by Adriane Hoff
Drew Barrymore makes her directoral debut in “Whip It”, a story of a small town high school girl who becomes a roller derby star. Ellen Page stars as Bliss Cavendar, or Babe Ruthless, the roller derby rookie, who takes to skates like a fish to water.
I first heard about this movie a couple years back from a friend who skates with the Los Angeles Derby Dolls. My interest in this movie was instantly piqued, as I used to play roller derby. I was excited to see what Drew Barrymore’s take on the sport would be. Needless to say, I was at the theater opening night with a most critical eye. After all, the sport I love must be paid some justice!
As far as the roller derby element of the movie, Barrymore did a pretty decent job accurately portraying the sport. She actually had all her actresses skate themselves in the movie. Score one for Drew! The hits, blocks, and heads against the bank track are all the real deal.
I felt that Barrymore really captured the dedication to the sport that most skaters have, and as I found out during my time playing, that roller derby is not a hobby. It consumes every part of your life. “Rink-rash” and black eyes are seen as honorable battle wounds. Barrymore makes the viewer realize how vital this sport is to these women. The scene that portrays this best is when Iron Maven, played by Juliette Lewis, corners Bliss when she beings to see her as a threat. Maven says to Bliss that she didn’t start skating until her early 30s and it finally took her that long to find something she was good at. She threatened to reveal to the league that Bliss was too young to skate on the league if she didn’t let Maven reap the fruit of her work.
Barrymore does a fantastic job adding a human element to all the roller derby girls. People have their perceptions of what a roller derby girl must be. Some people think they must all be inked-up, promiscuous alcoholics. What I loved about this movie is that very wrong stereotype is shattered. We see the loving mother in Maggie Mayhem; the relentlessly competitive woman in Iron Maven; the blue collar woman, whose spirit remains strong, in Smashley Simpson; and the young woman with more potential than you can shake a barbecued pig snout at, in Bliss.
Behind the awesome, butt-kicking action in the movie, there is a great coming of age story. We first meet Bliss as she is dragged into the beauty pageant circuit by her mother. Bliss is at her wit’s end with living her life for other people when she stumbles across a flyer for the Lonestar Rollergirls. She drags her best friend, Pash (played by Arrested Development’s Alia Shawkat), to the bout and becomes enamored with the entire experience. Bliss is recruited by Maggie Mayhem (played by Kristen Wiig) and manages to convince the league members that she’s 22 and legally old enough to “bout”.
Barrymore captures the spirit of being a frustrated youth who is hungry to create a life of her own. The dynamics between Bliss and her best friend, boyfriend, parents, and peers are portrayed in such a way that the viewer can empathize. Personally, I was able to relate to many of the same struggles portrayed in this movie. The relationship between Bliss and Pash even made me get sentimental and reminded me of my relationship with my best friend.
For her first crack behind the camera, Drew Barrymore does alright. “Whip It” is the next best thing to a Derby Dolls bout.
Cut and Reel says : REEL it on DVD
As we make our way into the preseason of Oscar-film-contention madness, we find a truly remarkable gem and possibly an early front-runner for the coveted Best Picture award in Quentin Tarantino’s Inglourious Basterds. Whether Tarantino takes home the coveted eight and a half pound man next spring will remain to be seen, but what is clearly evident after moments into the film is that this is an entirely new, more sophisticated, grown-up (if you will) version of his signature cinematic style that has further solidified his indelible mark in celluloid history.
Inglourious Basterds is a soon-to-be classic war film that mystifies audiences with brilliant acting, writing, social commentary, and a rendering of history and war as only Tarantino himself could deliver. The film, set during the German occupation of France prior to the D-Day liberation offensive, immediately captures audiences with an immersing, atmospheric exposition that is spellbinding, exciting, and utterly enjoyable to watch. Gone is the kitsch appeal and slick, self-aware, impossibly-hip dialogue that Tarantino has trademarked with films like Reservoir Dogs, Pulp Fiction, and the Kill Bill movies. In fact, besides the opening title card that denotes the first “chapter” of the film, and his signature tromploi camera angles, one would hardly know he or she was watching one of his films.
Enter the villain–or more realistically the unexpected antihero of all antiheroes–S.S. Col. Hans Landa played brilliantly, enigmatically, and acutely by scene-stealing Austrian actor, Christoph Waltz (to say that his performance is inspired and divine is the grossest understatement of the year). Wasting no time at all, Tarantino thrusts the viewer into 1940’s, occupied France and masterfully introduces the two characters whose very different, albeit intertwining lives compel and unite the film’s distinctive and varied storylines (in true Tarantino tradition). Then, just as the viewer is comfortably locked into watching only a slightly-less reverent rendering of World War II Nazi imposition than say Schindler’s List or films of its ilk, Tarantino fires the first of many curveballs that sets his film apart from classic war film renderings.
A weathered and scarred Brad Pitt arrives on the scene with his miscreant band of spaghetti-western style vigilantes, the Basterds, who recall and pay homage to: the Steve McQueen (The Great Escape) and Lee Marvin (the Dirty Dozen) action/war films that set the bar for war-grunt banter and badass, almost super-human heroics in films of the genre; Shakespearean foils who offer comedic relief in bouts of absurd tragedy; and the classical, Greek choragus, who, with insights of wisdom, narration, or commentary would propel the story line. Throw in a few Tarantino stylistic non sequiturs, a couple of voiceover cameos from Tarantino regulars, Harvey Keitel and Samuel L. Jackson, a little (by his standards) gun play, and the viewer is instantly, yet seamlessly, transported into a new, but familiar kind of film. From the Basterds’ arrival onscreen, it is evident that while this film pulls from the pages of history, all bets are off; and the predictability factor is left to rot back in the first chapter, along with the reverence once given to the subject matter.
Banking on his own renown as a writer, director, and notoriously-eclectic pioneer of almost-indie filmmaking, Tarantino then skillfully weaves a new web in wartime film epics, subtly reminding the viewer that war makes every person it touches an inglourious basterd. He dutifully does so while delivering action, intrigue, and clever, sophisticated dialogue (in several languages) and characters. With no clear distinction between saints and sinners; friends and foes; heroes and villains, he discreetly poses questions of morality, loyalty, and retribution–all too familiar themes from Tarantino, but this time rendered more subliminally and more sublimely than ever before.
This film, with its international cast and multilingual script, is the voice of the current generation and its lackadaisically scathing view of war; an homage to the films and history that spoke to, admonished, or compelled/inspired generations before it; and an homage to the art of film itself, which has been, since its incarnation (and will continue to be) the social conscience of the inglourious basterds who make films…and of those who watch them.
Cut and Reel says: REEL
by Adrienne Hoff
Cut and Reel, besides bringing you their recommendations (REEL!) and non-recommendations (CUT!) for what to see in the theaters will also bring you their picks for older flicks that are worth staying home to watch, like this week’s Reel Classic, A Bronx Tale.
Directed by: Robert De Niro
Written by: Chazz Palminteri
“He’s wrong. It don’t take much strength to pull a trigger. But try and get up every morning,day after day, and work for a living. Let’s see him try that. Then we’ll see who the real tough is. The working man’s the tough guy. Your father’s the tough guy. ”
Based on Chazz Palminteri’s real-life experiences of growing up in the Bronx, A Bronx Tale is an incredibly humbling coming-of-age story in which the lines are blurred between good versus evil and right versus wrong. Robert De Niro co-stars in his directorial debut as Lorenzo Anello, a proud blue-collar man who is rich with integrity and teaches these virtues to his son by being a living example. His young son, Calogero, admires his father, but can’t shake his fascination with neighborhood gangster Sonny LoSpecchio. Much against his father’s will, Calogero, or ‘C,’ is taken under Sonny’s wing after C is the witness of murder and doesn’t rat on Sonny. Sonny, played by writer Chazz Palminteri, teaches C more than how to survive on the streets. He gives C an education on women, acceptance, and most notably, the powerful difference between respect and fear. (more…)
A word from Cut and Reel writer and Cut and Reel: Live Action! Host, Maureen Shampine
Summer is just about gone, and with it goes the blockbuster season (that is until the Oscar push in late fall). So where has Cut and Reel been all summer—on hiatus? Well guilty as charged, but we did take in the LA Film Festival and got into the summer action (films) and now we are back, gearing up for the upcoming Oscar season with a new team of writers dedicated to help you decide whether you should call “cut” or “reel” for that insanely overpriced celluloid strip of entertainment for a Friday or Saturday night.
Also, new this season, tune into Cut and Reel Live www.isgoodradio.com on Sundays at 8pm (beginning this Sunday September 13, 2009) for the latest cuts, reels, and film forums…or download our podcasts and listen on the go!
Welcome to our new coven of writers and panel guests: Jaime Chavez, Jennifer Haren, Adriane Hoff, Ryan Lutz, and this week’s featured writer, Chris Poulos.