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Languid Gloom, by Dan Heaton

22 Apr

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It’s become commonplace for documentary filmmakers to sharpen their production values with hopes of connecting with a larger audience. Popular films like Searching for Sugar Man or Finding Vivian Maier build clean narratives that feel more like fun detective stories than real-life depictions. It’s only after the curtains have dropped that the questions come to mind about their presentations. It’s easy to poke holes in their storytelling devices, but those directors found ways to connect with an audience. The opposite end of the spectrum holds stories with content that sounds fascinating but doesn’t translate so well on screen. Clever visual effects and upbeat music are nowhere to be found. The filmmakers’ hearts are in the right place, but the subject matter just sits there on the screen. There are intriguing themes present, yet they stay in the background due to a lack of creativity in the delivery method.

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Walking in Place, by Dan Heaton

18 Mar

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The subgenre of films about grown men struggling with maturity is tricky because it risks losing the audience. Judd Apatow bypassed the obstacles through broad humor and gags, yet even that approach grew tired. It’s more challenging when filmmakers play the material straight. Will we want to spend 90 minutes with these guys? There needs to be a reason to keep watching. An actor like Chris Eigeman has the unique blend of dry wit and charm to make us follow any of his characters. That’s a rare combination. Writer/directors David Grodsky and Danny Jacobs (Humboldt County) are searching for a similar mix in Growing Up and Other Lies. The four friends at its center aren’t very good at being adults. They’re struggling with women, skipping out on jobs, and just enjoy messing with people. They aren’t sociopaths and are fairly normal, but the journey only works if we want to follow them.

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