Jeff, Who Lives at Home (2012) An unemployed man in his early thirties (Jason Segal) talks into a recorder about how he just re-watched “Signs,” and it got him thinking again about coincidences. The camera pans out, and we see that he’s on the toilet. Perfect. The latest and most ambitious Duplass film (which is to say not a very ambitious film) immediately reveals that it will be a meditation on some pretty small and banal lives in Baton Rouge. It’s perfectly cast, with Segal playing another iteration of the Stoner With Flashes of Inspiration, Ed Helms as his moderately successful brother — who we know is going to be a schmuck, because he has a goatee — Judy Greer as Helms’s suffering wife, and Susan Sarandon as the mother who expected her boys to do more than this.
Beasts of the Southern Wild (2012) I can sell it to you in five words: “Black, Southern Werner Herzog movie.” Benh Zeitlin — who is twenty-fucking-nine years old — adapts a small play that nobody saw into a hallucinogenic family fable about a fictionalized redneck island off the coast of New Orleans. Two first-time actors play a daughter and father living in disorganized bliss. As the movie opens, they live in separate, ramshackle homes lifted up on blocks to protect from a coming flood, and he stumbles home from time to time to throw a chicken on a grill and yell “feed-up time!” The first act ends with a hurricane that drowns most of the island and sends the hold-outs — the father and daughter among them — living like Bruno at the end of Stroszeck, amidst weirdos slaughtering catfish and goats and catching catfish by punching them. And it gets more beautiful and strange from there.
God Bless America (2012) The latest in Bobcat Goldthwait’s series of spiteful black comedies that run 10 minutes longer than anybody needs. His previous offering, World’s Greatest Dad, gave us Robin Williams as a frustrated writer whose dipshit son dies while masturbating, giving the artist the chance to pass off his work as that of a croaked teen genius. There are many more corpses in God Bless America, as pathetic middle-aged Frank learns he’s dying of a brain tumor and decides to kill America’s cultural ruiners. He slaughters the star of a “My Super Sweet Sixteen” style show, which impresses the victim’s classmate Ava, and the two of them become (in her words) “platonic spree killers.” It’s a fun-but-didactic experience, with little effort made to disguise Goldthwait’s voice in the dialogue. (I’m thinking of the scene in which Ava professes her love for Alice Cooper, Frank says he “likes” the band, and Ava says “you don’t ‘like’ Alice Cooper. You accept him into your life.”) Goldthwait also has a weakness for the slo-mo scene soundtracked by pretty obvious pop, so we get to hear half of Cooper’s “Hello Hooray” and The Kinks’s “I’m Not Like Everybody Else.” Mediocre, but if you always wanted Paper Moon to be more fucked up, here you go.