24.February.2012: The weekend’s big release is Wanderlust, David Wain’s follow-up to Role Models and Wet Hot American Summer. “Shopping between the prefab identity options available to them—squeezed, stressed urban professionalism; suburban McMansion soul death; rural counterculture opting out—George and Linda (Paul Rudd and Jennifer Aniston) are looking to find a social model somewhere in America where they can be true to themselves and each other,” writes Nick Pinkerton for The Los Angeles Weekly. “And though Wanderlust finally laughs off the real discomforting conclusion that it’s edging toward, it’s gut-bustingly funny when mocking their hopeless options.” Manohla Dargis is similarly measured writing for The New York Times: “Working with the editors David Moritz and Robert Nassau, Mr. Wain gives this [opening] passage the kind of snap that brings to mind screwball films of the Depression era. The Great Recession, it’s evident, has started to inspire its own comedies, so it’s too bad that Linda and George arrive at Elysium as quickly as they do.”
Kevin Epps’s sequel to Straight Outta Hunter’s Point, his hard look at the long-troubled San Francisco neighborhood, opens at SF’s Roxie Theater tonight with Epps in person. Cheryl Eddy has the story at The San Francisco Bay Guardian. “Straight Outta Hunters Point opened up a lot of opportunities up for me, in terms of traveling abroad and being exposed to experiences that I would never have had [otherwise],” Epps tells Eddy, “But I was always mindful of, you know, this is my passport: telling the [community’s] stories, that’s my passport to the world. So though my life has changed a little bit, I’ve never been too far away from what’s going on in the community.
Frisco-based Noir City moves up to Seattle tonight for a week of the dark stuff. The Stranger’s Charles Mudede is looking forward to next Wednesday’s Samuel Fuller double-bill, and specifically Underworld U.S.A.: “If we imagine noir cinema as a city, U.S.A. is located in the heart of its downtown area.” In case you missed it, Fandor published a two-part essay (here and here) on the making of Fritz Lang’s Scarlet Street by the Czar of Noir himself, Eddie Muller.
Yesterday the Film Society of Lincoln Center and the Museum of Modern Art announced the full lineup for the 41st New Directors/New Films program running from March 21–April 1. The series opens with Where Do We Go Now?, Lebanese director Nadine Labaki’s sophomore effort after her fine comedy Caramel. Stanley Kubrick’s first feature, Fear and Desire, presumably would have qualified when it first came out in 1953, and that’s all the reason we need. Also featured in the program are Rotterdam FIPRESCI-winning Neighboring Sounds and Pablo Giorgelli’s Cannes breakout, Las Acacias.
Looking for something a little more involved than another Oscar puff piece this weekend? You probably won’t do much better than Tom McCormack’s sustained critique of conservative pundit Ross Douthat’s film writing for The National Review. While acknowledging Douthat’s surprising gifts as a critic, McCormack paints Douthat as a kind of anti-Robin Wood in his ideological interpretations: “It’s not entirely surprising that the conservative Douthat prefers right-wing simplifications to left-wing ones, or that he praises the clichés of James Bond movies but can’t stand those of Green Zone. What is surprising is the way Douthat positions himself…He portrays himself as the enemy of simplification as such, of cliché as such. We know he’s not. If he believes such narrative strategies to be dishonest, and there are certainly critics and theorists who agree, then his criticism as a whole comes very close to saying that conservatives have a right to be dishonest and liberals don’t.”