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January 05, 2009

'Synecdoche' by way of Louisville


It's the kind of discount movie theater where $5 buys you the largest tub of 'corn -- good, too! -- and the only reason the ticket's $5 is because it's a weekend and "Synecdoche, New York" is billed as a "Louisville exclusive."

That means there's nowhere else in the roughly million-person metropolitan area where you can catch this art house flick (regular tickets at the Village 8 theater are $3, but the best bargain of the week is Tuesday, when it's a cool two bucks).

Your resident Gold Rusher, on a short stint in this Kentucky hometown for some Papa Gold Rusher medical hiccups, couldn't resist a cheap indie movie that's been in limited release, even in L.A., and a chance to spend a few hours among the local cinephiles -- all two dozen of them. 

Knowing ahead of time that Charlie Kaufman's directorial debut kicked up some dust on the festival circuit after premiering at Cannes and made a number of high-profile critics' top 10 of '08 lists, we were happy to part with the ducats. Kaufman's writing? Always been big fans. Oscar winner Philip Seymour Hoffman and a stellar cast? Sounds good, even though the plot, as described in reviews, struck us as incomprehensible and, well, pretentious. It's racked up a couple Independent Spirit Award noms, which may or may not be a ringing endorsement.

6394poster Chatter before the movie started -- what, no trailers at the cut-rate house? -- was of the cinema-snob variety. Folks in the row behind discussed everything from "Slumdog Millionaire" and "Doubt" to the French thriller "Tell No One." Go ahead and bag on smallish-town America -- we sure do -- but you can't say Louisville is full of uncultured heathens. A shoebox-size screening room with some 29 reverential patrons who'd plunked down hard-earned cash says otherwise.

We all laughed in what we assumed were the right places of "Synecdoche, New York," and nobody walked out in a huff, muttering about disjointed storytelling and nonsensical dialogue. But as the lights came up at the end, most of these film-conversant folks were left scratching their (egg)heads. 

We were reminded of an "Entertainment Weekly" review that gave the flick a sour D-plus, calling it a "turgid challenge" to sit through and saying, "it is one of those 'visionary' what-the-hell doozies. Prepare to be told that it's a masterpiece."

Some people have done just that. Not us, and judging from the reaction the other night, not our multiplex mates either. Who says you can't go home again?



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Oscar Contenders

  • So "The Dark Knight" didn't make it into the final five after all, never mind that critical and popular support. Let's just call the comic-inspired mega-hit "The Biggest Snubee."

    Here are the best picture contenders in a race that, two weeks away from the Oscars, seems to be a foregone conclusion ("Slumdog") unless there's a come-from-behind possibility ("The Reader" anyone?)

    "The Curious Case of Benjamin Button," with Brad Pitt and Cate Blanchett; the politically timely "Milk;" rags-to-riches fairy tale, "Slumdog Millionaire," Holocaust best-seller-based drama "The Reader," and Watergate-era biopic "Frost/Nixon."

    Could "Button" and "Slumdog" split the vote, allowing another film to take the prize? Doesn't seem likely. After having clung to "Button" for months as what we thought would be the Academy voters' top vhoice, our money's now on "Slumdog." Momentum can't be ignored.

    Watch this blog for updates, ephemera and all manner of postulating.

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  • Mmmmm, chocolate Oscar. Not every star will walk away from the 81st annual Academy Awards with a trophy, but if they hit the high-profile Governor's Ball they can have pastry chef Sherry Yard's gold-dusted candy version. Also on the menu from celeb chef Wolfgang Puck is tuna tartare in sesame miso cones, chopped Chino Farms vegetable salad with ginger soy vinaigrette, Maine lobster and caviar. Serve it up! (Getty Images)

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