Monday, March 30, 2009
Just a quick note today: The IMDB forums are always a wildly mixed-bag of citizen journalism; from insane off-topic conspiracy theories to the occasional serious-minded criticism. With that in mind, I have to say that this is my all-time favorite review from a registered viewer. I just don't think it gets any better than this - Regarding the brilliant "The Harlem Globetrotters on Gilligans Island", one reviewer wrote:
Even Better than the Novel!
"This movie is incredible! Amazing! It had everything! It is truly shocking that it was a made for TV production, it has epic blockbuster written all over it. Name it and this movie has it. The Harlem Globetrotters, greedy developers, Gilligan, Mary-Ann, The Professor, The Skipper, the millionaire and his wife, the rest, tourists, basketball in an exotic Caribbean location....... this movie has everything! EVERYTHING! ABSOLUTELY EVERYTHING! You should be grateful, very grateful, that we get entertainment such as this. The world is good."
Without question, I deem this review capsule "Best Review Ever." It's irrelevant to me whether the sarcasm is because this person truly loves this or is just having some fun. It's a bit of both to me and I love him/her for it!
I love my Gilligan's Island and with this in mind I give the following sidenote. I was watching Who Wants to be a Millionaire? just two nights ago and one of the easy, piece o' cake early questions was: "What character was the 'movie star' on Gilligan's Island? Of course, "Ginger Grant" was among the four choices and the contestant, a young woman in her, say, mid 20's was completely frickin' clueless. Meredith Viera kidded her that "c'mon this is easy" to which the young lady said, I'm prettty sure that this show was on before I was born - to which Meredith, feeling the victim of agism, gave the camera a "thanks a helluva lot ya little brat" look.
Ya know, the previous 4.5 billion years happened "before I was born" but that doesn't mean that I don't want to know a little something about them. Even if this was just a stupid bit of 'pop culture' icon trivia, I felt Meredith's pain... Ultimately, she had to poll the audience, 99% of whom told her who it was. You'd think on a television show that is all about pop culture trivia, a contestant wouldn't pull the "before my time" bit. Wow. Why do I constantly feel so out of touch with the generations that came after me?
Tuesday, March 17, 2009
Probably my favorite ending of any movie in the last twenty years is Noah Baumbach's Kicking and Screaming. I LOVED this movie. It was exactly about "me" when it came out (1995) - I was in the exact same place as the central characters, a quarter of a century old, a bachelor's in hand, the ability to think deeply about seemingly important matters but completely impotent at attending to them, not a farthing of wisdom, and a personal and professional compass that was impervious to magnetism - in other words... stuck.
The film centers around, among other things, a relationship between protagonist Grover (Josh Hamilton) and Jane (one of my favorite actresses, the lovely- Olivia D'abo, at left). The story is intentionally fragmented and disjointed - told in flashbacks and in the present. It is a beautifully realized relationship and it is expertly revealed to us, aided by remarkable dialogue and sparkling performances by the two leads. We are given bits and pieces of the many stages of their relationship (all the while knowing that Jane is currently in Prague) just as we are given bits and pieces of a telephone message that Jane has left from Prague. A message Grover can't really muster up the courage to listen to in its entirety. This propels us to the film's daring, original, and sentimental conclusion. I can watch it over and over and over and over...
Clearly, it is not my intent to discuss the ending - just to say that it is one of my favorite endings of all time and certainly claims the top spot for the last two decades at least. Can't recommend this film enough - especially should you find yourself at "Bachelor's End."
Thursday, March 12, 2009
My good friend Erik and I went to see The Watchmen yesterday. Erik has written his initial, sort of knee-jerk, reactions (which are beautifully realized for only having an hour or two to digest the film). I have my own of course - but rather than discuss the film, I'd like to talk about something on which a portion of film studies is based - and that's reception.
I concur with my friend on all of his points. But, something bothers me greatly about The Watchmen. It has nothing to do with the film per se - it has to do with the general reception of the film. I'm confounded by the wishy washy, iffy, tentative, "you should pass on this one" reviews that I have encountered. Now, I have said over and over that I could give a rat's ass for movie reviewers and to this I emphatically hold. But, as we walked out into the bright sun yesterday, I remember saying to Erik that there seemed to be, to me at least, an odd similarity between one of the film's storylines (namely that the people of the world weren't ready for a particular truth regarding the outcome of the plot) and the reception of the film to date (only a week I know). I thought that perhaps The Dark Knight would have - to a degree - primed mainstream audiences for a certain amount of intellectual craft in their superhero films. The genius of The Watchmen lay in its adult (i.e., sophisticated) treatments of sometimes complicated plot and story elements - I felt that this SHOULD have been a major selling point. Here is a thinking man's superhero film. Here's The Thin Red Line vs. Saving Private Ryan. But therein lies the rub - for just as The Thin Red Line was unjustly maligned as "boring", "stupid", and "it sucked" by the popcorn gobbling masses - so too is The Watchmen receiving such witless/idiotic criticisms. What it comes down to is this: I think that The Watchmen is too smart for the average viewer and too slippery for your average critic. Just like the citizens aren't ready for a truth, the viewers of the film can't handle an intellectual superhero movie (Ang Lee's The Hulk befell the same fate). Well, what can one expect from a brilliant, ground-breaking 12 issue mini-series that is a treatise on the cruelty of human existence. SO, for the record, I thought The Watchmen was magnificent. But, I'm not done quite yet.
Alan Moore's guest spot on the Simpsons a few years ago predicted somewhat accurately the mainstream reception of The Watchmen. Too complicated - Watchmen Babies would have required less thought...
Do these whiny reviews of The Watchmen (one, in particular, claimed that the reviewer looked at his watch three and half times during the film, a valid criterion apparently of "good" and "bad", but at least it was his wristwatch [an icon of the film] and not his damned cell phone) in some way confirm or at least lean towards an affirmation that intellectualism is indeed very dead today? Erik pointed out that one "critic" claimed the film to be "dated" or "embalmed" in the 80s. What the fuck does that mean? Uhm, It takes place in the 80s. Is that really a valid criticism anyways? Gee, Glory feels dated, a little too "Civil War" for my tastes. I am certain that he was probably referring to the idea that thermo-nuclear war is just so "yesterday." Now what this film needs is a terrorist threat - yeah, the film would have resonated far more if there was a terrorist threat! PLEASE. Terrorism is NOTHING, and I mean NOTHING compared to nuclear war (one of the valid reasons the world polices nuclear proliferation - terrorists really shouldn't have those... but then again - who should?). There is nothing to terrorize in the aftermath of nuclear strikes...
The Watchmen dramatizes an age old dialectic of man vs. nature (a common theme in Moore's work and a common theme to many of the finest literature, cinema and philosophy of the last two centuries). The idea that human beings can harness the very energy of the sun is the greatest philosophical mind-fuck in history. As Eisenhower said - "from the musket to the small cannon to the hydrogen bomb in a single life-time" - well, that's moving pretty quick folks. This dialogue of man overpowering nature, taming nature is central to Moore's work - "If nature were to shrug or to merely raise her eyebrow then we should all be gone..." Have a look below at the 4:19 mark below to about the 9:00 minute if you please (thanks).
Richard Corliss of Time magazine said "...this Watchmen is more like a swatch-man." and I prefer not to hazard for sure what exactly that means, but I have an idea and I don't think it's too flattering. He also offered "It certainly contains its share of popcorn breaks: hit the concession stand whenever Dan and Laurie start their mooning." Wow, that's just harsh. To be fair, Corliss found some things to admire, but like most reviews I read - The Watchmen got DOGGED. I guess, according to the majority of reviews I peeked at, the world needs more shallow entertainment. So, Catwoman II anyone?
The film receives the coveted highest ranking: The Klinger Statue of Liberty. Reserved for films that are of considerable significance in advancing the art of cinema - or at least that's the case in this man's humble opinion.