Jul 31, 2011

Crazy, Stupid, Love

Much better than Eat, Pray, Love. Or at least more genuine. This movie by Glenn Ficarra and John Requa (the more bracing I Love You Phillip Morris) is fun and entertaining and has some game performers in it, but in the end I found it unsatisfying. A movie about the complications of wilting, unrequited, budding, painful, and/or loveless love, it starts out by looking into several characters and their love problems, but by the third act it becomes so conventional and contrived it seems to contradict its own thesis. You can't spend most of a movie saying that love is complicated, that love comes and goes, that it hurts so much it is "for assholes", and then give the audience the usual theory of "the one" and the "soulmate" (a concept I loathe). It's sweet, but a total letdown. It's also untrue. Some people are lucky to think they found "the one", others are content with being with the closest thing to "the one" they'll ever find, others think they've found "the one" and then are disappointed when it becomes "the none". This movie is fun as long as it shows how hard love is. Divorce is horrible, unrequited love is painful, fear of loving is the pits. But its treacly, over-staged, ridiculous ending does it a huge disservice, and Ficarra and Glenn, who are capable of great mischief -- these are the pair who wrote Bad Santa -- seem oddly restrained by all the well-meaning romance.
Steve Carrell does his usual effective turn as a clueless everyman who is kind of bland, passive aggressive and deeply wounded by his impeding divorce. He's funny and affecting. There were hordes of women at last night's show and they all let out a collective gasp of awe and wonder when Ryan Gosling took his shirt off. There is a bedroom scene in which the camera makes love to his torso, a nice change from the usual fixations of the male gaze. Gosling, excellent actor that he is, plays his lothario character straight and makes him totally believable. A bit of a cad, but a charming one at that. Of course every woman that lays eyes on him is going to follow him home (get in line).
Of the women in this movie, the one who impressed me the most is the lovely and funny Analeigh Tipton, whose teenage love pangs for Carrell are both funny, embarrassing and very touching. She does the flustered adolescent really well. Emma Stone is the closest we have today to a Rosalind Russell type, a smart firecracker. I just wish she had the confidence to mug a little less. She has a beautiful, expressive face, no need to scrunch it at all times. Julianne Moore brings her quasi-hysteric touch to Carrell's ex-wife. She's pretty good, but maybe someone less high-strung would have been better. Marisa Tomei is good, but rather broad, in her role as a recovering alcoholic teacher and jilted woman. In general, the gals seem to be working much harder than the guys.
Crazy, Stupid, Love is sharper, and more realistic than most Hollywood romantic comedies nowadays, but this bar has been set very low for ages.

Jul 26, 2011

Sarah's Key

The Holocaust Film Studios, aka The Weinstein Company, bring us yet another movie on the topic. This one, I must say in some disagreement with the ornery review from the NY Times, is not as grotesquely offensive as Life Is Beautiful or The Boy in The Striped Pajamas (just the trailer offended me). It is at times powerful, at times corny. But it is effective. 
Sarah's Key is a Holocaust movie with a twist. In this case it's the French government, not the Nazis, who are the epic villains. The focus is on the deportation to concentration camps of 76,000 French Jews by the French government in enthusiastic solidarity with the Nazis.
This is a twist that works. At this point, the sight of sadistic but stylish Nazis barking in German at all times has become a cliché. But sadistic French flics? The paragons of enlightened reason rounding up their own citoyens with less pity than they afford cattle and sending them to their deaths? This is nouveau in a country revered by its legacy of democratic ideals, liberté fraternité egalité, etc.
This French movie, directed by Gilles Pacquet-Brenner, is based on a bestselling novel by Tatiana de Rosnay, and it has the contrivances of such. I bet it's the Weinsteins candidate as the French entry for the foreign film Oscar.  It's not good enough to be Oscar material, but stranger things have happened (i.e Life Is Beautiful). A clown in a concentration camp: give me a break.
Kristin Scott Thomas plays Julia Jarmond, an American journalist who is married to a French architect and lives in Paris. Scott Thomas is one of the three actresses who currently speak both English and French without an accent. They could have gotten Julie Delpy, but maybe Scott Thomas is more of a marquee name. Charlotte Rampling is the third, but she is long in the tooth for the part. Scott Thomas doesn't even try to imitate an American accent, but since she's such a classy actress, one doesn't care. Julia works for some implausible invented magazine run by expats, which is the weakest and less believable part of the movie. The clumsy, expository scenes consist of three bad actors and Scott Thomas gamely trying to rescue them from total failure. The present is interwoven with scenes of the Starzynski family, emigres from Eastern Europe, who are taken from their apartment in the Marais, now chic as hell, but in those days a predominantly Jewish neighborhood, like the ancient Lower East Side.
In the Summer of 1942, over 12,000 Parisian Jews were violently rounded up by the French police and put in a velodrome to swelter, starve and fear for five days (today the site houses the Ministry of the Interior), in an action that Julia describes to her young, ignorant cohorts, as ten thousand times worse that the Superdome after Katrina. The 10 year-old Sarah Starzynski, the impressive Melusine Mayance, a tiny dynamo with great presence, hides her little brother in a closet as she and her parents are rounded up by the French police. Then she has to live with the consciousness of her decision: did she save him or did she doom him? The story of this family, even if fictionalized, is very similar to thousands of stories that happened in reality. The scenes of deportation are strong and emotionally harrowing. Once again, one wonders how this could happen in the modern century, in the supposedly civilized continent, only 70 years ago.
The review in the NYT complains that the weaving back and forth between past and present looks demurely away from the horror, but I was relieved to have been spared the most morbid parts. Gilles-Pacquet is unsparing in the wrenching emotional reality of the characters, which has a stronger effect than a regurgitation of the images of mass dehumanization we all know all too well. The focus on Sarah and her family make the historical reality more traumatic.
Julia investigates the provenance of the apartment her family is moving into at the Marais, which turns out to be the Starzynski's home. Julie has marital problems of her own, and she is furious with her husband's family for what she assumes was their complicity. Her story did not bother me because it is complicated. She is a crusader for the truth but her obsession with the story takes a toll on her personal life. I know this sounds like the biggest cliche, but somehow I bought it. Perhaps it's the dignified, quiet resolve of this actress that makes it believable.
I'm sure there were a lot of nasty people like the wife of the concierge of the building, who was happy to give Jews away and get the keys back. Or like the woman who screams to the Jews that they had it coming. There were also many French citizens who fought the Nazis and actively saved Jews, like the peasant family in the movie, led by the always wonderful Niels Arestrup, who doesn't want trouble but cannot but be moved to help a child in distress.
Still, the ending of Sarah's Key is a bit of a cop out when it turns out that the family she married into was actually on the right side of things. They "didn't know" they were occupying the home of deported Jews, and they felt guilt and shame for many years after that. It would have been more interesting, if bleaker, to confront a family who did know, and looked the other way, or maybe even profited from the Jews' ordeal.
Fact is, after its defeat, Vichy France collaborated with the Nazis, to its everlasting shame. It took the French government until 1995 to recognize this, apologize and make some restitution. Now there are plaques all over Paris pointing to the buildings, kindergartens, schools and businesses that French Jews were expelled from. Of the 76,000 French Jews sent to the Nazi camps, only 2000 survived. However, 250,000 Jews survived in France, by their wits and with the help of some of their fellow countrymen. As opposed to Germany, where there is much hand wringing about the Nazi past, there are not many French movies (considering how prolific their film industry is) that deal with this dark hour.
Still, as Holocaust movies go, even in its maudlin present moments, Sarah's Key struck me as being slightly a cut above the typical Holocaust kitsch. It explores the burden of being Jewish and the burden of complicity, and even if it has a reassuring ending, it is more complex and less trivial than some of the other Holo-corn out there.

On DVD: Dog Day Afternoon

Warning: You are about to read an unfettered, crazy mad rave about this movie, which I believe is a moral duty to see. There are spoilers ahead and I don't care.

As yesterday was the day gay marriage laws took effect in New York, what better tribute than this American masterpiece by Sidney Lumet, which is about everything: the Vietnam War, social injustice, powerlessness, sexual and racial politics, prejudice, love, loyalty and crowd control. This is the greatest movie about everything going wrong, and one of the greatest underdog movies ever.
I had not revisited this movie since I saw it in my teens, when by the end I was utterly bereft and crying like a banshee. Dog Day Afternoon is one of the saddest movies ever made. And it is about a bank robbery. It is very funny, taut and gorgeously well made. Lumet is the closest thing in American cinema to the Italian Neo-Realists. But since this is sort of a heist movie, it has a racing pulse too. Written by Frank Pierson, it is a masterpiece of tone.
Dog Day Afternoon is the quintessential New York movie, breathtaking in its spunk, its chutzpah and its humanity. Probably the best movie about New York, period. Forget about Woody Allen and his romantic, sanitized version of uptown. The opening sequence of Dog Day Afternoon with garbage strewn streets, the masses cooling off in Coney Island, 1970's New York in all its decay, is a true love poem to the grit of this town.
Everybody is incredible in this movie. Lumet was one of the greatest directors of actors. He had a gift for the authentic and watching his movies is like chomping on a great pastrami sandwich at Katz's, so spicy and juicy and satisfying.
The first time I saw it, I was so affected by John Cazale's performance as Sal, that I had forgotten that he barely speaks in the movie. His is one of the greatest silent performances in film. And when he opens his mouth, he is genius:
Sonny: "What country do you want to go to?"
Sal: "Wyoming".
According to Lumet, this was improvised. He claims that he burst out laughing so hard when he heard Cazale say it, that he was afraid he had ruined the take.
Charles Durning, as the police detective, is awesome. Chris Sarandon, as Leon, Sonny's (Al Pacino) "wife", super awesome (whatever happened to him?). The women and the manager at the bank, awesome. 
I love the spicy language, which is not just random, pointless profanity -- Lumet had the ear of a gifted rapper. I love the details: A policeman snickers when Leo is brought in to the command center. After many hours waiting the police munch on food.  The framing of tiny, bathrobed, Leo, hidden behind a policeman as he speaks to Sonny on the phone. The head teller who says matter of factly: "we are having a bank robbery". The girl who chews gum who seems to be thrilled to be part of it all. The way she plays with Sonny's rifle, feeling right at home in the company of the bank robbers. The crowd that cheers Sonny when he performs for them and throws money at them, but boos him and taunts him when they find out he's gay.
Pacino is unbelievable in this movie. If the people who hate him today (you know who you are) want a refresher on why he is one of the greatest American actors ever, they should see him in this.
What a character he creates. Sonny is a bit of a psycho and one of those people who has a knack for stirring up trouble. He is mercurial and somewhat delusional. He's a Vietnam Vet, and married to two people, a chubby loving wife and to Leon, who wants a sex change operation, which is the reason why Sonny robs the bank. But Sonny is like a human grenade of chaos. It's not evil chaos but the chaos of desperation. He has his ideas about justice, and he is not wrong, but he is also somewhat grandiose, goodhearted, but a loose cannon. Pacino is so expressive, he devastates just by using his eyes. He is funny and on fire when he works up the crowd, surprising even himself at their reaction ("Attica! Attica!"), enjoying his moment of glory when he has the police at his feet, for once in his life getting what he wants. But he breaks your heart in the scene where Leon is ungrateful and exhausted with him, and even more when he watches the hostages walk away without even looking at him one last time. You can see it in his eyes when he becomes conscious of the mess he is in. In one look there is an entire reckoning of his crazy, vain mistakes, of all the stupid shit he's done throughout his life. It is astounding.
As he says to his mother "I am a fuckup and an outcast". And so it is. A hero for all fuckups.

Jul 14, 2011


In his documentaries, Errol Morris is fascinated equally by interesting human subjects, the thin line between fact and fiction, and the slippery nature of the truth. Oscar Wilde's dictum, "The truth is rarely pure and never simple", which should be the motto of this country instead of "In God we Trust", is a recurring motif in Morris' films. As opposed to other documentary filmmakers who use the genre to tell "the truth", Morris explores whether the truth exists at all. In his films there is not one truth, there is no objectivity, everything depends on the perspective of the subject and the truth is extraordinarily relative. I think he is a genius.
He has explored serious subjects in excellent documentaries like The Thin Blue Line, in which he so effectively challenged the findings of a murder trial in Texas that the case was reopened and the accused, exonerated; The Fog of War, about Robert McNamara, Standard Operating Procedure, about the photographs of Abu Ghraib and the soldiers who took the fall for them, and, my favorite, Mr. Death: The Rise and Fall of Fred Leuchter, about the guy who invented the lethal injection, who also happens to be a Holocaust denier. Tabloid, his much anticipated latest film, is about a much flimsier, lightweight subject, yet Morris handles it, as usual, with great intelligence. It is still about the nature of truth and the thin line between fact and fiction. And in this case a bit tangentially about the nature of tabloid news, and how they are manufactured, both by the subjects and the press.
Morris unearths the long forgotten story of Joyce McKinney, who, for a brief time in the Seventies, captivated the public with her bizarre amour fou for a Mormon man. Joyce is a charming, vivacious and histrionic raconteuse, a motherlode of Southern eccentricity. I'm not even sure if her there is an official classification for her behavior in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders. People with some of her traits, like narcissism and mythomania, but without her sunny disposition may be classified as sociopaths.
Joyce tells us her version of how she went to London to look for her beloved Mormon fiancee after he vanished from her, according to her, abducted by a Mormon cult. How she did this is what landed her in the tabloids and on the wrong side of the law, and it is such zany, bizarre fun, you'll have to see the film for yourself. Suffice it to say that for the British police what she did could be construed as kidnapping and rape, but to her, in her own words, it was "a honeymoon".
Morris is not interested in the facts of the story. He is interested in the retelling by Joyce and other competing narratives. We also hear from two British tabloid journalists, from a gay ex-Mormon, who explains some of that religion's oddest tenets and from the pilot who flew Joyce to England (Joyce couldn't just fly across the Atlantic like the rest of us; she had to hire a private plane, take a bodyguard and bring recording equipment and a bottle of chloroform).
Once the British press gets word of her exploits, Joyce, a world-class tease, becomes an overnight sensation and enjoys her fifteen minutes, until a competing tabloid, in order to sell more papers, fishes out nasty details about her past. When she realizes she cannot control the narrative anymore, she officially goes nuts (as opposed to being just her bubbly, creative self) and tries to jump out a window. She reminds me of Princess Diana: another gifted manipulator who loved to have the press on her lap, as long as it told the story she wanted to tell, but complained bitterly when she could not control the narrative. The problem with tabloids is that they control the narrative, and people are incredibly naive if they think they can do anything about it. The recent news about the News of The World and the phone hacking tabloid scandal in England could not be a more dramatic reminder of this (and could not have come at a better time for this movie).
Joyce's story is not as tragic as Di's, but it is very sad. She seems to have great reserves of spunk and optimism, and she literally shines now that she is in the spotlight again. There is something touching, almost innocent, about her relationship with the tabloids, in comparison to what goes on today. In our age of reality shows and tabloid news on TV, regular fame-seeking schmoes understand the racket and they enter it willingly and with premeditation. They are already calculating all the ancillary benefits, products, endorsements, and exposure they can get even before they know exactly how they are going to embarrass themselves in front of the entire world. As Sacha Baron Cohen showed in Bruno, mothers are willing to subject their babies to anything as long as they can get them on TV. Joyce is not like that. She is so kooky, she invariably ends up making headlines on the tabloids. In the Eighties she landed there once again, for totally unrelated but equally bizarre reasons, providing this movie with one of the funnier twists I've ever seen in a film. My impression is that she didn't do what she did with the intent to become famous. I believe her when she says she wanted her Mormon lover back. I think she's so crazy that she can't keep her eye on the money ball, unlike other more business-oriented tabloid fodder who parade themselves mercilessly to keep the cash rolling in (Kardashians, Paris Hilton, etc). Joyce gets distracted by her own romantic view of herself and forgets to cash in. What moves her is not greed, but her own self-mythologizing. Fame finds her.
Tabloid is a very entertaining and funny movie, but Joyce's story is very sad. She has been writing a book about her story since it happened forty years ago and it is still a work in progress! This is heartbreaking and somehow heartening at the same time.

Jul 11, 2011


A very timely French thriller by writer/director Lucas Belveaux, this gripping, intelligent film is about Stanislas Graff, a big French industrialist (the excellent Yvan Attal, husband of Charlotte Gainsbourg and my new crush), a major shareholder of a huge conglomerate, who gets kidnapped for money. He has a wife, two young daughters and a dog he adores and he lives in rarefied splendor in Paris. Once he is abducted, the dilemmas of paying the ransom and involving the police or not become entangled with the fact that his behavior prior to the kidnapping is not as pure and perfect as it should be for a man in his position. Sound familiar? He happens to be of those now ubiquitous, seemingly unimpeachable powerful men who tend to have a knack for taking secret risks. Pretty much everybody knows what goes on with him but, as long as their interests are protected, they look the other way.  And so he is eerily and satisfyingly reminiscent of DSK. This movie was made in 2009, long before the DSK case, and I wonder if DSK saw it. In Graff's case, he doesn't do anything illegal. He loses a lot of his own money gambling and he has serial affairs. This is nobody's business until a 50 million euro ransom is demanded. And then everybody all of a sudden has qualms about him. The press pounces, the government winces and frets, the police meddles. We are dealing with the highest sphere of French society where big business is cozily in bed with politics and so this movie is less about the action film mechanics of a kidnapping, but about money, power and entitlement. At first I thought that Hollywood may want to look into the rights, but there's a hitch. Graff is not precisely a good guy. And if they want to make him into one, then they are going to ruin the movie.  I've been crying in the wilderness about my despair and boredom with Hollywood's insistence in Arthurian heroic quests for every single movie, from thrillers to Pixar. Rapt is a perfect demonstration of a gripping thriller with no exaggerated heroics.
Belveaux is an actor as well and that may be why all the actors in this movie are excellent. Attal is incredible. When he is in captivity, one keeps waiting for him to exhibit what we always see in American movies, some amazing ingenuity for escape, or at least some cunning repartee with his captors. But he barely speaks. He is quiet, afraid, and totally obedient. He is realistically doing everything he can, which is to attempt no silly heroics, to preserve his life. For most of the movie, Attal is in non-verbal survival mode and he is transfixing. But later we see his real character, and the transformation is shocking. The movie has a great, controlled chase (no screeching tires, no explosions, no shootouts) a great twist, and while we are looking for culprits and conspiracies, Rapt is less interested in this than it is on the way people who only care about money, handle it, value it, negotiate it and gamble it. Rapt is clean, methodical and crisp: a very elegant fable about values and about the intoxicating power of money.

Jul 4, 2011

Larry Crowne: I'll Tell You Why It Bombed

These days, $13 million in opening weekend means bombing, when movies like Transformers swallow every movie screen in the world and make $162 million domestically only. But one look at the trailer of Larry Crowne, another movie I do not intend to see, and you can tell they must be dreaming. Tom Hanks has not aged well. He is charming and gifted and a good comedian, but he has become some sort of lifeless icon of American toothlessness (some sort of downgraded James Stewart) and he may be a huge movie star but he is not and never has been or will be a romantic leading man. To be one of those, it helps not to have a double chin and to have a modicum of sexual frisson about you. Fail on both counts. Plus, anybody who played Forrest Gump needs to be immediately disqualified to be a leading man, ever.
As for Miss Roberts, the only time I've ever seen her have chemistry with someone other than herself was with George Clooney in one of the Ocean's movies, don't ask me which. Perhaps with Richard Gere in Pretty Woman. Or with Clive Owen in Deception. Or in Eat Pray Love with Javier Bardem, who has chemistry with a wall. Point is, give her someone handsome enough and watch her blossom. Who can blame her? Yet there is something brittle about her. It's as if she is pretty on the outside and rather thorny on the inside. This is not necessarily bad. She's good when playing edgy roles. But she is not an effortless charmer and no amount of marketing fireworks can convince anybody that she and Hanks have any chemistry whatsoever. Then the storyline sounds like homework: A guy loses his job at some sort of Wal-Mart and he goes back to school, falls in love with the teacher? Boy, I'm sitting on the edge of my toilet seat.
This may work on an indy film scale with medium sized stars, not mega watt constellations like Hanks and Roberts.

Eric Rohmer's Le Rayon Vert

The unlikely heroine of this lovely, wise, delicate romantic comedy by Eric Rohmer is Delphine, a young single Parisian woman whose vacation plans are suddenly cancelled and now she is alone and with no Summer plans, which in Paris amounts to a slow and painful death. Parisians would rather be guillotined at the Bastille than remain in the city with the hordes of tourists and tout le monde away on vacances.
Delphine is nursing a broken heart (a certain Jean-Pierre, who haunts the movie like a ghost) and she is terrified of spending the Summer alone. Soon we learn that despite her understandable panic, she doggedly insists on being lonely. Delphine is a bit difficult, ornery, a bit passive aggressive. She thinks she is open minded and easy going, but she is a bit of a pill. Anywhere she goes, whether alone or with friends who try to cheer her up, whether the countryside, the beach or the mountains, she's shrouded by a fine mist of misery. There are many wonderful scenes of Delphine in her cloudy bubble, surrounded by people. She cries frequently and prefers to take lonely walks. She doesn't go sailing because it makes her seasick, she doesn't eat meat, she doesn't pluck wildflowers; she tries very hard to enjoy herself but is so uncomfortable in her own skin that every time she goes somewhere she tends to cut the time short and is back in Paris long before the holiday is over.
Rohmer trains his camera on the leisurely conversations that reveal her to her friends and to us, and little by little perhaps to herself as well. His movies are famous for their garrulity, but the conversations are natural and unrehearsed, they have the rhythms and the texture they have in life. She comes in contact with different people who shed light on her painful status and sometimes make it even sadder, as it is usually when one has the blues. One roots for her, almost goading her to go to the Alps, join her friends at the beach, go out at night, have some fun. We feel as desperate as a concerned mother or a good friend as we watch her retreat farther into her stubborn ways under Rohmer's wise and gentle hand. This is about profound sadness, yet Rohmer finds a lot of sweet and knowing comedy in Delphine's testiness.
When she finally changes, when our patience and sympathy are almost at a breaking point (out of true concern, not out of contempt), it is a complete and dramatic turnaround, yet it takes place as she sits quietly in a train station. This is equivalent to someone in another movie climbing Everest or discovering a new planet. That despite her nature she is willing to give it a go is hugely touching and feels like an enormous victory.
Enjoying the pleasures of an Eric Rohmer film feels like spending a lazy Summer afternoon shooting the breeze, chattering with friends about someone. But it also feels deeply true. Rohmer creates characters so real that you feel their pain in your own skin. You know people like Delphine. People who in their unassuming way bring their own dark, neurotic cloud to a sunny day. You've been there too, not only nursing a breakup, pretending there is still hope, but feeling horribly uncomfortable around people who seem to be having the most relaxed and happy time. Miserable in company and miserable alone. Who hasn't been there?
The humor is biting but very delicate, and very sympathetic. There is no cruelty in this movie except Delphine's own harshness to herself. The tone of the movie reminds me a bit of Chekhov's cranky, miserable characters whose hearts ache with unrequited love and self-loathing. Rohmer leads Delphine through a quiet, sweetly funny and profound epiphany and as difficult as she is, she is a huge heroine for having the guts to confront herself.

Jul 3, 2011

WTF With The Tree of Life

The movie is a bit oblique, for sure, but I don't understand people who demand their money back or find it so impossible to digest that Salon magazine has to print a guide to it. You don't have to like it, you may find it pretentious, but try for a second to experience a movie that, contrary to what you are used to, does not masticate everything for you in a formula that you already know by heart so that you don't have to actually use your brain for two hours.
The Tree of Life is not pretentious in an intellectual way. It does not demand a whole lot of brain activity. Sure, it does not feel like it has a three act structure, and there is very little dialogue, and there are no robots destroying mankind, or women desperately looking for males, or heroes conquering something or other. It is a personal meditation on faith and nature. It requires that you surrender to its images, to the feelings it evokes and let the flood of visuals and moods wash over you. I think it is meant more as an emotional and aesthetic experience than an intellectual one. It is not pretentious like say Godard's films are intellectually pretentious. If there are any references in it, biblical, literary or otherwise, you don't lose the power of the experience if you don't know them. It's not the kind of movie who makes you feel like a fool by being erudite and pedantic or by name dropping cultural references. If you approach it with an open mind, and more, an open heart, you may get a lot of beauty out of it.
So stop the whining. Be truly adventurous and experience a different kind of film.
It's not gonna kill you.

Review of a Movie I Ain't Gonna See: Transformers 3

What I find most offensive of all is not the millions of dollars spent in morally debased, deliberately stupid and neuron-killing entertainments such as this one, or that seriously good actors like John Turturro and Frances McDormand sully themselves by eating from this trough (I never begrudge actors their job choices, but there should be a limit). What I find incomprehensible is who decided that Shia LeBoeuf is a movie star. The man looks like a surly and maggot encrusted version of the Pillsbury Doughboy, with the difference that the corporate mascot has more charisma. LeBoeuf is not only a blight to look at, but has no discernible talent. Why would anyone believe that women want to be with him? Or that he is heroic? That Steven Spielberg/Michael Bay are enamored of him is unfathomable to me, and my theory is that sometimes  directors prefer toothless leading men because they offer no real competition in the quién es más macho department, or they confuse "everyman" with what my friend Rebeca used to call tofu ice cream, meaning people of extreme blandness (remember Mark Hamill in Star Wars?). The only thing that made Star Wars palatable to me was Harrison Ford, for he seemed to be the only sentient being with personality in the entire franchise (except perhaps for Yoda).
Spencer Tracy, Gary Cooper, Cary Grant, Humphrey Bogart, William Holden, Harrison Ford, George Clooney, Shia LeBoeuf?  If anything goes to show how far we have fallen in Hollywood's rejection of urbane, sophisticated, mature, sexy manhood, he has to be it; he and tofu ice creams like Robert Pattinson, Ryan Reynolds and that blob of ground meat with eyes called Taylor Lautner. Are Hollywood machers afraid of bona fide movie stars with a soul and an edge, charisma and charm, because the 15 years old at the mall can't relate? It's the end of the world and you know it.
Of course not even a resurrected William Holden would make me want to sit through a Michael Bay movie, which leads me to my second point. Computer graphics as deployed by Hollywood today remind me of the Nazi Party. Technically admirable, extraordinarily effective and impressive to look at, perhaps, but soul crushing in their heartlessness.
Hollywood seems to be following the wrong instinct (they are laughing all the way to the bank, and if they were to read this sentence they would be crying with laughter, but still). We humans have a deep, primal and unique instinct for storytelling, but movies like Transformers are not telling stories any more. They are so debased in their quest for profit supremacy, in their appalling conquest of every movie screen known to man, that they are not even formulas anymore. They are as much storytelling as reading a supermarket list. They are just crunching numbers. You might as well look at the box office receipts and get your movie adventure hard-on right there.