Summer Film Challenge 2011 Wrap Up

Well folks, I can proudly announce for the first time ever that I have completed* a Summer Film Challenge between Ryan Lagerstrom and myself.  I have finally seen every film I was asked to see and here you will find the last two reviews for the long overdue cinematic challenge.  Both films were rather good and I was glad to end on such good work.  However (noting the asterick) I do still have one more item on my Summer Film Challenge 2011 list, but more on that later.  For now, enjoy my final reviews: of the comedy classic Groundhog Day and of the third and final Kaufman movie I was asked to watch – Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind.

Groundhog Day

Yes, after two long years I am FINALLY getting around to seeing this staple of the comedy genre.  I had my reservations about it because, years ago, I had caught a short clip of it on HBO or something and I thought I knew where the film was going…and I can’t say I was impressed.  However, the film — for both good and ill — thwarted a lot of my expectations and proved itself to be entirely not what I expected.

At first I thought it was moving too fast.  I wanted to see Phil really struggle with the chaos and confusion of his experiencing the same day over and over. Beyond that, I wanted to see him take it to its extreme (ala Saints Row III) and explore all of the crazy things he could do in a world without consequences. However, it quickly moved on from those things in favor of the love story.  They gave those plot areas a little bit of attention but, in the end, they focused on the important parts of the story. My only remaining qualm with it is this: why is this was happening to the guy (other than as a necessary plot point)?  That is a question I know will never be answered so we move on.

Groundhog Day had a nice arc to it, taking the narcisistic jerk to the humble and others-centered place he needed to be.  It felt jerky to me – constantly thwarting where I thought it was going and heading somewhere else – but I think that was the fault of the expectations I brought into it.  What I like about it is that it goes where you expect it to go and then shows you that there is more to it than that.  Phil does make the perfect day for Rita and gets very close to getting what he wants but then the writers throw it in your face and let you be confused with him, experiencing the growth as he does. Great job on that and I look forward to the second viewing where I will be able to follow that better.

Bill Murray is, of course, phenomenal (at times).  He gives good acting when the filmmakers let him have fun with the role.  However, it’s not so hot when they pigeonholed him into key emotional moments such as the important end scene.  It just gets wooden and far too normal for this bizarre actor in a bizarre film.  Same with Andle McDowell – very wooden at times but when she was given a chance to just react, her performance was really good.  The supporting cast did fantastic. Overall it was about as much as you could ask for such a challenging acting job (try playing the same set of emotions at the beginning of each scene/day).

All in all, I would say that this film was much more inspirational than it was funny.  I wasn’t rolling on the floor laughing as much as I was feeling for the characters as they grew and developed. Groundhog Day was fun, I am glad to cross it off my list, and I do recommend it if you want a fun Com-Rom for Saturday night (assuming Redbox and Netflix are down).

RATING:  7//10

Also, I am glad to finally get the joke we put in our short film, Expiration Date:

It's the Hat...before "The Hat"

Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind

Ah, at last.  The final film on my 2011 Summer Film Challenge was one that I had little interest in at the beginning of the challenge.  Yet, as I went through the list of movies, this one grew and grew until I decided that this had to be the one I ended on because it looked so GOOD!  And I am proud to say that it provided in full.

Going into this my partner, Ryan, had been telling me that this was by far the most accessible Kaufman film of the bunch (cf. Being John Malkovich and Adaptation). And I have to agree with him:  it was the easiest one to relate to.  However, it was the one that I get the least.  Unlike his other work, this one isn’t as “Look at my ambiguous moral stance and message!” which actually makes it harder to know what it is about.  It seems inspirational but that can’t be right – this is Kaufman!  I know that isn’t the case but still, he isn’t this obvious with his films, so I am not really sure what to make of it.

Hey!  Who knew!  Jim Carrey can act!  Maybe if he wasn’t always typecast into silly kids-movie roles (and 23) he might actually have a career. He gives a really stellar performance as a broken and lost man inside his own mind and even the silly stuff in his memories is really well performed. This is by far my favorite Carrey role and I am glad to see his talents recognized.

Please....no more Dr. Seuss movies.....please?

Also, an excellent performance by Kate Winslet as Clementine.  She masterfully played the hurt girl running from everything and so desiring someone to pursue her.  Her acting was as vibrant as her hair color and I loved every second of it.  And both Carrey and Winslet were backed up by a wonderful supporting cast:  a young Mark Ruffalo, a youngER Elijah Wood, Kirsten Dunst, Tom Wilkinson.  Overall the acting was phenomenal and sold the film in spectacular fashion.

Eternal Sunshine is beautifully executed cinematically.  I love how making the human mind and memories mapable and easy to follow is something only Kaufman can really pull off.  The cinematography is exquisite and the soundtrack was heart-stringing, and the way in which the world of Joel’s memories crumbled around him was amazing.

The film was beautiful, poetic, and perfectly ironic enough to justify the huge Hipster following it has gained over the years.  Kaufman does it again with Eternal Sunshine and anyone unfamiliar with the writer’s work should pick up a copy of this as soon as possible.  Let your world be expanded and enjoy getting lost in the Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind.

RATING:  10//10

*What then is left?
Of course it the only thing that remains for my long overdue 2011 Summer Film Challenge is my last review of both a final season and of a show comprehensively.  I am speaking, of course, about my final review of that cult Sci-fi giant: Battlestar Galactica.  I only have two more episodes left and I can actually (finally) say that I am excited to finish it off.  I have every intention of finishing the finale before the end of March and plan on getting the review up before my birthday in April.  It has been a long and interesting journey (not at all unlike my experiences with Lost) and I can’t wait to share my thoughts about the show that secretly runs the APU Film Department. 🙂

Thanks for sticking around, hope you like the new layout, I will see you all soon with my review of Season 4 of Battlestar Galactica.

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Author: Tyler D. Welch

Filmmaker, Storyteller, Scholar

One thought on “Summer Film Challenge 2011 Wrap Up”

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