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eagle vs. shark

If Noah Baumbach and Michel Gondry made a child that came out a New Zealander with a sense of Wes-Anderson-esque irony, this baby’s name would be Eagle Vs. Shark.

Taika Waititi’s feature debut is not an Animal Planet special. Instead, it’s about a girl who falls for a guy only to find out he’s a pathologically lying, awkwardly depressed introvert. And it’s a comedy.

Though this film was billed by my Starz On-Demand programming as a nerd-fest, I begged to differ as I watched… See, this is much different from other awkward-nerd movies–like Napoleon Dynamite or Welcome to the Dollhouse–because it isn’t completely swathed in irony which usually overlays every aspect of a film of this type.

Instead, as with the Baumbach reference above, we are confronted with the character’s emotion and introduced to a great subtlety about this film. The way that characters are presented, the way that they speak and act, all plays into what this film is. It isn’t simply about the guy’s quirkiness and “oh, look at me, I’m distraught for some asinine reasons.” Instead, it’s really a kind of character study.

And the little art pieces that act as transitions or scene interpretations offer nice interludes about apples. That’s where the Michel Gondry part of this baby comes in: the art work is done in his same style of quirk and stop-motion as seen in The Science of Sleep. And I’m willing to assume that both of these men owe their styles in part to Terry Gilliam’s work.

The most surprising part of this film is the performance turned in by the bemuttonchopped half of Flight of the Conchords, Jemaine Clement. In that show, he’s mostly just straight funny and partly emotionless. That’s part of the show I think: to not show a lot of emotion because it’s funny when people react the wrong way.

But here he’s able to show off the whole kit-n-kaboodle of his acting skills. In the climactic fight scene, I didn’t know whether to laugh or cringe. I didn’t know whether to be mad at him, laugh at him, or empathize with him most way through the movie. Maybe this is actually a weakness, but I really think that it advanced his performance past his typical schtick.

human nature

I watched the first Michel GondryCharlie Kaufman vehicle last night (The second being the epiphanical Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind) entitled Human Nature. In typical Kaufman style, it’s a fucked up script about a woman with a hormone problem that causes her to have hair all over her body like a man which causes her to shun society and live among the wilderness naked for many years. There, she becomes a nature writer and ascertains enough money to get her hair electrically removed by Tina from Do the Right Thing (Thank God for the left nipple…). Through her, she meets a man who’s legally blind with a small penis who she falls in love with despite his severe OCD. They both just want love. Meanwhile, they go for a nature hike and discover a man who was raised by an ape who the man, played by Tim Robbins, insists on turning into an ultra-civilized being (he’s always trying to train mice to have table manners, a funny aside to the story). During these trials, Robbins’ character falls for his French Secretary, and the ape-man, named Puff, sees their first sexual encounter. Immediately he’s fucked up. This is subsequently followed by a falling out between the hairy woman (played by Patricia Arquette) and Robbins’ character and Puff. Success and wilderness abound.

Apparently, this movie was supposed to raise philosophical questions about nurture versus nature, but, to me, it was just a typical love quadrangle story that just happened to involved some ultra-quirky characters (much like all of Kaufman’s works) and it seems to fall short. His writing and scripting is definitely exonerated when you put Gondry’s magical touch on it all. That man has an eye and a knack for making things look downright-fucking-pretty in the most cartoonish, arealistic-but-really-hyper-realistic sense. I can’t recommend the movie though, because it dragged on for far too long, and definitely sagged under its supposed weight.

I have seen three (Being John Malkovich, Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind, Human Nature) of Charlie Kaufman’s five (Adaptation, Confessions of a Dangerous Mind) movies, and I have to say that he is an auteur for the weird shit. I don’t think anyone can consistently devise strange-ass characters as well as he can and then consistently get directors that can fully realize the quirks he wants conveyed. Gondry definitely has Kaufman’s number since Gondry, as evidenced in his writing-debut The Science of Sleep, is also into creating weird-as-shit characters.

“Stephane, what do you want me to do?”

“I don’t know, maybe play with my hair for a little bit.”