So I long ago signed up to receive campaign emails from both Barack Obama and John McCain, and among the interesting tidbits from the latter’s most recent e-blast of financial solicitation, from today: six uses of some version of the word reform, five uses of the word Democrat, and zero uses of the word Republican. All of which further underscores the ridiculousness of McCain’s previous lampooning of Obama as a “celebrity,” given that McCain so clearly fancies himself — both in record and out of political necessity for this election cycle — a brand unto himself. Yes, “R” is the new scarlet letter, and a self-designation to be scrupulously avoided. That is George Bush’s true legacy.
Modest in scope and temperament, Chris Smith’s The Pool serves as a pleasing neorealistic dip for foreign film aficionados who may have somehow been suckered into recently seeing Bangkok Dangerous. Set in Goa, India, the story centers around 18-year-old Venkatesh Chavan (below) and his orphaned 11-year-old friend Jhangir Bhadshah, who have survived their traumatic childhoods, and work at a small hotel and restaurant, respectively, sleeping on mats and making extra money by selling plastic bags at a local market. After an upper-class family moves back into their home — which happens to have a shimmering pool that goes unused — Venkatesh befriends the head of the household (Nana Patekar, the film’s only professional actor), strikes up a friendship with his upstart teenage daughter, Ayesha Mohan, and tries in wayward fashion to point his compass toward a more comfortable way of life.
With its few pantomimed or otherwise casually played “reveals,” The Pool‘s proper drama is reduced to a couple minor-chord arguments. Influenced equally by Vittorio de Sica and Satyajit Ray, writer-director Smith (American Movie, The Yes Men) was inspired to make The Pool after serving as cinematographer on a friend’s Bollywood remake of Romeo & Juliet, and his film is the rare example of an American production that doesn’t overly fetishize its Eastern setting. Working with non-professional actors (Bollywood superstar Patekar being the exception), Smith’s directorial touch is deceptively simple; eschewing close-ups, he crafts a film about simple acts and everyday friendship. The result is a solid work of fuzzy adolescent yearning — when even good advice had to be derided in front of friends — and quiet uplift, free from mawkishness. For more information, click here. (Vitagraph Films, unrated, 95 minutes)
At some point, a couple years from now, in a video store in northeast Missouri, some boomer-aged arthouse cinephile will confuse David Koepp’s Ghost Town with Terry Zwigoff’s 2001 film Ghost World, and rent the former. And they will not be happy.
From Tony Stone, the filmmaker behind Severed Ways: The Norse Invasion of America, comes a great, and chilling, send-up of the Republicans’ bizarre chants of “Drill, baby, drill!” at the recent Republican National Convention. Just a bit overlong, still at only two minutes, it nonetheless packs a nice satiric wallop, courtesy of footage from Body Double, and other flicks. To view before the copyright hounds make their claims, click here.
Per Variety, Ben Affleck is doing the smart thing for his next foray behind the camera. After having wrapped up a role opposite Russell Crowe in the political thriller State of Play, he’s going back to the gritty blue-collar Boston suburbs for The Town, an adaptation of a Chuck Hogan novel, The Prince of Thieves, which Affleck will rewrite, direct and star in for Warner Bros., playing a career thief who becomes smitten by the manager of a bank. The tonal and geographic authenticity of Affleck’s directorial debut, Gone Baby Gone, was one of its strongest selling points, so while at first half-glance this is likely more The Thomas Crown Affair than Out of Sight, that’s not necessarily a bad thing. It’s right in Affleck’s wheelhouse, and thus still a good move, all other variables unseen.