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43. Whip It

John and I shared some flash opinions on the film after we saw a promo screening.  I liked it more than he did, but I’m always going to a sucker for a halfway-decent sports flick.  Which, yeah, means the mountains of sports cliches John abhors are fine by me.  If you can get past the undeveloped characters, stock themes, Jimmy Fallon and relatively unnecessary subplots, there’s a fun movie underneath it all.  Plus, who doesn’t love Ellen Page?

42. Brothers

I actually read the script for this one before seeing the movie.  Was kinda surprised by the casting choices of Tobey Maguire and Natalie Portman.  The former because I didn’t see him doing the intensely deranged character needed for the second half of the film and the latter because I saw the script pitching the character more as a typical high school cheerleader, not that I’d ever doubt Ms. Portman.  Maguire was a little more appropriate than that I envisioned, but like I saw in the script, the final third of the film lacks the real punch it probably should have, which hurt his chances.  Clifton Collins, Jr. shows up, and hey, is that Carey Mulligan?  Man, was she in an array of roles last year.

41. Peter and Vandy

Jason Ritter’s character here isn’t too different from his character in Good Dick: slightly messed up and chasing after a slightly messed girl.  The different here is that Jess Wexler’s Vandy doesn’t quite have the issues as Marianna Palka’s Woman.  The story is told out of order, maybe a little off-putting at first, but it starts to feel fairly natural.  Often when this device is used, it feels like a character for a poorly-told story.  Here, I’m not entirely sure it was necessary, but it does add a little to the story.  Also, Mahandra (Tracie Thoms) from Wonderfalls is in it, so that’s a bonus.

40. Adam

Well, Asperger’s seems to be the in disorder lately, so it is only natural that we get a romantic comedy about it, I suppose.  But here it is treated with surprising sensitivity both by Hugh Dancy and the characters’ reactions to it.  The film is a sweet little number, not eternally optimistic, but maybe realistically so.  I’m a Rose Byrne fan, plus Peter Gallagher and Frankie Faison show up.  Oh, also, Mark-Linn Baker is in a scene, so that’s totally awesome, naturally.

39. The Vicious Kind

Garnered a surprise Independent Spirit nomination for Adam Scott, so of course I had to watch it.  Because Adam Scott is awesome.  He seems to be carving out a nice career riding a fine line (sometimes blurred, like here) between douchebag and in-charge (without all the answers) nice guy.  Can’t say I can argue with the nomination here, it is a great role for him.  Alex Frost works well in his role, and J.K. Simmons is always going to be great.  His character here actually reminds me a lot of another role we’ll see a little later on.  Seeming intent on shedding her all-American princess image from American Dreams and, well, her looks, Brittany Snow has had an interesting career path.  She played a stuck-up villain in Hairspray, a hooker in Finding Amanda, and here she plays a girl with a past, attached to the virginal younger brother, lusted after/reviled by the creepy older one.  I think she definitely has talent, here’s hoping she gets some higher profile roles.

38. Dare

Probably in the top five or so 2009 movies I most wanted to see.  I’m madly in love with Emmy Rossum.  And anyone who has seen Friday Nights would understand how psyched I was to see Zach Gilford play the bad boy.  The film is more complex than the average high school drama and more directly deals with sexuality.  I think the movie thought it was a lot more mature than it was; just because you have gay and bisexual characters doesn’t automatically make them serious.  Kate Mara’s younger sister, Rooney, shows up, as does Alan Cumming and Ana Gasteyer.

37. Play the Game

I’ve got a bit of a history with this movie.  I was fortunate enough to interview writer/director Marc Fienberg.  Then I saw the film with my grandma in Florida, bringing back a postcard thing that’s in our coffee table, and I wrote a review of the flick.  I saw the thing over a year ago, so I’m gonna stick with my original thoughts.  To recap, it feels like two movies not quite connected.  The first is a standard romcom, where Paul Campbell is not quite the leading man the film needs him to be, but Marla Sokoloff is great.  The second is a retirement home sex comedy, which mostly works because, come on, Andy Griffith, Liz Sheridan, and Doris Roberts in a sex comedy?

36.  The Canyon

Anyone who has seen Chuck knows how awesome Yvonne Strahovski is.  She’s funny, she can kick butt, and now I know she can do drama as well.  She’s just fantastic.  The thing I admire about this movie is there were definitely ways to make it appeal more broadly.  They could have gone horror, or made it more thrilling, or more gory, or have the characters strip down a little more (not super pleased with that last decision).  Instead, we get a nice little survival story.  The ending is a little weird, and I’m not sure I’m sold on Eion Bailey.  Will Patton was his usual larger than life self.

35. The Ramen Girl

Mr. Baseball meets Lost in Translation?  Not sure there’s too much to say about this one.  A fun little movie, I’m getting hungry for ramen just thinking about it.  Xiaoyu (who was excited for this movie) took me for some ramen when I drove to LA with him and KC.  I may have gotten it a little too spicy, but man, that was some good stuff.  Oh, sorry, where was I?  The tropes here will be familiar to anyone who has watched an underdog movies.  And I thought Brittany Murphy (RIP) carried the film very well.

34. An Education

We spent some time discussing this Best Picture nominee.  John found it to be one of the best of the ten, where the rest of us had it near the bottom of the pack.  I think my placement shows I didn’t dislike the film.  But I found the sum to be something less than the the individual parts.  I really like pretty much all of the actors, and there’s a perfectly valid case to be made that it could have received two more acting nominations.  I love Nick Hornby, though I don’t think his voice shone through in the script at all.  One thing on which we all agreed was that Carey Mulligan was revelation.  More than just a pretty face, she really excelled in this role.

In “Silence Is Not Golden,” we are attempting to take a look at some modestly-released films through the eyes of the filmmakers themselves.  This installment features writer/director Marc Fienberg, who was kind enough to answer our questions about Play the Game, which has a national release date of August 21st.  Our thoughts on the film can be found here and be sure to check out the official website at:

Golden Grouches: I’ve read that Play The Game is, at least in some ways, a very personal project, the idea stemming from conversations you had with your own grandfather over his foray back into the dating pool.  But another reason the story felt so fresh was the relative paucity of romantic comedies (or really movies in general) with a major plot revolving around the elderly.  Did that concept of bringing something somewhat new to the genre impact the writing and filmmaking process at all?

Marc Fienberg: The film was inspired by my own grandfather who started dating again when he was 89 years old.  When he started sharing the details of his love life with me, admittedly I was a bit uncomfortable with the images popping into my head, but when I started to see my grandfather go through the all the same emotions and issues of a schoolkid in love, (Should I talk to her, what should I say, what if she doesn’t like me, what if she DOES like me, etc.) I found it amazingly touching and endearing.  And that range of emotions that I experienced in learning about the love life of a older person was the same range of emotions I wanted to bring the audience through in the film.  And so throughout the filmmaking process, I didn’t pull any punches with the “senior sex” scenes.  Very little is shown, as the film is PG-13, but I wasn’t afraid of making people in the theater a little uncomfortable.  So the biggest effect of having the senior storyline in the film was making sure that it stayed true to the life of real seniors, not diluting it at all out of fear of offending people.  Strangely enough, those scenes are the ones that bring the biggest laughs from the audience, so I’m glad we didn’t cave to the pressure of making it more mainstream.

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The Golden Grouches is primarily an Oscar blog.  So naturally the movies we tend to advocate are the ones at least in the conversation for a gold statue.  If we get to champion little-seen movies, they are still little-seen movies receiving nominations.  But now we’re in the cold, dark off-season for the Academy.  You know, the place where comedies are allowed to exist.  So I’m returning to the huge pile of non-Oscar recaps I’ve sorely neglected, plus I have a few other ideas brewing.  To start things off, I’m very happy to report back on a non-Oscar little movie we were able to talk about, Play The Game.  You’ll be excused if you missed it, though it is has been out for three weeks, it has only played in Florida (though it is expanding to a theater in California).

The romantic comedy stars Paul Campbell (he’s Chief of Staff to the President on Battlestar Galactica, at least for the one season I’ve watched) as David, a master of persuasion, evidenced by his rampant success selling cars to people who don’t need them at the dealership owned by his father (Clint Howard),  and the number of women he’s bedded.  But he’s the heart of gold kind of romcom lothario, not the evil sort.  David had to drop out of school and work for his father (with whom he has an uneasy relationship) to pay for his Grandpa Joe’s (Andy Griffith) spot in a retirement community, once his grandmother passed away.  After his grandfather has been alone for a few years, David decides to fulfill a promise made to his grandmother to help Grandpa Joe find someone new.

As David teaches his grandfather how to get back into the world of dating, he finds himself falling for Julie (Marla Sokoloff).  But all his tricks, so effective with the various floozies he picked up in bars, bear no fruit when applied to Julie, and he finds himself stuck being her friend.  Meanwhile, Grandpa Joe has great success picking up one woman (Liz Sheridan) and struggles a bit more with another (Doris Roberts).  Geoffrey Owens (Elvin on The Cosby Show!) is also in the film as David’s best friend, Rob.

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January 2021