Saint Laurent

(France 2015)

Ah, the dark side of genius. Saint Laurent is packed with eye candy and has an awful going on visually—but sadly, that’s all it has going for it. A line from Saint Laurent (Gaspard Ulliel) himself sums up the problem concisely: “I like bodies without souls”—the soul of Saint Laurent being somewhere else. Not here in this film.

I was bored, which is a crime considering the real-life material director Bertrand Bonelli had to work with. Some of his choices are puzzling—the temporal chopping effect going back and forth through time is more an annoyance than anything, and I’m at a loss as to why he devotes so much time to seemingly trivial events like a board meeting in New York and a drug trip in an apartment. Who gives a shit, and why would they? Ulliel as young Saint Laurent is charming, full frontal and otherwise; but not even he can elevate this pedestrian slice of an interesting life.

(AMC River East) D

Spirited Away [Sen to Chihiro no Kamikakushi] [千と千尋の神隠し]

(USA/Japan 2001)

Fandango’s short and sweet synopsis says all you need to know about the plot here: “Lost in a forest, a 10-year-old girl meets animals, ghosts, and weird creatures.” Weird, indeed. A twisted story with some grotesque imagery sure to stay with me forever, like Chihiro’s parents turning into pigs, that bizarre nose and wart on Yubaba, the coal-toting soot things, the stink ghost, and No Face. Charming in the way that only Japanimation is, I enjoyed this one, to a point. It lost me about two thirds in, and reminded me why I am not into epic fantasies or science fiction.

Hayao Miyazaki tells a good story and gives us really strong characters in Spirited Away, but I don’t need to see it again. Ever.

(Gene Siskel Film Center) C+

I Am Big Bird: the Carroll Spinney Story

(USA 2014)

I Am Big Bird: the Carroll Spinney Story delivered what it promised: the life story of Carroll Spinney, who became an unlikely icon as Big Bird (not to mention Oscar the grouch). We get tidbits about his artsy mother and crabby father; his fascination with puppetry as a child; his chance meeting with Jim Henson; and nearly quitting Sesame Street during its first season because he didn’t fit in with the cast. We get archival footage and a healthy dose of nostalgia without going overboard. We also get new information; I never knew Spinney was supposed to be a passenger on the ill-fated Challenger mission in 1986, or that he has an understudy. It all adds up to a winner.

Despite everything right with this documentary, however, I left wanting more from it. I don’t know what I expected. Maybe more gossip? Dirt? A drug problem or behind-the-scenes sex? Something. I know, this is Sesame Street we’re talking about, so I accept my disappointment in the lack of any sleaze as my issue. Considering its subject matter, though, I Am Big Bird could have been more fun.

(Gene Siskel Film Center) C

Welcome to Me

(USA 2014)

What happens when a middle-aged bipolar lady (Kristen Wiig) on disability wins $89M in the California lottery and buys her own talk show about herself? One would expect hilarity to ensue, but the opposite happens: Alice Klieg makes a bigger, sadder mess out of things. Money really does change everything. Can she repair the damage?

I love Kristen Wiig, but she can go overboard on stupid. That’s what happened here: Welcome to Me is stupid but not all that funny. While the subject matter is darker, the ending is neat and predictable. It tries to make a grand point about mental illness—I suspect—but the effort falls flat. Here’s to the next project.

One big positive: the supporting cast. James Marsden and Wes Bentley as the scheming Ruskin brothers and a surprise appearance by Tim Robbins as Alice’s therapist are nice touches. Joan Cusack as Dawn, the cunty producer annoyed by Alice from the outset, is by far the best character—and probably the best performance here.

According to her bio on IMDB, director Shira Piven is the older sister of actor Jeremy.

(Music Box) C


(USA 2015)

A slice from the life of feisty millionaire fabric lady, NYC socialite, and longtime fashion maven Iris Apfel and her century-old husband, Carl. Crammed with quips and witticisms, observations, and tips on life and fashion, Iris is a much sunnier endeavor than the Maysles’ better-known Grey Gardens. Those bangles, baubles, and beads, oy!

I found Iris the person entertaining and mostly dead-on with her observations about life, but slightly annoying. She shares a birthday with Aaron, Michael Jackson, and John McCain, if that says anything. In any event, she was fun to watch, but Iris ended just before I couldn’t stomach any more.

(AMC River East) C+

Dior and I

(USA 2014)

Frédéric Tchang’s peek behind closed doors at the preparation of designer Raf Simons’ debut for Dior. Oh yeah, and he only has eight weeks to create his collection. Will he pull it off?

Though Dior and I (thankfully) lacks the craziness of Project Runway, we still get to see the inner workings, stress, and low key drama surrounding Simons as he strives to maintain the integrity of the brand while adding his own individual point of view to it. Tchang juxtaposes archival footage of Mr. Dior himself, effectively serving as an homage without coming off as cheesy. And that flower mansion is fucking awesome!

(AMC River East) B-

While We’re Young

(USA 2014)

Noah Baumbach’s snooze of a film about a middle-aged couple (Ben Stiller and Naomi Watts) whose staid life is seemingly revived by an effervescent, young hipster couple (Adam Driver and Amanda Seyfried). While We’re Young relies heavily on angst and clichés, and glides into an unfortunately trite comparison of GenXers vs. Millennials. What a fucking yawn. Yes, there are a few laughs and a nice cameo by Beastie Boy Adam Horowitz, but still—I was bored with most of this disappointing piece of meh. I should’ve brought a book. Now get off my lawn.

(AMC River East) D-