Tuesday, January 04, 2005

TV: The Late Late Show With Craig Ferguson

The Scottish comedian broadened cultural horizons in his first official night as talk show host. In a country that doesn’t play baseball, “getting to second base” is known as “upstairs outsidies.”

DVD: Indie Film Catch-Up

I believe in seeing movies on the big screen. But let’s face it: some days you can’t be bothered to leave the house. The sad truth is I’m far more likely to blow off independent films. Intimate character studies won’t suffer as much on home video, I tell myself.

I know. I’m a bad cineaste.

But I make it a point to catch up with the smaller movies as soon as possible. Herewith, quick takes on some of 2004’s indie stalwarts that I watched over the holidays. None would have cracked my best list, but a few came close.

MARIA FULL OF GRACE. In following a young Colombian girl who becomes a drug mule in order to have a future, Joshua Marston pares the narrative to the bone. This approach occasionally threatens to drain the movie of nuance, but for the most part transforms it into a powerful fable. The film’s tag line was “Based on a million true stories.” Marston has managed to sketch out the dynamic common to each one. The early scenes of everyday girlhood in Colombia are particularly strong. As Maria, the luminous Catalina Sandino Moreno keeps the film honest.

BAADASSSSS. Mario van Peebles plays his father Melvin in this recounting of the production of Melvin’s groundbreaking SWEET SWEETBACK’S BAADASSSSS SONG. I’m a sucker for behind-the-scenes stories, and this film delivers. Mario wisely keeps the focus on his family; he doesn’t shy away from showing what a difficult man his father could be. The movie gets the ‘70s in a way that a lot of films about the period don’t. It also has the happiest ending involving the Black Panthers that I’ve ever seen.

GARDEN STATE. Zach Braff has a true director’s eye. His debut feature is filled with striking images and bits of whimsy. It also has the faults common to movies written by actors: characters with larded-on quirks, an unfocused story. There’s a lot going on here, but the film seems to suffer from the same condition plaguing its main character. It swims through a medicated haze, struggling to feel. The movie was one of last summer’s success stories, and the Online Film Critics Society just nominated it for Best Picture alongside SIDEWAYS and BEFORE SUNSET. But I didn’t get it. Maybe it’s a generational thing.

Miscellaneous: Link

Or maybe not. After all, I liked NAPOLEON DYNAMITE. From Jim Romenesko’s Obscure Store comes this story about the movie’s huge following among teenagers.