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Critical Consensus: "Conan O'Brien" Can't Stop Being The Pick of the Week

Photo of Peter Knegt By Peter Knegt | Indiewire June 22, 2011 at 2:26AM

For the second week in a row, a documentary has topped criticWIRE as the pick of the week. Following last week's "Page One: A Year Inside The New York Times" (a narrow choice over another doc, "Buck"), Rodman Fletcher's "Conan O'Brien Can't Stop" was the consensus among criticWIRE critics. A premiere at the SXSW Film Festival, the film follows O'Brien on his “Legally Prohibited From Being Funny on Television Tour," which he took on after losing his gig as host of "The Tonight Show."
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For the second week in a row, a documentary has topped criticWIRE as the pick of the week. Following last week's "Page One: A Year Inside The New York Times" (a narrow choice over another doc, "Buck"), Rodman Fletcher's "Conan O'Brien Can't Stop" was the consensus among criticWIRE critics. A premiere at the SXSW Film Festival, the film follows O'Brien on his “Legally Prohibited From Being Funny on Television Tour," which he took on after losing his gig as host of "The Tonight Show."

"O'Brien" averaged an "A-" from 7 different critics, topping the likes of John Turturro's "Passione," Marshall Curry's "If a Tree Falls: A Story of the Earth Liberation Front," and Chris Weitz's "A Better Life." indieWIRE's Eric Kohn discusses all the films below:

On the non-fiction front this week, your best bets are the stories of two men who face dubious expulsions: Conan O'Brien and Daniel McGowan, the jailed member of the Earth Liberation Front environmental group. In Rodman Flender's amusing portrait of O'Brien as he travels around the country with his "Legally Prohibited from Being Funny on Television" tour, the former NBC host appears both exhausted and liberated. The incessant energy that drives him to keep entertaining the masses against all odds is fascinating to watch--especially when O'Brien lets his guard down, unloads a few curse words and then collects himself. But never once does he wonder if it's all worth it, a testament to serious commitment considering the many millions of dollars he received after NBC showed him the door.

Director Marshall Curry's subject in "Tree" faces a more difficult journey after getting convicted for arson charges for actions he took more than a decade ago. Unlike O'Brien, McGowan doesn't have the luxury of rebuilding his life. O'Brien can't stop, but McGowan has no choice in the matter. In a sense, he faces a challenge similar to that of the solemn Mexican gardener in Chris Weisz's immigration drama "A Better Life," also opening this week, who wants to improve life for himself and his son but keeps digging himself into a deeper hole. "If a Tree Falls" and "A Better Life" are both flawed works that leave several questions unanswered, but they're still deeply felt works, providing the ideal counterweight to O'Brien's zippy enthusiasm. It's up to audiences to decide if they want a pick-me-up or a downer, although in most cases they'll probably just err on the side of caution and check out "Cars 2."

Check out the links below for more extensive takes on "Conan O'Brien," "A Better Life," "If a Tree Falls," and more. Also offered is the top 10 criticWIRE scores for films already in theaters, which is currently topped by Clio Barnard's aforementioned "The Arbor" for the seventh week running.

iW Film Calendar & criticWIRE:
criticWIRE | Opening this week | Opening this month | All Films A - Z

criticWIRE: Films Opening This Week
NOTE: The averages listed here are current as of the publishing of this article. They are subject to change as new grades come in, and will be updated in next week's edition of this article.

Conan O'Brien Can't Stop (iW film page)
Average criticWIRE rating: A-

Passione (iW film page)
Average criticWIRE rating: B+

A Better Life (iW film page)
Average criticWIRE rating: B

If a Tree Falls: A Story of the Earth Liberation Front (iW film page)
Average criticWIRE rating: B-

A Love Affair of Sorts (iW film page)
Average criticWIRE rating: TBA

The Best and the Brightest (iW film page)
Average criticWIRE rating: TBA

The Names of Love (iW film page)
Average criticWIRE rating: TBA


criticWIRE: 10 Best Bets Already In Theaters

1. The Arbor (iW film page)
Average criticWIRE rating: A-

2. Meek's Cutoff (iW film page)
Average criticWIRE rating: B+

3. The Tree of Life (iW film page)
Average criticWIRE rating: B+

4. Tuesday After Christmas (iW film page)
Average criticWIRE rating: B+

5. Page One (iW film page)
Average criticWIRE rating: B+

6. Buck (iW film page)
Average criticWIRE rating: B+

7. The Trip (iW film page)
Average criticWIRE rating: B+

8. Submarine (iW film page)
Average criticWIRE rating: B+

9. Incendies (iW film page)
Average criticWIRE rating: B+

10. Beginners (iW film page)
Average criticWIRE rating: B


Previous Picks of the Week:
June 15: Andrew Rossi's "Page One: A Year Inside The New York Times"
June 8: Michael Winterbottom's "The Trip"
June 1: Richard Ayoade's "Submarine"
May 25: Terrence Malick's "The Tree of Life"
May 18: Woody Allen's "Midnight In Paris"
May 11: Lu Chaun's "City of Life and Death"
May 4: Koji Wakamatsu's "Caterpillar"
April 27: Clio Barnard's "The Arbor"
April 20: Denis Villeneuve's "Incendies"
April 13: Janus Metz's "Armadillo"
April 6: Kelly Reichardt's "Meek's Cutoff"
March 30: Michaelangelo Frammartino's "Le Quattro Volte"

This article is related to: In Theaters, Passione