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This is the blog of Ian Rosales Casocot. Filipino writer. Sometime academic. Former backpacker. Twink bait. Hamster lover.

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Sunday, January 09, 2011

entry arrow4:40 AM | Music Land

Todd Graff's Bandslam [2009] and Peter Sollett's Nick and Nora's Infinite Playlist [2008] are two recent movies that share the same DNA, and both are equally capable (and effective) in telling what individual stories they do have. And yet, I went away from my viewing of Nick and Nora feeling a little more cinematically filled than I was from Bandslam. Why is that when with both one gets essentially the same story? It's this: there's a lovable geek in a band (Michael Cera in one, and Gaelan Connell in the other) who falls for a beautiful girl (Kat Dennings in one, and Vanessa Hudgens in the other), all to the soundtrack of fierce indie music -- although one story is set in New Jersey (but shot in Austin, Texas) and the other is in New York City.

The difference, I think, is in the actors' appeal. Because no matter how much technically proficient the director is, and no matter how much the screenplay works to have a sound structure, the film rests in the believability of the people acting out the specific roles we see laid out in front of us. Nick and Nora has that in spades. Bandslam, unfortunately, does not

Ms. Hudgens is a perfect example of such irritation: a one-note actress with five basic facial expressions to convey a range of characterization, she tries her best to get away from the sweet girl role she embodied in the High School Musical films, and she does this by being a little morose and edgy -- but she succeeds only in sleepwalking through her role, and even that she does badly. Her hero as played by Mr. Connell looks positively asthmatic that I was already offering various inhalers to the screen. And yet the film is not entirely bad. I liked it. I liked its story. But I could care less about the actors in it, except for the brilliant Alyson Michalka who is the only one cast right for the film. (The rest, including Lisa Kudrow, whose ticks as an actress -- lovable in Friends -- are a little grating here.) You see, there is a certain "brightness" to Mr. Cera and Ms. Dennings that makes them watchable in Nick and Nora, and still at the same time they make themselves completely acceptable to the mold of their characters. Some people call this star power. Perhaps. I just call it talent.

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