Cronenberg slams Hollywood, Nightcrawler slams TV news, a folk tale from Japan charms all
We’ve got two movie satires to consider this week. One goes after TV news; the other takes on Hollywood. There’s no comparison. But you could watch Keira Knightley in Seattle or a grand animated folk tale from Japan.
Here’s the list:
Nightcrawler: 4 stars
Maps to the Stars: 2
The Tale of the Princess Kayuga: 3 ½
Before I Go To Sleep: not reviewed
NIGHTCRAWLER: This is the satire to see this week. Of the two just arrived, it’s the more real one, more probing in its look at issues and more engrossing because of it. Also because of a scary-chilly performance by Jake Gyllenhaal as a character with slippery ethics who gets involved in the news reporting game.
He’s like a paparazzi with a video camera who prowls accident and crime scenes in Los Angeles to shoot footage he can sell to a TV station. Rene Russo plays a news director always willing to buy because her newscast has the lowest ratings in town. An ultimate for her would be “a screaming woman running down the street with her throat cut.”
Jake is willing to cross the line. He wants blood in his footage. He’ll get to a scene before the police to get the closest shots. He’ll even go inside a murder house to get them. At the station there are debates about whether they can be aired but the film is even more focused on Jake as a character. Slowly we come to see him as a sociopath with a can-do attitude; courteous and cunning in equal measure. He took an on-line business course and spouts elaborate notions about business plans and self-help schemes. But he’s also a loner without scruples. I don’t know how much of this really goes on in big U.S. cities. The film used real freelancers as consultants but I imagine police would chase away anybody without press credentials. However, as a pulse-taking of one low tier of journalism it is immensely watchable. (International Village, Scotiabank and suburban theatres) 4 out of 5
MAPS TO THE STARS: Robert Altman said his Hollywood satire The Player was too mild because reality down there is far worse. David Cronenberg went for the worse. His Tinseltown characters (from a script and novel by Bruce Wagner) are grasping, insecure, foul-mouthed creatures who are awfully unpleasant to watch. It would help if the slaps at this world were clever or subtle. They’re mostly mean-spirited and oddly the central story isn’t even necessarily about Hollywood. It’s about a bunch of crazy people who just happen to be there.