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Monday Movies Is a Jew, and Our Friend Is Jewish Enough for Us

The Break-Up. It’s very clear why these two are falling apart, but we never get to see what bound Jennifer Aniston and Vince Vaughn’s relationship in the first place. There’s a meet-cute at a baseball game followed by a title sequence followed by the beginning of the end.  Although fratty Chicago guys do possess an ineffable quality that somehow endears them to worldly, put-together Chicago dolls, so maybe this was a subtle exercise in anthropological observation. The drama follows, as it often does, from the two leads’ failure to have an open conversation about what they want. At the climax of the film, they get around to the conversation, and it’s like a breath of fresh air — the third act is lively and human, though not making up for the first eighty-five minutes’ airlessness.

  • Magic Moment: A wordless sequence after the first big fight. She goes directly to the bedroom. He waits, then makes a bed in the living room. Everything follows from there.
  • Screenwriting tips: The break-up depends on the two of them never having a heart-to-heart. There aren’t many subplots either, so the movie divides the second act in sequences, roughly Rules of Engagement (in which they divide up friends and space in the condo), Real Estate (in which they begin to sell their condo, starting a ticking clock), and Sex (in which Aniston starts flaunting a mostly fake social life in order to inspire the return of Vaughn’s affections.
  • Pot Pourri: Vincent D’Onofrio and Vince Vaughn are the most believable screen brothers ever. Also D’Onofrio really is a good actor — he fills out his character much more than anyone else, in ways that don’t have any bearing on the story.

The Infidel. A spirited, broad farce. A Muslim man’s son begs him to become a more devout Muslim so that his girlfriend’s extremist-religious family will allow him to wed her. Then he learns that he was adopted from Jewish birth parents. British Iranian comic Omid Djalili carries the movie perfectly, with yeoman’s work from Richard Schiff as a Jewish-American hack driver in London. Very good schtick, some schmalz.

  • Magic Moment: The dismay on Djalili’s face as he watches an intolerant cleric on television, followed by the elation as he changes the station to find a beloved New Romantic music video.
  • Screenwriting tips: Strong goals and obstacles. You could imagine a decent-enough movie with good jokes that was motivated by a man with a Muslim family learning about his Jewish origin, but Djalili has two goals–he has to be the best Muslim possible for his son, and the best Jew possible so that a nursing home rabbi will permit him to visit his ailing birth father.
  • Pot Pourri: Pleased with myself for getting an offhand reference to “the Knowledge.” Amit Shah is wonderful as the lovebird son, and delivers the line “Next time I need a dose of middle-aged Muslim misogyny I’ll call Hanif Kureishi.” Not nearly as delightfully vicious as Four Lions, but very good.

January 9, 2012 - Posted by | Monday Movies | ,


  1. D’Onofrio is terrific, from Kubrick and Mystic Pizza on


    1/02/12 – Whisper of the Heart – Kondo 1995 (Ghibli; Miyazaki screenplay) 9/10
    Personal growth in a 14-yr-old girl; gorgeous animation of Tama suburb of Tokyo
    1/03/12 – One Million Yen and the Nigamushi Woman – Tanada Yuki – 2008 7/10
    personal growth in a 21-yr-old woman
    1/04/12 – No Blood Relation – Naruse 1932 6/10
    personal growth in a rich expatriate actress
    1/06/12 – Priest – Stewart 2010
    personal growth in a superninja vampire-slaughtering cleric
    1/07/12 – Ore wa matteru ze – Kurahara 1957 5/10
    competent b noir with flashes or art; I don’t get this guy; the m-f leads are terrific
    Sucker Punch – Snyder 2011 8/10
    trolled at the the Mineshaft, unless they delete it. If this was the kind of movie I watched, I would have hundreds of Japanese ass-kicking warrior vurgin movies to compare it to, but it is not the kind of thing I watch.
    1/08/12 – Hana Yori Mo Naho – Koreeda 2006 9/10

    So much to say about the Koreeda. This is a very light comedy with pathos and message about poor folk in Shogunate Edo, viciously mocking bushido, samurai, and the “47 Ronin,” and proffering a new ethos. Koreeda explicitly said he was making the opposite of the Yoji Yamada Samurai Trilogy, and is also alluding to and commenting on the classic Yamanaka of the 30s. Possibly also 1970 Kurosawa, but I haven’t seen those.

    Hana also shows the advantage of a studio, Shochiku. The hovels are not pretty, but beautiful and fascinating, they looked lived in and somewhat comfortable. Shochiku, as is their style, put a famous pop-star into the lead to sell the movie, but he is adequate, and helped by a terrific cast of professional character actors. With an inspired director willing to compromise with the crew, craft can become fine art. So a little more commercial than Koreeda’s usual, and also a little more accessible.

    Comment by bob mcmanus | January 9, 2012

  2. I dig this format, Josh. We had free Showtime this weekend, so we recorded a bunch of movies they were showing. If memory serves, though, the only movie we watched was on our DVR from back when HBO did a free weekend last June, Date Night. I will say it was almost exactly what I expected. That meant I remember chuckling here and there, but it has been almost completely washed from memory.

    Comment by Matt in Toledo | January 9, 2012

  3. We watched The Godfather (first time for The Girlfriend). One aspect of the greatness of this film, I think, is the fact that it avoids the big temptation of novel adaptations, which is to cram everything from the novel into the book, resulting in multiple sequences that are basically incomprehensible other than as gestures toward the novel. Perhaps that’s part of the freedom that comes from adapting a pulp novel.

    Comment by Adam Kotsko | January 9, 2012

  4. Sooo…#1 is crap and #2 is watchable?

    While not a movie, this week I am enjoying Dead Set very much.

    Comment by Josh Malbin | January 10, 2012

  5. #1 didn’t have the entirely bad-faith aspect that I would call crap, but that may be my natural generosity talking. #2 is rather enjoyable.

    Comment by Josh K-sky | January 10, 2012

  6. I finally saw Drive. It would have been excellent for me if it didn’t constantly make me think that it was unlikely to have a guy moving from apartment to apartment after occasional night jobs but staying in the same day job for years. This also made it e.g. hard for me to accept that the main villain would meet his enemy in a one-to-one. So for me it was just very good.

    Comment by Guido Nius | January 11, 2012

  7. Arrrgggh.

    I just spend some time at a movie blog, and I am infuriated by the Orientalism with which so many approach Ozu, that mysterious Easterner of the incomprehensible images. Bordwell’s formalism is largely to blame.

    It ain’t that complicated, although it grows complex over thirty years. An Autumn Afternoon starts with a long held take of four huge industrial smokestacks, and my reviewers, and Bordwell, say well isn’t that pretty, but it doesn’t mean anything. It is so simple it is almost a cliche. Smokestacks = phallic = male domination. This is explicit in 1930’s Tokyo Chorus, when in an argument between a husband and wife about working in a noodle shop, she points to a clothesline with clothes and says no, and he points to a smokestack and says yes. Then they go to work. After that movie he removed the pointing, and Ozu made his exploration of patriarchy ever more subtle and tragic.

    Brand new book by Adam Mars-Jones “Noriko Smiling” tries to return the politics to Ozu

    Comment by bob mcmanus | January 14, 2012

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