Monday, April 23, 2012

Jiro Dreams of Sushi (B-)

It's often difficult to distinguish the boundary line between genius and obsession, as the two are often linked so tightly they're almost identical. Intellectual genius in a certain subject matter might originate from childhood infatuation, the psychological necessity for absolute perfection, the inextinguishable desire to be the greatest at perhaps any craft, or any circumstance or hypothetical situation. Unless born with an abnormally high IQ, such high intelligence in nearly any profession requires a maximum effort, which can only be achieved with the drive of obsession. This slightly unfortunate necessary stepping stone for greatness works favorably for the artist's work, but can also internally deteriorate its host. The iconic Italian painter Michelangelo was so fixated by his art, he knowingly ignored any attempt of self-maintenance, bathing for example, in favor of continuing perfecting his craft. Speculation states his death may've came as result.

David Gelb's new documentary Jiro Dreams of Sushi examines the daily life of Jiro Ono; an 85 year old man widely regarded as the world's greatest sushi chef. Still propitiating his esteemed restaurant in his elder years, Jiro, along with his staff, cook and examine the food with absolute attention to detail. A prime example of the neurotic care Jiro puts into the sushi would be with his octopus, which must be messaged an hour before slaughter to receive maximum flavor. A true culinary genius, Jiro states that during childhood he would have grand dreamlike visions of unique sushi, which inspired him to sharpen his cooking skills to the point where sushi dominated his entire life; and still does. He is incredibly strict with his staff, harshly critiquing their best efforts for multiple months or years, and places intense pressure on his older children to remain sushi chefs, claiming surrendering the job will tarnish the Ono legacy. He is a man more driven by obsession with sushi perfectionism than anything else, and it's this, rather than understanding how Jiro creates his masterful meals, that is the documentary's greatest asset. However, rather portraying this culinary icon as the tragic prisoner of his own neurosis, Gelb is more content on showing us the sushi's development and inevitable consumption. It's a severe disappointment which transforms the documentary from Hertzogian character study to a visually dazzling, yet slightly emotionally hallow, "Food Channel" TV special.

Sunday, April 15, 2012

Brake (B-)

An infinite number of films, no matter the quality of their opening two thirds, crumble when attempting to reach a conclusion. Whether it be an imaginative action-comedy succumbing to generic violence during its final shootout (21 Jump Street), a romantic drama willing to twist reasonability and character logic for the titular lovers to be coupled by the end (Chico and Rita), or a romantic comedy inexplicably turning into a mediocre melodrama for, well, I'm not necessarily sure (Friends with Kids), no movie is immune to a final third collapse. The three films referenced under parentheses, for example, were each movies I greatly enjoyed until cases of third act self immolation. Because of the severe lack of subtlety in this introduction, it may be easy to conclude that the subject of this review fell victim to the "conclusion collapse", and you'd be completely right. This is the review of a decent, well acted thriller, which was going full throttle entertainment wise until the screenplay hit the brakes for a truly terrible culmination. Though that may've perhaps been the worst pun ever featured on the site, the ending of the film was probably a little worse. Before moving on, let that fact sink in a bit.

Saturday, April 14, 2012

The Lorax (C-)

Usually it takes very little for a film to stir up controversy. By depicting a religious figure in any form, uproar from at least one "morally righteous" association is inevitable, but these disputes can also take root in seemingly trivial aspects. For example, this weekend's Farrelly Brother comedy update, The Three Stooges, received extreme scorn by the Catholic League for the throw-off visual gag of an attractive nun in a mildly revealing bathing suit. Does the film itself treat Catholicism with slander and negativity? No, but this tiny joke draws opinionated quarrels from certain groups all the same. Illumination Studios' animated followup to their 2010 surprise blockbuster Despicable Me, the Dr. Seuss adaptation, The Lorax, gained notoriety in right-wing circles for its anti-corporate, pro-environmental message. Fox News, along with partners in conservative media, raised controlled hell when the children's movie was released; claiming the film was an effort by liberal Hollywood to subtly "brainwash" the right-wing youth into obtaining moral viewpoints of those on the far left. Though I respect the choices of those who felt so strongly against the film, perhaps they should've waited for an opportunity with a more liberal stance to rally the troops in opposition toward. In general, The Lorax is brightly colored generic fluff, and nothing more.

Sunday, April 1, 2012

"High School Sucks" Double Feature: 21 Jump Street (B) and Detachment (A)

High school is an unrelenting cesspool of violated laws and unambitious teens, with each individual unwittingly dooming themselves to a lifetime of monotonous minimum wage employment due to their inability to realize education is given with the purpose of providing students the information necessary to succeed in life. Squandering efficient resources, along with the implied support of the educators, in favor of partaking in pointless and rarely legal activities, students disrespect teachers, abuse drugs, dress far beyond the point of promiscuous, disregard education in general, and verbally and physically harass each other frequently enough so that the random cruelty of bullying becomes something popular, let alone socially acceptable. It's a terrifyingly depressing place where a teenager's dreams go to die, and no student notices until it's too late to reverse what's already happened. This grim landscape is high school, but not under my own personal definition. To me, it's a rather enjoyable place, where you can socialize and learn in whatever measure you choose: By no reason needed to be described as a crevice of broken dreams. However, I am not the director of the two high school set subjects of this double feature: 21 Jump Street and Detachment.