Nora Ephron, a journalist before she was a filmmaker, once began a profile of New York Post Publisher Dorothy Schiff with this immortal line: “I feel bad about what I’m going to do here.” After sitting through Handmade Nation today at the Alamo, I know how she felt.
Handmade Nation is one of those movies you begin rooting for before you even step into the theater. You know it won’t be widely distributed or nationally recognized. Most of its promotion comes from the genuine enthusiasm of bloggers and fans of the people profiled in it. And then there’s the fact that the Alamo lended its imprimatur by hosting the film’s Austin premiere, often a good sign. We attended a similar screening of Gary Hustwit’s Objectified at the Alamo a few weeks ago, and we were expecting something along those lines.
But most important of all, Eliza is a big fan of a lot of the people profiled in this movie, especially Austin’s very own Jenny Hart, the crafty genius behind Sublime Stitching. Eliza has become pretty crafty herself lately, and she has a lot of these folks to thank for bringing this stuff back into the public consciousness and her own.
So I do feel bad. But here’s the deal. For a movie dedicated to the virtues of doing things yourself, it’s a problem when the movie itself feels like it was pasted together by a one-eyed toddler on a sugar high. It doesn’t exactly help the cause.
The camera work literally made us sick: The perpetually shaky handheld shots, the jerky pans around rooms. I looked over at Eliza at one point and she had her eyes closed. “I’m going to have a migraine,” she groaned. This was a movie about objects, things you want to get a good look at, things you want to soak up and study. It was frustrating when the camera wouldn’t slow down long enough to get a clear, focused shot of anything.
And then there was the singing saw, which was a constant part of the soundtrack. While an interesting novelty once in a while (The Hoff couldn’t stand it for even ten seconds), the singing saw gets a little grating after an hour, particularly when it’s the same song over and over. And it was.
So I do feel bad. I wanted to enjoy this movie. But I also call ’em like I see ’em.