dir. Gary Hustwit
Sat Nov 24-Sun Nov 25
Northwest Film Center's Whitsell Auditorium
One surefire way to make an interesting documentary is to turn the camera on people who are insanely passionate about something—it hardly even matters what. Watching someone play Donkey Kong is the most boring activity on earth; watching the lives of two Donkey Kong superfreaks yields one of the most entertaining documentaries in recent years, The King of Kong. And as it turns out, designers are completely fucking nuts about the typeface Helvetica. Even the ones who want to destroy it do so with an obsessive reverence.
Yes, Helvetica is a documentary about a typeface. But not just any old typeface: With its creation 50 years ago, Helvetica brought typography into the cool, aerodynamic flow of contemporary life. The film does an excellent job showing how the typeface ushered in a sleek and modern graphic style that persists today. (Helvetica is used everywhere, from American Apparel billboards to W-4s.) Director Gary Hustwit scores interviews with all the rock stars of the design world, and niftily demonstrates the seismic visual shift our cultural landscape underwent with the introduction of this elegant little sans-serif. And if nothing else, I learned a professional trick that I'll never forget (which is also highly indicative of the reason for the typeface's longevity): "If you are not a good designer—or if you are not a designer at all—just use Helvetica Bold in one size. It looks good." CHAS BOWIE
dir. Kevin Lima
I feel kinda dirty saying this, but Enchanted isn't half bad. Maybe it's because Disney's animation-meets-live-action fairy tale would make a great afternoon date with my four-year-old niece? Maybe because it's sickeningly cute, with an edgy sense of humor? Any which way, I'll be damned if Enchanted isn't likeable.
Director Kevin Lima combines a conglomeration of Disney animated princesses into the character of Giselle (Amy Adams). This animated naïf is waiting in the forest with a menagerie of woodland friends for her prince (X-Men's James Marsden). But his wicked stepmother, Queen Narissa (Susan Sarandon), aims to protect her throne by shoving Giselle down an enchanted well. This is when Disney gets all meta on our asses, and Gisele is transported to real-life New York, where there's nary a talking chipmunk around.
Distracted dad Robert (Patrick Dempsey) swoops in to fulfill the rom-com obligation, as he shows Gisele the sights of NYC, only to have her singing like a socially retarded refugee from The Sound of Music. What makes the film so begrudgingly charming is Adams floundering in fish-out-of water scenarios, like when she naïvely summons the city's "woodland" creatures (cockroaches, pigeons, and rats) to help clean Robert's filthy apartment. Enchanted will undoubtedly be the Splash for this generation's girly tweens, and even if it wouldn't be your first movie choice, at least you won't be totally bummed when your princess-obsessed niece begs you to go. COURTNEY FERGUSON
I Want Someone to Eat Cheese With
dir. Jeff Garlin
Opens Fri Nov 23
There are few actors I want to cheer more than Jeff Garlin, known to most as Larry David's rotund, pussy-whipped manager, "Jeff," from Curb Your Enthusiasm. Thus, it saddens me to report that I wouldn't even recommend I Want Someone to Eat Cheese With as a mid-week DVD rental to the most strident Curb fan, despite being directed by, written by, and starring likeable old Jeff.
The premise should be serviceable: Garlin "plays" a fat guy (we might as well call him Jeff) who lives with his mom, hasn't been laid in five years, and gorges himself with junk food to stave off loneliness. But then he suddenly meets a zany (read: annoying) free spirit (Sarah Silverman), as well as a lonely chubby-chaser his own age (Bonnie Hunt), and he sort of learns to live again. There are a few laughs, but the bulk of Cheese is marred by long, dull stretches and clunky writing that even Garlin's laidback lovability is unable to salvage. Enthusiasm = woefully curbed. CHAS BOWIE