It’s entirely possible Tim’s Vermeer is one long gag. Or a short gag if we’re talking screen time. The 80-minute documentary about painstakingly recreating a painting by Dutch master Johannes Vermeer was directed by Teller and produced by Penn Jillette—you know, Penn & Teller, the guys who craft elaborate illusions while couching them in humor.
What a gag that would be, but such is the drive, the tenacity, the spirit of Tim Jenison—the Tim of Tim’s Vermeer—that the whole things becomes a case study in the way a creative and precise mind works. No, this isn’t the Joaquin Phoenix-Casey Affleck misfire I’m Still Here. This is obsession masked as curiosity, and a fascinating obsession at that.
Jenison is an inventor. Among other things, he founded NewTek, a company that has been responsible for huge advances in desktop video roduction. Another things Jenison did: According to the movie, he taught himself to play piano with a player piano, slowing down the piano’s speed and following along on the keys with his fingers until he learned songs perfectly.
At some point he became enamored of Vermeer—you know, Girl with a Pearl Earring—and got the idea he could recreate one of Vermeer’s masterpieces. Note: Jenison has no training as a painter whatsoever.
It may seem odd that a movie based in such crass commercialism would, at its heart, be a tribute to what it means to have a free imagination. But that’s what The Lego Movie is.
Emmet (Chris Pratt, a riot) is an ordinary construction worker with no depth. He, and most other Legos, like living by the rules set forth by President Business (Will Ferrell). Unfortunately for everyone, President Business has decided to use the Kragle (a tube of Krazy Glue with a couple letters scratched off) to freeze every Lego in place to keep order in the universe.
Emmet runs into Wildstyle (Elizabeth Banks), who’s looking for the Piece of Resistance to keep Business from carrying out his plans, and soon they’ve teamed up with Vitruvius (a wonderful Morgan Freeman) to stop Business and his evil team.
The Lego Movie’s rapid-fire jokes and anything-goes visual style outweigh its weaknesses—the plot has a fairly standard you-can-do-it! message—but focus on the gags and you’ll be fine. The voice talent is superior, and the whole thing feels as if it were made by adults who remember the joys of being a kid. Will Arnett and Alison Brie really shine in their roles, and just try not to sing “Everything is Awesome” as you leave the theater.
Here are some things The Callback Queen thinks are funny: Gay sex; Irish-English hatred as fuel for sex; eastern Europeans in general. And here are some things The Callback Queen thinks it knows about: Hollywood productions; how easy it is to change a script in a Hollywood production; the kind of person who writes novels like The Prince of Chaos, which is an epic on the scale of Game of Thrones or the Harry Potter series or Twilight or even Braveheart.
For an excellent comedy on the ins and outs of Hollywood, casting, and gender roles, please see writer-director Lake Bell’s wonderful In a World… For absolute crap with cheesy camera work and a soundtrack that resembles the unfinished qualities of student film, stick with The Callback Queen.
If this were parody, that would be one thing. And hey, maybe it is, but it’s so inept you’d never know it was parody. My God, this is a line in the movie: “Film should grab you by the balls. It should touch your heart when you least expect it and with blushing eyes should make you think, ‘Did that really just happen?’”
But it did happen. I saw The Callback Queen and lived. But you should avoid it, and its makers should be embarrassed.
Ever wondered how you could possibly see all the shorts that are nominated for Academy Awards? They’ll play at indie movie houses in most large cities. Or, in the case of Santa Fe, N.M., small cities. This review first appeared in the Santa Fe Reporter.
Do I Have to Take Care of Everything?
This Finnish film is the shortest of the live action nominees and is also the only straight-up comedy. The Ketonen family oversleeps and has to hastily throw itself together for a wedding. Spilled coffee, missing gifts and Halloween costumes work their way into this delightful and smart film.
Just Before Losing Everything
Ever wondered how difficult is it to leave an abusive spouse? Just Before Losing Everythingattempts to answer that question. This live action drama by Xavier Legrand is tense from its first frame and somehow, when it’s over, it’s just as tense. Léa Drucker is excellent as the woman who’s trying to leave her husband and take her kids with her. This one is difficult but worthwhile.
The Voorman Problem
This short has a problem of its own: It’s too short. Dr. Williams (Martin Freeman—you know, Bilbo Baggins) is a psychiatrist sent to interview an inmate, Voorman (Tom Hollander), who has convinced an entire prison population that he’s God. The tone is perfect and the performances sharp. The only complaint is that there’s much more to be said than what’s here. Yeah, it’s that good. The Voorman Problem is based, in part, on a novel by David Mitchell, who also wrote the novel Cloud Atlas. Here’s hoping this is a test run.