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Monday, December 03, 2007

JUNO OPENS IN SELECT CITIES



A few weeks back Screenlabs blog got a special exclusive invitation to see JUNO, well, us and 400 kids from area high schools. We walked to the Lagoon Theater in Uptown, looked for the Fox Seachlight hired promo ace and BOOM we were though the turnstiles. And while the wide release date looks to be pushed to Christmas week, this long awaited and much ballyhooed Oscar hopeful is now playing in a few selected cities.

Believe me, there was a lot of chewing gum and text messaging going on around us once we got in our seats. The target audience for this film, I observed, has to be 15-year-old teens who gotta have unlimited minutes plan on the 'rents credit (who has time to worry about how many minutes you've got left?) and sharky grrrls with major attitude. Those TSA-styled movie industry thugs who strip search and confiscate cell phones outside movie screenings scare me but these kids blow them off, stuff their hand-devices in their undies without stop while keying their current rely.

A semi-depressed mid-teen girl dressed in grungy-T and tattered tights a few seats to my left is, like, breaking up with her boyfriend and trying to get in her last words in before the trailers start.

Behind me is a group of three boys, obviously geeky, smart, and high tech who all seem to be struggling with graduating from college. Not that they can't afford to graduate or that they aren't "college material" but they are Bill Gates and Steve Jobs types who don't see the point of wasting time in college so they went out and got jobs at Radio Shack

But we got free Fighting Elk T-shirts!

Where do you buy a mailing list for this target audience? Are these kids who all bought pink and purple Hello Kitty cell phones at the kiosk at Ridgedale Mall? If this room full of teenage lust is the target list, than we're sitting in front of the right movie to rock their world.

Ellen Page is perfect. She deserves an Oscar nom for this acting performance.

JUNO is a coming-of-age teenage, not too original, movie that feels a bit like a TV episode of THAT '70s SHOW. Cody's whipslash dialogue is sizzling and new to commercial films and would never pass censors on TV. Already, all over the net you'll find naysaysers who dispute JUNO's originality, its new vision, and the indie sophistication it tries to pass off in the marketplace.

Cody's JUNO is not Andrei Tarkovsky's STALKER but there certainly is more humor and subtle critique in JUNO than LITTLE MISS SUNSHINE, NAPOLEON DYNAMITE, AMERICAN PIE, or PORKY'S. Let's be honest, comparing JUNO to the 2004 NAPOLEON DYNAMITE, as I think Jason Reitman started to realize after final edit, is an bitch-slap.

Juno McGriff, who Page plays, is a street-smart girl who knows she's still a kid and needs to remind the adults around her of her teen irresponsible nature and that THEY are suppose to be the ADULTS. The dysfunctional world spinning around her is not teens out of control but instead fueled by feckless and fickle adults. Juno's musings on the nature of her predicament, her quick sass back toward friends and parents, and especially her tender yet blunt comments to the clueless boyfriend are well-worth the ticket price.

The reason Hollywood is gah-gah over Diablo Cody is because, first, they know how to and love exploiting the teenage audience especially when they have 2 weeks off school between Christmas and New Year. The studio execs realize they are a bunch of old men who don't speak the sexy double talk of cyber language in chat rooms, blogs, and the snap back of shopping malls cruisers. Cody does. They fear loosing this cash-cow audience segment to the internet.

Second, Diablo Cody is her own marketing machine. Well before entering the self-marketing center of the universe, Cody was molding every PR opportunity in her favor and blogging it - whether it be her naughtly photo in Mpls/St. Paul magazine episode that she deftly manipulated to get into CJ's column to seducing David Letterman with raunchy couch-talk - she's got that big Hollywood gossip entertainment instinct.

And while the smart-set always tries to criticize new films by the tyranny of "it's not original" it really doesn't matter because the more films you see, the greater number of books you read, theater scripts, film scripts, poems, short stories you will begin to discover nothing is original. The charge "it is not original" can be used against piece of art or literature without comeback. But JUNO is fresh for the fact that the dialog will amuse, the perspective of the lead character is uplifitingly real and invigoratingly present day.

I liked JUNO a lot and a huge number people are going to love it to death - most definitely the teenage girl who catches you out of the corner of her eye looking her Apple iPhone touch screen and snaps, "What are you LOOKING at scumbag?"

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If you act really fast, you might be able to get tickets to the Walker Art Center's FIRST LOOKS series screening of JUNO with Diablo Cody introducing her film and taking questions. General public tickets go on sale December 4th and it will likely sell out fast. Call: 612.375.7600 or walkerart.org/tickets/

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