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Hello! In today’s WaPo, Ann Hornaday tackles the topic of extreme realism on our big screens—-what with Blue Valentine and Alamar representing “yet two more films we’re seeing more of these days, which prefer vernacular that isn’t the high-polish, confected characterizations and neat three-act structures of mainstream Hollywood. Instead, they follow the far messier and mundane contours of real life.” Nevermind the awkward construction that starts off that quote! I’m more troubled by Hornaday’s conflation of mumblecore films (which are real-ish, but heightened, and funny) and works of neo-neorealism, which more frequently are you’d-swear-they’re-real dramas. They’re both styles steeped in realism; they also have nothing to do with each other, except for tiny budgets. Call them whatever you want (“indie” won’t suffice, though), but the movies we identify as “mumblecore” tend to be about middle-class and well-off white people, while “neo-neorealism” films usually center on the working poor. Lena Dunham’s characters don’t have much to do with Ramin Bahrani’s.
All that, plus A.O. Scott wrote about neo-neorealism two years ago, and I’m not sure that Hornaday’s piece adds much more than the names of films that have come out in the interim.
One more nitpick. Hornaday writes: “In Bahrani’s ‘Man Push Cart,’ the film simply follows a Pakistani food cart vendor through the canyons of Manhattan over the course of a night, with no discernible plot twists or payoff.” Actually, the film includes flashbacks and takes place over what I take to be several days or weeks, and there’s a huge plot development at the end, plus a classical (which is to say Sisyphean, so perhaps anti-, but classical nonetheless) payoff.
OK! Some quick links:
I frickin’ love this Lisa de Moraes lede: “Just days after thousands of red-winged blackbirds dropped dead in Arkansas, more than 200 journalists were simultaneously lobotomized by Oprah Winfrey at television’s Winter Press Tour 2011.”
Ryan Kearney primes you for the year in film festivals.