No new reviews from us this week â€” we ain’t seen nothin’.
+ "American Dreamz": Roger Ebert ledes with "’American Dreamz’ is a comedy, not a satire. We have that on the authority of its writer-director, Paul Weitz, who told Variety: ‘Satire is what closes on Saturday night. So it’s a comedy.’ Actually, it’s a satire. Its comedy is only fairly funny, but its satire is mean, tending toward vicious." Ebert, who gives the film three stars out of four, is one of the few impressed by Weitz’s satirical talents â€” Salon’s Stephanie Zacharek (who was also a big fan of Weitz’s "About A Boy") is also won over by "the outrage, and the deep frustration, embedded…in the movie as a whole." She’s also writes that "isn’t a subversive comedy — in fact, it’s so unapologetically upfront that I suspect some moviegoers will accuse it of lacking teeth"…and in fact, some critics do. At the Village Voice, J. Hoberman, while not overwhelming negative (he finds the film more interesting than edgy), does conclude that "Ultimately, ‘American Dreamz’ is less social satire than social realismâ€”the contestants are virtually indistinguishable from those on the real American Idol; the pols are as comfortingly stupid as we might wish them to be." And according to New York‘s David Edelstein:
Paul Weitzâ€™s politics-showbiz parody suggests that the biggest problem facing satirists today is that they canâ€™t begin to compete with whatâ€™s happening in Washington, Iraq, Afghanistan, New Orleans, or even the sleazy corridors of network TV. Consider the reality: the fourth amendment in tatters; carnage in Iraq; a potential U.S. nuclear strike on Iran; Simon Cowell as an arbiter of taste. Itâ€™s so much wilder than it is in "Dr. Strangelove" or "Wag the Dog," let alone in this spottily funny clown-show, which is dwarfed in its insights (and its laughs) by even a bad day on "The Daily Show."
At the New York Times, Manohla Dargis is the least impressed, wondering "where’s the beef and, as important, where are the jokes, the heart and the understanding that every age creates its own variation on the American dream?"
Incidentally, the lack of comedy in this, er, comedy is a point raised by several critics: Dargis, Hoberman and Anthony Lane at the New Yorker ("I winced three times, and gave a couple of short laughs, but that was it."). Finally, at the LA Weekly, Scott Foundas suggests that only at its conclusion does the film manage anything actually provocative by "suggesting that the global fascination with American kitsch could just be the thing that will stop us from destroying each other. In which case, may I propose Paula Abdul for president?"
+ "Somersault": Cate Shortland‘s award-winning Aussie debut about a teenage runaway has garnered mostly positive (if generally removed) reviews â€” it’s one of the odd effects of the triumph of the capsule review for these smaller releases that people seem to use up their entire 200 words just describing the film, or don’t get around to that in making fun of it. But no one’s making fun of "Somersault" (though the most opinion Melissa Levine in the Village Voice manages is calling saluting the film’s "dreamy, sexy, rather chilly style"). Stephen Holden at the New York Times guardedly likes it and Scott Foundas at the LA Weekly calls it "remarkable," while at Salon, Andrew O’Hehir writes that
I’m sure some people will be driven mad by the deliberate ambiguities of "Somersault," and by its characters’ near-total inability to understand themselves or express themselves. But to me, that makes it uncannily true to life.
But screw this, let’s get down to the important part: how hot is star Abbie Cornish (who, because all Australian actresses have been grown in vats in the same Outback clone farm, has been called both a younger Nicole Kidman and a younger Naomi Watts)?
Foundas: "the talented Cornish, who asserts the role with sexy, know-it-all confidence, then shows us the trembling little girl lurking just beneath."
Holden: "With the face of an angel and a sexual magnetism she wields with only a partial awareness of its seismic force, Heidi (Abbie Cornish), the blond 16-year-old runaway who thrashes through Cate Shortland’s "Somersault," is the kind of young woman who drives men crazy."