American Splendor, Thumbs Up!

Discussion in 'Movies' started by Jan Strnad, Aug 18, 2003.

  1. Jan Strnad

    Jan Strnad Screenwriter

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    We saw American Splendor this weekend and enjoyed it thoroughly! Paul Giamatti does a terrific job as the misanthropic Harvey Pekar, but the film is spiced up with appearances by Harvey himself, his wife Joyce, and his friend Toby (the ultimate nerd), plus a bit of animation from the pages of American Splendor the comic book. Innovative and entertaining filmmaking! Highly recommended for those who love the offbeat!

    Jan
     
  2. Michael Reuben

    Michael Reuben Studio Mogul

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    I'd go further and say that it's recommended for anyone who enjoys good filmmaking. In its innovative blending of animation, documentary and docudrama, American Splendor displays so much creativity that it puts most of Hollywood's recent output to shame. The film not only tells Pekar's life, but it also manages to give you a feeling for how he transformed the mundanities of that life into a story worth telling.

    Giamatti is brilliant, but so is Hope Davis in a role that, if not pitched just right, would have quickly become annoying. Her Joyce may be nutty, but in a way that perfectly meshes with Harvey's, uh, character. In fact, when you see the real Joyce, you can't wait for Davis to replace her, because Davis reveals Joyce on film, while the real person doesn't give much of herself away. (It's a nice demonstration of what good actors do.)

    The Sundance Channel is currently running an installment of Anatomy of a Scene about American Splendor, which contains some fascinating comments from the creative team (especially the cinematographer and production designer) on how the film's look was achieved. When this film hits DVD, people will ask whether it's really supposed to look that drab and washed-out. Yep, it is. The effect is to make the extreme personalities that inhabit this landscape even more vivid.

    M.
     
  3. Michael Reuben

    Michael Reuben Studio Mogul

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    Even with half of the U.S. theater playing American Splendor hobbled by the blackout, it still did impressive per-theater box office for the weekend. This bodes well for a wider release.

    M.
     
  4. Clint B

    Clint B Second Unit

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    Just saw this movie in Dallas on Friday night--what a great film! Might be the best film I've seen all year. While I don't necessarily want to turn this thread into the discussion thread for the movie, I do have a question. Why is it that in the final "David Letterman" scene, they used the actors rather than archival footage of the real Dave and Harvey like in other parts of the movie?
    That's the only part that sort of threw me for a loop, but it didn't ruin my enjoyment of the movie at all. But if anyone has an answer to that, I'd love to hear it!
     
  5. Michael Reuben

    Michael Reuben Studio Mogul

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    Not an answer, but an educated guess:

    The real footage probably didn't give them the angles they needed. The last Letterman appearance is presented from Harvey's subjective point of view, as you see him making the decision to give the finger to both Letterman and the strange notoriety that Letterman has given him. It's the only interview shown from behind, so that you get Harvey's POV on the audience he's come to loathe. For that sort of thing, the filmmakers had to stage a recreation.

    M.
     
  6. Ronald Epstein

    Ronald Epstein Founder
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    I haven't seen this film yet.

    However....

    I haven't seen such a positive "buzz" for a
    single film in a long time than this one.

    After all the positive things I have heard
    and read about American Splendor, it
    doesn't surprise me to read raves about it
    from HTF members.
     
  7. Joe Solek

    Joe Solek Agent

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    Boy, I just saw this film on sat. It is great. Possibly the best film that I have seen all year. Creative beyond belief!
     
  8. Bob Turnbull

    Bob Turnbull Supporting Actor

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    It's a fabulous movie. Just saw it tonight. Great mix of animation with the characters and the real life people on which the story is based.

    My favourite part was his discussion of other Harvey Pekars in the phone book.

    I love the way it began on the blank slate and then slowly some lines and drawings appeared. And then the merging of the scene outside with the snow falling back into the comic book frame. All the while discussing these other Pekars that he has never met.


    As for the David Letterman sections:

    I remember seeing his first appearance on the show (the clips they included in the movie). He came across as very funny in a brutally honest natural way. Did anyone see his last appearance on the show? Did it really play out like that? Can I assume he has never been on the show since? It would be interesting if he reappeared on the show now to help plug the movie, but I thought I heard that Pekar and his wife are NOT helping to publicize the movie. I'm not sure Pekar would go back on Letterman at this stage anyway...Or would Letterman even have him?
     
  9. Mikel_Cooperman

    Mikel_Cooperman Producer

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    I had read rave reviews about this thing abd believe me I love good filmmaking but I was so bored and unimpressed by this movie.
    I didnt like the main character or many of the other characters for that matter and the film just dragged along for me and the people I went to see it with.
    When I see a movie I think you should at least like the main character to an extend and I found nothing redeeming about this guy.
    I havent hated a real life character that they based a movie on since Pollock.

    This was just painful to watch and this gets my vote for most overrated film of 2003.
     
  10. Lew Crippen

    Lew Crippen Executive Producer

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    I saw the film Saturday and loved it—the theatre was about 75% full for a 3:30 showing, and it is on two screens here (The Angelica), so it must be doing well.

    To be sure, one couple walked out, but otherwise it was a very appreciative audience.

    Great film—one of the best I’ve seen this year.
     
  11. Mikel_Cooperman

    Mikel_Cooperman Producer

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    A few people left in our theatre and I was almost one of them.
    Why do you guys think this is such a good movie?
     
  12. Eric F

    Eric F Screenwriter

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    So when is it going into wider distribution? It isn't playing anywhere near me.
     
  13. Bob Turnbull

    Bob Turnbull Supporting Actor

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    I can't say that I'd actually like Harvey in real life either, but that doesn't mean that I didn't feel empathy towards him (or at least the character in the film). As a counter example, I really disliked the movie Basic Instinct because not only didn't I like ANY of the characters in the film, but I didn't care what happened to any of them. I cared in American Splendor.

    As well, I found Harvey's comics to be interesting. Not only because of their subject matter, but because of the way they were created. He wrote the dialog and mapped out the scenes and someone else filled in the pictures. Quite different from the normal.

    On top of that, the way the film was constructed kept me involved the whole way. I thought bringing in the actual people the story was based on as well as the different animation techniques brought us closer to understanding the way Harvey felt.

    In the end, it was something fresh and different.
     
  14. Adam Lenhardt

    Adam Lenhardt Executive Producer

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  15. Michael Reuben

    Michael Reuben Studio Mogul

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  16. Lew Crippen

    Lew Crippen Executive Producer

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  17. Edwin Pereyra

    Edwin Pereyra Producer

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    In my view, American Splendor is the best film of all films that had an initial summer release date this year. Its concept and delivery were brilliant as it combined archival footage of and present-day narration and storytelling by its real life subjects along with the dramatized and re-enacted parts. I like Hope Davis (who reminded me of a young Holly Hunter) and most especially, Paul Giamatti, as he acted out the real life Harvey Pekar instead of just imitating him.

    Much like Harvey Pekar who wrote about his mundane life into comic books, Robert Pulcini and Shari Springer Berman who both served as co-directors and co-writers turned a simple story of a man into one of triumph and interest. As shown here, Pekar’s life is one of self-examination and introspection making it anything but mundane and simple. A refreshing film from beginning to end and I welcome more like it.

    As far as the last David Letterman actual interview:

    not shown in the film, I would second what Adam said. The filmmakers were probably not given access to that footage as it does not put Letterman, his show, NBC and GE in a good light because of the comments Pekar made while on the show.

    ~Edwin
     
  18. DonRoeber

    DonRoeber Screenwriter

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    I saw American Splendor monday night. Including my wife and myself, there were three people in the theater. Woohoo! Anyway, I was very very pleased with this movie. The opening titles hurt my eyes, the way the camera moved across the comic book page. Thankfully, that stopped. At first, I really disliked Harvey, thinking he was a pretty big loser (which he probably was), but as he grew in the film, I grew to like him even more. At the end, I really cared about him, and his life. I'm not saying that I'm going to call him up, drive to his town, and buy him a beer, but I may go buy the American Splendor comic books, which would probably make him happy enough.

    I also thought it was really great how they intertwined the actors with the real people. Two of my favorite scenes were thes ones where

    Paul Giamatti walks off the set with the man who was playing Toby, while the real Harvey Pekar is there discussing jellybeans with the real Toby.


    and
    the retirement party at the end.


    Very well made movie.
     
  19. Lew Crippen

    Lew Crippen Executive Producer

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  20. Edwin Pereyra

    Edwin Pereyra Producer

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    There was also only a handful of people at my screening but it is already scheduled to play through next week. Usually, the indie flicks that don't do to well only last a week in my town. Word should be getting out on this one.

    ~Edwin
     

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