Friday, April 29, 2011


Two opening in the Valley this weekend:

The Henry in Henry’s Crime, played by Keanu Reeves, is a passive, soft-spoken third-shift tollbooth worker in Buffalo. One morning after he gets home from work, he’s gulled into participating in a bank robbery. He’s the only one who gets caught, & he refuses to give up his fellow robbers. Soon after he enters prison, his wife (Judy Greer) leaves him for another man.

Henry bonds with his cellmate, Max (James Caan), a con man so comfortable in prison that he deliberately throws his parole hearings so that he can stay in. But when Henry is released—he’s a model prisoner, of course—this crisply-paced noir comedy, directed by Malcolm Venville from a script by Sacha Gervasi, David White & Stephen Hamel, turns into one of the oddest caper movies I’ve ever seen.

Having been incarcerated for a crime of which he was innocent, Henry decides, for some reason, that he now ought to commit it for real. He talks Max into playing along with the parole board & getting out of the joint to help him.

Their preposterously contrived scheme involves—& I’m not going to explain exactly how—Henry insinuating his way into the theatre across the alley from the bank, at which an intense Eastern European director (Peter Stormare) is mounting The Cherry Orchard. Henry begins an affair with the actress (Vera Farmiga) playing Madame Ranevskaya, & eventually ends up playing opposite her in the role of Lopakhin, while his accomplices are raiding the vault next door!

I mean, I understand the suspension of disbelief, but …Keanu Reeves landing Lopakhin in a regional-theatre production of The Cherry Orchard? Come on.

Keanu Reeves is one of the all-time greatest demonstrations of star power—he’s indisputably been a movie star for more than twenty years now, on the basis of some mysterious charisma unconnected to any significant acting ability, or even, really, to charm. He’s been charming in some movies—Speed, most notably—but at least as often he’s been sullen & off-putting. However he comes across, though, come across he does. He holds the camera, & the audience. He’s a star.

In Henry’s Crime, he just seems pleasantly dense, & for the first half of the film, this works fine. But when he starts reading Lopakhin’s lines, & everybody is supposed to be struck by what a fine natural actor he is, the movie unintentionally veers into a kind of surrealism that even Buñuel never attempted.

It’s compounded because Reeves is surrounded here by a lot of really top-notch acting—by James Caan as the good-natured hustler Max, by Fisher Stevens as the jerk bank robber, by Danny Hoch as a nitwit accomplice, & by Bill Duke, who, as an observant bank guard, quietly whacks his one good scene out of the park. Our glimpses of The Cherry Orchard cast are good, too; good enough that I really wished they’d forget the ridiculous bank-robbery plot & just let us watch the play.

The best element of Henry’s Crime, however, is Vera Farmiga’s devastatingly dead-on portrait of a frustrated small-potatoes regional-stage diva. The performance is an instant classic, justifying this strange movie’s existence all by itself. Anyone who’s spent any time in the theatre will likely recognize this nervy, neurotic, narcissistic woman at once, with a simultaneous shudder & smile.

Made in a less-expensive, not-so-lush form of computer-generated animation, 2005’s Hoodwinked! was a spoofy retelling of the Little Red Riding Hood myth. It was filled with wacky references to other fairy tales, something like Shrek but without the same effortless wit. The voice cast was good & the film certainly had its moments, but on the whole it felt second-tier.

Due in part to its modest budget, however, Hoodwinked! was nicely profitable, so sure enough, this weekend a sequel arrives, about a year belated by Hollywood legal wrangling. In Hoodwinked Too! Hood vs. Evil, the plucky young Red (voiced by Hayden Panettiere, replacing the original’s Anne Hathaway) must team up with the deadpan Big Bad Wolf (Patrick Warburton) in order to rescue Granny (Glenn Close), who’s been kidnapped by a masked, cackling witch (Joan Cusack).

Lots of other bizarre characters voiced by celebrities are woven into the complicated storyline, including Bill Hader & Amy Poehler as Hansel & Gretel, Brad Garrett as a Scorcese-style Giant, Wayne Newton as an anthropomorphic harp, Cheech & Chong as two of the Three Little Pigs, & Andy Dick as a Hannibal Lecter-ish Bunny. Martin Short, David Ogden Stiers, Heidi Klum & David Alan Grier all talked into microphones for this film, & co-writer Cory Edwards returned as the Wolf’s chattering squirrel sidekick.

With actors like that riffing away diligently at their skewed lines, it’s inevitable that Hoodwinked Too! would have some funny moments. I liked Grier’s trash-talking, four-armed bridge troll, & Warburton, with his slow, sardonic line readings, is always good for a few laughs. Despite the cut-rate animation, the film isn’t without visual amusement, either, as in the Charles Addams-like look of Hansel and Gretel.

The trouble is that while the film tries hard, you can feel it trying hard. Too hard. It’s by no means awful, but it just doesn’t build up enough zany momentum, especially in its homestretch.

The director, Mike Disa, wrote this column for the Huffington Post in which he described how proud he was, after spending a decade working for Disney Feature Animation, to make a movie for little girls in which the heroine isn’t a Princess looking for Her Prince. I wholeheartedly agree with his sentiments, & I think, on the whole, that little girls (& boys) will enjoy Hoodwinked Too! reasonably well. But positive gender roles do not, by themselves, a classic make.

Thursday, April 28, 2011


This Saturday evening, the Midnite Movie Mamacita screens the graphically remarkable documentary American: The Bill Hicks Story at 8 & 10 p.m. at Tempe’s MADCAP Theaters.

RIP to TV writer Madelyn Pugh Davis, who crafted the scripts for I Love Lucy, passed on at 90.

RIP also to Charles Laufer, founder of Tiger Beat magazine, departed at 87.

Tuesday, April 26, 2011


Been looking for a video collage of interviews with contemporary thinkers discussing Immanuel Kant’s 1795 essay Perpetual Peace: A Philosophical Sketch? Well, who hasn’t?

Happily, Perpetual Peace, the DVD, is out today from Microcinema International. You can read my short review of it here, on Jabcat on Movies.

Monday, April 25, 2011


Hope everybody had a great Easter. The Wife, The Kid & I celebrated in the traditional manner: Eating brunch while watching a spaghetti western starring a lizard. We went to Farrelli’s Cinema & Supper Club to see Gore Verbinski’s existential CGI feature Rango, in which a pet chameleon is accidently lost in the Mojave desert, & becomes the sheriff of a grungy town in desperate need of water.

For the first twenty minutes or so, it’s hilarious yet also curiously moving. The title character makes a compelling Everylizard, lost in an incomprehensible & dangerous world. But Rango gradually bogs down the same way that Verbinski’s Pirates of the Caribbean movies do—too much talk & too many plot points which, once set up, require a wearying pile-up of resolutions toward the end. A little tightening, & it might have been a small masterpiece, but it’s just a bit much, by any standards, & especially for a kids’ movie.

The movie truly for children that I saw this weekend was Atlas Shrugged, Part 1, now in its second week at the Valley Art in Tempe.

The adaptation of about the first-third of Ayn Rand’s 1957 magnum opus is about an abrupt disappearance, in the near future, of society’s “prime movers”—the inventors, innovators, independent business tycoons & so forth. The author’s view is that if such people were to one day take their marbles & go home in a huff, the rest of us parasitical mediocrities would curl up in the fetal position & everything would fall apart.

Most of us who have led working lives have observed that this result could more easily be produced in the managerial class by the sudden disappearance of janitors, waitresses, busboys & caddies. But despite the dizzying idiocy of the premise, I truly thought that Atlas Shrugged, Part 1 might be an exciting movie, as was the 1949 version of The Fountainhead, with its possibly even stupider & more odious premise.

It’s doubtful that any significant American literary figure was ever as giddily full of shit as Ayn Rand, but I’m not able to get mad at her. It would be like getting mad at a 13-year-old—not because she wasn’t intelligent (she was) but because her intelligence was in thrall to her adolescent avidity. Dreadful though her writing is, there’s a charge to it that’s unmistakably erotic, & the obvious absurdities that arise from her “thought,” even in an un-philosophical mind like mine, seem clearly driven by her gushy passion for strong males who Don’t Care What Other People Think.

The movie of The Fountainhead, which Ayn Rand loathed, at least captured some of this swoony sexual atmosphere, & you didn’t have to wade through the laughable prose to get it. The Atlas Shrugged film has none at all.

No hot stuff here—Ayn Rand’s sensibility may have been adolescent, but the sensibility of the Tea-Party types who now fetishize her work, & to whom these filmmakers are presumably playing, is a good deal more infantile. The signature moment of the movie, perhaps, comes when industrialist hero Hank Rearden explains why he won’t share “Rearden Metal” to one of the story’s many trumped-up mealy-mouthed bureaucrat villains: “Because it’s mine. Can you understand that concept? Mine.” Behind the handsome, smooth-voiced actor in the suit, you can see the stamping feet & clenched fists of the two-year-old who can’t understand any concept except “Mine.”

Taylor Schilling, the actress who plays heroine Dagny Taggart, looks very chic, but she delivers her lines less convincingly than an infomercial hostess. Her love interest, Grant Bowler as Rearden, is possibly even a little duller.

Given the excruciating dialogue that they have to speak, I don’t know that these two can be blamed for this. There are some real old character-actor pros in the cast, like Michael Lerner, Jon Polito & Graham Beckel, & they don’t come across much more vividly. There are a few pretty aerial shots of desert landscape, & a cool-looking suspension bridge design & a rousing musical score in the manner of a ‘70s disaster movie, but otherwise Atlas Shrugged, Part 1 is about as amateurish & tedious to sit through as any fiction film I can remember.

Backing up my opinion on this—I’m one of those parasitical mediocrities, after all—was the eloquent review of a fellow audience member nearby in the Valley Art: loud snoring, right around midpoint. Of course, maybe he was just tired from having to work a double shift so that moochers & looters could get welfare.

At the blessed arrival of the end credits, as I watched the elderly, Fox-News-demographic-looking audience shuffling dejectedly out, I felt pretty bad for them: I wondered if this was the first time some of these guys had taken their wives to the movies since Dr. Zhivago, & this is what they got. Terrible. Whatever your political bent, going to the movies ought to be fun.

Thursday, April 21, 2011


Garrett Scott’s strange & sad 2002 documentary Cul de Sac: A Suburban War Story is finally out on DVD from Icarus Films. My short review of it appears here, on Jabcat on Movies.

Also from the documentary front: RIP to Tim Hetherington, co-director of Restrepo, killed in Libya working to bring us more uncomfortable truth.

Wednesday, April 20, 2011


RIP to Michael Sarrazin, departed at 70. He’s best known, I suppose, for They Shoot Horses, Don’t They? But I always remember him as The Monster in the scary, if mistitled, 1973 TV-movie Frankenstein: The True Story.

I like this. As my pal Owen observes, it works for fathers, too.

A surprise in the mail yesterday: A copy of my pal Scott Verbout’s book An Asperger Journey: My Lifelong Battle With Autism. You can (& should) check it out (& buy it) here.

Friday, April 15, 2011


The computer-animated kids’ movie Rio begins in the title city, where we see a baby parrot captured for the exotic bird trade. Somehow he ends up stranded in Minnesota, where he grows up (into the voice of Jesse Eisenberg) as the pet of Linda (Leslie Mann) a nice young woman who runs a bookstore.

She’s named him Blu, which he is, all over, & when a nice Brazilian ornithologist, Tulio (Rodrigo Santoro), shows up at the bookstore he proclaims Blu the last male of his species, the “blue macaw” (a check of Wikipedia reveals that there really are a couple of species of macaw with blue plumage that are critically endangered). He persuades Linda to bring Blu back to Rio to meet Jewel (Anne Hathaway), the last female blue macaw, in hopes that they’ll hit it off and propagate.

Linda & Blu make the trip, but Blu & Jewel once again fall into the clutches of bird smugglers. They manage to escape, chained together like Tony Curtis & Sidney Poitier in The Defiant Ones, & Blu’s humiliating secret comes out: He’s never learned to fly.

All this adventure takes place against the backdrop of, you guessed it, Carnival, & it involves all manner of supporting characters, from a villainous cockatoo (Jemaine Clement) to a sympathetic toucan (George Lopez) to a salivating bulldog (Tracy Morgan) to songbirds voiced by & Jamie Foxx. The plot is more complex than that of many CGI kidflicks, but at bottom, it’s still a blend of the genre’s usual motifs: A hero who must learn to believe in himself, a love story, separation from family, & so forth.

It’s an enjoyable blend, though. The brilliant, saturated colors both of the tropical setting & of the feathered characters are a treat for the eyes, there’s some flavorful music (Foxx sings especially well), & the voice cast is strong. Eisenberg’s nebbishy tones amusingly contrast his dazzling appearance, & they get across the key to his character: having grown up in a bookstore, he’s book-smart, but lacking in real-world experience.

I enjoyed Rio, even found it rather touching, but the opinions which carry more weight are those of the three excellent third-graders with whom I saw the film. They all sat still through the length of the film, & laughed out loud at it. Three finer reviews than that would be hard to come by.

Rio was preceded, by the way, by Scrat’s Continental Crack-Up, a short in which the hilarious saber-toothed squirrel from the Ice Age films, in his ongoing purgatorial quest for his beloved acorn, inadvertently breaks up the earth’s tectonic plates. It is indeed a crack-up.

Wednesday, April 13, 2011


The great Sidney Lumet passed on at 86 this weekend. Not all of his movies are great, or even good, but when they aren’t, it’s because the script was uneven or the casting was misguided or something like that. Lumet’s direction was always unobtrusively deft & graceful.

For my money, the best performance he ever captured was that of Paul Newman in The Verdict, with Al Pacino in Dog Day Afternoon not far behind. But maybe Lumet’s true masterpiece, not just in shepherding actors to some of their best work but as an all-around filmmaker, was Network, his sly, deadpan slice of wacky '70s-era prophecy that just doesn't seem so wacky anymore. If you've never seen it, or not in a long time, I suggest you check it out. Not only does it remain one of the more enjoyable feature-length satires Hollywood has produced, it can also mess with your head.

For the uninitiated: Network, released in 1976, is about UBS, a fictional fourth network—strange to recall that there were only three major commercial networks in those days before the ascendancy of cable. An aging, over-the-hill anchorman, Howard Beale (Peter Finch) is supposed to announce his "retirement" (he's being forced out) during a news broadcast, but instead he announces that he plans to commit suicide on the air.

The executives, already struggling with bottom-of-the-heap ratings, are mortified by the scandal, but when Howard begs for another chance to address the public and apologize, UBS strikes gold: He asserts, on the air, that he said what he said because "I ran out of bullshit," and goes on to elaborate on the various ways in which life is bullshit. Primed by the first debacle, the ratings for the second debacle skyrocket.

A pantherish programming exec (Faye Dunaway) is given control of the news, & turns it into a sideshow (or, if you insist, into more of a sideshow) with Howard at its center, now thoroughly over the edge, spewing secular-evangelical stand-up rants about modern alienation & soullessness, & teaching the audience to spout the passionate if rather vague catechism "I'm mad as hell, and I'm not going to take it anymore!"

It's a hit, & before long Dunaway's programmer has the network's other shows following suit. She even builds a series around footage of the real-life crimes of a domestic terrorist cadre along the lines of the Sybionese Liberation Army.

I was in 9th grade when I first saw this movie, & while I thoroughly enjoyed it—I was especially a fan of Dunaway’s big orgasm scene—I can remember thinking, even at that tender age, that it was all absurd, outrageous, satirically ham-fisted. It sure doesn't seem that way anymore.

Of course I'm not the first person, or the hundredth, to point out how joltingly prophetic Network came to look in the ensuing decades. The great, unapologetically didactic screenwriter Paddy Chayefsky, probably drawing initial inspiration from the real-life on-air suicide of Florida newscaster Christine Chubbuck in 1974, paints a broad canvas that seems to anticipate everything from "Reality" TV to FOX News. But watching the movie now, you may find that you have another reaction which, when you think about it, is even more disturbing: The film has gone around the bend of prophetic and begun to seem...well, a little quaint.

I mean, really—a news show with a variety format, centered on a ranting maniac, with a psychic segment & a gossip segment? Big deal. That sort of showmanship now is old school; nobody would think twice about it.

What rescues Network from this datedness is that Chayefsky (who died in 1981, after writing only one more movie, 1980's Altered States) recognizes how perfectly harmless & congenial the corporate Powers That Be would find Howard's rousing but unspecific fury—it's just one more product they can co-opt. Only in the movie's final twist, when Howard rails one night against a merger between the network's parent company & the Saudis (!) does he suddenly find that he's captured the attention of his employers. He's called on the carpet before the head of the conglomerate (Ned Beatty), who preaches to him with Messianic fervor:

...It is the international system of currency which determines the vitality of life on this planet. That is the natural order of things today. That is the atomic and subatomic and galactic structure of things today. And you have meddled with the primal forces of nature. And you will atone. Am I getting through to you, Mr. Beale? You get up on your little 21-inch screen and howl about America, and democracy. There is no America. There is no democracy. There is only IBM, and ITT, and AT&T, and DuPont, Dow, Union Carbide, and Exxon. Those are the nations of the world today...

...You have meddled with the primal forces of nature, Mr. Beale, and I won't have it. Is that clear? You think you've merely stopped a business deal? That is not the case. The Arabs have taken billions of dollars out of this country, and now they must put it back. It is ebb and flow, tidal gravity. It is ecological balance. You are an old man who thinks in terms of nations and peoples. There are no nations; there are no peoples. There are no Russians. There are no Arabs. There are no third worlds. There is no West. There is only one holistic system of systems; one vast, interwoven, interacting, multivaried, multinational dominion of dollars...

...The world is a business, Mr. Beale; it has been since man crawled out of the slime. Our children will live, Mr. Beale, to see that perfect world in which there's no war or famine, oppression or brutality, one vast and ecumenical holding company, for whom all men will work to serve a common profit, in which all men will hold a share of stock, all necessities provided, all anxieties tranquilized, all boredom amused. And I have chosen you, Mr. Beale, to preach this evangel...

It's basically the world that Aldous Huxley describes in Brave New World, & Howard's democratic ire simply deflates before this blueprint for a contented corporate world-state (& not being Mad As Hell any more leads to his destruction). I think maybe Chayefsky's rage deflated a little, too. Chilling though it is, I think deep down Chayefsky, like Howard, may have felt that this corporate honcho's vision might truly be the best we could do for ourselves, as a society.

What reason does Chayefsky offer for our inevitable conformity? Well, human nature, maybe, but with a compounding factor: Television, of course. Near the end of the film, Network's hero, the ousted, worldly-wise News Director (William Holden) breaks off his affair with Dunaway's panther woman with these gallant words:

...It's too late, Diana. There's nothing left in you that I can live with. You're one of Howard's humanoids. If I stay with you, I'll be destroyed...

...Like everything you and the institution of television touch is destroyed. You're television incarnate, Diana. Indifferent to suffering; insensitive to joy. All of life is reduced to the common rubble of banality. War, murder, death are all the same to you as bottles of beer. And the daily business of life is a corrupt comedy. You even shatter the sensations of time and space into split seconds and instant replays. You're madness, Diana. Virulent madness. And everything you touch dies with you. But not me. Not as long as I can feel pleasure, and pain, and love...

This seems the slightest tad hyperbolic, & considering that Chayefsky became famous through television plays like Marty (1953), some might argue that it's a little disingenuous, too. But as someone who really enjoys TV, I just wish that this indictment was easier to dismiss. I've often defended TV against what I saw as cultural snobbery & posing, but my defense has generally been about content—that the TV series is potentially as valid a long-fiction format as the novel, for instance, or that the level of writing and acting on contemporary TV is higher, overall, than that in contemporary movies. It's not as easy to mount a defense of the long-term effect of TV on the individual psyche, or on society.

Who hasn't felt it while channel-surfing? You skip from staged horror to real-life horror to insipid glitzy entertainment to superficial journalism to, yes, works of intelligence & decency, & even occasionally works of fine art, all of it shot through with the constant plea of "buy, buy, buy" & all of it rolling right over you, with your response to it flattened out. Have you ever wondered if your response to real life wasn't gradually being flattened out in the same way? I certainly have.

One last irony occurs to me: Is it possible that some of what's happened in television over the last thirty-odd years might actually have been inspired by Network? The thought would appall Chayefsky the Man, perhaps, but it could hardly fail to bring a smile to the Ghost of Chayefsky the Dramatist.

Friday, April 8, 2011


Despite the title, & despite the fact that it’s set in two different orphanages, the main characters of Born to Be Wild 3D, the IMAX movie opening this weekend, aren’t troubled youths of the Peter Fonda & Dennis Hopper sort. Aside from a bit of head-butting & other such mischief, they’re sweet-natured, well-behaved kids, tenderly hand-raised by dedicated staffers.

The documentary, narrated by Morgan Freeman, cuts between facilities devoted to two threatened species—a haven in Borneo for foundling orangutans & one in Kenya for elephants orphaned by poachers. Both are run by formible-looking, motherly old ladies: The former by the German primatologist Birute Galdikas, a protégé of Louis Leakey, & the latter by the Kenyan Daphne Sheldrick, thought to be the first person ever to perfect a milk formula for baby elephants & rhinos.

Early on there’s a few seconds of footage, 2-D & inset, of what appears to be a baby elephant crying next to its poached mother; later we see a newly captured elephant orphan’s terror as its keepers try to coax it to take a bottle. These are the only passages that kids (or sensitive grownups) mind find somewhat upsetting.

Otherwise, the film presents scenes of baby orangutans being bathed & fussed over by kindly Indonesian women & elephant calves getting enormous bottles from kindly Kenyan men. It’s touching, & often funny, & highly impressive in 3D & on an IMAX scale. If a little bit of cute goes a long way with you, remember that it only about 40 minutes long, & that Freeman’s crisp, astringent voice dries it out.

A word should also be said for the use of music in Born to Be Wild 3D. Steppenwolf’s anthem doesn’t turn up, but tunes like “Let the Good Times Roll” & “Jambalaya on the Bayou” are used to good effect. & it’s hard to dislike a kids’ nature movie that includes Mel Torme singing “Comin’ Home Baby.”

Wednesday, April 6, 2011


...a couple of pics of my kid in China...

Friday, April 1, 2011


Much of last month I spent in China, where the Year of the Rabbit is in full swing. Cute little bunnies were in evidence everywhere, on billboards, buses, restaurants, shop windows & calendars. & it appears that we’re in for a taste of the same stateside, with the release of Universal’s Hop.

One of the heroes of Hop is E.B., a cute little talking rabbit. E.B., who’s the heir to the Easter Bunny mantle, runs away from his home on Easter Island—the equivalent of the North Pole for Santa—because he would rather be a rock drummer. The other hero is a cute guy from California, Fred O’Hare, who’s unemployed but who, when fate tosses him together with E.B., decides he wouldn’t mind being the first human Easter Bunny.

That’s the peculiar premise of this kids’ movie, which mixes live-action with computer animation in the manner of 2007’s Alvin and the Chipmunks, with which it shares a director, Tim Hill. E.B. is voiced by the British comic Russell Brand, also playing the title role in the upcoming remake of Arthur, while Fred is played by chick-flick fave James Marsden, perhaps a bit of Easter eye-candy for the Moms in the audience.

The plot of Hop is silly in the extreme, but it allows for plenty of hijinks involving cute fuzzy animals, there are cameos by David Hasselhoff & the Blind Boys of Alabama, & there’s some goofy visual imagination to the settings. The eight-year-old with whom I saw the film found it alternately mesmerizing & hilarious, & it made me laugh a bit, too. There are a few mildly off-color gags that only the most uptight would be likely to find troubling.

That’s pretty much all that need be said, I suppose, except...well, the movie reminded of how I felt about Disney’s The Lion King years ago. I left that movie wondering why it was so obvious that the lions should be the ruling class, & why Disney found it necessary to give “ethnic” voices to the hyenas that infiltrated the pride & started all the trouble. I felt like a politically correct idiot raising this, but since The Lion King was an original piece of mythmaking, since it wasn’t avowedly based on some earlier book or legend, I wondered why those aristocratic, ethnically pure sympathies still had to be observed.

To a much, much milder degree, I felt the same way about Hop. The major antagonist is a chick, Carlos (voiced by Hank Azaria), who works in the Easter Bunny’s factory & who seethes with ambition to take over the candy delivery himself, rather than see it taken over by E.B. When he suggests this, the retiring Easter Bunny (voiced by Hugh Laurie), laughs at the idea that anyone but a bunny—with a British accent, of course—could hold the job. Eventually, Carlos resorts to attempting a palace coup.

But I couldn’t help but wonder…why couldn’t Carlos (a bird, after all) deliver eggs just as well as a bunny? I know, I know, lighten up, it’s just a kids’ movie, & I’m not saying that it was conscious on the part of the filmmakers, but I can’t help it, there’s something classist about the way the movie seems to endorse the idea that Carlos, with his thick Latin accent, is getting above himself. Especially since the movie eventually turns around and gives the gig to an upper-middle-class white kid from Van Nuys.