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Calling Miguel Arteta

I recently googled “Miguel Arteta,” director of CEDAR RAPIDS, the new comedy about insurance executives attending a conference in the big city — Cedar Rapids, Iowa. My #1 hit was the movie section of a local Arkansas paper. The featured local film reviewer, “Big Screen Peter” of Fort Smith, is right out of … a Miguel Arteta movie. Or Alexander Payne. Big Screen Pete notes that CEDAR RAPIDS is not yet playing in the area, but he gives it a 4 out of 5 on his smile-meter, below:

As a filmmaker, I shudder at the lower part of the scale — the thin and dissatisfied lips of that menacing bottom image. THIS MOVIE SUCKS! What other art form is vulnerable to this sort of onslaught? THIS OPERA SUCKS! THIS PAINTING SUCKS! I don’t think so.

But indeed, I showed my students CHUCK AND BUCK (2000) a few weeks back — another Arteta work and in my view, a brilliant one — and I fear most of my trapped subjects were hitting Pete’s lower rungs. CHUCK AND BUCK was a critical hit, introducing Mike White as a bold new voice in independent film. The storyline, while classical in structure, is strikingly original. When I saw it in 2000, I simply had never seen anything like it. A man-child seeks out his childhood best friend and stalks him mercilessly. The results are surprising and unnerving. The comedy is strange and subtle. It’s one of Arteta’s best films. (Does it not resonate the say way to this new generation of film students?) And as I hope that CEDAR RAPIDS comes to my tiny town, where we don’t have a smile-o-meter in the paper but we do have a Family Dollar and a Big Lots!, I’m happy to revisit CHUCK AND BUCK and the roots of Arteta’s career.

The CHUCK AND BUCK and CEDAR RAPIDS trailers are below: