+ "Hot Fuzz": How good is the new film from Team Wright/Pegg? Good enough for even the New York Press‘ Armond White to overcome his dislike for hipsters and comedy to twice deem Wright’s work "Godardian." He writes:
Itâ€™s a British Music Hall version of the social myths that cop movies inherited from American westerns. Theyâ€™re paying tribute to what is most human in an increasingly dehumanized pop genre now gone global. When Angel and Danny get inspired by a drugstore rack of cop-movie DVDs, these clichÃ©s are revitalized and given back their roots in cultural/social anxiety. This moment of truth derives from Dannyâ€™s infatuation with Kathryn Bigelowâ€™s exotic 1991 film Point Breakâ€”a cop/surfer movie, freedom/friendship/fatherhood apotheosis. When Keanu doesnâ€™t shoot the President Reagan-masked robber, it beautifully distills oneâ€™s ambivalence toward authority. Referring to Bigelowâ€™s profound incident, Hot Fuzz proves our modern political crises are also cultural.
We worship at the altar of "Point Break" more than anyone, but we admit, "Bigelowâ€™s profound incident" made us snicker… and, perhaps, touched our heart. Going on â€” Manohla Dargis at the New York Times is most tickled by the film as a reaction to the standard British cinematic import: "Think of it as ‘The Full Monty’ blown to smithereens." Stephanie Zacharek at Salon writes that "Wright and Pegg are masters at balancing great, dumb, obvious jokes with ticklish, oblique ones, gags that zing by, only half-glimpsed." She salutes that way the film is "at once deeply affectionate and sharply observed: There’s never anything smart-alecky about Wright’s approach as a director."
"After Team America: World Police, this brand of blockbuster lampooning is itself something of a tired formula," allows Nick Schager at Slant, still won over by the "sheer, giddy vigor with which Wright and Pegg… faithfully pay tribute to their corny source material." He also writes:
That it self-consciously chooses the odious Bad Boys II as one of its stylistic templates (replete with pointlessly circling pans and slow-motion) is forgivable considering that its other prime influence is the ne plus ultra of modern Hollywood action films, Kathryn Bigelow’s Point Break, a superlatively cheesy classic whose most overwroughtâ€”and unintentionally funnyâ€”moment becomes a key plot point during Angel and Butterman’s investigation.
(We’d never have dreamed so many critics harbored a secret fondness for Bigelow’s film â€” it’s thrilling.)
A nameless Onion AV Club staffer finds that "[l]ike Shaun Of The Dead, Hot Fuzz is characterized by an all-too-rare sense of childlike joy in the possibilities of filmmaking, collaboration, and a night out at the movies," while Lisa Schwarzbaum at Entertainment Weekly surveys the cast and declare that "[t]his movie set, clearly, was a VIP room for the cool kids." Nick Pinkerton at indieWIRE, while not finding in the film the depths seen by Armond White, is nevertheless charmed, particularly by Pegg and costar Nick Frost: "they even pull off the inevitable buddy cop-latent homosexuality gag with winning understatement, never getting all het up and panicky." Robert Wilonsky at the Village Voice calls "Hot Fuzz" "a cult film writ humongous"; David Edelstein at New York ultimately finds that the film is "fun, and itâ€™s nice to see all the English character actors who arenâ€™t busy in Harry Potter films, but it lacks its predecessorâ€™s freshness."
And at the LA Weekly, Scott Foundas observes:
For most of its running time, itâ€™s an enjoyably unpretentious celebration of the guilty pleasure we can take from a stupid-as-all-get-out car chase or from watching things blow up real good. Then, in its final half hour, Wright and Pegg ratchet up the absurdity tenfold and enter the realm of the sublime: Beware of the shotgun-wielding grannies and double-barreled vicars!
+ "Syndromes and a Century": Shifting gears â€” Apichatpong ("Joe") Weerasethakul‘s fifth feature film is at least as deserving of the description "sublime," but proves both less populist and much more difficult to pin down in print. "When I’ve written about Joe’s work in the past, I’ve received angry e-mail from readers who say they tried to watch a Joe movie and were bored out of their skulls," warns Salon‘s Stephanie Zacharek. "As with all films that don’t cling to strict narrative structures, one person’s rapturous, pointillist dreamscape is another’s ‘Thanks, but no thanks.’" For her, the film comes down to the following:
Joe has said, "The mind doesn’t work like a camera. The pleasure for me is not in remembering exactly but in recapturing the feeling of the memory — and in blending that with the present." The suggestion is that Nohng and Toey are dream-memory versions of Joe’s parents: He can’t, of course, have known them as young people, so he has to slip back in time to paint them, as their younger selves, with watercolor washes of imagined memory.
A.O. Scott at the New York Times (who also cautions that Weerasethakul’s films are "resistant to summary, at times even to understanding") writes that "’Syndromes and a Century,’ like its curious title, has the logic of a dream, a piece of music or perhaps a John Ashbery poem. Its coherence is evident; it is too lovely and lucid to be frustrating or dull. But it takes place just on the other side of conscious apprehension."
J. Hoberman at the Village Voice muses that "the 37-year-old director’s distinctively casual cine-nigmas are anything but predictableâ€”except, perhaps, in their unaccountable happiness." Nick Schager at Slant writes:
Via his elliptical editing and his tales’ penchant for drifting, on a whim, into flashbacks or visual asides, the director captures the way in which memories subconsciously operateâ€”how they gently blend into one another with little concern for clear-cut sequential arrangement, and how our reminiscences of certain moments in life are often colored by our lucid, almost-tangible recollections of the specific places in which they occurred (hence his frequent cut-aways to empty rooms, hallways, and fields).
Noel Murray at the Onion AV Club notes that the film’s "individual sequences spin along, lovely and mesmerizing, and they’re not really all that hard to understand, in and of themselves. It’s in figuring out how they all fit together that Syndromes And A Century can become maddening. So don’t try too hard."
And Armond White at the New York Press comes in with the dissent that’s actually yet another protracted and hopeless campaign to declare the brilliance of JuliÃ¡n HernÃ¡ndez‘,s "Broken Sky," the film that continues to be White’s Rosebud-like obsession. White writes that the film’s enigmatic nature "allows Western critics to condescend, investing Weerasethakulâ€™s lackluster cinema with inordinate significance. They prefer this bland repetition of what other filmmakers do with excitement. If Syndromes and a Centuryâ€™s blandness passes for mysteriousness, it indicates a decline in art-cinema culture." Having read the piece twice, we can only glean that White’s complaint is that there’s not enough sex in "Syndromes," which is a powerfully strange thing on which to pin such a negative review â€” though what do we know about art-cinema culture?