August 14, 2010

Scott Pilgrim vs. Your Face

Not pictured: giant sandwich board labeled "Remember this?" and "Get it?"
Edgar Wright is easily one of the smartest pop-culture mavens working in the movie industry today, which is why his latest film feels like such a betrayal: Scott Pilgrim vs. The World (hereafter Scott Pilgrim) is perfectly content to drown itself in 16-bit graphics and comic book flash-bang because, the movie happily concludes, it never had all that much to say in the first place. Shy, mumbling Torontoan Scott (Michael Cera, natch) is a bassist in a shitty garage band who falls head over heels for American delivery girl Ramona Flowers (Mary Elizabeth Winstead). However, before they can commit to a serious relationship, Scott must fight and defeat seven of Ramona's former sweethearts, a super-powered "League of Evil Exes" organized by record producer/final boss Gideon Graves (Jason Schwartzman). It's supposed to be a coming-of-age story as told within the context of an arcade game, but it can only make one statement to that end: fifteen years ago, you were much younger than you are now, and you played video games that were much less sophisticated than they are now. Struggling to articulate the synchronicity between youthful immaturity and pixilated graphics, Scott Pilgrim defaults to hipster detachment--so endlessly amused by its central metaphor (the difficulties of life and romance re-imagined as a linear, Capcom-esque fighting tournament) that it doesn't care to explore what that metaphor means for this new generation or its hopes and desires.
The popular joke around the Internet is that most gamer-geek humor revolves around one tired concept--"video games are not like real life"--and Scott Pilgrim rehashes that tired concept with stunning fidelity. It really, really wants you to see it as ridiculous and absurd: time and again, we are reminded that people do not actually burst into coins after they've been defeated in a fight; that people do not actually "level up" after they've learned an important life lesson; that Michael Cera probably cannot leap twenty feet in the air and perform "64-hit combos." The problem is that this is all weightless navel-gazing--the movie doesn't see anything worth examining in these aesthetic signifiers beyond simple recognition. (Worse still is when it simply lists off a series of pop culture icons: Scott's band, Sex Bob-Omb, features two musicians named after members of Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young, and they sing a song that may or may not be called "Launchpad McQuack." Taken from the graphic novel, you say? That doesn't make it any less jarring.) Even Sin City--the epitome of style-as-substance and Scott Pilgrim's closest antecedent--amplified popular noir elements (guns, dames, monochrome) to emphasize the relevant themes (sex, machismo, heartbreak). So when can we discuss video games as elaborate, dream-like fantasies? Or, say, as the only appropriate outlet for a number of colorful, larger-than-life personalities? Never, as far as Scott Pilgrim is concerned. Want to know why Roger Ebert gives video games such a hard time? It's because of juvenile, masturbatory fan-crap like this--lauding the medium not for its aesthetic/thematic content, but for the popular conventions. It's only "fun" in the sense that you can name the game from which a specific sound effect originates.
That's precisely what Wright tried so hard to avoid with Shaun of the Dead and Hot Fuzz--in those films, he was always interested in figuring out why zombie/action flicks affected us so deeply. Scott Pilgrim merely congratulates its target audience for playing video games and being all meta about it, and, even worse, those congratulations come at the cost of any human element. You'll notice I have yet to mention that Scott has a few ex-girlfriends of his own (teenaged naïf Knives Chau (Ellen Wong) and Envy Adams (Brie Larson))--but that's because Scott Pilgrim isn't really about anyone or anything, except the feeling that you're part of some exclusive club. This movie is a rebel without a cause in the truest sense of the phrase: a vague collection of culture-fed images, so desperate to draw a line between "them" and "us" that it has no idea what enemy it's supposed to be fighting. * (out of four)


Justin B-H said...

Wow. Thanks for the warning Ian! Sounds like the Zombieland of video-game flicks...

DaveA said...

So why hasn't this review reached the mothership? Does that mean we'll getting a second opinion?

Anyway Ian, the trailers already had nostalgia written all over it, so I'm not really surprised the movie stinks. I had some hopes - it's still Wright after all, though I'm really not his biggest fan (I still think Spaced isn't actually that great and is mostly saved by Pegg).

However, I'm thrilled that Valhalla Rising seems to be the shit; that was one of those movies I was really looking forward to, with the other being Enter the void. Noe and Refn are just the right amount of crazy.

Patrick said...

So it *is* like the comic, then? Shame. Thanks for the great review.

Paul said...

Interesting that this "review" was posted on the blog and not the main site...

Good read, but you're wrong. See it again, and try paying attention this time.

Ian Pugh said...

We had a technical hiccup at the mothersite, necessitating a blog post.

Care to elaborate, Paul? 'Cause I've seen this thing twice now, and there's nothing there but snide self-absorption. What did I miss? Was it the self-loathing references to how Scott and his comrades have nothing on their minds but popular gaming tropes and being "indie"?


Because when Scott faces off against the Shadow Link version of himself and they get along just fine, it's nothing more than an indication that Scott will continue to love himself exclusively without a single complex thought about anything he knows from life or art. You could argue that its last video game gag ("CONTINUE?") is an attempt to break away from such onanistic attachments, but it only comes across as one last joke signifying that while Scott and Ramona get a free game, the audience is just going to walk away from the arcade cabinet when the credits roll. What-the-fuck-ever, man.

Jason said...

(for the record, I read the fist 3 books and didn't care for it much, but I loved the movie, as it had a heart that the books lacked)

Initially, Scott's a likable but selfish ass - sorta like a young Homer Simpson. The movie is more about growing up and becoming a man than it is about hipster references - it's actually about leaving that crap behind.

There's a remarkable emotional maturity at the center of the film, with the idea that self respect is intimately tied with personal responsibility, which is a prerequisite for any relationship to take hold. It's a movie that begins with simple infatuation and ends with characters coming to deep understandings of themselves and how they impact the people around them.

Jefferson Robbins said...

I will probably see it and I hope to enjoy it, but I can't get over the amount of geek entitlement this film engenders all over the web. No one else has read your goddamn favorite comic, nerds, and the ultimate quality of the movie has nothing to do with the book.

Paul said...

"Because when Scott faces off against the Shadow Link version of himself and they get along just fine, it's nothing more than an indication that Scott will continue to love himself exclusively without a single complex thought about anything he knows from life or art."

I saw that moment as Scott finally making peace with himself.

Bill C said...

No subtext to Ian's review being posted here; after having some tech issues I suggested he post it here before the heat on PILGRIM cools. For what it's worth, Walter declined to review for ethical reasons, as an acquaintance of the filmmakers.

KayKay said...

Any plans on reviewing Shoot,Stab,Incinerate....a moving and life-affirming tale of a group of men who seek succor from failed relationships through life-affirming journeys to LA Tattoo parlours and fictious Latin American enclaves where they begin the healing process by blowing up shit?

Alex Jackson said...

I guess we have.

Funny that Ian's negative review scared me off Scott Pilgrim so I went and saw The Expendables instead.

Have to say that I kinda sorta enjoyed myself. The film is too stupid to be that ironic (like The A-Team reportedly was and The Losers most certainly was), though I'll admit that as a defense that's possibly only a few steps above of "Just shut your brain, off".

Still...I haven't seen Rocky Balboa or Rambo, but based on this I think I can actually detect where the praise for those two is coming from.

Loved the knife fights (stabs a guy in the neck, leaves the knife in there till he bleeds out, then takes it out and slashes another guy's throat; holy shit!), the repetitive close-ups (particularly of Mickey Rourke, WTF?) not as much. So like, a mixed reaction from me.

Strangely politically correct as the mercenaries (who have "lost their souls" through this kind of work) are taking out a frickin' drug cartel and the Stallone character's values are a lot closer to the Central American puppet dictator than the Eric Roberts character.

Anonymous said...

Ebert gave Scott Pilgrim the honor of being his last two thumbs up ever on his show, 'At the Movies.' Just saying.

KayKay said...

Alex, any objectivity I would have had watching The Expendables was obliterated years ago, thanks to a wasted adolescence devouring practically the entire Stallone/Schwarzenegger/Van Damme/Seagal/Norris ouevre of undiluted carnage.
They were simple (ok, often stupid) but they served you their action straight up, unencumbered by pseudo-philosophical ruminations or the need to piggy back on popular comic-book mythologies. It was a time when the idea of Keanu Reeves or Matt Damon kicking ass and taking names (or for that matter James Bond moping for 2 movies over some chick who fucked him over) most likely existed as a stupid joke in my wasted brain.
The Expendables is a glorious throwback to that era and that's probably the only way you're ever going to derive any sort of enjoyment from it.
Needless to say, it effortlessly located my viewing G-Spot and I probably watched it with a stupid grin plastered on my face throughout it's running time.
It naturally fell victim to it's own All Star line-up, there simply wasn't enough time to showcase everyone, but Stallone deserves a solid 'A' for effort. He wisely gives Statham ample screen time (he's the only one in the group with a career trajectory currently pointing north), and gives everyone their 2 minutes under the spotlight thanks to action scenes that exist for no other reason than to have these titans go at it, WWF style (Li Vs. Lundgren! Austin Vs. Stallone!Austin Vs. Couture!).
I wish Sly had eased up on the Mike Bay-style edits thoughs would have loved the fights to linger on my visual cortex for more than 1/2 a second, located somewhere in the movie's numerous fights is a Statham-Li tag team move that I'll have to wait for the DVD to fully enjoy.
It's cavalier treatment of women is de rigueur for movies like this and I doubt if the writers know or even care about the irony (as you said,it's probably too stupid to) of a script that posits a woman as the salvation point for these jaded warriors while also subjecting her to the film's nastiest torture sequence not to mention having Statham's character excoriate his girl for taking up with a loser while he exercises his right to disappear for long stretches of time without telling her.
God, I loved the '80s!

KayKay said...

And is it just me who thinks Mickey Rourke just ambled over from the Iron Man 2 set to this one?
And speaking of irony, the one scene that surprisingly didn't work for me (most likely on account of it being built up way too much) was the cameo featuring Planet Hollywood's major shareholders. It all seemed too forced, with Arnie at his absolute smirking worst.

KayKay said...

Yikes! Just posted the above and then saw Walter's eviscerating review.

So not even a measly 1 star for the nostalgia factor? Fair enough, it could have been much more of a guilty pleasure I admit.

The statement on Statham "going down" on Stallone to emerge later from his thighs had me up-chucking my meal with laughter!

The fact that I completely missed that and Walter didn't is probably why I'm not qualified to do this professionally:-)

Jason said...

"Funny that Ian's negative review scared me off Scott Pilgrim so I went and saw The Expendables instead."

It's sad that you'd let one lone negative review (amongst a great majority of positive reviews) steer you away from a movie you very well could have loved.

Patrick said...

On the other hand, there are few reviewers that I trust as much as the crew here – their opinions align with mine so closely (or, in the case of Alex, is so diametrically opposed ;)) that the mass of reviews is not likely to predict my reaction better than the FFC review.

Alex Jackson said...

"Funny that Ian's negative review scared me off Scott Pilgrim so I went and saw The Expendables instead."

It's sad that you'd let one lone negative review (amongst a great majority of positive reviews) steer you away from a movie you very well could have loved.

Not that sad really. I don't know what else negative reviews are supposed to do.

Look, I'm not that much into the whole Michael Cera persona anyway. After the atrocity that was Year One (accurately panned as such by Ian and effectively securing my trust in the process), his whole schtick increasingly strikes me as not only stale, but labored.

Ian is not just a colleague of course, I'm a big fan of his stuff. He takes pop culture seriously, he cares very deeply about it, and he has a very low tolerance for smarminess and pandering to a Generation Y audience.

Looking at the stuff he likes (Dirty Harry, Gran Torino, Observe and Report, From Russia with Love, Bad Lieutenant: Port of Call New Orleans, The Other Guys) and the stuff he hates (Year One, Land of the Lost, Kung Fu Panda, The Ten, Seed of Chucky), I can tell that while the specifics might not line up exactly (I actually prefer Seed of Chucky to those two Eastwood films, though the two Eastwoods are definitely better than the rest of the films on that hated list) we seem to share the same basic values and believe that something is good or something is bad for the same basic reasons.

I really liked Shaun of the Dead and Hot Fuzz, but at the end of the review Ian says that he does too and Scott Pilgrim ain't in the same league.

He writes:

That's precisely what Wright tried so hard to avoid with Shaun of the Dead and Hot Fuzz--in those films, he was always interested in figuring out why zombie/action flicks affected us so deeply. Scott Pilgrim merely congratulates its target audience for playing video games and being all meta about it, and, even worse, those congratulations come at the cost of any human element.

Man, I can feel that.

Not saying that I will never see Scott Pilgrim, just for the record if I do I'll go in expecting to dislike it.

Justin said...

Me personally, I think it's the best thing Wright has ever done. I mean he's never done anything as fully-realized as this--I loved Shaun and Hot Fuzz but this is on another level. It's a fully-formed, internally consistent fictional world where video game tropes actually happen. I've never seen Spaced but I've been reading that this is what Spaced would have been like if he'd had more of a budget. The split screens alone are somebody's thesis statement one day...

So yeah, go see it! It's, like, I dunno, The Big Lebowski meets Kung Fu Hustle with the narrative energy of Evil Dead 2.

Nyarlathotep said...


Your description in that last sentence makes it sound like a big mess. What I've read of the comic didn't impress me - attractive and well-realized, but full of shallow, tiresome, endlessly self-referential characters. From all accounts that's what has been brought to the big screen, and past a surface layer of stimulus-response nostalgic recognition it sounds deeply unappealing. Wright's deeply talented, and I'm almost willing to sell my car to see the last entry in the Blood and Ice Cream Trilogy, but this sounds like a film I might go to the trouble of pirating. All descriptions suggest that it's willfully derivative ephemera.

Paul said...


If it means anything to you, I felt the same way about the comic as you. I may have actually liked them less than you as I kept reading them, waiting for them to improve. But the movie just worked on a different level and on all cylinders for me the way the comic just did not.

But then you may hate it - who knows..

This is one of those movies. People are trying to figure out why/how someone might hate/love this movie so much; is it pro-hipser, is it anti-hipster, is it too referential, are you too old for it, are you too young for it, etc...

And more than any other movie, it's a futile process as there seems to be little to no reason for the deep seated feelings either way - I'm not even going to say that it's a polarizing movie, though such a case can be made.

What I will say is that, again, more than any other movie in recent memory, it needs to be seen! No trailer, and especially, no review, can get across what this movie will mean to you. You may still hate it, but for completely different reasons.

But honestly, if you have even a smidgen of respect and/or admiration for Wright, you OWE it to him and to yourself to see this while it's still in the theaters.

Patrick said...


after reading above you Ian's well-stated arguments about why the film didn't work for him, having you cite pseudo-arguments like "pro-hipster" or the age of the viewer before going on to say that it was futile to try and discuss this film in terms of quality, let me just say Fuck You.

If you think analyzing Scott Pilgrim is futile, why don't you shut up and leave the futility be?

Or is it just that you liked the film feel defensive?

Anonymous said...

"It's a fully-formed, internally consistent fictional world where video game tropes actually happen."

In what way is it internally consistent? It's fucking garbage, is what it is. Anything can happen at any time, and most of the fight outcomes cut away from the video game thing as to suggest that it was some kind of surreal fantasy, which doesn't make sense either. Fuck this film.

Paul said...


At least I'm defending a movie I've seen. I'm certainly not attacking Ian's views on it, which are valid to him, as he has seen it (and as you said, "didn't work for HIM"). And the "arguments" I stated don't necessarily have to do with Ian's - just others I've come across, listed in brevity.

So what is it that you're railing against, exactly? That I ask you to make up your own mind? You certainly seem to take this far more personally than I - and for a movie you haven't even seen?

Feel free to analyze it all you want after you've seen it.

Bill C said...

Now, now kids. Let's be civil and reserve the fuck-yous for people who aren't here to defend themselves.

DaveA said...

I know this has already been said countless times, but I'm flabbergasted as to how Wright could sign off those terrible trailers and one-sheets. The poster makes it look like a teeny-rock-comedy (which maybe it is?). "An epic of epic epicness"? Really? This is the best you could come up with? The one-liners in the trailer made me cringe ("I'm getting a life"), and Cera still looks like he's 16, which is not his fault but still bad casting.

I know I should just see the movie, but hell is it hard to actually shell out money for this. You know, I'm 35, played countless hours of video games, but I'm not the least bit interested. Maybe it's because I was more into "The Bard's Tale" than this Italian plumber. The hyperbole doesn't help, either. I "owe it" to Wright? Seriously? Someone will write a thesis on its split-screens? People will flock in 20 years to see it again and again? (Which, by the way, is more of an argument against it, since those types of movies are usually perfectly mediocre (Blues Brothers, Rocky Horror Picture Show, Harold&Maude)).

Patrick said...

Paul: I'm just fed up with people talking about the futility of film criticism whenever they don't agree with a review. I mean, this is a blog and a site where people talk about film, and if one feels that to be futile, well, then one doesn't participate.

It feels like unwillingness to engage criticism whilst at the same time being able to feel superior to said criticism and unblemished by it. I think it's great that you enjoyed Scott Pilgrim, but you know what your first response to this review was?

Good read, but you're wrong. See it again, and try paying attention this time.

And then you briefly summarize arguments you've seen elsewhere to post here how futile it is to talk about Scott Pilgrim, but again you don't engage with what you read *here*. Nor do you summarize these to bring them up for discussion, but solely to bolster you point – which may be correct for the places where you saw those arguments, which, as you yourself said, is not *here*, and yet you generalize about futility including *here*.

It is shadow-boxing you engage in, and then naturally comes the next step in defense, pretending someone disagreeing with you is taking it personal which automatically, by some obscure measurement, means he's wrong. Yes, I take it personal when people engage in strawman arguments in yet one more round of bash the (snobby, elitist, out of touch, etc.) critic.

I mean, maybe Ian's wrong, and he's simply missing things and he should pay attention. But you're not doing anything to make me doubt that.

Patrick said...

DaveA: I think my favorite quote is when Vern quoted Drew McWeeny:

a genuine, no-joke, out-of-the-ballpark masterwork, a pure expression of voice in service of a potent metaphor, an amazing ensemble comedy that works on the emotional level of the most joyous and romantic of the great Hollywood musicals… a jaw-dropping visual experience, and a sonic assault of pure pleasure…

Paul said...

You're right about my strawman arguments - it's pretty weaksauce on my part. Also, my initial comment to Ian's should've started off with "I think" and left off the "pay attention next time" part.

But all this pales in comparison to you and everyone else trying analyze and pass judgment on a movie you have not seen.

My point wasn't that it's futile to talk about he movie, but that it's futile to talk about it without having seen it. As it is for most films, but I think more so for this one.

Also wanted to point out that, besides Ian, everyone in this thread that's seen it seems to like it. Anecdotal, but it's gotta count for something, as we are all FFC fans.

DaveA said...

Here's the thing: if it's the "real Patrick", he - like me - won't be able to see it until January 2011. Legally, that is. And dubbed. In German.

BTW, any thoughts on that Black Swan trailer? Cronenbergian body horror paired with classical ballet and lesbian encounters - now that's the demographic I'm in. Besides, I still owe Aronowsky for that Trypanophobia he gave me.

Patrick said...

Yes, DaveA is right, we Germans have the dubious honor of waiting half a year for a film that will lose in its translation (since all films lose in translation).

But then again, I didn't really analyze the film here, did I? I made a comment that pertains to the comics – which I have read, at least up to book 3 before I gave up.

I didn't read your statement as saying it's futile to analyze a film you haven't seen. If you meant it that way, then I'm sorry for the misunderstanding, and I think I'll leave it at that. I'll come back next January :)

DaveA: I absolutely don't know what to expect. I'm afraid it will be a film where I'll be torn between "those two are not thin enough to be top ballerinas" and "those two are so horribly thin! Why?" I will find it hard to care about the world of ballet, but maybe that's an effect of me thinking that "Black Swan" was about the economy and unpredictable events.

(and yes it was me above, I'm just mostly too lazy to log in to google)

Justin said...

"Someone will write a thesis on its split-screens?"

Forgive me--I was trying to say how much I loved the split screens in this--which are really a fantastic application of comics techniques to movies, I felt like--in a clever way.

Someone in the Vern thread brought up what might be a perfect "if you liked this, you'll like Scott Pilgrim" point of comparison: Streets of Fire. Oh lord yes. It's Streets of Fire done as a slacker comedy! But with video game stuff too. And other stuff. Reviews that call Wright a mashup artist are on the right track.

I'm 35 too, DaveA, and I always sucked at video games. Honestly, you don't have to know if Scott's actually playing the bassline from Final Fantasy II (he is) to enjoy this movie. I can understand revolting against the critical hyperbole--god knows I did the same thing with Inception--but in this case this really is something wonderful. That, um, isn't for everybody exactly. Streets of Fire certainly wasn't for everybody...

Ffffff said...

Getting caught in the video game aesthetic seems like missing the point when reviewing this movie. Certainly, it's hard to miss, but the real point of the movie is an emotional one. And I think that this certainly is an emotional movie, not an ironically detached one or (fuck the me in the head) a "hipster" one.

I loved the earlier comparison of Scott Pilgrim to Homer Simpson, and I think that's the best that anyone's gonna come up with. Scott wouldn't be a likable slacker if he didn't disappoint you sometimes, which it seems a lot of people are confused by.

Sex Bob-omb (not -Omb, grandpa) was supposed to be a stupid band name. It's one of the best little jokes in a movie filled with them. It is, I think, a rather perfect little signifier of a generation pop-cultured-addled post-teens with a hatred of authority.

I mean, I am eighteen and I am often considered a (fuck me in the head) "hipster", but this movie was an incredible treat to me that has been firmly lodged in my brain ever since I have seen it.

Anonymous said...

"the real point of the movie is an emotional one"

Clarify, youngster.

Patrick said...

Can you explain this to me:

Sex Bob-omb (not -Omb, grandpa) was supposed to be a stupid band name. It's one of the best little jokes in a movie filled with them. It is, I think, a rather perfect little signifier of a generation pop-cultured-addled post-teens with a hatred of authority.

I don't understand why Sex Bob-omb signifies hatred of authority (and, perhaps, Tom Jones). Please help me get the joke.

renfield said...

Isn't it basically a copyright-safe misspelling of "Bomb-omb"?

Alex RoQ said...

I understand that this review was placed on the blog for reasons of technical problems, but might I suggest FFC moving to a similar setup for ALL reviews, at least in terms of a comments section/forum connected directly to the review? Talkback threads, in my opinion, show up far too rarely here, and it's always a bummer breaking up a good discussion on some other topic to talk about the latest review on the mothersite. Just a suggestion- the response to this review seems a bit more lively than it might have been otherwise.

As for the review itself, I hate to be about the hundredth person to comment here without actually having seen the movie yet. I will say, though, I'm surprised at the relatively large amount of good will being sent this film's way, seen or unseen- from everything I've gathered (and Ian's review only reinforces these leanings tenfold), it appears to be a tremendously obnoxious triumph of (non)style over substance, like any other piece of fanboy self-love (arriving prepackaged with the Joss Whedon seal of approval, natch). Again, haven't seen it, so I hope I'm not offending anyone too much- I'll come back and talk more smack about/heap unexpected praise upon the film once I've seen it.

renfield said...

I thought the movie had a promising vitality to its cartoonishness that failed to sustain the utterly repetitive structure. I mean really, SEVEN exes? Technically they combine two of them into one battle, but then you have to watch the fight with Jason Schwartzman twice.

Another (much angrier) poster posited that the arcade physics/internal logic were poorly defined, and I agree, and think it's a dire problem for the film given how much of it we're expected to sit through.

I derived enjoyment from a good deal of the physical comedy, particularly in the case of Knives. There's a certain kinetic energy that makes a moment such as her getting punched in the face fairly shocking. I also find the notion of Cera as an ass-kicking badass fundamentally chuckle-worthy, but those who justifiably feel differently are sort of up shit's creek when it comes to not hating this film.

But the primary beef is as Mr. Pugh portrays, which is that the film doesn't really nail down the hipster/meta culture it's lampooning/celebrating or define Scott's place within that world I do think it gets some things right. Ramona Flowers is obviously the sort of girl who wears the same clothes so often that her garments are saturated with a hazardous combination of pheromones and body odor. Her visceral impact in the film is pitch-perfect, but then again she's the source of all the confusing arcade tropes so you can't take her seriously as a love interest in the long run.

I'd love to hear a better-defined argument from those championing the film. It seems really problematic to me.

JF said...

(arriving prepackaged with the Joss Whedon seal of approval, natch)

Yeah, real damning how that guy responsible for a handful of the finest episodes of television ever aired likes it.

Bill C said...

@Alex RoQ: I actually expected to have comments enabled on all our reviews by now. I was contacted by our redesign team back in April that the new site was as good as done, but I guess they hit a snag, or got paying work; frankly, it's getting more and more difficult to bottle up my frustrations on that front. At any rate, know that it's something we want to do, and this SP thread was certainly an encouraging test drive for comments on all reviews.

Anonymous said...

I'm not sure whether I find "Scott Pilgrim"'s utter and complete lack of internal logic charming and whimsical or arrogant and lazy. Certainly I thought it was a creative, well-made, energetic, and frequently hilarious movie, I am going to have to admit that right now. But it's also, I agree, kind of meaningless. This movie has very little in common with "Hot Fuzz" or "Shaun of the Dead," which were smart commentaries on certain film genres. "Scott Pilgrim vs. The World" has far more in common with "Airplane!," "Kung Pow: Enter the First," and, dare I say it, "Date Movie" or "Epic Movie." There's no point but general silliness.

Of course, "Airplane!" is one of my favorite movies. And when I think of "Scott Pilgrim" as that kind of movie, I tend to enjoy it more. But I do think on some level this movie wants to be a teen romance movie and a coming-of-age story of some kind. As either of those things "Scott Pilgrim vs. The World" is completely unsatisfying, but it feels like talking about this movie in terms of storyline is utterly missing the point because the filmmakers just don't give a shit about that.

I don't know. It's insubstantial and I'm wrestling with myself how much that matters.


Rick said...

However, I'm thrilled that Valhalla Rising seems to be the shit; that was one of those movies I was really looking forward to, with the other being Enter the void. Noe and Refn are just the right amount of crazy.

My good friend saw the uncut NYC screening of Enter the Void, and said Noe takes it to a whole new level. This is good because I Stand Alone, though I love it, is basically an hour and a half long rant from someone who wrote a script while severely depressed.

I agree with Ian, The Other Guys is the real deal. In addition to everything he already said, it is hilarious there are TLC references throughout the film, just because there is zero call for TLC references.

Jonathan said...

RIP Satoshi Kon.

I wasn't fond of Paprika, but Millennium Actress was exceptional.

renfield said...

Sad news. "Paranoia Agent" is not to underestimated either.

Tom N said...

god fucking damn. 'perfect blue' and 'millennium actress' are my favourite animé flicks ever bar NONE.

DJR said...

I'm disappointed to see Walter praise Aja's Piranha in his Machete review. I thought it was worse than even The Hills Have Eyes, which at least at some style, brio, and anger, however snooty. Here he seems to be actively condescending to the genre, bereft of nerve, wit, joy memorable imagery, suspense, etc. etc. The thing is a void.

John said...

Who is LexG? Does he write for a website?

Alex RoQ said...

Couldn't agree more with DJR on Pirahna- the entire thing felt, more than anything, like any one of those zero-budget creature flicks SyFy Channel churns out time and again with a little more blood and a few more pairs of jiggling breasts (and the most truly awful, lazily inserted digital 3D I have ever seen) thrown in to save Aja from Direct-To-Video Hell. I'm intrigued by Walter's reference to it in the Machete review, though, and I'd love to know more fully what he (and everyone else) thought of it- I've certainly been wrong before, but for the life of me I didn't foresee being in the minority (its 75% tomatometer leaves my mind reeling) about what I found to be easily the most worthless vacuum of a film amid a summer that has been full of worthless vacuum-films.

It's nice to hear something positive about Machete, though. I was sure it was going to end up being Rodriguez's emperor-has-no-clothes moment, this taking a gimmick and stretching it far past the point where even the most supportive just can't give a shit (a lot like, now that I think of it, what he did with the ever-overrated Planet Terror). I'm intrigued, too, by the moment with Lindsey Lohan that Walter mentions. For reasons I still can't define, I've felt this real sense of kinship and sympathy for Lohan ever since seeing I Know Who Killed Me, and I just can't seem to shake it. Has Rodriguez, for probably the first time in his career, figured out something the rest of us just haven't?

Justin B-H said...

Ummm, maybe Piranha 3D was just a clever genre homage to 80s B-grade cinema that was meant to be taken with a dash of irony?

Given Walter and Ian's reactions to where Aja's anger took him to in Hills Have Eyes and Mirrors, I don't see how its absence here is a bad thing.

Anonymous said...

I thought Piranha 3D was great, and feel your criticisms lack any kind of merit. The 3D that I saw was actually better than that bullshit Avatar (hoorah, no fucking goddamn eye strain due to the focus being wrong while a variety of robots and shit are moving around in the background) and the film - which took a good 45 minutes setting up interesting (if moderately cliche) characters before it got in with the bloodletting, and what a joyous demonstration of grue that was. The Jaws references were great, as was the wholesale slaughter of the revelling partygoers, appropriately punished for their transgressions, meanwhile the film teased the death of young children in scenes with actual tension. Had some issues with pacing and editing and was nearly completely devoid of subtext, but easily the best and most appropriate 3D film I've seen (Pixar entries don't count). I'd easily give it 3 stars.

Patrick said...

I'm not interested at all in Piranha thanks to the film seemingly having "naked tits" as a major selling point.

First the women get naked for the audience's benefit, and then they get, as anonymous so deftly put it, appropriately punished for it, too. Which means brutally killed for the sin of adhering to the expectations of guys and giving them a boner.

Anonymous said...

You're wrong. Not "naked tits" - "naked tits in 3D".

Look, normally I'd be the first to jump on the feminist bandwagon in regards to sexism in films, but I think a) it's conforming to the genre standard, yes, but in such an over-the-top way that it is self-aware parody (for fuck's sake, naked underwater lesbian ballet? In fucking 3D?!) and b) the level of depravity in the violence is so extreme that anyone there to appreciate the tits is just as punished as the characters (the centerpiece Spring Break bloodbath rivals, no, outdoes Omaha Beach from Saving Private Ryan). The film is extremely cruel to men just as it is to women, with a close up of the pornographer's dick having been chewed off and spat out - none of the kids in the audience there to get their rocks off are going to be able to sustain erection after that scene. Plus Eli Roth's head gets smashed but good. It's actually made for a smarter audience, a highbrow sick joke - even the sympathetic protagonist's first kiss with the object of his affection is ruined by her suddenly vomiting - at the camera, in 3D. Vomit coming out of the screen is what 3D was made for. The subversion is gleeful, as is all of the transgressive material. It's titilating, but for all the right, extreme, gaudy reasons. Plus the acting is great (Christopher Lloyd as Doc Brown is wonderful) and, as mentioned, the 3D is the best use of 3D yet. You're getting the wrong impression of the film - Aja delivers.

Anonymous said...

Also to clarify - "killed for the sin of adhering to the expectations of guys" - no, killed for the sin of adhering to the genre convention.

Patrick said...

Maybe you're right and my impression is wrong. I will admit, at least, that while I'm not sure vomiting before a kiss is a sign of smarts, that *is* what 3D was made for :)

Alex RoQ said...

The thing is, B-grade camp is exactly what I came in hoping for, and I left plenty of room for irony as well. I didn't enter the theater with high expectations, but I was expecting to have some fun- and believe me, I'm not immune to the charms of 3D gore and tits.

I'm left wondering, ultimately, if I saw the same 3D effects as Anon did, and I was honestly surprised to learn via Wikipedia that the movie was filmed with 3D in mind from the start. Objects in the foreground, when they "pop out" at all, do so like a strange, intangible blister or pock mark on the filmstrip. Stray strands of hair and edges of bodies are left floundering in the background, and, with the exception perhaps of Ving Rhames' weaponized boat motor, nothing ever comes towards us with any visceral quality.

Avatar's 3D effects, to my mind, were at least successful in coating the proceedings with a thick shellac of artificiality, befitting such a film and at least partially obfuscating the work's utter thematic, imaginative bankruptcy. In truth, I think the best use of 3D I've seen recently is in Step Up 3D- the dance sequences packed real heat and wonder for me, perfectly blending natural movement, a sort of "digital graffiti," and the inherent magic of the 3D medium. Basically, Step Up 3D captures what I love about Breakin' and other B-grade dance fare and transposes it onto our current cinematic fad/trend/whatever it ends up being; Piranha, for me, failed completely to do the same for the exhilaration and lawless fun of B-grade horror/creature features.

Basically, I'd like to think I'm coming from the same place you guys are. I wanted to enjoy the thing, but I just got nothing at all out of it. If there was any wit or self-awareness in its execution it was completely lost on me. It felt exactly as stupid and weightless as the public at large believes all B-movies to be- maybe that's what ultimately upsets me about it.

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