Thursday, March 26, 2009

My first guest writer speaks on CHASING AMY (72)

Well then, I've finally pressured one of my nerdier movie friends in to writing something about a film in the Criterion Collection. Let me introduce you to my poorly named friend, Benjamin Bateman. He's a brother of a friend from college who's been making my hours working the coffee shop a little bit more enjoyable with his fervent love of movies and talking about movies and talkin' about comic books and all things nerdy.

He's wanted to write on this little blog for a while now, and when Chasing Amy (72) popped up, he jumped at the chance to discuss his thoughts on a one time indie darling, Kevin Smith.

Treat him nice, he put some good effort in to this little piece and I couldn't be more excited that he took the time to do so.

I'll put up my thoughts on this film in the days to come.

Take it away Bateman.


Why the hell is Ben Affleck famous? I’m sure I’m not the first, and I probably won’t be the last person to raise this question, but I really don’t think he’s ever been particularly good in any movie. In the past, I might have tried defending his honor by saying something like, “he was awesome in Dazed and Confused,” or, “What about Chasing Amy (75)?” I might have even plugged Shakespeare in Love, or his iconic action star quality in Armageddon; The point is, none of these examples showcase any discernable talent (save the slight creative props I’ll give the guy for Good Will Hunting). However, post 03’ 04’ (Daredevil, Gigli, Jersey Girl, Paycheck, Surviving Christmas {a rough 2 years}), he’s gotten some attention for his portrayal of George Reeves in 2006’s Hollywoodland, and his recent direction of 2008’s Gone Baby Gone. Suddenly the world is willing to embrace this unlikely Oscar winner all over again, and all I can do is applaud his persistence. My hat’s off to you sir.

The point of my writing this however, isn’t to trash ol’ Reindeer Games, but is to write a review of the aforementioned film, Chasing Amy (75). My pal Noah Sanders is on a bit of a quest to conquer a mountainous challenge in the form of film watching, and Kevin Smith’s 1997 romantidramedy is next on the list. To begin, I’ll just say that akin to so many other nerds, I grew up as a huge Kevin Smith fan. Maybe it was the constant socially irrelevant, but sub-culturally poignant satire he specialized in, or just the charming nonsense of Jay and Silent Bob, but regardless, I was hooked by age 12. I probably watched Clerks 30 times that year, and I was so excited about these movies, that I just couldn’t wait to tell everyone about them. Unbeknownst to me, everybody else already was sick of “Kevin Smith the artist” by 1999. They were all content with “Kevin Smith” the dick and fart joke guy.

To briefly describe the plot of this film; Chasing Amy (75) is about two best friends (Jason Lee and Ben Affleck) who work on a successful independent comic book together. They meet a lesbian comic book creator (Joey-Lauren Adams), and Ben Affleck Falls in love with her. After some emotional struggle, they begin dating, but ultimately run into problems because of the Affleck’s problem with Adams’ past. The interesting thing about Chasing Amy (75) though, is that it holds quite a bit more emotional weight than any of Smith’s previous works, both positively, and negatively. While Clerks was just a day in the life of a slacker, and Mallrats was a fairly mindless ode to comic-book lore, Amy bravely dove into the romantic-comedy genre without letting go of it’s immature roots. In trying to accomplish something so much more meaningful with this film, he invited criticism for the first time from people aware of the relatively poor quality of his actors, and indy friendly style of his team. As good as he is in some scenes, Affleck is equally terrible in others, and although Joey Lauren Adams actually lived through a very similar real life situation to the plot with Smith before ever making this film, she just annoy’s the shit out of me more than impresses me. The stand-out performance comes from Jason Lee, as Affleck’s morally/sexually conflicted best friend Banky. Lee’s signature brand of aggressively sarcastic humor charmed all of us in 1997. and even won him an independent spirit award for this role, but despite his talent, he was never able to portray any other character after this.

The script in this film is laden with all of the Smith cliché’s from dick and fart humor, to star wars humor, to drug humor, but still has a few tightly written scenes, with enough truth in them to invite applaud. Also, because I watched this movie so many times between the ages of 12 and 16, I never really addressed the intense emotional conflict in a real way until now, and I have to say that I was more impressed than I remembered. Kevin Smith is undeniably a fat, sappy product of Hollywood sentimentality, and even more hilariously, he’d be the first to admit it. Chasing Amy (75) was the first attempt at making the kind of film that Jersey Girl ended up being, and although it feels a little clunky at times, it still ends well, and has a satisfying touch of heart.

Thanks for reading kind audience. My name is Ben Bateman and I am a friend of Mr. Sanders. While I’m not sure who actually reads Noah’s rambles, it still feels good to write something, and in honor of this review, I’ll be starting my first blog, called “5 a week,” this week. The idea will be to watch five films a week, which I haven’t seen, and review them daily. Each week will have a theme, which corresponds with the film choices. Week one is titled “Knowing; The fall of Nicolas Cage.” Feel free to stop by.


Tomorrow: Chasing Amy (75), my perspective.

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