Thursday, April 22, 2010

American Splendor

Shari Springer Berman, Robert Pulcini, 2003 (8.6*)
This is such an intimate portrait of a nobody going nowhere that it's hard not to like it's honest openness. It's a near documentary about comic author Harvey Pekar, wonderfully played by Paul Giamatti, whose story of a boring life of obscurity was illustrated by legendary underground comic artist Robert Crumb and titled "American Splendor".

The narrative follows Pekar as he begins to break out of his terminal dullness by writing an intended comic strip about it. Former Cleveland resident Crumb revisits and likes Pekar's writing and decides to illustrate the story. The film covers Pekar's rise from obscurity with the same matter-of-fact tone that Pekar's comic covered his routine life.

The film cleverly mixes some animation with live action, so flawlessly that it's an enhancement and not a distraction, as it reveals more about the title series. This received a "Un Certain Regard" award at Cannes for "mixed media use". The directors also wisely chose to include the real Harvey and his girlfriend Joyce Brabner (brilliantly under-played by Hope Davis in a Golden Globe nominated performance) in some scenes, which gives this a "reality within docudrama" moments, like the actors watching the real people react to a play in L.A. based on Pekar's comics about his life! You just don't find layers of reality piled up this deeply very often..

Very humorous and unusual, justifiably a film festival favorite.. a must-see for small indie film fans.

National Society of Film Critics Award, Best Feature; several awards for screenplay. Paul Giamatti received National Board of Review Award for "Breakthrough Performance by an Actor".
Awards page at IMDB


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These are the individual film reviews of what I'm considering the best 1000 dvds available, whether they are films, miniseries, or live concerts. Rather than rush out all 1000 at once, I'm doing them over time to allow inclusion of new releases - in fact, 2008 has the most of any year so far, 30 titles in all; that was a very good year for films, one of the best ever.

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