Tribeca Film via Everett Collection
Like the name implies, there are two films trapped inside director Bryan Poyser's latest effort: "Love" being one half, and "Air Sex" being the other. One film is a sometimes charming, sweet, and funny meditation on love between twenty-somethings, while the other is an aggressively unfunny aside that almost derails the entire film (take a guess at which one is which).
Aspiring filmmaker Stan (Michael Stahl-David) and pre-med student Cathy (Ashley Bell) find love in balmy Austin, but life drives the two to opposite coasts; Stan seeks his dreams under the bright lights of Hollywood, while Cathy heads to the wintery Northeast to attend a prestigious medical school in New York. Six months later, Sean's Hollywood aspirations have landed him in a pizza joint, while Cathy feels disconnected from her med school peers. When Stan catches wind that Cathy is flying home to Austin for the weekend, he can't help but "accidentally" fly home on the same weekend as his ex. The obviousness of Stan's gambit isn't lost on their friends Jeff and Kara, who are in the middle of a breakup of their own. The two ex-lovers try to avoid each other during the weekend, but as one of the characters comments, Austin is a small city, and the pair do threaten to bump into each other, whether by coincidence or by design.
When focusing on the relationships among the four leads, Love and Air Sex works well enough. All four come close to becoming fully rounded characters, and the dialogue is witty enough to entertain. The characters send spiked sexual jabs at each other, while hiding the simmering frustration over lost relationships. Throughout the film, our heroes try some new relationships on for size, and while some of them blossom with probability, others are a halted by old yearnings. Poyser shows a intimate understanding of the awkwardness and comedy of damaged romances, and how admitting one's true feelings can sometimes feel like a herculean labor.
The other half of the title, the "Air Sex," is unfortunately, where the film falls apart. First, let's back up and explain what "Air Sex" actually is: a very real competition where participants are tasked with creating explicit and racy sexual scenarios with a disembodied partner (think air guitar, but with more pelvic thrusts). These sessions of sexual "air-tercourse" get as obscene and vulgar as all get out. But the worst thing about these routines isn't that they're too perverse (and they are pretty perverse), but that they're hardly ever funny or entertaining, and that's a huge fault considering the idea takes up half the title. Jeff uses Air Sex as a scheme to get free beer (the winner of the local Air Sex competition gets to drink free for a year), but it's really an emotional pick-me-up after his break up from Kara. These epic sexual pantomimes go on for minutes at a time and quickly grow annoying. What might have been chuckle worthy sight-gag is ballooned into half of the film's focus, and the Air Sex side plot becomes completely obnoxious as the film grinds into its final act. The biggest crime is that all the time focusing on the Air Sex competition robs the film of time it could have used to put the main characters into better focus. Unless you enjoy sexual wordplay like "Hugh G. Rection" or "F**kasaurus Sex," and a lot of air humping, you might spend much of these sequences rolling your eyes.
Love and Air Sex is a deeply confused film. It wants to be a raunchy comedy and a heartfelt indie romance, but it's constantly weighed down by trying to serve both masters. What's left is a Frankenstein-like mess of a creature that resembles a pleasant romantic comedy sloppily sewed into a terrible raunchy bore. The results are sometimes charming, sometimes groan-inducing, and full of wasted promise.
The series will compete for the title of best TV drama, while show stars Tom Vaughan Lawlor and Robert Sheehan will go head-to-head for best lead actor, and Charlie Murphy will battle for the female equivalent.
Peter Coonan and Susan Loughnane also land mentions in the supporting categories, while Love/Hate's writer Stuart Carolan and director David Caffrey are both up for top honours too.
Other nominations for the best TV drama award include hit fantasy series Game of Thrones, The Borgias and Titanic: Blood and Steel.
Meanwhile, in the movie categories, the new star of Michael Bay's upcoming Transformers sequel is already proving his credibility - Irish actor Jack Reynor has earned recognition in the shortlist for best film actor for What Richard Did, which received a total of 10 nods.
The low budget project, from director Lenny Abrahamson, is the favourite to win best film, ahead of Death of a Superhero, Shadow Dancer, Grabbers and 1970s punk biopic Good Vibrations.
Also up for film acting accolades are Colin Farrell (Seven Psychopaths), Martin McCann (Jump), Anne Marie Duff (Sanctuary), Ruth Bradley (Grabbers) and Reynor's What Richard Did co-star Roisin Murphy.
The winners of the 10th annual IFTAs, which highlight the best in Irish entertainment, will be announced at a ceremony on 9 February (13), the night before the British Academy of Film and Television Arts (BAFTA) Awards on 10 February (13).
Film critics seem to have all the fun, dishing out catchy blurbs and influencing the fate of the latest Hollywood offerings with a tilt of the thumb, while powerless actors, directors and producers have no recourse but to curse them from afar. But today, Hollywood has the last word.
Daily Variety surveyed four dozen filmmakers for their opinions on the nations' top movie reviewers and -- surprise! -- they're pretty darn critical of the critics. So critical, in fact, that almost nobody was willing to let their names be published in the trade newspaper's article, lest they incur the printed wrath of any pundit they decided to diss.
Variety didn't rank the critics from best to worst, nor did it give marks to individual critics for their (perceived) strengths and weaknesses. But the catty comments of those unidentified Hollywood types who took part in the survey revealed that: (a) critics from the print medium (newspapers, magazines) were regarded fairly positively, while (b) blurbmeisters working on TV are, well, not.
According to the survey, the Hollywood players consider Anthony Lane of the New Yorker magazine the doyen of movie writers, thanks to his "film literacy, reliability, verisimilitude and quality of writing." Roger Ebert and Kenneth Turan of the Los Angeles Times were also well respected as being passionate and informed, even if some consider them pompous.
David Denby of the New Yorker and David Ansen of Newsweek also seemed to be generally well regarded; Kevin Thomas, a longtime critic for the Los Angeles Times, meanwhile, "took a drubbing from filmmakers of all ages and disciplines," according to Variety.
But what's really interesting is how much dirt the filmmakers dished about the broadcast critics, ranging from the guys on local newscasts to the network morning news programs to entertainment news shows.
An unidentified Oscar-nominated actor said, "I cannot abide David Sheehan. Gene Shalit's not a dope, but he goes for the gag. And I cannot abide Joel Siegel. I can develop a real hatred for critics as I talk about these people!"
Sheehan is the perennial, I-like-everything critic for KCBS-TV in Los Angeles; Shalit, of course, is a resident of NBC's "Today" show. (Vocabulary lesson for today: "Abide" is synonymous with "tolerate.")
Another missive was fired by a director (also unnamed, natch), who called TV critics "the people who absolutely aggravate me. One guy who's very uneven and goes into ecstasy over mediocre pictures is Joel Siegel (of ABC's "Good Morning America" fame)."
But how reliable is Variety's survey, if no quantitative methodology, at least none that is apparent, was used? Is four dozen people enough of a survey to gauge prevailing Hollywood opinions? How thorough can it be, when it mentions that that Hollywood insiders consider Variety's own chief film critic, Todd McCarthy, to be "the only one contributing something worth listening to" but (tellingly) no mention is made of The Hollywood Reporter's Kirk Honeycutt?