The romantic action comedy Scott Pilgrim vs. the World is like nothing — and if you’re a person between the age of approximately 18 to 35 everything — you’ve seen before. British director Edgar Wright’s (Shaun of the Dead Hot Fuzz) adaptation of Bryan Lee O’Malley graphic novel is so densely laden with pop-culture references it often times feels less like a movie than a mixtape. Those who share the tastes of the film’s 31-year-old writer and 35-year-old director will find the experience to be exhilarating; those who don’t however will likely be at a loss to comprehend what all the fuss is about.
The list of ‘80s and ‘90s video game nods in Pilgrim alone is daunting: Tekken Super Mario Bros. Tetris Zelda and even retro titles like Galaga and Ms. Pac-Man are represented just to name a few. To fit all of it in Wright must practically invent a brand-new kind of filmmaking. Using techniques and iconography culled from the holy fanboy triumvirate of comic books video games and anime/manga and armed with a clearly generous effects budget he splatters the screen with a dazzling array of CGI visual aids as the action unfolds: informational pop-ups supply key details on each character as they are introduced; words like “Boom!” and “Pow!” burst forth when blows are landed during fight sequences; a “Level Up!” graphic indicating increased levels of key character attributes appears after the film’s hero triumphs in battle. Even the old Universal Studios logo has been revamped by Wright rendered in the rudimentary graphics and sound of the old 8-bit Nintendo Entertainment System. Call it easter-egg filmmaking.
At the center of this digital maelstrom is Scott Pilgrim a 22-year-old Canadian hipster waif played by 22-year-old Canadian hipster waif Michael Cera. Unemployed and in no great rush to find work he splits his time evenly between jamming with his middling band Sex Bob-Omb (a Super Mario Bros. reference) combing thrift shops for new additions to his near-limitless collection of ironic t-shirts and pining for Ramona Flowers (Mary Elizabeth Winstead) a beguiling New York City emigre whose signature attribute is her constantly-changing hair color.
After a few abortive encounters Scott finally gets Ramona to reciprocate his affections. Thus begins the quest — or "campaign " as gamers call it — portion of the film as Scott soon discovers that in order to secure Ramona’s hand he must defeat each of her seven evil exes (six boys and one girl) in spontaneous death matches of decreasing novelty. (A few of them could easily have been excised without harming the narrative but that might invite the ire of comic book fans who typically demand nothing less than absolute adherence to the source text.) With a variety of found power-ups and an entirely implausible collection of fancy kung-fu moves he faces off against among others a pompous vegan straight-edge (Brandon Routh) a self-absorbed action star (Chris Evans) a spiteful lesbian (Mae Whitman) and a smarmy record producer (Jason Schwartzman).
I expect Scott Pilgrim vs. the World will polarize audiences and not just because of Wright’s distinctively dizzying directorial style. (Which I thoroughly enjoyed even though it occasionally overdoses on manufactured quirk and is a bit too proud of its cleverness.) The film glosses over Scott and Ramona’s wooing process in its rush to commence with its succession of comic-book battles which grow somewhat tedious toward the end. It’s simply assumed that Ramona would fall for our protagonist as it’s likewise assumed that we already have. But not everyone will embrace Scott’s castrati hipster affect which too often comes across as grating rather than charming. (The movie’s funniest moments come courtesy of Scott’s sassy gay roommate played by Kieran Culkin who is never without a clever barb for his lovelorn pal.) And beneath Cera’s self-effacing sheen exists an unmistakable whiff of pretentiousness that isn’t entirely justified — at least not yet. Far less debatable is the appeal of Winstead whose spunky Ramona appears every bit worth the hassle of fending off seven or more ex-lovers.
God knows what she sees in him.
On May 8, the Academy of Motion Picture Arts & Sciences will begin a yearlong celebration in honor of its 75th anniversary. The festivities will kick off with a party at La Cienega Park in Beverly Hills and continue through next year, ending with the 75th annual Academy Awards on March 23, 2003, at the Kodak Theater. According to Variety, Academy President Frank Pierson said he will outline plans for the festivities during the inaugural celebration, adding that "there might be a surprise or two during the evening."
The sultry Denise Richards, who recently became engaged to Charlie Sheen, is apparently quite germ phobic. According to PageSix.com, Richards told The London Mirror: "I like everything clean. I carry around hand sanitizer and wash with it after I've shaken hands." The actress went on to say she uses an antibacterial ointment that she puts in her nose on planes. And she's going to marry whom, again?
Julia Stiles is partnering up in a new film production company, Variety reports. Stiles, who starred in the box office hit Save the Last Dance and the teen drama O, will join forces with O producer Eric Gitter and home video distributor Steve Scavelli to run the independently financed firm Smithy's Films. The company, which already has two projects in the works, will be looking for productions with budgets of about $8 million to $10 million.
In the Biz
Film critic Roger Ebert will launch the fourth annual Overlooked Film Festival in his hometown of Urbana-Champaign, Ill., on April 24. The festival will screen 14 films, starting with George C. Scott's 1970 war drama Patton. Ebert says major Hollywood studios are choosing safe pictures that aren't challenging moviegoers rather than taking chances on independent and foreign films, The Associated Press reports.
Pixar Animation and Disney revealed their upcoming slate Sunday, and it includes fish, cars and suburban superheroes. According to the AP, Pixar and Disney's next project will be an underwater adventure entitled Finding Nemo, a story about father and son fish that become separated in the Great Barrier Reef. The film will feature the voices of Albert Brooks, Ellen DeGeneres, Willem Dafoe and Geoffrey Rush and is slated for release in summer 2003. Also in the works: The Incredibles in 2004 and Cars in 2005. Disney/Pixar's 2001 feature Monsters, Inc. recently crossed $500 million at box office, making it the second biggest animated film of all time behind only Disney's The Lion King
Producers Robert Michael Geisler and John Roberdeau have purchased the film rights to Sen. John McCain's best-selling memoir Faith of My Fathers and are planning a feature film. While McCain has no contractual control over the film's content, Roberdeau, who with Geisler produced the 1998 World War II drama The Thin Red Line, said he'd welcome his input.
Looks like Dylan McDermott will be keeping busy during the summer hiatus of his successful series The Practice. Variety reported Sunday that McDermott will be playing nightclub impresario Peter Gatien in Party Monster, the true story of party promoter and convicted killer Michael Alig. McDermott will join Macaulay Culkin--who will play Alig--Seth Green, Marilyn Manson, Chloe Sevigny and Natasha Lyonne. Filming is set to begin May 13 in New York.
The syndicated talk show Jenny Jones has been saved from the proverbial axing block. Although the show has spent more than 10 years on the air, the top two markets New York and Los Angeles, Fox-owned WWOR and KCOP, had decided not to renew the show, casting a shadow on the show's fate. But Jenny Jones was rescued after Tribune Broadcasting agreed to carry the show on all of its 23 stations.
American film cable network AMC is developing a reality series called Movie Trailer about towns that serve as movie locations, Variety reports. If the pilot goes to series, Mystery Science Theater 3000 veteran Mike Nelson will host the show and travel around the country by trailer, visiting almost-famous locations and asking locals to share stories about their experiences.
Sylvester Stallone will claim the title of action star of the millennium at the Video Software Dealers Assn. Convention in Las Vegas in July, Variety reports. The award coincides with the 20th anniversary of First Blood's theatrical release and comes on the heels of the release of the special-edition DVD The Rambo Trilogy by Artisan Home Entertainment on May 28.
Shaolin Soccer won seven awards at the Hong Kong Film Awards on Sunday, including best film, director, young director, actor, supporting actor, sound design and visual effects. The comedy centers around a down-and-out alum of the Shaolin school of martial arts who gets some of his old Shaolin pals--saffron robes and all--to apply their high kicks and superhuman techniques to the game of soccer. The film will be released in the United States early next year.
Emmy Award-winning playwright Reginald Rose died Friday at Norwalk Hospital in Norwalk, Conn. He was 81. Rose, who wrote and co-produced the film Twelve Angry Men and penned The Wild Geese and Whose Life Is It Anyway?, is survived by his wife and six children from two marriages.