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Posted May 14 2006 - 05:07 PM

Quote:
Many of the same criticisms are being floated around.

Yeah, and I can probably agree with most of those criticisms, however they weren't sufficient to hamper my enjoyment of the movie. I think I'm just such a big fan of cynical dark comedy that I'm willing to forgive many of the imperfections. It's not a great movie, no, and Ghost World is obviously far superior but I still had a great time and I can't wait to see it again. Yes, it is a very flawed movie but I'd much rather see a flawed movie of this nature than a perfect big Hollywood movie.

#12 of 12 OFFLINE   Steve Y

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Posted May 15 2006 - 04:10 PM

I just read a positive review by Richard von Busack (he writes for the Metro here in the Bay Area)... I really wish I had seen the same movie he saw!

Gotta say - despite my disappointment with ASC I will probably see it again on DVD for Jim Broadbent's performance. John Malkovich is pretty great, too. The more I think about it, the more convinced I become that Max Minghella is this film's weak link.

Also: Angelica Huston's name is on the movie poster but she essentially has only a cameo role. I wish her character had been given more to do... she was good.





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