Wednesday, 3 December 2008

Step Brothers

I'm actually writing this brief posting due to a pretty dumb article that House Next Door posted (as they are normally a very good site this one was a bit of a shocker) but it was about Judd Apatow (Guy who made Knocked up and 40 year old Virgin, and producer of many other films) and Adam McKay, who made three brilliant film with Will Ferrell, which were Anchorman, Tallageda Nights and Step Brothers.

Now I know when writing about film, sometimes the urge to be pretentious can get the better of you (or to out-pretentious the film) but this article

is self-serious to an absurd degree.

Its very old-fashioned as writing, seems to be suggesting (boringly) that the films by Apatow are better as they are more realistic, try to bring in realistic emotions and follow-ups to situations. Which I don't think they do. Now I like the films well enough but they are rude sitcoms, with more swearing and a few more pot-holes in plot but always end up back at a conclusion that feels obvious in the set-up. Which is fine. As entertainments they work well, are better crafted than most. But Apatow has only directed two films, so he is probably still developing but he hasn't really shown uniqueness as a director as of yet. His stand-up film looks promising though, a bit odd in idea.

As a producer he has been much more interesting, working on The Garry Shandling Show and producing the Adam McKay films. These are broad, absurdist films. No-one is quite human but there are stunning little details and bits of dialogue throughout that throw the films off into their own universe. They films are always taking on the vibe of their protagonists so these obsessions seem to dominate the look and mood of the films, characters always structured broadly around the main part, to up the absurdity, whether it be a fantasy news room in Anchorman or the broad white-trash family. Structurally they don't correspond the the typical three-act structures the way Apatow's do, while broad have people saying and believing things that are as odd as anything in life. (We live in a world where George Bush was elected twice, where religious maniacs of all faiths kill for obscure reason, where people hurt others for the most stupid reasons. A sitcom-type fairy-tale of happy endings and understanding is bogus). Any time McKay's films get near a typical narrative structure its to do an insane parody that will go on and on, with odd dialogue (my favourite "I'm going to pleasure myself tonight to the thought of you punching him in the face"), pushing the limits of convention. Which makes the strange motivations feel real and funny, if you keep your eyes open for how insane the world is. Its very much constructing what's going on, making it feel broad but still threatening, be as far as you can get away with and still be funded. Its very much in keeping with what 1940 and 50's directors were doing with noir, romances, westerns, taking a conventional genre and making it personal with odd character streaks, motivations, don't try and be perfect, see what happens. Step Brothers is a far more naked parody and twisted working on delayed maturity than the realistic take of other films of its type, of growing up, even though that's not what these types ever want, then playing on that instinct. Step Brothers lets all the strangeness creep to the surface, actually builds from honesty about oddity. Its the healthy side of culture. (and you know, seeing two grown men kicking the hell out of a group of annoying kids is the perfect way to end a film)

So this is my very base contrast and reaction to what I thought of as a very stiff, unimaginative and regressive article.

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