What I Peeped: Day Seven

April 10, 2008 at 5:17 am Leave a comment

I.O.U.S.A. (Patrick Creadon, USA): Last seen with a doc that could barely drag its subject to feature length (the crossword-fixated Wordplay), Patrick Creadon now tackles a subject that requires more than a mere hour and a half: the ever-skyrocketing national debt. Creadon’s, and most of the interviewees’, reaction is a shellshocked but bemused realization that we’re fucked, which is demonstrated through explanations that could charitably be dubbed Freakanomics-lite. The cut shown wasn’t final, but I hope Creadon puts more than just a spit-shine on his film. Organization is sketchy, with nearly half the movie devoted to fancy graphics that somewhat condescendingly explain the history of this and that, or try to convey the apocalyptic size of what America owes. I never thought I’d say this, but here’s a documentary that definitely needs more talking heads.

Dust (Hartmut Bitomsky, Germany): Any fears that this “metaphysical documentary” on the sooty substance would offer up New Age hooey right out of Bill and Ted (“Dust. Wind. Dude.”) were quickly dispelled, as it turns out Dust is about…dust! As in actual, icky-to-the-touch dust! German director Hartmut Bitomsky isn’t afraid to be extremely dry, interviewing wordy scientists on the stuff whose eyes-glazing-over abilities are no doubt exacerbated by the fact that they’re in subtitles. (And even further exacerbated by the way the shots often slowly pan away from the speakers, as though the camera itself had also grown a touch bored.) But there’s an unmistakable playful streak, as Dust examines the stuff from just about every possible angle. Along with scientists there are OCD housewives fighting an existential battle against dust, film experts who discuss the way dust poisons and destroys celluloid and a narrator who sporadically pipes up on the general mindblowingness of the subject. Perversely quotidian, Dust gave me the vague suspicion that it was partly fucking with us.

The “Mystery Film”, as I discovered shortly after expressing ignorance on this very blog, turned out to be The Wackness (Jonathan Levine, USA), to which I decided what the hell. In case you haven’t heard, The Wackness is the Sundance hit where Ben Kingsley gets to second base with Mary-Kate Olsen in a phone booth. That kind of daredevil, attention-getting, cynically calculated tactic is the film’s very lifeblood. Indeed, a significant chunk of the movie is dedicated to a not-unentertaining game of “What really crazy ass thing can we get Gandhi to do next?” I wouldn’t dream of revealing too many of the surprises (though see if you can guess which of the Wu-Tang Clan he shares a tête-à-tête with). Suffice to say Kingsley looks like he’s having the time of his life, with his broad New Yawk accent and gut-busting long yuppie locks. The onetime Sexy Beast plays a bong-smoking Upper East Side therapist who winds up befriending one of his clients: perpetually stoned drug dealer Josh Peck, who also has the hots for Kingsley’s stepdaughter (Juno’s Olivia “Honest to blog?” Thurlby). The film is set in 1994 and so, alas, are its sexual politics: Thurlby turns out to be a bored rich bitch who snatches Peck up for some summer lovin’ – very much the daughter of Famke Janssen, herself a one-dimensional ice queen mere inches from divorcing poor Sir Ben. Fortunately it’s saved by its generally endearing actors: Peck is convincingly dopey while Kingsley makes his bored, self-destructive, lonely shrink quite affecting. More to the point, The Wackness is just flat-out stoned on both weed and great mid-’90s hip hop. I tried to play it cool and resist but frequently succumbed, particularly when it deigned to have a cheerfully blitzed Kingsley doing magic marker graffiti on one of Rudy Giuliani’s bus stops, joint dangling from lips.

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Entry filed under: Reviews.

Picks, Pans, All That – Day (Ulp!) Seven: Wednesday, April 9 Picks, Pans, All That – Day Eight: Thursday, April 10

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