Cold Weather (2011) | Review by Hannah Brooks-Motl
Remember how cool 1999 was? High school was almost over, or college just starting. It was about to be a new millennium! One could still wear “ironic” vintage tees with neither the scare quotes nor the worry that they had actually come from Urban Outfitters. Also in 1999, Fight Club was coming out. Edward Norton was a barrel of unleaded gasoline going for 99 cents a gallon, little realizing that in a dozen years he’d be less than the corn-rowed fumes of his former greatness in the moneyless miasma of Stone. Fight Club is kind of painful to watch now. It’s so earnest. All that “we are not our possessions!” sloganeering; all that “self-consciousness.” But the 90s were also when movie-makers realized that people not doing anything was just as cool as Brad Pitt rubbing his shaved head with maniacal glee while buildings exploded portentously. The haul of these non-event movies has been with us for over a decade now. They feature a certain brand of “realism” that can be seen in all the arts—fiction, poetry, whatever. The art of the quirk. The reign of the dull. People stand around and talk, or don’t talk. The sky darkens, or lightens. A bus passes. A car stops. There is wistful music accompanying the patter of rain. Miranda July roller-skates by. A Dickman twin lights a cigarette.
Mark asks us: When does what’s cool change? We hazard to say, in indie-art terms, an increment or so almost every baker’s dozen years. Cold Weather is supposedly a non-event movie with a difference: half-way through the rain-streaked camera shots and winsome soundtrack, it emerges that this poignant silence of a film is harboring both a plot and a genre-wish. As the main character (who works in an ice factory in Portland; lives and stammers with his sister in a gorgeously muted apartment; enjoys whale-watching excursions; etc) lies sleeping on his nubby retro couch for a good five minutes of the film, we could almost hear Aaron Katz’s idea go off: there could be, like, a mystery to be solved! In this movie! Having blown his wad on that brilliant idea, unfortunately, Katz seems to have fallen immediately into a post-coital stupor. The lead actor, Cris Lankenau, goes about his detective tasks like an unsuccessfully autistic Encyclopedia Brown; the mystery itself is never allowed to gestate in the womb of the plot and so any suspense is effectively stillborn. We can’t remember a single character’s name, except for one—Carlos, the best thing about this movie, though he, unforgivably, disappears halfway through. The highly touted “slow-moving car chase” scene was an especial disappointment. But still. We think this movie bodes well. For even if initial hybrids turn out to be formless, sterile, or otherwise meandering exercises in ego, they pave the way for the truly great, ultimately cool-changing products of our time, like the Toyota Prius. Or Splice.