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The Bottom Shelf #122

08.23.2007
100%

Small town life. It's supposed to be simple, untroubled and boring. Most of the time it is. But when cinema comes and gets its hands on small town life, it becomes anything but boring. Here are a couple of good examples.

WILBY WONDERFUL (2004)
Directed by: Daniel MacIvor
Starring: Sandra Oh, Ellen Page

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There's this part in the movie SERENITY that always throws me. It's when Chiwetel Ejiofor opens his mouth and begins speaking with a thick British accent. The same thing happens whenever I watch a movie with Sandra Oh, especially here in a movie where she's speaking with a Canadian accent (yes, you guys have them). While I understand that Oh is a native Canadian and that the observations I just made paint me as some kind of racist, my point is that appearances are often the only thing that movies go on. So having someone go against "type" even if that's a stereotypical or racial profiling one, is refreshing and welcomed by me. I love it when movies don't play into what the mainstream tells them to do.

And WILBY WONDERFUL is anything but mainstream. About 15 minutes into the movie I was wondering if it was going to be just another one of those small town yarns where boring people get to have their boring lives detailed and we as the mainstream-eschewing audience are supposed to eat it up. The movie's description that I'd read made it out to be some kind of hilarious comedy and I'd yet to laugh. Starting with a man who is in the middle of trying to commit suicide but keeps getting interrupted by ignorant bystanders, it still wasn't slapstickish in the least. However, as time went past and I got used to the fact that it wasn't a comedy I was able to appreciate the character development and the movie's unwillingness to follow stereotypes.

Oh is phenomenal in this. In fact, the range on this woman never ceases to amaze me. When the laughs do come (and there are a few black ones) they come from her, the strict and uptight personality. The heartwarming moments come from the town slut, a character who is usually played out for the humour. The proclamations of homosexuality come openly and proudly from the most macho male character in the film, someone who seems to accept that things are not always what they seem and that people would be a whole lot happier if they just quietly dealt with that fact. If you've got patience to invest in this movie, it WILL pay off. As a whole it is a testament to what can be accomplished if we stop and accept that things really are not always as they seem. I'm glad that it was Oh who taught me "aboot" that.

Favorite Scene:

When Oh is racing around the house in an attempt to "clean up" before the mayor and his wife arrive to look it over.

Favorite Line:

"That woman wouldn't know class if it crawled out of her ass and started speaking French."

Trivia Tidbit:

Actors Paul Gross and Callum Keith Rennie also both starred on the television show "Due South" together, where Gross hinted at possible homoerotic possibilities, a topic hit upon in this movie.

See if you liked:

GARDEN STATE, SIDEWAYS, HARD CANDY

DALTRY CALHOUN (2005)
Directed by: Katrina Holden Bronson
Starring: Johnny Knoxville, Elizabeth Banks

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-- click here to rent this movie at NetFlix.com --

I think I've gotten to the point in my life where I can look back at being in my early teenaged years and have a good chuckle about how ugly and awkward I was. Hell, I think most of the people on this planet can do this, save for a few of those jerks who grew up never having anything awkward or ugly about them. I'm more than double the age of the young girl (well, the character) who is featured in this movie and while I doubt that girls in that age group will appreciate this movie any, I can watch it with that pained understanding. DALTRY CALHOUN is as awkward as any 14 year old girl, stumbling and bumbling and brimming with heart and good intentions. All those things that make us girls remember our youth fondly and make all the boys remember what it was like to discover the art of chasing our awkward asses around.

Johnny Knoxville doesn't get a whole lot of credit. Attached to the JACKASS series and all the idiocy involved with that (not saying I don't like it, I can appreciate idiocy just as much as the next beer-swilling trailer trash inhabitant), people overlook the fact that the man has the capacity to dig deep. The movie starts off with him looking like just another aimless, jobless and shiftless Southern bum, one who knocked up his teenaged girlfriend and is being kicked out of his house by his homicidal aunt. Calhoun resurfaces years later as a businessman, taking the knowledge he acquired while growing marijuana to come up with a high profitable hi-bred of grass, popularly used on golf courses. When mother and child show up on his doorstep again, rather than act scared and gun-shy, Calhoun tries to embrace them back into his life with as much grace as a 14 year old would possess.

I think the filmmakers were aware that Knoxville wasn't going to be a big draw as a serious actor and instead tried to pawn off the movie being more about his musically inclined offspring. This is where the movie does fail. Knoxville is excellent as a man humbled, looking to redeem himself for his past wrongs. Also included in the cast is the sensational Juliette Lewis. While I've always been torn between finding her to be obnoxious or pretentious, I might have to reevaluate that decision and assign it to her drug years. Since she's grow up and stopped being the awkward 14 year old girl that she always seemed to play, she now can turn in performances like this one as the widow of the sporting goods store owner who wants to love Calhoun as well as his daughter. The scene where Banks walks into the store to talk to Lewis is a great one. Again, further proof that when we grow up, our tendencies to do the right (and well-acted) thing increase tenfold.

Favorite Scene:

When Doyle comes to June's side to comfort her after her mother has died.

Favorite Line:

"I guess no Bambi then..."

Trivia Tidbit:

This is the first film for writer/director Bronson, in the behind the scene sense. Her resume includes a few acting notes in some B movies.

See if you liked:

GRAND THEFT PARSONS, CRAZY IN ALABAMA, THE MAN IN THE MOON

I wish I could say that I planned out these little blurbs in advance. Most of the time I just sit down and whatever I think of, I type out. Then there are afternoons like this where the sun is shining and I should be frolicking amongst the flowers or some other visceral experience like that. And all I can think about is cracking open another Vanilla Coke (thank Awesome for bringing that back, Coke Gods!) and doing a whole lot of nothing indoors. Because whoever said doing nothing wasn't doing something?

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5:27PM on 08/23/2007
Daltry Calhoun was shot in my extremely small town. It was probably the most exciting thing to happen in my town in a long time.
Daltry Calhoun was shot in my extremely small town. It was probably the most exciting thing to happen in my town in a long time.
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