When I first saw the trailer for “In a World,” I knew this was the movie for me.
Now that I’ve seen it at the Landmark Theatres in West L.A., I can say it was worth the wait. It’s one of my favorite films this year, much-deserving of the buzz it’s been receiving. Lake Bell won the 2013 Sundance Festival’s Waldo Salt Award for her original screenplay.
Of course, as a former radio person myself who dreamed of doing voiceovers, it stands to reason that I would love this movie. But if you think I’m biased, trust my movie companion, who laughed like the dickens throughout, and enjoyed it as much as I did.
Director/producer/star Lake Bell has it all: an engaging story, a wonderful script, a great cast of characters who feel as real as the folks you know, and some terrific plot twists that play out to a very satisfying conclusion. Plus it’s indie screwball, and oh, so L.A.!
Lake plays Carol Solomon, a struggling vocal coach who’s lived in the shadow of her famous father’s voiceover career and now is living in his house. Sam is egotistical and discourages her ambitions to become a voiceover artist, especially in the world of trailers where women are not part of the club.
He’s about to receive a lifetime achievement award for his movie trailer work, but it’s a field in which he, too, stands in a shadow of the late, great, and very real Don LaFontaine (aka “The Voice of God”) whose deep, bass pipes created the industry standard for epic movie trailers, with that now clichéd opening phrase, “In a world … .”
By a happy accident, Carol is in the recording studio when another renowned voice artist can’t make it and she puts in a temporary voice track for the trailer to an epic quadrilogy called “The Amazon Wars,” about Amazon women warriors.
The next day she’s told the studio wants her voice, not the other famous voiceover actor, to do the trailer. This sets up a hilarious sequence of events, including her father’s decision to compete against her for the job.
The other subplot involves Carol’s sister and her husband. Carol, who accidentally provides the source of a crisis in their relationship, also provides the means for their reconciliation.
Meanwhile, Carol’s dad is humbled by his much-younger girlfriend. She moves in with him, forcing Carol to move out and become a couch surfer. Despite the sisters’ disdain for dad’s ditzy blonde, in the end she’s the one who forces Sam to face the fact that he’s been a bad dad and to reconcile with his daughters.
There are so many hilarious moments in this film; perhaps some of the funniest are the seemingly absurd warm up exercises the actors do to prepare for their voiceovers.
But even funnier, and bless Bell for this, is her skewering of the “sexy baby” Valley Girl voice, with the crackle sound and end-of-sentence question uptick, that characterizes the way so many young women today speak. It’s not an accent, it’s a choice; I hope this film makes them think twice about how they present themselves to the world.
“In a World” is uplifting, fun, very clever, and I loved it. Go see it at The Landmark Theatres at the corner of Pico and Westwood boulevards.
In a completely different world
The Getty Center is presenting the first-ever video installation by world-renowned filmmaker Werner Herzog, in conjunction with his long-time musical collaborator, avant-garde cellist Ernst Reijseger, focusing on the work of a little-known 17th century Dutch painter and printmaker who was a contemporary of Rembrandt.
The Getty recently acquired this work, called “Hearsay of the Soul,” from New York’s Whitney Museum.
Because of the role he plays as an inspiration to many of today’s filmmakers, Herzog was asked to participate in the Whitney’s famed biennial, but initially refused.
“Museums are the place things go to die. And I didn’t want to have anything to do with contemporary art,” Herzog said from the stage of a recent Getty event where Reijseger improvised on his five-string, custom-made red cello. “The art market is a criminal scam, with price-fixed auctions, galleries and curators in a deep conspiracy without even contacting each other.”
But he came around, in part pressured by his wife, as he began to think about Hercules Seghers, whom Herzog considers the progenitor of modernity in art. In fact, as I looked upon these images, I thought that Seghers must have been an inspiration to Vincent Van Gogh.
The handheld video pans across these highly detailed, intricate works that seem to presage abstraction. Projected onto three walls in a five-channel video display, they appear like an unwinding scroll, and the haunting, mood-enhancing music by Reijseger, a chorus of voices and an organist, was recorded in single takes inside a Lutheran church in Haarlem, the Netherlands. Some of this music was heard in Herzog’s 2010 3D film, “Cave of Forgotten Dreams.”
It’s also interesting that this display has been housed in the Getty Center’s North Pavilion; the perfect juxtaposition of contemporary technologies combined with paintings, sculptures and decorative arts up to the 17th century, when Seghers practiced his experimental printmaking. Herzog said Seghers was so impoverished that he cut up his bed sheets to make his prints.
“Hearsay of the Soul” is a meditative work that highlights the marriage of music and image, perfectly melded in the hands of a musician and filmmaker who understand the interplay between the arts, as a whole that is greater than the sum of its parts.
You can view “Hearsay of the Soul” at the Getty Center through Jan. 19. For more info visit www.getty.edu.
Sarah A. Spitz is a former freelance arts producer for NPR and former staff producer at public radio station KCRW-Santa Monica. She has also reviewed theatre for LAOpeningNights.com.