Skip’s Quips: Help! My Ears Got Punished During ‘The Trip to Italy’

Blog Sketch 082813Who doesn’t like movies about a couple of guys taking a trip to Italy to dine at fancy restaurants while doing interminable impersonations of assorted celebrities?

I don’t. And consequently, I didn’t care for Michael Winterbottom’s disastrously unfunny The Trip to Italy at all.

I wasn’t a big fan of The Trip, the film’s picaresque predecessor, but at least the concept, which involved Steve Coogan and Rob Brydon doing impressions during meals at various restaurants in England, was somewhat novel at the time. Its sequel, however, is not so lucky. In fact, many of the impersonations (Michael Caine, Al Pacino) seem to be rehashed from the original film, leaving the viewer wondering if they have anything actually new up their sleeves to bring to the table.

It’s quite an awkward mix, this picture, what with the “comedy” (basically Coogan and Brydon talking over each other without offering much context) juxtaposed with shots of food and Italian landscapes … though the cuisine and scenery seem to be extraneous, playing second fiddle to the duo’s tedious, presumably improvised schtick.

I’m sorry, but I like my comedy cooked throughout, not half-baked. And The Trip to Italy is so underdone it’s raw.

One of the biggest problems with the flick is that it’s not cinematic. It’s a collection of episodes punctuated by flat humor and pseudo-philosophical asides. You’d be hard pressed to find another picture in recent years that dwells so much on quotes provided by Shelley and Byron. But you’d also be hard-pressed to find one that trivializes their work so frustratingly by making fleeting references to them and not following up with any further insight. That’s pretentious, fellow viewers, and makes for problematic movie-watching. I like my Shelley and Byron well-done, too. Not the way The Trip to Italy cooks them up.

I’m not sure what the market is for this kind of thing; it can’t be too large. It’s definitely not my kind of comedy. All I can say is I hope a third installment isn’t in the works. Making this series into a trilogy would just be too much cinematically to bear.

A Skip and Setter Diatribe: State of the Cinema

Blog Sketch A Skip and Setter Diatribe 101113Someone save the movies, please.

To crib from Byron: I want a hero. A super-director with a special power.

That power is trust.

Too few film makers these days are of the show-not-tell variety. Even the good ones seem to resort to preachiness as their work matures. An example: Ang Lee’s Life of Pi, an intriguing flick that ultimately turns to allegory to tell its story.

It didn’t need it. And that made it unsatisfying. But it’s not the only movie with this issue.

True, speechifying in film has been around since day one, with works such as Intolerance, The Great Dictator and others being benchmarks. Yet these days, it seems the genre has proliferated, with “man must” themes pervading serious cinema. They end up being hokey, as the dime-store morality in Forrest Gump was—becoming easily digestible pieces of protein without flavor.

Consarn it, I want more than just grill marks on my steak. I want seasoning, too—and it can’t be overcooked.

Many of the promising works of American filmmaking these days suffer from exactly that. They’re broiled too long and underseasoned, so you’re left not hungry for more, but annoyed that your meal cost so much.

Trusting the audience would make everything better.

So in this State of the Cinema, I urge the directors of today to edit. Leave exposition, back story and preaching on the cutting-room floor. Fill your movies with mystery and let the audience figure things out. You don’t need to be Harold Pinter, but you do need to believe in us.

Will you, that cinema hero, come? In anticipation, let’s sound the trumpets. And beat the drums.