In the past week I’ve watched both The Perks of Being a Wallflower and The World’s End. Both are movies that got me thinking a lot about nostalgia.
Wallflower takes place during the 1991-1992 school year. It was two years after I graduated, but the world was very familiar. I had groups of friends I bounced between back then. I had my closest friends in John and Bill who never overlapped. John was my metal head buddy and together we played video games and went to concerts. We’d drive around late at night and talk about girls. Bill and I went to the community center and shot pool or we’d go to the movies. I also had my own personal Wallflowers.
My Wallflowers were like the Wallflowers in the movie. They were the artsy kids. The creative types. The kids who in retrospect I probably should have been a lot closer with and it makes sense that they’re the ones who I am in fact closest with twenty-three years later. Perks of Being a Wallflower made me miss those nights of hanging out at Brian Rankel’s house having philosophical discussions about life and art while The Smiths, The Cure and Depeche Mode played in the background.
Then I saw The World’s End.
Simon Pegg’s Gary King character in The World’s End also missed those nights of hanging out with his childhood friends. He rounds them up and reluctantly they join him in trying to complete an epic pub crawl from their youth. When they try to go back they find that everything has changed.
His friends have all moved on with their lives and have families and responsibilities. The town itself isn’t the same either. The small pubs have largely lost their unique character. If you’ve seen the trailer, you probably noticed how there’s a certain sci-fi Invasion of the Body Snatchers aspect to the movie. It’s a great metaphor for the people becoming as homogenized as the pubs. Trying to go back ends up being an epic disaster.
The World’s End completes Edgar Wright’s Cornetto’s Trilogy. Like Shaun of the Dead and Hot Fuzz before, at some point in the first act, the entire plot of the movie is spelled out in a clever and throw away fashion. The movie stands on its own, but there are a lot of little inside jokes for die-hard fans of the trilogy. Right now it’s the one that I think I like the most. Granted that may be because Wallflower got me feeling a big like Gary King.
I honestly wanted to write this without reference to my own stand up….but my latest album “nowadays” is largely about being present and not dwelling on the past…or worrying about the future. The first track PROLOGUE literally features time travel to 1988. The second track ALABAMA is about me holding on to a grudge with the entire state of Alabama. HOLD THE DOOR is about me missing a simpler, more polite time. DICK STRAWS is about the perversion of a mall store where I bought heavy metal collectibles as a kid. FOURTEEN is a spontaneous riff about my parents trying to do their best to not raise a foul-mouthed child, but those plans were squashed with the first outside influence. CREEPY COUSIN is about a fortunately avoided sticky situation from when I was a kid. The cover of “nowadays” itself is a visual play on looking back. I’m in a parking lot full of run down ice cream trucks looking away from them and towards the open sky ahead. The trucks show that the epitome of carefree youth isn’t really what you remember.
So while Perks of Being a Wallflower made me miss the “good old days” because it was set during that time…since the writer Stephen Chbosky is just a year and a half older than I am….Simon Pegg (also a year and a half older) and Edgar Wright (two years younger) reminded me that Devo was right.
Maybe you should give the past a slip.
There were a lot of huge popcorn films this year, but my favorites are made up largely of smaller films. For me in order to really enjoy a story I have to care deeply about the characters. While I recognize The Master as a great film it just didn’t click with me. I thought the world was interesting, but it followed my least favorite character in that world….much to the dismay of Jared from the Man in the Movie Hat website. The Master does follow the same theme that makes up my top five favorites though. It’s a story about friendship. So here’s my list.
#5: 21 Jump Street. Yeah, I know. I had so many movies to put in this slot. Moonrise Kingdom, Goon and Frankenweenie could have all easily been here instead. Ultimately the reason I chose 21 Jump Street is because if all four movies were sitting on the shelf and were the only thing I could watch, it’s the one I’d put in the Blu-Ray player. It’s fun and Channing Tatum and Jonah Hill have real chemistry together. You get the feeling that it was just a fun film to make. Nick Offerman has a great scene where he basically goofs on the whole idea of rehashing an idea from twenty years ago. It’s self aware. There are a couple of great cameos that will probably take you by surprise too.
I don’t know or care about hockey at all, but Goon was great. The final scene is cringe worthy. Moonrise Kingdom is your typical quirky Wes Anderson film where every frame is a work of visual art. Frankenweenie had me really caring about an animated character and pleading near the end to just let the film entertain me and not remind me of any life lessons. All three films are ultimately about friendship.
#4 Looper. I’m always a sucker for time travel stories. I’ve worked on the idea on stage about how if I could go back in time to meet with my younger self I don’t think we’d like each other very much. That’s definitely the case here with Looper. Ryan from the aforementioned Man in the Movie Hat website saw this before I did. I sent him my prediction of what I thought it would be about. I was way off. So I went in excited to be surprised…and surprised I was right up to the finale. Maybe it’s not really a movie about friendship as much as it’s about self preservation….but hey…that’s pretty important too. Filmmaker Rian Johnson gets better and better with each project. the fact that he glosses over the mechanics of time travel has been criticized, but it’s just not important to the story. He does a great job of imagining a near future and creates it with a pretty limited budget. Joseph Gordon-Levitt keeps proving himself as an amazing actor. Just look at his range when you compare something like this to Hesher from 2010.
#3 Safety Not Guaranteed. I haven’t been able to get into the whole “mumblecore” thing so I didn’t really have high hopes for this thing starring Mumblecore Lord and Savior Mark Duplass. I was pleasantly surprised. It’s a small story about two people getting to know each other. One of them is either nuts or a time traveler. The story could have easily been a big film, but I think the fact that it stayed small really let you get to know the characters as opposed to inserting unnecessary big action pieces. Mark Duplass is seeking a travel companion to time travel and Aubrey Plaza interviews for the position. It’s a really sweet film. Aubrey Plaza does really nice subtle things with her face that’s proving her as a really good actress. I look forward to seeing her do something completely different in the future.
#2 Django Unchained. I just saw this yesterday and fell in love with it and the leads. Christoph Waltz plays a character so unlike his Hans Landa in Inglorious Basterds…but maybe a little similar in some ways. Jamie Foxx is just plane cool. to borrow from my friend comedian Mikey Mason, Django is Han Solo cool. Samuel L Jackson is almost unrecognizable at the start and plays a role I don’t think I’ve ever seen him play. It’s epic. The music is amazing. It’s poetic. It’s funny at times…particularly the scene where Don Johnson’s posse is dealing with the eye holes in their lynching hoods. The blood and carnage are over the top leaving one of the sets looking like the house from Peter Jackson’s Dead Alive. I loved it and can’t wait for the Blu-Ray….and I’m not really a big Tarantino fan at all. This is definitely my favorite film of his so far. Again, the friendship between King and Django really clicked with me.
#1 Silver Linings Playbook. I saw this last week and loved it. I’ve heard mixed reviews about how it’s all over the place and the ending is trite. I don’t care. I thought the acting was great. I love the way the story telling was frenetic because it matched the characters. The friendship that forms between Bradley Cooper and Jennifer Lawrence was engaging. It’s arguably Lawrence’s first grown up role and she really pulled it off.
Some honorable mentions for me are a horror movie triple threat with The Innkeepers, Silent House and Cabin in the Woods. All three take the scary movie format and twist it to make for interesting films. Silent House is shot as one continuous shot….although not really through the magic of film making. I loved some big pictures too like Hunger Games, Argo and the Dark Knight Rises. Sleepwalk With Me was enjoyable and really captured what it’s like to be a comedian while diving into Mike Birbiglia’s sleep disorder….coincidentally, I’m typing this at a La Quinta Inn…people familiar with Birbiglia’s story should get the significance. I’m on the third floor. Luckily insomnia is my only sleep disorder.
In Bruges is a perfect film in my book so I really had high hopes for Seven Psychopaths. I think my expectations were too high maybe. It’s a fine film, but doesn’t capture was In Bruges did for me. Hmm, In Bruges is another movie about friendship.
I haven’t seen Beasts of the Southern Wild yet, but from everything I hear about it, I have a sneaking suspicion that it will probably end up in my top five. We’ll see. I was a little underwhelmed by Prometheus. I think I just fell victim to all the hype and speculation. The Avengers was fun, but I’m not really a big superhero guy. In fact I missed Spider-man completely and have no intention of seeing it unless it pops up on HBO when I have nothing happening.