Thursday, August 22, 2013

IN A WORLD -- my review

In a world of mind-numbing hollow big budget summer blockbusters and lackluster sequels, one little film dares to be sweet and funny and real.

I wish I had the big booming voice to do that last sentence justice, but you get the idea. IN A WORLD written, directed, and starring Lake Bell is the most enjoyable movie I’ve seen this summer.

In a world where Lena Dunham is overrated for her self conscious look-how-cool-I-am calculatingly shock dialogue, Lake Bell proves to be more real, more entertaining, and way more funny.

It seems you can write a comedy about young people without the humor emanating from self loathing, cruelty, sexual perversion, and humiliation. Who knew?

Since IN A WORLD is a movie about people who don’t fly, live in the next century, or are talking animals it is considered an “art” film. Hopefully it is showing in your town and not in the one shoebox theater that is usually reserved for Werner Herzog films.

IN A WORLD is set in the world of voiceover artists who do movie trailers. Yes, it’s a small niche, but even at five or six there are still more of them than vampires. And today we are so savvy about every aspect of show business that these artists who once toiled in anonymity now are known. The late Don LaFontaine (pictured: left), who actually did all the “In a world…” trailers, even appeared in his own Geico commercial. A longtime family friend was Dick Tufeld, who in the ‘50s and ‘60s was the voice of everything – from the Academy Awards to all the Disney trailers to a thousand national commercials. No one knew who he was. You might know him best as the voice of the robot on LOST IN SPACE. And before Dick Tufeld there was Art Gilmore.

Not that you should feel sorry for these basso profundos. Dan Ingram, the top disc jockey in New York on WABC for twenty years also did a ton of national voiceover spots. I asked once if it bothered him that no one outside of Gotham knew who he was, and he said, “When I walk out of a building I don’t want people saying ‘Hey, there’s Dan Ingram’, I want them saying, ‘Hey, who’s that guy getting into a Rolls’?”

Having come up through radio I’m happy to say I know a lot of voiceover people. Among them: Mark Elliott & Joe Cipriano (who were in the movie) and not to be a name dropper, but Lee Marshall who is the voice of Tony the Tiger. (Talk about a grrrrrrrrrrreat gig.).

The one note of the movie that didn’t ring totally true was that this was still an old boys club and women weren’t allowed. There are a number of successful women voiceover artists. For example, Randy Thomas, who was the first woman to announce the Academy Awards. Go to the William Morris website and you’ll see there are just as many women voiceover demos as men. But that’s quibbling. By the way, for a competitive cutthroat business, I’ve found voiceover people to be almost universally lovely people. If there’s any jealousy or resentment it’s from me because their damn voices are so much better than mine.

Although the movie is a satire on Hollywood, at its heart is a story about relationships, primarily between fathers and daughters.

In a world of Hollywood hokum relationships with two-dimensional characters and by-the-numbers focus-group approved unearned endings oozing with treacle, one film rings true.

Ms. Bell also proved to be a topnotch director getting spirited but nuanced performances out of her pitch perfect cast. Standouts were Rob Corddry, Alexandra Holden, Fred Melamed, and Eva Longoria was very convincing as herself.
In a world where character actors are relegated to occasional guest-starring roles on NCIS, one film dares to give them more than one scene.

Lake Bell is a terrific young talent. She has a great future in movies, or at least trailers.

In a world where pundits write snarky film reviews, one blogger dares to highly recommend a movie even though his quote will never be used in a poster.

Go see IN A WORLD. You’ll love it.

43 comments:

Richard J. Marcej said...

"In A World" is a film I've wanted to see since I'd first heard about it a little over a month ago. But Ken, you (and some internet critics) make me laugh when you add a snarky comment like: "Since IN A WORLD is a movie about people who don’t fly, live in the next century, or are talking animals " as if WE the public actually have a choice whether to see a small film like IAW or one of the many Hollywood blockbusters filling the screens.

As of this week "In A World" was in 37 theater in the US. Just 37. While Adam Sandler's piece of crap was in 1,241 theaters. And the animated feature "Planes" (which was originally supposed to be a direct to video feature) were clogging up 3,716 theaters.

When small, well done, excellent features don't get the pub or audience, don't blame us if we have to travel miles and miles (and miles) to get an opportunity to see it.

unkystan said...

Luckilly I live in New York (actually The Bronx) and I was able to get to the city (actually Westchester county) and go to a luxurious modern theatre (actually a dump) to see a beautiful digital showing (actually a slightly out of focus 35mm print) of "In A World" last weekend. Except for a few plot holes I also found this film fun and fascinating. I've already put it on my Netflix save list so I can eventually fully enjoy the film.

Iconoclast Jones said...

I wonder how many trailers really used the, "In a world..." trope. I'm guessing fewer than we would think. The voice was just so large.

Hollywoodaholic said...

Ironically, voiceovers are out for movie trailers now, instead replaced by micro-clips with black fade-ups in between.

I used plenty of $450/hr local voiceover artists in more than 70 industrials and trailers over the years, but ISDN (the ability to record quality VO's remotely over computers) eliminated the need to bring anyone to the studio or use locals, and severely reduced the VO jobs to the technically savvy ultra-pros working from home.

Looking forward to seeing this film whenever (or if ever) it gets to this market or on MOD.

Kyle said...

I thought the best parody of the "In a World" cliche was the trailer for Jerry Seinfeld's "Comedian - The Movie"
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fVDzuT0fXro

Hamid said...

Ken, this will make your blood boil.

Sly Stallone and the director of his new film, Reach Me, are on Kickstarter asking for dough.

Kickstarter

Hamid said...

Oops, the HTML didn't quite work.

The Kickstarter link:

http://www.kickstarter.com/projects/reachme/reach-me-the-movie-kickstarter

Mac said...

A comedy about young people without sex gags? What is this mythical creature of which you speak? Thanks for the recommendation Ken, looking forward to that.

Wayne said...

I may see "In A World" if only to answer a question I have every time I hear a movie promo. Do movie promo announcers ever clear their throats?

lyle e davis said...

Hi, Ken!

Love your blog; read it every day. I check email, read Drudge, you, and Mark Evanier.

Agree with most of what you say ... however, while I will try to see the film, the trailer was, to me, not done very well. No real incentive to see the movie. The incentive was your recommendation, not the trailer. Technically, the trailer was ok. But the story it told would not have entice me to go to a theatre to see it. Your recommendation did.

Keep up the great work.

Best.

lyle e davis
escondido, ca. (like a suburb of San Diego - home of the beloved Mayor, Bob Filner. [Sarcasm intended] )

Breadbaker said...

Apparently, I live in a world where the film is available only by crossing a lake. It's in Bellevue but not Seattle, which is an odd cultural shift I've never seen before.

Anonymous said...

Yes, we know that you do not like the over-praising of Leah Dunham's work. She seems to occupy too much of your attention.
--S. Kelsey

Cap'n Bob said...

Thanks for the review. To me, Thurl Ravenscroft will always be the voice of Tony the Tiger. I wondered if they'd use old tapes of Thurl after he died or find a replacement. I guess I know, now.

Lorimartian said...

Waaaay back in the day, I directed voiceover artists and edited (reel-to-reel tape) audio tracks for industrial slide shows. We used Olan Soule a few times. Lovely man.

Not taking anything away from his talent, IMO, Don LaFontaine was over-used. After about 20 years of hearing him voice, with that overly-exaggerated delivery, what seemed to be every movie trailer, I stopped listening. When he died, I thought there would be an opportunity for some fresh voices, but no, they're using LaFontaine sound-alikes. Borrrring.

Mike said...

I'm glad you liked this Ken - I saw it this weekend knowing little to nothing about it, and just loved it. What I loved most was how confident it was in what it was trying to say without really being preachy at all.

Also it was really, really funny - the line about Cialis and American Airlines, which I will not ruin here, is very obvious based on the premise but I've been smiling about it all week.

DBenson said...

As a kid who watched the Red Skelton hour every week, I learned to recognize the unseen announcer who, at the end of the closing credits, always closed with "This is Art Gilmore speaking."

Once they did a special episode, think it was one of those where Skelton did only pantomime. Instead of the usual dance number and monologue, out comes an emcee in a tux. "Good evening. I'm Art Gilmore."

There was big applause and he looked momentarily surprised and maybe embarrassed before presenting the first sketch.

JohnnyEff said...

Ken did the movie address the sensitive issue of constipation that the movie voice-over guys all seem to have?

Anonymous said...

Great post! Lake Bell is very talented (and I totally agree with you about Lena Dunham being overrated!)

BigTed said...

I wonder if this film would ever have been made if "Surface" -- the NBC sci-fi show in which Lake Bell played an oceanographer chasing sea monsters -- had been a success.

Polka Dotty said...

Hi Ken! I have a Friday Question for you.

I was watching an episode of M*A*S*H recently where an Aid Station was being bombed. How did they do the special effects of bombs being dropped?

Thanks a bunch!

Dixon Steele said...

Not to be lascivious...OK maybe a little...but did you catch last week's NY Magazine cover, with a nude Lake Bell? Breathtaking.

I used Don LaFontaine several times to do the VO for trailers. He was well paid for about 15 min. of work and had his own limo that would take him from studio to studio.

charlotte said...

Speaking of Don's limo, here's an oldie but goodie: "Five Guys in a Limo"
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=unEvNOTVso8

Craig L. said...

Yes, Thurl Ravenscroft as Tony the Tiger was one of the absolutely definitive voice performances, but if they had to hire a new voice, I like that they chose Lee Michaels, who I heard years ago doing news on - ohdearIforgotwhatsataion - and who would've been natural closing a newscast with "otherwise, everything is GR-REAT!!"

Meanwhile, "In A World" reminds me of the "Five Men in a Limo" short with Don LaFontaine and others (on YouTube) which I'm sure you've mentioned before (1997?!? Was it that long ago?!?), and the upcoming documentary about cartoon voiceovers "I Know That Voice" which would've been a vanity project for John "Bender" DiMaggio, except that he has to share time with about 80 other actors (listed in small print at the end of Trailer #2).

Kathleen said...

I heard Don LaFontaine interviewed on the radio several years ago and was very impressed. When the host asked what advice he would give aspiring voice actors, Don said, basically, read good literature and history and learn to love and appreciate language. I could have listened to him all morning.

Pat Reeder said...

Thanks for alerting us to this. This is definitely a movie made for me. I've spent most of my career in radio and do voice work myself, so I can usually name that voiceover person in two syllables. Although it does kind of undermine the fun of Disneyland when everyone else hears ghosts in the Haunted Mansion, and I just hear Paul Frees:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=LlR9YeewwJw

One of the reasons I never cared for "Tootsie" is that early on, desperate actor Dustin Hoffman tells his agent that he'll even lower himself to do radio voiceovers. I hated him for the rest of the movie. If I could've reached through the screen, I would've turned him into a girl for real.

Also, contrary to one of the above commenters, there can never -- NEVER!! -- be too many blog posts pointing out how overrated Lena Dunham is. When they actually publish her mind drool in the New Yorker, former province of Benchley, Thurber and E.B. White, something must be done, even it takes adding a parenthetical sidebar to the First Amendment.

XJill said...

I actually saw this a few weekends ago at The Landmark and Lake Bell did a Q & A afterward. She was very well spoken and gave some really insightful answers. She also served popcorn before the screening!

BigTed, Bell said she always wanted to direct and finally basically bit the bullet and did it so I DO think it would've happened eventually, even if Surface had been a big hit.

Michaela Watkins was the standout for me although you didn't mention her. Different strokes, I guess. Anyway, very nice movie, def recommend to all.

Pamela Jaye said...

I loved Lake Bell in the early Grey's Anatomy parody eps of Childrens Hospital.
And I'm a sucker for anything titled thus.
It's probably never going to air near here. :-(

Question Mark said...

I'm really late to the Fred Melamed party but man, this guy has been getting some killer roles late in his career and just been knocking them out of the park. He was incredibly funny in A Serious Man and as Larry's psychiatrist on Curb, and he was delightfully pompous in this film as well.

Anonymous said...

Such trailers tell me the movie will be bad. "In a story/tale/movie about..."
Couldn't you show us that in the trailer?

The Godfather trailer managed to have no dialogue, gave away almost the entire plot, and was still a great movie.

Jim K said...

Hearing the voices of Dick Tufeld and Art Gilmore as well as others like Ravenscroft bring me back to my youth. I have search Youtube and other sites just to hear the trailers and other sources of their voices. It's magical to me.

Got the same feeling whenever I was lucky enough to be close enough to tune in to the NYC jockeys. Those guys were so smooth and professional. My fav was Cousin Brucie.

Roger Owen Green said...

Lake Bell was on The Daily Show a couple weeks back. She was GREAT and has put the movie on the radar. Glad you like it; I think it's coming to my outer burg in a week or two (9/6 opening at the Spectrum in Albany, NY, I see)

jbryant said...

Pat: Seems odd to hold that voiceover crack against TOOTSIE, since the whole movie is about Hoffman's character being a pretentious ass of a Method actor who thinks anything less than the classics is beneath him. It would have been totally out of character for him to be respectful of radio voice work. In other words, the filmmakers didn't WANT us to like that aspect of his character--it was one of the signs that he needed a comeuppance.

Lou H. said...

Ken, what are your favorite trailers, and as a writer (and not a studio) what do you like to see in a trailer?

Joey H said...

My favorite VO artist was Rex Allen Sr., who used to voice Disney nature films.

Anonymous said...

http://tonevergrowingup.blog.com/

/drthelma@aol.com said...

/So glad you mentioned Randy Thomas. Many (deserved) firsts for Randy, who wrote Voice for Hire: first national Democratic convention, the Tony Awards Show every year, Emmy Awards, etc. And she exemplifies the generosity of spirit you find in this key niche of the entertainment industry.

DaveMB said...

Just saw this in our non-profit community art cinema in Amherst Mass., and Ken's review is spot on. I love how she allowed things to be complicated (without spoilers, Carol's first sexual encounter in the movie and the issues in her sister's marriage) while still keeping the sweet, lovable, happily-ever-after feel of a comedy.

My daughter said the movie confirmed her intention of never visting Los Angeles. I actually liked the way she showed it (never having been there myself) -- it looked like the real city of real people that we don't see on TV. Much like The Kids Are All Right, another LA movie I liked for most of the same reasons.

cadavra said...

I'm really looking forward to this, because I've been there. About a dozen years ago, I produced a number of trailers, and on two of them I wanted to use female voice artists. You would not believe the shit I got--"Women don't do trailers!!" In fact, the trailer house even hired the ET announcer and had him read my copy, just to show me how much "better" it would be. But I hung fast and they turned out wonderfully. Alas, it did not seem to lead to more women doing trailers. Perhaps IN A WORLD will.

Here's a link to one of them:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RJqaTHn9s54

Anonymous said...

Ken,
Thank you for these kind + generous words. Your support does NOT go unnoticed.
Sister Code,
Lake Bell

VP81955 said...

The late, longtime Phillies voice Harry Kalas got off-season work in plenty of commercials, some aligned to his NFL work (he succeeded the legendary John Facenda as the lead announcer on NFL Films, based across Philly in south Jersey). Harry was even used as the narrator for the ride on the Gateway Arch in St. Louis (a city with its own array of broadcast legends).

Emma Lavoie said...

I m excited for the Fifty Shades of Grey movie. and I watch Ian Somerhalder's work it is pretty awesome to see on the screen.
Christian Grey

Alexia Tessier said...

Great review!!!
Ian Somerhalder has finally responded to rumors that he's a favorite to play this role.
Fifty Shades Movie

yug sha said...
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