Reviews

Eagle vs. Shark (2007)

Tricia Olszewski

Check the movie's taglines -- "Opposites. Unattractive." and "There's someone for everyone... apparently," and there's no mistake: It's time to laugh at the nerds again.


Eagle vs. Shark

Director: Taika Waititi
Cast: Jemaine Clement, Loren Horsley, Joel Tobeck, Brian Sergent, Craig Hall, Rachel House
MPAA rating: R
Studio: Miramax Films
First date: 2007
UK Release Date: 2007-08-17 (Limited release)
US Release Date: 2007-06-15 (Limited release)
Website
Trailer

There's no way to avoid mentioning it, so let's get this out of the way: Eagle vs. Shark is a helluva lot like Napoleon Dynamite. The debut of New Zealand writer-director Taika Waititi is a study in, well, studying: everything from its characters to its tone to plot turns ape Jarod Hess' film. Workshopped at the Sundance Filmmaker Lab, Waititi's script is so carefully precious that it will likely grate no matter what your opinion of the other film.

Jarrod (Jemaine Clement) is a Kiwi gaming-store employee with a butchered mullet, thick lips, and tinted glasses. (They're arguably rose-colored, but it'd take more than that detail to give this character any depth.) The story, though, is told through the bug-eyes of Lily (Loren Horsley). She lives with her brother Damien (Joel Tobeck), and works as a cashier at the fast-food joint Meaty Boy. Her coworkers don't like her, and she spends each shift watching the clock, waiting for the moment Jarrod makes his regular lunch stop. Lily kicks customers out of her queue to make way for her crush, only to have him choose to wait in the line of a more attractive clerk. One day, though, Jarrod's got no choice but to give Lily his order. "Do you want the big fries? It's free!" she asks him. "Do you want cheese? It's free!"

Lily's eagerness bewilders Jarrod, who then requests she pass along a party invitation to Jenny, the other cashier. Jenny couldn't care less, but Lily retrieves the crumpled paper and drags Damien to the shindig. Revelers are supposed to come dressed as their favorite animals. (Also, Jarrod points out, "My friend has a helmet, and he's going to let us chuck shoes at his head.") Jarrod's an eagle; Lily's the shark. Jarrod thinks her costume is pretty cool, and Lily suddenly becomes really interesting when she shows off her virtual combat skills in a video-game competition, eliminating all the boys while fighting under the moniker "Dangerous Person." After the party, Jarrod seduces her in a manner befitting his strenuous, mouth-breathing oddness: "Do you want to kiss?" "Yep." "On the lips, then?" "Yep." "Do you want to have sex?" "Um, yep?" Following their minute-long encounter, Jarrod crank-calls a former high school nemesis.

Eagle vs. Shark's humor leans almost completely on every character's misfitness. (And it is every character.) Lily, at least, manages to be intermittently likable. Her early scenes -- acting out an imagined boyfriend's profession of love in the mirror, giggling along with a flirtatious couple whose conversation she can't hear -- are genuinely funny. She also becomes the closest the film's got to a three-dimensional human being when she accompanies Jarrod on a trip back home to meet his family. (The trip is actually planned so Jarrod can exact revenge on the aforementioned nemesis, though.) Napoleon may have had an unusual clan, but Jarrod's is rather pitiable, especially his dad (Brian Sergent), who's pale, wheelchair-bound, and harbors a decidedly unamusing resentment toward Jarrod for reasons eventually revealed. He's an angry cartoon until Lily starts spending time with him on her own.

But Horsley doesn't come out unscathed. In order to disguise her prettiness -- for filmic outsiders can't merely be awkward, can they? -- the actress forces her eyes wide and continually twists her mouth. This weird tic quickly becomes one of the more irritating aspects of the movie; Lily's tendency toward utter passiveness is another. Jarrod, on the other hand, isn't allowed any redeeming qualities: He's angry (because of depression, he says, that "makes me pretty intense," ha ha), he's arrogant (he claims he looks like Hugh Jackman), and he lies about Lily to impress his family ("Lily's a dancer"). He also does his best to reject and belittle Lily once she's followed him home to observe his showdown with the high school bully. (Clement reveals a gift for comedy in his HBO project, Flight of the Conchords, but he's intolerable in Jarrod's skin.)

To be fair, Eagle vs. Shark does manage a few affecting moments as its plot deals with the topics of suicide and the importance of family. Waititi occasionally cuts his live nonaction with crude animation of bugs and flowers. One of the more touching scenes comes near the end, with a pair of discarded apples meeting and sitting next to each other. The idea behind this image, and, ostensibly, the entire movie is unconditional love, and as with Napoleon Dynamite, the filmmaker may feel genuine affection for his characters. But with so many jokes about self-delusion, physical mishaps, and embarrassing revelations, it's hard to buy. Check the movie's taglines -- "Opposites. Unattractive." and "There's someone for everyone... apparently," and there's no mistake: It's time to laugh at the nerds again.

5

The year in song reflected the state of the world around us. Here are the 70 songs that spoke to us this year.

70. The Horrors - "Machine"

On their fifth album V, the Horrors expand on the bright, psychedelic territory they explored with Luminous, anchoring the ten new tracks with retro synths and guitar fuzz freakouts. "Machine" is the delicious outlier and the most vitriolic cut on the record, with Faris Badwan belting out accusations to the song's subject, who may even be us. The concept of alienation is nothing new, but here the Brits incorporate a beautiful metaphor of an insect trapped in amber as an illustration of the human caught within modernity. Whether our trappings are technological, psychological, or something else entirely makes the statement all the more chilling. - Tristan Kneschke

Keep reading... Show less

Electronic music is one of the broadest-reaching genres by design, and 2017 highlights that as well as any other year on record. These are the 20 best albums.


20. Vitalic - Voyager (Citizen)

Pascal Arbez-Nicolas (a.k.a. Vitalic) made waves in the French Touch electro-house scene with his 2005 debut, OK Cowboy, which had a hard-hitting maximalist sound, but several albums later, Voyager finds him launching into realms beyond at his own speed. The quirky, wallflower vocals and guitar snippets employed throughout Voyager drop a funk that brings to mind WhoMadeWho or Matthew Dear if they had disco-pop injected between their toes. "Levitation" is as pure a slice of dance floor motivation as theoretically possible, a sci-fi gunfight with a cracking house beat sure to please his oldest fans, yet the album-as-form is equally effective in its more contemplative moments, like when Miss Kitten's vocals bring an ethereal dispassion to "Hans Is Driving" to balance out its somber vocoder or the heartfelt cover of "Don't Leave Me Now" by Supertramp. Voyager may infect you with a futuristic form of Saturday Night Fever, but afterwards, it gives you a hearty dose of aural acetaminophen to break it. - Alan Ranta


Keep reading... Show less
Film

Hitchcock, 'Psycho', and '78/52: Hitchcock's Shower Scene'

Alfred Hitchock and Janet Leigh on the set of Psycho (courtesy of Dogwoof)

"... [Psycho] broke every taboo you could possibly think of, it reinvented the language of film and revolutionised what you could do with a story on a very precise level. It also fundamentally and profoundly changed the ritual of movie going," says 78/52 director, Alexandre O. Philippe.

The title of Alexandre O. Philippe's 78/52: Hitchcock's Shower Scene (2017) denotes the 78 set-ups and the 52 cuts across a full week of shooting for Psycho's (1960) famous shower scene. Known for The People vs. George Lucas (2010), The Life and Times of Paul the Psychic Octopus (2012) and Doc of the Dead (2014), Philippe's exploration of a singular moment is a conversational one, featuring interviews with Walter Murch, Peter Bogdanovich, Guillermo del Toro, Jamie Lee Curtis, Osgood Perkins, Danny Elfman, Eli Roth, Elijah Wood, Bret Easton Ellis, Karyn Kusama, Neil Marshall, Richard Stanley and Marli Renfro, body double for Janet Leigh.

Keep reading... Show less

The Force, which details the Oakland Police Department's recent reform efforts, is best viewed as a complimentary work to prior Black Lives Matter documentaries, such 2017's Whose Streets? and The Blood Is at the Doorstep.

Peter Nicks' documentary The Force examines the Oakland Police Department's recent reform efforts to curb its history of excessive police force and systemic civil rights violations, which have warranted federal government oversight of the Department since 2003. Although it has its imperfections, The Force stands out for its uniquely equitable treatment of law enforcement as a complex organism necessitating difficult incremental changes.

Keep reading... Show less
6

Mary Poppins, Mrs. Gamp, Egyptian deities, a Japanese umbrella spirit, and a supporting cast of hundreds of brollies fill Marion Rankine's lively history.

"What can go up a chimney down but can't go down a chimney up?" Marion Rankine begins her wide-ranging survey of the umbrella and its significance with this riddle. It nicely establishes her theme: just as umbrellas undergo, in the everyday use of them, a transformation, so too looking at this familiar, even forgettable object from multiple perspectives transforms our view of it.

Keep reading... Show less
7
Pop Ten
Mixed Media
PM Picks

© 1999-2017 Popmatters.com. All rights reserved.
Popmatters is wholly independently owned and operated.

rating-image