Tuesday, January 06, 2009

LA Is Chirping Too

Chirp is now playing in Los Angeles at the Sunset 5 at least through the 8th of January. This should be the film's swan song in theaters before it hits video stores in a few weeks. Here's the terrific, fair review from Variety:

Artistic aspirations and romantic entanglements stalk the East Village streets in tyro helmer Jonathan Blitstein's goofily engaging Gotham comedy, "Let Them Chirp Awhile." Fresh out of NYU film school, Blitstein films what he knows: His tale of a young filmmaker's writer's block gleefully incorporates all manner of antic styles, from Mack Sennett-style double-takes to Felliniesque black-and-white pantomime. That Blitstein pulls off this tiredly self-reflexive conceit with relative panache is due in no small part to the scruffy grace of leads Justin Rice and indie fixture Brendon Sexton III. Opening Dec. 5 in New York, "Chirp" may roost awhile.

Bobby (Rice), attempting to write his first screenplay, lives largely inside his own mind. When not engaging in stream-of-consciousness voiceover to vent his doubts and frustrations, or getting sidetracked by infinite irrelevancies and false starts, he lies about his progress while casually hooking up with current g.f. Dara (Laura Breckenridge), a college frosh some seven years his junior, or hanging out with lifelong best bud Scott (Sexton).

Unlike the idealistic Bobby, Scott always waffles between two extremes -- his day job as corporate marketer and his nighttime work as rock musician wannabe -- and similarly wavers between Michelle (Pepper Binkley), his live-in girlfriend of four years, and Ariel (Amy Chow), his Korean mistress of four months. Most tellingly, Scott's moral compass falls somewhere between Bobby's upright humanism and the cynical egomania of Bobby's nemesis, successful playwright Hart (Zach Galligan).

Encroaching on Neil LaBute/Woody Allen territory with a callowness that almost proves charming, Blitstein maintains an absurdist distance from his characters' hangups that sometimes turns literal, such as when the camera follows a couple's argument from blocks away. At the same time, an "Umberto D"-like subplot, wherein Bobby loses the Jack Russell terrier entrusted to his reluctant care by an ex-girlfriend, occasions pic's most parodic, over-the-top closeup reactions of panic and desperation .

But Blitstein's lead actors consistently translate awkward self-consciousness into effortlessly executed soft-shoe. Rice brings a boyish ingenuousness to his role that disarms all comers, and his interactions with Sexton, a past master at self-sabotage of every stripe, transform potentially awkward exchanges into seamless setpieces.

This perfectly modulated control of tone rarely extends much further than the tete-a-tetes where these two thesps hold sway, however. The difficulty Bobby expresses in relating to the world outside his head also plagues his creator. Thus, although a pretentious 9/11-set play by the ever-opportunistic Hart is wonderfully awful, Bobby's shushed expressions of shocked disbelief seem forced, as does the gushing audience's inane praise.

Tech credits are a cut above most location-shot no-budgeters, Blitstein having opted to shoot in 35mm.


Anonymous J.D. said...

Hi Zach---

Well, first of all, happy new year. I guess I wouldn't be me if I didn't put my obsessive comments first like I always tend to do, lol! I guess you know now that I may be an obsessive Gremlins fanatic, but I am not that creepy that you can catch me lurking outside your home, lol! I really have heard horror stories about people who do that, don't worry, I'm not that type (but I am very strange, no doubt about that!) Once again, it was a privilage to finally meet you and talk to you in L.A. on Dec 21st.

Well, on to your post. I saw LTCA the day it opened. I did find some of it amusing, Hart was kind of a self absorbed, arrogant kind of guy. Thing is I would have liked to see a little more of him. Maybe I don't get it with these indie art films, but I was kind of suprised how the film just ended, no closure to certain plot elements (the dog's owner for example, does she notice it is not the same dog?) You will probably always be to me, and practically everyone else, nice guy Billy Peltzer, he is most definitely more noble and likable than Hart. But overall the film was not too bad for a first feature. Blitstein was supposed to be at the 9:40 PM show i saw, but he never showed, maybe because suprisingly there were just three people in the audience, including me! I was told he had attended the earlier show with a few people (were you one of them by any chance???)

Now, I have got to find a copy of "The Pack", I checked in my local Hollywood Video, they didn't have it, dammit!

Enough of my rant!

Best Wishes for both you and your wife for a great 2009.


January 07, 2009 1:34 AM  
Anonymous mantrasolo said...

Happy New Year, Zach!

January 07, 2009 9:45 AM  
Blogger John said...


Today is 2/14/09.....I am pretty sure it is your 45th birthday....I had no other way to reach you or email you, so I hope you get to see this......

I wrote to you years ago on some other site, but I barely recall what it was or what I even said.....today, I just want to wish you a very Happy Birthday, whatever you do....and I hope you and your loved ones are well....

if you ever want to say hi, don't use the gmail address below......I use Johnny118@aol.com far more frequently....

All my best to you,
Paramus, New Jersey :)

February 14, 2009 12:57 PM  
Anonymous J.D. said...

Hi Zach---

You didn't actually think I would forget to stop by here today to send my best wishes for a great 45th birthday, did you? Does anyone even THINK you are 45??? It is not just me obviously, other comments on the web I have read say the same thing, that people still think that you look like you are in your late 20's or very early 30's!

I can very well relate to that, I am 32, but some people still think I am in high school, and I almost always get asked for my ID when buying a drink! People say I should take it as a compliment, but after a while, I wish I did actually look my age!

Well, I am going out for the night, so here is hoping you had a great day with your wife. Best wishes to you both. And yes, I did find time to watch "Cupid" last night, like I always try to do every year around this time, lol!

Take care,


February 14, 2009 10:26 PM  
Blogger Charlie said...

Hi Zach,

Charlie Haas here, your writer on Gremlins 2. Looking forward to seeing "Chirp" -- I'm in Oakland, so I won't see the NY or LA theatrical dates, but will watch for it on local screens or DVD.

Would like to get in touch with you and catch up... are you on Facebook? Or something?

Thanks and be well,

February 25, 2009 4:37 PM  

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