Friday, September 23, 2011

There's No Accounting For Taste

I...guess I have some explaining to do.

I recently picked up Louis Leterrier's remake of the 1981 Harryhausen creature-feature Clash Of The Titans. The remake intrigued me when it came out; I didn't see it in theatres, though I wish now that I had. I actually blogged about it, it interested me so much.

So I got the movie for a song, and I watched it. And I enjoyed it.

And then I made the mistake of telling some people that I liked it.

Yeah, "oops" is right.

I can't say why I liked it. Some movies I enjoy more than others. I watched The Informant! the other day. Critics liked it, I didn't. It was supposed to be a comedy (I knew that because the music was upbeat and spunky) but I only laughed a few times. It was a sobering movie, in my opinion. Critical success, undoubtedly well-made, but I just didn't enjoy it.

Clash of the Titans doesn't have a great story. It has some pretty good actors in it, actors I always love seeing, like Liam Neeson and Ralph Fiennes. I thought the visuals were pretty cool, too. But honestly? I don't really know why I enjoyed it. I did, though, and I'll probably watch it again sometime.

I guess it just comes down to something I'm always preaching: individuality of mind. I encourage people to make their own decisions, not to be shackled to the drifting raft of public opinion. "Make your own mind up!" I rail. "Don't let everyone else make it up for you!"

Sometimes I doubt my own ability to adhere to this credo. But then stuff like this happens, and my faith is restored.

I guess what I'm trying to say is that owning your own mind is wise. Because then you can do "stupid" stuff like enjoying Clash of the Titans.

Long live cop-outs!

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

+35 Tome of Corruption

...and with that appropriately nerdy (and mostly unrelated to my topic) title, we have nowhere to go but up, quality-wise.

I recently finished A Clockwork Orange by Anthony Burgess. It has 21 chapters. Apparently the 21st chapter wasn't really ever published in America, because the American publisher didn't like the last chapter. Then the movie came out, and it omitted the positive ending as well. So for, like, forty years, The American Consumer labored under the illusion that A Clockwork Orange has 20 chapters.

Big whoop, right? Actually, yes. Because if the book ends with Chapter 20, it's a pretty depressing statement on human depravity. SPOILER (highlight): Chapter 20 ends with the "reformed" criminal returning to his crime-filled ways.

If it ends with Chapter 21, it becomes a hopeful "boys-will-be-boys" sermon about the fundamental good in humankind. SPOILER (highlight): Chapter 21 ends with the criminal, now a few years older, realizing that crime is boring and he'd rather have a son.

We all know that ART! is dark and dreary and anti-everything. So when a writer in the sixties produces a book about how horrible people really are, it's ART!

But if that writer had produced a book about how people are really good, and you just have to give them time to sort out their psychological disorder, would it have been viewed as ART!?

Perhaps not.

A Clockwork Orange is considered a dystopian classic. Would it have gained the following it now enjoys were the final chapter more accessible?

Or, to put my question in more empirical terms, is ART! arbitrarily constructed to feed the rebellious tendency in the human heart?

Long live cliffhangers...!

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Shadows of Friends Past

Tonight I stop in the auditorium to watch part of a dance rehearsal for a musical. On-stage, friends and strangers gyrate inconsistently. Director and assistant director gaze up at the controlled chaos, their faces non-judgmental, all-seeing masks. Accompanist, patient but ready to spring in at a moment's notice with the required chord, watches steadily, her gaze never leaving the spring-loaded body of the choreographer.

And what a marionette he is! He is machine-making-art, powered by inexhaustible funds of creativity and joy and passion. He creates story with body and character with movement. To young actors, he is accessible. To experienced actors, he throws down a gauntlet: Can You Do This?

In counterpoint to his irrepressible energy looms the silent stateliness of the performance space. How many stories these walls tell me: of high drama performed and petty drama exacerbated--of unintentional comedy that sparkles and shimmers and tickles, and of unfunny jokes forced down the unwilling throats of the audience. Here is a student performance of Romeo and Juliet; here is Cinderella come to life as student proposes to student, mid-rehearsal. Here is anger and faked catastrophe, and real catastrophe barely-averted. Vases and ropin' fools and little women and tax-evading grandfathers...these curtains tell all.

To me. They tell these stories to me, because I am gone. I am no longer a part. I am an outsider, looking in, and my memories merge with the memories of these walls, and I am mysteriously a part of history.

Long live flights of fancy!

Sunday, September 11, 2011

Odds and Ends

Has anyone seen the trailer for David Fincher's "The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo"? If you haven't, here it is.

Stieg Larsson's Millenium Trilogy is quite the success story. Documented elsewhere, so I won't go into it here, but pretty amazing when you think about it. They were adapted for film in Sweden, and then, because there was more money to be made, American movies were planned.

So that trailer up there is for the American version. Just to be clear.

I intended this post to be about how some trailers are pretty cool by themselves, but then their music just exponentially increases their level of win. Then I discovered that did this article already. So go ahead and just read that. I was going to mention Watchmen and 9, but they also pick up on Pineapple Express, for which I never really saw a trailer. Hurray for

Went to see Contagion on Friday. I guess it's supposed to be an Oscar contender. Maybe it'll challenge for Best Director, and I suppose it could be one of the "five to ten" to get enough number one votes to put it into Best Picture. It's an awards-hungry film. You can just tell.

I didn't hate it. It all just seemed so retreaded to me. Maybe I've been spoiled by fantasy-epidemics like that in 28 Days Later. Maybe I have low, consumerist tastes. But I felt like there were too many threads in the movie--too many elements trying to teach us too many lessons--too many characters trying to elicit too many emotions--too many plot elements jostling for first place, with the effect that the plot just didn't seemed to matter.

And that last was one of the most surprising to me. In a film about a worldwide epidemic, plotting seems simple. But the characterization was so lacking that when a major character succumbed to the virus, I felt no deep pang of sorrow. I felt nothing more than a whiff of passing regret. "Well that's too bad."

So the characters didn't make me care about the plot. But by itself the narrative was insignificant. I didn't want the epidemic to ravage the country, to the extent that the film became a prequel to Zombieland. But I wasn't quite prepared for how everything and everyone seemed back to normal. The events of the film didn't seem to change anything. The characters were superficially affected (dead, bereaved, or that dread cliche Drawn Closer To Loved Ones), but not actually affected. So I was left asking, "Why should I care?"

Sure, technology conquers. Sure, humanity adapts to survive. Sure, there will always be profiteers piggybacking on disaster (whether they be renegade bloggers or pharmaceutical companies). Does catastrophe change us?

Or is history truly cyclical? Are humans innately unable to learn from their mistakes, doomed to repeat them for eternity? According to Contagion, the answer is yes.

This, then, is Contagion's chilling message. Not "Wash your hands or you might start an epidemic" or "Love the people you have before you lose them". No, Contagion shows us people who are fundamentally unaffected by catastrophe.

I don't want to be one of those.

Long live accidents.