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September 02, 2010

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Filmbrain

Nice review Glenn. While I agree that the writing was a notch above other films in the "genre", I still feel it's all a bit too self-satisfied.

"Dunham's depiction of Aura has an insufficient amount of distance..." -- Yes, and this is precisely my problem with it.

Several months back I got into an argument with somebody about the film, and after an exasperating back and forth he simply said, "It isn't made for people your age." If that's the best defense, well....

D Cairns

Seems to be a glitch in that big paragraph (the second one after the quotes). Great review though.

Glenn Kenny

Thanks, Filmbrain. Not to sound overly dyspeptic, but anybody who seriously defends anything by saying "It isn't made for people your age" doesn't deserve to live long enough to have that bullshit thrown back in his or her face thirty years from now. And also deserves a quick, and hard, punch to the face in the here and now. I commend your restraint in this manner. I also invite whoever said that to actually explain how that's any kind of valid argument. I don't expect to be hearing anything any time soon.

@ D. Cairns: Glitch found, and fixed. Many thanks.

bill

Nice bookshelves.

Stephen Whitty

Loved this, Glenn. Actually was commenting lengthily on it as soon as the post went up, but off my comment went into Typepad limbo, never to be seen again. Ah well.

Anyway, in short -- abso-freakin'-lutely magisterial. And about a tricky, but incredibly important topic, which is the artist's attitude towards the work. A difficult thing to assess with any accuracy, but necessary.

Like you, I'm happy to watch terrible people on screen. I don't even need the artist to point out just how terrible they are. But I really can't stand it when I'm presented with whiny, vain, self-involved, apathetic or otherwise annoying characters and somehow told I'm supposed to feel SORRY for them.

It reminds me of all those godawful short stories people used to read out in freshman creative-writing class, where the protagonist was just this sort of put-upon, pathetic victim. And you realized very quickly as the author read it aloud that it was painfully autobiographical, and really just a naked plea for sympathy.

Well, I'm sorry, to me these sort of things aren't really art -- no conflict, no character, no language. They're just masturbatory pity parties. And I decline the invitation, thanks.

I would say, though, that there IS something to the fact that stories like this really aren't made for people over 30 -- only because this kind of solipsism has always found its fondest home in teens and twentysomethings (and probably always has, since at least "This Side of Paradise.") I won't say I was completely immune to it at the time, either.

But the smartest young artists were always able to make something more of characters like this than just a double-helping of white whine. And the smartest young audiences were always able to recognize the artists who weren't.

Glenn Kenny

Thanks, Stephen.

@ Bill: Aren't they, though? I thought the SCR readership would admire them.

bill

Except I can't read the spines of any of the books. This is very frustrating.

bill

By the way, Stephen's point here:

"And about a tricky, but incredibly important topic, which is the artist's attitude towards the work. A difficult thing to assess with any accuracy, but necessary.

Like you, I'm happy to watch terrible people on screen. I don't even need the artist to point out just how terrible they are. But I really can't stand it when I'm presented with whiny, vain, self-involved, apathetic or otherwise annoying characters and somehow told I'm supposed to feel SORRY for them."

-- and your approach to it all in the piece, Glenn, is precisely what I'm talking about when I bring up a particular beloved film from the late '60s that I don't care for, and which I shan't name here.

Glenn Kenny

@ Bill: Aw, come on, man! You can't do THAT! Name, name! I promise I won't let anybody here hurt you...

Cisco Pike

Is Bill talking about TWO FOR THE ROAD?

Stephen Whitty

I'm guessing "The Graduate."

I'm also guessing, given Glenn's review, that the reason we can't read the titles on those book spines is because they're all diaries.

bill

No, no, it's BONNIE & CLYDE. Come on, Glenn, you remember the last time that movie was the topic of discussion. Who wants THAT again??

bill

And clearly the film is not so much related to TINY FURNITURE in its, I guess, social focus. I'm talking about the artist's attitude towards the characters.

otherbill

@ bill: You don't like BONNIE & CLYDE?! Why you neocon capitalist lapdog! Why I oughta... I kid, of course. Just thought I'd give you a quick trip down memory lane.

@ Stephen Whitty: great line re: diaries. Though I believe such folks eschew diaries in favor of "journalling one's truth".

Mr. Lawrence

This movie sounds gross. Another example of a genre I have always detested, narcicinema. Yes, everything is autobiographical, in a sense, but some people have manners, and they try and distance themselves as much as possible from the material so that it isn't about them. Just like the difference between memoir and fiction: memoir wants you to identify and care about the author; fiction wants you to identify and care about the characters. My guess is that this young lady will find her way to 'Hollywood' and will be directing a Jennifer Aniston vehicle in no time.

Michael Adams

One way to tell you're old is seeing youth movies you liked in your youth and not being able to stand them. I call this phenomenon Sterile Cuckoo Syndrome.

Glenn Kenny

@ Mr. Lawrence: Your prediction concerning an Aniston vehicle may be more on the money than you realize. If I recall correctly, Dunham has expressed, with some slight guilt, an enthusiasm for latter-day rom-coms such as "The Proposal" and expressed interest in at least writing Hollywood films in that vein. I imagine the only thing inhibiting her is the potential disapproval of her mom and fear of losing "indie" or art cred. And I say fuck that; she should go for it. She might be able to spruce up the genre. Indie's "loss" would be the Hollywood rom-coms gain, and as Robin Wood said, with "guilty pleasures" it would stand to reason one ought to renounce the one or the other, and renouncing the guilt is the preferable option. And with Lena leading the way, we can only hope that other posers (or "poseurs") in realms both cinematic and film-critical, would be inspired to find career options that suit them better than what they're currently up to. And I'm gonna let that lie there...

@ Michael Adams: Isn't there a correlative syndrome to that, involving people who never outgrow "King of Hearts?"

@ Bill: Oh yes. "Bonnie and Clyde." Totally different kettle of fish here, really. The only thing that dies in "Tiny Furniture" is...oh, wait, this angel just popped up over my shoulder and is wagging her finger at me...sorry...

bill

Oh, I realize that. It's just the broader topic I'm referring to. Unlikable characters are one thing, but expecting me or anyone to like those unlikable characters is something else. That's been my issue with that movie from the beginning.

Chris O.

So, it indeed looks better than your average mumblecore movie? What was the frequency of needless zooms? Any gratuitous lack of tripod usage? (Not to be snarky, but just because something's low-budget...)

Hollis Lime

"The most purely autobiographical ­fiction requires pure invention. Nobody ever wrote a more auto­biographical story than "The Meta­morphosis"."-Jonathan Franzen.

Tom Carson

@bill: Honest, I'm not trying to start a fight, the more so as BONNIE & CLYDE is a movie I don't feel that passionate about. But I do think the script and direction make it clear that these are pretty stupid, limited people -- at best touching rather than admirable. Even so, I can see how you might want to fault Beatty (as producer) for casting himself and Faye Dunaway, since that does change the equation.

bill

@Tom -- Even if I were to concede your point (and I'd have to watch the movie again before I could say, as it's been awhile), as far as I'm concerned "touching" is bad enough.

Cinema Gonzo

I was starting to get excited that the mumblecore generation may have finally found it's anti-Slaves of New York, but then I read the mention of the "Nietschean Cowboy" bit. Having just hung myself in disgust, I will no longer be able to see this in the flesh, and will have to now wait for it to show up on Netflix on demand in heaven.

Glenn Kenny

@ Chris O: It looks very good indeed. Tripod use seemed almost constant; handheld deployed judiciously. No needless zooms. Overall a fluid, unobtrusive visual storytelling style. The colors were nice, too. And my little dig notwithstanding, the credits are, like Paul's grandfather in "A Hard Day's Night," very clean.

Castle Bravo

I believe it was shot with a 7D. This would, almost by definition, rule out unmotivated zooms, as they'd be more likely using 35mm primes.

Glenn Kenny

@ Castle Bravo: A 7D it was, indeed, and good call.

Whereas, as I've noted before, it's pretty clear that whatever it is that those Duplass fellas shoot with, it's totally got a zoom toggle on the back of the handgrip.

John M

You could easily use a zoom lens with the 7D. Just sayin'.

Glenn Kenny

And did we mention how VERSATILE the 7D camera is?

Just to clarify, nobody's saying zooms aren't possible, or even easy, with the 7D and/or 35mm primes. Just that one tends to be more mindful of them, because the physical process of zooming will be different than with a camcorder-type device that has, say, a thumb-toggle zoom. Right, Castle Bravo?

Also:http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=UOBafREui-A

Jaques Dutronc

"Just to clarify, nobody's saying zooms aren't possible, or even easy, with the 7D and/or 35mm primes"

I am saying zooms aren't possible with a prime lens. I am saying that.

Glenn Kenny

And the lesson here is don't chime in on a comments thread at 7 in the morning, particularly if there are technical issues involved. [Yaaaawnnnn...]

Anyway. No zooms in "Tiny Furniture," is the point. None. Zero. Nada. That I can remember.

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