Monthly Archives: August 2012

Buried Cinema — Everything Must Go

By Nathanael Griffis

One of my favorite short stories is Raymond Carver’s “Why Don’t You Dance?” which opens up his amazing collection What We Talk About When We Talk About Love. It was the first example of his minimalist writing style that I truly enjoyed. I didn’t like “Cathedral.” (The four English majors who read this just freaked, closed their laptops, and stomped off to hand-write me angry letters.)

“Why Don’t You Dance?” opens with a man sitting on his lawn surrounded by the majority of his possessions, when a young man and woman approach him. Much like Hemingway’s “Hills Like White Elephants,” the story is not what’s happening in the present or what’s discussed between the characters, but the dripping implication of something tragic that has happened in the past and will have to be dealt with in the future.


Ah, the bachelor lawn.


The film Everything Must Go takes the premise of a man on his lawn and builds the story around the implication of his being thrown out by his wife. It’s a nice Carver-esque film. It has the harsh honesty of a Carver story that can move from awkward to heartwarming in seconds. Will Ferrell as Nick Halsey is good, though not at his best. At times he boils over into his shtick and pulls out a joke, which feels out of character. When he’s portraying the broken, confused, and stubborn recovering alcoholic salesman, he’s brilliant. It’s in those few moments that he cracks a joke. I laugh for certain, but then I remember it’s Will Ferrell and it feels like he’s not acting. There are moments of natural in-character humor, like when he lays down a tough negotiation over a half-empty bottle of mouthwash and dental floss. The film would have been more effective if it hadn’t tried to force in humor that doesn’t fit.

Rebecca Hall is great, but I’m starting to notice she’s being typecast as the discarded woman, which is unfortunate. Christopher Wallace as the neighborhood boy who befriends Ferrell’s drunk lawn-sitter has wonderful chemistry with Ferrell. Laura Dern and Stephen Root are fine in their few scenes. Glen Howerton does little else then be Glen Howerton (a jackass).


Rebecca Hall is pretty... oh hey, Will Ferrell, when'd you show up?


My biggest problem with the film is Michael Peña’s character. Initially, Frank Garcia is an interesting and realistic police sponsor. The turn that bothers me is when — SPOILER ALERT — it’s revealed that Nick’s wife has been staying with Frank, and is going to leave Nick for him. It’s in the Carver spirit of tragedy, but in the context of the film, it feels forced, as if the director wanted to give Peña something else to do; but he mattered enough already as Nick’s truthful steady sponsor. Peña’s performance is fine; he even pulls off the awkward scene of telling his friend he’s sleeping with his wife. It’s just too much convenient and connected tragedy. Nick’s wife can cheat on him, plausibly, even with his friend, but it comes up too fast and too near the end. Instead of being a climatic turn it becomes a tacked-on moment that just feels out of place.

I’m pointing out flaws, because I’m a fan of the story, but in general I would recommend this film. It’s an interesting adaption, and captures the sense of a Carver short. It’s kind of hard to stomach. Not that the subject material is particularly adult, but the delivery of some of the situations is painful. It’s hard to watch a grown man ride a child’s bike to a gas station and beg for change to buy beer. It made me uncomfortable. I felt like walking away from the computer, waving my hand and saying, “I don’t have any change, sorry.” This is, to me, a good thing. It means the movie connected with me on a visceral level. It also manages to have a satisfyingly happy ending with character growth, a difficult thing to accomplish. This isn’t a film that will be remembered. It’s a quiet film that people will have to rally behind and pass around, because it deserves to be seen.


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This Bat-Channel is coming in fuzzy

By Brian Slattery

For the first time in my life I’ve watched 1966’s film version of Batman starring Adam West. I’m no stranger to the television show and as a child would find myself tuning in at that Bat-time to watch the Caped Crusader save Gotham City time and time again. The show was magical, bringing in many memorable villains and other characters to keep the crowd happy. And with the teaming up of four of the show’s top-notch criminals there is no way this movie could fail. Except for the fact that it did.

Batman the TV show’s charm was its camp feeling. Robin saying “Holy [insert pun-type word here], Batman” every four minutes still sticks with me to this day. But the most memorable part was the comic-styled onomatopoeia that appeared during every fight scene in the show. The movie hardly had any of that. In fact, the movie uses this gag only once in its 105-minute run time. There are essentially three episodes of the series stitched together, and you only use your bread and butter once in the entire film? We see four riddles from the Riddler, and two exploding sea creatures from the Penguin in that time period. I just cannot fathom a reason for such a discrepancy in these numbers.



As we’ve learned with Joel Schumacher’s horrific Batman sequels, the more villains, the less screen time each is going to get. We get riddles from the Riddler, and jokes from the Joker, but aside from that, this is a Catwoman/Penguin film. The Joker and Riddler take a far back seat to the other two. Which is a shame because Cesar Romero can put on such a fun show as the Joker. This is not to take away from Burgess Meredith or Lee Meriwether, they each played their roles well, but to promise a showing of four villains and only truly delivering on half is not acceptable.

The movie is not without its high points, however. The show’s other claim to fame is splattered all about this movie. The gadgets. Batman has to have his gadgets, and back in the 60s every gadget had to be labeled. How else would Robin know which Bat-Spray in the helicopter was Shark Repellent and which was Barracuda Repellent? The Bat-Cave is filled with futuristic technology as well. And with the heroes returning to their lab several times, some of their equipment needs to pull double duty, and the labels help us know which box with blinking colors does what.



Batman does bring some of the joy provided by the show, but it sets its goals to loftily high for the Caped Crusader to conquer. I recommend those of you looking for a little Adam West nostalgia to stick with the television series, or watch the episodes of Family Guy that feature him as mayor of Quahog. The shenanigans he gets into on that show are all I need to bring back the fond memories of Batman THWACK-ing a guy right in his ZOCK-ing jaw.

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