jason schwartzman

IN THEATERS (SF) – “My Entire High School…”

rsz_1032542-gkids-releases-new-clip-my-entire-high-school-sinking-seaMy Entire High School Sinking Into the Sea (2017; Dir.: Dash Shaw)

GRADE: C+

By Daniel Barnes

*Now playing at the Landmark Embarcadero Center Cinemas in San Francisco and the Landmark Shattuck in Berkeley.

Jason Schwartzman voices another Max Fischer-esque high school fabulist in this singular but strangely aggravating animated feature, an odd blend of crude hand-drawn animation and sophisticated Photoshop.  Like the 34 year-old debut feature director, the protagonist is named Dash Shaw, a high school sophomore and fledgling journalist prone to printing fantasy as fact.  The lengthy title should be taken literally – after Dash uncovers a real conspiracy involving fudged environmental impact reports, the entire high school sure enough sinks into the sea.  Dash and his nerdy friends scramble up the floors to safety, while their classmates and teachers die horrible deaths all around them.  It’s meant to play like the sketchbook fantasies of a 15 year-old outcast, and the characterizations of high school archetypes are Daria-level broad (the lunch lady knows kung fu, etc.), but it feels more like an extended, not funny version of a Community gimmick episode.  My Entire High School… is deadpan to a fault, with monotone line readings that feel unnaturally disconnected, a tone that lacks command and a story that feels feckless and bored.  Better things are surely ahead for Shaw, so just file this one  under J for “juvenilia.”

The Barnesyard’s Now Playing Power Rankings (July 10-16, 2015)

index* = SF Bay Area only

BUMPED

1) Mad Max: Fury Road
*2) Wild Tales
*3) A Poem is a Naked Person
4) Love & Mercy
5) Amy
*6) Ex Machina
7) Jurassic World

MIXED-POSITIVE

8) Magic Mike XXL
9) I’ll See You in My Dreams
*10) The Wolfpack

indexMIXED-NEGATIVE

*11) The Overnight
12) Terminator: Genisys

DUMPED

13) Insidious: Chapter 3
14) Avengers: Age of Ultron
15) Me and Earl and the Dying Girl
16) Testament of Youth

HAVEN’T SEEN

*About Elly
*Batkid Begins
Dope
index*Dying to Know: Ram Dass…
*Felt
Furious 7
The Gallows
Home
*Infinitely Polar Bear
Inside Out
*A Little Chaos
Max
Minions
Paul Blart: Mall Cop 2
Pitch Perfect 2
San Andreas
Self/Less
Spy
Ted 2
*Woman in Gold

These rankings are updated every Thursday, and they reflect the opinion of Daniel Barnes only. All films playing in Sacramento area theaters are listed, as well as most films playing exclusively in the S.F. Bay Area. Underlined films are on my 2015 catchup list.

IN THEATERS (SF) – “Listen Up Philip”

imagesListen Up Philip (2014; Dir.: Alex Ross Perry)

GRADE: A-

By Daniel Barnes

*Opening today at the Roxie Theatre in San Francisco and the Rialto Cinemas Elmwood in Berkeley.

With the neophyte novelist Philip Lewis Friedman, a self-loathing narcissist driven to new heights of anhedonia and boarish behavior by his extremely minor notability, writer-director Alex Ross Perry has created a neurotic asshole for the ages.  He makes Ben Stiller of Greenberg look like the mensch neighbor from The Apartment.  Philip is a character so rich and complex and loathsome and identifiable (and, I would assume, gut-level personal), that you feel Perry could return to him periodically over the years, like a Rabbit Angstrom or a Nathan Zuckerman.  Perry made his bones with the 2011 festival sleeper The Color Wheel, a film he shot on 16mm black-and-white for about eleven cents, yet one that arrived with a fully formed artistic sensibility and a unique mastery of language.  Listen Up Philip takes that mastery to another level, even as Perry uses it to create a canyon of disconnect between words and meaning, between self-image and self.  There is a lot of talk about misunderstanding and misdirection here, and a constant sense that rage, lust, admiration, and energy are all pointed at the wrong person.  Even a sense of self is ill-defined and illusory – “Read an article about me…I’m ‘self-deprecating’,” deadpans a writer who later commits suicide.  As Philip, Jason Schwartzman is flat-out brilliant, a hilarious and scabrous and strangely touching revelation of airborne misery and brittleness, and he delivers some of the most amazing and unexpected line readings I’ve ever heard.  I could write an entire essay about the way that Schwartzman pronounces “shooting guns,” as though a gun that shoots was a particular type of gun different from all other guns.  And his delivery of the line “Here’s a piece of paper with some staples in it,” a curt summation of Philip’s lack of interest in the feelings and desires of other people, made me laugh/wince harder than any other movie moment this year.