August 13, 2010

Scott Pilgrim vs. The World

Full disclosure: I am an unabashed, rabid, mega-fan of Bryan Lee O’Malley’s Scott Pilgrim graphic novel series. I read them, I quote them, I live them. As for the film adaptation, I was cautiously optimistic. I knew the history (the movie and last five books were written concurrently) and I knew the talent involved (Edgar Wright and Michael Bacall adapting and Wright directing). It seemed solid. So, when a friend of mine offered to take me to a preview screening of Scott Pilgrim vs. The World two weeks ago, I was what you might call overjoyed. I imagine my eyes welled up with big, fat manga tears and my face resembled something like this :DDD. I leveled up. Like a dutiful little film fan, I took my notebook to the screening, hoping to jot down some insightful comments. No dice. My notebook page is blank save for a silly doodle I drew after the fact that looks something like this :DDD. My mouth was agape the entire time, eyes widened like a dopey kid on a sugar high. The first fifteen minutes whooshed by me at breakneck pace as I tried desperately to take in every visual detail. On some level, I couldn't believe I was actually watching Scott Pilgrim. Heretofore, I had only read it and, as a result of the natural cadence and humor of the dialogue and the relatability of the characters, in some ways, I had lived it.

I realize I'm sounding pretty hyperbolic here, so let me explain. To me, Scott Pilgrim is deeply personal. On the surface, the stories are trite; cutesy stuff like a cross between all the video games you played as a kid plus Judd Apatow's "Undeclared" in the style of Captain Underpants. But after you get over (read: learn to love) the ridiculous conceit at the heart of the narrative (that in order to woo her, titular hero Scott has to fight and defeat love of his life Ramona Flowers' seven evil exes Tekken-style in a universe with video game physics), O'Malley's epic, six-book narrative reveals its deeper shades. Never before had I encountered anything, in any media, that so perfectly captured the way I experienced the world; my harsh-but-jokey-but-loving interactions with friends from high school and college, the way in which the independence of having your own apartment trumps the hilarious poverty that results from that independence (Scott and his gay roommate Wallace Wells are so poor they have to share a bed). Most of all, the series captures that push-and-pull bittersweetness of being 23, unemployed and not knowing what in the hell you're supposed to do with your life. I can relate.

So, when I watched that pre-screening of Scott Pilgrim vs. The World, I was trying to balance my enthusiasm and emotions with a critical eye. I didn't quite succeed. All my perceptions were skewed. I knew I liked the film, and maybe even loved it, but I was too caught up in recognizing moments from the comics and which character said what line (and all the great lines that were left out). Fast forward to yesterday, the day of the Scott Pilgrim midnight show, and I haven't written down any of my review, although I'd been composing it in my head since the moment I walked out of the theater. Smash cut to right now: It's 4am, I just got back from my second viewing of the film. Verdict? I am in love. Totally. Completely. Undeniably. This is a movie of passions, for passions. This movie wants you to fall in love with it. It's 112 minutes of absolute, uninhibited Day-Glo joy. I laughed more during both screenings of this film than anything I've seen this year (or in many, many years). I've said elsewhere, and I really believe, that Scott Pilgrim is the epic of my generation. There's such a sense of wonder, awe and sweetly naive optimism in this film, I'd be proud if it did end up defining my age group.


Scott Pilgrim (Michael Cera) lives in Toronto with his gay roommate Wallace Wells (Kieran Culkin) in a one-room hole of an apartment in, as the narrator states, "the faraway land of Toronto." He plays bass in a band called Sex Bob-omb with sardonic drummer Kim Pine (Alison Pill), a friend and former flame from high school, high-strung guitarist Stephen Stills (Mark Webber), "the talent" and groupie/roadie/roommate Young Neil (Johnny Simmons). Scott is currently dating 17-year old Chinese Catholic school girl Knives Chau (Ellen Wong), an ill-advised situation prompted by his break-up, over a year ago, from college girlfriend Envy Adams (Brie Larson). Scott, at 22, is looking to revert to something simpler and more innocent and Knives is just that. Until...Scott meets Ramona Flowers (Mary Elizabeth Winstead), rollerblading American ninja delivery girl for who's just moved to Toronto. It's kismet. Scott sees her in a dream one night (actually a convenient subspace highway Ramona uses for faster deliveries) and then meets her again at his bitchy, disapproving friend Julie Powers' (Aubrey Plaza) party. While still technically dating Knives, Scott strikes up a relationship with Ramona and realizing he's head over heels for her, breaks it off with Knives. This greatly pleases his sister little Stacey (Anna Kendrick) who's sole role in the film is to badger Scott about his pathetic life choices. Then the twist: to successfully date Ramona, Scott needs to battle and defeat (read: kill) her seven evil exes. At the beginning of their courtship, Scott is all gung-ho about it. He has a beautiful, mysteriously sexy American girl to hang out with, who cares about some measly battles? To add to the optimism, Sex Bob-omb has entered the Toronto International Battle of the Bands for a chance to sign with indie record producing superstar G-Man Graves. Could Scott's romantic and musical trajectories be intertwined? Why, yes they are! Which brings us to....


As exposition is to the world of Inception, music is to the world of Scott Pilgrim. It's constant. Drawing from the suggestions of author Bryan Lee O'Malley, the soundtrack features tracks from the '90s indie rock bands that inspired the book's characters (Scott Pilgrim, I Heard Ramona Sing) as well as the music of Sex Bob-omb composed, with generous fuzz guitar, by Beck. Nigel Goodrich's pop-synth score is a wonderful mix of traditional thematic motifs interwoven with video game cues (Legend of Zelda, Sonic) and bouncy chiptune-inspired audio. In short, it rocks. The film establishes a simple parallel structure between Sex Bob-omb's rise and Scott's fights; five of the six battles occur in nightclubs, during or after a set. Scott's first encounter with Ramona is set to Frank Black's "I Heard Ramona Sing," a song about falling in love, not with a girl, but with a band--The Ramones. It's a sly nod to the audience that Scott's loves are duel and interchangeable: every thought of Ramona is cued to a song in his head. Music is how he deals with the world around him and how he expresses his emotions (when he's not fighting). Edgar Wright has said the film has the structure of a musical but instead of song-and-dance numbers, people break into fights. This is true, but there are also strong elements of a traditional musical (Sex Bob-omb's performances, Scott serenading Ramona on a date) at work in the film as well.


I know the big action movie opening this weekend is supposed to be The Expendables, but Scott Pilgrim is giving Stallone and co. a run for their money. As a result of condensing six books into less than two hours, screenwriters Wright and Bacall have stripped away a lot of extraneous dialogue and character moments in favor of streamlined plot: action. Lots of it. The action universe is less Expendables-style "muscles in the jungle" and more Street Fighter/samurai/boss battle. But there is variety. Ramona's first evil ex Matthew Patel (Satya Bhabha) uses mystical powers to lead a hoard of demon hipster chicks in a choreographed Bollywood song-and-dance number while gaming lingo like "+64 combo," "reversal" and "K.O." appear in floating, opaque lettering onscreen. The second battle against pro skater turned sellout Hollywood action star Lucas Lee (Chris Evans) satirizes the overblown persona of that familiar type of actor. Shot at Casa Loma in Toronto, a real-life location for film crews that often subs for New York, the battle has an insider's in-jokiness. When Lee unleashes his lookalike stunt team on Scott, it's a conscious send-up of the inauthenticity of the filmmaking process heightened by the knowledge that both Evans and Cera were doubled during the battle.

I won't spoil any more of the fights or the opponents, but I can't conclude the section without some mention of what some may consider the alien (or alienating) nature of these battles. If you can't get over the conceit of live-action video game-inspired battles, go see something else. As pop arty as some of these fights are, there are still plenty of satisfying face punches and rib cracks even though, as a PG-13 film, there's no blood. (In arcade game style, defeated opponents burst into coins, rendering experience points and bonus items.) Each set piece is expertly choreographed by two veterans of the Jackie Chan stunt team and the action is uniformly excellent, fun, inventive and believable. It's all set against a sumptuous backdrop of cotton candy colors and shiny surfaces that seem to morph instantly back into grubby bars and back alleys the moment the fight is over. But, about the colors...


A declarative: Scott Pilgrim is the most visually inventive film of the year. Edgar Wright, who's always been a style over substance guy, manages to riff on almost every element of pop culture without being confined to the visual grammar of any one genre (horror/zombie films in Shaun of the Dead or buddy-cop action/horror films in Hot Fuzz). If anything, Scott Pilgrim is closest to his work on "Spaced" with its cartoony camera moves and impossible visual spaces. (Throughout the film, time is compressed and characters enter and leave the frame without any regard with physical or temporal limitations.) Wright and cinematographer Bill Pope are to be applauded for the scope of their audacity and ambition. In adapting a black and white manga-style comic book, they've managed to keep the whooshing air lines, jagged, diagonal framing and "Whump!", "Krak!" sound effects while infusing the entire picture with more brightly colored sets, costumes and backdrops than I've seen all year. Seventh evil ex Gideon Graves' nightclub, the Chaos Theater, is the scene of a dazzling final battle scene. Without giving too much away, Scott and Gideon clash samurai swords glowing blue and red, leap and fly through the black and white background and collide behind a dazzling red and sliver backdrop that I could swear was actually shimmering. It's the most beautiful action set piece in an American movie since Tarantino staged his Kill Bill vol. 1 showdown at The House of Blue Leaves.

Aside from the fight sequences, the visual trickery in Scott Pilgrim is downright impish. The first fifteen minutes of the picture move at lightning speed, shuttling Scott from environment to environment, often cutting off characters in the middle of a scene. The disjointed discontinuity editing is purposeful: it reflects Scott's love-struck haze after meeting Ramona. Images are stacked on top of images, often with introductory text labeling the environment like in Scott and Wallace's apartment. These flourishes are straight out of the comic book. There are also animated flashback sequences (another Kill Bill connection) drawn in the style of the comics, which at once serve to connect the two media as well as establish the boundaries of what is "real" and what is cartoon. As much as Scott's live action adventures are physically impossible, they're importantly not animated and therefore real. One of my favorite visual gimmicks is Wright's penchant for changing the aspect ratio during Scott's dream sequences/subspace adventures. This also happens a couple times during fight scenes, combined usually with a zooming in or out. The combined effect is something like a dolly zoom (the famous "Jaws shot"). Although not entirely jarring, it does produce a sense of almost indefinable anxiety. Scott's enemies are lurking around every corner ready to strike and playing with the visual medium as Wright does (in addition to manipulations of the audio track) establishes a shifting, uncertain environment on top of an already unrealistic landscape.

There is one other sequence I have to single out: Scott and Ramona's date through a snowy Toronto park. This sequence in the comic book has a stark, minimalistic beauty--deep blacks, thick line work and dark shadows set off the stark whiteness of page-full snow drifts. These scenes achieve an almost black and white film look. Once in a while in the background, you'll spot a blurry light of a faraway traffic signal. Otherwise, Scott and Ramona are alone in the wilderness. It's an understated romantic scene which gets repeated at the end of the film. Scenes like this are proof that even a kinetic display like Scott Pilgrim has its quiet moments.


As soon as I saw Allison Jones was one of the casting directors on Scott Pilgrim vs. The World, I knew it was going to be perfect. Jones, the crazy genius responsible for assembling the casts of "Arrested Development" and "The Office," accomplished what was probably the most daunting task of adapting from page to screen: getting the right actors for their characters. The trouble with any graphic novel adaptation is getting actors who cannot only act like their characters, but look like them. Unlike literary adaptations where the physical requirements are present but lax, a graphic novel of this sort, which consists mostly of the faces and bodies of its main characters, demands visual fidelity. The challenges are even higher in a film where most of the cast has to have comedic chops but also has to engage in grueling fight sequences and/or play their own music. Luckily, miraculously, every character, from the leads to the exes to the supporting cast, has been perfectly chosen. This is Scott's tale, but as any fan of the series will tell you, it's the supporting players that really "make" the Scott Pilgrim experience. This section is mostly just for book-to-screen comparison purposes, so feel free to skip ahead...

-Michael Cera as Scott Pilgrim: By far the biggest question mark in the group, the announcement of Cera's casting sent waves of panic through geekdom. His hair wasn't long enough. He was too skinny. He always plays the same characters! (How dare he.) Well friends, I'm here to tell you that Michael Cera is Scott Pilgrim. A sweet and adorably frail young man, I've never disliked Cera with the animosity he seems to garner from the collective Internet (who, I'm pretty sure, are just pissed at him for saying an Arrested Development movie maybe wasn't the best idea--the horror!). As Scott, he brings just the right amount of likability, pitiableness and jerkiness (yes, Scott is a jerk, I won't hear any arguments to the contrary). Cera's comic timing has never been sharper and his tendency to underplay Scott's inborn hysteria is a welcome change from page to screen. (Scott's overblown breakdowns and sulk sessions are hilarious in the books but would have tanked a live action film.) To the actor's credit, he's also a credible bassists and surprisingly agile fighter. Although he certainly had lots of stunt help, it must be said that George Michael Bluth kind of kicks a lot of ass in this movie.

-Mary Elizabeth Winstead as Ramona Flowers: Physically, she's the perfect Ramona. Standing next to Scott, you really notice their physical difference, something that was implied in the books but not always visible due to the art style. Ramona is a complex character and stripped as she is in the film of an extended courtship with Scott or many interactions with other characters, the filmmakers run the risk of creating a one-sided "dream girl" for Scott to run away with; Winstead makes her a full-fledged character. The subtlety of her performance is something of a wonder, balancing Ramona's inherent (and attractive) mystery. Through much of the series her "unknowability" is Ramona's main characteristic but Winstead manages to convey volumes with those big, cartoony eyes. She's obviously damaged and it's apparent that as much as Scott uses Knives to get over Envy, Ramona is using Scott, too. By the end of the film, we're giving a glimpse into a hope for their future, but it's a credit to both Winstead and Cera that they're able to convince us their relationship might go either way.

-Kieran Culkin as Wallace Wells: Wallace is kind of everyone's favorite so Culkin had a lot of pressure to deliver on this character, which he does. I was slightly disappointed that Scott and Wallace's interactions were cut down so much from the books and two of my favorite lines were axed as a result, but what's there is still hilarious. Wallce is part of Scott's support group, which includes his sister Stacey and Kim Pine. They're the people in his life who'll always tell him what's wrong and what's right and love him regardless of how stupid he gets.

-Ellen Wong as Knives Chau: For me, this is the performance of the film. Wong, a Toronto native, came out of nowhere and absolutely kills it as Knives Chau. She seems to relish Knives' descent into total stalker ex-girlfriend insanity and Edgar Wright milks those moments for all they're worth, giving Knives some terrific horror movie music and lighting cues. Wong is equally good at meek and innocent Knives. That she can believably play a sheltered 17-year old, a psycho groupy, a mellowed and wiser 17-year old, and a sai-wielding, ass-kicking heroine is quite an accomplishment.

-Alison Pill as Kim Pine: I am biased here because Kim Pine is my absolute favorite character. With most of her backstory and lines cut out, movie-Kim needed to get a lot across with very little, which is exactly with Alison Pill did. Every line delivery is a caustic punch in the gut, sarcastically underscoring the obvious failings of her band and her stupid, stupid friend Scott.

-Mark Webber as Stephen Stills: This is an example of perfect physical casting. Put this actor in costume next to a drawing of Stephen Stills and your mind will be blown. Stills has more of an impact in the film because Sex Bob-omb's career trajectory is more central to the plot. He is a nervous wreck, always paranoid about the band's quality and their future prospects. Webber has a wonderful moment back stage where he gets to unleash in full panic mode but because of the music coming from on stage, no one can hear him. A really nice supporting performance and a strong presence in the film.

-Johnny Simmons as Young Neil: Another really good physical match, Simmons unfortunately doesn't get the character arc Young Neil does in the books. In the film he's more a groupie/roadie than a roommate, friend or fan. There's one wonderful moment where Young Neil is singing along to Sex Bob-omb and messes up a lyric. It's a perfect moment of awkward truth--we've all been there.

-Anna Kendrick as Stacey Pilgrim: Anna Kendrick has an Oscar nomination. Then again, she's also in the Twilight series, so at least Scott Pilgrim won't be her most embarrassing credit. As Stacey, Kendrick is BFFs with Wallace, which makes Scott's life a living hell, as they both pretty much disapprove (lovingly) of Scott's relationship with Knives. Almost all of Kendrick's scenes are on the phone at Stacey's job as a Second Cup (the Canadian Starbucks) barista. The actress' clipped and snippy delivery is perfect for the character and she brings a lot of weight to a very minor role.

-Aubrey Plaza as Julie Powers: Aubrey Plaza kills it every week on "Parks and Recreation," and her role as bitchy Julie continues the funny. She actively hates Scott, yearns for the attentions of pretty, popular Envy and can't decide whether she hates or loves Stephen Stills. In one of the film's funniest scenes, she's imbued with the power of censure over an expletive-laden tirade. Two words: "Fuck Pilgrim."

-Brie Larson as Envy Adams: Like a lot of characters, Envy's role is cut way down. As it stands, she has about two good scenes. The first of which, a phone conversation with Scott in which she is a terrifying combination of glamorous allure and evil incarnate, is the best and a breath of fresh air in the middle of the movie, right when things are beginning to slow down. Larson has the unattainable glamor queen aura down pat and although she's not really humanized as she is in the books, there is one moment where for a second you understand she actually used to be a compassionate human being.

-Satya Bhabha as Matthew Patel: Nobody goes for it like Satya Bhabha in this movie. He's the first evil ex, so he sets the tone. He's also probably the most ridiculous evil ex. He has to sing and dance. He dresses like a pirate and he goes for it with gusto. It's a small role and over too quickly but Bhabha does a good job of setting the tone of the battles and the tone overall.

-Chris Evans as Lucas Lee: The former Human Torch and future Captain America paused briefly between those roles to play a very evil dude. Skater turned actor Lucas Lee is a boorish, self-centered ham and Evans plays him to perfection. With a husky bravado and imposing physique, you might think Scott couldn't defeat him. But as everyone knows, movie stars have one weakness: vanity. Advantage: Pilgrim.

-Brandon Routh as Todd Ingram: Routh may have made for a boring Superman but as he showed in Zack and Miri Make A Porno, and now Scott Pilgrim, his real talent is for comedy. Todd Ingram is the bass player for the super attractive, super evil The Clash at Demonhead, Envy Adam's new, popular, awesome (but evil) band. Todd is also a vegan which is where he gets his psychic powers (he had to go to Vegan Academy for that stuff). His monologue about the cleaning lady is some of the funniest stuff in the film.

-Mae Whitman as Roxie Richter: Her? The only evil ex who isn't a boy, Mae Whitman is another perfectly cast foe. Although not my favorite ex battle in the books, her fight with Scott (she also fights Ramona because Scott is a wimp and can't hit a girl) is my favorite in the film. Roxie whips off her studded belt and fights Ramona and her large hammer (+2 against girls). Everyone loves a girl fight; Scott Pilgrim gives the people what they want.

-Shota & Keita Saito as Kyle & Ken Katayanagi: The Katayanagi twins have a much different story in the books. For one thing, they talk. The Saito twins, however, don't really speak English, so in the film, they're silent. They play keyboardists pitted against Sex Bob-omb at the last stop of the Battle of the Bands. The Katayanagis, of course, are working for Gideon Graves. The fight manifests as an avatar battle, "Yu-Gi-Oh!" style. The twins activate a two-headed dragon avatar against Sex Bob-omb's conjured giant silverback gorilla. It's the most video-gamey of the ex battles and it might turn some viewers off. If you're not completely into the film by then, seeing giant CG-rendered animals fight each other to the tune of a garage rock/electro-keyboard mash-up might not be your thing.

-Jason Schwartzman as Gideon Gordon Graves: In the same way that Cera plays Scott as Cera with a twist, Schwartzman plays Gideon with a twist, but it's still recognizably him. Depending on whether or not you like the actor, this is a good or bad thing. Gideon is an undeniable dickhead: pompous, passive aggressive, condescending, manipulative and oh yeah, evil. Schwartzman can play dickishness well and delivers in the role. He's also a pretty skillful fighter. He duels Scott with the flair of a classically trained fencer which contrasts nicely with Scott's unpolished swordplay. As the final boss, Gideon is suitably evil and at the same time, a sniveling creep. We're happy to see him finished.


Edgar Wright's previous two films, Shaun of the Dead and Hot Fuzz, although both very, very good, were essentially parodies that attempted to tell a story (the survival epic in Shaun, the buddy cop/conspiracy thriller in Hot Fuzz) within a given film genre. Through these films, Wright gained the attention and respect of genre-drenched auteurs like Quentin Tarantino whose postmodern, deconstructionist work is still anomalous in Hollywood (many more directors and films follow the Michael Bay and/or Tony Scott style of action cinema than Tarantino's) but has attained total pop culture saturation. If Tarantino (and let's take Pulp Fiction as the example) attempted to adopt cinematic and cultural images for the purposes of deconstruction and rearranging, Wright essentially did the same thing (with comedic flair) in Shaun and Hot Fuzz. What separates Scott Pilgrim from those films, and what makes it a better, richer film, is that it does not have a singular specific referent (e.g., horror films), instead opting to draw, as if by cultural osmosis, from all corners of modern media culture and build from there. Scott Pilgrim is not a superhero movie as we've come to understand them in the past decade. Neither is it a video game movie a la Lara Croft : Tomb Raider or an action movie or a romance or a teen/young adult comedy. If anything it is a comic book movie in the purest sense (almost more of a comic strip movie) where the images seem to come to life (as corny as that sounds) in full color and sound.

I’ve been thinking lately that this movie seems to carry a lot of synergistic heat, not only because the source material is basically the popcult bible of my generation, but because by bringing that material to the fore visually (via film), you’ve managed to combine every media outlet that matters right now—comics, film, video games, and (in marketing) the Internet—into one miraculous, geeky package. With its whip-fast juxtaposition of kaleidoscopic imagery and melange of meme-worthy jokes and references, Scott Pilgrim is the quintessential pop document for the Tumblr set. Internet culture is never brought to the fore in the film but the experience of browsing, Tumblring, Facebooking, etc. is reflected in the multifaceted layering of music, images, text, dialogue, sound effects, and editing in the film. In any given scene, there may be three or five layers of humor: 1) a line of dialogue, 2) a sound effect, 3) a text, 4) a cut or camera move, etc., etc. Scott Pilgrim doubles and triples up on jokes which fly so fast sometimes you can't even remember why you're laughing and by the time you have remembered, the scene has changed to something completely different. This style of filmmaking is already being dubbed 'ADD' and by extension the people who watch and enjoy Scott Pilgrim must have something wrong with them. But there is an important distinction between filmmakers who layer on visual and audio distractions without rooting their choices contextually in the story (Tony Scott and Oliver Stone, I'm looking at you) and a director like Edgar Wright who understands that when Scott imagines living in a sitcom, it's not a grasp as empty pop culture referents--it's actually how he experiences and relates to his environment. Anyone who's grown up watching television, watching movies, playing video games, reading comics and surfing the web will recognize themselves in these moments. They're cultural touchstones, for good or ill, for a whole generation of us.

That being said, there is no doubt that Scott Pilgrim vs. The World is a niche movie. It will not appeal to everyone. There are already plenty of grumbly, old man reviews about the shallowness of the story, the incoherence of its images and the fact that it's all flash and no substance. I disagree on all counts. Scott Pilgrim is a movie but it's also a cultural archive, a snapshot in history of what it was like to live, as someone between the ages of let's say, 15 and 30, in a media culture and still try to find meaning as an adult. Perhaps even more than Harry Potter, this is a movie for the Harry Potter generation. The hero's quest is scored by a Zelda soundtrack ingrained in sense memory. Edgar Wright called these video game sounds the lullabies of a generation. Close your eyes. You can hear them, can't you? Like Harry Potter, Scott Pilgrim is all about love. Unlike Harry Potter, romantic love is not idealized or simplified. Scott lives in a universe where he is the hero because everything he has experienced has programmed him to believe he deserves hero status. Naive stupidity or hopeful optimism? None of the characters in the film use Facebook or any self-based media outlet (only Envy Adams, paragon of self-interest, has a blog), and yet Scott behaves in the insular manner to which we've all grown accustomed. What are our interests, which bands to we like? (Recall Scott's line: "Yeah, okay. So, back to me.")

Scott's casual disregard for the feeling's of others is almost assuredly due to the perception of himself as the hero at the center of his narrative. All others are there to assist him. (Knives paying for the video game, Wallace cooking, cleaning and advising him, Ramona paying for the bus and literally fighting Scott's battles for him.) Scott's self-centeredness is almost incidental, although crucial to his identity. In the book, Scott doesn't gain the Power of Self-Respect and I think the change in the movie is a positive addition. If Scott only had the Power of Love, his relationship with Ramona would continue to be one-sided but with the Power of Self-Respect, he's able to repair his relationship with Knives, Ramona, and even Kim because he's truly matured. The end of the movie is hopeful, but ambiguous. Scott has defeated the exes, but that was predictable. That is the hero narrative, the traditional character arc. What's next? The future is uncertain and the film is smart in the way it establishes the ambiguity of both Scott's relationship to Ramona after battling so many to be with her, and Ramona's attitude towards Scott--does she need to be grateful for what's he done or can she still choose to be by herself? For now, both characters are enjoying the moony bliss of a fledgling courtship. After weathering the storm of seven evil exes, what can't they handle?

CONTINUE? 8...7...6...5...


  1. Great post. I would take out the jab at Inception, as you may end up alienating more than a few people, and as we all know, using a post that proclaims your love for one thing as an oppotunity to bash something you didn't is no bueno. Just a suggestion.

    In any case, I'm stoked for the film, though I still don't buy your thesis that this is the defining film of a generation. Sure, it (and the comics) combine a lot of media formats into one package, I fear the appeal is simply too limited, even within our generation. Simply put, it's too niche. Regardless of quality, not enough people will see it or want to see it. That, and let's be honest with ourselves, it's far too soon to say what film has or will define our generation, especially if we're discussing one that is only just now getting a theatrical release. See how it holds up in the years to come. I tried coming up with a film earlier that I could claim to have defined our generation with enough evidence to support such a claim, but to no avail. I think one could mount an impressive essay on which filmmaker has defined our generation (my pick would be Tarantino) but again, it's all too soon. Wait till we're older.

    On the other hand, I do appreciate your sincerity here. Clearly, the comics, and now the film, are of deep personal importance to you. I myself loved the comics and have finally come around to being excited about the film, after being extremely wary of it. But the best response I can say right now is that everything you've said here about why the film is so important to you and tough to really analyze without delving into hyperbole could be said about The Dark Knight and Inception for me. Nolan's films have come to truly inspire me and affect me on a deeply personal level. The only thing I can really say about that is that it's the wonderful thing about film and art. One film can really mean something to someone, but not someone else, but it doesn't take away from that person's experience.

    Like I said, great article, I wish I could have seen it last night at the Drafthouse midnight show where the entire cast and crew were in attendace, but I was otherwise occupied with a 5th viewing of Inception with some people I had not seen in years. But I am thoroughly excited to see it tonight.

  2. are you telling me there isn't a lot of exposition in inception? i think the comparison is valid. flippant, sure, but valid.

    tarantino isn't us, though. tarantino is ten-fifteen years older than us. that's what i'm trying to say, that edgar wright is the tarantino (to use a clumsy analogy) for right now.

  3. True, but I think Tarantino's films have had a much greater impact on culture as a whole. Wright is too new to make such a claim. Only three films to his credit, and a niche filmmaker IMO. Shaun of the Dead and Hot Fuzz barely even passed $20 million in the U.S. I hope the best for him and I love his films. Tarantino may be older than use, but his films have had such a monumental impact on the culture trends of our generations. These days, no one outside of film nerds knows any of today's auteurs. Tarantino and Nolan are th eonly household names for our generation, Tarantino moreso, since Nolan is only just now getting to that point with The Dark Knight and Inception. Ask just about anyone in our generation, they know of Tarantino and have seen at least some of his films (Kill Bill is usually the answer).

    But I do get what you're saying as far as a filmmaker being a member of our generation. Wright fits the bill, for sure, but he's still very young and very new. Give it time I say.

  4. but anyone from the tarantino school of genre filmmaking is a niche filmmaker. in fact, like most media, movies are increasingly satisfying only niche markets. nolan is one of the only auteurs (to use an outmoded term) who actually makes high quality populist fare. tarantino doesn't do that and never will. inglourious basterds is the closest he's come mostly on the cache of his cult reputation seeping into the mainstream and because of waltz's performance. like DDL and TWBB, it was adopted by the lunatics who run the internet and the rest is box office history.

  5. So would you say then that Nolan fits the bill more than Tarantino? I'm hesitant to say so simply because, as I stated before, a bit too soon, but I can see one making a strong case for him.

  6. I would say that Nolan definitely fits the Spielberg-ish bill more than Tarantino. He makes high-quality populist films with strong generic roots. Some people like to point to Kubrick as Nolan's obvious predecessor/inspiration, but Kubrick was always more iconoclastic and idiosyncratic. Spielberg is a better comparison, although his films are much different in tone than Nolan's.

  7. It's not so much a jab as a statement of fact. Ellen Page's character in Inception did nothing BUT exposit the entire plot to us. Can that little throwaway line offends Inception fans? Please.

    I don't know about defining a generation as defining the indie subculture of the current generation. I'm Gen X and I loved it, my sister is Gen Y and hated it. So, YMMV depending on what "group" you run with.

  8. I loved Inception, but I loved Scott Pilgrim more.