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Movie Review: American Splendor

Story: I know some of you immediately scroll to the bottom of my reviews to see how many 'Howls' the film has received (you know who you are - I am not going to name, names). No need to scroll. I loved this film! And it clearly deserved the top awards it received both at Sundance and at Cannes. It is inventive, touching, charming and thoroughly entertaining.

It's about Harvey Pekar (who)? Pekar is a well known, if not cult-adored figure in the world of underground comics. His life, ranting and musings have been chronicled by no less than ten different illustrators - including the infamous, Robert Crumb.

How could a guy like Pekar, who put the cur in curmudgeon, who worked his whole adult life as a file clerk in a Cleveland, VA hospital, become this famous? Go figure? I was intrigued by the method of storytelling by the writing/directing team of husband and wife Shari Springer Berman and Robert Pulcini. The story itself is derived from Pekar's and wife Joyce Brabner's chronicles.

They combine both the real-life and reel-life characters seamlessly into the film. It could have easily fallen flat and become gimmicky -- but in these expert, sensitive film making hands, it becomes a winner.

Take a summer break and check this one out. If you are desperate to see Harvey's work right now -go to: http://www.harveypekar.com/

Acting: Outstanding work by Paul Giamatti as Pekar and Hope Davis as Joyce. A terrific ensemble cast of characters (that's putting it mildly).

Predilection: I try to see all of the award winning films.

Critters: Two cats.

Food: There was lots of food throughout the film. I remember a whole lot of French Fries and White Castle hamburgers.

Visual Art: Lots of storyboards and cartoon panels.

Blatant Product Placement: Franco-American Spaghetti-o's, White Castle, NBC and the Dave Letterman Show.

Soundtrack: Perfect.

Opening Titles: The opening sequence is explanatory and effective.

Theater Audience: Half full, mostly with men.

Quirky Meter: 8

Squirm Scale: I was off-put by the filthy living conditions of the Pekar's home. And most of the characters looked like I did after 27 hours of our NYC blackout - desperately in need of a shower.

Predictability Level: Not being familiar with this story I was surprised at each corner.

Oscar Worthy: Yes.

Nit Picking: No nits to pick - except there are probably nits in the Pekar's apartment.

Big Screen or Rental: Big Screen for sure. Since it is an HBO production, you can probably wait a while and it will appear on Cable this winter. Paul Giamatti is a working actor. (For those sports fans out there, his father was the baseball commissioner who banned Pete Rose from baseball).He has been in many films. Here are just some of them - Confidence, Big Fat Liar, Planet of the Apes, Duets, Man on the Moon, Cradle Will Rock, Safe Men, The Negotiator, Saving Private Ryan, The Truman Show, Deconstructing Harry and Donnie Brasco.

Length: 100 minutes.