Tuesday, February 10, 2009

Review of "We Pedal Uphill"

We Pedal Uphill *
Directed by Roland Tec
Starring Roland Tec and this guy

A little anecdote to start things off:

Every so often, members of my school’s film club like to take a trek to New York for Harland Jacobsen’s Talk Cinema. It’s a recurring event at the Lincoln Center that shows mainly indie and foreign films before they come out in regular theaters. It’s a fine event, and sometimes the director or produce shows up and has a discussion with the audience.
And so the day came. Being a commuter, I drove up the Parkway for this thing and even though I was expecting many members of our film club, there were only two other people. Oh well. You can’t win them all. On the bus ride to NYC, we talked about our school‘s film program, politics, and how a song we listened to would be perfect theme for 1970’s New York. We didn’t know what the film was going to be. The orginizers there are very tight lipped about the films being shown, apparently because of Juno. So we arrived at the Walter Reade Theater and find out what the movie was, and it was called We Pedal Uphill. We pondered what would it be about. There was a photo that suggested “documentary about the meat industry”. Oh, this could be interesting we all thought.
How wrong we were.
The first few moments of the film involved a man getting ready for something. It really gave nothing to the character. He was only behaving edgy. It’s incredibly frustrating to see a character brush his teeth and clean himself without getting much from the character. It’s almost a law in the world of film. As he drives, he stops in a garage and adds conservative themed bumper stickers to his car. He then enters a radio station and is about to begin his radio show. You’d expect it would be about a Limbaughesque radio commentator. But there’s a twist. He’s a liberal! The announcement comes and the film cuts to the opening credits.
I think, “O, this must be a movie about a Liberal radio commentator in a red state. This could be interesting.”
How wrong was I once again.
The next scene moves to another location and another story begins. It’s was something about a mother worried that her adult son will go the way of the dodo if he goes to a civil rights event, the reasoning because her husband died for the civil rights cause. The scene dialogue was bad, and so was the acting. Not only that, the direction was incredibly amateurish. But I wonder why it made this shift. Is this going to be like Crash, or Traffic, and be about some unifying theme? Nope.
The film is in fact cut up into little vignettes that are all supposed to be about America. I think. Or the general theme involves America, or something else. I don’t know really. The vignettes’ own themes jump around from racism, to homosexuality, to god knows what.
The vignettes are poorly constructed and the actors are bad. There’s barely any recognizable conflict. One vignette is supposed to take place in Ohio (all of the scenes take place in a different state), and it has absolutely no real discernable plot. It’s about lawyer having a slight disagreement with a typist. Is it supposed to be about racism? I guess. The lawyer was black. The typist was white.
Other vignettes seem to have the actors portrayed Southerners in the most stereotypical was possible. One of them involves a black man visiting the man who saved him and his family in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina. The white Southerner is made up and portrayed as a straight up hick. If this film is trying to make a statement racism, it’s doing a very bad and hypocritical job.
Some of them seem to have no point at all. One vignette, called “The Mouse” (Florida), involves two gay men about to hook up and such, and then they have a frank talk. Because of poor dialogue and once again, bad acting, the whole situation is incredibly awkward, with the feeling the more boring dialogue will happen, or it will just turn pornographic. Another is just a single backwards tracking shot with the voices of what is supposed to the souls of Irish immigrants in the hallway of a factory in Connecticut. What does this scene have to do with the rest of the vignettes? I have no clue really. Every vignette is not really connected with each other.
The worst vignette is the one that takes place in Massachusetts and it involves a librarian being caught up in Homeland Security’s investigation. The acting throughout is horrible, and once again, dialogue is just stupid. Not only that, I mocked this scene in particular. The librarian is doing some work, and there is a persistent knocking. As she comes closer to the door, I yell out, “Candy gram”, in reference to the Land Shark sketch from SNL. I rarely do this to a film.
I think the point where I just stopped caring about the film was when a scene involving the meat industry came up. The reason why I stopped caring was when I saw the actor best known for the Optimum Online commercials that get shown on television where I live. The guy played a dude from New Jersey playing a dude from Oklahoma. I was incredibly painful.
As we left the theater, we were happy that nobody else from the film club had witnessed this terrible, terrible film. It was just bad. Ironically, it gave us all confidence with our own work that we couldn’t a film this pretentious and convoluted. According to the film’s IMDB description:
“We Pedal Uphill paints an uncompromising portrait of a country at odds with itself-America, post-9/11. In his tapestry of today's human landscape, Writer/Director Roland Tec focuses his unique lens on an assortment of lives altered forever by recent events. The cast of characters brought to life in this film is as varied as the geography they inhabit, displaying their power to amuse, delight, disgust and haunt as we question the very meaning of being an American.”
Wait. What? Is that was the film about? I didn’t get nothing, except for “This movie is about America”. Tec believed that he made some sort of message. But there is no message. It’s just a film that believes that it has a message. This movie just confuses, and not informs. Tec is probably just showing off. Next time bring some chips to the poker table. It’ll do you some good, Roland Tec.

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