Tag Archives: jodie foster

Debuts Blogathon: Jodie Foster – Little Man Tate

debuts collage 2

Today’s entry in the Debuts blogathon comes from Isaac over at The IPC. We all know and love Isaac (and if you don’t then you should) and his Shitfest blogathon is one of my favourites I’ve seen. Go check out his site if you haven’t already. Here he’s looking at Jodie Foster’s directorial debut, Little Man Tate. Take it away Isaac…

JODIE FOSTER

Little Man Tate (1991)

5149For a guy like me, a dude that grew up pretty much watching only Horror movies and Sci-Fi TV shows (and Sitcoms of course), I don’t really know or remember what compelled me to watch this thing way back when. If I look back in to my past and give it a guess, I will go with: it was 1991 so I was still living with my mom, so I was probably sitting around lonely and depressed like I tended to do. But let’s go back a little further…

If you’re not / weren’t an only child whose mom was always gone (working to pay the bills) you might not get it that sitting around by yourself, all alone and lonely, watching TV shows with fully functional families where people are always laughing and having fun, could be depressing. Well – it is. Being alone sucks and leads to depreciating morale and self destructive tendencies.  With that, I bet I was sitting there on the couch wanting something to do but the people I hung around with were all off doing something with each other and not me so I started this and really, really identified with Fred Tate (Jodie Foster’s son in the movie and title character).

Fred’s the son of DeDe Tate, a waitress who struggles to make money and struggles to keep her son entertained because he’s one of those six year old brilliant types.  Now, I’m not saying I’m one of those really smart guys, because I’m not but, like Fred, I was lonely, just wanted some friends and I get things. I may not be able to interpret String Theory or do twenty column mathematics, but I get how things work.  I also liked to take apart small electronics.  I can also whiteboard diagram the hell out of something if I need to.

As far as the movies goes, this is Jodie Foster’s debut at directing. For this blogathon, I was thinking about who I could use as my subject and thought – how about this? I bet no one’s ever seen it. I just finished watching this for the first time in a few years and my thoughts are this:

  • The direction itself seemed well done – she seemed to know what she wanted to do and did it.
  • This came out in 1991 so the clothing and hairstyles all suck
  • I didn’t particularly enjoy Foster’s East Coast accent
  • Adam Hann-Byrd did a pretty remarkable job acting it up in this
  • The story itself is pretty good regarding a child prodigy and his desire to just be normal
  • Diane Wiest – hot??
  • Debi Mazar – hot???
  • Harry Connick Jr.’s character is kind of a tool
  • Yeah – my eyes got weepy a couple of times

I think this is a good watch despite some flaws from the time it was made. It’s worth your time if you ever find it hanging around on cable. Thanks for letting me participate in this, guys. Now I’m off to call my mom.

Over at Three Rows Back today, Charles from Cinematic is looking at Terrence Malick’s ‘Badlands’. Head over there right now to check it out if you haven’t already.

Check back tomorrow to see Keith from Keith and the Movies look at John Huston’s The Maltese Falcon.

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Film review: Carnage

It’s not that often that you can pinpoint the source of a film. Obviously there are some films you know are based on books or plays, but if you had absolutely no knowledge of that film whatsoever, its origins might prove a little more difficult to ascertain. However, Carnage is so obviously based on a play that it might as well have curtains rise before it starts.

It’s an incredibly simple story: two couples gets together to discuss a fight that has broke out between their sons. What starts off as a relatively amicable meeting soon descends into chaos as tensions run high, each couple refuses to accept their child was responsible and there’s a particularly nasty case of vomiting from her that was in Titanic.

Carnage

Plot-wise there isn’t much more to it than that. It is little more than a series of uncomfortable and awkward scenes, set in ‘real-time’, as these ‘normal’ suburban families are slowly revealed to be a facade; a mass of insecurities and flaws that they do their utmost to hide away. Its theatrical roots (Yasmina Reza’s God of Carnage) are plain to see: the film is set in a single apartment, often in one room, and features just four characters of equal billing; it’s all very straightforward. Very much a character examination, there’s no exuberance and no pazzaz, except for a well-written script and impressive performances.

The two couples are of very different backgrounds – Alan and Nancy Cowan (Christoph Waltz and Kate Winslett) are the upper end of middle class, with their smarter clothes and higher powered jobs, whilst Michael and Penelope Longstreet (Jodie Foster and John C Reilly) are at the other end, with their modest apartment and what would be perceived more regular jobs. However, the film makes the point that all these characters are flawed in some way regardless of their backgrounds and that they inevitably end up acting no better than their children. In fact, their children are nothing more than a sub plot to the parents’ games of oneupmanship and desire to appear superior.

Carnage is director Roman Polanski’s Bunuel-esque attack on the middle class (that Alan and Nancy seem unable to leave the apartment harks back to The Exterminating Angel) as neither of the families come out of the film with any kind of redeeming qualities. They place far too much importance on trivial things, whether it be fancy art books or the ingredients of a cobbler. They don’t really seem that concerned with addressing the real issue of their fighting children; Alan spends most of his time on the phone, Nancy seems more preoccupied with Michael’s treatment of the family hamster, Penelope constantly tries to out-Cowan the Cowans, and Michael (for the most part) is happy to just go along with whatever.

With such a simple story and location, there is nothing to hide behind and in a film such as Carnage, the actors are under greater pressure to pull superior performances out of the bag. In this case they are moderately successful, but it is the males who really stand out. Both John C Reilly and Christoph Waltz outshine their female counterparts with impressive performances that keep the film ticking along. Both female characters are somewhat less inspiring, and Jodie Foster in particular can be a little hammy at times. Despite that, the quartet work well together and they do well with a script that has peaks and troughs; it can sometimes get a little slow but overall is witty and helps provide an intriguing examination of the characters.

The film has a claustrophobic quality to it, thanks in part to its singular environment, that may not be to everyone’s tastes, but persevere and you’ll find a film that provides a deeper social commentary for those who want to delve into it and a more lighthearted take on relationships and parenting for those who want to take it at face value.

Words: Chris Thomson

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