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The Skeleton Twins (2014)
Not an Original Bone in Its Body
This movie is such a mash-up of mainstream indie film clichés that it almost plays like a spoof of Sundance dramedies. You know the kind I mean: a dysfunctional, cynical group of individuals is forced to spend time together and end up reconnecting with each other and, after lots of wisecracking, '80s music interludes, and moments of forced poignancy -- regain their humanity. But if it were a spoof, it would be entertaining. The fact that it premiered at Sundance says a lot about the current state of independent cinema.
The only satisfaction one can get from watching THE SKELETON TWINS is keeping a checklist of indie film conventions that this movie recycles -- from overall themes, to plot devices, to performance style, to wacky musical interlude. If you've never seen an independent film, you might be impressed by the self-consciously quirky direction, the quote-unquote dark comedy, the lovable gay character (we know he's gay because he tells us so, several times, in the first ten minutes). I wish the filmmaker had spent more time developing three-dimensional characters instead of taking other people's shortcuts.
typical post-mod deadpan "comedy"
I, too, would love to celebrate the arrival of a talented young filmmaker but this is hardly the occasion. Painfully precious and pseudo-metaphysical, Me and You and Everyone We Know is just another installment of the late '90s and early '00s trend of deadpan postmodern "comedy." It strives to be artful but it is about as profound as Donnie Darko or American Beauty. I know those films have their supporters, and they will probably like this film as well, but this is not particularly interesting to anyone with sophisticated film tastes. There was such an effort to suppress any expression of emotion that the film is essentially lifeless. It flirts with ideas of sexual perversion (a la Solondz) but backs away from them multiple times. True, it's more interesting to watch than most films in general release, but that alone is no reason to champion it.
The Game of Their Lives (2005)
For sports movie fans only.
When I first heard about this movie, I hoped it was a Hollywood version of the 2002 British documentary The Game of Their Lives, which was about a North Korean team's surprise bid for the 1966 World Cup. Even when I found out the 2005 film had nothing to do with the earlier documentary, I gave it a chance. It is definitely for people who like movies like Hoosiers and Boaz Yakin's Remember the Titans, and want to see that kind of movie repackaged over and over and over again. The writer (Angelo Pizzo) and director (David Anspaugh) simply pulled out all the clichés of the underdog sports movie, set it on a soccer field, and then shot it. My gosh, the inspirational locker-room talk before they go attempt to topple the giants was like something you'd hear in a high school locker room (coaches quoting from bad films). Let's see... Anspaugh and Pizzo have applied their formula to basketball and football and now soccer. Set your watches... we should have a stand-up-and-cheer baseball movie from them in about... two years. CAN'T WAIT!!!