Even for a long weekend, this one’s packed â€” here in New York, beyond the films below, we count at least six other indie openings, including Takashi Miike’s "The Great Yokai War," Iraq doc "The Blood of My Brother," Bollywood superhero flick "Krrish," pedophilia (!) comedy "Say Uncle," IFC’s own arty bull riding doc "Rank" and Kyle Henry‘s Independent Spirit Award nominee "Room"…and all of these are in addition to "The Devil Wears Prada" and "Superman Returns." It’s both exhilarating and frustrating â€” more movies (and many of them worth seeing), it seems, then there are people to see them.
+ "Who Killed the Electric Car?": Ah, yet more doctivism. But Chris Paine‘s debut effort may be "one of the more successful additions to the growing ranks of issue-oriented documentaries," as Manohla Dargis at the New York Times writes. She finds his tale of corporations and government corruption quashing zero-emission vehicles familiar, but still lauds it as "a story Mr. Paine tells with bite." At Salon, Andrew O’Hehir notes that the film is "a straightforward work of advocacy that wouldn’t pass muster as journalism. But so what?" While he find that "Electric Car" "isn’t an especially dynamic or visually engaging film," he still insists that "By the end you’ll be worked into a lather one way or another. Paine crams in more theories, ideas and arguments than the movie can easily hold, but that’s OK with me."
The real question is why this purportedly impassioned documentary investigation of a great subjectâ€”the culture’s conspiratorial dismissal of eco-friendly alternatives to the gas-guzzlerâ€”would assume such massive viewer disinterest that it coats the pill with C-list celebrity NutraSweet, including Martin Sheen voiceovers ("As the 20th century gathered speed . . . ") that would sound unforgivably hackneyed even on basic cable.
At indieWIRE/Reverse Shot, Kristi Mitsuda is generally bemused by the lack of aesthetic sense most new documentaries (including this one) show, she concludes that
Looking down from the director’s helicopter at the carcasses of crushed EV1s– so threatened was GM by evidence of its creation that it had existing models destroyed–damned if I didn’t leave the theater in furious mourning for the loss of a car the existence of which I hadn’t even been aware two hours prior.
And Michael Koresky muses that "Paine’s entertaining expose often plays less like a raise-the-roof Michael Moore rampage than an extended ’20/20′ segment."
The movie, for those unfamiliar with the show, represents a particular varietal of arrhythmic, conscientiously anti-witty comedy. Andy Kaufman is the style’s St. Joan, occupying the borderland between blackout yuks and discomfiting performance art. Often enough, overripe unfunniness is the joke.
He also wonders at the way the film "regularly lampoons junkie-reparation melodramas and after-school specials, but with so little focus it’s never clear what the film, or even Sedaris’s vaudeville buffoon incarnation, is supposed to be parodying. That may be its fascination for someâ€”it’s a satire without a baseline, free-floating in its own self-indulgent ether."
At the New York Times, A.O. Scott is somewhat more forgiving:
Like many feature films based on small-screen, short-form comedy, it feels more like a long, sloppy "very special" episode than a movie. Still, devotees of the series, admirers of Ms. Sedaris and fake-news junkies who can never get enough of Mr. Colbert will find reasons to see it and to convince themselves that it is funnier and more satisfying than it really is.
+ "The Motel": Michael Kang‘s Sundance favorite opened at the Film Forum on Wednesday. Michael Atkinson (who seems to be on a bit of a tear) growls that "American indies are trapped in a ghetto of second-class homogenization, less pandering than Hollywood but just as conservative," and while noting it’s not fair to fault a lone film for this, moans that "the underwhelming syncopation of make-nice clichÃ©s is too familiar." Stephen Holden is more fond, if less interesting, labelling it "a small, perfectly observed portrait." Most enthusiasic is Andrew O’Hehir, who writes "All the ingredients of this coming-of-age fable are individually familiar, but you rarely see them come together so well…There were half a dozen occasions, maybe more, when I roared out loud with laughter. This just may be a filmmaker with great things in him; this one’s pretty damn good."