Film Reviews 

Wednesday, Aug 16 2006

ACCEPTED Or, Ferris Bueller gets his B.A. In this amiable but undernourished campus comedy — the directorial debut of screenwriter Steve Pink (High Fidelity, Grosse Pointe Blank) — industrious high-school underachiever Bartleby Gaines (Justin Long) finds himself rejected from every college under the sun. So he starts his own, the South Harmon Institute of Technology, complete with facilities (an abandoned mental hospital), faculty (a belligerent former shoe salesman) and a fully functional Web site where admission is, quite literally, a click away. Soon, S.H.I.T. becomes a mecca for all the huddled masses turned away by the legitimate university system, with Bartleby presiding over a curriculum that includes classes on skateboarding and “walking around doing nothing.” The joke, of course, is that the “fake” college is no worse — and in some ways better — than the high-ticket institute of higher learning down the road with its stuck-up faculty, inflexible course requirements and humiliating frat-hazing rituals. But like the brunt of current Hollywood comedies (with the notable exception of Talladega Nights), Accepted is an inspired premise in search of a movie: What starts out as a scabrous takedown of academic bureaucracy ends up yet another modestly rousing underdog story about the little slacker that could, his suitably beautiful object of desire (Blake Lively), her preening jock boyfriend and, yes, even a grandstanding courtroom finale. The cheat sheet in Pink’s loose-leaf binder is Long, who’s great fun to watch as he moves through the film with the shit-eating confidence of the kid voted most likely to succeed .?.?. at grand larceny. (Citywide) (Scott Foundas)

BOYS SHORTS 4 Did you know that most whores do not kiss? Or that many of them are working out childhood issues of abuse or abandonment? Maybe this nugget will shock you: If you take a hustler home and are dumb enough to fall asleep before he leaves, he may well clean out your wallet before bailing. Take your notepad when you check out the latest entry in the queer-themed Boys Shorts series because the collective works are a fount of nonrevelations. The tie that binds them all could be summed up as “Young Hustler, Big City,” as we’re taken on a world tour of the sadness and seediness that defines the existences of our various protagonists (and their tricks) — from the volatile, self-destructive (but very cute) young Algerian in Paris to the blond high school outcast/men’s room ho in New Zealand; from the dark-haired British twink trying to prevent his younger brother from following in his cum-stained footsteps to the Santa Monica Boulevard crackhead with the awesome ass and the skills to pay the bills. Though the eye candy is consistently nice, the shorts travel through and wrap up in tediously familiar territory. Like the jaded-before-their-time boys in the film, you’ve seen this all before. (Sunset 5) (Ernest Hardy)

GO CROSSING THE BRIDGE: THE SOUND OF ISTANBUL Given the state of the world, it’s hard not to feel wistful about the title of German-Turkish filmmaker Fatih Akin’s tour of the vibrant Istanbul music scene. But this sensational documentary, which follows German avant-garde musician Alexander Hacke around the city with his mobile recording studio, crosses all kinds of bridges — between East and West, indigenous Kurdish and Romany minorities and the Turkish majority, American and Arab rap — to show how, like sex, music is a great integrator of otherwise mutually hostile cultures. In and around the dives of a former slum that now seethes with cosmopolitan influence, Hacke and Akin find a new generation of geographically mobile musicians who grew up on American pop and now embrace both that and the Turkish heritage of their elders. Many are street musicians, some of them using highly politicized, express-train rap lyrics that reject the hate-laced lyrics of gangsta rap: One group tries to foster breakdancing as an alternative to the hard drugs that only recently invaded the city’s projects. The music is gorgeous, and Akin’s feverish camera shows an exile’s love of the beautiful, crumbling but energized city as he pokes around its crevices, looking for recombinations of old and new, here and there. Where Akin’s vitally angry 2004 feature Head-On pushed the limits of confrontation and self-destruction, Crossing the Bridge seeks out reconciliation and harmony. If only. (Music Hall) (Ella Taylor)

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 GO FACTOTUM The Norwegian director Bent Hamer (Kitchen Stories) has made a beautiful film from Charles Bukowski’s second novel — the one in which Bukowski surrogate Henry Chinanski (Matt Dillon) watches life pass by through the bottom of an empty bottle while partaking of a series of odd jobs, odder misadventures and a desperate relationship with a rudderless fellow traveler (Lili Taylor). Adapted by Hamer and producer Jim Stark and shot in Minnesota in bleak industrial hues, it’s the closest any film has come, outside of the Bukowski-scripted Barfly, to distilling the author’s world of lonely barrooms at noon, $500 cars, and desperate men and women who cling to each other less out of love than out of terror of loneliness. But this is also an acidly funny work, even if the humor is that of a man who drinks to stave off the pain and madness of sobriety. In his finest performance since Drugstore Cowboy, Dillon plays Chinanski with funereal grandiosity, breathing in every particle of his self-destructiveness like a long, slow drag from a cigarette, moving across the screen like a dinosaur trapped in tar. If it is true, as Bukowski reasoned, that “what matters most is how well you walk through the fire,” Dillon does so with the supreme confidence of the incombustible. (Sunset 5; NuWilshire; Playhouse 7) (Scott Foundas)

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