Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Ordinary Life is Pretty Complex Stuff.

I know there are many of you out there who missed my pseudo egotistical movie countdown from the 2000s so I am going to try and get back into the habit of posting.

92. American Splendor (Shari Springer Berman and Robert Pulcini, 2003)

American Splendor
is based on the cult hit comic book series of the same name from Harvey Pekar. What Pekar has to say about his comic is that it's "an autobiography written as it's happening. The theme is about staying alive. Getting a job, finding a mate, having a place to live, finding a creative outlet. Life is a war of attrition. You have to stay active on all fronts. It's one thing after another. I've tried to control a chaotic universe. And it's a losing battle. But I can't let go. I've tried, but I can't." In a medium filled with spandex clad superheros Pekar's series put comic books to a different use, depicting the average struggles of an everyday life.

in 2003 documentarians Shari Springer Berman and Robert Pulcini turned American Splendor into a hybrid comic adaptation of Pekar's book and a biographical film about Pekar himself. Starring as Pekar is Paul Giamatti in perhaps the first big role of his career, coming a year before the Oscar nominated Sideways (2004). Giamatti embodies everything one could wish for in his portrayal of Pekar. His performance comes off so naturally that it thoroughly feels as though he's the real Harvey Pekar, which is quite the feat considering Pekar himself appears in the film periodically in a few candid cameos.

Giamatti and the material itself are just two thirds of the film's main strengths. The last is Berman and Pulcini's combination of conventional narrative techniques and documentary style that not only makes American Splendor a unique film on its own but also fits the style of Pekar's comic splendidly. With the booming financial success of big superhero comic book film adaptations it's great to see their more grounded brethren reach the silver screen as well and some days just getting through a crummy job or finding someone to love could be just as daunting as saving the planet from super powered megalomaniacs.

Films from 2003 on List:

American Splendor (Shari Springer Berman and Robert Pulcini)
Oldboy (Chan-wook Park)

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