The Campaign

Culture Warrior on 2012

In this end-of-year editorial, Landon Palmer discusses the pattern that movies demonstrated in 2012 for telling stories through protagonists defined by their various personality traits rather than through conventional, straightforward characters. In so doing, movies this year showed how our individual identities have become divided within various aspects of modern social life. This trend made some of the year’s movies incredibly interesting, while others suffered from a personality disorder. Landon argues that movies ranging from The Hunger Games to The Dark Knight Rises to Holy Motors alongside cultural events and institutions like the Presidential election, social media, and “Gangnam Style” all contributed to a year in which popular culture is finally became open about its constant engagement with multiple cults of personality. Six years ago, Time magazine famously named its eagerly anticipated “Person of the Year” You in big, bold letters. Its cover even featured a mirror. As a result of the established popularity of supposedly democratized media outlets like Facebook and the home of the cover’s proverbial “You,” YouTube, Time declared 2006 as the year in which the masses were equipped with the ability to empower themselves for public expressions of individual identity. More than a half decade later, social media is no longer something new to adjust to, but a norm of living with access to technology. Supposing that Time’s prophecy proved largely correct, what does it mean to live in a 21st century where we each have perpetual access to refracting our respective mirrors?

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Drinking Games

By now, you have to be sick of pretty much any political campaign. Just think, in a short week, this will all be over and you’ll either cheer or cry, depending on your candidate of choice. Don’t you love American politics? In this last week of the 2012 election season, you can watch the absurd election comedy The Campaign, and then you can realize that in the context of the races going on around the country, it’s really not all that absurd. That thought alone should drive you to drink, so why not enjoy some structured drinking as you enjoy the movie?

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Welcome back to This Week In Discs! As always, if you see something you like, click on the image to buy it. Safety Not Guaranteed A trio of magazine writers (Aubrey Plaza, Jake Johnson, Karan Soni) head to a small coastal town in Washington to investigate an intriguing classified ad. Once there they discover as much about themselves as they do the oddball (Mark Duplass) behind the time travel-themed ad. If the synopsis sounds hokey just know that the resulting film is a sweet and simple delight from beginning to end. Plaza balances her usual cynicism and sarcasm with a true emotionally satisfying performance while Johnson and Duplass bring heart and laughs as well. It’s rare to see such a small film manage such an uplifting finale, but writer Derek Connolly and director Colin Trevorrow manage something special here that deserves an audience. Also available on DVD. [Extras: Featurettes]

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Culture Warrior

Will Ferrell is a funny man. This seems to be a fact undeniable even to those who don’t otherwise care for his brand of comedy. Even though his schtick has become reliably familiar – he often plays variations of an over-privileged adult child who is hopelessly naïve in certain categories of social life and prone to random bursts of livid anger – its regularity has yet to prevent Ferrell’s comic talents from growing stale. There seems to also be some indescribable aura at the core of Ferrell’s comic talent, something about his appearance and demeanor that can’t be explained through analyses of timing and punchline, as evidenced by his strange appearance on Jimmy Fallon last May. For many, Ferrell’s comic appeal has been this essential, indescribably funny core since his SNL days. Ferrell is funny not exclusively because of his physical comedy or imitable characters; he, as a force of nature, is pure farce (a farce of nature?). But as his film career continues to accumulate titles and as his unique comic sensibilities become better-known with his roles as producer and writer, it’s clear that, beneath his farce, Ferrell has a confrontational political and satirical streak underlying much of his work, which has naturally led to him portraying a politician in Jay Roach’s The Campaign. Ferrell’s roles, however, often exercise a fascinating and occasionally self-defeating tension between satire and farce, with one element substituting, rather than laying the groundwork for, the other. Here’s an overview of the politics of Will […]

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Jeremy Renner in The Bourne Legacy

Christopher Nolan’s The Dark Knight Rises was king of the hill for three weeks, but this weekend found it at the bottom of an inescapable prison. By “inescapable prison,” I mean in 3rd place with another $19.5m and a cumulative $835m worldwide gross, so no one is eating soup and cabbage at Warners or anything. The Campaign – featuring Will Ferrell and Zach Galifianakis punching babies for votes – took 2nd with an opening draw of $27.4m domestic. The unsurprising winner, however, was The Bourne Legacy which scored $40.2m here in the States and a worldwide total of $48m. That’s a better opening than The Bourne Identity but it’s a bit behind the two other franchise entries. Again, not surprising. In slightly smaller releases, the Meryl Streep/Tommy Lee Jones marriage drama Hope Springs came in 4th place with 1,000 or so fewer theaters, taking $15.6m. Travis Pastrana’s stunt-fueled Nitro Circus: The Movie 3D took $1.1m from 800 theaters for a debut at 13th place, but in super limited releases, Julie Delpy’s follow-up 2 Days in New York brought in $27,000 on only 2 screens, beating the per screen average of every other movie this week. A close second on that front? The US release of Max and the Junkmen (Max et les Ferrailleurs) which earned $13,000 off just one screen at the Elinor Bunin Monroe Film Center, only 41 years after its original release abroad. [Box Office Mojo]

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Jay Roach directing Will Ferrell in The Campaign

The Campaign is much edgier than director Jay Roach‘s previous comedies. While many of them features titans going head-to-head — Mike Myers vs. Mike Myers, Stiller vs. De Niro, and Rudd vs. Carrell — he’s never taken it to this extent. From how Roach describes it, that darker side derives from the film’s R-rating, which Roach, Will Ferrell, Zach Galifianakis, & Co. fully embrace. There’s an inherent meanness to the lengths Ferrell and Galifianakis’ characters go. When The Campaign takes a slightly sentimental turn towards the end, it works in part because of their, as Roach describes it, undeniable likability. To make their face-off work, Jay Roach went through his fair share of neurosis, a character trait part of all the comedies he’s made.

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This hasn’t been the most prolific of summers as far as blockbusters are concerned. The Avengers gave this season a promising start, but no action film came close to matching its scope and sheer love for fun. Last month was the most disappointing proof of that, with the very flawed Amazing Spider-Man and the messy finale we got with The Dark Knight Rises. However, there’s been a good run of independent releases so far — Killer Joe, Headhunters, Safety Not Guarnteed, Your Sister’s Sister, Take This Waltz, etc. —  and this August is no different, with plenty of small and greatly satisfying offerings to be discovered.

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Whether you appreciate his work or not, there’s no arguing that director Jay Roach solidified his place in the world of big screen comedies by launching both the Austin Powers and Meet the Parents franchises. As many tickets as those movies sold, he probably never had to work in the movie business again. Unfortunately, he did, and he made Dinner for Schmucks, a movie that hasn’t had very many nice things said about it by anyone. After a brief break from the comedy world, directing the HBO dramatization of the 2008 presidential campaign, Game Change, Roach finds himself back in the comedic sphere, perhaps utilizing some of his more ridiculous experiences putting together Game Change, to bring us The Campaign. Roach’s new comedy was already introduced to us a few days ago, when the film put a couple of fake political ads for its two main characters, Cam Brady (Will Ferrell) and Marty Huggins (Zach Galifianakis), up on Facebook. But now the marketing team is back and eager to impress with the film’s first full-length trailer; a somewhat reassuring trailer that already contains more laughs than the entirety of Dinner for Schmucks.

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Though Jay Roach’s upcoming political comedy is no longer called Dog Fight, it does still star Will Ferrell and Zach Galifianakis as two Southern political rivals running for the same congressional seat, and it does still have the potential to be pretty hilarious. These days the movie is going by the name The Campaign, and it looks like it’s about to hit us with a pretty big marketing blitz. Facebook pages have been set up not just for the film itself, but also for the two fictional politicians that Ferrell and Galifianakis will be playing, Cam Brady and Marty Huggins. On each of their respective pages you can also find the politicians’ first TV ads, which exist somewhere in a state of limbo between viral ads and traditional trailers. What you’re getting is really just chunks of footage from the film slightly edited to look more like political ads than they do your typical movie trailer; so they’re not going to make even the most unwitting and least discerning advertising target think they’re watching anything other than footage from an upcoming movie.

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published: 12.19.2014
A-
published: 12.18.2014
C-
published: 12.17.2014
B+


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