Thursday, January 10, 2008


Critically Bitter is Johnada's chance to complain about things he has no business complaining about. Today, he takes on movies. If he really knows so much about movies, maybe he should make them, not write about them in a blog.

The Wife and I saw the film Juno last weekend. It was a good teen comedy that has a relatively happy ending and avoids a lot of dumb move cliches. Overall, I would give it 3.5 Hortons. But the movie includes one scene that is becoming a bad cliche in these "kooky" indie movies. This scene typically involves a hipster dude or dudette talking about how much s/he loves a song/band. The band/song is then played while the characters in the scene stare intently, sometimes nodding along. There is no way to make this work within the narrative of any film without taking the away from the plot. Every time I see this, it makes me want to vomit. It memorably happened in the film Garden State, when Princess Leia's mom tells the guy from Scrubs that the Shins, "will change your life."

Unfortunately, this has happened in many films other than Garden State (let me know if you remember any). In Juno, it happens when the Jason Bateman character plays Juno Sonic Youth's version of "Superstar" by the Carpenters. Through dialogue about Bateman's former band and his "cool" music room, the film had already established his rocker credibility with Juno. This part seems tacked on and totally unnecessary. It's basically the writer saying to the audience, "I like this cool song, don't you think it's cool?" I think this particular song would have worked spectacularly in the background in other parts of the movie. It's seems like a waste to pay for the rights and use it like this.

Music in movies should draw you in, make you feel closer to the character, not hit you over the head with the filmmaker's coolness.

P.S. The movie takes place in Minnesota, where I was lucky enough to live for six years prior to moving to Canada. All city references in the film are about MN towns, except for several references to a competing high school track team from Manteno. Manteno is in Illinois (just seven miles north of my home town, Bourbonnais) and a seven hour drive from Minnesota. This does not make any sense geographically. Despite the fact that no one else in the world cares, it bothers me a lot. I didn't find it cute. Here's a link to an article about the Manteno references in my hometown newspaper - the Daily Journal.


mimi said...

"Juno" screenwriter is Diablo Cody -- a former stripper from the Twin Cities (no pun intended). She also writes some kind of sex blog, but I don't think it is as risque as Johnada.

Dheeru said...

I haven't yet seen Juno, but I was about to chime in to echo your complaints about the "movie characters listening to and discussing hip bands/songs"... that is until I was informed via the comment above that the screenwriter is a former stripper. The fact of the matter is that most strippers, past and present, are not very good screenwriters. Their plots are usually far-fetched nonsense involving nymphomaniacal space invaders and pizza-delivery boys, and the dialog and character development is usually mediocre at best, if not painfully amateurish.
Sorry I missed you guys on New Years...

Zhu said...

Haven't seen it yet. I don't even know if we have it in Ottawa... we're not as culture orienting as you guys in the 416!

SMB said...

It's MANKATO, MN. Not Manetno, IL.
Mankato is 80ish miles south of the twin cities, close to New Ulm. There is DEFINATELY a MnSCU university there - actually, I think the MN Vikings stay there; therefore, MANKATO is to Minnesota as BOURBONNAIS is to Illinois. I've been to Mankato, to drop off a proposal. It was a very nice drive from MPLS.

AND, that Carpenter's cover is Sonic Youth's BEST SONG - in my opinion, at least. There's nothing like putting on a set of headphones and closing your eyes and listening to thurston moore.

Johnada said...

Mimi - She wrote a column for the Twin Cities alt weekly called "Pussy Ranch." Despite the title, I wasn't a fan.

Dheeru - Don't you mean porn star? Strippers are a whole different breed.

Zhu - I recommend it, perhaps on DVD.

SMB - I know you hate it when I'm right, but unfortunately in this case I am correct. See my new link in the actual post. I also love Mankato, but they definitely make to references to Manteno. I also love that Sonic Youth version of the song, though it's no Teenage Riot.

Gary said...

They had to have meant Mankato. Of course, Manteno is alright too. Not for the movie, but there's a couple of good bars there.

Having drank in almost every town in Illinois (and many in Minnesoooota)


Anonymous said...

We are college students in Illinois and one of my friends is from Manteno, Illinois and just so you also bothers him about as much as it probably bother you! :-D
Okay, g'bye!

JohnJEnright said...

I saw it tonight and kept hearing "Manteno". I wondered if there was maybe some Manteno in Minnesota... but no. Weird.

Anonymous said...

So I am actually from Manteno, and i was happy it reference my town but then i found out the movie was actually suppose to take place in MN, i was disappointed, they need to get the geography str8 in that movie

Anonymous said...

The screenwriter is originally from the Chicago area -- Lemont, according to wikipedia -- so the Manteno references are problably an intentional nod to the area.

Anonymous said...

Mankato is only referred to by the angry couple in the lab (it's where the guy went to visit his brother and got drunk and whatnot). The rest of the time, people are talking about Manteno.

babysmith13 said...

we're from manteno, too! ;)

Trashy said...

i noticed the Manteno thing too and it was driving me coo-coo as well. it's weird how we'll suspend our disbelief for the craziest things in movies, but get totally sidetracked by random little details. c'est la vie.

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Anonymous said...

I'm also from Bourbonnais. I've seen the movie several times and have always wondered if the Manteno referenced is the town from Illinois. Glad to see that I'm not the only person wondering about this. It kind of baffled me that the uniforms worn by the track team in the movie appears to be purple and Manteno's school colors are purple and white. 2008

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