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Filling in the Blanks: Youth in Revolt and The Imaginarium of Dr. Parnassus

January 12, 2010

If you listened to our current podcast, you may have noticed that I mysteriously vanished some 15 or so minutes in. I’m not sure myself what, precisely, transpired. I can only chalk it up to the pressures of moving and Smirnoff red label.

Still, I saw two of the movies we reviewed, and have posted my thoughts on them, as well as two others I saw over the week, below.


Not too much to say about this. I enjoyed the first part a great deal and admired Pixar’s ability to anthropomorphize a pair of binoculars. The wide-angle shots of devastated earth were impressive, and, yeah, I cringed when he ran over the cockroach.

The second part dragged some, yeah, there were a lot of robots, but in it the story seemed to take a back seat to Pixar’s delighting in showing us what they can do. They already had me on earth, no need to go even further out on the space station. And it bugged me to no end that the plant had absolutely no reason for being saved: All it was was proof that earth can once again sustain life. So…why do you need it anymore? *SPOILER* I know they put it in the big plant-display-thingy, and that takes the ship home, but they already had the coordinates to earth–because Eve got there. They could have ditched the plant, plug in the coordinates, and gotten there anyway.

The Vampire Lovers

Never seen a Hammer horror film, and, after this, don’t have much interest in seeing another anytime soon. Still, I like Christopher “Count Dooku” Lee and Peter “Grand Moff Tarkin” Cushing, who appears in this film, and I also like lesbian vampires, so it seemed like a natural choice to watch. Released in 1970 and based on the late-19th-Century British lesbian-vampire novel (a saucy genre if I ever read one) Carmilla, The Vampire Lovers is the first in a series of three lesbian vampire films that sought to capitalize on the film industry’s relaxed standards of gore, brought about by some of the (at least then) hyper-violent films of the 1960s, such as Bonnie and Clyde and The Wild Bunch. However, Hammer also wanted to introduce a more erotic aspect to their films, and equally pressed for a good deal of sexuality–or at least that was, I understand their intent.

There’s some gore–the movie opens with some fellow decapitating a winsomely blonde vampiress–and some sexuality in the scene where Carmilla, the lead villainess, has a mild make-out session with one of her female victims, but the best is their attempt at nudity. Now you would think that in a film where we see women both decapitated and snogged, there’d be a few obligatorily awesome breast shots. Right? Like in one scene where Carmilla chases after a milkmaid in the forest and the maid’s coat gets caught on a branch–Yeah, I can see where this is going, I thought, hoping the other flora she encountered would be equally lecherous, but no–she just trips. Or maybe some girl would flail around in vampiric ecstasy, whipping her top off any old way, like in Bram Stoker’s Dracula. Or they’d do things with a crucifix that’d make even the wolfman blush. But no. The only boob shot we get is when the doctor pulls down one victim’s top to check her heart with his stethoscope. Really Hammer horror? Really? It has all the sensuousness of a freshman health class, and to make matters worse, the moment you get your peek, it cuts back to Peter Cushing stony face, quietly judging you.

Youth in Revolt

I’m pretty indifferent to Michael Cera. I won’t go see a movie simply because he’s in it, and I won’t not see one he’s in simply because he is.

That said, the two movies of his I’ve seen—Superbad and Youth in Revolt—I’ve enjoyed. And, as far as Youth goes, I was pretty surprised to see him carry it, and I gather the studio felt something similar as they not only have him playing two roles, but they also stack the supporting cast.

Steve Buscemi, as his father, was a welcome sight, and though he didn’t have much to work with outside of getting beaten up, it was interesting to see him play a fatherly role, or at least any character with a set of responsibilities. He’s still being Steve Buscemi, and I didn’t feel that he had much care for his son, but…

Fred Willard, who I think it’s safe to say has now taken over Hollywood, I’m getting tired of. I like Fred Willard, but he’s taken over the same spot that Eugene Levy occupied for the last 10 years. Both are very funny people, Levy’s SCTV stuff was excellent and Willard, when he’s working with the Christopher Guest crowd, is hilarious. Unfortunately, they’re frequently given unfunny roles. Best to leave them to their own devices. So Willard seems like an afterthought, as though the producers wanted to find some way to squeeze him in. That goes double for Zach Galifanakas, who has yet to do anything funny (and yes, I’ve seen The Hangover and Bored to Death).

The biggest jaw-dropper is M. Emmet Walsh as Cera’s girlfriend’s cantankerous father. He looks oooolllddd, but he still has that Walshian sense of menace about him—even when he’s under the influence of hallucinogenic drugs.

And Ray Liotta reprises his role as the corrupt cop (last seen in Observe and Report).

There’s a lot of good laughs in Youth—the “I want to tickle your belly button…from the inside” is among the best—and at 90 minutes, I think it’s just the right length. The only real criticism I have is that a lot of plot twists I felt were really contrived. The scene where Cera hijacks his mother’s trailer, intending to burn it, then chickening out, but having it somewhat accidentally burn anyway felt pretty forced, the same for ex-boyfriend “Trent”’s appearance, and the series of events that conspire to deliver us Michael Cera in a dress is a lot of setup for a joke that was never funny.

All in all, a nice, light comedy. Michael Cera doesn’t stray from what we’ve come to expect of him I guess. Youth in Revolt seems to be trying very hard to be funny, and, in many instances, it succeeds.


The Imaginarium of Dr. Parnassus

In contrast to Youth, which I felt was very watchable, I found Parnassus unbelievably boring. I wasn’t interested in Dr. Parnassus; I wasn’t interested in Heath-Depp-Law-Farrel; Verne Troyer’s character was agonizing to watch; and Lily Cole was nice to look at, but meh. The two things I did enjoy were Tom Waits as the devil and the Imaginarium itself, and whenever they made an appearance, the flick had my full attention.

I don’t know how Waits pulled it off, but for someone who looks like Ron Perlman, he brought a good deal of charm to his role, and the imagery and colors of the Imaginarium were a delight and a surprisingly welcome indulgence.

That said, this movie could easily have cut at least a half hour and probably more like 45 minutes. For the first hour, I had no idea what was going on and very little interest. I think the major flaw in Parnassus is that none of its characters really have a story—Parnassus wants to keep the devil from taking his daughter, but he spends the entirety of the film mired in self-pity. Ledgery-John-Jude-Colin I guess does a lot, but since you don’t know why he’s doing it until near the end of the film, I didn’t much care.

I think some comparisons to Avatar are in order, as both films are gunning for a rich visual experience, but where Avatar worked was that its story was easy to follow and served pretty much to set up the next stunning sequence. Parnassus is just confusing. What’s worse is that it takes forever for them to get to the Imaginarium, so you’re left just watching a bunch of dull people either moaning or jumping around like baboons.



3 Responses to “ Filling in the Blanks: Youth in Revolt and The Imaginarium of Dr. Parnassus ”

  1. Hollywood Hood on January 12, 2010 at 2:40 pm

    atta boy Nat – owning that brownout and then delivering the goods when able — quite a feat…I am with you on Youth and expected more (which is possibly an experience shaper) … glad you re-surfaced.

  2. Pancake on January 12, 2010 at 3:23 pm

    Excellent – these things happen to the best of us. I actually really liked Dr. Parnassus, I thought the visuals were stunning (I love the old theatrical sets) and dug the creepiness of it all. We should discuss over le skype!

  3. anncine on January 12, 2010 at 7:32 pm

    I have not seen any of these movies as of yet. I have, however, been talking and laughing one minute and woken up on my living room floor hours later…confused. Vodka.