Civil Discourse Now

Where the far left and far right overlap for fun and enlightenment

Indianapolis International Film Festival and a review of "The Oranges," with Hugh Laurie.

   "Civil Discourse Now" will cover the Indianapolis International Film Festival. The festival opened last night and runs through Sunday, July 29th. This is a different direction for subjects of interest for The Show. We are not just about politics.

   The Festival’s website gives times of flicks and locations. Most of the movies will be shown at the Indianapolis Museum of Art, but also at the Earth House, 237 North East Street. You can check out details at indyfilmfest.org.

   The Festival opened with "The Oranges," a full-length film. A couple of bumpers preceded the film. One of the bumpers, an animated bit for The Festival, was very good. Shot in bacl-and-white, various "forms" argue over a reel of film. No spoiler here: you have to see it, and you will appreciate the two minutes or so of its content.

   "The Oranges"point-of-view is first-person narrative by Vanessa (Alia Shawkat), a college graduate in design still living at the suburban New Jersey home of her parents, David (Hugh Laurie), a mid-level sales executive, and Paige (Catherine Keener) Walling. Across the street live the parents’ best friends, Terry (Oliver Platt) and Carol (Allison Janney) Ostroff. The few minutes of necessary narrative at the start occurs as the two couples and their daughter sit around the dinner table. Terry gets to play with a new electronic "toy," with which he can put conversations from his cell phone on speaker. He calls his and Carol’s daughter Nina (Leighton Meester), to wish her happy birthday (as it turns out) and to ask if she will be home for Thanksgiving. Nina’s answer is a defiant declaration of her recent engagement.

   There are hilarious moments in the movie. Platt gets laughs without lines, and puts to maximum efficiency the lines he has. Janney plays a guilt-imposing mother (read that: bitch) to the hilt. Keener did a lot of heavy lifting as Nina, at times with too much effort. Laurie is there. He does a great job, but in his role he is not called upon to do a lot. Neither does his character excite a lot of laughs or evoke a lot of empathy. After all, this is billed as a "dark comedy." A laugh a minute is not one of the elements of the genre. There are great one-liners, though. That is part of a problem with the film. Overall the plot is interesting with a good foundation and cast. The feel is of a bunch of good lines and a dramatic/comedic (dark comedy, after all) moment delivered via connection of necessary exposition and some shots to the next bunch of good lines and dramatic/comedic moment. Great one-liners can detract sometimes from any play or film. This is not one of those works. The great one-liners give the film strength, but someone missed a couple of other elements.

   The cinematography was excellent. I thought one series of shots, in the parking lot of a motel, looked incredibly cheap—then realized the shots were in the parking lot of a motel. They were great.

   Overall, this is a flick to see. Go to the website and check out the schedule. We shall be shooting "Civil Discourse Now" from the Indianapolis Museum of Art, from the Nourish Case just inside the entrance (to the right). Adam Newell, who wrote and directed "Video Stop," will be our guest this Saturday. We hope to shoot a couple of shows during the week from the Festival. There are some films whose titles and/or descriptions make them sound really cool. (E.g., "Stan versus Squirrel.") This is a good opportunity to see films in a theater setting that do not center on car chases and gunfights.           

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Comment by Paul K. Ogden on July 21, 2012 at 8:47am

Excellent review. It was a good flick.  I think our issues with the good film had to do with how the film could have been made better.   It was a dark comedy, then again it wasn't.  There were a lot of hilarorious scenes that had the audience laughing hysterically.  Oliver Platt was hilarious...like you said he got laughs whenver he was on screen, even when he wasn't saying anything.  I think Hugh Laurie's character could have been given more depth. Sure his marriage had grown apart, but there wasn't much of an explanation as to why he would move to cheat on his wife, much less with his best friend's daughter.  I thought Allison Janney was fabulous in the movie.  She played the part of the meddling mother about as well as it can be played.

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